Tag Archives: son

Cautionary Tale

13 Feb

on October 26, 2014, my life changed in a way I truly never thought it would, I knew it COULD but like so many other carefree 44-year olds, I thought I was immortal.  I knew that I had health risks that made me more susceptible to having a stroke than most  other people and I also knew that I didn’t take care of myself the way I should have but this is all said in hindsight while I type with one hand because my left hand has not fully regained movement, especially fine motor skills. I had an Ischemic stroke which occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases.It affected the right side of my brain therefore the left side of my body, that’s the way it works, the side of your brain affected is opposite the side of your body affected. I never lost the ability to speak, and was walking within days in the ICU. my arm mobility was good as far as being able to move it up and down but my hand didn’t come back until December or so. The cause of my stroke was largely due to just not taking care of myself, I have to take medicine called Warfarin also known as Coumadin because I have a titanium heart valve and atrial fibrillation. because of this medication, I need to have regular blood tests to monitor the INR level in my blood. Coumadin is a very finicky drug and its affects can be lessened or heightened by the amount of Vitamin K ingested. Blood tests are required to determine if the correct INR level is being reached or if your diet and/or dosage of Coumadin should be adjusted. I stopped monitoring my Coumadin because it was nearly impossible to work full time, be a divorced mom and get blood tests regularly. 

Prothrombin time is measured in seconds. Most of the time, results are given as what is called INR (or international normalized ratio). If you are taking warfarin to prevent blood clots, your doctor will most likely choose to keep your INR between 2.0 and 3.0.

The night of my stroke was the Sunday before my very favorite holiday, Halloween. I felt totally normal, maybe a little spacey, maybe I was drooling a little bit, but I was able to walk around and sort of talk, my 13-year old was worried and called 911. luckily. He recognized the signs of stroke from a commercial.

STROKE

Suddenly 5 EMTs were in my house to take me to the ER, I was covered in glitter because I had been working on my sweet sweet mermaid costume for Halloween. I would have loved to see video of myself drooling, black t-shirt tied around wet hair. like a turban because I had just gotten out of the shower and I read that a shirt was better for your hair than a towel to dry it. I must have looked and seemed literally crazy because the EMTs asked me if I had anti-psych meds and asked my kids if I was always like this – um, nope only when  having a stroke. I got to the ER and went through all the tests there to confirm that I was having a stroke and they determined what kind  and gave me a drug they told me would break up the clot. so I spent a week in the hospital and then went on to spend 2 weeks in an inpatient rehab where I had extensive therapies, physical, occupational and speech.

I’ve been told I’m an inspiration, I have a joke in my set that starts, “being a divorced 40- something single mom  living in a college town, I have often thought of writing my memoirs titled “Cautionary Tale”, if I’m an inspiration at all be inspired to take care of yourself so you don’t end up having to be inspirational and you can just live your damn life as healthily and as  long as possible, I feel like a fraud because often the past several months all I’ve wanted to do is lie in bed and eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but it wasn’t an option, my mom, sister and 200 other people including my two kids would never have let that go down.Be inspired by selfless people who do for others.

I have made enough mistakes to last a lifetime but I won’t beat myself up over this most recent one, anymore. I have learned from it and I am 22 lbs lighter since leaving rehab where I inexplicably managed to gain 4 lbs, while barely eating and exercising regularly.

My life will definitely be different from now on but different doesn’t automatically = terrible. I’m pretty excited about the changes, even though stroke is the number 1 cause of acquired disability in the country, I am not fully disabled, I am left with the deficits in my left hand and some cognitive issues, though when I told a close male friend that I am now extremely forgetful, cannot multi-task, and don’t have an attention to detail he told me he’s been like that his whole life, so yet another way I am stereo-typically male. I cannot return to work full-time but will be returning to work with children, on a part-time basis,  which is truly what made me the happiest in my professional life. I am taking the state mandated training online so when I am ready to find a job I shouldn’t have any problem. Its hard for me to buckle my belt which has become necessary because of the weight loss, so between my pants not staying up and the brain damage, I could have a new career in politics. I am seriously looking into designing an app for me and the other 3 million people on Coumadin, that tracks and logs vitamin K intake. My life is far from over so be inspired by that not my recovery because that was mostly luck and stubborness.

I haqve been writing and performing stand-up comedy for about a year, I have written material from this experience that I hope is funny,(some of which is in this post) I have no affect in my voice (meaning I sound pretty robotic) and my timing is terrible but my number one goal is  to get back up on stage.

Tomorrow is valentines day and I am valentine-less again this year but I have 3 gorgeous rented dresses hanging in my closet and tomorrow I will choose one and put it on and go to a fancy event called the Heart Ball where I am volunteering for the American Stroke Association and the past several months have shown me that I am absolutely surrounded by love every day of the year.

valentines day

Male Victims of Sexual Abuse are not “LUCKY”

9 Apr

boys

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of the saying “boys will be boys”.  I think that saying dismisses actions and behavior from boys that might not necessarily need to be dismissed. I can’t help but think of the Steubenville rape case, and how the actions of the boys, the rapists, were largely dismissed because they were athletes, or because the girl was “asking for it” because she was intoxicated, or for whatever reason. This reeks of this “boys will be boys” mentality, and in my opinion, it fuels rape culture.

I also think saying “boys will be boys” gives the impression that girls are to be held to a different standard of behavior than boys.  I was a rambunctious and rowdy kid. I built forts, played with Star Wars toys, and climbed a hell of a lot of trees. My parents were extremely good about nurturing the child I was, rather than trying to make me fit and stay into one box labeled “girl”.  I think the saying is just another double standard, and I really dislike double standards. A lot.

I have written about the double standard of women being slut-shamed and how it’s very easy to fall into the seemingly socially acceptable habit of  labeling a woman a “slut” or somehow otherwise devaluing her when she chooses to have sex with a lot of people, or before knowing someone for some unknown amount of time before she has sex with them, or for whatever reason someone wants to honestly. “Slut” seems to be the go to insult for many people, like the absolute worst thing a woman can be is one who has indiscriminate sex, or close to absolute worst thing. It seems the absolute worst would be calling a woman a “fat slut”, but that is well-covered territory in this blog.

Double standards are not only annoying, they are also dangerous.  We socialize our little boys to believe that they are practically machines when it comes to sex. They want it all the time, with anyone, and they are not allowed to NOT want it. We socialize our little girls to believe that their sexuality is something to be treasured and prized and must be given with extreme caution and discretion.

I find this difference in how we socialize our children disturbing, perhaps because I am the mother of two boys. I want them to know that they too are allowed to say no and that they can be raped and violated, even though they are boys (this last part seems like it shouldn’t be necessary, but there are some people who think boys cannot be raped). I think telling them otherwise perpetuates the myth that simply because they have a penis they must want sex all the time, and they have a right to expect it, and they are not allowed to say no, and they are certainly not allowed to tell someone that they were violated or coerced into having sex when they didn’t want to.

Bill Maher, comedian and host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher,  seems to feel the need to mock the research written about in this Time article that states that “nearly half of young men say they’ve had unwanted sex.”  This mock public service announcement  perpetuates the stereotype that men, and boys, simply because they are men and boys, have no right to say no to sexual advances, that there is no such thing as coercing a man into having sex, and if a man or boy tries to rebuke unwanted sexual advances, the video has this piece of advice for them “boo fucking hoo, you fucking pussies. Grow a pair”.

Hey, I get satire. I have written satire. I understand the set up and delivery. I understand the furor over the whole #CancelColbert  thing (admittedly the piece this links to is about hashtag activism in general, but I found it fascinating AND relevant, so I linked it) because the tweet in question was largely taken out of context because the person who wrote the tweet wrote it as if everybody in the world, or at least everyone with a twitter account, had seen the bit that aired on the show that the tweet referenced. Taken out of context, the tweet DOES sound totally offensive.

The thing is, and I may be wrong, but I don’t think there is any other set up to this video, besides Maher acting like this is a real PSA when introducing the clip. This piece doesn’t feel like it’s mocking what I think should be mocked, the belief that this is how society treats boys who have been in this situation.  It seems like it is mocking the research itself, and the very idea that a person of the male persuasion would ever have the audacity to turn down sex or admit to those times when they felt like they were coerced into having sex.

noun: satire
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I understand that males and females are different, but socializing our little boys to think that they must be ready and willing for sex at any time with practically anyone is harmful.  I think we would all agree that pedophilia is a disgusting thing, yet this story about Chris Brown “losing his virginity” when he was 8 years old to a girl who was 14 or 15 is insane and one that has not gotten a lot of attention for WHATEVER reason.  Does the public not care because Chris Brown is not a very likeable celebrity or is it because this scenario is just not as interesting as it would be if it was 8-year old Christina Brown and the 14 or 15-year-old was a boy? As it stands, I have a little more empathy with Chris Brown’s issues as an adult knowing that he was molested as a child, and yes, molested, not lost his virginity, but molested. Granted,  molested by another child, but I can almost guarantee that neither Chris Brown nor the young woman who molested him received any therapy or intervention of any kind. We know how Chris Brown turned out. Again, not an excuse, but perhaps insight.

