Category Archives: Teachable Moments

Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

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Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

It’s fine, I’m fine, everything is FINE….my Gawd why do I get so emotional at these predictable Hallmark milestones? My kid just finished 8th grade and naturally there was a ceremony, we have one for everything now, first period parties, hard pass. I approach these events with the cynicism of a crone, meh, it’s 8th grade not med school, calm the hell down and yet…

As I scan the faces on the stage I feel a strange mix of emotions. I’ve known a dozen of these kids since preschool, most since Kindergarten, half the grade has been at my house at some point. It’s not a huge grade maybe 115 kids and as I watch them, I’m reminded of the ever growing gap in the parental/child relationship. I’m keenly aware that while I once knew everything about my kid, I’m no longer the primary confidant. One of my friends summed it up – once we shared them with the world, now they share a piece of their world with us.

Throughout the day I hear the refrain of Sunrise, Sunset go through my brain and my emotions play out like a predictable plot, so pedestrian in their ebb and flow. Somehow I’m OK with that because this is the shared camaraderie of parents. I can catch a side glance toward another mom and within seconds I know she’s on the verge of losing it as I quietly pass her a tissue. There’s comfort in that, knowing your peers are experiencing a similar cocktail of bittersweet emotions.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When, did, they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they, were, small?

Sunrise, Sunset – Jim Nabors

I’m sure the middle school promotion ceremony plays out in a similar format throughout America. The same six kids get recognized every year – leadership, citizenship, athleticism and all around Stepford child awards. My kids never get them. My son was one B away from straight A’s in middle school.

The single B was from 7th grade gym class where they had to choreograph a dance. Three dudes where set to shake it to Shaggy’s  Bombastic but some Lynne Cheney type bish decided that was too risque so they had to switch songs at the last minute. So basically censorship prevented my kid from making straight A’s in middle school. That same year they were forced to do square dancing and since there were more guys than gals, his partner was a known douche bag who likes to pick fights. I don’t think I’ve hated anything more in my kids school careers than 7th grade PE.

Bombastic

My girl had one C in middle school and it happened last semester in Algebra. I can barely spell Algebra let alone do the equations, I won’t hold it against her. My kids are good. They usually make the Honor Roll, don’t get in trouble and they are respectful around adults (well, the girl gets testy around me, she is fine with other adults). So in sum, my kids are slightly above average academically and there isn’t an award for that.

They stopped doing sports when they realized that concussions are a strong possibility and my son got sick of @ssholes on the soccer field. My daughter flirts with instruments – flute, piano, and now guitar, she has some musical abilities she just hasn’t stuck to one thing long enough to excel. Should I force her to play the piano an hour a day? Seems stupid to me and I’m done paying for lessons that aren’t enjoyed.

And those six kids that get the awards, they work their asses off and so do their moms. These kids have been groomed in utero and on through to this day to stay on track – musical instruments, student council, tutors, travel sports – resources and talent have been carefully mixed to keep their kids in the front of the pack. I admire their tenacity yet I opted out. I picked calmer weekends and weeknight dinners around the table, I was hoping for some sanity.

If my kids decided they wanted to do something specific, I followed their lead. We had one year of travel soccer (crazy and expensive) and a brief foray into lacrosse, neither stuck and I wasn’t too sad about it. So now my kids don’t do sports and I think the Grown & Flown types would have me feel bad about it but I just can’t muster up the guilt (yawn). BTW, the Grown & Flown Facebook Group has some seriously mean people in it. The posters routinely include “please don’t be mean” in their posts because there are some ragers in there.

As I’ve been a witness and a participant in this raising of humans, I am constantly aware of the privilege around us. I did not grow up like this. I was raised by a single mother and I had a dead beat dad, we were broke. My brother and I had to fend for ourselves. There were no tutors, no activities that required rides from mom or added any extra expense, it wasn’t an option. We were latch key kids who understood that there wasn’t money for extras, we barely got by.  I used to clean my neighbors apartment so I could earn money to go roller skating.

My kids don’t know that struggle. They have two parents that would set themselves on fire to give them what they need and we have financial resources that neither my husband nor I had growing up. He came from a working class family, his parents were immigrants, they worked their asses off to get their kids a better life.

