Friday, December 10, 2010

The Things I Don't Know...Will They Kill Me?

"All my friends came up to me and told me to tell Kyle what a great job he did," Will said to me last night peering up from his computer.

"At what?" I was lost.

"The improv show at lunch time, Mom." Will tried hard not to roll his eyes at me.

The thing is, I had no idea that Kyle was in an improv show.

This got me thinking. And we all know when I start thinking, well, let's just say, no good comes from it.

But the gears of my old brain began turning. And churning.

What else don't I know? The neurons in my brain darted around the vortex. I could feel my endless thoughts bouncing hither and yon and ricocheting off each other.

Then silence. A huge, gapping hole of silence. Nothing was filling in the void. Absolutely nothing.

I couldn't think of a single thing that Kyle was not telling me, only because the scenarios were endless.

Then I stopped in my tracks. I remembered what my husband told me a long time ago. We had just met, we sat sharing a bottle of wine in a nice restaurant in NYC, as we tried to get to know each other.

I asked one of my endless probing questions. "What were you like as a teenager?"

He laughed, swirled the merlot in his wine glass and happily told me he treated his parents like mushrooms.

I looked at him questioningly.

"You know, I kept them in the dark and fed them a lot of shit."

We both laughed.

But I'm not laughing any more.

Perhaps it's better that I don't know everything, I try and rationalize. But for a "RECOVERING" helicopter mom, this thought doesn't stick.

New territory. New rules. New boundaries. New relationship. New, new, new, new, new.

The thing is, I loved the old.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coffee and Hope!

Kyle directly and conclusively told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to help him with the college application process. He was bound and determined to do it himself.

After I got over the realization that my seventeen-year-old did not need me anymore, I felt a wonderful sense of peace. Getting into college was up my very capable son. I took a deep breath.

I smiled.

And then it started. "Mom, can you look this essay over?" "When is my app due for the U. C.'s?" "What's my I.D. number for Oregon?"

My response, "You're essay kinda sucks." "Are friggin' kidding me? Your application is due tomorrow." And "Don't you think you should know your own I.D. number if you want to do this process on your own?"

And so it goes...and goes..and goes until you become short of breath and begin to pop baby aspirin.

In Kyle's defense, one needs a master's degree to figure out the entire college application process. It is so complicated that I caught my even tempered husband hitting the keyboard once or twice.

Everyone warned me, but I had no idea. Now begins the waiting game. Where will he get in? Will he be happy? How will I cope?

But I had a wonderful distraction this rainy Wednesday morning. I met with a group of moms who all have freshman kids at school with Will. It was delightful.

Nobody talked about college. Heck "our" collective bunch of kids were just freshman. I didn't have the heart to tell them that if they blink, they will suddenly find themselves handing their kids the car keys, and in seconds, they too will be up to their eye balls in college applications.

And then the big..."What Do I Do For The Rest Of My Life"...question begins to loom heavy on the horizon.

So, I have come to you again, with open arms. My wonderful, collective energy force of mommies and daddies across the globe. How I miss you and need you and want to laugh and cry with you again. Are you still out there? Just One Foot? Privilege of Parenthood? Mothers of Brothers? Drama for Mama? Being Rudri? Motherese? Can you hear me? Will you listen?

This post is dedicated to the mommies and daddies I have never met but to whom I have poured my heart out-- to the new mommies I met today as we begin the treacherous journey through the teen-age years with our wide-eyed freshman, and to the mommies I know and love and have grown up with in the town I live and the town I left behind. I couldn't be getting through this with out you.

Thank you for your support, your counsel, your patience. I have this strange feeling that we have only just begun!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Split Personality!

To my favorite Mommy and Daddy bloggers and readers and to all my friends. In the attempt to get a life, I have finished my very first novel. I wrote about this some time ago, but since then there have been many drafts, sleepless nights, thoughts about who do I think I'm kidding.

The publishing industry is going through growing pains, but I think this opens up opportunities. I just have to find them.

Without sounding too cryptic, please visit you will come to understand my strange re-emergence. My father's death has given me a new life. Wow, that's weird. So much of what I am going through is wildly sinister and kinda' fun.

I want to have this forum to talk about my feelings, my children, my fear of separation...but then I have this other world to dable in. It is not as satisfying as talking to you each and every day.

What do I do?

I miss you all so much. I'm still here. And have to figure out a way to be two people at once.

Let me know your thoughts. And if you get a moment, stop by and say hey to my Dad who made horror films and died 33-years-ago.

All my love,
The Gal who is now being called half Goth and Half Gidget!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

They're not dead, they are just going off to college~

Too many friends dropping off their children at college this year. Too many stories of hugs and tears. Too much to digest.

I have literally avoided thinking about it all and projecting until I see a photo or hear a story and then those familiar pangs begin to pull at my heart.

"The most important job of my life is done," I heard one father say. But that's not it at all. Our kids will still need us, but just in a different way and I'm not ready for this different way.

They will call when they are sick, or hurt by a troubled love, or need money, or advice. It's the day to day, take for granted luxury of living under the same roof that will be gone. And if not gone forever, forever changed.

Since I began writing about this separation process I have begun to understand the magnitude of this simple event--dropping your child off to college. For our generation, the generation of ALWAYS being there, the separation feels like the great divide in the Grand Canyon. Why is it so much harder for us to let go?

For lots of us mommies, we happily gave up careers to raise our tiny tots. And those of us who figured out how to work and ALWAYS be there, we happily gave up sleep and any time for ouselves. And then they leave us. So quickly. And that's what is supposed to happen.

I have little to say to my friends who are just back home, walking past their son or daughter's empty room. I say stupid stuff like, "Your child is going to be so happy!"

Inside I know what I want to say, "Cling tightly to their ankles with all your force and don't let them step across the threshold. Hold on tight."

I'm selfish, I know. I have a year to learn how to put my child's need before mine. I thought I was doing this for the last 17-years...but was I? Are my needs and my kid's need inexplicably linked?

To all my brave friends, I applaud you. Wildly. And cry as much as you want. You deserve it for a job well done!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Beginnings!

Tuesday my boys started school. It was Will's first day of High School. I sat at home struggling to get ready to leave the very next day.

Yes, you heard me. I had to leave for NYC the next day. Now, in past years I would never of dreamt of leaving them right when school started. I would have been too afraid that they might need me. But this year a situation presented itself, and I took advantage of it. Not only did I leave, but Tom came with me.

This is only the second time since we had the boys that we left together.

Of course, I appreciated Kyle's call on Tuesday afternoon to meet at the local ice cream store for our annual tradition--first day of school means ice cream for everyone.

Then, the next morning I said goodbye to them and got on an airplane and left.

Now, don't go picturing this scene as all grown-up and pretty. As Tom and I sat on the bus to the airport I suggested we turn around and return home. At the airport, before my flight, I broke down in tears.

Now, in fairness this was not just because I was leaving my kids. I had a big work related thing going on in NYC and it wasn't turning out as I had hoped. I had a tantrum. I've decided I'm quite good at tantrums.

I was there to introduce my father's films at the Film Forum and as it were a new book written by him "From the Grave!" Now, don't go saying that your Dad can't write a book "From the Grave!" If anybody could, he would and it seems he did. And he sent it to his fans, wrapped in butcher paper and tied with old twine. It is copyrighted William Castle 2010... and it smelled exactly like the cigars he smoked.

But this story is not the intent of this blog post. This blog post is intended to scream to the world that I really didn't miss my kids at all. I mean, by Sunday I couldn't wait to get back home to them. But, I loved being with Tom. He spoiled me. I spoiled him and we were in the city were we first met and fell in love.

It was wonderful.

I haven't worked so hard in a long time. But, it was great.

We had dinner after 10PM and climbed back to bed after 2AM every morning. We were young again for a few days. But quite honestly that's about as much as this old body could take.

