Mama’s got a squeeze box

I’m working from home today and my house, save for me and my cat, is empty.

Squeeze box by the Who was apparently up next on the random shuffle in my mind this morning, so I listened on Spotify while I made my coffee and prepped for a meeting.

This is exactly the type of dreamy day I imagined back when I was saving to buy my home.

Mock me if you will, but all I hear (now that the music’s off after my recent conference call) is my refrigerator running and some sort of crickets or cicadas outside in the yard. My coffee, in a large mug with Christmas trees on it, is full and I can smell the wax in the warmer on the kitchen counter and it feels like home.


I’ll be picking up my boys from their dad this afternoon for a weekend at the lake with friends and their kids. I’ve probably prepped too much food and will likely forget to pack the sunscreen again, which is all as it should be. (We keep some at the lake house because of my propensity to leave it behind.) We will consume said food and splash around in the lake and laugh and play Farkle. My life is idyllic in its simplicity, and I couldn’t be happier.

Happy weekend, friends.

Mama’s got a squeeze box, Daddy never sleeps at night

Let her go

I’m having a highly unmotivated day.

I’m going to go ahead and blame burn-out…that classic case of “doing so much and being so efficient that my attitude swings the other way as a means of not causing my head to implode so I simply shut down”.

Last night after work I took the boys for haircuts (school pictures are during registration on Thursday), then ran through Target to get a shirt for Nick for said pictures (and an upcoming family wedding), then to Qdoba for a casual dinner. After dinner we headed back home and I attacked one of two large rows of shrubs in the front yard with the new trimmer. It was so overgrown you could hardly see our mailbox… After trimming what I could on a barely charged battery, I bagged up the cuttings and drug everything to the garage to put it away.

Back inside the house, I did dishes, laundry, then helped Nick to clean his room and put new sheets on his bed. Not yet tired enough (I guess) I pulled out pen and pad to write down everything I wanted to get done before heading to the cottage this weekend.


Not sure which is more true – that making lists feels good because I feel somewhat in control and it feels nice to “X” things off as I do them, or if it’s a form of self-punishment…I’m pretty sure that once I get going I add more tasks than I would feel I need to do otherwise. The fact that I know I won’t get all of these things done and am mostly OK with that makes me feel the reality lies somewhere in the middle.

But I digress…

I had a few calls for work scheduled early this morning (the joys of working with people in multiple time zones!) that were each cancelled minutes before they were to happen. All my prep for these meetings and being awake earlier than normal were basically for nothing and are probably contributing to my feelings of “meh, whatever”.

Which may have something to do with the song I’ve been singing in my head over and over this morning, now that I think of it…

…only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low…

All of me loves all of you.

I woke up from a good dream this morning with this song stuck in my head.

It was one of those dreams where I’d immediately forgotten what I’d been dreaming about, but I hadn’t wanted to wake up because I’d wanted to keep dreaming.

I had a small(ish) boy in my bed this morning. My 10-year-old had still been awake when I went to put something in his room last night and when I asked him why he was still awake he shrugged and just said, “I don’t know.” In a moment of motherhood-realization I had the sense to know that there will soon be a time when I missed having a small(ish) voice shrug I don’t know at me in the middle of the night, so I invited him to come sleep with me.

This boy of mine, unlike his brother, has never been a cuddler. In fact, when I climbed into my king-sized bed just minutes later, I reached for him in the dark and couldn’t find him. “Where are you?” I asked, giggling. “Right here!” he chuckled back, and I could hear him moving over on the bed, his hand reached out toward me. Finally his hand landed on my arm and we both settled down.

This boy of mine, unlike his brother, is a sleeper. If you let him, he’ll sleep until noon. He’s been that way since he was a baby. In that way he’s like me. We’ve shot daggers at the other boy over the breakfast table because he’d had the audacity to be cheerful enough to whistle at that ungodly (7 am) hour.

I reached out and grabbed Will’s hand, asking why he was still awake. “Maybe you couldn’t shut your brain off?” I suggested. This is often an issue for me. “Too many things going on?”

“No,” he replied. “I sometimes just think about stuff, and then I get tired, but I tell my brain I have to stay awake until I’m done thinking about it.”

“Like what kind of stuff?” I briefly hoped he wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“Like, we’re on Earth 29,” he began, referencing a concept from the show The Flash that he’d recently been watching on Netflix. “And I can phase…” From there I have no idea now what he’d said, but it was long and involved and very detailed. I realized that he was creating whole narratives in his head.

When he was (finally) done telling me about this most recent string of his thoughts, I told him that he had a great imagination. “You’d be a good writer,” I said. “Writers have to make up whole worlds and lifetimes and people. You just have to be patient enough to write it all down.”

“Yeah?” he said. “That’s why I don’t like to write. Because it doesn’t end up the way it was in my head.”

