2019 Christmas Newsletter

2019 has been quite a year, let me catch you up!

Child Five just came into my writing lair to get the keys to my car in order to go to his day job that is usually a night job because BJs Brew House loves him. He schmoozes old ladies and brings ginormous pazookies to people and generally makes this world a better place, which is something a mother can get behind. He graduated high school in June. Like everything the kid has ever done, I celebrated with tears of joy and vowed, “We aren’t ever doing that again.”

It never gets old.

Child Five hangs out with Child Four, the two bachelors living in – let’s call it what it is – our basement. They like to style it “Man Cave” and I like to call it “The Pit of Despair” and if a cave woman ever walks by, she will agree that if a mastodon dies in the hallway, no one will ever notice. We are, neither one of us, going in there to investigate.

The two boys attend community college with lofty visions (rim shot: they are both 6’ 5”) of transferring to SDSU as Engineer majors. They sit around the table making up words for their calculus classes, like “Rolles theorem” and “left, right, Rieman sum” and “integrals”. I tell them to watch their language at the table but they don’t listen to me anymore because they are adulting now.

Adulting. This is The Way.

Did you see that coming? Quick side note that I did not see Baby Yoda coming, either, and now he must never leave and I need one for Christmas because he makes me laugh but also want to throw things and this sounds just like grand-parenting but, none of my kids are dating at the moment, so….Yoda!

Where was I?

The Middle. Child Three trains dogs. Among other career-type things. Shameless plug. Her dog is more obedient than any of my five kids ever were. It lies on a towel and won’t budge, even when you wave hotdogs under his nose. I mean, not like I tried when my daughter wasn’t looking or anything. I was happy if my kids stayed in the backyard when the ice cream truck drove by. On the other hand, her dog will also rip your face off if she says the magic word, so, pros n cons.

Child Three and Child Two, my beautiful girls, lived together in a Shoe in Ramona this year. A sweet little penny loafer that they enjoyed but will give up in a couple of weeks for closer pasture and that makes my heart happy. Child Two is sneakily educating children through the use of science and creativity (ie: fun), both on the job and through personal tutoring, and may take her talents into the school district next year. So long as she avoids calculus, we can hang out.

Child One has been orbiting our universe for so long that we think of him like Santa Claus. Maybe he’s real. Maybe he’ll show up if we leave out cookies. He’s not a holiday human, which is okay, but if he decides to pay us a visit, just know that a trap has been laid and we are ready for “Operation Santa Snatch”.

Hubby built a wall this year. Out of eighty pound blocks of cement. Then he built a deck. Out of PVC planks that are fire-proof , termite-proof, water-proof, and walking-on proof. Don’t ask. Hubby thinks retirement sounds fabulous until it occurs to him that he will be subjected to my sarcasm 24/7 and then he goes to work whistling. Which makes him both strong and wise.

Who, me?

I’ve been very patient and responsible and went to writing classes for a year to learn how to write a novel. Now I have a novel but it has to be REWRITTEN and EDITED and subjected to further SCRUTINY before it’s allowed to be born and the temptation to go rogue and self publish exactly what I think about that is dancing through my head.

Ahem.

I love my actual job. I provided excellent service to my freelance clients this year and they let me make glorious words for them. They are the warm steady glow in an office filled with strobe lights and laser beams. And a chicken.

And a wardrobe with Narnia inside.

I sit in my closet, wardrobe thrown open wide, and magic pours out. With it, I spin the straw from my emptying nest into the gold of new dreams. And everything sort of sparkles.

Merry Christmas to each one of you, and a very Sparkly New 2020.

When Your Kids Ghost

In Southern California, October is Fire Season. It comes between School Season and Holiday Season, making it the barbecue sauce between two dry pieces of bread from which all your family dollars have been sucked. You can’t even afford a leaf of iceberg lettuce to cheer it up. Basically, the last three months of the year are like a saltine sprinkled with soot.

The multiple fires over the last couple of weeks have me on edge because I’ve got various children lying in their paths and when they bother to respond to my frantic texts, it’s to say, “Chill out mom. I’m fine.”

“Look out the window and tell me what you see!”

“A bunch of ash falling. No big deal.”

“According to the internet, you are in the evacuation zone. Pack your little bags and come stay with me until it’s over.”