I haven't left the house since I returned Sunday. Everything hurts.

But I learned something. I had a life before kids and I will have a life after they go off to college. That's good.

Here's the bad part. I don't have the courage to call my friends who are dropping their eldest kids off to school this year. I can't imagine what they are going through. I don't want to go there yet.

My turn will come soon enough.

For now, my kids are happy at school and we all watched ENTOURAGE together last night. I will try and control my urge to do the countdown. I will not start marking off, this is the last time...

But I must squeeze just one more in there...this is the last time I will write about Kyle's first day of his senior year at high school.

I should probably warn you right now not to read next year's post. But there are a lot of days between now and then. And I'm sure too many topics to cover.

Hopefully I will be all grown-up by then.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm Back!

I can't believe it has been a year since I started writing this blog. I began last year, the first day of school for my rising Junior. Today he is a senior and what a ride it has been.

My youngest son started high school as well.

Kyle drove Will home from school and called from the ice cream store. "Mom, it's the first day of school. Come meet us. It's tradition."

I raced out the door to meet my boys.

I haven't blogged in quite a while. I have had too much to say. It will have to come out in small pieces.

The summer has been a whirl wind of ups and downs. I feel like I have been on an constantly moving teeter tooter. Highs are good, the lows sad.

And then so many of my friends are packing their kids up for college and I barely have the heart to call them. I feel the pain of childbirth with each breath I take.

Slow down. Oh please slow down. Breathe deeply.

For anyone in the New York area I will be at the Film Forum for a retrospective of my father's films. It would be so great to meet all of you I know so well but have yet to meet.

I promise to start writing again. I miss you all so much. I have felt an emptiness in my sole (funny how I wrote sole/soul) since I left you this summer.

Slowly, the stories will enfold. Difficult ones, funny ones, ones I have yet to process. I can't wait to hear all about you.

For now know, I have a boy who has one more year at home with me. Make sure I cherish the time we have together.

And check out a weird occurrence. My father is back "From the Grave!" and blogging...

I know he would love to hear from you too.

Kisses from a mother on the verge of great expectations!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Musings From A Woman on the Edge!

I forced myself to go kayaking today. I didn't really want to go. I wanted to hide under my covers and protect myself from the world. One of those days.

Kyle is off in the city with a friend, exploring the Mission area of San Francisco. Last summer I took him around this area and watched as he became enthralled in an area he hadn't yet explored. I made him promise me this morning that he would go with WIll and I again, later in the week.

Will is off on his little sunfish with a friend, breeze in his hair, salt water on his skin.

I watched him hang on to the boat, as he keeled on one side. He was hanging on for dear life.

And just like a mother, I turned to far to make sure he was OK and found myself emerged in the lagoon, clothes, sunglasses, hat and all.

I didn't mind. It's the getting back into the boat that's not such a pretty sight.

I felt a bit better after my small adventure but wonder when this wave of menopausal mood fluctuations will lift. Each and every month. Each and ever month. And it still catches me by surprise.

There is so much to do right now, and I don't want to waste a single moment. Please don't let me waste another moment.

And then there's this:

For any of my Bay area friends, I will be speaking at the Castro Theater on July 30th before they play my father's film, "Rosemary's Baby." Come and be scared. Not at the film, at how inarticulate I am in front of a crowd.

You all know I fear the devil. And here I am, once again, face to face with a film that changed my families life.

I had trouble getting out of bed today, how am I going to get up in front of a crowd and talk about the film?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

It's been so long I hardly know where to begin or how to start to write again. I have missed you all and have spent my days reflecting, sweating, worrying, sweating some more, loving, laughing, crying and obsessing. And that's before breakfast.

I spent the last week in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, my 20th wedding anniversary was spent watching my boys fence at Nationals. See how it is 'my' wedding anniversary and 'my' boys. After 20 years, poor Tom still corrects me. "It's 'our' anniversary and 'our' boys!" I don't know what I would do without the love of 'my' life.

The four of us together again for one week, together making lemonade out of lemons.

It was hotter than Hades and 'cause we are from Northern California we are not used to the heat.

Our visit to FAT MATT'S pretty much sums up our visit to Atlanta. It was over 100 degrees when we arrived at this local barbeque joint. I wanted the real thing. I got the real thing. White bread and meat with so much fat that the pork falls right off the bone, slathered with barbeque sauce.

Will took his knife and fork and began to eat his barbeque chicken. The waitress ran to our table. "It's against the law to eat barbeque in Atlanta with a knife and fork," she admonished my poor son. "You need to get messy and then lick all that good barbeque off your fingers."

Will looked at me in shock. He takes his eating seriously and doesn't really like to get too messy with his food. But he dug in and we let the sauce stay stuck around our mouths for the rest of that hot Atlanta day.

It was perfect. Messy and foreign and it was just the four of us sharing a unique experience.

Yesterday we flew home. Kyle sat next to me on the plane and he began to discuss his plans for his European tour after he finishes high school. I have no idea where he came up with the idea that he "gets" a European vacation with his friends after he graduates from high school, but somewhere he did.

I looked at him with despair. It wasn't the cavalier way he assumed he was going to travel to Europe with friends after high school. It was that I wasn't going to be with him to get messy and enjoy all things foreign and share endless unique experiences with him.

Is our time together, the four of us, limited. I don't know. But I do know that I had the time of my life in Atlanta, Georgia. Go figure. As long as the four of us are together, Mommy is one happy lady.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Not For Your Eyes, My Son!

I couldn't even find the strength to write yesterday. Hormones. Kyle gone for the week. Me, doing what I do best, projecting and obsessing.

Then Will asked me to go sailing with him. Splendor. Perfection. Happiness. Peace.

When I isolate myself I tend to shrivel up with worry. Gliding through the water, I felt alive.

I don't want to think about it. I want to block it out. But, it's there. Close to the surface.

The quiet in the house since Kyle has been gone has been stifling, overwhelming. And it took me by surprise. It didn't expect to feel this way. It's just a week.

But I see my future staring me in the face and I can't quite come to terms with it.

Life has funny twists and turns and the things you worry about aren't the things that end up biting you in the butt. I know that. But still, it's right there.

Andy is going off to college. I've seen the ads. Kyle used to wear his Buzz Lightyear pajama's to bed every night. "To Infinity and Beyond," he would mimic Buzz.

And now, it's almost time for Kyle to pack his toys away, too and leave for college, just like Andy.

I really thought I was closer to feeling OK about all this, until this week.

I realized harshly, violently, that I'm not ready for Kyle not to be part of my life every day. And I feel so unbelievably selfish. He is a great kid and needs to fly and I'll be damned if I hold him back. But who will hold me up?

Kyle, I hope you never read this entry. But if you do, I'll be fine. This is what you are supposed to do. This is my problem, not yours. If you just weren't so darned fun to be around...

And for you my love, I will whisper in your ear..."To Infinity and Beyond!"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Practicing for College

So, my son went off to a leadership conference for a week and I don't like it at all.

I think he is having a great time, and believe me when I tell you I am so happy that he is. It makes it so much easier. BUT, I miss him so much.

I think what I miss the most is knowing about his life, who he is hanging out with, who he is meeting and what he is feeling.

This feels like practice for college.

I'm OK with this only because I know he is coming home in a week. How will I feel when this is the real thing.

He wasn't able to bring his computer with him, so I connect only through a few text messages and a some really short phone conversations.

I just had to stop writing because I received a text from Kyle. I can see it now, my world revolving a few short semi-sentences. I hear my phone signal a text and I get so excited. Here comes anther heart races as I type. PAUSE.

I love his texts. Like him, they make me smile.

He is at a college campus with 1,000 boys from all over the state. The conference is called Boys' State. He is definitely stepping out of the Northern California bubble he has lived in and it seems like he is sucking the marrow out of this experience.

I am proud of him. That is when I'm not bugging Will because now that Kyle is away he gets all my attention. And this week seems to be a week of unhealthy obsession. And poor Will is the object of my obsession. He laughs at me but I can tell I'm starting to really bug him.

I think when Kyle finally goes off to college, Will is going to miss him even more than me. I mean, can you imagine all the unhealthy attention this poor kid is going to have to handle?

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Happy Kid!

Will leaving his graduation.

As Will entered middle school, all I wished for was for him to leave with his self esteem in tact. Watching last night, I knew that he had accomplished this goal. But he did with the help of so many unbelievable teachers and administrators. And two of them are fellow bloggers Teresa and Gary Oefinger.

Thank you.

A picture can say a thousand words.

Today I will leave it at that.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I have no time to write today but I had to get a post out to mark this wonderful day. My youngest son is graduating from elementary school.

I woke up sad, eyes moist with tiny tears. This shifted to fear.

Will will walk in front of an entire auditorium and deliver his graduation speech. When I gave mine, I forgot the entire middle section. I have yet to recover.

Tomorrow I will have time to think about it all. And I'm sure something will hit me straight between the eyes. Something unexpected.

But for today I will embrace the moment. Hold back my tears, keep my anxiety to myself. And watch as the children I have known since they were five put elementary school behind them and walk towards their future, towards dreams and hopeful expectations.

The door just opened and Will has finished his last day of 8th grade. He will graduate in a few hours.

I couldn't be more proud.

Monday, June 14, 2010

With A Shadow of A Dream...

Summer finally graced us with her presence the last few days in Northern California. Warm days have left me welcoming the end of the school year. We're not done here quite yet. My youngest will graduate on Thursday and he was selected to give one of the two graduation speeches.

Kyle gave his graduation speech three years ago. I gave mine 37 years ago. Oh my, that does seem like a long time ago.

But I remember it well. "With a shadow of a dream, there is hope. Where hope lies, there will always be a future..." I also remember forgetting the entire middle of my speech and not being able to find my place in my notecards. Fear struck me hard that June day and now I get to watch my youngest stand on stage on tell his classmates, their families, the teachers and administrators just what he feels about this young chapter of his life.

But last night was another graduation. Yesterday my nephew and oldest grandchild in the family graduated from high school.

I couldn't sleep at all last night.

We came home from the lovely celebration (where everyone toasted my wonderful nephew and his sappy Aunt of course cried) and I tried to engage Kyle in coming to watch one of our favorite summer series, "Royals Pains." He wanted nothing to do with me.

I am not sure if this was due to the fact that I didn't let him meet up with his friends at 11:00 pm and I wouldn't let him go camping in the Santa Cruz mountains with a bunch of his 17-year-old friends.

Since school has let out, Kyle has transformed back into the relaxed and happy-go-lucky kid that I know so well. But last night, the dark cloud of 'teenagness' reared its ugly head.

My sleepless night was filled with a mixture of, "I can't wait for him to go to college," and "I can't believe this time next year we will be celebrating his graduation."

After I finished watching "Royal Pains" with Tom we crawled into bed. Kyle said goodnight and then went into the room we had just vacated to play some video games.

I listened from my bedroom as he played. And it struck me that he just didn't wanted to spend the time with us.

I don't know why, but this broke my heart a little bit.

But I will lick my wounds today and hopefully Kyle will want to hang with me a little bit. And last night will be another memory.

Just like the memory I have of my handsome nephew picking strawberries at his grandparents home 16 years ago and reading to him about the big hungry bear and red ripe strawberries.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Worrying about Worrying!

A beautiful sunny morning, finally, in Northern California. My eldest son sleeps sweetly in his room. He's off school. My rising senior is with me this quiet morning. And it's wonderful.

How relaxed he has seemed the last few days. It has been a pleasure watching him transform back into my Kyle. My rising senior.

Summer. It has almost begun. Will has two weeks left but we can almost feel the endless days of summer. I know, I talked on and on about SAT prep and College Applications but F&^* it! Let's not worry about anything. Anything.

Then why did I wake up this morning worrying about everything?

The only thought that pops into my tired head is that I don't want to have to worry about anything. It is almost as if I have no control over my worrying.

Let me explain and tell me if any of this resonates with any of you. That cough that lingers, the stomach ache that doesn't feel right, the curve of the spine, the weird looking spider bite, the unimaginable! STOP!

I am worrying about worrying this morning and that is all F&^*ed up!

Beginnings and endings always put me in this place. I don't know why.

But I have thrown up my short, shorts and a lively tee shirt and Kyle and I are going to go shopping for Will's 14th birthday today...probably around 3:00 when Kyle wakes up.

Until then, I'm free to read your blog posts.

And I'm going to try and not worry.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Rising Senior

I didn't snap a picture. I didn't think of it. He was so handsome in his black pants, white shirt, black tie and black v-neck sweater. Today is his last day of his junior year. When I pick him up at 2:30 he will be a rising senior.

I can't believe it.

I just began writing when he began his junior year and here we are. Time marching on. I have met so many wonderful people along the way but still I'm filled with emotion today.

I sat on his bed this morning and realized how grown-up he really is. He doesn't need his mommy so much any more. Though, I do think he still enjoys her (at times, when I'm not nagging or making him nuts--which is probably most times).

But I pause today for many reasons. I usually look so forward to summer. Can't wait for the freedom of endless schedules, homework and pressure. I love summer. But this year will be different. Very different. I know that in every fiber of my being. This summer will whip by in the blink of an eye. This summer Kyle will attend Boys State, Fencing Nationals and continue studying for the evil SAT's. He will also write his essay for his common application.

Already my heart is fluttering. What happened to days of endless relaxation? What happened to "What do you want to do today, boys? I dunno, Mom, what about you?"

It has been an interesting school year I'll give you that. There were highs and there were lows. And you got to read all about them right here on my blog.

The biggest high in respect to Kyle was spending the week in Los Angeles with him. It was great to show him my hometown and we had a blast together.

Funny, the lowest low was during that same week. He received his SAT scores early one morning when we were in LA and he was disappointed in his score. They just weren't good enough for him. I could literally feel all the stress in my young son's body. It scared me. He has always handled stress so well. But this year was difficult for him.

I am proud of Kyle and I do love being part of his life. He is witty and enthusiastic, helpful (when he wants to be) and kind.

I've done my job. Now what?

Of course I'll be there to support him. And I know he will need my support. But it is time I get out of his way and I'm not sure how. I've learned a lot this year so I have a bit more of an idea of what my boundaries need to be in respect to mothering him.

I love him like only a mother loves her sons! "Snap out of it," wise words from MOONSTRUCK will become my mantra. "Snap out of it!"

I'll try and remember to bring my camera when I pick him up. I need to document this important day. It feels huge. Monumental. Happy.

I'm not sad. That's partly because I have found all of you.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"This sucks!"

It was 6:30 am and apparently I turned to my husband and said, "This sucks!"

I had lifted my eye mask and the sun was blazing through the plastic window.

I kind of remember saying it. And at that moment it really did suck.

Rewind to last week. It rained, a cold driving rain. I was stuck in winter when summer was quickly approaching the rest of the country. I told Tom that I really needed to get away.

We talked about Palm Springs and Las Vegas--both warm, both a ten hour drive. I surfed through hotels in Napa and Sonoma, everything was either too expensive or already booked.

I became more and more frustrated.

I settled on a day outing. I made a reservation at a restaurant in Napa called Etoile. It is part of the Domaine Chandon winery. It has a one star Michelin rating and I thought that at least we could drive up for lunch and lounge around Napa for the day.
It sounded good until I stumbled upon a place called Castanoa on the coast between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. I sent the link to Tom and before I knew it he had book two tents for Sunday night. Tents, yes. We were going camping.

