What Are You Good At?

Obviously I’m quite talented with the grammar, ending a sentence with a preposition in the title here and all.  *and a stunned hush falls over the crowd*  Despite this particular gaffe, somebody thought enough of me to purchase this card with a beautiful message of thanks inscribed within, and a fab swag bag to thank me for being her mentor this year.

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The fidget spinner was not part of the swag (because we are grown-ups), but some energizing bath & body products were. Also, my children never ever put anything away, so my house is a disaster.

I was having a conversation with my friends, the Ladies ladies, not long ago. Periodically we throw out a random question of the week just to see how the others respond. We are all friends, but we don’t get to spend much time together in the real world, so sometimes these questions illuminate and help us get to know one another better. I was bragging on my killer vodka pasta, which I’d made a few days earlier. I wrote that since I’m not really good at anything (crabbing again about my Grand Canyon-scale negative space vacuum of artistic skills) I was happy to have some creative outlet in the kitchen.

Now because they are my friends, the girls responded by telling me I was a talented writer, a good mom, and a good friend.  See, they are my friends. Of course they’re going to say that. And how I love them for their mendacity.  But the reality is my weak visual motor integration frustrates me, and this is not news to anyone who has read this blog before.  I asked the girls: So, what are you good at?

I thought for a while myself, and came up with a short list of things I considered myself good at.  I’m a good friend. I really am. I’m a good program support teacher. Thank goodness, ’cause they pay me for it and I’ve got 183 people who directly or indirectly rely on me to be good in my role. I’m a decent cook–tasty food, but not beautiful plates because, hello?? And I’m a good mentor.

Fortunately, my mentees agree. So it must be true!  For fourteen of the last 16 years, I have had the good fortune to have mentored brand-new speech-language pathologists.  They’ve taught me so much, more than I could ever hope to return to them.  As a group and individually, they’re exceptionally driven, high-achieving young women. Like they have never gotten a ‘B’ in grad school types of high-achieving young women. They’re bright, buoyant though generally seem to believe themselves as underperforming in their roles as school speech-language pathologists.  They are not underperforming.

The miracle is that they do facilitate progress with the district’s (city’s, state’s) most academically and communicatively challenged students. They improve the lives of kids in most desperate need. They do it with woefully inadequate resources and with too often inhospitable working conditions.  These young women work their butts off while feeling they’re not doing a good enough job, deflecting compliments and assigning credit to everyone around them but themselves. 

I do kick ass at work. I fail way more often than I succeed in getting what I believe our SLPs deserve and need though.  If I kick ass, it’s because I’m surrounded by equally (no, more) kick ass SLPs.  I don’t do status quo well, and I’m certain that my boss wants to throat punch me at least thrice weekly. But my boss is a lovely human who understands that my wanting the best for our SLPs and students underlies that tenacity.  Yes, tenacity. Because “pain in the ass” sounds just slightly less professional. 

So thank you, Lenaya, for the gift. The stuff, yes, (the happy notes are SO me!) but the gift of time with you this year. It was I who received the gift this year. Watching you grow in skill and confidence, and measuring the progress you made happen in those small people was my distinct pleasure.  Thank you for reminding me that I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. Thanks for telling me you considered me a rock star.  YOU kick ass. 

Best. Card. Ever.  

What are you good at?

Dear Counselors,

My son goes to MDA Summer Camp Sunday.  Last week I received a call from his camp director who asked if I’d consider writing a letter to the incoming counselors.  Their meet & greet and training are to occur Saturday prior to the kids’ arrival.  Sarah, the director, told me these letters from parents would be opened and read by the counselors during their orientation.  The intent, I gathered, was to provide the counselors insight about how important and valued their role is to campers and their families.

I mentally drafted 70% of my letter while still on the phone with her, and forgot it immediately upon disconnecting.  I’m not sure what I ended up with was exactly what she was looking for, and I didn’t edit as well as I’d have liked.  Golly I miss having a functional short term memory, so I had to rely and draw heavily from the blog post I wrote upon his return home last year.

Words, as the always seem to, fail me when I need them most.  To those of you magnificent souls who helped get him there, I thank you.  I thank you again and always and then a few times more.  Whether you donated to our Muscle Walk team, showed up on walk day, said, “Hey Wendy, I’m thinking of you and your kid,” purchased items from the camp Amazon.com wish list, or read and/or commented on one single blog post here, you were with me, you made this happen for my kid and others like him.  May your kindness and generosity be returned to you one thousand and three times over.  One thousand and four. 

I will miss my boy tremendously this week, miss him like bunches and bunches of crazy, but I am not worried.  Not one bit.  He is where is supposed to be this week.

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Here’s what I concocted for the Saturday night counselor campfire.  What do you think?

Dear Counselors,

Thank you is always a good place to start, right?  So thank you.  You could do a million billion things this week, and you have chosen to spend it with kids socked with one of the many forms of muscular dystrophy.  Thank you.  That alone, your being there, says something about your character and human decency.

If you haven’t volunteered for MDA or any summer camp before, maybe you’re thinking this will be a good experience, something that looks good filed under community service or an impressive add to your college application.  And you’re right about that, it will.  You will find that being a counselor at MDA camp is more than just a resume-building experience though.  You’re changing lives, and there really isn’t finer work you can do for kids (or yourselves, frankly) than being there, being someone who cares about a kid who needs you.  I suspect by next Friday, you’ll leave this place changed.  Sure, you can check off camp counselor on your to-do list, but the imprint you leave on the child you’re paired with won’t be so easy to check off and move on from.

When we meet at drop-off tomorrow, I’ll be trying really hard not to cry while my thirteen-year-old son is trying really hard not to die of embarrassment.  Thirteen-year-olds don’t give away a whole lot, and the thought of his mom getting emotional (again!) in front of you will make him crumble inside, though he probably won’t tell you that.  But you will learn things and experience things with him that I never will get to do.  You’ll see a side of him where he feels at home, feels confident and capable, the side that feels and actually gets to be exactly where he is meant to be.  You’ll see the side of him that believes he is a part of something, and not the odd one out.  You’ll see him do really brave things and take risks.  Take note of those things; they are a gift to you, a relative stranger, but soon to be my son’s close confidant.  You get a gift his mother will never receive.

Even a novel-length letter would never adequately convey my gratitude with words.  Words are insufficient to express what beats in my heart as I think about what MDA camp means to my family.  The depth of my thanks, the way my heart is skipping right now as I try to say what I mean to say?  I want to get it right.  I won’t.  Words like so, very, incredibly, really, extremely are mere fillers.  I’m the kind of person who has a song for every occasion, but since I’m neither a singer nor songwriter, and my favorite musicians have yet to write a song about this, my thank you song remains unsung.  Plus, you don’t want to hear me sing.  Trust me on this one.

I will miss my kid, but during camp, he will need me less than I need him around.  It’s the way it’s supposed to be, I understand, and I think his week will be perfect.  He needs YOU.  Though he may seem aloof, and not exactly socially gifted, he needs you.

I wrote this next bit a year ago after my son returned home from MDA camp.  Reading it again a year later, it feels like another lifetime.  But at the time, the emotions were fresh.  THIS is the kind of impact you make as a counselor:

We’re ready to go.  I get our car queued up; my son’s had help getting his gear packed, so all that is left is to say good-bye.  Dillan (his counselor last year) hugged my kid hard, told him how much he enjoyed being around him, and told my kid he loved him while my weird, giant seventh-grader held on for dear life.  I think his counselor had to prop him up, no small feat there (because he’s 6 feet tall), because all my kid could do is hold on, nod his shaggy head in agreement and sob.  I’ll never forget that moment.  I’ll never forget that my oft-detached child found home right there, right then.

“Why are good-byes so hard?”  That’s a question for the ages, kid, I told him.  Hours later, he unleashed emotions that before then I’d never known him to express.  “I want to go back to camp.  I want to be with my friends.  I just want to be with those guys.  I finally felt like I fit in, that I wasn’t the odd one out.  I found friends where I belong no matter what. I just want to be alone.  Or I just want to be back at camp.”

So, counselors, thank you.  Thank you for making camp my boy’s home away from home. Thank you for being there for him, for all the kids.  Thank you for donating a week of your time.  If you ever wonder if what you’re doing matters or makes a difference?  It matters.

Have fun!  Don’t forget to have fun.  Ever.

Wendy Weir

Home Invasion

You probably think I live in a war zone.  Between the murder of my friend’s father last October and what I’m about to tell you, you might think, “Wow, she is really tough.”  Alternately, you might think, “Wow, she is really stupid.”  You get to pick.  Editor’s note:  she is both.

Two Thursdays back, I sat at my computer reading up on the latest neighborhood shenanigans on the Next Door app.  This headline stopped me in my tracks:

It’s about ten blocks from where we live, so yeah,  “Armed Robbery In My House” grabs you by the front of your shirt with both hands and slams you into the wall.  It’s the kind of header meant to grab your attention, and it did just that.  I read the victim’s story, and felt for myself, my neighborhood, not scared but sad.  He further described in vivid detail the attack, his injuries, and resolution; at that time, any resolution was in its infancy.  I got to thinking, “Wow, that was really close to Matt’s house,” before I connected the dots:  It WAS Matt’s house.  It was Matt.  We are not brother-and-sister close, but he’s the kind of guy everyone knows and likes.  His record album collection makes me googly-eyed, and he knows a little bit of something about everything. He’s one of the good guys.

I sent him a Facebook message telling him how sorry I was, and asked if I could bring him something (soft) to eat or maybe help clean up his house.  I’ll never win awards for housekeeping, but when your friend’s house is covered with his own blood, you figure you could probably step up to the plate for him.  He responded by asking me to bring him lunch, and I was happy to be able to do something.

Wendy’s Meals on Wheels pulled up, and I was expecting an eggplant-colored face to greet me.  He looked better than I was expecting to be perfectly honest, but you are never prepared to see a stitched-up perfect circle embedded into your friend’s cheekbone.  That circle?  Just happened to be the size of the shotgun barrel used to shove him to the ground.  It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t go into greater depth, but a few weeks later it’s still very much weighing on me.  It is not my story to tell, but it is my concern.  It’s my sadness at this violent, brazen attack on my friend in our neighborhood.  What the hell, world?  When did things get so far off-track?  Why?

Responses to his posting ranged from expressions of friendship, admiration of his bravery, concern, and sympathy to “you need to get a big dog” to “I teach a concealed carry class, won’t you join us?”  A person shouldn’t need to have a big dog to protect himself!  A person shouldn’t have to feel she or he needs a concealed handgun to hang out in her living room!  None of us should have to fear the nighttime, hell, we shouldn’t have to fear the daytime for that matter.

Writing the previous sentence, I understand that I sound a little white middle class-ish, blind-eye-ish.  I skim the daily paper’s headlines, but don’t watch the news anymore (because I like to be mostly sane), so I’m not unaware of the plight of citizens residing in warn-ravaged nations.  I have a roof over my head; I have electricity and running water, clothing and enough food, so I’m luckier than millions of others across the globe.  But every single day, every single day, I drive through and work in the toughest, most impoverished and violent neighborhoods in my city.  I don’t live it myself, but I get it via a guest’s immersion of sorts.  For twenty-six years I have worked in neighborhoods that would likely make most of you tinkle in your pants from fear even to dip a toe in.  I’ve met children and families living in extreme poverty, and they’ve welcomed me into their lives and homes, shown me hospitality and kindness.

I’ve also been harassed by city denizens.  I’ve been called a white bitch, a cracker, a wide array of clever/horrible/amusing/demeaning epithets simply for being there.  I’ve been told that since I am white, I have no business teaching children who are not.  But this is not a treatise on race relations, because poverty and violence don’t discriminate based on skin color.  The group of men who invaded my friend’s home consisted of African-American, Hispanic and white males, and I hate to perpetuate stereotypes. My lifetime of experiences has taught me that stereotypes can be far from accurate. And divisive. I’m done with divisiveness, and man I can’t wait for the politicians to catch up to me here. Anyway. 

My husband works for the city; one of his co-workers was shot while making a lift in a bucket truck.  He was shot by paint balls, thank the stars, but still, some joyriding cretin thought it’d be funny to shoot at a guy, scaring the crap out of him, just for kicks.  This is fun?  I must have a sophisticated sense of humor then, man.

I know enough to know I know nothing about how to fix this.  But, Little Mary Sunshine here wants this to be the last attack on someone I know.  I want this never to happen to my kids, my husband, a friend.  OK, I want this crap never to happen.  There.  I said it.  Pollyanna is screaming at you, criminals!  It’s not OK that it’s happening in the ‘hood, and that now that’s it’s closer to home, I’m suddenly queen of the block watch.  No.  It’s not OK that it’s happening anywhere.  That is the main idea here.

My friend’s physical injuries will heal. The hole in his floor can be patched or covered. But what about the loss of feeling safe in your very home? The loss of faith in basic human decency?

 

 

Awake And Alone

I rarely sleep in, even on a holiday weekend, and even when I desperately want to. A lovely upside to my special brand of insomnia is the solitude I cherish being the only one awake in a whisper-still house.  Deep thoughts run laps in my head as I walk laps with Caleb the Wonderdog or just sit, flipping through the morning news rag sipping black coffee.  We all know I’m no philosopher, more a random musings kind of girl. Here’s this morning’s dose of The Space Between Wendy’s Ears, developed as I dodged raindrops.  Even I’m unable to find the thread that binds these thoughts, and it’s from my neurons (mis)firing that they came.

You think it will be magical having several different species of birds nest in your pergola. And it is. Until several species of bird shit all over your patio furniture. And your grill. And your sweatshirt.

Even with contacts in, I can barely see my face in the mirror.  Just exactly how am I going to apply makeup for the second half of my lifetime?

How many more days of school do we have?  Twelve?  Thirteen??  Eleventy hundred??

Why does anomia strike at the most inopportune moment?  Most people never get to meet their idols.  I’ve met mine several times, still struck starry-eyed and never taken for granted, but my “Hi, I’m clever and not a complete loser” banter batting average is around .333.  Now, in baseball for reals, .333 represents consistency and excellent performance.  In talking with famous musicians, it’s close to epic fail.  Don’t ever ask your favorite singer how his “thing, um, knee, um, you know” is.  He’s a guy, and “thing” well, you can imagine. . .  and for the record, the Password is ACL.  Following up with, “I’m just gonna go over here and kill myself” is an entirely appropriate response.  Fortunately, my favorite singer has a sense of humor.  And by now they all probably recognize me for the idiot I am.  What I meant to say is Tyler, Jim, Ed, Kevin–thank you for taking the time after the show to talk with me.  Though my nervous chatter is random and sometimes cringe-worthy, you are professional and kind and funny, and you wouldn’t have to be.

