If I Had $1,000,000   Leave a comment

A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart. – Jonathan Swift.

“Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” – Ed Robertson, Steven Page

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. The federal government very nicely gifted me deposited my income tax refund in my savings account recently so I’m not feeling as financially stretched as I have been the past few months, which is nice. It means, among other things, that the boy’s request for a class ring – the school very nicely sent home the catalog/price list, and, my G-d, I can’t believe how much these things cost – is a possibility.

The fact I can even contemplate this purchase lets me know how lucky I am not to have to worry about money like I did when I was in my twenties.

When I was first married, the country was in the middle of one of our periodic recessions, and neither my ex nor I had a job. Initially we decided that whichever of us got a job would decide where we would live – Boston, western MA, or Burlington, VT of all places. Which was great until neither of us was offered a job. We eventually decided to stay out here in western MA as it was central to all the places we were looking and reasonably inexpensive. Then I got a job three miles down the road from where we were going to be living, which was a great relief as food and rent weren’t free. The salary was negligible, but it had health insurance and was stable.

We were finally at a point where I would have called us upper middle class in terms of salary and lack of extraneous debt when my ex decided he wanted to quit his job and go back to school. To say this freaked me out is a vast understatement. It terrified me. I was making a good salary, but three of us living off of it while paying tuition and gas money and food and car payments and braces… Well, you get the idea.

When my ex ended our marriage, the strange thing was that while I was frightened for the future, I wasn’t so worried about the present. Annoyed that I had to refinance the house and buy him out, yes – I had nine years left on a 2.65% fixed-rate mortgage; it still makes me clench my teeth to think about it – but worried, no. It was actually cheaper for there just to be two of us on what I was making. And the utility bills went down, which was an added bonus at a time I really needed bonuses.

Right now, while I wouldn’t say the boy and I are well-off, we are comfortable. My job pays decently (if not always up to its frustration level) and child support helps with both monthly and those pesky unexpected expenses (Cough… ring… cough). I own my home, put really good food on the table each week, and can proudly say neither of us have ever gone without shoes or clothes that fit. (Except when I refuse to buy bigger sizes of things when I have gained weight. But we won’t go there…) Each month I manage to put a small amount of money in the 401K that will supplement my town-government-job pension and add a bit to the boy’s 529 college fund, both of which I know will be appreciated in the long-term.

The one thing I haven’t pulled off yet is that six-month cushion recommended by financial experts, but it is something I am working on. Probably not as hard as I could – or should – but I like to think of it as work in progress.

Are there things I could do make progress go faster? Sure.

For starters, I could tell the boy we can’t get him a class ring. Which I won’t. I could also probably cut back on our entertainment budget. We don’t eat out very often – restaurants aren’t really Weight Watchers friendly – but do go to the occasional concert, movie, and science fiction convention. We also knit, although these days that is mostly him, and I have this book habit that cannot always be filled by my place of employment. And to be honest, I don’t see any of these things being sacrificed any time soon.

One thing that could be cut back is our annual summer vacation. We could take a stay-cation and enjoy beauties of western Massachusetts in the summer instead of our planned trip to the Washington, DC Fountain Pen Supershow. (If they ever decide on when it is…) Staying home would make much more sense financially, but really, I don’t want to. I enjoy going places with my son, exploring new cities or revisiting places we have been and loved. I don’t care so much about stuff, class ring notwithstanding.  Neither of us has the newest cell phone, in fact the ones we have were purchased used, and I never bothered to get a data plan to go with them. I want to be the parent who brings my child to new places and lets him have experiences that will aid him in becoming the man I see in him rather than gives him things. Travel is a big part of that.

In other posts I have kvelled over trips we have taken the past three years, but, honestly, the big ones have been greatly appreciated gifts from family or friends. Singapore? Never would have made it there without the generosity of a childhood friend. California? The boy’s bar mitzvah present from our aunt. Our 3 days at Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter Park were courtesy of a lucky deal thanks to AAA, and last summer’s trip to London was both an extravagance and a fluke funded by last year’s tax refund. But those were the exceptions.