When the college admissions scandal blew up this spring, I wasn’t surprised. I can see this happening where we live, these people are so primed for it. All the money, time and sweat equity they have poured into their offspring, they aren’t settling for anything less than Penn State. The ones that want Ivy Leagues pay for college coaches, they’ve all spent at least a year’s tuition on the prep before they receive their admissions letters.

Back to the ceremony…there was the obligatory photo montage featuring a small collection of photos for each student. A guarantee for tears is what it is…pictures of babies morphing into high school kids on a continuous loop until the ceremony begins. My brain went through a total recall of my daughter’s childhood. It extended into the known parts of her friends, past and present.

There were times when I felt like I knew too much…that girl is on anxiety meds, that one is struggling with her sexual orientation, another was once a close friend until she wasn’t, that kid’s dad has cancer, his parents are separated, divorce, divorce, affair, those 4 kids each lost a parent (one dad died 7 weeks ago, heart attack), the boy who has been in a wheelchair since he was two, the blind kid who has the same birthday as my daughter…..my heart broke a million times yesterday knowing some of their struggles. And while, I am still somewhat involved in the district, I don’t know everything. Each one of those kids is struggling with something, regardless of the awards, perfect hair or blatant talent, privilege can’t take away every obstacle in life.

Last night there was a party at the school for the kids. It had a theme because of course it did. I can barely remember a time when parties didn’t have a theme, barbaric. The theme last night was Aloha High School. Some moms came up with theme related activities. Decorations included grass skirts around the basketball hoops. These parents are EXTRA, they go all out. There were at least 8 different activity stations all with Hawaiian flair – hot potato, scooter hockey, volley ball, an inflatable obstacle course, limbo, hula hoops, and my personal station Flip Flop Flippin.

Flip Flop Flippin or FFF as it is known on the street, features two elevated hula hoops and flip flops. The goal is to flip a flip flop off your foot through one of the hoops. Yeah, sounds easy, in reality, not so much. It’s easier to do with a heavier shoe, I know this now, I know it deep in my sole (typo intentional, calm down grammar nerds). I had maybe five customers in 2 hours.

Midway through the party,  I went over to assist at the inflatable obstacle course. Actually, I wandered over to chat with a mom friend, she soon put me to work. Before I knew it was the inflatable course warden yelling at boys to stop grabbing each other’s ankles as they attempted to climb the slide. I yelled to the point where my throat hurt and some dudes got black listed from the course. I have without a doubt destroyed my daughter’s chances of dating any of those guys, mission accomplished.

Despite the carefully planned curated activities it turned into a zoo in no time. Noodles for the scooter hockey were immediately weaponized as 14 year old boys unleashed their inner Zorro. The boy in the wheelchair had at least 4 kids on the square scooters trailing behind him in a whip chain for at least 40 minutes (I was happy about that, he had a blast and his mom is a G-damn hero).

In the end, the gym looked like a Hawaiian party war zone. The “no food in the gym” rule was breached, a Moku dessert bowl bleeding pomegranate on the wooden floor. Remnants of leis were scattered like ashes from Mauna Loa. No doubt, the remains of a good time as they leave this part of childhood behind. I’m not crying, you are.

I Left My Heart…

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I Left My Heart…

We just returned from the land of Tesla, Sweaty Betty & Rothy’s, aka, San Francisco. The hubs had a business meeting and the kids had spring break so we turned it into a family vacation. In my former life, I went to Cali on the regular for work, mostly Irvine and Oakland so I squeezed in plenty of LA and SF weekends and Geezus that was like 17 years ago already. (Takes a moment to shake the cobwebs from her mind and contemplate the time space continuum, that was an intense 3 seconds.)

I must confess that I’ve gotten really lazy about planning trips. I used to create schedules, print out maps and have a list of recommended restaurants on the ready. Now I’m like F-it, Google will tell me whatever I need to know in the moment. So maybe Google is making me more zen or maybe it’s just the lazy or her step sister, tired. (insert yawn it feels like 5 am to me, what time zone am I in again?)

The trip starts out in the usual way, complete chaos with undertones of panic, dread and excitement. The timing of the trip meant that we would get in late Saturday evening and host Easter dinner twelve hours after getting home. That meant cooking and cleaning ahead of time (chaos). The panic and dread come from flying alone with my kids (the hubs went out ahead of us). This isn’t new, I’ve been traveling with my kids alone since they were 1 1/2 and 3. They are teenagers now, some things are easier. They can amuse themselves with inflight entertainment on their phones and I don’t need to walk them to the toilet or “assist”. The days of sticker books, toddler snacks and Max & Ruby videos on a continuous loop are long behind us.

I still sit in the center seat to preempt fights over the arm rest and “accidental” elbows to the ribs. Our seats were in row 39 (of 40) for both flights with a round trip dose of screaming babies in row 40. Of course at some point during the flight I envision all three of us dying is a fiery plane crash….or worse, the scenario where I get sucked out through the disgusting excuse of an airline toilet, plummeting to my untimely death with my pants around my ankles, kids watching in horror from an airplane window as they shove at each other to get a better view…..part of me is at peace as I speed to the permanent sleep, knowing I won’t have to referee anymore of those fights.

All kinds of awful scenarios go through my mind, I suddenly have the imagination of Stephen King. I glance at the horrors of my own making, then I  crumple them up and toss them into a mental trashcan until the next flight when I’ll pluck them out and unfurl them again…like some dreadful relative that stalks the periphery of your life. Wow, that went dark for a hot second, moving on.

We stayed at a really cool place, the Inn at the Presidio built in 1903, it has been repurposed from it’s original use as housing for unmarried officers. We were fortunate to get one of only 22 suites in the main building. The amenities included continental breakfast and daily happy hour with wine and cheese (& OMFG good chocolate chip cookies). The inn is located within a park, truly an oasis within San Francisco. Once you’re tucked in for the night, you forget that there is a bustling city within a 10 minute walk. We would have forgotten we were in SF all together if not for the distant fog horn gently reminding us throughout the night. It was glorious.

Since I’m married to a nerd, he scheduled a tour of the Tesla factory. Knowing my daughter would roll her eyes so hard that they would actually exit her body during the tour, we opted out. So the boys went to Fremont and the girls walked over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito.

We had a beautiful sunny day which is not a given in SF. Parts of the walk were daunting….OK, scary as hell. The bridge was fine, loud but safe, the descent into Sausalito, not so much. When you get over the bridge, you shadow the freeway traffic until the exit for Alexander Avenue. Once you get on that road, walkers are on a narrow shoulder getting buzzed by a swarm of bicyclists with varying degrees of skill (or lack thereof).

I find it amazing that a city will rent out so many bicycles to people who clearly have no idea WTF they are doing. The bike shops give them a map, a pat on the head and wish them well in one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the USA which by the way, has a tendency to be shrouded in fog. What could possibly go wrong? We were thrilled and grateful when we made it to the sidewalk in Sausalito which posed signs forbidding bicycles. No bicycles on the sidewalks, thank you!

Sausalito is gorgeous. It is a quaint town overlooking Richardson Bay and the Golden Strait which, fun fact, is why that famous International Orange colored bridge is called the Golden Gate Bridge. Back to Sausalito, it’s expensive as hell. The median house price hovers around $1.4m which honestly seems low for the area. That calculation includes a cluster of houseboats which are interesting on their own.

My daughter and I got lunch – I ordered an $18. cheeseburger and she ordered from the kid’s menu (under duress) and we switched meals. Let me tell you the kid’s fillet of sole was delicious (I sounded like a cannibal when I read that out loud). After lunch we went out in search of socks because my daughter wasn’t wearing any with her Converse and at about mile 7 that was getting annoying. She picked out a pair that featured the GGB and screamed tourist with flair. A couple of hours in we were ready to take the ferry back to San Francisco.

While waiting for the ferry I decided to sit on a bench next to a heavily bearded man and his little dog too (I really hope you read that last bit like the Wicked Witch of West). At first he just seemed like an eccentric street performer. He started teasing his dog who was having a cookie and wasn’t willing to share. Then he picked the dog up and they had a full on shouting match. After a few minutes he started saying disparaging things about his ex-wife and her parents which prompted us to leave and get in the ferry line half an hour early.