Speaking of my favorite band, Barenaked Ladies, all of you, this one’s for you:  Most of my friends are going on The Rock Boat cruise with you next winter.  OK, super cool for you all, and yeah, given the choice, I’d cruise to the tropics mid-winter too.  But for those of us whose work does not allow time off except for summer?  I’d like to suggest a summer band camp as a cruise alternate.  Or a both/and.  Just throwin’ that out there.  Also, we’ll need to do something about the bugs.  The plan’s in its infancy obviously.

How many second and third jobs will I need to take on in order to feed these boys who refuse to stop growing?  My “little” one is taller than me now.  He’s eleven.

My dog is an ass.  He’s also riotously distracting, and I love his squishy face more each day.  Last night we were watching Vacation, and I just wanted to flip a couple hands of solitaire during the commercials.  My husband, not a skilled videographer, recorded this:

I’ve tried to cut down on artificial sweeteners because I saw an article on Facebook about the holes these chemicals leave in people’s grey matter.  I need all the help I can get these days, you guys.  Do I stay thin-ish or smart-ish?  That is the question.

Related:  Facebook is probs not the most reliable source of vetted, scientific research.

Also related:  The damage is done, sister.  You are not as smart as you once were.

When a day begins overcast and stormy, it should remain dark for the entire 24 hours (unless I’m going to an outdoor concert, in which case I will OCD-level monitor weather.com every three minutes until it returns the sunshine I need to see in the forecast).  On the average day, I’m disappointed when the weather clears though.  Half empty?  Half full?  Not sure what that says about my personality.

I really need to drag my butt to the store and get a new swimsuit top this weekend.

I really hope the bunnies don’t eat the pea shoots sprouting up.  After all these years, I totally get why Farmer McGregor was so passionate.

God, our yard sucks.  We KILL at snow removal, but the summer months don’t quite balance that equation.

How in fresh hell does a motorist lose control to such a degree that he lodges his car into a poor someone’s house 4 feel off the ground??  This is my life every day as I drive through the city for work.  Well, trying to avoid this is my life in the city everyday.


I definitely do not look forward to my son’s semi-annual neurology appointment Tuesday.  Twenty bucks says it’s cloudy and rainy.  It has been cloudy and rainy or snowy every single time I’ve strode through the doors of the Children’s Hospital Neurology Clinic.  And as I’ve established, it had better stay that way all day.  See above.

I cry over neurology appointments, but still have my sons around to complain about.  It’s Memorial Day weekend, and I crumble inside when people say, “Happy Memorial Day!”  It’s not a happy occasion; it is one more appropriately marked with solemnity and remembrance.  Thank you to the men and women whose very lives were sacrificed in service so that, among other things, I can ramble here on the internet.  And to your families?  Strength, peace, and only the warmest, happiest memories of your loved ones.  I cannot imagine a world without my children inhabiting it with me. Your hearts beat more strongly than mine.

Friends in the US, enjoy your Monday off, and take a moment to reflect on why you’re maybe sleeping late.  Friends from around the world, thanks for hanging in here with me.  It’s hard to keep up, I get it.  Turns out this is post #200.  I feel like this post both captures and under-represents me perfectly.  Happy bicentennial to me.  Or something.

But I Don’t Actually Play Tennis

We joined a tennis club.  I can barely stand on two feet these days–I literally fell off my shoes after my concert last Tuesday.  So I can hardly walk like a proper grown-up, let alone play tennis, yet tonight I found myself at New Member night at “our” club.  My life is just chock full o’ twists like that.  I reeked of imposter as my big kid and I entered for the first time as members.  Really?  I’m the kind of person who would be lurking out back by the dumpsters, attempting to catch even the most distant glimpse of how the other side lives.  I’m not on the other side.

My friend Jane is super smart and kind.  She has perhaps an even more wry/dry/sly sense of humor than I do, and outside of my inner circle of fans of my band, she is one of few who understand the celebrity boyfriend phenomenon.  That alone is reason to want to hang out with her all the time, but really that’s just icing on the cake.  And you know I DO love my frosting.  Anyway, Jane.  She DOES play tennis, and so do her husband and her two sons.  At the club.  Last summer she invited the boys and me to an afternoon swim, and began her pitch for us to join the club too.

For all the right wrong reasons, I wanted in.  OK, really the reasons are two:  1) Jane.  Hanging out with her and her family more often, and 2) The Big Reason. My big kid could swim all summer long without having to take a swim test, which he would never pass.  Our community system of public pools requires that each kid each day pass a swim test, granting them access to the deep end.  My kid can’t swim like they require him to (MD, ya know), so any trip to the pool ended in frustration (his) and tears (mine).  No kid who stands 6′ tall wants to dally in the shallows when all the cool kids are in the deep end.

