Tag Archives: life

Life is Good…Mostly

IMG_7997I own a handful of trendy t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan: LIFE IS GOOD. I wear them because they’re ridiculously soft, they feature stick figures with infectious smiles and, quite frankly, because I like the upbeat message they send to the big, bad world. Often times, people will stop me in the grocery store or post office, point at my shirt and nod in agreement: “Yeah, life is good, isn’t it!” which is great, because sometimes I’m the one that needs a reminder.

That said, sometimes life is downright ugly—like right now, as the wheels fly off this crazed election and increasingly hateful rhetoric spews from otherwise civilized and compassionate people. I am no exception. Life is not only ugly, it’s also heartbreaking and undeniably unjust because senseless violence continues to ravage the globe, hurricanes, floods and fires strike unmercifully and so many people I love grapple with cancer, or Alzheimer’s or any number of other devastating diseases. Neighbors move away. Parents and beloved pets die. Friends endure unspeakable adversity—including, but not limited to financial ruin, crippling addictions or, heaven forbid, having to bury a child. What’s more, marriages fail, suicides happen and people I care about become broken for a host of reasons.

I suppose that loss—sometimes more than people can bear—comes with the territory, an unwelcome side effect of this thing called life. Strangely enough, the more sorrow I experience, the more difficult it seems to manage on a personal level, each event affecting me more deeply than the last. You’d think that by now coping with it would be a walk in the park for me—something distinctly unpleasant, yet easy to accept because, if nothing else, it’s familiar. Admittedly, I sometimes stay in bed and hide from the world—especially on days when sadness and negativity threaten to consume me, convinced that by avoiding reality somehow it will cease to exist.

Of course, avoidance is only temporary. It does nothing to change what is real. So I shake my fist at God, infuriated by the fact that bad things happen to good people each and every day—despite denial, despite rage and despite prayers.

And then, as the sun rises, a funny thing happens. My dog ambles over to my bedside and shoves his head and warm muzzle into my hand, demanding to be petted, acknowledged, and eventually, fed since it’s time for breakfast. I then crawl on the floor and spend a few moments rubbing his impossibly soft ears and talking with him about all the important things in his life—the walk we’ll take later, his renowned affinity for squirrels and how great his scrambled eggs will taste. Yes, my dog eats scrambled eggs. Don’t judge.IMG_6206

At any rate, somewhere between hugging him and caressing the leathery pads on his feet my mind is flooded with what can only be described as gratitude. Indeed, I can’t imagine life without the rescue dog my family and I decided to adopt more than two years ago—our black lab-mix with the grizzled face and unsteady gait. Nor can I take for granted the other loveable beasts that reside here, never mind that our curly-haired, pint-sized yapper is decidedly neurotic and that our cat gives him plenty to be neurotic about.

From there, it mushrooms into recognizing all the good that has come into my life—all the people for whom I am thankful and all the experiences I’m glad to have had. I think of my husband, a man who has been my best friend for more than 20 years, the love of my life and my soft spot to land when the universe spirals out of control. I think of my three children who are talented, bright and most importantly, kind—ever so grateful that I get to be their mom. I think of all the people who touch their lives daily and I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of indebtedness. I think of my treasured friends, my church family and how fortunate I am to have the lot of them in my life.

Of course, I’m happy to have a roof overhead, food in my pantry and the sweet refuge of music and books, too. But mainly it’s the people that remind me that life is, indeed, good…mostly.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably wearing a LIFE IS GOOD t-shirt). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Depraved New World, Gratitude, Love and Loss

King for a Day

Today is National I Am in Control Day which makes me heady with the prospect of wielding an embarrassment of power from sunup to sundown (which, I imagine, is a lot like living in the delusional worlds of people like Charlie Sheen and Moammar Gadhafi). Admittedly, I’ve entertained such foolishness before, allowing the savory notion of a perfect day to wrap me in the cloak of whimsy. However, today, my indulgence is very nearly legitimate. I Googled it, therefore it must be so. I even went so far as to search for an official badge that proclaims I AM IN CONTROL TODAY, so that I might convince those with whom I reside to take heed to humor me so that I might feel a wee bit important.

