What Is Your Biggest Fear For Him?

I hadn’t considered this question in some time, but a few weeks ago, before parent-teacher conferences at our school, a colleague I don’t often enough get the opportunity to speak with often asked me this question.

I am certain that I fell into my now-common middle distance, eyes up and then to the right gaze, and sighed in contemplation.  I guess that has become my “I’m thinking” preparatory set as I deliberate the big stuff.  I considered options for the few moments the normal flow of conversation allows.  I began to give voice to something, stopped, and began anew.

“I guess I am most worried he won’t find a mate.”

My colleague, one of the quickest wits of our time and a genuine all-around decent guy, replied, “Yeah, but doesn’t everyone worry about that for their child?”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right, that’s true,” was my not-at-all snappy comeback, looking up and to the right again, “but he’s going to take so much more time.  He’s going to have to find someone extra-special, someone so patient, someone who will help him, who will wait for him.”

I can’t quote the rest of our talk, but I remember telling him I worried for the day my son wakes up and isn’t able to walk.  Something he does now will become something he never does again, and while that is true of each of our children, each of us for that matter, I know my son’s trajectory is a little more direct and brief.  I’ve recorded what I believed was his first last, the rock climbing wall, and though it was the first last, it is certainly not the worst last.  The thought of my child circling a day on the calendar, marking the first day he can no longer walk, is simply too much.  So I don’t think about it.  Much.  As much.

Last week the world learned that Stephen Hawking had passed away, decades after his disease suggested he should be crossing the finish line.  Decades!  I felt like this quote from his brilliant mind was a beautiful fit for what had been racing laps around my grey matter.  He hit all the right notes in this bit of advice to his own children, and I’m going to remember it for mine too.

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Verbal Diarrhea

Saying “verbal diarrhea” sounds comical.  In writing, the phrase looks vulgar, but who am I kidding?  I’ve considered an alternate title, yet this phrase succinctly and correctly captures my crass, adolescent-dude-masquerading-as-middle-aged-mom to a tee.

I own the affliction.  The shoe fits and all.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp director emailed me a few weeks back, asking if I’d be willing to share our family’s MDA story, to share what camp has meant to my son and/or to us.

I loathe asking for money (but PLEEEEEEEEEASE donate to our 2018 Muscle Walk campaign by clicking here).  The list of things I’d rather do than solicit donations for our Muscle Walk team covers more linear feet than the distance from the earth to the moon, but I can write and I can talk.  So, after joining the MDA “family” three years ago, I finally went to a family hoe-down.  And by hoe-down, I mean business meeting.  MDA staffers from around Wisconsin met to kick off this year’s camp planning, and asked me to toss in my two cents.  Everyone introduced him- or herself, so I knew who to thank, and that is how I began: with thanks to them for their work on behalf of individuals afflicted with crap muscle disease.

I think I was meant to be inspiring.  Stop laughing.  I can hear you over here, you know.

I was decidedly not inspiring, but I did share our narrative.  Not knowing my audience ahead of time, not knowing how many people would show up, I did not prepare any remarks.  You speak differently to a group of ten people around a table than you do in front of an audience of a couple hundred, so I flew without a net.

We have a story, and my recitation of our story feels and probably sounds like a script.  I don’t know if that’s what they wanted of me, but that’s what I related: our story.  I talked about how we came to learn about MD–how an offhand “It’ll probably be months before they get you in, so don’t worry, it’s just a rule-out” became “He has an appointment with Children’s Hospital Neurology on Wednesday.”  I said, “You’re all lovely people, but I wish I didn’t have to know you.” (and no, I didn’t use the f-word because I used to say ‘I wish I didn’t have to effing know you,’ but they invited me, and you don’t use the f-word in a business meeting.  Usually.

I explained that immediately following the diagnosis, I took to the internet to chronicle my feelings.  It wasn’t shameless blog promotion, because really, my blog hits a pretty boutique market–I’m not for the masses, I get that–I didn’t bring it up to ask them to read it.  I brought it up I guess because this blog has been my companion since that horrible January day.  Nearly every MD revelation that’s floated through my cortex has found its way here.  Three years later, I’m still Greater Than Gravity-ing.

And now I can add talking too much to my MD mom experience.  The members of the group with whom I spoke were gracious and attentive, but I couldn’t shut up.  I just kept pushing through my narrative, kept talking, staring off into middle distance too often probably.  I wanted to tell them exactly why greater than gravity, but that wasn’t part of the script I didn’t know I had followed I guess.  But that’s it!  Love.  The love I have for my child, the mama bear love that makes me have to write so that I can deposit all the marbles rolling loose in my head and be present for him.  Love.  It’s greater than gravity.  Betcha Ed didn’t know how much that, or any lyric would possibly come to mean to anyone when he wrote the song.  It’s dumb if you’re not me.  I know, it’s OK.

Muscular dystrophy is my kid’s story, not mine.  My story is how I became an unwitting blogger after learning my child had a progressive, terrible disease, and how this unintentional blog has become my confidant.  Since the patina of shock has now been dulled by three years’ time, I don’t write about MD every post.  But I have this collection of 200+ stories about parenting two boys, public education, my friends, Barenaked Ladies, baseball, my squishy-faced, sock-stealing idiot rescue dog (whom I LOVE), and kitchen remodeling.  I wonder how bonkers I’d be if I hadn’t written this all down.

Through my collection of tales, I’m given opportunity to thank those people who matter tons to me, and I’ve been able to educate, inform and yes, raise some money for the MDA, so kids like mine can find where they belong.  Even if it’s only for a week, it’s A WEEK.  You just don’t know what that means, to find your home.  For my kid and too many others?  It’s greater than gravity.

They asked me to read the letter I wrote to the camp counselors last year and I did.   I didn’t even ramble on.  I didn’t even ugly cry.  It was hard, but I did it.  I can talk and I can write.  I may not be a top fundraiser this year, but I did a good thing.

I’ll Take ‘Fluency’ for $600, Alex

I’ve reached the pinnacle of my career as a professional development-providing speech-language pathologist.  Before Christmas break, my co-worker Christine came up with this genius scheme of offering a PD session via game show format.  I wasn’t there for the initial conversation, but apparently none of my other colleagues took her seriously enough to think she actually meant it.  As soon as she made mention of it within distance of my eavesdropping ears, I WAS IN!

I was IMMEDIATELY transported back to the living room of my parents’ house and the couch where I spent my middle and high school years.  Immediately.  Back in the day, television game shows were, forgive the pun, the only game in town.  You had three networks on television—yes, three, well four if you count PBS—and your television set was a monolith of dark, carved woodwork.  Most daytime television air carried trashy soap operas with a few local talk shows and one weird-ass Hatha Yoga show tossed in.  I didn’t get into the soaps until high school, so that meant I spent a lot of my formative youth zoned in front of the boob tube watching game shows.  I’m not saying I’m especially proud of having so little gumption that forty years later, I can still hear the Shaft-infused 70s guitar theme from Match Game. So what If I almost never wanted to drag my butt off the couch to actively participate in life then? I turned out OK. Mostly.

When I was a kid, contestants on The Price is Right had to guess how much a new car cost, and if they could, they won the car—it was the BIGGEST prize on TV.  When I was a kid, you could buy a new car for under $4000 and Bob Barker was the TPIR host, not Drew Carey.  When I was a kid, the first round of Jeopardy! had a $100 dollar max dollar value; Richard Dawson originated as the host the Family Feud, now emceed by Steve Harvey, and Kathie Lee Crosby (now Gifford) do-do-doodled her way through elevator music pop hits on Name That Tune, before Beat Shazam could be the slightest glint in someone’s wildest imagination.   TV game shows were super cheeseball high hilarity, contested by California housewives dying to meet the B-list celebrities who guest starred on these shows.  There was no reality TV.  Game shows were early reality, unscripted TV.  It was all we had. Ah, youth.

Anyway, me being me, I practically begged Christine to be her game show host.  And she let me. (squeeeeeee!) Though it was her baby, she allowed me to relive my youth in the role of game show host for MacGyver! The Speech and Language Game Show.  


This Bizarro World puppet was part of a 1970s-era speech-language therapy kit, so in keeping with the period, I created our MacGyver! brand, our logo.  I about tinkled with delight, so pleased was I with my “graphic arts” effort. But why MacGyver? 

Honestly, it came out of the very sad state of affairs of our budget and finances these days.  At the beginning of the school year, one of our SLPs had been assigned temporarily to a site where she had basically nothing more than a box of ancient picture cards, a piece of string, and a ball or something like that for therapy materials, yet she had managed to pull together meaningful therapy sessions for each of the students she served that day.  She’d managed to MacGyver it through.

Another television gem from my youth was the original television version of MacGyver.  Week after week, there’s MacGyver fighting crime and evil deeds, always at the precipice of certain death, yet finding a way to use whatever little was at his disposal to free himself and his compatriots from danger.  Stuck in a burning building?   He’d take a metal filing cabinet, turn it into a catapult and eject himself through the window past the flames.  When his car crashed and flew off the bridge into the Hudson River, he’d take a tube from the engine block along with a plastic bread bag or something and create a self-sustaining oxygen tank until the swim flippers he cut from the car’s floor mats propelled him to the surface.  MacGyver could do anything.

And so can our speech paths!  My 182 colleagues work miracles with the most challenging, most needy students and let’s be honest—there’s not some huge rock star budget attached to our work.  The miracle is that we effect progress with the supplies and materials we have.  The miracle is that we do what we do: however underfunded we are, we over-achieve.

We played three rounds of MacGyver! along with our own rounds of Speech-style Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid, and Jeopardy.  And YEAH, we had a Final Jeopardy round. With the music. It was awesome and ridiculous and perfect, and I loved every single second. I even got to be all smarmy Alex Trebek-y when someone forgot to phrase her response in the form of a question. It was joyous.  People played along and people learned stuff, so hey, it was victory all-around.

Next time we meet, I’m gonna tell you all ’bout my little talk at the MDA office tomorrow. I was asked to provide a parent perspective. I always say “know your audience” when you’re speaking to groups, and I’m breaking, I’m shattering my own rule. The only thing I know is that my kid is cool with it. It’s not like I asked his permission precisely, but I did ask him if anything was off-limits. He knows I’m talking about him, about us in some capacity, and he didn’t crumble in horrified preparatory embarrassment. How I do love that boy.


It’s All Fun And Games Until Somebody Breaks His Brother’s Phone Screen

The title pretty much tells the tale. The fallout of this episode of “Shit Breaks When Two Middle Schoolers Won’t Stop Screwing With Each Other” is #1’s cracked phone screen.

This just in: You may be an up and coming badass pitcher, but your accuracy with strings of Mardi Gras beads whipped at your brother isn’t major league. Here are five fun lessons the boys have learned in the past hour:

  1. YOU, #2, are going to pay for the repair.
  2. Your “emergency”, #1, doesn’t mean my life stops so I can run you to the Apple store immediately after piano lessons tonight. A jaunt to the mall wasn’t on my agenda.
  4. I’m genuinely mad, and I am also disappointed. I’m not in the mood to joke with you now, kid. You are sweet and funny, but you done screwed up–now is not the time for a joke.
  5. You do the research. You make the appointment. (Just not tonight, kid. Jaysus!)
  6. OK, six. Stop talking to me about it. STOP. TALKING.

Really, it’s not the end of the world, but geez! do I resent both boys’ assumptions that I’d drop everything and cater to their mess at the drop of a hat. Is that the pattern I’ve led them to believe?

I’m disappointed that they don’t feel the gravity of trashing a $600 piece of electronics. I feel like I’ve taught them better than that–to take care of their property. The damage was unquestionably an accident; I know that. But even accidents have consequences.

I feel a grounding coming on. That’ll be a first for us. It won’t be a long grounding, because of the accidental nature, more like a statement grounding. They’re good boys, and for once, I’m not overreacting or underreacting. Just reacting.


How Have You Made The World A Better Place Today?

I prepare breakfast for my Yahoos every morning before school. Their teen and tween selves are entirely capable, sure, and I don’t have to do this for them, but it matters to me that I do. I remember my mom making breakfast for my brother and me on the mornings she didn’t have to work, and I still carry echoes of those conversations with me. I guess my hope is that in the future my kids will look back and remember that we had some special conversations at the breakfast table too.

