It’s my big kid’s golden birthday. He’s fourteen on the 14th.  He hung on to life on the inside nine days longer than expected, that giant baby did. I was a house, no, I was an estate by the time he decided to make his way. He was worth every second of that extra nine days’ wait. Happy birthday, my son.

You’ve had quite a run here these last few weeks. In no other place I know, eighth grade students face the immense pressure of getting into a “good” high school.  You vie for “golden tickets” for open houses at the “good” schools, complete online applications, audition, request letters of recommendation, draft essays, and wait in a block-long line to get a space for the formal test.  I don’t recall having done this much groundwork for university matriculation, and I got a really sweet scholarship. The pressures you and your classmates face should be found only in a dystopian work of fiction.  Growing up anywhere else in the world, you’d go to the school nearest your home in the city you live.

You admitted nerves, but you conquered them with persistence. You felt unprepared, but you proved that showing up is half the battle.  I’m proud of you.

Now you wait.  Letters of acceptance arrive in December, and our family’s future hinges on what you read in that mailing.  (Friends, if you’re reading this thinking I’m chock full o’ my usual hyperbole, know that in this case I speak the level truth.) Number 1 and Number 2 choices are solid–I know you’ve got the heart of Husky, but you could be a General too, and that would be OK.   But you were under-impressed by the Owls, and choices four and five simply aren’t choices.  One and two mean we stay; any other return means we go.  We move to another city.  That’s OK.  We’re prepared to do whatever we need to do for you and your brother.

There are days I don’t know what I want to see revealed in that acceptance letter (OK, I WANT choice #1).  I’ve never in my adult live envisioned living outside the city, but would the ‘burbs really be so bad?  Not bad, but not me.  Not us.  Maybe they’ll fit perfectly.  Maybe not.

Wait, this is about you, YOU my boy.  It’s your birthday.  I’ve wondered what to get you, what kind of material gift to give you.  You give away very little, but you let me in on a little secret Monday, and I feel though it’s your birthday,  I received a little becoming-a-mom-day gift from you, and you don’t even know it.

I nag on ya for spending all this time staring at your phone, earbuds ever-present to the point of appearing surgically implanted.  You’re a YouTube zombie–you don’t even hear me when I yell at the top of my lungs for you (and I’m no delicate little flower), and no matter how many times I crab at ya for blasting your music too loud, you don’t seem to heed the lesson.  Neither did I.  Which explains a lot about why my hearing thresholds are what they are today, and though I wish to serve as your cautionary tale, I’ve come to realize that you do have a little bit of your mom’s heart beating inside your own.

Eighth grade me was not skinny or popular or beautiful.  It shouldn’t matter when you’re fourteen, but it does.  I was not confident.  Or cool.  I was hiding inside my room in the dark, trying to figure out just what the hell I was. I was first chair in band.  I was the middle school salutatorian.  I was reliable and dependable. I was the fastest girl sprinter in my middle school. I was everybody’s friend, which was freaking awesome. I got to do a lot, I guess, but I didn’t believe any of that at the time.  I felt never good enough.  I mistrusted every accomplishment as dumb luck, and deflected any positive comment cast my way.

Middle school is a labyrinth of all the unkindest cuts, and I bled.  Wound care was administered in my headphones.  Music was my solace.  LOUD music, the bass thumping so loud that the headphones quite literally bounced off my head.  So loud you could sing along from downstairs.  Lying on my bedroom floor, wrecking the shit out of my hearing despite your grandparents’ strongest protestations, I found me.

And I think maybe you have found yourself.  You’re finding yourself anyway.

I learned this week that all your time isn’t in fact spent watching banal, inane YouTubers riffing video games or opening Pokemon cards.  You’re listening.  You’re picking songs I loved when I was your age when the ancient version of your earbuds (my headphones) were eternally attached around my head.  You love the band Rush.  You hear Subdivisions and interpret the music video for me.  You sing all the right words, just like I do.  You pull meaning from those song lyrics, and maybe the view is a little middle schoolish, but that’s OK because you’re a middle schooler–you’re not supposed to feel like you’re applying for college this year–you’re fourteen.  You get why the guitar solo in Limelight rocks so hard.  You mention that Geddy Lee’s bass inspires you, and until this week, I’d never heard you utter the word inspire.

You used to write, can you recall?  You created notebooks upon notebooks of beginnings.  Your author’s dreams were grandiose, you had designs on writing the next great American (elementary school) novel.  You began hundreds of tales, characters based not-so-loosely on yourself and your friends, and other literary characters you enjoyed.  You haven’t created a great body of work in a while, but now you want to create music.  You wanna make some noise, learn bass lines and play along with your new really old favorite songs.  Guess what you’re getting for your birthday, kid?  Four strings.  Rock. And also roll.

“Dude, we gotta start a band!”

Your birthday fills me with longing–your sweet baby cheeks, your feather light tufts of blonde hair, the corners of your blue eyes, now green, turned up when you smiled. Things were quite simple then–little kids, little problems. . .   Your MD, my “management” of your diagnosis that is, is what made me carve out this outlet, my little creative writing .com of the internet.  However desperately I wish I hadn’t felt that pull to write, I am thankful for this outlet.  What a weird thing to say thank you for.  Thank you, my boy.  Happy Golden Birthday.   Get on that bass and rock, kid. 


Wife And Mom

I want my own wife and/or mom.

Let me clarify. I am happily married, quite happily, so I am not actually shopping around for a different or additional spouse.  For me, one is not the loneliest number as it relates to the number of individuals to whom a person can be wed; it’s perfect for monogamists.  I already have a mom, but she lives four hours away, and in retirement has much better shit to do than babysit her half-century old daughter.  No.  What I really want is someone to manage my life–the calendar and remembering shit parts–the way I must, as the default setting, the wife and mom, for my family’s goings-on.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!

I threw a complete fit last night when, upon arriving at #2’s football practice, he realized he’d left his practice jersey at home.  Through some miracle, he did manage to find and attach all seven pads in his practice pants.  I say miracle, because it’s happened that he has been temporarily unable to locate all seven, and forced to attend practice sans full equipment.  Football is NOT the game you want your kid to tough it out through.  Anyway, we arrive last night only to realize he’s missing his blue mesh jersey.  Naturally I have to go home to retrieve it.  Now we live minutes from the practice field, but the idea of having to remedy his forgetfulness made me flip my pony-tailed lid.

