‘Tis Better To Give Than Receive

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Our family is not religious, we are of the secular Christmas card-sending/Nutcracker Ballet-attending/gift-exchanging/reveling in the joy of the season lot. Santa will not be shimmying down our chimney tonight, and I miss that magic we shared with our children over the previous thirteen years.

I have been positively gleeful this December. That is not hyperbole. I am late in my preparations, but a smile–sometimes broad and hearty, others sheepish as if to say, “Holy schnikes, I have a crap-ton to do. I’ll get there, I always do!”–has been a fixture this fa la la la la la la la la.

I received a gift yesterday. This gift came in the form of a check and explanatory letter. When you see shades of doubt slivering through the fabric of your faith in human decency, remember my friend and the story I’m sharing here. My friend is an intensely private person, so a few edits were made in order to respect that.  I will never betray the trust she’s put in me over the years.

Dear Wendy,

When I was growing up, my family always watched the Jerry Lewis Telethon on Labor Day weekend (confession-not really because of muscular dystrophy, but because there were only three or four channels to watch).  We tuned in to check out various performers and entertainment and made sure we watched the end of the show to see how tired Jerry looked after staying up all night.  We thought it was really cool and crazy that he didn’t go to bed all night long.  We watched him sing at the end of the show on Labor Day evening as every year they showed record breaking dollars donated.  Jerry always got emotional and cried while singing his closing song and he looked all disheveled with bags under his eyes, shirt untucked, hair a mess–we loved to make fun of him in our immature kid-style way.

One year, we decided to help raise some money for MD.  We took our red wagon and went knocking on doors in the neighborhood asking people if they had empty pop bottles that they could give us to return to the store for the deposit refund to raise money for MD.  When our wagon was full, we pulled it home and transferred the bottles to the back of the station wagon and went out to more neighbors.  When the station wagon was full, mom or dad drove us to the grocery store where we cashed in the bottles then we would go back home and repeat.  At the end of the day, we donated our daily profits to MDA.  We did this for years and I think of it fondly every Labor Day weekend.

I now also think of you and your family on Labor Day.

I have not donated to MDA since I stopped collecting pop bottles.  Jerry Lewis inspired such a fun family activity and obviously brought great awareness to MD.  With Jerry Lewis’ passing this year, I thought it was a good time to make a donation.

Please help my check find its way to make the donation.

I admire how you handle all in your life and can only imagine how difficult some days must be.  Your son is very lucky to have you for his mom.

I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying!  Of course I’m crying.  I read parts of her letter at least three times before I was able to finish because my eyeliner was running by the second paragraph.  What’s the right word for how my friend’s kindness affected me?  Touched?  Moved??  Ugly cried??? 

My niece Lauren, who after my son’s diagnosis became an MDA Summer Camp counselor, has now committed to the MDA’s Team Momentum for 2018. She will be running a marathon to raise funds, awareness, and hope for individuals and families with muscle disease. Half my friend’s donation will go to support Lauren’s marathon endeavor.  Click here to read about an amazing example of today’s youth.  Team Greater Than Gravity strolls in its fourth annual Muscle Walk this spring, so the other half will be the donation that kickstarts our 2018 Muscle Walk team effort. Donations made to the MDA before December 31 will be doubled, up to $100,000.  That’s a lotta marshmallows toasted around the campfire, friends.

My Christmas wish for you all? That you have the good fortune to be surrounded by goodness, light, and love.  I’ve never known a time where I didn’t find myself among good friends.  Because of my son’s diagnosis, I’ve borne witness to good friends doing great things.  Still not grateful exactly for MD, no, but for the goodness and light it has illuminated in others?  That is my gift.

It’s Christmas Eve and it’s snowing.  And that is the lesser of today’s miracles.  Thank you.

xoxo

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So, Uh, Thanks

The cranberries are sugared up and boiled down into a compote, green beans layered with cream of mushroom soup and whatever the hell French’s does with onions, and the turkey’s stuffed. The aroma of the single biggest shopping day of the year wafts through the kitchen. Truth be told, my only culinary contribution for this year’s feast is one pumpkin pie.  I don’t even like pumpkin pie.  My kitchen wizardry is woefully underutilized this year. I feel incomplete, inadequate.

The real reason we collectively eat ourselves into a food coma, drunk on tryptophan and/or a nice Beaujolais or Gamay? The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys!! NO, silly, it’s Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving, America. And that would be a Happy Thursday to the rest of my friends around the globe.

