I Want to Talk About Water


Water is a rather dry topic, one would think. Yet something happened recently that has led me to become fixated on and fascinated by water, and I feel the need to talk about it.

The event was a simple boil alert in our community. For 24 hours, we could not drink our water from our taps or even from our refrigerator filters. There was a mishap at our nearby treatment facility that prompted these precautions. As a result, they even had to cancel a day of school. (Thank goodness for e-learning so we don’t have to make it up at the end of the year.)

The situation also caused an emergency water shortage at our local Humane Society, and when they posted about it to social media, they experienced an overwhelming outpouring of support and bottled water. It’s interesting how humans are sometimes more apt to help animals than other humans. I can’t say I blame them. My oldest daughter is one of these people. Humans bring out the anxiety in her, but animals bring her peace. Plus, dogs and cats often represent pure innocence – with the exception of my own pets, The Pug & The Thug, of course. But back to the water…

Upon hearing the news of the embargo, I shared the warning with my two school-aged daughters, The Precious Pair. The 10-year-old kicked into high gear by taping notes to all our sinks and showers.

“Do not drink or brush with this.”
“Do not get this water in your mouth.”

These small reminders were not only funny, but also quite helpful for a forgetful middle-aged person like myself. And — because who really has time for boiling anything– we went out for water.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store, my girls observed the busy-ness of folks rushing into the store and emerging with massive amounts of bottled water.

“There’s definitely a rush on water! I hope they haven’t run out,” one of them said. And for a moment, I panicked at the thought of that.

“Look at all that plastic that will end up in our landfills!” the Earth-loving teen observed, and then she said something else even more profound and observant, “Look at how inconvenienced everyone seems about having to go out and buy water. Imagine if we had to walk 3 miles to get it, with buckets on our heads.”

Wow. What truth from the mouths of these babes of mine. Yes, we do have it easy. Yes, we do take basic needs and First World conveniences such as running water for granted.

How great that one of my favorite local coffee shops in a neighboring community supports clean drinking water in Third World countries. The Well Coffeehouse serves up some of the best coffee in the world. Coming from me, a huge coffee snob, this is a high compliment. But the best part about their product is definitely the cause behind it.

According to their website, “The Well is dedicated to Roasting and Serving Great Coffee. We are 100% about the mission of providing clean water, and 100% about making the best possible cup of coffee!” And thousands of people in countries worldwide have access to safe, clean drinking water because of The Well and its customers. New water supplies have come to areas where drought, disease, and war have made life especially difficult: Togo, Malawi, Kenya, the Congo, Senegal, Chad, Africa; the Central African Republic – 23 wells and counting. I’m sure in the mood for a latte, so it’s a good thing I’m here at The Well right now! (I’ve ordered a concoction called a Resolution.)

As is often the case when a small crisis crops up, my mind starts wandering and wondering and worrying. This happened the night of the boil alert. My creative brain dreamed up many scenarios where a water shortage could occur. The sad part is, these scenarios are not all that far-fetched. Global tensions are rising, and we are facing new uncertainties. While I find the current worldwide state of affairs to be terrifying, I also want to approach what’s happening practically. And that’s what has led me to www.Ready.gov.

This resource is helping me make disaster preparedness a priority in early 2020. The threat of a cyberattack that would lead to a loss of electricity/water/banking access and other modern conveniences is always a possibility, and I think it’s wise to be well-equipped if something were to happen. Of course, this plan applies to natural disasters, as well, which the world’s weather seems to be as unpredictable as our politicians these days. So I’ve done some research recently and have assembled this simple list for the girls and myself. And I want to share it with all of you.

SUPPLIES ⁃ Weather radio/charger/flashlight/SOS signal, all in one ⁃ Emergency water supply, 5 gallon drum ⁃ Canned/nonperishable food items ⁃ Dust masks for face ⁃ Wet wipes ⁃ Whistles ⁃ Extra Batteries, various sizes ⁃ Envelope with at least $100 Cash in small bills ⁃ Full Gas Can in Garage

HABITS ⁃ keep car fuel tank above half-full ⁃ keep cell phone fully-charged as well as a secondary charger ⁃ carry cash at all times

So this is my new list, and I’m going to work with it until I’ve gathered these things and established these habits. My hope, of course, is that I’m overthinking all of this, and I’ll never need our disaster kit. And about that word – “disaster” – I want to confess here that I use it inappropriately all. the. time.

When I’m running late – “What a disaster!”
When the girls are fighting – “This is a disaster!”
When I’m annoyed at work – “This place is a disaster!”

Overexaggerate much? I do. And I shouldn’t in light of all the true disasters happening around the world.

Bombings – both purposeful and accidental.
Civil Wars.
Forcible displacement of people from their countries.
Stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
Human trafficking.
Inhumane torture.
Outbreaks of disease.
And, yes, water scarcity.