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My daughter and I found seats on the ferry and I left to get us water and a snack. My parting words were “save me a seat honey”. I got back 10 minutes later and all three seats were taken. I asked my daughter what happened, assuming she just forgot about me, she had a slightly panicked look on her face. I hovered close by. When the person in the aisle seat moved I took that seat leaving one person between my daughter and I, we will refer to her as Typhoid Mary. Actually she probably had the flu or a bad cold, there was a lot of coughing and nose blowing. TM did not appear to speak or understand English so a seat exchange wasn’t in the making. After several persistent coughs followed up with some serious nasal discharge, I decided to move. I got up and aired myself out. My daughter stayed in her seat and amused herself with her phone seemingly unaware of the cootie circus happening within her orbit.

When the ferry was getting ready to dock I came back to check on my daughter and encourage her to exit so we could get ahead of the 80 bicyclists that would also disembark. I got more panicked looks with some rapid hand movement and overly expressive eyebrows….not a lot was said. She’s half Italian so she’s pretty good with the hand signals. I got the gist of it, she wasn’t leaving early.

Eventually Typhoid Mary got up and exited the row. That’s when I saw my daughter’s beloved Panic at the Disco beanie sitting in the sit that TM just exited. She sacrificed the beanie to save me a seat. The interesting bit is that the beanie had a small glass bottle filled with erasers in it which, didn’t seem to bother our recently departed friend. Also, my daughter mentioned that she plucked a bug off her own eye in transit letting out a muffled scream that I missed. I was either in the beverage line or gazing at Alcatraz as we went by.

So we left the ferry with all of our items and a bag of unopened pretzels that were no longer wanted. San Francisco has a big homeless population so I suggested that we give the pretzels away to someone who might be hungry. The first homeless person we encountered resembled the giant from the Game of Thrones during the Battle of the Bastards.

Game-of-Thrones-Battle-of-the-Bastards-Wildlings.jpg

Seriously the dude was maybe 4 inches shorter than the giant and vomited into a garbage can in front of us. We decided to keep the pretzels a little longer.

A few minutes later we passed by a bench that had a shopping cart next to it filled with blankets and random items. I suggested we see if that person wanted the pretzels. I approached with my daughter next to me. He was a big guy (smaller than the giant) with the largest nose ring I have ever seen. I asked him if he wanted the pretzels and he snatched them out of my hand with a grunt. We didn’t stick around for idle chatter or philosophical conversations.

At this point we were making our way to Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf aka, the biggest tourist trap in San Francisco. I didn’t mind my girl wanted to visit the sea lions. At this point my cell phone was under 20% so I turned it off to conserve energy. The plan was to take an Uber back to the inn once we finished at the pier. We were about 11.5 miles into our day at this point.

While we were walking on the pier my daughter mentioned that she would like to get some more sassy socks and *poof* behold a sock store appeared. We got lost in there for half an hour and left with two pairs of socks and an idea of where the sea lions hang out. Ten minutes later, satiated with our sea lion viewing, we were ready to go back.

As I was opening the Uber app, my phone died. Totally dead, barely a warning just snapping a photo of a sea lion one minute and fade to black the next. Fortunately there were taxi cabs at curbside so we pretended it was 2008 (before Uber ruled the roadways) and went back to our room. It was a fun day and I hope my daughter will reflect on it with the same fondness I will….so maybe, I left a wee bit of my heart there…in San Francisco.

The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

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The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

Parenting kids in middle and high school is such a complicated and lonely space to be in. When our kids are little we tend to share a lot about them. Holiday cards, social media posts, small playgroups, sports teams and parent clubs. The little cherubs happily pose for the camera without a whiff of self consciousness.

Somewhere around 5th grade things start to shift. The kids no longer want you to go public with what you think is cute. Concerns about privacy, social status and damage control start to creep into your thoughts. The kids disappear from your social media feed and you keep things under lock and key. The difficult stuff is whispered to your closest friends, a very limited set of eyes and ears. Even with those confidants the experiences are exhausting and isolating at times.

I’ve had days this past month that have absolutely gutted me. Pain for my child which housed a kaleidoscope of emotions; profound sadness, love, pit of my stomach fear, impatience and resignation. Fortunately the low points have been transient, replaced with more hopeful experiences, it goes in and out like the tide. I can only imagine the despair of families that reside in the muck for extended periods of time. I’m sure those parents are around me, they just aren’t talking about it.

The why of the reasons for not discussing things openly are a complicated stew of ego, protection, shame and insecurity. Shame that maybe we failed as a parent somehow – gave too much or too little. We were too involved or not vigilant enough. We haven’t properly adjusted the sails, we hit the gas when we should have braked and now we are spinning out of control.

The first inclination is protection. Protect the child at all costs from labels, embarrassment, bullies, the boogeyman, mistakes or misunderstandings that can negatively impact their future. That’s a tall order and some days I feel so small, minuscule, a speck of dust, insignificant. At this phase in their lives, your kids generally care more about friendships than family, at least temporarily. Another jagged pill to swallow, the person you want to help most in the world doesn’t necessarily want your assistance or your opinion. They will however, happily relieve you of $20. or the car keys when they start to drive.

Insecurity is the ghost that haunts us all whether we care to admit it or not. Insecurity is married to shame maybe not officially but they are at a minimum shacked up together. If I’m honest, this is the piece of parenthood I feared the most before we had kids. Knowing that I would make mistakes as all humans do. I also knew that making mistakes as a parent would cause me intense pain. Mind you I haven’t had colossal failures, just the usual varieties; having a more impatient tone than intended (this is called yelling), being a few months behind on the dental check up, and not being a constant shadow on their social media.

I’m sure some parents and kids skate through this phase without a pimple or a tear shed, I think those are the unicorns. Most of us take a deep breath and remind ourselves to have a friendly tone when we knock on our child’s bedroom door. We worry about over/under scheduling, setting reasonable expectations that neither diminish goals nor create neurotic overachievers. I’m still searching for that sweet spot of challenging my kids so they can bend without breaking.

 

I Get To…

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I Get To…

Every so often the Gods of social media send a pearl of wisdom my way. This morning I was browsing Facebook when I saw a photo that caught my eye. The original post was from Kristen Hampton of WBTV Good News, it featured a handwritten sign which stated: I get to…

According to the original post, Kristen saw that note at a friend’s house. A friend who is currently undergoing chemo for what is described as an awful cancer. Kristen’s friend explained that “I get to” is a substitute for “I have to” and the simplicity and sheer gratitude of that suggestion is inspiring.

I get to is a gentle reminder that all of this is temporary. Whatever problems we have individually and collectively, it’s all so transient.  The kids we wait on will leave the nest (eventually), the aging parents we care for, they’ll also move on to a more permanent place, that boss you can’t stand likely won’t be in your life in five years and on it goes. The list of daily chores and obstacles can seem impossibly long and arduous. I get to is a beautiful, gentle reminder that this is all temporary, so enjoy the ride.

I get to recognizes that it is a gift to be able to tick off the list of things to do for ourselves and others. A reminder that we can control the narrative of our own inner voice.  It reminds us that we are fortunate to have the physical and mental capacity to do the things that need to be done. A suggestion that we have the ability to choose a more positive frame of mind, one grounded in gratitude.

Welcome Aboard!

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Welcome Aboard!

Hey there blogging friends, there has been a recent uptick in followers here lately and I have no idea why. The newbies could be Russian bots, marketing peeps or spies for Jeff Bezos, complete mystery. For the authentic, in the flesh real people, hello and welcome aboard. Thanks for joining this weird ride of mine. Here’s a snapshot into my life via a description of yesterday’s events so you have an idea of what you’re in for, buckle up.

Nut Butter Log – Thursday

OH FFS there is another school delay! The sleeping in bit is great until it derails the remainder of your day. I needed to be in three places at 9:30am – 1) Work 2) Shoveling my mother’s driveway 3)Driving kids to school. The kids still come first around here followed by mom and then the clients. Calls were made and expectations were appropriately lowered, what I refer to as adjusting the sails.

Getting middle school and high school kids to school on time has a set of variables that I didn’t really anticipate when they were little. I thought preschoolers were a tough bunch – lack of focus, poor bowel movement control and a struggle to tie shoes, sometimes I long for those days. I can’t get into specifics because teens have very intense rules about what can and can’t be posted…let’s just say that some mornings it feels like I am walking a tight rope over lava…in a wind storm.