“Mom. When pigs fly. Oh hey! Then it would rain bacon, right?”

This is no help at all. I started packing to evacuate on their behalf.

This is why families evolve from Halloween into Oktoberfest. The highlight of the month shifts from Butterfingers bars to beer. We went from sticking candy corn on our front teeth (you know who your are) to watching The Blob while rooting through a bag of mini-Snickers. Those things fly right under the diet radar.

I wandered from the bathroom to the basement, looking for what I will take with me when I go. In the process, I found these. Oh, the good ol’ days when I could make pigs fly.

They are cute little anarchists.

SuperGirl is super unimpressed.

Stinkerbell is also unimpressed.

Where to begin…

Ninja, cowboy, pediatrician, lion…

Red, Snow, Davy, Luke, gator, dragon…

Buzz, Woody, witch, cowboy, clown, pumpkin…

Can’t go wrong with a toga.

A cornfield…

Hope My Sweet Westley doesn’t get hungry.

Bride, clown, Jasmine…and Kung Fu Panda?

Phobias, Fears, and Flatulence

There are certain October activities that err on the side of dramatic. Anxious, shall we say. I know perfectly normal people who will give up their cold hard cash on purpose to get lost in a dark maze full of professional actors. A pumpkin is inadequate for their anxieties. They need chainsaws. Screaming. Running. And an exit sign.

My idea of a good October activity is to let the house go for the month. I have cobwebs in every corner, dead flies on the window sills, and dust an inch thick everywhere else. Squeaky doors, mysterious footprints down the hall, slimy potions in the fridge. I don’t like to brag, but I have a 3″ slug living in my shower right now. Some people pay good money for this level of authenticity.

But really, what is your idea of scary? What is your worst nightmare? Your darkest fear?

  1. Creepy Crawlers: spiders, mice, rats, bugs, snakes, cockroaches, worms
  2. Pokey Things: needles, vampires, , splinters, dentists, bees, ticks, Inigo Montoya
  3. Squishy Grossness: blood, vomit, gore, germs, full diapers, basically anything involving a toddler
  4. Big Booms: thunder, barking dogs, fireworks, Instant pots, stereo systems commandeered by your teenager
  5. Squeezy Spots: elevators, graveyards, cubicles, holes, slot canyons, Walmart on Black Friday
  6. Stranger Danger: clowns, aliens, mimes, every Disney character in a bobble-head costume even Winnie the Pooh
  7. Location-o-phobia: airplane, ocean, bridges, space, heights, shark-nados, onstage with Dr Phil
  8. Embarrassment: pushing the “Send” button too soon, raising your hand in a meeting, farting in yoga class

And what are your coping mechanisms?

If you’re afraid of the dark (achluophobia) and going to sleep (somniphobia) because there might be a monster under your bed (teraphobia) and the dust bunnies down there are just as scary (amathophobia), you should put the mattress flat on the floor. Where the dolls can find you (pediophobia).

PS: That doll thing is real. Ask me some day about my Grandma’s house.
PPS: And also my adult children just told me that watching Toy Story scarred them for life. Let’s add another phobia:

9. Badmomophobia: the reason your kids need therapy.

Mother’s Day Hotline 2018

Good morning, and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

Please listen carefully, as our menu has changed.

If you are currently considering becoming a mother, please press 1.

If you are pregnant and searching for baby names, please press 2.

If you are wondering what it’s like to give birth, please press 3.

If you have a newborn and wish it came with crib notes, please press 4.

If you are currently surrounded with toddlers, please press 5.

If you are mothering elementary school age children, please press 6.

If you have children in the middle school zone, please press 7.

If your teens have made a strike towards independence, please press 8.

If you are desperate for a “mom break” by now, please press 9.

If you are considering leaving them all behind and rejoining the work force, please press pound.

If your children are grown and flown from the nest, and you want to sob hysterically because it all went too fast, please press the star key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your toast and tea. See you again soon.

The 2017 Christmas Newsletter

Hello Friends and Family,

2017 has been an exciting year for our family! Let me catch you up!