I know that’s a heavy list for a light-hearted little blog like mine; yet it’s important to rub the sleep out of our eyes once in a while and get real about the world that’s spinning around all of us.

Instead of debating whether our glasses are half-full or half-empty, let’s be deeply grateful our glasses hold crystal clear, clean, refreshing, disease-free water, most likely with ice. Please take a moment to realize how spoiled we are. (She says as she sips her latte.)

Never thirsty,

Home Alone, Single Mom Style

F7558CFE-0970-4EAC-88ED-CC8FC08E15D2Sequels usually suck. Over the holidays, the youngest half of The Precious Pair and I watched Home Alone 2, the one where yet again the family loses Kevin on the way to their holiday vacation. He ends up lost in New York City where oh so conveniently he runs into the same bandits from the original Chicago version. The boy tortures the bandits much like he did in the first one. And throughout that scene of about 15 minutes, my 10-year-old giggled and squealed. Oh what fun it was to watch her watch that movie. I guess that particular sequel doesn’t suck so bad.

Do you ever wonder what people do at home alone? I think about this more these days because I spend considerably more time home alone as a divorced mother. I usually stay fairly busy on my own with work and good friends and social plans, but over this holiday break I’ve had some down time. Occasionally, I’ve gotten a little bored or lonely, but ultimately, I know this time is good for me and especially for my household because I have to face my chores head-on with few valid reasons to ignore them.

For instance, I can’t recall if I’ve written previously here about my relationship with my laundry. I should refer to this as my disdain for my laundry. It is the domestic task that challenges and troubles me most. So much so that I’ll admit I’ve paid people – former in laws and friends and professional launderers – to do it for me more times than I can count on both my hands.

But on a free night over the holiday break, if you were a middle-aged woman with time off from work and two children out of town, maybe you would decide to conquer your 8 loads of laundry once and for all because you’ve decided it’s part of a fresh start for the New Year. Soon you will also pitch the overflowing shoebox of “odd man out socks.” There seems to be little hope in finding them at this point. In fact, instead of locating matches, you keep adding singles to that box, which is really grating on your semi-OCD side. When you do find a rare match, there’s nothing more satisfying. (It’s the small wins in life that keep you going.)

What else does this kind of rare quiet evening look like for you? Snacks for dinner. Yes, Chex Mix. You squeeze in a Ham and Swiss Cheese sandwich for the protein factor, but let’s face it, Chex Mix is the main entrée.

Beverages will be the adult kind. Because, why not? But don’t tell your male coworkers you used the double-oaked barrel bourbon the boss gave us to mix into a blackberry-flavored drink you invented. They will admonish you for not downing it straight. You do like bourbon; however, you LOVE mid-priced gin and, quite honestly, any bottle of wine you can get your hands on, even if it comes from Aldi. And don’t knock those until you try them, please. ​​

You decide to take your first bath in six months, (wait – that could be misunderstood as not bathing at all. You DO take daily showers!) You use a loofah infused with a bourbon scent to match the cocktail you just had. The entire time you try to soak peacefully in the tub, the puppy is barking at you and making muddy paw marks all over the bathroom, including on your freshly-laundered white towel. She can’t understand why you are in the tub and she​ isn’t.

This brings me to the unfortunate truth that you are not actually home alone. You have two canine sidekicks who literally never leave your side unless you barricade them in a space with the cheapest baby gates known to man – the lightweight wooden style that you simply prop against doorways and trip over 20 times a day. The dogs are a bittersweet aspect of your life. They do represent bursts of joy for you, but much like a toddler does. They are cute and occasionally cuddly and sweet, but this comes at the tremendous expense of having to monitor or contain them 24/7 to avoid destruction of your personal property, accidents in the house, or one pup murdering the other at any moment.

You call them The Pug (age 7) and The Thug (9 months) because this is both a funny and accurate way to refer to them. The Thug is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the same breed the Queen of England prefers. You’ve considered many times shipping her off to a place like Buckingham Palace or, much closer, the local Humane Society or a nice Hamilton County farm. But the hopeful side of you thinks and prays that things might improve once she is spayed and walked more often in this mild winter weather we’re having, and you also have the option to send her away to doggie camp for $25 per day. Money well spent, much like the $2.25 per pound you sometimes pay to get the laundry washed, dried, and folded.

After the bath you have every intention of starting that photo project you’ve been trying to do since July. It was intended to be a Christmas gift for three of your best friends. But now it will have to be a New Year’s gift. But you never actually start it, so now it’s looking like a nice gift for their birthdays in 2020.

The house is relatively quiet with the exception of a variety of sounds made by the aforementioned canines. There are also tunes humming in the background thanks to DJ Alexa and several of your favorite male performers: Elton John, Billy Joel, John Mayer, Michael Bublé. However, you do play a good dose of Adele, because she is the Queen of Nights Alone.

