The Right Side of Grateful

photo source: Orion Magazine
photo source: Orion Magazine

It is the day before Thanksgiving and I am driving. The road flattens and curves like a lazy river. Farmland on both sides, one planted in neat little rows, the other dotted with grazing, black cows. The car is stuffed. Duffle bags and pillows, snow gear, three kids and a dog, enough groceries for a month even though we’re only staying four days. We are on the road to Tahoe.

The hour and a half drive to the halfway point is taking double that. Holiday traffic. Everyone running into one another, tapping each other’s bumpers all in a hurry. Cars pull over on the shoulder. We all stop to stare then carry on. Neil Young sings Harvest Moon and I turn it up, hoping the girls will take notice, soak it in. Appreciate. “Because I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon…” Continue reading “The Right Side of Grateful”

When I Was 19: The Trial and Error of Becoming Our Full Selves

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True and trusted friends since 1988.

When I was 19, I breathed in the sweet North Carolina air, still sticky and humid in September, cool and glorious by November. Southern Sugar Maple trees offered up their fine broad leaves, first in vibrant green, then in gold and rust. For the first time in 10 years, I lived in a place where it didn’t snow in the winter. Still, the ground hardened in the colder end-of-year weather and we wore wool coats, but the down parka I was used to was out of the question. Elegant Dogwoods flowered white and soft pink in the spring. I took on a subtle southern drawl, seamlessly blending “y’all” into my everyday lingo.

When I was 19, I was failing Econ, in lust with a gorgeous, born-again baseball player and after seven months at college still filling my belly with way too much alcohol weekend after weekend, often throwing up before crawling to bed, always stumbling down to the cafeteria in the morning for a bowl of creamy grits smothered in butter. Continue reading “When I Was 19: The Trial and Error of Becoming Our Full Selves”

When the Everyday Calls For Super Powers and a Good Plum Tart

Last Thursday, I woke to ants swarming the dog bowl and marching triumphantly along my kitchen counters, down the wall and across the hall into the family room. One can of Raid (I know it’s toxic; don’t judge), endless expletives and a marathon cleaning session later, they were mostly dead and disposed of. They reappeared Friday when one of my kids left their lunchbox on the floor of the entryway. More swarming and spraying and cleaning. That afternoon when I watered our drought-abused flowers, I discovered them in droves on the deck. I strode purposefully back into the house and called Bill, the pest exterminator guy.

“It’s the heat,” said Bill. “Drives them indoors.” It had been in the 90s almost all week. The heat drove everyone indoors. After three hours with nary an ant sighting, I relaxed a little. Josh fixed us gin and tonics. We sat down for a fight-free dinner, a rarity for my three girls on a Friday night. Unfortunately the calm didn’t last long. Continue reading “When the Everyday Calls For Super Powers and a Good Plum Tart”

What I’ll Miss About This Summer

IMG_7018I often end up conflicted about summer. In June I’m like a wide-eyed toddler about to chomp down on her first lollipop, all excited and can’t wait and finally! By mid-August I’m more like a disgruntled teenager who just wants to be alone.

The first two months of summer brought visits with old friends, a trip to Disneyland with Lilah, time on the East coast at the sea and then the lake and a weekend away for me at a writing retreat with the most marvelous people. Once home, I reluctantly agreed to let Ella and Ruby stay home and do nothing the last two weeks of summer vacation. They bickered and didn’t make their beds and wanted to be carted to this friend’s house and that movie and this mall. Without meaning to, I morphed from The Laid Back Mom Who Digs Summer into The Mom Who Can’t Wait For School To Start Because My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy. Continue reading “What I’ll Miss About This Summer”

Birthday Parties, Slivers of Empty and Being Okay with Motherhood

P1040480“Mama?” says Lilah. “When is my birthday party going to be?”

My newly minted four-year-old looks at me slightly confused but with full confidence that I will have just the right answer to this question. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Her actual birthday was more than two weeks ago deep in the heart of the summer. We celebrated with extended family during a beach vacation, but I haven’t planned a proper birthday party for her, the one with all her friends, a big cake and a surprise visit from a favorite princess. The one she’s been talking about all summer.
Continue reading “Birthday Parties, Slivers of Empty and Being Okay with Motherhood”

Babysitting and Surviving Parenthood

metal swings sized

I made my way across our backyard and walked over the imaginary line separating our house and the neighbor’s. We didn’t have fences or hedges between our houses, just flowerbeds and grass. I headed through their yard, past the metal swing set all the neighborhood kids clamored for a turn on and down the slight ditch to the next house over. The east coast summer sun glinted through the trees. It wouldn’t be dark for a few more hours.

I knocked timidly on the back door, my heart beating hard. This was my very first night as a babysitter and my first real job, as in being paid to do a task outside of my own house. I’d earned a few dollars here and there helping my dad garden or doing extra chores around the house for my mom, but this was me on my own earning “real” money. Continue reading “Babysitting and Surviving Parenthood”