Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Plans At 50

by Amy Ruhlin 

Guest Blogger Post on: High50


It is now late May, almost Memorial Day, and I realize that I have made no plans for a summer holiday. Ever since my children were  young, I have been planning our summer vacations, spending countless hours each spring researching hotel deals, scanning city maps and reading Fodor’s reviews.

 I love doing it and it has become a part of who I am, a way for me to nurture both my family and myself.  But in these last few weeks of this spring, before summer announces itself with picnics and fireworks, I realize that I have been spending countless hours telling myself that the time when our summer vacations as a family will end is here.

 I tell myself that my daughter is now 20, my son  almost 17;  that they both have summer jobs, their own agendas and  lives;  and that they are nearly grown.

 I tell myself that my husband and I are now 50;  we have retirement accounts, an unpaid mortgage and colonoscopy appointments; and that we are growing old. 

 I tell myself that our family summer vacations are no longer necessary,  practical or relevant, and that we have, all of us together, moved on. It is a lie, but I tell it to myself anyway, in an attempt to be cautious and responsible here at age 50.  And to brace myself for what I know is coming soon: the day when my children will be taking summer vacations of their own.                   
In the midst of  the self defeating talk, I begin to gain some clarity and, with my husband, decide to at least discuss possible plans. I bring up the idea of a trip to California, a trip we have long discussed and long put off. We take out a map and trace a possible route, and suddenly, we are twenty-three again, full of hope and excitement, travelling together along the west coast for the first time.

We tell our 16 year old son our idea and he smiles, his eyes sparkle and he is six again, hearing us say that we will put paper inside the heels of his tennis shoes so that he'll  be tall enough to ride the roller coaster that summer when we visit Universal Studios.

We tell our 20 year old daughter and she squeals with delight.  She is again eight years old, standing in line for Winnie the Pooh's autograph during our first vacation to Disney World.

 I now remember why I have spent all of those hours planning. I realize that our time away is as necessary as summer jobs and doctor's appointments. I now see that we are, all of us together, still here.

This is a truth and I tell it to myself loudly, in an attempt to remind myself that caution and responsibility are among the benefits,  not restrictions,  of being 50;  and that the day my children take vacations of their own is not yet here, and is not now.

Instead, now is this day, the day I realize that we must continue to do what we love, and  nurture ourselves and each other, no matter what our age.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Desk Of My Own

by Amy Ruhlin                                                

I received an unexpected gift this Mother's Day, delivered from my past and wrapped in an old, quilted, lavender bedspread. I found it in the back of our storage closet, propped up between the wooden crib where my babies once slept and the plastic crates that my daughter recently brought home from college: our first dining table; a golden piece of oak with detachable legs.

I remember when my husband and I discovered it at an antique store in a small town along the banks of the Mississippi river in the late 1980s. I remember that back then, my individual and creative needs seemed to be effortlessly met by creating a home and building a life with my family.

I had forgotten about the table, and the bedspread we used as a cover to protect it. I remember laying my baby girl down on the soft, lavender cotton to change her and to play with her. I remember that as I met her needs, I felt my own needs being met too.

But as the years passed, I became a pro at meeting other people’s needs and at making adjustments for my children as they grew and changed. I put baby dolls in attics to make room for Barbies; I moved dress-up clothes to the back of the closet so prom dresses could take front and center. I packed away plastic trucks and toy chests to create space for electric guitars and hockey sticks. 

I made sure that my children had a place to study, to learn, to create: a desk in the corner of their rooms with a lamp and Wi-Fi; pencils, papers and pens. I was so busy watching their progress and helping them grow, that I wonder if I sometimes forgot that I was growing too.

My daughter is home for the summer after completing her sophomore year in college and my son is finishing up his last week as a junior in high school. They linger in the kitchen and talk with each other over coffee. They discuss their summer jobs and hatch plans for their futures. They are busy meeting their own needs and I realize that I need to meet my own too.

For the past few months, I have been using our kitchen table as a makeshift desk to pursue my renewed interest in writing. But the kitchen is now ground zero for my children as they move in and out of the house this summer, and it is clear that I need to make an adjustment. 

I ask my husband to help me carry the old dining table upstairs to our bedroom, to an open space in front of the windows, and together, we assemble the legs. I add my laptop, some paper and a pen.

Then I remember that it is Mother's Day. And I realize that I have given myself a gift. I have recognized my own needs and have created a place for myself to learn and to grow and to create.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kindle Fire

Featured on: herewomentalk:

by Amy Ruhlin

I finally broke down and bought a Kindle but I held out for as long as I could.  For more than a year, I watched my husband read from the glow of his ipad each night in bed before we fell asleep. I kept thinking that he would come to his senses, tell me how awkward the ipad was, and go back to reading books. I kept dropping hints, telling him of all the articles I'd read about artificial light disrupting sleep patterns, and how the convenience of his ipad could never compete with the feel of a book in his hands. I reminded him that our king size bed was the place of bedtime stories when our kids were growing up. It was hallowed ground. It was where we turned the pages of Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl. It was where we propped up large books in small laps. It was a place of love and pajamas and paper and ink.

I've spent a lot of time with my books.  I've arranged them on the shelf, stacked them horizontally, lined them up vertically and alphabetized them by author. I've written in them, dusted them off and loaned them out. I’ve walked over to my bookshelf just to look at them so I could remember how they made me feel, what they taught me, how they became a part of me and how they changed me. And yesterday, I gave some away. I packed up six boxes full and drove them to a nearby donation site. Then, I came home, dusted off the shelves, and created space for something new.

Midlife insists that we let go and move on but it didn’t seem fair that our books had to be involved. But I take my Kindle and I move along.  I walk into our family room and sit with my children. My daughter surfs the web with her MacBook and my son watches a video on his laptop. I turn a page with my stylus and my kids prop up their computers on their laps. It is a place of screens and keyboards and teenagers and love.