Friday, April 4, 2014

When All Else Fails, Laundry Metaphor

Yes -- the blog was lost in life's rinse cycle.   The Matron actually forgot that she had an online life, so out of breath was she, keeping up with the calendar.

But now, she reminds herself that when she returned to the blog, she relieved herself from narrative perfection.  In other words, sometimes it might be okay to just ramble or vent - instead of perfected prose.

The reasons last week was a bust?

First:  three children in three different schools.  That would be enough to fell any parent, all that driving and scheduling.  But in this household, it meant two children on Spring Break.   Ah!  Spring Break in Minnesota!!   This basically was all about 20 degrees and an equal amount of snow.   Today?   10 inches.      So the Matron is navigating the psychological terrain of the high school senior on a 'vacation,' which meant for him boatloads of homework and as many job hours as possible; she is trying to entertain an 11 year old whose best friends are all on holiday somewhere warmer; she continues to rise at 5:30 am with the 15 year old whose break doesn't align; and she still has that pesky full-time job (er, 'career').

Financial aid packages arrived this week for the eldest.  Look for more upcoming in College Chronicles, but in sum, it means hard, hard and painful choices.  The Matron has baked a lot of cookies.

Wednesday, a cement truck tied itself to the Matron's limbs.  Somewhere, the Universe said:  let's give up, honey. Rest.    There is nothing like the bona fide, horrific flu to make a person appreciate waking up in the morning.  Yours truly might be on the tail end.  This is day three.  There is no fever but that pesky cement truck remains anchored.    At the moment, she is mindlessly watching Captain Phillips with Merrick and dear husband, a hint of the future to come (older two out, out, out, and living their own lives).

So a note as Horton and his Who.  Not very active, but "we're here, we're here, we're here."


Friday, March 21, 2014

Yoga

The Matron  totally love the slightly older, 30-years sober, apparently unemployed, single man who not only goes to yoga as obsessively as she does, but is equally obsessive about his "spot." 

So is she.

Sot there they are, side by side, in the front row -- nervous about securing positions and discussing the heat with passion and critique (will it be hot enough? too hot for you? ). They are picky, needy people together commiserating with desire not to be so and weaknesses. Older Yoga Guy knows that it can't be hot ENOUGH for yours truly and makes recommendations regarding teachers, studios, wardrobe.   The Matron  knows Older Yoga Guy is looking for a cute girlfriend (preferably with money because he has none) in her late 40s or 50s, has a bum knee and is not on Facebook but also know him well enough now to know he would not only be okay with reading this but would say "sounds about right."     Matron and Older Yoga Guy are both ALWAYS at yoga early due to that neurotic need for the same spot (now side by side). Today she  realized that she is  100% herself with him.

Older Yoga Guy: "Mary - -remember that essay I'm writing? The long piece? I'm going to send it to you. I'd love to hear what you think about it."

Matron: "OMIGOD! Don't send me your writing! That's like telling a lawyer friend you're going to email that tiny contract for fun. Do you know how many people find out I'm a writer and say "I will send you . . "

Older Yoga Guy: "I'm still going to send it to you. It's okay that you feel that way."

Matron: "But I have to read student papers all day long. It's my job and the most agonizing part of it. Don't send me your essay -- especially if it's long. LONG!"

Older Yoga Guy: "I'm still going to send it."

Matron: "I won't read it. I will hit 'delete' the minute I see an email with an attachment. Unread."

Older Yoga Guy:" "I'm still going to send it to you. Are we done now?"

Matron: "I'm not going to read it you know."

Older Yoga Guy: "Yup I pretty much got that message. But I'm still going to send it anyway. You know. How about that new guy in the corner? Bets on how he'll do in toe stand?"

And she  realized -- with alarm and certainty - -that she did indeed find Her People in that little yoga studio.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Actual Conversation



The Matron's youngest child does not excel in school.   He does not enjoy Book nor is he deft with Number. Indeed, Merrick resents both Book and Number if they are presented to him in that horror box called School.  School is acceptable for its social elements, and great good friends continue to abound there.   Much fun.  But getting down to business?  For this boy, learning comes from and means the body.

When Merrick was three, he was outside tooling about with a basketball.   The across-the-street neighbor just so happened to be the city of golf pro -- yes, a PGA bona fide member.   This neighbor marched across the street and grabbed the ball from the three-year-old.

Bona Fide PGA:   "Mary.  Pick one sport.  I don't care which one but I pray it's golf.   Let him play only that one and get him a coach.  Do it now.   I've watched this kid all summer and he's a million dollar bet."

Matron:  "He's three."

PGA:  "That's right."

You see, Merrick has un-matchable hand-eye coordination.  Think yours is good?  His is better.   This means he is good at tennis, golf, baseball, yo-yo, basketball, shooting guns, archery, and drumming.    He is now extremely good at tennis and drums, as these are the two places he's settled.

Note:  you can live on tennis and drums (with a dog and a gun) without really requiring Book or Number.

The Matron wishes this were the beginning of one type of story, the one in wise (proud!) parents nurture their child's clear gifts, even at the expense of developing others -- the story in which the lucky child (so recognized, so adored) embraces said gifts with determination and joy.

This is not that story.

Matron:  "Merrick did you practice your drums today?"

Merrick:  "Do I have to to?"

Matron:  "Merrick, it is time for tennis."

Merrick:  "Can I skip?"

So the child that the drum teacher declared a genius at lesson two and who is sending 17 year old tennis players scuttling away in shame . . . doesn't care.   There is not one driven, competitive bone in that beautiful body.

And so it was perhaps no surprise that during the car ride home from school, this actual conversation transpired:
  
Merrick: "Number three on my bucket list is to be in an Amazon bidding war for an item on sale."

Me: "OMIGOD. That's horrible!"

Merrick: "Why?"

Me: "Because first 11 is way too young to have a bucket list and second because it's mortifying that a bidding war-- fighting while shopping -- would be on it.. . .. and what are numbers 1 and 2?"

Merrick: "I don't know yet. But if it will make you happy, I can guarantee they will be equally meaningless."




But he's happy!   The Matron just wishes that truly was all that matters. . . . 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

College Chronicles: Part IV

Readers may (correctly) remember that College Chronicles Part I recently appeared and that Parts II and III do not yet exist.

All true!

But today the Matron is jumping ahead.    It turns out that this is a non-linear narrative.  Buckle up!

A few weeks ago, yours truly was doing one of her fool-hardy brave winter runs, because when she's not complaining about the weather, she is frequently IN It.   In this case, running.  Not sure what that looks like in a Minnesota winter?    This actual list remains true although she has added plastic bags over her socks to the list.   Yes, it is all right to note this as one more type of crazy.

So she's bundled into her winter wardrobe and plugging away, music blasting through the ear-buds, but her mind - elsewhere.   During this particular jaunt, all she could think about was HWCBN and his college problems:  deadlines, applications, FAFSA, procrastination, letters of recommendation to organize.   There was just so much stuff to do!  Why, the Matron could barely wrap her brain around it or keep up with the paperwork or prod that procrastinating teenager along a wee bit faster . . . the whole darn thing was exhausting.

Such were the thoughts on the Matronly mind when this song, You Are Your Mother's Child, came trickling in through the ear-buds.   If you skipped that link, don't.   If you are a mother of a senior in high school (and maybe even mother of any age child) it is illegal to listen to that song without weeping.   Criminally illegal and probably not possible.

So the Matron had heard that song before but never really listened. . . this time she did.     And as that tremulous voice  whispered in her ear:  "you are your mother's child.   And she'll keep you for a while.  But someday you'll be grown.  And then you'll be on your own."  

She'll keep you for a while but then you'll be on your own.

Friends, until that moment, yours truly had not fully actualized, realized, appreciated that all the drama, hoopla and heart ache over the college application process meant that her BABY WAS LEAVING HER.   As in, HWCBN, that physical, intimate presence -- 17 years a constant in her life -- was packing his bags and exiting her stage.

This realization didn't just dawn on the Matron like "oh wow stryker is leaving" but instead nailed her to the ground and pounded her into the pavement.  Every word of that song sent new physical pain of loss pouring through her.  She burst into heaving, wet, gooping sobs that so destroyed her she could barely run.