Do I wish I could travel more? You bet. The green-eyes monster rears its ugly head when I see friends’ pictures of trips to Italy, France, Iceland, Japan, and many other places I won’t be going any time in the near future. But I know I need to balance the desire to go to all these fascinatingly wonderful places with the need to create a cushion to protect myself and my son financially.

So, while I may sigh over the brochure in my mail from Viking River Cruises, I won’t be sailing on down a river in Europe any time in the near future. Instead, I’m going to work on finding that happy medium of small adventures while building up my bank account to weather whatever financial storms may come our way.

Does this mean I’m going to tell the boy he can’t have his ring? No. The entertainment budget is probably going to stay intact as well. Those things will just be part of my balancing act.

All in all, I think we’ll be okay.

But, you know, I haven’t always wanted a monkey.  And I don’t think I ever will.


Posted March 15, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Where am I Going? (And Will There Be Chocolate When I Get There?)   Leave a comment

We’re all pilgrims on the same road, but some pilgrims have better road maps. – Nelson DeMille

If you know me at all, you will know that while I am a voracious reader – I tend to have anywhere from three to five books going at a time, which doesn’t include the several audio books I shuffle between – there are two things I cannot read to save my life – bus schedules and road maps. (I also can’t cut things in straight lines, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Bus schedules confound me because my eyes can’t seem to track the information from one end of the line to the other end without heading off on some strange tangent. Which, now that I think of it, probably has quite a bit to do with my inability to cut straight lines. Even when the line is marked. Hmm… I’ll need to pursue this line of thought further. Just not now.

Maps are a whole different type of difficult for me. Which is weird as I have an excellent sense of direction. But even when someone hands me a map that is pointing in the right orientation (get it?), I still manage to get off track somewhere along the line. (I’m pretty sure I have mentioned at least once in this blog how much I love my GPS. Because I love my GPS. With very few exceptions, she has gotten me where I needed to be when I needed to be there. Which, overall, has been lovely.)

The one kind of map I never used to have problems with was the road map of my life that lived in my head. Sure, there were details that I hadn’t gotten quite right and things that changed from how I imagined them as events occurred, but the overall course went pretty much the way I thought it would.

Right up until it didn’t.

When my marriage first ended, I didn’t need a map that showed the future. I needed a day-planner. Or a minute-planner. Something that told me what to do when I got out of bed each morning that started with ‘Move covers and slide legs off of mattress’ and continued through the day with helpful hints like ‘Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat. This is called walking.’

Eventually things got better, and the instructional narrative subsided, which made the inside of my head both much quieter and a nicer place to visit. But my internal map remained blank, intentionally so. I planned things in a general way – what to eat each week because without a weekly menu we just don’t eat (which brings vehement objections from the teenager), where the boy and I would go on vacation, seasonal house repairs – but nothing big, nothing that pertained to the big, scary future I could no longer imagine for myself.

For a long time, I told myself this was good, that I needed to live in the moment, be more spontaneous (or, in my case, be spontaneous. Spoiler: Not so much.), and experience life as it happened. But after a while, it started to feel aimless.

I’m one of those people who has always had plans, even if they are on a slow simmer on a way back burner. I even have back-up plans to the plans. And – most of the time – a back-up plan to the back-up plan. Because that’s how I’m made.

Not having plans made me feel like I was drifting, rudderless, disconnected.

Then something changed.

The guy I have been seeing asked me to go away with him for a weekend. When he asked where I wanted to go – the ocean or the mountains – I told him to surprise me.

What I didn’t tell him was that for years when my ex would ask what I wanted for birthdays or Hanukkah, I would explain I didn’t really need more stuff, and what I really wanted was for him to plan a weekend away for us. Just the two of us.  Alone. A weekend where I didn’t need to choose a destination, pick a hotel, or negotiate child care with friends or family.

It happened once.