You all know that I am bonkers for the book Wonder, by RJ Palacio. I have recommended the book to many friends, colleagues, acquaintances, really anyone who will listen to me. At its core is a message of kindness. Wonder’s protagonist is a fifth grader named Auggie, a child who, after dozens of surgeries, finally in fifth grade enrolls in his first brick and mortar school. Auggie has Treacher-Collins syndrome, a disorder that causes facial deformities. You can well imagine how the world is not especially kind to someone who looks very different. Wonder shows us just how.

The kids in Auggie’s class, are fortunate to have Mr. Browne, prince of a teacher and good guy extraordinaire, in their lives. Mr. Browne teaches the kids many life lessons in the form of precepts, beliefs about the way we should act in our world. Officially, a precept is a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action. Unofficially–words to live by.

Some years back I recommended Wonder to my friend Kathie, who at the end of that school year presented me with a gift. When I opened the gift bag she handed me, I found 365 Days of Wonder {Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts} within. Palacio had gone on to author companion books based on Wonder’s theme. This particular volume contains exactly what you might expect given its title: 365 days of precepts, one for each day of the year.

At least once or twice at breakfast time with the boys each week, I select that day’s precept to read. I ask the kids what they think it means, and sometimes, though they’ve been awake probably only eight or nine minutes by this time, the kids play along thoughtfully. The fictional Mr. Browne has inspired enlightening pre-dawn conversations. With the naïve hope only a mother holds for her babies, I do hope my sons remember these exchanges fondly. Even more, I hope my boys, loves of my life, live and heed Mr. Browne’s messages.

I began working at a new school for weeks ago, and I am having a hard time reaching one of my students. Sixth grade girls can be as cuddly as wolverines, and one of the wolverines in my charge, well, I’m workin’ on it. . . I brought my precept book to school with me last week, and I’ve begun Mrs. Weir’s Board of Mr. Browne’s Precepts. Here’s the inaugural post:

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. –Aesop

It’s overcast today, the sky flat, dull February white. My husband is working this weekend, and social media is flaying the four cavities of my heart. In place of any traditional news media I’m glued to NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Winter Games (Ski Jumping, large hill if you’re curious). The kids went to a friend’s, but before they left, I asked them this:

I ask this question of them every so often (OK, usually when they’re at the zenith of sloth-dom), and I asked them today. My big kid, clever that one with evasion, asked back what was I doing to make the world better today?

I made a cake. I made this heart-shaped chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting dusted with pink and red sugar. Cheeseball? Super cheeseball. But you know what? It’ll make my husband smile, and my three boys will make it disappear by Monday, I am sure. My effort to improve the world today was close to home and dorky, but I like it.

Here’s today’s precept:

Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. –Lloyd Jones

I tried. I’m good with that.

What are YOU doing to make the world a better place today? I’ll slice you up a piece of cake while you tell me about it.


In Vain

Actually,  it DOES.  Guilty means precisely that.  Our ubiquitous friend Google provides these two definitions for the adjective guilty:

  • culpable of or responsible for a specified wrongdoing
  • justly chargeable with a particular fault or error

I think the message the De Los Santos Law Offices, LLC means to convey is that they can get you off.  I understand “guilty” and “convicted” carry entirely different semantic shades under the law.  But to me guilty means guilty as it relates to personal responsibility, right?   Google turned up a third definition:

  • conscious of or affected by a feeling of guilt

Too frequently, I see a distinct lack of being affected by a feeling of guilt, in point of fact. “I didn’t do it.”  “She made me do it.”  “Prisons are filled with innocent people.”  This, in a perfect nutshell of a mammoth commercial billboard, is why I am having a really hard time at work these days.  The defeatism and frustration I’m trudging through aren’t novel workplace emotions in my experience.  Various forms and degrees of professional-becoming-personal malaise have cycled through dark periods of weeks, months, years during my nearly three decades as a public educator.  Right now I just can’t handle the flippant meanness.  The lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions screams at me every day.  Literally screams.  At me.  At the other adults with whom I work.