Darling child number five is currently in the midst of basketball season, which you will always know by the fumes creeping out from under the laundry room door. He lives off of frozen pizza and tortilla chips, the building blocks of every athlete. Sometimes I nag him via text, and he will eat a fruit snack to step it up. Kid five is crushing Junior year and doing so without a girlfriend. Good job, kid five. Here’s a bacon bit.

Suave child four, owner of a quality high school education, master of sports and holder down of real live job, was denied access to his college of choice and retaliated by vowing to live at home and attend community college, laughing in the face of debt. He also laughs in the face of dirty dishes, overflowing trashcans and mountains of laundry in the hall, which isn’t funny, but is attentive and hardworking at his girlfriend’s family home where he does dishes and takes out trash which now that I think about it isn’t funny either, but what can you do? 

Exhausted kid three is, this very moment, writing the very last paper for the very last class that will finally allow her to very much graduate college. The one that let her in. And then never let her out. Because college is a racket and I refuse to give it the rant it deserves, just know that some things touted since preschool, much like Santa Claus, don’t deliver once you start adulting. Kid three is out of money, out of patience, out of ideas and definitely out of floor space.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Where was I?

Kid two. Go-gettin’ kid two lives across town with her Grammy and works with animals, tourists, and children. I’m not sure which of them gives her more grief on any given day, but she has the adulting thing down pretty well and went out and got herself a little Christmas tree and everything. Just because she travels the world at will does not mean that I am in any way jealous. I, too, have ridden a camel. Just not in Africa.

We have arrived at invisible kid one. Kid one moved to Los Angeles about three years ago to pursue his dream of not becoming a banker. He is busy exhausting every possible avenue that leads to earning an income with art. At the moment, he is becoming a tattoo master and costume designer. If I squint my eyes a little, I can see bankers with tats and some classy bit of leather swag mixed into their three-piece ensemble.

If I squint harder, I can even see kid one occasionally calling his mother.

As for the Hubby and I, we spent this busy year blinking hard as kids dashed to and fro in the earth and occasionally dashed ourselves, hoping to be mistaken for young free spirits. We juggled a lot of dirty dishes while juggling our day jobs. In December, we were blessed with new grand baby, Schubert.

He’s registered at Kahoots Pet Store in the tortoise department.

May your Holidays be Merry and Bright and may your New Year be filled with the delicious sparkle of fresh laundry on hangers.

The Mothers Day Hotline 2017

Good morning, and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

If you are waiting in bed for a tray of burnt toast, spilt juice, and a macaroni necklace, enjoy the following selections at leisure. Otherwise, please choose carefully.

If you are currently considering becoming a mother, please press 1.

If you are pregnant and searching for baby names, please press 2.

If you are wondering what it’s like to give birth, please press 3.

If you have a newborn and and need direction on what type of mommy to be, please press 4.

If you are currently surrounded with toddlers, please press 5.

If you are mothering elementary school age children, please press 6.

If you have children in the middle school zone, please press 7.

If your teens have made a strike towards independence, please press 8.

If you are desperate for a “mom break” by now, please press 9.

If you are considering leaving them all behind and rejoining the work force, please press pound.

If your children are grown and flown from the nest, and you want to sob hysterically because it all went too fast, please press the star key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your toast and tea. See you again next week.

Administrative Professionals Day

Today, April 26th, is Administrative Professionals Day, and apparently it comes around as a way for In-Desperate-Need-Of-Administration Professionals everywhere to thank the person who keeps their papers spinning.

That’s me. I keep millions of papers in several colors and sizes spinning like tops. My home office alone resembles the NASA Mission Control Center.

But I question this method of acknowledgement.

Once upon a time, all the secretaries got together and decided that, darn it all, they were under appreciated and underpaid, overlooked and overbooked, and needed something else on their jam-packed calendars to fix it.

“Make a note of it,” they said.

Tappity tap, tap…I’m sure men know how to type too, yes?

And they did.

They made up Mother’s Day, Women’s Day, and National Dadgum That’s a Good Day, Day (March 1st). There’s Be Heard Day, Receptionist’s Day, Women’s Checkup Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day, and No Dirty Dishes Day.

This is just a drop in the waterfall of are-you-kidding-me national days.

