Monday, August 21, 2023

Reasons why I don't ever want to become a vampire

I recently finished John Polidori's The Vampyre and am now on to a different kind of vampire tale, but even if I wasn't, I've long believed that being a vampire would be the worst fate imaginable. 

It's not the blood or the taking of life. Those aren't my issues with vampirehood.

The problem is the fucking monotony and the absolute ennui that would ensue after living for hundreds and hundreds or, dear god, thousands of years.

Humans keep humaning in their pathetic and/or atrocious ways.

Like their insistence on measuring girls' clothing lengths. Word on the street is that N's former high school was checking girls shorts today, and this news has put me in the foulest of foul moods. 

(Because didn't we just go through this in the before times which weren't that long ago?)

Unless I'm seeing a penis, testicles, nipples, a vulva, gluteal cleft or extensive mammary action, I don't care what a person wears, and I cannot wrap my head around why seeing shoulders and thighs is such a problem for so many people. 

But guess what being a vampire would mean? 


I would never escape buses dropping my kid off on the wrong side of a 5-lane parkway again.

I would never escape having to call and find out if this can be remedied.

I would never escape being interrupted by texts or by my children who don't see me busily working at my desk in what used to be the living room. 

I would never escape hormonal mood swings that may cause me hurt someone (or them to hurt me) before menopause is here. 

I would never escape the depression that is shopping at Walmart. 

I would never escape doing work that doesn't actually get utilized in a purposeful way.

I would never escape litter that tracks itself all over the house and is especially irritating in summer when I have bare feet.

I would never escape the hellscape that we're managing to turn the Earth into. 

Despite how funny Laszlo, Nandor, and Colin Robinson make it seem, being a vampire and having my life extended only to witness humanity effing things up sounds unbearable. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Second-guessing life choices...sort of/not really

It's that time of year again--the time when teachers post their "back-to-school" photos or comments stating that this is their 18th year in the classroom or their 12th year at School X and 24th year teaching in general.

This is also the time of year when I think to myself, "This MIGHT HAVE BEEN my ____ year."

[For the record, had I not taken an extended break from full-time work, I would be starting my 23rd year.]

Mostly, seeing these posts makes me feel bad because it means that in 4 years I could RETIRE from teaching, and that probably isn't the best attitude to have, especially since I haven't worked full-time as a teacher in 19 years. The only reason I have regret is because I would want to be almost done with a job that I haven't wanted to do full-time in the first place. 

And this just seems....dumb (in addition to confusing). 

So it is also at this time of year when I have to do what a lot of people do: I have to give myself a good talking to in response to stuff I see on social media. 

The talking to goes like this:

First, you didn't want to try to be the mom you wanted to be and the teacher you wanted to be because you felt pretty certain it would drive you crazy to not give yourself fully to either one. That is water LONG under the bridge so would you puhlease get over it. 

Second, you created this weird life of sorta teaching, sorta writing, sorta editing and have a bunch of hobbies and interests and you would have to give ALL of that up if you went back full-time. You spent time with your kids while they were growing up, and now you're spending time with your parents who are growing old. 

[To soothe your ego, here is a reminder of the things you've done: 13 years as a freelance writer, 11 years at the cottage school, 7 years as a substitute teacher, edited several books for people who have been published, editor at online literary magazine, soon-to-be published in an anthology. There do you feel better now?]

Third, you ABHOR meetings. The best part of the teaching you do is that you can avoid these. Same with your writing work. Minimal meetings is key. 

After the lecture I feel better and am able to go about my life doing what I have chosen to do. 

Until next August when we do this again.

Monday, August 7, 2023

If someone did to our free time what we do to kids' free time

Imagine an adult working a job. Maybe this job is 25 hours a week, maybe 40. It doesn't really matter. When this adult is not at work, she or he is experiencing what is called "free time," the time they can use however they wish. 

Most adults, because they are adults and have responsibilities, must spend part of that time doing stuff that keeps them alive: cooking, shopping, cleaning. 

But the rest of the time is theirs to read, play video games, sleep on the couch, watch Golden Girls, play sports, smoke pot, whatever. 

