I’m Pissed Off That I Now Need to Wear Glasses

A silly little ditty about something that’s been bugging me lately…

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Two little windows that allow me to see

Damn things are never close enough for me

So many glasses in my house are now residing

But when I need them *poof* they all go into hiding.

 

Not to brag but all my life, my vision’s 20/20

All day long, no matter what, clear vision for me aplenty!

And then a blur crept in, it happened step by step

Getting glasses?  Okay, I thought…what the heck?

 

Where are my glasses now, does anybody know?

My computer screen?  It’s appears to be a  fuzzy thing aglow

Can’t sit down to read my book til I find my specs

A larger font on my Kindle is now what happens next.

 

Can’t wear them outside when the sun is shining bright

Sunglasses atop of eyeglasses, ugh, I must look a fright!

Can’t check out the  ingredients that are written on the label

Can’t read the paper my daughter wrote that’s sitting on the table.

 

Can’t read that new magazine while waiting for the doc

Can’t spy the current time upon that teeny tiny clock

Can’t read the price upon the tag of that Old Navy shirt

Can’t clean the spot! Why? Because I can’t see the fucking dirt.

 

Can’t play the new game because I can’t read all the rules

Can’t find the perfect pair that make me look real cool

Can’t change the channel – the tiny buttons on the remote

Can’t figure out what could possibly

be the antidote…

 

Except

 

Wearing the damn glasses everywhere I tread

But then I can’t see far away… so put them on my head?

Nothing says “middle age” like glasses on your head

But beady baubly glasses holders are something else I dread.

 

When you fold and tuck them gently into little spaces

You’ll soon find out exactly why there are such things as cases

In the kitchen!  By my bed!  Glasses everywhere!

How do people manage to have a single pair?

 

One point five to two point-oh, I keep moving up the ladder

Loss of vision gradually just makes me all the sadder

Could I be a candidate for a miracle like Lasik?

No, says the eye doctor.  You just have to grin and take it.

 

Getting older comes with it wisdom and maturity

And I think eyesight lends itself to a feeling of security

So I better start to focus on the fact that glasses help

Instead of being angry and feeling sorry for myself.

 

So when you are feeling pissed off like me and you think your vision’s gone

Just remember how good it feels when you put those damn things on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Set in My Ways

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As a younger person, my observation was always that older people were curmudgeons; cranky and inflexible.  To me, they lacked the beguilement and wonder of my generation.  I saw this as an irritating feature of this group of people, and asked myself why they didn’t share in my own open-minded culture.  Seeing it as something that was characteristic of “them” made it easier to accept that this brand of cynicism would not happen to me.   I would never become “set in my ways.”  Having seen what became of people who were, I felt cocky that the inevitability of this fate would never come to pass.  I wouldn’t become one of them, no fucking way.

Time has dealt me a cruel blow.  Much as I hate to admit it, I am beginning to be set in my ways.  Years of experience have formulated my opinions on such things as waiting in traffic, the high price of travel and the skimpiness of  clothes on today’s young women.  Politicians are too jaded.   Movies are too violent.  Kids are too spoiled.  These are actual thoughts I have had recently, and it scares the shit out of me.  Being judge-y is not in my character and when thoughts of this nature appear and reappear, it is striking to say the least.  I was going to be impervious to age, always keeping up with trends and relishing free thinking!  A goddamn goddess of change and compromise!  My ideas would continue to be unspoiled not by years of disappointment in how things were, but instead, energized by pure possibility!  And then, eventually, you get screwed.  No one wants to lose the ability to see the world through a free thinking lens.  But no one wants to sit in the middle seat on an airplane, either.

As you get older, you start to see things less out of possibility and more out of practicality.  You figure out what it is that you don’t really like or want in your life as a result of having gone through it in the past.  You know that there are all kinds of cool new artists out there, but you still love to listen to Tom Petty.  You know that change comes slowly, but the chaos and gridlock in government have turned you sour.  You know that taking a class will be really good for you, but you bristle at the cost and inconvenience.  You want to jump in the lake, but don’t want to get wet.  You want to learn how to snowboard, but can’t be bothered with the cold.  Maybe these aren’t all directly relevant to your life, but this is what happens.  The head knows what it likes.  That’s why I want to listen to my heart.

When I think of someone I’d like to age into, I think of someone I know named Nancee. Nancee is 70, 23 years older than me.  She has opinions, she’s doesn’t get pushed around.  But she retains a sense of wonder that is truly remarkable.  She takes dance classes with girls 30 years younger.  She asks for other people’s opinions.  And then she listens.  In a culture of “us vs. them,”  she is open to new ideas.  She has friends of all shapes, sizes, religions and political persuasions.  She hugs and kisses her husband while pinching his ass.  She curses in ways that would make some folks’ hair stand on end.  But she also prays vigorously.  She is in pain most days from arthritis, but you’d never know it.  She doesn’t have much money,  her home is small, but she lives big.  While I realize we can’t all be Nancee,  and that I might never be, I relish her abandon.  She is her own person.  She hasn’t created a small, safe box around herself.  On the contrary, her box is huge and her heart is limitless.

Now I know that our experiences don’t always jade us, they often serve us.  Just because I want to see the world anew sometimes doesn’t mean I’m going to love the idea of the guy my age who smells like vodka coming over and pick up my daughter.  Hell, no. Keeping your sense of openness in the face of reality is a challenge, one that I don’t think those in the thick of middle age (or young middle age in my case) get enough credit for handling.  It can be a bitch to reconcile it all.

So here I am, 47 years of voices informing me to not listen, not to get involved and to say no.  But I know better!  Deep inside there is a kid who thought there was no line too long to get a ticket (and no price too high) for my favorite band’s upcoming show.   A kid who didn’t care that falling and getting hurt was part of learning how to roller skate.  Who didn’t instantly judge.  Who didn’t lose her shit when someone doesn’t replace the toilet paper roll.  I wouldn’t trade my sorrows and regrets for anything, but I do wish I could turn back time and regain a fraction of the sheer hope and optimism my daughters possess.

For now, I’m going to pay attention to my kids’ music.  Force my brain to learn tough new things (on my list:  programming, sewing and constructing a drip irrigation system).  Ask questions.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen.   My goal is to not be predictable.  To filter myself not based on what I don’t like, but on the very best things about me.  Because I know one day I’ll be sitting in the middle seat of an airplane, on a tarmac, next to a person who won’t stop talking, before a long flight.  And at  that moment, on this journey, I want to be open.

To all the ways.

 

photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.  Go check it out.

 

 

 

 

Ode to Blockbuster

 

 

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When

did it get so complicated to watch a show

Man, I fucking

just want to watch something

Not go through

ten thousand channels

They say to watch this show or that but

I am just plain

overwhelmed at the prospect of so so so

Many.  What if I choose

poorly?   And waste a couple hours just

choosing

hoping

chasing.

 

So damn many good shows they say

but isn’t that the

problem?

Sometimes I think of a movie I saw

long ago.  Well

where do I get it?  Sure as shit not in that

little red box outside the

grocery store with lines of people on a

Friday night

looking dead tired from a long day

but still

holding pizzas and sodas and treats for

ungrateful kids

who don’t even know the meaning of

a real video store, man.

 

And that’s not even talking about

podcasts.

 

I guess I’ll just read my book.   Sip my drink and then

my brain can

lay it all down.

This Stage of Life

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Recently, my father in law got remarried.  This is a welcome development for everyone involved.  We love his new wife, and the happy couple are busy doing newlywed things and being in love.  My father in law took incredible care of my mother in law while she was sick.  He was completely devoted to her, forsaking any other claim on his time to care for her.  His loyalty to her was unconditional and he was with her every step of her journey with cancer, ultimately ending in her death a couple years ago.  So, his new-found happiness is truly a blessing in our family.

The wedding took place this past summer on a steamy late August day.  However, being “home” this time had me and my husband out of sorts.  First of all, there was a huge “for sale” sign in front of the house.  It felt odd, like we didn’t belong there anymore.  Like this was no longer home for any of us.  Despite the happy occasion, it wound up being unexpectedly sad to be there.  It really made me think about what makes a house a home.  Is it the time your Dad screamed at you at the kitchen table for getting a ding in the car?  Is it the time you made brownies with grandma?  Is it the first bath you gave your newborn baby in the kitchen sink?  It turns out it’s all of this, and more.

Once we realized this would be our last time in the house, all of a sudden, everything was infused with meaning.  There were paintings hanging on the wall that suddenly became visible after years of walking by them on the way to go to bed or run out to dinner with the family.  Plates and tzchotchkes that adorned the shelves were relegated to “take what you want!” status from my father in law.  These objects served as the background of my husband’s childhood home, much as the stage does for a play.  But in this would-be theater, all the props are going away.  The time had come for the play to close.  All the scenery, gone.  Virtually the entire house would either be given away or thrown in the trash.  The thought of this is jarring to say the least, but even more so considering my 46 year old husband has thought of this as home since he was 5.  It felt disrespectful.  It hurt.

Prior to leaving, my husband, his brother and each of our families tormented ourselves over what to take.  It had to fit in our bags.  If we wanted it shipped, it had to be worth the cost.  How do you take a lifetime and put it in a carry-on bag?

In the end, we wound up taking a few very special items.  My husband’s bar mitzvah photo album.  His stamp collection.  Lots of photographs.  Some jewelry.  But, now that the house is sold, I keep remembering things from the house.  I will sit up in bed and think about a ring my mother in law wore.  My father in law’s fencing mask.  The huge marble covered dresser that they let us borrow for our first apartment.   The record collection.  These things are now scattered around, detritus of a life no longer shared.  Of four people no longer under the same roof.  That shit is just plain sad.

So now I look around my house.  I try to see it from the eyes of my own kids.  They will grow and one day leave this beloved dwelling.  Will they remember how they helped make gingerbread in this kitchen every Christmas?  Will they remember painting their rooms?  Do they notice the photos we have hanging?  Will it hurt when the for sale sign is dug into the ground?  Only time will tell.

But I know this much to be true.  This house, my home, is more to me than bricks and walls.  She has kept my loud cursing silent to the outside world,  and she has gently held my whispers.  She has swelled to welcome visitors and she has held us tight when it is just us four.   She keeps us warm and dry  through the storms and gives light on dark days.  She has welcomed two babies and been steady through diapers, flus, tears and the inevitable Sharpie on the walls.  She has borne witness to it all and remains strong for all of us.  She holds my deepest heart, my playful days, my sleepless nights, my worries, my dreams and all the days of this crazy wonderful life we lead.  Backstage, I write these words.  On stage, as they say, the play goes on.

 

photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.

 

Snow it Falls

IMG_5712Snow is all about in the tranquil grace of falling

falling

lightly, as though by slow motion reel

the flake, she bobs and twists on the hands of her

gentle friend, the wind.

 

Snow chills the present and sends away

the idea of the grocery store replaced by

visions of sleds and laughter and hot cocoa the thrill

of a snow day eclipsing the gray day to day.

 

Snow, that sly little girl she surprises and comes up

behind you and gives you a tickle and makes

you giggle all hopeful and renders you a child as well

all squishy and cozy and ready and willing.

 

Snow, she is so silent you must cover your ears and

not let the loud-less noise-less overwhelm you

and you long for the sounds but she hushes you and

comforts you with the quiet-full world.

 

Oh snow, your crunch and hiss delight and so

when the rain and sun come and take you so quickly it

feels like an ending but I know I think I dream you

will come again so I will wait, snow.  I will wait.

 

photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com

 

 

All of Me

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It’s dawn in the suburbs and I am up

a little early.  It’s raining and it’s sunny at the same time.

My daughter asked me once how these two opposite

forces could occur at the same time.  “How is it possible for both

to happen at once?”  she wondered.

Got me thinking.

 

There was a woman who, as a young girl, stole a candy bar

from a store.  She never told anyone and really it wasn’t on purpose,

she told herself.  She stared with green eyes at the Barbie townhouse

in her friend’s playroom.   Like a rug burn, she hurt for that house.  One day

the elevator found it’s string mysteriously cut.  Shrugging her shoulders

the girl blamed her friend’s brothers.  They were assholes anyway.

On the schoolyard, this same girl pulled the hair of another girl who

called her friend Missy a “low down blackie.”   She got in trouble, of course,

but Missy quietly thanked her.  Saying no one had ever stood up

for her before.    It made the girl feel good.  She made friends with the

cast-outs and the fringe kids.  They, she thought, were the real ones.

 

As a teenager, she smoked cigarettes behind the Friends meeting

house.  The foul language mixed with the smoke coming out of her mouth

would have made her mother’s hair curl.  She earned honors in her classes

and people said she was smart but didn’t apply herself.  To what?  She had

wondered.  As if she were glue.  Her first boyfriend, well, now he’s in jail.

The second is a surgeon.  Guess which one was nicer.   To school, she wore

her plaid Catholic school uniform, all prim and proper.  To the nuns, she

was the quiet one.  Studied hard.  She was glad she could wear a uniform.

Because her parents couldn’t afford designer jeans.

 

In college, she drank too much.  As lots of kids do.  And she was not very

good with money.   A friend who really needed her started to get on her

nerves and felt like a drain.  So she ditched her.  She ate her neighbor’s

food all the time instead of buying her own.  The girl now woman, well, she

graduated magna cum laude.   A bachelor’s degree.  Then, after work, she

earned a masters degree.  Very quickly, she understood.  On the

weekends she helped in the AIDS clinic.  She spoke up in meetings.  She

wore a white coat.  She was respected.  She walked right by the homeless

people outside her building.

 

This woman is now here in the suburbs, now a mom, now someone

who cares, who matters, who makes a difference.  But also

someone who is not always right, is imperfect and flawed.

 

I tell my daughter, “It’s called a sun-shower.  And it can happen.

It happens all the time.”

 

 

photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.

What Would You Do?

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There’s a show on broadcast television called, “What Would You Do?”  Immediately after one of our favorite shows, it came on.   We just started watching it, so horizontal and lazy were we that changing channels seemed too huge an endeavor.   It works like this:  actors portray a brief scenario in public while being filmed.   Whatever it is, you are compelled to ask yourself:  What would you do in this situation?  An online stalker propositioning a young victim, an racist mother talking her daughter out of buying a brown-skinned doll, a couple arguing loudly about whether they should divorce.  Then-you guessed it-we see what happens.   A person will step in at some point and try to help, or to confront, the actors.  Then our host comes from behind the shadows and surprises everyone!  And interviews him/her!  And makes everyone feel good!  It’s overproduced and inauthentic but has sparked some great conversations with my kids.

There are a couple things which have always bothered me about this concept.  First of all, it feels like you are tricking the people into reacting.  After all, it’s not really happening, it’s actors.  I always appreciate the ones who step in and try to help, I’m not sure I always would under the circumstances, but still…It’s. Not. Real.  The other thing that bothers me is that my kids are just sitting and watching.  It’s reality television after all, everyone is always waiting for the train wreck to happen.  It’s not active, it’s passive, even if they are yelling at the television.

As I read “The Whole Brain Child” by Dr. Dan Siegel last week, I was thinking about the show.  He talks a lot about the “upstairs brain,”  which is the thinking and reasoning part of your brain.  And then there is the “downstairs brain” which is ruled by emotions and reactivity.  You know when your child has a tantrum (yes this happens even when they are teenagers) and it’s impossible to talk to them?  That’s when the downstairs brain is at work.  When you wait until they are calm to have a discussion, that’s when the upstairs brain is operating.  Newsflash frazzled parents! You are also calmer once the tantrum is over.  Dr. Siegel mentions using “what would you do” questions to develop your child’s ability to problem solve!  Imagine how brilliant I am that I was thinking the same thing as him!

So I sat down, thought about the ages of my kids, and wrote a bunch of questions on index cards.  They range from “what would you do if you saw your friend cheating on a test?” to “what would you do if you saw your friend’s boyfriend kissing another girl?”  and everything in between.  It’s actually kind of fun thinking of these questions.  Sometimes I throw them out during a long car ride, sometimes at dinner.  But someone always says something I wasn’t expecting.  It’s not really an opportunity to correct them but more connect to them.  It’s cool to know what they are thinking, even if I don’t agree with them.

We all have times in life that we have to make a choice.  For me, that comes down to asking myself what kind of person I want to be.  For my kids, I hope that I can guide them into asking those kinds of questions of themselves.  After all, I won’t always be there.  You take them to practice to help them be better at sports, why not practice being a better thinker?

What would you do?

 

photo at top of post by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com

 

The Ring Stolen From Me

 

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My fingers are tiny, I don’t even think a size 4 but

the ring it unraveled into 7 diamonds nonetheless floating round

and round my eensy weensy digit.  It was (or rather is) gold 14 karat

diamonds scattered throughout shiny new precious and

intoxicating like love and marriage and romance and pain.

*

You bastard I came home and the house was a wreck

overturned dressers opened drawers clothes hanging out

the door broken and kicked in and my jewelry box broken in pieces

on the floor.  I walked on clothes and boxes and dirt from your shoes

when you emptied the contents not caring not thinking.

*

Making a beeline for the place of my ring in it’s place I found the

detritus of a staged assault on security willingness safety peace.

You asshole it took about 15 minutes to scour the house  you were looking

for objects belongings  money  you took jewelry computers  a telescope

and you left behind questions and footprints.  I wish you had just taken

the television.

The Town I Remember

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There was a young girl and she was from

A beautiful little town

And then it occurred to her as she stirred

That this place was now dragging her down.

*

When little, there was so much

That made her laugh and play

Then as she grew she realized too

How she didn’t want to stay.

*

The frozen lake, the grand canal

The endless big green lawns

The after-schools, the long carpools

With the sports team we played on.

*

It all looked great upon first glance

Those houses so lovely and huge

But keep your word in this suburb

That there’s nothing wrong with you.

*

If you have an drinking problem

Or an affair you want to keep quiet

Can’t pay your bills?  Your son’s on pills?

Those things you’ll want to stay silent

*

Everything here is about the address

And the utter prestige of your zip code

Because in this place it’s an utter disgrace

For your weaknesses to be shown.

*

Oh if only! I could embrace the sweet warm days

I remember from most of my child-hood

Ignorant of the class warfare that was cast

In my beloved, my flawed neigbor-hood.

photo from Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.