Simon’s Home.

Oh, no he’s not.

The sight lifted me as I turned the corner, arriving home: Mike’s red clunker parked on the driveway apron, ED’s navy sedan in the driveway, and Blue Boy’s silver sedan on the street. Everyone was home.

My surge of contentment was short-lived when I realized that Blue Boy was not.

Sending Blue Boy off to college was tough for all of us. For a young man who spent most of his home life in his room, his absence has left a palpable sense of loss in the household. That sense intensifies when the silver sedan on the street shows Mowgli is home. Not Blue Boy. As if even the silver bullet mourns his launch. Lest the reader think I am not happy to see Mowgli, I clarify that until recently, Mowgli did not have a license to drive. The sedan meant both boys were home. Now it denotes a missing element.

Our previous dog Jigga was an American bull who kept close track of the family. When anyone was missing from the house, she stayed close to the door until they returned. She leaped into my arms when I returned from a long absence, jumping around on my bed as I unpacked, telling me in dog speak all that had transpired and how worried she had been. Knowing that she would be heartbroken, we never kenneled her when we were gone, either sending her to her dog cousin Noel’s or hiring an attentive house/dog sitter who comforted her with Starbucks puppuccinnos.

Longer ago than I can believe, Mike and I treated the family to an Alaskan cruise to celebrate our 60th birthdays. Returning to the ship at the end of one shore excursion, we were browsing a shop on the pier when the ship’s horn announced imminent departure. I proposed that Mike and I continue to board. Visibly agitated, he insisted on waiting for his babies, adults though they were. Recalling that moment reminds me of Jigga. The same sense nags me when I see that silver sedan in the street, illustrating that only 4/5 of the family is home. I feel agitated and disappointed that my household is once again diminishing in size. Blue Boy’s venture into the world will no doubt be of great value to society, but it has left a hole in this household.

Mowgli was Excited

Do people/dogs use doghouses any more?

Mowgli exuded excitement when he returned from school. Well, as much excitement as a 16-year-old boy dare expose to his family. He has been working hard the past few weeks, committed to long days for a kid with ADD.

West-MEC admitted him to their General Construction program which runs two years. The first year, their junior year of high school, students attend academic classes in the morning followed by tech classes in the afternoon, reversing the schedule during the second year. Local businesses support the program which prepares the students for employment immediately upon graduation. Initially, his response to our questions about the program was the grunt. Recently, though, he shared how they constructed their own sawhorses. And yesterday’s excitement? They tore apart pallets for wood to build dog houses. What guy doesn’t love to tear apart? And a dog house? Cherry on the cake.

This is a kid who likes “to do.” He helps Mike trim palm trees. Recently he has spent a lot of time cutting up the 14-foot arm that dislodged from our sahuaro [insert sobbing emoji here]. This is the boy who trimmed the orange tree when we first moved in. Until he his teens, he was my partner in adventure.

It is good to see him feeling good about himself. Hesitant to get his driver’s license, he now drives his girlfriend to school and himself the 28 miles to West MEC. The other night he made an ice cream run, offering to pick up a treat for us. He is learning that although his brother may be a science wiz, there are other ways to succeed. Blue Boy will probably never build a doghouse out of pallets, preferring to order them online, from guys like Mowgli. We are enjoying this current of happiness.

Lost Memories: Not All Bad

Somewhere on the north side of Chicago.

Mike and I have been playing house at a one-bedroom condo in Chicago, just over a half mile away from SD and one mile from C-boy and family. It sits in the beautiful north-side neighborhood of Edgewater (or Andersonville, or Winnemac, or Uptown. The boundaries are fuzzy.) The condo allows us to enjoy our own space for a few days, visit the Chicago family, and gather our energy before returning to the heat of Arizona.

I could figure out access to Netflix.

Several television remotes sit on the coffee table and, lacking a technology degree, I need a good half hour to figure out how to use them. Astonishingly, there appears to be no HGTV, my refuge from politics, but tons of reruns. We are freely using the Netflix account that is installed. I opt for what is available so that when I forget to log out of the program before checking out, we aren’t forced to change our password once again when logging in at home.

Unsure of what to watch the first night, we settled on “Bloodline.” A few minutes convinced us we had seen it previously. Neither of us recalling the ending, we continued binge-watching. Unfortunately, the thirteen episodes of season one only add complicated twists with no resolution of issues. Which is probably why we had not completed the first season on our first go-round. I make a mental note to follow up when we get home. Most likely, we will forget we had even started it and pick it up the next time we land in this condo with the free Netflix. Maybe we will remember it the third time around.

My friends and I talk a lot about books. The litany often goes like this:

Oh, I read that! It was really good / I didn’t care for it.

                            What’s it about?

              I don’t really remember.

                            Who wrote it?   

              I don’t remember.

Due to much practice, we can recall how to use our phones to access Google, Kindle, and Amazon.

A few pages into a book and I know if I have read it before. As with “Bloodline,” I often keep reading if the writing is interesting. I was startled the other day, however, when more than halfway through a book I recalled the described scene vividly. No part of the book before or after was familiar.

Although story is the most important element of writing according to Lisa Cron, I won’t reread a book that is poorly written. And the great thing about this time in my life, I can enjoy it as though it were the first time. The same with restaurants, music, and almost any other experience including people. Every day is new. Not a bad way to get old.

Word Fun

Life would be dull without words.

Word Daily continues to provide me with fun words to add to my vocabulary. I am familiar with many of them, but having them hit me in the face via email reveals a character that strikes me as interesting or humorous. For instance, punctilious: showing great attention to detail or correct behavior. Its similarity to punctuation is notable. In both cases, I imagine a device punching paper. As you speak the word, you punch the air with the articulation.

A Latin phrase, felix culpa: an apparent error or disaster with happy consequences. Who doesn’t image Felix the Cat, that cartoon character with the perpetual smile? Is that where the name Felix originated?

Here’s a favorite: chinwag: a chat, or have a chat. Brings to mind the double chins of old people flapping in conversation. Not mine, of course. Along that line, susurrus: whispering, murmuring, or rustling. The similarity to shhhh is obvious. When speaking that word, I would have a tendency to lower my voice.  

Semiquaver is familiar, being a music term. It refers to a sixteenth note which is very short in duration. It calls up quivering, doesn’t it?

What can I do with these?

The chinwagging in the front row disrupted the normally punctilious meeting. They insisted on the adoption of a theme song characterized by runs of semiquavers. The susurrus in the room revealed opposition to the plan. Determined to find a felix culpa, everyone agreed on an ostinato to balance the energetic melody.

Loose Ends

Two classics of excellent authorship.

The boys spent a week with Nana and Papa, paternal grandparents, in Tennessee and had a great time. Nana and Papa along with cousin Mikaela (sp?) kept them busy with little time to sulk. It was good for the boys to see their grandparents as they enter adulthood. I am not sure that Nana would have taken them to see “Oppenheimer” if she had known about the sex scenes, which, in my opinion, did nothing for the movie. The story is the director included the scenes to get an R rating. Really? What about just producing a good movie? Nevertheless, I am glad that I wasn’t sitting next to them.

Blue Boy went to college this week. When at home, the boys spend most of their time upstairs in the bedrooms, so it is surprising how empty the house feels. I am experiencing the increased lability of aging, tears erupting unexpectedly with special memories. This week, of course, the memories were those of sending my own children off to school.

The tears flowed yesterday towards the end of a funeral. Although losing this dear elderly friend was sad, it was when I saw his widow that the tears flowed. The sight stirred memories of the passing of loved ones from years ago. Perhaps older people are emotionally labile because they hold a lifetime of memories in their hearts.

