Sunday, August 27, 2017

". . . To bear the unbearable sorrow . . . "

 

Yesterday I left my daughter behind, to begin her second year at The New School in NYC. We spent a few days in the city first, which was completely the wrong way to do it, as my sense of dread grew exponentially and I had nothing to look forward to except a long endless slog through Connecticut (what is it about Connecticut? Why is highway traffic at a standstill, inflating a two-hour drive to five or six? Why must Connecticut be located squarely between Massachusetts and NYC????) by myself, weep weep.

I dearly hope that this year will be better for my girl. There are some good omens:
  • After being told that she is now ineligible for financial aid (because she didn't pass enough classes, though her GPA is fine), she received a big scholarship (this makes no sense to me, but I am letting it be); we are only paying slightly more this year than we paid last year, which is HUGE.
  • As she did last year, she brought cookies from our local bakery to share with her roommates. Last year's roommates were two beeyatches who barely spoke to her; Mimosa ate all the cookies herself. This year, her room- and suite-mates are healthy Chinese girls who didn't want the cookies, but Mimosa brought them to the hall meeting, where they were a huge hit! She felt popular and appreciated. (And she says her new roommate, Blair, has been very nice to her so far. Yay! Fingers crossed, hard. After two beeyatches and a human pig, she is way overdue for a nice living situation.)
  • She has lined up several appointments with potential therapists, and I got to meet the first one, who is stunning — like, Michelle Obama and Lupita Nyongo's prettier sister. Mimosa liked her fine but wants to meet several before she makes a decision; I heard her on the phone setting up one appointment, and she sounded so poised and mature. Very cool!
On our last day together, I began remembering how much I longed for my mom to leave right after the college dropoff so I could commence my Exciting New Life — and it had nothing to do with my love for her (which was vast) or her relative coolness (which was not). I am such a cool, fun mom, and yet, and yet. I shared this memory with Mimosa, who patted my arm kindly.

Kerrey Hall, her new digs — imagine parking in front of that during dropoff . . . !
She had already told me that she wanted to set up her room by herself, which of course is totally fine with me — and I was impressed that she was able to tell me this; she is usually so over-worried about hurting my or anyone's feelings. Progress! For us both, I guess.
The layout of her bedroom (she's on the left); the suite also has a kitchen and bathroom
Most of the parents of freshmen-home-for-the-summer that I talked to were counting the days till their pain-in-the-ass kids went back to school, but it wasn't like that for us at all. We had a great summer, lots of movies and outings and laughter. I taught her to cook lasagna and my Perfect Chicken and white enchiladas, she learned to mow a lawn, and she made serious money babysitting.

But as sad as I am and as much as I miss my girl, I think I am really lucky — to have someone I love so much and who leaves such a hole in my life when she's not here.

As I left Rein's Deli (in Vernon, Connecticut) — my reward for making it through the first four and half hours a four-hour trip in total — the sun hit my back window in such a way that I could see every streak she left when she cleaned my windshield on the way down (it was her first time with this particular chore — life lessons!), and my crooner boyfriend Andy Williams began to sing "The Impossible Dream" (source of this post's title), and I burst into noisy gasping sobs, to the point where the FedEx drivers next to me looked over with some concern.

But it's all good. I may hate the circle of life right now, but I really do know that to everything there is a season.

And apparently my body knows it too, because after more than a year of no periods, I began spotting in earnest during this week of delivering a child out into the world, once again. Crazytown.


All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Today I will clean my house and make sweet-and-sour mix for my Lemonade cocktail and buy cat food and hug my remaining child 1,028 times. And not cry.

Or maybe just a little, I'm not made of stone, for God's sake.

xox
Lady C

p.s. This was my last Big Event of the summer! Mom turned 75 and is all moved in to her new place, three birthdays have been celebrated, House Guest came and went (a delightful visit!), and now Mimosa is dispatched. I plan to spend the next week exhaling . . . !!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Loveliest Birthday!!


 


August 10, 2017, was a truly great day for me — I hope you felt some of the joy!

