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.

 

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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. 

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

Memories of Premarital Tennis

I have fond memories of playing tennis with my husband before we were married. I have not-so-fond memories of playing tennis after we got married. Marriage changes everything, even tennis.

I’ve talked with girlfriends who play tennis, or used to play tennis, and they’ve had similar experiences after getting married. Who knows why things change like this? Let’s not even go there.  They just do.

Frank and I met in a tennis club for singles. Frank was very chivalrous when we were dating, and that extended to tennis. He was much better than me, rated Men’s-A tournament level in our club. I was a Women’s-C. We only played together informally, with friends. Back then Frank was unconcerned about whether we won or lost. We just had fun.

Then we got married, and things changed. After we lost a match he would say things like “You need to work on your serve” or “You need to practice your volley” or “You’ve got a weak slam.” We’d go out during the week and he’d feed me volleys to return as slams, or coach me on my serve, or feed me fast and corner balls to return. We drilled and drilled. He wanted to win his doubles matches.

With the pressure on, tennis became just one more stress on top of my busy life as a working mother. Eventually I quit playing. Frank practiced some weekday evenings and played every Sunday. I alternated between hiking and going to movies on Sunday. On movie days I went to a little theatre that was next to a coffee shop, and after the movie I’d treat myself to a guilty pleasure—espresso and a luscious gelato. In solitary splendor, I enjoyed myself immensely.  

Then Frank broke his metatarsal bone running down a tennis ball, when he was 65. It was quite painful and he wore a big knee-high boot for two months and did physical therapy for a long time after that. He never went back to tennis. He felt the foot was a weak link and susceptible to re-injury at his age. He gave his huge bag of beat-up practice balls to a friend who has a lovable Yorkshire terrier named Maggie.

Now Frank and I go to the movies nearly every Sunday. We both enjoy them. No one competes, no one loses, no one screws up. We laugh and we cry. We have animated, enjoyable discussions of the film afterwards over a nice dinner. We both win. So far the score is Love-Love. Actually, Love-Love-Love. Maggie adores her tennis balls.

Running Away from Home

I love my husband but I need to get away from him now and then. I do short getaways, like staying in Monterey with a friend or two for a couple days of eating, shopping, and walking on the beach, followed by more eating and shopping. Or I’ll go overnight with friends to experience the fog and the culture in San Francisco. There’s a wealth of things to do close to our home in Silicon Valley.

The getaways are good for me and our marriage. We appreciate each other more when I get back. The passion gets fanned a bit, the flame reignites. It’s a kind of marriage makeover.

I’m always the one who has to run away from home. Frank is exceptionally stable. He worked for the city for 30 years, and bought the house we live in nearly 40 years ago, 20 years before we even met. His 1970 Camaro is older than his house. And he’s a diehard homebody. He never travels except when we go together. He’s stable to a fault.

Once in a while I muse about what it would be like if Frank took a trip and I stayed home. Home alone! Wow, what would it feel like? The whole house would be my oyster. The first thing that comes to mind is the excitement of having control of the remote. That’s been a lifelong—or marriage-long—dream of mine. I could change channels, turn the volume up or down, turn the TV off and back on at will. I’d be drunk with the feeling of power it would give me.

I could have my girlfriends over for wine and Chinese takeout. And more wine. We’d laugh loudly and watch chick flicks and tell off-color jokes. Maybe even get really wild and watch Forty Shades of Grey. Or is it Fifty? I haven’t seen it. And ice cream for dessert, Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. Yum, gooey cookie dough chunks. I’d get a lot so when the girls leave I can finish whatever’s left. Ice cream is a no-no when Frank’s home. He’s a healthy eater and watches my weight for me.

I could indulge openly in my secret addiction and buy a bunch of lottery scratch cards. Then I’d scratch them off right out in the open, at the kitchen table. I can’t do that either when Frank’s home. He disapproves of gambling almost more than ice cream.

I have a long list of more home-alone pleasures. My at-home getaway sounds great, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Frank’s not showing any signs of restlessness or wanderlust. He’s happy just driving to a movie or to senior drop-in doubles at the city tennis courts. So I’ll just keep my sense of adventure and my suitcase at the ready. It’s for a good cause.   

Embattled female drivers

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Relax


Something comes over perfectly nice men when they’re in a car driven by a woman. Almost every man who’s been in my car when I’m driving has been annoying, and then some. Bob, my former significant other, was the worst of them. His name is not really Bob. I changed it for this blog post so I won’t be sued.

A typical example of driving with Bob was my 40th birthday. I was bummed out about hitting 40, but looking forward to dinner at the nice restaurant Bob was taking me to. Bob drove to the restaurant, and we had a great dinner and a lot of fun. I drove home because I don’t drink and Bob had had a couple of beers. He wisely never drove if he had more than one drink.

Picture it.  (I borrow that phrase from Sophia in Golden Girls.) It’s a dark night. We walk to the car, I get settled in the driver’s seat, and turn on the ignition. Bob is normally an amiable, easy-going man except when I’m driving. I glance over at him and he’s in his usual male-passenger position: staring straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart and firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff. His nose is tense. His nostrils are flared. It’s not a good sign. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet and he’s loaded for bear.

Dr. Jekyll has become Mr. Hyde.

I drive to the end of the parking lot exit. A car is coming on my left. It’s quite a distance away, yet I stop. I always drove super cautiously with Bob in the car, to keep him from getting agitated. 

After the car has gone by, I check again. Out of the corner of my eye I see Bob’s head turning left and right repeatedly. He is checking for cars, as vigilant as an airliner copilot. Traffic is very light and there’s only one more car coming, quite a distance away and traveling slowly. With plenty of time on my side, I turn right onto the road. 

“Wow!” Bob says tensely. “That car almost hit you. You shouldn’t have pulled out. Reckless.”

“It wasn’t even close to the driveway, Bob,” I say calmly. “It still isn’t. It was a mile away, what are you talking about?”

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A couple calming down after an argument about her driving.

“He wasn’t far away,” Bob insists. “He was almost on top of you!” I say nothing. I glance over at him and see that both hands are now gripping the seat on either side of his knees, his knuckles white, his jaw still set grimly, his feet still planted wide apart.  

“He was not close,” I insist. “Not even,” I add, imitating Lisa Kudrow, who always said that phrase with the accent on even.  Lisa Kudrow annoyed him no end, which of course is why I did it.

“Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells all of a sudden. I’m once again reminded of how he always yells “watch it!” twice. It’s very annoying! It’s very annoying!

“Watch it! Watch it!” he yells again. I don’t know what he’s yelling about.

“Watch what, Bob?” I ask, exasperated.

I glance over. Bob’s right hand is now fiercely gripping the arm rest, with his left pressed tightly against the glove compartment. He’s clenching and unclenching his jaw. “That car’s going to sideswipe you! Watch it!” I can’t see what he’s talking about, and then a car passes by me gently and safely in the lane on my right. Bob was watching it. Bob was always afraid cars were going to go over their lines. He had no trust in the Universe.   

“Everything’s fine,” I say. “He’s just going past me, he’s well within his lane.”

“He was going over his line,” Bob says. “Way over. You have to watch people!”

“Well, what can I do Bob? I’m stuck in my lane, I can’t get out. We’ll have a head-on if I go over to the left. And I can’t go to the right because the car’s there. Anyway, that guy wasn’t getting close. I saw him in my side mirror. He was fine.”

There’s a red light coming up. I stop in plenty of time, with one car ahead of me. “You’re too close!” Bob yells. “You have to be able to see the tires of the car in front of you. Completely!”

 “I can see the damn tires,” I shout, starting to lose my cool. I glance over again. His lips are moving. He appears to be praying. He’s changed position and is now gripping the door handle with both hands, like he might jump out. A part of me, I’m ashamed to say, wishes he would.   

When the light turns green I cross the intersection, after I look both ways like I always do. I’m old and wise enough to know you can’t just shoot out like a bat out of hell because your light turns green. Someone could be running the cross light. I shot out without looking once when I was in my twenties and got T-boned. I foolishly told Bob about it and traumatized him, even though it was about 40 years ago and I haven’t had an accident since. Goodie-two-shoes Bob never had an accident, not even a little fender bender. His worse traffic offense was a fix-it ticket for brake lights.     

Down the road a car approaches on the cross street to my right, slowly, braking to stop safely at the intersection. “Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells. “Watch it! Watch it! That car’s not stopping!”  

“He is too! He is too!” I yell back, my voice growing strident. “He’s stopping in plenty of time. He’s a cautious old frug.” I manage not to say “like you.” I don’t want things to deteriorate into name calling. I proceed, glancing over at Bob whose feet are now raised up and braced against the glove compartment. His jaw is grimly reset.

 “You’re a reckless driver,” he says. “You’re dangerous, wild.”

“I’m a perfectly good driver,” I tell him. “I’ve been driving us around for 10 years and I’ve never had an accident. I’ve never even had a ticket,” I lie. I did get a few for speeding and one unsafe lane change, during my years with Bob. But never when he was with me.

He doesn’t hear me. “You don’t look,” he says. “You’re distracted, spacy. You’re a menace to society.”

“Not even,” I say. “I’m very alert. It’s a wonder I can focus with you in the car. You badger and badger, you’re like an annoying cockatoo. You have a voice like a jack hammer.” I glance over at him again. He’s now in the fetal position. And there we were, reduced to name-calling. The conversation deteriorated from there. The relationship deteriorated soon after. It was our final car fight. Before long, we split up.

A few years later I met Frank. We’re celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this year, and 223 years of being together. I’m sorry, 23 years. Freudian slip. We’re going to Monterey today. I’m driving because Frank likes to look around when we’re going somewhere scenic. We get in the car, I start ‘er up, and look over at Frank. As usual when I drive, he’s looking straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart, firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff….  It’s déjà vu time.

Oh well, nothing’s perfect. Frank and I have disagreements in the car but things are much better than they were with Bob. For instance Frank yells “watch it!” but not twice in a row like Bob used to. And I don’t do my Lisa Kudrow impersonation anymore. I’ve grown. Plus there’s no point to it since it doesn’t bother Frank. Most important, I realize now that nothing is perfect, including driving with your spouse. Including marriage, period. Marriage is good, but it’s definitely not perfect. Not even.


rose-1403530_640Scripture: Even though I drive through the darkest valley with my husband in the passenger seat, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. ~Psalm 23:3-4 

 

chocolate-183543_640The Power of Chocolate: There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. ~Linda Grayson

 

owl-297413_640Urban Dictionary: Not Even. A term commonly used in Oakville, the state of denial. Used to strongly deny something. 

Oakville Kid: Yo i heard you were kickin it old school with corbin’s mom last night brooo!!!

Oakville Kid 2: Yo NOT EVEN

Sisters Forever