Please don’t take away my girl card

I have never been a girly girl, as much as my mother tried.

And tried, and tried.

I can dress up like the rest of them, with my makeup and high heels, when the occasion calls for it. I can sit still long enough to get my nails done, mainly because of that amazing massage chair that the salons offer and a Starbucks coffee nearby. And I do like to be pampered once in awhile, with a full body massage or an acupuncture treatment to calm my body and mind.

But that’s about where it ends.

I am more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, with sneakers, or my most favorite Birkenstock sandals that I’ve owned for over 15 years. I put on makeup each day before I leave the house now, but that only began during my divorce. I suddenly realized that I could run into people who may know both of us, or even his new arm candy of a wife, in the grocery store or around town and the report back would be that I looked like an old, haggard troll doll on a bad day.

Not happening.

I am a boy mom, not a girl mom. So the pressure is off to be the girly girl. If anything I learned to embrace the boy culture almost too easily. It spoke to me. It was hard wired inside of me since the second grade when I realized that dresses were nice, but a lot of work around boys with curious eyes. Plus, they were cold to wear in the winter!

You have to suffer to be beautiful, I get it, but cold? No thanks.

Now in my later years, my midlife years, I have realized that there is yet another girly DNA segment that I am missing. The gardening gene. Most women my age love to garden. They love plants, how to tend to them and how to talk to them. They love it so much that they make entire groups out of the idea, meeting up to talk gardening or sell gardening items and plants to raise funds for charity, which is admirable.

I have even been invited to join a garden club once or twice along the way. I’ve also been encouraged to take cuttings from someone’s home to nurture into a plant for my own yard or home. My own mother is a green thumb type and has tried (once again, really tried) to entice me to show an interest in what types of plants are in my own backyard, and in her backyard. Maybe swapping cuttings or talking about fertilizer over coffee.

I can’t tell you the names of half of the plants that are currently growing in my yard.

I can tell you what colors I have, and which ones I adore most for their colors and shapes. I love lilac bushes, rose of sharon bushes and hydrangeas in blue and purple, but please don’t ask me to make a seasonal ornamental planter for my front porch. Or to plant annuals to add color to my front window.

You mean I’d have to do that every year??

It’s not from lack of effort, I have tried to embrace the idea of caring for a yard full of green life now that I own my own home. I have weeded and cleared areas, cut the grass and used the weed wacker. I actually enjoy cutting the grass, believe it or not. I attribute that to using a large machine to do the job and the look of the lines across the lawn when it’s complete. It’s beautiful and symmetrical.

But somewhere along the way, after a day of full on energy diving in for four or more hours, I lose interest. For weeks.

It’s worse than cleaning a house that you know is just going to get dirty again. The weeds grow back, sometimes faster than they grew to get there in the first place. What the hell?!

When we had moved into our first home together over twenty years ago, I made the most foolish mistake of agreed upon labor division I can now imagine. Knowing that landscaping and gardening were really not my thing, I agreed to take care of the inside of the house if my soon to be husband would take care of the outside. I would clean, do the laundry, do the grocery shopping, cook and tend to any other homeowner type of care within my abilities. I didn’t want any responsibility for decision making or care for the outside – because it wasn’t my thing. And he had worked with landscaping during college summers, so he was basically a pro compared to me.

The reason it was foolish? Lawn care has a season, or two if it’s a warm fall. Inside home care is all year round.

Just because it snowed didn’t mean that we didn’t need laundry done, or that the house didn’t need to be cleaned. There is no “season” for housekeeping. Adding to that, I usually ended up shoveling the driveway, during the worst months in our midwest winters, because that was “busy season” for his line of work. My career was year round busy, for theĀ  most part, with crazy hours sometimes but I made the deal didn’t I?

Women’s work is never done. Preach it, sister!

So is it any wonder why I have no real desire or zest for yard work and gardening now? I am full on with the housekeeping care, keeping kids and pets alive, why did I think I would suddenly embrace this female link for gardening now?

Maybe because I am now over 50. Isn’t that what women my age are supposed to do?

Just add it to the growing list of how I don’t fit into this girl club, never really have and most likely never really will. But that’s okay. I still love a good project, like cleaning out the garage, and getting dirty. I still enjoy the reward of a well organized basement or spare room, and the multiple garbage bags dragged to the curb or dropped off and donated.

I still get dressed up with makeup and perfume when the occasion calls for it, I love to cook and bake, and I can sew a patch onto a scout uniform – with my sewing machine (finally) – without too much of a challenge. I love long baths, red wine and outdoor concerts on the lawn. I can make a mean cheese and sausage platter, too.

Hopefully that’s enough to let me keep my girl card.

Advertisements

I will miss it

It’s an odd time of life when so many things are coming to an end, all converging somewhat unexpectedly at the same time, and you are left standing still blinking into the unknown.

Wait, what just happened?

Many of us grow up, get married, have children and pursue careers and passions. The entire orchestra of life coming together with its many different instruments playing the background music of our lives.

Some days are a bit off key, the notes making us cringe or turn away, shielding our ears. Others are exciting and invigorating, giving us hope for the future, and promise of better things and times ahead.

But there are those times during the concert when part of your orchestra moves on, they choose another performance hall with a different audience. Or maybe a new audience chooses them?

It’s hard to tell.

