I need to find something to complain about ~ fast

Standard
I need to find something to complain about ~ fast

happy8I’m happy. No….really, it’s not good. There is nothing worse for a writer who has made a career out of complaining.

Acceptance is the key to my happiness. I’m still juggling, still busy, but without kids at home to suck the life out of me, I’m busy with things that I choose: volunteering for 2 non-profits, cooking classes, piano lessons, writing…you’re bored already, aren’t you? I’m not complaining, but are you laughing? I didn’t think so.

To find the humor I decided to go back to when the complaining started.

happy3Remember 16? You complained about your mother, complained about best friends who liked you when they were in your company but talked about you when you were out of sight. You complained about boyfriends who liked you on Monday but then suddenly liked your best friend on Tuesday. Good times!

25-30 and humor is easily found. Complaining is front and center. You’re on your own and happy to have a career. Maybe you’re married to your soul-mate (the most ridiculous description ever), possibly you have a family. But let’s be honest as we reminisce…you have a few days when you think; maybe I’ll just change my name and keep driving. Smiling? I thought so.

At 40 you’re tired, stressed, and the bathroom scale lies. I was the Queen surrounded by a court of willing and friendly participants who excelled in taking complaining to an art form.

At this age you complain about who spends more time driving, complain about practices and competitions, complain happy9about the college process. It’s been years since you wanted to wear heels, you wonder why you ever thought he was your “soul mate” in the first place, and you’re worried you are becoming your mother. Nobody you know is happy. Its side-splitting hysterical.

And then even though you’re worn out, slightly blind, slightly forgetful and slightly lumpy, the complaining just stops and you’re suddenly no longer tired and remarkably happy.

Which totally ruins the image I have worked decades to achieve.

I’m happy that I’m well past the age of 16 and don’t need to act as though I like you if I don’t. At first it was happy5thrilling to have 650 Facebook friends, but then I accepted that if I didn’t like you in high school, college, or at work I don’t need to like you now.

I accept that no matter how hard I work out I will never be a size 2 and I’ll never look good in neon. I’m suddenly happy wearing black or gray. It’s a timeless look I’m after now: elegant, sophisticated. If I have a craving for lime green, I’ll mix a margarita.

I accept that no matter how much I spend on face products, no pore reducing, line eliminating, plumping, firming, puffiness extinguishing, bleaching, peeling, hydrating concoction will change that fact.

I accept that according to most beauty experts minimal make-up is the way to go at my age. I’m happy with this advice, but not because I read it in a magazine: I simply can’t see well enough to put it on.

I’m VERY happy and VERY accepting that it’s been proven dark chocolate and wine are good for the aging process. That it’s better to be a little overweight and with higher blood pressure then to lose weight and have lower bloodhappy6 pressure as we age. I kid you not….read the 90+ study (http://www.mind.uci.edu/research/90plus-study/). All these years worrying…who knew I was on the right track?

I’m happy and no longer complaining because with child rearing in my rear view mirror I can go out to dinner and a movie during the week, every station on my car radio is mine, my mascara is where I left it, and as long as I avoid looking at myself from the side there isn’t much to complain about.

I LOVE MY LIFE!

Am I happy? Yes!

Is it funny? NO!

My writing career might very well be over.
happy7

Isn’t it time for your nap?

Standard
Isn’t it time for your nap?

I recently wrote about vacationing with your kids and how it’s not a vacation unless you leave them home, (http://tracybuckner.com Vacation? Not So Much, 12/13) so my husband and I decided to try vacationing without them. We left everyone to fight over the last loaf of bread and gallon of milk in Shop-Rite before another impending storm.

jamaica2There’s nothing like Jamaica in February. Sun and rum drinks. We booked an all-adult resort which meant no teenagers texting in the hot tub, and no 2-year-olds in the pool in their swimmy diapers which promise to “keep it all in.” Trust me, “keeping it all in” is a myth.

After boarding a 6 AM flight and not arriving at the resort until that evening thanks to a brewing storm, I was ready for a glass of wine, a fabulous dinner, and a beautiful sunset. My husband lovingly looked at me, took my hand and said, “Do you want to play ping-pong?”

The next morning…Do you want to paddle board, go snorkeling, we could scuba dive, hit the gym, ride a wave runner, why don’t we take a kayak out? Me to him: Why don’t you take a nap?

We set ourselves up under an umbrella and as I longingly looked at my yet unopened book, we walked to the activity jamaica3hut. Wait…aren’t activity huts for kids? All these years I was under the misconception that my kids needed us for a successful vacation, when in reality it was my husband who needed them even more.

While other couples were being served drinks as they relaxed beach-side, I was being outfitted with flippers and a face mask. We spent the first morning snorkeling. That afternoon – kayaking. That night – ping pong, again.
Marriage is all about compromise I told myself. My time would come. Perhaps there was a giant shovel I could find so he could dig a hole. Or I could use it to hit him over the head. Or perhaps I could fly my son down.

The next morning I left my book in our room. We went paddle boarding. Then, while my husband went wind surfing it was my chance to sit on the beach and summon that waiter. I didn’t have my book but I didn’t have my husband either. My vacation had begun.

But just as I was relaxing on the beach I realized I couldn’t spot him on the water. It was like having a lost child. Where is he? I stood up, nervous, heart racing. I paced the beach scanning the horizon ready to call the National Guard or whatever they have in Jamaica for tourists gone wild. Then he appeared, happily riding a wave in. I felt like that mom who loses their child and when reunited wants to hug them and throttle them at the same time. WHERE IS THAT WAITER? WHERE IS THAT SHOVEL?

jamaica6That afternoon was spent on a wave runner. I gave my book to the maid. “Isn’t this great?” he screamed to me over the roar off the engine. My hair whipping across my face. Surgery imminent for my neck. I gave him a thumbs-up. Isn’t marriage grand?

I am never traveling without my kids again.

Then, a miracle. We met a couple from Manitoba, Canada. She also had that dazed look on her face like she was looking for a playmate for her husband. It was a match made in rum heaven. She liked to read and apply suntan lotion. He liked beach volleyball and anything except sitting on a beach. Soon it was like putting our kids on the bus. “Play nice with each other,” we said as we waved goodbye to them every morning.

Finally, we could vacation as we wanted and our Ladies Group had grown. Apparently I wasn’t the only one looking to do damage with a shovel. I borrowed a book since the maid was enjoying mine.

Reunited with my husband in the late afternoons, I was happy and he was tired. At night there were sunset sailboat cruises, a disco, and a piano bar where everyone was expected to sing, and believe me you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Born in the USA sung with a Jamaican accent. With our new friends all around us, it was a fun and memorable adult-only vacation. Happiness can be found after your kids are grown up and gone!

On our last night we enjoyed a wonderful romantic dinner while sipping wine and watching the stunning sunset. My husband lovingly looked at me, took my hand and said, “wanna go down the water slide?” jamaica8

Hercules…you’re kidding me, right?

Standard
Hercules…you’re kidding me, right?

hercules2When did we start naming winter storms, or more to the point, WHY are we naming winter storms? I can understand naming hurricanes and typhoons but naming a winter snow storm is a bit much.

Winter Storm Hercules was a case in point. I knew it was serious when Access Hollywood was pre-empted with a special report of the upcoming storm. Any time Kim Kardashian is pre-empted, you have to guess it’s pretty darn serious. I was surprised they didn’t have Snookie reporting from Belmar.

Naming a storm adds to the frenzy and the sudden extreme addiction to milk, juice, eggs, and bread. I saw gals in ShopRite who hadn’t touched a piece of bread in 5 years with a ridiculous amount of bread in their carts. If I’m going down because of a snow storm you can bet that it’s not milk and bread that I’m making sure I have available. The parking lot looked like the day before Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. Who knew so many drank milk?

The leading news story at 5, 5:30, and 6 was Hercules. The national news at 6:30 also ran it as their lead story. 250 killed in Syria and the lead story was a winter storm…in the northeast….in January. Really?

I could understand all the commotion if this was happening in, let’s say – Arizona. But hercules4cold weather, dark and damp days coupled with snow and ice on the east coast in winter, the last time I checked was normal. It’s why we choose to live here. Jersey Strong, baby.

hercules3Adding to the hysteria are the weather experts from Stanford, the weather specialists from the Weather Channel with their charts, graphs, and markers, and lets not forget the reporters trying to analyze while the snow and wind is blowing. “Look,” they shout, “snow and wind!” They highlight pictures of people sliding, falling and crashing. Do we really need experts with charts to tell us it’s a snow storm and to stay inside? Do you think they are such weenies in Fargo ND, or Omaha Nebraska every time it snows and gets cold?

While growing up, I can’t remember my parents ever caring very much about the weather. It’s NJ. It’s snowing. Big deal. What’s for dinner? Making a snow storm in January major news? fugetaboutit.

