Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lazy Family on Vacation

Okay, I'll admit it: we've been on vacation. I hesitate to call it that, though, because not only have we stayed in Arizona (I've previously whined about ending up in Flagstaff for this vacation) but, of course, the kids are with us. Ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? Ever feel like the vacation isn't that different from the rest of the summer?

Well, it hasn't been that bad. We decided to act like tourists and so went to Lowell Observatory one day, took the ski lift to the top of Mt. Humphrey another, and today we went to the Grand Canyon. For our family, this is a jaw-dropping level of activity while on vacation. Normally we're more the sleep-till-noon, too late to get our hotel room cleaned type of vacationers. And then we get to listen to our kids nag us about how we never do anything exciting on vacation. Well, we showed them.

Right after we were married, after my first miscarriage, Husband and I came up to Flagstaff, right when I thought I'd really never have children. We stayed at my mom's cabin and I moped around feeling the inadequacy of a family made up of just us two. At one point we took that same ski lift up to the top of Mt. Humphrey. It was quiet. I could hear the wind rustling in the Aspens. I remember thinking that I wasn't prepared to deal with these things that were bigger than me, or bigger than my ability. Husband comforted me, telling me that it would all work out.

And there we were on Monday, going up that same mountain in those same ski lift cars, me and Daughter in one, Husband and Bar Mitzvahzilla in another - and then going down the mountain, switching kids - me and Bar Mitzvahzilla in one car and Husband and Daughter in another. It was an experience of the differences in my kids. My daughter waiting for the lift to break into a million pieces, nearly laying down on top of me, and then my son sitting there, the stoic teen, making me think of the little boy who once pointed at all the sights he saw  - "Look, Mom! The clouds!" None of that this time.

And Husband and I, in separate cars because of the rules of the ski lift, and temporarily divided by the same children we longed for.

Do you have a history of going to a particular place, over and over again, so that your history's played out there? Are you a lazy vacationer or an active one? Ever vacation in your home state?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Midlife, Bad Wife

As Husband and I have aged, I've been waiting for him to have a midlife crisis. Fully expecting it, really. I've been on red alert for convertibles, for blondes, for suspicious behavior, for coming home with a gigantic toupee. Anything.

What I didn't expect - what completely caught me off guard - is that the only one in this family having a midlife crisis is me.

He turned fifty. Then he turned fifty-five. Not a blip on the radar screen. He's steady, he's loving, he's home every night. No convertibles, no blondes. Devoted to his family. Gets up everyday like a robot to work at our store. Impulsive purchase of the year? A spiffy new box truck for the store. Not really a midlife crisis vehicle.

But I am a different story. Through a combination of hormones draining out of my body and, apparently, pooling on the ground, and having a recent disappointment with my book, I found myself falling into a gloom of midlife despair. What was the answer? Maybe I needed to disappear to a deserted island for six months to work on my book. After all, all marriages involve compromise and maybe I'd been compromising my writing too much. Did I need to put my writing before my marriage?

When I was a kid in Chicago I had a lot of aunts, but there was one in particular who was a handful. If something popped in her head, she said it, no matter what, even if she thought one of us was fat or ugly or stupid, she'd say it. She was mean and scary. With my midlife menopause upon me, that's how I felt. Mean and scary. If I thought it, I said it. I suddenly understood what it must have been like to be this aunt of mine; to have almost no control over what was coming out of her mouth. Was it just reflecting the negativity that was playing in her brain?

Just in the nick of time my new bio-identical hormone pellets started working. I don't feel like I'm twenty again but I do feel a little more human. And I did some thinking about that agent and the fact that it's not really her fault that I imbued her with so much magic. She's no more magical than a hundred other agents.  The success or failure of my writing still depends on me. 

Now hopefully I can get back to normal. Watching out for blondes and convertibles.

Hormones acting up lately? Midlife, early life or late-in-life crisis? Do you ever find yourself blaming every thing you've never done on someone else?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Escaping From Our Kids

Last weekend something amazing happened to Husband and me. I had kind of thought we were going on a date on Saturday night but it didn't look like it was going to work out. The confluence of the stars and the planets didn't align, or something like that. Actually, our dates for the last few years have been something I never can plan. It's like  Bar Mitzvahzilla suddenly disappears on a sleepover somewhere and Daughter gets picked up by her best friend's mom and, whoosh, we're out the door, amazed at our good fortune.

