Pomp, Circumstance, The Cone Of Shame & A Rubber Chicken

I Graduated!

Wednesday was my last session of physical therapy.  Over the last six weeks, I’ve increased strength and range of motion in my left arm.  I can lift a one pound weight thirty times on two distinct angles!  Go, me!  There was neither cap nor gown, nor was there cake to celebrate the occasion, but there was a hug and the acknowledgement of hard work having paid off.  I have a plan for the future, though much to my chagrin, the plan involves pretty much continuing exactly what I have been forced to do doing all along in therapy: developing and maintaining strength for life.  The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s tagline is for strength, independence, and life.  That parallel I mentioned in my previous blog post?  Maybe it is clearer than I first thought.

I liked it better when I was younger and body parts just didn’t randomly break one day, but we don’t get to pick our injuries, and I’ve yet to guzzle from the fountain of youth.  I can somewhat pick what muscles atrophy though, and for now I pick no atrophy.   For the second time since beginning PT, I became ensnared in my tank top yesterday, so let’s not call me cured, OK?  I literally couldn’t get out of my own damn shirt. But I’ll keep working.  It’s worth the work.  And also, you can’t wear the same tank top day in, day out.  People would talk.

The Cone of Shame

Because 2017 is the Year of Insane Medical Bills, even the family dog horned in on the action.  My Caleb, he of fast, furry, four-legged fame, was bitten by another dog at the dog park last weekend.  Three visits to the vet and $450 later, he has been stitched up.  His wound began small, but as he tended to it (read: licked it relentlessly), it became infected, enlarged, and eventually required surgical repair.  Poor guy.  His demeanor and sweet, sweet squishy face is bereft of even the slightest whisper of joy since his cut ‘n cone experience.

There didn’t seem to be any pointed attack per se, my husband witnessed no snarling or aggressive behavior, just the joyful abandon of Caleb and three other shepherd-y friends tearing it up at the dog park.  Adding insult to an existing insult to injury is the addition of a tee shirt to protect the open wound.  My dog, whose AKC name could well be Spaghetti Spine Caleb to honor his agility, was able to reach and work at those stitches EVEN wearing a cone of shame.  So now he sports the cone of shame, the tee shirt of dejection, AND the duct tape of utter despair.  Yep.  We have to duct tape the shirt around his middle to keep the wound clean.  He sports quite an outfit.  My friend Veronica captured it perfectly:  Pobrecito.

You know what forces you to admit to yourself and the world that you really love your dog?  Pending surgery!  I promised on this goofnut’s adoption day I’d take care of him for better or for worse.  I’m the meanie who took him to the scary place for surgery, and my husband was the hero to pick him up and return him home.  Story of my life.  Probably every mom’s life.

At Last, Cake

My younger son turns twelve next week.  Sure, he already dwarfs half the American adult male population at the ripe old age of eleven, but birthday number twelve is a biggie to him.  My baby is the sweetest soul I know.  He is hands-down the biggest slob I know too, but that is a subject for another day.  He has eight friends sleeping over at our house tonight, and the cacaphony is deafening.  I am trying not to be the mom who’s a total drag, but I swear to the stars, if they don’t take the volume down, I’m going to flip my shit in a minute here.  I am already super excited for tomorrow around noon when I will finally drift off to sleep, and these are nice boys!  Earlier this week, one of our city’s most promising hall-roaming kindergarteners told me he wanted to, and I quote, “eat my booty.”  I ignored him the first seven times, but finally at #8, I pointed my phone at him, asking “Do you want me to video you and send it to your mama?”  Not such a nice boy, that one.  Probs not the optimal professional response from me either, but they don’t teach you in graduate school how to “appropriately” handle being sexually harrassed by a five-year-old.  Wait, I was talking about nice kids.

My son’s friends are solid, decent kids, and though they’re thunderously, ear-splittingly loud tonight, and I’m having an absolute FIT this very minute, they’re good kids. (Minus the one who just shot my kid in the scrotum at close range with a Nerf gun just now, and I swear on my front row tickets, I am NOT making this up).  One of his friend’s moms told me that the rumor was that tonight’s gala would be the “party of the century.”  It’s so lit!  It’s so spooki! Huh?

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Chicken Down! Chicken Down! Well, where do you keep your party chicken?

I’m seeing a whole new side of my “sweet baby” tonight.  The middle schooler is strong in that one.  He has a whole life outside baseball, outside football, outside our home.  He has a social life and secret language, using phrases and singing songs I’ve not heard before.  It’s what you want for your kids, right?  That they discover their place in the world, pave their own way?  Who knew the road would be so secretive, but loud? Or messy?  Maybe during this orbit around the sun, you’ll learn not to put your clothes on backwards–check the collar on that shirt.  #facepalm

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Happy almost birthday, my baby. I love you like crazy!

Happy birthday, my (not at all) little one.  You’re good and kind.  You’re hilarious.  You’re smart and you work hard.  You’re a good teammate, a “freight train so nice he don’t want to hurt nobody.”  Your first grade teacher said that your first grade classmates didn’t want just to be your friend, they wanted to be you.  People have said nice things about you, but this compliment stands the test of time.  I’m lucky to be your mom, so while it’s your birthday next week, celebrating you is my gift.  You may not understand that now, but someday you will, you ninnercrommie!

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Golden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dude, we gotta start a band!”


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

Every Song I’ve Ever Known Carried In My Bones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I Say That Out Loud? Duh.

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

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

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

Toe To Toe, In it for the long haul.

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

Moonstone, Please play this at my funeral.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silent Lucidity, Queensryche.  Just trust me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen.  Queen!

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

Hold The Line, Toto.  Just love. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subdivisions, Rush.  Holy effing high school.

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

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

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

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

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


 

Her Big 5-0


In my circle these days, fifty is a big f-word, not that f-word, but somewhere along that line, you understand.  It’s my best friend’s fiftieth birthday today, and there is no material gift I could possibly purchase her that’d be worthy or sufficiently deep to express my affection for her.  I’m not so arrogant to think that I’d be capable of writing anything worthy either, but I’m going to give it a go.  Happy birthday, Deb!

Recently Eric Alper, a Canadian broadcaster I follow on Twitter, posted this:  Your best friend writes a book about you. What’s the opening sentence?  I knew mine in an instant.

If you know me, you know I don’t wear a poker face often or well, and if I don’t use words to convey my inner workings, my face and body language shall speak volumes in speech’s absence.  I remember this day as if it were yesterday.  I was still desperately clinging to age 44, which by the way, I consider one of my very finest spins around the sun.  I’d lost about thirty pounds (again) that year, my hair had regenerated after periodic bouts of alopecia, and I’d found the nerve and pocket change to buy the big girl concert tickets and finally meet my favorite band.  My BFF came to Wisconsin to spend a long autumn weekend with me, and we were crushing it.  Deb and I were checking out at Target, me having picked up my first pair of prescription sunglasses.  (This was the slightly less awesome part of having turned 44, but this post is not about me, it’s about Deb.)

Anyway, as I am wont to do, I bust out singing because this is what I do.  I don’t sing especially well, but I can carry a tune and I sing with conviction.  Or utter foolishness.  Depends.  She looked at me, stated what I paraphrased above and told me how much she loved and missed being around me.  It was a pretty good way to soften the blow of admitting I’d aged into needed spectacles.

I don’t have a fifty cutesy, clever Pinterest or Etsy project for her.  Once and for all, I am NOT crafty, people.  Plus, like I said, anything material is unworthy.  I’m gonna try to capture my love and admiration in 50 items–precisely 50 this time because the last countdown I did was so bad with the math and no one noticed!  We do see what we expect to see.