Slamming the car door (super mature), I immediately ring up my husband to ask if he sees the jersey laying around the kitchen  bitch about the grave injustices done to mothers, THIS mother in particular, but all women, because why not? I was on a tear.  “Why do I always have to be the one to fix everything?” I whined, and dropped an f-bomb for probably every tenth of a mile between practice and home.  When I pull up to our abode, I’m full-on toddler:  “Why am I the only one who knows anything about anything that goes on in this family?  Why can’t anyone else find their way to the calendar?  Or find anything?? Why can’t this child remember his uniform? He practices three days a week!  Jaysus.  Why can’t he pick up his shit and put it away??  Why does no one from the team know what time the game is on Saturday? Why do I have to take #1 to the high school placement test Thursday?  Why do you not even know #1 has his placement test Thursday??  whywhywhywhywhywhy. . .

“Just once!” I continued railing from the curb, “I would love for someone to say, ‘Hey, Wendy, did you remember to grab your lunch?’ or ‘Hey, Mom, don’t forget to pack your exercise gear for physical therapy’ or “Don’t forget to call Donna to get your lunch date on the calendar.’  But THAT will never happen.  Never.  No one would get anywhere and no bill would ever get paid, NOT ONE, if I didn’t take care of all this shit.”

I’m pretty sure the neighbors were all backing up real slow like, like you would, if well, if you were witness to this.  Pretty sure my tirade was entertaining for some.  A total confirmation for others.  And I’d like to think if there was one other mom among the throng (there was no throng), she’d have been all, “YEAH! You get ’em girl, moms unite!!!'” Because moms know exactly what I’m ranting about, don’t you, moms?

I returned to the practice field with a smile on my face and my idiot dog on his leash. “You’re lucky I love ya so much, punk” I whispered into that sweet boy’s face mask, tossing his jersey at him.

I never react properly. I’ve mentioned that time and again here, and if past behavior is any indicator of future performance, I am so screwed. I’m gonna try to limit my verbal tantrums (well, the ones in the front yard anyway). I mean, it’s not gonna help (past behavior being an indicator of future performance and all. . . My roommates ain’t a’ gonna get any better at making appointments, finding stuff. . . ).

I needed the outlet was all. I was, still am, upset over the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Now there is a litany of legitimate whywhywhywhywhywhywhy none of us can begin to touch.  I was, in my inappropriate way, mourning Tom Petty’s passing.  Not an excuse for my rant, but kindling for the spark, as they say.

There’s enough ugly in the world right now. I want to be on the side of right, the side where if I left this world for Tom Petty’s great wide open tomorrow, that same imaginary throng of people would say that while I lived I was good. That I did good.  I’d want my kid to remember that I went home to get the jersey for him, so that he wouldn’t feel like an underequipped yutz out there.  I’d want my kid to remember that while we drove to his high school entrance exam (no pressure kid, but if you don’t get into your top two choices, we’re probably moving), instead of saying that which I obviously will not say, I let him choose songs and ever-so-calmly reassured him, “Do your best kid.  You’re one of the brightest kids I know, and I’ll never ask anything more than your best effort.”  I’d want my husband to remember that he told me he doesn’t at all believe I need anti-anxiety meds, that I am hilarious and he wouldn’t want to change one single thing about me.

PS–Just for fun, we agreed that my husband would remind me on my way out this morning to bring along my gym bag of clothes for physical therapy.  He said he would.  When I got home after PT, he grinned at me, maybe a little sheepishly, and said, “I didn’t remind you to bring your stuff this morning, did I?”  No, no, you didn’t.

But I made it there anyway.  Of course I did–I’m the mom.

Instrument of Torture

What do you see here?  

Most of you see a manual can opener. That is what I saw until an hour or so ago, nothing but my crusty old, hand-crank can opener. 

For my son, this isn’t a can opener–it’s an instrument of frustration. I had my kid help with dinner after piano lessons tonight. Ace parent that I am, I responded with “tough shit” when my kid whined about having to empty the dishwasher ALL BY HIMSELF. And then, just to rub kosher salt–you know, the really granular, sharp salt shards–I made him open a can of baked beans.  Not because I enjoy torturing my child, but I wasn’t asking the kid to scrub the toilet with his own toothbrush or *gasp!* not watch YouTube or anything. He leads a life of relative leisure.  Dishes aren’t Everest, you guys. 

Now before you crucify my side dish selections, know that the big one just returned from piano and the little one won’t be home from football practice until 8:15. We’re playing dinner real fast and loose these days, so adding a can of chemically-enhanced legumes to the brats completes what is known as a balanced meal, y’all. Just because I used the S-word earlier doesn’t mean I’m a total parent failure. 

The point of this entire story is that every so often I, the mother of one very tall teenager, catch a glimpse into that tall teenager’s future. Except that future is now. Right now. Today. He doesn’t have the grip strength to manipulate a can opener. He achieved a modicum of success, but opening 2/3 of a can, and not a contiguous 2/3 of the can’s circumference, isn’t really success now, is it?

Some days his struggles are more clear than others.  Damn, I hate MD. 

Every Song I’ve Ever Known Carried In My Bones

On my birthday last year, I ferried a dying bunny to our Humane Society. My husband had tried to save it from its circle-of-life destiny, but got called in to work second shift, so rescue transportation defaulted to me. The bunny breathed its last breath one stop light before the animal rescue’s office. Fun life lesson for the kids right there, and a happy birthday to me, Honey!  Way late in rush hour traffic, we tore up to the kids’ piano lessons, followed that up with a lukewarm, crappy dinner at a restaurant whose best offering that evening was the roving table magician (kill me now). I vowed that would be my last worst birthday.

A couple advance tracks were released last week ahead of BNL’s new album Fake Nudes.  My first listen to Lookin’ Up had me declaring “I’ma see the donut, you can see the hole” the best optimistic lyric ever thrown down.  As I came to know the song, the line “Every song I’ve ever known carried in my bones” hit closer.  That had to have been written for me, I swear. (It wasn’t.)  I never don’t have a song in my head, and I never forget a note of any song I’ve known.
When I know I’ll need a little Wonder Woman for my workday, I make sure to sport my Did I Say That Out Loud? cuff bracelet. DISTOL is my favorite favorite. You already knew that. Embossed on the inside of the bracelet is an extra-special just-for-me message. When I need to feel happy or strong or to be reminded “I got this!” the bracelet reminds me to think I’m invincible (I’m not.) For 2017’s anniversary of being born, I got two new extra-special on the inside just-for-me bracelets from that same incredibly insightful friend.  Music makes things make sense to me. Sometimes I literally wear that on my sleeve.

I don’t forget that I’ve traveled a million miles to land exactly where I am meant to be today (no, not Toronto, silly). Here. Though the path hasn’t been smooth or straight, I’ve meandered at my own pace–the only pace I could possibly have kept–sprinting, sauntering, stuck in an abyss so deep daylight barely penetrated, then soaring among the stars, just depends on the day. I’ve been thinking–which are the songs I’ve carried in my bones? (Dang, I wish I’d written that line first.)  I began a list, not in rank order or anything, just a collection.

No, the fifty songs mapping out my life aren’t all BNL songs. I totally could’ve done that list too, but BNL’s only been with me like 60% of my life, not all my life. Let us not forget the big hair days!

Ed Card

Really, I’ll create any excuse to repost this photo.

I’ve reached a very round, very ending-in-0 age. *sigh*  I’ve been stupid about this stupid number this stupid birthday, but revisiting my days through their very long soundtrack has cast a warm halo of light against my birthday pallor. Some say I don’t look 50 (I love these particular individuals the bestest), but I do feel it.  I’ve adamantly rejected any and all birthday recognition–no party, no family gathering, no dinner.  #2 has football practice til 8 PM anyway, a very handy excuse to blow off September 21, 2017.

Lookin’ Up isn’t officially on the list of songs that changed my life, represented an era, or marked some cornerstone event, but it seeks to refute the belief that dystopia is the only home we have in 2017.  Optimism is not a bad way to rock in a birthday, especially when you’re feeling beat down by the number.  Here’s a song for every candle on my cake–there had better be cake tonight!  And maybe a pair of pink Chuck Taylors.  Wendy’s five decade bday soundtrack beats the hell out of dead wildlife boxed up in the front seat, you guys.

Did I Say That Out Loud? Duh.

When I Fall, I’ve only heard this live once in the 50 or so shows I’ve seen, and they don’t seem to hear all my requests, so I’ll keep asking.  Although to be fair, they did play MY song for me at my last show because I played the “it’s my birthday” age card when I asked.  High five, Kevin Hearn.  You are the best!

Maybe Katie, My second favorite all time song.  This album was released when #1 was exactly one week old.  He had no choice but to be a fan.  I listened to this and classical music exclusively throughout my maternity leave.  The “Do you know everyone you ever swore you’d love for life?” makes me stupid.  The good kind of stupid.

Satellite, Written by, though not recorded by my fave singer, I did catch this live once back I think in the early 2000s.  You guys should RECORD THIS SONG!!!

Toe To Toe, In it for the long haul.

The Love We’re In, Kinda makes my stomach hurt.  In a good way.

Moonstone, Please play this at my funeral.

Odds Are, I listened to this song consecutively for as long as it took me to drive to the neurology clinic the morning that my boy was diagnosed with MD.  Though he sings, “The odds are that we will probably be all right,” he was dreadfully wrong about it for my boy.  This song is both a joy and a dirge.  I didn’t listen to it for a real long time after that morning.

A Word For That, I took this YouTube video, annotated it with the lyrics, and use it my new SLP trainings.  The whole district knows my freak flag for Barenaked Ladies flies high.  Frenulum? Filtrum? Uvula?  Speech pathologists, unite.

Blame It On Me, The song I always have cued up to play first when I get in my car on my birthday.  Yes, I actually do that.  No, I don’t think I can offer a logical explanation.

September, by Earth, Wind & Fire.  Do you remember, the twenty-first night of September?  Um, yeah I do.  The first one, probably not as well as my mother does, but this is about songs important to me.

They Don’t Know, the Tracey Ullman version.  I cannot perform this loudly enough.  I avoided quotes around perform in a show of remarkable restraint.

People Get Ready, the Jeff Beck version sung by Rod Stewart.

Take Us Home, Walking through our park with earbuds in, I remember where I was standing when I connected the lyrics, then bolted home to tell my husband about the new song I loved. He cared less than I did (quelle surprise!), but played along anyway.  I wish it had been written when we got married.

You Give Love A Bad Name, Bon Jovi.  Changed my life.  And my hair.  (See above)

In These Arms, Bon Jovi.  My bracelets make a brief appearance in this video.  It felt like magic to stick around after the concert to be part of the video shoot.

Silent Lucidity, Queensryche.  Just trust me.

I4U, Warp Drive.  A MKE band with hair more majestic than even mine, this song just. . .  Ahhhh, to be 21 again knowing what I know now.

What They Mean, Donovan Woods.  Cried the first time I heard it with my baby standing right there beside me.

Cheat On Me, by Bad Boy. Another homegrown band with a measure of national attention, Bad Boy’s heyday was just before my coming of age and reaching the legal drinking age.  I begged an old boyfriend to make his band play this song when they played out, and good guy that he was, they did. It was probably my #1 for twenty years.

Madalaine, by Winger. My first real boyfriend gave me this album during the summer of 1988. Shortly thereafter he cheated on me up at college, and I played this whole album over and over to mend my broken heart.  I was 20. What the hell did I know?

Take Off, Bob & Doug McKenzie and Geddy Lee.  How am I not Canadian?  I shit you not when I tell you that my parents Visqueened off our kitchen and we played Beer Hunter when I was in middle school.  I’m not saying they displayed great judgment or anything, but we didn’t actually drink the beer, just get soaked by it.  It’s probably not a song anyone on earth would feel a real sentimental attachment to, but SCTV played big during my middle school years.  That my cousin, THE Uncle Paulie, was part of it brings me great joy.

Don’t Let Him Go, REO Speedwagon. Eighth grade. A great album opener. My grandma purchased this LP for me for my middle school graduation. I would’ve loved seeing upright Esther rolling into Mainstream Records to ask after Hi Infidelity.  Hee hee!

Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen.  Queen!

Real Love, Mary J. Blige. I had a guest stint teaching aerobics and chose this song for sit ups and butt lifts. I taught aerobics!  Hysterical.

Hold The Line, Toto.  Just love. 

Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, ELO  Middle school swoon, round and round.

Always With Me, Always With You, Joe Satriani.  Guitar viruoso lead with an unexpected time signature.

Jessie’s Girl, Rick Springfield. A good song is a good song.

I’ve Done Everything For You, by Rick Springfield.  The song for a woman in the middle of divorce.

I Wanna Be Loved, by House of Lords.  You’ve never heard this song.  It’s OK, I have.

Heaven Tonight, Yngwie Malmsteen. Shut up. Sure, he shreds the fretboard with probably 24,853 too many notes, but the vocals? Joe Lynn Turner can sing, yo. The lower register of his voice lives in that range that makes me loopy.

How Much Love, Vixen.  I had the hair, but not the pipes.  I love this song.  Still.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, John Denver & The Muppets.  Sweetest. Version. Ever.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Barenaked Ladies and Sarah Maclaughlan. I hate her voice, but it so works in this performance. The first December I was introduced to this song, there’s me driving, belting it out and wishing to the stars and back that I could harmonize with Barenaked Ladies like she does here. Except she screws up the ending.  Geeeeez.

Claire de Lune, Claude Debussy. Perhaps the most beautiful melody of all time. It reminds me of my big kid’s newborn days. So beautiful it almost hurts, almost ethereal.

The Waltz Finale and Apotheosis from The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky. I cry each time the ballet nears its end. Tchaikovsky’s (has to be drug-induced) ballet finale soars, cymbals crash and the dancers’ costumes, the children, the snow falling from above the stage paints a picture that overwhelms the senses.  I’m listening to it right now.  I don’t care it’s not Christmas; it’s my birthday, I can be out of season if I like.

Christine Sixteen, Kiss. Fifth grade me obviously had no idea what this song was really about. But it prompted my first album purchase, Kiss’ Love Gun. And nope, had no idea what that was really about either!  I was eleven, you guys. When I think about my parents listening from the other room, I’m embarrassed retrospectively!  For us all!

Man! I Feel Like A Woman, Shania Twain.  I may have been guilty of the girl crush I was accused of having on Shania back in the late 90s.  She was so beautiful and perfect and wrote some really fun songs.  This is probably one of the only country(ish) albums I own.

Jellyroll, Blue Murder.  For a while I thought it was two different songs.  Just captures a time is all.  My best friend and her mom’s light blue Cadillac convertible whose length just about covered a city block!

Where The Streets Have No Name, U2.  I’m not an insane U2 fan, but its live performance will rattle your bones.

Popular, from Wicked, performed by Kristin Chenoweth.  Sang this nonstop when the kids were small and Wicked was ubiquitous.  Didn’t your preschoolers sing showtunes with you?

Tonight It’s You, Cheap Trick. Damn, I love this song.  Do you watch The Walking Dead?  Do you know how Negan would intone with his insane swagger “Damn?”  That’s how you read “Damn, I love this song” here.

The Spirit of Radio, Rush.  First hard rock song I obsessed over.  I actually stole a little bubble gum record album of Permanent Waves from Target because it had the lyrics printed in it.  Yes, Rush moved me to petty theft.  Thanks a lot, Geddy, Alex, and Neil.

Limelight, Rush.  Not enough exclamation marks to punctuate how this song lives inside me.

Subdivisions, Rush.  Holy effing high school.

Never Surrender, Triumph.  A high school friend of mine and I used to hang out so we could listen to this tape.  We were like sophomore year philosophers talking about how Triumph always had a positive message in their songs.  We were such dorks.  Dorks who were correct, but. . .

Borderline, Bon Jovi.  When I understood that you could purchase import records with unreleased in the US tracks?  My ears are probably still bleeding.

Car Wash, Rose Royce. It was the first not-a-kid song that my big kid owned for himself. I have the fondest, sweetest memories of him strapped into his booster seat, clapping the opening beat as we tooled around between day care and tot lots and errands during our minivan years.

Hey, Soul Sister, by Train. This was my little guy’s first favorite not-a-kid song.

And some things DO get old. Me , for example. Found his flipping through my Happy Notes note pad. Happy birthday to me.


A Very Long Needle Inserted A Very Long Time

Six weeks of impatience, little sleep, and no small amount of pain have passed.  Ninety eternal minutes in the orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room prior to being seen culminated in an eight minute appointment and a road, only somewhat twisted, to recovery.

Confident upon arrival after having sat on the sidelines for almost two months, my bravado faded proportionate to my time elapsing in the waiting room.  Injuries associated with age and overuse can suck it.  I was one of the younger patients waiting, and people, let me tell you, getting old, like elderly old?  It is slow.  And loud,  And confusing.  I hate myself for seeking comfort through humor, but I felt anxious, so I began texting my friends (you wish they were your friends too)  a waiting room narrative.  I’ll share but a few highlights here.  Let’s just say that being a smart ass and falling out with nervous, inappropriate laughter seems to be the way I’m going to ride off into the sunset. Or hell if such a place exists.    

I just ached for the elderly woman so confused and upset over the foamy hand sanitizer. And the man who so loudly commandeered the rest room? Not funny at all now, really. Age and pain can strip one of one’s dignity right quick.  It’s rare that I’m the young’un anywhere anymore, and pain makes you do stupid things.  Me?  I laugh.  We’re hilarious, just ask us.  We are. 

The surgeon entered my examination room, and opened with, “I can’t tell you how much money is saved by my having a busy schedule.  You’re healing already, and I didn’t have to order an MRI to assist in the diagnosis.”  I was feeling more like, “Hi, I’m Wendy, pleasure to meet you, and my shoulder fucking hurts, man” but a surgeon’s instinct is to cut, literally and figuratively it seems, so there was no time for chit chat.  He cranked my shoulder around, I cried just a little because pain, and within minutes of making our acquaintance, he injected cortisone into my rotator cuff, and sent me off with a prescription for physical therapy.  Voila!  Au revoir!

I’d heard others sing of their miracle cortisone injections, so I too thought I’d be healed instantly as if Christ himself had laid hands.  Somehow even after almost five whole decades, I remain a total rube.  The needle covered the length of my pinky finger, but I’m tough, and the ninety minutes in the waiting room sapped me of any resolve I strode in with.  Just bring it on.  Immediately prior to and during its insertion was the time period in which Dr. Cortisone revealed his bedside manner, cracked wise a bit, and confirmed for me that I am in fact, pretty tough.  Injecting the drug, the actual push of the needle, felt minutes long instead of the probably forty seconds it was in real time, but a few days out, I do have increased range of motion.  I’m not back to normal (save your “normal” joke, thank you very much), but the trajectory is arcing up.

A new single titled Lookin’ Up was released this week, and I can’t help but feel buoyed by the Barenaked Ladies’ timing.  I am lookin’ up.  Even though I’m lookin’ down the barrel of a very large, very round birthday, there’s something positive on the horizon.  For example, now that I can attach my bra and apply deodorant without that familiar wince and accompanying tears, I could probably try to scrub the kitchen floor.   Oh yeah, that’s lookin’ up right there, y’all.


Section 504

In my children’s school district, the school psychologists coordinate efforts for students with disabilities who qualify for accommodations under Section 504.  For the uninitiated, Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  It’s a separate entity from special education (about which I can cite chapter and verse), so I’m a little outside my wheelhouse.  Plus, dammit!, it’s my kid.  Section 504 prohibits discrimination based upon disability.   It’s an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.  Ha!

When your kid has a physical disability, no accommodation on earth can play as a leveler.  Ostensibly, 504 plans allow for equity.  As an example, it would be “unfair” for my son to be graded similarly to his able-bodied peers in physical education.  It might be unfair to hold him to the same time constraint for passing between classes if he cannot motor across campus in the three minutes or so allowed for everyone.

I experienced a particularly challenging evening with my number one son last night after his first day of school.  Much of the evening was spent crying in my car (me) while he railed back in frustration.  I was on guard at #2’s rainy/stormy football practice while on the phone trying to talk #1 through something I believe he should have been able to cite chapter and verse.  I would have loved to have been home with #1 to assist, but I worried the storm might force practice to close up early–the last thing I would’ve wanted was to leave my kid, covered in heavy equipment, some of it metal, out in a thunderstorm.  But in so doing, I failed #1 in a big way.  Sometimes a child’s disability cuts through the dark delight of his mother’s ignorance more like a laser than others.  Last night I was sliced to ribbons.

So this is how I spent my afternoon, in response to my son’s school’s school psychologist, who’d emailed me about beginning his Section 504 referral.  It’s time.  I’ve managed to delay this reality for more than two years.  But it’s time.  She needed some background information about his diagnosis and functional effects.  Laying it down in print startled me a bit.  I felt a small measure of clinical detachment as I answered her questions, so why were my eyes tearing up?

We were told on January 21, 2015 that he has some type of muscular dystrophy.  At this time, his official diagnosis is “myopathy” which is a general term for muscle disease.  He also has chorea, which is a neurological disorder characterized by twitching, jerky, involuntary movements; in him they’re particularly notable in his hands.  He has undergone some genetic testing which ruled out the 25 most commonly occurring types of Limb-Girdle MD, which is the subgroup he’s most highly suspected of having, but without a full genetic panel, he hasn’t been assigned a particular subtype yet.  It may be that he is one of seven or eight people in the world with another of the incredibly rare subtypes.  He underwent a brain MRI in July, and that did not return a specific diagnosis.  The MRI was done because the neurologist he sees felt he may be having some problems with his brain actually firing the muscles at the cortical level.  MD is a progressive, neurological disorder meaning every day is the best day he has left; there is no cure and he is very likely to progress into requiring a wheelchair for ambulation.  The estimate is 10-20 years between diagnosis and wheelchair.  He’s 2.5 years in.

The functional results of the MD for him are weakness, discoordination, and fatigue, affecting his legs and arms predominantly.  The chorea renders his hands unstable and weak.  He experiences difficulty with ADLs (activities of daily living) across the board.  Walking is tiring for him; he often just needs to sit down and rest.  He’s extremely clumsy and has very poor proprioception—he doesn’t know where he is in space, so walks into things and people; he misjudges steps and the pressure his body needs to change positions.  Regarding fine motor, he has weak grip strength, so opening bottles or using a knife or pizza cutter for example are hard, carrying a plate of food can turn south quickly.  He drops things easily and often.  He needs more time to maneuver the lock on his locker or grab books or other materials and when there is a time constraint, he becomes anxious and his hands tend to work even less well.  He has a splint for his left (the weaker) hand which he is to wear at night to prevent muscle contracture.

He’s followed at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Neurology on at least an every 6 month basis, and he has periods of occupational and physical therapy depending on how he presents at clinic.

Is this a decent start?

It was sufficient, probably more than sufficient, she replied.  And again I kinda wanted to cry.  Acceptance comes in stages and waves for me, but the fact remains:  I fucking hate that my son has MD.  The previous evening’s homework/problem solving fiasco reminded me that nothing comes easily for my kid.  Can’t there be just one thing that’s a cinch?  Just one??


My kid’s already pissed at me from last night, when he tells me that he and his gym teacher had a little tete-a-tete about what he could do in gym right now.  Completely separate from MD, my son’s collarbone is still healing from its July break, and he’s been restricted from gym class at least until September 28.  I VERY CLEARLY communicated that to his principal, homeroom teacher, and gym teacher, yet for some reason the gym teacher felt a little chat with my kid felt about what he felt comfortable doing in gym today was enough to green light it.  I am so far beyond pissed right now, I’m seeing stars.  I KNOW he’s in eighth grade and they’re supposed to be more independent.  I KNOW that his immobilizer has been removed, so he looks fine.  But the thirteen year old DOES NOT DECIDE what he thinks he can do in gym when under express orders to the contrary.

On his best day, physical education is a crapshoot.  This is a child who walks into walls on a fairly routine basis, a kid who trips because he can’t quite feel where his body is.  Having smashed his clavicle sure as hell did not improve that condition.  The 504 plan saddens me; it reminds me that something in my genetic code resulted in my kid’s being born with MD, and I never don’t feel responsible for this shit diagnosis.  I did this to him.  But in a quirk of timing, starting this 504 today reminds me that I have to do what is best for my kid, because no one else is his mother.  Even if he is in eighth grade.  Even if he is a 6’1″ thirteen-year-old.

Even if he is so far beyond pissed at me, he’s seeing stars.

I Live In A Van Down By The River

Just call me Matt Foley.  If you have no idea who he is or why it’s funny, come out from underneath that rock and check it out.  Click here to view a Saturday Night Live masterpiece. You surely will not regret it.  

And then check these.  These are my boys, then ages 3 and 5, turning up their very best preschool impressions of the hilarious Chris Farley character.  And yeah, we let them watch the skit when they were tiny.  Because we were terrible parents.  Or maybe awesome parents–depends who you ask, I suppose.

Matt Foley is the world’s least successful motivational speaker.  Well, maybe second least successful.  Probably I win (lose?) that designation.

At the close of our speech-language department’s monthly meetings, I or another of my colleagues end the meeting with what we call Closing Thoughts.  These presentations, not truly “motivational speeches,”  but a short 1-5 minutes in duration, are meant to impart a message of positivity.  Sometimes the messages are hopeful or gushy, some contain sentiments of gratitude or mindfulness, but always the objective is a moment of contemplation about our place in the SLP world.

I’m up for next week Friday’s meeting.  It’s our opening meeting for the year, and this meeting above all others, is long with procedures and policy.  It’s where our speech paths learn what the new mandates are (there are MANY!), and how much more of their time will be co-opted by paperwork and administrative crap over what really matters: speech-language therapy.  No one ever leaves procedural meetings uplifted.  Beaten?  Overwhelmed? Inert?  You betcha!  But not quite enthusiastic.

Being the senior (not in age, but in experience, ahem) program support teacher, I volunteer often for the jobs no one else really wants to do.  I’m no martyr or anything; I just feel at some level responsible for the success of our entire department, and especially for the happiness and contentedness my four office mates, so if I can relieve someone of a stressor or inconvenience, I do try to do that.  I think I’ve developed a pretty good opening message for this year, but revealing it here would be anti-climactic.

Instead, I’ll leave you with how I opened last year, which actually borrowed heavily from a blog post I’d written here, but people seemed to like my talk, so the message bears repeating.  This back to school stuff is killing me.  The shoulder-induced lack of sleep is one thing when you’re just hanging with your children, but when reality forces you to wake long before dawn and be smart on command all day long. . .  #epicfail, y’all.


Familiar with the six word memoir?  The story goes that a magazine editor challenged Ernest Hemingway to write the shortest narrative possible.  He submitted “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”  Six words.  Six words that provided character and conflict, that told a complete story.  A simple Google search returns this version of the tale along with 1.24 million more hits confirming or denying its veracity.  Whatever the truth, SMITH magazine supports a website dedicated to the six word memoir and its role in creative writing and self-reflection.

Last summer, my big kid attended the College for Kids Young Writers’ Academy at UWM.  On the showcase day, audience members, mostly parents and other family members, were invited to participate in a challenge much like the students had been doing all week.  One of the instructors threw down the six word memoir challenge.  I absolutely froze with writer’s block.  Not everyone did, and from the room came a handful of charming mini-bios.  Among my favorites:

I found you; I found me.  (And the “awwwww” went up from the entire audience.)

I am not good at this.  The audience bust out laughing at this young lady’s clever spin.

Life sometimes strides; Life sometimes sucks.  This one also drew laughs from around the room, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at its author:  my son.

Around this same time, I’d just returned from one of my Barenaked Ladies concert road trips.  The refrain I hear often from those around me after I return from another show is, “Don’t you ever get sick of it?”  That, “don’t you ever get sick of it?” would NOT be MY memoir. If I continued to do something that bored me to tears, I wouldn’t continue to do that something.  It’s why I have the ever-changing career I do.  It’s why I do the creative writing project I do.  It’s why I’m a people person, because my brain isn’t wired to be a tasks person.

You want to ride horses or buy your own spray-tan machine?  Cool.  You are captivated by Lularoe leggings or have 34 pairs of Toms shoes?  Good on ya.  Enjoy them!  I won’t judge.  And therein lies the difference–I won’t judge you for spending money and time in ways that make you happy.  I might not get it for me, but I don’t have to.  If you get it for you, it should be enough.

Try as I might, my six word memoir remains unwritten. How does one capture one’s essential self or perception of self?  Including one attribute eliminates space for another. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I’m a speech-language pathologist.  I dabble in many roles, but star in none. But getting back to my son’s memoir: Why was he, all 5’10″ of twelve-and-a-half years of him, able to crank it out in the allotted time frame and belt it out in a roomful of people?  I wondered, does it accurately reflect how he views the world?  He nailed it–life does sometimes stride, and it most assuredly sucks at others.  It’s profound.  Alternately, it’s middle school shallow.  It is balanced though, right?  Much can be revealed in six words.  Maybe that’s why getting it right matters so.  Have you written your six word memoir?  I can’t do it in six, so here’s seven:


Image found at kikki.k Stationery

As you move forward this year, do more of what makes you happy here in your work as a speech-language pathologist.  If it’s creating cutesy, Pinterest crafty stuff in your therapy activities, do it.  If it’s mentoring students through an activity such as robotics or Girls on the Run, do it.  If it’s developing a laser focus on strategies for working with students with autism or phonology, do it.  If it’s taking a break at lunch time and walking around the block to get your steps in, do that.  Do it even if you get weird looks from your staff.  Do it even if it’s inconvenient or forces you to step out of your comfort zone a little.  Do it even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone but you.  I don’t have to get it for me, but if you get it for you and it makes you happy, that should be enough. You being happy will very likely make you a better, more effective clinician.   So though it’s one word too long for a six word memoir:  Do more of what makes you happy.


Apparently I’d Be A Good Funeral Director

Monday begins my twenty-seventh year as a speech-language pathologist.  I’m the rare freak in today’s world of work: I’ve had but one employer.  Early in my career, when I was even more broke than I am now, I provided speech therapy per diem under the employ of a handful of rehab agencies.  But for my “actual” job, my full-time gig, my paychecks have been funded by the same entity.  Twenty-seven years and not even a stinkin’ pin for my 25th anniversary.  A “thank you” would’ve been nice, sure, but whatevs, that’s probably not in the budget either.

Labor statistics startle me, and my observations in my own professional department leave me with the only conclusion to be made: Nobody sticks around anymore.  I wasn’t kidding when I labeled myself a freak.  I am.

Until recently, I’d given no consideration to engaging in any other kind of work.  The litany of skills I don’t possess is long, and my experience is narrow.  Plus, I’ve not felt a calling to shift careers.  I’m an excellent mentor for speech-language pathologists (see here if you don’t believe me), but my profession doesn’t support hired guns as mentors.  That gig is rather in-house supported in the various environs SLPs find themselves providing services.  I enjoy speech-language therapy, I do.  But what if I was actually meant to do and be something different?

I vowed to take a career inventory in 2017, and what better time to do that than the eve of back-to-school?  Today is my last alarm clock-free morning and my shoulder injury allows little sleep anyway, so let’s carpe this diem and discover what I might be better suited to do.  I created a fake persona, because really, what better way to enter the second half of my career years than under false pretense?  Nah, I did that just to avoid the spammy emails.  I was also (so far) unwilling to make any financial investment without proper vetting of these sites, so I’m not all-in trusting what I “learned” about myself in 100 online questions.  What I’ve received thus far isn’t a comprehensive list of jobs, but a collection of broad areas of strength, weakness, and attitudes about work.

Based on my response profile, judged to be valid and reliable, I’m supposed to be a writer.  Apparently I’m also well-suited to be a funeral director or involved in food service or the outdoors.  I am realistic, attentive, and investigative (not social?).  Any one of my co-workers can attest to my being realistic and attentive, and I suspect they want to beat me over the head for my workplace pragmatism and my vision of how we fit in our workplace “real world” (and when I say “fit in” I mean how at “our level” we must defer to every layer of higher administration, which kind of means “Shut up, Wendy.” And why am I so overusing the quotation marks and colons today???).  Investigative?  Not so sure about that one, although as an SLP, one often finds herself unraveling the mysteries of a child’s communicative weaknesses and creating a pathway toward competence.  I choose to believe I’m investigative after all.

I’m not a writer.  Nor am I involved in funerary responsibilities, food preparation, or the Parks Service.  Not yet anyway.

Monday I’ll drag my ass out of bed, carry my left arm and shoulder to the shower, and fire it up for my forty-sixth first day of school.  I am good at what I do, and the students and speech paths I support and mentor deserve nothing less.  I can’t help but wonder though, what if I could be good at or even better doing something different?  Those deep thoughts will likely percolate, then emerge here as I inch closer to my birthday–the round one, that really big one looming. . .  This is not a midlife crisis, you guys, unless I live to be one hundred.

But today?  Today we celebrate the end of my summer!  Once they finally drag their tween and teen butts out of bed, my middle schoolers and I are going to enjoy our day under the unseasonably cool, azure, perfect last day of summer vacation sky.


RIP, Jerry Lewis

As a child, I was completely annoyed when my Labor Day television viewing was co-opted by the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon.  Back in the olden days, kids, you had but four network options:  NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and maybe on a good day with aluminum foil coiled around your antenna just right, a fuzzy UHF independent signal floats in and out.  I was too old for Sesame Street by then, Hatha Yoga was just too bizarre, and I hadn’t developed the appreciation for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that comes with adulthood, so I was a total punk kid, crabbing that the stupid telethon was the only thing on.  *petulant huff*

“Jerry’s Kids” to me seemed weird and a little bit scary–in my world, there wasn’t a single person who looked like one of his kids, and I didn’t get why he adopted this passel of wheelchair-bound, misshapen children.  That alone speaks volumes about one, living in a small town, but even more two, the influence of media.

I didn’t particularly appreciate his brand of humor.  His early films, what cemented his fame, the humor in that escaped tween me–he just wasn’t of my generation.  Yet I tuned in year after year, squawking the whole time, but dying to pick up that phone and make a pledge. Who didn’t want to be part of that tote board??  My mother would have killed me for making a long-distance call (again kids, in the olden days, each telephone call out of our small town was billed by the minute), let alone promising someone money I didn’t have.  I never made the call, and eventually I came to realize that you could spend Labor Day planted somewhere other than in front of the television.  I probably hadn’t thought much about MD outside of the Labor Day weekend until January, 2015.  Since January 21, 2015, MD is never not a top-5-of-the-day thought.  Jerry’s telethon marched on, but with declining viewership.  Now kids had hundreds of television channels.  Now kids had the internet.  No kid these days has to feel forced to watch one of only four channels.

Because of the incredible commitment Jerry Lewis made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, his benevolence and the awareness he created, my kid gets to attend MDA summer camp.  My kid, and others like him, receive therapies and equipment, clinical trials and treatments because Jerry Lewis made the world aware that MD is a thing.

Thank you, Jerry Lewis.

The telethon is no longer airing annually–sign of the times–today the internet buzzes with fund-raising requests.  Now it is YOU who answer the call to click.  I didn’t make “the call” when I was a child, but I have helped raise nearly $10,000 for the MDA in the three years since my son was diagnosed.  YOU answered when I asked.  YOU stood beside me as I crumbled that first year especially, and YOU still prop me up when I can barely put one foot in front of the other at the Muscle Walk.  YOU read my ramblings here–you don’t do rainbows and unicorns, blindly assuring me everything’s gonna be OK, but you tell me you’ll stay with me through this wild ride.

Thank you, friends and family.

Jerry Lewis said this:

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

THIS is what you do when you are gifted with the social influence that often accompanies fame:  good. You do good.  Let’s go do some good today, shall we?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled solar eclipse.

At The Intersection of Ellen & Clark


The city of Niagara Falls, Ontario has either no clue whatsoever, or had the most serendipitous, visionary civil engineers naming their streets for weary families seeking their own good old fashioned family fun a la Clark and Ellen Griswold from the Vacation film franchise.

The Weir branch of the Griswold family tree’s road trip has reached its final destination: home sweet home. How I do love my family.  But I would consider dyeing my hair back to its natural color to be in a room all by myself for ten connected minutes.

We covered more than two thousand miles in nine days, traversing eight states and one Canadian province, sleeping in six different hotels with two still mostly happy kids, one still-solid marriage in our trusty ol’ Ford Edge.

The adventure was that–a true Griswoldian family adventure, but my retelling of it tastes a little like a flat Pepsi. Maybe I’m loopy from now three weeks of rotator cuff tear pained-induced sleep deprivation. I’m at a point I can’t recall how it feels to live agony-free. Juiced with ibuprofen though, I lived fully on this trip. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I took it all in–I remained patient with the kids always (they are GREAT kids 95% of the time), enjoying their enjoyment. I toasted with and sipped from the glass half-full, walked on the sunny side of the street and carpe-d the hell out of each diem.  Smiling through shoulder pain, sleeping too little, I was the model Ellen to Tom’s Clark.

Louisville, KY

The tour kicked off in a monsoon at the home of the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum.  Somewhere past Chicago and before Indianapolis, one boy expressed deep regret at maybe having left his bedroom fan oscillating when we left, while the other fretted over that possibility the entire time.  For a moment, I did consider turning around.  I did.  I’ve woken with my house on fire.  I didn’t especially enjoy that experience, so you can imagine I’d be in no hurry for a repeat.  No such (bad) luck after all; the fan had been turned off.

I made the boys promise they’d smile or minimally appease my requests for geeky tourist photos, and to my delight, they obliged.  Our story begins here with a four-story baseball bat, not quite smiling for the camera, but whaevs.  At least they looked in my direction.Nothing of note happened in Louisville, but the “city” in which our hotel was reserved felt like a scene straight out of Deliverance.  We stayed near Mammoth Cave National Park, and friends, near is not the same as in.  I begin with travel tip #1:  You get what you pay for, but it’s a hotly contested battle with travel tip #2 for that top position:  Location, location, location.

Mammoth Cave, KY

You should go there.  We scheduled the Historic Tour, two hours and two miles in duration.  The US Park System doesn’t mince words when its agents tell you it’s a strenuous trek that will make you lose your cookies if you suffer acrophobia or claustrophobia.  I experience neither, but will admit to feeling woozy and gelatinous looking down from high above. Number One Son led our family with me filing behind him, and I misted up three times I can remember, maybe a few more.  He worked like a beast of burden maneuvering through that cave system.  Yes, it’s all marked and lighted pathways, but crouching and squishing through Fat Man’s Misery and Tall Man’s Misery are required.  He managed this with muscular dystrophy–victory #1–AND wearing a splint for his still-broken collarbone.  I beamed with pride at his effort, but couldn’t help but wonder if he will ever be able to do something like this again.

Exiting the cave required a steep climb back to the visitor center, and though he was exhausted, he persevered up that hill.  Later, my husband told me he was struck at the contrast between #1 and #2 walking up that hill.  Our younger son is a rock; he was born with my curse–extremely contoured leg muscles–and is in excellent physical condition.  #1 has absolutely no muscle delineation.  It makes me sad when my husband has these moments of clarity re: MD.

Hi, I’m 12.  I posted a load of vacay photos on Facebook, but this is the shot that has gained the most attention.  I’m such an idiot–an idiot with a good sense of humor, sure, but still an idiot!

Cleveland, OH (Or That One Time I Lost My Son’s Passport)

Like music?  En route from Kentucky to Cleveland, my boys arm-farted Believer by Imagine Dragons in time and in tune.  My husband laughed himself to tears, and OK, so did I.  But do you really like music?  Have any interest in its history?  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame kicks ass, and you should go there.  Travel tip #3 reminds you not to let your freak flag fly while watching a movie about Journey and ELO’s Hall of Fame Induction.  ELO, you guys!!  Journey!!  These bands were the backbone of my middle and high school years.  To see the handwritten lyrics to Can’t Get It Out of My Head??  My head spun.

So we sat watching film, and as I do periodically (you may call it OCD, sure), I counted our passports.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three, holy shit!!!!!!  There’s supposed to be four.  Where is four??  I charged out of the little theater, dumped my purse out on the floor and promptly lost my shit.  Heart to beat out of my chest, sweaty, shaking, and wild-eyed to be sure, I bolted from there back to the parking structure and dialed the hotel we’d just left.  No, they didn’t have it.  Oooooohhhkay. . . breathe, Wendy.  I know that I had it yesterday because I count them periodically.  You may have heard I’m travel-OCD, and this little one, two, three, four confirms my status as a responsible parent.  I didn’t even care that I was a sweaty mess from my midday sprint or that the parking lot attendant threw me that “oh dear” glance before completely avoiding eye contact.  I recovered the missing passport, tented between the door and the door frame of the car.  No idea how it fell out or landed in such a fashion, but Canada, here we come!

My favorite part of the Hall wasn’t observing my personal faves though, but snapping a couple photos for my friend Jill who worships Mick Jagger, and finding a wall full of The Replacements memorabilia.  My husband positively glowed.

and also roll

Niagara Falls, ON

There’s something wrong with you if you’re not impressed with the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, or Bridal Veil falls, especially when they’re illuminated at dark.  They’re gorgeous natural miracles.  Mother Nature has a few cool tricks up her sleeve, so you lay down the cash to hop a boat into the mist.  Touristy?  You betcha!  Cool?  That too!  Then you stroll across an impossibly high bridge back to the US (one, two, three, four passports, check!), hike to the bottom of the American Falls and dive into its hurricane.  Again you position yourself behind your son because it’s 1000 billion percent WET and slippery, and wonder if he will ever again be able to negotiate that catwalk.  You’re moved to tears that he’s made it this far, and no one even knows you’re crying because everyone is a billion percent wet, so it’s all good, yo.

Also, Tim Hortons are on every block.  Ooh!  And also, because this never happens in the US, you catch a dude in an outdoor cafe with an acoustic guitar strumming and singing Barenaked Ladies’ Brian Wilson, so you stop and you tell your kids you love Canada, and they roll their eyes only like 70% of the way back.

Toronto, ON

Toronto, I love you. Love! You!  But there are so many of you, and you each drive your own damn car to and from the city. I didn’t want to leave, and Jaysus, you wouldn’t let me–three hours to get through traffic making our way to oh-so-happenin’ Sudbury.  But while we were in your heart, my own heart quickened. City Hall, other-worldly delicious braised beef poutine at Fran’s, La Tour CN, Ripley’s Aquarium, the railway museum, random needles in the alley (what? I’m sure they were diabetics. . .), the Toronto Zoo, of course a Blue Jays game, and an impromptu coffee date with Katie, Torontonian and one of my #Ladiesladies! I regretted dragging her out of bed early, but that regret lasted only for a moment. I was so happy to see her.

Sudbury, ON

Sudbury was but a way station between Toronto and Mackinac Island, and our hotel was, um, dated?  Only intermittently and randomly updated?  But let us harken back to travel tip #1, something about getting what you pay for. . .

We did bypass a town called Moonstone toward Sudbury, and if you’re not a Barenaked Ladies fan, you wouldn’t care. That’s OK.  I care, and enjoyed a satisfied little smile as I drove. I had no idea this town was just off Highway 400, so seeing Moonstone on the exit sign, and knowing what the song carrying its title is about gave me a moment of quiet maternal contentment.

St. Ignace/Mackinac Island, MI

Through the miracle of international cellular data plans, I learned that my friend Bek had planned to bring her girls to Mackinaw City for the weekend.  I did some quick math, and determined we’d be there at the same time!  What a sweet surprise to enjoy a brief visit with my dear friend, another of the #Ladiesladies.

img_5063-1My husband was so pleased to meet her and her daughters, and I was goofy that some of my very favorite of all earth’s citizenry all got to meet, however brief our time was.

Our last two nights were spent overlooking Lake Huron.  We enjoyed fireworks of the explosive type along with the celestial type in the form of the Perseid Meteor shower.  It was a great place to sew up the adventure.  We ferried from the mainland to the island, and chose to sight-see by horse-drawn carriage. Tom and I went back and forth only briefly over the rent bikes vs. carriage route,  Medical evidence suggested the carriage was definitely the safer way around.  With #1’s arm in a sling, even renting a tandem could have spelled disaster at worst, and discomfort at best.  My shoulder was screaming too, so we ponied up (ba-dum-bum) for the carriage ride.  Fritz and Jeffrey were kind enough not to poop in the street during our carriage.  Fritz and Jeffrey are horses, you guys!  I’m sure.  Actually, upon hearing their names, I felt a little less stupid about my canine called Caleb!  The sun shone crystal clear all day, and we enjoyed the tour.


But it was time.


Nothing went wrong.

Nothing was terrible–I mean I found the passport and everything.  Nothing was less than smooth. But in terms of a great travel story?  Also, nothing.  We met good people, kindness was shown to us at every turn, and I’d happily revisit any one of the spots along the route.  My children were amazing.  Minus the 84.7 million fart references and short a few please-and-thank-yous, they were in total control.  In spite of marked trepidation leading up to this, and one minor panic in Toronto (I really had no recollection of having been there before. No, I mean I know I was there, but I had no idea about directions and navigation.  I felt like I was supposed to be the tour guide there, when all I knew was that I saw a concert at Massey Hall in 2015.  FYI, the lake is at the south end of the city.  Where I’m from, the great lake is eastward.  Very confusing at first.)  I so feared letting down my Clark, but I think we’re marking this one in the ‘W’ column.

Travel tip #4?  2000+ is a whole lot of frickin’ car miles, yo.

But you learn stuff.  Like you find out your younger son’s favorite kind of days are cloudy, and like you, believes that if the day begins cloudy or rainy, it had better stay that way.  You learn that you’re the more patient of the two parents when it comes to stupid boy stuff, but you love your husband all the more for jumping in, wrestling and instigating as much or more than his sons.  You learn that your son, over whom you fear daily that his loss of physical capacity will make a road trip insurmountable some day, carries more strength and endurance than you dreamed.  Every time you ask how he’s doing, even after some 20,000 steps, he replies, “I’m good” and your heart both bursts and dies a little.

Travel tip #5:  You can’t wait to get home, but you never want it to end.


Sunset.  Literally and figuratively.