Entries categorized "Motherhood"

This Thanksgiving, I'll Just Have Seconds on the Hugs

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 slice 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.

Boys at midwayWhen 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 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."

"If you can run, try to run in a zig zag, you'll be harder to hit."

"Only show your American passport when absolutely necessary, otherwise keep it hidden in your pocket."

"Say you're Canadian."

Although I was uttering unimaginable phrases, since 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.

Augie and mom at midwayThus, 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, and 24 hour news cycle continues to jar me. However, the hugs were just right.  

  

 

 

Sending you peace and love through the holiday season!


Guided Meditation for Visiting Your Folks in Florida

Welcome to a guided meditation for visiting your folks in Florida.

First, find a quiet space where you can have a few minutes of privacy: a guest room, your father's recliner (is he raking the gravel again?), your mom's crafting room (perhaps she's watching Matlock), or the davenport if they're at the bank doing bank stuff. 

If Fox News is on volume 47 in the adjacent room, light the Yankee Candle for ambiance or, if you require a little white noise to aid relaxation, plug in the Vicks vaporizer.

You may need to do some rearranging to create your safe space. Old people in FL

If necessary, carefully slide the extra boxed wine onto the floor.

Gently stack the used, neatly-folded wrapping paper from last Christmas onto the other twin bed.

Ignore the ginormous stack of paper (a printed copy of every email they've ever received) sitting next to the fax machine and toss an afghan over the red, MAGA hat on the extra dresser.

That's right. While your parents are out paying for things with exact change or picking up a video on their way home from bridge, take this brief moment to refuel, refresh and regroup before re-entry.

Once you've found a cozy spot to release your burdens and cares, I invite you to lay down and feel the weight of your body being completely supported (even the extra pounds your mother mentioned since your last visit).

You are in a safe space.   

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath: in and then, out.

Repeat slowly. In, and then, out. 

Let's start with a simple visualization exercise to help you relax. Imagine a beautiful staircase. As your foot touches the first step, let a wave of serenity wash away any negative feelings causing you anxiety.

Erase from your mind the cankles/sandals comment. Your cankles ankles are beautiful. 

Forget the "Huh, I never imagined you with red in your hair" statement.

Let all negative energy leave your body. Release and let go.

Purge the memory from earlier today when you found the Christmas present you gave them in their fully-stocked "Regift" closet.

Breathe in, breathe out. Let the calmness envelope you. Celebrate the life you are living.

Do not be distracted by the neighbor who is leaving the three-minute message on the Southwestern Bell answering machine. Your mind is relaxed. Continue to enjoy this moment of serenity. Ignore the repeated beeps indicating the tape is now full. You are relaxing. This is good. You are at peace. 

You will arrive at the second step of the staircase feeling calm and relaxed. You are free of all tension. 

Right now you're so calm you could sit in the back of the Cadillac and not be bothered that your father's right turn signal has been on for two miles.

Continue to breathe deeply.

You are so relaxed you can imagine admiring your parents' matching swimsuits as you walk the beach together discussing which foods your mom needs to take Beano before eating. "Artichokes, beans, of course, brussel sprouts, corn, oatmeal..."

Breathe in the beauty of your goodness. Breathe out your stress.

As you take a third step down, you are completely free of all tension in your instrument. You are flexible. You can bend. You can flow. In this state, you could even hear about Mrs. Kipplekeider, who lived down such and such street thirty-seven years ago, who, you remember, bought six boxes of Girl Scout cookies but then didn't want them because she'd developed Diabetes (the sugar one) just before delivery time. Well she just took a fall and thank God for her daughter who flew in right away from Poughkeepsie and didn't bring that dreadful husband of hers along, but boy, what a good daughter to just drop everything. Kids these days.

You are free. You can breathe. One more time: breathe in, breathe out. Visualize your happiness. 

In your deep state of relaxation, imagine standing underneath a large waterfall. Envision its glorious, cascading water. Hear the rush. Imagine the water running over your body.

Let Pat Sajak and all the vowels pour over you.

Let the Cagney and Lacey reruns run.

Let Leslie Stahl and the ticking clock tick, tick, tick. 

Let the Mapquest, hashtag, AOL, group texting, and  Windows questions just fall off your shoulders like waves, as you submerge yourself deeply in serenity.

Imagine the gentle waves wiping out the kitchen of its saved bread bags, Campbell's Soup labels, rubberbands, and pile of newspapers.

Let the water's gentle waves comfort you as you mourn the twenty minutes of your life it took your mom to pay with a check at Chico's, or the repeated attempts to explain to your dad how to unfriend two (out of his 16) friends on The Facebook who he thinks post too much.

Feel the warmth of the water. Bask in that comfort. 

Now let the water flow down over your back. Close your eyes and visualize each waitress you've had all week reach out and tell you, "It's all good." They have parents, too, they say. Even the young one with the piercings and the one your dad kept referring to as "the "Oriental girl" are there and smile. It's okay.

Breathe deeply. In and then, out. Again, in and then, out. 

Now imagine walking out of the water and gently being wrapped in a warm, soft towel. Swaddled in serenity, all negativity and tension have been washed away.

You are now refreshed. You are renewed. You are ready to return up the staircase. 

Upon reaching the bottom step, feel the infusion of positive energy. You'll now have the patience to endure one of those conversations where you retrace each generation of a family (and their cousins) who maybe lived in that house on the corner of Huron Avenue and Third Street or was it Fourth? Wait, didn't the sisters marry brothers?

As you walk up the next step, continue breathing deeply.

Untap your refreshed reserves of joy from within as you look forward to 5:00 dinner at the strip mall's "House of Lamb" (located conveniently nearby to get home for Hannity).

As you land on the final step, slowly open your eyes. Reacquaint yourself with the wallpaper. Give yourself a moment. Gradually rotate your hands and feet and move to a sitting position.

Feel your energy renewed.

Enjoy the moment.

Allow it to unfold, knowing that in twenty years' time you'll still be asking, "Is this a chip reader or do I swipe?"

 

 

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8 Things I Wish I Could've Given My Kids This Christmas

Christmas letter

Dear kids,

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 the sun came up.

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.

IMG_7927
However, while I have your undivided, yet toe-tapping, impatient, attention this singular moment of the year, 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 need to tell you the truth about the presents you're about to receive. You see, I wasn't able to buy the gifts I wanted this year. I couldn't.

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, so I'll be quick. 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 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. I can't stick up for you if some jerk is hassling you in the boys' locker room, but a brother can. There's nothing like a band of brothers. Be there for one another.

5. You may not understand yet, 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 who 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 my most precious gifts.

Merry Christmas!

xoxo

Mom

Yes...now you can open that other junk under the tree.

 

If you enjoyed the post above, please SHARE it through Facebook, Twitter, email, fax, snail mail, tack it on doors at Wal-Mart, read it aloud on an airplane, leave it in the bathroom at work. I'm not picky. You get the picture. Thank you!

 


My Mother's Grocery List As Created By Shouting Into Her New Smartphone

 

Grandmawithsmartphone

Every week my 70+ year-old mother learns how to do something new on her smartphone. She's figured out how to add several emojis in her texts to the grandkids. She can play Solitaire any time, any place. And, she can check her AOL email account whenever she wants. Most recently however, she has realized that she can text me her grocery list without ever having to type a single letter. It's really quite simple. Or is it?

 

My Mother's Grocery List As Created By Shouting Into Her Smartphone Using the Voice-Activated Text Messaging App:

 

Apples

Bananas

Bananas

Dammit how do you

Cantaloupe please choose ripe one this time

Three pairs

One pound ham

I already got that

Honey

No not honey not honey

Oh this damn

Small amount of lettuce now wait a sec

Four cans stewed tomatoes

Tied

Raisin Brand the new kind we like

Eight blueberry yogurts don’t try to change us

Mint jelly

Creamer just plain for bridge club check expiration data

Check expiration date

Applesauce but a small jar there are only two of us you know

Oooooiiizzzr

Tuna in bag I I white called Apalone

One case watcher

Two bottles French dressing

Pack teal sauce

Brad

Schneiders cheddar pretzel bitches

Box of wine the good kind

Toilet paper for my bathroom Pat’s bathroom and the powder room and maybe downstairs don't know

Get comet

I already told you that’s not a weed

Bleach

Six eggs do not get a dozen we just throw them away

Frank’s sauerkraut be sure no caraway seeds bad for the diverticulitis

 

 

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Have Cowboys. Will Travel

I woke up this morning and realized my three sons are on three different continents. 

I shuffled out of bed, let the dogs out, and sat on the lawn. It was eerily quiet. Signs of the boys were everywhere: an arrow stuck in the lawn which had missed its target by a long shot. Olive, our little Sheltie, was chewing on a faded soccer ball. And one, lone, white sock, partially covered in mulch, peeked out from under the boxwood, because..., well, just because. 

And then I cried. I mean, I really cried. I cried tears of relief because each had made it safely to his destination. I cried messy, happy tears because each of my boys was doing his own thing, taking the world by storm. And then I cried out of fear because this has been one helluva violent summer. And my babies are out there. 

IMG_2841The oldest, 16, is in Beijing through SYA on a language immersion program. My 13 year-old is doing a student exchange with our sister city in Esslingen, Germany through our chapter of the People to People organization. And my youngest, 12, is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (feels like a separate continent) on the shores of Lake Superior at Michigan Tech's amazing hockey camp. 

Plans for our summer of 2016 began last October with applications, interviews, grant forms, webinars, essay questions, and a lot of check writing for program deposits. 

Then Malaysian Flight 17 was shot down and suicide bombers attacked a train station in Turkey.

In November, Paris suffered a massive attack and chaos ensued.

Over the holidays people asked, "Are you sure you want to let your kids travel with all that's going on in the world?"

We continued with our planning. My son applied for his visa, the scholarship form was finalized, and we went to the bank to set up teen checking accounts and debit cards.


HugonjulianIn January, the mass shooting in San Bernardino made it abundantly clear that no safe havens were left in today's world.

In spring, the bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station shook me to the core. 

With tears streaming down my face, I made plane reservations for the boys anyway. 

We picked out adapters, journals, good walking shoes and continued to check things off our lists.

We didn't avoid the news. Together we watched the coverage of Orlando. 

We said "I love you" a lot. In fact, the act of saying "I love you" began to feel like our five seconds of safe haven. We said it before bed, getting out of the car for school, getting dropped at soccer practice, before meals, and basically all the time. When we weren't together, we texted it. "I love you" became our daily armor to protect us from whatever unimaginable tragedy was going to strike next. 

The police shootings in Dallas and the Bastille Day attack in Nice followed. It was clear the world had gone utterly mad. 

We discussed these events. We mourned the dead. And we kept saying  "I love you."

On Friday we packed the suitcases, hockey gear, and  went shopping for travel snacks. 

When we deposited checks from grandma and grandpa at the boys' bank, an employee said, "I would never let my child go to Europe or Germany or any of those places."  Um, honey, oh...forget it.


IMG_3008I got defensive, "What should we do? Stay home for the rest of our lives? My child could get hit by a car tomorrow right outside our front door." We live in a cul-de-sac and that would never happen, but she didn't know that.

"Well," she said, "I don't think you should go lookin' for trouble." 

"I promise you, bank-teller-lady, no one here is lookin' for trouble. Let me guess, you spend your time on your Cheeto-stained couch watching reality TV repeats: shows of other people doing stuff that they already did."

Ok, I didn't actually say that out loud. I just said it in my head, but it was still quite satisfying.

The insinuation that I was careless with my children's lives stung. And it stung hard.

Do we have to stop wandering? Do we just put our heads down and try to get by? Do we have to give up our dreams? I bet that woman has never tried ceviche, rolled the dice in Vegas, or stood in a city center with a map and a thirst for knowledge. 

That woman didn't realize she's the one who is really in danger. 

As soon as we stop learning, we begin to die.

 

 

 

 

 


Sobriety Is My Common Denominator

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."

Eli and mom in hospitalThen 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.

Eli in superman jammiesNext 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:

  • Upon seeing Mount Rushmore he exclaimed, "What?  We drove miles and miles and days and days to Rount Mushmore just to see four guys's heads?  I thought there were going to be like a million guys's heads up there. Mannnnnnn......"
  • Dubya's alphabet:  "a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k, lemon yellow pee..... q,r,s,t,u,v....."
  • On his unwillingness to use the word better:  "Gooder is a yittle bit of a word, right?"
  • Expelled at age 3 from his first school. The Lutherans have a zero tolerance policy for biting. Go figure.
  • At age 4 at the Magic Kingdom, he wandered away. Deep in line for Space Mountain, realizing he was alone, he found a Disney employee and said, "Hey, my family is lost. It's all going to be okay. Peace."
  • Before bed he'd whisper, "I love you so many times, Mommy."
  • Sleeps in the dark with a blankie, but will risk his life to stop a soccer ball. 
  • "Mom, do you know how to say "black" in Spanish? Egg roll."
  • When President Obama visited my father's company Dubya reflected, "t wasn't really worth missing three recesses just to meet one guy."
  • When shown the dessert tray in a restaurant, he asked "Hey, do you have any gums? I'd like some gums, please."
  • Upon visiting his first Waffle House, he asked, "Mom, we're in Kenfucky, right? It seems like a different country."
  • "Mom, I just can't believe you were never in a beauty contest."
  • Once overheard talking in the locker room to a group of boys: "Sure, you all have big ones, but mine is definitely the biggest. Check it out." So proud of his outie.

Eli with mom in batman jamiesAll 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.  

 

Eli in jeeper

I would love to hear the crazy things that have come out of your children's mouths!  


Parents: Start Laboring Now for a Seemingly Labor-less Labor Day


DSC08554Labor Day weekend, the last glimpse of summer, is right around the corner. For control freaks like me, Labor Day weekend actually requires a great deal of labor to appear labor-less for the broods we love. It's an iconic American holiday marking the end of summer, so there’s serious pressure to have the most family fun EVER. I’m talking idyllic, Norman-Rockwell-painting-fun. Kennedy-Camelot-football-tossing-fun. Corn-on-the-cob-lobster-salad-and-peach-pie-buffets-appearing-out-of-thin-air-fun. You get the picture.

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.

IMG_0055Sure, 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.

Mary PoppinsThe 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 FacebookPinterest,and Twitter.


Liberty For All

American-flag-2a

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. 

Saudi-women-saidaonlineIn Yemen, girls as young as eight are forced to marry. 

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!


Even Goo-Be-Gone Can't Destroy This Bond: Happy Mother's Day!

Mom and Mrs. BeasleyMy mother and I were born opposites. She's a Felix and I'm an Oscar. She's OCD. I'm ADD. Her passport is filed under "P" and mine...well, mine is around here somewhere.

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.  

Hiking bootsAlthough 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.

Mom, Liesl and boysPanicked, 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. 

Gaga Augie meSo 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 Performing Live to Benefit Lakeland College and Area Youth

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. 

11149275_883369031705416_2862106551784751528_nWhat 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. 

Selfie
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!


Middle Child: You're the Good Stuff

My middle child was on a rant. "No one likes the middle, Mom. 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."

3 boys in Badger warm upsThen he said, "And come on, the middle finger is the bad one, right? There's no way that's a coincidence. As a middle child, I'm doomed to a life of medium-ness."

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. 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 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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A Letter to the Kids On the Eight Things I Wanted to Buy, but Couldn't, this Christmas

 

Christmas letter

Dear kids,

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 2016, I have something to share with you. Quit the eye-rolls. It's Christmas. I have the floor. I'll be short and sweet.

Christmas letter 2I need to tell you the truth about the presents you're about to receive. In all honesty, I wasn't able to buy the gifts I wanted this year. I couldn't.

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 2016!

xoxo

Mom

Yes...now you can open that other junk under the tree.

 

If you enjoyed the post above, please SHARE it through Facebook, Twitter, email, fax, snail mail, tack it on doors at Wal-Mart, read it aloud on an airplane, leave it in the bathroom at work. I'm not picky. You get the picture. Thank you!

Looking for more holiday posts? You may enjoy these:

Alone For Christmas?

My Resolutions for 2013

My Psycho Elf on the Shelf

 My 2012 Christmas Letter to Santa

2012 Christmas Card to All

My Rolling Stone Interview and Christmas Video for My Love, Louis C.K.


A Boy's Life: Talk About The Pits!

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."


Stinky post 2"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."

 

Stinky postAbout a week later my son came home and said, 

"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 you 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."

 


Let's Share the Love on Mother's Day

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 Hugo and mom drawingcouple 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:

Mother's day card

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.

 


Bad Things Happen When Good People Are Silent

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. 

Bring Back Our GirlsIf 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.

Thomas Jeff quoteEveryone 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."

 

 

 

 


To My Middle Child: You're The Good Stuff

Three boys from the backLast 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. 

Hugo and momYou're the middle.

The glue who makes us giggle.

The cackle in my tickle.

You're the good stuff. 

 

To Hugo  xoxo

Love Mom


Waiter: Please, Just Give it a Rest

Waiter would you just shut the hell up:
 

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.”

 

Continue reading "Waiter: Please, Just Give it a Rest " »


Let The Games Begin!

I waited four years to experience a special moment like last night.

No, I didn't have sex. 

Sochi-2014-logoI 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?"

 

Continue reading "Let The Games Begin!" »


Every Dog Has His Day

(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. )

 

Hey folks-

Big Ben with remote control
I'm so depressed after Liesl's death, I don't even want my own reality TV series anymore.

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.

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The last family photo. Liesl sure knew how to put the fun in dysfunction.

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.

 

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Photo credit: Boutique Photographer

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 F*#k!” after stepping on Legos in bare feet.

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Liesl drove the boys to South Dakota to see "Rount Mushmore."

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 is 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.


Our Labor Day Vacation: Public Restroom Tour of America


Horn urinals 9gagwww.9gag.com
The last push of summer, Labor Day weekend, has sadly arrived. For control freak parents like me, Labor Day requires a great deal of labor to appear labor-less for the brood you love.  Marking the end of summer, it's an iconic American holiday, so there's serious pressure to have the most family fun EVER. I’m talking Norman-Rockwell-painting family fun. Kennedy-Camelot-football-tossing-fun. You get the picture.

Today, tightly wired moms are maneuvering grocery carts at dangerously high speeds, ticking items off their iPhone lists faster than the average man can read it. Washers and dryers are working overtime, duffle bags are being packed, and school supplies are sitting patiently in the corner until Tuesday. 

Concerned not enough fun is planned for the weekend, or worried too many Uno cards are missing from the deck, anxious parents are scurrying to purchase last minute kites, Bananagrams, and forking out cash for that odd PVC pipe game involving golf ball numchucks.

True perfectionists are desperately googling Martha Stewart articles regarding not only how to pack the perfect picnic basket, but also how to embellish it… because

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Wonder WoMom

My every move is monitored these days. I'm under complete surveillance- my tone of voice, my eating habits, how I like my eggs, the way I load my dishwasher, my Tide-stick-from-handbag reflex, and my half-naked, tippy-toe trips to the laundry room. I know what you're thinking: my mom moved in. Nope.

Think global. Potential international relations implications:  I'm hosting a foreign exchange student. And during the wee hours of the night, under the cover of darkness, reports detailing my actions and habits are relayed via Skype to Frau X. And Frau X, like any other mother, loves her baby, and wants to be sure he is in good hands. 

There are certain requirements one must meet for hosting a foreign student. I must provide wi-fi, a private sleeping area, a decent selection of video games, unlimited mini-corn dogs, Pop Rocks, a skateboard, CNN, and toilet paper. But that only scratches the

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Letters From Camp

The following piece, Letters from Camp, was featured on the Today Show, Chelsea Lately, MSN, the Huffington Post, London's Daily Mail, Perez Hilton, E!, and many more websites. Enjoy! It has been shared on the internet via various websites well over two million times.

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Camp photo

Last year my eight year-old son went to summer camp. It was the first time he had been away from home for more than a night. An hour after he left, I missed him.  By the time I went to bed, I found myself wandering into his bedroom, just to feel close to him. As the days passed, I wrote to him daily. Each hour dragged as I'd wait for the mailman, hoping and praying for just one letter from him. By that point I missed him so much, I began to imagine what he might write to me. I fantasized I'd receive a letter something like this:

Dear Mom,

Thank you so much for letting me go to camp. I have learned so many cool things, like how to take a fish off the hook, tie sailing knots, and even how to groom a horse. Thanks for packing the sun screen. I've been out on the lake a lot, so it has really come in handy. You sure think of everything! Since it's been so hot, I've been drinking tons of water! See? I really listen to all your good advice.

The other boys here are really smart and nice. I'm making some lifelong friends I will cherish forever. We've had fun learning camp songs, playing cards, and catching frogs in our free time. During quiet time, I read the book you sent along. What a great selection! And just because you're my mom, I made a special gift for you in arts and crafts!

I'm trying a lot of new foods, just like you suggested. You were right, the oatmeal at breakfast really isn't bad when I add raisins. And don't worry, Mom, I've been using all the manners you've taught me over the years.

We are camping under the stars tonight. I am hoping to see some fireflies.

I love you,

W

xxoo

P.S. Tell my brothers I miss them!

 

Yesterday I received a letter from him! It's just slightly different from what I imagined:

 

Camp letter p 1

 
Camp letter p 2
Camp letter p 3
This year I'm sending an enitre book of stamps with him. Can't wait to see what he writes!


Videos Released: Drum Roll, Please!

 

Sure, my boys get a bit embarrassed having a writer as their mom, but I think they secretly like creating great material for me. Trust me, they keep it comin'. And when I recently did a live reading of my favorite piece, "I've Got Something In My Pocket" about boys and their underwear, in Ann Imig's 2013 Listen To Your Mother production in

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Fill 'er Up and Hit the Road*

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Although I consider myself an expert in many areas of parenting, like how to maximize the longevity of boxer shorts, using a double dose of cough syrup for any ailment, and how to clean kids' fingernails with the tip of a paperclip while driving to school, I feel I have exceptional authority on long-distance travel with boys. As summer has finally arrived and many families will load up the SUVs for a trip, I thought I'd share some of my road-tested tips which will keep the adults sane and the kids happy on your journey.

 There is no doubt satellite radio, a cooler on wheels, a DVD player with headphones, and a couple 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

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Bark Less, Wag More


Ben near bath

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

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Mama's Fizzled Fo' Shizzle

Dirty shoes
 

Yesterday at school, I overheard teachers complaining that students seem to have checked out even though there are still two weeks of school left.  I ducked out of the conversation quietly. I'm not a student,  but this wannabe-cool-school-mom definitely has the end of the year fizzle fo' shizzle.

HomeworkI've had it with third grade math story problems.  My child and I fight over who has to read them aloud. Neither of us can do it without loudly lamenting: "Are they serious?" followed by a David Letterman toss of a pencil. Then we get to waste time looking for the pencil, looking for the sharpener, and of course sharpening the hell out of that pencil 'til it could easily blind the inventor of story problems. We've both had it with Jane. We don't care how much money Jane had when she walked into the store, how many combs Jane bought, or how much each comb costs. We think Jane should grow some dreadlocks and spend her money on candy.

 

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Highlight Reel of Motherhood 2012/2013

It's been quite a year as a mom.  I could get all mushy, but that's really not my style.  I could discuss how much I've learned or lament how fast time flies.  I could talk about how many lunches I've packed, loads of laundry I've done, or Band-Aids I've affixed. But those things happen every year.

Instead, I've created a highlight reel of favorite quotes from my children to celebrate my mom experience over the last twelve months. I wasn't born with a great deal of patience, so thank goodness the most important things I've learned I need to be a good

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Don't Dis My Kid

Recently my sons and I waited patiently in a restaurant.  Let me clarify. Patiently = the boys made pyramids with creamers on their heads, had sword fights with knives and said at least 39 times,

“Mom, I’m starrrrrving.”                                                           

“Mom, I’m dying here."

“Mom, totally parched... need wa - t e r..."

Servers buzzed by. Didn’t notice the wielding knives, incredible cranium creamer buildings or the “hi-yaaa” karate-chop sound effects. Eventually patience turned to impatience.  My oldest wrote S.O.S. on his placemat, made a paper airplane, and launched it toward the sky. My youngest fake stabbed himself, fell to the floor and proclaimed, "There...is...another...Sky...walk...er."  

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Alone for Christmas?

In about an hour I'm heading to Christmas mass alone.  I'll see families gather, little girls in their holiday dresses, little boys with wet hair, trying to keep a stubborn cowlick down. I admit, it's hard to watch. My little boys are in a different city with their father.  It will be this way every Christmas Eve so I need to learn to accept this new normal. God, I hope he wet down their hair.

Lonely woman at christmasDespite the holiday ads, TV music specials and festive decorations, the holidays can be the loneliest time of year for many. The pressure to be happy and excited can be overwhelming! If I think about past years or the way I imagined the holidays would be I get emotional. I get all wound up in what I thought life would be and that precludes me from the ability to just stay in the moment and be grateful for what I do have. 

If you are alone this holiday, without friends or family, the good news is that like any other day, Christmas is just 24 hours. When I break things down into 24 hour increments and remind myself to stay in the moment -- not focus on how I want the moment to be, or how it used to be, I can make it through. Admittedly, sometimes I need to break it down further and focus on getting through hour by hour. Nevertheless, knowing the day will pass in 24 hours, just like all the other days that have come before it, helps me weather emotional holidays. 

If you are feeling alone, just know that you are one of many feeling that way today. It's normal. No, I'm not a psychiatrist, but I'm human and therefore speak from experience. It's ok not to dance around with scissors and scotch tape singing, "Fa-la-la-la-la..."  In fact, that's just plain weird. This time of year, I believe it's most important to take good care of myself, so when those happy moments come my way, I'll be healthy and ready to enjoy them, thus no scissors-dancing.  

 Hey-- Merry Christmas. Hang in there.  And remember: you are not alone.

 

 


God Bless Our Mess on the Anniversary of Sandy Hook

Crazy boys

Written December 14, 2012 following the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Reposted December 14, 2019 for the fifth anniversary. My heart continues to be heavy: for those who will forever mourn, for the gratitude I have for time with my children, and with frustration that so many more continue to lose their lives as a result of gun violence.

 

 

The last couple days my sons were with their father and the house was quiet.  I found myself repeatedly walking in and out of their bedrooms, just to feel close to them.

There were underwear, socks, shoes, Lego figures, Webkinz, jeans, shin guards, and sheet music strewn about their bedroom floors. Clean and folded laundry, yet to be put away the previous week, was gathering dust. I found pistachio shells, an empty juice box carton, and Popsicle sticks under one bed. Under another, I discovered a crumpled blue sport coat, two overdue library books and my missing phone charger.

In the bathroom, the floor was nearly covered. Underwear. One damp towel. A Hardy Boys mystery. A massive hamper sat less than an arm’s length away. Toothpaste streaked the countertop. Dixie cups arranged in a pyramid and dental floss wrapped intricately around the empty toilet paper holder were clear signs they needed a magazine rack. The spatters on the mirror made me smile. I knew they were a result of laughter as they brushed their teeth. 

No doubt it was a bit of a mess, but I loved it. I savored it. In that moment, I took pleasure being surrounded by the messiness of childhood humanity. I walked back in the room of my youngest child, just 8, crawled under his covers, bruised my butt on a light saber and closed my eyes. I prayed for all the families in Newtown, CT, and humbly gave thanks for receiving the gift of more time on this earth to relish the disarray of being the mother of three boys.

Bring on the chaos