A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

I want to relay a sequenced narrative–it’s a critical skill I teach my students in speech-language therapy, but I find my brain (mis)firing on all cylinders and in nonlinear fashion these days. In lieu of sequence and organization, this post is presented by scattershot bullet points. And if you think it’s hard to read, just imagine what it’s like being in my brain. Actually don’t. You’ll thank me.

Prom/Graduation/IB Testing/All The Lasts

Earlier this week, my first born’s percussion ensemble accompanied his high school choir in their performance of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana (it’s sooooo fun to say). That powerful melody first entered my consciousness in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having been featured in the Michael Jackson exhibit during the time before we knew what we came to know what we know about the fallen pop star. Despite that weird connection, O Fortuna still sends me straight to full-body goosebumps and to know that my kid got to be part of it gave me goosebumps too. Obviously tangled up in emotions after the show, he told me he missed the concert already. You’d think it’d be hard to top O Fortuna, but the closing piece of the evening, an Irish goodbye titled Parting Glass, was dedicated to the seniors. Its performance did what it intended to, acknowledged an ending for many performers, creating strong emotions. He said lots of kids shed tears–some kids openly wept–and I held back a tear or two myself just talking with my kid.

We chatted about how, until now, we celebrated all these firsts–photos captured his first taste of rice cereal, his first tooth lost, first steps, first day of four-year-old kindergarten, first time he rode a bike. . . and now he’s at the point in his life where he’s experiencing all these lasts–last concerts, last classes, last pep rally. . . I’m the least stoic person alive, but I want him to enjoy the moments instead of worrying that he’ll never do XYZ again. *sigh* This parenting gig is not for the weak.

The next few weeks are peppered with exams unlike he’s ever experienced. There’s potential college credit through the International Baccalaureate Organization in his doing well on them, but honestly, that’s not my expectation. In my view, these tests are laying the foundation for college mid-terms and finals, setting up with that expectant set for his next big “first,” heading off to college. Sure, it’d be cool to save a few bucks on college courses, but realistically I don’t expect my kid to graduate from a Big Ten school in fewer than four years. For the next thirty-one days he’s still a high school kid, and that’s exactly as it should be.

And tonight’s his senior prom. **cue the awwwwww**

Our lifetimes are series of firsts and lasts though, I suppose. Each exciting in its way, each accompanied by a specific set of emotions–for the individual as well as that individual’s people. He’s ready for the next steps past high school and he isn’t. I can say the same, ready and not, here we come.

Mother Nature Hates Baseball

Spring baseball season in Wisconsin is the world’s biggest crapshoot. It’s been unseasonably cold and rainy here, and when gale force winds are factored in, it amounts to dangerous conditions for the kids and spectators, really. Still, if I can, I go to my little one’s games every chance I get. I’ve had a love-not love relationship with baseball since the time of my husband’s accident, but my kid’s quite in love with the game. Their first three games were rained out, one maybe even snowed out?? They’ve been able to get eight games in, five under the most inhospitable of conditions, so far this month. Temperatures tonight are in the 50s and it’s gonna feel like the dang tropics for a temperate change of pace. Go, Huskies! #winthecity

I’m Your Social Media Guardian Angel

If you’ve ever wondered how good a friend I am, I’m that good a friend. Someone I know recently publicly posted something on a social media account that was definitely meant to have been sent privately. As I scrolled through my accounts before bedtime, I happened upon a post that stopped me in my tracks, to a point that I wasn’t sure I believed what my eyes were telling me I was seeing. You have these moments where you mentally scroll through a million billion possible ways to convey gently, subtly, but HOLY SHIT TAKE THAT DOWN knowing you need to alert this person ASAP. . . A quick text to my friend led to a quick removal of the content. Yeah, I know I’m skirting around the use of actual nouns here, but see, I’m that good a friend! You can fill in the blanks with your own personal horror shows, but I’ll never spill. Just know that I’ve got your back.

Something Was Wrong

I’ve only recently jumped on the podcast bandwagon. I’d always been a sing at the top of my lungs in the car kind of driver, but this pandemic BS has stolen a bit of my automobile performance gusto. A coworker is super into true crime podcasts, and she’s way smarter than me, so I figured, why not? I’ve been listening to the story of a woman whose fiance revealed himself to be the psychopath/sociopath he is, and the deconstruction of her story feels much like I experienced during my first marriage. I’ve long recovered from mine, but continue to wonder how smart, confident young women couple with really bad men even with a million red flags waving furiously in their faces? It hasn’t been “triggering” for me, but listening has taken me back, wishing I’d known then what I know now. There’s a theme for the ages though, huh?

Amazon Wish List

Speaking of heading off to college, I joined a Facebook group titled something like “College Dorm Essentials,” and y’all, I didn’t even know half these things my son apparently CANNOT live in a dorm without even existed til now. I feel quite similarly to how I felt in developing a baby registry. I didn’t even know what plastic links or Triple Paste or an Eddie Bauer fleece car seat cover were, but was told I NEEDED them. Ohhhhhhkay?? Yeah, same cluelessness, only flashing forward eighteen years, just when I thought I was getting the hang of this being a mom thing! Mattress covers and sheet suspenders and rope lights and and shoe racks for snacks and two sets of sheets and something called a Woozoo fan, and, and, and. . . The only cost for membership in this group was a serious spike in my anxiety, so I muted notifications. I check in maybe once a week and add the gotta-haves to my Amazon Wish List. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned, and people are generous with their information. It’s good to know there are random good people out there willing to share their experiences. And I can tick my anxiety down a notch and a half that I’ve prepared that list of must-haves, ready for purchase in a couple weeks.

Summer Job

Speaking of anxiety, cause yeah, I need MORE OF THAT, I took on a summer job. It’s very intermittent, but with university tuition due and almost no financial aid, I thought I’d better take on some kind of side hustle. Plus I’m close to retirement and need to learn how to interview for a job for the first time in over thirty years. Anyway, I’m not going to say quite what it is yet, but don’t worry, I haven’t jumped on the pyramid scheme bandwagon–I won’t be hawking pricey health care products you don’t need here!

I’ll be working in the hospitality industry a few days per month, assisting travelers getting from Point A to Point B. I can’t even imagine a job I don’t take home with me, but I’m looking forward to a job that ends when I clock out. This is not to say that I’m not taking it seriously, but that I’m not in charge, and when the day is done, the work and the worry quite literally cannot be taken with me.

After my son got his summer job last year, I told him I totally wanted to work there too. The look of pain and immediate “NO” from him was enough to dissuade me–I would NOT do that to him! But this too looks like enjoyable work where most customers are in a pretty good, happy place. Who’s crabby on vacation? Who’s crabby at a beer garden?? Certainly not this guy, who waited in line with us over 30 minutes to get his first outdoor cocktail of the season! Well WE had our first outdoor cocktail of the season. HE had water. What kind of dog owner do you think I am?

Who’s a good boy?

The MDA

The final item I wanted to share today is the unbelievable power of the internet, and not just for the dorm room hacks. As you know, I began writing this blog immediately after my son was diagnosed with neuromuscular disease. Utter devastation was the best I could muster in those early days. I couldn’t speak, but I could write, so I opened this platform, created my site, and began sorting out my broken heart and brain here at my keyboard.

Through this blog, I’ve come to know others from around the globe. Initially I sought only blogs whose writers focused on MD. Though my blog friends circle has expanded broadly from those early days, those early connections stuck. Chris Anselmo is the author of the sidewalksandstairwells.com blog. We read and commented on each other’s posts and later became Facebook friends. Chris now works for the MDA and after I posted about my son’s college commitment, emailed me to introduce me to his friend in the MINNEAPOLIS (small world and all that!!) MDA office, saying that if my son ever needed a contact, needed help with an accommodation or information or anything, to reach out to his colleague. The internet can be a cold, dark, black-hearted place, but every so often you land on a unicorn. Thank you, Chris, for being a beacon of kindness. You’re way better than an actual unicorn.

No Foolin’

I did it!! Today may be April Fools Day, but this is no joke: you helped me raise $3,742 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during the month of March, so really WE did it—certainly I did not go it alone. Who among us does?

The idea was to march in March, commit to 10,000 steps a day for those affected by muscle disease. Late in February, 310,000 seemed an unattainable number, but as this cold, snowy “came in AND went out like a lion” Wisconsin March progressed and the steps kept adding up, I knew I would meet my goal.

Having that goal and making it public made my step goal real, gave it the gravity I needed it to have so I’d dig deep daily. The power of extrinsic motivation in a public forum made for some real accountability, and I moved it! I puttered around the house more, I took my dog on longer and longer walks each day, purposely made more trips up and down the stairs, sat and read less this month (the only downside), and oh yeah, I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN!

On Monday my husband and I hiked to the top of Mt. Le Conte, rising 6593 vertical feet, seen here photographed from the balcony of our Great Smoky Mountains National Park-area AirBnB condo Monday afternoon.
Nearing the top, I seriously considered turning around. We’d just hiked a lengthy stretch of narrow paths along bald rock faces, still ice-covered and that iciness did a number on my hubris. My husband took over backpack duties at that point and we continued to the top. I had my moment, recalled all my yoga breathing practice, and continued to finish what I’d begun. Yeah, there’s a metaphor there.

High winds and wildfires in Great Smoky Mountain National Park shut down my mountain hiking adventure a day early, so my March for MDA step total fell short of what might have been. Still, I amassed the equivalent of 196 March miles and that’s a lot of steps, y’all. Thank you for walking with me, literally—like my best friend did (except not actually literally because she lives in Arkansas), and figuratively—by being my online cheer squad.

I closed March out with a different kind of big step—with a click of the cursor along with my sixteen-digit credit card number, yesterday my son committed to the University of Minnesota’s Class of 2026! My son is a Golden Gopher! UM’s campus is enormous and of course I’m already thinking about how his muscle disease will affect his life in Minneapolis, six hours from the only home he’s known. There’s plenty of time for my anxiety to rush, and I’m sure I’ll write all about it, but yesterday was a day not for worry, but for anticipation and gratitude.

Ski-U-Mah!

It’s how this is supposed to go, right? Your babies leave the nest while you wait at home, hoping that your best was enough to have laid a strong foundation for their future.

I’m getting ahead of myself. I do that. Ack!!

*ahem* Back to anticipation and gratitude! Today I pause to recognize and honor our collective success. Thank you so much. As I wrote on my socials, as the kids would say, you shine brightly in an otherwise too-dark world, and that’s no April Foolin’.

Livin’ On A Prayer

Only because the chorus screams, “Oh, we’re halfway there. . .” You KNOW you sang it in tune, didn’t you? Yeah, ya did.

Hi, hi. Just a quick mid-month update on my March for MDA. We’re officially at the halfway point and I’m pleased to announce that halfway through the month, I am more than halfway to my step goal of 310,000 steps during the 31 days of March. I sometimes feel a love-hate with my Fitbit as I drone on and on, reminding myself and the world that I’m “gettin’ in my steps,” but this external motivator is doing its job. My work is sedentary and I’m lazy as hell after work most days. Knowing I have a goal has kept me moving even when I didn’t especially feel like it.

Speaking of goals: When I opened my fundraising page, my goal was to raise $200. And because of YOU, I’ve somehow managed to hit one thousand, seven hundred eighty-one percent of that original $200 goal!!! What?? There aren’t words to thank you enough for your generous support. We have raised $3,562 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and I’m so, so grateful.

Photo credit to Diane Kosarzycki

I have nothing to offer you but entertainment (and I don’t mean reading my blog in this case because we know I’m not fooling anyone by calling my writing endeavor “entertainment”). NO. I’m linking you to the video of my big kid’s drumline competition. I promise you, it’s worth the six minutes of your life to watch it. After NO live, in-person instruction during his junior year, my big kid and his percussion pals hit the floor last weekend for the twice-delayed city drumline competition. Had you suggested my son would perform in a competition drumline, I’d have dismissed the notion out of hand. But seven years after the diagnosis, he’s still marching.

As am I. I March for MDA while my kid marches for the pure joy of performing with his buds one last time, and trust me, his march is waaaaaaay more fun to watch. To say they brought it is an understatement. The kids were killing it in the moment and they knew they were killing it. Is there anything more pure? There sure wasn’t on Saturday. Enjoy the clip (click here, Husky fans!). And thank you.

One Last Time

Between the time of my son’s 2015 MD diagnosis and my husband’s 2019 accident, I (and by I, I mean YOU) raised over $10,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

You know I cry easily and a lot when I’m emotional, and you know I’m emotional a lot of the time. There has been no shortage of tears since a neurologist told me my kid has MD seven years ago (SEVEN YEARS!?!!). I recall that dreadful January, 2015 day, the diagnosis day, in vivid detail. Still–what I wore, how grey the sky was, how I returned to work and, try as I might, couldn’t stanch the flow of tears when I faced my coworkers. . . Could have been last month.

Early on, I devoted hours, days, weeks worrying about my son’s future. Being the pessimist I am, I envisioned only a worst case scenario. I pictured some featureless adult form, because I couldn’t imagine my then/still/always gonna be my baby fully-formed with an adult face, seeing instead only how hard life would be for him. I saw physical therapy, occupational therapy, mobility aids. I saw him being denied, being less-than, living a life on the outside looking in.

But my worst fears have yet to come to pass.

Which is not to say that he hasn’t had a larger share of challenges than many kids his age. To be sure, he’s faced many a challenge, but along with those challenges have come opportunities. I mean, how many city kids from the Midwest get to play in a Calypso steel pan ensemble? My mantra for him from day one has been this: do as much as you can as hard as you can for as long as you can.

During our MDA Muscle Walk five years, I felt the love, as they say. My family, friends, you dear readers, and I swear complete strangers have supported our walk team, Greater Than Gravity, by showing up on walk day or with your wallets. Or both! I can’t quite express the thrill and shock I’d feel each time my phone app would alert me to a new donation. That little ping is addictive, and I feel fortunate to have been pinged as many times as I’d been. God, I hated asking, but you kept answering. And because you did, my child and others like him who live with neuromuscular disease got to go to camp or got a new motorized wheelchair. Maybe those dollars went toward funding lab research seeking a treatment. I can honestly say I’ve directly witnessed and been the recipient of what the MDA’s dollars do, and these acts are not nothing to the families they affect.

When my husband was run over by that truck nearly three years ago now (THREE YEARS!?!!), our family was again wrapped in your fuzzy blanket of love, great care, and generosity. The way you stood up for me in my MDA fundraising was how your showed up literally at my back door with food, money, gift cards, and shoulders on which I leaned hard and heavily. I abandoned my focus on MDA fundraising to focus on literally keeping my husband alive. I just couldn’t ask the same people who fed me and did SO MUCH for my boys and me to crack open their wallets again.

And I haven’t since.

But here I am, one last time, committed to logging a bajillion steps (OK, 310,000) to support the Marching for MDA campaign. I intend for this to be my last fundraising push for some time–with my big kid heading off to college, our family’s focus will again shift to learning about a different whole new world. This time, instead of learning medical jargon you don’t want to know even exists, we are learning about the world of possibility a college experience affords. If you’d asked me Diagnosis Day, I know I’d have bawled my way through any mention of what had to be the most highly ridiculous of notions–my child going to college. But here he is. Here we are.

If you’re able and find the MDA a cause worthy of your financial support, please join me by donating here. Thank you. xoxo

My Two Cents (Subtitle: Are You F’ing Kidding Me? Five Vignettes) (Sub-Subtitle: Releasing My Inner Karen)

Please, Mr. Postman

As you know, I love getting mail. I was not cheered however by Monday’s special delivery– yet another bill from my husband’s hospital system for yet another in what will be a life-long string of medical appointments. Wendy’s health tip of the day: Do NOT get run over by a truck. You’re welcome!

If I’ve said it once, well, I have said it to fifteen different billing service agents by now, “I simply don’t know to make you understand that none, not one, not one single bill should ever have been or should be submitted to my personal health insurance provider.” Tammy, my October billing service BFF even called me back to say she’d “taken care of it.” You guys, she called me back!! Now I don’t want to call Tammy a liar–honestly in the years since the accident, she was the most compassionate, kind billing rep I’d encountered–but ultimately, she too failed.

Sandra answered the phone Monday but passed me up the food chain at my request. I wasn’t one bit Karen-y; I was polite and acknowledged that Sandra wasn’t to blame, nor was I going to holler at her–I just needed help. Sandra felt that my status was concerning enough to reach Team Leader or Supervisor status. Yay, me! So yesterday’s “fix” (uh-oh, this is the second use of fake-y quotation marks and we’re only in the third paragraph here, so buckle your seat belts, y’all) was attended by Team Leader Kevin. Kevin opened with “What you need to do is” whereby I curtly, though not rudely, intercepted his script with what I knew his script to be–call the workers comp agent (YOU have her number–I gave it to you in October and before that in August, and before that. . .), call Patient Registration (did that thrice), clarify workers compensation insurance upon check-in with each individual provider (did that about 638 times so far), blah, blah, blah. I said he was the fifteenth billing representative to whom I’ve spoken since the accident. Kevin says he fixed it. Now I don’t want to call Kevin a liar, but if sweet Tammy’s magic went kaput, well Team Leader Kevin, you’re no Tammy.

You may be wondering why I get so worked up over this. Well, it’s because my husband’s care needs will extend throughout the remainder of his life, his entire life! I’m old, but I’m not that old, and I just don’t think I want to be arguing with billing when I’m 80. Ha! Like I’m gonna make it to 80.

Puh-leeeeeeeze, Mr. Postman

After thirty-nine minutes with Kevin, et al, on the phone, I opened the next envelope in the stack, this one from the credit union holding our home equity line of credit. We finally paid of 2016’s kitchen remodel with a lump payment. Unbeknownst to us, the credit union required us to pay another $16.81 in some bullshit fee, but whatever, fine, we paid it. THEN this:

A bill for $.02. Two pennies. Two cents of some bullshit LATE fee for our bullshit $16.81 we thought we had paid off on top of the $21.40 you see here. I called customer service, but it wasn’t worth the 22 minutes of my life to wait on hold. They. Sent. Us. A. Bill. For. Two. Cents. Y’all.

The Brake Job

Because The Screwed Over Job doesn’t really have that catchy ring to it. I took my car in for routine maintenance yesterday. The car was due for an oil change, tire rotation, change of air filters, and I asked for new windshield wiper blades to be installed. When I arrived to retrieve my beloved SUV, the service advisor showed me an invoice for $323. Natually, I was all, “what the fuck?” and the service advisor tossed the four-page invoice my direction. Leafing through it, I noticed a service I did not request. “What did you do that cost $159?” to which he stated (eyes averted, that sneaky bastard) that they disassembled and lubed all the brake components. I said that I hadn’t OK’ed that, that the online B-Maintenance Minder did not include a brake job on my version of the HondaLink app. And then I DID unleash my ugliest inner Karen, saying, not quietly, “DAMN. I would NEVER have requested this for a car I’m LEASING and for only one more year.” His reply, again avoiding all eye contact? “Sorry, ma’am.”

I unleashed sooooooooo many f-words once I got into my car, every noun/verb/adjective/adverb/interjection form of the f-word? I covered it. My local dealership probably doesn’t actually care about my “complete satisfaction” as they expressed in their text to me. Not buying it, especially since they haven’t responded since I shared my disappointment.

Let the Wendy/Karen v. Honda Corporate Customer Service battle commence. I should probably enter the arena while I’m still mad about it, and they did send me the link to my survey, so they started it. But I’m gonna finish it.

SLP Professional Development

After the Honda debacle, I tuned into a professional development session offered as a semi-annual series of one-hour webinars. It’s great because they’re free, and while I present PD to my district colleagues all the time, I don’t accrue PD hours needed to renew my certification as the purveyor of info. These webinars are mostly light and practical, intended to be immediately implement-able in therapy, and I find that I’m able to pull out a gem or two from each of these sessions.

Not this one. Nope. Within the first twenty-four minutes, and yeah, I counted because I was already pretty pissed off Monday, within the first half of her session, the presenter made three disparaging remarks about more experienced SLPs. I was livid! And I was done. I’ve also presented on the very topic she was, so hers wasn’t new information to me. I let the webinar play because I wanted my freebie credit, yes, but also because I wanted to provide feedback.

When the presenter made three age-related negatively-slanted comments within the first 24 minutes, I admit that I was turned off and tuned out for most of the rest.  I’m a veteran SLP in a leadership role, and I present to a diverse group of SLPs routinely, including on this topic.  I respect my audience, making no assumptions based on experience or lack thereof. I did not find X’s “if you’re Generation Z, you might need to have someone explain the meme,” “17 years is more than most of us have even practiced” and “experienced SLPs are less likely to consult practice research” comments funny or accurate. X, I urge you to reconsider your tone–if you meant to be funny, it did not necessarily translate.

Remember that scene in the film Fried Green Tomatoes, when Kathy Bates slams into a parking space “stolen” by some young brats? She says something like, “Sorry, girls, I’m older and have better insurance.” Preach.

As a presenter, I would want to know if I was offending audience members. A few years back after I presented something, a good friend called me to remind me to check my tone. I’ve never forgotten the lesson. So my feedback wasn’t all Karen-rage; truly, I would want to know, I’d want to do better. I hope the presenter takes it to heart. I can do humor that tries and fails, but I can’t do arrogance.

