Window of opportunity

Don't let the window of opportunity close!

My window of opportunity is shrinking. I can actually see the pane of glass quietly closing as I struggle to manage work, home and kid responsibilities. You see, I never actually thought this would happen; that my kids would one day become self-sufficient. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’re needing me less and less. And honestly, I’ve been dreaming of this very scenario for over a decade. But, much like the Chanukah let down of being gifted with a Dyson vacuum cleaner a few years back, this feels shockingly depressing.

Because along with not needing me as much, comes the accompanying reality that they also don’t want me that much anymore. That’s what hurts. Sure, I’m still they’re ticket to play dates, after school activities and the mall. But they can do almost everything else by themselves. Suddenly the threat of obsoleteness is overwhelming.

I do understand that this is a necessary part of growing up. My boys are separating from me. The ironic thing is that I loathed a lot of the clingy neediness that colored their early years. I felt guilty and trapped and could never seem to do or be enough for them. It was frustrating. But I guess there comes a time when we moms have to realize that individuation really will happen and it’s up to us to find new ways to interact and relate if we want to keep the connections with our kids strong and viable.

It’s not an easy adjustment. You need to be there for them emotionally, just as they’re needing you less and less for the routine, day-to-day physical tasks. That means finding new ways to have fun with them, and different techniques for connection. It also means taking what you can get whenever it’s offered.

The other day I was driving to rehearsal around 6pm. It had been a long day and I was already running behind as I endured my trek out to the Theatre in Peoria. My phone rang, and I saw that it was Levi, my 11 year old son. I flashed back to the way my dad used to answer the phone whenever I called him during the last few years of his life. No matter what pain he was battling, he always picked up the receiver with an exuberant tone and a lilt that made me feel like I’d just made his day by simply dialing his phone number.

“Hi Sweetie,” I chirped. “What’s going on?”

“I just called to talk…I was missing you,” he added.

The words felt like honey dripping into my soul. I knew the truth. That his “missing me” was more a function of the fact that our nanny had taken my younger son, Eli, to karate and Levi was likely a bit anxious about being home alone. But that didn’t matter to me at all. This was my moment of connection and I wasn’t gonna blow it. I pulled into my parking spot and noted that I could be right on time if I hurried up the steps and into the theatre immediately.

“Wanna talk?” he asked invitingly, “Or are you in the middle of something?”

“No, sweetie,” I answered. “I’ve got all the time in the world. Tell me about your day.”

We talked for 5 or 10 minutes and hung up when he felt secure enough to get back to his homework. Then I gathered my stuff and ran into the rehearsal hall.

No one even noticed my tardiness and I was thankful that I’d accepted my son’s invitation to chat instead of neurotically focusing on being a few minutes late. Because when it all comes down to it, it’s not about being on time. It’s about being where you are, when you are, with whom you are.

Kids say the darndest things

It’s my worst nightmare. On the way home from school today, my 11 year old son, Levi, asked me the standard question I usually pose to him. “So mom, what did you do that was interesting and exciting today?” “Not much,” I replied. It was a slow day. I had run errands, sent out a few query letters on a new script I was hoping to sell, worked out. Then it was time to pick up the boys. I guess I felt somewhat disappointed in myself when I took mental inventory of my day. But it wasn’t until my 7 year old, Eli, piped up that I truly plummeted into the abyss.

“She did nothing. Like she always does,” he said in a cheery, non-judgmental tone. He was simply stating a fact, as he knew it. I was crushed. Memories of my tween pals and me sitting around after school lamenting the uselessness of our stay-at-home mothers flooded my memory banks. Pay-back really is a bitch.

I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to show myself and my children that women count, that motherhood is not a straight path to uselessness, that I can be there for my kids and still have a productive, meaningful career. I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t make nearly as much money as I did before embarking on the motherhood track. But money isn’t everything, is it? My husband constantly insists that we are co-earners; that without me doing my part to manage our home and children, he wouldn’t be able to go to work every day and earn exponentially more than me. “I am the glue that holds this family together,” he asserts.

