My mom died. That’s where I’ve been. Putting that on paper is odd, but it’s somewhat cathartic. My hands are shaking as I look at those words again. My mom died. It’s real.
My mom and I didn’t always have a rough relationship. When I was very young, it was easy. Parents are heroes when we’re little. Moms are the most beautiful. Dads are the strongest men we know. It’s the lovely part of parenting. As life tends to show us, things change. Sometimes we can’t explain the change, but it’s there.
My parents divorced when I was in middle school, and in high school I moved in with my dad. In college, my mom and I still got along pretty well. She’d come see me, and I’d go home to visit her from time to time. Things grew more and more distant as the years passed. It wasn’t a casual growth. We argued. We couldn’t see eye to eye. She came to my wedding. It was a good day.
When The Boy was born, Mom was here. She didn’t stay with us. She stayed in a hotel, but she came to see me that very day. She helped me get pain meds from the nurses, when I was in too much pain to think clearly. She saw him a few times before The Girl came along, but the visits became less frequent. They were too stressful. We always did the obligatory family gatherings, like funerals and an occasional Christmas. In the few years where we didn’t see each other, there might’ve been a holiday phone call, but only if my brothers were around, to be sure things remained friendly.
Just more than a year ago, after keeping it to herself for a brief time, Mom told us she was sick. My brother was the one who called me. Mom had cancer, and it didn’t look good. It was a large mass, and while she would do chemo, there probably wasn’t a cure.
Without skipping a beat, I stepped in to help. That doesn’t make me a saint. I can’t explain why it was easy for me to take her to appointments, chat with her on the phone, and otherwise support her wherever needed. “She’s your mom, Jenny. That’s why.” Yeah, okay. I’ll give you that. Sort of. It’s not that simple. A lot of folks out there are unable to make amends with their parents.
Maybe it’s that we knew she was terminal. Either way, it was easy for us both.
Enough time had passed. The anger was long gone. Most importantly, neither of us felt like we had to talk about it.
One night, we were chatting on the phone at about one in the morning. We’d been texting, but I could tell she wanted to talk. It was mostly about everyday things, like what I cooked for dinner and how she was feeling. I said, “Mom, I’m really glad we are talking again.”
“Me too,” she said.
We never talked about why we had a hard time getting along all those years. We never blamed each other, or asked any questions.
I’m not naïve. Not all relationships are fixed by simply moving on. Extreme circumstances, such as illness, simplify things a bit, adding a sense of urgency and sympathy. By not talking about it, we weren’t ignoring our past. We both did things to upset one another. It’s not always crucial to point out another’s faults, though we are quick to do that with loved ones.
As human nature goes, we don’t want to hear what we’ve possibly done to mess things up. That wasn’t the case here. It wasn’t important for me to tell Mom how she’d wronged me over the years. Sometimes, we need to explain things. Sometimes, we can simply move on. Agree to disagree. Hashing it out or blaming isn’t necessarily necessary.
Before you close the door on a friend or family member, think about it. How much does it matter to you that you prove your point? Is that the only way? It might be. If you consider it carefully, you might find that it really won’t solve a thing.
I’m so thankful for the time I had with Mom. When she died, she died peacefully, on good terms with all three of her children. I can’t imagine my grief, had we not been together in the end. It would be a whole different ball game. Play yours intentionally. Give up being right. The end matters, and you never know when that might be. Love your people, people.
*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on October 27, 2016. http://www.metrospirit.com
I sat here for about twenty minutes with that single word on the screen. I stared, trying to figure out where to go next.
The tragedy in Orlando, where 49 innocent lives were taken away, is all anyone can talk about. You can try to ignore it, but you’ll have to hide under a rock. Even then, make sure it’s a big rock.
It goes like this: someone says “can’t we all just get along?” or the like, and it’s suddenly a raging political debate. I’ve seen friends unable to agree to disagree. The name calling and anger has reached an all new high.
I almost get it. What happened is terrible. It’s horrific. A mother, in the club with her son, who covered him with her body. He survived. She did not. A brother’s last conversation with his sister is a Snapchat, when she realizes the noises she hears are gunshots. She didn’t make it. Dozens of people, huddled in the bathroom, playing dead for hours, in hopes of making it out alive. Anyone with half a heart would be upset by the stories coming out of this. We, as a people, are devastated.
A trans friend reminded us last week to be sensitive to sky high emotions. She apologized on behalf of the LGBTQ community, because, understandably, they are deeply shaken, and it might take a minute to regain footing. For the most part, I agree with her. People are reacting without thinking, which is what happens in the wake of such tragedies. They’re angry. They’re hurt. They’re devastated.
