There’s no place like home: From empty nest to broken nest to quarantine.

For a homebody like me, this forced social distancing from Coronavirus feels equal parts bizarre and comforting. My people are home with me.

For us, staying home means finally going home as our unplanned renovation thankfully winds down enough to move back in after six months—just in time for the “Stay at Home” orders from our county. We will have no kitchen for awhile so that will be interesting. This is surreal for everyone. For us, it’s like we’ve become avatars moving through the levels of a video game where each challenge gets harder and comes faster

We dropped off our second freshman child at college in August at New York University and flew home to a massive slab leak inundating our floors.

Every parent knows the stressful months leading up to a first-time college drop off. We have twins—so there were two universities, two dorms to outfit, two kids to prepare, two goodbyes to brave. It was a summer whirlwind of logistics, planning and worry and then right when we thought we could exhale, the level of this game got much harder.

The Money Pit’s problems cascaded. New plumbing. New floors. New windows. New framing. New electrical. New drywall. Heck, we might as well update the bathrooms and kitchen while we have it torn apart.

It might have once been rewarding to remodel so extensively. But I am tired. I am spent. I just wanted to adjust to our new reality of an empty nest The nest is empty alright. Nothing in it but traces of asbestos sludge and construction dust.

You know that part in every horror movie just before the killer shows up and the music crescendos into a single sustained high-pitched note? That note has been playing for six months.

And then the Covid-19 pandemic showed up. Damn.

Those same eager college freshmen we dropped off six months ago have been sent home, upset, confused and scared. They are under our roof even if our roof is temporary accomodations with ugly rented Cort furniture. We are unexpectedly together again. But we are safe. Unmoored but healthy.

I’m grateful for that.

In a few days we will once again sleep in our own beds in our own rooms. We could all use the familiar cocoon that is home right now. Nothing about this pandemic could have been imagined six months ago. We try to hold onto what we know. Home. Each other. Family. Comfort food. Familiar TV shows and movies.

I feel so badly for all those college kids away on their first year and for the high school seniors on their last year. All the precious lasts that will not happen. The last prom. The last baseball season. The last birthday party with childhood school friends. The last yearbook. The last time together as a group at graduation.

How tenuous it all is. How little we control as life tosses us around throwing hurdles and calamities our way. Our house comes undone. Our plans come undone. We are all so vulnerable. I can come undone. I can break.

I’m all out of grit. I tell myself we’re lucky. No one is sick. No one is hurt. I miss my mother and father. My Dad, a doctor, would be calm and logical. My mom would make food and tell stories. I am my children’s mom. They need me to be calm and logical and cook and tell stories. They need me to reassure them.

I need my home.

March 25, 2020

Seeing God with the windows down and Mariah Carey on the car radio

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I’ll tell you my story about the time I saw God. But first, let me tell you about Women’s Night.

I have an extraordinary aunt, Tilde, my father’s sister. She and her great friend Dawn, who is as much a part of our family as any blood relative, used to host a dinner for the women of the family at Christmas every year.

Ours is a big family. There are easily more than 20 women just in the same town. They called the dinner Women’s Night.

Women’s Night was designed as a break from the frenzy of the holidays, without husbands or fathers or sons. The only purpose was to bond with one another and have fun, like a sleepover without the pillow fights or the sleeping and with way better food.

It was part therapy session and part holiday celebration. After dinner we would sit around a circle and they would invite us to share something about our lives and ourselves.

Usually we were given an assignment in advance. Each year the challenge was different. “Tell us about your happiest memory from childhood.” “What’s the bravest thing you ever did?” “What new thing did you learn about yourself this year?”

The walls we all build around ourselves and the secrets we keep, even from those closest to us, would dissolve on this one night each year. It was scary and hard. It was often hilarious. I don’t think I ever left a Women’s Night without having cried…a lot…and laughed even more. We connected in a way that is rare and beautiful, even magical.

It was their gift to us.

So back to that time I saw God. One year, at Women’s Night we were asked to recount a moment from any time in our lives when we felt the presence of God. (You know, nothing too heavy.)

