I love psychics. I believe that some people have extra-sensory gifts, and as long as you approach a psychic’s services from a perspective grounded in both entertainment and open-mindedness, then the experience can be fun, enlightening, and depending on the depth of their gift, sometimes very emotional. I’ve done various readings with different psychics over the years, just for fun, and the majority of them have absolutely blown me away with their accuracy and insight. Only one or two were completely off the mark, but all the others left me with a feeling of absolute wonderment and fascination with how well they were able to read me, and also the extent of their gifts.
I haven’t had a reading in years, and there’s a psychic in my neighborhood just a few blocks from my house. Most of the psychics I’ve known don’t have store fronts. They mostly operate and advertise their services by word of mouth and through referrals. But I drive by this building, with it’s neon Open sign always bright and flashing, no matter the time of day or night, at least three or four times a week. And I always think, they can’t always be open. And every time I drive by I think about stopping and going inside. I’ve been meaning to do it for years, ever since we moved to this neighborhood. So, if I calculate the numbers, I’ve had this thought at least three times a week, 52 weeks a year, for six years. That’s 936 times I’ve thought about going in to see this psychic!
And then every time I drive by, I imagine that this person is sitting inside this building and thinking, “There she goes again.” And when I do finally decide to stop in, I imagine this person saying to me, “Yes Wanda, we are always open, and it’s about fucking time.”
It’s Saturday at midnight in the bar and I’m out with the girls enjoying a 90’s cover band and some ice-cold beer. The 90’s is my favorite decade, and every song brings back memories of high school and college, in such a good way. I felt nineteen again, and although I wasn’t drunk on alcohol, I was definitely drunk on memories and music.
You know that feeling, when all your favorite tunes are being played and your body has an almost involuntary reaction. It becomes this sort of instinct and rhythm combined. My nineteen year-old self was really into rock music. Imagine some air guitar, arms in the air, hair being thrown in every direction, and a complete and total disregard for the other bar patrons around me, other than my friends. It was just me, the band, my girls and the music.
Now picture a middle-aged woman, married with two kids, who drives the weekly car pool and volunteers in the PTA, throwing her long hair and rocking out to Alice In Chains, Metallica and Nirvana. The dance floor wasn’t overly full, so I stood out. I think at one point I might have screamed, “I’m with the band!” Except, I’m not with the band.
It was so fun, and in the moment I had no regrets. It was a great night. I mean seriously, when anyone plays Enter Sandman by Metallica, you throw your hair to that shit. It’s just how it’s done. I think the point where I really peaked and just let my shit go all over the dance floor was when the band played Man in the Box, by Alice In Chains. One of my favorite songs, and when I became aware of my environment toward the end of the song, there were a few dudes thrashing next to me, so I guess it was good.
Except, in the light of day, when I woke up with a very stiff neck and a screaming headache, I had a moment of thought that said, you-are-too-fucking-old-to-act-like-you-belong-in-a- White-Snake-video-and-oh-my-God-you-are-such-an-asshole! I woke up embarrassed. I know we all like to pretend that we don’t care what other people think, but the truth for most of us is that to a small degree, we do.
I’m a person who typically embraces the immediacy of a good time and enjoys being in the moment with my friends. We’ve been at weddings where Dan and I are the only ones on the dance floor, while the other couples are engaged in far more dignified conversation and interactions. Not shaking their asses to Baby Got Back. I always look back later and self-consciously think, damn, did we take that one too far? Shouldn’t we be past this sort of behavior yet? So Sunday morning, as I reviewed the events of the previous night, I thought to my self, are you honestly going to be the crazy lady that loses her shit every time someone plays some AC/DC?
Fast forward a few hours, and Dan and I are in attendance at a lovely baby shower/brunch for our dear friends who will soon welcome twin boys into the world. After a brief cocktail hour, where a few mimosa’s were going a long way to soothe my misplaced embarrassment, the father-to-be takes up the microphone and begins to welcome his family and friends to this celebration of babies, and also discuss some important events of the past nine months. He said shortly after they discovered they were pregnant, he received a call from his doctor and learned he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
He said he spoke with one doctor who gave him “good odds” with a 60% chance of survivability. He decided that wasn’t good enough, so he fired that doctor and got another one who told him with 100% certainty that he would live through this cancer. That he could beat it. And he did. Over the past nine months, he fought his cancer while his beautiful wife managed a complicated pregnancy with unbelievable grace and strength. They kept the cancer diagnosis to themselves, for the most part, telling only a few people. Dan and I found out about a week ago, after he finished his last chemo and was able to share the good news with everyone that he was cancer free. We were all so grateful for his outcome, and we celebrated his health as much as we celebrated the babies!
A short while later there was a moment during the party and the DJ was playing some great dance music. There wasn’t a dance floor, just good music playing to keep the party lively. Dan and I were sitting by the bar and the father-to-be, along with another friend began an impromptu dance-off in the space next to us. Then the grand-father joined in, and these three grown men began taking it to town in front of everyone. It was crazy and awesome and hilarious and I started to cry a little. I was actually laughing first, and then found the emotion behind the laughter.
Here he is, grateful to be alive, lucky to have two beautiful babies on the way, and he wasn’t embarrassed by his super sweet dance moves. He wasn’t concerned about what anyone thought of him, or whether or not he looked silly. All three men were simply enjoying the moment, making the most of the mood and the occasion and the love. It was quite simply the most amazing celebration of life I’ve seen in a long time.
I found my perspective and some unnecessary but welcome validation in that moment. The truth is that I AM the mom and friend who will dance in the bar, or in my living room with my kids. I AM the person who sings at the top of my lungs when the song is good and the company is better. I AM the person who isn’t afraid to live in the moment and doesn’t care what strangers think because my life is not about them or what they may or may not think of my Saturday night amateur rock show performance. I’m done feeling insecure about this, and as we all know, insecurity is an asshole, and we do not choose to be friends with assholes!
So when I ask myself if I’m really going to be that middle-aged mom who loses my shit every time my jam comes on?
Well, this isn’t me, but you get the idea!
Today is my birthday!
I’m 42 today. I just need to say it out loud and embrace the hell out of it!
The day started amazing. Dan got the kids up early and they were all ready and waiting to celebrate the morning with me before school. I had my coffee and opened some very thoughtful gifts from my kids and husband. We got the kids off to school and I sat down to work on my blog, while receiving several phone calls from family and friends.
I’m a lucky girl.
I then met Dan at one of our favorite local Mexican restaurants for lunch. We had an awesome meal, and although he had to get back to work, neither of us really wanted lunch to end. We really enjoy each other’s company, and today was one of those days that just felt perfect, in the moment.
I’m a lucky girl.
We said good-bye and I walked to my car. I climbed in, closed the door and looked at my phone to answer a text message. Suddenly, my entire car was shoved up and lifted forward, then to the right. It was a hard slam and I was bounced in my seat as the car settled. Somewhat stunned, I got out of the car and saw another car slowly driving away. The driver seemed to stop, then started driving like they planned to leave, then stopped again. The driver backed up, then pulled into a parking spot.
Dan was immediately out of his car and walking toward the other driver. It was a woman in her 60’s and she appeared to be experiencing symptoms of a stroke. She said she lost sight in her left eye right before she hit me. Another witness said she hit some private property at their store the next parking lot over. Dan called the paramedics and the police, and the entire experience of processing the accident began. The woman was taken away in an ambulance and Dan and I were left to deal with the mangled mess that was the back of my car.
This is the first accident I’ve ever experienced in one of my own vehicles since I got my driver’s license at 16. As I was speaking to the police officer, answering his questions, several things became clear to me. I was parked. I was safely inside the vehicle when she hit me, when ten seconds before I was standing at the back of my car. I wasn’t injured. The air bag didn’t deploy, which would have punched me right in the face, and could have potentially broken my nose, as they often do. I have insurance. It’s just a car. No one else was hurt, and she didn’t hit any pedestrians as she was careening toward my vehicle. Again, I wasn’t hurt, and it’s just a car.
I’m a lucky girl.
It’s the little things. It’s perspective. My kids could have been with me, and they weren’t. I don’t take this life Dan and I have created together for granted. Again, it’s the little things.
I’m a lucky girl, and I know it. 🙂
This is the conversation I just had with my son, Bryce (age 6).
Bryce: Mom, I love this rock! (It’s a plain river rock.) Can I carry it with me everywhere? Even on vacation?
Me: Sure. You really seem to love rocks. Maybe you’ll be a geologist when you grow up. (Case in point, I fished three rocks out of my washing machine this morning, because he picks them up everywhere he goes and leaves them in his pockets. One of them wasn’t even a rock, it was a broken bit of concrete.)
Bryce: What’s a geologist?
Me: A scientist who studies rocks.
Bryce: Oh, cool. But can I also still be a secret agent?
Me: Sure, buddy. You can do both.
Kids are awesome. 🙂
The summer has flown by, as I knew it would, and as I predicted, I only got about three posts up all summer. Figures.
But life continues to be busy. Since I got home from my grandparent’s house at the end of July, I hosted my college roommate and her family for a few days, was sick for two weeks with a nasty virus that closely resembled strep throat, threw a birthday party for my son and twenty of his closest six-year old friends, and got both of my kids back to school. So yeah, life and children continue to dominate my time and attention. Blogging has been on the back burner for a long time, and I’m hoping now that I have both of my kids in school full-time that I’ll have more time and attention for both myself and all of you.
Being sick for two weeks wasn’t fun. I went to the doctor about five days into it and she ran all the typical tests to rule out bacterial infections. It felt like my head was going to explode, and every time I swallowed it felt like my eardrums were bursting and I was trying to swallow crushed glass. Fever, fatigue, and all the glamorous parts of feeling like total shit. My husband had to be out-of-town for work for several days, so taking care of the house, kids, and all the pets when all you want to do is lay down and die was no picnic. Unfortunately, the doc couldn’t give me any drugs because it was a viral infection, and it took a solid two weeks before I felt human again. To add insult to injury, going to the doctor in the first place is always such a mind-fuck. I already felt like shit, and have you ever noticed that going to the doctor makes you fat? Seriously. I walk in and immediately feel like I’ve gained ten pounds. Then the nurse puts you on the scale and you realize that in the two hours since you got dressed and hauled your sick-ass to the clinic, you really must have gained ten pounds because their ancient scale, that must be counter-balanced with massive invisible boulders, says so. Why don’t doctors use modern digital scales that will weigh me the same as when I’m at home? And now that I feel like a sick, ginormous, fat cow, I have to sit, forever, in the little room and wait. And there’s a mirror in there that is now confirming what the scale said. Somehow my face looks heavier. My ass seems to be climbing up my back and my muffin top is more muffin-y. And now I want to cry because my throat hurts, my ears hurt, I can’t get any meds, and just walking in the door made me feel like Martha Dump Truck.
Damn, I’m glad that’s over.