Parental Controls

My Monday workday was terrific, but the hours between 4:00 and 9:00 evoked lots of curse words, anxiety, and I’ll even admit to some rage. I’m not saying my coping mechanisms are effective y’all. But instead of drinking or throwing something at the wall, I wanted to cap off my shit evening with a fun TV show. I began watching The Sex Lives of College Girls over the weekend, and knew that a quick half hour of their lives would happily distract me from mine.

But no. HBO Max would not allow me to override the Parental Controls which I don’t even have set anymore, HBO!!! So I was blocked from watching an over-18 show by some random app who obviously doesn’t know about my grey hair and advanced nighttime anti-wrinkle serum.

I wanted to cry. And if you think that sounds like an immature, unhealthy, unhinged type of response to not getting to watch a television show, you are 100% right.

Unplugging and restarting my TV did the trick, and allowed me to shake loose the day’s dirt. If only we could unplug the rest of our lives and reboot them when they’re problematic. Wouldn’t that be swell? It would. I ended this dreck of a Monday with Parents’ Weekend at Essex College. I got the laugh and happy distraction I needed to slough off the ugly and start Tuesday in the least Karen-ish way possible.

Bring It

Here we sit on the very cusp of a new year, still/again raging with COVID-related uncertainty, but still, what’s perceived by many as the most hopeful night there is, New Year’s Eve.

The only thing that’s predictable these days is my continued stand against New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make resolutions, or even pretend anymore! Most years, I’m out before noon, and that’s just defeatist. Real, but defeatist. So my hope?

My hope is that the New Year’s Day snowfall predicted in my corner of the world delivers. It would be super-amazing-fantastically awesome if, unlike our Christmas Eve festivities, our New Year’s Day festivities included electric power to our home. Yep. The moment my uncle and aunt arrived for, and thankfully WITH dinner Christmas Eve, our power went out and remained out until, and I swear, until my aunt said, “Well, we should probably get going” after six hours in the dark. So I hope our power grid holds.

I hope my children will be able to return to in-person learning in January. Based on what I’m reading, I’m among a very small minority of educators who want teaching occur in person. I’m a full-on COVID-believer, so this doesn’t come from some whacko flat-Earth point of view, I just feel my children learn better and enjoy better mental and emotional health when in school with classmates. I understand that might not happen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for it, right?

I hope my big kid gets one more really important to him college acceptance letter, the ONE upon which every other college visit and future choice is pinned. He has four incredible options already, so he can’t lose really.

GoodReads provided this little visual of some of the books I’ve read and the Pic Collage app created the visual.

I hope I continue my reading blitz. Somehow it ended up that I completed 62 books again this year, which is the exact same number I read during 2020. Weird, huh? I’m finishing up a book about memory, and feeling much less frightened about the decaying state of affairs in my hippocampus. It’s enough being the family’s executive functioning, more than enough. Way more than enough. I’d begun to doubt my ability to manage, but his new information gives me hope. It’s not necessarily my memory that’s failing, it’s the attention. And there’s only so much to which I can attend (see above for being the family’s nerve center), so my brain doesn’t encode the minutiae it once did. It’s more complex than this, obviously, but it’s a start.

I hope I continue my yoga practice on a slightly more routine basis. I’m inconsistent at best, but like reading, yoga is something I get to do all by myself in peace and quiet. If it’s wrong to want to be alone, I don’t want to be right.

I hope my friend gets clear updates about her husband’s new and unwelcome long-haul type of medical diagnosis, and I hope her husband gets excellent care.

I hope I get to see my favorite band in concert in 2022. I have tickets, carried over for three years now, but even now who knows if this tour will come to fruition? It had gotten to a point that I infrequently even listened to Barenaked Ladies anymore these days, even with 2021’s new album release! They’ll probs pull my fan card after this admission here. I won’t be able to explain it well, but listening to them on the high rotation (read: constant) I had been for years made me miss them, miss concerts, miss my friends I’ve made because of them. For the first time ever, I felt sad listening to them–missing my constant auditory companions, missing the anticipation of shows, so not listening made me miss that part of my life less. Does that even make sense? So I hope for Barenaked Ladies concerts in 2022!

I hope my best friend’s move goes smoothly, and that our living in the same time zone for the first time since college means more together time. We’re already percolating the idea of a road trip (and by road trip I mean staying pretty close to home still because I fear being away too long), but still. A road trip?? It’ll be like college! Except with higher-quality food and beverage. And we’re way smarter now. Well, she is anyway!!

New Year’s Eve and July 4 are my least two favorite “holidays,” and yeah, I put the quotes around holidays here. I’ve just never been into either, but I always feel like I’m SUPPOSED TO be totally into it, and my disinterest and ennui mean I must be missing something. What am I missing??

If today’s your day (night), raise a glass to the hope of a new year and enjoy your celebration! I am the least optimistic person I know, but I’ll say it anyway: bring it, 2022. I’m about as ready as I get and I’m hoping 2022 is looking up. Happy New Year!

The Frequency Illusion

I recently wrote about how I was not sending Christmas cards. What’s that phenomenon where you what you talk about is suddenly everywhere? No, not the “my iPhone is eavesdropping on me” thing, but the neuropsychological construct that you begin to see something everywhere after your attention is called to it once? It’s not that those things weren’t there before, but our brains just never noticed them until we did, and then they’re everywhere?? It’s a thing. Can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called. Great story, Wend.

The point. *ahem* The point is that since broadcasting that I’d hit the pause button on sharing our annual dose of holly jolly via US Mail, I’ve noticed “I’m not sending Christmas cards” memes everywhere! OK, so they’re not actually everywhere, but I noticed one, and now I notice them all. If it’s meme-worthy, then not sending cards must be a rule instead of the exception these days. Look at me all setting the trend years ago, so ahead of the times.

You know, I have spent more on vodka during the pandemic than ever before. . .

Blowing the timeline for cards marking A Very COVID Christmas 2: Still Masked in 2021 provided occasion to walk through the early days of my blog. I wondered if I’d chronicled the first year I lost my card spark, and sure enough, learned that I stopped sending Christmas cards the year my son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Coincidence? I am sure not.

2015. 2015?? How can it be nearly seven years since that awful January diagnosis day? 2015 felt cruel and cold. I was rudderless, anchored by Barenaked Ladies concerts and this here little creative writing outlet. Though I was surrounded by friends and family who then showed me incredible kindness and support (and do still now), my holiday joy was tempered that year. Since THAT dreadful year, my husband was nearly killed in a catastrophic work accident, then, well, you remember the pandemic year? And now still a pandemic year?? Do you wonder why I’m a little glass half-empty Grinch-y? I sure don’t. I don’t wonder one bit.

2021 wasn’t my favorite orbit around the sun, but was it anyone’s? I mean, 2021 sucked less than 2020, so there’s that. And while most of the rest of the world reviles 2020 the most, I’m still super pissed about 2019, therefore (drum roll, please!) 2021 wins my contest of who’s not the worst of recent years. Yay, 2021! You’re not the worst!!

To be fair, 2021 offered some for reals bright spots. Like my big kid’s senior pictures (and a few college acceptance letters)–

Like my little kid’s football season–

Like spending a few responsibility-free days with my college friends–

Like “talking” to my BFF more often via the Marco Polo app and rediscovering classic photos, which I’d share if only my iPhone weren’t so old and dysfunctional. And if you are in fact listening to me, iPhone, maybe you decide to start downloading pictures, yeah? Thanks.

Like being awake for both the moon and sun rising over the Atlantic in Myrtle Beach. Our COVID spring break road trip took us to a South Carolina oceanside condo. We didn’t close the doors once–

Like celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Championship with a half million of our closest friends–

So, see? Even me, the eternal pessimist, found some literal and figurative sunshine in 2021.

If I were sending Christmas cards, they’d look a little like this and y’all would totally be on my list! You would!! Merry Christmas, dear readers. I wish you happiness, good health, and the love of family, friends, and friends who feel like family.

I wish lots of things–crazy dreams like eradication of COVID (and for that matter, eradication of muscular dystrophy, but unlike COVID, you can’t get a vaccine to protect you against MD). I wish for purpose toward the greater good and common sense among the masses, genuine care and compassion for one another, and accountability for people perpetrating truly terrible acts. But I’m not a kid and I know Santa’s elves can’t exactly wrap and put a big ol’ bow around the gift of human decency to place under my tree. Doesn’t mean I can’t wish for it though. Peace and love to you. I say this and mean it with complete sincerity.

What’s with the green lights?

Oh, and I had to look (and subsequently retitle this post). The seeing something everywhere once you finally notice it deal? It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, also known as the Frequency Illusion or Recency Effect. I learned about it on The Happiness Lab, a podcast by Yale professor and psychologist Laurie Santos, whose online class I took and loved in 2020–I went to Yale, y’all!! OK, I didn’t exactly go to Yale. . . I think I heard about it there anyway (my memory’s not so hot anymore either, and I’m actually reading a book about memory, but that’s a topic for another time). Pay attention to how you notice things now. Like when you have lunch somewhere you’d never heard of, and then see advertising for it plastered across hotel shuttles on your way home from the very spot or see maroon colored Honda Passports everywhere you look. It’s not that the SUVs or signage weren’t there or the restaurant wasn’t there before, I just didn’t notice them, and then I did. Notice what you notice. . . Maybe some of my crazy Christmas wishes already are and/or can become reality if I simply were to attend to them and take notice.

Christmas Cards & Other Mail

Each year as I un-trim? de-trim? (take the ornaments and lights off) our Christmas tree and un-deck the halls, I pause to reread the Christmas cards we received during the holiday season. I pack them, along with the rest of the fa-la-la, content with the knowledge I’ll revisit them in another 11-1/2 months or so.

Sunday was the day I re-reread 2020’s cards. I just love receiving Christmas cards. Love the cards, the photos, the messages of the year’s glad tidings, the tradition, all of it.

The saying goes, ‘tis better to give than receive, and I wish I still loved sending them myself. I want to send cards again, or I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I want to want to send cards again. I want to love it like I did when the kids were small and every year previous, when I’d comb through the Hallmark stores to find the card with just the right amount of sass. When my kids were little, I reveled in sending out the cutest photo of the boys together featured on cutest card layout with the cutest template background Snapfish offered that season. Somewhere along the way though, I lost my enthusiasm. It had nothing to do with COVID even. For some reason, I’m feeling a full-on case of Scroogeism and skipping out again this year. When I was a good little blogger, writing with purpose and consistency, I think these pages took over my need to update via snail mail, but I’m not even a good little blogger anymore. It would seem that I need to come up with a more believable excuse.

Revisiting 2020’s COVID-infused Christmas messages though took me back. At this time last year we were fighting our way through the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we get together? for the holidays. Ultimately, 2020’s Christmas celebration was contained to the four of us in residence, zoning out on the ‘80s cinematic classics Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Such tradition! Already, a world before the vaccine seems like a history lesson, but only a very short time ago, we were canceling family traditions that had held for decades and lifetimes. Everything last year felt conditional and uncertain, and the sentiments expressed in the cards and letters we received reflected that unease, that tying to slap a happy face onto our collective isolation.

If you’re a card sender, please, please, please continue the tradition. To this day, the first thing I do upon my return home after my work day is check the mail. I love getting mail! In addition to the Christmas cards I so enjoy, this year I find myself sprinting to the mailbox to see if my son has received the college acceptance letter he’s so eagerly awaiting. Will the letter carrier deliver the big, non-folded letter kind of envelope with the big news he wants or the tri-fold business envelope with less welcome news? Time will tell.

I’m pleased to announce that even if he doesn’t gain entry into his dream school, so far he’s got three excellent Plans B, C, and D–three acceptances so far, and I happily anticipate his future scholarly endeavors. If you’d told me early in his diagnosis that I’d be writing about college acceptance one day, I’d not have believed you, so fantastical a notion that was. If you’d told me that my son one day would text me asking if muscular dystrophy precluded him from donating blood, I’d not have believed you, but that’s also on his agenda this week, and no, he doesn’t even need my permission anymore (though I do wish he’d make real good friends with this thing called an internet search engine. . . ). He’s accomplished so much more than I’d believed possible then, like reaching the age of majority for starters. My boy is an adult.

Maybe that’s what I write in the Christmas cards I’m (not) sending this year—that even amid the unbelievable circumstances in which we find ourselves these days, there is still something to believe in—a bright future when you see and feel dystopian, hope when you feel hopeless.

Sweet Sixteen

Yesterday was my younger son’s birthday, the sweetest of sweet sixteen-year-olds, that one. My delight in celebrating my kids’ birthdays far surpasses any excitement I could possibly muster for my own anymore. I can recall as if it were yesterday the overwhelming joy I barely contained when my big kid completed his inaugural orbit around the sun. Like the sun, I radiated, there is no other way to say it. I could not stop smiling, and it’s quite possible I glowed. I wanted everyone I encountered to know that my baby had turned one, like I had been part of this magical, unique experience no one else could possibly appreciate or understand, which I guess I was. It wasn’t as if I had accomplished anything really, though I guess keeping a tiny human alive for a year is something worth celebrating. High five, me! Nice job!

Anyway. . . my little one–I’ve said it with frequency and intensity: the world is a better place because he is in it. I mean that with all my heart.

For whatever reason yesterday, I found myself remembering two events I don’t much think about anymore. Between the births of my two sons, I was pregnant twice more. Neither pregnancy lasted terribly long. I miscarried early, twice. Women don’t talk about miscarriage often, but in fact, I was surprised to learn that 10-15 in 100 pregnancies are lost during a woman’s first trimester (statistic from marchofdimes.org). You’ll forgive me for not citing per the APA style guide, I mean no one’s grading me here on my own silly blog, which, sure, is not the same as saying no one’s judging me here on my own silly blog, but whatever, it’s OK.

Do women not speak about miscarriage because it occurs with the frequency with which it does?  Is it such a commonplace occurrence that it barely warrants mention?  I think not.  I can speak only for myself, but I can remember feeling much like I did on my big kid’s first birthday only in the saddest 180-degree possible way—my experience was so unique and special, I must be the only one who’d ever lost a pregnancy.  I must have been the only one because I never heard anyone in my circle of friends or coworkers discuss it.

No. It’s just so devastating that you can’t imagine finding the words or strength to talk about this profound loss in polite company. You love this baby so immediately and completely, even though this baby feels kind of theoretical so early on, I assure you it’s not. Your hopes and dreams for this baby begin to take shape the moment you learn you’re expecting. And then all of the sudden you’re not. You lose not only a baby, but that hope, that “I wonder if her eyes will be blue or brown, I wonder where she’ll go to college, I wonder if she’ll be funny.” The loss of a pregnancy is real and as painful as any, but women don’t talk much about them. Until much later, say, like 16-17 years later.

I don’t remember a great deal from this period in my life, mainly because I was busy chasing my toddler around, I rarely slept well or at all, and my hormones were hijacked. I wasn’t at my critical thinking best, it’s fair to say. But I do remember speaking to my body, willing it to hang on to those babies. Come on body, I’d say (not out loud, probably not, maybe not out loud), please hang in there. I want you to be here with me so badly, and I can’t wait to see you! I’d hold my abdomen, physically hugging my belly in a futile effort to coax her into picking me. When those maybe-baby girls didn’t pick me, I cried. A lot and hard. There were a couple days I didn’t want to get out of bed. It hurt physically a little and emotionally a lot. Sadness. Misery. Grief. Anguish. All of it.

I say “her” because I’m certain that each of those pregnancies, had they been viable, would have been baby girls.  I remember my doctor saying that when pregnancies end themselves this early on it’s likely due to the baby’s significant health problem or genetic abnormality.  After my older boy’s muscular dystrophy diagnosis, I became convinced that those two baby girls would have been affected by MD so profoundly that they knew how tough things would be on the outside, that by not choosing me they chose better.  I’m not saying there’s science here.  Obviously there is no way to know this.  I just know, you know?

My doc prescribed some heavy duty hormones while I continued to try to get and stay pregnant.  I wanted to barf pretty much 24/7 on an average day, so I knew immediately when I was pregnant again because then I REALLY wanted to barf.  Good times.  I sincerely didn’t think I was going to make it with #2.  Between the hormones and toddler chasing. . .  I was a mess. 