Only a handful of these “Days” stick to my calendar, and today’s is just vague enough to make me wonder several things:

  1. What qualifies someone as an Administrative Professional?
  2. Who are the non-Administrative Professionals that are supposed to wish you well?
  3. What are their motives for doing so?
  4. Is the well-wishing preceded with “Happy”, “Merry”, or “I need this in today’s mail”?

My research (qualification #1) led me to the greeting card aisle of Target. If there’s one thing Target knows is their shoppers, and sure enough, they were prepared for our imminent need.

Target for the win.

Behold the end cap.

It’s clear that 10 out of 18 Admin Professionals are female (qualification #2). One out of 18 are multilingual. One is an animal-lover. Or thinks everyone else in the office are animals. Four out of 18 have no idea whether they qualify as Admin, and so will take what they can get.

Admin Professionals drink coffee and tea (qualification #3). They make a difference. Their job involves phones, books, clocks, and typing. They require a written “Thank You” once a year for their efforts. They don’t mind feeling patronized instead of professional.

And they can’t mind if you screw up the exact date, because Target has nicely advertised it as a whole week which gives others several opportunities to get it right because we all know who normally is in charge of getting cards out on time.

Who made this??

This one slays me. I am so offended by this bathroom door symbol. If this is the card you reached for when you thought of me, I quit. All 1% of you had better run and hide. These stupid stereotypes exist because you bought into it.

I want just one card that shows a manly man with a dark tie and a beard, sitting at a desk typing away with a real slogan hanging on the wall…Going Commando to Cover Your Butt.

Office Ninja. I could Take you all Down with a Click of my Mouse…

Payroll…Just Do It

Letting Concerned Citizens Scream into my Ear Because I like Money

Boss’s Day is coming up.

What goes around, comes around, and saying “Thank you” is always a good idea.

Flowers and cards and snacks are nice, and the mailroom guy would like some too, by the way. I think he stands with me on the obvious: a Professional is anyone who brings their job up the notch that turns it into a career.

If you’re a street sweeper, be the best darn street sweeper anyone has ever seen.

Here’s to the broom pushers and the paper pushers alike, you have my solid respect every day of the year.

The Fab Five of 2016

Good morning intrepid readers!

I don’t know about you, but my life contained some serious plot twists and character reveals in 2016. All of them are gifts of course, although sometimes it’s wise to wait before passing judgement on their value.

The first blog post I want to send you to, then, isn’t one of mine, but explains the concept of looking for the gift, even when it makes no sense for you to do so. Attitude is everything.

I have been opening my gifts this year as quickly as possible which makes it very hard to find the keyboard. A year starting with the usual kids, house and Hubby ended with teaching and schooling and a full-time job. I have used a shovel now and then.

And here I am, wrapping up the last gift of the year for you, with a large silk garden-green ribbon: our third year of blogging.

I am so very honored and thankful that you stuck it out with me.

I wonder sometimes, how I did it, or when….

And then I scroll through social media and wonder how you are finding five minutes for us, either.

I’m guessing that together we are awesome. Together, we make this blog work.

Here are the Top Five Fabulous Favorite Blogs of 2016 that we made possible. Enjoy them with some cookies and tea. Afterwards, I’ll tell you what I have in mind for next year.

Number 5: Nobody Panic is basically about the surrender that comes with parenthood. I never knew those two words went together.

Number 4: Okay, yes, my 30th High School Reunion was given a post (Dear Class of 1986) and a sequel (Party Like It’s 1986) and you had to be there to decide which was better.

Number 3: The Painful Edgy Stuff was written to my friends carrying heavy loads.

Number 2: When You Can’t Go to the Mountain was a reflection on making space to breathe in the presence of God each day.

Number 1: The Jello Mold was ridiculously popular. I would like to meet everyone else who flunked out of marriage counseling. We could go line-dancing instead. It’s easier and everyone ends up smiling.

2017 ushers in a completely new set of issues, explaining why life as a Stay-At-Home-Mom and life as a Full-Time-Job-in-a-Clean-Shirt-Mom are both radically different and scarily similar.

I want to talk to you about mason jars.

If you have been peeking through my Pinterest here (just click on the box to the right), you know that mason jars are not for crafting. They are survival tools at the top of the list next to duct tape.

