Now that I am an empty nester, I finally have the time I have dreamed of for years to focus on my writing -- to blog weekly or more often, to ramp up my song composition efforts, and most important, to get going, at long last, on that musical. Of course I have the time! After all, I am no longer juggling the demands of motherhood and full-time work. I have no more carpools to drive, far less laundry to do, and never again will I be expected to throw a little something together for a bake sale.
Well, one month into the empty nest, and these vast expanses of free time don't seem to have materialized quite yet. The past few weeks have brought the demands of the Jewish High Holidays -- and with them the requirement to bake my own challah and to ensure the proper 3:1, dessert:appetite ratio:
Even without the holidays, there is just so much to do! I have to iron the napkins:
Here I am, two weeks into my life in the empty nest, and I am discovering that I now have lots more time for my many extra-curricular interests. Yes, yes, I know I am supposed to be writing my musical -- and I will start, any day now, I promise! But for now, I am baking bread.
Bread-baking is not new for me. Some time during the year before the birth of my first child, Rebecca, I bought some sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. In the 24 years since, I have been using this same starter to bake most of our family's bread.
I'm pretty sure that I took a little time off from regular baking in the years following the births of each of my daughters, when I was juggling life with a newborn and full-time work. Those years are something of a blur: I can't remember much of what we did, let alone what we ate. Although I am pretty sure we did eat. At least enough to survive.
It has been two years since my last mammogram. I have been overdue for a check-up, and last week I finally got around to it. It is critical, as you know, to periodically review how things have progressed, to analyze where matters now stand compared to where they were a year (or two) ago.
So I did what needed to be done. I revisited my 2013 "Singing Mammogram" on YouTube, to see how I now rank in the all-important category of Musical Mammograms.
I am about to deliver my younger child to college for her freshman year, thus ushering in this next phase of my life, in which no children will be living in my house. It marks the end of more than two delicious decades in which my most important obligation was raising my two wonderful daughters. It is, as you can imagine, a deeply bittersweet moment.
Along with all the packing and preparing there has been a fair amount of cleaning and clearing. Both of my daughters have, over the past few weeks, done yeomen's jobs (or yeowomen's jobs?) of cleaning out both their rooms and the common space they shared as kids. We have gotten rid of piles of old clothes, dead notebooks, school supplies. And because tomorrow is garbage day, today was the moment to take the big step of emptying the Display Shelf of Three-Dimensional Art.
Now that we’ve closed out August, it is officially true that Boston has just had the driest meteorological summer on record, and one of the hottest, to boot. We are in the midst of a miserable drought. As a gardener, I am a bit bereft. It has not been a good year in my little backyard Shangri-la.
At the end of February, 2015, the city of Newton mailed excise tax bills for our cars. About a week later, my dad died in Florida. I left town for two weeks, and after I got back it was another week before I could bring myself to deal with the pile of backlogged mail on my desk. When I did, I found that I was almost two weeks overdue on the excise tax bills. So I got online and paid them immediately, along with the three or four dollars of interest that had accrued because of the late payment. I got an email from the City confirming receipt of payment in full of everything that was due; I printed it, filed it, and promptly forgot about it.
Until three months later, when a warrant arrived, demanding payment of these same excise taxes, along with a whole host of fees and penalties. I called the City, and they said that the warrant had been sent in error; my account was current, and I should just ignore it. So I did.
Three months later a second bill arrived, also disavowed by the City. When the third warrant arrived I arranged a conference call between the warrant officers and the City of Newton Treasury staff person, in which everyone on the line agreed that the continued warrants were in error and that they would clear them from the system. That was in January of this year. I haven't thought about the incident since.
Until Friday, when a notice arrived from the Massachusetts Registry of Vehicles, saying that they would not be renewing my car registration because......of unpaid excise taxes to the city of Newton.
Now, as anyone who has visited this website knows, I have long been in the habit of dealing with life's vicissitudes by capturing them in song. This little bureaucratic morass, I think, deserves not just a song, but a music video all its own. So midlifemomsongs is proud to present:
Yesterday, the younger of my two children passed her road test. She is now a licensed driver. Naturally, this is a major rite of passage in her young life: it means that her mother is no longer legally obligated to ride shotgun.
My daughter is a fine driver (my definition of good driving is paying attention to what is going on around you, while maintaining a healthy humility about the gravity of what it is you're doing every time you get behind the wheel of a car). I have no qualms about handing over the keys to the car. But I am really bad at being a parent-passenger. I'm jumpy and nervous, fully aware how unhelpful this is, and yet totally powerless to stop myself. I'm sure my daughter will be thrilled to pull out of the driveway and leave me behind.
I confessed this to my own mother yesterday. "I know," she said. "My teeth are still clenched from your brother." The only reason her teeth are not still clenched from teaching me to drive is that by the time I came of age, she'd figured out how to outsource the whole process: to a lovely man named Mr. Carr (no kidding) who had taught our entire town how to drive in his enormous yellow '72 Ford.
I told my mom that I'm finally beginning to relax a bit with my older daughter (who, at 23, has owned her car for a year and has driven more or less all over the country).
"That's pretty good," she said. "I began to relax with you when you were 45."
In any event, here's what I have to say (or rather, sing) about that:
The Merton Benzinger Prize is awarded to the graduating senior who most exemplifies the indomitable spirit of Merton Benzinger, an exemplary scholar-athlete. During his four years on the track and field team, Merton broke records in five different events, three of which (the Cookie Toss, the Swing Jump, and the Troll Vault) he had invented himself. Merton was not only a stellar athlete, he was also a straight-A student and more importantly, a straight-A human being. Merton’s friends used to joke that he was so generous, he’d give his right arm for a buddy. In his senior year Merton proved them right, when he insisted on becoming an arm donor to help a fellow javelin-thrower who had been sidelined by tendonitis. Tragically, Merton never regained consciousness after the amputation. In honor of his memory, we present the Benzinger prize to the student who, in the judgement of our faculty, best captures Merton’s brilliance, athleticism, and profligate generosity with his body parts.
Last week I was away for a full seven days, most of it in downtown Los Angeles. The trip, alas, threatened to wreak havoc with my yoga practice.
I have been doing a ton of yoga for the past couple of years. When I'm home, I go to class three, four, occasionally five times a week. For Women of a Certain Demographic, yoga is the prescribed way to navigate one’s way through a host of life stresses and transitions. It’s a great alternative to meditation for those of us who are congenitally unable to sit still. Plus, my back hurts way less than it used to. And I'm stretching parts of my person that I didn't even know were capable of bending.
But yoga is not about getting into shape! Or relieving pain! Or any of that crap! Yoga is About the Journey. It is Not About the Destination.
Thing is, it is way easier to keep your attention on the Journey when you are surrounded by other yogis of a similar demographic. This is my absolute favorite pose -- I could do it all day: