What Are You Good At?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best. Card. Ever.  

What are you good at?

Home Invasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Awake And Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, what makes me weird?”

“Well,  your BNL obsession for one thing.”

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

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

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

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

“I do love you, big kid,”

“I know, mom.  Love you too.”

*end scene*

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


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

 

 

 

Pretzels. Yep, That’s The Title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Diamonds Aren’t A Girl’s Best Friend

For a millisecond I considered playing a game here with you all:  Guess the contusion site?  It’s fun, kids.  I’d insert photos of the many abrasions and bruises I acquired skiing Wednesday and Thursday, and you would guess where you thought they might lie on my body.  My husband was all, “Holy crap, we need to take a picture of your elbow!!!” and I was down with that because these are battle scars, hard won at that.  But even a swollen, rainbow elbow could look like an ass without context, and I’m not opening this up for “No, it’s really not my ass because there is nothing that would bring me to a point of maybe showing my ass on internet” and having to prove it by posting photos of my left calf, right shin, hip, other hip (a study in indigo at present), rib, middle finger, and ankle.  The finger you’d recognize in a close-up snapshot, but honestly, the only picture I took was my elbow.  It’s spectacular.

Skiing is like riding a bike: even after twelve years, the muscle memory persists.  You think you can’t, but you surely can–it comes back.

Mostly.  Since #1 was born, I’ve skied just once.  I’ll never be featured in a Warren Miller ski film, but I am a capable, not pretty and pretty stiff, downhiller.  I fell just twice in two days, which, HEY, go, me!!  What I lacked in frequency though, I corrected with intensity.  If you’re not a skier, you may not know that ski runs are categorized by the mountain’s relative difficulty:  green circle are flat, wide runs for novices; blue squares indicate more difficult terrain for intermediates; black diamonds are steep and bumpy, the most difficult traverses; and double blacks are for experts and lunatics.  Blue is my color.

I’m more difficult.  The jokes write themselves here, huh?  I am comfortably challenged on blue runs, but when you ski with Justin, your early 30-something, born-to-downhill nephew and so-happy-to-be-back-in-Vail husband, you land upon a black diamond called Red Zinger, and yes, literally, I landed on Red Zinger.

I started strong, man–slow, wide turns work to cut the hill’s 110-degree vertical drop.  I didn’t carry a protractor, so I can’t say it was a straight-up 90-degree right angle, but 110 couldn’t be far off.  When you pause at the crest of the ridge and can’t see the face of the run until you’re craning over it a full 50-degrees yourself, the run is steep, yo.  I criss-crossed about a third of the way down, killing it, and announced, “I got this, you can go ahead, Honey,” which apparently was the wrong thing to say because immediately my legs went east and west, pulling all of me south.  Gravity wins.  Every time.  And since my husband rarely listens to me, he let me go first. 

(Disclaimer:  Although Tom doesn’t always listen to me in general because I talk a lot, and I think he legit has to tune out about 42% of my speech anyway just to try and make sense of the other 58% of the shit I say that’s actually important or relevant, he is a genuinely thoughtful ski buddy.  He remained above because my hubris was no match for the slope, and I think he knew I’d need the help.  And yeah, I wrote a 60+ word sentence here, so you can see why Tom has to ignore me every so often.  Survival instinct.)

When you crash on a hill steep as this one, you fall a really long time.  A really, really, really long time.  Really. Long. Time.  Long enough that you become aware you’ve got to consciously problem-solve just exactly how the hell you’re going to stop, because gravity wins.  Every time.  When I finally recovered, Justin yelled up that he got the whole thing on his GoPro.  Super.  It was my lucky star rising that YouTube has to wait for its next #epicskifails star.  Justin hit still photo when he meant to roll video.  Luckiest fall ever.

The whole point of this tale is not to brag on my Vail vacation or my battle scars.  

Tom has been hoping to take me skiing for years now, and I’ve found a way out every time–school breaks didn’t work, kids had something scheduled, “Oh, just go yourself or with your brothers and have fun without me, it’s cool.” 

