Tag Archives: change

The Apple and The Tree

There was zero chance that this week would go smoothly for Carlos. Too much change happening at once. He’s moving up and moving on from the school he has attended since he was 3 months old. He started off cranky today and it went downhill from there.

And if I’m being honest, I’m having some trouble with my feelings, too. Neither of us handles change very easily. Each time he has moved rooms–from babies to crawlers to walkers to twos to big kids–my heart has clenched up in fear that he’s going to hit a bad spot and fail to thrive.

He’s reached the end of the hallway–his time at this school is ending. It really hit me yesterday. The teachers are switching out the door decorations and the displays in the hall. Time for a “back to school” theme with a tree and a basket of apples under the tree, with each kid’s name done in glitter on the construction paper apple. Carlos’ apple was tucked in his cubby, brand new and never to be hung on the wall.


He’s switching all the way to pre-K. We both are. I’m going to miss these kids so much. There’s Addy, who has been my friend since the day I saw her through her tears. There’s Sid, the Christmas Kid. Maggie who gives me hugs every day. Patrick and William and Magnus and Jonathan and Crawford–a pack of little blond boys who are hard to tell apart. Bailey and Emmie and Arly and Alya, who all want to be Elsa. Charlie, who reports to me every day whether Carlos has behaved himself.

Carlos and I were both out of sorts today when we arrived. I think it showed, because when Addy turned to wave at me, she said, “Hi! Your hair looks pretty today! Hi! You look pretty! Hi!”

The kids were coloring starfish and shells, ready to make a sandy scene on some ocean blue paper. Except for Carlos. He yelled and curled into a ball. The noise startled him and I think he was mad that it wasn’t outside time. I tried to cajole him, convince him, persuade him to sit in his seat at the lady bug table and participate. He wasn’t having it. I rubbed his back while he flopped on the circle rug. I followed him to the trucks center and told him to join the group. Nope. Not happening. No way.

So I detached from the struggle and sat my own butt down in his tiny blue chair at the lady bug table. I handed out crayons and marveled over the lovely coloring that each child had done. Tiny, dark-eyed Alya showed me her careful purple starfish. I told her that purple is one of my favorite colors. Carlos came over to see what we were doing, but yelled when I spoke to him. I sighed and shook my head.

Alya caught my eye and said, “Carlos is being…very Carlosy today.”

Yes, yes he is. This class of kids is used to seeing my kid pitch a fit, throw a tantrum, melt it down. I’m sure some of them will be relieved that his noise will be somewhere else.

But he’s doing his best. He’s just…Carlosy. Thank you, tiny girl, for reminding me to see my son for himself. He’s being Carlosy and I was being too Ashleyish to remember that. Poor kid has A LOT going on. End of summer, linguistic leaps, new school, friends leaving. He’s still learning how to navigate the world of groups and sometimes coloring is just too much to ask.

We’ll get used to a new classroom and a new routine. I’ll make some friends among the new kids in pre-K and Carlos will too. We’ll both probably kick and fuss a bit and express our anxiety in different ways, but we’ll figure it out. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


No Milk, Two Sugars

coffee-239716_1280The other day, I came back from lunch and I stopped into Nicole’s office to tell her that I had run into one of the Big Bosses on the stairs and had asked him about a situation that needed clearing up.

She stared at my boobs. Well, boob. The right one, to be exact.

“You talked to him just now?”


Then she burst out laughing and pointed to my chest. I looked down to discover that my sweaty drink cup, which I had brought back from lunch, had brushed up against my red shirt and left a giant nipple-sized wet spot right on the bullseye. Nice.

No wonder that dude was so agreeable. I should have asked about the capital budget.

I laughed it off, but it did remind me of the days when I was nursing my babies or pumping at work and those kinds of mishaps were a real thing to think about.

And today, my friend Janelle from Renegade Mothering shared a picture of her cute new haircut and had to add, “Don’t mind the naked breastfeeding picture. I was stuck.” The curve of her sweet baby’s head in the corner of the picture took me back to those days of being stuck. The very best kind of stuck, when I spent hours in a rocking chair with my baby and a book. Lying curled together on the bed in the small hours of the night. A time when my #1 responsibility was sitting still and helping someone else grow. Those were the good old days.

I’m not trying to start a debate about breast feeding over formula. Or next to formula or after or behind or whatever. Vivi nursed until the week before her second birthday and it was a wonderful time in my life. Carlos weaned himself after 15 months. I was sad then because I knew it would be the last time that I would sit so still while helping someone grow.

Today, I was thinking about all this as Carlos and I walked in the house after school. My hand brushed the top of his head as he sailed past me and I said, “My sugar.”

That’s how I’ll take this next part of mothering–no milk, two sugars.


Sunday Sweetness–Your Wings

There are going to be times when the place where you were resting safely falls away beneath you.  Your job disappears in a reduction in force.  He comes home late from work with lipstick on the collar.  The doctor calls you personally with some odd test results.  You hear, “We did everything we could…”  

Or it just dissolves.  One day the branch is there and the next day it’s not.  Gone.

Those moments are going to happen.  But your wings will be there in that same moment.  


Now I’m Leaving Normal, Headed Who Knows Where

If I’ve been kind of quiet for a few days, it’s because I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve been sick with that Creeping Crud for 3 weeks.  Even with the Mucinex, VapoRub, Sudafed, neti pot, chamomile tea, Breathe Right strips, humidifier–I still can’t breathe, can’t talk, can’t sleep.  And my physical weakness coincided with the demands of kids being out of school, the holiday bustle, and G being sick as well.  I feel like I’ve been staring at the wall for a month.  Somebody call me a wahhhhmbulance.

Even when I could drag myself in to work, it was different too.  Four dear friends are gone from the group of eight who had Christmas lunch last year–two out of jobs, one consumed by a huge project, and one off to Chile for five months.   So much work to do, and not as many co-conspirators.  Harumph.

Chaos rules the house.  The decorations need to go back up in the attic but I hate to say goodbye when it feels like I just got them all up.  There are the broken ornaments that need to be glued back together–the gumdrop ball that Carlos tried to eat, the seal from Bar Harbor that lost a flipper, the pink baby shoe that shattered.  And the presents still need to be put away!  The cookies seem to be the only things getting put away in a timely fashion.  Blargh.

My children change so quickly that I wonder who I’ll meet every morning when it’s time to wake them up.  Sometimes it’s good change–like when Carlos was pushing his Jeep up the driveway the other day and turned around to wave, blow me a kiss like usual, then he added, “I love you!” for the first time.  Sweetness.  Sometimes the change is more ominous–like last night when I told Vivi to pick up the scraps of paper from her snowflake craft project and she gave me a massive eye roll.  Perhaps it’s her first, but I know it won’t be her last.  When I called her on it, she explained with her best first-grade logic that she was just exercising her eyes in a completely neutral way and I happened to interrupt her right in the middle of it.  Uh huh.

And writing.  It’s supposed to be my happy place but I’m overthinking it.  Freezing up, like the weather outside.  I wrote a spot-on piece about living in the moment for New Year’s Eve (There Is This) and ever since then I’ve been afraid to write anything else because I keep looking over my shoulder to admire that piece about…not looking over my shoulder.  Duh.

So to recap:  Waaaaah.  Harumph.  Blargh.  Uh Huh.  Duh.  Where is my NORMAL???

I guess the lesson we all learn if we get to grow up is that we can sit around crying for normal or we can live the day we’re handed, no matter how lumpy or strange or viscous it might be.  I made a decision yesterday to shake myself out of the rut and within an hour, this verse from a Cowboy Junkies song popped into my head:

 “Leaving Normal”

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the high plains of Expectation
And I’m way past the lowlands and the deserts of Failure and Doubt
And the last time I passed through Satisfaction
I felt like a stranger there
Now I’m leaving Normal and I’m heading for who knows where…

Yeah, I don’t hang out on the high plains of Expectation any more–I am generally happy in this place and don’t need Fabulous.  And I have made it out of the deserts of Failure and Doubt…most days.  But Satisfaction?  I should buy a little vacation house there, meet some of the locals.  And the only building in Normal is a bus station to get you out of there.

In the song, the woman continues on a Greyhound bus, headed who knows where and she’s POSITIVE about it.  Leaving Normal is moving on. Onward and upward.  I’m trying to follow that advice, so here are the things I’ve done to kick my own ass today:

1.  I signed myself up for this weekly lesson on writing by Alice Bradley, delivered right to my Inbox so I can get better at the craft of writing.  I am going to be less afraid of writing, especially when I do it well.

writing class

2.  I signed myself up for WoW Boot Camp, the fitness program that I loved for two years and I’ve missed for three years.  I am going to feel strong again.

boot camp

3.  I talked to my friend Betsy the nurse practitioner about this Crud and she suggested a steroid for the bronchial inflammation.  So by Monday, I should look like this:

woman on steroids

I took a few actions.  Pity Party CANCELLED.  Honestly, I have better things to do.

And what do you know?  Those friends that I’ve been missing so much?  We got together for our regularly scheduled Friday lunch and who should come walking in but our world traveler!  Erica is home and the sky is looking bluer already.  Hooray!  Salsa verde and hugs all around.  


Here’s Margo Timmins singing “Leaving Normal” if you’d like to hear her belt it out.  I would pay money to listen to her read the phone book.  One day I’ll tell you about the time I rode a train across Canada with the Cowboy Junkies and Margo and I talked about her dog eating rocks.  Dang, I think with that one sentence, I’m starting to sound like myself again!

A Ritual for the New Year

burn the past

I’ve grown up with many traditions related to welcoming in the new year.  It’s best to eat black eyed peas and turnip greens for money and luck.  I wouldn’t think of doing laundry on New Year’s Day so I don’t wash someone out of my life.  Same with sweeping–can’t be done on that day.  I like to kiss someone on New Year’s Eve at midnight, because whatever you’re doing at that moment is what you’ll be doing the rest of the year.

A few years ago, I started my own ritual for New Year’s Eve. It’s a tangible, visible way to leave the past in the past and draw a clear line between the past and the future, right at that moment when we mark the start of a new year.

In the evening, I gather a stack of paper and a nice pen.  On each slip of paper, I write one thing that I want to say goodbye to from the old year.  Maybe a fear, a regret, a mistake, a poisonous relationship or a bad habit.  Write it out, fold it up, and stack it in a pile.

Once I’ve made my stack of farewells, I start a nice fire in the fireplace and pour a hot toddy.  When the fire is going and my insides are glowing, I throw the whole pile into the flames and watch it go up.  GOODBYE.

Call it corny if you will, but I feel some sense of empowerment from doing this ritual.  Just as gratitude becomes more concrete when I write it down, the separation from the negative things in my life becomes more concrete when I watch them turn from paper to ash.  When the negative stuff is burned up, THEN I’m ready to write out my resolutions!

The first year I did this ritual, I kept a special paper box on my dresser and slipped notes into it over a matter of months.  Didn’t have a fireplace that year, so I burned it all up on a cookie sheet on the deck–that was a little worrisome!  But it felt good.

The next year, Fartbuster and I did the ritual together.  We sat before the fireplace making out our slips.  At one point, he looked up and said, “Are we going to read these out loud?”  I assured him that we weren’t going to share them.  He scribbled something and folded it up tight.  I’m pretty sure it was the affair that he wrote on that slip.  Well, THAT didn’t go as expected!

hot-chocolateThe year Richard was in the hospital, I had been up to be with him for Christmas, so I was home alone for New Year’s Eve.  Being alone stunk.  New Year’s Eve had been our adventure time.  The previous three years, we had celebrated the new year in Delft, Munich, and Bermuda.  So yeah…pppffffffft.  That first slip was easy to write:  CANCER.  After that, I had a hard time.  It had been a horrible year, but I still had hope.  I still believed that if we could just get rid of that stupid leukemia, everything else would be great.  So I threw cancer on the fire and drank my hot chocolate with Bailey’s.  And I cried until I felt a little better.  

Rituals aren’t magic.  They only carry the power that we invest in them.  This one feels good.  If you’ve got some things you want to say goodbye to in 2013, give it a try!  

Oh, For Flux Sake…

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I packed up my office for the first time in 5 years.  And honestly, some of that stuff had been with me for the 16 years that I’ve been in my previous job.  I started in the summer of 1996, when the torch was coming through Athens.

I moved the necessary stuff to my new office.  The furniture is awkard.  There are too many drawers.  The light is strange.  I’m going to park in a different lot.  The computer didn’t work.

Then I took a week off to spend time with my daughter as she turned six.  In a week, she grew up right in front of my eyes.  Now she can read on her own.  She can take better care of herself than I remember and it makes my heart tighten up.

My son looked at me last night with his dear baby face.  I asked, “Do you want to go swimming?” and out of the blue he replied, “Yes.”  It was our first give and take conversation. Now the week is drawing to a close and I’m feeling a huge wave of anxiety because everything is changing at once.  Job.  Kids.  Home.  It’s all gotten different and I’m feeling swimmy-headed.

Oh, for flux sake.  Flux is that state of flow, always moving, like a river. After Richard died and I faced that crushing grief, my therapist suggested that I view it as a river.  If you swim against a river, you tire quickly.  But if you bob and float, taking deep breaths, you conserve your energy.  The river is going to go where it goes.  You are along for the ride.

What the flux is up with you today?

Changing the Way I See Things

flipped glasses

Totally not me because I never could get my Dorothy Hamill haircut. But those are the sweet, sweet spectacles that I loved.

When I was in third grade, my mom took me over to Dr. Hammett’s office in LaGrange.  He was “the eye doctor” and I loved going there because the front desk had a bowl of Kraft caramels on it and every now and then one of those fudge ones would show up…SCORE.

That’s exactly how I felt when Dr. Hammett told my mom that I would need glasses.  I knew that I was not supposed to want glasses but I really did want them.  I thought they would make me interesting.  And I would be able to read and read and read and read.  So I tried not to smile while I heard the news.  I picked out a pair from the kids’ rack–they were called “Cherry Swirl” and they were AWESOME.

Glasses didn’t stay awesome for long, for all the usual reasons.  Blind at the pool.  Contacts are itchy.  Fingerprints.  Four eyes.  Sweat.  They slide down, get knocked off, scratch too easily.

I loved my Cherry Swirl glasses for about a year then I tolerated glasses for another 33 years.

Then one magical day, my car was paid off and I saw an email about $1000 off laser vision correction and I decided that it was time.  I went to the seminar and found out that it could work for me.  I had the money for it.  I got over my concerns about the slim slim chance of ending up with worse vision.  Last April, I did it.  I signed the papers, paid the bill, swallowed a Valium (#18!) and lay down on a table.  Srrrrrrrt.  One laser made my vision blurry.  Then they walked me two steps to the next table and Srrrrtttt blip blip blip runk runk ruuuunk…and I could see.  Seriously.  I stood up and read the time off the clock across the room.  It was 11:40.  Thirty four years of not being able to see then I could see.  Just like that.

The day after the procedure, I gathered up all my old glasses and prescription sunglasses and stuffed them in the donation box for charity.  It felt so liberating!  I could lie on my side and read a book.  I felt safer around the pool because I could see my kids clearly.  We went to the beach and I saw fish jumping out in the distance.  I could wear regular old sunglasses from Target.  Even working out was better because I could sweat all I liked without my glasses slipping down my nose during push-ups.

But this isn’t an extended testimonial about the powers of laser vision correction.  It’s about changing habits and changing situations in life. With the speed of a laser and a few thousands dollars, I changed my situation.  But this morning, I did what I always do–I turned off the alarm, swung my legs over the side of the bed, then reached for my glasses.  It’s been a year, but my body still follows that habit of 34 years.  It happens when I am sleepy and running on my lizard brain.  Habits are like that–they are grooves that my body has gotten used to.  They once served a purpose, but now I might still be doing them without the need to.  Habits don’t always recognize when a situation has changed.  Think about an alcoholic–the minute they decide to stop drinking, the situation has changed.  The habit of wanting to drink takes longer to retrain.  

The week after the laser eye surgery, I started ripping down the ugly fruit wallpaper in the kitchen that I had resented for eight years.  In a couple of days, we redid the kitchen counters, the appliances, the walls.  FINALLY.  It felt like I had shaken something loose.  The eye surgery had inspired me to change other situations.  Some things really can be fixed just. like. that.  It only requires making the decision to change.

There was a time when running was a habit for me and I want to get back to that.  I simply need to do it.  I could spend eight years or thirty years to think about it and plan for it and worry over it, or I could put on my shoes tomorrow and run.  Well, probably walk and then run down a hill.  I can change the situation quickly, even though the habit will take longer to recover.

Sound familiar?  What's got you scared to change?

Sound familiar? What’s got you scared to change?

Do you have something that’s been nagging at you?  What are you tired of?  What part of it is a habit and what is a situation?  Can the situation be changed?  How can you retrain the habit?

Now I’m going to bed and I bet you a dollar I reach for the phantom glasses in the morning.  And I’ll smile.