Badge or no badge, I’m giving myself permission to plunge headlong into the aforementioned fantasy—to embrace the delicious possibility that I could actually manipulate the Universe, causing an abundance of things to go my way for an entire square on the calendar. For starters, I’d insist that the idiocy of daylight-saving time be declared null and void and I’d order everyone in the Northern Hemisphere to go back to rising with the sun instead of dragging themselves out of bed at dark-thirty. Even my dog recognizes the inherent stupidity of such behavior, judging by the bewildered look he wears each morning, right before my husband takes him outside to whiz in the lawn.

Furthermore, I’d wave my magic wand (or my blasted snow shovel) and voilá, blue skies and balmy breezes would prevail for the duration of this marvelous March day. You’re welcome, my dear friends and fellow members of the Winter Has Made Me Entirely Miserable Club. I would then ship Punxsutawney Phil straight to Siberia as punishment for the lies he’s told. Next, I’d likely target the many and varied idiosyncrasies present in my home—more specifically, Thing One’s penchant for imploding whenever I encourage her to try something new. Say, a bologna sandwich or something really exotic, like Spaghetti-O’s. In a word, her proclivity to refuse that-which-is-molecularly-unlike-chicken-nuggets would be rendered nonexistent for one solid day. I get giddy just thinking about it.

Likewise, I’d mumble some sort of gibberish and lo and behold, Thing Two would skip a goodly portion of the morning routine I know and loathe (i.e. that less-than-endearing wedge of time during which the child in question shrieks at anyone and everyone interested in rousting her from her cave-inspired lair in time to catch the school bus). In addition, she’d refrain from having a seizure over whatever the radio happened to be blaring, the apparent lame quality of the clothing I suggest or the intolerable nature of the wrinkles in her socks. Nor would she dream of dawdling over breakfast or eliciting all manner of rage within her sister, despite her uncanny ability to do so simultaneously.

Naturally, I’d demand that the rest of my day be soused in wonderfulness, too—free of worry or interruption, blissfully punctuated with productivity and totally devoid of the discovery of unflushed toilets. Moreover, when my brood would arrive home from school, I’d see to it that things would only improve. Not one complaint over the practicing of instruments would arise, nor would anyone go ballistic if and when someone’s music stand toppled to the floor, spilling folders and sheet music everywhere. Similarly, backpacks would be emptied without objection, homework would be completed with glee and the siren song of the Disney Channel would, incomprehensibly, fail to entrance those in my charge. Oh, and my oldest would actually answer her cell phone in a timely manner and (gasp!) deposit her shoes someplace besides the most heavily traveled paths in my home. I would need only to point to my imaginary badge or use my mind powers to convey such a powerful message.

What’s more, dinner would be an utter delight. No monumental arguments involving mashed potatoes, perceived injustices with regard to allotted computer time or debates over whose scooter was still in the yard would ensue. Dishes would be ferried to the sink without prompting or protest and the phrase, “I’m bored,” would rear its ugly head no more. Even better, at the snap of my fingers, my cherubs would say their goodnights and head upstairs to bed. Stranger still, not once would I feel an overwhelming compulsion to mention that the average shower depletes the earth of roughly 3.5 gallons of water a minute; because, of course, everyone in this household would already know that.

They would also be keenly aware of my fanciful status and (hopefully) eager to humor me this National I Am in Control Day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (profoundly immersed in a delusion of grandeur).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Purple of Penance

Lisa Belkin, of NYTimes Motherlode fame, suffered unmercifully this past weekend, breaking an ankle in numerous places while wreaking havoc upon a handful of ligaments and bones in the other. Her sons rushed to her aid and used a cell phone to hail an ambulance for her, as one might expect. However the irony with which the aforementioned debacle unfolded (and was subsequently documented and shared in all its digital wonder via text messaging and eventually the Motherlode Blog) might not have been expected.

You see, Belkin had made a solemn vow to “unplug” for 24 hours, to resist the urge to check e-mail or the status of anyone’s Facebook, to text or tweet to excess, to Google the bejesus out of anything and everything from sundown to sundown. Impressive, no?

Needless to say, her efforts were valiant as she attempted to reconnect with her family and to do so in a manner completely devoid of electronic devices. Lo and behold, the gods of technology laughed at such foolishness, perhaps causing said vat of horribleness to befall her and, hence, her reliance upon cell phones to surface. She’s scheduled for surgery to repair her ankle et al. on Tuesday. Be sure to visit Motherlode to wish her well now and during the sure-to-be memorable recovery phase.

I, myself, only ever broke a knuckle (in a shameful fit of rage) and a toe (in a deep chasm of stupidity), so I can’t wholly relate to the profusion of pain Belkin must have felt and is likely still feeling. In honor of that, I’ve re-posted “The Purple of Penance” for your (and hopefully for her) amusement…

It’s time to decorate Easter eggs—an age-old tradition symbolizing new life. An activity infused with color, the pungent aroma of vinegar and great swells of kid-inspired, eggshell-adorning creativity, all in the name of celebrating the long-awaited rebirth of the land. By contrast, I’ve been celebrating the rebirth of my stupidity.

More specifically, one of my toes—henceforth known as THE TOE—stupidly embraced this glorious festival of dyes and dippings, having adopted a whole host of hues this past week ranging from a lovely pool of blue/black at its base to the deepest and most profound infusion of magenta at its northern most tip—perfectly suited for the Lenten season, I’m told. The purple of penance.

My heathens, as expected, were beside themselves with glee upon learning of my unfortunate and infinitely obtuse shower-related toe incident (i.e. the whacking of said digit on the chair-like entity contained within, followed almost instantaneously by a profusion of swelling and an imbuement of color). “Kewl, Mom! It’s purplish and shiny and it has a really interesting texture!”

Yes, my third-grader used the word texture in a disturbingly appropriate manner. She also touched my toe. They both touched it. Again and again—compelled to poke and prod the bulbous head of my pitiful toe, thoroughly mesmerized by its curious and ever-changing medley of colors and reveling in its freakishly smooth feel. That said, it is perhaps the most repulsive-looking appendage on the planet. But it’s colorful. I’ll give it that. Just in time for Easter and its feast of pigmentation.

Barring divine intervention, however, I’ll likely be skipping Maundy Thursday’s foot-washing ceremony at my church, a spiritually stirring event I had planned to attend during Holy Week, that is, until THE TOE became such a huge and hideous issue. Indeed, it is a shameful spectacle and likely symbolic of the many and varied flaws present in my character. Besides, the mere thought of allowing someone to touch it—even someone who would exert the utmost of care and sensitivity given my sorrowful situation—makes me writhe in pain. Then again, my kids’ relentless pawing has been no picnic and somehow I’ve tolerated that.

I’ve also tolerated a vat of their foolishness.

Needless to say, Frick and Frack have been consumed with all that relates to my wretched toe of late, demanding comprehensive updates on its status the very instant they step off the school bus, insisting that I shed my sock and wave the horrible thing around like a flag. “Show Daddy!” they joyfully instruct. “It’ll gross him out!” Of course, I fear that one day soon THE TOE will surface in someone’s creative writing assignment, much to my chagrin and to their teachers’ collective horror. My weirdish children have even gone so far as to compose a song about my unsightly appendage. Tchaikovsky would be proud.

But not me so much. I’m embarrassed. And ungainly. And in agony (or some semblance thereof) much of the time. However, it can’t compare to what I felt at the moment of impact. And the sound—the UNSPEAKABLY HORRIBLE SOUND that reverberated all around when the bone actually snapped—made me slightly sickish within that tiny window of time sandwiched between the realization of what a stupid, stupid thing I had done and the onset (read: the MONUMENTAL EXPLOSION) of excruciating pain. Even still, I’m not quite sure which made me feel worse—knowing of my stupidity or suffering its ill effects.

As time goes on (and in my less-than-expert medical opinion), I presume THE TOE will not only heal, but undergo an impressive transformation of color, progressing from its current purplish state to various (and no doubt, vile) shades of green, yellow and, eventually, to the suggestion of ecru. With any luck, the nuance of crookedness it has adopted in the interim will abate as well. Otherwise it’s likely my kids will feel compelled to sing (and write!) about THE CROOKED TOE, serving as yet another reminder of my idiocy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with THE TOE).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Protocol of Love

No one writes love letters anymore it seems—the carefully folded squares upon which fools in love used to pour their hearts and souls, wooing the socks off each other with amorous prose and flawless penmanship. There was something to be said for the renderings of hearts pierced with arrows, too, and the TOGETHER FOREVER proclamations that were scribbled in the margins, punctuating the sentiment that flowed from their pens. Never mind the curlicues sprinkled like confetti across the pages of so many heartfelt messages. The handwritten letter, it seems, is all but extinct.

And while Hallmark does its level best to provide us with a host of perfect wordages for every occasion and our love affair with the instantaneous nature of texting, et al. has blossomed beyond all imagining, somehow these methods of communicating fall short. That said, they lack a certain warmth and palpable quality that only handcrafted ink-on-paper love letters possess.

But it’s unlikely that generations from now any curious-minded descendents of my children will happen upon a bundle of yellowed envelopes in a forgotten corner of anyone’s attic. And even if someone did, said discovery certainly wouldn’t be as remarkable as the cache of a dozen or so letters my husband and I unearthed in recent memory—the ones that were affectionately penned almost seven decades ago by a man deeply in love with his future wife—a man who had joined the Navy and was stationed far from home—a man who would one day become my husband’s father—a man that I, sadly, never knew, but whose letters have helped me bridge the gap.

My mother-in-law, of course, had carefully tucked the aforementioned keepsakes away, and it was some time after her passing that we stumbled upon them in a dresser drawer along with war rations and assorted snapshots from their early life together. Call me crazy, but I can’t imagine anyone digitally preserving treasured emails and text messages for much the same purpose. Alas, the world’s collective mindset has become far too intent upon immediacy and the disposable nature of things for that sort of nonsense.

Indeed, the entire landscape of courtship is a different place these days—no thanks to technology. Evidently it’s no longer in vogue to spend a Sunday afternoon having dinner and getting to know the parents of one’s love interest. The youth of today can’t be bothered with idle chitchat or something as dreadfully dull as sitting around in front of a fireplace, tackling a project together or (gasp!) playing cards at the kitchen table. Never mind taking the time to become familiar with his or her family traditions, cultural background or getting a grip on the dynamics within the family unit itself. Evidently, Facebook is the place where those things are shared nowadays—unless and until messiness ensues (i.e. breakups and whatnot). “What then?!” I ask. Does the proper protocol involve un-friending the would-be significant other/potential mate of one’s child? For all intents and purposes, that seems completely gauche to me. And awkward at best. Needless to say, life’s muck-in-the-middle doesn’t translate especially well via social media. A Facebook fail, as it were.

Furthermore, since the advent of cell phones, parents are virtually removed from the day to day connecting with those who feel compelled to telephone ad nauseam. Personally, I like intercepting those calls for my daughters because it gives me a fleeting chance to become better acquainted with the gentleman caller—whether he happens to fit the profile of an axe murderer, he is the epitome of son-in-law-material, or perhaps the most charming fourth grade boy the world will ever know. That said, I’m in no hurry to add Thing One and Thing Two to our ever-expanding cell phone plan. Our land line is just fine, thank you very much.

Likewise, I will rue the day any daughter of mine announces she’s getting married—unless, of course, the aforementioned epitome of son-in-law-material with whom said daughter would be enamored had had the presence of mind to seek our blessing and approval first. As it should be. However, I fear that sort of creature is a dying breed. Even still, I hope he’ll craft an abundance of handwritten love letters—ones that she will save till the ink fades, but not the memories they make together.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the changing face of love).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Ice is Simply Not Nice

I abhor ice—underfoot, that is. It is a loathsome beast that feeds upon my vulnerabilities, senses my unsuspecting nature and seizes each and every opportunity to torture me. Often publicly. Until recently, I suppose I had forgotten just how greatly I detest the frozen miserableness that currently defines my world (i.e. the massive and merciless patches of tundra-gone-wild, slickening my driveway, my sidewalks, my lawn, my EVERYTHING). Then again, cracking one’s head upon the pavement (thanks to yet another cussed ice event coupled with an overly exuberant dog) tends to refresh one’s memory. No doubt, seeing stars served to further enhance my recollection of the hatred I feel toward this abominable aspect of winter.

Needless to say, I felt humiliated, too, wallowing there like a child in a pool of self-pity. Victimized. Insulted. Defeated. Lord knows the god of ice and snow came and conquered that day; mocking my misfortune, applauding my hurt, exacerbating my agony, cackling uproariously—indeed, thoroughly amused by my frantic and futile attempts to flap and flail myself back to the Land of Upright. To the place where my dignity was defended, my equilibrium restored and my composure, conserved. Where surefootedness was a given and where the coefficient of friction was friend, not foe.

That being said, the ruthless monster of which I speak plays no favorites. No one enjoys immunity. Anyone and anything that answers to gravity is capable of suffering the wrath of a frictionless environment—anywhere, anytime under the appropriate climatic conditions. In windswept parking lots. At bus stops and mailboxes galore. In lawns, sinfully glaciated and hopelessly impassable. And in sun-starved alleys, wrinkled and rutted with an impenetrable glaze of solid ice. Grok!

And let us not forget the drudgery, tedium and exhausting nature of ridding our worlds of said vileness. As I type this, every molecule of my entire being now throbs with pain as a result of hacking and hammering and chipping away at that which can only be described as a brutal and unforgiving entity—never mind, one that is seemingly devoid of any meaningful function. I mean really, what purpose does the aforementioned serve? I can think of none.

Quite frankly, my view hasn’t changed on the topic much since the fifth grade. Hated it then. Hate it now. Mostly, this stance stems from having been imprisoned by it one blustery day when asked to take out the trash. The traumatic experience unfolded thusly: The can itself (an incinerator, actually) was poised at the precipice of a rather steep, luge-like gradient behind our house. Naturally, every stinking speck of earth surrounding said incinerator was coated in a thick, glacier-like sheet of ice. Fool that I was, I failed to heed the warning signs that any half-brained nitwit would readily note. Like, “Geez, this looks pretty slippery—and there’s a FREAKING CLIFF on the other side of this Slope from Hell. Maybe I should take the stinking trash back inside and hoard it till March.”

But no. Common sense had evaded me yet again and my can-do attitude catapulted me far beyond the realm of stupidity. As I skidded down the hill at warp speed I had to have been thinking how dumb this had all been—and how entirely preventable. Needless to say, it was a long time before I came to rest and was able to assess the damages. And there were plenty. But the biggest problem I faced was not being able to climb back up the silly hill—which was getting slicker and slicker as the sun started to set. I recall pawing and clawing at the ice and searching around for sturdy sticks I could jam into its glassy surface in order to inch my way to the top. Of course, no one knew I had fallen. And cell phones were decades away.

In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly what eventually led to my successful assent that day (ideally positioned saplings, maybe?), but it certainly was a life lesson. Simply put, I learned that ice is not nice—which would have been a useful bit of information to have prior to the onset of my dimwittedness.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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