I spotted this billboard on the ride to my office from my new school assignment last week.  It so happens that this billboard is visible from the windows and yard of the  Women’s Correctional Facility adjacent to the building on which it’s posted.  To drive past the corrections facility’s unassuming brick facade, you’d think it houses more a commercial bakery maybe, or a 70’s-era office building than a prison.  But it is a prison, and the law firm’s intent is clear in its placement.  They’re a business–I understand basic marketing tenets regarding its placement specifically there by the law firm–but its message is so counter to my personal system of beliefs, I just can’t abide it.

Teachers and other school staff member like myself spend our days teaching the exact opposite of this message to our <a href=”http://Enroll“>enrollees, and we spend our nights planning and preparing lessons and materials to teach that, to engage students meaningfully and productively.  This message–you can do wrong (you know–assault, robbery, murder, vandalism, grand theft auto, whatevs), but we’ll try to get you out of it because it’s not your fault–is the diametric opposite of what teachers want to see and have happen to students.

I shared a photo last week of the pellet holes in my classroom window, and despite what you may think bullet holes in windows means, I LIKE my school.  I like my students, I like the staff members I’ve met over the last couple weeks, and I like the building.  Ah, the building.  The school has to be one hundred and ten years old if it’s a day.  It is grand.  It was grander once, but now it’s tired.  Still gorgeous in its architecture though.  Wooden staircases and floors gleam.  The stair risers are rounded out from square after a century of  little feet climbing and descending the steps.  Detailed woodwork adorns door and window frames, built-in storage cabinets line the walls of coatrooms, and messages of peace and empowerment are stencilled in the hallways.  The building was constructed during a period where public education was viewed as a cornerstone of society; education, and the buildings where children were sent for their lessons, mattered.  Architectural details, like those I see here, were included in schools’ designs in the early twentieth century, and details like those in my school did not come cheaply, so the import of education was demonstrated in the way city fathers funded schools.

It’s hard to imagine a time where budget cuts were not the first and only thing that mattered when society discussed how it educated its children. Is it possible to wax nostalgic for a time I never personally experienced?

I’ve long said that we can’t improve schools (the almighty test scores) until we improve the conditions under which students live.  The critical importance of safe, stable housing underlies Matthew Desmond’s brilliant Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City.  His first-person research into housing in Milwaukee provided an uncomfortable read, and left this reader with the conclusion that slumlording is a profitable venture and that having a safe, regular place to lie your head at night yields better outcomes for people.

“it is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

“Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.”

From EDWeek.org, this discouraging statistic about kids who come from behind, and not in a romantic sports “comeback kid” kind of way: 

“At schools in which more than half of students lived in poverty, only 6 percent of students far behind in reading in 8th grade and 3 percent of those far behind in math and science were deemed ready for college and careers by the end of high school.”

80% of the students in my district are identified as economically disadvantaged.  But I digress.  I know blogs are supposed to be focused, but I’m not hyper-focused on muscular dystrophy this week.  It’s OK if you take a break from me and spend your valuable reading time elsewhere.  I sure wouldn’t blame you.  I’ve found that writing has been a balm to soothe this moody, savage beast (OK, and like the old adage, music too, obviously), and I need to find and reclaim my happy.  I’m driving my co-workers bonkers, and coming home crying isn’t helping my bad attitude.  So I write.  I can’t change the world, after twenty-seven years, I understand that’s a foolhardy expectation.  But I can change little things in my students’ lives, so I keep trying.  And I can change me.  Just not today quite yet.  I’m still snappy and ornery.

It’s so naive to say “be kind” and expect that people will be just ’cause; it’s so easy to say “take responsibility for your actions” and print it on a poster, but how does that message become part of one’s makeup? I can’t afford to take out my own billboard, but I’ve got to do something besides avoiding that corner during my travels.


These Boots Are Made For Walkin’

I suppose technically I’ll be wearing gym shoes, but “These gym shoes are made for walkin'” doesn’t have the same slinky rhythm as the Nancy Sinatra classic.  You know you were humming it when you read the title, don’t even try to pretend you didn’t.

Three months from today, Team Greater Than Gravity hits its fourth year as an MDA Muscle Walk team.  I was gonna write that we’re hitting our stride, but that’s too easy and a little too cheesy for my Monday morning palate.  So.

My big kid is #whyIwalk.

#whyIwalk makes this the time of year I hit you up to consider joining our Muscle Walk team.  Should you not find yourself in the Milwaukee area on April 29, you can join our team with your credit card.  And by “join” I mean support, and by “support” I mean donate.  I should really be more direct, shouldn’t I?

