Dancing through a Mid-Life Crisis, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milenr

Dancing Through a Mid-Life Crisis

No, I’m not taking a ballroom class. I plug my earphones into my IPhone and hit play. I hit play in the parking lot, before I even get to my car. All day long I help people solve plant problems. What to plant where, what plant best matches the porch cushions (really?), what works in shade, in sun, on an embankment, and so on. I answer questions politely and hopefully, informatively, but if you could read my thoughts, I’m looking forward to the music.

So why the music and the mid-life crisis?

Because life gets hard about this time in the journey. For some, it starts out pretty darn hard. For others, hard things happen along the way. But by mid-life, the ball really gets rolling. At least, that’s what I’m finding out. My mother died so unexpectedly and suddenly last July, that I am still reeling and forever picking up the phone to call her. She missed Jordy’s birth, my 3rd granddaughter. And now, my dearest and oldest friend is facing brain cancer. Weren’t we just decorating our college dorm room? It goes fast. There is no other way to say it. A blink and it’s gone.

Here’s the weird part. Once great, grand, and parents are dead, you’re up next to bat. Yes, if family history prevails, I have 20+ years still, but the generation before me is gone. They were my buffer. Now, I’m the buffer for kids and grandkids, and well, that my friends is a sobering thought.

Add empty-nest, jokes about how long we can live based on our IRAs, grandchildren we never see, working long hours in hopes of increasing that IRA a little and then the dang downsizing. I hate the downsizing.

When did life become about downsizing instead of building? When mid-life showed up, that’s when.

You see what I mean. Full on mid-life crisis. I read some articles about it. Not much there. Did glean one gem. That my brain can’t process everything happening at this stage of life. Agreed. So, I gave up reading the self-help stuff and hit Crazy on You, or Hooked on a Feeling, or Spirit in the Sky or I Want You Back (yes, the Jackson 5), and tuned it all out. When I open my front door, I dance. I dance while preheating the oven. I dance in the shower. I dance and vacuum. I dance around my house to everything from Queen, the Eagles and yes, even PitBull.

And I remember. I remember dancing with Donna in our college dorm room, dancing with my sisters in our childhood bedrooms, dancing with my toddlers and boys and even teenage sons in our family living room, dancing with my mom and dad in our family living room. I had forgotten that my family–that I–love to dance.

The kitchen is the best place for it. The floor is slick. After dinner, I crank it up and stand Aggie up on her hind legs and dance around with her. She doesn’t like it, but she tolerates it as one would expect a good dog too. I dance until way past bedtime, and for a few hours I’m not the grandmother with grandchildren way too far away, or the divorced wife living paycheck-to-paycheck, or the 56-year-old looking straight at the fact that mid-life is really just a term for what I’m experiencing.

Because I passed mid-life a decade ago.

My oldest son says our goal is not to be successful. Our goal is to come to terms with ourselves and the choices we make, or, I would add, perhaps the choices others–or life–make for us. Mid-life has definitely been a choice-evaluating-time for me. To consider where I stepped wrong or maybe right, but mostly, I’m just dancing.

P.S. This one is for Carol. 🙂

 

The Guilt Trip on the Holidays: It Works

My mom, Frankie Ann as she was known to her loved ones, could guilt her children into anything. I was annoyed by that talent for many years. I now am awed by it.

Aggie and I walked downtown today, and my charming tourist town was buzzing with folks who’d just arrived for the holiday. I watched the families coming together over coffee at our local coffee shop, and lunch at the local sandwich shop. Everyone was on their best behavior (it is only Wednesday), and smiles were everywhere.  I love the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the day before the big meal prep starts, when families are arriving, and there isn’t much to do except enjoy each other. You can run errands for the cook, while squeezing in some time for coffee and talk. I literally had to stop myself from pulling up a chair, and getting in on the coffee, conversation, and catching up.

So, how’s college going? Any girls?