My son’s birthday party was fun, and humiliating. But I found my self-respect at the top of a bounce house, so that was an unexpected bonus. We had the party at Pump It Up. If you’re unfamiliar with the Pump It Up franchise, it’s basically a party venue with giant inflatables. Each room is a massive, two-story room with multiple indoor inflatables, like bounce houses, obstacle courses, rock climbing walls, and things like that. We had the Glow Party, which is like a super cool rave for kids with music and glow in the dark everything. I had promised my daughter that I would do some of the inflatables with her because as the big sister, she was the oldest kid at the party and didn’t really want to hang with the six-year olds. Thank God it was dark in there. I was a little dressed up for the party and my nice jeans were somewhat confining. Also, you have to wear socks in these things, and I quickly realized that with
socks on it’s hard to get any grip on the structure with your feet. So, I was attempting to climb this two-story monstrosity that was part rock climbing wall and part slide in tight jeans and slippery socks. You see where I’m going with this? You had to put your feet on these small squares and then use alternating tether straps for your hands to climb up. Well, the tiny-made-for-five-year-old-feet squares would collapse under you if you didn’t move fast enough. Half-way up there was this ledge you had to get over, and then another ledge all the way at the top. I fell trying to get over the first ledge. Kids were flying past me and laughing as I flailed and dangled by the tether straps. Did I mention it was also pretty steep? And also that I’m not a ten-year old? Anyway, I dug deep and hauled myself to the top, and as I was struggling to get over the second ledge, and considering saying fuck it and just letting go, my son’s friend from his class was sitting at the top of the ledge, and she was watching me as I hung on the tethers. She’s an adorable little girl and she says, “Keep going Mrs. B! You can do it!” Sweet Jesus. How do I fail in front of her now? I couldn’t, and it was ugly, and I’m glad it was dark in that room, but I managed to get my fat ass over that ledge and to the top. I was sweating and tired, and when I went down the slide it was so steep and fast it actually launched me out of the shoot and I landed in a heap in front of several parents watching from below. There was no way to play it cool, so I laid there like a lump, catching my breath. Thankfully, several parents said how impressed they were that I even attempted to get to the top, so at least I got some street cred out of it. Or they were just trying to make me feel better. Either way, only one other parent attempted the same structure and made it to the top, so that makes me one of the cool moms.
My kids went back to school on August 31st, so I had three days last week of blissful alone time. I’ve never had that, and I savored it. I read several of your blogs, did some housework, ran errands without children, and met friends for lunch. It was heaven. I’m really looking forward to this school year. And for the first time since my oldest daughter started school eight years ago, I didn’t cry at drop off on the first day. I fucking celebrated and went out for sushi!
Life is good, people. Life is Good!!!!!!
At least that’s what my 95-year-old Nanny (grandmother) tells me, and after spending a little over a week with her in Illinois last week, I would whole-heartedly agree with her.
My daughter Bryn was going on vacation with her grandparents, so I flew her to St. Louis from LA, handed her off to her grandparents who were driving to Florida for a week of fun in the sun, and then drove the three hours north to my grandmother’s house in Bloomington, IL.
Upon my arrival, my grandmother burst into tears and announced how happy she was to see me. I had just been to visit her the month before as part of our annual summer vacation, but sadly, at 95 years of age her memory is not what it used to be. Although it had only been a month, she was unable to recall my previous visit. This always breaks my heart. She will say things like, “No one ever comes to visit me.” I gently remind her that I see her every summer, and although she believes me, her reality is such that she cannot remember the visits, so for her it’s like it never happened.
While my Nanny is very healthy physically, her memory loss and diminished capacity for independence grates on her self-esteem. She hates that she can no longer stand at the stove and prepare full meals or bake the delicious cakes and desserts she always enjoyed having in the house. Every time I came to visit she always had a cake, pie, or some amazing sugar creation waiting for whatever company happened to stop by. She was always prepared for company. Now, she is still able to care for her own physical needs, prepare light meals like sandwiches, and also do some very light housekeeping, but for the most part her recliner in the living room occupies most of her attention these days.
My Nanny is 95 and my grandfather turns 97 this week. They don’t have computers, internet, Wi-Fi, or even a DVD player. They have cable TV, but that’s about it for modern technology. Their day consists of rolling out of bed around 9am, and sitting in their chairs in the living room all day long, watching baseball, Mass, Fox News, and AMC movie classics. That’s it. I imagine I will find that life pretty enjoyable if I make it to their advanced age, however, for a 41 year old active woman, it was enough to make me want to throw myself from a cliff.
