Teeth and Claws

I couldn’t find my phone this morning. I’m not a married-to-my-phone kind of gal but I use it to time the early morning ten minute writing I do. If I don’t do it, I’m an even bigger bitch to the world. We don’t want that. Every night, I turn it off and leave it by the coffee pot. When I wake up, I turn it and the coffee on. When I get out of the shower, I’m ready to go. But, by the time I found it this morning (living room table – wth?), I’d wasted that precious ten minutes and the cats were flinging themselves (literally) against the back door, howling, wanting their breakfast.

Recently, I’ve taken to hiding in my room, coffee in one hand, pen in the other, to write before I let them in because otherwise I’m covered in “playing” cats while trying to write and protect my coffee from flying animals.

This morning, though, I had to be [insert sarcasm face]  flexible, which pissed me off. I have a routine, dammit! It keeps me sane, for gods sake! I let out a large sigh, cursed the universe, let in the cats, fed their sorry asses, and then went back to my room to write.

Naturally, when they were done eating they came to find me. The kitten, belly full, began to attack the others in the middle of the carpet. Pokey, my long-suffering sleek black panther, jumped into an open window to get away from her. She leapt and leapt at him until he hissed. Not taking the hint, she kept at him until he growled, threw a punch, and jumped out of the window, fleeing to another room. The kitten, convinced this was part of the fun, ran after him. He sat in front of Dusty’s closed bedroom door, meowing to be let in. He needed sanctuary and knew he’d find it under her bed in a kitten-free environment.

I am truly feeling Pokey’s pain these days. I’m chased by kittens all day long in the form of needs, requests, expectations of others. They are piling on top of each other, each with their particular teeth and claws, grabbing hold of my sanity in all the most tender places, the most vulnerable spots. I’m ready to quit and run for the hills but I’d take a weekend with no must-dos. I want that under-the-bed hiding place behind the camera bags and chemistry textbooks and middle school diaries full of angst and woe. I want a window sill high enough to keep the predators of my time at bay. I need a wife. A personal assistant. A new car. Money and time to solve the problems their lack has created.

I am reminded of my favorite Steve Martin bit: “You can be a millionaire! First: get a million dollars!”

It’s Friday. It’s been raining forever. If I was the praying kind, I’d be praying that the football game would be cancelled so my sick daughter can come home tonight at a reasonable hour and get some sleep and kitten-free sanctuary before her band competition tomorrow (before she ends up with pneumonia). Instead I will just send a message up to the clouds to keep pouring down on us (soundtrack: Quadrophenia) until that email comes. Our Sunday will be filled with must-dos, the teeth and claws of things that gotta be done. But hopefully there will be some rest in there, too. Some deep, boneless kitten sleep full of loud purring.

Or, at least a damn beer.

The Season of No

I gotta tell ya, August just about killed me. Everything was too much. The schedule was untenable. I’m back working two jobs which means 12 days on, 2 days off in a fortnight. My volunteer gig has turned out to be much more work than I’d been led to believe it would be. The rules changed suddenly. I’m trying to figure out how to manage my time.

Red got braces a few weeks back and couldn’t eat the first night and was sad and it made me sad and then we figured it out. But it has taken all I have to get through the last couple of weeks. I’ve finally caught up with the mowing but the garden….sigh. Let’s not talk about it. Really, everything started to fall apart when I went off to Nashville for four days. It’s taken a month for me to get back to a place that feels less crazy and unmanageable. It’s very hard when there’s no backup. No one I can count on to help. No one close by. And it’s not like I ever really had back up but life has gotten more complicated lately.

I was lying in bed the other night, not sleeping (as per usual; I rarely get anything other than snatches of sleep on a good night), and listed all the things I have to let go of for awhile. And some of those are things I have loved to do, things that define who I am or who I was until the shit hit the fan. Things I’ve been guilting myself over not doing. Because I can’t do them. I can’t. I have to step back and re-prioritize in the short term.

And then my horoscope – written as an affirmation – for the week popped up in my overloaded in-box. And it was as if I’d written it myself during a long night staring into the darkness of my room. I’ve cut it down to the important bit:

I remember to go with the flow. I remember that everything will happen in its own way on its own schedule and that my schedule might need a little tweaking here or there. Which of my daily rituals work and which don’t? Which parts of my schedule are just too much to keep up with and which help to keep me on track?


Yeah. So, here’s what I’m allowing myself to let go for now. I have not put an end date on “now”.