All of us are. Most feel helpless. Our actions seem insignificant against large scale issues. We’re told not to politicize it. Told to hate guns. Told it isn’t about religion. It is political. It is about religion, and like guns or not, they’re here, and they’re often in the wrong hands. In the meantime, what can we do?
Start small. Call your congressperson. They’re easy to track down. Leave a voicemail, expressing your opinion. Volunteer in your community. Give blood. Words of support comfort, but we can all do something, whether it’s related to Orlando or not. Grassroots efforts have been known to grow into pastures.
A specific group of people was targeted this time, but what about 9/11? Sandy Hook? Virginia Tech? Each one of us is affected. Each one of us needs to help fix it.
Use words with caution. Words sting. Differing opinions make the world a more interesting place, but there are ways of expressing oneself without being nasty. Name calling deflates an argument. No one’s asking you to forget your stance. Education and discussions keep us moving forward. Neither of those is defined as using hate-speech and derogatory terms to get the point across. I can’t imagine a time when we’ll all agree; it’d be impossible. We can get along, though. Be kind to one another.
We don’t have to say the same thing, but what if we all said it the same way? We can’t change unless we change. It can happen, if we, the good guys, stick together.
*Originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA http://www.metrospirit.com
As I’m writing this, there’s a raging debate about the life of a gorilla vs. the life of a 4 year old little boy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the gist. Mom turns back. Boy springs loose and falls in Gorilla pen at zoo. Gorilla is either saying “he’s mine. I’ll protect him,” or “he’s mine. I’ll eat him.” Zookeepers can’t tell and put kid’s life first, killing the 17 year old gorilla.
People are freaking out, because the mom is a failure. She should be able to keep her eye on her kid every single second of every single day, never ever making a mistake. Perfect parents have come out of the woodwork, carefully and angrily explaining this to her. She’s a disgrace to perfect moms everywhere.
Everyone else is freaking out, because the gorilla died. The zoo is stupid for protecting the kid, who never should’ve been in there anyway, but his stupid mom couldn’t keep an eye on him every single second of every single day. The zoo should’ve done it this way and that way, say thousands of armchair experts.
If you’re on the side of the gorilla, everyone wants to know why you don’t care about the kid. If you defend the mom, we can’t fathom why you don’t care about the gorilla or all the abandoned puppies and kittens and ferrets in the world.
Let me tell you a story. When I was little, say three years old, my family and I were at the San Diego zoo, watching the gorillas. They each thought the other was watching me. They walked away, going their separate directions, without their only child. Oops. My parents are good parents. I was a really well behaved kid. I cried. They panicked. The zoo found me, somehow found my parents, and reunited us all. I wasn’t a kid who darted from my mother’s view. I didn’t do things I wasn’t supposed to do. I lied all of two times as a kid, and this wasn’t one of them.
I’ll tell you another story. That same year, the same well behaved three year old leaned over a fountain in a Cincinatti mall in the dead of winter, just to get a little drink. A few drops. She fell right in. Mom was standing no more than two feet away. In the blink of an eye, her sweet toddler with brown ringlets and a very heavy winter coat was soaked from head to toe.
Now, now. Use your imagination. The gorillas in the San Diego zoo weren’t in that fountain in Cincinatti. If combined, these two might make one relevant story, but that’s beside the point. The point is, stuff happens. Parents cannot watch their children all 86,400 seconds a day. It’s impossible. The zoo took what they thought were the appropriate precautions. Trust me. I’m not saying I’m not sad for the gorilla. He didn’t know any better. He was an animal reacting as animals do. I’m not a huge fan of zoos, and I won’t take my children to a circus. However, with the situation at hand, they did their best.
Can y’all imagine if the zoo said, “Sorry lady, you shouldn’t have missed those few seconds!? Just stand here helplessly while your child is pulverized by this big primate?” Yeah, right. What would y’all be fussing about then? It would be some of “thank God for the beautiful gorilla,” and a little of “that mom deserved it.” How messed up would that be?
It’d be very messed up. So are the constant accusations from parent to parent on how we can all do better. I have a bit of advice. Wait until someone asks for yours. When you’re perfect yourself, feel free to tell folks how it’s done. I know that’s no easy feat, what with all your free time, spent waiting for the screw ups that never happen. Be patient with the rest of us, please. We aren’t perfect, but we’ll share our wine anyway.