I dropped my son off first then offered to take my daughter to Wawa for some snacks because she had ski club after school. She was very happy about that (parents of littles – food bribes still work in middle school). We were driving out of the busy parking lot with no expletives and zero honking which, is a minor miracle because that place is the stuff of nightmares. Then it happened, a massive hot chocolate spill directly into my daughter’s crotch.

DD: Mom! Oh no, look!! I look like I peed myself.

Me: You smell good though…you went with the S’mores variety didn’t you (exaggerated sniff)…now that is the smell of summer in February.

DD: Oh My God! I can’t go to school like this.

Me: Nope, you can’t. I’ll take you home (smirking). You can go to work with me. Rob & Laura would love you. (They’re in their 90s)

DD: MOOOOOOOOM.

Me: Relax honey, just think about which pants you will change into and be super fast when we get home. Sometimes the universe sends us a sign to not take ourselves too seriously. We will now refer to this as “The Great Hot Cocoa Incident of 2019”.

DD: I’m sorry you’ll be even later for work. (Side eye and a smirk, she has perfected both)

After I got my daughter to school, I was on my way to my mother’s house to drop off the milk which, I forgot to drop off at 8:30 when I shoveled out her car and walkways. I got to my clients house an hour later then scheduled and then shoveled out their car, driveway and walkway. Lots of shoveling which was good since the gym got sidelined with the delayed opening.

I have a small business which fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. Many of my clients are elderly and need assistance with errands, household chores and rides to the doctor. Rob and Laura are clients that I visit twice a week and I adore them. They’re both in their 90s and have some mobility issues. Yesterday our errands included two grocery stores, a diner, the butcher and the post office.

The first grocery store was a hive of activity. Our slow moving somewhat decrepit parade was getting passed by like fighter jets buzzing the tower. I had to suppress the urge to stand in the center of each aisle and assume the starfish stance in an effort to create a safe zone for my clients. Shopping with them is always interesting, they bring a list which is organized by aisle. Things were going well until we got to the beans. Butter beans and Lima beans were both MIA. I can’t really tell the difference between the two but Rob can and he has a recipe that doesn’t allow for bean substitutes. This necessitated a trip to a second food store.

I offered to do the bean run into the second store and have my clients wait in the car. They obliged and I soon found myself in another aisle of beans stumped by the options. There were Butter beans (yes!)..then there were two types Lima beans. One can advertised “Butter Beans, Lima Beans in Sauce” they were white and looked suspiciously like the plain butter beans. The other can of Lima beans were the familiar detested green Limas of my youth. This was a bit of a dilemma, which Limas should I get? When I was putting myself through college, working full time busting my ass, I never imagined this would be my breaking point. In my mind I could hear the overhead store announcement,  “Existential life crisis brought on by beans, aisle 15”.

I could not consult my nonagenarian friends (I went to college so I could use that word), they don’t text so, I made an executive decision and put those nasty green Limas back on the shelf. I found out later that I made the wrong choice because of course I did! I was blinded by my longstanding hatred of green Lima beans. You never know when a food you hated in your childhood will come back and bite you on the ass. Yesterday the green Lima beans did just that, the bastards.

After the beans were tucked into the car I asked my clients where to next – those party animals wanted to go to the diner. I guess they rested up while I was having a mental breakdown over beans and they were hungry. I was hungry too in fact, I treated myself to an Almond Joy while I was checking out with the beans. I had to cleanse the putrid memory of green Lima beans with something equally powerful from my childhood palate.

The diner we went to is their version of Cheers, everyone knows their name here. I walked in the middle of our slow moving parade with Rob in front and Laura behind me. This is a typical conversation:

Me: Rob we have the table in the back corner. Remember if you fall, fall backwards, I’ll catch you.

Rob: (Grunts) It’s crowded.

Me: Yup, we’re threading the needle here, threading the needle, almost there.

When we get to the table I ask them each where they want to sit. Then I sit, taking a mental note of where the canes are resting so, they don’t become tripping hazards for the waitress.

Laura: I love Ann (the waitress), she seems like an interesting person. I wish I knew her better. Check out her feet when you get a chance.

Sure enough Ann is sporting some bold striped socks. Laura knows this because at 92, her head is in a permanent downward tilt. At the first grocery store I saw a dime on the floor which I quickly stepped on to hide from her view. I didn’t want her to bend down and pick it up. Not on my watch Laura, the activity of bending down to pick something up can be a game changer at her age.

After lunch Rob wanted me to stop at the butcher to buy bacon. The store is a throwback to what I can only assume would be 1957. This is one of Rob’s happy places and I marveled at the number of deer heads on the wall (7 and one was wearing an Eagles hat). One more stop at the post office to clear their box and we were back at their house. I helped put groceries away and noticed that there was another pound of bacon in the meat drawer. I informed Rob that he has a significant bacon supply and then remind him we are going to see his Cardiologist next week, we both chuckle at that.

When I get in my car to leave my clients, I get a text from my husband that a family friend is sick and we may need to watch their twins (6 years old). I text the twins mom and offer to help.  She takes me up on it because I’m the friend you call when sh*t goes sideways. I won’t hold your hair back if you’re drunk in a club vomiting into a public toilet but I will drive you home, my friends know this.

Once again I found myself in the position of needing to be in two places at once – picking up my son who stayed after school for robotics and fetching the twins off the bus. I texted my son to hasten his pace and broke several traffic laws to get to the bus on time. For the next 5 1/2 hours I had twins who are equal parts adorable and exhausting. At 9pm I took them home and at 9:30 I picked my daughter up from ski club. Within an hour, I was falling asleep in bed sitting up not watching the news.

Like so many of us, child-rearing competes with caring for aging parents, self-care, and running a household while managing a job.  I’d say this is what it’s like to be the meat in the middle of a generation sandwich but nut butter seems more appropriate. Thanks for visiting :).

 

Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

She’s No Old Bat

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She’s No Old Bat

Robin Roberts was on Good Morning America interviewing Naomi Osaka when I heard someone say “Who’s the old bat?” I could feel my blood begin to boil. I have great fondness for Robin Roberts. I remember when she went through a bone marrow transplant in 2012. At that time I had a close friend who was battling cancer and she was considering the procedure. After immediately calling the person out for their ageist and sexist remark, I decided to take my anger and turn it into a teachable moment.

I started by educating myself more about the GMA anchor. I knew that Robin Roberts played competitive sports and I remembered that she worked at ESPN. Can you imagine what it was like to work in a white male dominated culture as a black female lesbian? I started to dig into her background a little and discovered that she had over 1,000 career baskets and rebounds and has been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Roberts also excelled academically; graduated as Salutatorian at Pass Christian High School in 1979 and followed that up by graduating cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1983. She went to SLU on a tennis scholarship but switched to basketball.

Robin Roberts is also a best selling author. She has written three books (4 if you count the first edition of her Rules to Live By book which listed seven rules in 2007):

Seven Eight Rules to Live By (2008)

My Story, My Song – Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith (2012)

Everybody’s Got Something (2014)

I informed my friend about a few of Roberts many accomplishments. Then I suggested that the “Old Bat” could still likely kick his ass but she’d be real sweet about it and you’d feel better about yourself when it was over. I think her greatest accomplishment has been her influence in getting more donors for bone marrow transplants as noted by Wikipedia:

In 2012, she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disease of the bone marrow.[21] Be the Match Registry, a nonprofit organization run by the National Marrow Donor Program, experienced an 1,800% spike in donors the day Roberts went public with her illness.[22] She took a leave from GMA to get a bone marrow transplant,[23][24] and went home in October 2012.[25] She returned to GMA on February 20, 2013.[26] Roberts received a 2012 Peabody Award for the program. The Peabody citation credits her for “allowing her network to document and build a public service campaign around her battle with rare disease” and “inspir[ing] hundreds of potential bone marrow donors to register and heighten[ing] awareness of the need for even more donors.”[27] ESPN awarded its Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Roberts at the 2013 ESPYs.[28]

Robin Roberts as often stated what her mother told her time and time again – “Make your mess your message.”