Monday, August 25, 2008


continued from previous post...

A storm blows in, the afternoon regular event now and band practice comes to an abrupt halt as the power flickers on and off and sprints for car windows are made. After a brief bit of hanging around laughing, engines start in the driveway and trucks roll away...without the band equipment. I assume it is due to the weather.

"When are they coming back for their instruments?" I ask Tyler, hopeful that it will be this afternoon as couches and tables are pushed and piled into corners.

"They're not." Tyler answers calmly. "It's staying here.... for practice."

I feel my own power flicker on and off and answer, "No, not, no, not happening." Tyler looks at me not seeing any problem. "Why here? What about Mike's basement?" I say, trying not to shriek.

"There's more room here and it's nicer." he says while reading a text message on his phone.

"Sorry." I sputter. "No way. You said Monday and that is what I agreed to." I remind him standing squarely before him.

"I said Mondays." He insists. "Come on Mom. Just for the next nineteen days? We have our first gig." he says, tipping his head and flashing a crooked smile. "Please??" He asks, sounding five-years-old.

"You'll be in school on Mondays and you don't get home until 4:30!" I feel myself power surging.

"Yeah... After that." he says matter-of-factly.

Metal music for dinner.

I will not live until Christmas.


When we bought our house, our boys were young and we had tremendous vision. We bought an old house with only two bedrooms, knowing that it has expansion possibilities; an over sized, detached, two-car garage with large office space above set in close diagonal proximity to the house. We instantly saw the two structures connected; the garage converted to family room and the office to two more bedrooms.

Twelve years later, our home is exactly as we envisioned…almost…sort of... and then some. When we moved in, one of my few was the old, low, stone basement. Newer homes sported large neat basements that most people finished into recreations space. Ours was chiseled out of ledge and is just tall enough for me to stand, providing limited storage for some things, but would never be the finished “playroom” that so many other homes had. Looking back, that should have been the feature that sold me.

During the planning of our expansion, I was only looking ahead about five years to when my boys would be ages seven and ten and it was just about the time that our expansion was in full swing; not a moment too soon, as Cadence came to be. We nearly doubled our living space and while the footprint of our house was “unusual,” having a north and south wing suited us. The boys bedrooms moved above the new family room and Cadence remained with us above the main house. Lots of space in between buffered noisy boys from my den and my office and even the kitchen was just far enough for peace.

“They are sooo going to sneak out of here when they’re older.” My sweet sister-in-law informed me with a twinkle that indicated she knew about these things. She, of course, was right and there indeed has been sneaking out…and in.

My vision for this new space was a warm and inviting family room with big comfy furniture and a gas fireplace, looking out over our snowy woods in the winter. My husband’s vision contained a bar, a pool table, a dart board and lots of musical equipment. I won, sans fireplace, and I allowed him to put up his dartboard with restrictions.

All was well, until the day the drum set came home. Brad found it at a tag sale; a huge bargain and he and the boys were in Heaven. I considered myself fortunate that it wasn’t an electric guitar and thought I could tolerate the drums, but low and behold, when Brad’s acoustic guitars came out, we discovered that Tyler was quite talented and it wasn’t long before his first electric guitar and amplifier moved in. Trevor of course needed an amplifier for his bass guitar and by the time Tyler’s vocals were recognized and he was made singer of his band, the microphone and PA system with refrigerator-sized speakers were added. The icing on this manly cake was last year’s Christmas present; the Ping Pong/Pool Table.

Needless to say, I avoid the testosterone ridden north wing of the house entirely except to trip over gaming controller wires to count pairs of shoes before bed to see if we have visitors that should have left.

The silver lining, however, is that neither of my boys is ‘the drummer” for a band and it is a given that “band practice” is held where the drum set lives. This, combined with the fact that lower-level play rooms, which I once coveted, morph into band practice rooms, leaves me free and clear…and grateful for limited space and low, stone basements.

“Mom, can we have band practice at our house Monday around 2:00? We can’t have it at Mike’s house and we have a gig coming up and need to practice.” Tyler asks, arguments for his position ready on his lips.