Who:  Me, my husband, the boys, various other megastar supporting cast members

What:  The 2018 Milwaukee Area Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Walk

Where:  Hart Park, Wauwatosa *new location*

When: April 29, 2018

Why: Because my older son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.  January 21, 2015 was the date that changed everything I thought I knew about parenting, and made me a reluctant member of the MDA “Family.”  I really don’t go to many of their family reunions, but WITH YOU, I’ve found the fortitude to show up for this one.  I’ve gained the moxy to ask, “Please help us raise money to fight muscle disease,” and through a series of small miracles (again, YOU), raised funds for kids and adults with muscle disease and ALS.

Click on the link below to join our team and walk with us on April 29.  I’d love to see you, and though I appear to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and am on the cusp of tears and/or full-on ugly cry the whole time, you showing up is a gift for which I’ll never be able to thank you sufficiently.  Click on the link below to make a donation via credit card if your boots aren’t made for walkin’.  Click on the link below to see last year’s tee shirt–it’s never not cool to see my lyrics printed somewhere for public consumption.  Click here so that other parents never have to hear the words, “Yes, your son has muscular dystrophy.”

And then share this blog post or reblog it, retweet this tweet, or share this Facebook post.  xoxo



Road Rage

A parent never wants to learn that two cars were shooting it up as they raced/raged past your children’s school playground via social media.

Before you chide me with the inevitable “See, I told ya! I still can’t/never did/never will understand how you send your children to a city public school and/or remain a city of Milwaukee resident when it’s the fourth poorest city in the nation” call to action: no one was hurt.

My #2 heard the gunshots from the science room, but #1 didn’t hear anything from his classroom. Curiously enough, there was no mention of the shots fired made from either of my sons. Had I not asked Saturday morning, I don’t believe either child would’ve said anything, except perhaps in afterthought. My husband spent a few minutes studying the exterior of our Lannon stone home, looking for evidence of bullet strikes yesterday, and came up empty. We joked that the miscreants behind the wheels and triggers must’ve been expert marksmen–according to social media, MPD reported no artifacts had been found. One neighbor posted the 11:44 AM audio from his garage-mounted security camera; fourteen cracks unmistakable in their clarity. They had to have hit something. Themselves? Their cars?

No one at school was injured, the loss of innocence maybe the only casualty. I don’t even know what to do with the fact that gunshots heard in school didn’t even warrant a casual mention from either of my sons.  They both were outside hanging out yesterday, because when the temps hit upper 40s in January, you go outside!  I didn’t go into full freak out mode, and I don’t know what to do with the fact that I’m not freaked out enough.

If social media is to be trusted, it wasn’t a targeted school shooting, apparently a road rage incident gone local, and thank stars the kids had just come in from recess. Saying “well, it wasn’t a school shooting” is not to excuse or minimize ANY VIOLENT act, nope, but to illustrate that gun-wielding idiots with sub-average executive functioning skills permeate our society, “safe” neighborhoods and less safe ones alike. But no one cares, because no one will admit that this shameful, inexcusable behavior could happen LITERALLY in their backyard–it’s always in “those” neighborhoods among “those” people. And apparently we need our own personal arsenals to keep ourselves safe from “them.”  Well, it happened in my neighborhood, on my street.

I grew up with guns in the house; my parents and younger brother all hunters.  My ex-husband owned two handguns (which his mother ordered him to store at her house for awhile after I announced I was leaving him), yet for all the time I’ve spent with firearms in my houses, I’ve never touched a gun.  I don’t understand the allure. I do understand that while we say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” people are less likely kill someone with their fists than with a handgun or semi-automatic.

But this isn’t a blog about weaponry.  It’s a blog about being a parent whose kid has a shit disease.  A disease that renders him slow and clumsy and an easy target.  He got lucky this time; they all did.

I started another assignment at a new school Monday. This is one of the windows in my new classroom, the one right behind my head when I’m sitting at my desk–and yes, it’s in one of “those” neighborhoods, so it’s OK, right? And sure, it’s only probably BB pellets, so whatevs, “those” people don’t mind or don’t deserve safe environs.