Your biggest and most exciting plan for the night, in between folding all that laundry, is to watch tonight’s 10 o’clock Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel. You go to tune in, but the cable isn’t working AGAIN so you decide to land on the couch and play purposelessly on your iPhone even though one of your goals (NOT resolutions) is to do that much less. But it’s not 2020 yet. So, it’s Facebook for you until you doze off on the couch around 11.

These are the typical activities you can find me doing when home alone. Not exactly the material of a classic 80’s holiday movie, yet it’s all quite fulfilling for me. I get things done, I do things my way, I eat my food, I play my music, and I try to unwind and reflect. There are things I love about being home alone, and a few things I don’t like at all. But I do view the time as self-care, because it almost never used to happen and now I am grateful it does.

That said, I don’t need a lot of it. Because my favorite place to be is with my favorite people – whether that’s at my house or theirs or someplace in between. Home is where my people are. And that’s where you will find the true me.  Not buried in piles of laundry nor soaking in the bathtub; not even planted on my couch in front of a Hallmark movie. The best version of me comes from being with the friends or family who love me for everything I am and despite everything I am not. That’s why being home alone is bearable and doable and healthy. Because I know it’s occasional and temporary and leads me to appreciate the company I keep even more. If this includes you, I say Cheers and Thanks, my dears. May this year of precious time ahead of us hold many blessings, loads of laughter, and endless joy and love.


“Honest” is Not the New “Mean”


Recently, I had the delightful experience of FaceTiming a good friend who is serving in the Peace Corps in Ukraine. A small group of friends assembled in my kitchen to make the video call across several seas and continents. The 90 minutes we spent talking with her flew by. All of us had a lot more to say, so we will continue the conversation when we do it again next month. But before we made that call, my friend who brought her MacBook was setting up when I noticed something big and orange stuck in her front teeth. I said “Hold on! You’ve got to get that thing out of your teeth before we call her…”

“Well, thank you for telling me,” she said gratefully as she picked it out.

“Yes, of course, I would want someone to tell me!”

And, yes, that’s absolutely the truth. If you’re ever with me and I have food stuck in my teeth, something hanging out of my nose, toilet paper trailing from my shoe, or half my skirt tucked into my tights, please tell me. Or let’s just say I’m behaving like a total asshole — call me on that, too. All these things have happened to me, and they will undoubtedly happen again. We owe one another the courtesy of honesty in simple embarrassing moments and beyond…

I get quite a lot of brutal honesty these days from Part 1 of The Precious Pair who is 15 now. Usually by way of her unsolicited opinions:

“Your hair doesn’t look right.”
“You’re not going to wear that, are you?”
“Those tiki torches in our front yard look trashy. I took them down.”

When she says things like this to me or to her younger sister, our reaction is typically one of resentment. “Why do you have to be so mean?” we will often plead to her.

And she defends herself every time…”But I’m just being honest.”

Why is it that being honest and direct and decisive and confident is often mischaracterized as being downright mean? This is especially true for girls and women. After all, we’re taught early on about sugar and spice and everything sappy. And in my youth and early adulthood even, I was much better at sugar-coating my comments. Now, a couple decades later, I’ve abandoned the art of spin doctoring my opinions, and in recent months, this is no more true than at work. I’ve been thinking lately why I’ve experienced this transition from overly polite to drastically direct. I’ve come up with several logical reasons for the shift.

About 5 years ago, I had a great boss who encouraged the employees under his direction to have what he called “prickly conversations” – in fact, he wanted us to conduct them with one another without hesitation whenever necessary.

I have a great boss now who is ultra-decisive. I love that about him. I want to be more like that. I am becoming more like that.

My company has a female CEO who believes in all the same. She never beats around the bush, and she doesn’t want her people to do it either.

I’ve worked with the same male peer for 15 years. We bicker. We raise our voices. We put one another in place now and then. We are more than prickly; we are downright harsh to each other at times. Guess what? The result is a trusting working relationship.

In the Summer of 2018, I completed a 6-month Leadership Training program. A good amount of the content addressed what they called “courageous conversations.” Again, more professional training that pushed me out of my comfort zone and into this newer phase of my life where I value receiving and delivering honest feedback more than ever before.

Amid these influences, I’ve grown into the style I am today: direct,  decisive, and confident. All the things that my teenager is trying to achieve with her unsolicited opinions. And here I am, calling her “mean.” What am I thinking, trying to stomp that out of her at a nice young age when it took me two decades to learn these things and become them?

Probably if I had learned to be this way much earlier, I could have avoided some of the interpersonal conflicts and turmoil that did consume my life in the recent past. I certainly could have and should have done a better job of communicating my opinions and pain-points (no pun intended) while also establishing healthy boundaries. Shame on me.