But when the plans fell through this time, Husband and I looked at each other and said, "Let's go out anyway." Here's the deal: Bar Mitzvahzilla is turning fifteen in six weeks. That's older than any babysitter we ever had for both of them. Our most wonderful, regular babysitter, whom we had for years when they were little, started with us when she was twelve and Daughter was in diapers.

Of course, that babysitter was a female. Mature. She lived behind us and so her family could hop over our fence to help should something go awry, not to mention the fact that Husband and I could swoop back home. Bar Mitzvahzilla, of course, is a different creature altogether. So his twelfth year passed by and we couldn't leave the kids alone. Thirteenth and no tomato. Fourteenth and finally I could start going to my exercise class or meetings as the sun was setting knowing that Husband would be home soon.

But fifteen? Duh. We're outta here.

It's like we're waking up after a long sleep, rubbing our eyes and shaking cobwebs out of our hair, like we're Rip Van Winkles, asleep for the last fifteen years. What's happened in the world since we've been trapped in that house with those tiny tyrants? What news is there of the outside world?

We head off to our three hour date, home at ten, holding hands.

How hard is it to put yourself back on the priority list? How tempting is it to bring the kids everywhere, even when they're old enough to stay home? Have you ever had this sweet moment of freedom, or noticed its lack?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Better Version of Me

Bar Mitzvahzilla is in the summer football strength training program for the high school he'll be attending in the fall. We're carpooling with a neighbor whose son is also in the training and this neighbor and I have marvelled in the past at all the things we have in common. We drive the same car. We live in the same neighborhood. We're both from Chicago. Both of our sons were preemies but are fine now. There are other little things.

So the other day was my first time to drive her son home from training. He got in the car, pushed over some of the garbage Daughter had scattered all over the backseat and I say, jovially, I think, "This car is just like your mom's. Just dirtier."

Then Bar Mitzvahzilla looks over at me with a smug look on his face. He says, "Yeah mom, except for her GPS and DVD player."

I look at my empty dash, where the GPS should be and the roof where the DVD player should be and say, "Oh."

"And her car is spotlessly clean." The absolute joy of having a teenager! First he destroys the car by spilling every known object and food in it, and then he insults me for having a messy car. And the joy of needling me!

I look at him.

The neighbor kid, a polite person, unlike my son, pipes up from the back, "My dad can't stand for either of our cars to have a speck of dirt on them so he gets my mom's car cleaned every week."

It's then that I realize that my neighbor is actually living the better version of my life. Her car, while the same model, is highly upgraded and clean. Her husband, a neatnik, keeps it clean. She has a high-powered executive job and I am, um, whatever this is. She has a weekly cleaning lady. I have to trade Bar Mitzvahzilla time on his Xbox to get the toilets cleaned. Final proof: during the break between summer sessions, their family is going to Vancouver, which is in Canada; we're going to Flagstaff. If you don't know where that is, look at a map of the State of Arizona. It's where I-40 and I-17 intersect. Not quite as glamorous.

I drive back into our neighborhood, dejected. As we turn the corners to swing around to their house - a basement model of my one-story with about 500 more square feet - all the garbage in the back of my car shifts and crunches with each turn. There's dead silence except for the movement of the garbage.

I drop him off, make a U-turn and my kids and I make our filthy way home.

Did you ever feel that your life might be mirroring someone else's, but not necessarily in a good way? Do you ever feel like certain components of your life are evidence that your whole life is a wreck - like me and my wreck of a backseat? Ever raised a snotty teenager?

Monday, June 14, 2010

By Any Other Name

Because I won the Oh My Blog Award (thank you Robin!) I am going to tell you about my most humiliating moment. In a lifetime of humiliating moments, it was hard to pick one, but I've tried my best. I tried to balance great moment of happiness and triumph with crushing embarassment. That should do it, right?

In late 1992 I was ordering the wedding invitations for my marriage to Husband and was having some trouble with the wording. I had been married before, see, and I had not gone back to my maiden name after my divorce, mostly because I hated it like poison. My dad, an immigrant, had come to this country as Harry Burstein but had changed our last name to Burt. My twenty-six onerous years as Linda Burt (just say that ten times fast and you'll see what I mean) weighed heavily on me when I was getting divorced at twenty-nine. There was no way I was going back to that name. So I kept my ex-husband's name, Maric*.