I wanted to spend quality time with them, so that meant sitting with them in the living room. For hours. Every day. For nine days. Watching Fox News. And Lawrence Welk. For the love of God, Lawrence Welk. Watching her sing along to songs she has known for fifty years was heartening, but it was also like nails on a chalkboard. My grandmother sings beautifully, and it made me happy to see her happy, but an hour of Lawrence Welk is enough to make me want to grind my ears through a pencil sharpener. Now imagine a week of that. (If you are reading this and you don’t know who Lawrence Welk is, google it. Right now. Then drink a bottle of wine and thank your lucky stars you weren’t me last week.) I used to watch it with her when I was in college, just because it made her happy. I did the same thing this week, just to make her happy. Damn, I’m a really good granddaughter. One night I came upstairs to find them watching AMC Classics, and Animal House was on. OMG! Talk about awkward! But I sat through the movie because it was two hours of something funny and relative to my age group. At the end, my Nanny declared it to be “junk” and she stated that if people actually thought this movie was good, then she held little hope for the future of our country. I informed her that Animal House is a cult classic and almost everyone loves this movie. She was thoroughly disgusted with humanity and went to bed.
Oh, and did I mention that many people tend to lose their filter when they hit advanced ages? Well, my Nanny is no different. This is a Christian Catholic woman who took her responsibility as a Christian seriously, and my whole life she refrained from talking trash about others because she felt it was a horrible sin. However, that is no longer the case. She has become brutally honest and says whatever pops into her head. For example, among other shocking statements, she told me one day that I was the fattest she had ever seen me, and what the hell did I think I was doing letting my body go to shit like that. I’m totally serious, and this is a woman who never cussed. I reminded her that I’m not 25 anymore, I’m almost 42 years old and I usually work out 3-4 days per week. She said, “Well, whatever you’re doing, it’s not working for you.” One day I came upstairs wearing fashionably distressed jeans. She said, “Are those the best clothes your husband can afford to buy for you?” So I said, “Yes Nanny, and can you believe I bought these jeans with the patches already sewed into them?” She rolled her eyes in disgust. I winked at her. We both laughed.
Due to her memory loss, we also had many repeated conversations. She would ask me the same questions every few minutes, and I would give her the same answer, every time she asked. We did this every day. Several hours per day. I was kind to her. I was gentle. I tried to remind her that she was still pretty and valuable. Whenever I told her she was beautiful, she would say, “Yeah, pretty ugly, and pretty apt to stay that way.” I’m laughing as I type this because her sense of humor is awesome.
I had to leave the house for a little while each day to maintain my sanity. I found myself falling asleep on the couch with them at 6:30pm. I was sleeping until 9am in the morning. I was becoming an old person. One day I looked at my VivoFit and saw that in the entire day, I had only walked 892 steps. In a whole day! The next day I went for a four mile walk just to combat the sedentary inclination. I also went to the local campus, Illinois State University, my alma mater, and walked the quad. It felt good to see the buildings, the new renovations and the efforts made to beautify and modernize the campus. I found myself thinking, “Damn, I went to a nice school.” I relived a lot of great memories that day and refreshed my old lady soul.
One day, Nanny let me take her for a drive. She was alive with excitement driving around this town where she had spent her entire life. She was seeing old and new buildings, construction and modern architecture, as if she were a young child in a new and enchanting land. She was filled with memories and emotion as we drove past homes where she lived as a young woman with my grandfather, and cried when she observed new buildings where her old favorites no longer existed. She lamented the time when she also would no longer exist, torn down and forgotten like an old, worn out building.
The day I left we said a tearful good-bye. We are both painfully aware that at the end of each visit there is a very real possibility that it will be our last. Before I left she looked at me and said, “You know I may not remember you at all next year.” I held back my tears and said, “Yes, but I will remember you.” And I drove away watching her in my side mirror as she stood in the driveway, beautiful and proud, with her hand raised in the air. As she always does when I leave her.
So yes, whether you are 41 or 95, getting old is most definitely not for sissies.