Before One Kicks the Bucket

Before One Kicks the Bucket

I asked someone this week, “If you had a year left to live, would you do anything different from what you are doing right now?”

He laughed. “Of course, I would!”

He said he would drop essentially everything he was doing, probably even most of his hobbies, and create a list of the 25 things he wanted to do. He’d then systematically work his way through that list.

I then asked, “What if you had five years left to live?”

He laughed again. “Sure! Even with just five years, if I knew that’s all I had, I would do something similar.”

What if one, or five, or ten years is all we do have? If I lived as long as my mother did, to the age of 67, I  have 19 years to go.

That puts it into perspective. At almost 48, that means I’m 71% of the way there.

Loosening My Grip

Loosening My Grip

Ah, tennis elbow—it has come to greet me again.

Typically, this is a right-arm issue for me. But last fall, I got the brilliant idea of learning a two-handed backhand because my one-hander just was too feeble. (This is probably because it hurt due to tendonitis on certain shots so subconsciously I was afraid to hit the ball too hard).

Plus, I do have that weird chicken-arm elbow backhand habit that sometimes got in the way of a good stroke.

I love my new two-hander. I get more power and pace. It positions me to turn my shoulders and follow through better, both of which are important ingredients for a solid groundstroke.

But.

My poor left forearm has no idea what is up. There it was, going along in a best supporting actress role for years, and now suddenly it’s being asked to step up to the table.

Enter: Lateral Epicondylitis.

In both elbows.

Hmmm.

I know how to treat this, though.

That Transition from Summer into Winter

That Transition from Summer into Winter

When I was a kid, I loved fall. I loved the leaves crunching under my feet, pumpkins and apple picking, the crisp air. That autumn smell triggered the start of a new school year. We relished those cool afternoons on the sports fields, when we’d have to throw on sweatshirts and sweatpants early evenings when dusk fell.

These days, autumn feels a bit more foreboding to me. I know what is coming on the other side in New England—bitter cold, and snow. Fall is pointing to the end of something. It was also in the fall that I learned my mother had less than six months to live. It was in the fall when my only child went off to college.

My birthday always comes just before this transition from summer into winterthis year, I turned 47. 

When this happened, I said to myself, 'Welcome to a new round-up year!"

27 and 37 were harder birthdays for me than 30 and 40. I suspect the same is true at 47. There’s something about being so solidly in that late part of a decade. You’re so late in that decade that you must eye the next one with grave suspicion.

At 47, you’re well past the adventurous 20s, past the tired 30s. It’s time to now play in those years when you step into what you want out of life and stop worrying so much about what others want. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? When you realize you’re more than halfway through this race, you begin seeing things a little differently.

Or maybe it’s all just a precursor to a midlife crisis.

As My Only Child Goes off to College—Again

As My Only Child Goes off to College—Again

Goodbye, August. Hello September.

Goodbye, peaceful sigh of having your only child in close proximity.

Hello, pit-in-the-stomach that distance brings.

This year, now that my only child is a sophomore, he doesn’t even need me to bring him to school. He’s got his own car, and he even made a few extra trips down to Massachusetts so he could fit everything in his Civic on move-in day (and didn't need Mom around).

He’s forging his own way. He’s 19.

It’s an anticlimactic start to the school year. Compared to last year’s dramatic drop-off of a freshman into his dorm—that driving out and leaving him behind—this year is tough. At least last year, I had a prime opportunity to cry.

Regardless, it was downright fun to have him home for the summer.

With a college year under his belt, he was more interested in engaging in intellectual discussions with his family. He had new political stances I had never even heard of. He taught me things going on in the news and on college campuses that I was not tracking. He was more responsible, more on top of things.

And, he worked and made some money.

It can just be darn fun to see your child growing into an adult.

Pay It Forward, Dude

Pay It Forward, Dude

The guy had cut line in front of me and several other people at 7-Eleven, the day they were giving out free Slurpees. I didn’t know about the free Slurpees, but I was headed in there for a fountain soda.

It was summer, it was hot, and I was about to go get my hair cut and colored. And for those two long hours in the chair, I knew I would need a pick me up. I needed my afternoon crutch, a Diet Coke. And as I was standing in the middle of a line, waiting for the cashier to scan a few dozen kids’ cups to track their free Slurpees, a guy came in from outside and cut into the front of the line, saying to the cashier, “I just need a quick pack of smokes.”

He pulled several bucks out of his pocket, in a move so swift and deliberate that the cashier simply turned and started getting his cigarettes.

“What kind do you want?” she asked.

I stood there in disbelief. What nerve! Walking in the side door, and cutting a few little kids waiting for their Slurpees? Didn’t he see we were all standing patiently in line?

That House on Seadrift

That House on Seadrift

My grandmother had a house on Stinson Beach for 40 years.

Stinson was a special place for her—her family had made that trip to the beach from Mill Valley for years. In a horse and buggy, that is.

Literally.

She told us stories of their buggy getting caught in the mud, stuck halfway up its wheels. And she remembered the first cars they drove over Mount Tamalpais, before electric headlights, when they only had oil lantern headlamps.

Her family had made fun of her when she bought her first empty lot on Stinson in the 50s.

“What are you going to do with a plot of sand?” they said.

We loved her house in the gated community on Seadrift. But when she was in her late 80s, it made sense to sell it—my mother was increasingly worried about Mamoo driving the windy Panoramic Highway over Mount Tamalpais. We were well beyond the days of the horse and buggy, but she had cataracts and a giant white Cadillac and the road has many blind curves.

Sorting Through Mom’s Last Bin

Sorting Through Mom’s Last Bin

It was the last bin where we had deposited Mom’s stuff. The bin had sat in my sister’s garage for about nine years, and we just couldn’t seem to get ourselves to go through it.

Over the years, we had organized a lot of Mom’s things—distributed them among my sister, brother, me, and the grandchildren, and scanned a lot of slides and photos. But not only did Mom keep everything, but our grandmother and their other relatives did as well. So we had an entire century’s worth of things by the time our parents passed away.

So, we had put some things we didn’t know what to do with in one last plastic bin. And nine years later, we decided it was time to open it.

There was a scrapbook with baby shower congratulations from when she was born in 1939. Her birthday cards from when she turned five and six. Grade school report cards. Recital programs from when she sang pieces from La Boheme and Madame Butterfly at 13 and 14.

Sunset Is My Favorite Color

Sunset Is My Favorite Color

It’s easy to miss the sun setting in New Hampshire—it’s often hidden behind the woods, a mountain, or simply the curve in the road. Unless you are at the beach or positioned perfectly where you can see its full spectrum, sometimes, we only catch a brief glimpse and then it’s done.

So I find it when I am driving. But it’s hard to fully enjoy the setting sun at 75 mph. And I don’t usually bother stopping because I just want to get home, or because I’m afraid of being sideswiped by a passing truck as I’m tilting my phone at just the right angle.

But this was the second sunset I blitzed by in a week. So just three miles or so from my house, where I caught the most amazing pink and orange filtering through the trees and casting long shadows on a marsh, I decided to pull over.

I was in a rental car, so if my car did get hit on the shoulder-less back road, at least it wouldn’t affect my real wheels.

Back to Reality After Writing Vacation

Back to Reality After Writing Vacation

I just returned from my annual writing retreat at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. 

My boyfriend was asked repeatedly during the week, “Where’s Kellie? She’s where? Is she at a conference? Is there a workshop going on? She’s just there WRITING? How come you don’t give her a place at your house to write?”

One friend even asked, learning I was in P-Town, “Are you sure she doesn’t have a girlfriend there??”

The average person might not understand the draw to P-Town. It is a bizarre place, but an amazing one—sure, you can go there and parade down the street in a getup that is not acceptable in other parts of the world, be with you who want, and no one will judge you. But you can also do what I do, which is hide in a hole at an artist’s residency and pursue your art and be alone. All are welcome and all are equally loved.

Diary of a Crazy Woman

Diary of a Crazy Woman

On the cover of one of my old journals, it says, “This is the role I play for myself, to be committed to my passions, to tell myself the truth as I know it, to act with integrity.”

I found the book in the bottom of my plastic bin of journals. Some are completely filled, others are in some form of a half-life. This particular one is full only because the last 15 pages were scribbled on by my son D., who was three, at the time.

You Can Now Buy Vodka and Triscuits in Every Flavor

You Can Now Buy Vodka and Triscuits in Every Flavor

The world is so different from what my parents experienced when they first met in the early ’60s. What would they think of it?