Back to Hercules…The experts were predicting it was going to begin snowing at 8 in the morning so many people, myself included, changed appointments, cancelled meetings, became unduly nervous about the driving we had to do. I found myself scanning the sky like I was looking for Santa. I checked the forecast on my weather app every hour. I was so obsessed I even checked the hourly weather in Detroit and Boston, where my kids were. It’s snowing in Detroit! No s— Sherlock! Its January. I was ridiculous. But they made me ridiculous.

But with their Hercules forecast they were wrong in their prediction as it didn’t start snowing until 7 PM that night and it was gone by the following morning. By the time it actually started snowing I had already eaten all the bread and drank all the juice. Now what, I wondered?

Don’t you wish you could be paid to be wrong as many times as they are? It would be like your doctor telling you that you have throat cancer only to find out its strep.

hercules7So now we are on to Winter Storm Janus and I’ve decided I’m watching Netflix. I don’t need hourly updates, I can look out the window. I will NOT go to Shop Rite. I can make due with whatever I have available. There is always plenty of red wine and pasta in my house.

I will be OK.

I will avoid buying in to the hysteria.

We all should.

And as far as staying off the roads I’m driving where I have to go, when I have to go. I’ll make the decision to drive on my own. I don’t need charts, graphs, and newscasters reporting in a snowstorm outside to tell me its a snow storm outside.

hercules8

Sidewalk ice and the winter graph

Standard

sidewalk1Sidewalk ice has different meanings depending on your age. It’s like looking at a graph with a downward slope: fun is the top point and death is the bottom point.

If you’re a child… winter, snow and sidewalk ice, can only mean one thing: Fun with a capital F. You’re at the high point on the winter graph. Your mom bundles you up and out you go into a winter wonderland filled with sledding, sliding, falling, snowballs, snow angels, and snow forts. Your nose is running, your fingers are wet and freezing but you don’t notice. Children are blissfully unaware of impending doom and a visit to the ER when they look outside. Sidewalk ice? If you slip, you slip.sidewalk2

On to the teen years, where style comes before warmth at all times. At this age, looking good is more important than being warm. Take a trip to a local high school where in 20 degree weather, the girls are dressed in uggs with mini-skirts and you will know what I mean. My mother would be lucky if she could get me to wear a winter coat. I wore a hat until she was out of sight. So similar to today’s teens I was usually freezing, but damn, did I look good. Sidewalk ice? I didn’t give it a moment’s thought.

During life’s next stage, you’re working outside the home, or home with the kids. (“Home with the kids” is also “working” but you don’t get to leave the house for adult conversation, no coffee or lunch break, you don’t get paid for putting your life on hold, and best of all you get no respect whatsoever…I’m sounding bitter aren’t I? But that’s a future blog so stay tuned).

During this stage, your children upon hearing that phone ring early in the morning are ecstatic, knowing it can only mean one thing: A SNOW DAY! If you’re a stay-at-home or a working mom, however, you hear that early morning ring and you think….”shoot me.” It might mean fun with a capital F to your kids but you are probably thinking of another word… also with a capital F. The point on the winter graph is beginning to drop significantly.

sidewalk6But, I remember once after the plow had come, my kids went outside and saw the tremendously high drift that the plow had left at the bottom of our drive. Within 10 minutes they had made it into a fort with snow windows and little seats. Then they made a small slide. A few neighborhood kids came over and it was all fun and laughter and snowsuits, and hats and gloves and boots. As I watched from my window I thought to myself…go outside…forget the ice.

So I did.sidewalk7

None of them seemed to notice that I was dressed like an Eskimo so I started collecting rocks and sticks and began decorating their fort. Before long all of them were collecting whatever greenery they could find and decorating along with me. My nose was running and my hands were wet and freezing but I was having a great time. It was like being Snow White with her 7 dwarfs. If I fell there would be 7 kids to pick me up.

I didn’t fall.

Afterwards, I went inside and made hot chocolate for everyone and even had marshmallows handy in the pantry. Then I invited some of my friends over who were similarly thrilled with the snow day and darned if Jack Daniels didn’t go great with the hot chocolate! Why should only kids have all the fun?

Now I’m at the bottom of the winter graph where its uggs without the mini-skirt for me. Looking good? Forget it. It takes 10 minutes to get ready to leave the house as you put on a winter coat, tie a scarf around your neck, pull the same scarf over your nose and mouth, put on gloves, and a hat. I imagine it’s like wearing a burka as only your eyes are exposed. My daughter says, “Mom, you’re only walking 20 feet to get the mail” but I don’t care. And I can’t think of letting her get the mail because she would only wear a mini skirt with uggs. My only concern is staying out of the ER and keeping the circulation going in my fingers and toes.