Remember -- it is one million degrees below zero and she is outside, now wet with tears.   Stopping to catch one's breath or otherwise recover is not really an option.  So the Matron heaved and wept and howled herself home.   She did such a bad job of pulling herself together that an elderly woman driving by stopped to see if she needed help (true).

Her baby is leaving her.  Sniffle, sob, weep.   Exiting her stage to build his own.  And she will miss him.

March madness here means college decision month.  The letters or emails (yes and the no) should start in a few days. She's holding her breath and biting fingernails.  Yes-- happy for all the bright newness- life!- on his horizon.   But also just a little bit stunned by the impending departure.  






Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Matron and the Midriff



Before blogging about something as freighted as female flesh, the Matron must note:   this post is NOT about weight.     Anyone who has actually seen her, knows that the  Matron is sturdy in name only:  she is generally the thinnest  person in the room.  A wee wisp of a thing.  There's a whole lot of other story behind that scrawny state and that's another blog post.

This one is about age.   Age, apparel, and working "appropriate" into that equation.

Earlier this week, yours truly lamented winter's cruel grip.    She has wriggled and gasped through these brittle months, sustained  by her family's love  only by her devotion to Bikram Yoga.   Readers may remember that last year, Bikram and the Matron became reacquainted; she did the Thirty Day Challenge to commemorate her 50th birthday.
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The Matron's dependence on and joy in yoga has continued unabated. Deepened even.   She loves the intense, physical demands and the mopping, painful heat.   She loves the discipline that carving out 90 minutes, five days a week, requires.    She loves  that she can walk outside into  weather that's 15 degrees BELOW zero and half an hour later, be sweating at 110.   That's a 125 degree flip, folks.   In half an hour.

Over theses many months, the Matron has came to understand the restorative value in exposed skin.   When it's 110 degrees and sweating, the only thing that feels good on the skin is  . . nothing.    Teachers sometimes comment that less is more regarding clothing.   Certainly, less is all around her.  Yours truly wears a tank top; this is not your 1950's tank with built-in bra and wire.  No. This is a skin tight, teeny limp piece of material that barely grazes the belly button.  It is made from one square inch of spandex and sits on top of skin tight teeny spandex shorts.   The outfit weighs one ounce.   But everyone around her seems confident that the Matron's yogic experience will be better with belly bare.



The picture above (of strangers) came up when she googled "Bikram yoga."  She likes this photo because it is representative in its depiction of happiness and skin (and youth).    In the Matron's unassuming, hippy-dippy, bare-all Bikram studio, every type of body lets it all hang out:  young, middle-aged, male, female, hefty, wan, paunch, pouch, trim.   .  Those bellies are bouncing, back-bending, and stretching all around her.  
But.

She cannot do it.   Once - just once- she  sported a purple half-tank top ((much like the one above), only to be crippled with self-recrimination and regret.  Truly.   She spent 90 minutes channeling Hester Prynne 

 The Matron -- 51 year old, Midwestern mother of three -- feels that the bare exercising belly belongs to the younger set.   In her world, there are just some things that women of a certain age do not wear.

1. Clearly, stomach-revealing Bikram yoga clothes
2.  Baby doll dresses
3.  Ankle sock, particularly with lace
4. Short shorts
5. Shorts and stilettos
6. Large bows - on hair, clothing, or handbag.
7.Bob Mackie Dress
8.   Fanny packs (ages in another direction)
9.   T-shirts that say "I'm with ____" or "Proud ______ of a _____"
10.   Clothes that match their children's, grandchildren's, spouses or anyone else for that matter

At 51, women should also avoid tent-like items of clothing.   Nothing reveals more than a dress that screams "I'm hiding."    Leather anywhere other than on the feet or swinging on an arm.   This too seems problematic, particularly in short skirt and tight pant form.  

Now, the Matron appreciates that her perspective is rooted in geography.   She has friends from around world who run around nearly naked-- those Latin women?   Shoulders, stomach, thighs--they are swinging it all.    She imagines her California friends and readers see ocean-side aging flesh with regularity.     She understands that there are women who wear flip flops and minimal clothing as accessories to cleavage and belly button.

There is no ocean here.   There is hard winter and the type of long, dirty springs that require hiking boots (mud) and goggles (mud).   Her psyche has been shaped by wool and long underwear, not warm-weather clothing.




The Matron will not be wearing ringlets in her hair.   No bows.    She will leave the teeny tiny mini-skirt to her daughter.    The leopard print leggings she used to pair with  biker boots?    Somehow . . . no.    The platform neon green shoes that seemed so . . . funky . . five years ago now scream 'garish.'    Pink t-shirts with sparkling hearts?  Not her style.

Feathers.   No feathers.

Yours truly will still strut her stuff.     But letting it all hang out?   She'll leave that to the younger set (and her same-age sisters closer to the equator).





Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cold


The Matron is complaining.

If you live in Minnesota and are  in the "Buck-Up" crew, please don't read this post.   For the Matron?  She is a-complaining.

She's not sure that people who live somewhere safe fully appreciate that to walk outside in Minnesota is to risk death.   We have had about 50 below-zero days this winter, putting us well into the Top Ten Coldest since 1887.     She thinks we're now at number 7 but tonight's 14 below forecast bodes well for climbing to number 6.

Then there's snow.

Last week, the public schools were cancelled once again as FEET fell upon us.     It is now routine for snow  banks to be much, much taller than the Matron.   She has to stand up -- as much as possible -- in the car in order to see at certain corners.     The streets have  succumbed to the snow, narrowing so much that firetrucks and ambulances can't get through.   True.   The firetruck crisis is now a parking crisis.  Throughout the city, there is parking on only one side of the street until the SNOW MELTS.  Goddamn it.

Snow (did she mention we have a lot of it?) consumes hours and hours and hours of time upon each of  its visits.    There's the sidewalk.  The driveway.  The neighbor's steps.  The cars.   John is outside with the snow blower for an hour and the Matron trims up edges for much the same.    Snow also means driving takes four to 215 times as long as usual.    So you shovel for an hour and then spend two in a car.

Did she mention school?

This year, cold and snow have meant another record:  school cancellations.    Since December 20th, the Matron has had ZERO full work weeks with children in school.     Friends not in Minnesota?  Consider that it is March and you have not had  one full work week without the flu, sniffles, freezing cold, or snow - -your children are home 3 to 4 days a work week.   Thank you, Mother Nature.

Weather frightens the Matron.  She takes it seriously.    New Year's Eve in Minnesota was something alarming like 40 below.   The Matron KNEW some stupid kid would drink too much and die of exposure, especially considering this this sad nightmare not long before.

Tragedy just seemed to settle in this week.  A six year old dies from exposure.  and three Carlton College students die, thanks to ice.

Tomorrow, the Matron will once again drive her daughter to school because it is too dangerous to stand outside and wait for the unpredictable bus.  Tonight, the Matron is wearing two pairs of leggings, sweat pants, t-shirt, two long sleeve shirts, pull-over sweater and sweater (no, she is not kidding) and the space heater in the kitchen has only brought the temperature up to 68 degrees.

We are road weary.    We are Pa from Little House, tying a clothesline from barn to house so we won't succumb to the elements.    We are jumping cars, scraping ice, buying  propane, building fires--and freezing, still.

The message?  Winters like this one are work.  Going to the grocery store is back-breaking work. Getting out of the house sort of sucks.    The heating bill means there is no summer vacation (but winter means summer WILL be vacation).  People die.    Children can't play outside.  

Winter.  Minnesota.   Over.  Soon.  Please.  . . . the Matron is ready for one burst of 10 degrees!










Monday, February 24, 2014

College Chronicles I





It has been some time since  the Matron blogged about her eldest, and she will do so here with caution and restraint; in sum, she will try to tell her story, not his.    It is an installment-sort of story that begins sometime last year . . . .

When He Who Cannot Be Named (HWCBN) was a high school junior, preparing for all those college tests.   This college junior entered said college exam era in an exceedingly advantageous position:   fourth in his graduating class (@ 500 strong); national honors and recognition in debate; a dizzying number of AP classes in process; slew of other good stuff.

The Matron-- college instructor that she is -- was nonetheless a Brand New Parent in this regard.   She did her homework.   She knew that her guy had a lot of good stuff going but needed those strong test scores to seal the deal.  So she offered to buy him study guides:   ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests.

And she did!

The study guides arrived!    And stagnated on a bookshelf.

The Matron suggested to HWCBN that perhaps he take an ACT prep class.   Here!  Wait!  Surprise!   Why, she had a small roster of local offerings -- look how many types of ACT and SAT classes were available.   One could go to the biggies like Sylvan or Mathnaseum, or hook up with any of the many private tutors doing the same thing for less.

HWCBN:   "Thanks, Mom.   But I have the books. I'll figure it out on my own."

Next, the Matron suggested an online course?  Again - what a surprise!  So many options, from the College Board to private companies and tutors, it would be entirely possible to immerse oneself in preparation online -- as in, from the safety of your bedroom!

HWCBN:   "Thanks, Mom.   I'll take care of this on my own."

So popped the pattern:  the Matron peddled study guides and her son said no thanks, I've got this.   But the Matron could not possibly in one million years understand what "I've gotf this" meant while the ACT study guide atrophied on the book shelf.

One week before the ACT, the Matron asked her son-- one more time, just in case -- if he might consider an online four hour class, starting tomorrow?

HWCBN put down a book he was reading and leveled his gaze, clearly exasperated:  "Mom!  After I've told you like a million times that I'll take care of this, why are you still asking me to take classes?"

This gave the Matron actual bona fide pause.   Indeed.   Her son had clearly rejected her plans for his own, yet she persisted.   Why?   Then she knew and she told him.

Matron:   "Do you remember when you were 11 and decided you want to become an expert at yo-yo?    Not only did I find you yo-yo lessons, I found Dazzling Dave, THE NATIONAL YO-YO CHAMPION, who just so happened to live forty minutes from here.   I drove you through rush hour traffic, forty minutes each way, to yo-yo lessons for a year -- sitting in Dazzling Dave's basement waiting for you with whatever assortment of pets and toddlers happened to be there.   You won a national championship in your age group that year- remember?  Well, that's the kind of mother I am.  My kid wants to learn the yo-yo?  Let's get him the National Champ for lessons!  If I  did that for an 11 year old interested in a toy -- what do you think I'm going to do for a high school junior preparing for college exams?   Considering those stakes and this personality?  I can't help myself.    I need to do whatever it takes to get you there -- wherever there is."

What did that child say?

"Thank you for the Dazzling Dave thing, Mom.  I totally get it.  But you can stop now.  You really need to.   I'll take it from here."

And the Matron realized that this is exactly what he had been saying for weeks:  I can take it from here.  She just hadn't heard.    Until that moment.

You know how the nice part of this story would be where she let it all go?   Just had that 'click' moment and walked away, not concerned one more whit about whether or not her son studied?    The moment where she understood - on a visceral level - that her young man had to be trusted with his own destiny (like it or not)?

That nice part actually happened.   She walked away and let it go.  HWCBN did indeed have his own plan and that was to study for a couple of hours the night before.      She realized this is not the way she her own fine self would have prepared . . . but she actually honestly didn't care!

It was oddly liberating to realize you cannot control another person and that perhaps some of us will not be National Yo-Yo Champions and perhaps her son will (of his own volition) get a poor test score because he didn't study.   And that would be that.

You know  how this ends with the lesson?   Where the test score comes and it's good but not great.   It's a disappointing but not dismal score - -the number the Matron expected for her very smart son who also did not study.    Yet even in the face of this disappointment - his disappointment -- she was sanguine and detached, appreciating that this series of events was running its full course, for her and her son, who would learn the value, perhaps, of study and preparation.

This, however, did not happen.

Because HWCBN aced that damn test with a near (not quite) perfect score - the kind of score that makes people jump a little with joy (okay she did that ) and puts your child into that top tiny percent.    So HWCBN's dubious lesson was that the independent path of the ill-prepared pays off, big-time.  And the Matron - limp with relief - learned that even though it is impossible to control someone, you can still get exactly what you want anyway!  Yippee!

Such was the psychological terrain marking the start of this journey . . . .