I'm not sure how I got from a one star Michelin restaurant to a camp site but I did.

My friends laughed when I told them that we were going camping. Actually they laughed when I told them where we were camping. Apparently, Castanoa is considered luxury camping.

Luxury camping seems a bit like an oxymoron, but we set on our adventure not sure what to expect.

We had two tents that actually had frames and white plastic fabric nailed into the structure. There was a concrete floor and a queen bed in one tent and two bunk beds in the other tent.

Outside the tents was some firewood and one adirondack chair.

We also had one match.

But my three boys proudly made a fire. The wind was blowing rigorously off the water and whipping around our little camp site. It might have been nice if it wasn't so freezing ass cold and if the RV's were not blocking our view. But we were here and I, for one, was going to make the best of it.

Oh, did I mention the bathrooms were quite a walk from the tent. Now I don't mind peeing in the woods but this wasn't exactly the kind of place where you pee in the woods. So, if I had to pee in the middle of the night I had to walk into the bitter cold and shlep my tired old ass over to the bathroom, in the pitch black night.

I found a plastic plant drainer that looked like it would make a wonderful makeshift toilet.

When we finally went to bed, fully dressed (with long underwear), because it was so freakin' freezing, I stuck ear plugs in my ears and on eye mask over my eyes. Yes, I know, I am a princess.

All night the bottom half of me was sweating from menopausal symptoms but my face was ice cold. I could hear my husband snoring as well as the wind whipping the plastic fabric of the tent through my earplug. When the sun came up and made its way through the cracks of my eye mask, I must have turned to Tom and said,"This sucks!"

When I finally left my luxury cabin, my son had made another fire. He was very proud of his accomplishment.

We spent the rest of the day grumpy because nobody had slept well. I made everybody pick organic strawberries. And Will made us stop at the beach to fly a kite.

We were all together. But most of the time Kyle and Will bickered with each other, especially over the darn fire. Both boys fell asleep in the car on the way home.

We walked into our beautiful home and I wondered why we ever left. But, I felt more at peace. Happy to be home.

Is that why people go camping? Because they appreciate home so much more? I'm still pondering this question.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is the thursday before Memorial Day and the skies opened up with a driving rain. Not a warm, summer rain like you get in the rest of country, a cold winter rain.

I have decided that more than ever I need summer. I always look so forward to summer. Kyle will be a senior in the fall and Will a freshman in high school and I can honestly say I'm excited for them both.

So, I will take a break from my computer for the next few days...I know I'll cheat and have to see what my favorite bloggers are writing about but I will try and not write. I will observe.

Have a great long weekend everybody!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Screwing Up Your Kids and Getting a Chuckle out of it!

May 24th was the Great Festival of the Gypsies that takes place every year on the same day in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France.

Saint Sarah is the patron Saint of the Gypsies and on this day, Gypsies from all across Europe come to honor her.

It is customary to leave a note at her pagan altar--your wish, your hope, your prayer.

Since I couldn't go to this lively event I decided to light a candle to Saint Sarah and leave a prayer by the flaming light. Why I wanted to honor Saint Sarah must remain a mystery right now. But I wanted to and so I did.

The candle glowed brightly in the cut crystal glass.

First Tom walked through the door. Quickly I explained that I hadn't lit the candle to commemorate anyone's birth or death. "And nobody died," I told him.

Kyle walked in next. Again I was quick to alert him, "Don't worry, nobody died."

Will was the last to enter. He looked at me with his big green eyes (well one's green and the other's brown). "Nobody died, sweetheart. I'm just leaving a note of intention for Saint Sarah."

"But you're Jewish," he reminded me.

Than I had a funny thought.

I tend to light candles for all those people I have loved and lost, on special days like birthdays or anniversaries and, of course, the day they died. And when someone I know dies, I light a candle for them.

That's not the funny thought.

What got me chuckling is the image of one of my son's walking into a lover's home, the lovely young lass having filled the house with beautiful scented candles, looking forward to a night of love bathed in the soft glow of endless candlelight.

And then my kid's reaction--blood draining from his face, "Who died?" he'd ask his lover.

And she would know then that I had screwed-up my kids for sure.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Am I Honest and Scrappy?


I just got off the water. Doesn't that sound romantic? Well, I did. And it was. My husband and I sailed around our tiny lagoon on our $200 Sunfish. And I felt like I was a Jewish Kennedy.

I feel guilty for indulging in this perfect luxury. Yes, I know it's a sport. But I usually sit at the bow and watch my husband maneuver the winds. I threw on my green sweat pants and a beat up old UCLA sweat shirt, the one with holes on the elbow and the rip on the left side of the pocket. I placed a big floppy hat on my head and black sunglasses over my eyes. My hair is stringy straight and I wear no make-up. Not to sail. I look like hell but nobody would know--because of the smile on my face.

The winds were up and we sashayed through the water--fast at times. Really fast. I smiled broadly. The boat keeled on its side and my feet dangled in the cold water. Romantic. Perfect. Just Tom and me.

Before we began our sail, I spoke with a friend of mine who was interested in hearing about my life. I spent most of the time telling her about my writing. I told her that I worked until the kids came home and my days felt a bit chopped up. She reminded me that I would miss this time when the kids were gone.

I thought about this for a moment or two. Not that long ago I would have found this tremendously sad. But not today.

I recognize that big change is coming and I will miss these days so very, very much. But I am slowly evolving. I know I need to make time for me now. This is my life.

Part of what I'm working on right now (a rerelease of my father's autobiography) involves me going through boxes and boxes of old photographs. Photos of me as a kid, of my mother and of my kids. Thousands and thousands of memories.

I stopped dead in my tracks. There were endless pictures of my two sons. Pictures in albums, loose pictures, negative saved. I realized that I took so many pictures of my kids because I was sure that something bad would happen and all I would have or they would have were pieces of matt paper, to remind them or me of what once was. It all felt so incredibly morbid.

The Empress over at was dishing out awards the other day and she gave me the honest and scrappy award, daring me to come clean.

I was born to be free but have always battled my fears. As a result I am certain I have lost the best part of my spirit.

I could feel it this late afternoon as my husband caught the wind in our sails and took us everywhere and nowhere--freedom. Fast and free. The way I want to live.

The way I once was, a long time ago before circumstance and sad endings creeped into my joyful being. Fear of the unknown or in my case, fear of the known.

Honest--I watched my Dad die. I watched his kidney's fail then his heart. Then my sister. First her heart, then her kidney's and finally her lungs. Then my mother, her mind. Things failed all around me. All around me things fell apart.

Scrappy--Kyle was in my stomach when Georgie's lungs finally failed for good and I had no choice. Everyday had to be a miracle because I had a lot of living to do, for a lot of people I adored and who adored me. Morbid. Yes, because too much recognition that every moment is precious means that you live in a world where you know that everything can be taken away in a moment. Morbid yes. Free no.

Scrappy--I sail on a lagoon in an old boat and I enjoy every minute of it. I have grit. And guts that I seldom give myself credit for. It's time I do. I look at the picture I posted of myself and that's the girl inside of me. I've always been there. Free

So Miss Empress, your highness, is that honest and scrappy enough? Thanks for the challenge. My personal challenge is to try and be a little more free everyday. A little more honest and scrappy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Our Collective Virtual World!

Well, I'm not entirely sure why I started blogging. And I am not sure what I expected to get out of it. Back in August, as school began again, I worried about my place in the world once my kids had left the nest. I just started writing.

Then I began Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and my life took an unfamiliar turn. I committed to something new and I stuck with it. This is so contrary to my nature.

I knew nothing about blogging. Really nothing. And then all this happened. Not all at once. Slowly, over time.

I found myself visiting at today and low and behold Bruce from was sitting in. He wrote a magnificent piece about our virtual salon.

The thing is I only met Bruce yesterday when he came to visit my blog. And he came because he too was part of Jen and Sarah's 'five for ten' at A connection was made.

But I didn't know that that connection was made a long time ago, when Bruce was a child and he watched one of my Dad's horror films, Mr. Sardonicus. Apparently my Dad's film left an impression on him. And today, it was Bruce who left an impression on me.

We are all strangers. But we have come to know each other profoundly. And even trust each other. It is inspiring and somewhat odd. But I have always liked odd and this feels like home.

What has amazed me is the quality of writing, the collective spirit, the support and the incredible number of people writing about things both personal and profound.

And I find myself a bit overwhelmed. Bruce wrote about something I learned about a thousand years ago, back in college--Marshall McLuhan's concept that "the medium is the message." I didn't fully understand his concept when I was a 20-year-old college student. Today I understand it completely.

And I feel lucky. I have lived to see very many different mediums--and I wonder what Mr. McLuhan would think of all this. Something that so profoundly connects us all. Something where truly the medium is the message. Connection!

But like with most things, there was a leap I had to take. I wrote not knowing if anyone would ever read my words. And I'm not entirely sure it really mattered. I wrote because I had to. For me. It has changed my life and in fact given me a life. And I am so thankful to the medium and to all of you.

I am really curious what made you all start blogging. I really hate that word. What made you all start writing on websites? I am deeply curious. And what is your take away? Do write for yourself, to build a community, to make connections? Why did you start and why do you continue? Do you ever want to just stop? Feel like you have nothing left to say? And then what happens that makes you continue? How did you make your first connection? My came through

I am delighted to be part of what Bruce calls our "virtual salon." Thank you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yes I Can!

Can I have a life once my children leave home?

Yes I Can!

Can I stop fearing life so much that I start living it?

Yes I Can!

Can I store my bad memories back into the recesses of my mind and embrace the good ones?

Yes I Can!

Can I start working out?

Yes I Can!

Can I embrace my children as young men and delight in their own adventures?

Yes I Can!

Can I lust for my husband?

Yes I Can!


Can I continue to dream?

Yes I Can!

Can I stop calling myself old?

Yes I Can!

Can I start admitting that I am a writer?

Yes I Can!

Can I make things happen for myself?

Yes I Can!

Can I handle the hardships that await me?

Yes I Can!

Can I live a life filled with ups and downs as I strive for a little more peace?

Yes I Can!

Can I say no more often, free from guilt?

Yes I Can!

Can I live abroad one day soon?

Yes I Can!

Can I appreciate each and every one of you who spend the time reading my posts?

You Betcha!

Can I enjoy the day without the fear of what tomorrow brings?

Yes I Can!

Yes, you betcha, affirmative, no problemo, of course, agreed, all righty then. Yes!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lust On My Terms!

I step out of my well worn underwear that doubles as a turtleneck. Next I undo my overused bra that is used for comfort, obviously, because it provides no support whatsoever.

I quickly step into my brand spanking new navy blue silk undergarments--bra and tiny panties. I am amazed that my breasts actually sit where they are suppose to.

Then I throw on my skinny jeans with a crisp white tee shirt. I add a belt with turquoise stones and a pair of large silver hoop earrings.

But I'm not done yet. I slip my bare feet into a pair of black stilettos with forest green soles--a signature of the expensive brand.

I feel good. Inside and out. I feel like I could re-capture that lustful spirit that seems far away and long ago.

I stop. I look at the bottom of my shoe. The green sole of my designer pumps reminds me of something.

I think for a second and then it comes to me. The green light on Daisy's dock. The illusive light that represents the demise of the American dream. This gets me thinking and that usually means trouble.

Why do I need the outside to look sexy, for the inside to feel lustful?

My expensive designer shoes all of a sudden remind me of Daisy. Not a character I like very much.

Why have spent too much money on black stilettos and squeezed my large derrière into tight ass blue jeans and bought a bra that harnesses my well worn, droopy breasts?

It is all wrong. I have to be me. I step out of my jeans and crisp tee. I throw off my expensive shoes with the green soles. I undo my uncomfortable bra.

I breathe. A long deep, comforting breath.

I throw on my old comfy jeans, take off my stupid earrings, throw on my well worn tee and a pair of flip-flops.

I am ready for a night of lust. My way. No illusive green soles at the end of my dock. No siree!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Life is About Living Now!

Hardest topic for me.

This post. Memory.

One. I feel envy for all you mommy’s blogging about your life with your little children. A living, breathing, written memory for you to cherish. I can’t seem to remember much when my children were little. Little things filter through my mind. Their crooked smiles, the way they tucked their little hand in the back of my neck when I was holding them, my husband carrying them to bed when they fell fast asleep in ours. Now they have grown and I have forgotten so much.

But I will never forget how much I love them. But the look on their face when they ate their first piece of chocolate—I can’t remember. The first time they found money under their pillow from the tooth fairy—can’t remember. The first time they caught a baseball in the outfield—can’t remember.

I wish I could. I wish I had written about it.

I do remember my 17-year-old giving his 8th grade graduation speech, his sweet hug and kiss every single night, his screams of excitement when the Yankees won the pennant. I remember him climbing into his tuxedo for prom.

I remember my almost 14-year-old waving at me from a wakeboard behind a ski boat with a smile the size of Lake Tahoe, his patience and dedication as he reads my novel over and over again with so many helpful points, his smile every day as he approaches my car on his segway. I will never forget my son sailing me around the lagoon on his sunfish with the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs.

Or will I?

Two. My Mom lost her memory many years ago. MANY. And she sits in her chair without a memory or a voice suffering with Alzheimer’s.

“Does she know you?” everyone asks.

I have no idea. She senses me. Does that count?

A whole life of memories she doesn’t remember or does she?

She lost her husband and a daughter I hope she can’t remember that.

But all the other stuff. Where does it go? A whole life, filled with sweetness and light, with horror and grief. Where does it go?

I have become the memory for too many people. My mother, my father, my sister. I am a vessel filled with important memories that I can’t let die. Yet I can’t remember what my little boy said to me on his first day of school. I can’t remember the look on my little boy’s face when he took his first step. I can’t remember how they smelled after their bath.

But I remember my father dying. Clearly. And my sister sticking her tongue out at me in the hospital, angry that I was letting the doctors do awful things trying to keep her alive.

On those sleepless nights, and there are many, I want to remember the good things and not the bad. Turn off the switch of too many bad memories and let only the good ones filter through.

Why are the painful ones so vivid? It doesn’t seem fair. I can remember them in detail. Paint pictures, summon up feelings, re-create scenes.

The good memories are fading. I don’t want them to, because I need them desperately.

But life is not about memories. No. It’s about living and creating more memories.

Life is about living. Memories pull us backward, through time and space, sometimes unkindly, sometimes to help us remember and go forward freely. But life is about living. NOW.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Health and Love: What Happened to Happiness?

I am the most afraid of this topic. It is one thing that shapes my world for better and for worse.

When I was growing up, my parents always told us that only two things in life were important, health and love. This was drilled into us. It was THE message. THE one resounding message from my childhood.

Happiness wasn’t mentioned because it seemed obvious that with health and love comes happiness.

I have wrestled with this conceit for over five decades. Yes, FIVE decades. That sounds like a long time to wrestle. But I have tried to seek out help. I really have. But I continue to struggle, and here is the absolute truth. Bare all, conceal nothing.

I live my life happy but in absolute fear that my happiness will be taken away. In a heart beat, a blink of an eye, a flip of a coin, my world will shut down and my happiness will be gone.

I have lived long enough to see how bad things destroy happiness. I have lived through some of these tough times. Have watched my happiness flutter away and disappear. Too many times. Too easily. But this is life. And it changes on a dime.

But I have also lived long enough to KNOW that happiness can be there through tough times, unhappy times if, IF, if happiness is equated to peace. And to me, I think it is.

I am the least peaceful person I know. This is what eludes me. I have met a few people who seem at peace always. I want that. To me that looks like happiness. It looks like no one can take it away. I just don’t know how to get there.

And perhaps I worry a bit, that my highs won’t be quite as high if I am in that peaceful spot. But I think I would trade the highs for the sacred gift of peace.

Instead, I live my life fearful. And I can’t seem to do a damn thing about it. I talked about courage on my last blog and realize how closely linked courage and happiness really are.

And so I ask YOU out there--readers, writers, thinkers, does it take courage to be at peace?

Is this the piece in peace I’m missing? Was I born this way or did life make me this way? And can I change?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Courage through Generations!

I am not very good at following directions, and I am equally bad at attempting anything technological, but after reading Jen and Sarah's blog and the clever idea they have put into motion, called Five for Ten, I am determined to try to be a part of the conversation. Today’s topic is COURAGE. So here goes…

I have thought about courage a lot in my life, probably because I think I’m devoid of courage. Much like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, somewhere along the way, I lost my courage.

But then two things happened.

A wise Dutch friend of my mother told me something that made me think. Tony was his name. Sadly, he died last year. Tony was a resistance fighter in Holland during World War II. Then he moved to Los Angeles and became a nudist and an activist. I say nudist first, because I met him when I was quite young and the nudist part has been emblazoned in my memory. When we would visit Tony at his tiny beach house (really the only shack in Malibu), my Mom would give him that look that said, “Cover that thing up, old man.” And he always did.

He taught me to swim in the ocean in really rough waters. He told me to dive real deep and let the waves pass over my head. He also told me precisely what to do if I was ever caught in a rip tide. I have a healthy respect for the sea because of Tony. But it’s one thing I’m not afraid of, probably because Tony gave me information that allowed me to have a semblance of control.

But I’m wandering. What Tony told me, before he died, has stayed with me. He told me, my Grandfather, a man I never met, was the bravest man he had ever known.

This surprised me. I had heard many stories about my Jewish Grandfather and nobody ever described him as brave. Kind, yes. Compassionate, definitely. Creative and hard-working, absolutely. Devoted to his family, forever. But brave never came up.

Then Tony continued speaking in that honest, guttural way that all Dutch men seem to share. They never say what they don’t mean.

I wish I could recall the precise words, but I can’t. But I’ll never forget the message. He said that Georg (my Grandfather) by nature was not particularly brave. In fact, he worried about everything. And he feared constantly. And then he was trapped in Holland during WWII with a big Star of David attached to his arm. And despite impossible odds, my Grandfather hid resistance fighters in his home and guns and ammunition in his attic.

What made this significant to Tony was that this man (my Grandpa) went against his nature. And against staggering odds did things that put himself and his beloved family at terrible risk. And to him this is what made Grandpa Georg the bravest man he had ever met.

My other life lesson is from my young son, handicapped with a condition called Trevor’s Disease which has made his life less than easy. He can’t move his left ankle or knee and his leg is considerably shorter. He has to wear a big shoe to walk.

I remember seeing people with huge shoes when Will was first diagnosed. I couldn’t imagine anybody having to live like that. We have been through many surgeries and none of them have been successful. One day soon, when Will stops growing, the disease is supposed to stop spreading. We are hopeful about a prosthetic knee and even an ankle some day down the road. But in the meantime, my son stuns me with his bravery.

I have his jeans made to fit over his shoe, so it makes it a bit more difficult to see the huge shoe hiding under his pants leg. But Will doesn’t seem to mind the stares and comments. Summer is rolling around and that means shorts. He couldn’t care less. He wears his shorts and doesn’t seem to mind the curiosity of others.

But it breaks my heart. Again, he’s brave and I’m the cowardly lion.

He fights like a real lion in everything he does, from fencing to wakeboarding to skiing. But the real test of his manhood and his bravery is the way he handles his challenges. Head on! He doesn’t even blink.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done is given birth to a very brave boy. He must get it from his brave great Grandfather, Georg.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

My kids asked me what I wanted to do for Mother's Day. I couldn't give them an answer. What does a mother want on Mother's Day?

At one time, long ago, I wanted to sleep late.

At one time, long ago, I wanted to watch my children play happily with each other.

At one time, long ago, I wanted to leave the breakfast, lunch and dinner to my husband.

At one time, long ago, I wanted a home-made card and perhaps a gift made out of tissue paper.

But what do I want now?

I want all the mothers I have met in the virtual world and in the real world to know that I'm happy to share this blessed time with them. I want to wish them a Happy Mother's Day. I want to tell them they inspire me in many ways, every day.

And from my children? On Mother's Day? What is it I want?

A long hug. That's what I want. One that says I'm right here next to you. Right here. Right now.
And I'm not going anywhere. Right Now.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Numb and Lonely

Yesterday was so exciting for me. I was really delighted for Will and his victory. But then something strange happened.

I went numb.

I can't explain it entirely but I shut down. It was the strangest feeling. I didn't feel myself at all. I was quick to think that it was gnarly hormones, but I knew this was different.


I didn't feel anxious or depressed. Numb.

Almost like I couldn't endure anymore worry. I needed to tuck it away someplace and not let it nip at my ankles for one afternoon. Just for one afternoon.

I went to bed and the tears began to flow. Seventeen-years-ago I went into labor and had my first baby boy. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO TODAY.

It was a bittersweet day. I bore a child that I have loved with every fiber of my being. But my sister had not lived to see him. BITTERSWEET.


I had to move forward. I had no choice. I had lost my best friend in the world, my big sister. She was supposed to be there for me forever. And she died.


She would have been there in the room with me when Kyle was born but she was dead. Instead my mother was waiting outside with my dear friend Judy. They tried to fill in the gaps.

My mother sat there fully aware that she had just lost her oldest daughter and she was about to meet her grandchild. I had the best medicine for her. But she had developed Alzheimer's.


I put one foot in front of the other and loved my baby. I loved him more because he didn't have the love of his Aunt Georgie. And I know how she would have spoiled him. And I know how she would have loved him.

I had to keep her alive for him.


People showered love upon me and Kyle on this blessed day. They knew my loss. Our loss. They tried to fill in the pieces.

I've done the best I could. Now, he is practically a man. Georgie would be proud of him. But he lost out. He lost out.

She didn't. I have to believe this. She sees him, knows him, loves him. I have to believe this.

Not numb now. Tears stain my cheeks.

Today on my son's 17th birthday I miss my sister so very much.

Dear Georgie:

I wish you were around for the journey. I need you so much everyday, for so many reasons but mostly I need you to hit me over the head and tell me to get my head out of my derrière and not be afraid of life.

Thanks for everything you ever did for me. And I'm so sorry that I didn't make your death any easier.

I know I don't have to say I love you because you know that. Unconditional love.

I will try and ride the proverbial wave you always told me about. I will hear your voice in my head. And I will fill the house with laughter. And I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and not judge myself too harshly.

You wouldn't recognize how old I have become. Your little sister. Your sister who knew you better than anybody else. The sister you understood better than anyone else. Unspoken love and friendship. Together forever. Old and a little less NUMB.


Our baby is seventeen today. But you know that.

Sunday, May 2, 2010




Resilience 101

My young son is a fighter. He has guts and resilience. More than his old mother. Right now he is fencing against eight other great fencers to be one of the few selected to go to Nationals in Atlanta this summer.

Nationals is a huge deal. My oldest son is going. Will has gone twice before but this year he has to qualify. The last few years, just showing up to the tournaments qualified you for Nationals.

And I'm sitting here, holding my breath.

Will can't move his left ankle or knee and this leg is much shorter than his right one. So you can imagine how much harder this is for him.

He just fenced all the fencers and beat 3 of them. Then he went up against a better fencer for direct elimination--and he lost.