My husband–the one who actually plays tennis–rebuffed my efforts to prod him (us) into joining.  It’s expensive.  We’re broke.  True and true.  My husband–the one who has never paid a bill in the course of our marriage–was worried about the cost.  Legit, but I was all like, “Now you’re paying attention?”  When I calculated the approximate cost of a single baseball bat we purchase for the small one, a season of family fun allowing the big one a chance to find a happy place paled.  It felt like a sound investment to me, but Tom still wasn’t on board.  Jane and her husband have mad persuasion skills, and somehow convinced my hubby to join.  I wasn’t there, but skills, y’all.  Next thing I know, I’m completing application packets, writing big checks, and boom! I’m told my husband is signing me up for social tennis (??).  I was led to believe it was mostly about day drinking, so I was all “IN!”  And soon I’ll be playing social tennis.  Which apparently is a thing.

So the six-footer and I go to the new member night tonight.  We received our membership cards, and were met near the entrance for a tour.  We had a very nice chat with one of the board members and his wife.  We explained that half our family was at a baseball game, so couldn’t make the opening reception.  They asked my big kid if he was into baseball or tennis (a perfectly logical question, no?).  He replied that, no, he wasn’t, that he was really there for the swimming.  They continued to talk with him, talking up tennis lessons, and maybe he could take lessons there?  Again, he denied athletic inclination, saying, “I’m really not a sports guy.”

He’s looking over at the pool, and asks, “Do you need to take a swim test every day here?”  I’m sure to them it seemed an odd inquiry, but I knew precisely where he was going with it.  “Because I have MD, that’s muscular dystrophy, and it’s hard for me to pass a swim test.”

You could have knocked me over with the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Wait, what?  It was the first I’d ever heard him introduce and talk about it in the real world.

They told my kid that at one time, kids had to swim a length of the pool in order to gain access to the diving well, but they weren’t sure that rule was still in place.  The relief on his face was enormous.  After but a few minutes of acquaintance, this woman said to him, and really to me, something like, “I’m sure your mom will be here to make sure you’re never in a place she feels you’d be unsafe.  My son’s a lifeguard here, and all the lifeguards here are great and will keep an eye on you too.”

Hugging a total stranger felt inappropriate, so instead I thanked her, and thanked my lucky stars it was sunny.  Ray-Bans to the rescue, because there’s no crying in tennis.  You know what?  Yeah, there is.

The pool opens tomorrow, and a certain thirteen-year-old wants to swim.  According to my WTF app (What The Forecast), it’s looking like mid-50s/low 60s weather for opening day.  And did you catch the Pig Latin??  This is my kind of smarty-pants app!  Swimming tomorrow feels like a no, kid, but I’ll get you there.  Soon and often. That’s a promise.

 

Weird

A slap in the face can come in the form of words, not actions.  I don’t recall ever being physically slapped in the face though, so any such slap has been a figurative one.  The Mother’s Day slap stung harshly.

The sky shone blue on Mother’s Day, a sapphire so perfect and rich it looked like it had to be a painted stage backdrop.  My husband and the boys decided we would take an early morning trek to our funky, local coffee shop for breakfast because 1) coffee, 2) I love going out for breakfast, and 3) Mother’s Day goodies for everyone!  The shop is one mile exactly from our home, usually a doable walk for us all.  About two-thirds of the way there however, my big kid complained of pain, and needed to take a breather.  I fall down a mountain and report back in excruciating detail about my bruises and abrasions until the last of them has faded.  I trip down the stairs with regularity, and anyone in the 53207 postal code hears me fuss.  My big kid though?  He doesn’t complain.  It’s just not in his DNA.  So for him to complain, I knew he was struggling.

We made it to the coffee shop life and limbs intact after all, but my big kid was definitely not himself.  You run through the maternal 5-point illness/injury probe: with one pointer finger, point to where it hurts; is it stabby pain or throbby pain?; did it just start hurting like right now, or have you been pushing through for awhile?;  do you have to poop?; can you move or do I need to run home and return with the car?  OK, it’s not technically a protocol, but man, I was hoping it was just an “I have to poop” thing.  If you have sons, you know exactly what I mean here.  “I have to poop” is I’m sure at the root of many mommy panic attacks and midnight calls to the nurse practitioner triage line.

Days later I remain fuzzy about the symptomatology and unsure of its etiology.  I do believe it was MD-related, which he denied.  He fatigues easily, which leads to a weird MD cycle: When your muscles fail, you get tired easily so you don’t develop the endurance to walk long distances.  Because you cannot walk long distances, you don’t develop good cardiovascular health, which affects endurance.  Because your cardio and lung capacity is reduced, you don’t engage in extended physical activity, and so on, and so on, and so on.  We stopped three times on the way home, which was A-OK by me, and it was at the third stop where all (well, some) was revealed.

