Last night while I was drying dishes, my youngest son, "Dubya" (yep, his middle initial is really W) asked, "Mom, what's a common denominator?"
I said, "You know my specialties: creating big hair, choosing slimming foundations, and knowing the correct order to use your forks and spoons in fancy restaurants. I don't do math. But... I think a common denominator is the bottom number in two or more fractions that are common, you know, the same. Kind of like if you and your brothers all wore the same underwear - you'd all have a common denominator...but I'm not sure. You might want to ask your brother."
Then I looked at him, bent over the kitchen table, busy concentrating with a #2 pencil, and said, "Excuse me. Where'd you come from and what've you done with my youngest son?" I thought: You are my baby. My unexpected gift. How can you possibly be old enough for fractions and common denominators? Just last year you still wore shoes with velcro, had mittens clipped to your coat, and missed the toilet. Well, you still kinda do that.
My immediate reaction: I'm pissed as hell that Hostess went out of business. Where are those Ho Hos and Ding Dongs when I need 'em? I'm putting a moratorium on healthy food in my home. I'm declaring my house a "No Veggie, No Protein, No Calcium, No Sleep Zone." That will put an end to all this growing. If I take away their white milk, Wheaties and Goober (ok, they can probably keep the Goober), maybe I can keep at least one of them little, for just a bit longer. The truth is, I still like cutting meat, tying soccer shoes, and putting used tissues back in my pocket. I'm not ready to be done.
Next week my baby turns 9. Those nine years have passed too quickly. I want time...to...slow...down. With my first son, I was a wreck: afraid to put a turtlenck on him, for fear I'd break his arm. I wiped down grocery carts. I washed pacifiers after they fell on the floor.
When my middle son came, I was overwhelmed. An undershirt seemed to suffice. I licked the dirt off pacifiers and let him chew on grocery carts, or anything, for that matter.
But when Dubya was born, he was a gift and the catalyst for major change in my life. Four months after his birth, I decided to get sober. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. And since that time, I've tried to savor the small moments, not worry if I get it all right, and most of all, celebrate the uniqueness of my children. And Dubya is one of a kind.
So in honor of his birthday, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Dubya moments:
All these thoughts go through my head as I watch him pour over his math. I don't want him to turn nine. I can't be the only mother experiencing these feelings. I like the hugs, the tears, the funny words, and yes, even wiping down the pee. I feel so blessed I've been able to be truly present and share his life experiences. I've enjoyed every crazy minute of his 9 years.
He's only lived a fraction of his life. So many pieces have come together to make it whole and amazing. The common denominator for me? Sobriety.
I would love to hear the crazy things that have come out of your children's mouths!
For the last month I've casually tried to kill our Elf on the Shelf with no avail. Turns out I landed the elf with the longest shelf life. But lo and behold, it's December 26 and the party's over for this little a**hole.
I bought the elf in an effort to create a new holiday tradition for my boys following my divorce. We opened the box, unpacked the elf and read the enclosed book. The story goes that each night while the boys are sleeping, the elf heads back to the North Pole and returns before morning. When the kids wake up, they must search the house to find the elf in its new hiding spot.
After the first night with our elf, I walked in the kitchen, noticed she was sitting in her original spot, and realized, damn, I forgot to move her before I went to bed. The kids were already awake happily eating cereal. They seemed to have forgotten, too. This new tradition was off to a rocky start.
The second night, I forgot to move the elf again and felt pangs of guilt. As I approached the elf in the morning, her beady little eyes glared. I could see she would not be ignored. I vowed to do better on day three.
I'd heard many friends share stories about posing their elves. One had placed it alongside a Barbie on the kitchen island. She arranged the two as if they were drinking maple syrup out of straws. Others made elaborate scenes involving M & Ms, Cheerios and cotton balls. On a daily basis I lose my car keys or forget why I walked into a room, but at a minimum, I thought I could handle changing the elf's location each night.
The third night I spaced and completely forgot about the irritating elf. When I came into the kitchen, the next morning, it was obvious the feeling was mutual.
This was too much pressure and I didn't like the elf's hostility. I decided to deep six that chemically-imbalanced shelf elf. In hindsight, I probably should have donated it to a starving family or something, but I tossed that skinny little bitch right in the trash and went about my day.
Early the next morning and still half asleep, I came through the kitchen to let out the dog. As I turned the corner, my heart skipped a beat. The elf was back and dangling from the light fixture. My innocent attempt to create a new tradition had morphed into a deranged Edgar Allen Poe Christmas special.
I cut the psycho elf down and tossed it back in the trash.
On Saturday, I awoke to a blood curdling scream. My youngest, having an early morning pee, discovered the little bitch elf floating face down in the toilet.
Sunday my oldest found her in the fridge. She had stabbed herself with a pickle fork.
Having a late night snack Monday, my middle son found her with her head in the oven.
Enough was enough. I bound and gagged the little elf-devil, drove to the Kwikie Mart and tossed it in the dumpster. Done. Finito. Buh-bye, freak show.
The next morning, as we backed out of the garage, I heard a crunch under the back tire. Sure enough, as I glanced up the drive, I spotted my tormentor, smiling and giving me the finger.
Well, it's December 26th and I'm bringing out the big guns: peanut butter and Big Ben, our St. Bernard. That elf has quite a journey ahead of her.
I've witnessed some incredible Heathrow Moments in my life. They occur when I'm alone in an airport, waiting for a flight. Most often I'm surrounded by crumpled napkins, a slice of pizza and a glossy magazine filled with shock and awe: celebs wearing no make up.
And then it happens.
I look up and spot someone running with flailing arms and a beaming smile toward an arriving passenger. As I watch the two greet, hug, and laugh, the positive energy from their reunion has a ripple effect, as if love is contagious.
Those are Heathrow Moments.
If you've seen the holiday movie Love Actually, you may understand why. In the movie's opening scene, loved ones greet one another with hugs, kisses, and laughter at the arrivals gate of London's Heathrow Airport. Hugh Grant narrates:
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.
Some things are better seen for oneself. Here's the one minute clip:
This week I experienced my own perfect Heathrow Moment. It wasn't glamorous like in the movies. It was rainy. It was cold. Moreover, I was at Midway in Chicago, not exactly Heathrow.
I waited, and I waited. I paced, unable to stand still. My 15 year-old son, away at school since August 31, was headed home for Thanksgiving break. I'd been counting the days until his return.
When I spotted him at the back of the barrage of arriving passengers, I lost all composure. I was no longer the cool, blend-in-to-the-crowd, casual mom. I jumped up and down. My eyebrows went through the roof, and according to my younger sons, I made embarrassing pointing gestures. Although surrounded by just a few people, I waved frantically as if I might get lost in a sea of travelers, worried he might never find me. My whole body trembled and tears came to my eyes. In that moment, I became completely oblivious to everything in the world.
This particular moment was larger than a Thanksgiving homecoming. Over the last few weeks, the world has suffered countless losses as a result of terrorist attacks and madmen with guns. In a flash, loved ones have met violent deaths. The stuff we think will never happen to us, has happened to them. Those families will never be the same. As a result, I found myself uttering unimaginable phrases to my children:
"If you can't get to an exit, play dead."
"If you see something, say something."
"Stay away from the windows."
"If you can run, try to run in a zig zag, you'll be harder to hit."
"Only show your American passport when necessary, otherwise keep it hidden in your pocket."
"Say you're Canadian."
Although I was uttering unimaginable phrases, my son was flying out of New York's LaGuardia airport. I knew in my heart these were no longer unimaginable scenarios, flights of fancy, or the result of an overactive imagination.
It sounds trite, but it's still true that we just don't know how much time we have on this earth. Thanksgiving could not have come at a better time. The deaths of so many innocent people remind us of the fragility of our own lives. So many flowers offered. So many tears shed. So many stories shared. So many hugs given.
Thus, I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency to be with all three of my children. I raced to Midway Airport. I paced through the multiple delays. And as my oldest came through the arrivals gate at 12:30 am, I needed to touch him. I needed to look him in the eye and know he was okay. I needed us to be together. We had a group hug on the spot.
This year, Thanksgiving wasn't about the food. It wasn't about the football. (As a Packer fan, I've just committed sacrilege.) Thanksgiving was about the hugs. It was about the exchange of positive energy, the connection, the unspoken message: hey, you mean a lot to me. I have hugged almost everyone I've seen over the last ten days. In these tragic times, I feel an overwhelming need to connect with others. Even the football fans felt it. You can't tell me your eyes were dry as Brett Favre and Bart Starr hugged. Generations across the nation connected in that moment.
The holiday is over. My son has returned to school. The week wasn't perfect-- it was gray, the Packers lost, none of my pants fit, and the 24 hour news cycle continues to jar me. However, the hugs continue to fuel me and make everything okay for now.
Get out the Kleenex, watch the final one-minute clip, and give a hug.
Sending you peace and love through the holiday season!
By Lisa Luigs Morrissett
You never know who might be inspired by the simple act of embracing the power of play.
Earlier last month, a friend posted a link on Facebook about a group of women in Hamilton, Montana, who gathered for what they called “The Witches Bike Brigade.” The picture of these women dressed up, smiling, laughing, and clearly having the time of their lives, was purely irresistible. I was compelled to re-post, if only for a little giggle before scrolling along to watch the next cat video.
I was completely surprised by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction from friends that WE MUST DO THIS!
It got me thinking that yes, actually, we must do this.
Why do kids get to have all the fun on Halloween? I confess, I'm desperate for any excuse to play with my friends, but I had no idea other grown women felt the same way. I’m more than a little jealous my daughter gets to spend most every day hanging out with her friends. Who moved my fun? It was time to assume the role I’d been born to play: Mischief Maven.
As Halloween drew closer, the weather looked less and less cooperative. What started as a large coven began to shrink faster than a cheap hot-washed-and-dried cotton t-shirt. Each of us hemmed and hawed: to ride or not to ride? Waiting until literally the last possible second, I decided screw it, I’m doing it and hoped like hell someone else would show.
Lo and behold, 10 other brave souls decided the same thing.
Outfits ranged from a $1 Goodwill hat to a full-on gorgeous witch ensemble complete with a corseted, sweeping black coat. The intrepid group included a down-to-earth vice-president of a large corporation, a chatty spinning class master who could’ve ridden all night, a proper English lady with a wicked sense of humor, a coffee-slugging pet sitter, a salt-of-the-earth equestrienne, a compassionate accountant who collected food pantry items from us, a hilariously outgoing swim coach, and several delightful women new to the village. We came from different walks of life, but shared the common thread of not letting a little rain ruin an outlandish parade.
As it had been a few months since I’d last ridden my broomstick, I was a bit shaky in the saddle. The rain didn’t help, but at least it wasn’t snowing (always a possibility in this neck of the Midwest Coast).
There were a few factors we hadn’t anticipated, the most obvious being the effect of aerodynamic lift on an oversized witch hat. Even though we had one hand strangling the handlebars and the other hand firmly attached to the black 747s perched atop our heads, many successful hat liftoffs ensued. Ride 100 feet, hat flies off, everyone stop, pick up soggy hat, try to gain momentum, ride 100 feet, hat flies off…
The wannabe badass gang of biker moms looked more like first-time stick shift drivers.
After several false starts, we found our rhythm, and decided our first “witch bombing” should be the driveway of The American Club. We spied people taking pictures of us from the restaurant while a valet attendant tried very hard to avoid eye contact, most likely fearing he would turn into a pillar of salt. Some things you just can’t ignore. Or unsee. Like a band of middle-aged witches on bikes in the front of a five-star resort. We were laughing so hard at our own absurdity we could hardly stay upright.
With no logged flight plan, we roamed the village like an unpredictable flock of screeching magpies. “Oooh – let’s go here! Oooh – next we go there! Don’t forget my house!” Trying to get ahead and set up for a good group shot, our resident reporter/photographer admonished us. “You ladies are hard to stalk!”
As kids collected their FDA-approved serotonin-covered heroin-like nugget bombs, we wobbled along, accidentally terrorizing several small children, delighting some older ones, and successfully amusing the surprised adults who no doubt wished they were riding with us.
I may have crossed the fine line of decorum when we rode by the house of our sweet yoga-teaching GMO vigilante, taunting her with shrieks of, “We want high fructose corn syrup with red dye #2 and we want it NOW!” Not sure if she’ll ever forgive me, but maybe she’ll leave me alone when I wax lyrical about the health benefits of candy corn pumpkins.
One dad asked if men were allowed to ride next year.
A well-seasoned triathlete dubbed us the “Witch Peloton.” I might have to incorporate a yellow jersey into my outfit next year.
One stop included wassail from friends who own a pediatric dentistry practice. I may or may not have made fun of them for passing out toothbrushes in a lame attempt to pretend they were “protecting” kids’ teeth, but knowing full well that "Halloween” is French for “job security.”
Hard to believe only one of us crashed. Blame it on the wa-wa-wa-wa-wassail…
One by one, the soggy witches waved goodbye and drifted home, no doubt with cold hands, tender rears, shredded vocal cords, sore abs from hours of laughter, and fun tanks overflowing.
In her poem “The Summer Day,” the magnificent Mary Oliver poses the question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I’ll continue to ask my friends if they can come out to play, then put on my witch hat and ride.
Photo credits: Mary Struck/ Kohler Village Community Newspaper
Lisa Luigs Morrissett is a card-carrying hockey mom still trying to figure out what to be when she grows up. She secretly hates Christmas and is addicted to classic R & B and cheesecake. Lisa's fondest wish is to play golf with Justin Timberlake, and unfortunately knows from experience that tequila does indeed make one's clothes come off.
This very minute, tightly-wired moms are maneuvering grocery carts at dangerously high speeds and ticking items off their iPhone list faster than the average man could read it. Coolers, koozies and kites are loaded for their final summer outing, while school shoes and soccer cleats rest quietly in the corner 'til Tuesday.
Concerned not enough fun is planned for the weekend, or worried too many Uno cards are missing from the deck, anxious parents scurry to purchase last minute Mad Libs and Bananagrams for the road trips, and insanely fork out cash for that unsightly PVC pipe game involving nunchuck golf balls.
True perfectionists desperately Google Martha Stewart articles regarding not only how to pack the perfect picnic, but how to embellish it as well, because nothing says family fun like a blingy, decoupaged, origami picnic basket.
On a previous Labor Day getaway to Chicago as a single parent, I left nothing to chance. I created a detailed itinerary to maximize fun for my three sons: the John Hancock Building, Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, Chicago-style pizza, Nike on Michigan Avenue, a steakhouse, shopping at 900 Michigan and tickets to Mary Poppins.
Sure, my boys thought some initial sights were interesting, but beyond the bullet-proof divider in an old taxi, they weren’t wowed. I began to think they were a tough crowd to please. However, just when I thought the trip was a fail, they began to show enthusiasm for the magic of the city.
On the quaint carriage ride back to our hotel after Mary Poppins, the boys oohed and ahhed over the horse’s steamy dump. Ten minutes before, Mary Poppins had flown over our heads in a twinkling starlit theater. I mean, she seriously flew, umbrella in hand, and all. The boys gave flying Mary Poppins a raised eyebrow and nod. Splattered horse shit on a city street received a standing ovation, an obnoxious “Yeah, baby” and a “We love you, Chicago!”
In the Nike store I lost all three. Filled with panic, I hoped I’d see them, around each corner, arms heavy with merchandise. Instead, I spotted my boys two stories up, riding the escalators. “Hey-“ I shouted, “if you guys aren’t gonna try on any shoes, let’s move on to the next thing on my list.” Only to hear in response, “Mom! Escalators! We’re on an escalator! This is awesome! Can we ride a little longer?” I quietly mumbled, "Yeah, we don't git to the city often" and covered my “Appalachia is for Families” t-shirt.
At the top of the John Hancock Tower, my youngest son announced, “You guys GOTTA check out the urinals in this bathroom. Come on!” They admired the Chicago skyline for three minutes and the public restrooms for ten.
The pricey steakhouse did impress. “Mom, you picked a great place. The restroom is awesome. Huge peppermints are floating in the urinals. Did you know you can even pay a guy to watch you pee here? Seriously. They have combs you can keep.” Yes, well, along with the free matches, that’s why the guidebook recommended it, boys.
To parents who want to provide a memorable Labor Day weekend for your children, I wish you well. After you vacuum the minivan, drop the dog at the kennel, and hunt down one damn DVD that isn’t scratched to death, you might want to toss out your laminated itinerary, bedazzle your noise-reducing headphones and prepare for Plan B.
In the meantime, I’ll be at home charting our next family vacation: the Public Restroom Tour of America.
Liesl Testwuide, publisher of the website Hairpin Turns Ahead, uses humor and humility to write about navigating life’s twists, turns, and inevitable changes. A divorced mom of three, she has come to accept that even though her white-picket-fence life blew up in her face, it was the best thing to happen to her. Follow Liesl on Facebook, Pinterest,and Twitter.
I'm tossing my life plan out the window. For dramatic effect, I'm going to light it on fire, blast "Chariots of Fire" and watch the ashes drift slowly to the ground. I merely need the ringtone version since I live in a ranch. Nonetheless, the fiery ball of frustration will be something to behold.
You see my friends, I need freedom from expectations. I've come to realize the fewer plans I make, the better, because things rarely turn out as I expect. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. No sir-eeee. I mean, I've attached a lot of high expectations to a lot of shitty plans.
In college I started as an International Relations major simply because I rocked a trench coat. Truth be told, I didn't take into account it was a white, patent leather trench coat, with massive shoulder pads which squeaked when I walked. The KGB might have heard me coming. But a spy has to look good, right, comrade? Alas, I failed Russian, Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall, and my asymmetrical hairstyle grew out.
Later I planned to marry the gorgeously tan Australian with the dreamy accent. After knowing him for what felt like a lifetime (in-whirlwind-romance-fairytale-time) but in actuality just three weeks (in normal-people-with-heads-on-their-shoulders-time), I packed my VW and followed my love to California. Things didn't go as expected. *Gasp* Young love only gets you so far. We relocated to Indiana, his tan faded, and incessantly hearing "no worries, mate" gavee me nightmares. As it turns out, the dreamboat was an illegal alien and my penchant for heels made me unsuitable for a life on the run.
Even some of my thoughtful plans have taken nose dives. Despite marrying a handsome attorney and counting on a life filled with safety and security, I'm currently on the installment plan with my divorce lawyer.
And though I swore I wouldn't turn into my mother (don't we all?), last Wednesday I caught myself saying, "Get your fanny back in that chair!" Just as I cursed myself for uttering those familiar words, I realized Mom's dish towel was now mysteriously draped over my shoulder, as if ready for a spill at any moment.
I take planning and expectations to the extreme. I mean, I don't stop with my life. l'm expecting my three boys to marry orphans from foreign countries to avoid having to share them on holidays. Seriously, that's a real plan. It's sick, I know. I need help.
As I light the match on my carefully plotted map of the future, how will I move forward? Will I be able to make plans without attaching expectations? Will I be able to experience life's moments as they unfold -- no matter the twists and turns? Can I stop fruitlessly trying to manipulate outcomes? Can I accept that I am where I'm supposed to be at this moment in time? I don't know those answers, however, I know I'm tired of trying to control things I have no control over.
William James, the father of American philosophy (duh), once said, "To change your life: Start immediately, do it flamboyantly, no exceptions." I'm wondering if that quote wasn't actually from his brother, Rick James, but in any case, it's time to let go and live a little.
Fire in the hole!
*A version of this post ran August 20, 2012. It was the first post on Hairpin Turns Ahead.
Last Fall I received a phone call from Kym Leibham at Lakeland College. She asked if I'd be part of the 2015 cast for Lakeland's annual benefit, Movers & Shakers. I said "yes" without blinking for a few reasons.
First, it's impossible to say "no" to Kym Leibham. If you know her, you understand. That girl gets shit done. More importantly, I felt I owed her. If it wasn't for Kym's help back in 1980 at St. Clement's School, I never would have been a cheerleader, earned a passing grade on my science fair project, or learned The Hustle. In other words, she saved me from dorkdom. Well, sorta, unless you've seen me do The Hustle.
Kym knew I had participated in Ann Imig's live literature show, Listen to Your Mother at Madison's Barrymore Theater in 2013, and she wanted me to do basically the same thing: read a piece of my literature live to an audience. Except in this case, it wasn't exactly the same thing.
When I performed in Madison, aside from the 15 dedicated family and friends who spent five hours of their day in the car to see me perform, the rest of the audience was filled with about 500 strangers. In Madison, if I tripped walking to the microphone, only 15 people would ever remind me of it. If a button popped off my too-tight dress, only 15 people would avert their eyes uncomfortably at future family functions. If I was so nervous that my head popped off and my body exploded spewing green gunk and partially-digested Hostess Ding Dongs, only 15 people would likely send me their dry cleaning bills.
But at the Lakeland College event, I'd actually know many audience members. If I bombed, I had to see those people in the frozen pizza section at Festival Foods, at the dentist, or at Walgreen's picking up toilet paper. I imagined people might say, There's that chick who thought she was funny, but totally wasn't. Oh look, she's buying toilet paper. She must poop, too.
That's how my brain works, folks. I go from "everything's fine" to "they'll find me near the underpass, surrounded by hobos" in merely two negative thoughts.
Festival Foods graciously sponsored my act for the event and Nhia Yang, from Lakeland College put together a promo video to encourage people to vote. Did I fail to mention this was a competition? Anyway, I rallied my peeps, and and we took Festival by storm on a Monday morning. On the night of the event, the promo was shown to the audience as my introduction. In the video, I'm sporting old-lady hair, appear to weigh a quadrillion pounds, and talk so fast you can barry unnersand annig I say, but at least it's not an Activia ad, so I got that goin' for me.
The piece I chose to read was about what I know -- raising three boys. Unfortunately my
oldest son could not attend the actual event, but thanks to modern technology, he was able to make an appearance by filming a short message that was played on the big screens before I entered the stage. It felt so good to hear his voice.
I was the seventh performer of ten and that's a long time to wait. However, I was not nearly as nervous as I had expected. I probably should have been. I wrote the introduction/disclaimer section of the piece (you'll see it in a sec.) 15 minutes before I went on stage. (For those of us with A.D.D., that's considered planning ahead.)
As I stood backstage, about to make myself vulnerable to my community through sharing my art, my words, my stab at comedy, I experienced an amazing moment. If you've ever been about to put it all on the line or bare your heart and soul, perhaps you've experienced the same feelings.
In those brief moments in the dark before the curtain opened, I wasn't worried about my hair. I wasn't worried about tripping. I wasn't worried about the crowd not liking my work. Instead, I took a minute and savored my decade of sobriety, my courage to start a new writing career later in life, my strength to start over alone, and my ability to keep a sense of humor no matter what comes my way.
It became clear that it didn't matter how well I read, if I had lipstick on my teeth, if my heel broke, or if I had a wardrobe malfunction. I knew the folks in the audience had my back because when I actually slow down enough to realize it, I have the best support system in the world. I mean, lots of folks are really pulling for me on a daily basis. I know this because they tell me and I feel it. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
So here goes. Some parts of my reading are hokey, recycled, funny, mushy, new, corny, cheesy, introspective, immature, inspirational, heart-felt and silly. But then again, so am I.
Thanks for watching. By the way, I was the winner of the event due in large part to the generosity of donors who voted for me. Thank you for your support! XO
During my reading, photos appear on large screens in the theater. They are not visible on this video clip. In the event you notice me turn and look up, it's because I'm looking at a photo on the screen.
It's a gift to wake up each day as a woman in America, sweet land of liberty.
Right now in Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving cars, going to the movies, and traveling unaccompanied by a male.
As a divorced, single mom, I just drove 1600 miles on a road trip with my children. Movies ran non-stop in the DVD player; and I happily asked for directions twice, which never would've been allowed if I'd been accompanied by a male.
At eight, I was focused on Girl Scouts, Barbies, and Scooby-Doo.
In Nepal, if a girl is not married by the time she is 12, she is commonly sold to a sex trafficking ring.
When I was 12, my 10-speed bike was king, and I thought The Love Boat was too mushy.
Every year honor killings, dowry killings, and sanctioned rape are the cause of death for millions of women from Asia to Africa.
American girls will perform in parades across the country today. Wearing sparkly short skirts, belly-baring tops and carrying pom-pons, they'll worry about keeping the beat, not getting a beating.
In Afghanistan only 12% of women can read.
Sister Noreen taught me to read in first grade. At the time I had no idea she had given me the key to unlocking infinite doors.
Today in Egypt, almost 95% of women ages 19- 49 have experienced female genital mutilation. At the very least, their clitoris has been sliced off.
I'm grateful to have the ability to enjoy fireworks all year long.
I hope American women continue to fight for causes which benefit women worldwide. We must use our freedom to free others from their suffering. In doing so, we honor those who have fought and sacrificed for our country.
Happy Independence Day!
"The potted luck? What? Like bamboo stalks, Honey?" I asked.
"I dunno," he said. "Maybe it wasn't potted luck. Maybe we're each supposed to bring some pot to pass."
"What is this? Eco Club awards night? You need a couple bootleg tapes, too?"
"Mom, duh, it's Chess Club banquet."
I stared at him intently and I could see the wheels turning in his head. He scratched his head, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I thought we're supposed to bring pot or a pot of luck or something. Didn't you read the note I gave you this morning?"
"You mean that crumpled piece of paper you handed me when I was in the shower?"
"YES! That note. That's the one!"
"I was naked under a spigot, Babe. It's not where I do my best reading."
"No worries! I found it hanging over your towel rack," he shouted as he ran back from my bathroom. "It's dry but pretty schmeary. I think it says: Please bring a potluck dish to pass. Whew! No bamboo or pot. Just a potluck dish, Mom. That's all we need."
"Just a potluck dish?" I asked quietly.
"Just a potluck dish." I said a little louder.
"You're telling me we need a potluck dish, now? At five o'clock?"
"Mom, technically I tried to tell you this morning, but--"
"Honey, do you even know what a potluck is? It's a passive-aggressive mom contest. However, no one will ever admit it's actually a contest. But don't be fooled, because those witches get real and it's totally a contest. Moms freak out trying to outdo other moms by bringing their prettiest or healthiest Pinterest concoction. We're talking tri-colored macaroni salad molded in the shape of Mount Rushmore. 79-bean chili in 47-grain bread bowls. Creepy watermelon sculptures. Mrs. What's-her-face will bring heart-shaped sashimi. There'll be 9-layer Jell-O dessert parfaits, roasted chickpea edible necklaces, and sheet cakes airbrushed with mother/daughter Glamor Shots. And we've got nothin'."
"Chips? We couldn't bring chips unless they were made out of recycled lentils or kale harvested by orphans. Geezus, Mrs. Waterson is likely hitching up her trailer this very moment to transport her Victoria Falls replica chocolate fountain. No. We can't just bring chips. What would people say?"
"Mom, I've got an epic idea: KFC. Let's bring a bucket of KFC drumsticks. We'll blow their minds with fried chicken. You'll become a potluck supper legend. The other mothers will talk about it for years."
"I bet they will, Honey. I bet they will."
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Growing up, I'd purposely do the opposite of what Mom suggested. If she said, "Boy Liesl, your natural hair color is so pretty," I'd dye it darker and darker. If Mom said, "You know, Liesl, you so look nice with long hair," I'd cut it short. And then even shorter. I went way too far with the asymmetrical cut in the 80's.
When Mom would mention, "Skirts are so flattering," I'd wear the Guess jeans with pockets up and down each leg. I could fit 9 beers in those jeans. And when Mom said, "Liesl, if you'd wear a bit of a heel, it'll give you a nice, long, slimming leg," I'd put on my coveted hiking boots with the bright red laces.
As the female Felix Unger, she speaks a language that is foreign to me. Recently smiling, she said the words, "Just for fun, why don't you and I wash all the crystal in the dining room." I have no idea what that sentence means.
Although I give her a hard time, Mom has been quite a role model for being organized and keeping a clean house. Every piece of paper brought into her home is filed within a minimum of 90 seconds. She regularly bleaches the cleaning rags. She's on her 17th label maker. The last one died while labeling the light bulb cabinet shelves. It made a fizzing sound and broke into seven pieces just as she was starting on the 30-70-100 watt three-ways.
I didn't inherit that clean gene.
When Mother visited me in San Francisco, she asked where I kept the scissors in my apartment.
Without blinking I said in a tone, like duh, "Under the sofa."
"How can you possibly be my daughter?" she said. "Most people keep a scissors in the kitchen or maybe in an office or laundry room."
"Yup, but I keep mine right under the couch. That way you don't even have to get up."
On the same visit, I accidentally dropped a bag of flour on the carpet.
"No problem," said Mom. "Just get the vacuum. It'll take two minutes to clean up."
"Right...the vacuum cleaner," I said casually.
Panicked, I scoured four closets until I found the damn thing. Out of breath, I plugged the machine into the walI. Like a hawk, Mom watched my every move as if she doubted my vacuuming prowess. I nonchalantly kicked my foot around the sides and corners of the thing with no luck. Then I patted my hands along the handle but nothing happened. I unzipped and then rezipped the bag part. I unplugged and replugged the machine.
About to pull out her hair and transform into Mr. Clean right before my very eyes, Mother Unger exclaimed, "Oh my God! You don't know how to turn on your vacuum cleaner, do you, Liesl Margaret?"
"Yeah, um...well, no. I usually just get out a lint roller."
But at 27 when my boyfriend dumped me while the rest of my friends were tying the knot like a row of dominoes, I called my mom.
When I woke up July 21, 2004 and needed help with my drinking problem, I called my mom.
When I knew my spirit was dying and it was time to file for divorce, I called Mom.
So although I give my mom a tough time for being the clean freak she is, I'm also very grateful. I've come to her with plenty of messes and she's always helped me put the pieces of my life back together. She doesn't shy away from the debris of a storm. She's like a human SOS pad. Trust me, she will view that as a compliment.
It took me almost 40 years, but these days I listen to my mom. My hair is long. I wear heels and a skirt every chance I get. My scissors are stored safely in a kitchen drawer. It's a messy drawer, but it's progress, not perfection, right?
My mom and I look like an odd couple on the surface. She never has a hair out of place. I'm usually covered in dog hair. She plans ahead. I know I am typing this sentence at this very moment. She's 5'2", barely 100 pounds and always has my back. I'm 5'6" and weigh dis-girl-don't-shop-petite-section and lean on her heavily. Yep, an odd couple connected by the most amazing bond there is: unconditional love. Even Goo-Be-Gone can't destroy that shit.**
Not so long ago, when I became a single mother, who'd been out of the workforce for 15 years, I called my mom.
She said, "You have a gift. Keep writing. Follow your dream. Oh, and here are some extra vacuum cleaner bags."
Thank you, Mom. I love you! Happy Mother's Day!
**Mom, sorry I swore in the Mother's Day post. I don't know where I learned such language!
I'm excited to announce I'll be performing May 16, 2015 at the Lakeland College Movers & Shakers Gala. This year's gala will feature three stages to accommodate an exciting and diverse group of area performers including a solo pianist, live bands, speed painting, dance crews, drum line, a comedy singing duo and me.
What type of exciting performance can you expect from me? Hold on to your hats, because this is gonna blow you away. I'm not going to juggle. I won't be throwing hatchets. I'm not going to consume Thin Mints until I burst.
I'm going to stand in one place and read out loud. Yep, I can read stuff. So take that.
Sounds easy enough, right? But in reality, and just because I feel the need to quote Run DMC, it's not that easy. Actually, "It's Tricky."
I hope the heel on my shoe won't break like it did at my grandma's funeral and force me to do that funny tip-toe-my-heel-broke-walk.
I hope I won't leave a roller in my hair like I did during an interview with the San Francisco School of Design while explaining I'm a detail-oriented person.
I hope Kanye West doesn't come bounding onto the stage and steal the mic away.
And I hope there are the appropriate number of fans blowing to give me Beyonce hair.
However most of all, during my reading, I hope the audience will spew their wine across the table, have tears streaming down their faces, and leak a little pee as a result of their laughter.
I've chosen my favorite humor piece, fine-tuned it to death and even added a couple visual aids which the audience will see from two giant screens.
Here's a two minute sneak peek. Although this still shot does not give off a humor vibe, this is funny. Trust me:
Festival Foods will sponsor my Live Literature performance. In fact, Festival Foods has paired with Lakeland College and will award a $5,000 scholarship to a student from my alma mater, Sheboygan North High School. If the student decides to attend Lakeland College, he or she will receive $10,000. The scholarship winner will be announced that evening.
Proceeds from this year's gala will benefit Lakeland College and Sheboygan County high school student scholarships.
If you live in the area and want to support local education, visit the Movers & Shakers Gala website for more details about tickets.
Did I mention the event is also a contest? For $20, you can buy a vote (or many, many votes) for me and my self-esteem. Well, actually you'd be donating money toward the scholarship of a North High student and Lakeland College. But my self-esteem could use a boost with a big win.
You can purchase votes online right now or at the gala. In other words, with just a few clicks on your device, you can help raise money for education, feed my ego and you don't even have to put on pants. We all win!
It's a bad sign when I'm on a date and I miss my dog. If I look forward to drooly, droopy jowls, rather than Mr. Comb-over's kiss, it's time to call a cab. Don't get me wrong, I love men. It's just that in a lot of cases, I love my dog more.
This wasn't always the situation. I was a confirmed cat person for years. However, heading for divorce and in need of some serious extra credit to get into Catholic Heaven, I promised my sons they could have a dog. After researching breeds with the shortest life span, 6-8 years max. (I had no intention of living with another mistake for 15 years), they decided on a St. Bernard. In January 2009, we brought home Big Ben.
We went through the typical puppy years. He ate pencils, rolling pins, and a table or two. He broke through the same screen door weekly. In six months he gained 106 pounds. He learned to jump out the car window. I chased him through intersections, a golf course, school parking lots, tennis courts, and soccer camp. He became so strong, instead of walking the dog, the boys quickly learned to body surf. Realizing he was too big for the boys to handle, by default, Big Ben became my dog.
After nine months I'd had enough. I was depressed about the state of my marriage, the kids sensed the tension, and drool was everywhere. It hung from lamp shades, chandeliers, drapery rods and most often, unknowingly, from the back of my head. At one time I owned 17 lint rollers. I called rescue shelters to take him. But each shelter encouraged me to work with him to properly bond. Eventually he obeyed a couple commands: sit and... Well, ok, maybe he just obeyed one command. But when the boys went back to school that fall, Big Ben and I clicked and became inseparable.
Sure, he has annoying habits, like drinking out of toilets, snoring louder than a freight train, producing poop larger than sandcastles, and consuming nine cups of food plus five hot dogs a day. He hides his treats all over the house, like a squirrel preparing for winter. I find string cheese under drapes, hot dogs in sofa cushions, and once I found a three-day-old piece of pizza behind my pillow.
But he loves me. Unconditionally.
He lets me talk for hours, never interrupts, and five minutes later, still gets excited at the sound of my voice. He sticks to his word. He never says he's going to clean the garage and then doesn't do it. He never commits to cutting the lawn and then watches a ball game instead. And he certainly knows when to keep his mouth shut. If my jeans are a little tight or dinner is a bit late, he never voices his disdain. We don't argue about politics, religion, or who drank the last Diet Coke.
My divorce required so much change. The kids needed my attention to help work through their anger and anxiety. Not being part of a couple, the dynamics of many friendships changed. Saying goodbye to a beloved home was heartbreaking, and the fear of the unknown seemed to hover over our heads the entire first year. However, one thing never changed. My dog was always by my side. No matter my marital status, my mood, my bank account, my home, my tears, my laughter, my disastrous dates, and the many nights home alone when the boys are with their dad, Big Ben has been next to me.
I don't believe it's a coincidence my boys chose a St. Bernard. St. Bernards are said to instinctively anticipate avalanches and storms. They rescue people who are lost or stuck. Big Ben walked into a doozy when he came to our house. And he rescued me. He continues to remind me that loneliness is a choice. A full life takes many shapes and forms. The Joneses have theirs, and I have mine. The sky is the limit with a companion that provides unconditional love.
Enjoy the video. And by the way, Big Ben insisted I remind all readers that the camera adds at least 10 pounds. After viewing it, he said probably more like 15!
When a man I recently dated asked to borrow my hairspray, I knew the relationship was doomed. Not cool, buddy, not cool at all. Piece of advice, guys: if you wear hairspray, you might want to take that secret with you to your grave.
I'm old school. I have a crush on Louis C.K., for Christ's sake. My divorce and recent single status have not rid me of my traditional views on gender. When there's a bug to kill, dog food to carry, or bike chain to fix, it's a job for one of my sons. I'm not saying I can't do those things... except fix a bike chain. I totally can't fix a bike chain. But some jobs are better left to the men. If you fix the pilot light, and bring home the bacon, I'll fry it up in a pan. Deal?
I like men to look, act, and smell like traditional men. Imagine my surprise then, upon re-entering the dating world at 40ish, only to discover that men's grooming trends are almost as insane as women's. (Read my post on crazy female beauty trends.)
I know you metro-sexuals like to get pampered with manicures, facials, and waxings, but as a woman, I'd prefer the salon be a man - free zone. When my face is blotchy from an eyebrow wax, and my hair is covered in goop and foil, I don't want to make small talk and watch you read Cosmo. It's too much like sharing a bathroom. Women have secrets. Men shouldn't witness the weave or the false eyelash application. You're just supposed to admire the final product. Go back to your barber shops, guys. Granted, you can't read Cosmo there, but enjoy the peanuts and ESPN.
Extreme manscaping is trending high. Men of all ages are opting to remove the lower level's shag carpet in order to highlight the room's hard wood. Some believe: if there's no underbrush, the tree looks taller. As a result, the aptly named "Bro-zilian" wax for men is becoming quite popular. For the DIYers and men who prefer razors, Gilette offers an entire video tutorial: Manscaping! Shaving Tips. Men across the nation are watching Youtube while simultaneously shaving their balls. Certainly all south lawn maintenance should be based on personal preference. However, keep in mind that no woman has ever said, "I can't wait to sit on that cactus." Ever.
Guys, you must waych this two minute video on how NOT to manscape from the hilarious TV show Starved:
On a subsequent date with Hairspray Hal, I discovered his torso was completely free of hair, even shaved his armpits. My upper lip held more hair than his whole body. He wasn't a runner. He wasn't a swimmer. He wasn't a professional wrestler on steroids, or a giant Ken doll. He was just a Midwestern, middle-aged, hairless man by choice on the constant brink of becoming a cactus.
I like male armpit hair. Don't use that as my epitaph, but it's true. Male chest hair, leg hair, and arm hair is attractive. Women love men for all the reasons they're different from us. It's a pheromone thing, too. Hair amplifies the effect of pheromones. I just went all science on you there, but unless you can get by on your good looks alone, you might
want some of that natural chemistry on your side. Tom Selleck, Sean Connery, Steve Martin - - all hairy and sexy dudes. Yes, Louis C.K., you, too.
Then he still has to trim his eyebrows, nose hairs, brush his teeth, and put on hairspray. I'd need to get in the bathroom at 4 a.m. before the floor resembled backstage at the Westminster Dog Show. And what would he look like after 5:00 pm? How big would that shadow be? Please stop man-scaping. Your obelisk is huge, okay? We want the bathroom back.
The Beauty Park Medical Spa in California has a new procedure for men to tighten the tackle. The Male Laser Lift uses a Pixel laser on the scrotum to even out skin tone, remove hair, erase wrinkles, and tighten external skin. According to their website, this non-invasive treatment is like a facial for your package. The end result is a much more
youthful look. Put the Male Laser Lift on your bucket list, guys. Right after sky diving, qualifying for the Senior PGA tour, and eating haggis, go ahead and get your jewels polished.
Let's cut the Let's be honest:
I hate to break it to you men, but waxing the brows, perfectly filed nails, manscaping that hanging brain, and ball tucks may be all in pain vain. Skip the 'scaping. A warm smile, an offer to carry the groceries, the ability to make a woman laugh, and a regular trip to the barber, may actually take you quite a bit farther.
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The following has been copied and pasted from my journal. Oh yes, folks, I'm taking notes.
January 25, 2015
7:11 am: Ate six chalky Tums to quell nervous stomach.
7:13 am: Woke up boys. Groans emerged from the darkness. A pillow launched across the room landed with amazing accuracy, right in my face.
7:20 am: Let dog out for a steamy pee in 32 degree weather. Discovered a caterpillar. A live caterpillar, sitting serenely on a teeny, tiny, concrete oasis surrounded by inches of snow.
7:22 am: Found an old pickle jar in a cabinet above the fridge. Quickly threw together a cozy home for her with a stick, boxwood leaves, two marbles and little piece of Eggo waffle.
7:30 am: Made the boys lunches. Made the boys put on deodorant. Made the boys brush teeth.
7:53 am: Drove boys to school in my sheared beaver.
8:15 am: Returned home. Ate four more Tums. Drank a Slimfast. Breakfast of Champion Basketcases.
8:30 am: Laid on floor with dog and wished for time travel capabilities. May have dozed off.
10:30 am: Dressed and headed for coffee with newly sober friend for 12-step program talk- character defects. Unfortunately only had an hour. Not nearly enough time for me on that topic.
1:00 pm: Returned home and combed closet for subdued outfit. Dug into new container of Tums. Showered. Shaved front of calves. After all, it was a big day.
2:30 pm: Chose gray dress for court hearing against ex-husband.
3:45 pm: Entered courtroom with attorney, one friend, one advocate, and my father who made a special trip for the occasion. XO
4:00 pm: While my attorney unpacked 27 pounds of paper, I opened my lone file folder, empty with the exception of two photos of my children. Took a deep breath. Reminded myself repeatedly the outcome is beyond my control. Once again wished for the ability to time travel.
4:30 pm: Overwhelmed with sadness for how things might have been,yet aware I could not cry in a courtroom, ate three more Tums, focused on my photos, and wiped my dripping nose. Tears were actually coming out my nose.
5:15 pm: When the hearing ended, I closed my file folder with the tear-splattered photos, and felt a sense of weightlessness. I hugged my attorney, hugged my father, and friends. Finally I felt I could exhale in the safe arms of supporters.
5:45 pm: Called a special someone to express my gratitude for good advice, loyalty and persistence.
6:00 pm: Picked up boys at Mother's house. Gratefully accepted a meal she had prepared and packed for us. XO Took a moment to sit on her sofa and hugged my boys without letting on anything out of the ordinary had just occurred.
7:00 pm: Boys and I met Dad/Grandpa for pizza and talked about the stuff that really matters: W's loose tooth, Grandpa's first date at that very pizza parlor, the key to a great golf swing, and the perfect balance of salty anchovies on sweet tomato sauce.
9:30 pm: Tucked the boys in bed. Held back tears of relief they could not possibly understand. Lingered longer than usual and it felt good not to have a crowded head.
9:45 pm: A friend checked in on me by phone. How awesome is that?
10:15 pm: The close of long day. A long month. A long battle. Alone in the quiet, with the exception of the comforting sound of my snoring dog, I realized justice doesn't necessarily bring joy. Instead, likely due to the compassionate nature of most of humanity, justice results in quiet relief and mixed emotions about the consequences.
10:30 pm: Suddenly remembered to check on caterpillar which I assumed had died due to the severe treatment it had already sustained, or my lame attempt to save it. To my surprise, seemingly surrounded by all the caterpillar needed, she was trudging a path slowly around the pickle jar. I headed to bed with one of those well-I'll-be-damned smiles on my face.
11:30 pm: Climbed into bed, and using my phone, I looked up online: brown and black fuzzy caterpillar. I learned the following: "The banded Woolly Bear larva emerges from the egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form, when it literally freezes solid. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. In the spring it thaws out and emerges to pupate."
11:33 pm: Got out of bed. Walked back to the kitchen and emptied all the contents of the pickle jar back onto the cold, concrete patio. With certitude I felt this tough, yet delicate, gift from God will make it through the rest of her unknown journey, despite any threatening elements she may encounter. Now she knows she's a survivor.
Then I had my first good night of sleep in weeks.
My middle child was on a rant. "No one likes the middle, Mom. It's a fact. No one ever calls the middle seat, especially on the Scrambler. No one wants a middle piece of cake. They want side pieces, the ones with all the frosting. Even you said you don't like the middle, because it's where the gray hair grows outta your head."
And before I could stop myself, the words just sorta slipped out: "Honey, I think you mean you're doomed to a life of mediocrity."
"Thanks, Mom. Thanks a lot. I feel so much better now that I know a fancy word to describe my middle child miserableness."
"Oh, honey, I think you mean middle child misery."
It's true. He'd had a tough week. His older brother, home on a school break, had received a lot of positive attention. In addition, he'd been dragged along to watch his younger brother play multiple hockey games. And due to conflicts, I'd missed both of his recent indoor soccer games. And I might have forgotten to pick him up from the Y, but it only happened once.
He stared at me with such serious eyes, practically drowning in his brother's hand-me-downs. Finally he said, "I'm really sad. It's like I'm just kinda here...taking up space in the middle."
So this little diddy... this one's for my middle child. I bet your middle child will like it, too.
You're The Good Stuff
by Liesl Testwuide, mother of only one amazing middle child
You're my 7th inning stretch, my afternoon nap, my five golden rings, the button in my belly.
You're the cherry in my chocolate, the soda in my straw, and the hook in my book.
You're the free space on my BINGO card.
The firefly in my jar.
The funny bone in my arm, and my dream before that alarm.
You're the gooey in my s'more, the "ch" in my a-ch-oo, and the "u" in my hug.
You're my balmy summer night and my porridge that's ju-u-u-u-st right.
You're the warmth in my year, the smile between my ears, and the salt in happy tears.
You're the middle: the glue who makes us giggle.
You, my middle child, are the good stuff.
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I had good intentions for my New Year's resolution. Really good intentions. As a single mom, four years post-divorce, it's time to get back on the proverbial horse. Call it a horse, a rooster or whatever you choose, but it's time for me to get on something.
I decided to get back in shape to avoid being alone for the next decade, so I filled out the membership paperwork at a fancy, schmancy fitness club and awaited their response. In the meantime, I was so serious about this resolution, I shopped online and almost bought a 17-hook-and-eye sports bra made of steel. Turns out I'm not only off the hook; there likely won't be any eyes on me, either. The following arrived in the mail today:
I know you're excited. You've been awake since 5:55 AM. I tried my hardest not to hear you playing Minecraft on the floor outside my bedroom. Thank you for not opening my door until it was light outside.
In a few moments, you'll open your Christmas gifts. The wrapping paper will fly, a mug of hot chocolate will hit the floor, and Styrofoam peanuts will cling to the dog's butt all day.
However, while I finally have your undivided, yet toe-tapping, impatient, attention this singular moment of 2014, I have something to share with you. Quit the eye-rolls. It's Christmas. I have the floor. I'll be short and sweet.
I know you'll smile and nod politely when you open that new snowboard, remote control car, or electronic device. I'm grateful you'll be magnanimous. Magnanimous means- oh forget it, I know you're barely listening at this point. But in all seriousness, if I could, these are the things I'd give you this Christmas:
1. I'd give you a strong sense of individualism: the courage to forge new paths, speak up to right a wrong, and avoid following the crowd. The "in" group is not important. Having a clear conscience when closing your eyes at night is.
2. I'd give you a sense of wanderlust, a thirst to see different countries, and an appreciation of their cultures. I'd encourage you to toss aside laminated itineraries and experience the thrill of discovery. Don't let stuff get in the way of experiences. Put down the devices and participate. Notice the crisp air. Breathe in the fresh pine. Be present.
3. I'd box up a lifelong supply of questions so you'd never run out. I hope you ask as many questions at age 20, 30, 40 and 65, as you do now. And if you ever hear: "The answer to your question is, 'Because we've always done it this way,'" Be curious and challenge outdated traditions and thoughts.
4. I wish I could wrap up and give you the urge to always be kind, especially to each other. With the exception of your mother, no one's got your back like a brother. No one. It'd be awkward for your mom to saunter in the locker room to stick up for you if you were getting hassled by a jerk. There's nothing like a band of brothers for that kinda stuff and much, much more.
5. You may not understand at this age, but I want to give you the gift of serenity from living a spiritual life. I'm not talking about religion. Don't worry about people or things you can't change. Have faith in a higher power and embrace what you have, not what you don't. You are not God. Sorry. You are not the center of the universe. Sorry. I'm still wrapping my head around these facts, too. But I don't want you to think you've got to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You don't. That's why I'd give you faith if I could.
6. You've already been given the gift of a sense of humor. I hope you'll be generous with your smiles, your laughter, and your hugs. Be the first to offer your hand, and radiate positivity and hope. Don't take yourself too seriously. The folks that do are so boring.
7. I'd love to give you the desire to be a lifelong learner. Stay teachable. Accept help and keep an open mind. The world is much cooler when you can look at it from different perspectives. Being stuck sucks.
8. No matter where you are, I'll be there for you, um, except in the boys' locker room...although don't put it past me. I am your rock. I am your North. I am your mom. You are incredible gifts.
Merry Christmas 2014
Yes...now you can open that other junk under the tree.
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Recently I read "What Does Your Pain Demand?" by Marty Coleman about recovering from burn injuries. Marty was in the hospital back in the 1970's after experiencing severe burns. He explains that the further one gets into burn recovery, the more pain one experiences:
"When you are burned, your nerve endings are either burnt or retract. On day one of your treatment, your nerves are not recovered and you only feel so much. But each day your nerve endings come back just a bit, which means you feel more, not less, pain as the recovery makes its way." Marty explains his various therapies - whirlpool baths, painful creams, gauze wraps, and physical therapy to stretch to avoid scars from restricting his movements.
Burn recovery is blinding. He explains that patients are unable to look toward the future: "Not only are you focused on the immediate pain, but you are pretty much incapable of imagining life in the future. The constant pain contracts your ability to imagine...In my mind, I could not see ahead because the pain was too great and was growing only greater."
When I read his descriptions about burn recovery, my heart began to race. I've never experienced severe burns, but as I read Marty's words about that painful recovery process, it was as if he was describing my recovery from years of emotional abuse.
My kids tell me if you drop a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog won't notice the gradual change, or even perceive it's in danger. Instead, it'll slowly cook to death. Yet if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it'll immediately jump out. Obviously some budding serial killer tested this theory, likely more than once, and it may not even be true, but the story does serve a point.
The frog cooking to death is a metaphor for a victim who is repeatedly exposed to emotional abuse, which, over time, becomes escalates. The day-to-day belittling, minimizing, isolating, demeaning, ridiculing, criticism, accusing, chronic deceit, gaslighting, intimidation and other abusive behaviors become a normal way of life. The abuse builds slowly and in order to survive, the victim's tolerance level for these behaviors increases. Ultimately, at the height of the abuse, just like a burn victim, the abused are no longer in touch with their feelings. For all intents and purposes, their nerves are dead. They have become numb as a self-defense mechanism. By that point, without even realizing it, just like the frog, they have been cooked subtly over time.
Becaue the abuse begins slowly and escalates, just like the temperature of the frog's water, the victim doesn't have an a-ha moment and leave the situation. So when people say, "Why didn't she just leave?" The answer is complicated. By that point, she has lost faith in herself, in her ability to make decisions, in her family (she's likely been isolated), and she may feel worthless and crazy. Feeling this low and helpless, it's pretty hard to pack up and go, especially if kids are involved.
One might think divorce, separation, or the end of co-habitation brings great relief to a victim of emotional abuse. Although one has room to breathe and has space away from the abuser, just like the burn victim, feelings slowly start to return. Feelings can't be ignored. Those bitches hurt. Sure, we can drink our feelings, eat our feelings, numb them further by abusing prescription medication, but at the end of the day, if true strides are to be made, like a burn victim who doesn't want scars to restrict future movement, a victim of abuse must break through the pain feelings in order to deal with life on life's terms.
To complicate matters further, for emotional abuse victims, if there is continued contact with the abuser, for example, the two share children, every interaction (text, call, email, etc.) has the potential to reinjure the convalescing wounds. Written words are just as harmful as those spoken. And if contact must occur, perhaps to discuss logistics of the kids or finances, the mere interaction with the abuser can reinjure the wounds, not only slowing, but actually reversing the healing process.
Despite physical separation from the abuser, the continuous reinjury can make it almost impossible for a victim of abuse to imagine a future, or have hope. Truly the pain can be paralyzing, or blinding, as Marty described. Concentration, planning, or just going about one's daily business become major tasks, yet outsiders can't see the infected wounds or the scars that have developed. But there is no doubt, movement becomes restricted. Hyper-vigilence develops, and circles of trusted friends become much smaller. And most of all, fear of the future becomes overwhelming.
I'm no doctor, but I've been told how to manage the pain. I take one day at a time. I don't plan too far ahead, and I try my hardest not to dwell on the past. My life moves at a much slower pace. Decisions, even though they take forever to make due to the low level of trust in myself, are deliberate, not reactionary.
Unfortunately, living in the moment can try friendships and relationships. Although one may feel (psychologically) safe and in a good place today, contact with the abuser at any given moment can wipe out that feeling of safety in an instant. Therefore commitments to tasks and events can be tricky. Friends don't always understand. In today's fast-paced world, people are planners and love their weekends to be endlessly booked with social events, especially around the holidays. Those days are over for me. In fact, those days are over for most people in any type or stage of recovery. After a traumatic physical or psychological injury, a quiet, simple life is an awesome (in the truest sense of the word) goal.
If you're suffering in any capacity, you are not alone. I encourage you to share your experiences to help others with their pain. As a result, we'll all feel less isolated. The toughest months for survivors are just arriving. During the holidays, the days may be shorter, but the pain isn't less sharp.
And for those excited about the upcoming months' festivities and who've had the good fortune not to be touched with injury or sickness, please have empathy for those around you. We will be warned and on the watch for snow and sleet, but big pots of water, especially those slowly coming to a boil, are much less obvious.
When I noticed the incoming call from our elementary school, I knew I had to take it.
But I never have the guts to answer on the first ring when school calls. I immediately have to take several deep breaths and then mentally run through worst case scenarios.
"Your son has #4 pencils. We require they each have at least one #2." That wouldn't be bad. I could have some fun with that.
"Your child shouted, 'Beast-mode' at the top of his lungs, ran to the boys' bathroom and announced 'Evacuation imminent' while a family touring the school was in the hall. For safety reasons, ma'am, kids must walk in our hallways." I could handle that, too. It probably happens in everyone's house. Well, almost everyone's.
"Your child thought his math compass measured circumference and therefore shoved it-- Well, Ms. Testwuide, maybe you should come to the office so we can discuss this." Probably happens all the time. Or, at least a couple times. For sure once.
In the movie, We Bought a Zoo, based on the true story of Benjamin Mee, the main character tells his son, "You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it."
I remember getting a little teary at that point in the movie. I was moved by the father/son inspirational discussion. However, in real life, it's total bullshit. Mr. Mee may have bought a zoo, but he never met our principal. 20 seconds of courage would never be enough.
I ducked out of the New Parents' Tea at my oldest son's boarding school to take the call.
When my ringer sounded, "Oh, it's nothing," I mouthed to the three women having a conversation next to me, but not with me, about monogram fonts. I continued, basically telling no one, "I'm sure it's nothing...probably just my decorator," and I chuckled at my own snarky joke as I stepped away from the ladies on the terrace for some privacy.
"Hello, this is Liesl."
"Yes, hello. I hope I'm not catching you at an awkward time, Liesl. I know you're out of town, but we're having a problem here at school. It's kind of embarrassing, but your son is terribly stinky."
"Excuse me? I've got a bad connection. I'm in the Berkshires. Kinky? As in...well, as in kinky?" The other mothers suddenly noticed me and strained their necks my direction. "Did you say my son is terribly kinky?" I repeated.
I hadn't been prepared for that one. My future worse case scenario repertoire was just about to super-size.
"No, not kinky, Liesl. He's not kinky," she emphasized like I was some freak. "Well, not that I'm aware of anyway. But he's stinky. Really stinky."
"Ohhhh, he's stinky!" I laughed nervously. "WelI, I suppose at this age stinky beats kinky, right?" The principal didn't laugh. I turned toward the eavesdropping, perfectly-coiffed New England mothers, and did one of those nod-smile-I'll-be-just-another-minute moves with my pointer finger.
"I know you're traveling in Connecticut, Liesl, but you must get your son deoderant before school Monday. He needs it. He needs it baaaaad."
When I came home, I explained that at this age, bodies go through changes. Boys need to use products. I bought the deoderant, the shower gel, the hair gel, the mouthwash, the you-name-it-I-bought-it-hygiene-product, but honestly, they don't get much use. My boys think maple syrup is a perfecty good substitute for hair gel, so God only knows what they're putting on their arm pits.
Truth be told, being smelly is kind of a badge of honor around my house.
"Dude, smell my pits."
"You gotta come in here and smell this."
"No, no, Mom. Keep the windows up, it's totally nasty. Awesome."
"I played soccer in the rain, so I don't need a shower. Water's water."
"Mom, do you know that a lizard can grow another tail if its breaks off?"
"Nope, didn't know that."
"Yeah, it's pretty cool. We learned it in science. It's called asexual regurgitation."
I said, "Honey, I think you mean reproduction. Asexual re-pro-duc-tion."
"Reproduction. Regurgitation. Pretty much the same thing. Whatever."
"Well," I said, "while we're on the subject, do you know what sexual reproduction is?"
He thought for a second and then said, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with poverty."
"Poverty? Really? Where'd you hear that?"
"You know, Mom, poverty: when you get all hairy, smelly, sleep really late, eat junk food, and then wanna do stuff to have lots of babies."
"Um, I think you mean puberty. Pu-ber-ty. Not poverty."
He quickly changed the subject. Thank God.
"Mom, can I have $15 to go to the movies with some friends? I'm broke."
"Fine," I said, "if pull out those weeds, I'll give you money for the movies. After that, you need to shower because you're really stinky."
As he walked away, over his shoulder he said, "See, Mom? Pov-er-ty. Pu-ber-ty. Same thing."
Recently I met a single girlfriend for coffee and she bitched, "Jesus, this online dating thing is like having a part-time job. I can't manage all the emails. I'm mixing up the guys. I have to use descriptive code names to keep them straight: 90 degrees, Firepower, Beard of Love, Jagger Tongue and Hairless Harry. But-"
"What's the 90 degrees stand for?" I interrupted.
"He's got a curved --"
"Really? A right angle? I'd like to see that."
I cringed as she complained about being overwhelmed with dates. That hasn't been my experience. There's no line of single men wrapped around my cyberblock. "Yeah...I don't know," I confessed, "I think it's time for me to throw in the towel on the whole online dating thing and go back to wearing comfy undies."
"Don't do that. You need to get out. Be seen. Have fun. You can't spend every Friday and Saturday night in your bathrobe reading."
"I'm all for having fun, but the online thing never works for me. I had a short run with some old widowers but I felt like a poacher. One weirdo insisted I send him a selfie on the scale to verify I have curves, not rolls. Another psycho said he was divorced when he wasn't. I might just buy sweatsuits, eat chocolate, and get a couple cats," I said.
"Lemme see your profile," she insisted.
I thought it was pretty decent since I'm a writer. I sounded smart, creative and kinda funny. But after careful examination, I realized it read more like an ad for a rescue dog: friendly, outgoing, dependable, loyal... Sounds like code for: please take me home, pant, pant... I'm desperate...pant, pant. The only thing missing: great at licking balls.
My friend was adamant, "Men are looking for a sexy, confident woman, not a lonely pup from the pound. Simply bedazzle your profile. Add stuff like: former gymnast, culinary whiz specializing in aphrodisiacs, and financially independent Victoria's Secret hoarder."
"Right," she said, "but who cares? You only need to sound interesting. You don't actually need to be interesting."
"Oh God," she moaned, continuing to read my profile. "Epic fail here. You can't mention you've got three boys."
"But I have three boys--"
"Well, you don't need to brag about it. Kids are a turn off. The mother-thing is a drag."
"The mother-thing? Most men have their own children."
"News flash: divorced 45-year-old men don't want to date 45-year-old moms. They want women in their 20s and 30s. Younger women -- even if they have six kids. In fact, 50-60-year-old men want women in their 20s and 30s, too. I suppose some older men might settle for a 45-year-old."
"Settle? Jesus, don't hold back."
"Yeah, well, this is the shit people don't tell you when you get divorced."
"You see," she continued, "for the most part, men 55 - 65, the ones who might have an interest in you, have grown children. They don't wanna carry your lawn chair to soccer games, spend Saturdays at swim meets or help with homework on school nights. They did that shit with their first wives. You need to appear flexible, carefree, and able to travel on a whim. They won't invite you to the BVI or whisk you off to Vail if you've got three kids. They want a playmate, not a second family to raise."
"So, let me get this straight," I said. "I should fake that I don't have kids... in order to date men who have kids ... who I'll eventually have to stop dating because I have kids."
My friend bit her lip and tapped her fingernail on the table. "Yeah," she said, "basically you're fucked. Good thing you have a dog."
Although I consider myself an expert in many areas of parenting, like how to maximize the longevity of boxer shorts or use a double dose of cough syrup for any ailment, I have exceptional authority on long-distance travel with boys. Summer has arrived and families are loading up to hit the road. As a result, here are six road-tested tips to keep the adults sane and the kids happy on your summer family vacation.
There's no doubt satellite radio, a cooler on wheels, DVD players with headphones, and audio-books are all good bets to make a family road trip more comfortable. But the stakes are just a bit higher when traveling with boys in a small, confined space for hours while simultaneously operating a large motor vehicle on unfamiliar roads at speeds of 75 mph. Parental sanity, not comfort, tends to be the priority.
Rolling backpacks allow kids to haul their own stuff, even if it's heavy. No more: "It's too hea-----vy. Can you puh-lease just carry it?" Each boy needs his own rolling backpack for his electronic game systems, chargers, books, blankie, and stuffed animals. Any purchased souvenirs must fit in the rolling backpack which makes saying "no" to rifles, coneheads and large rocks pretty easy. Pulling a rolling backpack inhibits kids from running too far ahead, so you can keep up, and your blood pressure can stay down.
Tip Number 5: Jobs for All
As a single mom, I can't do it all, so every boy chooses a job for the trip. My youngest is the Lookout. He looks for bad guys, lightning, curves in the road, and booby traps. His job requires binoculars and a much needed diagram indicating his left and right.
My middle son is the Recorder. He records unusual sightings like a bear peeing or a running cantaloupe (turned out to be an antelope.) He's responsible for writing down shopping lists, fast food orders, and game scores. His tallies of buffalo poop piles and creative abbreviations like J.C. (just ketchup) keep us laughing.
My oldest is the Navigator which requires attention to detail and excellent computer skills. Who needs Siri when I have my own Go-to-Guy? Before I can spit out the question, he's got the answer: "Got it, Mom! Check it out in 3-D." Sketch Artist, DVD Master, Fart-Counter, Snack Man, and Mr. Muscles are some additional popular jobs.
Tip Number 4: Scooters or Ripsticks
Boys feel the need for speed. They are physically incapable of being restrained and confined for hours at a time. And as a parent, unless I have some strong happy pills, I, too, am incapable of being confined for a lengthy period of time with them. Don't fight nature. Accept it. Although a stop at a park to swing or climb a jungle gym is a nice respite, ten laps at full speed on a scooter or Ripstick around an empty church parking lot provides a faster and more satisfying energy release. Park the car. Turn up the tunes. Let 'em ride. Not sold? Scooters and Ripsticks never get flat tires or lose a chain. Pack the scooters, rent bikes at the destination.
Tip Number 3: Luggage Carts
After a long day of driving, a cluster of luggage carts in a hotel lobby is a welcome sight. Kids are so wired to get out of the car, I let them each have a luggage cart and completely pretend not to know them as I check-in at the front desk.
Let them unload the car, one item at a time and make as many elevator trips as possible. Let them use luggage carts as over-sized skateboards, jungle gyms and bumper cars. The longer you can put off going to that gross, under-chlorinated hotel pool full of strangers, the better.
Tip Number 2: Gum
It's a fact that cars become quieter when kids chew gum. Boys can't yell or shout with six pieces of bubble gum in their mouths. They chew the gum. They add more gum. They talk about their gum. They compare gum. They inquire about others' gum. They blow bubbles. They add more gum and repeat the process.
Chewing gum is an activity in and of itself that lasts longer than Tic-Tac-Toe, I Spy or any coloring book. So moms, don't be stingy with the gum! Don't be tempted to save the gum for a meltdown or moment of desperation. Gum is your friend. Leverage their love of gum.
Kids never tire of gum. After chewing gum all day, when presented with a mouth-watering dessert tray in a restaurant, my youngest politely asked, "Do you have any gums? I'll just have a gum."
And My Top Traveling Tip: Gatorade
Large, plastic bottles of Gatorade are the number one must-have for any long trip with boys. Gatorade containers are so big, kids never ask for more! No one complains of thirst or fights over the last one. When the first boy finishes his Gatorade, the discarded, wide-mouthed jug conveniently becomes the communal urinal. Peeing in the car results in hours of fun and conversation for boys: "Mom, want some Gatorade?" "I think I'm stuck."
When a jug of Gatorade is in the car, the driver can relax knowing there will be no pressure to find a bathroom "Now!!! Not five minutes, Mom, now!" Your car now has a fully functioning urinal.
Say goodbye to finding crumpled, 6-ounce juice boxes and cellophane straw wrappers all over the back seats. Say hello to reducing your family's carbon footprint by bringing Gatorade on your next family road trip with boys. Warning: this tip could be disastrous with girls.
It can be frustrating, exhausting and down-right crazy when a family takes to the road together. All the planning in the world will still result in multiple not-the-end-of-the-world disasters. But few things in life are better than sharing an adventure with the ones we love! Hit the road and have a blast.... now where is that damn Alaska license plate?
As Mother's Day approaches, I can't help but think back to all the interesting gifts I've received from my three sons throughout the years. I fondly recall getting a bean plant in a Dixie cup. One fragile, hopeful stalk, reinforced (suffocated) by Scotch tape. A couple years later, I was treated to a Dixie cup just full of dirt. But man, I loved that dirt.
Another year one son surprised me with a beautiful type-written poem. It began, When I saw you across the room and our eyes first met, I knew it was love at first sight... Turns out the poem wasn't actually a poem. It wasn't beautiful, either. The second line began, Or maybe it was pure lust? And that's when I knew I wanted you to.... We had a brief talk about internet safety and then went to brunch.
Mothers worldwide dream of receiving painted rocks, handmade cards, extension cords (boys, I especially loved the green 8-footer, so thoughtful), and pots of marigolds along with breakfast-in-bed. Those years fly by. So bring on the macaroni, glitter and glue projects. We cherish them.
Eventually our children get older and we receive books, tickets to the symphony, or a lovely scarf. All nice gifts, but nothing quite compares to an overflowing cup of dirt that's been watered too much, carried with both hands over the white carpet, down the hallway to our bedroom at 5:30 am. We honestly don't care if that marigold ever sprouts. We just like watching our kids enjoy a moment of giving.
And nothing beats a handwritten card mom can save to read at a college graduation or rehearsal dinner years later. This is one of my treasures:
Yet for some, Mother's Day is tough, even painful. We look around, but don't always know who is suffering. Some faces are well-practiced at hiding the pain. But there are too many wonderful women in the world who won't get marigolds on Sunday.
Some wanted to be moms but were unable.
Some are estranged from their children and live with regret.
Military moms pray daily for their kids serving our country.
Some moms are in hospitals, comforting their sick children, content to get a smile, a nod, or just another day together.
Some mothers may feel sharper pains of grief on Sunday for the children they've to mourn prematurely.
As a mom, I'm only as happy as my most unhappy child. No matter the age of my kids, when they hurt, I hurt right along with them. So although Mother's Day is a joyous occasion for so many, let's remember and comfort the women who ache for babies who were never born, have children who are sick, hurt, lost, addicted, missing, in pain, struggling, or have passed on. Their pain is our pain.
For those of us blessed to celebrate this Mother's Day, let's be generous with our smiles, hugs, phone calls, and even our marigolds. It's the little things that make the big difference.
Last week I wrote about 234 Nigerian girls who had been kidnaped from their boarding school in Chibok by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The mainstream media was slow to cover the story, but with pressure from the forces of social media (#BringBackOurGirls) and alternate news outlets, the world continues to get more information about the plight of these 234 school girls.
Abubakar Shekau, the supposed leader of Boko Haram, released a video today in which he laughs as he announces, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah...There is a market for selling humans...I sell women." The video was originally released by Agence France-Presse. Watch the clip with the link below. It's only about a minute. Be prepared to look at the face of evil as you note the leader's horrifying smile.
The girls were kidnapped April 14, and as we sit three weeks later, the Nigerian government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, is no closer to bringing them home. It has been reported that the girls are being held deep within the dense Simbisa forest, making a rescue mission extremely difficult.
But who is Boko Haram? Boko Haram is a muderous terrorist organization. Literally translated, their name means "Western education is a sin." They want to overthrow the Nigerian government and make Nigeria a "pure Islamist state" governed by Sharia law.
Boko Haram members forbid interaction with the Western World and are radically anti-education. They believe education should be limited to reading the Qur'an. As a result, they target symbols of western ideology with their violence. They bomb and attack people associated with churches, police stations and schools.
If you haven't heard of Boko Haram before, you're not alone. They came onto the world radar screen about five years ago. In November 2013, the U.S. State Department classified Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. Their violence has escalated since their founder, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police custody. Since his death, Boko Haram has been responsible for countless bombings of churches and police stations in northern Nigeria which led to the current state of emergency in the region.
The violence escalated last July, when Boko Haram attacked and killed 42 students at the Yobe State School. In Septmeber 2013, Boko Haram attacked the College of Agriculture in Gujba and killed 40 students and in February, 2014, 29 teen boys were executed at the Federal Governement College Buni Yadi. The kidnaping of 234 girls last month could indicate Boko Haram is becoming more brazen and organized.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry happens to be visiting Africa and was quoted as saying, "The U.S. will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes." Talks continue as to how the U.S. can best help rescue these young women. Since the #BringBackOurGirls campaign began, people are wearing red and hosting rallies all over the world to bring attention to the girls' situation.
Everyone I've spoken with agrees the kidnapping of these girls is beyond horrific. But what can we actually do besides read the articles and watch the coverage? Thanks to social media, we can do a lot. By tweeting or writing Facebook posts with #BringBackOurGirls, we create solidarity. We let the world (Nigerians, our American leaders and more) know we are watching and we care. By tweeting messages of hope using #BringBackOurDaughters, mothers in Nigeria will know parents and good people across the world empathize with their pain.
Often people tell me they don't have time for social media. I have real friends. I'm out doing real things. I don't spend my life online. I understand. I'm busy, too. Or I hear, social media is so narcissistic. No one is asking you to give up anything or become a tin-foil cap-wearing hermit. No one needs to ignore the job, kids, or grooming habits to become an active citizen of the world. I just want to encourage good people to speak up. Your phone/ laptop is a world stage. Use it for good. Conversations are happening and the world needs your voice.
P.S. By liking a post on Facebook about a distressing topic, you are not signalling to the world you "like" what is happening. A "like" means hey, I read this and I find it important, intriguing, etc. When posts receive little interaction from readers, FB stops showing those posts.
P.S.S. Hey, are you a Hairpin Turns Ahead subscriber yet? Get the latest post delivered to your inbox in the event you miss it in your FB or Twitter feed. Simply add your email address in the box in the lefthand column that says "subscribe."
If you're like a lot of daughters, it's all your mother's fault.
It doesn't really matter what "it" is. "It's" still her fault.
If you're too fat, it's your mother's fault.
She probably insisted you were a member of The Clean Plate Club.
If you hate exercise, it's your mother's fault.
She scarred you for life with her 1980's aerobics outfits. Women today have huge therapy bills from witnessing their size 0 mothers grapevine in spandex thongs worn OVER spandex capris. The flashbacks of T-shirts with shoulder pads, braided sweatbands, and black, high-top Reeboks caused serious damage to our psyches.
If you've had issues with men, it's your mom's fault.
She may have chaperoned your school dances... and actually danced.
If you have body image issues, it's definitely your mom's fault.
Your poor self-image likely stems from the time she made you go back to your room and put on "something more flattering" while your friends waited in the car.
Whatever your issues, one thing is for sure, your mother is to blame. And rather than reignite the argument of the century, your duty as a daughter is to just get her a gift this holiday. Therefore, put a little FUN in dysFUNctional this Mother's Day, and get her the perfect gift that says:
"I love you, Mom, but in a pretty f*cked up sort of way."
At Hairpin Turns Ahead, we had our personal shoppers hunt down Mother's Day gifts for wacky moms responsible for ruining daughters' lives across the country. Here's what they found:
1. Experts claim the most powerful sense is our smell. Imagine your mother enveloped in the scent of your feet every waking hour. The idea is soothing, isn't it? By giving your mom a set of feet candles, you won't need to visit her, she'll feel your presence daily.
When beautiful Natalee Holloway went missing on a school trip to Aruba, the media covered her story 24/7. Lifetime movies were made and Nancy Grace did programs devoted entirely to finding Natalee.
When little Madeleine Mc Cann was taken from her vacation condo in Portugal back in 2007, her story received international media attention for years. Just last week, CNN did another story on new leads now seven years later. Her disappearance has yet to be solved, and the spotlight still shines brightly on this tragedy.
In 2011, a crazy shooter killed 69 and wounded 110 teens attending summer camp on a small island off Norway. The horrific story immediately dominated the airwaves. The international community was outraged at the violence. The United Nations, the European Union and NATO all sent their condolences, expressed their support, and condemned the attack.
Six weeks ago, 239 passengers and crew from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared off the face of the earth. Countries almost tripped over each other lining up to help with the investigation. The largest multi-national search and rescue mission in history continues and around-the-clock coverage dominates the leading stories.
Today I returned to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in Dayton, OH. I came to the three-day conference in 2012 before I started writing Hairpin Turns Ahead. Two years ago, sitting in that first session, I remember thinking, This is where I belong.
Today I arrived in Dayton, two years later, tired and stressed. It takes so much work to prepare for a trip without kids, I don't even call it a vacation anymore. Halfway through the drive, I realized I forgot the one thing I didn't want to forget -- my business cards. And while dressing for dinner, I realized I forgot one other thing-- my right shoe -- and unfortunately I had the gaul to take it out on my left shoe. Feeling fat in my Eileen Fisher, and uncomfortable in my back-up shoes, I finally left the safe haven behind my laptop and headed to dinner to meet my online writer friends in real life.
During the seven-hour drive to Ohio, I reflected on my writing and Hairpin Turns Ahead. In nineteen months, I've written thousands of words, was cast in a Listen To Your Mother show, finished fourth in Blogger Idol and built a loyal following through social media. In addition, I've made a lot of mistakes. And to be perfectly honest, since the new year, I've had trouble finding the funny. I've worried so much about readers liking my posts, that it's paralyzed my writing.
Lately the most common question I'm asked is, "All this writing you do....so, what's it all for?" Is the writing for me? Is the writing for my readers? Is it for mere entertainment? Is it for some greater good? I'm not sure.
However, there are two things I do know for sure. I need to write. There are words and stories and ideas and just plain kooky thoughts that I need to get out of my head and onto paper. And most importantly, humor is my coping mechanism. When things are uncomfortable, painful, scary, unknown, or upsetting, I rely on humor -- not as a diversion, but as a path to accepting certain truths.
Tonight at dinner, our keynote speaker Phil Donohue spoke about his good friend and former Ohio neighbor, Erma Bombeck. He reminded us that Erma wrote the truth about topics that were often full of pretense. She opened the door for American women to be honest about their roles by using humor. And tonight I think Phil Donohue reignited the writing spark in me when he said, "The opportunities to skewer balloons of pretense are everywhere." Thanks, Phil. That was just what I needed to hear. And once again, I found myself thinking, This is where I belong.
Last week my 11 year-old son curled up beside me and said, "I'm really feeling like the middle child. It's Eli's birthday and Augie won that contest. I'm just kinda here...taking up space in the middle." So this little diddy... this one's for him.
You're The Good Stuff
You're my 7th inning stretch, my afternoon nap, my five golden rings, the button in my belly.
You're the cherry in my chocolate, the soda in my straw, and the hook in my book.
You're the free space on my BINGO card.
The firefly in my jar.
The funny bone in my arm and my dream before that alarm.
You're the gooey in my s'more, the "ch" in my a-ch-oo, and the "u" in my hug.
You're my balmy summer night and the porridge that's ju-u-u-u-st right.
You're the warmth in my year, the smile between my ears, the salt in happy tears.
The glue who makes us giggle.
The cackle in my tickle.
You're the good stuff.
To Hugo xoxo
Recently my old college roommate, Ann, and I made plans to catch up over dinner. I hadn’t seen her in years and she was finally going to be in town. I was starving for adult conversation after long days spent fielding unending questions from my kids.
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“Mom, where’s my catcher’s mitt?”
“Mom, do I have to wear pants just because you’re hosting book club?”
With three sons, I am constantly up to bat, and their pitches come from all directions. However, after years of training, I’ve become a seasoned vet at quick answers.
“You get three hots and a cot. Don’t push it.”
“It’s in the basement, top shelf, next to the pilgrim hat piñata.“
“Yes. Pants are mandatory. That’s my final answer.”
Walking out the door at 5:00 p.m., my nine-year old son announced, "Mom, we can't forget to bring the potted luck."
"The potted luck? What? Like bamboo stalks, Honey?" I asked.
"I dunno," he said. "Maybe it wasn't potted luck. Maybe we're each supposed to bring some pot to pass."
"What is this? Eco Club awards night? You need a couple bootleg tapes, too?"
"Mom, duh, it's the Chess Club banquet."
I stared at him intently and I could see the wheels turning in his head. He scratched his head, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm confused. I thought we're supposed to bring pot or a pot of luck or something. Didn't you read the note I gave you this morning?"
"You mean that crumpled piece of paper you handed me when I was in the shower?"
"YES! That note. That's the one!"
"I was naked under a spigot, Babe. It's not where I do my best reading."
After I wrote a post last October called Dear Alcohol It's Over about my personal struggles with alcohol, I've had several people contact me with a question that goes something like this: Hey, I've got a friend/ family member who might be an alcoholic. Maybe she's just depressed, I don't know, but she's drinking (or insert other self-destructive behavior here) too much. Her life is a mess. She's not going to work. She isn't seeing friends. She seems to have given up. I'm scared and I want to help, but I don't know what to do.
Let me be clear, I'm not a doctor or an AODA (alcohol or drug addiction) counselor. However, I have personal experience in this area. Therefore, I offer my suggestions based on my experience, strength, and hope. Keep in mind, these are only suggestions, and other folks might have other ideas. Nonetheless, I hope it's helpful.
1. First, TELL your friend your concerns. Too often people tip toe around and talk to everyone except the subject of concern, because they're afraid to have a difficult
Scott Hamilton: Well, folks, coming up next in the grocery shop event is seasoned veteran Liesl Testwuide. Testwuide comes from a long line of grocery shoppers, so we're in for a treat. I spoke with her earlier today, and although she's generally pleased with the course, she admitted the candy aisle and Hostess
section can be dangerous and may give her some trouble. Her strategy is to stay focused and stick to her list. Dick, Testwuide's shopping list is long, but one thing's for sure: what she lacks in freezer space, she's able to make up in consumption.
Dick Button: Thanks, Scott. Testwuide is entering the store now. She's removed her sunglasses and started her pre-shop routine: examining carts for wobbly wheels, checking herself out in the security camera monitor, and stretching to loosen up.
I must say, Scott, Testwuide looks more focused than I've seen her in the past. Her signature pre-shop coffee- Sudafed-Mountain Dew-protein shake could be kicking in. Nevertheless, it's surprising, since she's not known to shop well under pressure. Who doesn't
I waited four years to experience a special moment like last night.
No, I didn't have sex.
I watched the 2014 Winter Olympic Games with my three sons. Popcorn, fireplace, pillows, perfect. Together we sat in awe of the huge air from the snowboarders, the pounding knees of the mogul skiers and the showy costumes worn by men's figure skaters. We leaned in at the jumps, winced at the falls, and cheered for the Americans. During the ads, we had animated conversation:
"I bet there are no lines in Russia to buy that sparkly pantsuit."
"How do they land so softly?"
"What's a Pussy Riot?"
I've always been drawn to war movies. Platoon, Black Hawk Down, Apocalypse Now, The Thin Red Line. The raw intensity moves me. The grittier, the better. When I re-watch those first 27 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, I still have a visceral reaction. The courage and fear in those boys is palpable as they approach the beaches. I wince knowing their fate.
I couldn't find anyone to see Lone Survivor with me, so I finally went by myself.
That's too hard to watch.
Too much violence.
It's just too real.
Such a downer.
I go to the movies to escape. Teleport me to an alien planet for a couple hours.
To each his own. Yet, for some reason, I embrace that raw reality-- the insanity of war, the pain, the frustration, the anger. I respect it. As a citizen of the world, I actually feel it's my duty to watch these movies. It seems un-American to avoid
I believe a bit of reflection is helpful at the beginning of a new year.
Looking back at 2013, I wish I'd said and done some things differently. At 45, I still seem too concerned about people liking me. As a result, I don't say what's actually
on my mind. Instead, I blather some polite words and move on. Later, I kick myself for not saying what I really wanted to.
In 2014, I've resolved to be more direct and authentic in my relationships. In my head I've replayed some conversations that bugged me from last year. As a practice exercise for 2014, I've reimagined what I might say with my new bold approach if given a second chance. Take a look, see what you think:
Grade 3 Room Mother: "Liesl, would you be willing to chair the annual wrapping paper sale? I know it's close to Christmas and all, but it's really not totally time-
From the Very Messy, Can-Barely-Find-Sh*t, Yet Amazingly Functional Desk of
Liesl M. Testwuide
Season's Greetings! Merry Christmas! Happy End-of-2013! And Best Wishes for the Starve-Yourself-'til-Summer Season!
2013 was my second year as a single woman. Now that the kids are settled, I decided to start taking care of myself. Looking toward the future, I've focused on my health. It's true I didn't lose the 25 pounds I gained over the course of my
Last week, a woman in at the grocery store was blabbering on about her family’s Elf on the Shelf. Consumed by guilt, I ducked into the pain relief aisle. All week I'd tried to kill our Elf on the Shelf.
I purchased the elf in an effort to create a new holiday tradition for my boys after my divorce. We unpacked the elf and read the book. The story goes that each night while kids are sleeping, the elf heads back to the North Pole and returns before morning. Each day when the kids awake, they must search the house to find the elf in its new hiding spot.
On the first morning with the elf, I walked in the kitchen and realized she was sitting in the same spot as the day before. Damn, I forgot to move her before I went to bed. The kids were eating cereal and didn't ask about the elf. They seemed to have forgotten, too. This effort to create idyllic childhood memories was off to a rocky start.
The second morning, I woke up with pangs of guilt. I forgot to move the elf again. As I approached the elf, her beady, little eyes glared at me. They seemed to say, I will not be ignored. I was creeped out. I made sure Fluffy, our pet bunny was ok, and vowed to do better on day three.
The woman at Walgreens said she’d arranged their elf on the kitchen island alongside Barbie and posed the two as if they were drinking maple syrup out of straws. The cynical bitch in me scoffed, thinking, what a waste of time, as others, waiting for their prescriptions, giggled at her story.
Our elf came to the wrong shelf if she expected to enjoy 6:30 am two-fer-ones with Barbie. A headless Lego Darth Vader might stroll in, but Barbie doesn't visit these parts. Besides, I don’t even own syrup. Waffles are a to-go food in my house.
On the elf's third night, Louis C.K. was on the Daily Show, so while that dashing sugar plum danced in my head, I completely forgot the elf...again. When I walked into the kitchen the next morning, her eyes twinkled, she grinned from ear to ear and she gesticulated a "Fa-la-luck You!"
Realizing the whole elf thing was a bust, I decided to deep six that chemically-imbalanced twit. I needed less drama during the holidays, not more. I probably should have donated it to a starving coyote or something, but instead I simply tossed that skinny little bitch in the trash and went about my day.
The next morning, still half asleep, I came through the kitchen to let out the dog. Turning the corner, my heart skipped a beat as I found the elf hanging from the kitchen light fixture. I cut that psycho down, stuck a steak knife in both her eyes, and tossed her back in the trash.
On Saturday, I awoke to a blood-curdling scream. Having an early morning pee, my youngest discovered the elf floating face down in the toilet. Unable to simply flush it, I fished that still-smiling-pee-soaked elf out of the toilet and put her back in the trash.
On Sunday my oldest found her in the fridge. She had stabbed herself with a pickle fork.
Having a late night snack Monday, my middle son found her with her head in the oven.
Enough was enough. On Tuesday, I bound and gagged that fucking elf-devil, drove to the Kwikie Mart and tossed her in the dumpster. Done. Finito. Freak show's over, folks. I felt relieved and finally got a decent night's sleep.
As we backed out of the garage the following morning, I heard a crunch under the back tire. As I glanced up the drive, sure enough, I spotted my tormentor, flat as a pancake in the snow. In what apeared to be slow motion, I saw her crushed little body still muster the strength to raise her arm and give me the finger. There was only one thing left to try.
I covered her in peanut butter and let the dog go to town.
But I know that bitch will be back.
The Elf on the Shelf seems to be a non-perishable item.
First, I want to tell you that you're not alone. You may feel alone. You might think no one else could possibly understand the chaos you endure on a daily basis. But please take heart knowing there are people of all walks of life who understand
and your confusion.
Let us help.
Abuse comes in many forms-- physical, emotional, economic, sexual. Your deepest pain may not be from bruises, neglect, empty bank accounts, broken bones or ruined credit. Your deepest pain is likely caused by the incredible trauma your heart has endured from being repeatedly betrayed by someone you loved and trusted.
Maybe you've begun to feel like you're crazy, but you're not. If you're in an abusive relationship, it's normal to doubt your own sense of reality. Your abuser may tell you things that fuel your inner confusion. Things like-
"You've got it all wrong."
"I tried to help you."
From the Very Messy, Can-Barely-Find-Sh*t, Yet Amazingly Functional Desk of
Liesl M. Testwuide
2013 was rougher than I expected. Unfortunately, despite honest efforts, my behavior was not stellar this past year. In fact, in some instances, it was downright naughty (not the good naughty, either, you cheeky devil, Santa.)
As a divorced parent, I dread the holidays my children spend with their father. When other families are going to church, cooking in the kitchen, gathering around the table and sharing stories, my loneliness is indescribable. Even if I am a welcome guest at a gathering, I am lonely. It’s painful to watch other families be together and not know what my children are doing.
Recently there was a billboard in town that read: “Divorce is contagious. Don’t catch it.” Driving past it one day, my 9 year-old asked, “Is that true, Mom? You caught the divorce?”
“Yep, that’s why I told you never to sit on public toilet seats,” I said.
The ridiculous message “Divorce is contagious” is akin to telling my kids our family was unlucky – like getting stuck next to the kid with the gooey eye in reading group, or being sent home from school with lice after sharing a piano bench with Bedbug Barry in music.
Our divorce, on the other hand, was no accident. It didn’t happen because we had a compromised immune system and ate at a Sizzler. Quite the contrary, our divorce was a decision I made after years of sober consideration, thousands of dollars spent on marriage counseling and two years of sleepless nights on the couch.
Unintentionally people make ridiculous comments: “That’s kinda nice to have every other weekend to yourself.” I think, you're not divorced. You can't fathom the empty feelings I get walking past clean bedrooms, living in deafening silence and not tripping over soccer balls. I’m a parent. I chose to have children because I wanted to raise
From the Very Messy, Can-Barely-Find-Sh*t, Yet Amazingly Functional Desk of
Liesl M. Testwuide
Dear Instagram #antiselfiemovement members,
In September, Digital Trends, an online technology magazine, covered the formation of your selfie-hater group, and your goal to end to the growing trend of selfies (photos taken by oneself of oneself and uploaded to social media sites).
Stop. Please just stop. Is the teeny-tiny bubble of the world you live within so ideal, you're unable to think of actual social issues to care about? Why focus on slandering the selfie? If you're going to be frivolous, why not create an #anticouponistamovement? Or maybe a #nomorekidsingrocerystoresleague? The shopper ahead of you in line who sorts through an 8-inch stack of coupons with her booger-faced kids after your serene aerial yoga class must make you more insane than selfies!
Seriously, #antiselfiemovement members, despite your disdain for people posting selfies, according to a September BBC News article, selfies are not a passing fad. In fact, a simple search of “#me” on Instagram, the popular social media site for posting photos, reveals 149,057,815 results! Selfies have become so embedded in our culture, that just last month, the Oxford Dictionary formalized the word selfie into its database of acceptable English words. Let me guess, you mudslingers don't play Words With Friends, either? Hmf!
I understand that you selfie bashers feel posting photos of oneself may signal an
From the Very Messy, Can-Barely-Find-Sh*t, Yet Amazingly Functional Desk of
Just sending a note to say hey, what's up? Love your hair.
Okay, that's totally not true. I can't even see your hair. I'm sending this note because I need a favor.
If you've been reading on a regular basis, then you know I'm in a writing competition called Blogger Idol. We're in Week #5 and I really want to stay in this contest. I'm not ready for elimination (my boys can't say that word with a straight face, either. You're not the only one.)
In order to stay afloat this week, I need your help. The judges were just sort of "meh" about my post even though I thought it was very personal and touching. But really, what do judges know?
Each week the judges read our posts and rank them, but the public votes count toward our overall score and often determine who is eliminated. Last week a writer was eliminated for being NINE votes short of the person ahead of her. NINE votes. That's insane.
Do you want that on your conscious? I mean, don't you have enough weighing on that conscious of yours?
Here's how you can help. Click this: VOTE FOR HAIRPIN TURNS AHEAD. You will be taken to the Blogger Idol website. Scroll down to the shaded voting box and click the dot next to the title of my blog, Hairpin Turns Ahead and then click "VOTE." It just takes a few seconds. And I bet you will look really cool doing it. You have that panache. I know you do.
Okay, that's not true either. You'll just be saving me. But I'm worth it, right?
Take your vitamins, drink plenty of caffeine, and have an great day!
PS: Voting for week #5 ends Thursday (Halloween) at 11:59 pm. Sp please vote before you go into your food coma from raiding your kids' Halloween candy.
(This post was written for Week #4 of Blogger Idol 2013. Contestants were paired and the challenge was to write an interview. My partner was Kristen Hansen Brakeman and we really enjoyed our collaboration experience.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m your host, Heather Reese, blogger from My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream. We’re live at the 2013 Blogger Idol Pageant and relieved the horror of the swimsuit competition is behind us! Let's move ahead as we're only weeks away from crowning the next Blogger Idol!
We know our contestants can write. This next segment will reveal just how fast two of our finalists, Kristen Hansen Brakeman and Liesl Testwuide, can think on their feet. Our judges have been given questions to ask each finalist and they'll be scored on their answers.
Let’s begin with a question for Kristen from our first judge, Mother Freakin’ Princess (MFP).
Judge #1: Kristen, I'm a modern day princess who enjoys mountain biking and cooking, so naturally I want to know, what do you think about the recent government shutdown?
Kristen: Oh, totally great question! I'm such a big fan, MFP, because I love pink just like you! I believe the government shutdown is totes important! In fact, it’s just like my platform, “Books for Convicts.” I believe that if we give convicts books, then they could read books and then they’ll know so much more, and then
I believe they could read books to sick children, the elderly and the homeless, and that is why I believe feeding the hungry during the government shutdown is so important! And so is, “Books for Convicts!” Thank you!
Okay, uh, next question.
Judge #2: My question is for Liesl from Hairpin Turns Ahead. My blog is called I Need a Playdate. Besides a blogger, I’m a parent, teacher and have held a myriad of jobs, from pizza delivery person, to sex toy consultant. Therefore, I’m interested to learn your views on U.S. child labor laws.
Liesl: I’m not knowledged in child labor laws. I had my first child at 33. I’m 50% definitely sure I’m likely against child labor laws. For instinct, if a 13 year-old asks for a urinal- - I mean an epic urinal, during labor, it
After I finished taking swigs from bottles and pissing my pants, it wasn’t long before I returned to taking swigs from bottles and pissing my pants.The difference was, the second time around, I wasn’t in diapers. I was sixteen. Boys don’t dig chicks who piss their pants, even if we’re easy.
The first time I got drunk, I fell down, puked all over the bathroom, blacked out, and couldn’t wait to do it again. Alcohol made me feel like I’d arrived. It gave me courage and stifled the nagging voices of insecurity inside my head.
For years, I passed for a social drinker. I participated in conversations and laughed at jokes, but I was fixated on the alcohol. The jokes were funny as long as my glass was full. I had a one-track mind. Who’s buying next? Where’s my pitcher? Eight minutes ‘til bar time. Hands off the Captain Morgan, bitch.
I counted your drinks, my drinks, and the money on the bar. But mostly, I counted on the next drink to induce that perfect-yet-elusive high I continually sought. Each time I drank, my goal was simple: bring on the oblivion.
(This post placed third in Week #2 of Blogger Idol 2013. The challenge for Week #2 was to write about a fictional crime we committed in the form of a news story.)
MADISON, WI - A Sheboygan woman charged with 27 counts of burglary is expected in court later today to plead guilty to a string of robberies at Hostess snack cake warehouses.
Police arrested 46-year-old Liesl Testwuide Friday evening at the Sheboygan Hostess Brand Distribution Center. Perplexed by repeated break-ins at Hostess facilities throughout the state, law enforcement officials created a special task force to apprehend the crumby culprit. On Friday, police implemented Operation Sweet Snatch, which resulted in Testwuide's arrest, and finally put an end to the Ho-Ho heists.
According to authorities, Testwuide was found sleeping in the fetal position on the floor of the Hostess warehouse, surrounded by crumpled white wrappers and half-eaten Ding Dongs. Medical professionals called to the scene pronounced Testwuide to be in a deep food coma, yet predicted her condition would improve after ingesting a glass of white milk and locating her dignity. She was cuffed and taken into custody.
Sources say a custom lock pick set, made from unused health club key cards was found at Testwuide's side and is being tested at the lab for fingerprints. Police believe Testwuide used the key card lock picks to gain access to over 15 Hostess warehouses and remove countless pounds of spongey, cream-filled snack cakes.
(This post was written for Week #1 of Blogger Idol in 2013. The challenge: Introduce yourself to the Blogger Idol audience by writing your own eulogy. )
I never imagined I’d stand before you at Liesl’s funeral. Since I’m a 150-pound St. Bernard, you likely never expected it either. By the way, sorry for sniffing your crotches as you arrived. My OCD (odoriferous crotch disorder) acts up in a crowd.
Liesl’s three sons asked me, Big Ben, her long-time companion, to remember her on their behalf. It's true I'm just a dog, but I knew her better than most and loved her dearly.
I found Liesl, a.k.a. Sleazel (the 80s), That Mess In a Dress (pre-sobriety), or Hurricane Liesl, with her hand still clutching a Diet Coke, dead on her office floor. She drowned beneath a raging sea of divorce lawyer bills. Although I attempted CPR, my excessive drool made matters worse, so I licked her face, and laid beside her.
Liesl may have been Wisconsin’s only lactose intolerant, recovering alcoholic resident. Rumor has it she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a complete blackout for seven years and still graduated with an English degree, but that was way before my time. On a recent trip to Madison, the boys told me Liesl said, "I'm not really sure where the library is..." as they walked past the library.
After college, Liesl followed the Australian boyfriend she had known all of three weeks to San Francisco. Always up for adventure, she applied to the San Francisco Fashion Design School. No doubt her Bob Mackie-sized shoulder pads made a good first impression in her interview. However, the two forgotten Clairol rollers, still tightly secured to the back of her head, may have her hurt her chances. I can hear her now: "Oh Christ! Details! I hate 'em!"
Despite her disdain for other people’s children, Liesl became a high school English teacher and worked in Milwaukee area schools. She married and blah, blah, blah, history, schmistory, let's just fast forward... divorced in 2011. For most folks, I hear divorce is devastating. In Liesl's case, it led to freedom, rebirth, and self-discovery. Was that too over-the-top? I'm a St. Bernard. We tend to like drama.
Liesl and I both struggled with our weight and despised exercise. We were really good at sitting on the couch. Liesl concocted crazy diets. The I'll-Eat-As-Much-Cherry-Pie-As-I-Want-Since-I'm-Getting-Divorced-You-Skinny-Bitch diet was a favorite. We rarely went for walks. I preferred sleep and Liesl believed that wearing her 1979 Dr. Scholl’s - the Original Exercise Sandals- counted as a work out.
I remember when one of Liesl’s friends bugged her to come to an aerobics class she taught. Finally Liesl acquiesced, and arrived in her signature pink bathrobe, with two-dozen doughnuts and a lawn chair. No slacker, Liesl stayed and smoked her Marlboros and drank Diet Coke until the very end of class.
Liesl’s motto was "go big or go home," and no doubt I'm a testament to that. In fact, when I spoke to some of you to prepare for today, many mentioned Liesl’s big smile, big hair, big parties, and big heart. One thing is certain, she had an infectious spirit and sense of humor. In my darkest days, when the snow had melted and there were no more rolling pins to eat, Liesl could still make me laugh. I bet she had the same affect on you.
Although she liked to do things BIG, the private Liesl liked the little things in life. She insisted hugs with her boys be a minimum of 6 seconds. She said it had to do with releasing oxycontin or something like that. She loved to tuck the boys in at night and say their prayers. She often added an extra Hail Mary for yelling “Holy Fuck!” after stepping on Legos in bare feet.
After her divorce, she fought loneliness and hoped to find love again, but she put her needs on the back burner to focus on her boys. She figured she'd have time for herself when they went to college. She was their rock, even though she sucked at story problems.
Liesl loved to be a bit naughty. We'd drive the boys to school and, not being a morning person, she'd wear nothing but a trench coat. If a student's father gave her a compliment on her coat, she'd reply, “You should see my sheared beaver," and peel out of the parking lot laughing. It sounds kind of pervy now, but it wasn't. She was right. Her sheared beaver coat was gorgeous.
Just like her parents taught her, she instilled a sense of individuality in her boys. Liesl wanted them to do their own thing, not follow the crowd. If there was a road less traveled, Liesl took it. She planned quirky road trips, started strange traditions, and made the boys try new foods at teeny-tiny diners. They'd say, "Where are we again?" And she'd answer, "We're in Appalachia. Be grateful for what you have." Or, "We're in Kentucky. Try those grits." Or, "We're in South Dakota. It's called an antelope, not a cantaloupe." Then she'd finish with: "Let's just take in this awesome moment of togetherness. This is what it's all about. I love you guys."
She loved us deeply and reminded us often. No better legacy exists.
If you've been following my blog, then you may recall that in September I auditioned (submitted writing samples) for a contest called Blogger Idol 2013, fashioned after the TV show, American Idol. It turns out the judges liked my work, and out of hundreds of auditions, I made the Top 13!
Each week the Blogger Idol contestants receive a "writing challenge." Five judges read our work and then it's posted on the Blogger Idol website each Wednesday at noon for the public to read and vote for their favorite contestant. Voting lasts from noon Wednesday until midnight on Thursday. Each Friday, one contestant is named the winner of the challenge and one is eliminated from the competition.
Our first assignment required contestants to introduce ourselves to the Blogger Idol audience by writing our own eulogies. The judges had great things to say about my piece and so many supporters voted for me. I'm excited to say I was the Week One winner!
In order to stay in the competition, folks, I'm going to need your continued support. This week twelve writers remain. Voting begins Wednesday at noon and I need your votes! I will post links on Hairpin Turns Ahead, Facebook, Twitter and send out emails so you can find my work and vote for me. Per the Blogger Idol rules, I need to wait until after the elimination each week to post the week's assignment.
As a result of this contest, my mind and writing is focused on winning. Each week I'm still in the competition, I'll post the piece I wrote for Blogger Idol here. I hope to squeeze in a few extra posts for fun as well. In the meantime, enjoy the show! After all, writers are the new rock stars!
Earlier this month I auditioned for Blogger Idol 2013. Nope, I didn't have to sing, do jazz hands, or spell anything out loud. I had to submit a couple of my favorite columns to a panel of 12 (serious ass) judges. Those not-so-easily-bribed twelve judges read and scored hundreds of written auditions for ten days while I waited patiently and ate Tums and... well... pretty much everything else in my sight line, too. But after 10 sleepless nights, I'm bursting with joy (and I mean, literally f*cking
Like my fellow American writer, J. D. Salinger, I turn down most media requests for interviews. Dwelling on my immense success and popularity seems counter-productive. However, since auditioning for Blogger Idol 2103, the paparazzi hounds me everywhere I go. I'm still recovering from an incident with a photographer in the 15 Items or Less lane at the Piggly Wiggly.
However, most recently, Molly B., a regular contributor to The Second Grade Girls' Gazette, asked meto sit down for an interview. Since she'd also receive 10 extra credit points in Spelling class, I agreed. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn't want to get on her bad side. Everyone knows Molly B. throws the best birthday party every year.
The clock is ticking. Only 98 days of shopping are left before Christmas. It's never too early to start shopping for your ex-mother-in-law. During my marriage, my mother-in-law was hands down the toughest person on my list to satisfy. I'd spend hours hunting down the perfect gift which would eventually be received with a tip of the head, shrug of the shoulders and a "Meh."
I haven't been this nervous since the last time I had to pee in a cup. My hands were shaking then, and my hands are shaking now. There's something humbling about both putting yourself on the line for an audition, and slowly walking down a hallway with a cup of your warm piss. Competing emotions seem to emerge: feeling grateful for those cheering me on to succeed, and being scared sh*tless I'll fail because I suck ass.
At a time like this, who better to turn to for words of encouragement, but the golfer, John Daly? He's been up, he's been down, and he wears his