For me, choosing the moment was easy. I remembered it because as it was happening, I actually thought, “God is here right now. He wants to play and laugh and make his presence known. And so he is.”

Here’s the story I recounted.

I had just picked up my twins from their last day of preschool before Christmas break. They were still high from the holiday party, the gift exchange and all the sweets when Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” came on the car radio.

“Turn it up mommy!” Hannah squealed. “Put the windows down mommy!” We had a habit of rolling down the windows and turning up the radio when a great song came on. It was our little bit of wildness.

Their school was located in the heart of our idyllic little downtown in Winter Park, Florida, a place so perfect it looks like it was conjured up from a dream.

With Mariah blaring and while stopped at a traffic light, Hannah yelled “Merry Christmas!” to a construction worker. He turned, smiled at her and shouted it back. And then another guy working alongside him did the same.

Squealing with delight, she shouted “Merry Christmas!” to an older lady walking her dog who looked up, waved and shouted back “Merry Christmas!” Peels of laughter rang out from the back seat.

“Hello there!” she yelled and waved to anyone within earshot. “Hello!” they responded, returning her bright smile.

I just want you for my own. More than you could ever know. Make my dreams come true…all I want for Christmas…

“Merry Christmas!” she shouted to a jogger and then to a guy riding a bike. Then to a group of men. Each one caught by surprise, turned to us, smiled and shouted back “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas Mr. Postman!” she yelled as we turned into our neighborhood. Jake just giggled and whooped, delighting in his sister’s uninhibited joy. There we were, our own Christmas carol, dashing through streets laughing all the way. It was magical. Spontaneous. Real. Wondrous.

Baby all I want for Christmas is you…

By the time we pulled onto our street, I had tears in my eyes.

I looked in the review mirror at the face of pure joy…my wonderful girl, who in that moment felt nothing but unabashed love for everything and everyone…with the wind blowing her hair…the music filling the car…connecting with complete strangers in sheer happiness for a single perfect moment and then another and another.

I remember thinking that God simply decided to dissolve the walls and the secrets…and fully show his face on that beautiful day through that beautiful girl.

Merry Christmas.

December 24, 2016

Living Leisurely vs. a Life of Leisure

Smell the roses.

So I’ve noticed lately how often I’m greeted with a slightly sarcastic “how’s retired life?” Sometimes people follow up the greeting with a reminder that they “actually work.”

It’s been more than six months since I stopped working and the slight condescension from others is starting to annoy me a little. Maybe I still seem an oddity, a novelty, to them.

It’s amazing how I’ve become so accustomed to my life now that those comments or questions throw me off a bit. “What? Oh, yeah, it’s great,” I reply, underplaying it a bit because, frankly, it’s FREAKIN’ AWESOME.

It is easy to confuse a life of leisure with living life more leisurely. I’m definitely doing the latter. A life of leisure conjures up images of sunbathing by a pool, shopping for expensive handbags, long lunches on Park Avenue after tennis at the club. That’s not what I’m doing.

But I am savoring almost every part of the day. Today, I woke up slowly, realizing I would have already been at my desk at that hour a year ago.

I drove my daughter to debate camp, listening and laughing with her gleeful anticipation of tonight’s Republican debates.

Later, I sipped my second cup of coffee and read the entire newspaper. Then I picked up the kids’ alterations and asked the seamstress about her own kids and grandkids.

I went to the grocery store for the second time this week right in the middle of the day. I took my time walking up and down the aisles. I chatted with the deli counter lady. I was in no hurry.

I let the ticked-off guy wearing scrubs cut in front of me in line at the U Break I Fix store. He was so grateful that he went from surly to charming in two seconds flat.

I’m heading to an appointment to have my roots colored soon. I have time to get cash first after my stylist texted me, stressed out, that her credit card machine is broken. No problem.

It occurs to me that none of these are things I could have done on a typical Thursday one year ago. I would have crammed the errands at the end of a long day, flustered and exhausted in this 98 degree summer heat. The grocery run would have been squeezed in late on a Sunday night. The hair appointment would have meant guiltily missing some family activity on a Saturday morning.

