Every Wrinkle Tells a Story

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Google “fight the signs of aging.” Go ahead. I’ll wait. Okay, if you Googled it then you saw the 379,000 results that came up. Most of which are geared toward women. In other words, women, don’t grow old you won’t be attractive any longer.

I buy into this whole anti-aging game. I hate what’s happening to my skin. I hate the lines on my forehead. I’m paranoid my chin will drop. I spend lots of money on products that are supposed to reverse the sun damage I did as teen when the only thing between me and the UV rays was baby oil. My family has blocked all paths to Botox websites.

I want my twenty-five year old complexion back. I miss my natural hair color – black. I know I’m not supposed to care I’m getting older. We want the years to pile up because the alternative is far worse. With age comes experience and wisdom you can’t handle as a younger person. I get it. I really do. I just don’t want to look old. Old should be a four letter word.

Staying in shape is harder than it was even ten years ago. My body creaks and groans in sounds I’ve never heard before. And if listening to my mother’s generation is any indication, those sounds only get worse. I tell myself that won’t be me. My hamstrings tell me something else.

Am I victim of societal norms? Well, if the fact I remove all unwanted hair from my body says anything, then yes I am! Society tells me hairless and young is attractive. I don’t want to be excluded from the popular kids’ table. Unfortunately, old people sit by the bathrooms and there’s a space open at that table. Spaces are always open at the old people’s table.

I need to turn my head around on this one. I may have found the way. Someone said to me, “every wrinkle tells your story.” You know how I love a good story. That phrase resonated with me. Our wrinkles and gray hair are the stories of our lives.

How many times have you said, “my kids gave me gray hair?” Could you imagine your life without your children in it? Not me. If kids equal gray hair, then I guess the gray is okay. (I’m still going to cover mine up, but I’ll try not to get so freaked out about the amount of them.)

We can’t navigate through life without a road map. (Have you ever seen me when I get lost? Probably best you don’t.) Bummer the road map is on our faces, but isn’t the journey more important than the destination? All the roads I’ve traveled have led me here. Sometimes the road was bumpy, sometimes smooth.

The lines around our eyes are paths filled with laughter.  I’m glad I didn’t miss out on the times I bent over laughing so hard I cried. There are countless memories etched into those lines on my face. I’d take everyone of them all over again.

I also have frown lines. Bummer again, but with the good comes the not so good. I’ve worried over the health of a loved one. I worried about school, money, love. I worry about my children every day. Noodge 1 drives in less than two weeks. I’ll be worrying a lot more. But I would never change his growing up. That is the cycle of life.

I’m not ready to toss my anti-aging serums in the trash. Instead, I’ll look at my wrinkles with kindness and give them space to tell my story.

 

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Is Being Older Irrelevant?

23917309952_de5cbd4619_kI miss being young. I don’t miss everything about it, but I long for the time when my entire future was out in front of me. When I had every possibility in the palm of my hand like the first snowflake of the season.

There are certainly plenty of years still ahead of me and every day my eyes open is another opportunity to accomplish all I’ve wanted to. But those years of being young were simpler times. I miss the ease in which the days passed only bombarded by the trivial mishaps being a teen brings. Of course, there isn’t a teen on the planet that will tell you their lives are easy and I was no different. It is only with the filter of age and time that we can look back at the rough edges of teen life and see only the soft smooth picture that remains.

Things that were important then no longer matter now. I suppose what matters to me today will not matter five years from now either. Or perhaps matter less. The present moment leaves its sting like no other.

If I knew then, walking the halls of my small high school the smell of wax, cooked food and sweat in my nose, what I know now, I would have made different decisions. Not all the decisions. Some were good ones, but others I wouldn’t do again. Even armed with knowledge I’d be bound to make mistakes. We can’t eliminate risk all together though I’ve certainly tried often enough.

There is a level of fun associated with being young that no other time in our lives allows for. Somewhere along the path while I wasn’t paying attention fun slipped away. It wanted to play hide and seek and I was too busy to join in. Shooing it away, telling it to come back later. Fun has found a younger person to play with now.

I may miss being young because our society reveres youth. We disregard the older generation as passe; a burden to contend with. Their stories are thread bare and time wasters. Their skin folded and creased with years of living and not smooth and firm and dewy. They are easily manipulated, not adept with technology. They walk too slowly, drive badly, can’t hear or see you. We are told to fight getting older as if years of wisdom is a war to battle instead an honor to bestow. Society has decided an air brush yields more power than knowledge.

