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.

July

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.

My Brain Needs You

So, my brain wants me to be even busier than I already am. I’ve begun a new project on the heels of not getting the grant I applied for to help me write my novel. But I’m really excited about this, if I can pull it off. Here’s the site: https://whatmotherhoodis.wordpress.com/

Here are my thoughts – or some of them:

  1. I’ve set up my own Artist Residency in Motherhood based on the site linked in that blog.
  2. I want to pair words and pictures together that speak to what motherhood is – the good and the bad. I don’t want to ignore the taboos. I might want to embrace them. Actually, no “might”. I do. I want to rip the bandaid right off.
  3. I want to invite YOU, my creative mothers and children of mothers, to make your own art that means motherhood to you. I have so many creative friends. And so many others who don’t think of themselves as creative but actually are.
  4. I want to take all this art and put on a show. For people to see. In a public place. Art by women who are mothers or who have mothers (which is all of us). Art by women who don’t consider themselves artists. Art by women who do.
  5. I want to open my house to other mothers who need a place to do their art. Day residencies. Come out to the country and paint, draw, write, knit, sew, think, lie in the sun and find themselves again! Because we’re mothers, we have responsibilities to others. We can’t be gone for days. But maybe we can be gone for hours. Even if it’s just 9-3 one day a month.
  6. Maybe we can join other mothers in a writing class for a couple hours. Maybe we just need to get away from laundry and homework and just remember who we are as people. As women. It’s very hard to think when we’re in the middle of the noise. Literal noise and that buzzing in your head as you make all those lists of things that MUST BE DONE today, tomorrow, next week. Things that get shifted to another day because someone just threw up and it’s somehow your job to clean up the mess and alter the schedule. Maybe we just need to get away from the phone, the email, social media. It’s loud out there. Silence is helpful.

If you are interested, let me know. You don’t have to live close by (hell, nobody lives near me!). You just have to have an urge to do, to make. To join. To express yourself however that happens. If you’re a mother of young people, chances are good there are some crayons nearby. Or popsicle sticks. Or Legos. Or glue. Or maybe you have a box (or 50) of old photographs that need to be written about and shared with others. Maybe you have a poem or story that needs to be written. A piece of art to make out of whatever you have. Fabric, aluminum pie pans, paper plates, wire, twist ties, paint, markers, pencils, old tires, rusty nails, leftover plastic easter egg halves, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, post-it notes. If you are a mother, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re the mother of older children, I bet there are some magazines you’re tired of looking at. Collages! Of Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift! If they’re out of the house (you lucky dog) and they’ve left their stuff behind, you have my permission to rifle through it in the name of art. Or at least for a series of still lives. You don’t have to steal or pry. But simply imagine how different life would be without having made the space for these people you raised. What their presence has added to your life. What it’s taken away.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to take those Playmobil people and adjust them into a diorama that may not be suitable for all ages. Whatever.

Maybe you don’t have children but have a relationship with your mother – good or bad – that needs exploring. Is there baggage? What kind? Is it literal or figurative? If you’ve lost a mother and gained a lot of stuff, what’s that like for you? Is it hard to part with it? Why? Write it, draw it, photograph it, cover it in something.

I want you and your creativity. Go over to the site and count yourself in. I’ll let you know how things progress. No pressure. No time limits. All I need is the urge to be heard.

Things To Do On A Rainy Night

It’s been cool and rainy the past couple days. This has put a damper on the things I normally would be doing so I’ve had to shift my focus.

Things I won’t be doing until the rain goes away:

*Cleaning the gutters (clogged with maple helicopters)

*Mowing

*Planting my new tomato and pepper plants (though I did get out to the garden yesterday to add more soil to the potatoes and just check on everything.)

*Walking the track with my hand weights.

 

Things I Have Been Doing Instead:

* Writing a blog post!

* Inviting you to visit my other blog: here’s my recent post there. Please visit, like, follow. It needs some love. It’s so much fun to do, when I have the time to do it. It’s mostly photographs so it’s the easiest blog to read! I have many more posts queued up to go!

* Exercise indoors – yoga with Red, some core exercises that are supposed to help strengthen my back, etc.

* Make a belated gift for a friend (need to get on that)

* Listen to the quiet hum of a house on a week night. The children are doing homework. Unaided. Dusty is practicing her flute, getting ready for her Wind Ensemble audition. Somehow, Red has discovered (or maybe it’s taught in school now like it wasn’t when I was her age) how to begin projects on her own, ahead of time so that they are finished long before the deadline. The other night she showed me some ears and a tail she’d made for a skit her group is performing in theatre arts. That explains the bits of fabric on the floor near the fabric boxes. I picked it up and tucked it back away. Dusty has asked if I have an extra poster board. Yep! One left. And she’s off to do whatever project she’s working on – it’s either for English or Latin. Eventually she’ll remind me. It feels….so NICE to not have the nightly homework struggle any more. No more tears and hair pulling and agony. We all do what we need to do, separately and alone, for the most part, and then reconvene for tv later.

* Observe people. Two recent observations: one involves a faculty spouse. I attend a monthly “women’s group luncheon” lecture that the faculty put on. It’s a free lunch and I get to hear women speak about topics that matter to them. I get to meet some of the women faculty which never happens otherwise in my job.