A paid sitter would have driven Hannah to school, listened to her stories and run the errands that I would have been too important and busy to do myself.

I have an old friend, a very successful attorney, who told me last week he broke up with his live-in girlfriend of more than 15 years because she didn’t work. He’s fairly wealthy, mind you. It just bugs him, he explained. She volunteers at animal rescues. She serves as a guardian ad litem for troubled kids. She’s beautiful and works out daily. She loves him. But he finds he doesn’t respect her if she isn’t gainfully employed. He thinks she’s uninteresting without a job to talk about or co-workers’ stories to share. He asked her to move out. If she gets a job, he told her, she can move back in. God, I hope she gets a job and never goes back.

I’m sure he thinks less of me now. But the thing is, I kind of think less of him. This same friend refused to have children with his first wife because she was short and he didn’t want to risk having short sons. She worked, by the way, but it didn’t stop him from cheating on her.

My mother never worked. She was also one of the most engaging and respected women I’ve ever known. She read voraciously. She commanded respect by how she carried herself, by what she said and how she loved and lived. She wasn’t meek or apologetic or boring. Ever. She would have thought my friend was missing the point of loving someone. If she was alive, she might have invited him to dinner and given him a good lecture about his own conduct as a partner.

Many of us are missing the point of life. Too many of us value leaning in at a conference table much more than leaning in to talk with the person on the other side of a deli counter. We admire status and power titles over the state of our own souls and measure others’ worth by their net worth.

We take vain pride in how busy we are and then buy books on “mindfulness” or how to “be present” in our own lives. It’s easy. Just. Slow. Down.

Reflections on the water

The perfect spot on the beach.
The perfect spot on the beach.

At fifteen I wrote a poem about the beach that hangs framed in my Dad’s bedroom.

This is the place I want to live. To run fast and free beside the sea. To be forever the best I can be.
And I would love for you to come with me.
To look at the heavens, dark and far, reflected in the water,
and count the stars…

It’s our first summer vacation getaway and we came to New Smyrna Beach. School just ended Friday and we loaded up the car. Surfboard? Check. Bathing suits? Check. Cooler? Check. Not much else needed. We rented a little townhouse that allows dogs. It looked great in pictures. But when we walked in, I actually gasped.

It’s spectacular. This is what people who love the beach and architecture imagine as the perfect beach retreat.

The deck alone is worth the rental fee. Big and deep, wrapping around the ocean-facing rear of the house, creating a secluded, romantic retreat nestled into the dunes.

Pictures can’t do it justice. Four adirondack chairs face the water with an enormous umbrella offering shade. Just behind them is another seating area with a big comfy sofa and more chairs. This is the place to hang out all day. There’s a gas grill and an outdoor shower surrounded by lush sea grape, pampas grass and wildflowers. Wildflowers!

Wow. Just wow.

Oh, and the interior is beautiful too. The walls and ceilings are covered in Pecky Cypress stained the color of driftwood. There’s a loft with two beds that H has claimed, laying out all her books. We’ve hardly seen her in three days.

All this and we were able to bring our two dogs, no questions asked. Life is sometimes perfect.

And then…not so perfect.

The raw intensity of the ocean where it meets the land can be serene…or ferocious.

On Sunday afternoon helicopters and rescue boats interrupted the bucolic scene searching for a 17-year-old boy who had been swimming with friends and then was suddenly gone. We watched them go up and down the beach looking for him. I thought about his mother. I prayed.

I sat on our beautiful deck with the late afternoon sunlight shimmering on the waves, watching rescue crews look for that boy underneath those waves for hours.

…This is the place I want to die.
To watch my soul take wings and fly.

I don’t remember the rest of the poem. His body washed up on shore this morning. For his mom, the world has stopped. Yet on this same beach, people are swimming. Kids are giggling. Surfers are running headlong into the waves.

I made my children breakfast and quietly gave thanks that it was not my tragedy. Not my son. I hugged him a long time until he squirmed free, laughing.