Sir Trips-A-Lot accidentally took out a classmate’s chair Friday afternoon.  Proprioception not being one of his special gifts, he accidentally kicked the leg of the chair next to his, and his buddy went down.  The substitute teacher on duty was certain it was done with intent and malice aforethought, so told my kid he would be telling his regular teacher.  Big kid made it right with his friend Friday before the end of the day–it WAS an accident of course–but he feared the consequences he thought were to come.

“How do you want to handle this?” I inquired.  “Do you want to see what Ms. S has to say to you Monday or would you like me to email her before tomorrow to explain your version of the story?”

I was impressed that he wanted to handle it on his own for starters.  I told him that he if thought he was being treated unfairly, then I would contact his teacher if he believed it necessary.  I also told him that his regular teachers understand he has MD, and that sometimes his body does weird things.  I say this not as a free pass for him, but as a statement of fact.  If he took the kid out intentionally, we’d be having a very different conversation.

“Some of my classmates say I’m weird,” he ventured.

“You ARE weird,” I replied without missing a beat.  The look on his face???

“We’re all weird, it’s cool.  Some of your friends are weird or do weird things, right?”

Both my husband and I talked with him in the moment in generalities about weirdness and uniqueness, but I was the only one of us three whose eyes were teary.  See, the outliers know they’re different before anyone has to tell them so.  I know I’ve used those very words before, but they remain true.  It’s one thing as a mother to know these things, but quite another for your child to share them voluntarily.  He never complains, as I said, so I knew it mattered.  This parenting gig is not for the weak, people.  It was Mother’s Day, but I no longer felt super celebrate-y.  I felt lovey and squishy and nostalgic for their lovey, squishier toddler hands and bellies, and a bit sad that adolescence is doing what adolescence does.  Adolescence with MD, I can only imagine, complicates things that much more.

Later Sunday afternoon, he came out to the patio where I sat, bundled in my winter coat and blanket, reading a novel.  Yay for Mother’s Day leisure reading for fun under a warm(ish) spring sun!  He came out to tell me that he thought I was weird too.

“Oh, what makes me weird?”

“Well,  your BNL obsession for one thing.”

This was neither the time nor place to discuss the semantic distinction between obsession and concentrated hobby, so I let it go.  Instead I replied with something like, “Yeah, most moms don’t chase their favorite band across the Midwest.”

“AND Canada, you actually went to Canada.  That’s weird.”

“Yes it is, son. Tell me now one thing about me that you love.”

“You take care of us.  You do all the responsibilities around the house, and you say you love us like every day.”

“I do love you, big kid,”

“I know, mom.  Love you too.”

*end scene*

I’ll take being viewed as weird in exchange for an unprompted “I love you” any day.  I guess my Mother’s Day gift was the gift of gab from that one.  He’s typically short on effusive expression, sticking with the seventh grade one-to-two word answer grunt script.


He wrote me a note, which included an acrostic poem using Mother, very much prompted, this time by one of his teachers.  Trustworthy and Heroic he wrote.  I’ll take it.

 

 

 

Pretzels. Yep, That’s The Title.

Friends took our boys to the Brewers game last night, thanks to tickets they’d won for their MDA fundraising efforts.  Thanks, guys!  All week I’d been looking forward to a quiet little grocery shopping junket with my husband.  I know.  I need a life.  It’s just that work is breaking my heart these days, and my brain apparently converts heartache into somatic symptoms.  I’m really tired these days.  Really tired.  Blah.  Plus I actually enjoy grocery shopping more than other household chores, so yeah, I looked forward to a Friday night grocery game.

Bliss ended about one-fifth of the way down the first aisle though, and I got crabby.  Stupid crabby.  Probably I shouldn’t even write this post because my crabby is that genuinely stupid.  But since I almost never save myself from my own stupid, off we go.

Our grocer carries two kinds of pretzels vended in large vats: traditional pretzel rods, which my husband loves, and honey braids, which I prefer.  I asked my husband to grab a container of the twisty kind, and he said he didn’t like them, so he grabbed the pretzel rods.

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And that, friends, is where the wheels came off the bus.

In my very least adult, most passive-aggressive manner, I snatched up a container of the snack I wanted, and launched into a diatribe questioning why couldn’t I have what I wanted?  Just because you like something else doesn’t mean we can’t get both! Why is that I always give up my portion or simply give you all the portion of food that I want because either you prefer something else or I feel you’re more deserving?  Do you know how many times I don’t get to eat something because I know the kids and you eat more than me, so I only grab like two french fries or a teaspoonful of noodle side dishes or bananas or whatever?  I always choose the ugly enchilada or make due with the broken taco shells.  Why??  Why is it assumed I’ll take the corner piece??  (which is aces when it’s cake because frosting! but otherwise, corner piece of whatever is nobody’s first choice, right?)

Yes, those thoughts and words passed my consciousness, and a few even passed my lips, but mostly I just remained mute.  Because crabby.  And passive-aggressive quiet the remainder of the evening.