People don’t smoke now. Much. People spend more time on their phones than on their PCs. Virtual reality headsets are commonplace. And by the way, not only can you unlock and start your vehicle without a key, but Google has made a driverless car.

It’s two years today since my dad passed—so I went recently to visit their grave.

Making My Mother's Meatloaf

Making My Mother's Meatloaf

A week after my mother died, I decided to make meatloaf for my father. I was hesitant, still a bit hazy. The hospital bed was gone from the living room, but the Lorazepam and Neurontin were still in the cupboard, the morphine pump by the door, her clothes still in the closet.

But I wanted something to seem familiar to my dad, something to feel in place. So I dug around in her kitchen until I found the recipe.

Guide to DDPerks for the Non-Millenial

Guide to DDPerks for the Non-Millenial

Imagine this, my favorite coffee joint has its own app.

It took me a year to discover DDPerks rewards. Discovering it was inevitable—I have Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at least a few times a week, and the 127th time I saw a placard or sticker that said “Register Your DD Card Online for Rewards,” I actually paid attention and registered my card. It was very exciting—just for registering it, I earned a free beverage, which I promptly used within 24 hours.

Don't Try This at Home--When Mom's Not There

Don't Try This at Home--When Mom's Not There

As a parent, there are many scary moments. That day you have to bring your son to the ER with a 104-degree fever. That moment when you let go of his hand for a second and lose sight of him at the big box store. The time you let him drive off for the first time and it starts to snow.

Now that my son is 18 and officially loosed upon the world, I am sure I could have done more to prepare him. I could have been better at teaching him to save his allowance. I could have given him more responsibilities around the house. I could have spent more time talking about the tough stuff. I could have shot more pucks on him in the Mylec goal in the basement of our cabin in the woods.

When Annoying Yogis Practice Next to You

When Annoying Yogis Practice Next to You

Bikram yoga is an amazing practice. You’re in a 105-degree heated room, mat-to-mat, sweating and dripping all over one another, and just trying to be.

It’s a great practice for the mind. Especially when you end up next to someone for 90 minutes that irritates you for some reason. It might be excessive body odor, a particularly loud grunter, or someone who literally flings their sweat on you because they move about so violently. 

Last week, a woman next to me simply chose to do her own thing during the entire class. 

A Bird Doesn't Sing Because He Has an Answer

A Bird Doesn't Sing Because He Has an Answer

My mother savedeverything.

I recently found her Joan Walsh Anglund wall calendars from the early 1970s. Do you know those calendars? The ones that feature pastel images of round-faced children with tiny black eyes, but no mouths or noses? My mother’s notes—and a few of my dad’s—track everything we did the years just before we left California.

There was that special terrarium demonstration at day camp one summer. My sister’s ice skating on Mondays, ballet on Tuesdays, and Brownies on Wednesdays. A few odd notes: Mike – 1 Hard Boiled Egg, on March 21. The Kirby man had an appointment that same day. And in 1973, we left on September 15 for Glacier National Park and went camping for two weeks.

Walking in the World of Safe People

Walking in the World of Safe People

But way back where I come from we never mean to bother / We don’t like to make our passions other people’s concern / And we walk in the world of safe people / And at night we walk into our houses and burn

An aging couple and their daughter came into a chiropractor’s office last week when I was in the waiting room. The father was in a cervical collar, walking carefully.

Car accident? Neck surgery?

“Hi Lottie!” they greeted the receptionist.

Ahh, regulars. I thought I was in there often.

The Moms Had to Stage an Intervention

The Moms Had to Stage an Intervention

It’s a relief being connected to other moms who have sent a child or two off to college.

Only these moms understand how difficult it is to let your little kid—who you actually gave birth to and then protected for 18 years—go away, on their own, to navigate the freedoms and responsibilities of being in college.

It’s terrifying.

It may almost be as scary for us as it is for them.

To My Only Child As You Come Home from College

To My Only Child As You Come Home from College

There I was, going merrily along, minding my own business: work, tennis, play, house, work, friends, tennis, work, sometimes almost forgetting there was a young man out there who was still tied to me with an invisible, translucent cord.

There you were, happily enjoying your first semester away at college: football, classes, freedom, football, new friends, partying, football, hopefully some more classes.

And then you came home for a long weekend.