Just what I needed

Waffles the pug

My daughter’s pug Waffles.

I’m back home and I feel so much better mentally than when I left. I was wallowing in grief after my mom’s sudden death. I found myself aimlessly wandering through our house, alternating between tears and shock.

The six days with my kids was like a healing balm or salve that my heart needed.

What did we do? I was busy with my son, making his pour-over coffee, overnight oats, grocery shopping at my favorite Berkeley Bowl. I walked Waffles, played Scrabble, went to lunch and shopped with my daughter on Fourth Street, enjoyed time with my son’s fiancee and family. They lost their father several years ago and I felt their empathy and understanding.

The mushroom aisle at Berkeley Bowl, my favorite grocery store.

I was busy most of the time, I felt needed, and I felt my mom is in a better place.

We watched good movies including Metropolitan and Nausciaa of the Valley of the Wind. The voice of the Princess in Nausicaa was done by Alison Lohman, who is a local Palm Springs girl. She was in my ballet class more than 25 years ago. I’m always interested in watching her movies.

The food in the Bay Area is so much better than in Scottsdale. We ordered in most nights because of the storm. We had Japanese, Korean, Mexican and take out from Berkeley Bowl.

My son’s charcuterie with cheeses, salami, prosciutto, blackberries, grapes, crackers and comb honey.

If you find yourself in a funk — not necessarily grief like I’ve been experiencing — how do you get out of it?

What does qis mean?

alphabet board game bundle close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While I was with my kids, my son asked me to drive to Target and buy a game of Scrabble. I’m not keen on driving in the Bay Area — really not driving anywhere. I’d walk everywhere if I could.

If you were watching the weather, a bomb of a storm was predicted. Fortunately, where we were in Berkeley — it wasn’t hard hit. There was a ton of rain and wind. Some houses were flooded, but we were fine.

Still. I wasn’t excited about driving. I walked to my daughter’s apartment, which is less than two miles from my son’s house. She asked me to walk Waffles the pug while she was at work. I asked if I could borrow her car to go to Target and the grocery store. The answer was “of course.” She left the car keys for me inside her apartment. She’s so close to her job, she doesn’t have to drive.

Scrabble wasn’t at the Target .2 miles from her house where I could walk. I had the choice of two Targets in other towns. I buckled in and found my way with little trouble except for dodging massive potholes — which must have cropped up from the storm. They were tire or car killing potholes. I avoided all but one and felt proud of myself.

Armed with Scrabble and groceries, I returned to my son’s house. He and his fiancee have been playing Scrabble online as of late. I haven’t touched the game since I was around 10 years old?

I played my son who was home alone (and doing very well after surgery FYI.) His first word he laid down was qis — notice there isn’t a u after the q. His word was placed at the center star where you get a gazillion extra points. I challenged the word.

“Look it up,” he said. “Google to see if it’s a word in Scrabble.”

I had my laptop handy and BINGO! Qis is a “yes” for Scrabble.

The next word he played was drat.

“That’s not acceptable. That’s slang!” I said.

“Slang is allowed.”

“Not in my day,” I argued.

Needless to say I lost by more than 100 points. This is not the Scrabble of my childhood.

We both broke out in fits of laughter when he built a new word and it resulted in a second built word “za.”

“You can challenge that if you want,” he said. “I’m not sure za is a word.”

“What do you think it means?” I asked.

He said it was short for pizza — but we were laughing and he admitted he had no clue what it meant or if it was a word.

I checked the laptop. Za is a yes for Scrabble. Short for pizza.

Do you remember slang words in Scrabble? What are your thoughts about what I believe are new rules for Scrabble? Is this the Scrabble of your childhood?

Travel day

kids on a rock
Laguna Beach picture of my kids from around 2001.

After wandering around my house in shock for a couple days because of my mom’s sudden death, I headed to Berkeley to be with my kids. This was a preplanned trip which I think came at a remarkable time. My son is having foot surgery and he asked me to come up and take care of him for a few days.

I think this will help keep me busy and distracted. I think being with both my kids will be more helpful to me than I will be to them!

Of course the weather is supposed to be absolutely miserable with pouring down rain every day. I’m sitting at the airport in Phoenix with the blue skies surrounding me. I was worried about flying Southwest, but they seem to be back on schedule.

Here’s to my children and getting through my waves of grief. Here’s a link to my story about my mom.

If you lost someone in your life recently, what was most helpful for you to handle greiving?

A different kind of mother

mother and daughter photo
Mom and me in the early 90s.

My New Year started off with a phone call from my brother that our mom was found in her bed unresponsive. Within two hours she passed away after being taken by ambulance to the hospital. This was totally unexpected. She tested positive for COVID five days earlier but was asymptomatic.

I’m going through shock, denial, disbelief and grief all at once.

I wrote this story about her years ago. I sent it to children’s book publishers and actually got an offer from a small publisher. I turned down the offer because I didn’t think it was big enough! I’ve never had another offer in my life to have a book published.

Here’s the story:

A DIFFERENT KIND OF MOTHER

I have a different kind of mother. She’s not like other mothers on our street. She looks like other mothers. But it’s what she does that’s different.

She sings all the time. She sings songs by men named Wagner and Wolf. But she calls them “VAHgner” and “VOUlf.”

When my friends come over they ask “What is that?”
We listen. “La la la la la la la la laaaa.”

I shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s my mom.”

My friends laugh. Their mothers never sing unless it’s to the radio.

My mom sings all the time. She sings operas while she drives, cooks, shops, gardens, reads and cleans. I think she sings in her dreams.

My mother never buys a loaf of bread. She bakes it every week and slices it with a big knife. Sometimes she lets me punch down the dough after it rises.

When I take my lunch to school, my sandwich sits crooked and looks like it’s ready to fall. My mother packs me carrot sticks, a hard boiled egg, an orange and an apple. There’s too much food and not one chip or pretzel like the other kids get. I like to order hot lunch.

My mother thinks hunting through the woods for mushrooms is fun. She took classes to learn about mushrooms so she knows which are good to eat and which ones are poisonous. I hate it when she asks my friends to go picking with her. But they love to go tramping through the dense green forest, climbing over fallen logs covered with moss. She points out the faerie rings where the mushrooms grow.

My mother grows vegetables in her garden, she won’t buy them at the store. But does she grow peas and carrots like the other mothers on our street? No. She’s proud of her eggplant, asparagus, spaghetti squash and rhubarb.

When my friends come over to play, my mother asks them to weed the garden.

“Nobody wants to weed. We want to play,” I tell her.

Then I turn around and the kids are lined up on both sides of her, pulling weeds as she tells them about the vitamins in vegetables.

My mother doesn’t read ordinary books by popular authors. She likes to read e.e. cummings with letters scattered over the page. I don’t know what the poems say. But my mother gathers up the letters and makes sense out of them.

Digging for clams up to her elbows in mud is how my mother catches dinner. She knows about razor clams that we dig in the surf and butter clams, littlenecks and cockles we find in the gritty gravel. She calls the ones we break with our shovels “clums.”

She picks oysters off the beach, shucks the top shell of and eats them raw right then and there. She eats the roe out of sea urchins and said, “It tastes like caviar!”

She’s the friendliest person on the street. She bakes wild blackberry pies for elderly neighbors and talks tomatoes with anyone who will listen. 

She invites the neighborhood kids in, even if I don’t want her to. She doesn’t care when kids build a fort in our backyard or makes tents in the living room with old sheets. She lets us draw chalk pictures on the driveway and dig for China in the backyard.

At night when she tucks me in, I listen to her sing a lullaby with her beautiful voice.

When she kisses me good night, I love that my mother is a different kind of mother.

mom fishing in the river
Mom fishing at our cabin in Washington.

Why was my daughter so annoyed with me?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.
My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

I wrote this years ago, when I was visiting my mom in assisted living near Seattle. After visiting Mom last week, I wanted to repost this.

Why is my daughter so annoyed with me?

I understand how she feels. After all, I was once 19 years old. I remember it very clearly.

When I was that age, everything my mom did, I found unbelievably annoying.

I’ll never forget sitting with her in the car, getting ready to shop at Bellevue Square. She had parked the car. She was fumbling through her purse, making sure she had what she needed. She reapplied her lipstick. Dug through her purse for her wallet to look through credit cards. Searched several times to check where she placed the keys.

Mom and me in the early 90s, big perm.
Mom and me in the early ’90s Like my perm? My mom’s curls are natural.

Would we never leave the car? Would I be stuck all day? I must have said something to her quite snippy or flat out mean. A few tears rolled down her cheeks. Which made me more upset with her.

Isn’t it a sad feeling, transitioning from a mom who could do no wrong—from changing diapers, to cooking their favorite spaghetti, to taping treasured colorings on the fridge that were made just for you—to being the person of their abject disdain?

It’s a tough new role. Let me tell you.

But, having gone through these feelings myself, I understand. I’m visiting my mom this week in her assisted living center. I talked about it with her, what I’m going through now, and what I felt like when I was 19. Fortunately, she doesn’t remember me ever being a snarky 19-year-old.

For some reason, I’ve gained more patience throughout my life and that has been a blessing. I’ve also learned forgiveness.

Something else I’ve learned through years of parenting — this too shall pass.

It’s called independence and freedom. We want our children to grow and become separate human beings who can stand on their own. They need to separate from us. A good time to do that is during their senior year of high school, or their freshman year of college. They need to. I keep telling myself that.

However, we also want to be treated with respect, and once again—someday—to be cherished.

A beach day with my daughter.
A beach day with my daughter.

Have your children been annoyed with you? Do you remember being annoyed with your parents? What were the reasons why?

Letting go — or losing control?

my son with swim teammates hanging on the lane line
My son in front hanging on the lane line with his teammates.

Six years ago, I debated the question if there was a difference between letting go and losing control. If you’re a parent of kids who have flown the nest — or are getting ready to — you’ll recognize these feelings.

Take a look at what I wrote about this. At that point in my parenting life, I wanted what was best for my children and felt like I had all the answers. However, looking back, my kids needed to make their own decisions and find their own paths. It was time for me to let go.

As an empty nester, there are times I wish I had more control over my kids’ lives. I don’t have much anymore. I remember the days when they’d actually do what I asked. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and entertainment.

They watched the movies I’d check out from the library, and because I picked them out, they loved them. One day my son asked, “Mom, do they make movies without singing and dancing?” Yikes. I guess I was a little too into musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to experience that slice of Americana. Many millennials never learned the words to “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls.” My aunt was surprised when my son invited her to watch a movie. She was expecting Disney or Barney. She was thrilled to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” with him.

brother and sister at the beach
Back when I got to pick out the movies.

Somewhere along the line of those perfect days, I lost control. Today, my kids have their own opinions about religion, politics, and life in general that are decidedly different than mine.

For example, I wanted to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I sent him job openings in the Bay area where he lives. (FYI, We don’t want him to live that far away. We don’t like how expensive it is. It’s all wrong to us.)

Did he listen? He’s polite. Every time I texted a job opening, he thanked me and said, “that’s a good idea.” Then he did what he wanted. He applied to teach at one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores were 2 in Math and 7 in English. (Those numbers are not out of 10, but out of 100.) He decided to teach — instead of what I want him to do — and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thought it would be a challenge.

My son giving the valedictorian speech.
High school graduation speech.

I couldn’t stop him. He had to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I could say about it. I needed to learn to let go since I had lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

kids andmoms at the beach.
The gang in Laguna Beach. Me and my good friend Elaine with our kids and a few more we took along with us for a beach day.

UPDATE: The teaching job proved to be more difficult than my son could handle. Issues included students who had no support in learning from their families. A counselor entered my son’s classroom and told the students they didn’t have to listen to my son. The final straw was when he reported a student for truancy and he learned the student was deported. He felt beyond guilty.

He’s been working for a tech startup for several years. He’s able to use his Math and English skills. The company has a good work/life balance and he likes the people he works with.

So much for mom and dad telling him what to do and what path to take. On the bright side, I’ve learned to step back and let my kids be who they are.

When have you questioned if you’re losing control or letting go? What difference do you see between the two? What situations in your own life made you realize it was time to let go?

You never know what tomorrow brings

Yesterday it started snowing! The prediction was 100% rain, not snow.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting in the dark. I’ve decided to write a post for tomorrow, while my laptop still has juice. I’m using my iphone as a hotspot so I’ll be able to post this.

You never know what tomorrow will bring, so I decided to jump on this while I have the chance.

My daughter asked me to come up and take care of her. She’s in quarantine with COVID and there’s nobody to help her with daily things like laundry, groceries, going to Target, etc. I booked a ticket for tomorrow and she found me an airbnb down the street from her. My son, who lives close by, isn’t cleared to drive and isn’t walking post foot surgery.

She said she’s not going to infect me. She’ll ask me to run an errand and I’ll leave it on her doorstep. I can do her laundry at my son’s house or a laundromat (she doesn’t have a washer and dryer.) And I can walk Waffles.

I wanted my daughter to stay with our friends in Santa Barbara for another day to make sure both she and Waffles were up for the drive. I’m glad she ignored my advice and left on Tuesday because by Wednesday a winter storm hit closing roads and freeways. She could have been stuck.

So off I went to my PO Box and to the store to pick up a few last minute things for my trip. I opened the garage door and discovered it was snowing. It started snowing harder and coming at me sideways. I wasn’t sure I wanted to drive to the Post Office or store. But then I thought, you never know what tomorrow will bring. I better do it now. I’ll be leaving town tomorrow.

While at the store, my husband called and said the power went out at our house. I told him I’d check with the power company when I got home. As I drove down the street to our neighborhood, I wondered if the clicker to the gate would work?

Fortunately, someone manually opened the gates to our neighborhood and I drove on through and parked the car in our driveway. It stopped snowing and raining altogether thankfully as I brought in my groceries and mail.

Now I’ll use my iphone as a light in my closet to pack for tomorrow’s adventure. I’m learning to not procrastinate or find excuses.

Are you prepared if the power goes out? Are you prepared to handle the unexpected like a freak snow or a last minute trip to help your child?