At my age, I’m at the lowest point on the winter graph. I look at sidewalk ice and think, “I’m going to die.”sidewalk8

55 ~ the Good, the Bad, the whole milk latte

Standard

55 I think my mother’s more depressed about the fact that I’m turning 55 than I am. When someone asks the ages of her children and she says she has a daughter who is 55, a quick calculation would make my mom…well, pretty darn old. So yeah, she seems a bit depressed.

I’m trying what I have always suggested my kids do, which is to come up with a good vs. bad list to turning 55. Maybe this will help me embrace this birthday. Maybe this will deter me from putting an eye lift and liposuction on my Christmas List.

The Good. I can sleep in because I don’t have to wake up to make breakfast or lunches for kids at home. The Bad? I can’t sleep. If it wasn’t for infomercials on juicing, doo-wop music collections and rotisserie ovens, I don’t know what I would do with myself at 3 in the morning.

The Good. I’m hot. The Bad. It’s not hot in a sexy way.

The Good. I got over being over-the hill when I turned 30. That was the most shocking birthday for me. Growing up, anyone 30 was practically decrepit. They wore weird sweaters, were married, wore way too much make-up, and were thick in the middle. The Bad. I seem to own a lot of weird sweaters, I’m married, I wear a lot of make-up and I am thick in the middle.

Now as far as that “thick in the middle” aspect of turning 55, the good is with no children at home to suck the life out of me, I have a lot of time to work out so most mornings I get dressed and head to the gym. 2 hours of either spin and step classes, or pump and step classes 3 days a week. 1 day a week I take a Pilates mat class.551

The Bad.

It’s not working.

I have cut back on carbs. My weight remains the same. I have cut down on up sugar. My weight remains the same. Given up soda, desserts (well…sort of), and watch my calorie intake. My delusional friends tell me that muscles weigh more. But 30 pounds of muscle? It’s why I refuse to give up wine. I can still drink myself sexy.

The instructor in my Pilates class wants our abs back to their glory days. He instructs us to hold in our cores: to clench as if being hit with a basketball while we do planks, side-planks, and sit-ups. I clench. I hold it in. But when looking down, hanging off those clenched muscles is still a stomach.

Hence, the wine.

DD Blend 004The Good. Upon turning 55 I can use my AARP card and receive a free donut with my coffee at Dunkin Donuts. The Bad. I have no will-power and eat the donut.

Always.

I make myself feel better by getting a latte made with skim milk but that’s sort of like ordering a Whopper with a diet coke. I’ve done that too.

My solution is I find at least 1 person a day who looks worse than me. Then I stand next to them.

Many people remark that 50 is the new 30 and they’re happy to tell you that they loved their 50’s. But I’ve noticed these people are in their 80’s. And then there are those who say to me, “but you look 45” as if that should make me happy.

So you’re probably thinking this gal has no problems and she should just be thankful for the life she has. You’re right, and I am. But it’s like an out of body experience when filling out a form where they are asking for your age and you have to scroll down to 1958. It takes a REALLY long time to get there.

The Good. Lot’s of celebrating yours truly. On the actual day my mother cooked me a fabulous birthday dinner. My husband took me out for drinks and then a Bonnie Raitt concert. And to cap it all off, my best friend surprised me by inviting 10 of my very best sleep deprived, memory challenged, sweaty, sugar craving, near-sighted friends to celebrate with me at a local restaurant. And we all ordered dessert.

In weighing the Good vs. the Bad, I’ve decided there’s enough Good to forgo the eye lift and the lipo…for now. And if I don’t look down at what’s growing over my belt I suppose I’m content to be 55. I’m going to eat a donut whenever the heck I want and maybe I’ll even order my latte with whole milk… just to be able to walk on the wild side again. 553

CROSS-COUNTRY

Standard

group runners 4My dad looked at me and said, “That’s disgusting.” You’re wondering had someone neglected to pick up after their dog, a teenager getting sick in an ally after too much drinking, was it the sight of me in yoga pants? Nope. He was referring to the parents at a cross-country track meet for 10-12 year olds.

The track meet started out well enough. That is until the man standing next to me suddenly ran across the track, sprinted across the field to catch up with his son who was clearly struggling to finish. I thought he might be the coach until I realized he was obviously right off the NYC train in a suit, tie, and really nice shoes. He was running along side his son. Running backwards while his son ran forwards, picture it…in a suit, shouting, “C’mon Connor, don’t give up. Keep your head up Connor. Lift your knees Connor. Keep it up. KEEP RUNNING CONNOR!”

Are you disgusted yet? Wait. There’s more.

A woman seeing that Connor had a leg up on the competition (for 10-12 year olds, I remind you) had the same running-with-her-daughter reaction. “RUN KAYLEE…RUN FASTER…RUN HARDER!” Unlike running-in-a-suit-dad, Mom was not dressed for success but rather in yoga pants and let’s just say that um…maybe she should try exercising more regularly before she decides to run… backwards…in yoga pants. Anyway, I digress. group runners

I looked around wondering if every parent would suddenly run backward to their child running forward. Maybe someone was filming a You’ve Been Punked television clip. But these parents were serious and that’s when my dad said, “that’s disgusting.”

I could picture running-in-a-suit-dad thinking, “If Connor doesn’t win this race he won’t make the high school track team, which means that his HS resume for any college won’t be good enough, which means that he won’t get an internship and then he won’t get a job, and will probably not even go to college, and will be a failure and live at home for the rest of his life. Thus, “PICK YOUR HEAD UP CONNOR. PICK UP YOUR KNEES CONNOR. FINISH THE RACE!” UPENN DEPENDS ON IT!” OK, he didn’t say the UPENN part.

I’m out of breath just reading that last paragraph.

Why do so many parents think their kids have to be destined for Division 1? Can’t anything be just fun and not so $&#?ing serious?

I know there’s no “going back” because so much emphasis is on winning, competing, being the best, and of course that college scholarship that needs to be honed from the age of 8. I spent 7 years watching Sarah Mintz’s feet kick in front of me during competition swim meets. 7 years of never winning. Thank goodness my father never tried to swim alongside.

I’m glad I grew up when I did. The music was better and parents didn’t have a role in our sporting practices or group runners6competitions. We had terrific school coaches to facilitate and encourage us. No traveling teams, no sports that lasted 8 months, no personal trainers, no parents running backwards while we ran forwards. We played whatever sport we chose whenever we chose. Parents? They picked us up at the end of practice, they cheered during competitions, they stayed put in the stands.

Growing up, I was on many teams yet despite the absence of parents, I managed to learn to throw a football, field a baseball, out-swim my brother, execute a pretty good lay-up, play a decent game of tennis, and cheer on the sidelines for The West Orange Cowboys. Thankfully that was good enough for my dad.

The only time I ever remember my father stepping in was when horrified, he realized I was throwing a baseball with the wrong leg in front. After correcting that problem he went back in the house. Other than that, it was hands off. Go outside and have fun, and it WAS fun!

So back to Connor and Kaylee, both of whom were sitting on the track not finishing the race despite their parent’s athletic ability. Coming around the last turn was one little girl who was not struggling to finish. As a matter of fact, she was winning.

This little girl stopped her race foregoing her chance at a win and went over to Kaylee. Offering her hand she helped her friend up and they walked to the finish line together.

Need I say more? group runners 3

Tag or Dodgeball anyone?

Standard

Today, most of us will not allow our kids to be bored. It’s like the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not be bored. We quickly drive them to the mall, the movies, suggest they invite friends over, and wear ourselves out so that they don’t need to figure something out. They have pools in their yards, finished basements that are more fun than the boardwalk and yettag3 they can’t figure out what to do with themselves when they have some down time.

When growing up if I ever told my mother I was bored, she simply said, “well then you’re boring. Figure something out or I’ll give you something to do,” which usually meant clean the bathroom, organize my closet or clean out the garage. I learned quickly to find something to do.

tag2 My childhood was heaven because I was lucky enough to live on a cul-de-sac with 4 other families all of whom had kids within a year of each other. Our mothers had the same mantra: “don’t bother me, just be home for dinner.” So I had 4 mothers, 11 friends, and 2 dogs at all times willing to walk to school, ride bikes, play tag, baseball, hopscotch, hide and go seek, play with Barbie and GI Joe, and chalk the sidewalk.

No boredom and no parental intervention. Well, I take that back…with 4 mothers someone was always lifting a window to tell one of us to get a sweater, but they never intervened unless Sandy was crying or Val had a tooth knocked out. Aside from that, we were on our own.

I was reading an article about how today’s children have a problem with self-regulation. I think that’s a new way of saying that kids today don’t know how to “figure it out.” I don’t think they know how to self-regulate because we regulate and figure it all out for them. Take this conversation I had with a friend of mine to try to find the time for their family to come over for a bar-b-que:

“Andrew (16) will have very little time this summer because he is volunteering at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and he will need to start his SAT prep classes, tag7 then he is taking a 4 week course at Cornell, then some one-on-one pitching training with a private baseball trainer, then perhaps a follow-up with another SAT prep class.”

I’m guessing little Andrew would love to be bored. As a matter of fact with this sort of summer he may even enjoy cleaning the bathroom or organizing the garage.

My summers were a bit different: Volunteer? I volunteered to weed my grandfather’s garden. SAT Prep? We didn’t even have summer reading back then and besides, IT WAS THE SUMMER! A college course at an Ivy? No comment available that could be printed. Training to excel in a sport? My brother went 0-99 at bats one summer. My dad’s solution: try soccer.

Then to make matters worse, I read that many schools are banning the game of tag and dodge ball during tag1recess. My friends of a similar age, I ask you…can you even believe this? Too many kids left out, they say, too many kids with hurt feelings when they aren’t picked for a team. Really? How about when they’re not picked for a college, for a job? And judging from my high school reunion, those kids who weren’t popular enough then to be picked first for a playground team are now titans of their industries. It all comes around sooner or later so relax.

I admit…I’m not much better with down time. Usually when I find myself with nothing to do I exert myself in Nordstrom and I was just as intent on making sure my kids built their college resume with the best of them. But I’m forcing myself to embrace the down-time without drinking too much wine.

I’m trying to figure it out, as my mother would say. Funny thing is, yesterday I spent an entire day cleaning out my closet! My grandfather would sometimes say he was “watching the air.” I’m trying to do that too. It really is lovely on my back deck. I’ll try and stay out of Nordstrom when I have nothing better to do and instead pick up a book. Maybe even pick up a pan which would make my husband very happy.

And I think the tide may be shifting… My daughter just texted me from college to say she was named captain of her intramural team. “What sport,” I asked. “DODGEBALL,” she replied.

I love it!!
tag6

The Drop-Off

Standard

THE DROP OFF

This was the first article I ever had printed in the paper and given the subject matter and the time of the year and the fact that it’s all happening again, I thought I would add it to my blog

During a trip I recently took, I both sent and received the following texts from my friends: “it takes time to get over it, there is nothing worse, you will have good times and then you will be a crying mess again”. At the same time my daughter sat in the back seat of our car texting her friends and giggling. Later, she answered her phone and I heard her say, “Yeah, both my parents are crying too.

dropoff6Thankfully this is nothing as serious as death, divorce, or cancer, but rather the yearly trek that some of us make taking our kids to college…the drop-off. And if one more person tells me “I’ll be fine,” I think I will throw up. Of course I will be fine and I’m hopeful I will love my new life, but I’m not quite ready to be on the road to recovery just yet. I’m thinking of starting a support group like AA for those of us recovering from the drop-off. We could call ourselves DOA – Drop-Off Anonymous. We no longer would have to tear up alone…in the car, in the bathroom, making a bed, hiding our tears behind sunglasses, ashamed and alone. We could all do it together – once a week for as long as it took to get a grip. We would recognize and deal with the stages of recovery. We could have sponsors who are fully recovered and would give us hope.

My youngest left last Thursday for college and I am no longer a sack of drippy emotions. For the last 3 weeks, most of my friends have also been dropping their kids off at various colleges and so we are all in different stages of recovery. We’re like emotional cheerleaders for each other. “Hang in there!” “As long as they’re happy you can be happy!” Nobody really expects to feel happy, but just knowing that we are all being ridiculous (You’re probably thinking “pathetic”) is helpful.

Those of us who have been through the college drop-off before are familiar with the first stage: denial. We knew what the “first timers” were in for and tried to warn them. But like children with no point of reference, they had no idea what they were in for and happily went on their way buying bedding, microwaves, fans, and USB ports. The denial stage made them blissfully unaware of what this spike on their VISA bill really meant. Those of us all too familiar with this stage started with the tears weeks in advance of the actual drop off. We wistfully looked at mom’s walking their young children to school, wondering, where did all the time go?

The depression phase started the last 2 weeks in August when were all walking around in different stages of duress. Everywhere I went I saw women who were usually rushing through Shop Rite in yoga pants, sweaty from their most recent workout of Guns, Buns, and ABs clutching a phone in one hand and a food list in the other, instead, acting sort of weepy and slowly ambling down the aisles. We were like zombies anxiously awaiting THE DATE as it loomed ever closer. “When is your date?” I would ask. “August 15th, August 21st, August 30th” they would mumble. You would think we were sending our kids off to slaughter. Get a grip, I kept telling myself, your new life awaits! My mother to me, “get over it Tracy, you will cry for a week and then you will be fine.” Gee thanks, mom.