*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA http://www.metrospirit.com
I’m behind. Haven’t started. I went through this last year, too. It was different, though. I couldn’t catch the spirit. This year, I simply haven’t had time. Between shuttling my people around and several back and forth Atlanta trips, any extra hours have evaporated.
Do y’all want to know slack I’ve been? The Halloween decorations are still in the box in the hall, waiting to go to the attic. Even worse, our pumpkins still sat on the front porch, until I pulled them inside yesterday. They weren’t carved, so there wasn’t any mold. Yet. You’re asking why I brought them inside, aren’t you? I could’ve taken them to the garbage can. Opening the front door, grabbing the pumpkins, and yanking them inside was the quickest solution. Hopefully none of the neighbors saw me. I’ll take them to the trash when it gets dark.
I’m not usually bothered by such things, because it will get done at some point, and it doesn’t have to look like one of the Fat Man’s style trees I so loved decorating. However, when I caught The Girl cutting paper decorations out of white copy paper, I got a case of the guilts.
Coupled with that was the fact that there are now paper chains, ornaments, and signs all over the house. She can’t wait to hear what Santa thinks. I guess that means they’re staying. I guess that also means I won’t need all the boxes of décor out of the attic. Less work for me. Thanks, Girl.
The guilts don’t give me any extra time, though, so we still don’t have a tree. I woke up this morning feeling bad about it. “At least our elf has moved (most nights),” I told myself. At least he’s got it together.
Everything else is great, so I shouldn’t be complaining. We are all eating three meals per day, we’re busy doing things we love, and we have a roof over our heads. The clothes are mostly washed, though I can’t promise you The Girl is wearing clean socks. It’s not because they haven’t been laundered. She doesn’t mind wearing dirty socks. Her feet stink something awful. I pick my battles. Thank goodness for shoes.
As I sat this morning, making my list of Christmas chores that must be done before guests come to town, I envisioned rushing everyone around the house in our limited spare time, probably raising my voice a little. Everything has to be beautiful! It’s Christmas! Tie the ribbons! Don’t burn the cookies! Water the tree and vacuum up those needles! Company’s coming!
I took a break from my list and stumbled on another. Y’all know I love a list. Baby doll, bottle for the doll, paci for the doll, small blue notebook, a blanket, spray spray, doll car seat, Jedi bag, iPad, and a pencil. It sounds like suggestions for Santa, but don’t be fooled. These items already belong to a child. With an iPad and all of those accessories for her doll, she’s not wanting for much. Don’t be fooled.
Frances, our friend, and the owner of the list and an ultra rare disease, has had more surgeries than Christmases. That’s her hospital packing list. Gut punch. Who cares about the dadgum tree? Sure, we’ll get one. We’ll hang candy canes on it and put a wreath on the door. For Frances, we’re getting a new decoration. A small blue notebook will sit on our coffee table this year. A sweet, gentle reminder to get a grip. Peace to you and yours, y’all.
*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA, on 12/10/15 http://www.metrospirit.com
Because I love a list. Especially a random list.
1. I’m thankful for technology. Really, I am. I can’t quite appreciate the full breadth of my thankfulness, but I’ll get there. My laptop died. Our backup plan, an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard failed, too. I sound spoiled, and these are first world problems, but I can’t do my job without technology. Gone are the days of scrolled paperwork, written with a quill, taken by pigeon’s mouth, to the Metro Spirit office.
2. I’m even more thankful for electricity. Our home is heated and cooled at the appropriate times. I don’t take that for granted. We watched a man and his dog walk by last night, backpack strapped on and over-filled. I hope they have a warm place to sleep.
3. I’m thankful for sleep. Mostly, I’m thankful for children who are good sleepers. They’ve been that way since birth. Yesterday, The Boy slept until 12:30. If they sleep in, we sleep in. Even if we don’t sleep in, we get quiet time while they sleep in.
4. I’m thankful for quiet time. We are busy people. You are, too. A few still minutes each day are good for ya. Try it out.
5. I’m thankful for tryouts. Well, auditions. I don’t always remember to be thankful, when I’m nervous for friends an family, vying for their favorite roles. Auditions get them to the theatre, and that makes them all so very happy.
6. I’m thankful for theatre. Sure, I like the movie theater, too, but what happens in the Imperial is a thing of magic. Performing or watching, people come alive in that place.
7. I’m thankful for magic. Children remind us to believe in magic. Santa, the tooth fairy, or watching cookies bake in the oven.Before there’s an explanation, children see magic.
