The Perils of Being a Writer and Other Favorites

This month marks WordSisters’ three-year anniversary. To celebrate, we’re sharing a selection of blogs—our favorites and yours.

crazyquiltWe hope our new readers will enjoy getting to know us better. If you’ve been reading WordSisters from the beginning, we hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering some of our perspectives on parenting, families and relationships, working women, and the writing life.

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers) 

My friend C. mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for. During the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. More

The Perils of Being a Writer

“I knew it,” she says. “I knew it! I knew you were going to say it one day!” She jumps up and runs out of the room.

“What!” I say, alarmed.

I look down at the writing on my laptop and immediately know what happened. There in black and white it says Antonio and Crystel aren’t my children….More

It’s a Good Day When I Kick Somebody in the Head

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. More

Competing with Friends for Writing Awards

Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writer’s Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that I’m competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group. More

Your Moms Can Get Married Now

I imagine someone at school saying that to Antonio and Crystel and them responding, “Huh?” As far as they are concerned, we are already married, and Crystel, much to her chagrin, wasn’t a part of the wedding that we had before she and Antonio came home from Guatemala. She can hardly believe that we had a life before them. More

God Bless Middle-Aged Daughters

As I walk into the skilled nursing center where Mom is rehabilitating, I see other women like myself and think, “God bless middle-aged daughters.” We’re the sensible, competent women who make it all happen. More

When we launched this blog, we envisioned making new friends and sharing our perspectives. But the reality of our weekly conversations with you has exceeded our expectations. Thank you for reading WordSisters and sharing your thoughts!

In Praise of Middle-aged Sons

On Sundays, they escort their mothers to church and take them out to lunch afterward.

They pick up bread, milk, and the exact brand and size of mayonnaise their Mom wants and let her give them a coupon and the exact change.

Although they could finish a repair project more quickly without their father’s help, they try hard to smile when Dad supervises the work.

They sift through piles of Medicare statements and become wise in the ways of copays and explanations of benefits.

At their Mom’s house, they change light bulbs, program her cell phone, and write up a cheat sheet since she won’t remember how to use it.

They bring tins of homemade cookies, flowering plants, and companionable conversation.

After agreeing to be power of attorney, they spend countless hours balancing statements and paying bills.

As they sit at her bedside and spoon applesauce in their mother’s waiting mouth, they try not to dwell on the role reversal, because it just makes them sad.

They don’t talk much about the losses—they just shrug their broad responsible shoulders and go back to the office or go home. They don’t think their efforts are anything special–it’s just what they’re supposed to do.

God Bless Middle-aged Daughters

As I walk into the skilled nursing center where Mom is rehabilitating, I see other women like myself and think, “God bless middle-aged daughters.”

We’re the sensible, competent women who make it all happen.

On the street, we often go unnoticed, although we’re attractive. We dress well, but in age-appropriate clothes. No six-inch heels or short skirts. We may carry 10 to 20 extra pounds, but we’re fit, trim, and solid enough to carry the weight of the world.

On our lunch hour, after work, or during weekend visits, we go see our failing mothers and fathers. We bring them flowering plants small enough to fit on a bedside table/hard candy/clean sox/good cheer.

We comb their hair and smooth hand cream on their veiny hands and swollen feet. Once they could manage a demanding job or their family’s busy schedule, keep track of birthdays, recipes and grocery lists, but now they can’t remember what you told them five minutes ago, so we answer the same questions again and again. The times they emerge from the twilight, smile and say, “Oh honey, I wish you could always be here,” are heartbreaking treasure.

As we go back to the office, drive home, or head to the airport, we sigh at the slippage and blink back tears at the losses. Then we put on our game face because somebody else needs us. We keep moving—plan the marketing campaign, schedule the meeting, throw in a load of wash, or make a decent dinner.

We are careworn. Our lives are not glamorous (and never were—we didn’t aspire to that). We don’t expect much. We can be made happy with so little—a compliment when we don’t feel sexy or a hug from a kid who often seems oblivious.

Photo credit: Bokal @ Vecteezy.com

Photo credit: Bokal @ Vecteezy.com

Sometimes we need to push back our realities for a little while, so we laugh ourselves silly over a stupid joke when we’re out with our girlfriends or sink into the sofa and pour a second glass of good wine.

Middle Age Is The Richest Time

When my husband said, “Middle age is the richest time,” I thought, “No way.” Too often, middle age feels like loss—of youth, of a sense of possibility, of elders I love.

No denying, those really are jowls, and since I’m not inclined to have plastic surgery, they’re here to stay. Lovely.

The big 6-0 isn’t that far off and I meant to have accomplished more—published more for sure.

My 92-year-old Mom is slipping a lot faster. Her short-term memory has gone on strike, so we have the same conversations again and again. “Are you coming for the baby shower? No Mom, I can’t.  I’ll be in Arizona that weekend,” and the next day, “Are you coming to the baby shower? No, Mom . . . ” At 90, she managed her household and finances. Now her kids take care of that. To be expected, but still. I miss her smart competent self.

As Dad, who died three years ago would say, “Aging isn’t for the faint of heart.” No kidding.

So I had to know why my husband, who isn’t prone to positive affirmations or yippee-skippiness of any sort, would say middle age is the richest time.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 9.39.44 PM“Because at middle age, you can see forward and you can see back. We can vividly recall the experiences our kids are having and we can see how it we’ll be in 30 years.” Hmmm, maybe.

As each of our sons approached their senior year in college, leaving college for the so-called “real world” looked scary to them. My 22-year-old self was panicky, “Whoa, I gotta get serious. I gotta get a plan. But I don’t have a clue.”

When each son moved to his first apartment, I recalled how much fun it was to make a place my own.  Like mine, their places were furnished with a combination of hand-me-downs and the discount store shower curtain and towels they chose for themselves.

When they talk about their girlfriends, I remember the low hum of excitement I felt when I was going out with someone new. I know what a milestone it is to realize that even though I had a fight with the guy I was dating, we worked through it and we were still together.

So from the vantage point of middle age, I think, “Yes, it is a rich time. I’ve experienced so many things. I know so much more about life. My guys will figure it out too as they get older.”

Then the glow of that wisdom and those fine memories fades a little. I think of Mom again and dread her loss and the loss of my own capabilities as I age. I tell my husband, “I look at Mom and I’m afraid I’ll be just like her. I forget stuff now!” He wisely says, “Yeah, but your 90’s are a lo o n n ng way off. Don’t waste today worrying about what may or may not happen tomorrow.”

So I pull back from the brink. This man, this life. I am rich.

How do you view middle age? If you’re not there yet, what do you expect?  If you’re already middle-aged, what’s it look like?

Mom’ s Closet: Treasures and Surprises

While helping move Mom last month, I unearthed a number of artifacts from bygone eras—hers and mine.

P1030680How can you not love polka dots? They’re whimsical. Cheerful. And in the 1960s when Mom carried this clutch bag and wore these gloves to church, they were a stylish accent to her navy blue spring coat . . . and perhaps a reminder that she hadn’t always had four kids, dinners to cook, and laundry to do.

P1030674If you’re not a Baby Boomer, you probably don’t recognize this item. I didn’t recognize it either because math has never been my forté, but it’s my slide rule (look closely—you can see my name on it). Before pocket calculators were invented, we used them for logarithms and trigonometry—skills that I’ve completely forgotten after high school.

When the Apollo 13 space module malfunctioned, Mission Control engineers used slide rules in the calculations needed to get astronauts back to earth. Slide rules! One of the best-known Mission Control engineers was Gene Kranz, the flight director whose famous line in the Apollo 13 movie was, “Failure is not an option.” When Mom and I were talking about slide rules and the near disaster of Apollo 13, Mom mentions in an offhand way, “Yeah, I went to high school with Gene Kranz.” What? Why hadn’t she ever mentioned that before?

hankyMom knows I collect and use handkerchiefs for my watery eyes, so she offered me this one from my grandma. Mom never carried hankies. Instead she keeps Kleenex in her pocket. If she doesn’t have a pocket, she tucks a Kleenex up her sleeve or in her waistband—something you have to be at least 80 years old to do.

I love old hankies. Before Kimberly-Clark marketed Kleenex in 1924, people relied on handkerchiefs—elegant linen ones for good and simpler cotton ones for everyday. But even after Kleenex became commonplace, the humble hanky remained popular, especially among little old ladies. They were an accessory carried for show, not hygienic use—something that could be embroidered or bordered in lace—a little bit of pretty in a workaday world.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you’re blessed with the treasure of fond memories and stories shared with family over a second cup of coffee and piece of pie.