Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Passage

I know the time is near that Tom and I will have to place our dog Gordon in the car and make the fateful drive to the doctor's office. I know that very soon we will have to make the impossible decision. Everyone tells me that I will know when it is time to put Gordon down. But how will I know? Gordon still has life in his shinny, almost human eyes. He still wags his tail when he gets a treat or you rub his belly. He still barks when he wants to be heard. But he can't walk at all anymore and he sleeps most of the day. He can't control his bowels either, so I spend my time cleaning up after him. And he is so skinny now, his bones protrude from his once muscular frame. My instinct is to feed him steaks and ice cream and make him happy for the time he has left.

I slipped out of the house today to fill my depleted creative well. I bought a brightly colored scarf and immediately threw it around my neck. I felt alive. Then my mind drifted to Gordon. Driving home with my new purchase snugly tied around my neck I thought about how it would feel to bring Gordon to the doctor and stay with him until he was dead. I don't know if I have the strength to do this. But, I also know that I don't have the strength to let him die alone.

Gordon has been a part of our lives since the boys have been little and his pending death feels like a great marker of time.

We rescued Gordon when he was a puppy. Will was just born when one of our gold fish died. We promised Kyle a new fish. My mother, who already had Alzheimer's, her caretaker, Tom, Kyle, Will, and I all went for an outing to the pet store. Outside the store I spotted Gordon. He was with a few other puppies that needed a home. I took one look at him and knew he would be part of our family. He was sweet and quiet and beautiful. Tom looked at me like I was crazy, but I could tell in his eyes that he had fallen in love with Gordon instantly.

We took him home and quickly watched sweet, quiet Gordon turn into a wild puppy. He ran around chasing his tail, chewed on everything, and bolted out the front door at any opportunity. But he was always sweet. If I was sad he sensed it and would follow me in my room and lay by my bed to keep me company. I miss those moments now.

Gordon has not only watched my boys grow up, but their friends, too. He was so patient and gentle when the neighborhood children would come over and try and ride him like a horse. Now these boys are almost men and when they stop by the house, they always take a moment to bend down and give Gordon some love.

I am deeply moved my the passage of time.

When Gordon was a puppy, Kyle needed 'cootie' shots to protect him from the girls. Now, Kyle has a girlfriend and I am sure doesn't feel the need for a 'cootie' shot. When Gordon was a puppy, Will couldn't talk, now Will tells me wonderful stories filled with laughter and thought.

Gordon fell into the rhythms that became our lives. He mirrored our growth and echoed our love. Now he waits to die.

I am deeply and forever moved by the passage of time.

When Gordon was a puppy, his energy was electrifying. I must stop myself from chasing my tail and remember to sit with him quietly and appreciate the precious passage of time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Wait

So, there I sat, waiting. I don't do waiting well. Saturday night I didn't do it well at all.

Kyle texted us to say he was leaving Berkeley at 11:00pm. He was already past his curfew. But the day had slipped away from him. He went to CAL to visit with his wonderful girlfriend and take her to an "early" dinner for her 18th birthday. They walked into one of the most popular restaurants in Berkeley, Pizzaiolo on Telegraph, and waited for a table. They dined on the chef's special pizza and Kyle had made sure the waitress put a candle in his girlfriend's desert. Then he drove her back to her dorm.

By the time he was ready to leave it was 11:00. So I waited in my bed to hear the front door open and for Kyle to walk into my bedroom and give me a kiss goodnight. The minutes ticked by. I dozed off for a moment and awoke to a noise that I thought was Kyle walking through the front door. I took a breath of relief. But it wasn't Kyle. I awoke at the exact time he should have been home, calculating the time it takes to get from his girlfriend's dorm to our house. But there was no Kyle. I jumped out of bed and began to pace. I screamed to Tom, "Where is he? Don't you think you should go looking for him." "No," he said. "I am sure he just didn't leave when he said he would."

"Aren't you worried," I asked. "He's fine," Tom answered.

This made me angry. And I had no idea what to do with my anger. It was now past 12:00 and no Kyle. I could actually feel pain deep within my loins, the very place I carried him to life. I ached with worry.

I couldn't call him because he would be driving. I thought about calling his girlfriend, but didn't have her number.

So, I opened the front door and stood on the side walk and watched the cars go by. Clad in only a long tee shirt and underwear I stood outside, barefoot on the concrete as I tried to visualize Kyle in the headlights of each car that passed. Kyle did not materialize.

Finally, I spotted our car and a left blinker clicked on. Kyle turned into our driveway. Leaving the front door open, I slipped back into my room.

How was I going to handle this when Kyle walked in? Was I going to scream at him for missing curfew and for being so late? What was his excuse going to be? I knew I had to handle this right. I knew our open relationship depended upon how I was going to handle my emotions.

Kyle walked into the room. He told me he left Berkeley after he said and was afraid to call us because he knew that we would be angry at him. He told me he pulled over at Larkspur and texted Dad. Dad hadn't checked his texts.

"I was so scared," I sobbed to Kyle. "I thought you were hurt."

Kyle knew instantly that he should have called me before he left Berkeley--that his fear of making me angry was much less important than his inadvertent attempt of scaring the living wits out of me.

He realized halfway through his drive home what he might be putting me through and tried to make contact with us. Although, I never got the text, I was grateful that he had finally tried to do the right thing.

I surprised myself and Kyle by not being angry. Kyle had made a mistake. He had poor judgement. He knew what he had done was hurtful to me. And I know that he will never make that mistake again.

In his adolescent brain, he was more afraid of making me angry than of worrying me. He knows now that the contest isn't even close.

The punishment for his hideous crime is knowing that he put be through a little bit of hell. And nobody wants to put a menopausal Jewish Mom through one of the longest nights of there life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Challenge Success"

Yesterday, I attended a seminar at Stanford called Challenge Success. Success is spelled backwards urging us as parents, students, teachers, administrators to challenge our definition of success. The purpose of the seminar was to both shed light on and learn from the effects of stress on our adolescents. It was amazing to hear the staggering stories and compelling statistics of the adolescents sitting around me. I couldn't believe that most of kids who attended the seminar, kids from schools we know in the Bay Area, get less than 6 hours sleep per night. These are both middle school kids and high school students.

As parents, we were asked to try to imagine what a day in the life of our adolescent might feel like. The weight of one day seemed unmanageable. And the kid panelists assured us that most of the high achieving kids were abusing drugs. I was surprised to hear that down any school hallway before any exam kids could easily buy an 'adi' or Adderall, a drug prescribed for ADD or ADHD. The kids need the drug to help focus during exams, due to lack of sleep. Kids who are prescribed the drug for their ADD sell them for cash. Medical experts are seeing sports injuries at much earlier ages. Tendinitis is seen in kids as early as 8 years of age. Eating disorders and disordered eating is on the rise. So is cutting, scratching and suicidal thoughts.

When I was growing up, it was clear that in our middle and high school days, our 'stresses' came from social issues, family problems, and our search for identity. In our children, overwhelmingly, the stress comes from where they are going to go to college. Kids today associate a good college with a good job. CEOs who attended the conference uniformly suggested that the kids in the work force today are not as creative as they have been in the past. To them, it was clear. Overbooking, over-scheduling our kids gives them less time to find out who they are, less time to play, less time to be creative.

The Challenge Success team assured us there is a college for everyone. But my question is this, is there really a college for everyone? We have been filled with fear since our children where in pre-school. There are so many kids vying for so few schools, from pre-school, to independent schools, to colleges. And I am not just talking about top tier schools. We have all heard horror stories about kids with solid GPAs and test scores who could not get into schools we attended. Our kids have heard these same stories and have probably picked up on our stress. So what is the truth in respect to the admissions process for college?

Will attended the seminar with me. He sat in a group of kids from 6th to 12th grade. He said that every kid said the overwhelming stress in their life was where they were going to college.
I find this amazing. Middle school and high school is meant to be a time of exploration and learning. It is a time to fail and learn from our mistakes. It seems that the stakes are too high to allow our kids to fail. Failure is probably more important than success. Through failure we learn resilience. In life, we all know we need to be resilient.

I'm not sure, that as parents or as kids we can rid ourselves of the fears until we fully understand the realities of the college situation. I intend to find out. I am not sure how quite yet, but I feel that we are grappling with issues that are affecting the well being of an entire generation of kids. We are committed to buying organic to keep our kid's bodies healthy, but what are we doing for their souls?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Promises Hard to Keep

Before Kyle started school this year, I had a serious talk with him. I asked him if he wanted me to help him keep on track with his work load, gently pushing him to stay focused on his dream to do his best at school. I hate this job and hoped that he would tell me that he neither wanted my help nor did he need it. But, he asked if I would continue to support him as he tries to balance all the many splendid activities of a sixteen-year-old boy.

This has is proven harder than I ever expected.

Last night was Back to School Night at his high school. I attended all his classes and listened to engaged parents and enthusiastic teachers for an evening that left me exhausted and confused. Immediately I was struck at how bright the parents were. There was no way I could keep up with the distinguished parent body and well educated teachers. I thought instantly, that I indeed was not helping Kyle in the most basic way--I had single handedly brought down the gene pool in our family.

But Kyle works hard. He wants to do well and go to a college of his choice.

I want Kyle to have a balanced life filled with girlfriends, goofing around with buddies, community service, political activism, being silly, having fun--basically being a kid and figuring who he is and what he loves to do. I want him to work hard and enjoy learning but not at the expense of living.

Kyle wants to go to a good college but doesn't want to give up the things he loves that take him away from his schoolwork. He has asked me to help him juggle this. And I don't know how.

Kyle wants to get good grades because he wants to have some choice as to where he attends college. Colleges care about grades. So, Kyle too must care about his grades. I am thankful that Kyle is blessed by teachers who are demanding Kyle to think deep and explore. But doesn't he need a more balanced life in order to fully process the level of thought expected of him? And how can he have that if doing well means getting an 'A?' Doesn't getting an 'A' mean hours of endless study and less time for the things that a sixteen-year-old boy needs to do in order to have a healthy, balanced life.

I am attending a seminar at Stanford this weekend centered around kids and stress. I hope they offer some insight into a problem that I feel is bigger than just me and Kyle. I think, so many of us feel the same frustrations as we try to help our children reach goals that might not be in their best interest.

When Kyle was in second grade, he was a little nervous about his first standardized test. I told him not to worry and just enjoy making pretty patterns with his penciled bubbles. As he gets ready for all the standardized tests ahead of him I wish I could offer him the same advice. In the end, does it really matter?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Just Awful!

It seems that all my kids free time is spent in their rooms doing homework. Once in a while they will appear from their abyss for a glass of water, a trip to the pantry for a cookie or two or three, or even to tell us parental units a quick funny story or remind us of some important task we must not forget to do for them. This got me thinking about the amount of free time I had in high school.

It's hard to think that far back, but I really don't remember studying half as hard as my sons. I remember long telephone calls with girlfriends and boyfriends, playing hours of tennis just for fun with a friend, and I remember being done with all my homework most nights by 8:00pm, before the prime-time line up started. Of course, there were the inevitable nights I would have to study until 10:00pm because I procrastinated studying for a test or finishing a paper.

Times have changed. Stakes seem higher. The competition is on.

But what I do remember about studying in the olden days are the little breaks I would give myself. "When I finish chapter 5 from my Biology textbook I will get something to eat." Or, "When I finish my thesis I will call Joey or Susie back."

Cut to today.

Kyle is studying for a pre-calculous test, he needs a break so he turns to his computer and checks facebook. Then he studies a little more, needs another break, and he turns to youtube and catches a few videos, then back to the books. I have tried to watch him maneuver between studying and all the electronic toys he has at his fingertips. He browses the websites he loves, checks up with friends and texts, all from the computer, all while he is studying. Now, I am not saying that he does not study way too much, what I am saying is that if I had all these distractions I would never have made it out of my room for the prime-time line up. What takes Kyle six hours I probably could have gotten done in four without all the toys to distract me and get me through the endless hours of studying.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, it is just a new way of doing things. But here's what concerns me. As a result of all the distractions that undeniably help him get through the tedium of homework, I see him less. And that's what really bugs me. How nice it would be to end the day with a few relaxed hours before we all went to sleep. If I counted the minutes I actually see my kids in a day I am sure it would add up to less than an hour. And most of that time is driving them places. And that is just not acceptable.

Short of banning computer use and cutting off texting privileges I am not sure what I can do. I don't think their studying suffers from all their multi-tasking, I suffer. So what can I do about it?

Perhaps if I put up embarrassing photographs of them on this BLOG, then they will have to come talk to me. We could could spend time together as they try and admonish me for ruining their lives. I could text them, telling them that I have put up a photograph they might want to see, post the photos on my facebook page and tag them so it shows up on their facebook page, and then download a video of them as infants doing something really stupid and put it on youtube.

It would make a point. I would get their attention. But is it the kind of attention I want? I'll tell you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


photo by Will Newell

I was just reading some BLOG posts from Mamapedia.com. A rush of memories filtered through my morning brain. It seems like so long ago that I had similar issues; Kyle wouldn't stay in his bed at night, I would have to fall asleep with Will before he would let me leave, they hated milk as soon as I stopped using bottles, Kyle was desperately afraid of a local singer that would come to his pre-school so I would have to search out her visiting dates and keep him home those days, Will loved to be carried, Kyle wouldn't keep his car seat on, and the list goes on. Those were the days my friend!

We couldn't shower, we never slept, we dreamt about 'date nights,' we never had real conversations, and we tried so hard to fill our kid's lives with play dates, sports activities (even if it was just the local toddler gym), music class, and we looked around us and compared ourselves to the parenting styles of those around us. AND WE ALWAYS PALED IN COMPARISON!

Big mistake. It has taken years of rewiring my brain, endless phone calls to friends more enlightened than myself, but every once in a while, I still fall into that unthinkable, evil, and destructive force, sucking me into thinking--am I not doing all I should be for my kids.

I find myself falling into this trap every step of the way. Parents are busy marketing their kids. Kids are excelling at so many amazing things that you can't help but think that you have been raising 'ordinary' kids. You worry that if you don't help them in elementary school it will effect their middle school years. You so want them to come away from middle school with all the tools they need for high school, with their self-esteem in tact, and well, popular. Come on admit it. You remember your middle school days and you don't want your kid sitting on the side lines, being made fun of, or not invited to all the right parties. We want are children's lives to be better than ours and we are a generation of women who know that anything is possible so we set out to make our kid's lives as perfect as we can.

Is there anything wrong with this?

My 16-year-old is already stressed about what college he can get into and my youngest son, Will sees how hard his brother works and is terrified. Will loves to learn but the fear of failing traps him. Kyle is burning the candle at both ends and it is only the beginning of his Junior year.

Yesterday, trying to be an organized, good parent I set out to figure out the testing schedule for both by boys. This school year, Kyle will have to take the PSAT, SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP Tests and that has nothing to do with all his homework and extra-curricular activities he has. It makes me want to take shelter under my covers. And then Will has to take the SSAT for entrance into a private high school. With all of this comes prep courses, prep tests, and all those blessed Saturday mornings that they have to bring their #2 pencils to some undisclosed location and take lovely four hour tests.

Sound like fun?

My job yesterday was to navigate how to decide which test, the SAT or ACT would be better for Kyle. I figured nothing out and took a bath instead.

I'm sure most of my wonderfully organized mommy friends have it already figured out. Dates are on the calendar and appointments made with college counselors. I feel like such a failure.

I watch TV with my kids last night. They should have been preparing for the SSAT or ACT or the BULLSHIT AT, but instead we watched the new fall lineup. It was great! I can't believe I am actually confessing my sin of television viewing to the world, but here it is, we are all addicted to TV and its the new season so give us a break.

Tomorrow I will worry about SAT and SSAT prep. Somebody please tell me if I have already missed the boat. If I have, I don't know what I'll do. Probably watch some more TV with my kids.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hawaiian Symbols Carved in Love

My 13-year-old went to 'shadow' his first high school today. Boy, it seems like yesterday that Kyle was applying to high school. Now I am so much the wiser. I know how fast the next years will fly by. Next year, Kyle will be a senior and Will will be a freshman. It is hard to believe.

Sweet Tom, took Will to his tour and sat through the high school presentations. I did it four years ago, when Kyle was looking at private high schools. This time it was Tom's turn. They both came home delighted. Will loves high school and I could see that he can't wait for the challenges ahead of him.

Tom, on the other hand, delighted by Will's enthusiasm, had a little spring in his step. He came home with lunch for everyone and unbuttoned the two top buttons of his starchy white shirt and twirled the old necklace he has worn for the last twelve years.

On an old piece of waxed cotton string, hangs an old Hawaiian Petrography. The symbol on the old piece of rock represents family. Tom bought this souvenir on his fortieth birthday when we all went to Hawaii to celebrate. Kyle was four-years-old and Will was one. Tom has not taken off this necklace for the last twelve years. Yesterday, he took this old relic to the bead store in Mill Valley and bought a new string for it.

It means something to Tom. Even though he always teases me with his famous, "18 they are out the door," routine, I wonder how he really feels about the kids growing up.

Part of me knows that because he is much less selfish than I am, he will be happy for our kids when they leave home. College, for Tom represented some of the very best years of his life. He wants his kids to have the same experience.

Will that be enough for him to fill the void when they are gone? Will he just be content in knowing his kids are happy?

I know the answer to this. It is simple and beautiful and makes me feel like the luckiest woman alive. I will be enough for him.

The thought brings tears to my eyes. As he twirls his symbol of family dangling from his neck, I know he will miss the kids more than he will ever tell me or them, but he will take me by the hand and show me how to enjoy our life together, just the two of us, once again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sex in the Suburbs

When I was going through puberty the first time, I was at the height of my tennis career. I was pretty damn good. But I remember, being in the middle of a game with some worthy opponent and he or she would scream out the score Forty/ Thirty or Deuce or Forty/Love, and I distinctly remember that I had absolutely no memory of how we had arrived at that score. I mean I couldn’t remember the last three points--at all! At the time I found it amusing. Today when I found myself at a shopping mall with no recollection of how I got there or why I went there in the first place, I didn’t find it amusing in the least. I found it frightening. Was this the first sign of early dementia? I relaxed a little when I remembered that I was going through puberty again. At least for a while I had something on which to blame my forgetfulness.

What had I been so preoccupied thinking about that I lost twenty minutes of real time? Sex. Well, if anything will take your mind off the mundane, sex will. You see, my fifty-two- year old husband of nineteen years still tells me I am wildly sexy and beautiful and desirable, and I know he is full of merde. I know he is carefully laying the foundations for a night of lust…the poor guy is just hoping to get laid. And bless his heart, when you are dealing with a menopausal woman, this is no easy task. But does he have to lie to me? Does he think I believe him? Or does he really not see me?

I have a middle aged bulge, my thighs wiggle and have a lovely cottage cheese texture, I have skin tags I am too afraid to remove, I probably haven’t shaved for a few days, and a Brazilian is simply out of the question. Way too much pain involved. I also cling to my old lady underwear like a child to a favorite teddy bear. I have tried wearing a thong but find myself with my fingers up my butt most of the evening. So I figure, the poor bastard is so deprived of sex that anyone would do, even me.

Now don’t go feeling sorry for me. I have never suffered from low self-esteem. I am just a realist and pretty happy with myself. It is just this middle-aged sex stuff has me confused.

I remember boys trying to get me in the sack when I was fourteen. I was confused then too. Did they like me for my wit and stunning personality, for my brains? It didn’t take me long to realize they liked me for my boobs. Today, my boobs sag…so why does my husband lust after me?

I have tried talking to him about this but he sticks to his story. I am irresistible to him and always have been. I think it is his failing eyesight. But his eyes are better than mine since his laser surgery. So I have concluded this must be love. And that I am I one lucky menopausal broad.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Love and Hate Affair with NYC

Last night Kyle looked at me with glassy eyes. He had a 101 degree temperature and wasn't feeling well. "What will I do when I am in school in New York and I get sick," he asked. "Who will take care of me?"

"So, you want to go to NYU?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "I just watched the Daily Show and Jon Stewart was talking about the SHAKE SHACK. I really want one of those hamburgers."

I realized quickly that it wasn't the SHAKE SHACK that called to him, but Kyle had been bitten by the New York bug. Everything seemed exciting and slightly dangerous in the city in which Kyle was born. I didn't know how I felt about him moving to NYC, a city I both love and hate.

I began to reminisce about my move to New York City when I was 27-years-old. I sat in a bubble bath at the Sunset Marquis Hotel unable to decide whether I should stay in LA or move to Washington D.C. with my boyfriend of eight years. My sister called and my Mom handed me the phone in the tub. I told Georgie it had been a 5 bathtub day. She knew what that meant. I was a mess and I needed to submerge myself in warm water at least five times that day.

She told it to me straight. "You've lived in LA your whole life, it's time you try something new. You are moving to New York and you are going to take the apartment I just rented and I will stay in my old place and continue to live with my roommate. You can visit Washington DC whenever you want. It is only a train ride away."

