Uncharted Territory

What do a sock puppet, and Stuart Little have in common? They both like their snacks at ten o’clock at night.

“AAAHHH!” my daughter screamed hysterically – so loud in fact that I had to pause Bridgerton, which, given its dicey content, was a Godsend.

“What?” I asked her.


I’m not sure which one jumped first or highest since it happened simultaneously. Immediately, the rat stopped gnawing the granola bag, catapulted itself from the fourth shelf, landed safely on the kitchen floor and scurried outside. Upon further investigation of the granola bag, I noticed a pile of raisins next to it – yes, raisins. Maybe another thing they had in common, a dislike of dried grapes.

Recently, my son embarked on an Incredible Journey. He drove from Los Angeles to Milwaukee to spend time with friends. I was very proud of his bravery, yet as his mother, I felt such trepidation. He was making this cross-country drive at the height of the Polar Vortex. 

Why not travel to the North Pole? The same thing! He is a California boy! Californians don’t drive in snow. But Daniel Boone was determined and could not be stopped. Nor should he. It was all fitting together. 

He was driving his Explorer SUV, the one that bears his name on the license plate because I bought that SUV when he was born, twenty-four years ago. Now logging in two hundred thousand miles, it’s barely short of being a covered wagon.

The temperature in the Midwest had dropped below zero, when I got a call,

“Mom, the heater doesn’t work. It’s fine. I’m wearing all my clothes and my ski gloves.”

His resourcefulness gave me pause, “So, you’re driving to Wisconsin during a blizzard in an old car without a heater or snow tires. Have fun, honey.” 

At the same time, my other son was embarking on an adventure of his own. “Mom, can you help me with Valentine’s Day?”

Please let it be he’s making a card for me, using a doily and construction paper, and needs glue. No, my baby had a valentine. Normal for a teenager, and the girl is lovely, but I’m fretting. He is putting his heart in grave danger.

That gets us back to Stuart Little. I’m confident he has a mother who is fretting over him. What bravery to venture out to our pantry in the dead of night. What if those raisins were a Valentine’s Day gift? I bought a box of raisins in case Stuart Little returned after discovering our neighbors had a cat. I made a small pile by the front door as an offering, “If I take care of this rodent’s body and heart, please take care of my boys.” 

Jack made it home safe and happy. “Mom, there is a pile of rat poop by the front door,” he said.

I didn’t dare tell him it was an alter I had made for his safe travel. That would have sounded weird.

“No, those are raisins.”

“No, this is definitely rat poop. The raisins are gone.”

“Oh, thank you,” I whispered with a sigh of relief.

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Something startling has come to my attention. Maybe I’ve been in denial all this time, but the truth is, I have let my children down – once again proving that common sense is not that common.

I have gone out of my way to teach my children the important things in life: 

  • Be kind 
  • Do your best
  • Napkin on your lap

Apparently, there are some things they don’t know. I assumed they would absorb it. Even ducklings figure things out intuitively! 

I gathered my ducklings, Sam and Lindsay, for a family meeting.

“There seem to be some basic things you need to know how to do, based on the fact that you don’t do them. Follow me; we are about to have a tutorial on basic household tasks.  Our first stop is the bathroom.” I guided them.

“Please don’t tell me you’re going to toilet train us?” Sam asked with his sly grin.

“Very funny – no, but this is called a toilet paper roll, and this is a holder. Look, this part is spring-loaded. Just slide it through the tube part of the roll, push the ends in, then release it into this holder. Anyone want to try and do it on your own?”

Lindsay sighed, “Mom, really? I’m busy.”

“Don’t worry, this won’t take long. Volunteers?” I asked again.

They glared at me.

“Now, some people care which way the paper on the roll is situated, pulling down in the front or the back. I do not. Just put it on the holder, not on the ground or the counter.”

They rolled their eyes and nodded at the same time, hoping that would hurry this along.

“Next, this is a toilet seat. Simple enough: up for boys, down for girls. Universally left down when done. 

