Grumpy Old Men

Anyone feeling grumpy today after the election? I’m not going to say anything political; my only two words are: holy cow. My Facebook feed tells me there are plenty of people feeling upset today, perhaps grumpier than normal. I’ve been pondering my grumpiness lately, so today seems like a perfectly good day to address it.

There’s a reason why they made a movie called Grumpy Old Men. But I’m not a man and I’m not that old. However, at the ripe old age of 39, I can feel the grumpiness settling in. My friend Kat and I joke about how our dads are becoming these grumpy old men—getting cheap and opting for Red Baron’s pizza instead of a decent take-out pie, making grumpy comments more often and more loudly, especially in public. I guess that is a rite of passage once you pass age sixty-five. But I’m thirty-nine and I’m slowly noticing my lack of tolerance for more and more “nonsense!”

This may sound really finicky, but the sound of my husband crunching popcorn at 8:41 at night while I’m sitting next to him on the sofa sends me fleeing to the guest room. I love the man, but I cannot stand to hear him chew popcorn next to me; it is the absolute worst!

Don’t even get me started on mornings. Once upon a time I was a morning person. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still am cheerful in the morning, but it is sabotaged by circumstances. Circumstances like the gall of my husband asking me a question first thing in the morning. I mean, at age thirty-nine, I wake up with a parched mouth. I have no saliva to even assist me in uttering words of response. All I want to do when I wake up is pee and grab a sip of water from my faucet.

A sip of water doesn’t exactly send me to the bright side though. When I was in Puerto Rico for a vacation, my friend Bonnie asked, “Do you always limp when you wake up?” With a confounded look on my face I said, “I don’t know.” I have been so used to limping in the morning ever since having my first baby (since the first pregnancy?) that I had to challenge myself to try to get out of bed “normally” the next day and see if I could do it. I believe there were some days between then and now that I succeeded. But last night I went to Zumba, so as I climbed the stairs to start turning on lights for the kids this morning, I noticed a tightness in my hip as I leaned extra weight on the banister for support. “Come on, banister, get me to the top of these sixteen stairs,” I urged it. Sometimes I really hate those stairs. Like when putting away laundry, or most especially, when putting away stray items strewn about my living room all the way to my kitchen like some toy/clothes/artwork life-size dot-to-dot worksheet.

Being a human alarm clock solidifies my grumpiness for the morning. My husband is the Other Sort. I don’t usually use the word “cheerful” or “smiley” to describe him. If I’m excited, I clap my hands and shout “Yay!” If my husband is excited, a slow smile grows on his face. But I give him big credit when it comes to dealing with the little people in the morning. This morning when I told Sammy for the third time to get up and start getting dressed, she said, “I need Robot!” I stole a trick from my husband’s playbook and said, “Here comes the excavator! You’re about to be excavated out of bed!” (Don’t get me wrong- I really did not feel in the mood for this.) I set her legs on the carpet and pulled her arms up … and she fell to the floor in a heap. Exasperated, I turn to check on Ellie, and looking behind me, see Sammy tucked away in her purple sheets again.

Somehow my husband’s magical work landed Ellie in her room. (Those damn stairs again – Ellie comes to our bed most nights, so not only does she need to get up and get dressed, but we have to get her upstairs to her room first!) I sat on her bed while I contemplated my grumpiness and wondered how long she would take to get dressed. I wondered, “Why do I hear her zipping up her pajamas after she just went pee?” “Ellie! You don’t need to zip up your pajamas! You need to take them off!” I reminded her. Annoyed at the slowness of the Morning Process my thoughts drifted back to my grumpiness. That is when Ellie bunny hopped over to her underwear drawer to pick out fresh undies. And bunny hopped back to me. I chuckled out loud, thinking there is no way in hell, in my grumpy state, that I would be doing a bunny hop in the morning! Not with this bum hip and grumpiness of mine! I wonder if she will feel bunny-hoppish when she is thirty-nine? I hope so!

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: A Trip to Grandma’s House

Since its Thursday, this is a throwback to about six years ago when my first daughter, around a year and a half old, was an only child. If you happen to have a highly energetic grandmother or relative, you might be able to relate. As much effort as it was mentally to visit my Grandma, me the slothful type in contrast to Grandma Turner, the high-speed European train type, I’d do it all over again 7,000 times if I could!

As soon as Sammy and I arrive at Grandma Turner’s house, my ninety-one-year-old Grandma opens the door and shrieks, “Sammy! How ya doin?! Come ‘ere lookit what I got you. It’s a little Sammy seat!” Sweet Grams thought it would be nice to have a Sammy – sized “chair” at her house. Well I don’t know if she intended it to be a high chair or what. It was a booster seat for the kitchen table and it was missing some important security straps. The straps which would have secured it to a kitchen table chair. But it was a steal at $6, apparently. I mustered an energetic “thank you!” as Grandma interrupted me and slightly elbowed me out of the way to take Sammy to see something in another room. I took the opportunity to set the new chair on the sturdy floor.

Next grandma spent about one minute forty-five seconds playing with Sammy before she had to go tend to lunch. In a flash, she opened up about three or four cans of fruit, poured them into separate bowls and then started to take the fruit out and slice it. Then she called me in to “fix the salad.” Since we are from Georgia and eat Southern things and since my Grandma is old and fixes old-timey things, you never know what “salad” she means – sometimes it is Jello with the fruit conjealed inside; usually it is a piece of iceberg lettuce with mayonaise and a pear on top. Only once was it a green lettuce garden salad. But today apparently it was fruit salad.

Later on Grandma ordered me to take a nap. So I sat there in my spot on the sofa while she and Sammy went to the other room  (listening closely, of course, because Grandma thinks she can pick Sammy up and carry her around the house which she really cannot because she is ninety-one! And my child is heavy!) Apparently they had a blast playing dominoes.

Done with my “nap,” I look up to see Sammy toddle into the living room dress-less. Apparently she had gotten “applepauce” on it. It was time to change Sammy’s diaper, during which she took the opportunity to rip off her leggings due to the sweltering heat of the 79 degree house. We were absurdly dressed for cold weather since it was February and all. Despite being almost completely naked, the girl had pink cheeks from getting so warm playing inside Great Grandma’s balmy house! Lordy, i was a-sweatin’ too! And I was only wearing 3/4 sleeves.

Finally it was nearing 2:00 which is always an excuse to leave to beat the traffic. But add to that the three hours of non-stop high pitched jammering from both my loving daughter and dear grandma and that was enough for me! Example: imagine this conversation happening simultaneously!
Sammy: Where basketball go?
Sammy: I want horsie
(Grams throws purse at me, then puts it on the table. Sammy sees it and wants it.)
Sammy: I want purse!
Me in my head: Jesus Pete! It is time to get the hell out of here!

I change Sammy’s diaper and she is trying to kick me in the stomach and laugh about it.
Me: Stop it, Sammy. Calm down.
Sammy yelps for joy, kicks me again and throws her body into the sofa and Grandma. I cringe hoping that Sammy’s gigantic toddler head doesn’t injure Grandma’s fragile bones.
Me in my head: I. Am. So. Done.

And then with my car already packed full of Sammy’s snacks, toys, books, and the loot from Grandma which included brownies, Wal-mart crackers she didn’t want, pillow cases, a lasagna, the goodwill purse, and (sure to be stale) store-bought cookies, Grandma asked if we wanted a sack to put the damn basketball in to “take to Daddy.” I say no because our car is full already and I need both hands to take my purse, Sammy, her shoes, her dolly and her water sippy cup and add that it would be fun to come back and play with the basketball next time. To which Grandma replies, as she has every Thanksgiving for the last thirteen years, “I might not be here next time.”

(Insert appropriately perplexed, sweaty, fatigued, slightly agitated emoticon here!)

And off we went, in pure Griswold form, simultaneously waving, shouting good-bye, thank-you, love you, see you soon. (Insert heart and smiley face emoticon here.)

