It Gets Better

Facebook alerted me to the fact that six years ago, I posted this:

Am thinking that someday my mornings won’t be structured around the demands of children, dogs, horses, and guinea pigs. That instead I will be free to make coffee and turn directly to a book. And that a part of future me will be a little sad in the midst of that freedom. But, also realizing, we will probably always have a dog.”

Six years ago, my boys were 10, 8, and 4. Nearly every day held some form of obligation, whether it was karate class, guitar lessons, school, piano lessons, brief flings with basketball, hockey, gymnastics, etc, etc, etc. We were very busy. You could usually find some combination of us in my minivan, snacks distributed and consumed, appropriate (often not) music blaring from the radio, and I was frazzled, tired, cranky, but usually pretty happy.

Enjoy these days,” random people tell you when children are hanging from your coat and interrupting your every thought. “Enjoy these days because you will miss them when they’re gone.”

Now my boys are 16, 14, and 10. It’s a snowy Sunday morning, and the teenagers are both sound asleep. My youngest slept over at a friend’s house. The plow woke us and my husband and I leaped from bed to move cars, walk dogs, feed animals, make coffee, check the doppler maps to see if the projected 20 inches of snow was indeed going to materialize. And now he’s gone back up to the bed and I’m on the couch with dogs snoozing at my feet, sipping my coffee, and there’s no reason to shower, dress, leave the house.

The day, so far, is perfect. It’s perfectly free (mostly) of child-related obligations.

Of course, we’re still busy people. Just yesterday, I did the grocery shopping at 6 a.m. to beat the inevitable pre-storm crowd. Later, I drove across the state (and back in a blizzard) to attend a regional high school band concert. And one son needed a ride to the mountain to snowboard. Plus, my friend and I did our usual five-mile walk, also known as our weekly therapy/save the world/share book recommendations session. It was a packed day, mostly packed with kid stuff.

But today—today is not packed. Today is free of commitment beyond, you know, feeding dogs. (Because yes, we will always have a dog. Or three.) And feeding ourselves. And eventually, I imagine the 10-year-old will need a ride home. But I could, and likely soon will, turn to a book and read a large chunk of text without interruption.

Was I right six years ago? Does future me feel a little sad in the midst of all this freedom?

Nope. I feel glorious. There is no sadness. Not even a hint of wistfulness.

I don’t miss our overly packed days. Those days were hard, and I’m glad I had them (I’m even glad that I sometimes still have them), but this snowy Sunday morning is better. I’m happier with this precious space in which to sip coffee, read and write some words, pat the dog’s head, and unfold on my own time.

Here’s what I tell the parents I see with children hanging off their coat and their every thought interrupted: “It gets better.” That is what my past self wanted to hear, more than “Enjoy these days.”

Your kids will grow and expand in both body and mind and they will spend more time away from you than on you, and the spaces that will open up, both physical and mental, will feel like a reward you are granted for getting through those hard days during which you are called upon to be stronger than you ever believed possible. It really does get better.

Thanks for reading. I’m going to go pour another cup of coffee and find my book.

A greyhound relaxing on the couch
Calvin the greyhound loves snowy Sunday mornings

Diary Project Moved!


I’ve dedicated a new site to my great-grandfather’s diary: Would love to see you all there!

Here’s the About:

Thanks for stopping by.

Half of one of my bookshelves is taken up by journals written three-quarters of a century ago by my great-grandfather, Jesse Brewer. He writes about daily life in a small Massachusetts town before things like the internet, cable television, smartphones, and pre-grated cheese were daily realities.

I’m trying my best to post one entry per day on the corresponding date here in 2019. (But I’m pretty busy with my own writing/editing career and family, so please forgive if I skip a day.)

My mom, Anne Verre, is an invaluable source of family history and typing skills.

We’d love to hear what you think.

January 3 Sunday, 1943

(Must admit, that last written line gave me pause…)

(Also, every page has a quote at the bottom, printed as part of the book. Did he read these and find inspiration/solace/intent? Who knows?)


ToDay is the Birthday of ___________

Fair and clear wind SoW by W.

Went up on the hill and did some chores

Walder came in and I showed him some specimens of soapstone pottery so he could recognize any specimens if he found them. I rode over to town with him and got a couple of papers.

We stopped in a few minutes and saw Bob Lee. on the way home we stopped at Stephens Field and looked Walder’s boat over. Saw Cap’t Morton there.

Ealoner worked a half day. She went bowling last night.

Percy Finney came over last night and beat me at cribbage.

Mr. McTane was in here tonight, he is after money to paint the church.

This book is not a newspaper but a private book, mind your own business.

[“Philosophy is the art of living.” Plutarch]

January 2 Saturday, 1943

(Note from my mom: “Actually, they would be the diaries of your great-grandfather.  It gets very confusing with the names. Jesse Brewer’s father was David Brewer, Jesse named his first son David. David Brewer named his first son Jesse. Phew! David Brewer came to America to set up a game preserve for Eben Jordan in Chiltonville, near Forges Pond.”)


ToDay is the Birthday of 8:00 Fuller Hammond

Check from Fuller Hammond for the amount of $8.00

Mr. Hornblower told me to close up the house after they go back this time. Walked over to town and bought a pair of work pants and a pair of overalls.

Walked back to Fremont at to see how Bob Lee was, he just had his nose operated on. He was out gone up town to see the Dr.

Walked up as far as Cobb’s Hollow and Louise swift gave me a ride the rest of the way home.

She said her brother got back home today. he was discharged from the Army on account of his heart.

Work pants $3.50

Overalls $1.39

Weather fair, South West wind, rather cold.

Bob called me up to tell me how his nose is coming along. He will be out of work for another 10 days.



January 1 Friday, 1943

(A journal entry from this day in 1943 by my great-uncle, Jesse Brewer.)

[Italics indicate deciphering issues. All structure, grammar, and verbiage is as close as I can tell.]

(edited to add my mom’s notes: “Bud would be Aunt Jessie’s husband..Pic was the nickname of my mom, your grandmother..Eric would have been 1 yr old, visiting with Walder, my dad. The hunting they refer to is looking for arrowheads. Grampa Brewer was an amateur archeologist who left quite an extensive collection to the Plantation.”

IMG-2269January 1 Friday

ToDay is the Birthday of The Year 1943

Caught muskrat in Walder’s brook. The Hornblowers are down here. Walder and I hunted Arthur Woods land, we found only a few bases, one nice point and I found one crude spear point. Sent in a dollar for Hunting and Fishing, and a dollar for The American Gardener.

Pic. Eric and Walder came in for a while this evening to see how Thelma was.

Percy Finnery was in Tonight. He is going up to Hanover to look for a job.

Took Buds letter up to his mother.

Fair and warm till 10 – am – wind South, then clouded over and started to snow about 2 – P.M.

Had turkey for dinner.

Russian drive is going strong against Germany.

Know Thyself


Boxing Day. I love Boxing Day. Being done with Christmas is a huge relief and I feel like I can finally enjoy the holiday. Which doesn’t quite jive with my determination to restart the healthy eating thing, but that’s life for you.

I’m sitting in a very chilly ski lodge. But when I say ski lodge, I bet you think of crackling fireplaces and rustic-yet-rich décor and substantial mugs brimming with hot chocolate. This ski lodge is not like that ski lodge, but also, my experience of ski lodges is extremely limited, so maybe it’s me who’s wrong, and every ski lodge has hard benches, a pervasive smell of grease, cranky little kids demanding yogurt tubes, and a carpet that I suspect was installed in the mid-60s.

Despite the aesthetics, I’m pretty happy right here in my greasy booth. Somewhere out there, my middle kid is conquering the slopes. He’s mentioned snowboarding several times in the past few winters, but we never really took any sort of plunge (not being a winter sports family by nature) until he quit basketball and guitar lessons in quick succession and began to stay up until the slimmest of morning hours night after night and showing signs of general, persistent discontent. Uh-oh. Time to find an outlet.

And it’s actually pretty great for both of us. I get to sit and work, and he gets to breathe fresh, fast air and look pretty cool doing it, too.