But right now I feel more like goopy, home-made paste than super strong duel pump epoxy. I want to scream “I am not my mother,” at the top of my lungs. And I love my mother. I really do. I just didn’t want to make the choices she made. I wanted more. I was part of the “have it all” generation of women who grew up believing we could work, love and parent simultaneously, without ever missing a beat. It was a rude revelation to wake up at 35 and realize we were sold a bill of goods; that no one can have it all, that growing up meant making choices, choices that we would have scoffed at when we were young, single and full of potential.

The whole thing makes me angry. I’m angry that Eli sees me as a loser who doesn’t do anything all day long. I’m angry that maybe he’s right. I’m angry that if I got one acceptance letter from a reputable film studio I’d suddenly feel like I existed again. I’m angry that I spend countless hours writing stuff I’m really proud of that never sees the light of day. I’m angry that men get to go to work at some remote location, while women, even in 2011, are still primarily responsible for maintaining the home and managing the family, whether they work beyond the confines of their homes or not.

All I’ve ever wanted was for my kids to be proud of who I am. I never wanted them to see me as merely an off-shoot of themselves, a gelatinous being who only existed to meet their ever-changing needs and demands. And yet, try as I have, that’s where I netted out. It’s more than a little depressing.
My husband insists that being there for our boys, sharing in their daily travails, listening to theirs tales and troubles is all that life is really about. Often I believe him. But sometimes it’s hard not to wonder about all we women walk away from when we choose the road to maternity.

I heard the biographer of Steve Jobs on some news show the other day. He said he asked Jobs on his death bed, why, after so many years of reclusive isolation, he finally wanted to tell his life story. Jobs answered that he wanted his family to know who he was. Sort of astonishing. Jobs was so busy changing the world that those closest to him hardly knew him at all.

Sometimes I think life is one of those no-win situations. I guess Steven Wright was correct when he said, “You can’t have everything. .. Where would you put it?”

Offspring Rejection Syndrome: (O.R.S.) A severe and often chronic affliction affecting parents of tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings

Oh, the pain of Offspring Rejection Syndrome!

I am officially suffering from an acute case of O.R.S. And it is seriously sucking the joy out of my life. You see, I used to be the bees knees, the cat’s pajamas, totally rad. And now? I’m nothing more than an inconvenient embarrassment whose sole value derives from driving small boys to and fro, continuously providing a never-ending supply of cut-up fruit, and paying for…everything!

This totally sucks! It’s not that it comes as a surprise to me. I’ve always known that parents become uncool. I just never thought it would happen to me, and never so abruptly.It all happened yesterday, the day my eldest son turned 11. Today, he can’t even stand to be seen with me in public. What changed overnight? And why does it have to hurt so much?

I drove to school today and on the way, I remembered that I was supposed to bring a check for an upcoming overnight retreat. Since I didn’t have a check, I decided to pop into the school office and give them my credit card.

“You’re coming in with us?” My son barked insensitively.

“No,” I replied calmly, “I’m just going in to pay for your retreat. You can go in by yourself.”

“But, Mom…Geez! That is sooooooooo embarrassing!” He grunted, harumphed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

I was pissed.

“Well,” I started with a defensively edgy lilt, “If it’s so embarrassing, would you rather I not go in and pay for the retreat? It’s up to you.”

“Whatever,” he snipped.

It was at that moment, hearing his surly “whatever,” that something inside of me snapped. I grabbed his still sweet, loving, seven-year-old little brother’s hand and walked into the office. I should have just gotten back into my car and driven away. Too embarrassed to be in the same room with me? That’s just…mean.

Look, I’m all for individuating. I know that’s part of the growing up process. But I don’t recall ever treating my parents with disgust, disdain or disrespect. It hurts. My husband says I shouldn’t take it so personally. It’s actually good that our son, who hasn’t always been so keen about social appropriateness, gets that his peers are rejecting their parents right now. But I feel like crap. And I’m honestly not sure I’m capable of rising above this. I keep wanting to say to him, “Well, if you’re too good for me, then why don’t you just go rent an apartment, get a friggin’ job and get off the parental dole?” I know that’s childish and immature. But that’s how I feel.

