Ask not for whom the school bell tolls – it tolls for thee (and me)

It’s hard to say who dreads the first day of school more – my kids or me. Now, I’d love to say it’s because of the waning days of summer or the loss of freedom to make plans and spend time together without a care for football game schedules or upcoming exams or papers due. I could even wax eloquent about the first day of school as harbinger of another Michigan winter, another year of our lives together passing into the mists of time, etc., etc. But that really isn’t it.

sighs

The first day of school means that stress time and conflict time begins. Sure, some level of stress and/or conflict is there year round – I live with teenagers after all, when a request to please pick up laundry takes on Wagnerian levels of drama. That said, school brings a whole ‘mother level of stress and angst, beginning with the first evening’s homework – usually a signature on the class syllabus which is to be turned in the next day.

Homework, in it’s own special way, (a new ring of hell for Dante way) becomes a fire point, a trigger, a symbol of both my kids’ indifference and my self-perceived failures as a parent. My kids are very intelligent creatures. I say that with all confidence. They could also give a rip about school, each in their own way.

My daughter generally gets her work done shortly after getting home. She seems to view it as a necessary evil separating her from the things she wants to do. If the subject or assignment is something she particularly enjoys, she’ll give it her all; if it isn’t, she’ll do enough to get by and may or may not read the directions before proceeding. We can also safely assume that what’s completed will be turned in. Her special stressors really isn’t homework as much as study habits (a silly and somewhat archaic concept in her mind) and test prep – but that’s a topic for another day.

My son is a different matter altogether. He is, I think sometimes, smarter than all of us, as far as sheer ability. He is also Olympic-level homework-averse. If we can get past the hurdles of a) recording what homework needs to be done and b) bringing home the materials to complete said homework and even c) completing the homework and packing it up, there’s a sizable chance that the work – done well and done on time – will never see the teacher’s inbox. His hard work, crumpled on the bottom of his backpack, there to die among the gum wrappers and old Monster Energy cans, never to see the light of day again.  (And yes, we know there’s a control issue woven in here.) Then, after a period of no (in the teacher’s eyes) discernible attempts at mastering the material, he’ll saunter in on exam day and ace it.

What this all means is that the school bell rings and my Pavlovian response is to spike my blood pressure and yearn for valium. Somehow, somewhere, we missed out on the “work is it’s own reward” lesson. Aw hell, I’d settle for “if I do the work and get the grades, that crazy lady will leave me alone”.

I’m not one of those moms who demand perfection. Far from it. I’ve seen the kids that are the product of their parent’s own thwarted ambitions or drives and it ain’t pretty.  What I want is for my kids to simply give it their best shot – and along the way, hopefully stumble into something that they love to do and want to pursue.  Happy lives and gainful employment – and the ability to take care of Mike and I in the manner to which we’d like to become accustomed someday. 🙂

cat-jumps-off-ledgeAt any rate, the school bell tolls on Tuesday so like it or not, we’re off to the races.

Enough with the false starts already!

Blogging is harrrrd, she whined.

animated gif of cat hit by toy train to illustrate my repeated false starts at blogging

I think I can I think I can I think I can….

It isn’t, actually.  The hard part is getting past the arbitrary filters in my own mind long enough to get something down on paper. (Well, screen, but you know what I mean.)  What was hard was this past year.  What was easy was venting about it here. So easy, in fact, that talking about the hard stuff – hospice, mental health, loss, etc., became the norm. It felt like cheating when I’d see a silly cat cartoon or have a funny observation to make – why, I can’t do that here! This here’s a serious blog for serious-like stuff.  We’ve got dying to talk about and psychotropics to expound upon. This is not place for memes!  But yeah, it is. It’s my place to do with as I please and if I choose to use an animated gif of a train repeatedly hitting a fat grey cat in order to symbolize the number of times I’ve attempted to post but not quite gotten there, well then dammit, I shall.

So yeah. Enough with the declarations. I miss this place. *looks around, blows dust off the dragon* And I may still get heavy ’cause shit still gets real, more often than I’d like.  But I also shall grant myself permission to post the light as well. I laugh more than I cry, after all; even if much of that laughter is slightly inappropriate. So that’s going to happen here too.

Hi Mom, again

This past July 9 was the 7th anniversary of my Mom’s passing. In honor of that, I’m reblogging an old post of mine I wrote back on her birthday (back when I had like 2 readers). Thanks for listening!

Here Be Dragons

Today would be my mom’s 87th birthday.

She isn’t here any more – we lost her at the age of 80 to complications from pancreatic cancer. She hadn’t even started her chemo/radiation yet.  Once night she complained she wasn’t feeling well. Later that night, she woke my dad and told him to call the doctor.  He left the room for a moment, came back and she was gone. Blood clot in the lungs was the informed guess from her physician.

When she died, it was like the center of our world went dark.  For my father, 82 at the time and with myriad health issues, the sun had ceased to shine when his wife of 61 years left him behind.  For us, it was simply astounding.  Mom was the strong one, the capable and steady one.  My father was battling so many health woes – cancer, CHF, kidney failure (caused…

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Happy 15th to my bestest boy

Fifteen years ago, after a late night race through almost-deserted Manhattan streets, (and boy, did my husband LOVE that drive – I think he was dying to get pulled over by New York’s finest just so he could point at me and ask for an escort. But I digress…) our boy Julian was born at Beth Israel Hospital, NYC.  At 10 pounds, 8 ounces, he made quite an entrance!

Jude is now 15. He’s talented, wise and funny in an almost visceral way. He’s working hard with the cards dealt to him and we couldn’t be prouder of all he’s accomplishing right now.  Happy birthday, Julian. Every day you become an even finer young man. Now let’s go watch some fireworks!

Can a gal get a break, please? (with bonus thoughts about “the new normal”)

Yes, yes she can. (fingers crossed, knock wood, etc.)

grumpy cat feels stress

Grumpy Cat understands me

Physically, emotionally and psychologically, it has been a rough several months.  We’ve handled my son starting high school (and all that goes along with that transition), my daughter in her junior year (her hardest) and the continuing circus of working at an understaffed, overbusy ad agency. I thought that was stressful.

Then shit got real.

We went to acute stress action phase when my mother-in-law started to decline and ultimately entered hospice care this past March. In our home. It was difficult, rewarding, intrusive, beautiful – all those adjectives and more. It was also a lot of stress layered on top our already packed lives.  And more so, for my husband. Dianne passed peacefully on May 16.

With her passing came all of the activities that follow a death: the paperwork, the cleaning out and sorting of a lifetime accumulation of stuff. Stuff that needed to be sorted, wrapped, boxed, transported, donated or tossed. Mike’s sister came to town and is, thankfully, a mofo packing machine and helped make quick work of it all. (Left to our own devices, Mike and I would still be there, looking at photos and wondering what to do with the china.)

No sooner was that done then our son was hospitalized. Stress, doctors, phone calls, worry and more.  He’s home now and doing better but there’s a bit of a journey there yet to come.

And now it’s summer. Kids out of school, things slow down, leisurely evenings and weekends, right?  Nope. Just as I’m vowing to stop with the crazy hours at the office for a while, things go nuts there.  Not sure why but the workload is worse than ever right now. Seems every client we currently work with wants to start something new right now, every other client wants to consider it and new business opportunities are clamoring.  Now I am not one to be sorry we have so many opportunities but really – all at once? I blame the NSA and Supermoon.  In that order.

This past Friday morning we woke up to find AbbieCat, my MIL’s kitty, had passed in her sleep during the night. This was not a huge surprise – she was 16, overweight, with dodgy kidneys to boot – but we really had hoped to have her longer. I think she just got sad that her person was gone.

What surprised me most about this was my lack of real reaction. Normally the loss of a loved pet is very traumatic for me. Granted, this was not my cat but I knew Abbie well; she’d stayed with us many times over the years, whenever Dianne visited. I had some attachment here.  It isn’t that I don’t care. Rather, it’s I don’t have time to care right now. With all of the balls in the air and plates spinning, this registered just a bit of a wobble.

Earlier this week, while viewing yet another webinar titled “______: The New Normal”, my coworkers and I spent more time joking about how everything is “The New Normal” these days.  Mobile is Everywhere: The New Normal!  Brands Getting Social: The New Normal! It’s replaced “Synergy” and “Paradigm” as the POV presentation buzz-phrase of choice. It’s old, trite and laughable.

angry orange cat swimming

ignore the stress. just keep swimming, cat.

BUT.  What if this hyper-stressed existence I’ve been leading is actually my New Normal? Is that why losing that sweet ol’ kitty didn’t even ruffle my feathers? I honestly was more sad for my husband and kids than feeling anything resembling a feeling myself.  I noted she was gone, hugged my husband, gave her some pets and headed off to work and into a crazy calendar of meetings. It wasn’t until the end of the day that I mentioned it to a friend at work and she inquired how I was doing? Doing? Should I be doing something? Feeling something?  Apparently yes.

So here’s the thing. I can’t do anything about workload right now. It is what it is and will be what it is until it isn’t.  I can handle it or I can go elsewhere (not that it doesn’t enter my mind sometimes).  What I can do is take better advantage of the time I am off. Time to decompress, time to just relax. Not quite sure how that’s going to happen just yet but it’s worth a shot. And I have Thursday and Friday off next week. That break this gal is going to take!