Archive for the ‘Doing Laundry’ Category

The Caged Bird Sings a New Tune

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

 

I’ve never given anyone The Finger.

No judgement here; I know many fine folks who have and do appreciate the effectiveness of that communication icon. It’s just not my style, really. My natural reaction when something ticks me off is to run my mouth about it. My family will verify that I reign supreme when it comes to talking something to death.

There’s also that issue of what’s being said through the use of the gesture. I have to take sides with my mom on this one –it’s rude, crude and uncouth. I’d be mortified to be seen letting The Bird fly, and really, isn’t being seen the whole point? I’d no doubt negate the message by immediately apologizing for using it and feel obliged to make amends with a batch of some type of baked goods.

But after 51 years of clean, obscene gesture-free living, never nearly came to an end during my 44-mile ride this weekend. Nearly.

It wasn’t that I wanted to say what The Finger is known for saying. I simply needed a quick and effective way to communicate my feelings to the driver who felt the need to barrel by me so closely (as I hugged the right edge of the shoulder) I could have snatched the Starbucks out of his hand if he hadn’t been driving 50 mph.

Through a haze of car exhaust I saw that my natural instinct to screech “HEY! How about slowing down long enough to let the 15-ton truck in the lane next to you pass so that you can move over and not transform me into an OVERSIZED SIDE MIRROR DECAL!” would have absolutely no impact since it would never be heard.

The Finger’s ability to quickly, efficiently and clearly get a point across was obvious.

The incident was a good diversion over the next few miles as I mentally ran my mouth while I pedaled, giving that guy what for, verbally pecking him until he begged to make things right by promising to make sure I reached my fundraising goal…plus 25 percent.

I was snapped out of that little fantasy near the end of the ride when lightning – or in this case, a speeding and space-invading car — nearly struck twice. Another Indy car wannabe zipped by so fast and close it blew-dried my sweat-drenched body like a high-powered hand dryer.

Naturally it was enough to launch the chatter but this time I directed it to Someone Else. “Lord, keep me safe. Lord, keep me safe. Lord, keep me safe…” was my mantra as I pedaled my way to the sidewalk section of the road (which happened to be at the base of my inaugural Holy Crap hill, requiring a change in prayer to “Lord, make me strong, Lord, make me strong.”).

Believe it or not I’m not a total idiot about where and when to hit the road; that’s why you’ll see me hauling it at 6:30 Saturday morning to avoid early morning commuters who obviously can’t wait to get to jobs they love, based on the way they drive. That approach works better some days than others.

Since I have no plans to move to car-free Mackinac Island (though summers there would be lovely, wouldn’t they?) I’ll do my part to be safe by staying clear of the main drags and riding with a mix of alert, yet wary, awareness, hoping drivers are doing the same.

And when they’re not? Instead of opening the cage door and letting The Bird fly, I’ll do what I do best and get all chatty, remembering that if it’s directed to the Right Person, there’s a promise that it’s always heard.

I’m riding as a member of the US Playing Card’s Team Bicycle in the Ohio – Bike MS: Venture the Valley 2011. I’ll be covering 150 miles on Aug. 27-28, a challenge for this middle-aged madre on her mountain bike. But it’s nothing compared to the challenge of living with Multiple Sclerosis, something my life-long friend Beth Reynolds Haueter does with tremendous strength and grace.

The time is ticking away on my training and fundraising clock. I’m working on planting butt-to-seat and logging the miles. You can help me meet my fundraising goal by stopping by my Bike MS page. Beth and I, along with thousands of other good folks, would be forever grateful if you left your monetary mark.

 

Image: wordsyouread.wordpress.com

Riding on the Bubble Never Looked So Good

Monday, June 20th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday’s 30-mile ride took me to the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a 78-mile trail that runs from Newtown (15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati) north to Springfield, Ohio. It’s your standard rails-to-trails route, beautifully paved and even more beautifully flat. Unlike last week’s ride, there was nary an incline to curse.

I opted for the flat course not in defeat but because I think at this point in my training, planting butt to gel-filled seat for distance needs to take priority over hauling bike and self up quad-busting hills. And truth be told, I figured with the absence of hills, going the distance was nothing; anyone could go forever on a nice flat road, right?

Naturally I was taken totally off guard when my response to this easy pleasure ride was yet another  “Holy Crap!”.

To put it simply, the ride was a total pain in the butt.

Right about now all you seasoned cyclists are leaning back on your seasoned butts, chuckling quietly, knowing of what I speak. Foolishly, I had assumed that the posterior padding that regularly strains against the suffocating confines of my jeans would finally make itself useful.

It was about mile 15 I began dreaming of bubble wrap shorts the way Biggest Loser contestants dream about telling Jillian where she can stick it. It was also about the time I felt panic begin to well up from the depths of what was my newly defined boney behind. How was I – my butt — ever going to make it through 75 miles…two days in a row?

Holy crap.

I had mistakenly assumed that all the miles I’ve logged training for two half marathons over the past year would allow me to slide into biking with minimal side effects.

Again, you seasoned cyclists chuckle, knowing I’ve doubly earned the title of Little Miss Smarty Pants.

Alternating pressure from cheek to cheek for the final 15 miles and looking like I was in desperate need of a pit stop, I finished. It was when I attempted to walk that I discovered that my issues weren’t all behind me.  Although I had been riding at 12-15 mph — a speed our Team Bicycle captain Ken Miller defines as a leisurely social pace — I had been constantly pedaling for 2 hours, leaving me to walk like a toddler taking her robotic first steps…while wearing four-inch stilettos.

An hour later, pain soothed with a hot shower and a Diet Coke, I wondered: Would every ride include some level of panic about what I had committed to? Could I develop the calloused behind I needed? Would I be muttering Holy crap! Sybil-like for the next two months?

And then I remembered those first weeks of training for my first half marathon: same doubt and panic, just wrapped with pain in different places. Training’s training; if you’re grunting it out it’s gotta get better.

So that’s what I’ll do, keep grunting it out, pedaling because I can. Follow my pain here or find me on the road. Just follow the sound of popping bubble wrap.

I’m riding as a member of the US Playing Card’s Team Bicycle in the Ohio – Bike MS: Venture the Valley 2011. I’ll be covering 150 miles on Aug. 27-28, a challenge for this middle-aged madre on her mountain bike. But it’s nothing compared to the challenge of living with Multiple Sclerosis, something my life-long friend Beth Reynolds Haueter does with tremendous strength and grace.

Follow my training escapades here and stop by my Bike MS page. Beth and I, along with thousands of other good folks, would love of it if you left your monetary mark.

 

Image: CMMahon

 


Holy Crap!

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom would have certainly “Janice Carol!”-ed me for such flagrant use of the c-word (especially in a headline) but it was all I could think as I was climbing the last and endless hill this morning on my inaugural 20-mile training ride for the MS 150 Ride. (For you Cincinnatians, that hill was Beechmont from the Levy into Mt. Washington. Was I out of line?)

I’ve signed on as a member of the US Playing Card Team Bicycle for the MS 150 Ride, thanks to peer pressure from my friend Lou Fetch. We’re going to cover 150 miles over two days; a bit of a stretch for me, as someone who had to hose the cobwebs off her mountain bike and dump a mouse nest out of her helmet.

There was a lot that went into my decision and it’s what I’m going to prattle on about here over the next couple of months. So in terms of this blog, I’m pushing my family aside for now and making it all about me. (Three teenagers on a mission to have as little communication with me as possible makes it fairly easy.)

I launched this blog almost a year ago with great personal fanfare and expectations; similar to the first Monday of every diet I’ve started over the years. Like those diets, I’ve been easily diverted.

Unfortunately the blog’s become the neglected red-headed step-child in my life, as evidenced by the quarterly posts. (All red heads and step children please accept my apologies if I’ve offended you. I’m speaking only in Cinderella/Disney terms.)

Unlike evil stepmothers, I’ve felt badly about the neglect and I’d like to make amends. Riding and writing for my long-time friend Beth Reynolds Haueter, who’s living with multiple sclerosis, seems to be the ticket to getting me in gear. My mantra over hill and dale the next few weeks:

I pedal because I can.

I hope you’ll join me as I grunt out the training in preparation for the August 27-28 event. And sometime along the way, stop by my MS Ride page. There’s a slew of  folks — let’s just say thousands  – who would love for you to  leave your mark.

Rule Number One: Obey All Rules

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

If you’ve ever wondered, Mayberry’s Barney Fife does have a sister.  She’s alive and well, working for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Fitting, isn’t it?

This isn’t a hot rumor or a sighting by celebrity stalkers. No, I had an actual interaction. Her, me and my driving permit-seeking daughter, who quickly learned that passing a written test wasn’t what she needed to be nervous about.

The painful reality about a trip to the BMV is that we all know going in, chances are good that you’ll probably be back to finish what you came to do. No matter how well prepared you think you are, all it takes is the absence of some obscure affidavit verifying that your uncle really did give you his ’78 Gremlin or a form rendered null and void because your husband signed it with a glitter pen, to send you out the door in disgrace and defeated. We also know that no matter your argument, excuse or plea, the BMV always wins. Always.

And it’s all because of the Fifes.

You see there’s this little-known statute that requires all BMVs to have at least one member of the Fife extended family on staff.

Odd, I know.

This person is responsible for knowing, in a Rain Man kind of way, every rule and regulation pertaining to the BMV. More importantly, this person must possess an uncanny ability to ferret out, in a Rain Man kind of way, any and all potential and actual infractions of those regulations.

Guaranteed, this is the person who calls your number when you’re next in line.

Yes, Miss Fife had our number.

But I had no fear. Because I was prepared. I too, was up on the code, thanks to exhaustive study of every possible page and link on their website. Miss Fife’s official uniform, badge and I’m-the-law demeanor did not shake my confidence. I had the BMV version of a Golden Ticket: my daughter’s original embossed birth certificate and her Social Security card. History was in the making; this trip was going down as one and done.

Even though we had the ammo we needed to get the job done, my natural instinct to kill ‘em with kindness kicked in as we moved to the on-deck position. I answered Miss Fife’s “Next!” with a smile and the approach of a winner.

Drafting my confidence, my daughter stepped forward and announced “I’m here to get my temporary license.”

Attempting to break through our force field of self assurance, Miss Fife’s voice said “Okay”, but her raised eyebrows and smirk hissed “We’ll see about that, my pretty.”

“According to your website, we should have everything you need,” I almost sang. “We went for the gold just for you.” I smiled, handing her the proof, wondering if complimenting her on her perm would be over the top.

She pored over the documents, looking for the infraction she knew had to be there. I saw her visibly deflate as her fingers passed over the birth certificate’s embossed seal. Reluctantly, she turned to pull out the computer keyboard, signaling, what I liked to think was not her defeat, but our victory.

But one that was short-lived.

“We have a problem.” This time she was the one almost singing.

“Really?” Something in my gut lurched and kill ‘em with kindness automatically kicked in to overdrive. “You have the original, official, straight-from-the-government documents. And we know they’re always exactly what you need.”

“This birth certificate’s from Indiana,” she said, spitting out “Indiana” as if my daughter was an illegal immigrant who had somehow evaded birth certificate-tracking dogs and tunneled under a towering barbed wire-topped fence running along the Ohio-Indiana line.

“This,” she crowed, triumphantly holding up the official embossed birth certificate, “doesn’t say if she’s a boy or a girl. It’s no good. Can’t take it.”

Wha…?  I looked at my pony-tailed daughter, standing there in her all-girls school uniform skirt, knowing the name on the birth certificate wasn’t a red-flagging, gender-neutral Toni, Bobbi, Alex or Riley. Did the fact that I bore this child give me exclusive rights to the ability to determine if she was a boy or a girl?

“Can’t do a thing until you get a new one. ” She handed the tainted version back, dismissing us like we had tried to use Monopoly money to buy a pack of smokes.

“But,” I started, fully prepared to broach the idea of applying common sense.

Knowing common sense didn’t have a thing to do with it, she nipped it, nipped it in the bud. “Nope. Had this problem with Indiana for a while. Seems to me it’s just common sense (So she gets to play that card?) that a birth certificate says whether a baby’s a boy or a girl.”

As much as I fought it, I found myself agreeing with her, which was almost as disturbing as the realization that the Fifes had most likely infiltrated government offices nationwide and a distant cousin was working in County Records in Indiana, just waiting to bat me around.

Miss Fife barked “Next!”, signaling us to fall away so her next victim could step up to the line. She was warmed up and ready for a real challenge. Our infraction had been mere child’s play.

But little did I know, thanks to the power of Google and a Visa, so was the fix. By the time we got home, my red-tape-hating husband (having listened to my 10-minute rant after making the mistake of answering my call) had proven you truly could get anything online.

Just three days later we stormed the BMV armed with our gender-specific birth certificate, fully prepared to go head-to-head with our foe Miss Fife.

Ever-ready, she was poised for battle. But all it took was the letter “F” on a single piece of paper to disarm her. And it hit me; handing her our gender-specific birth certificate was the equivalent of Andy taking Barney’s gun. It appears the entire Fife family is under a one-bullet limit. And Barney’s sis had already fired hers.

Image: old-photos.blogspot.com

Sharing a little Martha…or is it Sybil?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

I just spent 2.17 minutes rearranging the silverware and utensils in the dishwasher, organizing them by type. Knowing full well I will never see those 2.17 minutes again. Working like a contestant in the final round of Minute to Win It so not to be caught re-doing a mindless job that’s already been done.

A sickness? Perhaps.

There are certain things that make my blood race through the one, tiny and obscure OCD vein hidden deep in my body. Like the bath towels folded in half, in half, in third, in third; hand towels of course, in third, in third, in half, in half. A flat sheet tightly tucked in with a nice, precise hospital corner. A pillow placed on the bed with the pillowcase opening at the bed’s edge. Grabbing a handful of forks and depositing all of them with one fell swoop, into their rightful slot in the silverware drawer.

Don’t be fooled; I’m no neat-nik. That silverware drawer? A family of four could make a meal out of the crumbs and dried splatters of milk and chocolate sauce littering the slots. If that’s not evidence enough, the children’s names written in the dust of the TV screen, dog hair balls dancing in the corners of every stair step and blobs of toothpaste and spit cemented to the bathroom sink should be quite enough to confirm my belief that life’s much too short to get knotted up about a little debris.

So why the occasional channeling of Martha Stewart?

Like most adult women struggling to understand their faults, I place the blame squarely on my mother. Making me refold towels and remake the bed when they weren’t right (you guessed it: third, third, half, half; hospital corners). Shutting down any attempt at discussion with “There’s nothing wrong with doing it right.”

But I probably need to quietly thank her for indoctrinating me with my tiny little collection of habits (BTW, the dishwasher thing — totally mine. With five kids, just getting the dirty dishes in the thing was victory enough for Mom) that typically lead to loud sighing, excessive eye rolling and dramatic gnashing of teeth on the home front. I have to believe my little obsessions are just enough to keep us off some future TLC reality series in the vein of  “This Sty We Call Home”.

And besides, don’t my kids deserve to have something to blame me for?

How about you? Giving your kids some good stuff?

School Launches

Friday, September 17th, 2010

An antsy three-year-old stood at the door, ready for her first day of school. Armed with a new lunch box (well, snack box if you’re a stickler for accuracy; when you’re fashion-wise enough to carry accessories that give you the look of a first grader, you try to keep some details on the down-low), she had her first official nap-free afternoon ahead and a buffet of new friends just waiting to be had.

Hand-in-hand, she and her mom began the trek to school, conveniently housed in the church across the street. They covered school rules one last time:

  • Be nice to everyone.
  • Please and thank-you.
  • Listen to your teachers.
  • Have fun.

They joined the gaggle of kids and moms at the classroom door bidding their good-byes; some weepy and clingy (kids too), some pulling like leashed Labradors to get to the great stuff waiting just beyond the door.

As her mom let go of her hand to bend down for a hug and a kiss, she mistook it for The Big Release and ran at full speed to where she wanted to be. Left empty-armed in a half-squat, her mom was hit with a harsh realization: her baby had dashed through the door into the world of Big Kids and would return as One of Them.

How in the world had that happened?

She wasn’t prepared for this turn of events; she’d been focused on how she was going to spend her lottery win of two-and-half kid-free hours. The choking lump in her throat and the excessive moisture suddenly pooling just above her lower eyelashes made her wonder if she was suffering from some freak hormone imbalance.

“Are you kidding me? It’s preschool!” she scolded herself under her breath. “For Pete’s sake; what’s going to happen when she leaves for college?”

An impatient 12-year-old stood at the door, making it clear that she was so over the annual first-day-of-school picture. Armed with a box of tissues and decked out in the latest Aeropostale-wear, new Nikes and a backpack overloaded with freshly-sharpened pencils, pristine, carefully-chosen folders, and last year’s “perfectly good” scissors, ruler and colored pencils, her posse was waiting and this tradition was in the way.

She’d worked hard to get to this day, putting in her time for six years. She was now officially Hot Snot, having properly earned the cachet that comes with being at the top of the elementary school food chain. She was ready to revel in her position.

She was the kind of student teachers liked: not the suck-up brown-noser that kids hated, but the polite, dependable, good worker, friend-to-all. The sixth grade social scene was the center of her life. She’d seemingly dodged the vortex of preteen girl drama, though her mom wasn’t stupid, knowing it’s part of the female DNA to on occasion, get sucked in.

They joined the neighborhood two-block parade to school, moms conducting a mobile coffee klatch, kids skipping and walking in a way that wouldn’t be seen again until the return trip on the last day of school. She pulled ahead of the pack, shielding herself from the embarrassment of being seen with her mom and younger siblings.

Experience had taught her mom to plant the good-bye kiss, along with her directives to “do your best and make it a great day” at home, behind closed doors; no PDA for this girl. That left her mom to watch her from the end of the sidewalk, as she walked through the doorway to where she really wanted to be.

And suddenly that overused cliché made perfect sense: she’d blinked.

It was just yesterday that she and her kindergartner had walked up that same sidewalk together. So how could they possibly be here, her last, first day at this school? As if on cue, again with the annual emotional heave: throat thickening, eye flooding. PDA wasn’t an issue for her; having children had taken care of that.

“Really? Tears?” What was she thinking? She still had a first- and third-grader in the rotation. By the time she had her last first day here, General Mills would be erecting a giant pair of scissors in the school’s entry, honoring her as the program’s longest-running Box Top chairperson.

“Nip it!” she hissed to herself. “It’s not as if you’re taking her to college.”

A calm, cool and confident 19-year-old stood at the door, more than ready to begin her longest trek yet to her first day of school. Armed with her pillow, her blanket and the love-worn bear she’d hugged to sleep every night for 19 years, she settled in to the Suburban packed with all the necessities and trappings of a college freshman, looking forward to napping her way out of one phase of her life and into the next.

It was a transition approach that fit. There wasn’t much she got worked up about. At least it appeared that way to the outside world. She’d come through the middle and high school years fairly unscathed, learning that lights didn’t flash and alarms didn’t sound when you couldn’t remember your locker combination or find Room 211 in the flash of the two minutes between classes.

She’d learned how to juggle the pressures of homework, practices, ballgames, to party or not to party, being inside the inner circle, being outside the inner circle.

Her inner circle was still the center of her life, but over time (thanks in part to Girl Drama Fatigue and a boyfriend) it had tightened, leaving her blessed with a posse who’d proven they knew how and when to show up.

She’d learned to live with the injustice of having parents who insisted she get a job, pay for her own cell phone and gas, and most embarrassing of all, called other parents to make sure everyone was on the same page about their teens’ plans for the night.

That morning as they gathered, packed and loaded, her mom faced the realization that all previous first days had been mere child’s play. She warned her husband that “this could be bad,” having struggled for the last few days with repeated flash flooding as they worked their way through all the “lasts”, toward the final launch.

And then there they were, along with hundreds of other families preparing to launch, waiting and sweating in the natural, coolant-free air, introducing their daughter to her first reality of higher education: lines. Exiting off the interstate. In the parking lot. At the registration table. Waiting for an elevator.

Three floors up, in a cement-block room that clearly held heat well, her mom was gradually  losing her focus on the emptiness that was waiting for her at home. Maybe it was the sweat running down her legs and back as she fought with the Barbie-sized screwdriver to put together the $15 piece of crap bookshelf. Maybe it was balancing one foot on the loft ladder and the other on the desk’s top shelf to make the bed. Maybe it was remembering that all fans really do is just stir existing thick, hot air.

Or maybe it was hearing the chatter of the friends her daughter hadn’t met yet give life to the hallway and rooms. Maybe it was remembering how she felt at this moment, over 30 years ago, so ready to step out on her own. Maybe it was remembering that despite the heat, tile floor, institutional bed, dresser and desk, she had been right where she wanted to be. Maybe it was remembering that despite feeling like a total geek, she had made herself go door-to-door to meet new people, many of whom had become old friends. Maybe it was remembering that despite the minor inconveniences of classes, homework and exams, those four years had earned a spot near the top of her life’s “Great Times” list.

And then there they stood with shirts sweat-pasted to their backs, pictures placed, closet, drawers and refrigerator filled, and a 19-year-old without saying a word, letting them know it was time to go.

Silently she thanked God that her memory wasn’t totally shot. Because here she was after 16 years of first days, living the Mother of First Days. Thanks to her stroll down memory lane to one of her own, she walked out the door of her daughter’s new home, dry-eyed and content, knowing her girl was right where she was supposed to be.

I’m drowning! Quick, toss me a carpool!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Any mom of a sports-playing student, struggling to keep her head above the turbulent back-to-school-and-sports waters knows she must be properly equipped if she expects to survive. Experience has taught her that there’s only one life preserver worth clinging to.

For this mom, it’s the carpool.

During any given sports season, there’s one sure-fire way to threaten her survival, forcing her to send up flares, crying “Mayday, Mayday!”

Mess with her carpool.

I’ve been around the block a time or two so I know waiting until the start of any given sports season to set up a carpool is laced with risk and foolishness. Scoring a spot in the right carpool is like a game of musical chairs, with moms scrambling to claim a seat belt for their child. Wait too long and you’re left dealing with the stigma of being in the pick-up line every day, carpool parents behind the wheels of their fully-loaded vehicles either looking at you with pity or trying to avoid eye contact altogether.

So when middle school football practice kicked in, I was prepared. I’d spent the preseason scouting potential picks, ultimately drafting four other drivers – umm, boys — for my Carpool Dream Team. Its perfection was based on math that even I could understand. Five boys, five days of practice…one day of driving.

Score!

But come team selection day, a tsunami hit as my son climbed into the Kid Hauler and announced:  “I’m on the other team.” Code for “Your carpool is kaput.”

I gasped for air and tried desperately to keep my hopes for a low-mileage season afloat.

“Let me get this straight,” I said as the dashboard slowly came back into focus. “You mean the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday drivers — I mean, boys — are all on the other team; the one that practices at a different time?

“Jeez, Mom, it’s not like I’m on the bad team or something!” He had the gall to look offended.

“You think this is about you?” I snapped. What kind of self-centered kid were we raising? I’d had the luxury of four days that I could legitimately forget about picking him up without fear of child abandonment charges. The thought of the other carpool parents wallowing in the glory of a single-pick-up day per week was more than I could take. The envy alone would eat me alive.

It was time to talk strategy with the coach.

“Coach?” I caught him about to ease into his immaculate, 20-something-guy-with-no-kids, two-seater car.

“I have a quick question about team selection. How heavily did zip codes weigh in your decision?

He seemed puzzled. “Uh, zip codes?”

“Yes, zip codes; you know, where the boys live. What was your main criterion for team placement?”

“Well, skill, actually.”

Skill? Are you kidding me?” What a rookie.

I closed in on his personal space for a focused conversation. He clutched his open car door for protection, his eyes nervously scanning the parking lot for witnesses and to silently signal for help.

“Let me tell you about skill, young man. Skill is getting three kids, playing five different sports, to the right field, at the right time, in the right uniform, with the right ball, the right form and a check for the right amount.”

Eyes narrowing, I came close enough to wag my finger in that space where only mothers are allowed to wag.

“And I’ll let you in on the real secret behind the skill of making all that happen, mister. It’s a carpool. That’s right, a carpool. Just ask your mother; she’ll tell you. I have no doubt that you’ve got a Chevy Astro Van, packed with smelly teenaged boys in your past, buddy boy. And I have no doubt it’s what helped you get where you are today.

My rant continued without pause, “And who are you to rob my son of the same kind of privilege by putting him on a team that practices at a different time, breaking up a carpool that’s so good I could auction off his seat and put to rest that nagging little issue of college tuition?

As I finally slowed to take a breath, he found his voice as relief swept over his face and his grip on the car door loosened.

“Uh, ma’am, the teams practice at the same time; we’re safe.”

We’re safe. Seems this young coach had figured out another little secret about what carpools can do — put a brake on how much time moms like me are on the road.

This post is a fluffed and refolded version of the piece I submitted to the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.  No, I didn’t take home the $100 prize, free registration to the Erma Bombeck’s Writer’s Workshop (it was worth paying for myself) or most importantly, earn the honor of having my name linked to that remarkable writer. But as the preseason school sports madness brings summer to a screeching halt, it seemed like the right post at the right time.

You can read the entries from the winning Erma wannabes here.

Doing Laundry — Part Two

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

or, Here’s What That’s Got to do With the Price of Eggs

Okay. Now laundry.

If you read my last (and first) post, you know that deciding to do a blog was fraught with a ridiculous amount of psychoanalysis. If you were able to snap yourself back into consciousness after gutting through that confessional-purging-cleansing step with me, reward yourself with something chocolate and accept my thanks for coming back.

When we last left our story, you were waiting with bated breath to learn how I decided to name this thing. Let’s return. . .

I knew a name needed to properly reflect the life I’d be prattling on about. Taking stock of our vast estate, it quickly became apparent that one thing consistently dotted the landscape of our lives.

Piles.

Of…shoes…papers…dog hair…blankets…sweatshirts…backpacks…damp towels…keys…dog poop.

And yes, laundry.

I realized the blog-naming pay dirt, like most things you’re looking for, was buried right there in the laundry.

A realistic definition of laundry is something that’s never done, thanks to it’s perpetual life cycle:

  • Dirty, posing as carpeting on bedroom/bathroom floor
  • Dirty, down the laundry hole, building a mind-numbing pile in the laundry room
  • Sorted, not yet washed
  • Washed, overflowing in baskets
  • Folded, not yet carried upstairs
  • Carried upstairs, not yet deposited in rooms
  • Clean, folded and placed on bedroom floor/chair/bed; never in dresser drawers
  • Clean, folded and down laundry hole, posing as dirty to expedite the forced quarterly room cleaning.

It was clear, seeing it broken down into phases, that laundry is always going on in one phase or another. And no matter who you are, laundry is somehow woven in to the fabric of our lives.

From George Clooney, Oprah, and Bill Gates (none of whom, I’m just guessing, are trying to remember to toss in a load of whites before they leave for work), to the African tribal mother (who’s no doubt bored senseless with the daily trek to the river’s washing rock to pound through a never-ending pile of dusty loin cloths): they got laundry. Maybe the closest they get to doing it is simply producing it. But at the end of the day — or beginning, for that matter — everyone has an appreciation for clean underwear.

The analogy hit me like the scent of my daughter’s soccer socks: life is laundry. We’re all smack dab in the midst of it, whether it’s clean, fresh and neatly folded; a little wrinkled, faded and worn but good enough to wear; or a total mess, stained and carrying a stench that would send a teenaged boy running for his Axe Body Spray.

But in both laundry and life, even their unimaginably filthy worst phase is typically just that; a phase that’s eventually going to change. Unless of course, we opt to hide it behind closed doors, under the bed, or in the corners of our closet. . . or minds, deciding it’s easier not to deal with it.

Thank goodness there’s always hope for a clean start. And like every mother rants, laundry doesn’t just do itself. So eventually we get to the work of sorting, stain-treating and getting a load going.

There’s hidden treasure under those piles of laundry and here’s where I’ll air it — the dirty, the clean and the obscure stuff in between. I’m guessing some days, you’ll see that yours is a lot like mine. And some days you be thankful it’s not.

Doing Laundry — Part One

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

or, What’s That Got to do With the Price of Eggs?

So. Laundry.

It’s not as random as it sounds. Or as obvious. Hang with me and I’ll explain what could possibly possess me to voluntarily include more laundry in my life.

The idea of blogging has been pecking at me for awhile. I’ve swatted at it, ignored it and like writers quite often do, found good reasons to avoid falling into that dangerous trap of actually writing. My avoidance issues:

  • I really don’t feel pulled to blog about topics that are related to what I do to help pay the costs for the care and feeding of a family of five — business writing and communications.
  • It’s a silly idea because I certainly can’t have anything of any interest to say to anyone, and I will certainly fail…whatever that means.

Let me interject a little justification.

As to the first point, I love my work. It combines two of my favorite things: building relationships and writing. I get to know my clients, their product or service, and their audience, then use words to marry them all into one happy, profitable family. Based on my clients’ response, I seem to have the hang of it.

But my creative side was getting all whiny, wanting to go out to play and take a break from the business of business-to-business. However, according to experts, if I had any hope of building business relationships and my business, my blogging efforts and content needed to share my knowledge and expertise. It’s standard operating procedure in today’s techno world. Especially for a writer.

Which leads to my second point. The real brick wall, if I’m going to get all Oprah-honest. Contrary to what some of my college friends might tell you, I’m typically a pretty good little rule follower and tend to give experts and their conventional wisdom a pretty wide berth, especially when it protects me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Safety first, you know.

I’m standing in the doorway of turning 50 with my finger on the bell, and I’ve faced what is for me, a sad truth. I’ve become a sissy, specifically when it comes to trying new things. . .things that might be a stupid waste of time. . . that might be really hard. . . that might not work out. Like a blog, for example.

Living life in the safe lane can be exhausting.

I’m tired of being tired and I’ve decided that being a sissy is for, well, sissies. And quite honestly, time’s a-wastin’. I feel pretty confident that I’m more than half-way through this gig so I’m jumping through the doorway of 50, launching this blog to put some oomph behind my new mantra:

What the hell!”

Rather than let this milestone birthday give me another reason to ratchet up the security, I’ve decided to hitch a ride as it barrels by and do what I can to make it a ride down A1A on one of Florida’s best days. We all have a different take on throwing caution to the wind; right now for me, blogging fits the bill.

It’s here I’ll shamelessly milk my life as a wife, mother, driver, not-so-great cook, lifelong Chub Club member, Kroger socializer, bossy neighbor and if there’s good stuff, maybe even writer; a life rich with a never-ending supply of great material. Like my mother used to say, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

You’ll get my take on the good, the bad and the ugly of my wonderful slice of life’s pageantry. I’ll take my writing out to play, getting it out of work clothes and tooling down A1A. And with it no doubt, hand my teens yet another source of embarrassment, right up there with talking to their friends and the way running carpool makes me believe I’m a surprisingly good singer.

Believe me, my ramblings won’t be life-changing. It’s a blog. But I’m selfishly hoping it helps keep my mind and attitude on A1A. And when you’re looking for a little of the same, I hope you’ll stop by.