Tag or Dodgeball anyone?

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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!!
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The Drop-Off

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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

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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

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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.

RECLAIMING MY BRAIN

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I’m on a mission to reclaim my brain.

Previously I wrote that I’ve been feeling memory challenged. Memory of names, words on the tip of my tongue that I can’t remember, where I left my phone, keys, glasses, etc. Being assured by my doctor that it wasn’t the onset of early Alzheimer’s, I was told to pretty much deal with it…”it’s part of the aging process”, he said.BRAIN2

“F… that,” I said.

In my younger years when I wanted to learn anything I reached for something I could touch. Flash cards used for multiplication and addition (obviously that didn’t work, but that’s another blog), cookbooks when I wanted to learn a few recipes.

That was then.

This is now.
I pick up my iPhone and go shopping at the APP store. And there it is…Lumosity. An app suggesting I could “reclaim my brain”! It’s a brain trainer. Sort of like an exercise trainer but nobody is yelling at me to get down lower in my squats.

Finding Lumosity gave me hope. Clearly I wasn’t the only person who wanted to find their brain or why would there be an app for it? Others must be walking around in a cloud wondering where they parked their car too. Maybe this app could help me feel like I wasn’t having a senior moment 24 hours a day.brain6

I started with the SHAPES game used for memory. It claimed to help you “manage business meetings where lots of ideas are discussed”.

Managing a business meeting? The closest I come to managing a meeting is discussing who will do what chore in our family. I don’t need ideas. I need someone to take out the garbage. I skip to the next game.

The BRAIN SHIFT game also claims to help with memory and can “make you a better listener at work and in relationships.” WHOA! I don’t need to be a better listener. I want people to listen TO ME! And as for relationships , I don’t need any more friends. The ones I have know what they’re getting and still like me. They too are walking around in a cloud wondering where they left their glasses and their cars. Where’s the training on Lumosity for that, is what I want to know?

I decided to go on their website and sure enough, all those looking to reclaim their brain are in their 20’s. It’s like 18-year-old models selling wrinkle cream to 50-year-olds.

But I knew for sure that this app clearly wasn’t written for me when one of the statements said, “I need to improve on projects – although I can easily switch between them, it’s hard for me to maintain focus on one of them for long”.

You’re 20 years old and you can’t focus? BRAIN1

Clearly this person was not a 50+ year-old mother. Mothers switch between projects the minute they get up in the morning until the minute they go to sleep at night. We don’t need an app to help with project management.
Friends my age aren’t dealing with managing meetings or relationships. We want to remember what we had for dinner last night.

You think you have lost your brain at 20? I at least have an excuse… It’s called MY LIFE! “What’s yours?” I scream at the iPhone.

Maintain focus? Are you kidding me?

You haven’t even been married yet! Now there’s a mind numbing experience.

You haven’t had kids yet who think you were born to serve…them!

You haven’t yet been an executive at a fortune 100 firm making money with a wonderful office and a secretary before you decided to give it all up for the card you get once a year on Mother’s Day.

What I realized was that I deserve to be forgetful! I’ve earned it. I’ve done nothing but schedule activities, play dates, meals, concerts, sleep-over’s, sports practices, competitions, juggle 14 balls in the air at one time, and drive, drive, drive for the past 20 years. MY BRAIN IS FRIED FOR A REASON.

So what if I’m forgetful. I never once missed a game or a concert. I was successful without an app.

So I decided I am going to reclaim my own brain with no help from the app store.

I will park in the same lane at Shop-Rite so I always know approximately where my car is. I will have multiple glasses scattered around the house, I will force myself to put my keys in the same pocket of my purse and on the same counter in my house every time I drive. BRAIN4

I need to give myself a break.
I need to embrace my fogginess.
I’ve earned it.

I’m losing it….Really.

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I’m losing it….really.

I have become a list maker. I used to make lists to remember who had to be picked up where and when, dates to turn in various school forms, pizza day at Bragg School, birthday cards to buy…You know, those important things that us
“stay-at-homes” live for.Clipart Illustration of a Red Pencil Marking Of Items On A Check

Now I make lists just so know I have accomplished something by the end of the day because without my list I wouldn’t remember what I accomplished on any given day.

I was getting concerned that I had the early stages of dementia until I realized that all my friends are memory challenged. My girlfriend forgets a lunch date but it’s OK! I forgot to pick my dad up from his doctor’s appointment and I DROPPED HIM OFF THAT SAME MORNING! My other girlfriend can’t remember where she put the book I lent her. It’s OK! I can’t remember even having read the book although I must have loved it because I’m running a neighborhood book group to discuss it.

Today, when getting together my friends and I find ourselves in competition over how forgetful we are. We face the same challenges with a common theme: where’s the keys, where’s the scarf, where’s the wallet, where’s the glasses. Although we laugh, there is still that nagging little voice in the back which says (sort of loudly)…maybe this ain’t so funny.

I actually downloaded the Lumosity app onto my phone which promises to “train your brain for better function.” (More on this in my next blog). When someone is looking over my shoulder I switch over to the NYTimes app so I appear to be smart.

I looked up the symptoms of dementia:

1 A group of symptoms affecting intellectual and social abilities confused

Well, surely I have that one covered. It’s hard to sound intellectual and excel in the social scene when you are flipping your words as in, “I think I will go to the car and get the heat seated”, which really translates to “I think I’ll get the seat heated.”

2 Memory loss

I literally can’t remember why I am standing in a particular room on any given day. I know that I went there with a purpose I just can’t remember what that purpose was. Then, 3 hours later when I’m getting into bed, that’s when I’ll remember.

3 Problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment or language.

(refer to answers number’s 1 and 2)

4 Dementia can make you confused and unable to remember people and names. foot in mouth

I have decided I have way too many friends and this is the reason I can’t remember names anymore. I don’t need any more friends. So I have decided to close the gate. My friends are the ones I currently call friends. The rest of you – don’t bother me.

5 Changes in personality and social behavior.

See the last remark in the answer to number 4

So I went to go see my doctor about this and he said it’s an age thing. REALLY? Something else that us 50 year old women now I have to deal with along with insomnia, weight gain, and feeling like we’re hot but not in the sexy way?

DR: Anyone can forget some details but people with dementia forget the entire thing.

ME: Good…I will forget what my thighs used to look like.

DR: People with dementia are prone to placing objects in odd places.

ME: I found clean wash cloths in my freezer. (I kept this to myself).

Long story short…I’m not worried anymore since nobody that I know can remember anything and we are relatively happy. My 80 year old mother who is still working, still going, still doing reminded me, recently, after having misplaced my glasses for 3 days, that my glasses may be in my bathrobe pocket. THEY WERE. Maybe dementia missed her generation and settled on ours. Or maybe we all just have way too much time on our hands.

I continue to train my brain with the lumosity app daily, but only after I find my phone.

VACATION? Not so much.

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VACATION? Not so much.

I was sitting in Newark Airport with my family getting ready to board a flight to our vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico. Sitting next to me was a family with 2 kids, ages 2 and 4. They had strollers, car seats, crayons, coloring books, teddy bears, sand trucks, blankets, juice cups, goldfish crackers, etc. I had 2 kids in tow, ages 18 and 21 with 2 iPods. I smiled to myself thinking my vacation would be a real vacation. I could relax and I wouldn’t have to haul anything. baby stuff 1

What I soon came to realize was that it’s never a relaxing vacation unless you leave your kids home.

Having breakfast the next morning at our hotel, I heard a mom of toddlers say, “let’s go to the pool! “Yay!!”, the kids replied. “Let’s go to the beach!” I heard another young mom say. “Yay!!” her kids replied. At this age you speak, they listen. You go, they follow. Not once did I hear, “mom your wearing THAT on the beach?” There are smiles all around.

I tried for the “smiles all around” effect but the pool is boring for my son yet sounds great to my daughter. Swimming at the beach is too cold for my daughter but my son is all for it. ATVing is great for my son but my daughter would prefer to go horseback riding.

My husband and I both felt like King Solomon. Which child do we get rid of?scales

I wondered if we just dug a giant hole in the sand and gave them shovels and trucks if that would make them happy like it used to. But then I remembered…I didn’t bring any shovels or trucks.

Going on a family vacation with adult children is quite different from a vacation with young children. With young children you are all going down the same road. Yes, you probably need a U-Haul trailer just to get to the beach, but it’s the same road and most importantly there is no negotiation.