This,” I reached down to the floor, “is a wet towel. Hang it up. Very simple, fold it in half and sling it over this rod. Questions?”

Sam shrugged, “How long is this going to take?”

“A while. Volunteers? No? Alrighty then, follow me to the hall closet.”

The five-foot walk seemed like a hike up Kilimanjaro with all their huffing and puffing.

I opened the closet door and pulled out the plastic tub, “This is a laundry hamper. Dirty clothes go INside the tub, not outside on the floor in front of this convenient door used to hide the dirty clothes. In other words, no more dirty underwear for all to see, please. Additionally, it is not a depository for clean clothes instead of hanging them up. Questions? Good. Follow me.”

I led them, well, pushed them into the kitchen.

“This is a dishwasher, not me. You load it with your dirty dishes. Yes, you can do it, it’s very easy. Some of you have ventured out enough to put your dirty dishes in the sink, this is just one more added step. The tricky part is lining the plates up on the bottom, cups and glasses on top. Don’t just throw them in and hope the plates line up. Look, here are these little guideposts to help you. Anyone want to try?”

“Thanks, Mom, we get the message,” Lindsay said.

“Good, next week is personal hygiene.” I had a malicious grin.

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Cursed Morning

At sunrise this morning, my alarm-dog Socrates, a Jack Russel-Rooster mix, woke me up. When I opened the door to the yard, he bolted, sounding his alarming high-pitched bark.    

“Stop barking!” I barked, to no avail.

I hadn’t even had my coffee, yet there I was marching up my hill. “Stop barking! Socrates!”

He had wiggled his way under the fence that separates my property with my neighbors to have a playdate with his new friend, their dachshund, Charlie. I watched Socrates run up to their windows, barking, barking, barking. I had no choice but to hop the fence in my pink robe and fuzzy slippers, landing like a caped crusader, just shy of their pool. 

“Get over here!” I demanded in a loud whisper chasing him around their yard, hoping not to get caught because, honestly, no one needs to see their neighbors this early in the morning. 

Suddenly, Socrates was nowhere to be found. As stealthily as possible, I searched using sonar techniques to hear him out, basically echolocation. He had gotten himself wedged in their pool equipment.

“Ugh!” I tucked him inside my robe and snuck out through their gate.

“Let’s start all over. Breathe in. Breathe out,” I said to the dog.

The sound of the coffee maker grinding the beans was soothing, until I realized I was holding the empty coffee pot. I watched the coffee pour from the machine all over the counter and floor. 

Last night in the dimly lit living room, I had painted over water stains created by a leaky roof with the ceiling paint the painters had left behind – or so I thought. 

What I had done was paint the ceiling with the light gray paint of the adjacent wall. Now the ceiling had an eight-foot-wide cloud.

I changed into clothes and went through every can of white in my garage. I was filling the flimsy tray with paint, rolling on coat after coat of the wrong white, while balancing myself on the back of the black leather couch, turning this quickly into 50 Shades of Grayish Whites. 

Wobbling precariously, I reached up high enough to touch the ceiling, when the roller got the best of me. While rolling paint to one side and sending me to another, the rinkydink, insert paint tray went flying from my hand and landed with a splat all over the couch.

It was then that I realized that I had a curse. I needed sage to burn, it was my only hope.

At Home Depot, I discovered what interesting people go shopping early in the morning. Apparently, me included – now covered in paint.

I approached the “Your Paint Expert,” and began, “I have a unique situation. I had to cover up some spots on my ceiling, which I did, but I can’t find whatever white paint my painters used when they painted my ceiling. Is there some kind of standard paint that painters use on ceilings?”

After patiently listening to me ramble for a good ten minutes, he decided to give me his expert advice, “Turn around.” 

I was standing in front of the wall of paint cans labeled: Interior Ceiling Flat White.

“Perfect,” I said, “Yes, that’s it. Now, how about chicken wire, leather cleaner, plastic tarp, matches and sage?  I’m asking for a friend.”

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I pride myself on getting that perfect gift…The Santa gift. 

If you want to receive, you have to believe, is my motto.