So how to word the invitations? Linda Jayne Maric? Linda Burt Maric? I did the latter and everything moved forward.

The day of the wedding dawned. I got to the venue. Big sign outside: The Maric/Pressman wedding. I cringed. I could now see that when I kept my ex-husband's name I hadn't quite thought this thing through completely. Like to the next marriage day.

Then we got married. The chuppah. The Rabbi. The rings. Whew. I was officially Linda Pressman. That should be the end of that torment, right?

But then the Best Man stood up to make a toast. To the Marics, whom he thought were my family. Who, of course, were not there since they were my ex-husband's family. Would any woman want the ghost of Husbands Past brought up at the wedding of Husbands Present?

The Best Man's wife gave his coat a hard yank and said in a loud whisper, "Burt! Her family's name is Burt!" and he continued with the toast.

But still.

Have any humiliating moments you'd like to share? Excruciating moments at your wedding? Toast difficulties? Or would you just like to join in the chorus and laugh at me?

*ex-husband's name changed.

I'd like to pass the Oh My Blog award to the following bloggers, all of whom I think may have some fun with this one:

Maria at Mom of Three Seeks Sanity
Amber at Making the Moments Count
mommymommymommy at KISS - Keep It Simple Sister

The rules of the Award are:

1. Get really excited that you got the coolest award EVER!
2. Choose ONE of the following options of accepting the OMB award:
   (a) Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus.
   (b) Write about your most embarrassing moment.
   (c) Write a “Soundtrack of your childhood” post.
   (d) Make your next blog a ‘vlog’/video blog. Basically, you’re talking to the camera about whatever.
   (e) Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make up,
        etc) and post it.
3. Pass the award on to at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers as yourself.
    Don’t forget to tell them.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Falling Down, Getting Back Up

My kids and I went to see the Karate Kid today. I liked it a lot, even better than the original. Now that I've spent so much of my life writing, however, I can normally notice the writing that goes into the movie I'm watching, see the complications pile on complications, watch the climax being stretched out by the writers so the audience gets the maximum anxiety and the maximum heave of relief at the ending. Knowing all this, of course, ruins it a bit. But guess who doesn't know all this? Daughter. So she was totally affected by the movie.

She walked out floating on air, talking about the life lesson of the movie, that when you fall down you can get up again - changing your life and the outcomes - and did I feel the same way? I thought about my life and how much I've fought back from, how much I have certainly applied that principle to my life. Then I thought about my writing.

My book, in manuscript form, just got turned down by an agent. I've had a long history with my book, including time during which it was represented previously but which representation I severed. I recently did a pretty big rewrite. I thought that it might be a good time to journey again into the publishing world, to send it out to one special agent. Not a whole bunch of agents; I didn't want to paper the world with queries. I thought, I'll just try it and see what happens.

She asked for the manuscript to read. And then a month went by. And then I got the turn down, a very lovely, personal note explaining exactly why she wasn't in love with the project enough to represent it.

And so what was I thinking while I was watching the Karate Kid?

I was looking at the scenes of China and I was thinking that I am fifty damn years old and I haven't been to China. Not that I ever wanted to go, but still, that's what I was thinking.

I was thinking that maybe it's time for me to give up writing and go teach at a community college again.

I was thinking that when I least expect it, a new rock bottom shows up to teach me some kind of lesson but I'm not always smart enough to figure out what the lesson is. Does this mean "try harder" or does it mean "work on something else?" Or does it mean "patience?"

And finally - totally ruining my enjoyment of the movie - I was thinking that I'm going to have to pack my book away - the book I have loved, the book that is like my heart beating in my chest - and work on something else. Or not work on something else.

But that's not what I said to my daughter. I said, "I totally believe you can do that."

Have you seen the new Karate Kid? Did you like this message about picking yourself back up again? Do you believe it? Do you believe that sometimes you just have to give up and move on to something else? 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tween Sophisticate

There are some differences between my children, not just the obvious ones like one's a boy and one's a girl; one's fourteen and one's ten. There are the communication differences.

Daughter is complexly sophisticated. It started off small, like with the telephone. Like in that she could actually get on the telephone and talk. Unlike Bar Mitzvahzilla who could only get on the phone and say a series of linked together "Uhs." One time one of Husband's sisters called from out of town and asked to speak to Daughter. I handed the phone to her, and, half a bubbly, anecdote-laden hour later, she handed the phone back. She was five.