With our vacation everyone wanted a different road. Some wanted to take the extreme ATV road while others wanted to take the snorkeling road. Some chose the off-road racing on the Baja road while others chose the sunset cruise road. There was the deep-sea fishing road instead of the spa road. How about LETS TAKE A NAP ROAD? Do I hear a “Yay?”

Why was I so smug as I watched that young couple wrestle with their strollers and car seats. Surely it’s easier when a coloring book and a juice box make them happy. Throw in a few goldfish and they’re ecstatic.

Then there are the night time activities. With young children the nighttime activity is a bath and a book. Bedtime is 7:30.nap

Night time activities with adult children are quite a different story. They want to go out…INTO THE NIGHT….ALONE….IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY…AND DRINK MARGARITAS….

When the clock strikes midnight and my kids still haven’t returned, I find myself thinking of that young family probably all snuggly in their hotel room. The parents are probably relaxed and sipping wine on their balcony.

I hate them.

Meals thankfully were not an issue. Nevertheless, with 4 decision makers there was always a debate over when to eat and what to eat. At one point (possibly dreaming of pre-school days), I suggested we pick from a hat.

When they were little the meal time discussion went something like this…”let’s have noodles with butter for dinner!” “Yay” they would reply.

And then the incredible happened. With so much left over food in the refrigerator and all of us tired from traveling down our many different roads, we decided, AS A FAMILY, to stay in and eat the leftovers. We pulled all the food out, set the table up on the patio, put the iPod in the docking station and actually agreed on the music (Bob Marley). We laughed looking at all the pictures we had taken; we talked about hoping to do this again next year. margaritas

“Let’s have margaritas!” my husband said. “Yay!” they replied!

You can follow Tracy on facebook at Tracy Buckner: aging, kids, and why we self-medicate, or at http://tracybuckner.com

My newest perfume is Ben Gay

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My newest perfume is Ben Gay

overhill2When all you do is roll over in bed and then have to deal with a herniated disc you know without a doubt that the slow decline has begun. That you’re on the other side of the hill, the train has left the station, the ship has sailed, that….oh forget it…you know what I mean.

I had every intention of joining the ranks of millions who had vowed to lose weight for the New Year.  Knowing my “start date” I ate and drank everything in sight before the big day. I signed up at my gym for a month of step, pump, CX, and RPM classes.  I replaced dips, cookies, fried chicken and wine with lots of fruit, protein, and vegetables. Then I heard, “POP” and I needed a crane to lift me into a standing position.

I guess this is the beginning of the decline. I have vowed to go down kicking and screaming, but that’s a little hard to do when you can’t bend over, roll over, turn left or turn right without wincing. Actually, I’m still OK with the screaming part. It’s the kicking I’m currently having a hard time with.

My kids, home for the holiday, were so concerned they took a video of me trying to get out of the chair. As they were laughing I could so relate to those animals that eat their young. If someone tells me they saw me on YouTube I will disown them.

I have used so much Ben Gay in the last week that if you don’t wear a mask when entering my house your brain will be instantly numb from the fumes.

craneMy husband has started to complain about the pervasive smell of menthol so I switch it up every other day and use Biofreeze. It’s important in a long-term marriage that you appear to care what your partner thinks.

The chiropractor who has become my new BFF suggested that when I stand, I raise a foot up onto a book.  Hello! I need a crane to stand and I have to bend to get the book on the floor, so clearly that’s not going to work.

He suggested I sleep on my right side.   Unfortunately I’ve been spending so much time on my right side that now I can’t feel my right shoulder.

The good news is my sinuses are clear from the fumes.  The bad news is that if someone lights a match I may explode.

I was told that with a herniated disc I need to adjust my life accordingly.  What exactly does “adjust my life accordingly” mean?  According to the 20 year old in my head (who doesn’t yet have weight, vision, memory, or body issues), or the 54-year-old who is living la vida not so much loca?

And how do you adjust your life when all you did was roll over in bed?  Does it mean that I have to avoid rolling, that I need to sleep standing? Why is this happening?  Don’t I get a say? Is there an age limit on throwing a temper tantrum?temper

No wonder we’re all on some form of Prozac.  Who can deal with this aging stuff without being medicated? I suppose I could drink a little more wine, but have you seen the sugar content in wine? I’m on a “get healthy” kick, remember? Prozac has fewer calories.

This morning I opened my eyes, actually making a mental plan on how to get upright.

  1. Slide to the side of the bed,
  2.  Check to see if my concerned darlings are anywhere around with their phones,
  3. Slowly place 2 feet on the floor,
  4. Bend knees and slowly rise to a standing position.

I haven’t done this much planning since my wedding.

Lo and behold I have very little pain and actually pass on the Ben Gay.  Maybe it’s just an Advil and ice pack day.  Advil and ice….what has my life become? It used to be that when I said ice, I also said gin, tonic, and lime.

I put my new sneakers on and my new workout clothes. I grab a carrot and I simply go for a walk.  A very slow walk.  Do you think it’s OK that secretly I want to trip the young runners as they go by? “HEY” I want to scream…”you too shall be slowly walking one day”! Perhaps I have anger issues too.

tripping

I finally feel well enough that I put the Ben Gay away.  I’m sure I’ll need it again because as they say, “you’re not getting any younger.”  And for all those people who say they wouldn’t do 20, or 30, or 40 again.  That they are so happy being 50….STOP SNIFFING THE Ben Gay!

They’re BAAAAaaack!

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THEY’RE BAAaaack!

Both of my kids are home from their respective colleges for their winter break.  I’m not sure why they bother to call it a winter break.  It’s more like a sabbatical, or a leave of absence. It’s A MONTH LONG.  When looking at the academic calendar I realized that they start school on September 4 and end on May 20th.  In between there are about 5 weeks of holidays. No wonder the entire world has better test scores…funny what happens when you actually go to school.

This is the first holiday season my husband and I are empty nesters. This means that instead of unloading 12 boxes of decorations for 3 trees, 7 wreaths, two 25 foot garlands, 15 holiday pillows, Santa’s that sing, reindeer that dance, and one Christmas village complete with lights, roads, cars, trucks, trees, houses, churches, planes, snow, ladders and lights, we will have one beautifully decorated tree and holiday pillows.  Will my kids be happy with this toned down look?  Of course not, but that’s what being an empty nester means…you no longer care.back tree pic

My job as resident nag/Queen of Worry is over.  I am biting my tongue.  I am shutting up. Clearly if they don’t want to eat breakfast, ( “Oreos are not breakfast.”) dress appropriately for winter (“you’re going out wearing that?”) or get 7 hours of sleep, (If they want to stay out till 2 in the morning I can hand out the aspirin when they wake up). It’s now their decision and they seem to have fared fine without my nagging.

When they go out for the evening I no longer  have to ask if the parents are home, if there is the right amount of kids to legally ride in the car, if homework is finished, gas in the car.  It’s like I had a clip board every time they left the house.  I don’t remember my mother ever asking me so many questions.  I was lucky if I got a, “what time will you be home for dinner” question.   For 3 glorious months I haven’t had to care, worry, Clipart Illustration of a Red Pencil Marking Of Items On A Checkor comment. What I don’t know won’t kill me. I feel freed.

So yes… they’re BAAAaack and gone is the cash in my wallet and once again I’m up till all hours of the night as their friends come and go.  I’m food shopping for the constant stream of high school friends who must not eat much in their own homes given how much they eat in my home.

And unbelievable as it sounds I’m doing the late night pick up again! My son is now 21 and his friends want to go into Morristown and try out the bar scene. But guess what? They need rides back and forth to Morristown.  It’s like déjà vu.  I get the late night call, stumble out of bed, get into a cold car, drive to Morristown and deliver the little darlings safely home.  All the homes are dark because THEIR PARENTS ARE SLEEPING.  It’s like all his friends have parents who don’t cook or drive.winecookies

But let me just say that even though I’m sleep deprived, cash poor and cooking for a crowd I am so happy they’re BAAAaack. And I’m happy their friends are back too and dropping in.  They used to come with sleeping bags.  Now they come with wine and cookies for me.  They’ve grown up and have been raised well. I don’t need to be worried. Happy Holidays!

Benny Goodman and a Bagel

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Benny Goodman and a Bagel

I was sitting in my family room watching the weather forecasters get practically giddy that they were actually going to get their forecast for Hurricane Sandy and its path right for a change. During the commercial break I could picture them jumping up and down, hugging and screaming, “It’s hooking left, it’s hooking left…just like we predicted! I was hoping that they would be wrong as usual, but as the night wore on I knew they had it right.