It’s been 2 weeks since the drop-off and I’m in the transition phase of my recovery. During this phase the worst is over. You are calmer and go most of the day without tearing up. It helps that I hear from my kids regularly. Texts will come in at 3 in the morning so my sleep is interrupted but I force myself to remember that I love and miss them so much that I don’t mind searching for my glasses, turning on a light, picking up the phone to read, “hey” on my dropoff3phone. “Hey?’ How do you answer a “hey?” From this profound and well written message I can see that they are up at 3 in the morning, and I tell myself the university library is open 24 hours so I know they are studying. I get pictures of food so I know they are eating, pictures of school mascots and 60,000 of their friends so I know they are getting social interaction. No pictures or texts of getting an education, but I don’t want to dampen their mood.

The side effects are receding and I believe I am into the acceptance phase of my recovery. I am getting used to putting myself first and there is considerably less laundry. I find joy in the fact that my daughter can no longer use the laundry basket as a drawer. The laundry fairy has been freed. It makes me smile that my son, a college senior, has to get up before noon and that it will occur to him (on his own, and not by a nagging parent) that if he wants to stay up till 3 in the morning it may be difficult to function. I practically beam to think that one of the stops in his day is finding time to go grocery shopping. And that guess what? Dinner just doesn’t appear every night at 6:30! Do I sound giddy? You bet.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do miss them…every day. I was never one of those mothers who cheered when the bus came in early September to pick my kids up for their first day of school. But instead of having until 2:30 to do anything for me only, I have until Thanksgiving. I’m doing things I have thought about doing for years. I’m taking a writing course, I’m volunteering, and I’m only doing the food shopping once a week! But the best thing about being home alone is the fact that my husband and I no longer say to ourselves…can we do this? Because, YES WE CAN! We saw the Eagles in Atlantic City and Madonna at Yankee Stadium and we didn’t have to worry about who was home or who may need us. As a matter of fact, upon getting home at 3 in the morning I did something I’ve always wanted to do…I texted my kids, “hey!”

Recovery is sweet.dropoff4

S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E

Standard

My son, my first born, just graduated from Georgetown University, and a word I knew he had no idea the meaning of was about to become his reality. S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E. Even if only just a little, I think to myself with a hint of a smile.tp diploma

It’s not really his fault that he doesn’t know the meaning of this word. Are there any kids in my neighborhood or any of his friends who know what it means to “struggle”? I think not. (My husband will say that I don’t know what it means either, but this isn’t about me.) Thanks to us insane parents, everything has always been easy for them as we have done everything to make their lives struggle free. And it’s been exhausting. “Batter up!” as they say, and it’s no longer my turn!

Georgetown had been rigorous and competitive, but this wasn’t the struggle I was hoping for and smiling about. I was thinking of life’s struggles: rent, car insurance, dealing with the cable company, withholding tax.

I had been preparing him for months that in today’s precarious economy (a) he may not graduate with a job, and (b) he shouldn’t expect to love it. He would need to struggle along with many other college graduates, to find one.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think he was job worthy, it’s just that when you have HR people asking what type of animal he thought he would be instead of asking about his credentials, It was clear finding a job wouldn’t be that easy.

So what happens? He lands a dream job before he graduates in an industry he loves and wanted. (I guess he answered the animal question correctly). One minute he’s clinging to my leg in Kindergarten and the next thing I know he’s packing up and heading for Michigan. My husband and I looked at each other and wondered what just happened? What about the struggle to land a job, the terrible economy? Who would take out the garbage? I was sad to see him go….sort of.

tp beachUp until this point the struggle for him and his friends was wondering if they should come back from the shore on Sunday or Monday. Now, no matter what they decided, they needed to get to work on Monday.

Before, the struggle for them was making a decision on which of 1000 channels they should watch rather than caring how much money it cost. Now, with having to pay for those channels, suddenly any channel over 13 may not be worth it.
And do these channels just magically appear? No. They will need to be in touch with the cable company where I’m hoping he will be put on hold for 30 minutes and struggle to remain sane after he is cut off a time or two. Am I smiling? You bet.

Now he will have to deal with a boss. Would he be able to first look him up on a “rate my manager” internet site and pick who he wanted to work for, like the “rate my professor” site he used at college? NO!

My son was appreciative of his life at home, but there was no way he knew how good he had it. I could picture him saying at a very inopportune time…”what do you mean there is no toilet paper?” OMG I am rolling on the floor.