I set aside the horror of it all for a moment to try and renew my vow to savor every second of this day, this life, this beautiful spot on earth.

The virtue of doing nothing

Rainy Monday mornings: Nature's way of telling us to chill.
Rainy Monday mornings: Nature’s way of telling us to chill.

Laziness gets a bad rap. It’s a rainy Monday morning–the kind of morning everyone at work grumbles about and mutters they wish they could have stayed in bed. I can actually stay in bed. I love the unique darkness inside a house on a grey morning. It’s like the day itself is slow to wake…sleepy…lazy.

One thing I haven’t done since quitting work is spend a lazy day in bed. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been lazy, but only after getting dressed, making the kids’ breakfast, driving them to school, making the beds, starting a load of laundry. I pay some dues first before laying on the couch with my iPad to check out what’s new on One Kings Lane, or else the guilt gnaws at me. It sort of gnaws at me anyway. I don’t really enjoy it.

What will I say when people ask what I did today? I can’t say nothing. We are our stories. There are no stories to tell when you waste a day. Waste a day. That’s a terrible expression.

We feel a need to call our doing nothing something enlightening, like meditation…or educational, like retreat.

Why do we deny ourselves the bliss of doing absolutely nothing for its own sake, ideally in our pajamas, without needing to belittle it, explain it or earn it?

Have you ever watched a dog just lay around, finding the right cold spot on a marble floor or squishy pillow on a couch? They lay around with no qualms. There is no guilt, not even when you give them the evil eye for laying on the couch. They just stare back and stretch.

It is their natural state as much as it is to run or eat or work.

Did our prehistoric ancestors lay around on a beach or in a tree thinking, I should really be foraging for food or sharpening that spear? Probably.

But what if it’s just fine to do absolutely nothing at all? No planning. No problem solving. No working. No reading. No bill paying. No talking.

What if it’s great, in fact? What if much of the anxiety in our modern world, requiring so much medication, is just a natural response to the scarcity of laziness in our lives…and the unrelenting demand we place on ourselves to do more, achieve more, have more. With smart phones, we can’t even unplug from the office on weekends, at night or while on vacation.

I am going to practice doing nothing today without a shred of guilt. I am going to learn to unapologetically answer nothing when asked what I did today.

It isn’t depression. It’s just wonderful, blissful laziness…the glorious resting of our minds, bodies and souls. Try it.

It will do you good.

Do you know who your people are at work and why?


Your people have your back and you have theirs. They are the ones who you can be yourself with, not your role. They love what you love. They get ticked off by the same annoying people you do. They are really good at what they do. They care.

I miss my peeps. My team. My staff. My work family. We were a tight-knit group. I knew I would miss them after I quit work. It’s what made me take a very long time to step away. (The loss of income gave me less pause.) I don’t miss much, but I miss them and how we worked together.

It is the downside of leaving any job and the best aspect of office culture that doesn’t get celebrated enough.

As a department in service to others, we tried not to feed into feelings of “us against them.” But we were different. We were marketing and PR professionals inside a large higher education bureaucracy. No one really got us like we got each other.

These are the people who, with one raised eyebrow, understood exactly what was meant during a strained meeting. We had each other’s backs. We laughed at the same jokes. We were irritated by the same red tape. We sweated the same details and could see the big picture together. We respected each other.

Admittedly, we didn’t know the first thing about pedagogy or curriculum mapping. But we rocked brand standards, media buys, CRMs, SEO and knew that an organic search did not involve a run to Whole Foods.

We knew which stories would generate media buzz and which would be duds.

If you want to see real collaboration, watch a copywriter team up with a graphic designer to tackle a project, shepherded by a traffic coordinator, refined by an art director, championed by a project manager–and then delivered in a few days, on time and under budget. Now watch hundreds of those projects going on all at once. It’s pretty cool.

It bonds people.

We knew how to please difficult clients. We knew which battles to fight and which ones to surrender. We knew what everybody wanted from Jimmy John’s.