It was December 20th 2002, when Jack revealed to me the secret gift he had whispered in Santa’s ear – a Buzz Lightyear Pinball Machine. 

Sick or well, rain or shine, I was a determined elf, not about to not let this six-year-old down. But, I faced two problems: I had the flu and that toy was sold out everywhere. Armed with plenty of tissues, I staggered like Blitzen from one store to another, until I bagged the last one. 

Fast forward 18 years, my daughter Lindsay and I were out shopping in my favorite store, when we spotted a beautiful velvet blouse. 

“I love it, but not at $100,” I winced, returning it to the rack. “Just wait, it will go on sale.”

This Christmas ornament doesn’t fall far from the tree. “Maybe Santa will bring it,” Lindsay winked.

Just after Thanksgiving, Lindsay and I were holiday shopping and as we came to that very store, we spied the sign: ENTIRE STORE SALE. Alas, the rack of velvet blouses was empty. 

Lindsay teared up, “That was your present. I’ve been coming here every day to catch it on sale.”

“We’ll ask someone,” I said, now wanting it as much for her as for me.

The manager pulled it up on the computer, “You’re in luck! There’s one left and believe it or not it’s your size – and, on sale for $80.”

“We’ll buy it!” I declared.

When we walked out of the store, receipt in hand, the manager warned us, “hope it doesn’t get canceled if the system hasn’t updated itself.”

On the sidewalk, I took the extra precaution and began to order it online. One left in stock. Immediately, into my cart. I reached for my wallet only to return to “SOLD OUT” brazened across the screen.

“You know what that means?” I said, “We got the last one! Lindsay, there is a Santa, and he’s a bargain hunter.”

I could hardly wait till Christmas. But, on December 23rd that warning came to fruition with the cancelation email from the store.

“C’mon Santa! Mama needs a fancy shirt!” I yelled at my computer.

On Christmas morning, Lindsay handed me an envelope that I opened, feigning surprise. 

“Oh my God, you got it!” 

“Mom you’re not going to believe this but right after you told me about the cancelation I went online and there it was so I ordered it, again, you should get it in a few days.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell Lindsay, but on Christmas Eve I got the cancelation for that order.

December 26th, I checked online hoping to find one, ship it, and no one would be the wiser. But no one had returned one – of course not. 

While shopping on the 27th, I came clean about the cancellation.

Lindsay moaned, “Santa Schmanta! They did it to us twice! Maybe someone returned one.” 

“Doubtful,” I said. I was right.

Again, the manager pulled it up on the computer. I’d seen this movie before. 

“I’ll check other stores. They have 4 in San Diego,” she said very matter-of-factly.

“ARE YOU SURE?” I screamed.

“Yes, would you like me to order one for you? Oh look, it’s on sale for $50.”

“You just gotta believe, Mom,” beamed Lindsay.

“I’ll take two at that price,” I declared.

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The Virus That Stole 2020

Every Being on Earth liked being a lot,

but the Covid virus floating about did not!

Covid hated people, during every season,

don’t ask why, there’s not a good reason.

Their loud, raucous sounds always rattled its cage,

only their quieted slumber could soothe its rage.

“I’m tired of beings doing whatever they please,”

Covid pondered a plot and said with a wheeze.

“Birthdays, weddings, graduations, parades large and small,

those humans gather around and celebrate them all.

Watching sports and concerts, oh they do draw a crowd,

all that cheering and singing, this must not be allowed.

“The abundance of gatherings must come to an end

churches, temples, schools, even time with a friend.

“Always merrily going, they’re moving so fast,

I must stop that with a plan, a plan that will last.

“And then! Oh the Noise! Oh the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

There’s one thing I hate! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

“It’s been 100 years since my last try, but now,

I must stop 2020 from coming! But how?”

Then it got an idea. A harmful, horrible idea,

Covid got a wonderful, insidious idea.

“They will breath me in, with my poison so bold,

I will make them all sick the young and the old.

“Germs will be carried on droplets of spit,

an inconvenience could save them, but most won’t commit.