8. I’m thankful for children. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering to be thankful for all children. The one with a poop-filled diaper, running around the restaurant with a soggy cracker may not be as cute as the others, but it’s all about perspective. It’s really his parents’ fault he’s wearing soiled pants and hasn’t learned manners, yet.
9. I’m thankful for manners. A “thank you for shopping with us,” or “have a nice day” can make a difference in an otherwise crappy day. Someone needs to tell that to the lady at Rite-Aid who tried to tell me how the card reader machine worked. I swiped my card while she was scanning my items. “Um, ma’am. You cannot swipe your card until I give you permission.” There was no shortage of condescension in her tone. “I’m sorry! I didn’t realize y’all had gotten new machines. Usually, I can go ahead and run my card while you finish up. I’ll wait.” I wasn’t mad, but I was certainly baffled. She said, “NO. You see this,” gesturing to my defenseless dry shampoo again, “you can’t PAY for THIS if you’ve swiped your card before I scan this item.” Ok, lady. Whatever. I smiled and wished her a happy day.
10. I’m thankful for dry shampoo. It’s that simple.
11. I’m thankful for simplicity. Everything is complicated these days. People are overly sensitive. I probably just offended a sensitive person. I wish we could keep it simple. Eat what you want. Feed your kids how you want. If you aren’t harming them, who cares? Dress how you want. Unless you’re wearing leggings as pants. Leggings aren’t pants. Pants are pants, and you should wear them. You should wear them around your waist, too. I can’t believe your mama let you out of the house that way. No one wants to see your underwear. Trust me.
12. I’m thankful for Mamas. Until you are one, it’s hard to understand giving up the last cookie so your kid can have it. When you have to leave the park, on the most beautiful day of the year, because you threatened to leave the park if they did that thing one more time, you’re doing the right thing. It’s a Mama thing. Mamas make the best friends to one another. From carpooling to make things easier, to listening to a “why are they not living up to their potential” lament, to googling illness symptoms and saying a prayer it’s not that worst case scenario, it takes a village. One day, the village essential for survival transforms into a village of supportive friends.
13. I’m thankful for friends. Quality over quantity. When family can’t be there, friends fill in. Friends become family.
14. I’m thankful for family. Family can be tricky. We’re told we have to love them no matter what. At times, it isn’t easy. The holidays are the worst. Forced family fun is in full swing.Thanksgiving and Christmas are virtual pressure cookers of emotion. My grandma always cried. Every time we sat around her dining room table. We’d consider ourselves lucky if we weren’t the one who made her cry. Once, after someone cussed at the holiday table (quit judging. They’d cut their finger wide open), my cousin tried, in his thick Tennessee accent, to put it in into perspective. “Shit, Grandma. At least we all have each other to love. Who cares if someone says a bad word.”
15. I’m thankful for love. I love wine. That’s a kid of love I’d hate to miss out on. There’s something lovely about an evening spent with a nice, red, Cali blend. Champagne is delicious, too. Those festive little bubbles! Oh yeah, love. There’s no greater feeling. A hug from my sweet nearly ten year old girl. A front seat of the car hand-hold with my 11.5 year old son. The all-knowing glance from the husband across the room, because only he gets that what she just said was so annoying. Family gathered around a table filled with food (and wine). Announcements of new babies. Hugs and kisses. To quote Huey Lewis, “That’s the power of love.” Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Cheers!
*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 11/26/15 http://www.metrospirit.com
For my sixteenth birthday, my dad took me to Paris. I’d taken French for a couple of years at the time, and though I wasn’t fluent, I loved the language and spoke it pretty well. I understood it fluently but was afraid to converse. We were warned about Parisians not caring for Americans. If we looked like we were struggling with French, they’d know we were American. Understandably intimidated, I brushed up on my key phrases and made a deal with my dad. I’d tell him what to say, and he’d do the talking.We climbed La Tour Eiffel and ordered “deux cocas, s’il vous plait.” We shopped a little and ate quiche in the café next to the Louvre. I sat at the sidewalk tables and watched the glamorous women smoking cigarettes and speaking French so quickly I could hardly keep up. Surely they were talking about something fancier than what to cook for dinner or their kids’ tennis lessons. It’s French. They only discuss fancy things.