I keep trying to spot him out the window. I can only see one hill, and I don’t even know if that’s the hill he’s on. And I don’t know that I would know him simply by his shape and form—walking down the road, dancing in a crowd, even swimming, yes, all of these scenarios are ones in which I’ve been successful in picking out my own kid, but on a snowboard? I’m not yet familiar with that shape and slope.

Oh—just as I wrote that, I looked up and saw him gliding to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Of course I knew him. Of course I did.

I thought I’d do work work this afternoon, here in this ski lodge, but instead I’m doing my work. My own writing. Which, in this life of family, appointments, office, and the bevy of other obligations that pile around my ears and cause a slight bow in my spine, too often gets neglected. So, while I do notice a hint of anxiety about not accomplishing more in terms of work work, I am recognizing the inherent health in the decision to focus on my work.

Does everyone else do this kind of mental balance beam routine when considering the time they spend in front of their laptop in a ski lodge?

After a few more runs, we’ll head home and I’ll make turkey soup with yesterday’s leftovers. It will be only four of us, as we’re missing the oldest kid, who fled to his grandparents’ house for a few days. We’ll raise a toast to Boxing Day. And I might have one more cookie. Because, after all, tis’ the season. Still.

I have been cold forever and there is no end in sight.

The last time I felt warm was in August. I was sitting on the porch, in the shade, the cats in asymmetrical puddles at my feet, and we were all simply oppressed by the heat. We were dying of it. We were melting. And we didn’t even appreciate it.

Since then, I’ve been cold. My fingers have been stiff and clumsy, my ear tips have been numb, and my nose has been running. I can’t get warm. I can’t get comfortable. I can’t shake the suspicion that I will never be warm again.

I do love the winter. But I love the indoorsness of it. I love reading by the fire. I love making a nice Sunday roast and feeling pleasantly domestic. I love seeing snow come down outside the window. I do, sometimes, love walking the dogs in the cold and hearing the fracturing silence of the woods around us and seeing the clear infinity above us; I love the feeling of expansion and implosion happening at the same time, that inside-out feeling, the aliveness that results.

And then I love going inside and making a cup of tea.

Right now I’m in the Starbucks on the corner, working while T has his piano lesson down the road. I’m working, but mostly I’m being distracted. There’s a boy beside me who is thoroughly enjoying his breakfast wrap smothered in guacamole from a plastic cup, and his carton milk, and it’s all I can do to keep from leaning over and brushing up his crumbs for him and reminding him to throw away his napkin when he’s done. Jesus, when the fuck did I become so maternal? I mean, I know, I have all these kids, but still. I was never the person who rushed over when a kid started crying, my own or anyone else’s, and while I’m still not, all these half-grown humans I come across just get to me. Maybe it’s because they’re so close to those confusing years, those years when you can’t shake the suspicion that everything you are doing is done for the wrong reason. You worry that you will never be loved the way you’ve been told you deserve, your job will never be something more than a way to pay the rent on the crummy room in the crummy neighborhood where your crummy roommates leave their cigarettes burning on plates in the kitchen, where the X-box is constantly on, where nobody remembers to buy any milk or clean the toilet. I just want to help them open their straws, tuck their hats further down over their ears, and make them eat an apple.

But anyway.

My own half-grown boy will meet me soon at the burrito place across the street. This is our Sunday routine. We’ll eat burritos. I’ll remind him to throw his napkin away. We’ll speak few words, until we start talking about politics and he’ll teach me some stuff. We’ll head home and probably stop at the grocery store because it’s darn near impossible to keep food in the house these days, and then we’ll dive back into the rest of the family and it will be cozy.

And I will feel almost warm.

Wintry Mix

I have a love/hate relationship with snow days. Yes, it’s nice to get a break from the morning rush, the forgotten karate bag, the school drop-off line. It’s nice to have the time to do the breakfast dishes before dinner dishes are created. It’s nice to have a third cup of coffee at my kitchen table. And it’s sweet to see the lit-up faces of my offspring as they realize there’s no need to panic even though they slept until 9.

Continue reading “Wintry Mix”