So Pinterest stays, Instagram doesn’t. I just can’t, fellow moms. My Facebook is a necessary evil because it’s where most of you read my blog, although if you signed on as Subscribers it would look so much better in my stats...wink, wink. Think of it like a candy dispenser. Every week you get a new flavor in your mailbox.

The goal is to invite another 100 Subscribers to our Tuesday morning tea parties, and the blog is where I’m staying. If you haven’t Subscribed here yet, please consider it. If you have, please consider inviting a friend of yours to join us. Then you two can talk about me behind my back. Or on Instagram. Or wherever.

I will never know.

I will be busy doing laundry.

I washed Kid #5’s cell phone last week.

Because, how I do laundry is now a philosophy that I have extended into almost every facet of my day: scoop it in, slam the door, push the button, feel accomplished.

May the gifts in your New Year be both overflowing and aromatic, and may you have a shovel to meet them with.

 

When You Can’t Go to the Mountain

I was supposed to be in Idyllwild today.

All week, actually.

Every year for a million years, even before we were married, Hubby and I were attending the Bible School up there in July.

Most of the fam is up there right now, and I can tell you – without any peeking online whatsoever – what their cabins look like and where they sat in the dining hall and exactly how they will saunter from the general assembly in a half hour from now and head over to Gilboa hall for classes.

The visions of those “left behind” at the rapture and those cast onto a desert island (or a ferry dock) as the party boat sails away without them and others who have walked into the ice cream shop only to discover that their favorite flavor was sold out only moments before…are nothing quite this startling.

Alas, unlike stay-at-home moms, humble servants of the public can’t gallop off into the woods at will.

It’s different.

And so, I sit at the keyboard wondering how, in the first time since never, you bring the mountain to yourself, instead.

The atmosphere there is crisp in the morning, as you sip coffee and the pines streak early sunshine from Tahquitz. So I sat on my deck and sipped tea and admired the sun streaks in our oaks.

The rabbits look the same.

Then they do the daily readings and I’d make a note here or there for pondering later and after announcements, we’d all settle in for morning classes.

So I read this morning, enjoying years of notes, laughing at my twenty-year-old so very naive ones, and follow them along as they grew in understanding, things erased and clarified and re-connected into the bigger fabric of this message of life and love and redemptive glory.

I play in my treasure chest a while and humming, rise to put my house in order for the day.

This God we worship, He is here.

He is there, too.

He is wherever you stand, sharing this moment with me; there is nowhere that He is not.

The difference then, might be the putting aside of everything in order to spiritually feast.

It’s arranging your life in order to leave it, to wander a mountaintop with a huge family reunion, and just breathe Him in.

It’s a deliberate focus.

Up the mountain and down the mountain is like comparing Thanksgiving to plain old dinner.

The yearly gathering ends with a deep satisfaction, tempered with sadness that it’s over.

But – big surprise – my kids are still hungry the next day. For that kind of effort, it should feed us for at least half a year, right? Nope.

We pray for our “daily bread”.

We ask, standing next to Daniel who would never see his mountain again, for just bread and water. For enough.

“Whether I am on the Mountain or at the office, I have learned in whatsoever state I am to be content,” says paraphrased Paul.

So I think, as the party boat sails away, that being on a desert island once in a while can have it’s benefits, if only to prove that the humble daily dinner can become a feast with proper intentions.

Two things occur to me.

  1. There is more food available than a king’s table could hold, right here on the empty beach.
  2. I am not alone.

When you take the thing you wanted, the thing that was outside of you, that you could see and touch and want, and put the thing inside of you, you become the thing.

Are you what you eat? Education and opinions and disciplines and whatever it is that you decided was worth swallowing are continually changing the landscape of who you are.

His days are full of every element of Thanksgiving, should we choose to act like it.

This week can hold every element of the Mountain, should I choose to act like it.

It’s a deliberate focus in much smaller bites.

So I will connect with others that feel “left behind” and remind them that we are, indeed, also part of the Mountain, wherever we stand right now.

I will have meals with them and we will admire the gifts in our treasure chests and skip the elaborate planning and leave satisfied. Sufficient for the day.

The party boat is inside of me.

The Mountain is inside of me.

I will deliberately make space for study and I will deliberately make space for family reunion and I will deliberately make space for holding still and just breathing Him in.

Here.

Today.

And I am grateful.

Idyllwild Pines