So he’s been there for a month and every time he calls I am waiting for him to say how much he misses us and that he wants to come home…that the struggle to be on his own is more than he can handle. But guess what? He’s not
struggling – at all.

Turns out the folks in the Midwest are wonderful and friendly and everyone wants to know why he doesn’t sound like Snookie and her friends. The cable representatives are in fact very competent and their prices are cheap so he still has 1000 channels to pick from. His neighbors have invited him to dinner. Gas, food, and rent are cheaper. Maybe it’s just NJ that sucks.

His weekends aren’t spent studying and catching up with projects. He’s not exhausted from the rigors of college. He likes his boss and co-workers and finds the job challenging. He’s getting paid to work and he loves it. He’s, shall I say…happy? I keep thinking, well just you wait till its February in Michigan, Mister, but I don’t want to sound bitter.

I miss him, but clearly he’s not struggling which should make me proud. I am. tp heart

We are visiting soon and guess what? He says he will be cooking for me and just because I can’t help myself and because I can’t think that he’s totally self-sufficient, I tell him that I’ll do the dishes.

Stevie, 1970 something, and Depends

Standard

A few weeks ago my husband and I attended a Fleetwood Mac concert. It was like lunchtime at my high school only 35 years later. Everyone was in different stages of decay.vodkatonic

In high school we drank beer. For some it was a varsity sport but we’re mature now. At the concert it was clear we still took drinking seriously but the concerns we had were different. None of us had to worry about being grounded; we were concerned about other, more serious things. Like carbs and calories.

In one corner, just like high school, were the Italian girls. Big hair, big personalities, big laughs, big…..well, you get the picture. Back then, these girls had hot boyfriends named Sal and/or Ronny and it was clear they STILL thought their Ronnys and Sals were hot. I can picture them smushed up against lockers in full kissing mode every chance they could get. Now? Most of us are just smushed into our pants but we still know how to have a good time.chevelle

Ronny and Sal and that group were present too. Although not so hot anymore there wasn’t much that had changed. They still loved their muscle t-shirts and their tans, and of course, they still liked to drink. I loved hanging around the Italian boys in high school…they could crack me up like nobody else on the planet, but my mother had other plans for me which didn’t include boys of any kind. “But what do you like about him?” she would ask? “His Chevelle,” I replied. Another 2 weeks locked in my room.

The jocks were at the concert too and still hanging together from what I could tell. They were popular in high school and liked cheerleaders. I was a cheerleader (don’t hold this against me, please) but I was usually locked away in my closet by my mother so nobody was searching for me to smush against a locker. From the looks of them they hadn’t run on a football field or otherwise in 30 years and I’m guessing they still liked their sneakers but not so much to work out. More to help with their aging knees which I’m guessing many of us could relate to.calculator

The smart crowd was there. Huddled together now as doctors, tax accountants, lawyers and definitely dressed for success even at a concert. 35 years later, they looked good. This group did NOT look good in high school. Back then they wore glasses, had pens in their shirt pockets, took AP calculus, statistics, and carried really large backpacks. They had homework which they finished and it had paid off. They weren’t locking lips with anyone in high school. Absolutely revenge of the nerds.

As for me, I was an Italian girl with a double life and I floated between all groups. There was the life I wanted to lead and the life my mother insisted on. I would leave the house dressed like Marcia Brady but change in a friend’s car and emerge as Tina from Tony and Tina’s Wedding. Sometimes I would forget to change back into Marcia Brady. That was a problem. Now, thankfully, I can go and come back as the same person. My mother always said watching me raise a girl would be the best revenge. I hate when she’s right.

Not too many high-heels at this concert. Tight pants but only because we had gained weight and forget about short shirts, short skirts. No sir – none of that. As a matter of fact, based on the ages at this concert when I went to the ladies room I expected to see Depends in the dispenser.

And just like in high school, the different groups were eyeing each other up. The Ronnys and Sals were looking at me which didn’t sit well with their wives/girlfriends. We all hated the dates of the smart crowd because they looked much too good. “Well, she certainly paid for those perky things”, I heard on more than one occasion. The Italian girls were looking a little too lustily after the jocks which didn’t sit well with their Ronnys and Sals. Oh boy, here we go I thought, a fist fight in the balcony, just like in high school only then it took place near the flagpole.

And then Stevie Nicks came on stage. All 60 plus years of her with long blond hair, black boots, black fringe and that amazing voice and we all just stopped and listened….and sang….together, as the class of 1970 something. And when we all sang Landslide it didn’t matter one bit what you looked like now or 35 years ago.stevie

“Well time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too.”

She was amazing.

So are we.