I smiled in the dark. “Oh, I getcha, buddy. I getcha!”

…Love your curves and all your edges…All your perfect imperfections…

I come from the land down under.

I have a very musical brain.

Always have. By that I mean not only did learning to read music come very easily to me, but I can very often guess a song by hearing only the first few notes.

It also means I have an iPod on constant shuffle…in my mind.

A few things occurred to me the other day:
1) I need to start writing more.
2) I need to STOP saying that and actually DO it.
3) What would happen if I did a little brain purge when I got one of these random songs stuck in my head? Like, would it show whatever connections my brain is making, back in the dark cob-webby sections? Would it reveal something about why my brain begins playing that song at that moment? Like, is there some reason that, this afternoon, sitting here at my desk at work, when my work was wrapped up for the day but I had ~15ish minutes before I actually needed to leave, that my brain would choose Men At Work? What does that say about my subconscious?

And really, if nothing else, it’s a prompt to get me writing. So if you see random posts with song titles, this is why.

…where women glow and men plunder…

Anyway…welcome to my mind.

Just Nick

Any parent who has more than one kid can tell you – children are completely different when they’re away from their siblings.

I don’t get many opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my kids, but last week one kid had a scout meeting while the other had baseball pictures in another city at the same time. OF COURSE. So Dad took Will to scouts and I took Nick to pictures.

Afterward, Nick wanted to ride bikes up to the local burger and custard place, but I found that my ancient bike now refuses to hold air in its tires, so instead we drove to Red Lobster.


My boy Nick

Nick and I are huge seafood fans, but his brother notsomuch, which made it a great choice for the two of us. He didn’t even open the menu when we sat down in the booth, only asked, “Can I get the grown-up size, Mom?” Of course he meant of crab legs.

“Sure bud.”

And he talked. MY GOD. If there’s one thing I noticed when he was away from his brother it’s that this kid has a lot to say.

He loves math but HATES reading. One kid at school isn’t “exactly” his friend, but he’s nice to him because he doesn’t want this other boy to feel bad. He rattled off a list of five or six people that he’d say *were* his friends, and was surprised when I told him most people don’t have that many friends. Mrs. S is his favorite teacher because she’s nice, and Mrs. C is good, too, but she’s strict.

This year my boys went to a new school, and naturally, they were both nervous about it back in September. When I asked him what surprised him most about this past school year, without hesitation he said he was surprised that he didn’t break any bones. I guess this is a real concern at 11. He’s looking forward to being more organized and having a locker next year in middle school.

If he could have one wish, it’d be for an Xbox One.

Between harfing down an entire POUND of crab legs, he told me that he’s going to have three kids some day. He’s going to name them Hank and Mack and Angelique — all of his kids are going to have “CK” names. I pointed out that only one of those actually HAS a “CK” in it and he replied quickly, “Well, I can spell them however I want!”

In the car after dinner on the way to get custard he asked me a question that totally had me floored — “Mom – would you rather do something bad that makes you famous, or something good but no one will ever know it was you that did it?”

“Something good, bud. The world has too much bad in it already. How about you?”

“Yeah, I think I’d pick something good, too.”

If he doesn’t already know, he should know when he reads this that he’s definitely one of my “something goods”.


Buying a home: The emotional parts.

OK, so the other day I started to tell you all of the boring background stuff about buying a house, then I veered out into left field and got all caught up in explaining all of this OTHER stuff and I decided I should separate the veering into a separate post.

When I left you, I was crying. In my car. In the parking lot of a Sherwin-Williams store. Because where do you go immediately after your house closing? THE FREAKIN’ PAINT STORE, THAT’S WHERE.

I had a color in mind and 92 miles of some sort of Greco-Roman inspired curtains to get rid of. I WAS A WOMAN ON A MISSION.


The living room “before”. I shit you not.

But anyway, first the tears.

For me, this was a huge personal journey. If you ever asked me – when I was 15, 20, 30, last week – what I wanted for my life I’d have said a family and a beautiful home. That’s it. I don’t have high aspirations of some lofty career. I don’t have grand travel plans like having to see every continent before I die. I’d love to write a book some day but my feelings about never accomplishing it are “meh”. Maybe I’ll get around to it once the kids are in college, maybe I’ll just drink cocktails on patios. Whichever.

But leaving my husband meant also leaving our house. And that was very very hard. I told myself that one day I’d buy my OWN damn house and that it would be all the things the homes I owned with my ex-husband never were. Comfy. Friendly. Complete. And by complete I mean that projects would be finished and not done half-assed. I’d choose the paint colors myself in advance so that they all went together and actually put time into decorating a room. I’d have friends over to play games and have cocktails while our collective children played in the yard.


The living room “after”. It’s hard to see with all the glare, but that’s Sherwin-Williams’ Mindful Gray. Doesn’t it just SOUND peaceful?