I realize that I have escaped this torture for the past few years and agree, reluctantly. Cadence and I run out to do a few errands and when I return, there are pick-up trucks and jeeps filling my driveway; music equipment carried by man-sized teenagers pouring into my front door. Within minutes the curse words are flying and I remind them that they must control their language and offer to make pizza bagels when they get hungry.

The music begins and I regret having agreed to this. Tyler writes beautiful ballads that he sings with smooth melancholy. This kind of music is nothing like that. It is the kind of singing that they refer to as “screaming,” but is somehow considered a skill, and the vocals roll back and forth between screaming and growling, sounding satanic to my ears. I do believe the proper term for their music is “metal” and it sends me closing windows and running for cover into my office. I fear that our lack of space for practice has been overcome and my family room has entered a new dimension.

They finally break to devourer the pizza bagels and then, still hungry, head to McDonalds.

Perhaps practice is over?

Perhaps I could conceal my distress simply find good reasons to never agree to this again?

Perhaps we should have considered soundproofing and doors for that family room?

Love that boy.

Hate that metal.

Love that boy.

For Christmas, I will ask for noise canceling headphones.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


We approach the blinking light and join the stream of cars turning right and down the hill. Passed the baseball fields, passed the soccer fields, the cars slowly move forward and settle into a holding pattern; the school now visible.

This will be the first time in twelve years that I do not have a student in elementary school. The middle school is visible now and as always, parking will be difficult.. The far parking lot is under renovation and I fall inline with the cars making a circle to the front of the building, unlikely to find a parking space here. There are more than 300 in the fifth grade class, gathering for a picnic in preparation for the start of school next week; STUDENTS ONLY the orientation announcement read.

Groups of mothers cluster here and there on the sidewalks with mixed expression, most of whom I know, some I realize are stepping up to middle school for the first time with their eldest. They find reassurance in these little pockets of peers, just far enough from the face of the building, hovering with the unease of leaving their child behind. Cadence’s brothers have paved all roads ahead of her and we sail through transitions with experience. I smile with reflective humor, knowing I once stood among them, trying to appear comfortable letting go.

“Maybe I am supposed to park and walk you in.” I say to her, glancing at the calm face in the rear view mirror. “I probably should walk you in.” I repeat, with no response. “I’m sure I must have walked in with Tyler.” I think back.

“Mom, this is me, not Tyler. I’m fine and you do not need to walk me in.” She says, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror, wide and certain. “Just drop me off in front.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, an unexpected wave of melancholy beginning to fill me from the bottom up.

Cadence unhooks her seat belt and pushes open the door, standing up and then bending over to meet my gaze. “I’m fine. I love you, Mom. Have a great day!” she says, as if she is sending me off to new territory. I guess in a sense she is and I watch her walk, hair swinging back and forth, into the double doors.

Friday, August 22, 2008


“You know I am going to be a pre-teen in less than two months.” She says, eyebrows arched and hand on her hip. At times, she seems well beyond her years and at other moments, fewer and farther between, I see the face of a baby.

“Exactly, so let’s focus on the ‘pre’ and not go too heavy on the ‘teen.’" I tell her in response to her latest of many recent color schemes for her bedroom makeover. “Red and black,” I continue, “seems a little drastic.”

We settle on the idea of painting some of the white furniture to create splashy pieces of art work and begin with clearing out everything she finds “babyish.” Dolls and stuffed animals are sorted into three piles; those to keep stored away for memory, bags to send off to Good Will to find new families to love and some to keep in her room. “Even teenagers like a few stuffed animal here and there.” I tell her, not mentioning, but thrilled that one baby doll has made it to the ‘keep in her room’ pile.

Prints of little girls playing dress-up are lifted down from the wall, lacey curtains adorned with butterflies slide off the curtain rod, toys and puzzles cleared from the toy shelf and soon, a new space is created. We work swiftly clearing off her desk and chair to get the project started before Dad comes home. He is resistant to the change. “Her room is beautiful, don’t change it.” He says, “I worked so hard making that room.”

I assure him his labor of love will stay intact, as we have no intention of un-doing any of the construction and vow to leave the dressing room, toy shelves etc. in place. “We’re talking paint here, Brad” I tell him.

“But it’s so beautiful.” He says, knowing he will not be able to win the argument any more than he can stop her from growing up. I am likewise saddened a bit by the evaporation of her “little girl” and startled by the energy with which she accelerates toward adolescence. With the boys, it seemed more of an evolution, slow and stumbling along; placing them on the next leg of the journey without knowing how they got there. With Cadence, it seems to be a deliberate and preplanned shift, mapped out in her head and journeyed with purpose.

Change is harder for some; near impossible even. I LOVE change and I see the gleam in Cadence’s eye as we stand before her desk. “OK, how are we going to get it downstairs?” she asks.

“Me and you.” I tell her, “We can do this.”

I tell her we need to start before her dad comes home as he is not happy that we discussed painting the desk.

“But I like that desk.” He argued.

“Just paint, Brad.” I countered.

We stand the desk up on one end and walk it out into the hallway. I brace myself under as she guides the other end, sliding it one down the stairs, one step at at time. Cadence worries that I’ll be crushed. “Watch your feet.” I tell her, “And in the future; you should never move furniture barefoot.” Midway down the stairs in our bare feet, I look at the determination on her face and see the DNA of an Irish woman; never deterred by obstacles; never saying “I can’t do it.”

After choosing from the paints we have to work with, she settles on lavender, navy blue and lime green for the base colors and we head to the paint store for the lime green. There are many lime options, but Cadence chooses the one that is most electric. “Festival Green” it is called and I lose the battle in trying to get her to tone it down a notch.

I remember choosing a similar shocking “hot pink” for the trim in my room at about the same age. My mother didn’t flinch. She believed that one’s bedroom was a personal space that should reflect the individual and allowed us to decorate as we chose. My room saw many colors and themes along the way.

When I was Cadence’s age, my room was hot pink and posters of Bobby Sherman. I had a huge crush on a boy named David and I cut every ‘David’ from the David Cassidy articles out of Teen Beat magazine and taped hundreds of little Davids to one wall.

I remember being all ‘smock top’ and ‘bell bottoms’ in my artist phase where an easel and a paint pallet were the focal points of my room. I remember having a mini office with a small desk and old typewriter where I would tap out stories on the keys in my writer phase. I once had a corner with a rug and candles and incense where I would sit by candlelight with mysterious mood music, trying hard to meditate.

As I got older, my mom helped me with the ‘black and white’ theme; white walls, black trim and furniture, a giant astrological sun on one wall and dizzying black strips on another. My mother seemed to know that change would come, with or without her and she always chose to jump right in with us. I see Cadence’s mind racing with ideas and I’m excited to be part of her experience, allowing her aura to spill out and into the very walls of her space.

The desk is detailed with abstract swirls and purple roses. I help her with the vines and leaves and soon, we are staring at a masterpiece. Finally, it is time for the chair. “Splatter.” She nods; lips spread tight and dimple flashing. As we carry the chair into the backyard and gather newspaper, I remind her of the history of the chair.

I came upon a tag sale nearly twenty years ago at an old school house and the chairs from that school were for sale, twenty-five cents a piece. They were simple, solid wood chairs with bent wood in back, most having a large crack across the seat revealing their age. They were decades old, perhaps near one hundred years and somehow, they seemed to me to have a soul. Surly hundreds of people sat in them over the years; scootchy school children in front of stern teachers. I bought eight of them and was so excited with my two dollar investment. Brad and I sanded them to bare wood, primed and painted them and they sat in our first dining room, refurbished and beautiful.

The chairs have since moved around our house, a black one in Trevor’s room, a blue one in Tyler’s. They symbolize for me the essence of change; moving; from phase to phase holding strong and sturdy.

Cadence takes a stance like a fencer on the strip and flicks her brush in the direction of the old chair; a combination of sport and art as paints fly and splatter. There is much giggling and I wonder if some isn’t coming from the chair itself as it is tickled with paint.

