Monday, January 26, 2009

Of Sloth and Circumstance

January is proving to be a long month, without much to show for it. For most of last week and the week before, I took a mental vacation. I quite literally checked out – ignoring housework, To Do lists and social opportunities. I left the house very little, choosing instead to wrap the winter blues around me like a warm, comforting blanket.

Of course, I felt guilty for this. I was sheepish and apologetic to my husband who kept trying to reassure me that my “checking out” was understandable. But I felt bad for giving in to melancholy, for wallowing instead of fighting, for dropping the charade that is being fine and functioning.

So this week, I am back to the land of the interactive. I am catching up on laundry and sorting through piles of papers on my desk and countertops. I am reading and answering my emails and learning all of what I have missed in the blogosphere. I am renewing my resolve to get organized and feel accomplished. I’ll start with paying bills and writing something longer than a Facebook status. I’ve put out an Amber Alert on my motivation. And I will catch up with each of you. I hope you have doing well and next time I take a mental holiday, hopefully it will be with you and somewhere other than my messy living room.

Welcome home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Article That You Will Never See Published in the Journal of Aging and Health

As a child development specialist, I tend to be tuned into children everywhere I go. I often regard my own as well as the children of others with a scientific eye, silently evaluating and noting their actions and emotions. Observing adults in this way is not something I often do but on our recent visit to our parents’ houses, I was awed and fascinated with these older grown-ups the same way that an animal behaviorist might take an interest in a species never before studied. Here are just a few of the new facts that I learned about our parent’s generation:

First of all, the grandparent set loves plastic bags, especially of the zipper variety. They also have an odd attachment to paper plates and duct tape. With the use of these three items, there is nothing that can’t be stored, preserved or repaired. This ingenuity comes in handy because they also do not like to throw anything away.

It seems that all knick-knacks are precious. The value of these items is directly proportional to whether or not the gift came from a child (even if that child is let’s say now 38 years old) or if the giver is now deceased (even if let’s say the giver was never actually liked). These treasures must be displayed and kept safe from the roaming of toddler fingers. In the event that one of these whatnots accidentally gets broken, one must not throw it away – no need when there are plastic bags and duct tape available.

Apparently, once you are retired, the body requires very little sleep. An older person can be the last one in the house asleep and the first to rise leaving them capable of reporting every cough and movement of the other sleepers in astonishing detail.

Our parents live in a bubble (possibly made from a Ziploc baggie) called The Way That It Is. Outside of this bubble is Everything Else. Everything Else is different and threatens to force change within the bubble. Everything Else is not welcome because it is not The Way That It Is. There is no perception of our way and your way and their way. Life is simply divided between the worlds of The Way That It Is and Everything Else.

Finally, the older generation loves condiments. No matter what the food, there is a matching condiment. And it is perfectly acceptable to have more than one jar of the same condiment open in the fridge at the same time because condiments last forever, especially when sealed in plastic bags. And that is The Way That It Is.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ringing in the New Year, Susie Style

I drafted this post in my head, on the last night of the year and the eve of the last night of our “vacation.” I use quotations because when you take three children for two weeks to three different states to visit family, you can hardly call it a vacation.

Like most times of my life, I vacillate between two extremes of mood. Last night, sitting cozy with my glass of wine in the warmth of the fire, I watched the snow blow against the window. It was the perfect way to spend the last night of the year. I felt equally at peace with the moment and eager to be in my own home.

The trip has been full of frustrations – weather dictating our arrivals and departures, traffic causing more delays, a busy visiting schedule leaving not enough time to do activities but too much time doing nothing… And then there are all the little family issues that cause the gnashing of teeth and the rolling of eyes. It turns out that keeping my thoughts to myself is EXHAUSTING – when I’ve been able to do that, that is. For example, both my parents’ house and my mother-in-law’s house are full of things that don’t work properly. At my parents’, it was practically impossible to turn on a light or use the toaster without blowing a fuse. My mother-in-law’s house had only sporadic hot water when wanting to shower but perfectly fine boiling water when washing my clothes using the cold setting. And then of course, there is the annual holiday viral joy starting in Pennsylvania and spread throughout Southern New England.

The boys, when not sleeping off a fever or buzzing on cold medicine, seem to have genuinely had a good time. Celebrating Christmas and birthdays (both Jess and my husband are Christmas babies) in three separate houses, playing with cousins and generally getting whatever treats their hearts desire is certainly a great way to spend a couple of weeks. But I must admit, all this togetherness has me counting down the minutes to the start of school on Monday.

It will be wonderfully familiar to get back to our routine in our own home, sleeping in our own beds and eating our own food. At the same time, I wish I could take a bit more time off from my to-do list and daily life worries. Once we unlock our back door and drop the duffel bags of dirty laundry on the floor, life will be BUSY again. And it will be hard to leave the beach as it is hard to not feel that all is well with the world when you are looking at views such as this:

It feels like a month since we have been home as two weeks is too long to be away. But it has also not been long enough to see everyone and everything that we want to see. We always think we might get to have a date, what with all the family available to babysit, and there never seems to be time. Oh well, maybe next year – except next year, we will stay home for the holidays.

Happy New Year Everyone!