Generally when we traveled, I did the majority of the planning. The few family vacations we took to Acadia National Park we stayed at cottages I found. When we went away for our infrequent weekends over the course of the twenty-plus years we were married, I chose the location and found someone to take care of the boy (once he was a factor). The driving trip to Wisconsin to visit a friend – where we had a really hard time finding a hotel to stay in on the way home as we hadn’t booked one in advance – was done together, and my ex tended to take on the trips around his marathons as they mattered more to him than to me.  (I was there for moral support and child care.)

The weekend he planned for us was lovely. The location was wonderful.  He chose the ocean, and we walked on the beach in the surprisingly warm-for-February weather. The room was fabulous with a gas fireplace for both warmth and ambiance, and the Jacuzzi tub was relaxing. The hotel had a pool, and we swam both after dinner the evening we got there and again in the morning before we checked out. We meandered through New Hampshire and Vermont and stopped for an easy hike on the way home. We talked about places we want to go someday, some of them together.

And on the way home something clicked in my head. It was like a switch going off. Or, rather on, and suddenly I can see a spark of a future again. It’s small and hazy, but it’s there, and I kind of like it.


So, I guess I’ll start looking at this map and seeing where it takes me. Hopefully somewhere with chocolate along the way.  If not, I’ll make sure to bring enough to share.

Posted March 2, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Snow Globe in My Head   Leave a comment

Why are entire years strewn on the cutting room floor of memory?/ When single frames from one magic night/ forever flicker in close-up/ on the 3-D Imax of my mind – Jonathan Larson

I’ve been thinking a lot about snow lately. Partially because of the weather. We’ve had two sizable snow storms in a week’s time, and the world outside is covered in white flakes. And snow storms always make me think of snow globes.

I LOVE snow globes. I have since I was a child. The sparkling pieces of white obscuring the scene then settling down into peacefulness just mesmerize me. They remind me of all those movies where people close their eyes and mutter “I’m in my happy place” over and over again.

The thing is when I close my eyes, what I see is darkness. I have no problem remembering things, events, people, or places, but if I stare at a picture of a mountain or a beach scene or a flower trying to memorize the details and the colors, all I see behind my lids are specks of colorful fuzz. Instead of a mind’s eye, I seem to have a perpetually shaken mind’s snow globe.

With an incredible sound system.

There are times when the snow clears momentarily, and I am allowed glimpses of images or colors. Sometimes they are things that have happened, sometimes things I expect or want to happen.

When my ex announced he was ending our marriage, the snow globe flashed snippets of events I had dreamed about for years that wouldn’t ever happen – standing at the bima with our son at his bar mitzvah as a family, celebrating our twenty-fifth and fiftieth wedding anniversaries, watching our boy graduate high school and then college, traveling once we were empty-nesters, walking him down the aisle and dancing at his wedding, attending the birth of his first child.

Now, realistically, the events pertaining to the boy will happen eventually, if they haven’t already. Not in any, way, shape, or form as I imagined them, but unless something drastic happens in the next handful of years, they will happen. He will graduate (at least once), probably get married, and have at least one child. Preferably in that order. And the chances are good my ex and I will be in the same room for most of these events. Most likely at opposite ends of that room, but the same room nonetheless.

When the anger hit – that is one of the stages of grief, after all – the memories that swirled around were some of the less pleasant ones. Like the time I was told at a Marriage Encounter event, no less he “tuned me out” because I complained about work too much.

Now, did I complain about work a lot? Yes. Unequivocally, yes. Because I worked for a complete psycho. A friend I confided in about my work situation sat open-mouthed when I described my boss’s behavior and said if this had been a guy I was seeing, she would have insisted I leave the jerk and seek professional help. Unfortunately, as the primary wage earner at the time and the one with the health insurance, I was stuck until something else came along. Which finally did happen. Just not soon enough.

In any case, he ended up not having to worry about hearing me complain for a few days after that as I stopped speaking to him until he asked what was wrong.

Other recurring memory shards were the Valentine’s Day arguments about money when we didn’t have any that warred with my need to have some tangible evidence he was thinking about me. And – one of my favorites – the day I came home from a difficult Saturday at work having asked him to pick up around the house as we were having dinner guests to find he had instead spent the day helping someone else.

While the anger these images engendered was useful in keeping me from falling apart at the time, it wasn’t good for me mentally to hold onto it, and – with a lot of work – I was able to let it dissipate into the snow. Most of the time. There are still times when the anger flares, but those times are fewer and farther between.

So, now my snow globe is mostly vacant except for the occasional flurry, and while this is definitely healthier, it leaves my mind a little empty sometimes. I get occasional glimpses of images from the vacations my son and I have taken over the past few years, which are colorful and cheery, and I’m sure the roses I got for this year’s Valentine’s Day will figure prominently in the future, as will flickers of my small, long-haired cat purring while cuddling up to my arm.

What I need to do is start building more memories that can be stored, shaken up, and allowed to fly. And I think I’ve gotten a good foundation for this going. So, next winter, I’ll have to see what happens when the flakes begin to fly.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll close my eyes and actually see something other than snow on my eyelids. If there is one thing I have learned from the past few years it’s that anything is possible.

Posted February 15, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Etiquette and Courteousness   1 comment

etiquette: [mass noun] The customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group: (OED)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about behavior (or behaviour if you’re from the UK), etiquette, and courteousness. And not just because of the current political climate, although that may have had something to do with it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been dealing with a few home repair issues over the past month or so and find myself – I think astonished is the right word – astonished at the varying levels of customer service etiquette I have encountered. Now, since I work in a customer-driven industry, I understandably have a few opinions on how people who are purchasing a service should be treated. (As well as how those providing your service should be treated, but that’s another post.)

When my car had its 100,000+ mile tune-up, the dealership told me straight out the work was going to take a while, although they couldn’t tell me exactly how long, and offered to drive me somewhere if I didn’t want to hang out in their waiting room most of the day. I thanked them, and said I was planning on taking a walk to the Y to work out and would be back in the early afternoon. When I returned after about three hours later – no, I wasn’t working out that whole time; it took me about a half-hour to walk in each direction, and there was a shower involved in there somewhere. Let’s just say my Fitbit was very happy at the end of the day – they apologized the car wasn’t ready yet and offered to get my lunch out of the trunk so I wouldn’t starve in their waiting room. When my phone rang an hour later – the boy wanted to know where I was as his Driver’s Ed class was over and it was snowing – they handed me the keys to a car so I could go get him.

Is it more expensive to get my work done at the dealership than at one of the smaller independent shops in town? Yes, yes it is. Am I going to continue using the service department at the dealership? You bet your bippy. Because I can’t beat the customer service I get there.

This was an interesting contrast with the garage door repair people. The person who scheduled the appointment told me they would be at my house between 2-5pm, and I dutifully requested the time off from work, even though it wasn’t convenient for me to be gone, because I really needed my garage door fixed. At ten minutes to five, I called them as no one had shown up yet, and I was wondering if they would still be coming. I was nonplussed when the lovely young lady on the other end of the phone blithely informed me they had already been and gone, and inquired why hadn’t I checked the garage door to see if it worked?

I asked her to hold on for a moment and went to investigate. The door opened. The door closed. While I was pleased at this turn of events, I was curious as to why no one had contacted me to let me know the work had already been done, apparently – from her records – while I was driving to my house from work and no longer had any need to physically be at the house. They had my cell phone number, after all. I thanked her for the door being repaired and explained my perplexity.

There was a long pause. But the work got done!” she cheerfully chirped into the phone.

I told her I was grateful it did and said I would be sure to pay the bill promptly when it came, then explained I had taken time off to be there at a time not convenient for my employer, and how calling me to let me know I didn’t need to be at home or even leaving a note to that effect taped to my front door would have been great customer service.

There was a longer pause.

Finally, she agreed that probably would have been the polite thing to do, but immediately followed up by saying it would have been inconvenient for the workers to write such a note. Because then they would have to carry paper and a pen with them, and doing so could make them late to their next appointment.

This time the pause was on my end.

