Musings from Home

Archive for September, 2011

A Measure of Progress

Today is my 45th birthday. And while I certainly notice age spots, wrinkles, dark circles, and gray hairs in the mirror, I don’t feel 45. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would think I can’t be anything over 35.

And yet, this birthday hasn’t bothered me at all. I don’t remember ever giving much thought either way to this particular milestone, which is odd considering how much I have either looked forward or not to some birthdays.

Like most people, I couldn’t wait to turn 16, then 18, and then 21. Then I stopped looking forward to getting older and started fretting about it. After college graduation, when I moved back home while I applied for jobs, I spent the time in between sending out resumes listening to Cat Stevens songs and seeing my life pass me by. It’s funny to me now and I realize how silly I was, especially since I got my first full-time job about a month after graduation. I was just so impatient to get my life started and conquer all those mountains ahead.

At 26, I started to look ahead with dread to 30, much like Sally Albright (in “When Harry Met Sally”) did to 40. I remember telling my brother that I saw wrinkles in the mirror when I smiled (again, silly me!) and that I was getting old. When he said I was still young, I countered that I was almost 30. His reply: “When? Someday!?” I was worried once again that my life was passing too quickly and that I hadn’t yet accomplished enough to tackle all that I wanted to in my lifetime.

As I got closer, I just knew that 30 was going to hit me like a load of cement, as some of my friends had told me it did them. One friend say she cried for days and was down for even longer. I braced myself for the same feelings.

But by the time I actually got there, I was in graduate school working on my PhD and I was dating the most wonderful man in the world. The night before my 30th birthday, Jim proposed. I spent the whole next day (week, year?) in a bubble of excitement, so I eased into my thirties almost without noticing.

Having heard that people tend to be upset by either their 30th or 40th birthdays, but not usually both, I wondered if 40 would knock me down, since 30 had not. A lot happened in the decade in between. Jim and I got married. I earned my PhD. We moved to Virginia. Emerald was born. Sadly, my mom passed away. I taught part-time at a local community college. I volunteered at Emerald’s co-operative preschool (as co-president for two years). Life went on pretty normally (with its joys and sorrows).

As 40 approached, we had something new to look forward to: Sapphire. In between getting Emerald ready to start Kindergarten and planning for the new baby, I had little time to worry about turning 40 — even as it happened. Six days after my 40th birthday, I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl, who was instantly adored by her parents and her older sister. What was there to be bummed about?

It’s sometimes the times between my birthdays that I think about all the time that has passed. At these times when I start to feel old and think about missed opportunities or things I handled less than stellarly, I think about what age I would like to go back to, if I could, to be young again and start from there. I’ve always known I wouldn’t ever go back to childhood or my teen years, because I don’t want to go through the “figuring out who I am and where I fit in this world” stage again. So I’ve often settled on my twenties — a fun, care-free time of life.

But I realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t go backwards at all, even if I could. Overall, I like where my life has taken me and I wouldn’t be comfortable in the assumption I’d wind up here again, after correcting mistakes and reliving my youth. And most of all, I would never risk not having Jim, Emerald, and Sapphire in my life. You change one day, you change all that follows. Uh unh! Not me!

So although I have spent way too much time, especially early on, thinking about getting “old” (whatever that is), I have learned that I don’t really look at my age as a measure of how old I am. I see my milestones as an opportunity to look back on my life thus far and gauge how I’m doing with my overall goals. In my 45 years, I have educated myself aplenty, started a career (which has morphed into another), married my perfect guy, and most importantly to me, had two spectacular daughters. I am now in the process of shifting gears again slightly to spend more time with my lovely preciouses and to begin an exciting project with an old friend.

I see lots of light ahead. So, Welcome 45! We’re going to be great friends.

Now I’m off to get my hair cut and colored. Just because I’m 45 doesn’t mean I have to look old and drab. 🙂

Are there certain ages you dread or have dreaded? How did it turn out?

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Mea Culpa

When I was a kid, it became a joke in our house that everything was my fault. My ever-helpful brother even came up with examples of things from decades or even centuries before my birth that could be blamed on me. The Lindbergh kidnapping. The fall of the Roman Empire. It stuck and could always be counted on to bring a moment of levity on occasions that someone did in earnest blame me for something, which was not really my fault.

The other day at the end of a post, I made the mistake of saying “bring on the rain”. Ever since, we have had gray skies and intermittent periods of water droplets following from the sky. The last two mornings I have awoken to thunder storms. While I am not going to complain about the weather because (a) it doesn’t do any good and (b) I got what I asked for, I apologize to all of my fellow Virginians who have had enough of the rain and storms.

Mother Nature, I thank you for granting my request, but for everyone else’s sake, I ask that you let it stop now. I will be that selfless. 🙂 Sapphire and I can find other things to do instead of singing in the rain . . . and besides our neighbors might like a break from our performances. 🙂

Jim says that since this is the leading edge of the cold front, we must get through the storms to get cooler weather. To that I say, if that’s the price I must pay for fall weather moving back in, I’ll take it. Uh oh, here we go again . . .

Have you recently asked for something and gotten more than you planned for?

And Then There’s Y’all

Before I published my first post on this here blog, I asked my friend Jen to look it over. She wrote back that all looked good, but because she knows I wouldn’t want to publish it with an error, she pointed out that the apostrophe is after the “y” in “y’all” not after the “a” as I had written it. I thanked her and made the correction, relieved that that glaring mistake had not appeared on my blog.

Several days later, I read this blog on the correct spelling of “y’all” and I wondered, could I possibly still be making the same mistake? Surely not. But just to be sure, I went back and checked all of my blog posts. I hadn’t made that mistake once. I had made it in three different posts.

There was nothing I could do about the people who had already seen it and noticed (I haven’t perfected a memory charm yet), so I corrected it and tamped down my embarrassment. But thanks to Jen’s explanation (twice), I will now remember the rule: Y’all is a contraction for “you all” so the apostrophe goes between the “y” and  the “all”.

We all know how I am about spelling rules. Once it’s drilled in my head, it stays with me forever, even if it is wrong for a particular word, like weird. So now I have it. No worries. Y’all will never again be an issue for me.

Well it’s a darn good thing I have a graduate science degree because it protects me from people thinking I’m an idiot even when I do “airheady” things. Yesterday I wrote a “hey y’all” sort of post on Facebook. After I got my first comment (coincidentally from Jen — and thanks Jen for not pointing out that I am uneducable), I noticed that there in my excited post had crept my second spelling nemesis: YA’LL! Eeeek.

Score a point for y’all, but this battle ain’t over yet.

By the way, what is ain’t a contraction for?

Singing in the Rain

I cannot carry a tune. So until about 10 ½ years ago, I never sang solo in public. I would sing in groups, because even though I sound like a lovesick marmot, I actually love to sing. I’d sing in the shower. I’d sing just about anywhere at home. But you would never see me singing in the driveway, in the grocery store, or at an amusement park. Not until Emerald was born.

I learned early that that precious little baby wasn’t an American Idol judge. She just loved the comfort of my singing. I soon branched out and started a song and dance routine to the title song from one of my favorite movies, “Singing in the Rain”. That was the magical cure for anything that was upsetting her. I would hold her in my arms, dance around, and belt out that lovely tune. She’d calm down and giggle.

It didn’t matter where we were, at the photo studio trying to get her first professional baby pictures, in the baby food aisle at Giant, or in the middle of the neighborhood. My singing kept her entertained and happy.

Having learned what a great cheerer upper singing was for Emerald, I never questioned continuing the tradition with Sapphire.

Imagine my delight when a few years ago, Emerald’s tap dance routine for her recital was titled “Dancing in the Rain,” danced to “Singing to the Rain”. It brought back memories for Emerald and me. And Sapphire was delighted to hear about our history with that song (as she was too little to remember it first-hand).

We have branched out to other songs, but the three of us still love to entertain ourselves. This summer, while waiting in line at a local amusement park, we passed the time by singing (and doing the accompanying dance) to “Hokey Pokey” which was streaming over the Sesame Street area of the park. We got lots of looks from parents, but several kids around us shyly joined in and my girls and I had a ball. We just smiled at all those who thought we were strange, and kept doing our best show.

And sometimes, we return to our ol’ fave. . . This past week here in Virginia, we have had rain, rain, and more rain. The sky may be a dreary, dark gray, and the puppies may get muddy every time they go outside, but Sapphire and I have been having more fun doing Gene Kelly’s famous number with umbrellas as props. We stand on the driveway waiting for Emerald’s bus, lean on our umbrellas as if they are canes, dance in a circle around them, waving our free arms — and sing. As soon as we finish (which isn’t long after the start since we only remember about seven lines of the song), Sapphire giggles and starts again, with me following her lead. We have had more laughs and more memorable moments during this soggy week.

So while in the past, I would have asked for rain at night and sunny — but cool — weather during the day, I now say, bring on the rain. Sapphire and I are just warming up.

So what about you? Do you sing in public and if so, is there a particular song that motivates you to perform wherever you are?

That’s Weird

Generally speaking, I have pretty good grammar. And my spelling isn’t bad either. I memorized the rules in school like everyone else, but mostly I rely on my ear to tell me whether or not grammar is correct.

I know what English teachers say about our ears as grammar guides, but mine has always served me well. I credit my dad with this. He moved to the United States from Germany at the age of eight, so for him, English was a second language. His early experiences with learning the language were difficult and people around him expected that he would learn to speak correctly — and he did. He also came to expect the same level of proficiency from native English speakers.

My high school friends certainly have some stories to tell. Calling our house could be quite the traumatic experience, as you tried to ask for the person in our household with whom you wanted to speak. It wasn’t easy on them or the three teenagers in our home (me included), but it did train us to recognize correct grammar when we heard it. In fact, when I couldn’t remember the rules in English class, I went with what sounded right to me and was almost always correct, because although the rules may not have been stuck in my head, I had enough practice with speaking  correctly to know the right usage (particularly of pronouns) when I heard it.

Spelling, on the other hand, I mastered by memorizing words and in some cases, the rules. To this day, I rely on little phrases I learned in school to remember the order of letters in certain combinations.

Fast forward to present day. I work part-time as a freelance writer and editor (mostly editor these days). Therefore, I am able to put my ear for grammar and my mastery of spelling rules to good use. But a few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a good friend (also a freelance writer and editor) that said, “Do you realize that you always spell “weird” wrong?”

I do? And she included my last e-mail. There it was in black and white: wierd.

Well sure, “i before e, except after c”. . .  I guess not this time.

I hung my head, acknowledged my frequent error, and made a mental note to reverse the “i” and the “e” in that word in the future.

A few days ago I received a catalog in the mail and as I was perusing the pages, I saw this:

It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one. 🙂

So what about you? Are there spellings or grammar rules that stump you every time?

The Sweet Smell of Memories

The other day a friend of mine wrote about flower smells that she particularly liked and disliked. This got me thinking about scents (some floral, some not) that are particularly pleasing to me and I realized that certain smells appeal to me because they bring with them memories of somebody I love.

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By far, my favorite flower scent is lavender, not just because of its lovely fragrance, but largely because it reminds me of my mom  sitting in the chair by the window in my living room commenting on how lovely the smell of lavender was coming through the window (we had a couple of large lavender bushes right outside that window). Mom left this world for a better place almost 9 years ago and I cherish the moments when the image of her inserts itself into my mind even for a split second (which happens often). It brings a smile to my face.

Pumpkin pie in the oven is another special smell to me as it brings my mom into my kitchen lickety split. Her homemade pies from fresh pumpkins were a family tradition that began in my childhood and continues to this day in my home.

The smell of fresh cut grass ushers forth the image of my dad sitting on his big orange tractor mowing the four acres around the house of my childhood. He spent many summer hours on that vehicle and I can picture him now just as he was then, especially when those newly-mowed blades hit the lawn. [He passed away 16 years ago.]

Turkey cooking on Thanksgiving brings back family holidays of old and blends them with the wonderful ones of the present. Back then, we all ate meager snacks early in the day, saving room for a gorging to match all gorgings when that roasted bird came out of the oven and joined cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, olives, (probably some long-forgotten vegetable), and my grandmother’s chestnut dish on the dinner table. Our menu is much the same today, with a few items subtracted (that veggie I can’t remember and the chestnut dish no one but me likes) and a couple added (rolls and green bean casserole).

The fragrance of baby shampoo that fills the room as I give our puppies a bath summons memories of shampooing Emerald and Sapphire’s abundant and slightly curly hair when they were babies. The curls gave way to fine straight hair at the first haircut.

Time passes so quickly and phases of our lives change, but I will always have reminders of times gone by — pictures both in my mind and on paper, and smells that waft in unexpectedly and tap me on the shoulder to say “remember when . . . ”

So who’s with me? Are there any scents that mean something to you in addition to being pleasing to your nose?

Silliness with Sapphire

As you may have guessed, I have a touch of melodrama in me. The subject that gets me going these days better than anything else is how fast little Sapphire is “growing up on me”, as I call it. She is in her last year of preschool, going five mornings a week. If I let myself, I can fast forward to next fall when my little Boop is off to Kindergarten and coincidentally (not in a good way), Emerald is moving on to the big bad world of Middle School. [Side note: I know middle school is not that bad, but it does mean my little girl is truly not little anymore — although she’s been telling me that for years.]

Anyway, back to Sapphire. I have known since last spring that this fall would hit me hard if I let it, especially after Sapphire started telling me she never had any time with me because I was working so much (from home). I decided then that I would not spend her last year at home with me (at least in the afternoons) at my computer while she played alone in her room. I would make the most of the time I have left with my little, little one.

So I began thinking about how to make that happen and a few weeks ago, I was finally ready to put a plan in motion. I rearranged my schedule, cut back substantially, and positioned myself to spend as much time with her as possible. This is going to be a year to remember — for both of us!

Let the silliness, the craftiness, the cookingness, the game-playingness, the picture-takingness, and all the other “nesses” we can dream up begin. Toward that end, we spent yesterday afternoon just being silly. Here are some memories to warm this mama’s heart:

So what about y’all? What milestone in your own lives or those of your children hit you as the milestone of growing up: preschool, Kindergarten, middle school, high school, college, first job? I know from my experience so far with Emerald that so many of them will do it for me. Be still my heart.

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