Life is full of new beginnings and endings, some are positive and exciting while others are almost too painful to digest and deal with. Death, divorce and moving sit at the top of the list for most people, on both sides of the emotional pendulum, depending upon the timing in your life. You can have directly opposing reactions to the exact same situation just because of the timing or the ability to choose the timing or situation.

This next life change is not about choice so much as it is about growth and new chapters. It’s always been expected, but expected or not, it still kind of sneaks up on you when it happens.

Two of my kids are moving on to the next phase of their lives.

The first one moved out to another state, only a few weeks ago, to begin his first job in his chosen field. He put in the work at school for a year straight – without a spring break or summer break and not many holidays – even with a two week stint suffering through a horrible virus that gave him a 103 degree fever for eight days straight, he did not miss one day of school and graduated with honors. He did the training for another four months out of state and graduated at the top of his class, again with honors. He’s a dedicated and hard worker. He found his job without much input or coaching from me. He found his own apartment, too! I could not be happier or more proud.

My second son is leaving for college in a few weeks, also in another state, a state that takes over twenty hours to drive or two flights to get there. It’s the typical summer before college feeling like most families, I’m sure. He’s busy working and spending time with his girlfriend and friends, not home very much. Even when he is home he has someone over to play video games or he watches endless hours of “South Park” in the basement.

Some days it feels as if he’s already left, he slips in and out of the house repeatedly each day, but then I find the gallon of milk with a swallow or two of milk left in the jug sitting in the fridge or look into his room at the clothes strewn floor while he sleeps in until noon on his days off, and realize that he is indeed still home. But he will be gone soon.

By the end of this summer my house will be less busy, less full, less messy, less loud.

And I will miss it.

I will miss the family dinners, I will miss the talks in the car, I will miss saying good morning and good night to each of them with our usual kiss and “mmm” hugs (that’s a family thing, too hard to put into writing, you’ve got to experience it) I will miss the inside jokes, the laughter, the boys working on cars in my driveway, their friends all hanging out in my basement watching movies and eating me out of house and home most times.

I will miss being a mom of boys. Plural.

I know, I’m still a mom of boys, but not an actively engaged mom of boys really. It’s a game changer, and it shifts the balance of my life in a way that I never imagined. It redefines who I am, once again, which at this point I couldn’t even begin to tell you where that leads.

Divorce was a game changer and redefined me in ways I never knew were possible. This feeling is part of the fallout from the divorce. The gift that just keeps giving.

I didn’t expect to become an (almost) empty-nester alone (almost because I still have one more child at home to kiss and hug currently) I expected to still be married after our kids moved on. My “job” duties would change of course, but not completely, because I’d still be caring for a husband and a house and all of the responsibilities that go along with it. I’d still be taking care of all of the details of our lives, making plans, handling projects, running errands just like I had been doing for twenty years.

We would be moving our boys into their first apartment or dorm, together.

And maybe, just maybe, we would have made more time for each other and taken advantage of this new stage of freedom? Isn’t that part of the reward for raising and launching your children into grown up life, regaining your own grown up life together? Rediscovering your relationship and each other?

Then again, that probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. Let’s be realistic.

I didn’t have this timeline, or status, in mind while my kids were growing up. My first two are only two school years apart, that would still give me a breather in-between goodbyes. Time to get used to one less sitting at the dinner table, and walking by an empty room each day trying not to let it bother me. I raised them, and expected them, to leave eventually and go off to college or start a new career. That’s what you’re goal is supposed to be as a parent. To raise them to be functioning adults.

But I expected them to leave in order, one at a time, with time to get used to the changes.

And I know how lucky I was this past year or more. I was lucky that I had that extra year with my oldest at home, commuting to school, before he moved away for a job. It was a blessing to have him with me during my toughest times, to feel that while everything in my life was changing and I couldn’t stop it, some things were not. My boys were still around me, buffering the ugly world for me sometimes, giving me a sense of purpose and reason to keep functioning. I needed some sense of normalcy and familiar patterns these last two years, some control, while my life was turned sideways and upside down.

Thankfully I was given that gift.

That doesn’t make it any easier. If anything, it just makes me want to hold onto it more.

I need more time.

Don’t we all? It sounds cliche, but it’s true, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. But I did know what I had. I had a beautiful and loving family that I helped create and shape, and I loved it.

I do know what I will be missing. I really do.

I have held back from being “that mom” during this time. You know the one, “this is our last time to…” fill in the blank while she takes pictures of everything you do together or plans some crazy road trip or treats every weekend like it’s a new holiday. I’m not her.

You’re welcome (to my kids)

No, I prefer to turn it inward and soak it up secretly. I appreciate the moments that we do have together, the days that I get to spend time with each of them one on one are the best. I look at them and marvel at the adults that they are becoming and my heart swells with pride. They are good people, they are people I not only love but I truly like.

That’s something I can use to look towards this new future, a future where they are successful, functioning adults and I get to enjoy the show from the best seats in the house. Change is hard, even if it is good change, but it gets easier as it becomes the new normal. And it can also lead to other changes, changes that you never expected or thought you would welcome, but it all comes together eventually. Doesn’t it?

It is a time for celebration, and a pat on the back for a job well done – look I didn’t ruin them! If that’s not a reason to celebrate I don’t know what is.

It’s a new chapter, maybe even a new book with new voices to author it, and one I am looking forward to being a part of even if I will miss the one we are living now. But isn’t that the sign of a good book, you can’t put it down and you don’t want it to end?

This has been one of the best books of my life.