The finished project sits partner with the desk. They are colored the same, yet stark contrasts of deliberate detail and carefree abandon. She is thrilled with her creation and excited to see her father’s face. Brad looks at the desk and sees a reflection of Cadence.

“Awesome.” He says. “Incredible. Absolutely beautiful.”

“And it’s just paint, Dad. You can always change it back again later.” She says.

“Not a chance.” He answers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

“FREEZE! You have the right to remain children!”

“Mom, do you have a minute?” Trevor asks from behind me. My mind slowly retreats from its present dimension, filled with numbers and analysis.

“Just a minute.” I tell him without turning from the screen in front of me as I type the remainder of my thought on the yellow page staring back. “OK, what is it?” I ask, still clicking at the keys, but straddling between dimensions enough to hear his question. He knows that interruptions are supposed to be of an “urgent” nature when coming into my office while I’m working.

“Mom, I don’t want to ask for money to go the carnival two nights in a row,” he begins, allowing a pause for my potential reaction, “so instead, could I have a few friends over?”

The carnival is in town and I believe it is mandatory in the teenage code of ethics that all are present on the opening and closing nights. Trevor and his boys wouldn’t dream of breaking the code and attended opening night as expected. The problem is… the carnival runs five nights, necessitating a stream of cash that he knows better than to ask for.

“What’s a few?” I ask without turning, his tall lanky fourteen-year-old presence visible in my minds eye.

“Like… six?” He says, his voice softening, indicating he is backing up a step or two.

My desk chair whips like a carnival ride from the sheer jolt of negative energy in my torso. “No!” I look him square in the eye. “Enough is enough!” His new face looks at me with earnest, sincere pleading. His beautiful blond locks that hung low on his face, gone with a recent radical haircut and the eyebrows I haven’t seen in years make an arched plea.

“Just 3 boys… not to sleep over, and a couple of girls later… just for a little while?” He says with a cross between a smile and an apology spread across his face. Please?”

Trevor has been on a social marathon. He has always been purposeful and tenacious, finding the way to his goal no matter what the obstacle. This summer, he has been involved in a Round-Robin sleepover with his buddies that rolls between houses and I keep looking for reasons to say ‘no’ but I have not really found any. He has learned the art of timing and looks for the opportune moment to pitch his social requests.

Trevor thrives on social interaction, which over the last couple of years has begun more and more to include the ladies. This comes as no surprise as he has been a ‘ladies man’ since he could walk. When Trevor was very young, he sought out older girls wherever we went and before long, had them swooning over him; the lifeguards, the soccer coaches, the groups of teens at the fair. When he was six, he professed his love to the teenage girl who coached his soccer clinic. Tyler was nine and readily told him how ridiculous he was, to which Trevor replied, “I can’t help it. It’s how God made me…I just-love-girls!”

The house is quiet with his brother and sister gone and I am intensely focused on a difficult assignment for work. Once again, I search for a reason to say no. My mind begins to spin a list of reasons, but my guard falls away and I agree…with conditions.

His boys show up and scurry to help him ready the space. I hear the vacuum cleaner and giggle inside at how he’ll do anything for the ladies. As usual, my summer clock has lost all awareness of time and I realize that we are hovering around the dinner hour and I offer to order pizza. Trevor, not wanting to push his luck says just a large cheese pizza would do or …maybe two. I order three and Trevor smiles, “Three? Well… OK.” he says, knowing he now has my full approval.

Three girls arrive and I am shocked at how they look more like women than girls now. I have known some of them since kindergarten and they make their way to the kitchen to chat with me. I had given Trevor a current and appropriate movie, which is running in the DVD player, grabbing no one’s attention.

I bake a large batch of brownies, the aroma pulling the group from the family room to the kitchen in a hypnotic state and they swarm like seagull as the dump. I realize now that there are six girls and Trevor has transformed a “few” friends into ten and I offer to deliver the brownies to the family room.