We got lost once, screaming at each other in English. Dad was sure he knew where we were. I was pointing to the map, sure he was wrong. I was right. We eventually found our way, though I can’t remember where we were headed. Dinner was steak frites. Breakfast was an éclair and café au lait. Lunch was anything on a baguette, likely ham and butter. I drank only Le Coca (Cola), mostly because it was all I knew to request. With “don’t eat horse” precautions given before we left town, I was afraid to mispronounce anything. I wasn’t interested in a glass of horse.
It was a lovely trip. Magical, really. Paris is a magical place. The people weren’t rude. If they didn’t like us, we never knew it. Several even told me they were proud of my French and enjoyed that I was trying. We made it out of the country completely unscathed. If anything, I’ve longed to return.
The news out of Paris last weekend was devastating. Innocent lives were lost, and senses of security forever broken. It’s not that Paris deserved it any more or less than any other place. For me, Paris held the magic. For so many more, it was their home. The magic of a meal cooked by grandmother or laughter with a little brother. Taken away. 9/11 felt the same to the US. Buildings we went in and out of, without pause, became places of absolute fear. When it happens, and it does happen, it’s not fair. Unsuspecting, innocent people, caught off guard and changed forever. Terrorism takes away the magic.
I’m not sure what to do about it all. It feels hopeless at times. Fear is consuming. If you pray, you should pray. Pray for innocent lives, lost because of hate and anger. Even the simplest of magic, gone because of the most selfish of actions. If you don’t pray, meditate or send good juju. None of it can hurt. When peace prevails, and it will prevail, the magic will be restored. Slowly but surely, it’ll come back.
*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 11/19/15 http://www.metrospirit.com
My kids love Halloween. They’ve always loved playing dress up, so it’s a natural fit. Rather than being in to Legos, The Boy loved capes and masks. His imagination would make any crappy accessory seem real. The first Phantom of the Opera mask he had was made of cardboard and a hair rubber band. His four year old self saw the real thing. The Girl went through a princess phase, but it was short lived. She likes more realistic things like an artist, a camp counselor, a chef, a fashion model, and a cowgirl-sparkly-witch-kitty.Wait. What? When she was three, she was a kitty for Halloween. That lasted until she was 4. I’m not necessarily a cat person, but her little chubby baby face made the sweetest kitty. The next year, she became sparkly kitty. When she asked to affix her cat ears to a pink cowgirl hat, I didn’t complain. Cowgirl Sparkly Kitty. After that, we bought a witches hat and sadly thought the sparkly kitty was no more. She came up with the brilliant idea to turn her cat-cowgirl hat into a cat-cowgirl-witch hat. Cowgirl Sparkly Witch Kitty.
It’s something our friends look forward to seeing. What new layer will she add? Last year, there was brief talk of the death of Sparkly Kitty. It was fleeting, thank goodness. She went as Cowgirl Sparkly Witch Zombie Kitty, complete with bloody bandages wrapped around her black, sparkly tail.
The Boy’s costumes have been more on the straight and narrow. He’s been Superman and Peter Pan. Last year, he was a werewolf and the year before a vampire. One year, I let him get one of those and entirely uncreative costumes that has a flat plastic mask and a flammable jumpsuit. That might’ve been his happiest Halloween to date.
I don’t go all out or anything, and I’ve never gotten a costume idea from Pinterest. I’ve only made one costume in my years as a Halloween parent. By make, I mean I ironed a Tinkerbell patch to a white t-shirt and tied together some green tulle to make a skirt. I don’t count makeup as a difficult part of costume assembly. Remember when everyone was in A Christmas Carol? They all wore eyeliner for a week.
Much to the dismay of, well, everyone we tell, The Boy wants to be Zipperface. It’s nasty. He’s asked for a couple of years, and quite frankly, I’m excited about a make-up only costume. I’m also excited that he still wants to trick or treat. The candy is a motivating factor, I’m certain. He’s not looking for circus peanuts and Bit-O-Honeys. He was the Reeses. I make sure to search both candy bags for dangerous (read: delicious Butterfinger) candies. Safety first.
I’ve been sworn to secrecy regarding her newest layer. Just know this: it’s good. I’ll update y’all later. Since the sun is down when we trick-or-treat, his nasty costume won’t be too obnoxious. If he starts scaring the neighbors, there’s a good chance they won’t recognize me.
It’s not because I’ll be in costume. I’m a bit of a bad sport about getting into a costume. I love a fancy dress or bright pink wig. I’ve been known to show up at a party as Drunk Girl with Wings. Glass of wine, pair of wings. Stop judging. That was pre-kids. Now I forget the wings altogether.
*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA http://www.metrospirit.com