There is this one woman, new to the college. Italian, perhaps? I can’t remember. Her husband teaches in the foreign language department and she speaks a bit of English but not enough for her to feel very confident in conversation with strangers. She is immensely thin and I’m thinking there’s a food issue here. But what I’ve seen on the two occasions we’ve sat at the same table is that she forgoes all the food except dessert. The first luncheon she ate nothing but three brownies and two cookies. She may have gone back for seconds. Yesterday, she did eat some fruit and followed it up with two enormous pieces of cake. I’m not saying this to judge at all. I do not know her story and don’t even want to surmise. I am just curious about people so I notice things. And I notice this woman eats a lot of dessert. Who doesn’t like dessert?

I went to the library at lunch today. I used to go all the time and write. I’ve given that up for the most part (except for here and my morning pages) but there was no dry place to sit outside or walk and it was too chilly anyway, so I went to the library and had the whole back section of tables to myself. This NEVER happens. But, on my way out I saw my favorite old man. I’ve seen him numerous times in the past. He’s usually working on a collage or a scrap book or some art of some kind. He spreads out pages from magazines, cuts out the images he likes, and pastes them in a notebook. I really want to know his story but I’m too timid to ask. He’s always got a smile on his face. Today he was walking to a table and hugging a book or notebook to his chest. With a smile. He didn’t have his art supplies but maybe, like me, the weather put a kink in his normal routine and he just stopped by to read. He smiled and waved, I smiled and nodded, and we went our separate ways.

I don’t have a neat way to wrap this up. It’s cold and wet and the cats are out huddling on my warm car hood (though I can’t imagine it’s warm at this point) instead of coming inside. I’m very very glad tomorrow is Friday and I have two entire weekend days in which to sleep late and get some things done. If all goes as planned, we’ll see the middle school’s production of Peter Pan tomorrow night and the high school’s production of West Side Story on Saturday. And Sunday I’ll get back to the gutters and the grass and the garden where this is always much to do.

Confetti

So, I gave up men for money (easy choice, really). And now I’ve given up writing for exercise. I don’t even know myself anymore. I’m walking and doing yoga and mowing and trying to fit in some hand weights and other things when I have the time and that’s time I used to spend writing. I felt guilty about that for a long time. Writing’s what I do, it’s what I am. If I’m not doing that, what am I exactly? I still write first thing in the morning but it’s garbage writing. It’s blah blah blah for 10 minutes. It’s not productive it’s just process. It’s visiting the therapist for 10 minutes every morning in my robe with a cup of coffee and it’s the best 10 minutes of almost the whole day except for the part when I get to come home and change into comfortable clothes and say hi to my kids and make dinner while they work on homework or fiddle with devices behind closed doors.

I still think about writing. I still think about my novel. I’m just not writing it. If I win the grant then I guess I’ll get back to it. But right now I need to get in better shape. And there’s only time for one of those things – exercise or writing. So, right now, I’m spending lunch hours walking a mile or two with my girly pink hand weights. I’m outside under the blue sky with the trees shushing above me. I’m running into snakes and frogs and turtles. I saved a turtle at work on Saturday. I turned into the parking lot and a big old box turtle was loping across the road. I stopped and helped him get across safely. Later, when I was out looking for trash, I tried to find him again, to make sure he’d hidden himself away, and I couldn’t find him. So I guess he did. Lucky for him the park was pretty much dead all day so he picked a good time to be out.

The garden is coming along though things aren’t really liking the soil in the reconfigured bed. No lettuce to speak of. A couple possible radishes. But whatever. The flowers are sprouting and a couple snow peas are popping up. Carrots are beginning to  sprout and the potatoes are super happy. I planted bush beans and cucumbers and more flowers on Sunday. I bought tomato and pepper plants today. They’ll go in tomorrow. I’m reclaiming the front bed. Stuff’s happening. I’m busy. I’m so busy, I finally downloaded a month’s worth of photos and should have some Roadside Virginiana posts ready soon. I’m finally okay with the fact that I can only do one thing at a time. I can’t do everything all the time. It’s been hard to convince myself that this is okay. It’s okay. I’ll get back to the writing when I get back to it. I’m still a writer if I’m not writing. I’m a writer on hiatus. I’m busy getting in 5,000 steps most days. I’m busy doing yoga with Red. I’m busy mowing. I’m busy working two jobs. I’m busy in the garden. I’m busy taking photographs of things. I’m busy enjoying the warm weather and having the windows open and hearing the insects trill and buzz. I’m busy planning a trip to NYC with my kids. I’m busy paying down debt. And fixing broken things in the house. And sleeping. Sleeping is under rated. Sleeping, when you can get it (and often I can’t), is pretty much the best thing ever. When I’m dead, I think I’ll miss sleeping the most. Or, at least, it’ll be in the top ten things I’ll be sorry not to be able to do any more.

So for now, I’m this. Later, I’ll be that. Eventually, I’ll get back to the crafty art things I was doing in the fall and the story that’s sitting in suspended animation in my laptop. To everything, there is a season. Right now, it’s the season of getting outside and walking around in it and not having to wear a coat and watch the pedometer burst into confetti when I reach my tiny goal. I like confetti, especially when I don’t have to vacuum it up later.