  1. Blog-writing. Maybe this is ironic because I’m writing this but I bit off way more than I could chew with blogs. So the Motherhood one will be put on hiatus or turned into a place to post my art. Or I might just take it down altogether. I don’t know why I thought I could that. Three blogs? I’m out of my mind. I am. I am full of ideas – bad and good – but no time to make them happen. This blog will continue (I mean, it’s not like I’m writing much these days anyway so I don’t feel the same pressure.) The Route One blog will continue because it’s updated whenever I have something to share.
  2. Novel-writing. This novel I keep thinking about? The one I started writing about a year or so ago? I’m allowing myself to not write it. At all. Guilt be gone! I’m officially not writing a novel. If I feel the urge, I’ll move a pen across a pad of paper but I’m not writing a novel.
  3. Volunteer work. As soon as one board tenure is up, I’m not accepting another one. As soon as the second one is up, that’s it. I’m done. Not that I hate doing it. I don’t. It just takes up way more time than I’d anticipated.
  4. Conferences. I used to love them back when I yearned for time alone. Now that I have that pretty often, I hate them. I rarely return with anything I can possibly put into place because I am a solo researcher and all the things I learn are helpful to bigger shops with newer databases that do whiz-bang amazing stuff. I ain’t there and I may never be. I’m kind of done chasing my career. I’m ready to not have a career. I just need the semblance of one until my kids are grown.
  5. The garden. I know. I know. I swear to you, I know what I’m saying. And I say to you I just don’t have the wherewithal to keep up with a garden any longer. The weeds took over when I was in Nashville and the sky dried up and the temperature rose and all my free time was spent mowing and working. And everything kind of died and felt horrible but I can’t feel horrible any longer. I can’t. I can’t even look the garden in the eye. I can hear it moaning. I’ve let it down. I’ve let myself down. I have to stop doing that.

    I’ll go out soon (when, I have no idea) and pull everything up and figure out what I can handle and scale that shit down. Because it’s not just the tending to, it’s the harvesting and turning all that produce into food that’s time consuming. Tomatoes rotted before I could eat them all. Peppers came in prolifically and I tried as hard as I could to use them up. I failed. Most of the cucumbers were turned into pickles (which are still taking up an enormous amount of real estate in the fridge) and a few sat on the counter and slowly turned into ooze. I made hot sauce and spaghetti sauce with most of the tomatoes but still. It got overwhelming. So, the garden will be a different place next year. I’d like to say I’m giving up gardening but we both know that’s a lie. By March I’ll be ready to go back out and try again. Hope springs eternal in spring. Hope is a cudgel that passion hits me on the head with every year. So, I’m not giving up entirely but I might do a lot of it in bags and containers on my deck where it’s easier to deal with. I don’t know.

I don’t know how to quit. I don’t know how to pare down. Whenever I stop doing one thing, I come up with 12 other things I want to do and I try to do them and end up spinning myself into a pool of butter at the base of the tree. I don’t do it on purpose. I might be a glutton for punishment but I’m unable to stop doing. I can’t turn my brain off. I have difficulty sitting and reading longer than half an hour these days.

Sometimes I feel how short life is and I want to cram as much in as possible so that when I do die, no one can say my life was full of nothing. I like to be busy but not to the point of insanity. Finding that line is what I’m trying to do. So, allowing myself to let go of the things I feel I *should* be doing but can’t right now, is the first step.

So, I’ll be back but I don’t know when. This is the Season of No. The Season of Let Me Get Back To You. The Season of I’m Not Dead Yet! Give Me a Call and Let’s Do Something! The Season of Finding the Right Balance for Now.


Art For Sale

In lieu of all the other posts I’ve written in my head but don’t have time to write for real, I give you the ART POST. Below are all the stained glass pieces Dusty made this year while working as a volunteer assistant for her stained glass teacher. All of her work has sold briskly in the past so if there’s a piece that interests you, let me know.

Proceeds go to help pay for her band trip to Disney World in the spring.

The unicorn is an older piece. I think she did that when she was 13 and it’s needed a few tweaks and repairs before it was ready to sell.

All of these are much more beautiful in person than my photographs can capture. Especially the “small pieces” made from bits of rare and unusual glass.

Candle holders – $60 (each) + shipping (3.5″ in diameter; 4″ in height at tallest point) – One is primarily shades of red, the other shades of blue


Large feather – $45 + shipping (9.5″ in length) – SOLD


Mountains – $70 + shipping  (11.5 x 5″) – SOLD


Small Piece #1  – $40 +shipping (3 x 3.5″)


Small Piece #2 – $35 + shipping (4.5 x 3″) – SOLD


Small Piece #3 – $35 + shipping (3.25 x 3.25″) – SOLD


Small Piece #4 – $35 + shipping (3.5 x 3″) – SOLD


Small Piece #5  – $40 + shipping (3 x 4.5″)


Unicorn – $100 + shipping (16.5 x 8.5″) – SOLD



Time May Change Me….

I’ve changed. I knew it at some level and I also knew that a lot of it has to do with age and time passing and having older children. But it really hit home when I went to Nashville for a conference in July. I began to miss home before I’d even left it. I worried about the cats and the kitten even though I knew they were in the best of hands. I worried about the garden and whether there’d be enough rain (there was – in spades). But it was more than that.

I arrived at the bizarro-world resort hotel conference complex and after a long board meeting was finally able to check in to my room. Finally, a room of my own. Quiet and basic and mine for 4 days. That was my first thought. My second was: I can’t wait for these four days to be over so I can go back home.

I used to love going to conferences because the allure of the hotel room, of being alone, of deciding when to sleep and what to do and where to go were a vacation in and of themselves. I was escaping a life that was becoming more fraught, more divisive, more depressing each day. Coming home from work should have made me heave a sigh of relief, “Finally, I’m home!” but it was the opposite. And this had little to do with the children per se. It was the knowledge that what I was coming home to was more work, scorn, everything that was not happy or relaxing or even helpful. It was more than a second job and it was the least enjoyable one.

So, getting away for a couple days was blissful apart from the travel which I always hate. So many hours wasted getting from one place to another!

These days, home is the refuge I’d always wanted. Home is where I most want to be. I missed my summer routines, my favorite chair, my first cup of coffee in the morning looking out at my neglected trees. Feeding my cats and getting ready for work. Coming home and deciding in what order I’d do things – mow first and then eat? Or the other way around? Mow at all? Harvest vegetables? Write instead? Make some art? I could do all these things or none of them. I could wash a load of clothes and vacuum at 10pm. Or I could put off until tomorrow what I was too lazy to do today and no one would make me feel guilty or less-than or sulk and stew and criticize.

This summer in particular I missed the children slightly less than the summer before. Part of that was just that I was busy. The days went by fast. I packed two vacation weeks into a three-week period – one away with the kids and one at home with a good friend. And then I was in Nashville and then I was FINALLY home and now it’s August and I have one of the kids back with the other coming home week after this coming one.

But with them or without them, there is still that good feeling. If I’m coming home to an empty house with an evening full of selfishly-driven possibility, or one with the most important people in it and I have to make dinner for three (which I almost forgot how to do) and then mow and then make sure things are picked up and put away….it’s good. It’s really good. And it’s nice to feel at home in my house.

I was going to write about KonMari and minimalism (which I have mixed feelings about) because there was an article in the paper about it (hipsters have discovered it or maybe rediscovered it – who really cares?) and how KonMariing my house helped with this whole process of feeling comfortable here and making it mine (and ours). But, clearly I didn’t get there in time. So that might be another post. Something I’ve been really bad at doing lately. I’m going to poke around in the links given in the article and perhaps share them here if they’re worth sharing. There’s something to be said about having less and my reasons are a bit different than the folks in the article but there’s also something to be said for keeping the things that spark joy, that you love, that make you happy when you see them.

Being home sparks joy. Sleeping in my own bed sparks joy. Hearing my kids thinking their thoughts in their rooms does too. Dusty came home and immediately started cleaning her room. I’ve been neglectful this summer but I also feel that I don’t need to be everyone’s maid anymore. Not to teenagers who can use magic sponges and vacuum cleaners as well as I can. Watching them grown into smart, independent people sparks the most joy. As does, acknowledging that I’ve changed and its been to the good.

Why I Love Summer

The other night, after falling asleep and waking up again an hour later, I got up and prowled around the house. When insomnia hits, I usually try to conjure up a meditative state of mind, writing down all the things that are bothering me or I need to remember, and then I attempt to lie quietly and wait for my body to fall back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, I’ll read. If that doesn’t work, I walk around and peer out windows and listen to the insects. It was a full moon so I went down to the other end of the house to see it more fully without going outside. There she was, shining on the house, keeping me awake. But I don’t mind insomnia quite so much in the summer as I do in the winter. The temperature is pleasant for one thing, everything’s alive outside.

Finally, I went back to bed and thought about all the things I love about summer. I’ve probably written this post before but I’m gonna do it again, ahead of a big awful triple-digit heat wave that even I don’t like. It can actually get to hot for me but being cold is always worse.
1. The heat. I like warmth. I like to be warm. I like to be comfortable in just a sleeveless top and a pair of short pants. I like to be comfortable in no clothes at all. I’m cold natured. I’m not a fan of a/c except when it’s really really hot – it has its place – but I don’t really like chilly air blowing on me, ever. I like walking out of the house in one layer. No coat, no socks, none of that other crap you have to layer on yourself just to get the paper in the winter. It’s a whole production, going outside when it’s freezing. I was meant for warm weather.

2. The humidity. I do. I like it. Sure, sometimes there’s too much of a good thing and I don’t really enjoy sweating and being damp all day but my skin likes the humidity and it feels….right. Maybe it’s that I’m a Southerner. I’m used to it. I don’t know. But humidity is never something I’ll complain about.

3. Cicadas and the night noises of insects. It’s 8:00pm, still light out and there’s something trilling rhythmically outside that isn’t a cricket. Crickets are for other seasons, insects of last resort. Cicadas are music – that chwee-chwee-chweeee-chweeeeeeeee they make tells me it’s summer. They are harmless bumbling creatures. Ugly but harmless. They don’t eat my garden, they don’t sting or bite. They don’t carry disease. That’s my kind of insect.

4. The junglizing of everything, the greenness, the lushness of everything. This is how everything is supposed to look, all time. All the other seasons are just minor transitions to get us back to this: fully leafed trees, flowers, grass. There are sections of the road I drive every day that are covered by a canopy of leaves as the branches of trees over the road make shade tunnels.

5. School’s out. No school buses, kids sleep late most days, teachers are home, everyone takes a deep breath and lets it out again. The pace is slower, offices have skeleton crews as people cycle in and out of vacations. It’s how life should be if none of us had to work all the time and the kids didn’t have to study all the time.

6. Spending whole days reading or daydreaming or napping or whatever you want. I have spent almost entire days reading. It’s lovely. Oh sure, you could probably do it any other weekend during the rest of the year but most of them are filled up with things, chores, activities, errands, demands, commitments. Summer is different.

7. The beach. Everything about the beach I love. The sand, the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing, the horizon melting into the ocean far away with nothing blocking that line between earth and air but distance.

8. Thunderstorms – the sound of thunder and rain pouring down on the roof, the thunder and lightning, that ozone smell, the build up, the release,

9. Fireflies. Another summer-only insect that is harmless and beautiful. Who doesn’t love fireflies? You don’t get that in the winter.

10. Praying mantises. I should probably write a whole post about My Favorite Bugs. I love these guys with their freaky alien heads. I love watching them walk about, trying not to get in the way, scanning for a meal, pouncing on some awful bad bug and eating its head. When I find their egg cases, I protect them. They are a gardener’s friend.

11. The garden. Goes without saying, perhaps, but even though I reach maximum laziness by August and I’m not doing much more than keeping things alive and picking food off the plants, I love my garden. I love the whole process – planning, digging, planting, weeding, protecting, watering, watching things grow – but I really like it when it’s reached full jungle stage in July when there’s not really much more you (me) can do but keep things alive and watered, weed, pick, and then begin to dismantle bit by bit.

Every summer seems shorter than the last. It used to seem to last forever but those were days when I didn’t work, when I catapulted out of my house in the morning after eating a bowl of cereal and throwing on yesterday’s clothes, and went to find a friend to have adventures with or sit around on half broken swing sets and moan about being bored, the whole day stretching out into the evening until dark which came much later than the rest of the year.

Now I’m in an office all day and the most outdoor time I have is when I’m mowing. Which, granted, is a lot of time, but it’s not quite the same. But it doesn’t matter because it’s summer. Whatever I’m doing, inside or out, it’s still summer.


It’s hot. This is probably not news to you. It’s been too hot to do a lot of things I usually do like walk outside during the day. So I’ve been staying inside and reading more. I should be writing more but my writing brain seems to have taken a vacation. I write a little but it’s really shitty writing. Very shitty. I have ideas, I jot them down and….that’s about it.