How’s the new job? Tell me all about it.

So, you’re pregnant! Do we know if it is a boy or girl? How exciting.

You bought a new house? Oh wow. Show me pictures.

I adore those boots. Where did you get them?

I love that first glow of family togetherness when everyone is excited to see each other. That caught-off-guard feeling of how much you missed one another because life has been too busy to notice until this precise second when you are face-to-face again. And then, there are the hours of talking, laughing and telling stories. Awesome.

But these days I find myself, more often than not, on the other side of an empty table, with no family to catch up with, and my mother’s voice ringing in my ears.

There are lots of reasons for my present alone-ness. Children have moved away, parents have passed away, sisters live far away, and they’re trying to figure out how to gather their families under one roof, which is the theme of this particular post. Getting everyone together. Something I feel should be a offered as major in college for future moms, because it takes such finesse to pull it off.

It’s a strange time.

I fear I have missed a step. I missed the step where my family comes home to my house for the holidays. I have been each of those people at the table catching up over coffee, but one. I was the college student, the new career woman, the excited pregnant mom, the new home owner, and the stylish boot wearer, but I have not been the mom prepping the Thanksgiving meal as my family walks through the door. I have not been that mom with a cup of good coffee, sitting across the dining room table from my children, the night before Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or Easter, or fill-in-the-blank) soaking up their personalities and lives. There’s a good reason why not. I have children (son and daughter-in-law) in the military. (So that is an entire semester of study for the mom major. How to get past the government and corral your kids into one spot.)

Here’s the truth of the holidays for the mother. Every mother on the dang planet wants her children, in-laws, and grandchildren to come to her house for the holidays. Along with a whole host of friends for dessert.

Frankie Ann was unscrupulous about it.  She cared less if she guilted you or forced you, so long as you ended up at her house. Feel free to grumble and complain all the way back to your own house, whiile she tidied and reflected on her delight that we were all together.

For years. I swore I’d never do that to my kids. I’d never guilt them into a holiday trip home, but now, I might reconsider. It worked so fabulously for Mom. I even scolded her over it once, “Give it up, Mom. Debbie (my oldest sister) has 10 kids, who all have spouses, who all have mothers who want them to come to their houses. It’s impossible because of Debbie.” It was nice having a sister with 10 kids. She made a good scapegoat.

My scolding didn’t phase her. She repeated what she always said. “It is important for everyone to be together sometimes.”

This past spring, she sent out an email invite to everyone for Mother’s Day, about 2 months prior to Mother’s Day. It read, “Join me for church and then lunch at Fuddrucker’s on May 11. RSVP. Immediately.” That was sent to 4 daughters, 2 husbands, 17 grandchildren, 5 spouses of grandchildren and assorted boyfriends and girlfriends, and 11 great grandchildren. All but a few accepted, and we were almost all together that day. Here she is with my youngest. I love this picture of them.

Guilt Trip for the Holidays; It Works

Mom and Micah

The church was full of her family and we took up the back section at Fuddruckers. There was lots of picture taking, and lots of hey there’s, and hugs. It was a scene reminenscent of this morning as I watched families giving big hugs across tables covered with coffee cups, highchairs, booster seats, and walkers. Brothers jostled each other, sisters gloated over babies, and the mother? Well, she was in her element. Her family was in town and yes, she had a ton of work to do, turkeys to cook and dressing to make, but she was happy. Dad looked pretty happy, too.

Frankie Ann was in her element. Her family gathered around her and smiles everywhere. It was a good Mother’s Day for her.

So, while I miss my family this Thanksgiving, and am planning my guilt moves for next year’s holiday season (you think I kid), I am so tremendously thankful for May 11th 2014. Sometimes it is important for everyone to be together, because you don’t know if it will be the last time. I am glad Mom ignored me and did just as she pleased, guilt-ing us all into one last Mother’s Day together.

Frankie Ann and her “girls”

Frankie Ann and her “girls

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