“Out for themselves, they won’t wear a mask,

that’s the perfect solution,” Covid thought with a gasp.

As spring rolled around, his plan put in place,

up to the first being, it blew right in their face.

With a cough and a sneeze, the scheme was in play,

the spread of this virus was well on its way.

Covid took over Asia, Europe, continents all,

heading near winter, conquering summer and fall.

No contact with others, that will shut them all down,

Financial ruin will travel from city to town.

Stay at home orders, their tempers were baited,

They’ll turn on each other, Covid felt elated.

“Then, only then, can silence infuse the air,

with nothing to do, feeling fear and despair.”

Covid floated about, waited and waited,

their own self-centered demise had just been slated.

And then a voice, a voice tender and small,

it came from a girl less than forty inches tall.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?”

She wore a mask, handed out one after one,

they passed the masks along until there were none.

Beings went to the hospitals, and handed out more,

they sewed masks at home, when none were in store.

They handed out masks to parents and grand,

they handed out masks to all in the land.

One at a time until every face got covered,

the message was hope, fear had been smothered.

“How could I have made such a blunder?

Do they really care?” Covid did wonder.

All over the world united beings sang so clear,

their voices burst through their masks for all to hear.

“I care for you and you care for me,” They say.

LOVE saved their planet at the end of the day.

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For days of auld lang syne.

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Tritus of Workitus

I had to talk my dear friend off the ledge today. She suffers from a serious mental condition that lowers one’s desire to work, Tritus of Workitus. With her permission, I’m revealing her condition because I know many suffer in silence.

Years ago, once our children were in school all day, she and I were forced to go back to work. To our spouses it seemed like a perfect opportunity to fill the time previously spent on our children. Time now better spent bringing money into the household instead of the constant outpouring of funds for their entertainment. How inconsiderate. It didn’t take long, maybe only a few weeks before we suffered our first bouts of Tritus of Workitus.

Of course, everyone says, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you’ll be fine.” It doesn’t work like that. Suddenly, as working girls, we were being forced to comply with rules, boring jobs to do, answering to bosses and schedules to keep – none of which was of any interest to us. 

We muddled through it together, bemoaning our fate over wine glasses filled with clear liquids. We kept our condition in check, dreaming of the days when we could be bored again at our own leisurely pace.

I am currently in full remission from Tritus of Workitus due to Covid-19 and the lack of employment. Alas, my friend is not so lucky. After being quarantined for months, she had grown accustomed to a lifestyle that was enjoyable, comfortable not being part of the rat race.  

Then, out of the blue, she received the call requesting her to return to her job full time. Full time! She wasn’t even given the consideration of her mental condition to allow her to slide back into the work force slowly – part time at first. 

How do they expect her to start getting up at 7 AM when she’s been sleeping in until ten every morning? And be showered and dressed, well at least from the waist up. It just seemed like her employer was asking quite a lot.

Because of this job-related stress her Tritus of Workitus flared up. She tried reaching out to me for a support call. Sadly, I missed her call, because I was reading my current edition of People magazine out in the garden, while sipping a lovely gin and tonic for medicinal purposes.

At any given moment she may have to take a mental health day and go shopping, if only the malls were open, again. Although, it is possible that she’ll throw herself back into her job. She’ll enjoy what she does with only momentary lapses which occur usually on a warm afternoon.

I am sorry to say there is no cure to date. My advice is to stay the course. You can do this.  Work to get that last kid through college, pay off that overpriced SUV, or install those new hardwood floors you’ve been dreaming about. Then, in no time at all, with any luck, you will be asked to leave your job because of your poor work ethic.

Most importantly drink plenty of clear liquids.

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It breaks my heart knowing so many animals were displaced in the recent Bobcat Fire. But, they are not welcome in my house!

I have a cat that is organic pest control.  This morning, when I went to fetch the dog’s kibble, I came upon a dead rat with its head cleanly removed. 

I congratulated my awaiting cat, “job well done, Mae.” 

I got the shovel – then, with my eyes barely opened, I felt the gray and red mass plunk into a bag. 

Rodents are my kryptonite. 

That evening, my daughter Lindsay’s sixteen-year-old voice was heard piercing from 

upstairs, “MOM! GET UP HERE NOW!”

“What?” I called out already knowing what.

“A RAT!” 

“Alright, I got this,” I said.


“Where’s the cat?” I hollered.

I ran upstairs to find Lindsay doing rain dance circles on top of my bed, with her legs uncontrollably flailing like she was barefoot on hot asphalt.

She pointed and shrieked, “It came in through the door from the deck.”

“Did you see where it went?” I asked, logically. 

“No! Why would I do that? I didn’t want to see it at all,” she said uncovering her eyes.

“Sam, get in here now!” I ordered her twin brother.

It could be anywhere – behind the drapes, among the tossed pillows or underneath the bed.

Sam arrived and gallantly proclaimed, “I’ll look under the bed.” Rats are not kryptonite to this superhero.

“NO!” My response shocked even me.

A year ago on my birthday, some of my friends gave me a gift box filled with devices of a sexual nature – some that needed batteries. They thought, because I am a prude, I would find it hilarious. I did not.

This is bear country, so I couldn’t just throw it in the trash. My trash gets scattered all over my front yard on a regular basis. Not knowing where else to dispose of this gift, I tossed it under my bed. Until this moment, I had forgotten all about its existence.

Dilemma – if Sam looked under my bed, that would expose my secret. If looked under my bed, I might see the rat running around squeaking. “You killed my brother!” 

Not unlike the Headless Horseman, this Sleepy Chamber was turning into the Sleepy Hollow.

Facing the better of two evils, I looked under the bed, praying that the rat hadn’t jumped inside that gift box causing it to vibrate. 

 “All clear here,” I declared.

“I’m sure it went back outside,” Lindsay said.

I returned to the den. One hour later I heard the call of the wild.

“IT’S BACK!” Lindsay shouted.

It was a huge disgusting rat, no Stuart Little, frozen in the middle of the room, tail flipping. 

With newly found courage, Lindsay had found a small white box.

“Not that!” I shouted,  “please don’t tell me you’re about to kill that rat with your dead grandfather’s ashes?”

It was too late. She hurled the box with her water polo throwing arm, missing it by a hair. The well-sealed box and the rat remained intact, but it was enough to scare him out the door, which I slammed shut.

“Tomorrow we’re getting an army of cats!” I announced, angrily.

Lindsay looked baffled, “Armenian cats?”

“I’m not sleeping alone tonight,” Sam said.

“Me neither,” I said.

Just like Charlie’s bedridden grandparents in Willy Wonka we crowded in the big bed, armed with what we needed for our survival: 

  • Sam had a fully loaded Airsoft gun.
  • Lindsay had her phone.
  • I had a large glass of wine.

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When the Bobcat Fire was burning out of control, we were put on Evacuation Alert. Everything hinged on the weather, if the Santa Ana winds blew in, we would have to blow out of here. I packed my car with my valuables and waited. 

Is this one more thing to tack onto that list of 2020 horrors? No, this was not my first rodeo.

In 2008, a different fire with a different name threatened this same mountain. On that night, it was my mother’s house that was in jeopardy.

I gathered up my kids as the fire trucks raced around. By the time we got to her street, the police had already blocked it off to non-residents.

I pleaded, “No officer, I don’t live here now, but I use to. I’ve come for my mother who does live here now.”

“Unless you live here now you can’t go up.”

My conversation with the officer was proving futile until my kids started crying, “Don’t let our Granny burn up.”

That was enough for this law enforcer to bend the rules.

“Mom, there is a FIRE!” I screamed, barging into her house, catching her and her caregiver off guard. “We’ve got to get you out of here.”

It quickly became obvious that it would not be an easy task to move this 85-year-old woman with dementia and her lovely caregiver, who at that exact moment reminded me of Aunt Pittypat from Gone with the Wind when Atlanta was burning.

I was walking a fine tightrope that stretched between conveying a calm sense of urgency and ensuing panic – one on which I was not balancing well.

“Can you get my mother ready?” I asked her caregiver. 

“Okay,” she jumped up and grabbed clothes from the closet.

At the same time, I found boxes to fill with personal items. I gave each of my children a container of some sort. “Start filling ‘em” I ordered.

“Everything?” Lindsay asked.

“No, just important stuff.”

Seeing boxes filled with candy, their artwork, a shake maker and a scented candle, I learned the vast difference between my definition of important and a child’s.

I grabbed her jewelry, photos, documents and my father’s urn. What else to take?

With the enthusiasm of a timed scavenger hunt, we all began running and grabbing – it was chaos. I was panting while my mother and her caregiver moved in “sloth motion.”

Soon, my mother appeared on the couch with her legs sticking straight out an unable to move her limbs. In preparation to evacuate, her caregiver had taken great care, and dressed her in what seemed like her entire wardrobe, including a final outer trench coat. My mother looked like a child getting ready to go out into the snow. She, too, was huffing from being over heated.

And then it came. BANG! BANG! BANG!

The officer stood in the doorway, “You must evacuate immediately!” he ordered.

Exhausted, I looked at him, “You gotta be kidding me? We’ll try, but look around. If this is our time to go to heaven, it’s our time.”

I’m happy to report that 2008 wasn’t our time. Nor was 2020. Thankfully, we didn’t have to evacuate. But until this fire was out, I kept my boxes packed with my photos, documents, my father and now my mother in their respective vessels, in my car.

Let’s review – a pandemic, unrest, uncertainty and now fires? What’s next on the list? Locusts? Frogs? These fears plagued me as I tried to sleep that night.

I shut my eyes, when the ground beneath me shook. Oh, right, I had forgotten one – earthquake. This earthquake kept building, always posing the question… is this the big one?

I sat up in bed, then decided, “Oh hell, everything is safe in the car.” I laid back down and enjoyed the ride.

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My oldest son Jack moved out this week into his own apartment. We’re really going to miss him – the midnight snacks of sugared bacon and popcorn, watching movies, binge watching shows. 

Sam, Lindsay and I waved goodbye as he pulled out of the driveway in his overpacked truck.

“I call dibs on his closet!” Lindsay shouted.

“Heck no,” I said. “I get the closet.”

“You already have a walk-in closet.”

“Fair enough, I’ll split it with you.”

“Deal.” We shook on it.

“I want his room,” Sam declared, almost peeing in the corners to scent mark his territory.

“No!” I shook my head. “We just redecorated your room.”

“Fine. I didn’t want it anyway.” Sam walked away.

Jack had left behind some mementoes – things that have no place in a young man’s apartment, but are too precious to throw away; plus, he left some prime real estate, a bedroom with spectacular views and an empty closet.

I needed space. My desk butted up against my bed. The first thing I see in the morning is my computer screen. The cat steps on the keypad at all hours of the night sending the screen into an audible tizzy, like a machine gun going off. Everyone is at-home learning, crowded around the desk all the time. Our lives are too co-mingled.

My papers get mixed in with biology homework.

“Has anyone seen the phone bill?” 

This desk and I have been through a lot. The drawers are jammed with junk I couldn’t throw away, old greeting cards and fountain pens.  I’ve tried to clean them out, but it was too emotionally daunting. No matter how hard I pulled and tugged on those antique pulls, they pulled back.

I tried to move the desk into the new room, but it was too wide. No problem, I tilted it to the other side with the legs heading due south. I tilted to the other side with legs pointing due north. With that, the haunted drawers popped open spilling my memories onto the floor – photos of old boyfriends and dead pets, a Swiss army knife, sealing wax and a seal in the letter L. 

Old coins began to pour out like a slot machine. I tried to push the drawers back, but they wouldn’t budge. 

The legs splayed opened, “Your old baggage is not going inside this new space.”

“Come on!” I yelled.

I stood it upright, climbed up over the top and squeezed myself between the top door jam and the desk. From here I pulled and wiggled the desk legs.

For hours, I tilted, turned and flipped until it was firmly stuck in the door jam.