That was it. I now had a plan. Georgie had a way of fixing things for me. She was kind and compassionate and so, so strong. Nobody knew how strong she was because she disguised it with her vulnerability. Nobody knew me nor loved me like Georgie and nobody ever will.

I packed all my earthly belongings in a few bags and I left for NYC. Of course, Mom was coming too. She had actually instigated the whole thing. After Dad died, and Georgie left for NYC, Mom was lost. She thought a change would do her good. At 63, Mom packed up her whole life and moved all her shit with her. All the china,crystal, paintings, pictures, furniture, books, silver that had seen its way from Germany to Holland to New York to Los Angeles was now on its way back to New York. These beautiful and uprooted possessions were never in danger of living a quiet life, this was not to be their last move.

I had never really wanted to live in NYC. It always seemed like a nice place to visit but living there seemed claustrophobic. With trepidation I stumbled into my new life.

I walked into my new apartment and thought I was going to cry. I probably did cry in fact. I am sure I picked up the phone and called Georgie right away. "What were you thinking renting this place? It is no bigger than a small walk-in closet. I can't live here. It hangs over Second Ave and the noise is unbearable." Poor Georgie patiently listened to my complaints with the quiet knowledge that I would soon love my own home, no matter how tiny it was, and I would begin my love affair with NYC.

What she didn't know was that yes, I would fall in love with NYC, but I would also grow to hate the city too.

I had quit my job in LA, a good job that payed well. It was the early 80's and I needed a job. I had no idea how to find one. I put together a resume and called all the people I knew in New York. That took fifteen minutes. Since I finished UCLA, I had never not worked. Actually I never looked for a job. I had an internship with CBS News my last semester in college and they offered me a job before I finished my degree. I had to take time off work to take my finals. So here I was, in a big, big city with nothing to do and absolutely no prospects for finding work. Days turned into weeks and suddenly a whole season had passed. I was living through my first real winter.

The idea of doing my laundry seemed daunting. Getting dressed was hard enough. I was so tired. I just wanted to stay in bed. I was sure I had some serious disease that was going to kill me soon. I couldn't get my own destructive voice out of my head. I had no purpose. Soon I realized that I was depressed. I forced myself onward, one step at a time.

One winter day, with nothing to do I walked over to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art. The clouds were low in the sky and everyone told me to expect snow. I had never seen snow fall. I was 27-years-old and I had never seen a snowfall. I walked into the museum and silently gazed at the wonderful exhibits. I don't remember what caught my eye that day or what particular period of art I enjoyed but when I stepped out of the museum I had the most magnificent experience of my life. It was that moment I fell in love with New York. In the quiet hours I spent wandering the Met, snow blanketed the city. I left the lofty stairs of the Met and entered my own winter wonderland. A hush fell over the city. It was grand. I was transfixed and transformed! This was a city to love.

Soon I got a freelance gig at CNN working for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I was back in business, in a city that can almost be impossible to break in to. Like every other idiot that move to New York, I had Frank Sinatra's words stuck in my head, "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!"

This job quickly turned into a full time position at THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. Back then it was owned by Carl Icon, who also owned Trans World Airlines. With my title of writer/senior producer, I was entitled to flight benefits. I could fly anywhere TWA flew for free and with a $30 upgrade charge I could fly first class. But the best part about the job came days after I started. I met three of the most interesting, colorful, smart women who would soon become my closest friends. When we weren't traveling for work, the four of us would find ourselves at Kennedy Airport, picking a flight that still had first class seating. We would drink champagne and eat caviar all the way to Paris, Belgium, or Rome. We ended up in hotels that honored airlines employees discounts. So, we fooled ourselves into thinking our little jaunts cost us nothing. We didn't bother to add up the prices of the fine brasseries, cafes, and restaurants we haunted nor all the boots, belts, scarves and dresses we bought. For less than one hundred dollars we could be in Paris for the weekend. We couldn't be bothered to figure out how much money we really were spending. We were wonderfully reckless. We were having the time of our lives.

Then, out of nowhere I got a call from a rather new network called NICKELODEON. They needed a writer/producer and they had been referred to me by someone at SHOWBIZ. I interviewed for the job and took it on the spot. It was quickly to become one of the most rewarding and creative jobs I ever had.

Soon after, I met Tom and fell madly in love. New York is a great city to fall in love in. But I had to kiss my share of commitment phobic frogs before I met my love. By the time I turned 30, I thought love would never come. I didn't know it was just around the corner.

New York is a difficult place to meet someone. You sit in the middle of the world, right in the epicenter, and everywhere you look are interesting people, beautiful people, accomplished people. I would find myself straining to hear other people's conversations at tables next to mine. Like me, the men I would be set up with on blind dates always wondered who might be around the next corner, never really giving love a chance. They fantasized about the super model they were destined to meet or the accomplished heiress with a home in the Hamptons. Dating in New York sucked in the 80's. I bet it is even worse now.

But I met my man, who was living in LA. He moved to NYC to be with me and for a much needed change in his life. Together we walked arm and arm through snow falls and down pours, through hot muggy days, and starless nights.

I got pregnant with Kyle not too long after we were married. We wanted to have children so much. But then my beloved sister, Georgie got sick and we found ourselves living at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. She got sick when I was five months pregnant and died when I was seven months pregnant. We buried her on Long Island in a cemetery crowded with the dead. Smoke stacks studded the ugly skyline. It was an awful place, not at all like Forest Lawn Cemetery were my father was buried. There it was green and peaceful and you could sit and cry all alone in the sanctuary of your own space.

A year later my Mom moved Georgie next to Dad. Mom had decided to move again too. This time to Marin County to be near her twin sister. I knew Mom wasn't well but didn't really want to admit that she had the early stages of Alzheimers. Tom found a job running a sports entertainment company in Marin. So, we all moved. Tom's family lived in the Bay area and we needed family. We also needed space and sunlight and the smell of the sea air. We needed to live again.

And so, we packed up Moms crystal and silver and paintings and furniture and returned West. Kyle was one-year-old now and all I wanted was to be with my family and leave behind the old, decrepit buildings that blocked all the sunlight from my view. New York had never looked so ugly to me. It embodied death and decay. There was nothing about it that felt hopeful and exciting and slightly dangerous. It was a city that traps you. You begin to think you can't live without it and right when that happens the city begins to crumble around you. The old lions flanking the steps of the grand public library almost seemed to sneer at me as I walked by. "We got her, she can't ever leave," they seemed to whisper to each other. But leave I did and straight to Marin County, a golden county rich with spiritual awakenings and way too much health food.

So, if Kyle moves to New York how will I feel? Excited for his possibilities, frightened by the cold realities I encountered in a city I love and hate all at the same time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Sinister Plot

I took a minute and looked around our family room last evening. Tom was resting on the couch, nursing a cold, Will lay with his head in his Dad's lap, and Kyle sat on a chair with his laptop propped on his lap. We had decided to watch "Death Trap." It is a film, based on a play by Ira Levin. Ira Levin has written many great novels, including "Rosemary's Baby," which my father produced years ago.

The movie dragged at the beginning like so many 'old' movies, especially when seen through the eyes of your children who are used to the fast paced films of today. Will fell asleep promptly but Kyle stayed with it, probably because he had his computer ready to fill in any boring moments.

All my children were home with me. It was a Friday night and they were home. Two groups of kids dropped by trying to lure Kyle to come out and play but Kyle was happy staying home tonight.

I had gone to a farmer's market earlier in the day and picked up some perfect heirloom tomatoes, a handful of basil, and delicious, freshly baked bread. I cut up the tomatoes, added garlic, a pinch of salt, basil, and wonderful olive oil. I let it sit for hours. When everyone was hungry, I threw some penne in some boiling water and when it was 'al dente', I combined the room temperature tomato mixture with the steaming hot pasta. I grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top. My plan seemed a tad sinister. Make good food and they will never want to leave their 'Mommy'. It has the makings for a good horror story. Mother lures children to live with her forever by feeding her children to death. What could Ira Levin have done with this premise?

All I know is that with full stomachs, a long week of school, the kids seemed happy to stay at home and watch a boring, old film with their even older Mom and Pop. Perhaps my plan is working.

I was delighted. The day had been hot, steamy hot. Our Indian summer was here and it lured me back in time. It was just weeks ago, that I shared the perfect summer with my family. Every one was close at hand and happy and healthy. The days seemed endless as I truly enjoyed every moment we shared together. When school began, I knew I had given up something so precious, something that I would never have again.

Last night I got one more chance to pretend that time stood still.

As the movie played, Kyle got more and more into it the textured plot, enjoying it, even hoping to direct it one day. His enthusiasm is so catching.

After the film completed and everyone left for their own room, I followed Kyle into his. He had flopped down on his bed, spread his computer, earphones, and books around him. He was talking on his cellphone. I stared down at him. There was no place for me. There was undeniably no place for me, figuratively or literally.

So, I did the unthinkable. I pushed him aside. I was going to make room for myself on his bed and in his life whether he wanted me to or not. He quickly grabbed his teetering computer, headphones, and books and rustled to the other side of the bed. He gingerly tried to balance all the 'accoutrements' of his life with his mother. Somewhere, somehow he understood that he had to share this particular moment in time. He didn't even try to shut me out. Perhaps he wanted to let me in, but more realistically, I think he knew he needed to find some room for me tonight.

This was perhaps the sweetest thing he has ever done for me. My 16-year-old, 6'4'' son, allowed 'Mommy Dearest,' into his life, UNPLUGGED! He talked with his girlfriend with a freedom that wasn't, "Mom is in the room so I can't really talk."

This was so mature of him. It seemed that my little boy really was growing up and I was astonished to find out that I loved it.

So, I lay down on his bed, next to him and listened to his sweet conversation and watched as he adeptly talked on the phone and played on his computer at the same time. I admired his skill. When I talk to Tom on the phone and he turns his attention away from me, I always bust him. I know when I don't have his complete attention. I realize that this generation of kids have either gotten so good at multi-tasking, that their friends don't know when their attention is being divided or they are so use to it, that it feels natural.

In any event, Kyle offered me the opportunity to be a part of his life for a few moments and I savored these moments like they were the best chocolate truffles in the world.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Rebirth for the New Year

I have said this before, but I must say this again, the best thing that has happened to me as a result of writing my deepest darkest obsessions is I have been given the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. It is funny that right when you are suffering a feeling of loss, new possibilities present themselves. Human kindness is around us, we just need to decide whether we are willing to let it in. For me, my friends seem to understand me although some have not seen me for many years. They engage with me with their smart, insightful, witty, and heartfelt personal stories. From them, I am learning that opening up offers me an opportunity to take in new things, like the renewal of old friendships. What journey I am on. And on the Jewish New Year, a rebirth of spirit and friendship surrounds me. I want to thank my dear friend Jodie for getting in touch with me and sharing her story with all of us. As I read her words, tears ran down my cheeks. I am so happy to know her. I am so happy to know I am not alone. And I thank her for her honest and beautiful words.

Jodie Lunine Kaplan
Marriage, Family Therapist

When thinking about my son leaving for college (I should say “our” son, but this is really more my issue than my husband’s), it makes me feel like the main character in The Time Traveler’s Wife. Time loses all sense of linearity. I seem to go from wondering what he is doing in the present to picturing him in preschool or even before, crawling forever due to being a late walker. I have flashes of myself as a young mom struggling with the overwhelming newness of everything and the mom of a teenager experimenting with the boundaries of love, identity and sometimes stupidity and recklessness. The obsessive thought of my trying to lasso time and reign it back in was the theme of this past year. But time just keeps going. Now, the concept of time has become one big piece of silly putty, stretching out moments from so long ago to compacting time into a small little ball where 18 years goes by in a flash. As a mom struggling with the emotional upheavals of launching her first child, I’ve entered a door of uncertainty. Not only for my son, Seth, but for me.

I didn’t fall apart, (yet), like I thought I would when I took Seth to Boston (so far from California). He was actually having a more difficult time than I was and I needed to be strong for him. His anxiety about moving across the county to live away from his friends and family was overwhelming to him. After 2 hours of schlepping boxes and suitcases the four blocks to his dorm room and the 3 hours of disinfecting the room (it’s a mom thing), unpacking and putting everything in its perfect place, the room was finally set up. It was a room filled with all of his new stuff, but not yet a home. Later that night, while in a very vulnerable moment, he admitted, “I’m ready to go home now”, which broke my heart. How was I going to leave him in two days? “You’re going to be fine,” I said, “just give it 3 weeks and see how you feel”. A long time ago, my therapist told me that any change takes about 3 weeks to settle in. Would it be that way for me? I don’t think so.

The final goodbye, which I had been dreading since he entered 12th grade, was totally anti climatic, which I realized was how it should be. We both couldn’t handle a meltdown of tears and clutching. A simple hug in the dorm room and an even simpler hug on the street was all I got before he went on his way to his first class. I made sure he was the one who walked away from me, as it should be. A healthy separation. Good for me. The therapist part of me knew best that this was a healthy goodbye. The mom in me was ready to melt into the sidewalk in despair. I had an hour before I had to leave for the airport so I started walking…fast. I distracted myself by window shopping on Newbury Street and then distracted myself further by buying something. A souvenir of grief.

For all of you moms out there, and it really seems to be a mom thing, the process of sending your child to college feels like their first day in kindergarten. It is a huge step in the beginning of their life. Questions of “Will he be happy?” Will he make new friends?”, “Will he be able to make the right choices without my being there to guide him”, were all the same. I think too, Seth even emotionally regressed to those young years during that weekend. I had to remind him to eat and drink, something he kept forgetting to do during those first few days of starting his new life.

You should know that I am not totally an empty nester. My daughter is 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Because she won’t be driving for another 6 months, I am cherishing the moments in the car together, hearing about her day, her struggles and her accomplishments. I’m holding on to these times, because once she’s driving, another cord will be severed and another separation will occur. I remember when my kids were young and I was exhausted and craving a life I had before motherhood, I envied parents of older children who had so much freedom. “You’re so lucky”, I told them. I don’t think “lucky” describes the way I’m feeling now. Unless, lucky has become a new stage in the grieving process and nobody told me.

I guess the part that I didn’t expect was the parallel reality I seem to be experiencing. I’m dealing with missing Seth, seeing him and hearing about his life or his sarcastic view of life. But I’m also feeling the hole of what is left after he took his life with him. Although I’m busy with my career as a psychotherapist, I didn’t realize how much of my life was wrapped around his. Four years of high school football, homework, endless music lessons and keeping him from harm took an incredible amount of time, energy, prayers…and of course love. Now there is a big space left of knowing that I will never be that involved in his life again. He may call every other day and share snippets of his life, but the actual being in his life in a close way, will probably never be the same. And that’s the part, no one told me. The hole left behind. It’s huge and deep and leaves a sadness that will probably never fully go away. How did these past 18 years sandwiched between the me then, and the me now, go so fast?

I guess I now need to reinvent myself. As I was dorm shopping for him and organizing and packing, I had a flash of “Okay, so what was it I was doing 18 years ago?” What did I leave behind that would be wonderful and fabulous to pick up again? I don’t know. I’m not that person anymore. Reconnecting with dreams from long ago feels like entering a maze backwards and in the dark. I know that the dreams are probably quietly awaiting me somewhere, but they will be new dreams and new experiences that will come forward. I slowly, cautiously and reluctantly enter the next phase of my life. As I learn to fill the hole left behind with reconnections of friendships (that I stopped having time for) and the calling of self care (another depressing topic) , I enter a new path filled with uncertainty and a knowingness that part of motherhood is constantly learning how to adapt and let go.

The psychic umbilical cord now reaches to Boston. When Seth called me the other night asking for help with an essay, I almost broke into tears. The need to be needed is strong and I was shamelessly overjoyed that he still needed and wanted my opinion…and me. We will both get through this transition. I know when he comes back for Thanksgiving, he will be changed forever. How can he not be? He will have successfully made it though a huge psychological and physical individuation and transformation. He will also probably be bringing back tons of dirty laundry which I will never be happier to do for him.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I've Turned into one of "THEM!"

4:00AM, the house is silent, eerily quiet. All I can hear is the quiet rhythmic breathing of my husband who has been trained not to snore. I awake at this time, I am not sure why. Is it from the sweat covering my body and forcing me to push my covers aside or is it from an estrogen surge that disturbs my precious sleep?

All I know is that no good thinking comes about at 4:00AM. The irrational fear of catastrophic and seismic events leave me quaking in the silence of these nights. My fear is that these thoughts are not irrational but inevitable and imminent. I toss and I turn as I tackle each unsettling thought without any tools to guide me. My mind spins out of control.

And inevitable I can't fall back to sleep.

This early morning obsessions came packaged in bittersweet remembrances of days not that long ago. Last night marked the last Back To School Night I will ever attend at our public elementary school. This safe haven has been the home away from home to my children for the last eleven years. This year will be the twelfth and final year. I looked around the classrooms at dear friends, familiar acquaintances, and felt the warm embraces of big hearted teachers and administrators. An end was in sight. Our years together as parents were quickly ending. Some of us would meet again, at the much larger public high school, others will opt for private school. In any event, I know our relationships would change. Some I hope to always stay in touch with, others will just be soft remembrances of some of the best days of my life.

The talk last night quickly turned to the readiness of our eighth graders for high school. The teachers instilled in us a hope that this year they would prepare our kids for higher education and for a highly, much more competitive world. I could see in the parents a faint shift, a troubled glance. "Where will my son or daughter fit in and will they excel and be challenged so that all options would be open to them?" I can read my fellow parents thoughts because they are echoing mine. But last night, I felt like I was on a different page. Last night I was one of "THEM."

"THEM!" I can't believe I have turned into one of "THEM." When did it happen?

"THEM" are the old parents I use to look at with fear and trepidation. "THEM" are the old parents who worked tirelessly for our school district. "THEM" are the parents of kids who are getting ready to leave home. "Those poor people," I use to think. "How sad they must feel to be in this stage of life." Quickly, I use to do the math and see how many more years I had until I turned into one of "THEM." And here it is.

But in the wee hours of the morning I didn't think about my sons' departure from my house to their college dorms. I thought about all the distractions that have prevented me from teaching my boys to be men. In a constant attempt to make sure all options are open to them, have I forgot to do the most important job of all? Have I forgotten to teach them to be compassionate men, to stop and breathe and look around, to respect women, to know their moral compass and let it guide them, to take the time to figure out who their God is, or if God exists for them, to talk to a friend in trouble even if it means less studying time and a lower grade in a class, because that friend is far more important than a stupid test, a silly grade, or even where they go to college.

Then, I remembered all my little lessons I have tried to impart along the way, the ones my sons repeat by heart. I realize that all I can do now is lead by example. I need to breathe, I need to take time with my friends, I need to let my kids know that having a long dinner together is more important than their Pre-Calc homework or their Spanish quiz. If I don't, they won't know what is really important. And I am convinced that it is not where you go to college or a big paycheck but the long loving relationships with those closest to you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thank You

I started writing these posts hoping that I could find a community where others felt like I did. I hoped, by expressing my feelings, that others would share theirs and together we could navigate the strange waters of empty households, mid-life crisis and hot flashes. I did not expect to receive the overflowing generosity of real human kindness. I am now convinced that I am not alone! Through my writing, I have reconnected with a dear, dear friend, a best friend, who I thought was lost to me. She wasn't lost, she was busy raising her children and taking her life in astonishing new directions. She has become an inspiration.

It is not just women, but a handful of men have also connected with me, sharing their personal struggles with the concept of their little ones leaving home. And everyday it seems, I make Tom cry.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a wonderful guy I knew in high school. I don't think I have even seen him since high school. I was touched that he made an effort to read my BLOG. But getting an e-mail from someone from high school got me thinking about high school. I knew this boy, who is now all grown up, when I was about Kyle's age. As it happens, he also has a kid Kyle's age. I remember thinking that high school would never end. The hours, the days, the years felt endless. How can that be? Every minute with Kyle and Will seems to be in warped speed. The days just fly by. Eagerly and with pride they can't wait to be a little older, a little taller, a little more grown-up. And I look at them in puzzlement. Why would you want to wish your youth away? I know my parents asked me the same thing. I know that youth is wasted on the young. But aren't they having fun? Where are they in such a rush to get to?

I sat in one of my favorite cafes in Sausalito a few days ago, waiting for a friend. I had the luxury of time. As I sat, sipping the best iced coffee, I took this time to notice the people around me. I was instantly struck by a beautiful, terribly young woman, probably in her very early twenties. She had long blond hair that she fluffed and puffed regularly. She was wearing great looking pants that hit her very low on her waist, a relaxed but well thought out top that she wrestled with so it would hang just right. She had on the perfect sandals that pulled her perfect outfit together. I turned to my left and noticed two women my age who didn't seem the least bit interested in their looks. They were both beautiful women but they were not compelled to flip their hair, replace lipstick, or care if their purse matched their shoes. They were delighting in their conversation with one in another. So much so, that I caught myself staining to hear a little of their talk. This left a huge impression on me. Who would I rather be or be with? The answer was simple.

As idyllic as childhood seems, it is fraught with challenges. Are my kids trying to rush past 'the best years of their lives' so they can finally take a breath and get comfortable in their own skin? When my friend from high school knew me, was I twirling my hair, struggling with my dress, trying to fit into my own perception of myself? How I would love to go back in time and sit on the steps of old Beverly Hills High and just talk to him, comfortably, aimlessly, uncaring that I might have sweat marks under my arms or a whitehead on my chin. I wasted that time pretending to be someone I was not.

There are so many lessons to be learned. But I realize just as I am learning my lessons now, Kyle and Will need to learn theirs in their own time and space. I can't tell them to stop being self conscious, I am barely there myself. But I can remind them to stop and talk to a friend on the steps of their schools. Take the time to connect and enjoy it.

Last night Will had his head gently resting on my stomach as we watched a movie together. Kyle was in his room studying, again. Finally, Kyle was done and called me in to say goodnight. We talked about his day, the play he is directing, and he asked me about my day. When I got up to leave he asked me if he could go to a party in Mill Valley.

"We'll talk about that tomorrow," I said laughing to myself. For right now, Will and Kyle still need me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Menopausal Heaven

I am going to be getting a bit too personal in my BLOG today, but what the heck. I have decided to discuss my menstrual cycle. Lucky you. I realize that not only women are reading my posts, but I am sure the men that have contacted me about my BLOG have had one or two 'Close Encounter of the Menopausal Kind!" So, this is for them as well.

I have been blessed over the years with never having PMS. But now, days before my period I am suffering with all sorts of lovely symptoms. But the one I really want to talk about is the rage that now can boil up in me and explode violently out of me, at any second. I have never been prone to moments of rage, in fact I think that I was so afraid of confrontation that I suppressed so many feelings in the past that I would actually make myself sick. No more. Those days are gone. And you know what, I am delighted to see them go. I bitch about this stage in my life and all the sweaty symptoms I have to endure, but secretly I am thrilled. For the first time in my life I have permission to be a raving bitch. Perhaps I don't have permission, but I take the liberty. No, that's not quite right either. I just can't help myself. That said, I sure enjoy it.

I have become quite the actress in my 51st year of life. Finally. Something small pisses me off and all hell breaks loose. I cry, I rant, I rave and I leave shrapnel in my wake. I know what this is and I yell to my family. "Batten down the hatches. Mommy is in menopausal hell, again!" They don't even say GROSS anymore. They know not to mess with me.

I remember when my Mom was going through THE CHANGE. What a funny term that is. What are we changing into? Frankenstein? But, for whatever reason, it was always my older sister, Georgie who would do something that would send my mother into the stratosphere. My Mom rarely got mad at us. She was always patient and even handed. But for a short period, no pun intended, she would become diabolic. I remember once, Georgie did something stupid, who can remember what. But it wasn't that big of a deal. But, it hit Mom wrong and I remember Mom got so mad she dropped the plate of spaghetti on the floor, sending pasta in all directions and meatballs literally rolling on the kitchen floor. Then she blamed poor Georgie for making her drop the plate. Then there were tears, Mom's, not Georgie's. We would look at each other with shock and awe. We were too baffled to cry, too mystified to be scared. We just stared.

I have seen that same stare between my boys. I am sure that I will get one of those stares in the next few days. It will probably be poor Kyle, the oldest always seems to be the one at the wrong place at the wrong time. He will inevitably say something just a little bit the wrong way. I will take it completely wrong and go into one of my best performances to date, now that I have discovered my secret talent as an actress. I will rant, I will rave, I will cry and then I will send my poor husband on a special mission. You see I have ordained him my own personal Hillary Clinton.
"Go tell Kyle what I really meant," I instruct my shocked looking husband. He performs his duty, in the fear that he may loose his testicles and returns to report back Kyle's response. Of course, Tom will not have explained to Kyle what I had intended him to say so I send him back with another message. And this charade goes on until my anger subsides and I sit on my bed, tears running down my cheeks.

But the tears are not because I feel guilty, they are quiet release from the tension that has been building in my body for the last 51 years. I know my Mom felt guilty. But I don't. I am enjoying this. I feel liberated. Yes, I feel bad for making Tom fearful for his precious testicles but other than that I am delighted to finally be able to say what I want, even if it is in a fit of anger for no particularly good reason. I have the God given right to be a bitch. God has given me this right by giving me the gift of menopause. For the first time in my life, I can get angry, really angry for no significant reason and expel it from deep within my belly. It is brief and it is over and I don't think I am causing too much harm.

I have given myself permission to be myself for the first time in my life.

When the kids come home from school today I am sure they will notice my mood and they will look at each other with that look that might just piss me off. The brief glance will be tactical, almost like when they are trying to kill Nazi Zombies on the X Box 360. "Don't make eye contact, say as little as possible, and remember to keep repeating, 'I really love Mom, I really love Mom, I really love Mom."

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Sad Sunday

Yesterday I sat with my eighty-six year old mom and watched her as she struggled to recognize me. She has had Alzheimer's for over 16 years. She has not been able to talk, walk, or communicate for over ten of those years. I know when she looks at me there is a moment, where someplace dear to heart, she remembers something. She might give me a pretty smile or her ocean blue eyes might twinkle for an instant.

I look back upon her life and struggle to understand why she has ended up this way. With all the tragedy she has suffered through she was always happy, positive, and ready and able to love. I know that when my Dad and Mom married they both were unsure if they wanted kids. They had both been through so much pain, the thought of losing one of us would prove unbearable to them.

My Mom lost her 24 year old brother in WWII where he gallantly fought with the Royal Air Force. She was trapped with her twin sister and both her parents in Amsterdam. Her Dad was Jewish. She joined the Dutch Resistance and did what she could as a half Jew of German origins. The Germans had taken her citizenship away when the Nazi came into power. She was stateless and survived those terrifying years with grace and dignity and wonderful friends. She moved to LA and met my father in 1947. They married three months later. Their love affairs is what legends are made of. My Dad worshipped my Mom for both her strength and her capacity to love. She loved my Dad for all his wisdom, child like enthusiasm, and hurt she felt he carried every day of his life. He was a man to love. She was a woman to adore. And so they did.

Dad died when Mom was only fifty-five. She never married again. She had always made my sister and myself the center of her world. In fact, she made us her whole world.

And that's what got me thinking and kept me up most of last night.

Somewhere within me, I think my Mom got Alzheimer's because she never was able to create her own life. She would much rather be with my sister, Georgie or me than with her own friends. And she had few friends. Oh, many wanted to go to lunch with her or play tennis with her. But she never let them in. Only few people were able to break into Mom's life. Her life was dedicated to her family.

Then my sister died. It was the most horrible months of all our lives. My Mom always worried about Georgie, and then she died. It was like some awful premonition. I think that Mom already had the beginning of Alzheimer's before Georgie passed. But once we lost her, I would loose my Mom soon after.

Alzheimer's is a strange thing. You loose the one you love, but you can still touch them and feel their heart beating. But, they are gone to you. You can't quite mourn them, but you mourn them everyday. Today I mourn my mother, even though I left her yesterday and she looked bright and very much alive.

But here's the question that is haunting me. Did my Mother develop this hideous illness because she never developed her own life after my sister and I began to develop ours? Was her crime, that she loved us so much and so dearly that she had no room or desire to find a new life for herself? I see the writing on the wall for me. So easily I could become my mother. I have lost so much and know that my true happiness comes from my husband and children. When I let go, will nothing ever feel as right again?

My sister and I always encouraged my Mom to "get a life." We wanted her to make friends other than us and our friends. We needed her to. But she couldn't. We were all she had and all she had room for. And that was an unbearable weight for us to carry. I know that my children will feel that way if I don't allow them to create their own lives with the knowledge that Mom is fine and happy and doing great. It can't be empty words. I have to love my kids enough, to figure out a way to let them go as I continue on my own path of discovery and delight. I have to stay the eighteen year old girl I once was, eyes wide open, ready and excited about what the future holds.

Maybe with this attitude and enough Omega 3's, I can hide from Alzheimer's and let my children 'move on' in the good and honest knowledge that Mom is really fine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Charting My Own Course

Yesterday, a twenty-year college kid came over to give my son a sailing lesson. I grew up on the beaches of LA but never learned to sail. I love the sea and feel the most at home when I am close to it. Yesterday, I was able to watch my son learn to jibe and tack his way around the lagoon we live on. He learned to maneuver the sailboat gracefully across the sea. What fun!

When they got off the water I exclaimed that I would love to learn to sail. His kind teacher said it was never too late to learn. I thought to myself, “Is it too late for me to learn?” Somehow I felt that it was.

I have suffered with a bad back for years. When I watched them rig the boat I knew that the movements would kill my spine. And then there is getting the boat from the dock into and out of the water. No way that this old sea hag could manage that. I would comfortably sit on my dock and enjoy my son as he learns how to use the winds to propel him around his lagoon. What peace.


My young son has a leg problem that makes my bad back look like a picnic yet I expect him to overcome his obstacles.

Why am I too afraid to learn something new? Is it fear that holds me back? Or is it lack of true desire? I have become passive.

The idea of that terrifies me. I have never been passive before. Why now? Is it easier to let my husband and young son sail me around? Why do I have the energy to set up sailing lessons for my son but I refuse to jump onboard?

There is a little, but very loud voice inside my head that screams, “WHAT FOR?”

So, I learn to sail. Do I really have the desire to memorize all the sailing terminology, then learn and practice the basics of sailing?

When did I get so lazy?

I’m sure my husband would help me rig the boat and even get it into the water for me. He would applaud my learning to sail. But I would never be good enough to compete so what’s the point.

The point is I love the water and would love to careen around the lagoon with the sea salt in my hair and sea breezes in my nostrils.

So what is holding me back?

Here is the truth…I am afraid that learning will be too hard and that I will be a failure at yet another thing in my life.

I have had a great career. I am raising great kids; I have a wonderful, successful marriage. Why do I feel like such a failure?

Is my worth measured only in the work place? Since I don’t bring home money now I really don’t count? Is this my ultimate failure? I am sure I am not alone in feeling like this. And like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”, “I refuse to be ignored!”

I will put on my old, worn t-shirt, some sun block with a hat and chart my course. Thank you twenty-year-old sailor with the wisdom of the old man and the sea. It is indeed never too late to learn.

When I die I want my ashes thrown out to sea. I should relish the time I have to navigate the waters before they become my final resting place.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stormy Weather

Last night the skies opened up and the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. It was all very dramatic and I felt like I was in one of the horror stories that I have been busy writing. But all through the storm I had the strangest feeling that something was missing. Then between claps of thunder it hit me. I was missing the patter of tiny feet running down the hallway and into our bedroom. In years, long ago and faraway, Kyle would have run into Will's room and told him he was scared and the two would make a fast dash to the safety of our bed. They would climb in bed between Tom and me and the four of us would enjoy the storm together.

Tonight, it seemed that just Tom and I were up. I jumped out of bed to check on the boys. Will was sound asleep. Kyle was snoring softly. I couldn't image how they could sleep through so much thunder, but they were deep asleep. An hour past and the rain started to fall even heavier. The thunder felt like it was very, very close. I closed my eyes and waited for my little boys to jump on my bed. They didn't. Gordon, our dog, began to whipper so I went to check on him. He was happy to see me. I snuck back into Will's room but he was still deep in his sweet dreams. Then I quietly tip-toed back into Kyle's room. "That was the loudest thunder I have ever heard, " he said sleepily. Finally he was awake. I was hopping he would say he was scared and wanted me to stay with him but instead he said, "Gordon's barking, he probably needs you." The underlying message was loud and clear. Kyle wanted to go back to sleep, it was only Gordon who needed me now.

When I finally got back to bed I asked Tom if he thought the dramatic events of the stormy night were a message from the victims of 9/11. They were shouting down to us to never forget. "Yes," Tom said thoughtfully, "Or, it could be the storm coming down from Canada.

I stayed up another hour and thought about 9/11. I remember the day so vividly. I think we all do. Kyle came home from school yesterday very upset that no one had mentioned the horrific events that changed his world forever. He had expected at least a moment of silence.

The morning it happened Kyle had just started 3rd grade and Will, Kindergarten. My instincts told me to keep them home and close. But Kyle had other intentions. He needed to be with his friends. I let him go to school that day, granted the school did back up to our old house, but it was a big step for me. I had no idea then how many more steps I would have to take in order to let him and Will develop into the independent men I want them to be.

I miss the patter of the small feet coming into my room. I am not sure I enjoyed it enough back then. But I know I will never forget it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

To Dear Friends

There is nothing like an old friend to keep you honest about yourself. I am lucky to have one living only miles away. We have known each other since we were 16-years-old. She knows and understands my tendency to hole up in my own world when trouble strikes. She relates to who I am now, because she knew first hand who I was then. And who I am now is so much a result of her.

She gave me my first taste of independence when she talked my parents into letting me travel back East with her. I will never forget the liberating feeling we had when, at age 18, they served us wine at a wonderful brasserie in Manhattan. I remember her driving a stick shift car out of the crazy streets of Manhattan and up to her families lake house.

A few years passed, and we ended up in Europe together the summer of 1978. Earlier that Spring she had been on a study abroad program in France with my husband. Of course, he wouldn't become my husband for another 12 years. Life is full of odd coincidences.

We met up in August and she taught be how to hop on trains, forced me to stay in youth hostels, and introduced me to the ballet and the paintings of Georges Seurat. I still have the book on Seurat she hid under my pillow one night when I was fast asleep.

Those were some of the richest days of my life. My first taste of independence had a profound effect on me. And I thank her for that. Now her son is getting ready to leave home. Kyle will leave the year after. I hope they both find that fierce spirit of adventure and that desire to soak in everything new and different. I hope they have the time of their lives.

But I ask you and I promise I will ask my friend this, "Can we go with them?" I sort of know the answer already. But I figure it couldn't hurt to ask.

So, dear friends, old and new, I hope you help me find my independence as my sons get ready to leave home.