Lately, though, she's getting into technology. It started with Skype. All the kids at school were going on Skype so that the minute they'd get home from seeing each other all day then they could sit there watching each other all night, typing at their keyboards. Turns out we don't have a webcam, though, so we watched her little friend talking. I saw the parents in the background cleaning the kitchen, the whole house in a panoramic view, and I thought, no way is my house, or the people in it, ready for a viewing audience, like the bickering parents, the food police husband, the surly teenager, dirty dishes. Even if we had a webcam I'd hide it.

So she types her Skyped responses to her friends, but sometimes they all want to pretend that they're all really good typers so they type like this: yiourejhdhiutaryenbj.nm,zhjkjdyfilerhjhjlda. She's having a great time, laughing with headphones on, monopolizing our phone line, and typing gibberish.

Her newest thing? What could it be? What's she seen her mother doing day and night, night and day and scorned every single time I did it? A blog. Of course, it was never interesting if I was doing it. But now that one of her good friends is doing it, it's very, very interesting. So now they're all doing it. A gang of 10-year-old nearly fifth graders out loose in the blogosphere. And I'm following her. And, even worse, she's following me.

And I do want to say that suddenly I'm very, very useful. Make a blogroll? Sure. Change your fonts and colors? I'm your gal. Add a link, a picture, a video? Once scorned, now the recipient of grudging respect.

Am I worried about addiction? Remember, I already have one computer addict in the family. Bar Mitzvahzilla's already had all of his stuff surgically removed for summer and is unhappy about it. The reason I'm not worried? Daughter uses technology to increase her communication with the outside world; Bar Mitzvahzilla uses his to isolate. Big difference.

At this point, I think she'll have taken over the world by age fifteen.

Are you ever amazed at your kids just leaping ahead on technology? Or adopting technology that you're on and suddenly finding a use for you? How about when they go from being just kids to being part of this larger world?

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Plastic Oy Award

Because I'm so behind on my blog, I can't even remember how long ago Maria at Mom of Three Seeks Sanity gave me this blog award. But the Momalom Five for Ten challenge came along and then Bar Mitzvahzilla's eighth grade graduation and suddenly it was summer. So here I am catching up. Today, per the terms of this award, I need to tell you who I'd like to get horizontal with, but since the picture shows Barbie attacking Ken -who appears to be calling for help - and that reminds me of my childhood, I'm going to reveal that maddening crushes of my youth. The Plastic Oy Award, if you will.

1) It would have been normal to have a crush on David Cassidy of The Partridge Family; after all, he was the cutest in the family. But he was a little too old for me. I was looking for a Partridge closer to my own age, a somewhat odder Partridge, quirkier, not the same one that every fourth grader had a crush on.

So somehow I ended up having a crush on Danny Bonaduce. What can I say? I have a thing for redheads.

2) Along the same line - unlikely fictional characters upon whom I had a crush - came another redhead:

Archie Andrews. Yes, from the comic strip. It's not that I really liked him, or thought he was real for that matter, but, hey, if he was good enough for the gorgeous Betty and Veronica (and no one was fooling me, I knew they had the exact same face with different colored hair) then he was good enough for a little brunette Jewish girl from Skokie.

3) And, of course, because I had such eclectic musical taste as a seven-year-old in the Chicago suburbs, how could I not fall in love with Davy Jones of the Monkees?

All the seven-year-olds were in love with him. I would play his song "I Wanna Be Free" over and over again on our HiFi while laying on our living room carpet, dreaming of marrying him when I was eighteen and he was, like, forty. (Surprisingly, however, as I've gotten older, somehow Davy Jones has gotten younger, until now we're only fifteen years apart.)

4) And then there were the two John Travolta characters of my teen years. The first, Vinnie Barbarino of Welcome Back, Kotter and the second, Danny Zuko from Grease, which I saw about seven times. Are these really the same character? My seventeen-year-old heart said, "Yes."

5) Nowadays, my bad-boy, rock star, illiterate-loving character crushes are long over. When I have a crush on a character now it's more along the lines of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy from the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice:

Be still my heart. Seriously.

Who were your childhood crushes, on characters or famous people? Anybody unusual? Do you still get them?

I'm passing this award onto my buddies: