Category Archives: Motherhood

Leaving Town

What did we forget to pack?

Confession: I need a shot of adrenaline in order to leave town.  Other people routinely lower thermostats, lock doors, and depart on schedule, but in the fraternity house we call home, I can’t find the thermostat behind last night’s pizza boxes and we’re lucky if our doors are closed.  Nobody organizes so much as a toothbrush without a packing list and the packing list can’t get created until the increasing pressure of a departure date triggers an adrenaline boost.

Warning: dependence on brain chemicals can have unintended consequences.  For example, one’s desk must be cleared before leaving town and clearing one’s desk becomes so fun and easy on adrenaline-spiked blood that hours are squandered resolving dust-covered medical claims and writing past due thank you notes while the mail and the newspaper cry out to be stopped.

But: This summer, my energy boost took a detour.  Instead of toughing it out in my household office: where work-in-progress goes to hibernate and creative writing takes a backseat to hauling vitamin water, my husband established a window corner of his office just for me: a table, an internet cable, and a chair with a lovely view of the world below.  Cool blue walls and busy co-workers encouraged progress.  No one there fusses about summer reading, whines for snacks, or obsesses over 4-player screen mayhem.

Behold: in the serene setting of my “corner office” the needs of my novel became clear.  Ideas and words packed themselves into efficient paragraphs and problems cleared the revision list.  The closer departure date loomed, the more I accomplished.  I allowed the adrenaline boost go straight to my writing.    How could I worry about thermostats when the motivation of my male antagonist was stark staring clear to me?  The only packing list I could generate was the one my protagonist needed to get out of that lake house before it was too late.

Alas: at the very last possible moment I came to my senses and we left town like a moving target.  It comes as no surprise that some teenagers packed only flip-flops, t-shirts, and cell phones.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers

The Holidays: Part Two

If you are behind in your Christmas shopping, haven’t ordered your cards, and couldn’t bake a cookie without a gun to your head, you have come to the right place.  In comparison to me, everyone can feel good about their progress.  I am in React Mode.  If something bites me, I deal with it.  Otherwise, I’m spiralling downward to holiday disaster at an ever-increasing speed.  Take yesterday.  My mother finished her Christmas shopping, boys and puppies got away with who-knows-what, and people sold Second Novels while I searched for an old photograph.  I spent hours digging through boxes and drawers while my to-do list waited for me to come to my senses.  I stayed on the trail of the elusive picture to my utter and totally unnecessary peril.      

It started when the boys unpacked the red and green bins last weekend.  They pulled out photos and decorations seen once a year, relics of the past.  They talked while they worked and it was clear they were looking back.  And I looked back, too.  Year by year, all the way back to their births.  And I realized that there was a last Christmas when they were all four little boys.  And we took a picture of them that year. 

I found it.  Or at least I found a scan of it. 

I have now safely re-scanned it for posterity, or at least until my computer gets upgraded.  I will spare you the details of how I feel about this picture and why I had to have two hankies (make that three) to finish writing this post.  But in this chaotic season, in this year of birds leaving nests and debut novel launch preparations, it feels good to hold onto things that are not moving.  And to be able to put my hands on them.

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Filed under Christmas, Cindy Jones, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers

The Holidays: Part I

Little Person Wearing Tutu

In the spirit of Pilgrims and Indians, I shut down my Word files the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and invited Niece and Nephews to spend the afternoon with me.  We would prepare our Thanksgiving Turkey and take the puppy for her first walk ever.  The Little People, as their older cousins call them, never refuse an invitation.  (Aunt Cindy is still fun!)  They wear superhero attire at all times because The Call could come at any moment.  Niece wears a tutu and Nephews dress as Spiderman or X Man.  Don’t be fooled by their height, they know an empty gas gauge when they see one and two of them can read traffic signs.  At the grocery store, all of The Little People wanted to carry the celery.  At the lake, all of The Little People wanted to walk the turkey–I mean puppy.  (Aunt Cindy is still funny!)   When I mentioned we might have time to read Thanksgiving stories, oldest Nephew said, “Oh yeah, baby, baby!”  (Aunt Cindy still does cool stuff!)      

It was all fun and games until the Teenagers came home.  Three-year old Niece ditched her Thanksgiving book to run slo-mo (think: Elvira Madigan in a tutu) into the arms of her home-from-college cousin, while Nephews dropped their onions and celery to take up Nerf arms (superheroes, see?) against the invading teenagers, all of whom declared there was to be no noise and no making messes. (Aunt Cindy loves the irony!)  Action-adventure notwithstanding, a Rockwell moment occurred when we took the perfect turkey out of the oven.  So good-looking, it could have starred in a Hallmark Thanksgiving Special, and if the teenagers hadn’t seen it come out of my oven, they would have accused me of take-out.  

Little People never take an intermission and the holiday was a three-day symphony, all movements conducted allegro con brio.  With two grandmas, the turkey smell, and total chaos of Batman versus the Pilgrims, football and piddling puppy, and–I am not kidding–the adoption of three baby kittens (not me), we counted our blessings, and nobody got seriously traumatized or lost, except maybe some of the kittens.  At one moment in the melee, my mother remarked that I seemed to be showing signs of readiness for grand-parenthood.  Not the point, mom.  In fact, you got that exactly backwards.  (Aunt Cindy’s still got it!)  

We’re finding Nerf bullets and getting sticky off everything in time to launch The Holidays: Part II.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, launching things, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers

I Am Thankful for Instant Messaging

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wish to express gratitude to technology for promoting close ties with my loved ones (pictured right) even if it occasionally feels too close for comfort.  Take my cell phone.  Please.  Family members can catch me in the book store, girl lunches, and the hairdresser’s shampoo station.  Husband invariably calls both times I visit the pedicure salon, and since he doesn’t really know what a pedicure is, makes me repeat the word five times and seek other words to describe what I’m doing, until all 17 fellow pedicure clients glance up from their magazines to lament my short leash.  

Take Instant Messaging.  Please.  By touching a few letters, my sons can cryptically inform me if they are in any kind of need, a state they interpret widely to include hunger, gym clothes, and homework.  But.  Instant messaging is a two-edged sword, and thanks to the  high school family network, I see their grades before they do, (if I’m paying attention).  Thanks to Facebook’s lack of privacy, I know what they’re broadcasting on the cosmic information superhighway soon enough to protect them from themselves.  

If I’m paying attention.     

You can experience this same degree of intimacy with MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER.  Enrolled in Facebook?  You can click on the icon to the right of this post to gain instant access to the intimate details of a novel’s birth.  You can experience the labor and delivery of baby fiction as if you were present at the printing press, bear the author’s endless self-promotion, and know what reviewers say the moment their thoughts first occur to them.  How many of your closest friends are books?  MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER has a total of 22 fans.  While this is high achievement for a lemonade stand, it will not impress the Head Office.  So go ahead and friend the book.  It can’t talk back and will never text you for homework, lunch, or gym clothes.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, First Reader (aka Husband), launching things, Motherhood, teenagers

First Bird Leaves Nest (Got a hankie?)

Oldest Son at the Helm

 

We dropped Oldest Son at college last week, our first to leave home.  As we packed the car early Sunday morning, a young couple entertaining a toddler on their front steps watched our separation unfold.  A perfect moment for me to witness the startling truth of how swiftly 18 years can fly by.  I could show them pictures.    

From this: 

Preschooler in Fridge

 

to this: 

Teenager in Fridge

 

And explain how it happens in no time at all.        

But they wouldn’t believe me.  

As we packed the car, I was able to maintain my composure, having unevenly confronted the idea of his departure earlier in the summer.  Packing lists and trips to Target had distracted me from regret.  Occasional loggerheads reminded me it was indeed time for him to paddle his own canoe.  (God invented teenagers for a reason).  Nevertheless, I knew our lives were about to change forever.  Bags were stowed, bicycle tied on top, and the last items crossed off the list.  I was okay.  And might have made it, except he unexpectedly stooped to say goodbye to the family dog.  I immediately reached for my sunglasses.  And put them on.  In the house.  I did not stick around as he woke his sleeping brothers, his best friends in the world, to say goodbye.    

The couple with the toddler went inside.  

I sat in the backseat where I could privately regain composure, wiping tears with my hands.  It occurred to me that the connection a mother feels to a child is not the warm fuzzy thing you normally think of as love, but more like a vital function.  From the minute he had a heartbeat, I was joined to this child for better or worse.  Separating now was like having a vital organ ripped out of me.  While I sat in the backseat facing a future without lungs or kidneys, husband and son talked about bicycle locks and Rangers’ end of season prospects.   

At the university, we hauled his belongings up three flights of stairs (we are a freshman) and admired the private bathroom.  We met the roommate, plugged in the refrigerator, and picked up textbooks.  Undergraduate life is so cool.  I offered to trade places, but by then my son was whistling a happy tune and making plans for the evening.   

I hugged him and watched him walk away (with my lung) until I couldn’t see him anymore. 

On the long ride home, Husband and I discovered an unexpected sense of accomplishment.  Not about the 18 years of parenting, but the enormous transition to college.  From application deadlines to extra-long sheets, it came together in the end.  I confess; we did a happy dance.  And I learned that I will survive, even though some of my vital organs are now living in another part of the state.   

It is a really good thing I have three more of these Birds still living in the nest.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, First Reader (aka Husband), launching things, moment of clarity, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers