Category Archives: teenagers

Writing Prompts

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Writing Prompts

When you feel vulnerable everything is a writing prompt. Sometimes the thoughts just swirl in my head, marinating until they become a somewhat tasty morsel that spills onto the screen. Not enough for a meal but, with any luck it leaves you hungry for more. Most times though, those prompts just wither on the mental vine. Here are some seeds that are lying on the bare ground, waiting for neglect or nurture to determine their fate.

Backstage Pass

My father is in the hospital again. He’s been in several times this year for various illnesses. We aren’t close and that’s not likely to change. He was out of my life from when I was 9 until sometime in my 30s. Too late for strangers with nothing in common to cling to – I say that with sadness, not hostility. We’ve both made attempts to bridge the enormous obvious gap, we just haven’t found the right the platform.

I find out about his health via group texts from his longtime partner. She’s devoted to him and very kind, which is comforting. It’s just awkward. The man had 7 kids from two marriages. I’m the first born but last in the pecking order. When I do get informed, it’s like having a backstage pass for an act you don’t know.

What’s Normal?

My kids recently went back to school and I feel myself being consumed by my own anxiety for them. I’m outing myself in the hopes that it will get me to ease up a bit. I have two teenagers and I can’t help myself, I think of what I was doing at their ages. Then I wonder, is it normal for parents to do this? If you’re a parent do you reflect on what you were doing when you were the same age as your child? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question, I don’t know what’s normal.

For the Ladies

You ever get your period and think “Oh that makes sense” as you flashback to the night before when you ate half a chocolate cake and contemplated life with a new identity.

Hospice

A friend asked me how I deal with the mental mind f*ck of caring for people on hospice. This is what I wrote to him:

Hospice is a weird thing. I think what draws me in is the lack of bullsh*t. The small stuff and pettiness that most humans get tangled in tends to fade away when someone has a newfound awareness of how finite our time is here. I appreciate that level awareness and honesty and I get into a – do the next right thing modus operandi. It’s more difficult with people you know versus volunteering for strangers. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing though, one of the benefits of a dysfunctional upbringing.

There is also a curiosity that pulls me in. I kind of want to know what it’s like at the end of life – I mean, we’re all going to die one day, yet people rarely discuss it. Or maybe my twisted brain thinks…if I am a witness and a helper for so many at the end of their lives, perhaps I’ll be granted a swift departure when my time comes. I don’t want to be subjected to weeks or months of Depends and really dry, chapped lips. So basically what I’m saying is….there is no way to delay the existential head f*ck, you just have to lean into that motherf*cker.

 

 

 

*Featured image used via agreement with 123rf.com image is Copyright of Sila Tiptanatoranin

 

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Troubled

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Troubled

Something was posted in the New York Times recently, no, not that. Something that struck a nerve in me which, is still reverberating from the pluck.

Liz (pictured in the article) and I have gotten to know each other over the past year. We share a common horrific thread of having known Tony & Betty Argiros who ran “The Family” and founded the Family Foundation School (FFS). Trust me I can see the humor in FFS as the acronym. Sadly that is the only humorous take away.

I met the Argiros in the winter of 1984 as a homeless teenager. I was basically sent to their group home/working farm in Long Eddy, NY because I had no where else to live. My family imploded due to a recent disastrous second marriage for my mother. I was newly sober and not one relative would take me in.

This place seemed like a reasonable option, it wasn’t. Since I couldn’t live with my family, I was sent to “The Family”. It was a cesspool of abuse on a level I had never previously encountered. I grew up with an abusive alcoholic mother and no father so I was pretty familiar with neglect and abuse was no stranger either, this place was next level horrible. The atrocities I saw/heard/experienced there nearly 35 years ago can still cause me tears or make my blood boil with anger. I say this as a person who has been sober for over three decades. It’s a dark, depressing rabbit hole I don’t dive into often these days as my life has been blessed beyond anything I could have imagined.

The FFS closed in 2014 thanks to a tireless campaign coordinated by alumni who fearlessly and publicly told their tales of horror. I didn’t even know the school opened until about 3 years ago when another person who went to the farm reached out to me through my blog. I felt physically ill when I heard that the Argiros expanded their reign of terror. I also felt guilt for not doing more to shut them down in the 80s. I told the authorities in upstate NY about the abuse when I ran away but the place was set up to avoid a lot of scrutiny and I was a “troubled” teenager therefore, I lacked credibility.

I am posting this because Liz is a champion of keeping awareness in the spotlight. She also keeps track of alumni deaths from FFS. Over 100 alumni have died that Liz knows of – many were suicide or substance abuse related. That’s over 100 people under 50 years old, many under 40, some younger. No one is sure how many alumni there are (hundreds. a thousand?) but they seem to be dying off at an extraordinary pace.

If you or someone you know is considering an aggressive treatment facility for a teenager, please be vigilant and doggedly research the program. The names and locations change but these places, they still exist.

 

Eighth Grade, a Movie Review

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Eighth Grade, a Movie Review

Tonight I went to see ‘Eighth Grade’ written and directed by Bo Burnham. I went with two eighth graders so naturally I was sitting in a completely different section of the theater by myself with my mom shield around me. No one got within 10 feet of me, the leg room was amazing and I didn’t have to share popcorn, not all bad.

This is a coming-of-age story in a modern setting. Social media, selfies, the isolation of adolescence are portrayed in a poignant and realistic manner. The movie follows the main character, Kayla (played masterfully by Elsie Fischer), through her last week of eighth grade.

A lot of territory is covered in this movie – the slippery slope of acting like you have more experience than you do, the panic of walking into a party, the social hierarchy of middle school, apologizing for things that aren’t your fault and the tension between parents and teens in this phase of life.

The movie is well done and some of the scenes are so realistic you will cringe. The one bit I had a hard time believing was how nice one high school character was portrayed. Another scene riled up the momma bear in me, opportunists are everywhere.

The part that bothered me most though was the active shooter drill and the shelter in place scenes. As a mother of two teens, that was a punch in the gut. Googling blow jobs, practicing on bananas, being around peers that act like assholes, that’s the normal stuff of adolescence, active shooter drills are a new sad necessity.

It was a great movie and provided a lot of opportunities for talking points (once the friend got dropped off). I recommend it for ages 13 and up, not appropriate for younger kids.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_thandra’>thandra / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Super Cringe

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Super Cringe

My alter ego has an alter ego. Stay with me here. I write under a pen name, so Bryce is an alter ego of sorts. The other day I thought perhaps I should have a character for my blog. Someone who visits from time to time with antics and foolishness to share. And then I thought:

If my alter ego wants an alter ego is that just multiple personality disorder? Asking for a friend (actually several friends…)

I posted that on Facebook and Twitter and to my surprise, no one had any solid advice for me (us, insert audible eye roll).

Left without supervision and zero guidance…I’ve decided screw it, let the alter ego’s alter ego be born. She shall have a name because – alter ego’s, alter ego is a terrible name. Too many words. Introducing (insert dramatic drum roll here)…(still drumming)….(just a smidge more drumming)…SUPER CRINGE.

Super Cringe is not your run of the mill heroine. There are no super powers to cast her for anything by Marvel. In fact, it’s her lack of anything spectacular that caused her existence. She leans into the ordinary.  A dorky, teen-embarrassing run-of-the-mill mom like so many that afflict our children. If you’ve raised humans you probably have some super cringe worthy stories of your own. Hell, even my dog is embarrassed by me sometimes. The husband just pretends he doesn’t know me in public.

Super Cringe was inspired by the fairly obnoxious text I got from my dear daughter a few nights ago. She was texting me on her way home from ski club. This is how it played out.

DD: Love u and it was fun. I went on a few black trails.

Me: Love u 2 my little bad@zz

DD: That was super cringe

And that is how Super Cringe was born, out of my child’s disdain for my choice of words. Stay tuned…visuals to follow.

 

Sketch drawn by the amazing Lisa McMillen of Cica Lisa Designs. Visit her website and prepare to be blown away. http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

 

Enough

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Enough

It’s amazing how your experiences can come back to tap you on the shoulder (or give an unexpected punch in the gut) decades later. When your life’s foundation is built on a fault line, you never know when the next big earthquake will make it crumble. Hell, sometimes the aftershocks can take it down. Too much stress and the sturdy, seemingly indestructible structure can be fallen by a minor tremor. You never know when it will hit. It’s been anticipated for years, you know it will be catastrophic, you just haven’t nailed down the timing. This is the result of a traumatic childhood, a foundation built on chaos.

Raising kids is the most important work I’ve done and of course it’s the hardest. As a mother, I am all in with these children of mine. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now  and there are days when I still wish they came with a manual. I did not have a good childhood, I don’t come from good stock and I’ve been winging it the entire time. I’ve done pretty good so far. Both kids are on the honor roll, no one is in trouble with “the law” and they are generally good humans. That’s modest, they’re amazing humans, each in their own way. I’d love to parent brag here but I’ll respect their privacy instead.

There are times when I will reflect on what I was doing at their age, the contrast is startling. Sometimes I lose my patience over minor issues because I get stuck in the long ago realm of my youth and it decreases the length of my fuse. Most of the time I keep it together unless I sense entitlement and then I temporarily lose my cool. If I’ve gone too far, I apologize quickly and we move on.

There have been times when my husband and I disagree on things and he’ll inevitably say that I’m too sensitive. My usual course of action in a heated argument is to leave the room and cool off. I know all the rotten, hurtful things to say to someone to push them over the edge and I choose to disengage. I find it’s best for me to temporarily remove myself from the situation so things don’t spiral out of control. This is a point of frustration for him.

I laugh to myself a little when I hear myself described as too sensitive. I get upset if someone is harsh, I anticipate the feelings of other people and try not to step on them. Is this supposed to be an insult or an observation? The funny thing is I’m not overly sensitive in most areas of my life. There are times though when he’s right and I am too sensitive. The alternative for me is a complete shutdown, that’s the nuclear option.

There are days when it feels like my best efforts are not enough. I get up earlier than everyone in this house, I go to bed later, the hours in-between are primarily filled with doing things for them. Nothing exotic mind you, just the day to day work that no one appreciates until someone stops doing it. I spend the bulk of my hours shopping, cooking, running errands, doing laundry, driving kids and staying on top of the business of raising humans (the forms, the appointments, the scheduling, the shuttling, the social/emotional nuances). The invisible work of motherhood is my primary focus. I squeeze in my small business and writing on the side.

When someone complains that these best efforts of mine aren’t enough, I lose it. I’m so sick of the not enough message. Ladies we are bombarded with this message. Not pretty enough, skinny enough, young enough, smart enough, rich enough, sexy enough, good enough. Not good enough is constantly streaming like the news ticker on CNN or Fox – not good enough is messaged all day, every day. Well, I have had enough.

 

Observations of a Winter Break (REDRUM)

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Observations of a Winter Break (REDRUM)

The family just got back from four days in the frozen Tundra, also known as New Hampshire. The plan was to spend some quality time snowboarding with the kids and visiting with another family at a mountainside resort. Confession, I don’t snowboard or ski so I basically read and freeze my ass off waiting for them to come off the mountain.

Road trips are painful. Specifically my ass hurts from all the sitting. Just when my coccyx was healing – Boom, 10 hours in the car. I wasn’t the only casualty. My husband managed to poke himself in the eye with an eye drop dispenser. I won’t mention that he was putting the the eye drops in while driving…oops. No worries, I was steering from the passenger seat while this circus act was performing “on the road”.

Our family of four in a hotel room makes me claustrophobic and cranky. I love my family, I do. I just don’t want to be physically tethered to them 24/7. The lack of physical personal space and privacy puts my inner loner on edge. My husband and I each shared a bed with a kid. After years of being physically assaulted by the combative starfish that our children morph into while they sleep, we have devised a system. We use pillows, towels, blankets, anything we can find to create a barrier in the middle of the bed. Sure it takes up valuable real estate in an undersized double bed but, it cuts down on bruising and resentment.

The hotel we stayed at reminded us of “The Shinning”. In fact, rumor has it that Stephen King was inspired by this hotel which used to close each winter. Not The Stanley Hotel in Colorado but the Omni Mount Washington Resort. Who knows if it’s true we just like to tweak the kids a bit, retaliation for the lack of bed space. I may or may not have written R E D R U M on the bathroom mirror when it fogged.

It was cold while we were there, colder than Antarctica during our visit. Antarctica was a balmy near zero while we dipped into double-digit negative temps. I had never experienced those temperatures prior to this trip. It was so cold it made the news:

https://www.boston.com/weather/weather/2017/12/28/mount-washington-breaks-low-temperature-record-for-the-day

The first day we arrived I had a massage scheduled. It only lasted one magical hour. The waiting room was gorgeous with chaises, dim lighting and they had snacks. I didn’t want to leave. I pretended the appointment lasted an hour longer just to soak in the calm and partake in the peppermint tea and trail mix. I foolishly took my phone off of airplane mode and was promptly hunted down by my daughter, rookie mistake. If there’s a next time I’m going to “forget” to bring my phone.

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My not-so-secret hideout for a blissful hour before my daughter tracked me down.

The first full day there the hubs and his childhood friend decided to do a zip line canopy tour. I mean who doesn’t want to dangle on a frozen wire a 100′ off of the frozen ground. It was supposed to be a 3 hour tour. It lasted about an hour and a half because they were the only people “brave” (insert stupid here) enough to do this in -25 temps. When he left, my parting words were “please come back with all of your body parts”…”still attached”. Then I rolled over into the pillow barrier that saved me from countless blows from my daughter (Starfish 2). Starfish 1 luxuriated in having the bed to himself.

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This is not my husband or his childhood friend. Apparently some other fool thought this was a good idea.

While the men were out the moms and kids met up for a historic tour of the hotel. Well, one kid, out of the 4, joined the tour for 20 minutes while the rest stared at their phones while sitting together in the Conservatory. The tour was fascinating and we learned a good amount about Joseph and Carolyn Stickney, the visionary for the hotel and his wife.

Joseph Stickney made his fortune through coal and the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was very passionate about building the Mount Washington Hotel into a grand destination for the ultra rich families that would visit it for entire summers. They broke ground for the hotel in 1900 and it opened in July of 1902. The architect was Charles Alling Gifford, this was his best known structure.  Mr. Stickney hired 250 Italian stone artisans to work on the hotel and some of the artisans family crests still decorate the columns in the main dinning room.mtwash-omni-mount-washington-main-dining-room-interior-overview.jpg

Sadly Joseph Stickney died in December of 1903. Carolyn inherited the grand hotel and became one of the richest women in America. Ten years later she married into French royalty and became known as “Princess Carolyn”.

According to our guide, Princess Carolyn became a bit “eccentric” which is code for rich girl gone crazy. She had a special table in the dinning room. Before entering she would see what the other ladies were wearing from her private balcony. If she felt outdone by a guest she would change, some evenings she changed a handful of times before sauntering down to her reserved table. Once the princess was seated, the dinning room doors were shut and no one was allowed to enter or leave until she departed. I heard this was the inspiration for the Eagles song “Hotel California” – I just made that up do not Google it.

In 1936 Carolyn died and the hotel went to her good-for-nothing nephew. Apparently he was a rich party boy without an ounce of sense in his head. The hotel was shuttered within six years. World War II didn’t do it any favors and the grand property fell into disrepair. By 1944 the hotel switched hands a couple of times and became a host to the delegates which formed the Bretton Woods System for financial trading against the US dollar (which eventually collapsed in 1971). Financial details, blah blah blah the real travesty was described to the tour attendees as the great white paint massacre.

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Prior to the global financial meeting of 1944, hundreds of painters were sent to the Mount Washington Hotel with 50 gallons of white paint per person. The instructions were simple yet profoundly idiotic, paint everything white. The painters dutifully and unmercifully followed their orders as they painted over mahogany columns and Tiffany glass windows with reckless abandon. In 2006, the property was acquired by Omni Hotels & Resorts which, has since poured millions of dollars into the restoring the property and adding some modern perks to keep it viable. It’s a gorgeous property.

Back to our family trip, on the second full day the men and kids went snowboarding (-5 f). The other mom and myself dutifully led our kids to snowboarding lessons like Sherpas. Then we spent the next 8 hours in a crowded frigid ski lodge on the lookout to see if we could spot our kids. How they managed to last that long in sub zero temperatures amazes me. We thought for sure they would be finished after lunch but those fools went outside again until 3pm. We continued our watch and plotted our next family trip, we are both vying for a Southern destination next year.

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I’m pretty sure one of my kids is in this picture. Like 20% sure…nope those are strangers, sigh.

Some how they all made it off the mountain with all body parts intact and no frostbite. Moms breathed a sigh of relief and we all went back to the hotel for a final meal together. This time we ate in what was once Princess Carolyn’s private dinning room. Rumor has it that this area escaped the great white paint massacre because they simply ran out before they got to it. It was a great way to cap off the vacation at the hotel.

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Fun fact the red “Porters Chairs” use to line the hotel’s porch. The hooded top provides shelter from wind. These are replicas. The painting to the left is an impressionist style portrait of Princess Carolyn which she commissioned.

On the road early the next morning, OK 9:15ish that’s pretty good for us. I was up each day by 7am going up and down 192 steps to fetch coffee and breakfast staples. I would also sneak in a few minutes to drink my coffee and stare out the window, not a bad view. That is Mount Washington. The thickest white line is where the cog railway travels to and from the mountain peak. You can read about it here – http://thecog.com/cog_history.php

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You can see the reflection of a light fixture in this photo. Another fun fact is that Thomas Edison attended the Grand Opening to turn the lights on which he designed. On a personal note, I am solidly team Tesla.

Our trip home took a long 10 hours which included a nice lunch in Brattleboro, Vermont. I can recommend the New Englandah at the Whetstone Brewery, the clam chowdah also got rave reviews. The only downer was the state of Connecticut. For some reason they can’t get their sh* together in the traffic department.

I have never traveled through Connecticut without hitting some type of clusterf*ck on the highways. On the way to New Hampshire we encountered several slowdowns due to accidents and rubbernecking, all in Connecticut. On the way back we experienced something really special.

We were traveling on Route 15 and encountered a slow down of magnificent proportion. After about an hour of turtle speeds, we found ourselves near the front of the slowdown where we identified the culprit…a snowplow which managed to take over both lanes of the highway. This was happening to opposing traffic as well. In the twilight, the highway resembled a gaudy necklace with 2 rows each of red and white lights. Here’s the rub, there was no snow on the damn highway at the time. So overtime pay, a bad attitude, drunk on plow power or just mindlessly following orders…we will never know the reason why those plows decided to destroy traffic. It does however, seem like an appropriate way to end 2017.

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Notice the clear roads where the plow can’t reach. This genius was plowing already plowed snow on an 8 inch shoulder tying up two lanes of traffic for miles.

My Boring Life….

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My Boring Life….

I’m bringing boring back. Too much crazy sh*t happening in the world, makes me want to cover my ears and scream “I can’t hear you!” Since people get twitchy when you cover your ears and scream in public, I’ll settle for a blog post. Here is a glimpse into my glamorous life folks, hope you have popcorn.

6am wake up so I can be a human alarm clock for my 12 year old daughter. Why do I do this well she wouldn’t get up otherwise so there’s that. Also, we don’t allow our kids to have their phones, the modern alarm of choice, in their room overnight and I’m too cheap and lazy to buy a stand alone alarm clock. I greet my grumpy tween and go back to bed for another blissful 30 minutes.

I manage to get the kids to the bus stop on time go back home. I don’t have to leave until 10:30ish for a client visit so I spend a few hours preparing for a fund-raising event scheduled for this weekend. I’m tracking down the people who haven’t paid yet to make sure they haven’t decided to ditch at the last minute. We have a wait list so it would be nice to get those people in if we can. I do a few promos on FB, some modifications to the donor sheet and a delivery of an auction item. Now it’s time to go to the job I get paid to do.

My visit today is to a 79 year old woman and her 88 year old husband. The woman, Helen, has mild dementia and her husband, Ralph, stays in bed most of the time. I am the entertainment. I am the social call for a lonely woman who struggles with depression. My goal each visit is to get her to eat and to stimulate her mind through some social activity or puzzles of some sort. I make her laugh through the inconvenient hardships of old age. She has a hate-hate relationship with her Depends which is something we talk about at length. She sometimes uses Vaseline or Desitin to relieve the chaffing the elastic causes at the leg openings. A couple of weeks ago she tried to put toothpaste on her nether regions. She’s in pain from a lifetime accumulation of injuries, aches and pains. The body wears out and it’s tough to witness. It’s worse when the brain goes along for the descent.