The point is this:  If something scares you, do it.  Try it at least.  You’re stronger than you think you are.

From the moment my husband booked the airline tickets, I felt scared.  Clamping boots into bindings Wednesday morning, I was just short of terrified.  Red Zinger is not the black diamond that left me purple, but it was just one of two diamonds I had the nerve to hit at Vail.  It’s OK to know your limits, but it’s OK to push your comfort limit too.  It wasn’t just the diamonds I had to fear, but fear itself.  And a nasty little groomed, but still frozen early morning run, a BLUE run no less, that owned me.  I love you Vail, but you can keep Dealer’s Choice for some other chump.  I would love to see footage of how this ass-over-tea kettle went down.  I have bruises on every angular part of my body, and one distinctly not pointy part.

Find your brave.  I could’ve gone the rest of my days never skiing again.  But I’d have missed this:

At the top of the world

And this:

Love these two snow men

And this:

Atop the aptly named Blue Sky Basin

Breathtaking.  Hard.  Worth it.

In closing, I offer these helpful travel tips:

  1. If your nephew is employed by the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels, take him up on the employee rate.  I’ll never experience such luxury again, though I’m not gonna lie–I felt like a fraud the whole time we were there.  I’m a 99%-er, you guys, but it was a lark for the Empress to don the emperor’s clothes.  Even if we rolled up in a rental Nissan Sentra. #imposter
  2. If your nephew is married to the beautiful Jocelyn, take advantage of every minute you can with her, with them both.  Even when you’re so tired you prop your eyeballs open. Do it.  Be enchanted by their one-year-old daughter who already out-fashions you, and has a smile that melts mountaintop snow caps.
  3. Skiing is a costly proposition.  You know this going in.  You want to ski a second day?   Do it.  Do it while you are still physically able, and without considering the day’s receipts.
  4. Toast the bar guitarist figuratively and literally toast aprés ski marshmallows.  Hammer down a couple s’mores while you identify constellations in the clear, mountain sky.
  5. Until the pilot arrives at the gate, sit the f-word down.  Two drunk girls sprinted toward the Airbus lavatories as soon as wheels met ground last night.  And while they giggled themselves silly and LOUDLY, the sober remainder of passengers was forced to wait until they returned to their seats to taxi the final 200 yards of our journey.
  6. Vacation without your children once in a while.  You’ll regret leaving them.  Leave them anyway.  They’re fine without you, and for the first couple days, you’re OK without them too.
  7. Remember what Dorothy said:  There’s no place like home.

My husband said that writing about falling was selling myself short, that I skied much more ably than I give myself credit for, and that focusing on the only two falls I had doesn’t represent what I did accomplish.  Glass half full guy, that one.  The wipeouts, however entertaining, are not the moral of the story though, are they?

Go.  While you can, go.  Do.  Do the thing that makes you push that much further.  Tomorrow is no guarantee.  All the platitudes and internet memes that apply here?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Your bruises will fade before your memories do.

 

 

My Playlist For Him

I’m pleased and then some to report that Son Number One did not sully the charter bus lavatory en route to D.C.  No, no, I received a text from the boy Sunday evening from somewhere in Pennsylvania telling me “an eighth grader locked himself in the bathroom.  LOL.  LMAO.”  You text LMAO to your mom, kid??  It’s OK.  Here’s how I responded, because I’m classy like that.  

Mother of the Year applications are out and my fingers crossed, because 2017 is MY YEAR, yo.  I love Bitmojis, but I feel that my Bitmoji is much cuter than I am in real life, and I’d hate for anyone to think I hold myself in such high regard.  I assiduously avoided using Bitmoji Wendy for months for that reason. Yes, that is entirely true, and yes, I have given it that degree of contemplation.  I need a life.

I’m obsessed with a new song, well, a new-to-me song.  If you have a son you adore and a spouse you love to the moon and stars and back, listen to Donovan Woods’ What They Mean.  I cried, literally cried the first 43 times I listened to it.  It’s sweet, and will make you fall in love with your son the same way you did the first time ever you heard his tiny heart beat through that monitor.  I saw Donovan Woods last month with my little one sitting next to me.  It was the first time I’d heard this beautiful little 3-act story set to music, and with my little guy right there next to me, my eyes leaked.  With my big kid gone this week, I’ve been slightly sentimental, just slightly. . .  Just listen to this. *sigh*

What They Mean will lead the “My Kid Is Gone For Five Days On His Class Trip And I’m Feeling A Bit Too Sentimental This Week Because Of It” playlist.  Gotta work on the title, but I have KILLER tracks.

Next up is Blue Oyster Cult (see how I avoided the umlauts?) Don’t Fear the Reaper. Because “More Cowbell.”  After weeping my way through Track 1, we need to get this party started. And my kid loves the Christopher Walken/Will Ferrell SNL skit, so I’m all smiles now thinking about it.  It’s never not funny. Watch it here. You’ll laugh, I promise.  I got a fevah, and the only prescription is more cowbell.  Jimmy Fallon loses it, and there’s little that makes me laugh harder than someone trying to suppress theirs.

Thoroughly charming, but not as straight-up comical as BOC is Allergies.  Barenaked Ladies’ album Snacktime! saved my life when the kids were small.  It was released at the moment I was as near to pulling out all my hair from mega-doses of The Wiggles, Greg & Steve, and anything airing on the Disney Jr. cable network as I would approach.  It was just yesterday that I was driving the boys to day care in our superbadass white Chrysler Town & Country listening to that album, wasn’t it? Maybe last week or so??  It’s clever, and because my big kid had allergies, this song got a lot of play.  So did Crazy ABCs.  J for jalapeno, good in either corn or flour. . . tortillas. . .  nice rhyme.

When we brought home Jack Johnson’s album of songs to accompany the movie Curious George, my son inserted the CD, perched himself atop our coffee table and strummed his acoustic guitar along with the soundtrack.  He listened to the album, start to finish, “playing” along in its entirety.  It opened with Upside Down, and I still enjoy that song as it evokes memories of my little blondie whose eyes were still blue.  (They’re green now.)

Doesn’t every kid go through their emo-80s phase between the ages of 4-5?  Just mine?  For a spell, he was heavy into The Cure, and his favorite song was A Forest.  I must’ve heard that song 300 times that summer.  He is his mother’s child, and if a song owns you, you listen.  Often.  Always.  You don’t get to pick, you just listen because you’re under its spell.

We interrupt this semi-cohesive playlist to wish you a Merry Christmas.  I’d be remiss if I omitted these two songs simply because they’re Christmas songs, and since it’s my I miss my kid playlist, I get to pick.  He loved It’s Christmastime Again by Tom Petty and giggled like a little elf over Donde Esta Santa Claus? by Straight No Chaser.  Ho, ho, ho, mamasita!

Lost Highway and Love’s The Only Rule by Bon Jovi come next.  Bon Jovi played a critical role in my coming of age back in the mid-late 80s, and I just loved that my child loved their music too.  Once my little stinker graduated from acoustic to electric guitar, he hammered out the solos in these tunes.  And by hammered out I mean strummed along, definitely not plugged in.  He has as much guitar knowledge now as he did then (exactly none), but what he lacked in musicianship, he made up for with passion and commitment known only to obsessive 4-year-olds.

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Globetrot from the Silverball album is next.  This one is for me alone because, hello?  Road trip.  Globe trotting.  And also because it contains one of my favorite wrong lyrics of all time: I want gravy on satisfaction.  Still think mine works better.  Sorry, Ed.

Amsterdam by Imagine Dragons transitions us toward the home stretch here.  We both love the song, and we laughed in horror at an Impractical Jokers punishment where two of the guys had to improvise a concert opening up for Imagine Dragons.  Dressed like 80s hair band rejects.  It was naked humiliation, OK, spandex humiliation, in front of an audience of 14,000 rain-soaked and pissed off fans.  They opened by thanking the Imagination Dragons for the opening slot, and were soundly booed.  We laughed til it hurt, and we still almost always refer to the band as Imagination Dragons.

Did I Say That Out Loud? Because it’s greater than gravity.  Love.

Last up is Take Us Home by Alan Doyle.  I love this song, and every time my big kid asks to pick songs when we’re driving he chooses it because he knows I love it and I love that.

I miss my boy is all.

Nevertheless They Persisted

After the inauguration of the sitting president of the US, I wept fairly routinely for several weeks.  It wasn’t a stretch of sobbing, heaving ugly cries, but rather an intermittent shedding of tears of despair when I’d think about what we were losing.  If, after the past few months, you still celebrate the behavior and policies of the current administration, you will probably not wish to read any further.  It’s OK.  I believe in the Constitution (you remember that little document, right? I mean, someone has to, right?), the right to free speech and protections from persecution for differing opinions.  We can disagree.  Go ahead and curse me for the bleeding heart liberal you hate me for being.  I will find a way to live with that.

I don’t watch broadcast journalism often.  Really, almost never, and that started long before this buffoon’s reign; I moved into my bubble of ignorance when another political buffoon, more locally and personally destructive, rose to power and diminished my livelihood in 2011.  Still bitter, yep.  After January’s inauguration, news blasts came to me via Twitter because my psyche couldn’t manage the barrage of executive orders and the talking heads’ interpretations.  I joined friends at the Women’s March through their photos and video feeds.  It’s terribly egocentric, but I remember thinking this:  The “new world order” would demand that my son’s class trip to Washington, DC would be canceled.

Many, MANY more people have lost and/or stand to lose things considerably more substantial than a class trip.  Their very lives, for example.  I understand my concern is superficial beyond superficial; I am not THAT poor a steward of human decency on this earth.  But my blog is neither political nor social commentary (usually not anyway).  My blog is about me, and my son so I’m writing about me and my son.  That’s how we roll here, see?

Working and living in a large, urban school district, we often fall prey to sweeping mandates and/or knee-jerk reactions for reasons not always entirely clear to the masses.  My opinion.  With the faintest whiff of fear or fear from backlash, the district has previously recalled travel itineraries.  Believe it or not, this isn’t a nasty criticism–I have avoided educational administration my entire career.  There is no sum of money I could earn that would entice me into being someone’s boss (and friends, salaries are certainly bigger than mine, but it ain’t like principals or special education supervisors are exactly breaking the bank–for the work they are charged with, they’re grossly underpaid).  I don’t envy the decision-making high-level district administration does.  When you’re responsible for young lives traveling nationwide or abroad, you cancel when a terrorist or travel threat looms.  I understand.

Somehow we’ve made it to April, 2017.  Well, almost.  It’s March 31 anyway.

My thirteen-year-old is going on his class trip to Washington, DC!!!

Sunday morning at 5:30 AM, I am to deposit my six-footer in front of his school–backpack, carry-on luggage, blanket, pillow, wad o’cash, and iPhone–in tow.  We began planning this trip before his muscular dystrophy diagnosis, back when we believed he was merely a clumsy kid.  Before.  When there was a before.  The thought of him being denied this trip he’s been excited for and planning more than two years was more than I could take.  So yep, I’m a selfish jerk.  Gimme a name tag.  I don’t do name tags, but I might consider this one just this once.

Or this one.

I was (am) nervous about his adventure because, um, yeah.  He’s thirteen and not super independent.  Or coordinated.  My generalized anxiety about my kid being gone a week is compounded by a factor of 5.4 gajillion adding MD to the mix.  He can still walk, yes, but he fatigues easily and often.  This trip is crazy with the walking.  He has poor fine motor skills, and I worry about his ability to handle cash.  For at least a year, I’ve had visions of his cash raining all over DC, and not in the comedic “make it rain” way.  He forgets to collect change after cash purchases.  He worries he’ll be left behind (moving more slowly than his very nimble peers), so attempts to move quickly.  Quickly for him nearly always results in him dropping whatever he should really be taking great care to manipulate.  He only recently has begun to smell nice (read: wear deodorant without maternal prompting) and bathe without prodding.  He doesn’t snore, but he does breathe loudly, and one of his roommates is very concerned about that fact, thus in turn, he is concerned and so is mama.  I’m worried he’ll have to use the toilet on the bus, and we have been warned: Whatever is deposited on the bus, remains there for the duration of the trip, and I’m like please God, if you’re a thing and we don’t have really any kind of relationship whatsoever I know, but please don’t let my kid take a dump on the bus. pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease don’t poop on the bus, Son.

He is going to have the experience of his young lifetime.  I was never afforded any type of opportunity like the one he’s preparing to head out for in all my years.  I wish him every adventure and happiness, and I wish it was timed under the tenure of a different commander-in-chief.  Though logically, I believe it won’t, somehow I feel like his experience will be diminished, and NO, I have not voiced this opinion to him.  My child, he of the shitty disease, determined all on his own that it’s not cool to mock disabled people.  My child, he of the multicultural school, determined all on his own that his Muslim friends and classmates of Mexican heritage aren’t the children of rapists and murderers.  My child, so often on the sidelines, so often residing in a world of his own imagination, populated only by himself and his thoughts, is mine.  Well, ours actually.  He is a decent kid.  Like some great historical figures, and some of more recent note, he persists.  They persist.  This class trip is going to happen, and I’m thrilled for the kids.

In his youth, our nation’s first president wrote 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.  I’ve broken at least 89% of those rules in this post alone, but the kids are going to Washington, so I have to mention at least one of his rules.  I think maybe if our founding father had social media, he’d have tweeted this.  It’s a good one to send my kid off to DC:

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Persist, my boy.  Have fun.  Be good.  Do good.  Just don’t poop on the bus, OK?

 

10 Things My Dog Doesn’t Need

But can’t live without apparently. There’s little more humiliating than circling your dining room table in pursuit of your dog and whatever the hell said dog just made off with clenched in his jaws. Caleb is working on improving his shame game–he at least flashes an expression of “Hey, I am who I am, lady, and really, YOU’RE the idiot for not living in a vacant warehouse.”  Then he hauls ass, top speed, in canine glee, because hey, he is who he is.

This post could well have been titled 3,454 Things My Dog Doesn’t Need.  I am proud and delighted to report that my dog is not the worst dog in the entire universe–he can learn, but our boy is a willful little Teutonic canine mashup.  Progress is incremental, but he can and will “sit” and “touch,” so hey, something.   The worst dog?  That special honor is bestowed upon another rescued dog in his Caleb’s obedience class. He is getting there, Caleb is, just not at a speed with which I am comfortable. He is trying.  And I mean “trying” as both a verb and adjective!  I’m trying too.  I am trying not to lose my mind and verbally spew what I’m thinking when he pulls me down a mud-soaked path in the park. I’m trying not to recoil when he re-eats his own vomit in the backyard. (Sorry if you are reading this over the dinner hour.)  But when you rescue a dog, you commit, that is what you do–you commit!  So we are committed.  And maybe I should be committed.

Since 3,454 things would make a super long list, and ten is a good number for lists, here we go. . .

10.  Dogs don’t wear baseball hats. You’ll never need one, Caleb. Ever.

9.  Likewise, dogs don’t wear shoes.

8.  Or socks.

7. Placemats. Now here I at least kinda get the allure. They’re very likely to contain crumbs, or maybe you’ll score the mother lode and land one with butter or honey or chicken grease rubbed in. And if you’re wondering why our placemats contain foodstuffs residue, you obviously don’t live with boys.  It can’t be just my boys who find napkins so luxurious or inconvenient they don’t want to use ’em, right?

