Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's Just Us Now. Pretty Scary!

Danger ahead!

I'm not sure what it is or the shape it may take, but entering the days of the empty nest can bring some unexpected dynamics to a mature relationship.

For sure, there is the elation of long awaited freedom; especially after 30 years of bringing up school aged children. But the absence of children can also reveal buried marital issues that never had space to surface. We are confronted by the hard reality of who we really are, individually and as a couple, as  the occupation of child-rearing takes a back seat.

We are forced to address the challenges and conflicts once covered up by parental duties.

All of a sudden:

It's just us, now. And it's Pretty scary. 

Did you see the movie "Failure to Launch" about the grown son who never moved out of his parents' house? The mom was dealing with a similar trepidation. She enabled her son to stay because she worried her relationship with her husband had changed.
"What if he doesn't like me anymore?" A humorously exaggerated thought, but universal in both parties.
What if she doesn't like him anymore?

Fears bubble just below the surface about taking on issues that have been swept under the proverbial carpet. There is no pretense, masks or faking, or hiding behind problems of offspring anymore.

But that's when our true selves can be discovered. And if our marriage vows are true, there's a depth of knowing our spouse that is a fresh, new vista to explore.

At first it can feel like undressing in front of each other for the first time. Vulnerable, exciting and a bit terrifying all at the same time. Here we are, all the faults and warts and blemishes, vivid and clear. Truly, the deepest character defects that are the hardest to wrestle down are also the most rewarding to forgive.

Are we still going to love each other, without the glue of the children? Do we have a reason to create new ways to have fun, to surprise each other? To date and court again?

When the novelty of the firsts - career, houses, kids' milestones - turn into second, third, fourth and boringly fifth, what will hold us together?

Of all eras in a marriage, now is the time to compose a mission. A mission for a relationship with season appropriate projects and goals.

What inovative mission can you create for the next chapter?

It's your half-time show. Make it a good one! Without the kids.

You see, the fear is as real as the boogey man under the bed, or the monster in the closet.

It's not really as black as we think it is. It's there, but exaggerated in its power.

 And God forbid, we look at the potential boredom or fear and plan an escape, thinking there's someone better elsewhere. That's a lie. Yes, the thought of trading your partner is a deadly illusion. There's nothing greener out there. And certainly, breaking up the home is no improvement for some fantasy person or situation. Just because the kids are grown, doesn't mean they wouldn't be profoundly affected by how we end up as a couple.

So turn the page, re-invent the relationship, revel in the adventure that lies ahead,

regardless of the perceived danger ahead.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer's Last Exhale

It was only a week ago that Summer said goodbye. Labor Day marked its exit. Everywhere I turned there were white cotton pants, that last week of summer. Capris, bootcut and loose fit. (As if the "No White after Labor Day" rule applies to the season-less south Florida.) We have to distinguish the turn of the months by abiding by fashion rules and buying fake autumn leaves from the craft stores.

The leisurely days turn into a final sprint into Winter. Enter the busy months of school, work and back-to-back holidays.

The days suddenly shorten.

September skies show the prettiest shade of blue. Sometimes a clear cyan. Sometimes robin's egg blue backing the cottony-grey-lemon clouds at sunset. My favorite.

And all these 'September' songs come to mind. Do they yours? Like this one from the simply set musical, The Fantasticks.

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow.........

Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December, our hearts should remember
And follow. - Lyrics by Tom Jones

It will come that quickly - December will. We worry about Christmas from now till then. Moms do. So much to do as the year accelerates to its close.

Leaving the long, slow days of summer far, far behind.

It's only been a week since Summer said farewell, breathed out its last exhale.

Friday, August 16, 2013

7 ways to Survive the Summer without A/C

  1. Slip into an icy cold tub before bedtime. After your body temperature drops, hit the sheets quick. You'll fall asleep before your body notices it's really 90 degrees in your bedroom. 


  2. Think of the people in Sri Lanka who have no A/C and far more mosquitoes to deal with, while they open their windows to catch a scarce breeze.   
  3. Move your home business to someone else's home. For instance, for piano lessons, go to their house instead of having them come to yours. The moms will worship you because they don't have to fight their kids to get in and out of the car. They can wash their dishes while you teach. YOU get to enjoy their A/C. :) And the little girls draw you pretty "Welcome to our Home" pictures to greet you with at the door.


  4. Think of all the people in Thailand who don't have a/c and have to fear a sudden monsoon.

 5.  Bake at work. Mix up a batch of banana bread batter, your sister-in-law's famous        recipe, drive fast before the active ingredients lose their chemical reaction and bake it in the work kitchen oven while you catch up on your morning emails. Give the freshly baked banana bread to the friend at  church who graciously offered to loan his portable cooling unit. He says it needs to be run from time to time, anyway, and will love the bread. Your house is spared the oven heat.

6.  Think of all the people in India who have no A/C. They shower with a bucket of water and a ladle, Pantene standing by.

7.   Take cold showers often and enjoy the running water and the shower head.

That's how you survive the summer without air conditioning.

Thankfully, I sit under the repaired central air vent now and have regained my mental faculties so I can function again.

A few other tips:
  •  Cook out every night on the barbecue. Everything tastes better grilled, from eggplant to fish, with olive oil and and a little sea salt.
  •  Work late at the office. They don't have a broken cooling system.
  •  Take long drives in your car, if the air conditioning works, of course...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Throwing Vases: My Anger Issue

This is a confessional post. By no means am I shifting blame by stating that

My mother used to do it. 

Throw vases, that is.  And I don't mean wet clay on a potter's wheel.

As a child, I remember sitting at the dine-in kitchen table next to the stove in our California ranch style house. Something my father said exasperated her so, that with both hands, she grabbed a platter off the range, took one step backwards and smashed it on the floor at her feet. Then crying, she beelined  down the long hall to the safe harbor of the bathroom, a mother's only sanctuary. I can still see my dad knocking on the locked door, pleading with her to open it. "Mother, Come on. Open the door. Open the door, Isabel."

Eventually she did and they kissed and made up. 

My mother in law had a slightly less destructive version of dealing with spousal provocation.
While frying eggs, her man waiting for breakfast at the table nearby, she dealt with her frustration by flipping the egg with an extra thrust in the wrist that hurled it straight up to the ceiling. Sticking for a brief moment the egg dropped to it's untimely not-so- easy-over demise, blood yolk splattered all over. Hubby got the point.

What is it about pitching a pot across a room or dashing a dish on the floor that brings such delicious satisfaction?

Now, before you report this to some social services agency,  let me assure you, no one's ever gotten hurt, the incidents were few a far between.  No people were ever the target of my good right arm. A wall usually was fine, thank you, and the crockery was only mildly damaged.

I thought I put down my addiction 20 years ago when we lived on Wilbur Road in Thousand Oaks. I  had two kids then in the 900 square foot abode. And I can't even remember what incident precipitated it or what impetus fueled it, but I threw something across the living room. I can still taste the relief to this day.

And the regret.

Thinking I had really quit, the habit reared it's ugly head when we relocated to Avenida de Los Arboles, a 1200 square foot apartment, ground floor, all 7 of us did.  I discovered I had little improved recovery from my anger issue. You see, I had moved from throwing vases to bigger things: kitchen chairs.

One day, with the noble effort to be a good mom, we had commenced to baking cookies in the small kitchen. At some point, the clutter, cookie dough and clamoring children pushed me over the edge. In a claustrophobic panic,  I picked up a kitchen chair and threw it out the (open) sliding screen door onto the fenced patio. Thinking about it now, I was probably just trying to make more space for our food project. (Yeah, right!)

Not much improvement at all.

I believe that was the last time I heaved anything.

It's shocking to some that I also yelled a lot. My husband would threaten a time-out when I raised my voice too much. He's always been a bit phobic that I would turn into my father (aren't all spouses afraid of that?) and became the obnoxious Stromboli he was reputed for, shouting and yelling unnecessarily.

My husband just wanted a peaceful house. That's not too much to ask for.

I love that man. Though I have occasionally felt like chucking him out the kitchen slider, too. :)

About when the 4th or 5th child entered their sophomore year in high school, I stopped yelling.

I'm not sure if I've made Anger My Ally, as the book is titled. Or if  my negative emotions have been  transformed into "righteous anger." I'm sure they haven't.

But the house is more peaceful now.

And  I feel better having told you all about it.


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