The kids and Husband let me sleep in by feeding our yowly cats and making the coffee. While I sipped, I read birthday cards and birthday letters, then had a delicious breakfast of toasted crumpets with honey and real butter, fresh raspberries, and some yummy cold Korbel Brut in my favorite daisy-painted wine goblet. I read The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and talked to Mom and my youngest brother, Mateo. While I dressed in my pretty birthday outfit (low-cut red blouse, black pencil skirt, silver Silpada earrings, Poison perfume) and drank more champagne, Mrs. Cynicletary called, and much laughter ensued.

Off to Newton! (for reasons that will become clear, I chose to spend most of my day in my "first" town in Massachusetts, where I lived as a young nanny) It felt nostalgic and sweet to hang out there, and I thought about dropping in on my nanny family, whom I adore, but they've moved and I'm not actually sure where their new place is. In any event, I had plenty to do!

First stop: Legal Sea Foods, one of my favey restaurants! 

 

I splurged and ordered oysters on the half shell, and my fun chatty server told me that she had been in Wellfleet yesterday (home of one of my oysters), and I asked if she'd had oysters and she said no, and I said, Well, after working here all day, maybe you just want a burger, and she laughed and told me that yesterday had been her birthday. "Today's my birthday!" I cried. "Yay, Leo girls!"

I hadn't been planning to announce my birthday, but now that the door was open, oh my! The free stuff came pouring in!! First she brought my oysters, then looked at the plate and frowned and said, "I think you're missing one." (I wasn't.) She then brought a second plate of two more oysters!! And friends, they are not cheap!

I had my oysters and Prosecco and a Caesar salad with anchovies (at this point reflecting on how every item in my most delightful meal would make sweet Husband vomit) and grilled shrimp and white rice with spicy Shandong sauce and some onion strings, which were the only part of my meal I didn't adore, so I ignored them and brought them home for Li'l Martini. And that was plenty for me, I'm not a huge sweets girl, but my darling server brought me a vanilla ice cream bonbon coated in dark chocolate, and a tiny dish of whipped cream with a candle in it! No singing, no hoopla, just a perfect bite of sweet after a perfect meal. Magnificent!

Then I went next door to the Lux Theatre at Chestnut Hill; I haven't been since they upgraded many years ago, and ooh la la!!! I want to live at the Lux Theatre. I was early, so I ordered another glass of Prosecco — and the bartender carded me.

 
 
Well, again, I hadn't been planning to "announce" my birthday, but he's holding my ID right in his hand, I couldn't help but say, "Please note the birthdate!" and he chuckled and said Happy Birthday, and then charged me for 6 oz. of Prosecco while pouring me 9 oz. And he started to pour it in one of those stemless tumblers that are the new thing but that I totally hate, and I pointed to a rack of pretty stemmed glasses with streaks of fire painted down the sides and said, I know those aren't champagne glasses but could I have it in one of those? and without hesitation he switched. Such a sweetie! I gave him a nice tip.

Why would you want this . . . when you could have this?

And then I settled down on their lovely comfy couch and read my book and drank my bubbly drink and was one contented kitten.

The movie I chose was The Big Sick and I cannot recommend it highly enough!!! So so funny and also very moving and romantic. I adored it.


(Sadly, I can't say the same for my book; I've liked other books by Ruth Ware, but this one has a lot of interesting components that don't add up to much. Not recommended. Alas. But I adored the YA book I read simultaneously, Connect the Stars by Marisa de los Santas and David Teague, so rest assured, the reading portion of my birthday was not a total bust! I know how you worry.)


My final destination: Marty's Liquor Store! Oh, how I love this place! Besides having a magnificent hooch selection, they have the best deli. When Husband and I lived in Newton and Mom came to visit, her first question was, "When can we go to Marty's???" But the real reason I was there was to track down the elusive Bitter Lemon Soda that I've been trying to find in Massachusetts since Mateo introduced this cocktail to me in June. I have tried three stores so far, with no luck, but I had high hopes for my old friend Marty's.

And — success!! 

 

It's not a Schweppes product but it is Bitter Lemon, and that is good enough for me. And the nice salesguy who helped me was so intrigued by my description of the cocktail, he followed me to the deli to get the recipe, keying it into his phone while I dictated. Then he said, What are they called again? and I said, My Minnesota brother calls them Lemonades, but I think you should call them Lady's Lemonades, and he laughed and wrote "Lady's Minnesota Lemonades." I'm immortal!
Lady's Minnesota Lemonades
Fill a drinking glass with ice. Add three fingers of vodka. (I use citrus vodka, Mateo likes plain vodka.) Then add (equal parts of each) tonic water [I use diet], sweet and sour mix*, and Bitter Lemon. Stir gently and enjoy!

* To make sweet and sour mix, boil 1 cup sugar or sweetener and 2 cups water until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 cup fresh lemon juice (strained) and 1 cup fresh lime juice (ditto). Mix well. Voila! You can also buy it commercially, your choice, but homemade is better and cheaper. I store mine in the fridge in a mason jar.
Warning: These go down smoooooooth. Brunie was just at my brother's house — she is scouting Betsy-Tacy Convention sites in Minnesota — and wrote me: "When I get to your house for the Liz party**, you must put a lemon sour in my hand immediately. Mateo made me one the other night and I was already two sheets to the wind and ever so sleepy, but I can think of little else other than how delicious it was!"
 ** I am hosting "Liz" this week, my dearest god-daughter who lives in Michigan. She arrives Wednesday, and we are introducing her to the NEWBETSYs on Saturday, which is also Husband's birthday. So much celebratin' in these parts!!!!

No free stuff at Marty's, but four delish sandwiches and a very fun interaction with my checkout clerk, who also carded me even though I wasn't buying any hooch (for the first time today!).
Home to another glass of wine (which I only half finished — apparently, I do have a limit) and episodes of Hollywood Game Night and Full Frontal, which I'd Tivoed (I LOVE Tivo!!!!). Husband brought in all my favorite ice creams from Trader Joe's, so I had coffee ice cream and salted caramel gelato and hot caramel sauce and a handful of salted almonds.

Throughout the day, I got calls and texts from almost all of my dearest friends, and a very cute "letter" from Lady Darcy — she wrote it across 55 vintage movie postcards, awesomesauce!! — and I felt rich in love.


The next day I had my annual birthday lunch with Mrs. Cynicletary, presents and laughter and wine and joy, and that was the perfect capper to my perfect perfect 55th birthday.

In fact, yesterday opened with the six-month follow-up to my knee surgery, and my PA says that I'm the poster girl for bilateral knee replacement! (Husband and Mrs. C immediately asked where this poster will hang and when they can see it. I don't ask the right questions, I guess.)

She was hugely impressed with my range of motion and strength. Then she asked if I had any concerns, and I said, Yes: I am extremely disappointed that a lack of knee pain has not transformed me into a person who exercises a lot and cares about fitness.

She was awesome. She said, very calmly, Yes, that is what every study shows: People who are overweight and don't exercise before this surgery are overweight and don't exercise after this surgery, and lots of surgeons draw a line at a certain BMI for just that reason. This was quite fascinating to me and also made me feel like less of a loser. Knee replacement is one thing, and committing to a fitness and weight loss plan is entirely another. (As Mrs. C said, "You didn't get a brain replacement!")

All of this led to my choice of this year's theme:

 
Between Mom and Mimosa and other life challenges, this seems to be an astonishingly stressy period, and big goals simply weigh me down. I will instead focus on one day, which I will strive to make as successful as I can make it.

That I can do.

Today, though, is Chore Day, and my house is full of crap that needs to be dealt with and put away — four boxes from Mom's house have arrived, whee! Where am I going to put an 18-inch silver Lazy Susan with crystal dishes??? It's gorgeous, I want to use it, so it can't be too unreachable . . . and yet I am sorely lacking in empty cupboards that could store such a sizeable and yet delicate object.

Awesome, right? I totally love it!!

Challenges await!

But — there's an authentic Lady's Lemonade in my future!! And that is very motivating.

Maybe I'll lift weights today. I don't see me squeezing in a walk, but weight-lifting is fun and doesn't take too long. And then I'll have my Lemonade and a bath, with my 99 new birthday bath products! Nothin' but good times ahead.

xox
Lady C, a well-preserved fifty-thrive

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I Am So Sad About This!!



I cannot tell you how many times I listened to "Wichita Lineman" on vinyl, sitting in my parents' living room (we had one record player and a tiny house — working-class, all the way), lifting the needle to play it over and over.

Loved "Rhinestone Cowboy," loved "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," loved the documentary "I'll Be Me," loved the voice of Glen Travis Campbell.

Rest in peace, gentle man.

Mea Culpa



OK, now I'm feeling bad about my harsh words regarding my mother in the previous post — particularly when I reflect on my dear friends who no longer have their moms or whose moms are not compos mentis enough to make the major life decisions my mom has made on her own.

I am sorry. I adore my mother. I try very hard to be kind and compassionate.

And I get it, I really do. Aging sucks, as does disease, and it's no one's fault. Moving is stressful, facing the fact that you're nearing the end of your life is stressful, loneliness is stressful. I have total empathy for all of this.

And I'm sure that part of my own emotional detonation is grief — Mom will not be here forever, and that day is closer than I want to think about. And, I've already "lost" the energetic, confident mom I remember, and I miss her a lot.

Having said all that . . .

Mom is very, very bad at managing stress — she always has been. It is likely that her diabetes was brought on (and is certainly exacerbated by) her poor stress management. We saw her neurologist when I was there, and he diagnosed her "dementia" as stress. He prescribed a stress management class taught at our local hospital, which her insurance will cover. I was thrilled that her treatment was not yet another pill, which she truly does not need.

I then witnessed the following conversation between Mom and her best friend EB:
  • Mom: The doctor says I should take a stress management class at Enloe.
  • EB: Sounds good.
  • Mom: So put it on your calendar!
  • EB (smiling): I'll see if the dates will work.
  • Me: Mom — even if EB doesn't go [EB is calm as toast, she does not need this class, which isn't cheap], you should still go!
  • Mom: I know I should . . . but will I?
This drives me bonkers. She has the right to make her own decisions about her own health, but watching her make bad decision after bad decision truly wears me down, and I lose all patience.

She is also a glass-half-empty person, which I don't remember her being. She is determined to look on the dark side of life, no matter what — and I cannot abide this type of negativity at all.

Examples:
  • Mom: They served us banana splits at Oakmont last night.
  • Me: Sounds yummy!
  • Mom: Well, it was only a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, maybe a fourth of a banana, and a small spoonful of syrup.
  • Me: So . . . it wasn't enough for you?
  • Mom: Oh, no, it was the perfect size!
So say that, you ninny, rather than start by complaining about the small portions!!!
  • Mom: I went to Happy Hour at Oakmont. 
  • Me: How was it?
  • Mom: White wine in a box, red wine in a box, some beer, and some sodas.
  • Me: So . . . the wine wasn't good?
  • Mom: Oh, no, it was quite tasty.

  • Mom: Everyone who lives here is so old.
  • Me: Yep, that does seem to be the case.
  • Mom: (sighs)
  • Me: Try to think of yourself as the hot young chick who happens to live in an apartment building with a lot of elderly people.
  • Mom: No, I think they're just going to bring me down.
Well, if that's your working plan, Mom, then probably so.

She gives up the second anything is the least bit challenging, and has no desire to learn anything new. She has no boundaries about asking people to do terrible jobs for her (like — give her a shower! which she was planning to ask her neighbors to do!), and her way to deal with challenges is to avoid them completely.

All of this wears me out and wears me down, and when it's relentless and I'm on my own and there is no letup whatsoever — and it's freaking hot and I have to carry endless boxes of books — sorry, dudes, I am just not my best self. At all.