I took a deep breath, and asked if she could please pass on my feedback to the owners of the company, as I was sure others would also appreciate my suggestion. Then I thanked her again and hung up, shaking my head as I explained the conversation to the boy (who was as puzzled as I was).

The guy who installed the dishwasher was great. He arrived two minutes earlier than I expected him, brought the new one in, took the old one out, and cleaned up after himself.

The hot water heater repair person – who was supposed to arrive at the same time as the dishwasher guy – called twenty minutes later to explain he was running late as there had been a rash of houses without heat due to the plummeting temperatures the night before. That was fine, and I expressed my appreciation for the call. Once he got to the house, he was able to ascertain what parts were needed and told me to call back once the manufacturer sent them to me so he could make the repair.

His second visit was somewhat less successful. And not simply because GE sent the wrong parts.

Upon finding out the repair would take three hours – information not initially shared with me by the person scheduling the appointment – it was rescheduled from Wednesday at 10am (which wouldn’t get me to work at 11:30am) to Friday at 8am (which wouldn’t get me to work at 8:30 which is when I need to be there the rest of the week, but would at least get my heater repaired).

At 8:15, I figured some heating emergency had come up and waited for my phone to ring. At 8:30, I decided they would be here any minute and started washing the dishes in the sink just in case the water had to be shut off. At 8:45, I started scrolling through my phone to find the tech’s number. At 8:57, they arrived. I brought them to the basement and gave them the parts that had been mailed to me. When I mentioned I had been expecting them an hour earlier I got a shrug, a smile, and “Oh, yeah. Something came up.” That was when we discovered the parts were wrong, so I get to do this all over again in a couple of weeks.

Oh. Joy.

Now, I admit to being somewhat old-fashioned in a lot of respects. One of these being when I am invited somewhere or make an appointment, I RSVP and show up if I say I am going to. I arrive on time (when I can or as close to it as possible) or let people know if I am running late and by how much. Because not knowing who or when or how many people you are expecting for a function is somewhat annoying extremely frustrating. Friends of mine have had problems with this over the past few years, people either not acknowledging invitations to events or saying they will be come and then not show up. And a lot of service industries – hairstylists, restaurants, health care workers – now have to have prominently displayed no-show/late-show policies to deal with this phenomenon.

I simply don’t understand the mindset that necessitates this.

You would think with all the technology we have at our disposal these days, it would be easier to respond and follow through for invitations and appointments, but apparently the opposite is proving true.

Technology makes things more impersonal, makes it easier to forget the person on the other end of the invitation, the appointment, the statement of belief (here’s the political climate part of this) is in fact a person with feelings, beliefs that might be strongly held (even if they don’t match your own), or demands on their time.

Do I have a solution for this? No. I can only hope to lead by example. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check my calendars – both paper and digital – to make sure I haven’t been standing anyone up while I’ve been writing this.

Have a pleasant evening.

Posted February 1, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off   Leave a comment

I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmingly a little stressed out lately. I can tell because my chocolate consumption has increased. Exponentially. And I wake up every morning in a mild state of panic, which, while nothing new, hasn’t happened in a while. (I’d like to say I missed this part of my morning routine, but really, I haven’t. At all. It can stop now.)

It’s not the relationship. Well, some of it was, but since we had the ‘state of the state’ talk, I’ve calmed down about it. A lot. No, mostly, it’s everything else. And I mean everything.

Money has suddenly become an issue in a way it hasn’t since I was first trying to figure out my finances and expenses after the divorce. It’s not an “Oh, G-d, I’m falling into financial ruin” issue, but things are tighter than they were, and I am seriously hoping for a larger than usual tax refund this year to help even things out. Driver’s Ed was more expensive than I thought it would be, and for some reason, the end of the old year and the start of the new decided to collude and bring me the glorious gift of house repair issues among other things.

Oh, joy.

That’s not to say I don’t love my new dishwasher. I do. I was unaware of how difficult the old one really was until the new one arrived and got my dishes sparkling clean on the first try without those pesky bits of plastic falling off every time I ran it. Or at least every time I was able to get the door shut enough so it could run. And the garage door closing all the way is appreciated. The house tends to get cold when the garage isn’t shut. I’m still waiting for the hot water heater to be fixed. (Fortunately this last one is covered by warranty; I just keep having to take time off from work to be there while they figure out what the problem is.) And while this was happening, the car hit its 100,000 mile we-need-to-replace-a-whole-bunch-of-expensive-parts-to-keep-things-running milestone. And the boy’s bicycle has now gone through its third sheared bolt on the part that keeps the seat on.

Well, you get the idea…

The saving grace with all these expenses is 1-5% of each transaction I put on my credit card gets put into the boy’s 529 college fund. So at least something is getting saved. Yay me?

My job also continues to drive me a bit bonkers. Overall, I love what I do, I just sometimes wonder if I have been doing it in the same place for too long. I keep my eyes open for things – the most recent position I applied for sent me a form letter rejection telling me I didn’t have enough experience to be interviewed even though the job I was applying for was the exact same job I have now, just in a different library – but after nearly 20 years in my field, I don’t know what else I would be qualified for. And I need to keep working for a municipal government as my retirement is tied up in the state system. (I’m also lazy; the reasonably short commute to my current job is nice as is the fact that I work across the street from the Y and can hit the weight room on my lunch breaks.)

I am hoping our application for a building grant is funded by the state as that process would certainly keep me occupied for the next handful of years. And, if I am honest, I think it is the challenge I am missing. I am very good at my job (even the parts I don’t love) and have gotten to the point where much of it (and there is a lot) has become sort of automatic. I miss the challenge of doing something new.

And there is the ever-present issue of housework. I admit I’m not the world’s best housekeeper, but I do I go a little nuts when my house isn’t clean. The main problem is that although I love the results, I don’t love the actual work of cleaning. For a short while a very long time ago, I had someone come in every other week and clean the kitchen and bathrooms, and that was lovely. Now, though, it’s not really feasible.

I do pay to have someone take away my trash as I am a) not around during most of the town landfill’s open hours, and b) really don’t want to put bags of smelly trash in the back of my tiny car. I also have a landscape company deal with the spring and fall clean-ups of my yard as I have more leaves than G-d and pay them to mow my lawn every three weeks or so as yard work is not high on the list of things I either love or am good at. Fortunately, the boy knows how to run the snowblower and enjoys it (or at least doesn’t complain too much about it…), so I don’t have to worry about that. Until he goes to college…


Mostly I’ve been trying to exercise enough – 90 minutes on the elliptical trainer this morning should help me sleep tonight, even if it doesn’t erase the amount of chocolate I have consumed today – and focus on the positive things in my life: I am employed, there’s a guy out there who thinks I’m pretty wonderful (I think he is, too, so this works out), I have great friends and cute, fuzzy kitties to keep my company, and my son is pretty wonderful (weird, too, but genetically, that was inescapable).

I think what I really need is a vacation. Which kind of bumps up against issue number one right now. So, for the time being, I guess I’ll just stick with the chocolate cure. Maybe if I eat enough of it, the whatever-it-is that’s supposed to be in chocolate will make the anxiety attacks go away. I mean, how can you be anxious when you’re full of chocolate, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I have a freezer to raid.

Posted January 18, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Driving Lessons   4 comments

So, the boy passed his learner’s permit test a few weeks back, and driving lessons have now begun in earnest. We’ve spent time driving in circles around the local community college parking lot on Sunday mornings – I was extremely concerned a little worried when he immediately tried to practice parking in one of the spots that contained one of the two light fixtures (both with enormous cement bases) in the sizable lot and informed him in no uncertain terms calmly suggested he might want to pick any other space in the lot until he had more practice parking – and moved onto driving around town.

After a few days of this we progressed – with the appropriate amount of trepidation on his part – to the two-lane state highway between our town and the one where he has been attending driver’s ed. On our way home after the first class, he got his first experience – did I mention it was the first day of class? – driving on black ice (So. Much. Fun…) and discovered the instructor’s description of what anti-lock brakes feel like when they work was accurate. Which was good to know.

On the way home the next day we tried the Interstate, where he acquitted himself adequately, and I got to use the words a parent probably should never use when teaching their child to drive: “Punch it, Chewy.” (Okay, that was fun).

All in all, I have been a passenger in my vehicle more in these past few weeks than I have, well, since my ex left. And it’s really weird.

This isn’t to say I haven’t been a passenger over the past several years. When we visit my parents, my dad drives when we go places as he finds my car too small. (I think she – and, yes my car is a she – is perfect. He’s just jealous.) I have ridden shotgun in my colleagues’ cars when we have attended conferences and ride as a passenger when I go places with the guy I have been seeing or when friends shuttle me to the garage to pick up my car when it’s in for oil changes. So, it’s not like I don’t have experience not driving.

But it has been a very long time since I have been in a seat in my car that didn’t have a steering wheel in front of it.

And, as I said, it’s really weird.

Not just because I have one or two (or forty or fifty) tiny control issues. And not because my car – unlike the ones he will eventually drive with the instructors when he does his nine hours of road work – doesn’t have a second set of brakes. But for two completely different reasons.

The first is this: My baby is growing up.

Physically, this completely obvious. He is now, and has been for a while, much taller than I am, to the point where I can make him get things off of high shelves for me rather than fight with the step-stool. If he doesn’t shave for a couple of weeks, he starts looking like a baby goat who has been running his chin through a pile of loose dirt. At times, there is an air of maturity about him. It is fleeting, but it does exist, and it gives me glimpses of the man he will become.

And while this occasionally (okay, more than occasionally) makes me swallow hard and say, “Eeep!”, I don’t regret this fact of life. Even when he was a baby, I always said the older he gets the more fun he gets. And I admit, I have been very lucky in the kid I got and in the relationship we have, something he has commented on several times over the past few weeks.

Now, to be clear, I am very definitely his mother, not his friend – our extended conversations about his grades, getting his homework done, and actually participating in housework rather than expecting the house-elf we don’t have to take care of it are a testament to that – but still we are close. As I have ended up being the one to teach him how to shave, deal with the trash and recycling, and now drive, this is a good thing. I can only begin to imagine how difficult teaching him anything would be if our relationship was not a good one.

Which leads to reason number two: I never expected I would be the one teaching him to drive.

I always assumed this would be his father’s task.

I was pretty sure the lessons would still take place in my car as the child has expressed limited interest in learning to drive a stick-shift like is in his dad’s car. (Although, I am pretty sure this will happen at some point…) But I was fairly positive I would only be getting in the passenger seat once he had a bit more of a clue of what he was doing than he currently does.


So, we can add this to the list of things I never expected to be doing and am having to learn how to do as I am doing it.

I know in the future there will be other things I need to show him how to do. While I don’t know at this point what they all are, one in particular that will come up in what I hope will be the long-long-distant future is something we are seeing the beginnings of right now.

A friend of ours, one who is close to both of us, has been diagnosed with cancer, and I know someday (G-d willing not for MANY years) I will have to teach him how to say goodbye to someone he loves. I’m not sure I even know how to do this. It’s not that I haven’t lost people, I have. But he hasn’t. His father’s mother passed away when he was a baby and his paternal grandfather about five years ago, but he was too little when Nana died to really remember her, and he wasn’t that close to Pa, so I’m not sure how much it really impacted him other than seeing his father’s grief.

When the time comes (see above parenthesis), it will impact him greatly as this is someone he has known, loved, and spent time with since he was a small child.

And with any luck we’ll be able to navigate it as well as we have his learning to drive, a few missteps on the gas instead of the brakes, a couple of overly hard stops, and the occasional washing of the passenger side of the car on the snowbank on the street’s edge.

Fingers crossed…

Posted January 4, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

We Wish You a… Oh, Never Mind   2 comments

Christmas seems to be coming earlier and earlier every year. When I was a kid, it seemed like the holiday season ‘officially’ started after Thanksgiving. Overnight, turkeys and cornucopias (cornucopii?) were replaced by reindeer and tinsel-covered trees. This year, however, the first Christmas decoration sighting came much earlier than Thanksgiving. My son and I saw tinsel and snowmen mixed in with the Halloween merchandise when we were grocery shopping in mid-October. (He says he saw some in September, but I am hoping it was a mirage.)

I was appalled. Not because I love Halloween that much, but because I think each holiday deserves to stand on its own. Except Valentine’s Day. Which I would be okay with banning. Because… Ah, just read this post if you haven’t already.  You’ll see why.

Christmas… Okay, back on track.

This is going to be a minority (pun intended) opinion, but I have to say when you’re Jewish, Christmas doesn’t always seem like the most wonderful time of the year.

Especially this year. Which is ironic as this year Hanukkah starts on December 24.

I don’t usually talk politics, but the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents following the presidential election both nationwide and in my area – the most recent at a local middle school in a town with a sizeable (for around here) Jewish population – has left me feeling more Jewish than usual this holiday season.

Don’t get me wrong; I both appreciate and agree with the whole ‘good will toward men’ vibe, like (and occasionally covet) the pretty lights people use to decorate their houses, and, most of all, LOVE the dark chocolate/white chocolate/peppermint bark some absolutely brilliant person created simply to make me want to eat more chocolate than I already do. Thanks, brilliant person. (That can be read with or without a sarcastic tone. It works both ways.)

What I don’t love is the way the holiday takes over EVERYTHING for the entire month before it starts. The decorations, the music, and the pervasive occurrences of red and green clothing act as a daily reminder you are different. That because you don’t celebrate the holiday, you are an outsider.

Every television show has a Christmas-themed episode – okay, I watch the Doctor Who specials. Because they are cool. Like bow ties. Points for the reference – and radio stations become 24/7 Christmas carol factories. It drives me crazy that I can’t listen to my favorite Top 40 radio station from practically the day after Thanksgiving until December 26 as all they play are Christmas songs. Thank G-d for the flash drive loaded with music that lives in my car. And for audio books. These two things save my sanity during the festive season.

Then there is whole exciting world of holiday greetings, which you would think would be safe. Not so. I had a library patron go off on me express her dismay at my choice of words a few years back when I made the mistake of wishing her “Happy Holidays” after checking out her books. She started complaining about what a shame it was that Christmas was getting “… white-washed by all those politically-correct people who don’t want to offend anyone.” (I’m not making this up; she really used those words.) The tirade then continued into her views on the ‘war on Christmas,’ most of which I didn’t really listen to, to be honest.

I waited patiently for her to be done (or take a breath) and explained I have always wished people a happy holiday as I don’t like to presume everyone celebrates the same holiday I do. She snorted and said something about how ridiculous that was, so I gave her a big smile and wished her a very happy Hanukkah. Ten seconds of shocked silence was followed by a belly-laugh Santa would have been proud of. She still comes in each year and makes a point of wishing me a happy holiday. It’s pretty cool.

The one seasonal thing I do look forward to each year is the Jewy Christmas celebration my family has. As I said in the last post, some years it’s just been us, other years we are joined by friends who either don’t have family in the area or who have their primary celebration on Christmas Eve. (Yes, I know the whole Chinese food and a movie thing has become clichéd, but it works for us. And we started doing it long before it became a thing. I mean, I can’t believe how the number of movie attendees has skyrocketed the past few years. Now, even when we go to the early movie, the place is packed. Kind of blows my mind.)

I’d like to say I have a point to all this, but really, not so much. I’ve just had the holiday on my mind as of late, and I suppose I simply want to remind people we’re not all the same and being mindful of others during this season of peace on earth can only be a good thing. Especially now.

So, Happy Holidays, everyone, and please, please, please make sure you eat enough of that lovely peppermint bark so I don’t eat it all.

It will be appreciated.

Posted December 21, 2016 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts