“The Talk”

The Talk…sex, breakups, marriage, divorce, Santa, sickness, jobs…so many variations. Butterflies in the belly, whether you are the giver or receiver. When someone says, hey, we need to talk…it usually falls under a wonderful, terrible, or oh my god this is so embarrassing column.

My Childhood Sex Talk Part One…I was about 11, sitting on my parent’s bed, my reflection in the huge Zenith TV. Mom had called me in, come sit, as she patted the bed. What had I done, I was in trouble for sure. Nope, it was…The Talk…so much worse than anything I could be in trouble for. My sister was 16 and since she had a boyfriend my mother assumed I too needed The Talk. I assured her I knew everything, and to my surprise she said ok, let me know if you ever have any questions. Awesome, bullet dodged.

My Childhood Sex Talk Part Two…I was 13. My binder had exploded on the bus ride home. The most delicious boy helped me collect my papers. He was one year older and completely dreamy…in a totally out of my league kind of way. Handing me a test with a 96 on it, he said, Nice, too bad it isn’t a 69 (insert a confusing wink wink nudge nudge laugh here). I knew enough to know I was not understanding the context. Soooooo I marched right home and told my mom the story. WHO SAID THAT? Naturally, I threw him under the mom bus…and without any words she drew me an understated line drawing. Two stick figures, heads in genitals, perfection. I barfed in my mouth a bit and as I turned to walk away she said… Kit Kat, tell him that you asked me what a 69 was…and tell him that I told you. Brilliant mothering on so many levels.

My Childhood Sex Talk Part Three…I was 17. Sitting with mom at the breakfast room table eating grilled cheese sandwiches while Family Feud played in the background. “Kit Kat, you know, you never…I mean never…never ever ever forget the first person you have sex with. Make sure the person is someone you want to remember…for the rest of your life.” MICROPHONE DROP…best sex talk ever. My innocent summer fling of the moment did not have a chance.

Sex Talks Part Four and Five…As a mom it is a right of passage. I knew my husband would want to speak with our son, he loves these moments. He did a brilliant job. Jacob might have been a bit young, he was disgusted by the whole description. He asked if there was ANY other way to have a baby. When in vitro was described he asked how he was created. Grossed out and disappointed at the answer he moved on to other difficult questions, like how do you get a phone in college (days of landlines), and how does the credit card company know where to send a bill. I guess he figured since he knew about sex he might as well just get ALL adulting questions over at once. Somehow my husband also gave the sex talk to our Olivia. Not understanding that it might be a moment that a woman would cherish having with their daughter…he just spilled the beans when the subject came up. Maybe the universe thought my sex talk number three was so brilliant they wanted that to be the last, who knows.

Other Talks…the Santa talk, Mom, do you believe in Santa? Response, yes, I love believing in Santa, aced it. The wedding proposal, ours was atypical for sure, nothing fancy, no great story…just us…which in the end is all that matters. The how much more time will my dad live talk…the worst. Getting no answers from my dad’s physicians, we asked a doctor friend who responded with “I would get his papers in order in the next few months”. He was spot on, that talk allowed me to plan, say goodbye, and live with no regrets.

I am one of those people who start planning Thanksgiving in late August. Haters gonna hate…I get sh*t done. We have between 17-30 people in our little home and I will say straight out, it is spectacular. It is not fancy, it is family, and everyone leaves feeling good…even if I have to kill myself to make it happen. I love it. Christmas is more about immediate family, siblings. Christmas crackers, formal dinners, themed pjs and a long day of presents, games, and cozy. Swoon.

The 2020 Holiday Talk…I have been avoiding it. If we do not speak about it maybe we can ignore the inevitable, maybe the virus will disappear, maybe drinking bleach will suddenly work (please do not consider this), maybe spiking numbers will suddenly go down, maybe science will be respected and people will listen.

No.

I just had The Holiday Talk with my son who lives in California. The Talk consisted of half sentences, going kind of like this…
HIM: About Thanksgiving and Christmas, I want to…
ME: Maybe flying first class would…
HIM: I just don’t think…
ME: Two weeks quarantine once you arrive, maybe you could live…
HIM: I could not live knowing I…
ME: I love you to pieces, this sucks but it is the right thing.
HIM: I love you too.

He does not want to risk losing his life. He does not want to risk killing one of his loved ones. He is a responsible person. He cares about more than himself.

So it is over, we had The Talk and we have decided. We will do the selfless thing, the thing that follows science and fact, the thing that is uncomfortable. The exceptionally hard decision that completely hurts my soul. I hate it. I especially hate this when so many are just doing whatever they want because “they are done with the pandemic”. I am not sure what that statement even means. I will cry at random times. I will wake up in the middle of the night hoping this is only a dream. I will plan and arrange and create the greatest long distance holiday situation ever…I don’t know much, but that is one thing I know for sure.

Sending love and strength and swoons to all who are hurting right now.

Part of the 2019 Thanksgiving table… swoon.


Mom…Bringing Love

When I was little and my mom reached the breaking point she would scream, “GLADYS, call me Gladys, I do not want to hear the word Mom one more time, I will help you, but do not say Mom.” We found this hysterical and would call her Gladys repeatedly, hoping to drive her right over that edge of motherhood.

When my kids were little there were more than a few times that I flashed back to the Gladys moments. Mommm, did you? Mommm, where is? Mommm, are we? Mommm, can you fix this? No matter how tired I was, I would find, do, and fix…because that is what we do.

My “kids” do not mom me to death anymore…but I feel like I am at that same breaking point…life is challenging, the pandemic tedious, politics past the point of ridiculous. Hurricanes, unemployment, killer hornets, sharks, falling trees. We need a break. I want my friends parents to be alive and well, drinking their own egg creams instead of their kids drinking egg creams in honor of them. I want to be alone with my husband, my toes in the ocean, my hand in his. I just want peace. Peace for me, peace for those I love. Peace for you.

Can we please just hand this mess over to women? There is no doubt in my mind that they can clean up this situation. The women I know fix…they fix everything.

Thanks to a recommendation from a lovely Swooning fan, I signed up for Anne Lamott’s webinar on writing. Three hours on a Saturday in August, I will be at Fire Island, take a break from the beach and have some quiet time at the house. I’m in. Little did I know we would be in the beginning stages (yes, you read that right, beginning stages) of a world wide pandemic. I am not where I thought I would be, but I am where I am.

I am alone. I am listening to an amazing woman teach me how to write, how to read, how to be whole…how to live. It is lovely. “Waste paper and time, stare off into the vast, write down anything you want to remember, keep lists, write every day, edit what you love out…and save it, paste it onto a ‘save this’ file”…brilliance. It is healing, she is fixing.

When I was pregnant, a friend sent me Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. It was mind-blowing, about being a parent, a loving parent…with flaws. She became a mom in front of our eyes. Now I listen to her teach me how to write. I sit in my brother’s house because a major storm knocked out our power and internet. It is quiet, there are no interruptions. I sit under the most beautiful art, alone for the first time in five months…as a woman across the country helps bring peace to my soul.

Women, moms, doers, healers, teachers…we can fix this mess. When will the powers that be realize that if you want something done, go to a mom, go to a woman…a busy woman who just needs to get it done…so she can move on and fix everything else.

Goals

Every Christmas our family has gifts that end up in the “pile of disappointment”. One year it was a family wok, pitched as a fun way to cook veggies together…it was met with looks of confusion…a who are you and what have you done with my mother moment. The wok sat waiting while other gifts found their forever homes, it was then moved to the “basement of neglect”, then left us for good, to the “nearly new room” at the rummage sale. It was 100% new…no nearly about it.

This past Christmas I had the brilliant idea that we would each be gifted a goal setting planner…you know a therapist in a book, fix your life in 3 months. We could work on our goals together! Supporting each other while fighting our personal demons. This brilliant idea was met with disdain, some tears, and silence. After a lengthy recovery we decided to give it a shot. We wrote out goals, listed plans of action, and were ready to start our new lives…one never started, two lasted about a week, and one might have made it to a month. If every unused planner on the earth was stacked, would it reach the moon? My guess is yes.

My husband is pretty chill. He shows up for holidays at the same time the guests are arriving. Billing and taxes, happen when they happen. Vacations, he packs 5 minutes before we leave. But certain goals…if he wants it…he will reach it. No. Matter. What. When Greg was little he was one of those kids who loved to learn, and at a very early age he figured out that if he wanted to go to college, he was paying for it. So instead of spending his paper route money on treats, movies, or video games…he saved. With a very tasty scholarship, some student loans, and his paper route money (!), my husband paid for his own college education, including housing and food. Goals.

FaceBook memories are an oversharer’s reward. Swoon.

We have recently been enjoying posts about Greg and his two brothers participating in RAGBRAI…the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Started in 1973 by two Register columnists who were sick of friends saying Iowa is flat (it isn’t), they invited some friends to bike across the state…and a tradition was born. Greg grew up reading The Register every morning with a tall sun tea and a few bowls of Rice Chex, he followed many a RAGBRAI. The time was finally right…he liked to bike, his kids were grown, his brothers were game, he could take the week off, he could see his family, a perfect 50th birthday present to himself…score. Decision made, now he just needed train in order to be able to ride an average of 60 miles a day…for 6 days in a row…in Iowa…in July. Goals.

While he did his daily training, 10-50 miles a pop…I figured out packing and purchases. How to fit 3,562 items into a backpack…challenge on. Teeny tiny first aide kits, a system to dry wet stinky clothes each night, pants with baboon tushie padding, shirts with mysterious pockets and pouches (side note, bicycle clothing is just plain ugly), a sleeping bag that fit into a coin purse, and a postage stamp size towel that could absorb a lake. We were both doing what we do best…him exercising, me shopping.

Waking before the crack of dawn to ride over the Iowan hills as the sun rose, finishing early to recover with homemade pie, fresh Amish ice cream, and a lot of pork products. Traveling through tiny towns, people cheering them on and profiting from the 10,000 people passing through. Showers for sale at private homes, kids offering to walk on his aching back for a buck, makeshift museums (barns) of collected treasures, reconnecting with brothers and connecting with strangers. A final dip of his bike wheel in the Mississippi River, he lived the dream, he reached his goal.

Painful and difficult…goals…maybe that is why reaching them is like nothing else in the world. Maybe that feeling of success is what keeps us buying those planners…I need to find mine.

Three Iowan brothers…reaching their goal…swoon beyond swoon.

Short People

At birth, I weighed in at 5 pounds, little. Considering my mom smoked until she was pregnant (stopping while pregnant—ahead of her time), my dad smoked nonstop and had daily evening cocktails (note the plural), and my mom gained a total of 15 pounds (as directed by her male doctor, as were all women at the time)…5 pounds should be considered a coup.

I am short. Until a few years ago, I was 5 feet and one half of an inch and aways said there would be a huge party if I reached 5’1″… which at 50 I did. I am now 5’1″ thanks to good posture and my spine no longer being constricted from sitting at a desk all day. I use a standing desk, it has changed my height, back comfort, and my life…I did not have a party.

Most of my life I have been the shortest or the second shortest in every situation. My best buddy Deirdre was shorter, but she moved, then Angela was shorter but we weren’t always in the same class, then Noel was shorter…and that is still the case, she measures in at 4’11”. Noel’s orange Volkswagen Bus had blocks taped to the gas pedal so she could reach it. After writing that sentence, I realize the insanity of that situation. Memories. When you are short you always remember who was shorter.

One of my closest friends growing up was a giant among women, or at least a giant compared to me. Elena. Elena and I could play Barbies…for hours. She also had “The Sunshine Family”. We would have them all hang out together, which is kind of like Peter, Paul, and Mary hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. She had very fit parents, they often noted how tiny I was in front of her, I am not sure she appreciated the comparison, since being tall was not really her fault. Elena was just perfect to me, we could play Careers, Clue, Monopoly for hours. We would explore her very 1975 home, running our fingers over the velvet 3D wallpaper, being very careful not to get caught…her mom didn’t want us to “ruin it”. We took dance together, ballet, tap, and jazz. One year in tap we did the “Dance of the Planets”. I was Pluto, the littlest planet of all, with a solo entrance that I remember to this day. Heel toe, heel toe, all the way in from the wing. All the other planets awaiting so we could flap (or as we say in Queens, fa-lap) ball change together. I was crushed when Pluto’s planetdom was taken away…Pluto will always be a planet to me. Elena moved away when I was around 10. I think Elena and Deirdre moving actually had a big effect on my life, but that is a different story.

I never minded being short until Randy Newman. Currently a fan…his Toy Story songs mean everything to my family, my son has Woody and Buzz dolls on his childhood bed to this day. I used to hate Randy Newman. The song Short People is a script on how to torture short people. Short people got no reason; they got little hands and little eyes; they tell great big lies; they wear platform shoes on their nasty little feet… what the HELL IS WRONG WITH THS MAN??? Standing in height order, waiting for our cue to enter the church in our long white robes…the whole children’s choir singing that demeaning song…on a loop. Me, smiling as they sang, because mom taught us: Do. Not. React. The tall blonde singing while patting my head like a puppy, others using my head as an arm rest…kids being kids, I don’t blame them…I blame Randy stupid Newman.

Song aside, I like being short. I fit into places. People are actually very nice to short humans, especially men, the let’s compare hand size is a common pick up line in a bar, “oh man, look how much bigger my hand is than yours, my hands are huge compared to yours”…blah blah blah, all about them, it never worked. In grocery stores strangers get things down from shelves for me, plane and theater seats are comfortable, climbing on plane armrests to put stuff in the overhead usually ends with someone getting up to help…actually people help in this situation less and less…people are not as nice as they used to be…that’s ok, it all gets done.

The summer I was 16, my childhood friend Elena appeared at the club. She knew who I was right away since I have looked exactly the same since I grew hair at two. Anyway, we hugged, we smiled, we reminisced, and…we were exactly the same height. My giant buddy had just peaked early. There we were, eye to eye, a lesson learned…who you are at 9 is not who you are forever. A good thing to remember as my beautiful nieces and nephews, who I rocked in my arms, tower over me…every single one of them.

The way I see it…

The best part of going to art school is learning that there are ten billion solutions to every problem. Every solution has its pros and cons, some focus on solving the problem at a basic level, others take things a step or two, or twelve, further. Some try and appease the masses, others focus on a select few. Some look lovely at first glance, but are not user friendly…others seem plain, but are extremely well thought out and very user oriented. The best solutions take all of these points in mind.

When you graduate art school you miss the problem solving, you miss the chase. You miss the magic of showing up to a crit…presenting solutions for the problem at hand. You sit in awe at the mind boggling ideas you never even considered. You miss the back and forth, you miss the discussions, the constructive advice, the energy you get from other creative souls.

My son was feeling this way last summer. He and my husband, two of the most creative people on earth, are constantly talking movies, podcasts, books, plays; they dissect, they explore, they critique. They are creators. After spending a week running a film camp at Fire Island together, our son was heading back to California, he said. Dad, do you want to do a joint project as our Christmas gift to each other this year? Considering my husband hates gift buying, wants for nothing, and loves nothing more than working on projects, this sentence was like a gift from above. They decided to make a chess set, each designing pieces for a common board. The size of the grid was all the information they had to go on…ready, set, create.

Christmas at our house is usually pretty over the top. Too many presents, stockings spilling over, regular gifts not to be confused with Santa gifts, much too much. This past year we decided to take it back a notch…or thirty five. We awoke and went to the living room for present time. Goodies for noshing on the table, cups of warm coffee, the room filled with colorful boxes and twinkling lights. All wearing our Christmas themed llama pajamas, we looked appropriately adorable in our soft and yummy hoodies with ears. It was chill and lovely. Saving the best for last, it was time to open the chess set…what did they create, how did they make it, how would the other react. Truth be told, I saw both solutions before that morning. Olivia and I were in charge of painting the chess board (the graphic designer in me completely loving taping off perfect squares). I knew the beauty in those tiny packages, they did not.

As they opened each chess piece they examined the other, two completely different solutions. One, wood carved into beautiful semi-realistic forms, painted in a representational manner, two toned, deliberate and detailed. The other, also carved wood, but from the mind of a gamesman with mid-century modern taste. Each streamlined piece had holes in it, representing the pieces’ movements…some holes went all the way through, that piece could move as many spaces as it wanted…some holes were just indents, that piece moved only one space. Two different solutions to exactly the same problem. Two minds. Two bits of spectacular. Listening to them talk, watching them appreciate the other…it was pure swoon.

These days we live in aMErica…note the ME in there…always a designer, I tend to turn every word into a logo. First I had it as amerIca, that works too. Anyway, you get the point. We live in the country of me me me…where the solution to problems are not based on fact, or exploration, or the masses…solutions are based on how they benefit the individual wants of those in charge at the moment. There are ways to solve the huge issues in our country right now…a puzzler’s dream. If people would stop only thinking about their needs…and consider all the players…solutions could be found.

Until aMErica becomes America again, we are in big trouble. Kind of like if one of the guys creating the chess set decided they wanted the King to be a cat and thought adding a pig would be cute…all of a sudden the set is all about them…and not about making it work for all.

Chess anyone? Pieces ©Gregory Nemec and Jacob Nemec 2019
Chess anyone? Pieces ©Gregory Nemec and Jacob Nemec 2019
Chess anyone? Pieces ©Gregory Nemec and Jacob Nemec 2019

Moments to Forget

We are supposed to be together now. We should be in a quaint little cottage in the hills of Los Angeles. Bright and colorful, bohemian, energetic, warm…I loved this Airbnb find, just blocks from my son. I should be organizing our home away from home, unpacking Nannie’s cookies and banana breads and arranging the games we shlepped across the country, because what is a family vacation without game nights. I turn every rental and hotel into a little home, make it ours, making it right. I should be working in my new nook, my office for the week, while my people sleep in. We should be going to Venice Beach, the Getty, or Griffith Observatory in a few hours. I should be hugging my son. We should be exhausted from our travels, we should be creating amazing memories and surviving vacation moments we would rather forget.

Our family has always liked to be on the move…a day trip to Coney Island, a gorge in upstate NY, a house swap with Canadians, a trip to a family farm in South Dakota, we love experiences. Having kids never stopped us, in fact it encouraged us. Driving across a state listening to Arthur the Aardvark sing about his lucky pencil…on a 6 hour loop…with two toddlers, joyous. Our kids were awesome travelers, and we were at our best as a family, except for those moments when we weren’t.

Those moments, filled with tears, exhaustion, arguments, lost items, missed connections, declarations of NEVER doing this again.. those moments we want to forget…oh how I wish we were having those moments this week. How I wish we could be a normal dysfunctional family again. How I wish we could be together no matter how much we annoy one another, how much we yell, how much we declare never again…I miss it all.

The picture below was taken in the Badlands, South Dakota. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, it actually feels like you are visiting another planet. Perfection, especially on a glorious sunny day. This was July. It was hot. We had tired kids, hungry kids, and they were done…D…O…N…E…done. Driving we noticed another beautiful landscape, it was one “oh my gosh, let’s get out and look” too many. As Greg and I oohed and ahhhed…the kids climbed out of the car and gave up right there on the rocks, Olivia was literally weeping…and instead of being good parents…we took a selfie.

I have no idea when we will be together again, but when we are, I am sure there will be moments of joy and moments we wish to forget. I am so glad I have this ridiculous blip in time on film, hell on earth, captured forever. Swoon.

Bad parenting in the Badlands.

The Age Thing

I am not sure how the age thing works.

When I was little my cousins were SO old…now we are the same age. My kids are the oldest of their cousins, the first to hit all milestones…now the “little ones” are taller, hairier, and their voices as deep or deeper, they are equals.

My cousins were teenagers in the 70s…the decade of everything awesome. Long wild hair (on both sexes), puka beads, cut off denim shorts, macrame handbags…drinking cans of beer while eating my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Walking into the house to chat with anyone who was around, stories of college shenanigans, job interviews, girlfriends, and cars, such glamorous lives. Now, they are people with jobs and mortgages…I have a job, I have a mortgage. We are not glamours or cool, we are the same.

My brother was always my baby brother, only 4 years younger but I kind of helped raise him. On his birthday, I was the assistant. I ran games, filled goodie bags and learned the art of hosting a party from the master…my mom. When my parents played tennis, I was his babysitter They hit the ball, we played cars or Fisher-Price peoples…and I was the boss. When we no longer wanted to join my parents for weekends at Fire Island, I was the “adult” of the house, from 4pm Friday to 6pm Sunday, one pizza and tickets for the club snack bar kept us fed, and my fear of losing the privilege of staying home kept us alive. We covered up any mishaps together and we established a life-long bond. Now…miraculously, he is often “older” than me, I lean on him, he is the voice of reason.

Since living with my mom, not a week goes by without the following words leaving my mouth: “Mom, I am 54 years old, I got this.” Somehow I have become less capable now…than I was at 12. I am back to being her child, and as a mom, it makes perfect sense. My babies are completely formed humans, but they will always be my babies…no matter how spectacular they are, no matter how old they are. My babies.

I don’t really care how old I am, I just assume I am the same age as the people I am with. I might make a Marcia Marcia Marcia or or Mom always said, don’t play ball in the house reference…which will be met with silence…crickets. My pop culture quips mean nothing. The Brady Who? Gilligan’s What? Oh yeah, I am 20 years older than the company I am in. Oh. My. Gosh. I could easily be your mother! Then there are times I gush over the wedding album of a friend, married in the early 1970s…groovy maxi dresses from Macy’s bridal section, yellow daisies galore, long flowing hair and gloriously painted cat eyes, wedding venue decor featuring ivy climbing lattice fences. I marvel what a trendsetter she was…only to realize she was not being quirky, vintage, or hip…she was just doing what was done at the time. My mauve Laura Ashley 90s bridesmaids dresses were her high waisted maxis, her 70s fashion trends outstyling mine by about a million percent. How could she have gotten married when I was 6 since we are currently the same age. Magic.

Age…a time machine. One minute we are older and wiser, the next we are the same age, the next our babies are taking care of us. That…is just so very cool.

Assisting at my brother’s birthday party. 4 years is a lot when you are 13.

A Moment Captured

Have you ever looked at a picture and been transported right back into that very moment. A moment of fear…those rollercoaster ride shots where your kid is completely terrified while you sit next to them smiling; a moment sadness…the shots you took with your terminally ill dad, on the last “celebration” together, eyes filled with a loss you can not even comprehend yet; or a moment of complete love, joy, and perfection. My friend just sent me this photograph and I can not stop looking at it. It expresses our relationship to a tee…complete mutual adoration.

Friendships are complicated. They can be exciting, heartbreaking, wonderful, and even lonely. Etched into our minds, into our beings. Growing up and growing apart, life getting in the way, milestones that don’t compliment each other, it is amazing that they survive. Nothing can un-etch a memory…not college, boyfriends, or different cities. That bond, years can go buy with out interaction then boom…you reconnect like there was no time lost.

When the coolest girl in middle school, the most beautiful, the most talented, the most of the most…when she decides that you are the person she wants to be friends with, well, that is just everything. When she is also kind, and funny, and beyond the most generous loving person…that is forever. Seeing this image from her wedding day brought back floods of memories, so much goodness. The moment I saw it I knew it was a forever photo. Swoon.

That’s what I call them…forever photos. I see them on social media often. That one image that represents who that person really is, how that family really relates, or a solid connection between friends. They are keepers, the ones that go to the “favorites folder”, the ones used in the wedding video, 60th birthday keepsake book, or the funeral collage.

In the last 12 months I have emptied many attic spaces. While covered in cobwebs, 20 years worth of dirt, and the tar from the last time we roofed the house, I have cried many times…mostly looking at photographs I unearthed. My kids, so young, so ridiculously fun. Still images turning into home movies…The Three Little Pigs, an after bath routine, creating panic with naked toddlers smelling oh so delicious. The “big bad wolf” searching for “pigs”, from one badly built house (bed) to the next, huffing and puffing…and huffing and puffing…the little quivering “pigs” squealing with delighted terror under the covers as the wolf approached to do their bit. After “blowing down” a house (throwing off covers) the the pigs would run screaming to the next bed where they were hoisted up into hiding once again. Thank goodness for the brick house, the wolf would be foiled once again, amazing fun that never grew old*. The crazy thing is, even though we did it night after night, I am not sure I would remember it if we did not have the picture to “watch”.

Beautiful moments, captured forever. Forever is good.

*who on earth does this with toddlers, then expects them to go to sleep?

So young. Swoon.

Empty

My mind is empty and my days are empty…well not really…it just feels that way compared to how full they once were.

I have never understood how people without jobs said they couldn’t volunteer, or read a book, or bake a cake…because they had “no time”. That just seemed ridiculous. That was then.

My mother-in-law is 89, until the pandemic she pretty much ran the church, the blood center, and welcome table at the local hospital…she did all this and her grocery shopping, puzzles with her guy, housekeeping, breakfasts with buddies, and an occasional game of bridge. She used to tell us her schedule and then say (put on your Fargo accent for full effect) “well, you know what they say, if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I have been working since the age of 13… babysitting, women’s and men’s bathing suit sales…men’s was easier, women buying bathing suits tend to be VERY grumpy, the rack of suits thrown at me when I reminded someone they could not return a clearly used (vomit icon here) suit proved that, David’s Cookies…glorious and sticky, a camp counselor, and currently as a graphic designer. A graphic designer, with very little graphic designing to do, yet somehow I convince myself I have no time to write swoons…I am one of those people now.

Yesterday I painted my toenails blue, constructed homemade vegetable rolls, took a long walk, bathed, watched Parks and Recreation, ordered supplies for Greg’s art camp, did some banking for my mom…and felt completely useless and unfulfilled…when you feel useless and unfulfilled it is hard to swoon.

If you ask my kids (or husband), I am sure they would say I am not so easy to live with. I have no no no patience for laziness or self pity. I have no understanding of I can’t or I didn’t have time to. How hard is it to give something a shot, if you fail so be it, maybe it will work out better next time. The world is not going to hand you your success or happiness…take it.

So, after my many days of avoiding swooning, I have decided to take my own annoying advice. I should be writing more often. It is good for my head, good for my soul…and many seem to enjoy the visit into my crazy (thank you for that, it warms my heart).

If one does not have a life that is currently swoon-worthy…one must look back, or ahead…anywhere to avoid stagnation. Sigh, writing to fill the empty. Writing to keep busy. Writing to prove that complaining and waiting…does nothing. Swoon.

Blue Toes

Human Canvases

Paints, glitter, alcohol wipes, foam applicators, water dishes, paper towels, hand mirrors, signage, sun screen, hairbands, design sheets, sign up lists. Reminding teenage volunteers that they committed to volunteer…finding replacement volunteers for the kids who “just realized” they will be on vacation. Notifying festival staff about needed tables, tents, and chairs…to arrive at festival to a plot of grass…no tables, chairs, or tents. It all works out, and it is joyous.

Face painting at the Pleasantville Music Festival. Swoon. In 7 glorious hours, we paint hundreds…and hundreds…of body parts.

Human canvases ignoring the perspiration dripping down our faces as we get up close and personal to wipe them down…removing their sunscreen, sweat, and food bits in order to turn them into Spiderman or a walking sugar skull. Butterflies, flaming soccer balls, devils, and flowers…personalities on display. They wait on line, watching the painters, passing on their turn in order to “get” certain artists. They come back for seconds, for retouching, for a new look. Friends get matching designs, making it clear their click is strong. They are listened to, pampered, and doted on. The invasion into their personal space worth it… they are the most special person in the world.

A dad, so overwhelmed with the full-face butterfly on his child with sensory issues that he drops a 50. in the “donate to the non-profit of the year” bucket. Every year, people are amazed at what we do for free, every year we are more than happy to do it. A dear friend managing the line, redirecting the woman who wants us to paint her heaving and extremely exposed cleavage…to a female artist…instead of my husband or son. The little girl who just wanted a dot. Literally a dot on her hand, a pink dot. The year of the Minion, so so many Minions, each sporting different outfits and eye quantities. The one time I was delivered a kid…instead of Greg (who usually has his own line because he is annoyingly amazing)…to paint the Nintendo logo, years of letterform classes paying off. Score. Watching my art school grad son paint Star Wars creatures on the arm of a bestie from Kindergarten, listening to my daughter convince a less than sober woman she should probably refrain from putting glitter tattoos on her eyelids. The yearly drama of closing off the line, hours later than planned, then allowing kids to paint themselves as we clean up, keeping the masses happy.

Sheer exhaustion from a day painting in the sun, rotating under the tent to avoid direct rays, no food, little water…to avoid the need for breaks. Finally rehydrating, bless the clean staff potties, ice is magical, festival food tastes so good. Catching a second wind.

In front of the stage, covered in paint and glitter, swaying in the arms of my guy, sun going down, a cool breeze…we can finally hear the music. Swoon.

Pleasantville Music Festival…you are missed.