6.  Recently added to his thievery repertoire are dish sponges. He loves shredding the yellow part, but seems weirded out by the scrubby green surface. You know, it’s almost like he’s brushing his teeth, so maybe this one can stand. Maybe not.

5.  Books. I feel the certainty of the divine that you’re not actually going to read Night by Elie Wiesel.  You can look all academic and even respond to “Sit,” but Caleb, you are no scholar.

4.  Athletic supporters. ‘Nuff said.

5.  Bath towels. If I thought there was any chance you’d accomplish incidental cleanliness, I might get behind this one too. But yeah, no.

4.  Ink pens. Now you’re just an a-hole, dog.  And even Oxi-Clean teamed up with aerosol hair spray cannot remove the stains completely. And I know my way around a can of hair spray, people.

3.  Kleenex tissues, preferably used. These are just snacks now. My dog is an idiot.

2.  Rubber bands. You do not even want to know how I know this.

1.  Slippers. Like shoes, they’re not a canine necessity, because you’re a dog!  Unless it’s mid-summer or mid-hot flash at which time I radiate the heat of a thousand suns, I am a human popsicle. I need my slippers, Caleb, I do.  Importantly:  I need two slippers.  Two is the magic number for me, but I’m short one slipper thanks to ol’ Sparky.  I miss my old, blue slippers.  They had at least one good season left in them, a couple months at least, but no.  *sigh*  What are the odds that my friend Jill just happened to have an extra pair of slippers–still in their original packaging–in her trunk?  Turns out the odds were 100%!  Thanks to Jill’s footwear generosity, I’m not still fuming mad, and Caleb lives to wreck more stuff another day.

I am not even going to mention the fact that within twenty-four hours of my son getting his wrist splint fit and created, the dog bolted with it, and chewed and slobbered all over the thumb support strap.  I hadn’t even gotten used to the idea of my  #1 son needing the splint when my #2 calls me at parent-teacher conferences to tell me that the dog split with his brother’s splint.  See, because that would make two blog posts in a row that I barely mention the splint, and thus far, that’s workin’ for me.  Not denial, no, just not high focus.  Plus, eleven isn’t a good number for lists.  Obviously.

And also I don’t want to hear it from anybody who thinks I’m overreacting to MD because my son “doesn’t look that different, I don’t know what she’s worried about.”  I get to decide how my child’s diagnosis hits me, not you.  Until you have the conversation with your child about his or her likelihood of losing his/her ability to walk and requiring durable medical equipment, you can butt the hell out.

PS–Did no one notice my mad enumeration skills?  #NotEvenClose

I’m Practically Canadian 

I’ve passed on a billion cool opportunities in this lifetime.  Until recently, I’d have classed myself out of some perceived bonuses, believing I was neither good nor deserving enough to cash in.  Too often I’ve designated myself unworthy of any VIP lifestyle–who do I think I am anyway?  I’m mostly a rule follower, so never tried to sneak in to anything or try to score something above my station in life.  I’d observe longingly from the sidelines, questioning how did they get that?, and walk off, aware that in the us vs. them, I was a them.

Still, I marveled at how people got to do the stuff they did.  “That’s so cool!” I’d think, or “I could never do that!” or “They’re so lucky!” were common refrains.  *sigh*  I champion the underdog in nearly everything, I suppose because I know myself as that underdog.  Not coveting, but not not wanting my moment in the sun.  Surely I don’t deserve special treatment or an extra-special anything really.  I’m just this girl from Milwaukee, nothing to see here, folks, keep moving.

I never want my children to feel ordinary.  NOT entitled, never.  But not ordinary.

Saturday night my little guy and I traveled west of Chicago to see Alan Doyle in concert.  Alan Doyle is a Canadian musician/singer/author/actor, widely known north of the border, but playing comparatively smaller venues in the US.  The guy obviously loves his job!  He and his band, the Beautiful Gypsies, empty their hearts on the stage instrumentally and vocally.  I’m new to the fan club, but what I lack in tenure, I make up for in enthusiasm.  My kid and I sat near the front, and to look at my son during the performance, you’d have thought he was steps from a coma.  You’d have been very wrong.