Please tell me that this is only a stage, a short one. Tell me that all kids go through this, that it isn’t me. Tell me that he’ll come around, that he wont always feel shame when I enter a room, that I really am more than a money machine and chauffeur. And if you can’t tell me any of those things, at least tell me how to handle the hurt and where to find the internal strength to let this stuff roll off my back.

I know I’m not the first parent to suffer from offspring rejection syndrome. But it would sure help if someone who lived through it could point out the light at the end of this tunnel and assure me that this boy, who lights up my heart, will once again, someday, think as lovingly about me as I do everyday about him.











I  love Lulu Lemon. Not because I’m some peace-loving, zen yogini or anything even close. I just love the style, fit and feel of their clothes. Plus the whole vibe of the store makes me happy. But do you know what I really love most about the place? The bags.

Come on. You love them too. They’re cute. They’re uplifting. They’re the perfect Trader Joe’s reusable grocery bags. But here’s the moment of truth. What do the bags actually say? Don’t look! This is a challenge I’m putting before you. Everything on those bags is thoughtful, philosophical, and inspiring. But I bet, no matter how many tata tamers you have, you can’t come up with 10 phrases that adorn that bag. Too hard? How about five? Three? One?

I wouldn’t ask you to attempt anything I wasn’t willing to try myself. So here goes:

1. Listen intently…to someone?
2. Breathe.
3. Friends are more important than money.
4. Something about sweating every day.
5. Do something every day that scares you.
6. Life is a journey, not a destination. (Okay, I’m stumped and this was the first generic philosophical phrase I could think of. But It could be on the bag.)

I have now retrieved one of the many red and white sacks I possess and am moderately horrified by my performance. I got 4…sort of. “Breathe” is actually “Breathe Deeply.” But I think I deserve at least a half point for my effort. It’s “Listen, listen, listen and then ask strategic questions.” But who would ever remember that? I didn’t get “Love,” which is so blatantly obvious it’s almost embarrassing. I missed “Dance, Sing, Floss and Travel,” “Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment,” “The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.” I could go on. But instead, I’m just going to encourage all of you to step away from your computer and go into your bedroom, closet or the trunk of your car and pick up one of your Lulu bags. Then grab a cup of tea or a mug of French press coffee, sit down and really read what’s on that bag.

It’s kind of nutty to think that a tote from a retail establishment could honestly change your life. But I really think this one can. Because it’s true, “Friends are more important than money,” and “Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.” The bag is like a modern day totem pole, celebrating today’s overwhelming obsession with spiritual enlightenment, and saying to the world and generations to come, “This is who we are. This is what we believe. This is what we are striving towards.”

It’s actually kind of cool to think about this as an emblem of our people. Probably a little kooky too. I doubt that the marketing guru who came up with the bag design considered herself a modern day messenger of current societal standards. But who knows. Maybe Sarah Palin, in one of the upcoming Republican primary debates, will cite Lulu as her favorite political philosopher, just as George W. did in the now infamous 1999 debate when he chose Jesus Christ as his. WWLD?

Decaf dilemma

Just say "no" to corporate idiocy!

I drink a lot of coffee. I like coffee. I’ve tried giving it up. But that usually lasts from about 9p.m. to 6:30a.m. the following morning. Then I decide that it’s just not worth the head-ache (literally).

But it gives me a serious buzz. I’m like wired to the max on two shots of espresso. By the time I hit three, I’m shaking so badly I can’t tie my shoes, clasp my necklace or type anything that even remotely resembles meaningful communiqué.

Since I’ve been doing a show, I’ve been working late nights. So a hit or two of java mid afternoon doesn’t do anything to disturb my all too erratic sleeping patterns. But as things are winding down, I decided to cut out the afternoon caffeine infusions and stick to decaf after 3p.m.

Around 4:00 yesterday afternoon I strode into Starbucks and ordered an ordinary cup of decaffeinated coffee.

“Sorry,” said the insincere barrista, “But we don’t brew decaf coffee after 3p.m.”

“What?” I said, sure that I had fallen asleep for a nanosecond and dreamt the previous statement.

“I said,” continued the arrogant employee in a tone that suggested I was either partially deaf or suffering from some advanced form of mental derangement, “We don’t brew decaf after 3. You can order a decaf latte or espresso if you want.”

I quickly did the calculations in my head. A fru fru coffee drink would cost me upwards of three dollars, while a plain cup of joe would’ve run about a buck and a half. But it wasn’t the money that irked me so much. I really didn’t want an expensive, milk-frothed masterpiece. I wanted a simple, ordinary cup of decaf, like my grandmother would’ve enjoyed along with her late afternoon mandelbread snack.

But beyond my personal irritation, this is one of the most inane corporate policies I’ve ever heard. I mean, when do people most drink decaf? I’m guessing it’s not during morning drive time. Why would you refuse to serve decaffeinated coffee in the late afternoon when anyone with even a hint of common sense would be contemplating a good night’s sleep in less than four hours?

This line of reasoning ranks up there with my other caffeine related fave; the “we don’t serve decaffeinated iced tea here.” “Oh, do you have defaffeinated hot tea,” I’ll often inquire. At that I’ll usually get an affirmative response and a listing of five or so flavors of herbal tea that’s available hot.

OK, I’m no rocket scientist, but isn’t that what ice is for? Make the damn tea, then pour it over a glass of ice and voila, herbal iced tea. That doesn’t seem all that difficult to me.

There seems to be a certain inalienable idiocy surrounding decaffeinated drinks in this country, and one that needs to be addressed.

So here’s the bottom line, if you work in a restaurant and want to get good tips, think outside the box. If someone wants a hot drink served over ice, you can handle that. And if you’re a mega-corporate-coffee conglomerate, add a few pots of decaf to your afternoon repertoire. It’ll make people happy and allow them to sleep so that they can race thru your drive thru the next morning at 7a.m. and order those all too addictive venti, half caf, triple mocha, vanilla lattes that keep the establishment in the black.

Pull yourself together…or apart rather!

I am lying in traction at the physical therapist’s office, my lower lumbar spine being gently pulled apart vertebra by vertebra. It’s an incredibly freeing feeling. Elongation, extension, expansion. I feel like we all spend our lives in compression; tightened, condensed, making ourselves smaller. Trying to disappear.

I’ve had issues with my back for years, (ever since I had children, ironically). Sometimes I give up trying to feel better and just attempt to accept a life of constant (yet bearable) discomfort. But then I hear of a new treatment or meet someone who knows someone who went to someone…and I’m back on the case; pursuing a cure like a committed archeologist, unwilling to leave even a single stone unturned. Hence, I am back on the rack in a swanky Scottsdale office, hoping my insurance will pay for this primitive form of torture that may ultimately bring relief.

They say that back problems have to do with support. I believe in that whole “new agey” thing that all physical ailments are related to psycho-spiritual issues we’re facing. The whole support thing makes sense to me. It’s hard to get enough support as a mom. Even with partners who pitch in, relatively well behaved children, and family nearby, life for a mom can feel unsupported when it’s mainly up to us to support anyone and everyone around us.

So the theory says that we manifest a physical ailment in lieu of expressing a tortured emotional state or facing what we deem to be an unacceptable psychological position. I buy that. In our society, it’s a hell of a lot more acceptable to be out of commission for a herniated disc than to have to lie down in a dark room because you’re kids have pushed you to the brink of insanity.

Somewhere along the line we learned that taking care of ourselves emotionally didn’t count nearly as much as our efforts to mend our physical selves and acknowledge our bodily problems. Feelings of helplessness, of being overwhelmed, unsupported, all the things that moms feel, we deemed were weak, needy, unacceptable. So we pushed them aside and donned our supermom capes and set out to show the world how strong, capable and competent we were. But without acknowledging the pain, the fear, the weakness, we become less of who we are . We compress our soles. We make ourselves fit into a role that doesn’t always allow our spirits to soar. And then we feel alone, small, unsupported.

Hmmm…maybe that’s why it feels so good to be in traction, to grow longer, to extend ourselves, to take up more space.

I think I may be on to something.