It’s natural to have silos in big organizations. We weren’t just siloed, heck, we were our own brand–to use marketing lingo. We were the outward-facing, student-championing, common sense-making, award-winning, butt-kicking marketing team. We were very good pros and very good people.

If you are lucky enough to find a core group of solid people at work…your people, recognize it’s a very special thing. If you have the chance to assemble such a team, have the courage to do it. By that I mean lose the dead weight. Bring in the best. Then fight for them. Don’t micromanage them. Expect their best. Get out of their way.

These people, my people, kept me going as long as I did.

One of them sulked for months after I announced I’d be retiring early. He gave me the stink-eye every time he saw me. I was breaking up the team, changing the ingredients of our mojo.

I see them here and there. We go to lunch or drinks. They are my Facebook friends. It’s not the same.

I miss my peeps.

Who are your people at work and why?

For the Love of this House

One of many precious moments in our backyard, frozen in time.
One of many precious moments in our backyard, frozen in time.

The famed designer Bunny Williams wrote a book titled “An Affair with a House” about her beautiful New England home. She wrote poetically about the rooms, the furnishing…every detail of the stunning house, the barn and its gardens. The photos were lush and gorgeous. Somewhat self-consciously, I suppose, she included mention of her philanthropic work lest her passion for a house meet with readers’ disapproval.

I get her.

Home, dressed for the holidays.
Home, dressed for the holidays.

I love my house as though it were a breathing, living being. I’ve felt guilty about that too. What a materialistic and shallow thing it is to care so much about a house. But I do. We built it 12 years ago. I bought the empty lot one day when my husband was out of town.

Trust me, I said. I was never so certain of anything. The twins were in diapers.

I grew up in a mid-century modern house with terrazzo floors, low ceilings and three bathrooms, each with a bathtub of a different color. I dreamed of my own little play house in the backyard with wood floors and a porch. Every year, it was the only item on my letter to Santa.

Of course, my sensible (and wonderful) parents, raising five kids, had no way to deliver such an extravagant gift. They had better things to do than indulge my early house love. As a kid, of course, I didn’t understand.

Get lost, Santa. I’ll make my own house.

And I did. I imagined every detail of how this house would look and how it would live. And then I set out to create it.

It has both a front and a back staircase. There’s a cool little attic room with pine floors that an artist came down from Jacksonville to paint in a checkerboard pattern. It has a laundry chute that we use every day. I bought the hanging pendants in the kitchen from Urban Archeology in New York.

I picked the Calacatta marble for the kitchen counters, over the objections of the installer, Giuseppe, who told me it wouldn’t hold up to daily use. It has.

The limestone that forms the pool coping was delivered by a sweet kid who drove it from Indiana and unloaded his truck in our backyard, wiping the sweat from his brow. You weren’t kidding that it’s really hot here in June.

Every feature has a story. A few years ago when the real estate market shook the economy and with it our certainty that we could afford to live in this house forever, I readied myself to sell it.

Right after my mother died, I floated the idea to my realtor friend. What the hell. It’s just a house. Life is short. We can be happy in any house. There’s no reason for so much financial stress.

Within days we had an offer. We accepted it. I promptly fell apart. I can’t quite explain the irrationality of my overwhelming grief in those days after we signed the contract. But I went off the deep end. Too much loss.

My mother won’t know where I live, I cried to my bewildered husband. It was supposed to remove a burden and instead it felt like it had ripped out my core, leaving me a slobbering, babbling puddle of incoherent, broken-hearted mush.

On a technicality, we managed to get out of the contract but not until lawyers got involved, lawsuits were threatened and one particular realtor hated our guts. My dear friend, thank God, graciously supported us. The buyers, not so much. They ended up in the house across the street. Needless to say, they don’t have us over for barbecue.

My salary these last five years, before I stopped working, helped us hang on to the house I love so much. I’m really proud of that. It matters to me. It is my work of art. How many times in life do we continue to adore a thing long after we get it?

