About blogging baby boomer

Former technical writer retired, born again as a creative writer of whatever inspires me.

What you fear is what you get.

My husband had a poignant encounter with a fearsome beast, and a little girl wise beyond her years.  A few years ago Frank had a surveying job at a farm outside the city where we live. He finished, and was walking from the fenced-in pasture toward the farmhouse to let the owner know he was leaving, when he heard thumping behind him .

He looked back to see a very large cow approaching him. Alarmed, he started to walk faster. So did the cow. Then he started to jog, and the cow did too. It was catching up. Pretty soon Frank was running as fast as he could, his breath coming in spurts, his heart thumping.

The cow was nearly touching him when Frank finally reached the chain-link fence and scrambled up. He looked down to see the cow looking up at him. It mooed. Frank hoisted his legs and then the rest of him over the top of the fence, climbed down on the farmhouse side, and stood there catching his breath.

Pretty soon a small freckle-faced girl with a cowlick came marching up to him indignantly from the farmhouse. She had seen the whole thing. She stopped in front of Frank and looked up at him, her jaw set, her blue eyes boring into his soul.

“Rose just wanted to be petted, Mister,” she said fiercely.

Isn’t this what goes on between human beings so many times? So often a person just wants to be friends or get to know someone, or even just have a friendly conversation, and we misinterpret things, or we’re misinterpreted. We’re afraid to approach, to get close. We run fences like Linda Ronstadt’s Desperado, we scramble away like Frank from sweet affectionate Rose, we climb out of reach. We miss opportunities to connect. Rose just wanted to say Namaste, the divine in me greets the divine in you, bovine style. She wanted to be acknowledged in her tactile, animal way. It all went right over Frank’s head, but the little freckle-faced girl understood. If we were all more like children and cows, the world would be a better place. And that’s the truth, Mister.

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10 reasons why we have children

  1. Years ago we were eating dinner and I glanced at my 10-year-old daughter’s plate. “Eat your vegetables, Michele,” I said, and she replied “Corn is a grain, Mom.” When we have children we get to be humbled and corrected by pint-sized authorities.
  2. We get to have primitive hand-drawn artwork to affix to our refrigerators with magnets.
  3. We acquire a collection of crude, primary-color ceramics to hold our keys and loose change.
  4. We support the magnet industry. (see #2 above)
  5. We learn what Hell is like, in time to change our ways so we don’t have to experience eternity at Chuck E. Cheese.
  6. We get to experience premature graying and recurring nightmares teaching a 16-year-old to drive.
  7. We learn humility. When Michele was in high school I told her, “If you do your homework and get a good education you’ll get a great job that pays good money.” To this priceless wisdom, she replied “Oh duh, Mom.” Mothers everywhere were hearing “Oh duh, Mom.”
  8. We learn that we are not as smart as we think we are. That in fact we’re not smart at all. After we struggle and click everywhere for hours when our computer misbehaves, our kid comes in, turns it off, unplugs the modem for a minute, plugs it back in and it works like a charm.
  9. We get to go to movies we secretly long to see when we go with our children. I loved the Goonies, swear words and all. My daughter is 35, and doesn’t have kids. I wish she did, I really want to see Captain Underpants.
  10. We learn how to qualify for the Indy 500 when we speed like Mario Andretti, scanning 360 degrees for cops as we race to pick up our kids at the daycare before it closes. At six they start charging $10 a minute. I exaggerate but only slightly.
  11. Yes, I know I said 10 reasons but I had forgotten the most important one. We learn that life is not fair. You’re diligent for a long, long time and then you forget about your birth control one time. Just ONE. That’s all it takes, and your life is changed forever. And when the fruit of your lapse is born, you fall more hopelessly and completely in love than you ever dreamed it was possible, for the rest of your life, which by the way is no longer yours.

Your kids will out you, be prepared.

You made your family observe No Tech Day and your kids secretly checked and saw those sneaky calls and texts on your iPhone.  Or they found the chocolate gelato you cleverly hid in the mixed-veggies box in the freezer.  The worst part is that you will be outed in an embarrassing manner about these misdeeds when you least expect it.

It’s nothing new. In 1930 my grandmother couldn’t go to the bathroom without the world knowing all the details. Family legend has it that her son, my Uncle Orlin who was then 10 years old, answered the phone one morning when Grandma was in the bathroom. The caller asked to speak to Margaret Rice. “Mother can’t come to the phone,” Orlin said. “She’s grunting.”

About 30 years ago, my daughter Michele and I went camping with the Girl Scouts. We were all sitting around the campfire after dinner, roasting marshmallows, scaring the girls with ghost stories, and generally chatting. I told about Michele’s paternal grandmother going out on a tourist crab boat in Alaska. A large, speedy crab made a beeline for her (crabline, I guess I should say) and clamped a claw down on her glove. Fortunately the glove was way too large for her so the crab got no fingers, only the glove.

“But you should see the photo,” I said. “It looks like this huge crab has chomped down on my mother-in-law’s hand.”

“Grandma Myrl isn’t your mother-in-law, Mom,” Michele corrected matter-of-factly. “You and Dad never married.”

Time stood still. I was horrified. For all these respectable Girl Scout moms to learn about my impropriety…OMG. Then good-natured and infectious laughter broke out around the campfire from kids and Moms alike. It calmed my nerves. And then the troop leader said, “Selena’s dad and I aren’t married either.” I relaxed even more.

There will always be something for kids to out their parents on. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, get ready. It will. Maybe you’ll be caught in the act of rewinding and rewatching Harvey Keitel’s full-frontal-nudity scene in The Piano. (Don’t ask me how I thought that up.) Maybe you’ll be caught drinking a can of Red Bull right before your tennis tournament match, which is surely a moral, if not technical, violation of the club’s no-drug rule.

There will always be something for kids to out their parents on. It’s one of the things that make being a parent so interesting.

 

Deepak Chopra, where were you?

Meditation wasn’t invented 30 years ago, when I was a single working parent. I know that’s not true, of course. It was invented, but instruction and information about it wasn’t nearly as available as it is today. Now it’s taught at gyms and studios and community centers, on YouTube, on TV, in countless books, everywhere.

Things might have gone much more smoothly if I had had the tool of meditation when Michele was a kid. Especially in junior high and high school. There would have been less anger and frustration, more calm communication, far fewer tantrums. My tantrums, I’m talking about. I was the one who had tantrums and got frustrated and bounced off the walls. Michele was pretty calm.

Here I am before I started meditating. (The Scream, Munch)

Well, I can’t do the past over but I can start from now. These days I meditate every morning for 30 minutes, and for an hour at my church on Wednesdays. I’ve been at it for a while, and I haven’t had a single tantrum for a long time. I’m a calmer, more patient and understanding person because of people like Deepak Chopra…Amma…Sri Sri…Nancy Guarnera, meditation guru at my church…. Thank you all.

Where were you guys 30 years ago?

The real question is, where was I? Too busy being a frazzled single working parent, I guess. Now I’m a more serene senior. Better late than never.

I survived single working parenthood!

Trust me, if I survived it, anyone can. If you’re a working parent, or a single parent, or both rolled into one, I have some great tips for you. The challenges I faced 30 years ago weren’t so different from what they are today. 

Compared to single working parents, skydivers are wusses.

There was the familiar eternal struggle on workday mornings, trying to get Michele to her elementary school and myself to work on time.  My boss was totally unreasonable and inflexible. She demanded consistent punctuality, imagine. And I had to come through because I needed that job so I could buy food and pay rent and get medical insurance. And pay for Happy Meals at McDonald’s, and for Saturday nights at the local pizza place where they had Pac-Man, and for My Little Pony videos. I couldn’t afford a DVD player, but my employer lent me an extra one from the conference room.  That was the real reason why I needed the job.  

Weekday mornings were brutal as we struggled over what to eat, what to wear, finding the homework….  I put my problem-solving skills to work, starting with getting Michele dressed. I decided she would choose the outfit she wanted to wear the night before, and made it clear that there was NO MIND CHANGING in the morning. Her decision was final.

I had her figure out what she wanted for breakfast the night before too, and we saved time with a little advance set up. If she wanted cereal she poured it into the bowl in the evening and covered it with plastic wrap, and put a piece of whatever fruit she wanted next to the milk so no time was wasted hunting for it in the morning. She poured her apple or orange or whatever juice she wanted into a plastic glass that had a lid. Every minute counted!

One evening I had a flash of brilliance. Why not have her EAT breakfast the night before? That would really save some time. The only hitch was making sure she ate breakfast AFTER dinner. And she could get dressed the night before, too. Alas, I couldn’t figure out a way for her to sleep and not get wrinkled. As innovative as these brainstorms seemed, they were nonstarters. Something that did work was a firm rule, and I mean FIRM, that if she waffled in the morning about wearing what she had picked out the night before, there would be no McDonald’s Happy Meal on Saturday. It worked like a charm. The thought of not having the Papa Bear figure from the latest Berenstein Bears set, or missing Gobo in the Fraggle Rock collection, was a powerful motivator. 

I’ve got more helpful hints about single working parenthood and I guarantee they’re as effective as they were back in the olden days of the eighties. Stay tuned. 

Losing things doesn’t mean you’re losing it.

I misplace my glasses a lot but it’s not my fault. It’s Hugh Jackman’s fault. I have one pair for seeing close up and another for far away, and I switch them constantly. When I’m walking around with my far glasses on, I often need to read some small print—especially if it’s something important like a photo of a scantily clad Hugh Jackman. I may be 70 but I’m not dead yet. So I have to take off my far specs and put on my close-ups. 

I lost my close-up glasses for two days once. I gave up and made do with my previous prescription pair. Then Frank, my husband, went to get some ice cubes and there were my glasses, in the freezer. And I remembered I had stuck my head in there rummaging around, way in the back, for the Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and put my glasses down so I could see because they were fogging up. I got so excited when I found the Haagen-Dazs I completely forgot about my glasses.

Often I forget to pay attention to where I am when I take off the pair I don’t need, and I have to go looking for those glasses. Sometimes I’m carrying a cup of coffee and I put that down during my search, and after I find my glasses I have to go around looking for my coffee. And so on. 

At seventy the specter of Alzheimer’s always looms when you misplace something. One well-known sign is finding things you’ve lost in strange, inappropriate places. In a public service TV ad about Alzheimer’s, an elderly couple is looking everywhere for something the woman lost, and the man takes a break and goes to the fridge get some cream for his coffee. He removes the pitcher…and car keys are behind it! The mournful, worried look they exchange makes it clear they’re positive the wife has Alzheimer’s. 

I’m not worried. I didn’t even consider the freezer a strange, inappropriate place to lose my glasses. It made perfect sense. The worse thing about the whole affair was that Frank found out I’d been into the Haagen-Dazs.

“… there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” -Matthew 10:26

I searched an entire afternoon for my glasses once, and the cat had them all the time.

Message from Beyond

One summer I signed up for six weeks of guided meditation. During the third-week session, I went deeper and deeper into the plumbless depths of my subconscious and became a bird. It was quite a shock. To top it off, I received instructions for living from another bird.

The bird made its instructions perfectly clear.

This all took place while I listened to music with delta waves, which are thought to bring on the deepest levels of sleep, relaxation and peace of mind during meditation. As I went deeper into my meditative state under the influence of the guide’s words and the delta waves, I found my befeathered self sitting in a tree that borders a fence in our backyard. Across from me, staring at me relentlessly, eyes boring into me, was a confident young bird also perched in a tree.

I was riveted by the power of our eye contact and telepathic connection across the yard from each other. The young bird then spoke to me. It was a profound, mystical, spiritual message: 

 “Back off, Mom.”

It was clear the young bird was my then 20-year-old daughter, Michele. She and I had relationship problems, largely because in my chronic anxiety I was always fearing for her safety. At the time, I was unconscious of it. But after this experience, I realized I did her no favors with my overprotectiveness and anxious hovering.

What her eloquent message relayed was that, emotionally and spiritually, she had her own tree separate from mine, and that I was to stay in my tree, and visit hers only when invited.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.


“Love is patient and kind….It does not insist on its own way….”-1 Corinthians 13.4-7