In the hours leading up to the storm I learned plenty about surge, wave amplitude, and the physics behind the Gulf Stream and a nor’easter. My main concern on the morning before we got hit was: can I watch The Good Wife On Demand before the power goes out.

I had done everything suggested by the experts. I had plenty of water and non-perishable food. My computer and phone were fully charged and I had a full tank of gas. I was hooked up with my town’s twitter account. I had enough peanut butter and water to be good for a week.

I’m a Jersey girl, I thought. Much smarter than Snookie…I can handle it.

But as the winds picked up and we ultimately lost power, I realized I had the wrong list.  The list should have been more like something out of Little House on the Prairie. Clearly all our cell phones, tablets, computers, technology, and free apps would prove to be obsolete. Could an app keep me warm? Could my computer open a can of tuna? If the quality of my life came down to how many things needed to be plugged in I was cooked. It was like camping without the fun.

Here’s what we should have had on our list:

  • Wood for the fireplace
  • Matches to light a fire
  • Hand held can opener
  • Hand held wine opener (very important)
  • Buckets to carry the water stored in the bathtubs
  • candles
  • an ax to chop more wood

The reality was:

  • Nothing electronic was working and with no internet, no town updates were coming to me. If I wanted information on what was happening I had to go out the front door and take a look
  • I would not be able to blow-dry my hair

What I learned during the storm:

  • I didn’t need to check Facebook 10 times a day.  I didn’t care that friends loved their dog and I wasn’t in the mood to “like” anything.
  • I Loved oatmeal.
  • Backgammon was more fun than TV
  • I could live without my $4.00 cup of coffee from Starbucks.
  •  It was possible to be warmer outside than inside.
  • I could enjoy picking up sticks. (My husband wanted to know if I would also enjoy picking up a vacuum cleaner since he had never seen me picking up sticks before).
    • No matter what, college kids are still very self-absorbed. Friends with no power received texts asking for Tide pods to be mailed, letters to be written because they loved getting real mail, or the best one of all, “I  hate my life….they took away make your own pizza.”  REALLY? Get a freaking grip! Your mothers can’t feel their toes and you’re complaining about the demise of “make your own pizza??!!”

I almost said, “stop complaining! When I was your age I had to hike 10 miles up a hill both ways”, but I stopped myself.

At Kings, suddenly we were all the same…no make-up, bed-head, clothes that were functional and not stylish.  Everyone looked overweight with all the layering.  (Granted, some of us were already overweight even before the layering, but not a thin thigh in any aisle).  I was in hurricane heaven.

What I learned after the storm:

  • We were kinder to each other; nothing was a problem
  • Those of us with power offered showers, laundry services, open bedrooms to those without and didn’t want to be thanked for it
  • Texting was a lifeline
  • There were plenty of people a heck of a lot worse off than me
  • The kindness and compassion shown in the shelters from complete strangers to other strangers was beyond words
  • We really were Jersey strong

After 8 long days the power finally came back for me.  My parents were staying with me and when they came into the kitchen that first morning with power I asked my dad what he wanted.  He said, “Benny Goodman and a toasted bagel.”  So I plugged in my iPod and toasted him a bagel.  Such a small thing but it made us so happy and grateful for other small things that we took for granted. Gone were the candles, the matches, the can opener, the tea, the powdered milk. And no, I wasn’t nostalgic about putting it all away. Give me something to plug-in any day.

What became clear once I was plugged in was all the devastation. New York City subways underwater, the Jersey shore decimated. Yes, the experts were right this time.  We should have been worried about this one and I felt grateful that my home was still in one piece.

My girlfriend mailed her son the Tide pods and I wrote my daughter a letter. (Of course I couldn’t help but tell her when I was her age I had to walk 10 miles up a hill both ways in a storm).  I  washed all the sheets from the many friends who had stayed with me and I put away the coffee thermos and the backgammon game.  But I still listen to Benny Goodman every morning on my iPod, just to be grateful for the small things.

PS  My intent is not to make light of the seriousness of the situation.  I know the Jersey shore is decimated, NYC is struggling and there are many still suffering and homeless. I just wanted to bring a little humor to the situation and hope I didn’t offend anyone. I sincerely apologize if I did.