When I’m not mowing (heat or no heat, it must be done), I’m in the garden picking cucumbers and beans and digging up potatoes. Or watering. After a super rainy spring, the rain clouds clocked out and moved elsewhere for the summer. Watering is not my favorite thing to do but it gives me a chance to weed and plan for next year. It offers an opportunity to crouch down and see my garden at a different angle.

When I’m not doing garden chores or house chores or reading, I’m planning short excursions for the fall. I’ve got two state parks picked out for weekends when there’s no band practice, no football games, no school or work interferences. One is by the Potomac River at the end of October when it might still be nice enough during the day to stick our feet in the water but chilly enough at night to light a fire in the cabin’s fireplace. The other is near the mountains. I’m saving that for Thanksgiving weekend if I can get the cabin I want (I always choose the ones farthest away from people; the ones at the end of the road). That one has no tv, no wifi and probably terrible cell phone service but that’s exactly what we’ll need (whether the children agree or not) by then. Marching band madness will be over and we can take a deep breath and go on hikes after (I hope) the first frost has killed the majority of the most annoying insects. More fires in the fire place and movies on the computer. A little time to unwind and be bored.

Josie the kitten and I have settled into a routine. She’s learned the ropes and the other cats are getting used to her. They’ll touch noses with her before they hiss. They are coming around. She’s found favorite places to sleep and favorite toys to play with. Every new change takes time to become regular life. Having no children here in the summer has become regular life. A couple more weeks and then they’ll be back and we’ll revert to our “regularly scheduled programming” – our other regular life. This time will be folding in a new cat.

Until then, I’m catching up on my reading. It’s nice to just sit and read. My part-time gig has dried up for the time being – too hot for even park events and all the teams are on vacation until it cools down – so my weekends alone are quiet. Just me and Josie and the cicadas outside the window.

Summer is best when it’s spent slowly, doing very little. And so that’s what I’m doing.

Glutton For Punishment

Okay, so it’s been nearly two months since I last posted here. I apologize, but I’ve got good reasons. The first is that life has been busy and I have had nothing in particular to say apart from creating a third blog that is also neglected.

The end of the school year is always crazy busy and I forget this every single year. Like I have mom dementia or something. In addition, I joined the band booster board as treasurer (a job I am not really qualified for – shh, don’t tell them! – but that’s the way volunteer jobs go. You take the one that says yes, rather than holding out for a better fit. You’d be waiting until forever.). And then there were birthdays – Red turned 12! I turned 50!! There aren’t enough exclamation points for that last thought!!!! Holy Shit!!!! How am I old??? At least it’s happening to a lot of my friends so I’m not alone in this new decreptitude (though I will admit that I’m a lot more happy and content these days than I was 20 years ago. Hell, than 10 years ago!).

As soon as school was done, we gallivanted off to NYC for a couple days. We stayed in Brooklyn and visited: Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum, Elliot’s apartment (from Mr. Robot), High Line Park, Central Park, saw Matilda, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Brooklyn Museum. We visited the library mainly because we were waiting for the BM to open and the BPL had not only bathrooms but wifi. So, score! And a library is a great place to kill time without looking suspicious for loitering and you don’t have to buy anything. Even though we could have. Out here in Podunk, they don’t have cafe’s in their libraries. And my closest library is about the size of a Brooklyn apartment so you’d have to get rid of the children’s section if you wanted to add a cafe.

We celebrated my birthday in Prospect Park with friends and had breakfast every morning at Tom’s Diner. I saw exactly zero celebrities during our entire trip. I wasn’t really looking very hard for them anyway. It was too hot to gawk.

Then we came home and the girls left for their dad’s for the summer and I went back to work and now it’s July.

And because I can’t ever just be happy with the status quo, I adopted a kitten. She’s very cute but has created quite a lot of crazy drama over the past week. She’s finally settled down a bit and even though the other cats refuse to come in the house or have anything to do with her, we’ve figured out a decent routine that generally works. And she’s become comfortable enough with her new mom (me) and new surroundings that she can happily play by herself with a variety of paper balls and knobs of sticks and odds and ends she scares up without freaking out every time I leave the room. I hope we’ll continue to make progress and the cats will accept her and she’ll have cat friends on the outside and won’t need so much of my attention. She hasn’t shown any obvious signs that she understands the whole litter pan concept but I’m hoping that’ll happen eventually.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on. Stuff and things. With a little drama thrown in for good measure.