Now imagine if someone said to this adult:

"You must do something productive with your free time even if you don't want to. You have to join a rotary club or a politically-minded group. You have to go to book club three nights a week. You can no longer just enjoy your free time as you want. You have to engage in something that will 'improve' you in some way."

How pissed would you be?

I expect most adults would be furious. How dare someone tell them what to do with their free time?

And yet, it seems to me that parents often do this with their own kids. 

I think the reasons for this are complicated:

First, it can be hard for parents to understand that their children are not smaller/younger mockups of them: "I played football and love football, and therefore I want my child to play and love football." And maybe the parent encourages (pushes) the child into something that the child maybe feels meh about. 

Parents have also bought into this notion that if their kid hasn't set the world on fire by the time they are 17, it's over for them. Like kids have to pack in all these experiences before they go off to college (or to get into college), and if they don't....god help them. If our kids aren't little mockups of us, they are moldable blobs of clay that we are shaping into the next big success or the next awesome scholarship recipient. (The media, colleges, and high schools promote this and feed on the anxiety.)

[Personally, I think if you peak at 17 you're in for a rather disappointing life. I had a good high school experience but FFS, it wasn't the be-all and end-all.]

Of course, there are some kids who legit want to be involved in everything. I was that kid in high school. The paragraph next to my senior photograph is probably six inches long with all the stuff I was involved in. But by the time I got into college, I didn't want to join shit because I was freaking tired from the previous four years. It just wore me out rather than making me a bigger, stronger, faster version of myself (like the Six Million Dollar Woman). 

I'm so much more than I was in college, and I want to scream it from the rooftops to quit putting unnecessary pressure on young people. 

It seems pretty important to let kids be kids, even if it means they don't join stuff, if all they do is go to school, pass their classes, and come home (like my sons do). If G and M wanted to join something, I would encourage them, and sometimes I ask if they'd be interested in something I may hear about at their school, but when they say "no," I don't insist. 

D was never a joiner in school and sometimes I think he regrets it. And maybe one day my sons will regret it, but it is THEIR LIFE and, honestly, their problem. I would rather them be mad at themselves one day because they didn't get involved than be resentful of me because I made them do stuff they didn't want to do. And, lord knows, I don't need a fight. 

It's hard enough to get them to do the basic stuff like wash their hair and wear deodorant and reply back to their grandparents' text messages. If they don't want to do judo or be in the chess club or play with the orchestra, that's fine. 

The kids who are joiners will join, and you won't have to twist their arms to do it. The kids who don't want to join may not want to join now (on your time table), but they may do it one day when they are inclined. And then there are some who will never join anything and will be perfectly fine with it, even if it makes their parent's eye twitch. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Would you shut up already?

Well, I knew it had been awhile since I blogged but February??

My word. I've been a busy lady, I guess. 

I could review all that busyness, but this is not the time nor the place.

I'm talking about our family trip to Scotland.

It has become clear to me over the past couple years that when it comes to travel, I get a wild hair (from where, I don't know) and just run with it. 

I had never had any thought of going to the Galapagos, but when I heard about it from N's high school in October 2020 (for an April 2022 trip), I just thought, "Let's do it." 

So we did. And it was awesome. 

D and I had briefly talked about taking the kids to Boston because G had mentioned something about it from an interest in a video game (which inspired our trip with the kids to Las Vegas in 2021). With G being the most difficult to please (in all respects) out of the family, we sort of let his interests guide our plans. At one point, sometime in early 2022, I guess, I asked him, "Would you prefer to go to Boston or Scotland?"

Smart boy said "Scotland."

Why did Scotland pop into my head? It's cool there, generally, which has become the primary factor in where we go. G hates hot weather, and as an almost 50-year-old woman, I don't need any additional help being hot, so cooler is absolutely alright with me. 

But did I have a burning desire to visit Scotland? Not especially. 

Still, the words had come out of my mouth, so I proceeded to plan a trip last summer. 

Sometimes I think my unconscious brain is busy working while my conscious brain just dithers about because D and I did celebrate 25 years of marriage last fall. Why not make this trip the June after our anniversary a milestone holiday? And we took the kids because they are not quite old enough to be totally solo for 10 days, and our parents are just a little too old to be dealing with not quite old enough kids for 10 days. 

I worked with Tenon Tours to plan the trip and was very happy with how everything turned out. Could we have done it for less money? Certainly, but part of what we wanted was to spend a night in a castle, and that wasn't cheap. They selected a manor house for us to stay in for two nights, and that was an amazing experience. We got to do a falconry experience was that phenomenal. 

At the manor house, while playing pool, M said, "This place is really cool, but if I stayed in places like this all the time, it wouldn't be special." And I think that sums up this trip for us. 

We visited the following towns/villages/cities in Scotland: Edinburgh, Kingussie, Forres, Inverness, Findhorn, Portree, Glencoe, Ballachulish, Fort William, Mallaig, Stirling, and Falkirk. And we saw so many amazing things. 

It has been a complete drag to come back to real life. Real life is so dull. (I say or think this and then fight the shame/guilt that reminds me that I am so privileged to be able to go on such a trip and then come home and complain about my very easy existence.) I have been posting photos on social media (partly because it brings me joy and I do like sharing it with others; I try not to be too insufferable by posting only a few photos, not big photo dumps of 45 pics.) I feel certain at least several people I know are thinking, Would you can it?

Still, the most wonderful part of the trip was spending time with my family at a time when we spend less time together. In some ways, this may have been a last hurrah for us (I hope not, but life changes whether you want it to or not.)

Some highlights of small moments: 

Apparently, at one point I said, "Ice cream is calling my name," and my kids have now made that one of  the "mom" phrases they make fun of me about. 

They also made fun of me because every time D has a camera in his hands, I ask, "Are you taping me?" And he always gets me on tape asking that question. (After 25 years, you kind of know someone.)

The kids, while D and I were checking into our hotel in Glencoe, made several videos in which the boys spoke as their alter egos, Eugene and Theodore. Theodore (G) gave Eugene (M) a hug which made Eugene fart, causing uproarious laughter that was caught on video. 

N, in her excitement over being able to drink legally as a 19-year-old in Scotland, ordered the typical beverage that everyone orders at an Italian small plate restaurant: a margarita. 

G's socks stunk so badly that all their shared rooms smelled like corn chips until I could find a laundry on the Isle of Skye. 

The best thing I have discovered about getting away from real life is that it takes away all the distractions that keep me from noticing my kids---the laundry, the paperwork, the phone calls, the vacuuming. It makes me focus on the moment. And we're getting short time on moments when I have the opportunity to notice them. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Last year of teens

Dear N,

You have now embarked on your last year as an official teen, although your life is already very different from what it was a short 12 months ago.

It has been a strange year because you are learning how to navigate life as an adult, and I am learning how to not be a part of everything. This is not bad, for either of us. I have not once missed field hockey or high school events; it is totally ok that I'm not getting emails from school or having to fill out forms for you. This is the progression that every parent (every rational one, anyway) welcomes.  

I think you've adjusted to college. You were anxious your first semester, but you managed to pull all As and seem much more relaxed about second semester. You are enjoying your Philosophy in Science Fiction class (which I, your ever wise mom, recommended you take). It is fun for me and your dad to hear you talk about your classes. College can be a really cool time for you to figure yourself out (or at least begin a process that, if you're anything like me, will take until you're about 25 before you have a clearer sense of what you really want). 

You have gone through the friendship transition that takes place for most people after high school. Everyone goes in different directions, and you learn to make new friends or hang out with yourself for awhile. Those friendships were meaningful and served their place and time, but they often fade away. It can feel sad, but it can also feel liberating. I think for you it felt like both. 

I hope you know that I think you're a pretty marvelous young woman. You're bright and friendly, responsible and good-natured. You're the type of person it is easy to be around. You are, like me, a little addicted to books, but if this is your worst habit, I'm a lucky mom. We share weird cat videos via Instagram all the time; it is our love language, I think. I'm excited to go to Scotland with you and the rest of the gang this summer to explore and see some amazing things. I love that we are travel buddies, with you always happy to send me suggestions for the "next place."

Continue to work hard, be yourself, and try to think things through to their logical progression (which can be hard when that prefrontal cortex is still cooking). 

I'm really glad you came into my life 19 years ago.

I love you,


Thursday, February 2, 2023

A first for this family: ISAP

When I was attending Catholic school, ISAP referred to In-School Atonement Program, but now it is In-School Adjustment Program. Whatever the acronym, my kid has it. 

Last Friday, before I'd fully pulled the car in the garage, before the motor was off, M had his head sticking out the door. Now this isn't necessarily unusual; he sometimes pops his head out if he has just beaten me home. The clue that something was up was the verbal diarrhea that was coming out of him.

It went like this:

M: "Did you get a call from school?"

I knew something was up. 

Me: "No, why?"

And so the long story of what went down with his table of goofy-ass 7th grade boys proceeded. It involved a milk carton and a fist. And stupidity. 

The entire time he was telling me the story of the assistant principal and his Social Studies teacher and what they said to the boys, I was thinking to myself:


When I didn't hear anything from the school on Friday or Monday, I wasn't sure what the situation was, and he wasn't sure what the situation was, but I could tell he was upset about a possible pending disciplinary measure. So I emailed the AP.

And after chatting with her, I talked to M about when he would get his time in ISAP and whether he really wants to get in trouble for other kids doing stupid stuff. (Technically, he touched the milk carton since the boys passed it around the table. He said he barely touched it because he knew it would explode if he hit it hard. I said to him, "You touched it; you're an accessory. You gotta do your time."

I'm hoping that this is a one-off because I was getting pretty used to coasting with my kids. I'm too old and tired to deal with 13-year-old boy hijinks. 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Where are you going? Where have you been?

This is the title of a Joyce Carol Oates' book that I haven't read, but it's a title I've always liked. I think it is a nice way I think about one's life and especially Dec 31.

On the New Year, I always post this: Happy Arbitrary Time Delineation Day! Not that the Gregorian calendar is arbitrary, but there are like 12 30+ others, including the Hebrew calendar and the Chinese calendar. Time is a construct we make so while I own calendars and follow calendars, I also believe they are bogus. 

How do I exist in this world being such a fucking buzzkill, you ask? 

I don't even know.

Time is weird. It can fly by; it can crawl by. Sometimes time feels like a fever-dream. When I reflect back on the past year, it doesn't feel real to me. I can't believe it hasn't been a year since my trip to Ecuador because it feels like 1,000 years. Although maybe by April, the year anniversary of the trip, it will feel like just the blink of an eye.

Because of the weirdness of time, it can make it difficult to reflect on it on a specific designated day, like today/tonight/tomorrow. Maybe I'm not feeling reflective? Maybe I'm just ornery and don't want to reflect when society tells me I need to?

There is a lot of pressure with the new year, just as there is with Christmas holidays. There is a pressure to create (or recreate) magic at Christmas, and there is a pressure to be resolute, to make changes, to become a new and better, stronger, more powerful version of YOU with the minute hand ticking. 

And I reject this completely, mostly because I'm allowed to since my kids don't care if I make resolutions or strive to be a better me. (They would have a shitfit, however, if I tried to not do Christmas.)

For the moment, I'm ok with who I am now. I went through my big workout and try to ward off middle-age phase after my third child was born 13 years ago. I long ago decided that getting a PhD probably isn't something I aspire to. I recently wrote a literary essay for publication that drove me insane to complete and made me question what my "writing life" is and what I want it to be. None of this required me to make a decision on Dec 31 or Jan 1. 

I don't need this day or tomorrow to be reflective. I guess some people do, and since I'm a fan of reflecting and metacognating, then kudos to those who do it tonight or tomorrow. But if you're not one of those folks, and you feel like a slug or a loser because you aren't motivated to extol your great PLANS for 2023, let it go. Just as time is a social construct, so is this expectation of growth, of change, of great personal fulfillment decided in one 24-hour period. 

You don't have to buy into it.