He had a great time!  He knows Alan’s music as well as I do, and has even worked out Sea of No Cares on piano!  He loved the show!  What he dislikes?  Attention.  He may have looked like the poster child for preteen narcolepsy, but he was into it.  INTO it.  He’s eleven, so any kind of scene he’s going to make will be on his ‘tween terms.  He never stops talking or moving at home, but he’s a different child out in the big, wide world.  He’s quiet and shuns attention until he’s all in, and then he’s ALL IN.

But I noticed shades of quiet not attributed to shyness recently, and felt like Saturday night was as good a time as any to take that bold, first step.

After his shows, Alan Doyle invites anyone interested to stick around and say hello.  He’ll pose for photos and sign things for fans.  The first time my boy saw him last January, Alan gave my son his set list from the stage.  That guy!   My guy was wilting, and when an Alan überfan asked if she could photograph the list, my son was astonished into near paralysis–only his eyes moved to search me for the correct response.  We didn’t stick around then ’cause it was a school night, and we were staring down a two-hour return trip home and I am a responsible parent, but he kept the set list because, hello?   Oh, FYI, of course we let the woman take a pic of the set list.  We’re cool like that.

Late Saturday night, my boy makes his way to the restroom for the pre-travel potty break while I chatted with some friends.  Looking over my shoulder, there’s a scrum of fans surrounding the man in black.  I ask my kid if he wants to hang around to meet Mr. Doyle, and he’s quiet like, “Aaaaaah, nah, that’s OK.  There’s a lot of people, and mumblemumblemumble.”  Naturally I was like, “Let’s, honey.  Let’s go say hello and tell him how much we liked the show.”  (Because I am SO GIFTED with the words, and probably no one has ever said such a unique thing to him in his decades-long career.  Jaysus.)

He was nervous up til and including the very end.  My son, not Alan Doyle.  “Are you sure it’s OK, Mom?” (Oh no, he sounds like me!)  I produced the set list from my purse and he was all, “I was looking for that!” (his room is like an episode of Hoarders, Jr. so of course he had to be looking for it–nothing is ever where one expects it might be in that morass) and I was all, “Let’s ask him to sign it” and he was all, “I don’t know if we should” and I was all, “Then yes, we definitely should!”

And we did.  And I was sooooo awkward, not at all fleet of speech.  I wanted to show my kid it was OK to do something cool like meet the guy who just put on that terrific show and not feel like you didn’t deserve to say hey.  I probably proved actually how very little I deserved to be there–words are hard, people, even for a wiseass like me.  Instead of saying how much I enjoyed reading his memoir, how I thought he penned a beautiful love letter to his hometown with such detail I could see him running up and down that hill, how he paints pictures with words and melodies and on-stage energy, how Take Us Home is one of the sweetest songs I know, I ended up basically mute.  Super, Wendy.  But I showed my kid he could do it, even if you sound like a complete dork while doing it, the lesson is this: leap.


My kid thought it was pretty slick.  He told me that after last week’s planes, trains, and automobiles to my Barenaked Ladies bender, and this trip to see Alan Doyle, I was practically Canadian.  Man, I love that kid.  He deserves the sun, the moon, and all the stars.  All of ’em. He is kind and gentle, my kid–he sat next to me at a concert and didn’t completely die when I got up and danced.  Now if that doesn’t say something right there!  He’s funny and concerned and shows empathy.  He is not an undeserving, ordinary boy.  He’s special, and I’m so glad he’s mine.  I just hope it doesn’t take him nearly a half century to know and remember how special he is.

PS–I managed a whole blog post and never once mentioned that my Number One Son came home from OT with his first piece of MD equipment today.  I didn’t even cry. I didn’t take him to the appointment, but details, whatevs.  Today was a first. For both of us.  Exhale.