I sent this photo to a group of my friends, and one of the girls responded by telling me that before her office moved, she found a gun alongside a stash of cocaine in the bushes outside her workplace.   It’s not just here, and it’s not just now.  I didn’t understand it then, nor do I now, and I sure as heck have no solutions to replace violence on this earth with peace in its stead.  My little mantra, be kinder than is necessary, seems to fall short and on deaf ears.  But still, do that: be kinder than is necessary, that is.  It’s a start anyway.


Leather Or Crystal?

For the first time since learning our son has MD, I didn’t wake up on the unhappy anniversary date with “diagnosis day” screaming at me.  I walked the dog before dawn, brewed a cup in the Keurig, leafed through the Sunday coupons, when BOOM.  It hit me.

I feel some insane pull of duty to mark the occasion.  That’s ridiculous, I’ll grant, but I’m big on anniversary dates.  Until this year, I’d counted down the hours leading up to January 21, not because I enjoyed that, but because I was consumed with MD.  Maybe this is a sign of my growing acceptance, erosion of the initial shock has dulled the blade stabbing my heart.  January 21, 2015.  THE day.  The day that began the after.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the myriad other tasks and responsibilities served on my already heaping plate this week.  I’ve been cleaning up a mess–a hot mess, a ghost pepper/sriracha/cayenne/scotch bonnet kind of hot mess at work.  It’ll be but a distant memory in a month, but for now, my full time job is made to take a back seat to accommodate this other full time job.  Not that I get a pass on my actual responsibilities–it’s not that those tasks have disappeared, no, but this clean up occupies so much of my cortex that I can’t even.  Ah, I can’t even finish a sentence with a verb that fits adequately is how much I can’t even.

I’m starting another school therapy assignment tomorrow, and until a few minutes ago, didn’t even know my students’ names, grades, or disabilities.  I’m super good at winging it, but I want not to wing it.  The kids deserve better than that on their new “speech teacher’s” first day.  (It’s in quotes because I’m a speech-language pathologist, but no kid has ever referred to me as speech-language pathologist.  Hell, these days, if kids aren’t referring to me as that old lady white bitch, I’m calling it a success.)  Anyway, it’s unlike me to feel unprepared, and for the first time in five years, I admit to feeling a bit anxious about a new assignment.  It’s probably because I’ve not buttoned up my previous assignment.  See previous paragraph.

I told a colleague Friday that “being me is exercise.”  She laughed, because I’m usually rife with hyperbole, but the truth is that my workweek last week and all the stuff I have to do causes my heart to race.  My Fitbit read about 100 beats per minute just sitting at my desk, organizing, scheduling, calling, emailing, writing.  My resting heart beat when I’m not insane is about 60.  Our district is pushing a mindfulness agenda, and while I’m all for self-care and trying to focus on success and forward-thinking-ness, my workload at present gives not one tenth of one percent of a shit that I’m harried.  Mindfulness, you can suck it this week, thank you very much.  Check back with me around Valentine’s Day, m’kay?

I think I shall choose to look upon this work-induced “Welcome to MD” memory lapse as a gift.  The gift of forgetting, or at least not springing from my bed sheets laser-focused on the big anniversary, is something I should be pleased about, right?  Two of my friends and another family acquaintance lost one of their parents this week.  I feel like a schmuck for having missed one funerary visitation, but I was teaching a class scheduled months ago and I just couldn’t bow out. Within the last two hours, my younger son and I returned from a second visitation; I’m so relieved not to be planning the funeral of one of my own parents.

I just completed my reading of Evicted by Matthew Desmond, and I should be jubilant that I have stable housing in a reasonably low-crime neighborhood.  Evicted shall stand as a post on its own to be explored soon–it’s a horrifying ethnography of poverty and housing inequities in Milwaukee.  I am jubilant that we can provide a roof over our children’s heads, and that I can let them play outside and walk to school without constant supervision.  Or abject fear.