So I snapped at my mother, constantly, adding to the joy and fun of our 10 days together.

I did assure her that she is not "trapped" at Oakmont, that she should give it a chance but if she truly hates it, we'll figure out something else. She doesn't have a ton of options, but there are at least two more that I can think of: an actual condo or apartment, with people hired to bring her meals, clean, etc., or a condo/apartment with a paid live-in companion. (If you have any more ideas, let me know. Of the senior living residences in Chico, Oakmont is definitely the best.)

So — we shall see. One day at a time.

In other news:

My low-key birthday celebration is starting early, as today I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up crumpets and raspberries (which, with a glass of Champagne, while comprise my birthday breakfast, yummy!) and mentioned to my favorite TJ's pal Abrahim that Thursday is my birthday and TJ's is providing my breakfast. "Oh!" he said, "if only we had known, we would give you a cake!" He tells me to wait for a second, dashes off, and then presents me with a huge bouquet of daisies, dahlias, and lilies — gorgeous! I felt like Miss America.

I am reading the best book:
 

I have a few things I need to do, but all I want to do is read!!!!

Tonight we are having spinach lasagna, sauteed mushrooms and garlic, and a veggie-packed green salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. Gotta use up the CSA share! I made my first lasagna last fall, and I have since become a lasagna queen. Such a great way to hide slightly aging vegetables, which I will do tonight with a softening red pepper.

That is all for now.
xox
Lady C

p.s. My birthday list:

Yes, a baby sloth.  What are you asking?
Awesome, right???

If we're being honest . . .

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sandwich Generation, C'Est Moi

 

I'm just back from second cross-country trip, this time to help Mom with the final steps of her downsizing and, ostensibly, her move.

Note: I did not understand this to mean that I was one of her "movers." I assumed that since she is an adult woman of means, she would hire professionals.

Oh, silly me. My mother can nickel and dime a person to death. No, she "hired" my brother's best friend from high school and his young co-worker, Big Ben. She is paying Brother's BF in furniture (he gets her king-size bed, her extension ladder, and a few other things — all fine with the Chardonnay kids, believe me, and we love BBF), and she's paying Big Ben the princely sum of $100!

To move four truckloads of furniture!

Without a dolly!

On a 103-degree summer day!

No insurance, of course — no safety net whatsoever if either non-professional gets injured in the course of the move (or breaks her stuff).

Yeah. I declined to have any part of this, so after I got her fully packed and ready for the movers (necessitating bringing three carloads of stuff to Goodwill, and carrying I don't know how many boxes of books into the living room — Mom is bringing four bookcases with her to her new residence), I fled, taking myself to the movies.


But that was just one day — I worked like a Trojan the other nine days of my visit.

(Note: She ended up paying Big Ben $140, and she's giving him two couches and a TV.)

My last day was devoted to packing up all the treasures I'd culled, things that I wanted and thought my brothers might want. My goal was to send only one box to each of us; instead, I sent two boxes to each brother and four to myself. But one box (which is HUGE) is completely full of the family videos I'd faithfully mailed to my parents since 1997, when they gifted us with a video camera to record the wonders of their first grandchild. I am not going to watch all these movies, I highly doubt that I will ever (a) want to or (b) figure out how to transcribe and edit them into a single highlight reel, and yet, and yet. I could not throw them away, and Mom wouldn't take them. What else was there to do? Thank God for flat-rate boxes.

Mom used to be overly sentimental, but I think surviving the death of both parents and subsequently dealing with all of their "stuff" has cured her of that; she was giving away family treasures with nary a second look. I'm not sentimental either; Mom's sister Aunt Nasti visited while we were packing up/throwing out (to pick up the table that either Grandpa or Great-Grandpa made in high school shop class — which, admittedly, is pretty cool), and she said, "What did you do with Grandma's pitcher?" Mom and I looked at each other and said, "Uh . . ." (though we're pretty sure Mom kept it). Nasti frowned at me, and I said, "Dude, I have pitchers. If it's beautiful and I think I'll use it, I will take it — but if neither of those things is true, the fact that it was Grandma's is not reason enough for me to keep it." Nasti frowned harder, but I headed off the coming lecture by opening another beer for her. Thank God for my family's reliable lushy tendencies.