I felt like there was some big lesson I should pull together from the 2017 May Pretzel Incident, but really I’m just a jerk, and any lesson I have to teach has reached its intended audience.  Me.  Get over it, Wendy.  In retrospect, I think maybe he didn’t even hear me.  He tunes out 70% of what I say anyway, which is super annoying and frustrating in its own right, but a topic for another post.  I think I might have mentioned that when I’m not mute, I talk a lot.  He says sometimes I’m “quiet,” but I think that’s guy code for “I’m not actually listening, and I don’t want you to be super pissed.”

If there’s any takeaway, let it be this:  Moms, you’re amazing.  Of course you give up that last banana for your kids, even when you really want it.  Of course you divvy up your portion of French fries when you see your kids’ plates have already been cleared of their (already much larger but who’s counting) portion of fries.  Of course you forego any semblance of a social life for baseball, piano lessons, band concerts, therapy appointments, whatever your family needs.  YOU’RE THE MOM!  And most often you do these things happily.  Within my power and whatever financial wherewithal we possess, I would do whatever I could to provide opportunities to make my children happy.  There’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing my kids happy.

But it’s OK to want the nice thing, the pretty thing.  Because Moms, you’re amazing! Every so often, a girl wants to be reminded that she deserves her very own enormous container of honey braid pretzels is all.  Happy Mother’s Day to each of you who fulfills the role of mom.  Enjoy the spotlight this weekend, and don’t forget to overlove your babies, those once- and still-slobbery creatures whose being confers your favorite-ever title and job you wouldn’t trade for all the world: Mom.

 

Take Us Home 

There’s a lyric that goes, “Worked out that I’ve probably made a mistake for everything I’ve done right.”  That would be me, though honestly? probably the scales lean even more toward the mistake side than the side of right.

Fourteen years ago today I did something really right though.  Before we were four, or even three, we were two.


We got serious quickly, Tom and me.  I can remember as if it were last week, standing in the hallway at his old house saying to him that I hoped we would be lucky enough to have kids, specifically to have boys, because the world needed more solid, decent men like him in it. That I couldn’t wait to make us a party of three.  I was wearing my denim bib shortalls, a red tee underneath, and my pink “Life is Good” baseball cap (it was sixteen years ago, you can check your fashion files–it’s all good, yo).

I didn’t have to wait long for that at all.  Sometimes dreams do come true.

At alternate turns, reality surpasses anything you could dream in your wildest imaginings.  You never dream what fourteen years down the road looks like.  You don’t dream that your kitchen window would remain uncased nearly a year after the kitchen remodel was “done.”  You don’t dream of cleaning up the vomit your dopey rescue dog launched after he destroyed the carpeting back onto that same now un-carpeted spot.  You don’t dream of seeing your spouse randomly in passing most nights between the shuffle of piano lessons, school activities, doctor appointments and baseball practices (and with your vision failing at every turn, you barely actually see anything anymore!).  You surely don’t dream that your son gets tagged with a progressive, neurological disease, and you never dream that you become a reluctant advocate and fundraiser for MD, but you manage to help raise over $5,000.

But now?  I couldn’t dream of any other life but this one (minus the dog vomit part, obviously, and the MD which still, yeah).

You do dream that your children become productive stewards unto the world, and you help them get there through volunteerism, service, and kindness. Check. You do dream that you can send your kid on his big class trip, and that he returns a changed young man.  Check.  You do dream that your kid who loves sports of all sorts blasts another homer over the fence, and that he is humble about that feat when his cleats return to stomp on home plate.  Check.  You dream that you have enough to give your children more than you believed you had at that same age.  You float fuzzy visions that you’re happy, whatever happy means to you at the time.  And you are.

You find just the right lyrics to capture how you feel on your fourteenth wedding anniversary:

We’re forever, you and me.  The sun will show us where to go.  Love will give us heart and soul, and take us home.

Home. Happy Anniversary to us.

Singin’ In The Rain

It was a dark and stormy night.

It wasn’t, but I bet you’re all picturing Snoopy perched atop his doghouse, banging away on the keys of his typewriter, aren’t you?  You’re not?  Well then you’re much, much younger than me.  You’re lucky in that way, but it’s sad you missed out on the Peanuts greatness.  Wow.  It didn’t take long at all for me to steer off course on this post now, did it?  I call a do-over.

It was a dark and rainy day.  That’s better.

It was a dark and rainy day, but muscular dystrophy doesn’t allow for rain delays, so neither did the walk.  Can you feel triumphant and terrified at the same time?  That.  Sunday was a hard day.

I have been saying for months now that I will find a way to capture in words the gratitude I have felt in my heart. Turns out, there is simply no way to accomplish that. Instead, I will let pictures speak the thousand words they are said to do.

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I walked for my son.  Here’s why the other participants did.  Thanks to the MDA Southern Wisconsin Facebook page for this photo.

I got my own sign!

My beautiful niece Lauren, who will be in her third year as an MDA camp summer counselor made the trip from the U of Minnesota to be here.  She was admitted to grad school this week to pursue her MS in speech-language pathology.  I’d like to believe I had a little something to do with that career decision.  (I really would like to think that!)  Love this girl!

We were Team #2 with $5,399 in total funds raised.  You guys?  I can’t even.

The day before the event, I received a text from my friend Sue, who reminded me that exactly one year ago, I provided her words of support and comfort as she sat beside her dying father.  She wanted me to know that my message made a difference to her, and meant a lot, meant enough to tell me a year later that I helped her.  And she sent me her own message of love and support.  And yeah, I cried when I read her message.  She helped me right back.  I am a lot of work sometimes, but I must be doing something right to have latched onto and maintained friendships with truly wonderful people.

The MDA invites a few of its clients and parents to speak at the walk kick-off.  It’s painful, hopeful, emotional, and I’m not sure a dry eye can be found in the room.  My son had to step out, and I pretty much wanted to die right then for him, but my friend Jill, no fair weather friend she, showed up at precisely that moment.  I was stunned to see her, and her timing was perfection.  A much-needed distraction at the most-needed moment.

Shortly before the walk kick-off, my little guy’s best friend’s mom texted me, saying she and E would be arriving late to the walk.  I didn’t even know she intended to come.  We met outside the Aquatic and Reptile Center, and as we walked in, I thanked her for coming.  She told me that her son said he wouldn’t have wanted to come if it were for anyone other than my big kid, because “he’s kind of like my brother, you know.”  And that is when I really cried.  She hugged me while I cried, right there in front of the giant iguanas and jellyfish.  Because you can’t stand there and cry at the zoo, and because iguanas and jellyfish are really unsympathetic, I began to hum my personal battle cry, my song, to shore up my resolve.  Singin’ in the rain.  Well, singing in my head anyway, technically I was humming out loud.  Quietly.  But I made it.

You know who I don’t have a game day picture of?  My boy.  My boy, the reason I do this, all of this.  Didn’t get a photo of him that day.  He kinda had his own thing going on, and he’s thirteen, you know.  Not super happy to be photographed on his best day, so I didn’t push it.

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My boy.  My love for you kid?  Read the shirt.

I asked.  You answered.  5, 399 times you answered.  I will never feel lucky that my son has this diagnosis.  My son is more than a pre-existing condition, and I hope against hope that this, that MD, doesn’t become what defines him.  But this diagnosis has shown me the very best in people–people I am beyond lucky to know, people I don’t know, people I know only through my writing, and some souls whose identities remain elusive answered when I asked.  Thank you.  Love with a capital L to you all.

Sorry, Wrong Number

I received a voicemail today informing me there was a warrant out for my arrest, and all of my personal assets were in danger and being surveilled. I was instructed to call (360) 562-9305 immediately to sort out the details of my case. It sounded all super official and stuff, what with the robotic voice message. Seriously people, you need to work on your subterfuge.  You earn an F- for authenticity.

I was having a heavy hearted day today, feeling melancholy because I had let a few people down due to issues consistent with my diagnosis of DRS (don’t remember shit).  I can’t actually be certain that it’s my memory which is entirely at fault. It could be my distractedness or just the fact that I’m juggling too many balls up in the air trying to be all things to all people.  FYI, failing. In any event, I was feeling sad, surly and sassy, so I called them back.

What the hell, right? I did not appreciate their intrusion on my phone, granted I let it go to voicemail, still, I know no one from Longview, Washington and was pretty sure it was a scam. Scratch that, I was 100% sure it was a scam.  I feel like if there were a warrant out for my arrest, law enforcement’s effort would’ve been a wee bit more personal.  Plus I lead a nearly puritanical life, and have never done one single thing that would get me in trouble with the law. Breaking the speed limit excepted.

Being no fool, I used the office phone to inquire about my alleged dalliance with the law.  See, I’m innocent until proven guilty, so it’s all alleged for now. Ain’t no way I was going to call them back from my actual phone. It was right after lunch and a few coworkers were around. I so enjoy an audience!


This is how the conversation went:

Me: Yeah, hi, I got a message from you saying there’s a warrant for my arrest. Can you help me out with that?

Dude on Other End (speaking from what could only be characterized as a call center, based on the amount of background noise):  Oh, um, yes, what is your phone number?

Me:  I’m not giving you my phone number. You called me.

Dude on Other End:  I said CASE NUMBER, not phone number. Fuck you!  Why are you calling me?  Stop calling me you fucking asshole! Stop calling me.

Me: Cracking up as I laid the phone back in the cradle.

Defensive Dude on the Other End: *click*

Looks like my 3-episode arc on Orange Is The New Black has been postponed.

It gives me tremendous pause to know that these kind of scams are effective. What kind of people prey upon innocents who’d fall for this?  If there wasn’t some payout, they wouldn’t continue to do it. Sometimes you suck, humanity, you really do.  OK, I called back for sport. Sometimes I suck too.