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.  Unquestionably.  When #2 was visualized via ultrasound, and all his pieces and parts had been counted and measured and I hit the halfway point in my pregnancy, my doc said I could stop with the additional keep-him-in-there hormones.  I’d like to tell you that I felt immediate relief once I stopped the dosing.  I didn’t.  Honestly, I felt like puking up to and including the day he made his entrance into the world.  But I would do it all again, endure worse, way worse, whatever is the worst of the worst, just to make sure this baby could be born.

As flip as it may sound now, and I sincerely hope I don’t sound flip, I knew I was meant to be a boy mom. I’d convinced myself the universe, wrongly, had given me girls. I no longer felt that crushing, paralyzing sadness over those lost pregnancies.  I was fortunate to have been able to carry this baby full-term, so I didn’t have to suffer an empty crib, that unknowable, unfulfilled wish.  Unlike too, too many women who suffer the despair and/or depression miscarriage and loss usher in, I got the prize in the end.

And so did you. 

No one holds the future in their hands or can know what their child will ultimately be capable of and bring to the world, but I know with assured certainty that my child is meant for greatness. He may never be famous, so maybe he doesn’t play in the NFL or win elected office, so what? My son’s circle is small. He’s quiet and doesn’t let people in without careful consideration, but once you’re in, you’re in for life. His sphere of influence in this world may not be one on a global stage, but those lucky enough to be in his inner circle get a most remarkable gift.

My son got the most remarkable gift himself for his birthday. His best friend, his friend from the first day of four-year-old kindergarten, drew and had framed this picture of and for my son as a Pokémon trainer.

His BFF, artistically talented obviously, is also the brightest, most academically talented kid I know. But read these comments between them on his Instagram–that’s the stuff that tells me what really matters about their character. Take that, toxic masculinity! These two are both going to do great things in this world, one great and big and the other great and small, and I get a ticket to the show.

I knew I was meant to be a boy mom. I was meant to be my second baby’s mom–we need his kindness, his pure heart, his “he’s probably my favorite student” approach to school, his lean in to hug his mama. . . His “Love you too” to his best friend. I almost never think about the what might-have-beens anymore. Had either of those pregnancies come to term, we’d never have known this special boy, and the world needed this one. Happy birth day to me. Happy birthday to him.

Tech Support

I’m not entirely inept when it comes to technology. I’m the family’s primary troubleshooter, and can even support my colleagues in several work-related apps and interfaces, so I do OK. But every so often it’s necessary for me to make the call, and yesterday at work I did just that.

My “My Documents” folder keeps disappearing. I know the documents live there, because even though virtual education necessitated the shift to everything Google Drive and Google Classroom-based, I can locate them intermittently. I was given a specific task and a completion deadline so wanted to refer back to an older document I knew had everything I needed. I knew it had what I needed because I wrote it all those years ago, what goes around comes around and all that. So we are back to the future, as the saying goes, and I can’t find what I want.

I employ my rudimentary problem-solving mental decision tree kind of thing to no avail. In the interest of efficiency, I make the call, literally and figuratively, to allow the people whose job it actually is to assist me. The tech guy, who shall remain nameless only because I honestly can’t remember his name, takes over my computer remotely (sorcery, I tell ya!) and naturally, restores my access instantaneously. Cool! I’ve got what I need, and look forward to copying and pasting away!

He provides a few pointers to add to my problem-solving arsenal, and you know there are fake quotes around “problem-solving” here, and I’m glad to have a new trick in my back pocket. He goes on to tell me there are several steps I can follow to access some command prompt thingy which allows me to blah blah blah blah blah blah which will be able to tell me blah blah blah blah blah.

I’m out. Mentally, I’ve already said thanks and good-bye, but I’m not a total jerk, so I say in response, “I suppose I’m supposed to tell you that I want to learn how to do what you’re telling me, right?”

He politely and professionally gave me the out, saying that I did not, in fact, have to learn what he was telling me.

Me: So I can call you back next time and you’ll fix it for me, yes?

Him: Yeah, sure.

Me: OK, cool, thanks. I’ll call you if I need help. Out loud this time, thanks and good-bye.

It’s not that I’ve got a learning new things aversion. But I’ve got limited bandwidth these days. And here’s the thing I think many of us feel when we call tech support: We should know how to do all the things. We should know how to fix this. What if the tech support guy thinks I’m an idiot? We all have computers, so we all have some base of experience. We shouldn’t interrupt the tech support people; they’re busy helping others who really need tech help.

But here’s the real thing: I have a job. I’m a pretty good speech-language pathologist, and I’m sort of a tech support person for the SLPs with whom I work, just not literal tech support. I help colleagues think through their speech-language concerns and help them problem-solve. I wouldn’t call technology support for questions I have about service delivery for students or decision-making about eligibility for services. I wouldn’t call the tech guy when seeking evidence-based practices for a professional development presentation or when debating which fluency-enhancing strategy might work best for a student. That is absurd.

So why do I say no thanks to new technology information from the tech guy, risking exposing myself as a dope? Because it’s his job to help me. He’s the expert in his field as I’m expert in mine. It’s a small and weird thing to be pleased to have passed on, but I’m happy I did. It may represent the feeblest stab at empowerment, using the dullest of butter knife blades, but I said no and it felt just fine.

My favorite tech support guy, Jim, told another of my colleagues yesterday that I should be a celebrity. Now THAT is the kind of tech support I can get behind, y’all.