The Year That Got Away…

Well maybe not a whole year….but the past six months has flown by and I swear I didn’t even blink. On the one hand I have accomplished a whole lot. Let’s see, We finished the financial aid applications and they actually gave us some money and I have two children heading off to incredibly cold, distant and expensive schools in just a few short weeks. Miss Marblejar the eldest didn’t care for living away from home and so now she is commuting to the local university at, I am happy to say, a greatly reduced cost as compared to her siblings. So now I have 3 high school graduates and one new high schooler under my roof, and let’s not forget Mr. Marblejar, who is a perpetual 6th grader, but we like him that way. He has also become incredibly handy. In the past 6 months we have painted, de-carpeted and re-floored TWO (count ’em) bedrooms. Neither one was mine, unfortunately, but mine is next on the list! I have learned to despise painting in any form (unless I am purchasing one to hang on the wall.) I am bad at painting. I am not patient, I am not detail oriented, and I learned the hard way why painters where long sleeves and hats (and shoes!) Painting is not fun. Today I moved on from painting to something called cleaning grout. This is also not fun but it IS very gratifying. Our grout was gross, but with a little help from Pinterest and some elbow grease it is now (mostly) not gross. Yay.

I have also joined a cult, sort of. There is this woman in Japan named Marie Kondo and she is the queen of “tidying”. You should get her book. It is a life changer. I am organizing the heck out of everything. Do we still have to sell it on Ebay? Yes, but are we making headway? Yes again. And remember how we sold that fencing equipment two summers ago during the big garage clean out? Well guess who has decided to take up fencing again…Yes, Littlest Marblejar is once again swinging a weapon. I console myself by saying (out loud) that he would not still fit into most of that stuff that we sold and shipped to Qatar of all places.This makes me feel better as I spend hundreds of dollars on the Absolute Fencing site. Absolute robbery is more like it. But back to Marie Kondo…I have taken every object I own (that means every sock, every book, every spatula) in my hands and thought about whether it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, it goes. Of course children and spouses are off limits, but asking that question really does make it easier to purge. Of course it is a work in progress, but at least now I will have clean grout to look at as I organized my cabinets. The only bad part about her system is that you can only purge your own stuff. I am just itching to get my mitts on certain drawers and closets that are currently off limits, but in theory they will watch my huge transformation and they will all join in with me. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that one.

So there you have it. A really, really boring summary of the last six months. Although I forgot to mention that I also went to the UK (amazing!) and presented a talk at a conference (scary) so those things were pretty cool. I still am working on eating right and moving my butt and breathing deeply; some things never change. I will try very hard to write more often as I think this will help me stop waking up so much at night with crazy thoughts in my head. How do I know how many times I way up? Well I have one of those handy dandy bracelets that tells me just how little “restful sleep” I am getting. Nice. My friend tells me there’s an App that will email my husband and let him know that I had a lousy night’s sleep. I will ponder that.

What’s gotten away from YOU lately?

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Hanging Out At The Club

Here in Southwest Florida, it isn’t unusual to belong to a club. There are country clubs and beach clubs and tennis clubs and yacht clubs, each one fancier than the next. I am no stranger to these establishments. Growing up in Pasadena my family belonged to the oh-so-chic Valley Hunt Club, where my sisters and I spent many a smog-filled summer afternoon sweating it out through tennis lessons and cooling off with long sessions of Marco Polo in the pool. My favorite part was ordering lunch at the snack bar where hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches magically appeared through the little window and all you had to do was sign your name. Ah…those were the days. Unfortunately for my kids, we do not belong to anything like the Valley Hunt Club. No, our club has a low annual fee that you can actually recoup if you go often enough. Lunch at our club is only $1.50, and that includes a hot dog AND a free drink. Our club, the site of many a weekend date for Mr. Marblejar and myself, is none other than Costco.

Laugh if you will, but where else can you get cheap gas, grass-fed beef, and samples of every type of frozen snack ever created all in one spot? Yes, we are Costco regulars. To be fair, I am in charge of the concession stand at the school where I work, so it actually does make sense for us to shop at Costco for those humongous boxes of chips, candy bars and other sundries that I have to purchase on a regular basis, but I shouldn’t have to explain myself because right now gas at Costco is more than 15 cents cheaper than anywhere else in town. I rest my case.

Anyway, this past weekend I needed to go to the Club in order to restock the concession stand and refill my supply of paper towels and toilet paper. What better way to start the year? Going to Costco during the weekend during the “season” months of January -March is risky here in Naples because we are a Mecca for snowbirds fleeing the frozen tundra in Columbus and Ann Arbor; but I didn’t really have a choice, so we planned made a sensible plan and arrived about fifteen minutes before the place opened. Who really needs to be at Costco on a Sunday morning right after New Year’s anyway? Well, as it turns out, a lot of people. You would have thought this was the entrance to Disney World. There were people with carts six and seven deep by the doors, and nobody was about to let me through to grab that monstrous flatbed thing that I need for my cases of soda and Gatorade. Oh, how they underestimated me. I pulled my stealth move and managed to wrangle a flatbed AND make it to the front of the line just as the big accordion doors slid open. I was home free, or so I thought.

Here is who SHOULD go to Costco:

1.People with business that sell all of that crap that they sell there.

2.People with lots of kids (that would be me).

3.People who are stocking concession stands (me again).

Here is who SHOULD NOT go to Costco, at least not on the weekend when people who WORK need to go and get their much-needed items:

1.People who have no idea what Costco is or how it works (and thus block the aisles as they stare in wonderment at the large containers of pickles).

2.People who just want the snacks and block the aisles as they wait for more bacon to appear.

3.People who have all 19 (and counting) of their children with them (and thus no room in their carts) and spend all of their time blocking the aisle as they try to wrangle their pack of unruly urchins.

Please people, get a clue. DItch your kids in the toy aisle and go get your shopping done. If you hurry you can load up the diapers and bagel bites and be done before little Jimmy has a chance to break his neck on the trampoline.

Here’s who hates ME at Costco. The people in line behind me. Why? Because I pay (it was over $300 this week) with the bills that come out of the concession stand cash box, and this week I had $165 in singles. How long does it take to count out $165? Long enough. Sorry about that. I honestly did have Mr. Marblejar try and trade them in for $20s at the service desk, but they don’t open the store with much cash in the drawers. Oops. Hey, if they just let me sign my name on that little chit and have my parents pay the bill I would, but I think those days are over.

Happy New Year. Have a hot dog on me.

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New Year’s Resolutions….again

I am back. I can’t say for how long, so enjoy it while it lasts. You may wonder (or not) where I have been for all this time, but let’s face it; the excuses are always the same, so I think I will just jump back in and let you come to your own conclusions.

You might also wonder how, if I am so darned busy, I suddenly have time to write? The answer is simple. I am procrastinating. I have three children that will be in college next year, and since I don’t print money in my basement (I don’t have one, or I would try), my dear spouse Mr. Marblejar and I are in the process of filling out financial aid applications. One might also wonder how schools can request tax information for a year that has not yet finished, but I learned long ago not to wonder about the logic of the College Board OR the system of higher education in our country. If you want the money, you have to play by their rules. So we find ourselves trying to figure out these forms with only one day to go before one school’s deadline ( thank you Rhodes College) and since looking at how little I earn depresses me, I am procrastinating.

You might also think that it would be a GOOD thing to not earn a lot if you are filling our financial aid forms….but think again. The wizards in financial aid are a tricky bunch. They fool you into thinking that you can afford their lovely institutions. They have calculators and long explanations and then, when you are convinced that the fact that you could have qualified for food stamps might entitle you to a few sheckles of grant aid, BAM…they inform you that you must somehow turn that $30 of college savings into $60K of tuition, today, and for the next four years, for all four kids. Where is that magic spinning wheel when you need it?

Anyway…the forms are tedious and repetitive and depressing, and then at the end they CHARGE YOU to apply for aid. Gutsy move. This is why I have chosen to take a break and ponder my resolutions for 2014. I am a list lover after all. Now I could go with the tried and true. Lose weight, work out, be nicer to people……and I even planned to start early with the healthy eating bit except that I just discovered some Trader Joe’s Peppermint Pretzel “Thins” in the pantry and since they are “thin” they must be healthy. Duh, no, but if I eat them now they will be gone by New Year’s so I am actually helping myself out. AND they go so well with my new Breville Tea Maker…I highly recommend this appliance if you are a tea lover. I am anti- appliance in general, in fact I don’t even own a food processor OR a blender, but this tea maker is to die for. Check it out, you won’t regret it.

ANYWAY…here are my resolutions.

Blog…it makes me feel better even if no one is reading it
Sit to eat….hopefully, if I stop eating as I stand over the sink, it will curb my sneaky snacking
Declutter….this would be easier if I didn’t live with several hoarders…but I started with my bathroom and will post a picture!
walk 10k steps a day….there has to be SOMETHING I can do consistently as I try to get into shape again so that I can go back to bootcamp.

That’s what I’m going for. If I let my mind race I will think of a million more, but I think that’s good for now. They do tell you not to overwhelm yourself. There are, of course, subcategories within those larger resolutions, like becoming a FAMOUS blogger or having an amazingly organized house where I sit down to delicious yet healthy meals with my family every evening, but it is me we are talking about here, so let’s not get crazy.

I am going to go see how Mr. Marblejar is coming with his half of the taxes. THEN I will go for a walk….wish me luck.

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The Great Race

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We are on the slippery slope towards the end of summer vacation. I know, I know, technically it is still July, but here in Florida school starts the third week of August, which means teachers (that’s me) go back the second week (or the 12th, if you must know) and so I am feeling that horrible rushed feeling you feel when your long-awaited summer break has gone by in a flash and you haven’t gotten to all the relaxing, book-reading, getting-in-shape, healthy eating, home organizing projects that you laid out in June. Bummer.

I have, however started a great many projects. The now-famous (at least at my house) cleaning of the attic and garage of 2013 is in mid stride. This is a nice way of saying that the garage is in even worse shape now that it holds have the contents of the attic that my husband insists on trying to sell on Ebay and Craigslist (doggie car seat anyone? how about some used fencing equipment?). Luckily we can just close the door on that fiasco and hope that some of it sells. I have informed him that the garage WILL be empty by next Saturday, Ebay be damned, and the contents are going to Goodwill whether he approves or not. I have my limits.

My book writing/reading project…well… I have an outline for my book, so that’s a start. I need to read log in to the online writing a book course I purchased through Living Social. I’m sure it is full of handy information, if I can remember my password. I also vowed to get through the pile of books next to my bed. I have read a couple….and as soon as I delete Candy Crush (level 56, I’m quitting, really I am)….I know I’ll make better progress. I did start Bossy Pants by Tina Fey today at my brief stint at Jury Duty (yay…we got sent home because not enough people showed up!) and that book is downright hilarious. I will finish that in a flash..but it wasn’t on my list, it just happened to be in the car and I grabbed it. It still counts though, right?

The password project, that of getting all of my husband’s vital information/passwords, codes and other keys to our lives out of his head/phone/computer (which is also password protected) so that if he dies during his stress test tomorrow I will somehow be able to put food on the table. That one has not gotten past me nagging him. It should probably move up on the list.

The organize my closet, desk, house, life project. Ongoing as usual. People keep messing up this project. And then there’s Candy Crush. I swear it calls your name when you face a daunting task. Deleting it. Today

The healthy eating project. Ugh. Failing miserably at this. Going to the grocery store today to buy health foods that will rot in the fridge as we all scavenge through the ever dwindling supply of junk food. Why isn’t Kale as appealing as cheese-its? I can’t tell you, but it is. I am still dedicated to this project…I just need to focus. Clearly focus has been an issue this summer.

Gardening. Remember how I hate gardening but want to be good at it? Well now I saw these cool water gardens in containers on Pinterest, and you can have FISH in them, which makes them more like animal husbandry, which I LOVE. So I want to make a water garden. I am going to go look in my plant graveyard outside and see if I have a container that will work….which will distract me from the more mundane garage/healthy eating projects….all good.

The “get all the medical crap taken care of” project. I have been to the dentist, gynecologist, eye doctor. Check. Yay. Completed one project, except that I still need to get kids to orthodontist because one never wore his retainer and his teeth look like a hillbilly and I hope we don’t have to re-do the whole thing…and the other broke her “permanent” retainer (which is clearly what the other one needed!) so we have to get that fixed and I hope that’s free. And both girls need eye dr. appts….so that’s kind of an ongoing project.

The “relax and meditate” project. How am I supposed to relax with all that’s going on? Save time at end of day. Could do it instead of bedtime Candy Crush session. Good idea.

I’m off to the nursery to find water plants.

What are your summer projects? How are they going?

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Pushing the Classics

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Ahhhh…there’s no place like home.  I must congratulate the two teenagers I left in charge of the place while the rest of the family was out of town. The house was clean, laundry done, all animals alive and kicking. They handled the out-of-commission hot water heater and I haven’t seen evidence of any shenanigans aside from some all night movie marathons. Granted, these two particular children would probably be voted “least likely to throw a party when their parents are out of town,”…but still. Nice job kids.

Speaking of movie marathons, however, I have to say that I think we are doing our kids a disservice when we don’t force them to watch all of those GREAT movies (like Great Books, right?) that we all cut our teeth on growing up. True, they did watch all the Back to the Future sagas, but what happened to North By Northwest, or Gigi, or The French Connection? I don’t know if I could stay up all night just to see Mulan and Little Mermaid for the hundredth time; let’s lose sleep over something important!

Granted, this sometimes backfires. My husband loved to talk about what a great movie Being There was. He built it up in their heads and when we finally all gathered on the couch to watch, it turned out to be what I always remembered it being….super boring. I don’t think we held their attention for more than the opening credits. Remember Arthur? Watch it again..not quite as funny; and forget anything with special effects, they can’t hold up to today’s technology and just look hokey (those original Star Wars and ET come to mind). But Omar Sharif? Louis Jordan? Sidney Poitier? C’mon…who can’t watch them and not love them? What about Wait Until Dark or The Bad Seed? Even some of those French movies, what was the one…. A Little Romance, I loved that movie! I see it as my personal duty to educate my children in these fine classics. I can feel a marathon coming on..but it might be during a tropical storm or something, I can’t stay up all night any more.

What classics would YOU want to see again?

 

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My Quiet Mid-Life Crisis, Continued….

Welcome back! And welcome back to WordPress…I hope this will be an easier format for all of us…now you can subscribe if you like!
 
Anyway, whenever I want to feel better about something, or at least a little more in control, I make a list. It can be pro’s and con’s, a to-do list, what have you. A list helps give you a handle o the situation, and this situation could use a handle. How to go about finding my passion? What is the meaning of life? Why am I on this planet? I have no idea, but a list can’t hurt. Here goes:
 
 
Here is the list of the things I like to do:
 
make lists
read
hang out with my family (if they’re not fighting)
go to the beach
go to the movies
go to plays
write/edit
fix things (not mechanical things, but people things)
play/take care of animals
sing (but since I don’t do much of that, my voice has really gone downhill!!)
entertain
control things
 
Here’s the list of things I don’t really like to do, but I like the result that doing them gives me:
 
work out
clean
organize
plan (although I have to admit this could also go in the first category)
 
Here’s the list of things I wish I liked to do, but have to admit I just don’t (and I am bad at the first 3!)
 
garden
run
cook
go to classical concerts (unless my kids are playing, then I love them!)
bike ride (unless it is just around the neighborhood, that’s fine)
hike
eat salmon
 
Here’s the list of things I used to like to do, but they just aren’t that fun any more:
 
Shop (thank goodness)
watch TV (double thank goodness)
Spend time with people that I think I should like, but I just don’t
Keep trying to like all the things in the list just above this one 
 
Here’s the list of things I would like to do better:
 
Play the harp
Sing (but neither one of those things in front of people!)
Yoga (not sure if my back will ever cooperate, or if I can get over the fact that I will NEVER have a yoga body)
Be more upbeat, happy, less sarcastic
 
Here’s the list of things I really hate to do, even though I have to do some of them every day because I’m a grown up and that’s what grown ups do.
 
Call people on the phone (especially if I don’t know them)
Public speaking/performing
Be consistent (because I’m a people pleaser…I just want to make people happy, and sometimes that’s not good in terms of discipline)
Floss
Hear any kind of bad news about my kids or spouse…especially if I have no control over it.
Art ( as in draw, paint, create…..yuck… I am SO BAD at all of it)
Have any type of confrontation with anyone….especially if I screwed up and have to own up to it.
Asking for money, even if I worked for it; which isn’t good if you own your own business
Selling myself (ditto the last thing…another reason I am not retired already) I clearly do not have my husband’s “buy low, sell high” mentality. I am more of the “give away the farm” mentality.
Bargain (see above)
 
Here is my list of phobias
 
driving over bridges (car going over, drowning in the car because I can’t get out..)
sharks
most snakes
clowns
drowning (thus the bridge phobia…and despite the fact that I swam competitively in college and was a lifeguard for 10 years)…although most of my drowning fears relate to surf” type drowning in rough surf
 
 
and here is my “bucket list” of sorts
 
write a book
get a PhD/law degree
take care of animals
live abroad (France? England?)
play an instrument well
go back to Llewellyn Beach in Ontario Canada (where I spent summers as a kid)
go to Nova Scotia (I have no idea why, I just want to go) 
learn to surf (might be tough with my ocean phobia!) I might stick to “buy a paddleboard”
 
 
OK, now that I’ve made my lists…this is what I can glean from it:
 
I like making lists! (duh)
There are some things that I have no talent for that I should just give up on. It’s OK to give up on things that you’ve tried for 40 years and still hate.
There are some things that I may have not talent for that I still want to try; I’m not dead yet.
If I want to grow my business, I should get someone else (like my husband) to handle the marketing end (buy low, sell high)
 
Possible Passions
 
I like to write and I like animals (although not necessarily writing about animals)
At some point I want to travel…but not these darned one week things that kill you….I like to be settled!
 
 
So when I think about it, I guess you could say that I am “passionate” about animals. I was a zoo keeper (more like an intern) at the LA Zoo in 1979, and I loved every minute of it. I always have pets around, and I can’t imagine not having a dog. Can’t even imagine it. So that’s one thing. Yay. There are all kinds of things I can do, now and years from now, that would fit into this category. We have all kinds of animal sanctuaries down here… and tortoise rescues, and who knows what else? Maybe backyard chickens? I have a Pinterest board with all kinds of chicken coops on it…some are practically works of art. Maybe I can get passionate about a backyard chicken coop that I sneak into my development that doesn’t allow livestock!
 
And my bucket list doesn’t seem completely unreal. I’m not dead yet after all. There’s still hope for many of the items on that list, and I wouldn’t be crushed if I didn’t cross off every one, It’s just a list after all. 
 
Mostly, I realize that I really am doing what I generally like to do. My job fits with many of my strengths and only a few of my weaknesses (public speaking, phone calls) but hey, few people truly enjoy that stuff. I’m feeling better already. I don’t have a plan, but I have a list…and that’s always a start for a plan. Perhaps a quiet crisis isn’t so bad after all. Its much easier to explain words on the page than a new Porsche in the driveway.
 
Anyone else out there pondering the second half of their life? Or even what to do with the first half? Do you all have passions? Or wish you did? Let me know!

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My Quiet Mid-Life Crisis

I am having a very quiet mid-life crisis. I don’t think women who are also wives and mothers and employed really have any other option, so I am having my crisis while life goes on about me. True, I got an ear piercing; but honestly, compared to the “body art” we see on a daily basis in this day and age, one little hole in my ear is hardly earth shattering news and isn't even on the same level as, say, buying aPorsche or a Harley or some other typically male mid-life crisis thing.

The crux of my crisis (don’t you just love alliteration? Mostly I just like the word alliteration and like to be able to use it in a sentence.)….Anyhow, the crux is that I am more than halfway through my life (hard to believe, I know) and I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I don't have a passion. I don't have a “calling”. I am not any better, or any worse, at any one given thing (in general) than anybody else. I do some things well, and other things not so well, and all of those things I have known for a very long time. None of that knowledge is helping me find out what I am destined to “be”. 

 

Many members of my family do not have this problem. My eldest has been writing books and songs and producing plays since she was three. We even have a video of her at something like 18 months marching on our bed spinning a tale about the dogs and how they were lost and we went searching and then they came home…..she acts it all out complete with hand motions. There has never been a doubt that she would be a writer. None. 

 

My husband has been buying low and selling high since grade school when he sold penny candy on the schoolbus. He would stock up at the corner store, get on the bus, and have a profit in his pocket by 8:00 am. His entire family has the same gene. There is not doubt about what they do and what they are about. None. His mid-life crisis (which he had 10 years ago) involved buying tractors on Ebay..which he had fun with around our farm and then later sold at a profit. Naturally.

 

One of my sisters stayed up watching Johnny Carson from the time she was something crazy like 8 years old. She has seen every movie ever made and can tell you who was in it and what they are doing now. The entertainment industry is in her blood so it's no surprise she worked at places like Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. My other sister knew she was going to be a doctor in high school and a doctor she is.  They never questioned their passion. It was always there.

 

Then we have me. A double major (what a surprise, couldn't make up my mind) and then grad school (because I couldn't decide what I wanted to do) and then sort of fell into a couple of careers. I liked all of that but wasn't passionate about any of it. Then I raised a family. I LOVED that (and still do), but I was not the mom who sat on the floor all day every day thinking up amazing creative projects to do with her kids. I was the mom who bought the amazing toys so that her kids would stay occupied and she could get the laundry done. I was the mom who fell into bed exhausted at night and looked forward to the stage of parenting that wouldn't be so much work (what stage is that again?) instead of savoring each moment. I did truly love each stage of my kids' growth…..but I can't say I was passionate. I was definitely called to be a mom, but I wouldn't say it was my life's calling. Which is good, because then what do you do when your kids are grown?

 

So I find myself in a life I love, with a family I love and a job I love. I am luckier than 99.9% of the world, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to, I guess, leave my mark, or feel that I had a purpose on this planet. If I am fortunate enough to have all these opportunities it seems wasteful to squander them. I don’t want people to remember me as (only) as the one who got her kids there clean and on time. 

 

I am going to do what I always do when I face a question. I am going to make a list. I am a control freak, so making a list helps me put the situation into a controllable framework. Check back tomorrow to see how it all works out.

 

 

 

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