It’s OK if you don’t know her, but you should read this anyway because you wish you knew her.  And you should totally tell your best friend how much you love him or her.  As far as that goes, you should tell EVERYONE who matters how much you love him or her.  So read this.  And then do the other thing.

  1. We’ve known one another 84% of our lives.
  2. Weiner, Weiner, Weiner!!!
  3. When I visited SoCal five years ago, she asked what I wanted to do.  She compared Hollywood Boulevard to Chuck E. Cheese’s, but went to Chuck E. Cheese’s anyway.  Because I wanted to go.  And it was totally worth it because we found metallic pink glitter stilettos made of awesome and a restaurant called Big Wang’s.  Hi, I’m 12.
  4. She meets MENSA criteria.  I’d have to Google what the acronym represents.
  5. Because of her, I know two rocket scientists.  Not many of us can say that.  I feel smarter by association.
  6. While living in Albuquerque, she enrolled her son in a part time brick and mortar school/part time home school, and led group lessons for hers and other kids in the same program.  I’d have lost my mind.
  7. When we were both completely hammered on margaritas in Monterrey that one time, I gave her number to the guy buying our many, many drinks.  Many drinks.  Many.  When he actually called the next day (yikes!), she made me talk to him and let him down easy.  Dammmit!  Lesson learned though.
  8. Eat Chow.
  9. Her husband, R, a now-retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, is a wonderful man.  They provided a stable, loving example what a good marriage looks like.
  10. When we were little, I’d ride my bike to her house (no hands all the way, man!) and we’d swim in their in-ground pool.  It was like I’d won the lottery.
  11. In winter, we’d skate on the little pond her family kept swans in.  It was like I’d won the lottery, but colder.
  12. She has fearlessly traveled around the globe.
  13. That hair!
  14. Her son and daughter are brilliant, engaging children.  I guess technically H is a brilliant, engaging adult now.
  15. K is an empowered, thoroughly charming daughter.
  16. They both still call me Aunt Weiner.
  17. She actually backpacked across Europe after high school graduation.  I think my highest achievement that summer was waking in time to hang with the Brady, Horton, and Kiriakis families of Days of our Lives.  Jaysus.
  18. She celebrates her Swedish heritage, and has traveled there to meet distant relatives.
  19. SNAUSAGES!
  20. I got your ice cream, I got your ice cream. . .  You have to chant it in the way Eddie Murphy did in Delirious.  We laughed so hard.  So hard.  Still do.
  21. She is an only child who has never been lonely.
  22. Girl can maneuver a stick shift up and down the streets of San Francisco.
  23. Sheepsters!
  24. Trick-or-Drinking in Ogg Residence Hall at the University of Wisconsin.  That girl taught me a thing or two about college life.
  25. She worked in computer science after graduation, and realized it was not the career she had imagined for herself.  She took the brave step of veering off her previously ordained career path.
  26. She then worked as a veterinary technologist because she loves animals.
  27. She later earned her Master’s of Library Science degree from ‘Bama.  Roll Tide.
  28. Her book recommendations are flawless.  Except for Still Alice.  I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but finished convinced I have early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  It remains a solid recommendation.  This list is not about me.
  29. For Christmas, she bought me the book You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day.  This passage made me spit out my water at my son’s baseball practice last year.  For context, Day had previously written that she, after being enrolled in a Lutheran school, once developed a crush on Jesus. The “my ex-boyfriend’s dad” laid me out.
  30. She is the only person who straight up told me she wasn’t comfortable with me marrying my first husband, yet still agreed to be in my wedding because she loves me, warts, toads, and all.
  31. Immediately after meeting Tom, she pinned me down, saying that he was the real deal and I had better not fuck it up.
  32. She helped me pick out my wedding dress, which was one of the most deliriously enchanting afternoons of my girly life.
  33. She made the paper for our wedding invitations, and had three different “recipes” to attain just the right shade of periwinkle for me.  (It’s the color of the sky on a cloudless, sun-soaked day as seen through my rose tinted sunglasses while bike riding.)
  34. “I’m such a piece of shit!”  Ah, Doty Street. . .  UW, y’all.  I went to Marquette and lived at home during college.  To me, Wisconsin was the land of dreams.  And frat parties.  But we didn’t really go to frat parties, we just participated as passers-by.  She may have downed a few too many just this once.
  35. Tri-tip roast.  Dee-lish-us.
  36. She went to see the Scorpions in concert with me at Alpine Valley because she knew I loved them, though 80s hard rockin’ was not her jam.  At all.
  37. Her father had a home office which we co-opted as our clubhouse for a spell.  I think we were probably not supposed to be in there, making the space all the more magical.
  38. That enormous, powder blue Cadillac El Dorado convertible!  God damn, that car was bigger than my first apartment.
  39. Having been moved around at the whim of the US Air Force, she quickly became a local expert on community events and hangouts.  She never maligned any city or part of the country in which he was stationed.  Not even Mobile, AL, which was not a first choice.
  40. She threw Tom and me a luau/wedding shower a week before our wedding, complete with grass skirt for our dog, Izzy.  And she coordinated it from New Mexico while nursing a baby and home schooling her firstborn.
  41. Varsity football cheerleading.  Good times.  No really, they were good times.
  42. She and her family raised a German Shepherd and pre-trained this beautiful animal to be a service dog for a blind woman.
  43. She knew within weeks of meeting her husband that they’d soon be married.  “Don’t be surprised if you get a call from me in the next couple weeks tell  you I’m engaged.”  I’d not known that type of certainty about anything until I met my husband many years later.
  44. To me: “You’re the only person I know who started college knowing what you were going to do and be, and are doing exactly that, still happy in your job.”
  45. She’s a fierce advocate for women’s health, especially her own.
  46. She eats more wisely and informedly than I’ll ever dream.  Will you hand me that box of Nutty Bars please?
  47. She has teasingly referred to me as a minx and uses adjectives like loopy to describe me. #nailedit
  48. She was devastated when Bowie lost his battle with cancer, and even moreso when Prince died last year.
  49. She provided the best-ever weekend of diversion when I last visited, a scant month after my son’s 2015 diagnosis.  We said and did everything and nothing, and it was the best best friend time I’d have engineered if I could have created the script.
  50. She texted me this on the eve of what she knew would be a tough neurology appointment for my son and therefore me:  Being loved deeply by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.–Lao Tzu

I’m the lucky one. Happy birthday!

A Teenager

Thirteen years ago at this moment I was in hard labor.  Hard.  My husband was sleeping because he was “really tired.”  He actually said those words,  you guys!  Still not over it, but it did provide a story I can, and sometimes do, hold over him.  And we laugh about it now, as he appropriately smirks, shakes and mock hangs his head.  It’s all good, y’all.  Look what we got for that labor:  A teenager!  (not the dog)

Happy 1-3 to my firstborn.  You were so worth the nine days’ wait past your due date.  I sometimes miss your gooey baby smile and gentle toddler ways.  I miss your soft, blonde baby head, your then-blue eyes sparkling at me when I was the center of your world.  I miss the cute toddler things you would say as you developed command of language–“Nice to coming!” (a cute mashup of nice to meet you and thanks for coming) or “Mama, pick me down” (well, what else would be the opposite of pick me up?)  And I miss thinking you’d grow out of that clumsy gait; I miss waiting for you to grow into your muscles.  Now we know.

I’ll never not hate that you have this stupid disease, but am grateful to have connected with many lovely humans in the blogosphere because of it.  Because of MD, you good people around the globe wish him well.  Because of MD, I found a voice here, and while I wish I never needed to find that voice, well, here you are listening.  I thank you.  Because of MD, he has the opportunity for summer camp.  It really was his best week of the year.

But hear me, muscular dystrophy, I am NOT grateful for you.  You suck.  You’re a mean, terrible, hurtful bully, and I despise you, even though that sounds middle school-y.  When I reflect on my thirteen years as a mother, I lack capacity to relate the hundreds and thousands of glad-hearted lessons I’ve learned.  Sure, I miss blissful unawareness, but being my kid’s mom has brought joy into my life that I’d never know were I not his parent.

I would love to post a beautifully-worded summary of my year-and-three-quarters as a mother whose child has muscular dystrophy, something profound and meaningful, maybe inspirational for others in my shoes.  Something perfect that everyone would hold up and proclaim:  THIS.

I can’t.  But I can say this:  Happy birthday, son.  I love you.  Like crazy.  It’s your birthday, but it’s my becoming a mom day, so for thirteen years the gift has been mine.

What Are YOU Looking At? And Also It’s My Birthday So Be Nice

I live in a pretty cool part of my city, a neighborhood busy with weekly concerts in the park, monthly art festivals, sports of all sorts–5Ks and .05Ks and the like, beer gardens, food trucks, and street festivals.  It’s a hipster haven, it’s LGBT friendly, it’s fairly liberal, it’s crazy with cool new restaurants, it’s got good schools for families–it’s got a lot going on along all the right trajectories.

Saturday was the Bay View Bash.  It’s a one-day close-down-the-streets four-stage cover band palooza.  Lots of craft vendors and artisans hawk their wares, and there’s more patchouli (eewwww) and street food than you can shake a waffle on a stick at.  Also, beer.  Lots and lots of beer is available, and lots of beer is imbibed. I don’t like beer.  GASP!  How can I hail from Brew City and dislike beer?  I just do. Dislike it, that is.  The smell of beer makes me kinda dry-heavey, and no, it’s not a holdover from having drunk too much beer when I was 22.  The smell of Southern Comfort holds that special place in my colorful history–I wasn’t always the angel I am now, you can probably imagine.  This is not a post about judging people who drink too much.  I do love a well-crafted cocktail, wines of all shades, and would dive into a pool of margaritas and slurp my way out with a straw if such an opportunity presented itself.  I’d be the world’s jerkiest hypocrite if I pretended I’d never previously gotten my sauce on in an overindulgent way.

No, this is a post about judging people who look down at people who appear different.  And by look I mean stare slack-jawed and by stare I mean, “wow, you’re really acting like an asshole.”

I encountered two people in motorized wheelchairs at the Bash.  One individual garnered little attention.  He looked “normal” (yes, quotes intended for there is still no font for my tone of voice), except for the wheelchair.  For a period, we ended up behind this gentleman in traffic as we all wove our way through the throng.  Passersby straight up stopped and stared at him as he traversed the crowd, and I don’t know why it surprised me, but it did.  This dude isn’t the one that’s got me all contemplative though–it’s the other man.  Now I will grant he was not wearing a shirt, and I’m always pro-shirt when it comes to street festivals, so maybe that could be factored into the stares.  But his body was more physically different than the first guy.  Markedly different.  Markedly physically deteriorated; his legs were contracted and his arms moved with considerable, rigid effort.  His head canted to the right and into his chest.

I know what you’re thinking, so stop it!  Wendy, obviously YOU were staring at him as well since you’re such a reliable informant on his physical being.  For a chunk of time, my family was walking behind him, and yes, he stood out.  Yes, I watched him from behind.  I mentally extend sincere apologies to wheelchair users I pass, because now I do think about wheelchairs when I encounter someone in a chair.  I wonder if my son will land in a chair like one of those I see some day–I do actually check out the various chairs’ features–and I wonder if people will stare at my boy.  I wonder if sidewalks and buildings will be accessible for him.  I wonder how he will feel if when people make assumptions about him.

What prompted me to write this was a woman’s (I hope it was booze-infused because I don’t want to live in a world with this level of overt uncouth and unkind) loooooong stare down as she approached from the opposite direction.  The stare would have been enough for me to react negatively to her, but the stare coupled with the SNEER, huff, and shriek of OH MY GAWD to her friend, whipping her head around to continue to stare at his back as they went in opposite directions.  It was awful.  She was awful.  I sincerely hope she was that drunk.  He is a PERSON, you malevolent beast, not an attraction.  Sure he looked different, but I bet he knows that already.  I bet everyone he passes recognizes that too, so probably no one needs that pointed out.

Who knows?  Maybe he did something jerky to her last pass?  Maybe they have history?  Maybe he was a giant ass to her first–people with physical disabilities can be jerks as easily as anyone else.  Maybe I’m making too much of it because I view things through the lens of my son’s future.  Maybe it was the conspicuous absence of the shirt?  Maybe it’s none of my damn business?

Except it is everyone’s business to be kind.  BE NICE, PEOPLE!  Which is a lovely segue into my next topic.  If not for Jenny Lawson’s effing amazing blog, The Bloggess, which you should totally click here and read, I’d never have discovered Wil Wheaton’s blog.  I haven’t read every syllable he’s ever written, but I do enjoy his writing style and perspective on many topics.  I LOVED this message he relayed:  Whenever you can, do something kind for future you.  Read Wil’s full blog post here. It’s much better than what you’re reading now.  I’ll wait til you come back, I promise.

Of course I was reading his post while mindlessly stuffing my face with Doritos (there’s nutritional science and psychology behind why they’re the perfectly perfect engineered snack, people), but the crunch inside my head was so loud, it took awhile to shush sufficiently that I could hear what Wil was saying.  I stopped gorging myself in that instant, and did something future me would appreciate:  I stopped jamming Doritos into my pie-hole.  I also stopped feeling guilty at keeping my  hair appointment.  My husband got called into work second shift today and tomorrow, and I felt like I should stay home to shuttle little one to football practice.  I asked another set of parents to pick up and deliver him, and they did.  There’s much more to come on this subject, but my takeaway was a new twist on a familiar mantra:  be kinder than is necessary–you are your ground zero.

It’s my birthday, so happy birthday to me!  Birthdays are not exactly time for not-resolutions, but it’s always appropriate to take stock and think kind thoughts, right?  And not just for future you, but for right now you too.  Thank you to everyone in my world for starring in the role of being just who I need.  If you made me happy, thank you.  If you made me reflect, thank you.  If you made me want to throat punch you, thank you for the lesson on what I don’t need and/or want.  You are each exactly who you are meant to be in my life, you each fill the space you were meant to inhabit for little old WW.  As is her annual tradition, my friend Nikki occupies (among her many roles in my life) the role of outdoing herself creating personalized, often inappropriate Barenaked Ladies-themed household items.  Apparently the traditional gift for one’s 49th (holy shit you guys, I’m 49 in less than two hours!) birthday is a photo collage blanket of me with my favorite musicians on the planet.  It’s amazing and hilarious–Nikki deemed her effort epic, so please enjoy.  Oh, Nikki, you kill me. You fill that role like no one else in the world possibly could!  #ketchupandmustard ❤️💛

I thought my birthday present from Nikki would be the piece de resistance of birthday swag, but that was until I got home fully blonded-up, just as nature intended.  Epic though my blanket may be, and it IS epic, right, #Ladiesladies?–it’s not this rare glimpse into the psyche of my seventh grader.  His English/Language Arts teacher charged kids to create a poster about something “real” in their lives, and this is what he designed, thus far in draft.  I could barely speak.  The birthday gift my big kid gave me isn’t even meant for me, but the gift of his perspective is more than I can manage tonight.  My hold on acknowledging 49 is tenuous enough, but this?  I can’t speak.  But I don’t need to–he, in a rare and special turn, spoke volumes.  Happy birthday to me.