For a time, this vision of this happy little home really drove me, but not always in the best way. I let myself feel like I wasn’t happy…wasn’t successful…because I didn’t have that house. I had set a deadline for myself. A year after my divorce I’d start looking – I’d get pre-approved.

I spent most of that first year in debt and struggling. I wasn’t completely under water, but I had credit card debt and a car payment and a student loan. I was making large credit card payments every month while also being charged exorbitant interest rates, all while fully supporting myself on only my income for the first time in my adult life. It was a scary time. The light at the end of the tunnel was that I had money in a Roth IRA that was to be my house down payment money.

One day I saw the situation for the craziness that it was. Yes, I wanted that house, but was it going to be worth it if I got that house and still was paying off this debt? Uh, NO.

With a heavy heart I finally admitted that I was grateful to have this down payment money (mind you, I had started saving in this account when I was 22 so it’s not like it was exactly LUCK), and that if it meant that it would take me a few more years to get my house, it would be better to have the house and also be debt free.

Still, I remember how hard that was…making that phone call and requesting the transfer to my checking account. I felt unstable to not have that safety net there. There was money left over afterward, but my “home fund” was much much smaller than it was. But honestly? Starting that account in my twenties and deciding that being debt free was necessary were the best decisions I ever made.

The credit card was paid off in one fell swoop. I began making larger than required car payments and two years later that was gone, too. After the car I focused on the student loan. And in November of 2015, more than 13 years after my college graduation, I paid off my student loans and was debt free.

My God I almost cried while writing that. YEESH. What the hell is happening to me in my old age???

Basically, I had to come to grips with the idea that I didn’t need anyTHING in order to feel like my life mattered, like I had accomplished something. There was plenty of time for THINGS.

And when I finally had that house I really wanted? The frickin’ water works just started and it felt so good to laugh at myself, sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face in the parking lot of that store, as I told myself over and over, “I just bought a house. I bought a GODDAMN HOUSE. FRICKIN’ A I OWN A HOUSE.

Because it was just so damned sweet.

Buying a home: The boring parts.

I really don’t want to bore you with all of the financial wrangling that happens once you’ve made an accepted offer on a house, but I’ll sum it up by saying it’s WAY different than it was the last time I bought a house seven years ago. And it’s freaking exhausting.

Since 2009, the housing market in the States imploded and thousands of people foreclosed on their homes and now there are umpty-two ridiculous rules that you HAVE to follow if you would like to borrow money in a large quantity for the purchase of a home.

The most jarring to me was that lenders no longer look at just your credit score when determining what interest rate to offer you. It’s now a combination of that and the amount of money you have to put down on the house, and it only matters in 5% increments. Meaning that while I had a good chunk of money to use as a down-payment, it only was equal to about 8% of the home’s value. My lender actually suggested I NOT put down 8% but instead just five and use the rest for improvements or other house necessities. In the end, my rate wasn’t going to go down with that additional 3% and my monthly payments were only $11/month more without it.

And there was that ugly kitchen to contend with, remember?


Ugh. That’s right. o_O

So, OK. I thought that wasn’t the worst thing. A pretty kitchen would be worth it.

But the other weird thing? Almost every state requires money to be paid up front that is put in an escrow account used to pay for the FOLLOWING year’s home owner’s insurance and, as calculated by some crazy formula I don’t fully understand, several months of your property taxes. The reason I don’t understand it (and I took Calculus in the 12th grade) is because the amount they require up front plus the amount of your monthly payment that also goes into this account for taxes ACTUALLY ENDS UP TOTALING MORE THAN A YEAR’S WORTH OF PROPERTY TAXES. (Example: I bought my house in February. They required four months worth of property taxes up front. But I’d be paying 10 more months-worth of property taxes throughout the course of the rest of this year, meaning when taxes are paid, two months would still be left over. They claim this is to cover any possible overages later on, but I’d rather let that money sit in an account making me money than in whatever weird bank-controlled account that’s been set up that does nothing for me.) And I’m really bothered by the fact that while I already paid for home owner’s insurance for a year, it was required that the equivalent of a second year’s home owner’s insurance be put into this account as well. Their theory is that they need to guarantee it’ll be paid, but in all my years of rental or home ownership, never was I without renter’s or home owner’s insurance. Again, I’d love for that money to MAKE more money for me in an investment, but I guess that’s out of my control. And I have absolutely no access to this account. I just get to guess as to it’s balance. Thanks shit heads.

ANYWAY…I had intended not to get boring. Whatever. Short story even longer I had no problems with my house closing. Everything went off without a hitch.

And then I left the title company’s offices and I cried. Like, for REAL. Big tears. Sobbing in a way I don’t EVER do.

And this is where this post started spiraling out of control, so I’ll cut it off here with one of those really annoying “TO BE CONTINUED” type cliffhangers.


*I don’t know why I put a maniacal laugh in there. It just seemed right.