This week, Mike and I will head to Chicago for a few days, to celebrate Charlie’s first birthday and get some LLJ time. Word is that LLJ is totally devoted to Mommy right now, so hugs may not be in my near future. Every mother misses the embraces of their babies.

If you haven’t already, please purchase my book, “Shared Space: A Practical Guide to Multi Family Living”. Even if you don’t need it, it is a short, fun read (I’ve been told) and may be helpful to you in the future.

While you are at it, pick up “Beyond Boundaries: Tales of Transcendence,” an anthology produced by a writing group to which I belong. Filled with quality poetry, short fiction, and short non-fiction, it will please everyone.

And thank you for your support.

Where are you going? Act II*

When we have children, we don’t imagine them leaving.

Days seemed long and tedious when I was a young mother, even as the unsteady but unstoppable growth of children offered evidence that time was fleeting. Milestones of birthdays, graduations, and first days of school served as standards of comparison. Photos of those events, posted side by side, poignantly documented that the tedium of chores did not slow the passing of time. 

My children’s grandparents observed the changes in our children at a distance, without benefit of Skype, FaceTime, or digital pictures via email. Unable to witness the slow progression taking place day to day, they were stunned by the physical changes that presented on their biannual visits. Great Grandmother Ziegler loved to sew for the girls but took up quilting when they regularly grew out of the dresses before wearing them.

Now sharing a house with our daughter and her sons, we experience the same incongruity of time. A short period of absence awakens me to the boys’s physical maturity and underlines their emotional and spiritual development. Daily changes are invisible, but returning home from five days out of town, I was startled to see my pre-adolescent grandsons visibly taller.

On one particular day, their mother out of town and I was responsible as the late elementary-age boys were preparing for school. I had set the table for breakfast to mimic the presence of their mother. Mowgli, the younger, is most affected by his mother’s absence and scowled when I offered him his favorite bacon. Introverted Blue Boy, two years older, had learned to feign sociability, leaning his head toward me when I offered a hug.

Recalling my childhood discomfort in school, I was at the door to wish them well as they left the house. Mowgli allowed me a semblance of an embrace when he ran out early to play with friends before school. In typical teen boy fashion, Blue Boy allowed no time to spare and offhandedly acknowledged my “Go with God” blessing as I held the door for him to blaze through.

My eyes followed him as he dragged his book bag across the patio and into the yard toward the wall which he would climb over to access the sidewalk. He walked with bowed head, his eyes on his phone.

And there it was. A flash of love charged my core, igniting memories of each of my children as they walked away at various times in their lives. First day of school, going out with friends, high school commencement, college, wedding, moving out, and hundreds of other separations. The pain of letting go while wanting to hang on. The pain of pride in their independence but longing for their dependence. The pain of loving them more than anything and more than they can ever love me. The pain of love.

The lyrics of a song stirred the heartache: where are you going, my little one?

The concept of time is skewed because that memory is vivid, but the calendar reveals it is now years later. Blue Boy prepares for college and Mowgli for tech school. I am insisting on accompanying our daughter as she drives her first child 100+ miles away from home, 100+ miles closer to permanent separation. I insist because I know how hard it is to watch your baby walk toward a new life. I insist because I don’t want her to be alone as she feels proud and forgotten. I insist because as he walks toward his future, he will be unaware that he is walking away from her, breaking her heart. I insist because even as I write, a secondary character in this scene, I am sobbing. I need to see him in his new life so I know where to send my love.  

This could be a cautionary tale about sharing a house with your grandchildren. There is no buffer of time and space in a multi-family household. You are witness to all the joys, yes, but also the heartaches and struggles of growing up. Your heart is in their hands, and blessedly, they don’t know it. This journey away from home is only one of many. There will be many more tears in the future.

Where are you going, my little one? My heart will be with you.

*Parts of this article were from a previous post.

The Outlaws

How do I get to Nana’s house?