My class reunion is next year. I’m looking forward to it. Many people aren’t interested in returning to the place where they had pimples on their skin, awkward words stuck in their mouths, and two left feet. I think I want to go just to be near the people who knew me when I was young. It was with these people I grew up. We hear music that transports us back to football games on Friday nights, we remember parties on the beach, we wore clothes in neon colors and jeans washed in acid, we read books about children locked in attics and scary clowns. We went to movies on Monday nights with a date.

These were the people in my life long before I had teenagers of my own. My classmates don’t think I’m wrong because I’m old and out dated. Won’t tell me I don’t understand them because they know I was once that age. They won’t roll their eyes at me when I share my memories because those memories are theirs too. My stories aren’t boring and tired because they played a roll in them.

I am not young. That burden is for someone else to carry now. I need to read with glasses when the light is dim, I have eliminated cheese fries from my diet, I hung up my baton a long time ago. I am older, wiser in some ways. I have done some living and have plenty more to do. I have a lot to learn because the older we get we realize we don’t know everything. But I will tell you this:

I am not irrelevant.

 

Driving In Cars With Boys

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Courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Okay, it should really be, driving in a car with a boy. My boy. Noodge 1. Noodge is taking an SAT prep class this summer. After much research the Coffee King and I decided on one about thirty minutes from our house. Just about everything is thirty minutes from my house. After five years of living in the country, I’m starting to get used to it.

Anyway, today we were getting on the highway and traffic was backed up on the on ramp. Traffic is bad at rush hour in NJ, but this was really bad and sure enough there was a tractor trailer on fire and we were being rerouted.

Thank God for technology and my kid. He navigated the Waze app and I navigated the roads. They were long, windy, and bumpy. Wherever we were driving was way more country than I was used to. No worries, I can handle this.

Until we came to a downed wire. Some crazy people were driving under it. I turned around and went back the way we came not sure how to get back to the highway or to the school with the SAT class. But, technology served us again and with a little guidance from my co-driver, we took more windy, curvy, bumpy, and frighteningly small bridge roads.

Then there was a police officer blocking our way. We’d been in the car for close to if not over an hour by now. I was starting to get the feeling the Universe didn’t want us to get to the class. Far be it for me to argue with the Universe.

So we headed for home. And when I was finally back to an area I recognized I was behind a very large construction truck doing 25 in a 50. My patience had worn thin. I wasn’t handling things so well any longer. We know I’m not a patient person, (number one flaw besides being judgmental) and I hate driving in cars for too long. I expressed my feelings about the slow driving truck out loud. (Big mouth, third character flaw.)

Noodge 1 said, “You sound angry.”

The child is spot on. Scary really.

Me, “I hate driving in cars and we’ve been in the car for an hour and a half.”

Him, “But you got to spend time with me.”

Shut up. Feel badly. Mommy guilt. How could I be so stupid and when am I going to learn to shut my mouth? (Considering my age, probably never sadly.)

He was so right and I hadn’t thought of it that way. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with him and try to tell him that every chance I get. Plus, he’s the kid that lets me hug him unannounced and I take full advantage of that.

But I shouldn’t have become angry at the truck driver even if he was driving like a putz. I should’ve taken a big deep breath and thanked the Universe for saving us from some horrible event and for getting a full hour and a half with my kid. Uninterrupted. No video games. No earbuds.

I quickly apologized for my misstep and thanked him for being my navigator. He’s also the kid that doesn’t hold a grudge, so I was forgiven in a quarter of a mile. But lesson learned. Be grateful for what you have and never mind the rest. It wasn’t wasted time getting a tour of the hills of New Jersey it was quality time with Noodge who will be going off to college in two years and driving around with others instead.

Don’t resent cooking dinner. It means we can afford to eat. Don’t hate doing laundry. It means we have clothes to wear and I don’t have to go to a laundromat to do them. Don’t hate running the vacuum because I have the strength to do it. Don’t worry that your bathroom isn’t updated. At least we’re not peeing outside. Don’t worry that I’m not a best selling author. I have the privilege of spending my days writing and the health that allows me to sit at a desk and type. You get me?

So, how about you? What are you grateful for? What do you toss aside as a nuisance that you can turn into a blessing? I love to hear from you. You, my faithful reader, I am grateful for too. For without you, how would I spend my time besides driving in cars with boys.

Do You Check Your Emotions At The Door?

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I recently read a blog post where the writer says she doesn’t miss any of the stages of her children’s lives. I think she enjoyed the stages while she was in them, but she’s glad that they’re grown. She “[doesn’t] understand mothers who grieve every step of their children’s growing up. [She doesn’t] get the tears at the kindergarten door or the angst at the driver’s license test. The weeping at graduation baffles [her]. The whole point of being a parent is to raise kids, not keep them as pets.”

I have to disagree with her and thought my blog was a better place to do it than hers. Certainly, our children aren’t pets and we all want them to grow up to be independent, well-adjusted adults who thrive in life. I want my children to be responsible. That’s why they have chores and my fifteen year-old just found out he’ll be getting a job this summer, much to his dismay.

But I cried when my youngest stepped onto the bus for Kindergarten and I cried when my oldest graduated from eighth grade and I got misty eyed two months later when I dropped him off at high school orientation and for sure I’ll weep like a baby when he graduates from high school and yes, I will feel angst when he starts driving. That doesn’t make me a helicopter parent. It makes me a parent. Plain and simple.

My children’s highs are my highs and their lows are my lows. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this job I call “Mom.” My daughter has been sick since December and it keeps me up at night and when she’s finally well you can bet I’ll be shedding a tear. Doesn’t mean I don’t want her to clean her room. And doesn’t mean I don’t want her to grow into the amazing,  independent woman I know she’ll be.

I feel sorry for this author whose heart doesn’t seem to be fully invested into those times. She had a task to do and by golly, she was going to complete it. Check your emotions at the door.

Maybe I wear my emotions like a badge of honor, I don’t know, but I know I have them. And I know I love my children more than anything on this planet. Why wouldn’t I be engaged in their milestones?

Of course, I want my children to grow up and take on the world and make all their dreams come true. I applaud my son’s interest in music and my daughter’s interest in theater. Not easy career choices, but I would never stop them from taking it on. It’s their lives and they must live them.

I don’t long for days of diapers and tying shoes, but I know I will miss my kids when they go because they are mine for only a short time and for years all I’ve done is be there for them. I will have to reinvent some of myself when they go.

And maybe that is why I cry sometimes. Who will I be when they leave? And will they think of me from time to time? Will they roll their eyes when I call them? When they were little there was no question about their love for me. And there may not be any question of love when they are adults, but they won’t be mine when that time comes. And they shouldn’t be. Is it wrong to miss their warm embrace? Those chubby hands clasped in yours? Their laughter ringing through out the house?

The tears aren’t just because you mourn the loss of another stage in their lives. The tears are because you’re so proud of your child and all that they accomplish. Because you can’t believe that amazing person belongs to you. You, the impostor, You, whose father abandoned you, You, with all your flaws made a child filled with the best of you.

I will bring my tissues proudly when my daughter graduates eighth grade this year. I might cry a little harder because this has been a tough time for her. My heart soars at every football game when my son marches on the field in his band uniform pounding on his drum. And I will be biting my nails and praying to God above to keep him safe as he earns his driver’s permit this summer.

I don’t check my emotions at the door. They’re tucked in my pockets, around my neck, and dangling from my ears. I am a Mom. Today and everyday.

 

 

Appreciation Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

I don’t know about you, but as a mother I rarely feel appreciated. I spend my days driving my kids to school when they tell me the bus is too cold to stay on for the 30 minute  ride. I will drive back, the seven miles, on the same day when I receive a call at 2 pm that there’s a band meeting scheduled at the last moment and we don’t have a late bus for them to take home.  This will also be the day there is an orthodontist appointment so now I’ve driven to the school three times, four if you count the fact I had to return the child to school after his appointment. When I drop everything for my children I’m sacrificing something of my own. Usually yoga which keeps me nice so I want to continue playing chauffeur in sub zero weather and not want to shove snow down your shirt.

I’m not unique. I’m just a mom and  I survive on hugs and proud moments my kids don’t know I’m watching. You grow a thick skin when you become a mother. It actually prepared me for all the rejections I received while pitching my book.

The other day something magical happened. (No, not with the kids, but stick with me.) I stopped to get gas and the attendant asked me if I wanted my windshield cleaned. That’s magical all by itself because usually the attendant just grunts at you when he hands back your credit card. But this guy didn’t just clean the windshield. He cleaned all the windows and I have a SUV.

I never tipped anyone for washing my windshield before, but  I did this time. And in his attempt to thank me, there was a language barrier there, he went back and wiped down the frames of all the windows. He felt appreciated and so did I.

Was it the unprompted “thank you for driving me all over the planet so I can fit into society, have straight teeth, and some day the  job of my dreams” from one of my children? Was it “I’d love to help you shovel the snow because you bought me the sneakers I wanted” without eye roll? Not exactly.

I will continue to sacrifice yoga to drive my kids where they need to go. I’ll give up my writing time to help search for reliable sources for that science paper. I will remember that appreciation comes in all shapes and sizes. And when I’m not looking one of the young people that live in my house will clean my windows without asking and I’ll know all is right with the world.