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: Distraction via Coffee

I was just washing the dishes letting my mind wander, feeling the calm, meditative state at 7:32 a.m. with kids off to school and only the cats’ meowing to interrupt my thoughts. Staring at my coffee cup on the counter, I had a flashback of my grandparents ordering their coffee in a restaurant: Grandpa took his with cream and Grandma Jack-Jack took hers black. The servers got it wrong every time. While my thoughts lingered on coffee, I thought what a fun topic – everyone loves coffee! But in the midst of sadness from losing my daughter’s trapeze instructor, I think when is the right time to lighten the mood? Like when you are at a funeral and you are sad for the loss, but you feel the need to smile at a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. It feels forbidden to enjoy yourself while you and others are feeling intense grief. When my friend lost her husband I remembered eliminating phrases like scared to death because death was on the forefront of our minds.

On the other hand, times of great sadness bring about opportunities for one of the best emotions – laughter through tears. One of the first funerals I attended was in high school for a boy who died at sixteen due to heart issues. Several friends and I went to eat together after the funeral. As sad as we were, the togetherness, and a few smiles and chuckles during the meal began to mend our hearts. Last night as I was thinking about the sweet twenty-five year old we lost, I abruptly decided to turn on Netflix for a quick show. I think it is ok to give ourselves permission to turn our backs on our emotions, to give ourselves a distraction. I heard one friend even say she uses her “lightswitch” to turn off and turn on her feelings. It was her survival tool during a long, difficult time. With these points in mind, I’d like permission to distract myself for a few minutes and turn things in a light-hearted direction … toward coffee.

So as I was washing the dishes just a little while ago dozens of coffee scenes raced through my mind. I was just recently on a cruise and at the dinner table, Karla lifted the lid of a silver dish and said, “there’s your sugar, Jo.” And I realized that I’m not as standard as Grandpa and Grandma Jack-Jack were. Sometimes I like my coffee with milk; sometimes black; and if it’s an event like a bridal shower or baby shower, then by all means let’s tip in the cream and the sugar.

If you think about coffee, you can probably connect an image with any person you know. For instance, when I was in high school, my dad was always up first. He started the coffee and he’d pour a splash of milk into my mom’s coffee mug so that by the time she added her coffee, the milk would be luke-warm, thus not compromising the temperature of the coffee. I thought that was the sweetest tiny gesture.

Niki likes her iced coffee from Trader Joe’s with about a cup and a half of creamer added. Lindsey likes coffee as long as it is a day that ends in “y.” If I think about my friend Katie, I don’t think of coffee at all, but her anti-coffee is Coca-Cola. I can remember years ago when Marcia quit smoking. We ordered a frappe at Blue Sky and she asked them to “hold the whipped cream.” I thought she was a crazy lady. She explained she didn’t want sugar to replace nicotine. Then I thought she was a genius.

My husband doesn’t drink coffee. He was a Coke guy like Katie. In fact, he was probably as addicted to Coke as my high school German teachers were addicted to coffee. When third period rolled around, we’d ask what cup they were on. It was usually number four. My husband used to start and end his day with Coke as well as have some at lunch along with a to-go cup. But he quit drinking Coke altogether for two years; now he enjoys an occasional Sprite. Very impressed. So I wonder if he has these coffee connections that come to mind like I do? I wonder if he can still  hear his mom say to his dad, “Johnny, will you put on the coffee?” as we all sat, fed and satisfied at the dinner table for our Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter meals.

If you are a coffee person, try my trick: I bet if you hear the words hazelnut, Starbucks, cold-brewed, Jittery Joes, or peppermint mocha someone comes to mind! Does a place come to mind? McDonald’s coffee with two creams and two sugars means I’m on a road trip. Right now my second coffee is pretty cold, but I still take a last sip or two as I hear the reports of the day blasting like cannons out of the girls’ mouths. I wonder what type of coffee people they will grow to be?

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: Loss

I noted that October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month and I had thought about writing about my miscarriage, but never got around to it. Then this week I found out about the loss of an amazing young woman, aerial artist, and gifted instructor and find myself pulled back to the topic of loss.

It is incredible how much grief is caused by the loss of a tiny baby in one’s womb. I was fourteen weeks pregnant when I learned that I had lost my baby. I took my first “pregnant belly” photo the night before my doctor appointment, feeling that even though there was not any visible baby bump yet, I’d at least have the baseline photo. But the next day I learned that my baby had probably not actually made it past week ten or eleven; its heart probably stopped beating shortly after my previous doctor visit. My husband and I were overcome with grief and sadness. In those fourteen weeks we had put so much thought into our new future – life as parents! And suddenly it all vanished.

The sadness was immense. We cried so much. In my mind I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I had to stop making plans. For the previous ten weeks or so I had been throwing ideas around about how the baby’s room should be decorated, how next Christmas there would be an extra person at my mom’s house. What would the baby call my mom? What would we name the baby if it was a boy? A girl? Will she want to play basketball, I wondered? That would make Chris thrilled. Would she take trapeze classes like me? That would make me thrilled. Which diapers will we buy? I had to make my mind operate like a VCR. I had to put the entire Baby Tape on rewind. How do I rewind all of these thoughts and ideas that have been playing in my mind for the past couple months? It took a long time.

When my girls were one and three my husband lost his best friend. We were in shock that a healthy forty-two year old man could leave this earth. And my friend was left without a daddy to her four year old son and one year old daughter. There is no “good” age to lose someone. Yes, it was evident that he had experienced so much in life and taken on amazing things for the good of others. But forty-two was still too soon. I believe in Heaven, so I believe he is watching his kids every day and witnessing their weed-like growth, achievement of new Tai Kwon Do belts, and goals scored in soccer. But it still cheats his children out of knowing him.

The funny thing about Dave is that he was the hub of a set of five guys and was the best friend of each of them. Our friendship circle had a long road of grief. We went to concerts together, feeling the emptiness of where Dave should be sitting. We cried at shows at the Foundry, we squeezed hands at shows at the Georgia Theatre, we raised our glasses and cried some more in the sand on Hilton Head. We bawled at the first concert between the hedges, remembering so many good times in Sanford Stadium and realizing that one person will be missing for all future football seasons.

For myself, not only was there sadness, but also guilt. While my husband had lost his friend, my friend had lost her husband. Even though I was sad about missing Dave, and sad for my husband’s loss, I felt the saddest when I thought of my friend and her two small kids. I cried on the way home from preschool drop-off, I cried during songs at Jazzercise. But over time, and through togetherness, we found laughter through tears, and even laughter instead of tears. Dave is still very missed and sadness still greets us in unexpected moments. But Dave still puts us into action. His words give my husband new ideas at work. And he sends us to the mountains of Montreat every summer.

My Grandma, Grandma Turner, lived to be ninety-six years old. I thought for sure she’d make it to one hundred. She couldn’t hear great, but she’d drive all over Dunwoody getting her errands run and was always ready for a road trip if someone was offering. I was at peace with losing Grandma. But I was so sad. I was in fact surprised how long I stayed sad. Honestly, it was effort hanging out with Grandma. I move like molasses and she’s more of a popcorn kernel on a hot frying pan gal. And despite her hearing loss (or because of) she talked very. Loud. But I loved it  all so much. I still miss her. I miss the smell of her house. I miss her force-feeding me pears with mayonnaise, rainbow sherbert parfaits, Edward’s chocolate pies, Coca-Cola, lasagna. I’d eat anything she gave me. And I’d ask for more.

Wrestling with your own loss is difficult enough. Wondering how your children will deal with loss is a whole other layer. Unfortunately, I have two amazing, tough, resilient, and compassionate mom-friends who greet this challenge daily.

This week we lost a twenty-five year old trapeze instructor. My former instructor. Sammy’s former instructor. Ellie’s instructor. I told Ellie yesterday. This morning at breakfast Ellie verbalized something most of us probably roll around in our heads: “I’m just trying to figure out what happened to Laura,” she said, between bites of waffle. We all are, Ellie. (And that is probably what your classmate wonders about her daddy who also recently left this world too soon.) At twenty-five, Laura was an amazing aerial artist, an energetic teacher to adults, a tender yet encouraging instructor to children and a friend of many. The possibilities of her “could haves” are immeasurable. I am left with sadness. But I am also left with the permanent imprint in my mind of her perpetual smile, and her shining eyes. She is taken care of where she is now. But we are left in the land of grief, cheated out of our time with her.