Although divorce drove the boys’s biological father out of our lives, there has never been an effort to drive out their paternal grandparents. Mike and I have had an amicable relationship with Michelle’s ex-in-laws, referred to respectfully as outlaws for simplicity. The ex’s parents lived over 1200 miles away. Initially they visited yearly to see the boys, one time spending a long weekend house-sitting for us when we attended an out-of-town wedding. After moving farther away, they ended the visits but continued to send gifts and communicate with the boys via technology

The backstory of this marriage and divorce is complicated, as I suppose most of those stories are. We met the outlaws when Michelle and their son were engaged, busy with wedding planning. They are a lovely couple. Unfortunately, their son had a mental health issue that would break up the family. Following an initial period of blaming the wife, the outlaws took their son back into their home and lived with the reality of bipolar disease, dissipating their blame of their ex-daughter-in-law.

Next week the boys will spend a week in their paternal grandparents’s home. They will reconnect with a cousin with whom they were close as young children. I’m guessing that Grandmother Nana is thinking of it as a last chance before the older grandchildren head to college or other parts.

But this is actually what is on my mind: the boys are quirky. Okay? First, they are teen-age boys with periods of surliness, mumbling, and impatience. Second, Blue Boy is a confessed geek and Mowgli struggles with ADD. I love their individuality. But years of living with them and witnessing the range of their behaviors daily gives me a full picture. I can forgive the irritations and bask in the morsels of delight. I am concerned that Nana and Papa may be expecting a story-book reunion with neatly dressed, articulate, sitcom teenagers eager to do whatever Nana and Papa suggest. I want the boys to feel unconditional love when they are with family. I want Nana and Papa to love them even when they are unlovable.

It would be easier for us if, when their father left, the outlaws had disappeared. But I would never deprive them of the rewards we have had. The boys carry the genes of their father’s family and deserve to know what those genes represent. Their father’s family deserves to know its progeny.

I am trusting Nana and Papa to understand the idiosyncrasies of teenagers rewarding everyone with special memories. If things go poorly, we will be waiting here at home with healing unconditional love.

Words, Words, Words!

This is an example of a lovely sitooterie. Not ours.

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

Thomas Jefferson

Writers who get paid by the word might disagree with Jefferson, which may account for the books and articles bloating with redundancy. Not getting paid for my writing and preferring succinct explanations, I am fascinated with words that convey meaning precisely. I also love the rhythm of the phonemes and the underlying metalinguistics. That may be why I enjoyed learning German. Every letter is firmly articulated, and words are combined in novel ways. For instance, Schlittschuhlaufen, literally, slide shoe running. Ice skating for us. Don’t try to say it with a dry mouth.

Word Daily sends a word of the day to my email. Unlike other sites that feature words I already use and thus are boring, this site offers lesser-known terms. Occasionally one fits the definition so perfectly or humorously that I want to figure out a way to inject it into my speech. Here are a few recent ones:

Lethologica: The inability to remember a particular word or name. Okay, everyone over 60 experiences this. I would love to use the word in conversation but will probably not recall it when needed.

Sitooterie: A small patio or sheltered area outside a house, suitable for sitting in for relaxation or socializing. Who doesn’t want a sitooterie? I found this word humorous for some reason. Maybe because it could be short for “sit your tush here.” If I can remember it, I will use it in place of patio. (See lethologica)

Demiurge: A being responsible for the creation of the universe. The Maker or Creator of the world. As a literary person who likes to contemplate the invisible, a term I recently came across, I am always looking for ways to express the ephemeral. Demiurge implies an energy that is urged to create, isn’t just letting things happen.

Appetency: A longing or desire. A natural tendency or affinity. I am not sure why I added this one to the list. Maybe the resemblance to “appetite”?

Afflatus: A divine creative impulse or inspiration. Am I alone in being reminded of flatulence? Definitely an impulse.

Mansuetude: Meekness. Gentleness. Not traditionally considered manly in our society.

Here is my one and probably only attempt to use these words:

Relaxing on my sitooterie, I observed my husband’s afflatus drawing him outdoors with an appetency to trim the trees. A short time later, falling from the ladder and in contrast to his usual mansuetude, he cried out the name of a well-known demiurge.

Please never repeat this.

 There was another word that I meant to include, but I forgot what it was.

It’s Published

Blame it on the meds. I forgot to post this.

When did I start writing this book? Only 58 pages. How hard can it be? But it took a team to perfect the final product, and I am happy with it. Thank you Shut Up & Write and The Phoenix Writers Club. You are all very special!

Wading through the production was no fun, so I hired out some of the tasks. Thank you, Manuel, at Fiverr and anyone at Coverjig as well as Katje Rooke at Unsplash. These resources sure make publishing much easier.

So now the book is available on Amazon. Meanwhile, I continue marketing. Please, dear friends and family, buy the book, post a good review, and pass the word.

Unbridled Procreation

Check these out on

Life got a little busy with the publication of my writing group’s anthology followed closely by my own very short book. Purchases and reviews are much appreciated as is sharing with friends and family. The crunch of publishing activity and catching up on medical appointments before our next excursion caused me to neglect the personal blog. Lest my readers think that everything in the Casa de Cornelius is hunky dory, I add another post.

The title of this blog has nothing to do with welfare mothers, which, incidentally, is a myth. Rather, it was inspired during a recent time when ED was out of town for 10 days and the boys were on summer break, at home but out of sight most of the time. Our household practices conservation with little use of paper products for eating and even rarer use of plastic water bottles resulting in a stockpile of dirty dishes daily. Some people, okay, one person, okay, Mowgli, hoards dishes in his room.

Here I will address every reader’s thought: why do the kids have food in their bedrooms? I agree. Other than an occasional snack such as an apple while doing homework, I disallowed food in the bedrooms for sanitary reasons. However, sharing this house means the boys treat the upstairs bonus room as a family room for entertaining friends, watching movies, and playing games. Food is often part of the mix. Blue Boy returns dishes immediately, often washing them when he reaches the kitchen. Mowgli. . . I don’t know what he does with them. When the inventory of tableware gets low, we give him a specific count of plates, bowls, flatware, and glasses to be returned to the kitchen immediately because any delay means that the instructions will be forgotten. A stack appears, surfaces encrusted with sauces, pasta, fruit juice, milk. I haven’t seen bugs yet. Don’t judge; you don’t live this life.

Back on topic: with everyone home, dishes were appearing faster than I could load and unload the dishwasher. I recalled my attempts to control the wrapping paper cabinet. (The same cabinet referred to in my book: “Shared Space: A Practical Guide for Multi-Family Living.” Just sayin’.) Taking charge, I spread the mass of bags, paper, ribbons, bows, and cards across the bonus room. With all surfaces covered and feeling desperate, I called my Little Sis to come help me. I think I did that two more times over the next four years and then gave up. Now when I need to wrap a gift, I brace myself before climbing the stairs to retrieve a gift bag, grabbing anything close to the right size no matter the occasion, assuring myself that in a couple of years we may all be moving out solving the gift paper storage problem. If stair climbing seems overwhelming, I find a simple brown shopping bag in the cache in the garage, assuring myself that my friends appreciate the thought of a gift in a bag..

ED and I cleaned out the craft closet once. That’s enough in 15 years. Same for the candle cabinet, the guest linen closet, and the game cabinet. I’ve given up. Honestly, like dirty dishes, those items multiply when we aren’t looking.

Now that I write this, as many writers say, “I write so that I know what I think,” I am inspired to tackle the candle cabinet. We rarely use real candles, having learned that candles are not good for the air and being too lazy to go upstairs to choose the appropriate wax sticks for the season. Purging that one cabinet may inspire me to move on to the wrapping paper cabinet.