But I can do things differently now and for the rest of my life. Not just at work. But out here in the world where things matter the deepest.  I can move forward with an approach that is respectful and empathetic while, at the same time, real and pure and true to who I am and who you are to me. No more faking. No more fear. No more numbing myself to my own feelings so I can merely get by or trudge along on an unpredictable path. I owe this to myself. Most important, I owe this to all of you – my family, my friends, my coworkers, plus even acquaintances and strangers whom I encounter. Me “snowing” you into thinking things are fine and dandy when they are not — that will do you no favors. That will not open your eyes to a new perspective. That will not allow you the choice to change or not to change.

And, as I already said above, you can deal the same back to me.

So, My Dear Teenager, do not lose your gift for honesty. Simply learn to manage it. Control the timing of it and work on your delivery. Keep in mind that what you believe in your veins is not what everyone believes. Your style is not the end-all, be-all. Your opinion isn’t either. Always be respectful of differences. But your perspective and your perceptions are your privileges. You must decide continuously when and how and where it makes good sense to state them aloud. The best time to share your gift for truth is when you’re asked for it. Yet you must also use it to protect and defend yourself at times.

I’ve finally discovered the joy and freedom that honesty brings. And I’m not looking back. I’m not going that way. I’m taking a new path, still unpredictable, yet it’s brighter. Because, yep, it’s lined with tacky tiki torches. And the pathfinder is a braver version of me, one I’m still getting to know, yet I trust her sense of direction fully. I trust her to take me daily, with my loved ones hooked in my arms, to a place called Peace. God willing. This is my honest vision.

The Real Meesh





An Open Letter to the Parents of the Pumpkin Smashers


To Whom It May Concern:

I have a framed poster on my bedroom wall. It says “Think in Magic.” At this time of year, that’s easy to do. The fall season is one of pure magic – everything from the colors to the smells to the crispness in the air that tickles our bones, but doesn’t quite sink in to them the way the cold of winter does. And then after a blissful month full of falling leaves, apple-y treats, and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, Halloween comes to wrap a big orange bow around all the autumnal magic. What is not to love about this time of year?

Well, sadly I can answer this: Your Children, The Pumpkin Smashers.

You might know if this letter applies to you. Or you might not. I’m not sure which scenario is worse. If you know your child is a pumpkin smasher, I certainly hope you are doing something about that. If you are completely unaware your child is a pumpkin smasher, then you probably have more problems on your hands than you can even imagine. But regardless of whether you know it or not, a group of your teen children, the now infamous Pumpkin Smashers here in our town, did cause my 10 year-old sorrow and tears when I told her they destroyed her four pumpkins a few weeks ago, including the nice big orange one with the perfect stem that she chose from Kroger, brought home, and decorated with a giant googley eye before she displayed it proudly on our front porch. That was just one night before your teens came along and committed their destructive and mean-spirited behavior on that same porch, my personal property.

Some of you have said, “But it’s just a few pumpkins.” That’s exactly why you are raising pumpkin smashers. Let’s think of it as a gateway crime. What’s next? Windshields? Bedroom windows? Will you be as accepting of their behavior even then?

It’s highly likely you’re also the parents of the young people who break the rules of the road while driving and then proceed to flip me off when I tap my horn at them. As I have explained to The Precious Pair, I use my car horn – an official resource provided to me – to alert others when they are doing something they should not, like swinging a U-turn in the middle of the city street I take to drop the younger one off at grade school. The middle finger of one’s hand is not an official resource for the same. In fact, it’s just flipping crass (no pun intended.)

It’s highly likely you are NOT the parents of the young people who work at Chick-fil-A, because let’s hand it to them, they are the Anti-Pumpkin Smashers. Always wearing a smile, bagging up nuggets enthusiastically, and saying it’s their pleasure to serve me, even if I’m a bit grumpy after getting flipped off by a teen driver on my way to Chick-fil-A. Thank you to these dedicated fast foodies who give teens a good name.

I do feel qualified to make this commentary because I am the parent of a teenager myself. While she has mastered a fair amount of sass in recent years, I can confidently state she is not the pumpkin-smashing type. Nor are her friends. They’ve been raised to know vandalism is a big fat no-no. Somehow you missed conveying this key lesson to your children. And what a shame for you. Chances are, since they do not respect the property of others, they do not respect yours either.

It all comes down to this for me: Mean people suck. But, unfortunately, the world has them and always will. Thanks to the parents who are raising them to be that way. All we can do to combat your child-rearing ways is to keep bringing up much nicer humans. Because kindness prevails. I believe in the magic of it. Perhaps you should, too.

Stop the smashing,


The Octogenarian

0D4D394B-62E0-4898-841E-E6551CB47204.jpegWriting a blog for someone works nicely as a substitute for a birthday card. Have you noticed the price of greeting cards? My jaw drops when I flip one over to find it marked near or even more than five dollars. I can buy myself a pumpkin spice latte with that same amount.  But coffee and my habits and treating myself to things, these are not the points of this installment. My dear old dad is the point. You see, he is The Octogenarian of whom I speak. Robert, usually “Bob.”

He is celebrating his 81st birthday on Monday. So, he has now had a full year of experience in his 80s. Last year when he turned this milestone age, he explained to my oldest daughter (his oldest of three granddaughters) and me (his middle child) that, as a child himself, he never expected to live beyond his 60s. In 1948, when he was ten years old – the current age of my youngest daughter and his middle granddaughter – life expectancy for a man was only 64.6. Today, it’s much closer to 80.

Back in 1996, when my dad was a youthful 58 years old, he had quite the scare with a heart attack. This was deeply concerning to all of us because his own father, also Robert {“Harold”),  had passed away from a heart attack far too young, before any of Bob’s three children had been born.  Fortunately, my dad’s own heart condition did not require major surgery or bypasses, but could be treated with stents that worked quite well for decades. That is, until late this summer, when a new cardiologist discovered one valve 100% blocked again and another near that. And, thank heaven, they could go in and place new stents before a cardiac event took place.

But there were complications during his recovery, caused by his meds, and he was in and out of the hospital and medical care for two weeks. Stressful.

Fast forward one month, and I’m on a plane to Omaha, my birthplace, my hometown until I was 10, and the city  where my dad and stepmom have lived together for nearly 50 years. There I will see both of them (“Du and Mu”); my brother from Arizona, also Robert (“Rob”), my sister from Arlington, Laura (“Lu”); her husband, Scott (“Scoot”); and my 2 1/2 year-old niece, Julianne (“Jay”), who is the youngest of the three granddaughters.

You may notice I did not mention The Precious Pair on this trip, and this is tough. They are back home. We will miss them. Timing and logistics did not allow me to bring them. Yet they will be with us in spirit while they have a ball celebrating Homecoming Weekend with their friends back in Indiana.

But before I left, I did ask for some input about Papa Du’s Birthday Blog from my girls.

The youngest did not hesitate to suggest a memory from the archives of his 80th Birthday Weekend that all of us attended last September. There were many fun activities we did as a family, but one did stand out: a trip to a medieval-themed indoor putt putt center…

My dad raised us as putt-putters so this outing was a good choice for his birthday. I grew up putt-putting, not only in Omaha, but on some of the most beautiful courses in Colorado, where we took many summer road trips. Yes, mini-golf is a family tradition.

My stepmom “Grandma Mu” had spoken highly of this particular course in the days before we visited it. She told my girls it had a zip line and other unique and interactive elements, all enhanced with castles, knights, and dragons as decor. We were hyped upon arrival and as we began the course.

Sure enough, we encountered the zip line and my girls tried it. Impressively, so did Mu, age 70 at the time. So when we reached Hole #12 with the ballpit feature in between the tee and the hole, she was feeling especially confident and volunteered to fall into the ballpit after she took her first putt.

I’m grateful to this day that my teenager chose to video-record this moment on her iPhone, for posterity. Sadly, the video is not posted here for your entertainment, so I can explain the scene.

Mu fell in slow motion into the pit, with a sort of belly-flop landing onto the soft plastic balls. Immediately, she realized getting out was going to be far more challenging than going in. She doggy-paddled her way from the middle of the pit to the far side, while losing her sandel in the process. At that point, I remember asking if she was okay because she looked a bit panicked. My dad responded for her from the sidelines, “Well, of course she’s not okay.”

My brother extended a helpful hand while my girls and I stood by giggling. (I know that sounds insensitive, all considered, but you had to be there.) My oldest kept recording. The family behind us had gathered in the peanut gallery to watch. They acted concerned.

At one point, Poor Mu muttered “I’ll never get out of here!” but, low and behold, she did after what seemed like five minutes or so. By that time, we elected to skip finishing our play on this hole, and I decided it best not to experience the ballpit myself. Mu took one for the team of adults in our group by being the only one to take the fall into the balls.

This was the most unforgettable aspect of my father’s 80th birthday last year, provided by his adoring and loyal wife of nearly 43 years. It was a memory all of us treasure and none of us shall ever forget.

To continue this tribute to my dad, I’ll continue reminiscing, but I’ll go back even a bit further to speak to a few of my favorite things about him:

I’m lucky to have endless holiday and birthday memories from my childhood days in Omaha. For many reasons, my visions of December 31st have stood out to me over the years. We never went out for NYE. It was always a fun night in, consisting of a home cooked dinner, board games, cutting up newspaper confetti, watching Dick Clark’s show featuring the ball drop in Times Square, throwing the newspaper confetti, picking up the newspaper confetti and throwing it again and again, and, after the stroke of midnight, my dad belting out a passionate solo of “Happy New Year” a lesser-known track from the popular 70s/80s group ABBA. It is still one of my favorite songs, and ABBA is my favorite band along with The Beatles, by whom my namesake ballad of “Michelle My Belle” was created in 1965.

I’ve attempted to duplicate the family magic of those vintage New Year’s Eves with my own kids in recent years. They, too, are big fans of celebrations of many types.

Passionate Interests.
Bob is a Renaissance Man, with multiple hobbies and collections. You should see his basement – it’s a museum of sorts, housing his stamps, Omaha post cards, and library filled with thousands of books, mostly mystery novels, and many first editions and signed copies. I have a stamp collection of my own that he brought to me this summer to keep. My favorites feature Disney characters and baby animals. I learned many lessons from my early stamp collecting with my dad. The people of Omaha have also learned many lessons from him, based on his deep knowledge of the city’s history. He even co-authored a set of books about it, and that brings me to the next topic…

Word Nerdiness.
Writers can name the writers who inspire them. One of mine is my dad. He has always encouraged me in this area with his own prolific habits of writing essays, skits and plays, limerick poetry, and famous Christmas letters. He has written for this blog once already with plans for his second guest appearance in motion. Not only do we both write, we like to talk about writing: word choice, rhythm, origins of idioms… These are the topics we like to cover and debate. Word nerdiness at its finest. It’s a love we both share, and I’m grateful for having this in common with him.   

Quirky Humor.
When I was in the second grade, my dad visited my classroom on Career Day to talk about his job as a corporate tax accountant at Mutual of Omaha. But instead of explaining his job, he came prepared to charm and entertain my fellow second graders. True to his signature style, he was funny and silly and passed out postcards featuring wild animals from the weekly “Wild Kingdom” animal show his company sponsored on TV. I remember this visit so vividly, and I recall how proud I felt when my friends said to me after his presentation “Your dad is so funny!” His sense of humor has always been a great source of pride and inspiration to me. After all, I ended up being pretty funny myself. The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. My siblings could give me a run for my money about who is the funniest among us, but I’ll just go ahead and state publicly that it’s definitely me.

John Mayer has a moving song called “Daughters” which is ironic because as a celebrity he’s considered a bit of a man-whore. Never married with no children to speak of. But it’s an incredible ballad, all the same:

“Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.”

And this is the most important thing. I can thank my dad for: his influence in my ability to form strong bonds with people throughout my life. His huge capacity to love others has served as a beautiful example for all of us in the family. He has always developed and maintained healthy relationships with family members, countless friends, and his team at work, who adored him, too. He is a favorite person to many. He is indeed at the top of my list of All-Time Favorite Persons. And he is – hands down –  my favorite octogenarian. Then again, I don’t know many of them! …ha, ha! 

Happy #81 and Many More, Papa Du, with love,
(aka Meesh to most of you)

5 Things That Keep Me Up at Night

fall moonSleep and Middle-Aged Me have an interesting and confusing intimate relationship.

It’s important to know I’m not including naps in the following analysis. Naps and Me are on solid ground. Nothing will ever get in the way of our special bond. To prove the depth of my passion and agility for napping, I have a paper plate award that declares “Nap Queen” handmade by one of my oldest daughter’s best friends whose mother happens to be one of my best friends. What is a paper plate award, you ask? Talk to a teen or tween or look it up on Pinterest. It’s a thing. And I’m proud to have a precious few of them…

Napping aside, it’s even more important to know about my background with overnight sleep. For as long as I can remember, I have adored it. It came easily to me for most of my life. In fact, I slept so soundly in my childhood and young adulthood that it was difficult for others to wake me up or for me to wake myself up. This is the primary reason I was the only nerd in detention doing my homework during high school. One too many morning tardies and my first period teacher threw the book at me. Except it was a pink slip, and it declared I was due at Afternoon Detention, along with all the thugs who were there for many reasons worse than being 5 minutes late to AP Biology.

So, at what point did my ease for sleep change? I will exclude the many years of interrupted sleep with babies, toddlers, and young children in my 30’s. Even then when I was up multiple times per night, I never had a problem drifting right back to sleep. No, my habits did not truly shift until 13 months ago when my life truly shifted.

Without going into great detail, that’s when – at age 45 – I began a chapter of enormous life metamorphosis. Separation, Divorce, Shifting Children Back and Forth, Packing Up the House We Lived in for 11 Years, Moving to the New House, Figuring Out Financial Things, Settling into the New House, Starting Freshman Year for the Older Half of The Precious Pair…and here we are in September on the brink of Fall 2019 – and it’s my favorite season. I don’t remember much about Fall 2018, so I’m really looking forward to it this year. Maybe with the crisper air and the calming sounds/smells/sensations that come with October, I will experience better sleep…

But currently and typically, my overnight pattern looks like this: I snooze soundly for the first 3 to 4 hours each night. The waking and staying up usually happens between the hours of 1 am and 5 am, but in varying blocks from 5 minutes at a time on the low end to a max of 3 hours at a time. Most nights, I simply lie in bed, shifting around, thinking. On some nights, I fall prey to grabbing my phone. Always a bad idea and never conducive to falling back to sleep. On other nights, I get up and do something. I might write a blog. Or clean a room. Anything that feels productive.

Recently, I’ve started thinking about why this keeps happening. After all, I am on the other side of all those transitions I mentioned. So, why can’t I sleep normally again? Here are five reasons I have identified:

Yes, (Some) Fear & Worrying.
This is where the pattern started, for sure, 13 months ago — with great concerns for my livelihood. And for my children. And, yes, even for my ex. For the latter half of last year and the first quarter of this year, I lived in a state of fear and worry, day and night. I’ve come a long way since then. At times, new and different concerns come creeping in, but they do not consume me anymore. Yet they can still rob me of some sleep. I highly recommend a worrying stone by your bedside. I recently received one as a gift, and I’ve since gifted the same to my daughters.

Too Many Ideas.
I am a creative type. Thus this blog. I also work by day in a role within Marketing/Communications/Advertising. I am a powder keg of ideation most days, all. damn. day. I curse here because this is somewhat of a curse for me. It’s tough to calm my brain. It runs constantly like a garden spigot you can’t seem to switch off. (Yes, the running water is not only an analogy, but a real-life challenge right now. I need to call somebody about this.)

Too Much Caffeine.
A dear friend of mine recently staged a semi-intervention with me about my coffee intake as part of a detox plan she’s recommending. I explained to her I cannot possibly give up caffeine altogether. But I have agreed to go from a Venti to a Grande daily, cutting out a whopping 4 ounces of coffee; usually Starbucks. (Have you heard about the largest Starbucks in the world opening in Chicago in November? It’s as if the Mother Ship is calling me there! I MUST go.)

Maybe My Needs Have Truly Changed.
My nightly norm seems to fall in the range of 5 to 6 hours of sleep. If I get any more than that, I feel completely exhausted, all day long. This leads me to believe that my need for sleep has decreased in its duration. Less is more, they say. Maybe this now applies to sleep for me.

Yes, (Plenty of) Overwhelming Joy!
I read a quote recently that said maybe we can’t always sleep at night because our current reality exceeds even our best dreams. And this is the reason I like to think about the most. Making it through all the dramatic changes of this past year has led me to a new place and new people and new emotions. I’ve also experienced renewed relationships and communications with beloved friends and family members. So there are nights when my mind is racing with happy thoughts, and it can be tough to quiet those, too.

But I am on a mission for better sleep by changing some habits, such as having an earlier bedtime, taking small doses of melatonin, limiting my phone time at night, and reading more from actual books with hard covers and paper pages. Print is not dead! Especially to us writers. Most of us want to hold a real book in our hands. Don’t you? (I ask this while you are reading a blog on an electronic device!)

One thing is for sure…even though it’s unpredictable, I still love my sleep. I crave it. I enjoy it. In fact, I treasure it. And I appreciate it more now than ever before. One of my favorite quotes is an Irish proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” If something is bothering one of the Precious Pair, I simply prescribe her a night of sleep. All problems seem smaller in the morning light.

And the laughter part? Well, no matter how tired I get, I laugh a lot every day, and I love to make others laugh. Nothing feels better. Except maybe a good nap.

Don’t let the bedbugs bite,

This is 15

15Sweet 16 gets all the glory. But what about 15? It’s the younger sister to 16, hanging around in its shadow — unless that is, you are Latino and having a quinceanera. Which we are not.
But we are having a 15th birthday in our family, and it’s tomorrow. And rather than buy a birthday card off the shelf, I’m dedicating this birthday blog to the older half of The Precious Pair, the one who is celebrating.

So, what is 15? Here are a few of my current observations:

It began not even a month ago with intense nerves. And now, we are already in a groove. Geometry sucks. And it’s a really big deal when upperclassmen are nice to you. These are the challenges that come with the first year of high school. Especially when you are attending a school with 3,000 students. And your mom went to a school with 500 and finds it hard to relate to some of your life at this point. But she is here for you, and so are lots of other people. As you will see in the rest of this blog.

This is a very important task when you are 15, especially in the morning on the way to that huge high school mentioned above. You are super lucky. You do not have to take the bus in the morning. This is a good thing, because you have several things to do in the car: your hair in one of 75 different styles (the braids are the cutest!), your light make up – even though your mom will tell you to add more color to your palette. But you will stick to your guns about that. Because she is her style and you are yours. And your styles are very different, yet complementary.

As part of that unique bohemian style you are rocking, you have a unique gift for thrifting. You walk through those doors and come out with huge bags of treasures, and it’s mind boggling. Your mom was way too snobby at your age to shop at Goodwill. So she is fascinated – and grateful – that you can find 90% of your wardrobe there.

Much like your mom, your bonds and loyalty to your friends are fierce. You have a friend group like none other. Mostly the same ones since second grade. You adore them, and the feeling is mutual back to you. They are smart, sweet, fun, funny, and beautiful, both inside and out. You will be friends for life. No doubt about it.

As you say yourself, some people don’t even have one dog, and you have three. CiCi the Pug and Sunny the Corgi at your mom’s house, and Daisy the Dane at your dad’s house. Your deep connection and affection for animals are admirable traits. You just might have been a doggy yourself in a former life.

You throw far too much shit away, and this causes conflict with your mom. But you have the prettiest room in your house because you designed it yourself. Your bedroom is also the guestroom, and it is generous and accommodating of you to share it in this way. You do not attach emotions to things. You attach them to people. And isn’t that the way life should be?

Uh-oh. Did you really think this blog was going to be all sunshine and roses? You procrastinate with the best of them. You have many all -nighters to pull in your future when it comes to both high school and college obligations. Please do not become too dependent on whatever they call Cliff’s Notes these days. Leave time to read the actual book. Do not fall too far into the trap of procrastination that your mom has  patterned for you over many years.

Yes, you were raised to become this. It was inevitable. You like your Pink Drinks and your teas. In fact, you say you will always be a tea drinker versus coffee. And you definitely have the calmer vibe that tea drinkers possess. By the way, keep up this gentle side of you. Because it benefits everyone around you.

You are vegetarian. This is important to you. So is the planet. Your mom has learned more about the rain forest fires from you than anyone else. You love the blessing of nature, everywhere you go. You notice sunsets and leaves and the clouds in the sky. You never take these things for granted. Thank you for this.

In addition to your predictions regarding the importance tea will have in your life, you have also decided you will not drink alcohol nor will you swear, ever. Keep those visions. You do you. And if you change your mind about these things, no judgment here.

You are artsy. Music. Language and writing. Arts and crafts. Food. These are the many ways you express yourself. And it’s lovely to witness. Never deny the creativity inside you. Releasing it is essential to your well-being. You are an old soul who has wisdom to share and stories to tell and feelings to make into art, in many formats. Your talents run deep, although you often say you are not the best at anything. You will find your best. As soon as you release the pressure upon yourself to find it.

Even at 15, you think you know what you want to be when you grow up. This has changed many times in your childhood, but you seem to be quite settled on becoming a teacher. Probably social studies. Probably middle school. You have the patience and the passion and the love of kids that this profession will require of you. And you do not care that you will not make a lot of money in this line of work. Because after all, as noted , you are a thrifty minimalist who will never require a large paycheck. Good for you.

They are paramount to you. Your parents, your younger sister, your grandparents, your aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even extended family beyond these relationships. You love them wholly, and they love you back even more. You are remarkable to them. Keep paying them the attention they deserve. Call them. Send them text messages. Write them letters in the mail. Honor them. Because, as you know, they are life’s most precious gifts.

This is the theme of your 15th birthday. Actually, it is the theme of your life. There is nothing in this list that makes your loved ones prouder. You will never lose this part of yourself, because it is pure and ingrained.

This is number 15 on the list. I end here because this is most important and makes you who you are. Your relationship with God is unique and deep. Your spirituality is shown through your sixth sense. You understand things and animals and people better than most. You just know things. You can sense someone’s story. This is why you give great advice to your friends and even your middle-aged mom. Sometimes it is not fair that people constantly look to you for your counsel; however, it is the greatest compliment to you. In fact, when you say you are not the best at any one thing, that is not accurate. This is what you do best. Being present. Being faithful. Going beyond the surface and discovering the layers of life that others will never notice. This is your gift from God. Your parents wish they could claim credit for it, but they simply cannot. It is beyond DNA.

And so this is my birthday card to you, ESP. I could not end this tribute without acknowledging the challenges you and I are facing during this chapter of life. You are a teenager. I am not. I used to be, a while back. And those times and that experience was much different than what you are living right now. I was a lot like you when I was 15. Now that I am 40 something, I am a much different version of myself. For these reasons, we are very different yet the same in our fiber. This is why we clash. This is why we often disagree. This is why we raise our voices to one another at times. You are opinionated, strong, and soulful. You are passionate. These are the things I see in you that I see in myself. And so, we will keep clashing for now. And that is perfectly okay. This is what is intended for you and me, once in a while, right now. This is our type of love. It is true and honest and raw at times. But I would never want you to change nor would I want to change for you. Even when we are disagreeing, I love being with you. I always love being your mom.

If this is 15, I will prepare myself for 16. But please let it be slow in coming. Time is greedy and selfish. Time never understands. We will not let Time rob us though. Right, Elle Belle? We will make the most of what we have left of these teen years and high school and all the wonders (and even the struggles) that come with it.

Happy #15 with All My Love,
(also known as “Mommy”)