There are wiser ways to be spending a dreary, dank Sunday than forcing myself to feel something specific because it happens to be 1,096 days since I crumbled for the first time.  HE is marking the occasion, as always (I think anyway), blissfully unaware.  I’m gonna follow his lead.  I’m going to lay my head down on this pillow Nikki sent me yesterday and read.  Gonna read something light and airy–you know, murder, mayhem, lawyers, and detective-y types–no more nonfiction for me for awhile.  My personal nonfiction is enough, you guys.  I’m always transported while reading, and whether I’m transported to the nineteenth century, World War II-era Europe, western Pennsylvania, or Stockholm, Sweden, I’m going to distract myself, because yeah, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s all I can think about.

The traditional gift for the three year anniversary is leather; the modern gift version is crystal.  Since it’s not the 80s, I don’t own much in the way of leather accoutrements, but I do have beautiful pair of crystal wineglasses.  Now the only real anniversary question is this:  red or white?



New Year’s resolutions are for sucks. I’m seeking though not finding resolve these days. I want to feel in control of my life, but my personal and professional agendas have been hijacked. These are not atypical occurrences for a woman who is a mother and whose job is to support others in their work. I would like to feel like the one behind the wheel of my life’s schedules is all. I’m not. I could go on and on (and on) about how poorly I’m eating, how weakly I’m planning therapy, how last-minute my presentation planning has been since 2018 began, but blah blah blah. Who cares?

Busy extinguishing others’ fires, I’ve not felt inspired to write lately. I have been reading like it’s my calling since I got a Kindle for Christmas though, and living others’ lives through fiction has been a delight. Reading any well-crafted novel inspires me, leaves me wanting to do better here, to be better everywhere. I’ll get there.

I was on tap for another of our department’s monthly meeting closing thoughts Friday. This wasn’t my Oscar or Tony moment, but I felt OK getting up there Friday morning–I was having a good hair day, and say what you will about my vanity, a good hair day boosts one’s confidence. You know I’m right. My closing message is something in desperate need of being heard and heeded. And not exclusively for big city schools speech-language pathologists, although as a department we could reeeeally use a collective break.

Here’s my little speech:

Happy New Year!

Earlier this week, I was orienting two newly hired SLPs.  It occurred to me at some point that the orientations I do mid-year are quite different from those we do for the large group of SLPs who start fresh at the beginning of a school year.  As I was talking with our new staff members, I told them I thought it was difficult to start a schools-based job mid-year, and that any orientation I would do would be grossly insufficient to provide all they needed to know.  I say what I always say: get in there and see the kids.  The children will show you and they’ll tell you what they need.  You’ll figure the rest of the paperwork stuff out—getting to know kids and forging relationships with kids though, that’s our strength.

Starting a schools new job in the new year technically means starting in the middle.  And that got me to thinking about new years resolutions.  Do any of you make new years resolutions?  How many of you have kept them??

Personally I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I have found myself over the years making new school year resolutions.  You know. . . this is the year I organize my shelves—that pile of stuff you leave in June to “really go through” in September and never, ever do? Yeah, that.  Or maybe it’s the year I finally ditch the file folder games I made when I was 24, and haven’t used since probably I was 25.  Maybe it’s the year I swear not to swear in the work place or the year I promise myself I’m going to read all my ASHA journals cover to cover.   Whatever.  What these professional end-of-summer resolutions have in common with the new year’s resolutions people make is this:  Generally a lack of 100% success.

It’s hard to maintain an ideal.  And I don’t know about you, but once I dip one tiny toe over the line, I find myself belly flopping madly and spectacularly into the pool of promises I’ve blown.  Sure, we SLPs tend to be a perfectionist type lot, but it’s hard to be perfect.  Idealism is just that, an ideal.

So how about instead of drowning in that ocean of frustration at our perceived failures, we just keep going?  Or we just start over?  How about the resolutions we blow on Tuesday we try again Wednesday?  There’s nothing magical about January 1 or September 1 really.  Let’s resolve to keep trying.  That’s a resolution we can keep.

Watch this little girl.  Obviously the message has been fed to this super cute little minion messenger, but it is a good message, a message worth hearing. Whether your resolutions are for the new year or new school year or any old day of the week, don’t give up. Resolve to do more of what makes you happy in 2018!

Not a career highlight, no, but not a crashing disaster either. Here’s a little not-resolution for the new year–from me to you–just trust me and my tummy on this one: Resolve never to order chilaquiles unless you are dining in an authentic Mexican restaurant. You are welcome!