Sunday, January 31, 2010

That Old Feeling

I am 52, almost 53. My daughter is 13. Do the math. Yep, I was 40 (nearly) when she was born. That in itself isn't really that unusual. In fact, I know several moms in my daughter's class at middle school who are about the same age as I am. So I don't feel particularly alone in this adventure, but I do definitely feel in the minority.
It began when Lindsay was in grade school, or no, really it began in her co-op preschool in Las Vegas (of all places!). Almost every other mom was young enough to be my daughter. Or maybe that was just reconstructive surgery, not that I'm making a comment about people who choose to live in Vegas. After all, we lived there, albeit under some forms of duress...but that's another blog. So these other co-op preschool moms were amazingly young, very wealthy, and almost to a person they were powermoms. Women who had held corporate positions of some power who made the considered decision to leave the structured world of business or law and stay home to raise their kids. Their approach to raising babies was as furiously educated and determinedly success-oriented as if they still worked for Smith-Kline, or whomever. And they had energy to burn.
Me, I loved just staying home and watching Kipper with Lindsay. Playing a game of cooties now and then. But she was 3 1/2 and had spent 18 months at home with me, so I guessed it was about time for her to get the hang of being with other youngsters. Thus began our adventure into the world.
Among the uber-moms of the co-op I felt like I was puffing along behind, grabbing for their coattails. Fundraisers consisted of elegant evenings with live auctions of donations like 10 free hours at the local spa or investment advice. I'd have loved to just sit and have coffee with these women, but I found I had nothing in common with them. Mostly they didn't sit and have coffee, but inhaled in on the run between their tots' violin lessons and French tutors.
Las Vegas was a strange enough place without that kind of alien parenting. I always thought kids were supposed to sit in mud puddles and get really mucky for fun.
When we'd go to the grocery store with Lindsay, people did double-takes when they'd see her enormous brown eyes and shock of black hair. But then they'd take another look at me (red-going-to-grey hair, pale skin) and then another look at her olive skin (which she got from her Greek dad) and dark eyes, and you could just hear the wheels grinding and smoking. More than once I was asked about my "grandchild". I could never tell if it was just that she looked so different than me or if I looked that much older than she was.
From the inside, it's never felt odd to be an "older" parent. Lindsay entered our lives when we had pretty much decided we wouldn't be having any babies. It wasn't happening, so it wasn't meant to be. When Lindsay arrived, it just seemed like the thing that was supposed to happen in our lives.
I think I can see the disconnect other people might perceive, though.
Today our pastor was surprised with the news that his daughter and her husband are going to have a baby next fall. Pastor Blaine is in his forties, perhaps nearly a decade younger than I am, and he'll be a grandpa very soon. There is a certain disorienting quality to that. I sat looking at him and thinking "He seems so young to can he have the grandpa requirements? Grey hair, perspective, stories about so long ago that it seems like fairy-tales. He texts in church, uses current does this work?" I'm perceiving the disconnect...
Oh, and Technology--we must be at least five years behind the curve in our house. At least. I feel all current because I was the first one to get on Facebook. Yay me!
My 83-year-old mom is on Facebook.
Okay, so I'm not doing all that well keeping up with the latest, but I consider that it's a life-style choice, one we make with eyes wide open, understanding that our day-to-day quality of life and that of our daughter will be just fine, if not better, without having a 60-inch plasma TV, Blu-ray player, internet-connected cell phones and a computer for each of us (in fact, we just replaced an 8-year-old Dell, which we figure was 92 in computer years...)
We feel, perhaps a little defensively, that we give Lindsay lots of things she wouldn't in a hundred lifetimes get in a family with "normal" parents, agewise or otherwise. How many 13-year-old girls know who Groucho Marx and Laurel and hardy are? Buster Keaton? The Beatles? Well, they're eternally popular, but you get the gist. My husband and I represent the earliest and latest parameters of the Baby Boomer generation, and our breadth of interests vividly demonstrate that. The Doors to Queen, Hippies to Yuppies.
What we don't give her, nor would we ever feel capable of giving her, is a knowledge of anything in the slightest bit cutting edge. Is this a debit or a credit on her long-term sense of belonging and well-being? Don't know. Can't worry. Well, try not to.
Maybe since we were somehow destined to live far away from all grandparently relatives, we are meant to fulfill some of those roles ourselves. Lindsay does have grandparents, and they have an entirely different outlook and some serious history behind them, all of them being in their 80's. Lindsay sees them once or twice a year at most. She is surrounded at our church by elderly people who love her and want the best for her. But they don't share DNA and family stories. So maybe Greg and I were meant to tell all those creaky stories and do the "when I was your age" admonishments she'd get if her parents were 30-something and her grandparents were, well, our age.
We must also be meant to mentor her through the electronic and social conundrums of her peers as well. What is a good balance of electronics and the "real" world? How do you navigate pimples, fashion and bullies?
After all, we are her parents, and who else can do that?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Accomplishment by procrastination