It is the backdrop of my best life. It is the house that routinely attracted neighborhood kids on hot summer days to jump in this pool. My kids learned to ride bikes and skates and scooters on these sidewalks.

A long driveway helps get momentum going.
A long driveway helps get momentum going.

Our big extended family started the corny Christmas talent show tradition in this family room. We rode out Hurricane Charley with my mom and dad in this family room. My elegant mother, having forgotten her nightgown and wearing my husband’s oversized black t-shirt emblazoned with the words “El Guapo,” (the ironic nickname for Boston Red Sox pitcher Rich Garces) nearly peed in her pants, laughing so hard upon glimpsing herself in the mirror in this guest room.

I brought home a trembling eight-week old puppy, thrilling the kids who came home from kindergarten to find him on this back porch.

Max the dog, in a favorite hangout.
Max the dog, in a favorite hangout.

Our neighbor, J.P., beginning at age six, made himself right at home…answering our phone or grabbing a Gatorade from our fridge in this kitchen. Countless blanket forts were erected during sleepovers with cousins in this playroom.

At least eight kids ran up the stairs to watch a magnificent nighttime space shuttle launch from this balcony. We’ve thrown some great parties here. Giggly second graders dropped into the water in a rented dunk tank, squealing with delight in this driveway. Darting boys wearing eye black and shooting air soft guns, played Man Hunt after dark in this backyard.

I set the table on fire when I knocked over a candle during a dinner party, recovering nicely, in time to serve dessert in this dining room. Curiously, that was NOT one of the two times the fire department was summoned here–first after the baby sitter left the gas on and another time after I forgot to open the chimney flue and lit a fire, filling the house with smoke. The 911 operator says to get the dogs out, my frantic daughter screamed as we escaped near disaster and certain embarrassment.

My next door neighbor brought his two young sons over to this house, their eyes wide with unimaginable fear, the night their mom would die after a long battle with cancer. My troubled Aunt Yara spent her last day, happy, watching a Gator game and eating dinner before suffering a stroke while sitting in this house. It is these walls that sheltered each of them on those two dreadful days.

Homebody that I am, there’s nowhere else I would rather be.

I know nothing stays the same. Those sad little boys next door grew up to be happy, great kids but the family just sold their house and moved away last week without saying goodbye. J.P.’s parents, who became our friends, divorced a few years ago and they too moved away. None of those kids who watched the space shuttle arc in the night sky live in this neighborhood anymore, except mine. Space shuttles don’t blast into the sky anymore.

Maybe we should still sell it. But I can’t think about that now. And I hope it’s not right after the kids go off to college in four years. I need this to be the nest that gets emptied in one fell swoop…this house that welcomes them home with their piles of dirty laundry and new friends.

I prefer to imagine a lot more living and laughing and crying…and growing old here. Someday I will be able to let it go.

I wouldn’t want to end up a ghostly figure peering ominously at future occupants from a window, like Nicole Kidman’s character in the last scene of The Others, defiantly whispering…this is my house.

Then again…

A different kind of cleanse

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Cleanses are all the rage. Take your pick. Colon Cleanse. Liver Cleanse. Master Cleanse. Ten-Day Smoothie Cleanse. Juice Cleanse.

Flushing out the gunk and starting fresh seems to make such logical sense for our bodies. Cleanses have an obvious appeal.

Removing what makes us feel sluggish and tired is made to sound as easy as mixing ingredients in the right measures, drinking up and letting nature take its course. A cleanse appeals to our desire for a quick fix to whatever ails us…a simple recipe for feeling healthy and vigorous.

But how often do we consider a Life Cleanse to remove the toxins in our spiritual selves…our actual lives? How do we approach a detox of our souls that have been crammed over time with spiritual gunk, too much muchness?

Too many channels. Too many obligations. Too many problems. Too many solutions. Too many perspectives. Too many choices. Too many news reports of all the world’s tragedies and evils settling into the crevices.

I have found myself wanting to get to it already…the discoveries, the elusive peace of mind, the clear-eyed wisdom. The joy. Come on…the clock is ticking. I want the answers. OK enlightenment, I’m ready.

