Random Advice to My Firstborn Upon Their Second Leaving

My firstborn has left the nest for the second time, moving 230 miles away. This attempt looks like it might be more permanent than the first try. This time, there’s a job lined up, a lease signed, a car owned, and roommates who seem less sketchy than the previous group.

The two of us drove up last week with two loaded vehicles. And I returned alone with an empty minivan, after having carried  many boxes, surreptitiously recorded the license plate numbers of the roommates, and inspected the rental house, declaring the basement suitable for tornado sheltering.

The last couple of weeks before departure, I fretted over whether I had given all of the advice I needed to for navigating adult life. I became prone to randomly blurting out directives as they popped into my mind:

Oil changes every 5,000 miles.

Late fees are expensive. Pay your bills on time.

Don’t bank with Wells Fargo!

Calculate the price of toilet paper by the square foot and not by the roll.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. And don’t buy romaine lettuce until they give the all clear.

If you see Pyrex anything at a garage sale, snap it up.

Voting is a super power. Make sure you use it for good.

I’m sure more will occur to me as time goes by. But ultimately, I’m sure my kid will figure life out by living it, as the rest of us do. Then, too, we’re still on the same family phone plan and can make liberal use of messaging apps.

Gotta go. I need to fire off a text about duct tape before I forget.







Reclaiming My Space

Yet another birthday. Mine this time. Yesterday. And with it a goal for the coming year. I want to reclaim some personal space, both on my calendar and in my house. Whenever it comes to shuffling things around in an attempt to make life work, I’m often too quick to volunteer for giving up something of mine to make the needed room, whether an activity, a goal, an object, or my home office space.

This is supposed to be my office for writing and whatever else I want to do in there. It’s pretty messy at the moment.

Messy office

Our house was built around 1901. I believe this upstairs room was originally a sleeping porch. The house needed A LOT of work when we bought it. This room didn’t even have real windows, only storms. We installed windows, put in carpet (found an end roll the right size for $50!), insulated the ceiling, and painted the walls, so I could have a writing space. I started the project so full of hope and cheer.

But, letting my inner martyr take over, I’ve gradually allowed everything else to encroach on it. Might as well keep all of our paperwork in there, right? Paid bills, taxes, insurance claims, mortgage stuff. I’m the one who handles the finances, so it only makes sense. Then sometimes we have a box of random stuff with no designated place, and we’re cleaning the common areas because we’re expecting company. Oh, I can put that box in my office, out of the way, “for now.”

And eventually we moved my mom to town, into her little tiny half of a room in the skilled nursing facility. With her came multiple season’s worth of clothing and many items she couldn’t let go, yet has no room for. Hmmm..where to put it? I know! How about the writing salon turned storage unit?


Oh, but see the green container there on the right with paper stuffed in it? That’s a sign of progress. Of hope. See the filing cabinets? They had been so bulging I’d stopped putting things in them. The green container is a paper shredder. Those papers were shredded after this photo was taken. I’ve made a good start on transforming this jumble back into a usable office by purging my files of old utility bills and operation manuals for appliances we no longer own. Tax returns from the early 2000s – gone! I freed up a ton of space so I could start sorting and filing the more recent piles that have been growing.

My plan, my small, specific, tangible goal for this next year of my life is to reclaim my writing office and begin using it again. I’m going to work on it at least four days a week, even if I only have ten minutes. Take a look at the progress I made this afternoon.


I’m talking about the bookcase. See how half of the top is clear of paperwork? That empty spot represents an hour of work on my part. There had been a huge, tottering pile next to the smaller stack that remains. Some of it got filed, some shredded. About half of it is on the floor there in the photo, but has since been moved to a recycling container. I also returned the clothes hanger to a closet. I’m not sure how it made its way to the room to begin with.

This will happen. I’m tired of the sad, discouraged feeling of loss I have when I look into this room. I will have my writing space again within the year.

I Sang Along, Y’all



I know some people will hate me for this, but I love holiday music. Almost all of it – traditional carols, sacred hymns, pop/rock selections, novelty numbers. Just about anything except that one about the kid picking out Christmas shoes for his mom to die in. I spend the month of December belting out the lyrics of myriad winter celebration songs. Any time I find myself alone in my home or car.

I fondly recall the days of my childhood when I’d participate with enthusiasm in school choir programs, sing along with the radio in front of anyone, and generally enjoy the sound of my own voice. Back before I realized I was kind of terrible at singing.

By the time I reached my teen years, I kept my not-quite tune-making to myself. Other teens are not ones to let you keep your delusions of adequacy. In church, where everyone was expected to make a joyful noise, I lip-synched behind my hymnal.

During my young adult years I didn’t sing and didn’t sing. And I missed it. I missed being able have fun with a song for the simple pleasure of it, with no worries about how good I was, with no self-consciousness. For me, singing had become all self-consciousness and no pleasure. Then I had babies.

I sang to my babies while rocking them, and they didn’t criticize me. They even seemed to find some comfort in my voice. And as they got a little older, we sang Christmas carols and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Old McDonald” and it was a blast. When I volunteered at preschool, I sang along even though there were other adults present, because I wanted to set a good example around embracing music without embarrassment. I *felt* embarrassed, but I tried not to show it. Singing was once again part of my life. It was a great unexpected gift that came with motherhood.

Then the kids got even older and we stopped doing any of that. I’ve spent the last few years keeping my vocal efforts a solitary activity. Secret even. Back to treating it as a shameful activity.

But today – today I went to the Christmas party at my mom’s nursing home. We had carols. I sang along, y’all. I was surrounded by 85 and 90-year-olds, many of whom suffer ailments that have pretty well trashed their voices. But most of them were giving it their best shot, so why shouldn’t I? Besides, my mom is one person who never said a negative word about my singing, no matter how it made her suffer. Some of the aides might have looked at me askance, but I had a good time. I think I even hit the correct notes a few times.

This was huge for me. I sang along. I didn’t hum, or stick to smiling and tapping my foot just off the beat. I sang. I’m ready for my participation award.

The Nearly-Empty Closet

Sometimes – often – I narrate my memoirs to myself as I go through my days. I think to  myself, “and if this day were a chapter, what would be its title?”

I have a title for today: “The Nearly-Empty Closet.” Sounds a little like something from Edward Gorey, doesn’t it?

All that's left.
All that’s left.



That’s it, all that’s left. My 15-year-old son (aka Bigfoot, aka the incredible growing boy, aka he who is taller than us all) and I went through his closet this morning weeding out the clothes he’d outgrown. Above is a picture of what’s left. Not even kidding. To add context, though, I should mention most of the clothes he wears regularly are kept in a dresser. He’s a jeans and t-shirts kind of guy. But he needs a few things other than jeans and Ts. I suppose it’s time to going shopping. Again.