Though, I did have trouble with a few items. For example, Mom is renowned for her homemade French bread, which — every batch since the beginning of Time — has begun its life in the same blue ceramic bowl.

(I'm trying so hard to find a picture of something like it, but everything online is too pretty. This is sort of it . . .

. . . but remove the handles, change the color to this —>, and make some big chips in the paint — that's pretty close. The point is: It's not all that attractive.)

I do not need this bowl, I do not want this bowl, I do not find this bowl enticing in any way — and yet, it holds so much history, this bowl, and I couldn't bear to see it thrown away. (I can't imagine Goodwill would want it, given all the chips.) But I couldn't convince my brothers to take it, either.

Honestly, I left it on the kitchen counter (after giving it a kiss and thanking it for its years of service, because I am just that queer), and I don't know what Mom did with it.

She was very bad about allowing me to throw things away that I thought were not Goodwill-worthy (like, stained Tupperware so old it's not even recyclable), and even though she usually gave in, I often sneaked things into the trash when she wasn't looking.

Oh, it was not a fun trip. Not one single second of it. I was always hot and always tired and always emotionally spent, and throughout it all I watched my once confident, bright mother devolve into a doddering idiot. Which I say with love, but still.

Example:

I arrived around 4, and she tells me that the screen guy is coming at 4:30 to replace the newly repaired screens. Around 4:15, we hear stirring in the garage. She jumps up, looking alarmed, then comes back and tells me that it's just the screen guy. I said, Yeah, I assumed. She stares and says, You knew he was coming???

Later I asked her, Why do you think you're forgetting so many things?, and she said, like it's obvious, Oh, I have dementia. OK, now I'm freaking a little, because this is what I have feared (based on an article I just read about Holly Robinson Peete's father, who, like Mom, has Parkinson's disease — you know, a solid reliable source), so I said, Who told you you have dementia? and she points to herself and says Me.

I cover my face for a while, and she says, At least it's not Alzheimer's! I said, No, go ahead, diagnose yourself with Alzheimer's too, why not? And then pronounce yourself cured! (Husband says she should diagnose herself with multiple personality disorder, then give herself a second opinion)

Oh, Mom.

So that's done, and I didn't kill her nor did I die, both of which seemed possible on a daily basis, and she's happy "enough" in her new place. I'm in no rush to head back out again; we'll just see.

But in two weeks I get to enjoy Transition #2, when my angel Mimosa returns to college in the Big Scary City. Her first year was pretty much a disaster. We've put some excellent supports in place, but who knows how Year 2 will go. She knows that if it doesn't work out this semester, we're done with NYC — she can fail a lot closer to home for a lot less money.

 

We'll be in the city for a few days before she moves in to her dorm room, ideally to have her meet with potential therapists and apply for jobs. I thought about trying to see some shows or visiting a museum or two, but I am so freaking exhausted, I will likely sit on a bench in Central Park with my book and stare vacantly while my eldest roams the city.

(My birthday is this week, and I want to do NOTHING. Though I'll probably do nothing at a restaurant with air conditioning and a good cocktail list. It's kind of a milestone birthday — I'm turning 55 [fifty-thrive!] — but I just. don't. care. Someday I will have energy and care about life again, but today is not that day.)

Enough for now — my clients all seem to be on summer vacay, which is just fine; I gave them each a gentle poke to let them know I'm back and ready to edit, but I will use my "free" time to get all the other crap done that tends to pile up.

This is cool: My client at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (I've done two big books for them now) wrote me today:
I know you are on the freelancer A-list, so you'll be hearing from someone else here, no doubt.
Freelancer A-list! Who knew there was such a thing?! I shall don my new status with aplomb.

Onward!

xox
Lady C