But I’m not ready. I need to make room. I need to cleanse. Edit. Remove. Take away a lot more.

Cleaning and ordering are activities that mirror something internal in my spiritual escape and I will write about that a lot. I am a natural editor. I like removing the superfluous in written copy and in a decorated room. I go back and remove words and reduce the content of these posts many times. My eye prefers an airy room and spare counter tops.

I love white space. The blank page. That split second of black screen before a film starts. The pregnant pause.

It’s essential to remove before I add or maybe just stop at the removing.

Leave room for the Holy Spirit the nuns told us at our Catholic School dances of my youth. Hmmm. They were on to something.

Why I make my teenagers’ beds.

Since I stopped working, I have a new daily routine. After dropping my kids off at school, I come back home and turn into the Ritz Carlton housekeeping staff.

Beds get made with the top sheets folded back and tucked tightly under the mattress. Pillows are fluffed. Bath towels are picked up off the floor, washed, folded and hung on their respective towel bars. I wipe away dried toothpaste in the bathroom sinks and snap open the blinds.

All the laundry gets sorted for each child, washed, folded neatly and put away.  My goal is an empty laundry hamper every single day. I figure that if I stay on top of it during the week, there will be no laundry to do on weekends for a change. No more frantic search for Wednesday’s mandatory “dress” uniform. It’s right where it should be, hanging in the closet.

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Then the kitchen is cleaned up from breakfast, the dishwasher is emptied and the dogs are fed. It takes most of the morning.

And I enjoy it. It’s really very satisfying. Don’t judge me.

I went from making Power Point presentations that help trustees make strategic decisions to folding practice jerseys that make getting out the door easier for two teenagers.

Is it as important? No. It’s more important. I love these two people. They have one mom, one home…one escape of their own.

Now, I did none of this while I was working, of course. I rushed out the door right alongside them each morning, no time to care about what was left behind except to wonder if I’d turned off the flat iron.

By the way, we have a signed contract with our kids that specifies if clothes are found on the bathroom floor, the culprit loses cell phone privileges for a day. So I spent a lot of evenings announcing, I’m about to go upstairs! There are no clothes on the bathroom floors right? Followed by the sound of footsteps racing to beat me to the scene of the crime.

I used to get ticked off at the idea of making the beds for perfectly able-bodied 14-year-olds. No way should we take their laundered clothes upstairs, much less put it away or pick it up from the bathroom floor. How will they learn? More typically, I would get annoyed at the messes that seem to trail them through the house, yelling at them that they were slobs and needed to do their part.

Can you guys please take your clothes upstairs already…and your shoes?

But here’s the thing: I’ve started to really see what their days are like these past few weeks. I mean I can feel the pressure and stress they are under. These kids are so over-scheduled and overworked that if I can give them a backdrop of comfort and ease…even of beauty, it seems to me they will become accustomed to that kind of order and do it for themselves as adults. Maybe it will irritate them to see ugly messes and they’ll be compelled to tidy up their dorm rooms. Maybe not.

I do it for them anyway. I do it out of love.

I didn’t make a big deal about it. I just did it. I curbed my complaining too. I heard my daughter squeal in surprised delight one night when she went to her room, Look at my closet!

Last night that sweet girl came home from softball practice close to 7 p.m., hungry and exhausted after a very long school day. She quickly showered, ate dinner and started on her nightly homework marathon.

First she tackled a five-minute speech on the end of World War II which she is delivering as though it were a news broadcast. The BBC didn’t put that much thinking into the actual coverage. It was ten minutes too long. She rehearsed it in a British accent. Then she tried it in the clipped, formal style of American news reels of the era.

It’s enough baby. It’s great. Stop. 

When I went to bed after 11 she was still working at the kitchen table, bleary-eyed and close to tears, finishing Algebra. Her brother had wrapped it up only moments earlier. I could barely keep my own eyes open and she still had to find x.

I went upstairs, turned down the sheets on her bed, layered in her favorite Camp Seafarer blanket and placed a chocolate on her pillow.