Sam knocked on the desk, “Mom are you in there?”

Defeated, “Yes,” I whimpered.  “Hmmm,” I picked up a baby photo of Jack, which prompted me to go through my memories, sorting them into 2 piles – keep and trash. What had taken 20 years to acquire only took 20 minutes to throw away. It was freeing.

The phone rang. It was my friend – aptly nicknamed “MacGyver.”

 “What are you doing?” MacGyver asked.

“I’m stuck in my new room.”


“I jammed the desk.”

“Do you need help?”


Minutes later there was a knock on the desk between us and I whined, “We have to take the door off.” 

“Did you try to take the legs off?” she asked.

“They’re glued in place,” I said.

She jostled the desk. “Not this one,” she declared while holding up one leg, and then the other. One minute later the desk was inside.

Now it sits cleanly in my new space, free of my old memories, while I’m surrounded by Jack’s old memories – and that’s just the way I like it.

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School Daze

Today was the first day of school for my kids Lindsay and Sam starting eleventh grade.

That’s a big deal. But it wasn’t a big deal. It was a broken deal. I thought we had a deal that we would all be back inside school, and here we are getting ready for the first day without the normal traditions. No new outfits to wear, no new backpacks overflowing with new books, pencils and papers.

I was mourning the fact that this one was my last first. My last photo-op of the two of them heading out the door, “first day of middle school,” “first day of 8th grade,”  “high school here we come.” Next year they’ll be seniors, probably driving themselves to school and leaving me in their dust.

Today, spirits were low. How could I help them navigate this unprecedented time?

Usually, Lindsay bounds out of bed trying on multiple outfits before deciding on the perfect one. While Sam waits until the very last minute to rise.

“Hurry up! We’re going to be late!” I chimed.

Not today.

At 8:30, Amazon’s Alexa sounded our school bell.

I could hear their computers starting, then I heard something I had never heard before.

I perked up.

“Good morning students.”

What? I thought. What is this? I’ve only been allowed to drop them off curbside, never a fly on the wall.

I stood right in between their two rooms and listened to the pre-roll call chatter.

“Lindsay how are you?” asked one student.

“Hi! I’m good.” She replied.

“Lindsay is that a new shirt?”

Some things never change.

Lindsay replied, “Yes, do you like it?”

Then another voice and another. I could feel her easing into this weird first day.

I had an idea.

As her Spanish class was getting started, I jumped into Mom-mode.

“Hola senorita Lindsay.”

“What are you doing?” she scowled.

“Let’s learn Spanish together. We can be a class,” I said.

“Let’s not,” Lindsay waved me off.

On Sam’s side, his biology class had already begun. I listened intently while his teacher asked difficult questions.

“Sam. Sam,” I whispered.


“You know these answers, raise your hand. Go on, it’s good to let the teacher know who you are right from the start.”

There was silence on the Zoom call. Sam glared at me and held up a handwritten note that read, “NOT ON MUTE”.

His teacher responded, “Thank you, Sam’s mother, for your important input.”

“Oops.” I started to leave, but not before raising my hand, “I know this answer. It’s…”


“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.” I backed away.

I had already memorized Lindsay’s schedule, so I knew her gym class was up next. I came prepared. This will be a great time for us to work out together.

I hopped into her room looking so cute: an exact replica of Olivia Newton-John wearing a hot pink headband, matching leg warmers and a workout suit.

“Let’s get physical, physical. Let me hear your body talk.” I gyrated.

“Is that your mom?” someone from inside her computer asked.

Horrified, Lindsay glared, “Mom, you have got to be kidding. Personal space.”


“We’re done.” Both kids exited their respective rooms.

“What do you mean? For nutrition?” I asked.

“No school for today.”

I protested, “It’s only 10:30!”

Sam beamed, “I know, isn’t it great?”

“What’s tomorrow’s agenda?”

They answered together, “NOTHING!”

Lindsay took charge, “We need to have a chat about rules and boundaries.”

I put my palm up, “talk to the hand, sistah.”

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