Now, he has two more bouts to see if he beats one of them and qualifies for a trip to Nationals.

I know he will be fine if he doesn't win. But I want him to win so badly. He loves to compete and despite his handicap puts himself out there every single day. I know this would mean the world to him. But I also know that he will take the loss in stride like everything else.

But my heart breaks as I wait. And I wait wondering what this all means to him. Through my lens, I worry. But Will understands his handicap and deals. But at some level, doesn't it bother him terribly?

We all have handicaps. And Will has learned at a young age how to face challenges and overcome them. But I would just love to see him win something. For him. He loves sports and is so athletically inclined.

So, I wait. Baited breath and all. And I'm proud. And I love him so very much.

Tomorrow, my older son runs for student body president. He is putting himself out there in a really different way. And for him this is a big deal.

But if Kyle doesn't win, I know that he will learn from the experience. For Will, I'm just sick of all the learning and resilience he has had to bare. "Enough," I want to scream.

Win or not, he is the ultimate winner to me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Blessed Thing!

Saturday was Welcome Day at my youngest son's new high school. He was given a t-shirt reminding us that 2014 is the year of his graduation. Like I need another reminder.

My husband drove him to Welcome Day early Saturday morning. Dropped him off and then went to Trader Joe's and Safeway-- part of Tom's weekly Saturday morning routine.

The night before I thought we had made a plan. He would stay with him until his exam and then I would arrive after the test.

The students had to take a math placement exam at 9:30 and then meet with an advisor to pick out their courses and then have lunch with a group of total strangers.

The parents were supposed to gather to learn more about the school and get to know one another.

And my husband just dropped him off. He is the second child and I'm sure that's why he is so well adjusted but, he just dropped him off.

When I called at 9:00am to check on Will and found out he was at Trader Joe's I went berserk. I mean, it's a brand new school and he just left him there to fend for himself.

Of course, I jumped in the shower and flew over to the high school. I was right there when young Will exited his exam.

And of course, he was fine. He found a friend to sit with and seemed completely at ease with the entire process.

First lesson. I freak way too easily. But we all know that. And just because I freak doesn't necessarily mean my kids will freak. I should have learned this already. But I'm a bit thick in the head. I over mommy. I know. But, he just dropped him off!

After I got over that...(DEBATABLE IF I EVER DID!) the rest of the day was wonderful. It was great to feel like the young Mom again. I have a rising freshman. Let's forget about the almost rising senior I have living with me and concentrate with the 'almost' freshman.

Will is such a great kid but I still worry that the kids will play nice, that he won't get too stressed with homework and exams and that he will make a couple of good friends.

It seems I worried about the same things when he went off to kindergarten.

A wonderful friend called me on Friday. She happened to be at our town's post office when the local elementary school kids were visiting on a field trip. She reminisced about the times when all three of her kids did the exact same field trip. They all get weighted like a piece of mail. It's so incredibly sweet.

My heart ached for a moment. I remember that field trip as well. Now, I'm sending Will into high school.

And now I know high school goes so quickly. A blink of an eye. The years melt into each other, as the kids try and discover who they are and what they want. The years are a harsh and tender. On both mother and sons, fathers and daughters. They are fraught with emotional challenges and exhaustions.

In the end, I think the last one standing wins.

In my case, the jury is still out. But I will have two high school boys next year, God willing. And it is a blessed thing!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Impossible Dream!

Huffington Post has a whole section now dedicated to College. I read a piece this morning that touted Wesleyan's highly selective acceptance rate, "The Numbers Are In: Class of 2014 Even More Selective." The Senior Associate Dean of Admission said that "selecting the class this year was a more demanding process because he found himself reading application after application and thinking, 'great student, obvious admit. Do that three or four times and you realize that you’re admitting at 100 percent, when you should be admitting students at a rate of 20 percent.' "

Wesleyan had been Kyle's top choice before we visited last summer. Thank goodness he felt that it was a bit too far from a city for his liking.

But what if it was still is top choice?

The mean SAT score for Wesleyan is 730. For those of you not in the college process right now that means that half the kids admitted are scoring 730 in all three sections of the SAT. To put it in perspective, the average high school student who takes the SAT gets 500 in all three categories. To put it more in perspective, when we took the SAT, there were two sections, if you broke 1,000 you were doing great.

I recently looked at Kyle's SAT breakdown and was astonished. To get a 730 on this lovely test, you probably can miss one or two problems a section. That's it. All those bubbles, over four hours of bubbles and you can only miss a couple of questions.

When Kyle first took his STAR ( California's Standardized Testing and Reporting) test the spring of his second grade year, he was a bit nervous. I gave him great advice at the time. I didn't put much merit in the STAR test so I told him to make pretty patterns with his bubbles. He gave me a smile and happily went off to school to fill in a pretty patterned worksheet. I would love to give him the same advice today. The problem is he wouldn't take it.

No, these kids actually study for the SAT. Thousands of dollars are spent on tutors. Hours upon hours of practice tests are wasted. Ways to game the system are taught. All in the hopes that you will be let into a school you want to go.

This summer my passionate, almost 17-year-old will spend hours studying for this exam. He wants to improve his score in the hopes he will have better chances getting into college.

He's 17! He should be working at a restaurant or a car wash, saving money to go out with his friends. No, the college counselors tell you, the summer before your senior year is very important for college admissions. You need to do something that will look good on your application. Something that helps market you as a student and as an individual. And all the while be studying for the SAT's.

Kyle will be attending Boy's State in June and then he will go to Fencing Nationals in Atlanta in July. He has an internship set up and maybe an hour or two to get an ice cream or visit with friends. I'm being sarcastic but it sucks. And I must have your common application essay done by the time you go back to school. Trying to fit writing all your applications into the first semester of your senior year is supposed to be very difficult. You know, the colleges really care that you are taking the most challenging classes your high school Kyle is taking calculous, and doubling up in English and History, plus taking AP BIO. He is dropping Spanish! OMG. Lot of thought. Colleges don't like it when you drop a language.

Once upon a time, we spent long summers doing nothing. Mornings turned into lazy afternoons and soon evening approached. We watched movies together into the night and delighted in the freedom summer brought.

Well, not this year. This year is all about college. I dread the thought of college, have since the moment Kyle was born. But now I dread college for a whole new reason--the stress and strain it puts on seriously wonderful kids and their weary old mothers.

We all know the problem. But how do we fix it? I would love to hear your points of view? I can write about this until I'm blue in the face but until we really decide to challenge what we want for our kids, as a community and as individuals, nothing will ever change. It's just too heavy a cost this generation of kids will pay--these once idealistic teenagers who are now addicted to another, far more threatening "Impossible Dream!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rushing Universities

600 students and parents plus 85 college admissions directors filled my son's high school last night. It was a mock admission's evening. Let me explain. Parents and kids were all sent a packet of information last week. Included in our reading was a profile of a fictitious small liberal arts college and three, also fictitious, applications to said college.

Our mission was to become "admission directors" ourselves and discuss the merits of each student to decide who we should select into our highly selective school.

I was looking forward to this event and found the whole process interesting. But this morning, in the bright light of day I have come to some startling conclusions.

But, before I get to that, let me set the scene. After we broke into small groups to discuss the candidates as they are called, the fictitious leaders in our groups, who are actually real 'admissions directors' set up tables in the school's gym for a college fair. Kids and their parents pick up nicely printed information about the different schools and try and get a little face time with the admission directors. This reminded me of something. I just couldn't quite figure out what.

When it hit me, it hit me hard.

First, let me come clean. When I attended college, I did the first thing that really disappointed my father--I joined a sorority. He hated anything that was inclusive and was disappointed that I had let my idealistic standards down. I was commuting from home and needed to make this huge school feel smaller so I joined Delta Gamma. Anchors Away!

I didn't fully understand what my father was getting so annoyed about until I was on the other side of rush. I spent a week judging other young women to see if the would "fit" into our house--DGHOOD. It was one of the most disturbing experiences of my young life.

After chatting with someone for a very limited time you had to decide whether you wanted this person as a "sister." Being nice was definitely not good enough. During our nightly meetings we had three paddle, one that had the letters NGB written on it. You could vote Ya or Na or NGB. NGB meant Nice Girl But.....

I was disgusted. It was the last Rush I attended until last night.

From a few pieces of paper I was supposed to evaluate an entire human being in the pretense that I am are trying to see if this candidate would fit into my school and be able to handle our academic rigor.


It felt just like Rush. You see, you want to have the best house, with the best girls, the cutest, most fun, and most connected. You want to attract the best frat boys so beautiful girls are important. You want those girls who also have great personalities because, hey, you have to live with them. And if daddy is rich, perhaps he'll donate some money and turn the crappy living room into a spanking new parlor.

So, reading between the lines, universities and colleges have become big business. They want their student body to be filled with kids with great numbers, high GPA's and even higher test scores. This makes the school look sexy and more desirable--makes them look IVY LEAGUE. They also want a certain diversity, because, hey, that looks good and they want kids that will win awards because they can use this in their marketing materials. RUSH all over again. And if daddy can give money, added plus. Big, fat plus!

When we all entered the gym for the college fair, I began my slow parade around to the different tables. I caught myself.

I walked to the one empty side of the gymnasium and sat my large derriere down on the wooden floor. I couldn't do it! First, this was Kyle's thing, not mine. Plus I just didn't want to play the game.

Kyle doesn't think he has the option not to play the game. I don't think most kids or their parents realize that they can opt out. It is a contest, like Rush, who can get into the best house, oops, I mean college.

I got into a great house--DG was known and is still known as a "good house." I chose the house, just like it was choosing Yale or Brown. I might have been happier at Chico State but I would have thought why would I choose Chico State if Brown wants me.

The answer is simple. It might have fit me better. But like so many of our "rising" seniors, I was a snob.

If, as a potential sorority or fraternity member or as a "candidate" for college we take the control, then we have a system that works so much better. But I guess that is not in our nature. Somehow we want the best, defined by what is the most desirable, the hardest to get into, the one with the best looking girls!

I didn't sit alone against the back wall last night, I sat next to a new friend, a painter, an artist. We talked for the time it took our son's to wander around the gym. I enjoyed her. I had fun. Instantly, I was out of this frenzied room and into an interesting conversation.

We should make the choices of ours lives--the choices we really have some control over. Who we want to be friends with, what we want to do with our time here on earth are things we can assert a certain amount of control over. We know, or perhaps sometimes we forget, so much of what happens in life is out of our control. I think in this frenzied, made-up, well marketed world of colleges we forget that.

Last night was a great reminder.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Summer plans?

I want that summer vacation. Those blissful couple of weeks I can spend with my family all together, intact. I crave these days that now seem so hard to replicate. I want them with every fiber of my being.

But I don't know where to go. We don't have a lot of extra cash floating around these days so I was wondering if I could get suggestions from my friends out there.

We have to be in Atlanta in early July for a fencing tournament. Are there southern beach towns I should know about? Should I do a house swap or rent an apartment or small house?

I really want to go to Capri or St. Tropez, or Santorini but the plane flights are so expensive. And perhaps the ash hanging over Iceland will still linger for months to come.

So, my friends, fellow readers, travelers, adventurers what shall we do as a family? I am trying hard, too hard to hold on to the past. I want those lazy days when my sons were small, where time seemed to stand still. Or am I just imaging that?

Any great trips you have taken? I can't wait to hear.

Anyways, suggest away. At least I can armchair travel.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Countess and The Absinthe

A complete day, yesterday. It was nothing if it was not complete. I savored the moment filled with insanity. Let me explain.

My young son has a friend visiting from New York. He moved back many years ago, but the two boys who went to pre-school together remain friends.

We made waffles in the morning. Lots and lots of waffles. And no sooner was breakfast complete that lunch began. I made the mistake to ask what they wanted. Another boy had joined them. BLT's came the answer. I ran to the market and picked up perfect sourdough bread. I feel I bit like the Kitchen Witch as I write this blog. Her blog always makes me laugh, while my mouth waters.

I fried up more bacon than I have ever fried. I cut up the tomatoes, and sliced the bread. I washed the lettuce and then ran out of the house.

You see, I had a dinner to prepare. I was entertaining last night. The table was set with the nice silver and Mom's black and white Wedgwood china. I used my grandparent's silver.

The Countess and her friend from London were coming over for dinner. I had never met either one of them. My friend from Los Angeles was driving up and on his way to my house. These were his friends. Well, one of them was. The Countess was his friend's friends. I have learned not to ask too many questions. So bare with me.

I dropped the 13-year-olds off at the movie and finally came home to prepare dinner. I had marinated chicken in all sorts of herbs, prunes and olives. I was going to make asparagus with a salad, and of course some couscous. It's not a difficult meal, but then there is cheese to buy and crackers, loaves of french bread and some kind of desert. It had to be chocolate and decadent. My friend from LA loves chocolate, lives for it actually.

As soon as I entered my home my cell phone signaled me. Kyle was texting to tell me to let him know when I was at his school. Wait, he was getting a ride home today. "No," he texted. His friend ended up blowing him off and I had to collect him. His school is about 20 minutes away from exactly the same direction from which I came after dropping the 13-year-olds at their movie.

So back on the freeway. Back to school. I collected Kyle. On my way up there, my friend from LA gave me a call. "I'm close by. What do I need to pick up for dinner?"

I told him I had everything covered. "She's a vegetarian," he said. "My friend who is joining us doesn't eat meat."

I screamed into the phone, "But does she eat chicken. Find out if she eats chicken." I panicked a bit. I had so much to do. So much.

I arrived at the movie theater too early. So Kyle and I ran into H&M and took a quick stroll around the clothing store. We had a little time before the kids would be out of the theater. He found some clothes for the grand total of $28.00. I love this store. Then the phone call. "She eats chicken!" Thank goodness.

Then we collected the boys and raced home. I found my LA friend inside the house, sweating more than I had seen him sweat in a long time. He had just finished cleaning all our windows. And we have lots of windows.

He insisted on buying flowers and more paper towels. The message was clear. My friend wanted the house to look nice, really nice. He had cleaned off our dock and washed the windows. He looked in the fridge to make sure the dinner looked satisfactory.

Then I knew I had to get into hight gear. I cooked and cleaned and finally got in a quick shower. The guests had arrived. Charming ladies.

We had a great time and my dinner worked just fine! By the time my husband cracked open the Absinthe everyone had gone a bit mad.

I was so proud of the 13-year-olds, they stayed entertained by the evening the entire night. They were part of the party. To me the very heart. And my new friends included them graciously and lovingly. Conspirators and friends.

By the time the guests left, the ones were not staying at my house, it was quite late. Will's friend was spending the night as was my friend from LA. Tom and I finally crawled into bed. It was late. I was tired. But then, one by one, each member of the household found their way into our room. They sat on the bed and we told jokes and laughed. My friend from LA thought it appropriate that we break into a rendition of "My Favorite Things," from the Sound of Music.

It felt complete in a way nothing has felt fully complete in such a long time. I even sang. I can't carry a tune but I had to sing, "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..."

When I closed my eyes to fall asleep I felt at peace. Peaceful until my dear husband began to snore. I listened to his snores for over an hour.

The night felt right in the strangest of ways. A way I think all the kids will always remember. A Countess, a lovely new friend from Dorset, my old, dear friend from LA, all sitting around my dining room table. And then there were the 13-year-olds, eagerly engaged and having a blast.

Will's friend insisted we listen to the "PINK MARTINIS."

Complete. I like complete.