This is not an original idea, actually. I heard the term "Accomplishment by procrastination" a long time ago, and I've totally forgotten where. But the idea stuck with me, and still tickles me with its truth and wisdom.
I am a procrastinator, and Mom, if you are reading this, please stop laughing and sit down, you're going to fall over. So anyway, as I was saying, I procrastinate. I put off. I find excuses. I just am NOT in the mood today. In high school, it was entirely normal for me to do a term paper in the last two days, and if I got a B I was good with that. Well, I was pretty good at faking things, and not a bad writer. So when I heard  a humorist on a morning show, talk about Accomplishment by Procrastination, I though "I have to hear about could change my life!"
The idea is that you can get a LOT done by avoiding the really big, ugly chore you just don't want to face, especially without fortification (chocolate, folks! What did you think?) This is a concept I could seriously relate to. I mean, I didn't know that this was what I was doing, but it made sense. I absolutely abhor washing windows, so I will start out by cleaning the counter because I need to do that first so I can find the cleaning supplies and have a place to put everything. Then I have to make my bed, because you do that anyway, right? And recycle papers, and maybe even get some laundry done, because I'm going down to the basement to find some good clean rags to wash windows with, and that laundry won't walk itself down the stairs (though my daughter enjoys that I often throw sheets and pillowcases down the stairs to be washed...)
So you see my method.
Mopping the kitchen? Can't really do that until you vacuum the floor, and you really have to dust first, and then you have to pick up all the magazines and papers, and in the meantime there's a basket of crocheting that I've neglected and it seems like a really nice evening (because by the time I've accomplished all the other things in order to avoid mopping, it is evening) to sit and crochet.
Another form of the technique is Relay-Cleaning Avoidance. This is a fine art. When you start straightening up the living room, you find a book you have been reading, so you hold that so you can take it back into the bedroom. Meanwhile, you find extra pens and pencils from doing crosswords (no, I don't do crosswords with a pen) and some stuff on the dining table that goes back to the kitchen. So, loaded down with these things, I relay them into their appropriate rooms, ending up in the bedroom. There I find a stack of paper from the printer, including recipes I've found, craft ideas I could use either here or art ideas I could teach at school, a pair of my daughter's shoes, a coffee cup from yesterday, and so on. Laden with all these items, I trundle back across the house, to land lastly in Lindsay's room. There I simply shut my eyes and sigh.
But there is a little pile of dirty clothes neatly mounded in the middle of the floor. Okay, this once I'll pick them up and put them in the laundry. After all, I'm doing the laundry, aren't I? Oh, wait, no, I'm cleaning the living room....oh whatever. It seems to get done eventually.
Except the mopping.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Life's little pleasures

I ate out twice today.
Yeeeeehaaaw! It's not just that eating out twice in one day is rare, but that I REALLY love eating out.
We ate breakfast at the Main Street Cafe, right after dropping Lindsay off at school at 0-dark-thirty. I love being downtown that early. The people eating at Main Street are the regulars, the same group of guys, the people who work downtown, a couple of people we know...and the waitstaff knows us now, since we do this about once a month, maybe twice. We play the "does Greg remember the doo-wop oldies group" game with their satellite radio station. Sometimes it's seriously OCD how many he gets absolutely right.
I love their pancakes, two eggs, bacon and coffee. The place smells good, and it's fun to look at all the stuff on the walls, even though I've seen it a bunch of times before. Don't think they have WiFi, because I've never seen anyone with a laptop. Mostly I see people laughing and chatting over a cup of coffee, a big ol' plate of biscuits and gravy or something with ranch potatoes. The only meal I like eating at the Cafe more than breakfast is lunch...or maybe not...I can't decide. Burgers are pretty amazing there.

But today I didn't eat twice at the Cafe. I ate once there, and once at Pablo's. I met my friend Judy there, and we talked, or really, we "dished" as another friend puts it. Oh, everything. You can imagine. Judy is one of those people I can sit and have lunch with and all of a sudden it's an hour and a half later and I cannot figure out where it went.
So we had pizza at Pablo's. Really GOOD pizza. It's the kind where the crust is so handmade that it isn't even close to being round. And that is fantastic! I had the one with artichokes and olives and feta and even though I'm stuffed after dinner, I think I could actually eat one of the leftover slices.

I really enjoyed today. Oh, and the temperature at our house officially got to 40, even though the "official" temperature was only 33, and THAT broke the string of under-freezing high temps we were on at 23 days. But then, the "official" high is taken at the airport, and as my husband says, "Who lives at the airport?"

So it was a little bit warm, a little bit sunny, and I got to eat out at two wonderful places, and the BEST thing of all is that they are both downtown and both local hangouts. Gotta support these guys now, with all the construction going on, blocking the streets and making us park at LEAST a block away, which gives me some time to shift that pizza into a more comfortable position and walk with it a little.
Can't think of a better day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Movies are a Personal Thing

We are a fairly media-oriented family, though I can't remember the last time we've seen every movie that's up for Best Oscar when the Academy Awards ceremony comes around. It will be a few years yet before we go to movies at the theater with regularity. At the moment, it really needs to be the kind of movie we can watch with a 13-year-old, which means no hanky-panky and less gratuitous violence than we'd normally put up with.
Nonetheless, we (us adults) watch at least 5 movies a week, and try to watch one movie a week that is a "family" movie. This week it was the Beatles "Help", a few weeks ago it was the 90's remake of Little Women. You never know in our house. Greg has literally thousands of movies, including film noir, classic comedies and anything else that he decides he can't live without. We could watch the movies we actually OWN for at least five years, and never have to rent a thing. But then, Greg has watched most of the movies we own, if I haven't. Not that it makes a difference, as he'd watch quite a few of them many times, and has done so with several (Duck Soup, The General, any Laurel and Hardy....)
So it was that my friend, Connie, asked me to recommend some movies she could watch, that were "like Enchanted April". I knew exactly what she meant, and even if SHE didn't know it, I know some great movies that aren't actually British and don't have a grande dame as the central actor, but were nevertheless "like Enchanted April". I started putting the list together in my head on the way home from work. But then, I sat down with the computer and our Netflix queue, and started typing in names of movies.
First, I wrote down several movies, then looked them up on Netflix, looking at the movies they recommended. There were a few audible "No WAY!"s at their suggestions. I could do that job for Netflix, but then they probably pay the computer more than they'd pay me, and the computer is probably faster.
So anyway, a few of their ideas prompted some of mine, and then I looked at our history of rentals, going back two years. Scored some great ideas there. And it really helped to look up those grande dames, because they do tend to make great movies.
Now, understand that a lot of the recommendations I made have more to do with a feel, an intuition that some movies are just LIKE other movies, even if one of them stars Joan Plowright and the other is an ensemble piece of unknowns. Or even if some of the ones I put on my list were made in England, some in the U.S., at least one in France and one in Canada. No matter. They all have an intangible something that amounts to "it's a small, quirky movie with great characters and a big heart." Or something like that.
All this is really just a way to get to the point, which is to list the movies. For Connie. But I think it's a list that I'd give anybody who likes movies that are not big ol' Hollywood splashy productions, and who loves to look at interesting faces (isn't that a big difference between British movies and American? They put real faces in their movies, and even young lovers aren't impossibly gorgeous) in wonderful movies.
Here, for your perusal, is my list. And if you have any comments about any of them, knock yourselves out! I love these movies, so if you don't, I won't change my feelings about them after reading your pithy, well-expressed objections. If you do like them, you must be as discerning and intelligent as you look.

Amy's Movies for Connie (in no particular order):

Shirley Valentine (You go Shirley!)
Cinema Paradiso (in Italian and subtitled--DO NOT get the dubbed version)
Billy Elliot (If you haven't watched this already, get out the hanky)
The Station Agent (odd but you'll be hooked)
Pieces of April (ditto)
Eat a Bowl of Tea (Wayne Wang)
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Ang Lee)
Mrs. Henderson Presents (LOVE Judi Dench! and it's a true story--watch the extras)
Cranford-PBS miniseries (speaking of Judi Dench)
My House in Umbria (LOVE Maggie Smith!)
Ladies in Lavendar (both Judi Dench and Maggie Smith!)
Keeping Mum (Mr. Bean Speaks!)
Waking Ned Divine (this is the Irish one, Connie)
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (modern take on 1930's screwball romance)
Goodnight Mr. Tom (read the book,'s good!)
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (LOVE Joan Plowright!)
Chocolat (okay, it's French, but it just FEELS like a British indie)
Tea With Mussolini (Cher, Lily Tomlin, Joan Plowright, Judi Dench AND Maggie Smith!)
Strangers in Good Company (just watch won't believe these people aren't actors...)
Mrs. Brown (Judi...oh you get the idea!)
Mediterraneo (cute Italians on a Greek island....)
Finding Forrester (okay THIS is the one that doesn't have any grande dames, isn't it England, but it has Sean Connery and you've probably never heard of it)

And the only reason I didn't include Enchanted April in THIS list is that Connie has seen it. If you haven't, it's the movie that started all go watch it!