If you’re my friend on any of the social media outlets or hey, if we actually get to speak to one another in the real world, you see I am pretty consistent in my expressions of gratitude.  I’m good at dishing it out, but I’m great at deflecting any expression of thanks directed back my way.  Why is it that gestures of thanks from others take such effort to accept?

I am grateful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  –Henry David Thoreau

Me too.  Nice job outta you, Thoreau, you beat me to it. I’d like to be reverent, but because I am a juvenile masquerading as a middle aged woman, this is what comes to mind any time I hear Thoreau’s name bandied about–

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Image from Wal-Mart. I don’t shop there, but I do appreciate having found this image on their webpage.

Henry David Catch! Baaaaahh!! Hi, I’m 12.  But I’m a grateful 12, and like Thoreau, I find happiness and gratitude in things great and small each day.  I’m happy that I make it to work every day after driving along Capitol Drive, the nearest I ever want to get to driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, here in the central city.  It’s disheartening to see how motorists have so little regard for life–mine AND their own–that they drive like something out of an action film, or maybe what’s depicted in Grand Theft Auto (I’ve never played the game, so I’m postulating here).  I’m glad I arrive at work not dead every day is the point.  I’m happy for tulips in the spring.  I’m happy my children are achieving academically.  I’m happy for Kopps Frozen Custard sundae of the month.  I’m happy my dog thinks antibiotics and pain meds are treats–he will chomp down and ingest whole tablets and even sit in order to receive them.  Good boy, Caleb!

But of course there’s more than the little things to be happy about.  I’d be remiss in not sharing some of my favorite turkey day thankful main dishes, so here goes: a few things I’m thankful for this Thursday.  My Thanksgiving not-list is neither perfect nor pretty, and come on, you know me. . .  it’s certainly not symmetrical.  But it’s sincere.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, or Happy Thursday if you’re not from ’round these parts.

  1. My best friend is flying from LA to Milwaukee IN DECEMBER to see me. She loves me enough (or is off-kilter enough?) to leave sunny SoCal in December, and all I have to do is loan her one of my winter coats.  You guys, my best friend is gonna be here next week!!
  2. My Barenaked Ladies besties love me enough to spring a ninja concert trip on me.  Nikki and Bek arranged a ticket and transportation to the December 9 Toronto gig I was absolutely not attending. The girls announced their scheme after the purchase was made so I couldn’t say no.  To be perfectly honest, I said nothing for a day or two. I am so undeserving of this kind of over-the-top generosity, so I sat mute.  I’m not very good at people being nice to me, so I was reluctant to come around to my “yes.”  I should try to get better at people being nice to me.
  3. Hey, speaking of Barenaked Ladies (who, me?) my coworkers, hale and hearty souls, are making it a team effort for the June BNL show in Milwaukee. “We don’t need to sit in the front with you, but let’s make a night of it!” They’re choosing to spend time with me when they don’t even have to. Of course, once the band hits the first note, I won’t turn around again until it’s time to leave, but we will be together in spirit. Well, they will be together, and I’ll be by myself, zoned out a bit closer to the stage. Christine will be the one silently dying in embarrassment for me while I sing & dance my butt off, but that’s cool.
  4. I’m thankful my husband who, not a huge BNL fan himself, gives me space for my unbridled, giddy glee when a new album is released, and shares some measure of excitement when I call him on the phone, all choked up shouting, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS SONG!! ED USES WESTLEY AND BUTTERCUP IN THE LYRICS!!!!”  If you don’t know the reference, Westley and Buttercup are the star-crossed, nothing-can-separate-true-love lovers from The Princess Bride, which happens to be the first movie Tom and I watched together at a time in my life I needed more than anything to believe in true love.
  5. I’m thankful my husband leaves me little notes like this one he wrote Saturday morning before departing for work.  I know, “you guys are so cute we wanna barf.” We get that a lot, but aren’t Westley and Buttercup what we’re all shooting for? You + Me Vs The World, baby.
  6. Got Weirs on my right and Wolfgrams to the left. Looking forward to a long weekend, spending time with almost every branch of fruit or nut of my extended family tree at some point.
  7. I’m thankful to the point of speechlessness that I have an all-star supporting cast of luminaries whose generosity helped me raise over $5000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 2017.
  8. I’m grateful for my friends, a cast of characters you wish you were your friends too. This year I offer special thanks to P.J. She killed it with her own shoulder rehab a couple years back, and within hours of reading about my injury, delivered a box of implements and tools designed to simplify life in the kitchen. And also wine, because wine! I opened that gift tonight, enjoying it in the spirit of thanks for her support and concern.
  9. I’m relieved that my friend Matt who was nearly killed in his home last spring, is safe and sound, and that two of his attackers have been sentenced.  You can hear Matt’s story about the sentencing here.  In related news, I’m glad his physical scars are continuing to heal as well.
  10. I’m fortunate to have a boss who says and means family first. This credo is especially important when your child has a disease that requires ongoing management and intermittent therapy appointments.
  11. I’m happy that a song can catch me on the precipice of the abyss and pull me back.
  12. I’m grateful I can read, write, and reason.
  13. And that you’re here reading.  Really.  THIS is my greatest wonder of the last several years: I write. You read.  There are so many ways to pass one’s precious time, and you’re here reading my words.  It means the world.
  14. I’m happy that I have enough.  I’ve never known hunger, and I’ve never had to worry about finding a safe place to sleep.  I’ve worked in the inner city for twenty-seven years, and finally I’m forced to acknowledge that I am struggling with the sequelae of urban poverty. The lack of basic needs being met, the language, hollering, the physical harm, the violence perpetrated–inflicted!–upon the city’s smallest people–it’s too much.  I’m increasingly less well able to handle a preschooler tell me, ‘F-off, white bitch! I ain’t gotta listen to you.”
  15. I’m happy that my children have enough. We do not live like royalty, but I can say that when mine were preschoolers, the worst I feared escaping their lips were “toot” and “fart.” Watch this. You won’t regret having spent the twenty-four seconds here, even with the poor quality videography. And yeah, to this day, the minute he gets home, he tosses off just the one sock.

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For what are you thankful, dear readers? What wraps your heart up with contentedness the way this video of my no-longer-babies does for me?  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.  Can I make you a leftovers plate to take home?

Safe & Sound

My Number One Son is attending College for Kids this week, enrolled in an annual Young Writers’ Academy, which he loves.  On our commute yesterday morning, he asked after what I’d been writing lately, and I admitted to being in what you might call a slump.  “Why don’t you write about me going to camp?” was his helpful, if a bit egocentric, suggestion.  Turned out to be an effective prompt, so here we go.

The best week of the year.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association refers to camp as that, the best week of the year, and they deliver.  They over-deliver, in fact.  At registration, I was told the letter I wrote to the counselors was perfect, which may be (is definitely) shaded in overstatement, but I appreciated the compliment.  I received the most beautiful email from a couple whose son was taken from them in 2012 due to complications of Duchenne MD.  Through the miracle of Facebook, they were connected to this post, and took the time to contact me.  Early in my blogging career (go on with your bad self, girl), I thought it would be a miracle if I could connect with or help or support even one person, and these terrific parents told me I could check that off my list.  Yeah, tears were shed.

Thanks Wendy for your letters to the counselors. I cried reading it to my wife. This brought back many memories when we took our son Todd to MDA summer camp. . . Your words captured what we thought about the camp counselors, we always said thanks, but never really knew how to say more than just that. Your insight was very thoughtful. These young adults give up a week out of their summer to be big buddies to our kids. I always wondered if they truly ever knew what impact they had on so many kids and their families.

Oh my, oh my, oh my,  you are welcome.

I delivered the big kid to camp alone this year, as my husband stayed in the Wisconsin Dells with our younger son for day two of his baseball tournament.  I think going solo made drop-off easier for me this year.  I was responsible for getting all of the things he needed packed and ready and in the car, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and get all Google Mapped out to ensure an on time arrival, and I welcomed the busy-ness.  There’s much less time to wallow in contemplation when one is occupied with purpose.

Just having been there at Camp Wonderland before made the process less scary, more familiar this year too.  There was a moment of confusion, but just a blip at that, as the camp director called down for my kid’s counselor.  “Don’t leave this room until you talk to me again, OK?” Sarah asked, and who was I to wander?  I’m very good at following directions.  Minutes later–nothing but a typo causing the blip–my son was introduced to his counselor who happened to be wearing a YouTube tee shirt.  Bonding start to finish before we even got back to the car to unload!  Back up to Willow Cabin we drove for 2017’s best week of the year, where we unloaded in under 45 seconds thanks to a local chapter of a HOG (Harley Owner’s Group), ready to shuffle the kids’ belongings into the kids’ cabins.


As a mom, you kinda want this to drag out a little.  You kinda want time to linger, to check out the cabin, make face-name connections, learn who your kid will be tossing and turning with over the next five nights.  Instead, you keep your sunglasses on, aver in a surprisingly stable tone of voice well, it’s time, and demand that he bring it in for a hug.  In something of another surprise, your kid obliges with the hug and seems to mean it!   You turn, straighten your shoulders, exhale a too-long sigh, and resume a right-left-right-left cadence.  You only cry a little bit, and you turn around just once to catch that one last glimpse out of the corner of your eye, but you’re already too late.

But you’re OK.

And so is he.

He is better than OK, and you’re grateful in every conceivable way.  You’re also grateful in one especially weird way–you miss him less than you believe you should because you know, you KNOW!, he is where is meant to be.  He is home.  He’s home with the only other group of people who knows what and how he feels.  You miss him less than you should because part of you doesn’t want him to have to come to your home, his real-world home; you want that camp never to end for him.

The closing photo montage this year featured an acoustic version of the song Safe and Sound by Capital Cities.  How these people don’t cry their way through this presentation is nothing short of miraculous to me–I misted up immediately at that underlying message: camp is where our kids are safe and sound; that theme was not lost on me.  They are.  In closing, Sarah thanked families for trusting her, the counselors, and the medical staff.  That she could only imagine how terrifying that could be–to leave your child and trust that he or she will be OK.  Not me.  Never terrified.

Photo swiped from the MDA Southern Wisconsin Facebook page

Thank you for sending my kid to camp, my friends.  Thank you for hanging in with me every step of the way.  I lack the depth and breadth of vocabulary to express just how much you mean to me.  You will just have to trust me.

Singin’ In The Rain

It was a dark and stormy night.

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

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

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

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

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

I got my own sign!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Thankful for YouTube

Have you ever written something about which you felt some degree of pride, and also felt pretty sure you could not ever really replicate in a worthy fashion?  I feel this way about the post I published to recognize Thanksgiving in 2015.  Please click here if you want to read my mic drop moment thanking the myriad kickass people I know.  I said it then, and I’m stickin’ with it:  You wish you had these people in your life.  Seriously.

This year, bereft of snappy commentary, I’m going to let YouTube do the talking for me.  I laugh a lot, and I laugh loudly–it’s entirely possible that I’ve snorted a time or two, which makes me laugh that much harder, thus perpetuating the cycle. I am as sentimental as the mighty Mississippi is long, so I never, ever don’t cry when someone near me cries, in real life or on screen.  I emote a million shades in between laughter and tears, but for Thanksgiving, I’m limiting my show to the snort-inducing.

I’ve never been the type of YouTuber who is gaga over sneezing pandas or “Charlie bit my finger.”  My brand of humor skews more toward the ridiculous than the sublime.  Of late, I find myself in need of ridiculous, so my recently viewed YouTube queue looks a little something like this:

Every list requires some sort of fanfare to herald its beginning, so without further ado:

As I was preparing for work Halloween morning, I heard the soothing (?) sounds of my little guy’s recorder flute floating from his room. Because I’m kind of a jerk, I immediately posted on Facebook:  You can imagine my delight to hear that E rediscovered his recorder flute this morning.  At 6:50.  Within hours, Angela, a teacher friend of mine from my US Grant days, responded with this link. It laid me out.  Laid. Me. Out.  I don’t know who posted the original video, and if you know me at all, you know it’s never, ever my intent to make sport of anyone but myself.  So if you’re the kid (adult? teen? tween?) who posted this, well, keep practicing.  You’ve made me smile, and I sincerely thank you for it.

If you’re my Facebook friend, you may have checked this video, as I linked to it in a post celebrating my baby’s eleventh birthday.  When I feel like I’m screwing up parenting in not insignificant ways, this reminds me that I have done something so right.  The lyrics are simple and the guitar’s a little rough, a little 80’s post-punk, but I think my then 2-year-old nails it.  I am thankful that my old computer hadn’t completely died before I thought to transfer some old videos and photos.

I am not even sure who turned me on to this, but it’s been my cousin Michele who sent me weekly updates to T-Rex Tuesdays after my first viewing and immediate sharing of this gem on Facebook.  I don’t have any need for fame or fortune–wait, back that up–I don’t have any need for fame, but frequently wish I had just one creative bone in my body.  The T-Rex idea is so ridiculous, but COME ON!  Don’t you wish you’d thought of it first?  I know you do. I lost it around 0:41 into this snippet.  The accompaniment is genius.

Unless you’re me or about 100 other people on Earth, you might think it’s odd to toss underwear on stage at a concert during a performance of Pinch Me.  To be clear:  YES, they’re brand new, and YES, unworn.  Seriously?  I’m a little hurt that you even asked.  YES, it’s harder to aim than you might think, and like any NFL placekicker can tell you, wind can definitely be a factor.  YES, my underwear made the concert review in the following day’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

What I really wish I had video–nah, audio–of is my husband’s response when he viewed this video.  “Are those yours?” he queried with a tone drenched in resignation at around 3:08 of this video.  Our dog had died the morning of this show, oh our sweet Izzy-girl, and this concert was a diversion needed like no other.  Watching this makes me smile, as I recall both that day’s sadness and also the warmth I felt in having this concert to distract me.  PS–telling your favorite singer, “My dog died” is kind of a buzzkill.  I’m an idiot.

This is long and not exciting (and also not well done, consider yourself warned), but iMovie provided an easy way to capture our kitchen remodel metamorphosis.  The project is nearly done–nearly–and this little blast does give me perspective.  One:  my bank account is run dry.  Two:  When I feel that pinch of having let my bank account run dry, it wasn’t for naught.  Losing the sunflower wallpaper border and rockin’ light fixtures made it completely worth it right there.  Man, we worked our ASSES OFF, and by “we” I mean both of us.  But mostly Tom.

I first happened upon this morning’s final video entry long before our dog Caleb’s adoption.  I feel if Caleb had a spirit animal (read: creature buddy similarly limited in intellect), the Golden on the right must be it.  The first fifteen seconds is all you need to watch.  This video provides a clear example of a dog failing at being a dog.  My friend and co-worker Jill printed a screen shot of the moment, which makes me giggle still many months later.  Three months into his life at Chez Weir, I love, love, love the squishy face of my rescue dog.  Sure, he was much younger than the Humane Society’s estimate when we selected him, so he’s grown (growing) to be a larger pet than we’d imagined. But he fits.  Right on my lap on the couch, he fits perfectly, all sixty pounds of him.

It’s 5:30 AM now, and I have got to get a start on my bread baking for our little Thanksgiving dinner.  Whatever it is you’re doing with your time today, I do hope you find a moment to acknowledge the good things which have come into your life.  My incredible mother-in-law is quick to remind us that someone is always worse off than we are.  She’s right, and even when I’m not feeling head over heels in love with each and every detail in my life, I know I’m incredibly fortunate.  I am.  So are you.  Bask in the contentment of having experiences, people, and/or things.  But mostly people and experiences, OK?  By 4 AM (yeah, insomnia bites) I’d already received Happy Thanksgiving wishes from friends in Australia and the UK, so yay for the internet!  Thank you for being here for me.  Happy Thanksgiving.

The Prototype Child

A short while ago, a friend said to me, “You know, your little kid is your prototype child: He’s funny, he’s popular, he’s athletic, everyone likes him. . .  By the time he’s in his 20s or 30s, your big kid will find his place in the world though and this will all make sense, I think he’ll surprise you.”  I’m not sure if I felt buoyed or saddened by this.  Do I only say good things about #2 and convey nothing but my worries about #1?

Once I considered myself an adult, I had many conversations with my mother about my brother and me.  “You’re the one I never had to worry about,” she told me then.  Kinda ironic in retrospect, given that my brother has turned out filthy rich (I’m pretty sure) and is living the dream.  Nearing 50, I’m just making ends meet financially, having chosen a career path that leaves me beaten emotionally, fiscally and even physically some days.  Just yesterday for example, in the span of two hours, a seven year old who functions like a two year old kissed me and drooled all over my therapy table before she crawled on the floor barking like a dog back down to her classroom; a fourth grader called me a white cracker; a fifth grade boy with autism told me to fuck off and pushed me away from the door repeatedly when I “suggested” he stay in my room.  I think her worry was misplaced.

I think I worry equally and differently about my boys.  Does that even make sense?

I wasn’t anyone’s prototype child, and neither is my little one, but you know what he is for reals?  He’s my birthday boy!  He turns eleven next week!  Seven of his friends are sleeping over tomorrow night. SEVEN.  For those of you keeping track, that means that Saturday night I’ll be drinking heavily until I pass out from exhaustion.  I predict my Saturday lights out hitting me around 7:00 PM after probably one-half of one Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Do I know how to live or what?

It’s easy to celebrate my little one.  He is hilarious, and I know from funny, people.  He is silly and genuinely funny and he knows it.  He’s well-liked by his classmates and teammates.  He’s hard-working in school, on the gridiron, and on the baseball diamond–his baseball coach last season described him as a quiet leader on their team from the beginning.  He’s bright and high achieving academically.

He’s a hundred contradictions–when you first meet him, he may seem quiet and reserved.  He’s loud and goofy, but then he leans in for a kiss to seal his whispered proclamation that I’m the best mom on earth, looking at me intently and with an earnestness only a child possesses.  He’s compassionate and gentle, and quick with an “I love you” while physically tough and focused in sport.  He’s the kid who comes tearing down the stairs to tell me my favorite song turned up on the iPod and do I want to hear it?  He gregarious, and not, making friends fast yet slowly at once, but once you’re in his circle, you’re in for life.  He’s a dance party in the dugout and on the diamond and in the middle of the street and the grocery store, and, and, and. . . but crumbles in embarrassment if you ask him to do it again.  He is the biggest slob in the entire universe, and somehow makes it an endearing quality.

Our world is a better place with him in it.  How lucky for us all.  Happy birthday, my baby.  I love you.  Like crazy.

Bottom Of The Ninth

Insert any “end of the road” metaphors you like here; my #baseballmom summer has drawn to a close. The kids played their final tournament this weekend, and walked off the field as one team for the last time yesterday afternoon. I love everything baseball, from pee-wee T-ball through the minors and majors, but currently I love most that my kid loves the game.

I knew I’d be sentimental and teary-eyed at season’s end, and I’ve proven that I am a fair, honest judge of myself.  I’m relieved at a brief reprieve from a 4+ day a week commitment, not gonna lie here. But I’m such a sap.  The boys’ season was short on tallies in the “W” column, but by the grace of a one day window along with a fleeting memory, I’m loath to measure the season by W-L count alone.


Of the many wins and lessons this summer, I give you these:

  1. Clutch pitching counts when a game goes into extras, California Rules style  (yes, it’s a thing and it’s quite a jolt to the system).  Most of us aren’t pitchers, but all of us can try to come through when it matters.
  2. MVP designations are awesome.  Be someone’s MVP.  Be the best whatever you are–nurse, reservations clerk, or financial planner you can be.
  3. Dugout dance parties, and yes, even on-diamond dance parties (it was the last game, OK?) are a fun, sometimes necessary release.
  4. You put in the time in the off-season to make each season your personal best.
  5. Hitting your first over the fence home run is the most kick ass thing there is.  Period.
  6. Bringing your family together united in purpose is time well spent.
  7. Being with other families together united in similar purpose is time well spent.
  8. Genuinely enjoying the company of the other baseball moms and dads is a gift. This season would have been sooooo long if not for the company of the parents, kids and coaches I got bleacher butt with. April-July four days per week is a long stretch, and I’m thankful I stretched with decent, caring people.  Thank you for the laughs and your many kindnesses.
  9. Being recruited by an opposing coach is a pretty special compliment. “Who is this kid and where are his parents?” is a huge boost to any child, right?
  10. Be the kind of kid other kids can count on. It’s hard to live up to every expectation, and my son’s size makes him seem like a veteran he’s not. He still made bonehead plays and struck out like anyone else.  Remember that the best of the best are considered excellent when they’re successful at the plate about 30% of the time.
  11. Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.  Henry Ford said it a century or so ago, but these words of wisdom did help my boy snap a slump.  “Hey, E, you got another triple in there for me this afternoon?”  “Yeah.  Totally.”  Love that boy.
  12. A for reals hand shake and a special exchange with your head coach after the dugout was cleared for the last time means a tremendous lot to an emotional 10-year-old and his emotional mother.  Thank you, Will. Thank you so much for this moment.
  13. Endings are hard.

Win or lose, endings are hard.  Being part of a team requires a huge investment, but its returns are many.  It’s OK to be sad that it’s over; it’s OK to hug your mom extra-tight and let the tears flow.  Yes, there’s “We’ll get ’em next year,” but it doesn’t mean a kid (and his mom. . .) can’t take a moment to recall the highlights, the new friends, to lament the coulda-shouldas and be both a little happy and a lot sad that it’s over.   I’ll be gone for a few days now.  As any true #baseballmom knows, you don’t take vacation until the last out of the last game is called.  It’s called commitment, people. Let’s call this post my bottom of the ninth walk-off.

Wordless Wednesday

Right, like I could pull off wordless. Why communicate without words when 213 will do?  I’m ornery (-ier?) today because mendacity is our kitchen contractor’s unofficial motto. In place of bitching though (because stay tuned, surely there is enough fodder to fuel an upcoming “Lies Our Kitchen Contractor Told” post that at least octuples the 213 words I suggested above and I’m really in no mood for “I told you so”), I’m sharing with you a gift I received yesterday.

It’s Wordless Wednesday in the blogosphere, but I am not wordless; I’m speechless.  This arrived on my doorstep last evening from my friend, Nikki.  She’s been drawing and sketching in response to and/or in avoidance of the hate and crazy perpetrated on social media of late ’cause she’s smart like that.

Have you had something created especially for you?  Not because you commissioned a piece of art, but because a friend thought enough of you to create something spontaneous and unique, because that friend wanted to wrap you up in a hug so tight it would make right everything in your world?  My friend created something quite distinctively me: my song;  greater than gravity for #1 Son; baseball for #2.  She recently referred to me as the friend everyone needs, but that’s not me.  It’s her.  See?

I Only Cried Twice

OK, three times, but once happened before we even left, so does that even count?  It does?  Fine. Then call me a thrice crier (and a once panic attack sufferer for those of you keeping count–those three terrifying, yet blissful minutes spent hiding in the bathroom texting my friend Nikki were just enough to propel me back into the fray).  I feel like I’ve been a little one-note here of late, but despite being pretty OK with words, I’ll not be capable of using them to explain how the MDA Muscle Walk affected me–before, during or after.

I have a heap of thanks to impart, but writer’s block has been a bee-otch the past few weeks.  Toss in a bit of overtired, sprinkle it with too many simultaneous places to be every single evening, and top it with a coupla’ three work presentations, and, voila!   You end up with last week’s me.  A fragile, taped-together newsprint version of me.

Before:  People from all walks of my life showered our team with funds.  My fundraising goal was $2000, and even that I felt was lofty.  I kinda thought that last year’s bankroll was a boon from the shock of people’s pity concern for us, and by us I mean our son, being a newly diagnosed individual and me, the shocked and unglued parent.  I believed that $2000 was lofty, beyond my wildest ideations, and our team more than doubled that.  People who know and love (or at least like) us dug deep into their pockets to support us.  Because I asked.  People who don’t know me beyond the written word dug deep into their pockets to support me.  Because I asked.  I wonder sometimes if I am doing anything right in this world; am I deserving of the terrific people and gifts with which I’ve been bestowed?  I guess this is proof that you like me, right now, you like me.  And you have to read that in the tone of voice Sally Field used in her Oscar acceptance speech, click here if you want to relive the moment with Ms. Field.  And if you’re too young to get the reference. . .  nothing, I’m just jealous that you’re that young.

As we were readying to leave for the zoo, my husband decided it was that moment, a moment of pure perfection like no other to fertilize the lawn.  I wanted to beat him over the head, but instead I consciously remembered that he and I maneuver our freakouts from different perspectives.  This year, his nerves manifested in an intense desire to engage the old Scotts broadcast fertilizer spreader.  The man has got to work on his timing.

During:  I’m not a godly gal, but if I were, I’d say that the heavens were shining upon us that day.  The rain ceased, the clouds busted up, and the sun even shone during the walk itself.  For reals.  It was as if a force was like, “HEY!  Stop it down there!!  It’s hard enough to be there.  Can we just give ’em a break for an hour, m’kay?”  I doubt whatever force was invoked would use “m’kay” as it directs the universe, but we call this artistic license, m’kay?  I cried when another mom, whose team raised like a million dollars (slightly less in point of fact) since her daughter’s 2015 diagnosis told her story–it could have been me saying those very words–and cried again when she couldn’t continue speaking through her sobs, and then her husband stepped in.  I was touched by this show of love for her and his daughters.

After 16 months, I finally introduced myself to two MDA employees I’d been in phone/email contact with.  They’re both so lovely and dedicated (thanks Kelsie and Stacey!).  I stepped on Kelsie’s foot when she hugged me and I think I stuttered a lot around Stacey and made really poor eye contact, but I made eye contact!  A lifelong friend of mine, my friend Steve, whom I’ve known since fourth grade but rarely see in the grown-up real world, and his family came to the zoo to walk with us.  They drove two hours to be there with us!  I couldn’t even speak, and I didn’t want to cry, so instead I said stupid, banal things at first.  But wheel and walk around the zoo we did.  And it was OK.

After:  You know, I’m still not able to record in words how I feel.  In some ways the walk was harder than last year, but I’m relieved that my husband felt just the opposite way–he talked to the mom whose fundraising broke records, told her our child had been newly diagnosed too.  He approached Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin, who hung with us for awhile, and gained some LGMD insight from their exchange.  Man, I hate having to be there.  No, I hate that it took my son being diagnosed for me to be there.  True, but no, not quite that either.  I hate that he has MD, there.  I do, but I am happy that his diagnosis has helped the greater effort.  Even as I type, my eyes are misty–because he has MD, yes, and also since I was able to help support the MDA BECAUSE OF YOU!  I’ve abandoned every expression of thanks I’ve attempted as paltry and platitudinous. Others say it better, say it like this for example:56ee4e03f3df8547f2e7e091ca89253b

My words ring hollow though I believe I flex my gratitude muscles with regular effort.  These people?  You wish they were your people, you totally do.  Ordinary, everyday people who show a generosity of spirit unlike ordinary, everyday random folks.  They share their time, talents and treasures and make the big, wide world, and not just my corner of the big, wide world better.
Only a small part of Team GTG walked Sunday.  Here’s our complete roster, and if I missed anyone as I was typing here, please forgive me:  Mary Holsten, John Weir, Ryan & Sara Weir, Steve, Robin & Cailin Inman, Barb & Adam Berman, Sue Ceaglske Clark, Maggie Grigaitis, Ruth Messnick, Ann Calverley, Rene Damask, Stacy Skenandore, Beth Klein, Lisa Lien, Barbara Henry, Jill Olen, Gwen Evseichik, Kathleen Duncan, Dan Simmons, Jenna Stoll, Kathy Gregorski, Meera Gummaraju, Ann Kukowski, Michelle Sjoblom, Deanna Evans, Ginger Macdonald, Jennifer Boyanton, Deb Ripley, Michelle Thorpe, P.J. Early, Sally Warkaske, Jennie Guenthner, Christine Carey, Alicia Kraucunas, Terry Radtke, Amy Van Ells, Margo Turner, Rose Hill, Tracy Klement, Kris Imobersteg, Rose Mary Walecki, Marie Baumeister, Patti Dillon,  Amy Behrendt, Bridget Panlener, Jen Sanders, Bob Kosky, Michele Nixon, Bek Szypula, Valerie Hoehnke, Beth Sandmire, Janice Schwind, Lori Wagner, Lisa Nassour, Sue Wacker, Nikki Leininger, Colleen Haubner, Heidi Reid, Shelly Weisse, Nicole Garza, Maureen O’Donnell-Gray, Rebecca Halsey-Schmidt, Diane Woppert, Dena Rubnitz, Terry Weir, Janet Sandner, Carly Ruggieri, Jodi Liebelt, and Dawn Kaliszewski.

YOU DID THIS!

And to answer the $64,000 question I’ve been asked so frequently of late–no, I do not know the identity of the individual who saw to it that $1,000.00 was directed to our team.  Do I want to know this person’s identity?  You betcha, but there’s no way to know.  I am going to find a way to live with the intrigue.  Though I cannot thank you properly, I am no less grateful to you than to anyone who has supported us fiscally or with the support that comes in the form of a hug, a kind word when I’m talking too much, or a smile.

I was terrified to begin blogging.  I remember feeling anxiety I’d never known the first few times I hit “publish.”  My friend Jen blogs, and in one of the first posts of hers I’d read, she wrote that if her story helped one person, even one, then it was worth it.  I hadn’t dreamed I would be helping anyone but myself when I began my little creative writing project. Immediately after, all I knew was that I needed to write, because to talk?  Talking was impossible.  Writing was a vehicle I could park and hand the keys to someone else who might read what I had to say.  I could never talk to people and ask them to donate to the MDA, but I could write it.  So I did.  And you did.  Thank you.

#WhyIWalk Wednesday

My circle of truly generous friends and loved ones (and fellow bloggers I technically haven’t met yet) grows.  Well, hell, you can read:

Because when designing our team shirts, my big kid asked this to be printed on them:  Help Me Stay Strong.

On day three of the quote challenge, I present one of my all-time faves.  I read it in the book Wonder by RJ Palacio, which came highly recommended to me by my then-fourth grader.  It was the first book he ever seemed excited over, so it holds a special place in my heart.  I was convinced the book would destroy me, but it didn’t.  Read it.  Read it.  You won’t regret it, and perhaps it will remind you to

 

Be kinder than is necessary–RJ Palacio

*drops mic*

OK, well technically (again with the technicalities) the post isn’t over until I tag three other bloggers in the quote challenge.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, you lovely writers you, is to publish 1-3 quotes over three days, and nominate three others to do the same.  No pressure, no hurt feelings if you don’t.  Really.

Shandra Eats

Ioana at Music Teacher Lifestyle

Aimee at A Nene’s Life

OK, one more thing, and I’ll shut up.  Here’s the link to our MDA Muscle Walk team page, in case you had like $10 you didn’t know what to do with. . .  Join or support Team Greater Than Gravity.

*drops mic* (for reals this time)