Most days it takes a solid hour to get my friend fed and dressed. Once we do that my goal is to propel her out the door and into the lobby. The community they live in has a front lobby that includes table shuffleboard. We like to play while eavesdropping on whatever is happening while we are there.

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Last Friday things got interesting when one of the residents went rogue and wandered off. Lorna is about 93 and walks fairly slowly with the help of a walker. Somehow she managed to slip by the front desk and get an impressive distance from the place. We were witnesses to the “chase” and subsequent capture. Then when I left, Helen and Lorna chatted about it.

After my visit I made a beeline for home, I like to be there when my kids get off the bus. Today it was just my son as my daughter had an activity. At about this time I got a text from the hubs….no words just this –

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That’s his subtle way of asking me to buy something for him. I replied with detailed instructions on how to open the canister and proper gum chewing etiquette. No reply, sigh.

Soon after that request I get a call from my mother. She was supposed to have cataract surgery today but it got cancelled because some family member of the surgeon had the nerve to die. That’s pretty much how she spun it. In 13 minutes she covered a lot of ground mostly how overwhelmed she is and how she wants to move. I bought the house she is currently living in because for 8 years she bitched non-stop about the last place…..and so it goes.

I rush out to get kid number two from her afternoon activity and I have about 50 minutes to make dinner and catch up on email. Badda Bing Badda Boom I make dinner. Freakin’ magic I tell you. I never know what I’m going to make until it dawns on me that it is my job…..someone has to make dinner, oh that’s right, I’m that someone. I usually don’t have a plan and somehow it works out. Tonight was pan sauteed lemon chicken in a white wine reduction (yes I made it sound fancy – I basically threw sh*t in a pan) with green beans. It was pretty good, a solid 6. They can’t all be 10s.

Then I started to load the dishwasher from the sink backlog. As I was doing this task my phone rang so I asked my daughter to answer it. She she went into a complete panic….like the phone was made of Plutonium (Pu, how appropriate)….she did a total half ass job with the conversation. So for half an hour, my husband and I took turns calling her pretending to be looking for ourselves so she could practice. She hates me a little and said “maaaahum” the way that 12 year old girls do.

Time to take the oldest to soccer practice. Drop him off at the field and go home to feed 3/4’s of the family the meal that I dreamed up 20 minutes ago. I set a plate aside for my son so no one eats his portion. In the blink of an eye I’m back in the car to fetch the boy. I go to the practice field where I dropped him off at 5:30 and he isn’t there, neither is his team. I scan the field, recalling the shirt he wore to practice. I just bought it this weekend so it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a heathered blue, with gray tints, it has a pocket left side of the chest and a thin line of white around the sleeves and the waist, gray shorts. I keep scanning, there are 5 boys on the field, none of them familiar.

I call a friend, her son practices at the same park during the same time for a different team. She picks up her phone and warns me that I’m on speaker phone (because I am the friend you must warn) her son didn’t go to practice. I tell her I’ll update her later, I have to go and manage one “sh*t” and an apology as I end the call. I drive to another field at the park, wrong kids, not our coach. I call my husband, he instantly starts screaming about our son not taking his phone. I remained calm said he left his phone behind because he needed to charge it. I decide to circle the park another time and get off the phone with my husband because his panic won’t help me now.

I drive slow, wondering if practice ended early. Would someone offer him a ride? He wouldn’t take it. I know my kid unless it is my close friend whose kid skipped practice, he won’t get in a car. He knows I’m coming to get him at 7pm he will wait. I consider the pavilion and the play ground. Without a phone he could have lost track of time and decided to wait it out there. I glance in that direction, bunch of littles and their parents.

I decide that I will circle the park one more time, slowly and deliberately because I can not bear the thought of my kid gone. I can’t. I can’t imagine how parents of missing children get through 10 minutes let alone hours, days, months and years. It would consume me. I have to place these thoughts on the back burner as I look for my son with heightened concentration.

I see that new H & M shirt that I just bought on Saturday. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him and I park the car and exhale. I call my husband and text my friend and the world begins to spin once again. A few minutes later he comes to the car. He knows I was worried. He apologizes and tells me it wasn’t his idea to switch fields. Because that’s the kind of kid he is and I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

 

Gasping for Air

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Gasping for Air

What does a writer do when they feel too vulnerable to write? It’s OK I’ll just wait over here until the universe can send me an answer….still waiting……….waiting some more. Well the universe doesn’t seem to be getting back to me so I guess I’ll have to take the steering wheel, again.

I feel like the world has gone fahking mad. How did we get here? The terrorists attacks, the society of rage that seems to be festering all around us……Donald Trump. It feels like one big WTF moment that has gone viral well beyond it’s 15 minutes of fame. So there’s that.

On a personal level I have been watching my kids struggle with tween/teen issues. I feel like my heart resides outside my body in two distinct and always moving places…..and it can be assaulted at any time, unprovoked. I guess that’s how it is when you have kids, forever vulnerable. I don’t think this is a phase we will transition through….sure the teen years will pass, but I will always be vulnerable to their pain, assuming I’m aware of it.

My kids tell me a lot, maybe too much. I’d rather know what’s going on, at least for now. I reserve the right to change my mind on that in the future. My husband thinks I coddle. I disagree. I think I have created a mostly safe place for our children to come to when they need to talk. I say mostly safe because sometimes I suck at this parenting thing. Catch me at 11pm on any given night and I am not at my best and neither are they. Yet that seems to be the time when they want to get close and tell me their fears, their sadness, their pain and of course their joys and dreams as well. It’s a mixed bag but lately the mix is leaning heavy on fears and sadness and it’s weighing us all down.

Raising humans is hard. I mean think about it you are shaping a person into their pre-adult self….enormous fahking responsibility. And I know this…..I’ve been doing the parent thing for over 13 years now…it’s just sometimes that weight just smacks you in the face when you were taking a moment to look the other way. Blind sided, unprepared caught unaware, gasping for air. That’s how it feels right now.

Do You Value Free?

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Do You Value Free?

Do you value something if it’s free? I was listening to the radio and the DJ was discussing college students protesting for free college tuition and she asked the question “do you value free?” It’s been stuck in my head ever since. Then I thought of what is free – air, water (not really free anymore unless it rains). Then I thought of air and water again and collectively, as the human race, we haven’t valued them much. I realize I am painting with a broad brush but look how we have f*cked up the air and water. Do we value free? I’m not so sure.

Then I reflected on my education….graduate cum laude from the school of hard knocks. I did actually graduate from college with a B.A. but I didn’t take the usual path. I grew up in a pretty messed up family and I missed a year of high school when I was a sophomore. I went back to a different school and finished my sophomore year. I got about half way through my junior year when I decided to pull the plug on high school. It just didn’t work for me and I felt like I was wasting my time….so I quit.

I took the GED as soon as I could and then registered for community college. I had to take a math class over the summer but that was it. I started full time in the fall and my grades were good, honor roll good. I left high school a year and a half early and had no problem jumping into full time community college. What does that say for a mid 80’s high school education in central New Jersey? I’d like to say that I am of superior intelligence but…eh, well, nope, not so much.

The big difference was that I had to pay for college so I was serious about it. Unlike high school where it didn’t really matter because this girl was not vying for the ivies or even a state college. You see we were broke and I wasn’t a star athlete or an academic genius so I knew I had to pay my way. I did get a few Pell Grants to get me started but that didn’t cover everything. So I worked to cover the rest including living expenses. I had been paying my share of rent, food and clothes since I was 15 so it wasn’t a new concept.

It probably took me 4 years to get my Associates Degree. Work came before school because it needed to in order to survive. After I graduated I took a couple years to just focus on work. I had always been a good worker wherever I was and I was getting consistent promotions at work. Eventually though I saw a dead end without a baccalaureate so I started to chip away at one. The companies I worked for offered some tuition reimbursement which helped. The rest I paid for one class at a time.

Was it easy, no I busted my ass. Was it worth it, definitely. I eventually finished my B.A. and got an even better job. Here’s the best part, no student loans. When I was done my education didn’t haunt me like some heinous ex reminding me of the good times in college. No I was free to go on with my life, debt free.

Do I think college is over priced and out of reach for too many students? Yes, I do. Do I think college should be free? No I don’t, because it won’t be valued.