One of the girls bursts with a brilliant idea, “Oh…can we watch the talent show? 2003? Please?” The room fills with a combination of groans and cheers and before long; all ten are piled into chairs around the television. My heart melts at the sight of them. I ran that talent show for the last eight years and fought hard to keep the program in place. I was committed for so many reasons. It fostered team work and camaraderie. It gave kids a connection with one another and a chance to shine that some couldn’t find anywhere else. But mostly it knocked down barriers between groups and opened doors. It taught them courage, risk-taking and to how to trust in themselves. Watching them flash back five years with such delight confirmed that all of my efforts were worthwhile.

They laugh and share stories of “Remember when…” and “I can’t believe that is you.” They look and sound so grown up, but a childlike energy fills the room. They rewind and replay and revel in yesterday.

They will begin high school this fall and are hopping the fence to adulthood. They are in a place they will never be again, close enough to reach back and touch childhood, holding it arms length as they get ready to let go. They are balancing on one foot, ready to step over the fence and lingering for that one last look.

I take in the image of them; bittersweet and fleeting. I would like to freeze them right there and stretch fourteen out as long as possible.

Monday, August 11, 2008


My senses awake one at a time, first to the sound of birds chirping. The breeze blew into the window; the air smells fresh and dry. Finally, my eyes cracked opened to reveal the answer to the promise made yesterday. It was indeed a perfect day; blue sky and sunshine. I promise myself to make every minute of this summer perfection count; my number one priority being the beach.

Of course, the family had other plans. I had forgotten a birthday party that Cadence had scheduled and Brad had to get the grass replanted over the septic tank. Reluctantly, I pry open the lid to the paint can and busy myself while waiting. It is, after all, a great day for painting.

By 2:00, the moment of triumph is upon us as we pulled into the parking lot at the beach. “Wow, it’s really hot.” Brad remarks as the wind has stilled and the sun is blazing. He spreads our blanket and I sit myself quickly, forgoing the book and enjoying the rays. “There’s no breeze at all.” He remarks.

We lay for about ten minutes when Brad pushes up to his elbows. “Whew, it’s hot.” He says again. “Not for long,” I tell him, gazing to the northwest. My cloud is moving closer. This time, I am more amused than bothered. It is smaller today; less angry. Slowly, a second black cloud pushes in from the southeast over the water. The two move closer and I giggle to myself. His and hers clouds; perfect.

I lie back down and watch them feeling very silly, like a five-year-old with magical powers. I am satisfied, as I watch them begin to touch, that I could bring such needed relief to the sun baked beachgoers; a comfortable cool settling in.

I think back a couple of weeks to the carpentry my husband toiled over, finishing the trim from the addition put on several years ago. I have hated the unfinished-ness of our house; raw plaster and sheet rock, two by fours for doorways. As fast as he trimmed each section, I scrambled behind him with a paint brush, blended everything together as is should be.

One evening, I came upon him staring at his completed project looking perplexed. “I worked so hard at this all week and it doesn’t look like I did anything. It looks like it was here all along.” He said, somewhat disappointed. I had thought the very same thing. It occurred to me then that I did not see the finished work, as my eyes fixated on what remained undone. It was as if we could only see what was missing, not what was there, forgetting to appreciate what we did have.

I smile up at my black cloud and I understand now; my great teacher from above. It came to teach me about gratitude. It is not wrong to look for sunshine, but it is wrong to chase perfection; seeing only what is lacking and missing everything beautiful along the way. I had been running from my cloud, instead of looking for its silver lining.

It was there all along.

It always is.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I grab my travel cup, scooping up Cadence’s backpack and load the strap over my shoulder. We are, as always, late for camp. “Let’s go NOW or you’ll miss role call!” I spout my daily mantra as she fusses with her hair. The stones in the driveway are still wet from the night’s rain and the damp earth smells of summer. The sky glooms with the remnants of last night’s storm but the day is predicted to be a nice one.

After depositing Cadence beach side with her counselor and friends, I drive home contemplating the day. It seems I have had no summer at all with far too much work and no play that I can recall. The sun peeks through and driveways steam off the dampness; it looks like it will be beautiful as predicted. I am practically giddy with the unscheduled day before me. All work wrapped up and no new assignments, I decide that I will clean the kitchen, wash some clothes, prime the new wood trim that Brad has finally put up and then slip away alone to the beach; just me, a towel and a book.

Last summer, work was scarce and I made great use of our beach, going daily in the afternoons with Cadence and lingering well into the dinner hour. I have now been blessed with full time work; much needed indeed, but cannot seem to squeeze in even a little bit of summer, finding myself working well into the dinner hour instead.

July brought with it one calamity after another: a leaking furnace, the death of my car, a blown out electrical circuit in an important part of the house and August has followed suit. We began last week with the septic tank alarm waking us at 4:00 am and went without showers or toilets until the repair man arrived at 7:00 pm. He set us up temporarily, but would need to bring an electrician back in a few days.

“You really do have a black cloud over you.” A friend told me. Yesterday, the men returned with the electrician and spent most of the day working on restoring and improving the system. There is nothing more depressing than throwing money into a hole in the ground; wasting money on crap…literally, but I wrote him the check for $1,300 and closed another crisis.

When it was time to pick up Cadence, I grabbed a book and a towel and decided to stretch the afternoon into something pleasant. I pulled my car beach side and felt instant relief as my feet sunk into the warm sand. I noticed a man sitting close to the parking lot in a beach chair with ear buds implanted. He opened one eye as I passed and drifted back into somewhere else. It astounded me that on such a beautiful day, the beach was empty, but for Mr. Ear Buds and the lifeguard. As I spread my towel to sit, I heard a low rumble and I turned slowly around to face the northwest. “Are you kidding me?” I said aloud to the dark sky moving in my direction. I held still long enough to determine the direction of the wind and indeed, my black cloud was following me; my attempt at summer foiled.

Today, on the other hand is perfect and I refuse to miss out. Kitchen cleaned, laundry done, trim primed, I take one last look at my email and do a little happy dance to see no new assignments. Steps from my escape, the phone rings and it is my boss. I assume she wants to go over the assignment I sent her yesterday and inwardly grown knowing that this could take up an hour. Instead, she says her internet is down and she likely won’t get to this until late afternoon or tomorrow. The beach seems meant to be.

I skip down the steps under perfect blue sky and scurry to run a couple of errands on my route to the beach. I pull my car beach side at about 1:30, noticing Mr. Ear Buds in the same spot as yesterday. He once again opens one eye as my feet hit the sand and once again, the beach is near empty. I stroll toward the water; warm sand massaging my feet and seagulls calling greetings. Midway to the water, a low rumble behind me stops my feet and I turn to the northwest. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I say loud enough to elicit the attention of the few lone sun-worshipers.

My black cloud, larger than yesterday moves in my direction. I am determined this time to hold my ground. Maybe it will stay to the north and I nestle into the sand, opening my book. The rumbles get louder and the camp kids are hustled onto school buses to relocate to a town building. I am not deterred. My cloud continues to approach, but my side of the beach still sunny. Finally, white streaks slice through the black and I retreat to my car, walking by Mr. Ear Buds as he does the same. I am tempted to apologize for bringing my cloud as I settle into my book inside the car. I’ll simply wait until it passes. In short order I am sitting under a torrential downpour and there is no hopeful light spot in the sky.

Back at home, I whip out the paintbrush and tackle some trim paint. The storm passes and blue sky abounds. I log onto local radar to find that more is coming from the northwest; warnings of hail and wind and I head into town to pick up my daughter. Cadence packs her things and stands in line at the ice-cream truck. My friend talks of heading down to the beach and I feel like Eeyore explaining in a defeated voice, “More’s on the way… won’t be long… this one with hail…” Cadence, always full of sunshine and adventure says “So what? It’s not here now! Let’s go to the beach!”

Re-energized, I pull up beach side and see Mr. Ear Buds just settling into his chair. He has both eyes open this time and looks at me like I am the Grim Reaper. I shrug and smile as I step onto the sand with a thunder rumble in the distant northwest. I push a mental button like the one on the retractable dog leash and let the tether to my cloud out at far as it will reach. Our friends join us and we squeeze every last drop out of the sunny spot on the beach, lingering just to the edge of safety before making our retreat.

Tomorrow is supposed to be one of the top ten perfect days. Maybe my cloud will sleep in late.