I think boys need to be told about their bodies and explained that their penis becoming erect is a physiologic reaction and can happen even in traumatic or painful situations. I think, just like girls, they need to be told about sex and the consequences involved, including STD’s and pregnancy, and how females may carry the baby but that does not absolve them from any responsibility, and I also think we need to tell boys about consensual sex, consensual on both sides, and that they are allowed to say no if they want to and we need to stop perpetuating the ridiculous crap in the above video. We need to provide a culture for all children that makes them feel safe and empowered and as of right now, we are not doing that.

I’m taking this right from the website, 1 in 6, which references that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual relations before the age of 18.  For more details, visit the site.

Before addressing the myths, let’s review some key facts:

  1. Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
  2. If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
  3. Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
  4. The sexual abuse of boys has nothing to do with an abuser’s sexual orientation.
  5. A boy abused by a male is not necessarily gay, nor was he abused because he’s gay, nor can the abuse make him gay.
  6. Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
  7. Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.

I spent some time researching Bill Maher, specifically this Wikiquote page. I’m perfectly okay with him having his opinions, I just totally disagree with some of them, and while Bill Maher has no children, I will do my best to teach my boys that they are valuable on many levels and they can be in charge of their sexuality AND be REAL MEN.

 

Happy Galentine’s Day AND Happy Valentine’s Day

13 Feb

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and today is, from what I understand, Galentine’s Day.  What, prey tell is Galentine’s Day? Galentine’s Day is from an episode of “Parks and Recreation”, a show starring the very talented and hilarious Amy Poehler as well as an equally talented and hilarious supporting cast including Nick Offerman (and his EPIC mustache), Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari,  Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, and Rob Lowe. See? Why aren’t more people watching this show? Including me actually since I don’t watch it on the regular either. I know, I suck, but in my defense I just now figured out how to program my DVR.

Anyway, Galentine’s Day is a day invented by Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope,  to celebrate the women in your life. It doesn’t matter if your gal-pals are married or otherwise attached, Galentine’s day is a day to let the gals in your life know that you love and appreciate them. Here is what Leslie Knope herself has to say about the day –

What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.

Sounds like fun! I am extremely fortunate to have an excellent support system of women near and far that I call friends. Some are family members, some have been my friend for over 30 years, some for not that long, some I haven’t even met in person but thanks to social media we have become friends. I share in their lives and they share in mine. They are my biggest cheerleaders and I know when I need anything, they are there. We have cried together, we have laughed together, we have gotten outraged together over my seemingly endless bad luck regarding relationships, and we have nervously laughed at my sometimes terrible decisions, because if WE can’t laugh about not being able to stop texting someone who clearly doesn’t want to be contacted simply because I think I thought of the PERFECT way to explain why I sent so many texts to him BEFORE, then who can?

So to my gal pals I say Happy Galentine’s Day! I love each and every one of you and I thank you for being there for me.

galentines

As for Valentine’s Day, I grew up with a father who felt it was important to give his daughters Valentine’s presents and/or candy and/or flowers and because of him, the day is much LESS about having a romantic relationship than it is to shower those you love with love, and a balloon or little box of Scooby Doo bubblegum balls (spoiler alert, that’s what my children are getting from me this year).

I have my fair share of stories of Valentine’s Day plans that went terribly awry. My personal favorite is when I was dating someone and we had plans for him to come to my house for dinner, this was when I was in my 20’s so when I say “my house” I really mean a crappy studio apartment. I searched all day for a heart-shaped baking pan and I made a delicious yellow cake and topped it with whipped cream and strawberries. Rick never showed up that night or called until the next day.  I don’t remember why he couldn’t come over, but I do remember that over the course of about 6 hours while waiting for him, I ate that entire cake with a fine white wine (just guessing since I don’t remember but it was probably from a box).

I’m not involved in a romantic relationship this Valentine’s Day, BUT I can guarantee you, I will feel loved and I will show love. I will be spending the day with my two favorite Valentines, my kids, and I will tell them that I love them, just as I do every day, and I will hug them a little tighter than usual and I will tell them that no matter what, their mom will always be their Valentine, and this will creep them out immensely, but hopefully when they are older they will carry on the tradition of looking at Valentine’s day as a day to show appreciation and love to everyone just a little more than they do every day, and that being single on Valentine’s Day is not a big deal.

And I may or may not, just for old time’s sake, eat a whole cake with some wine.

heart-shaped-cake

 

 

Slumlords, Hell Holes, and Gratitude. This Post Has It All

20 Nov

The calendar has moved beyond all things spooky towards the season to express gratitude.  However, I feel I can’t do that fully without first talking a little more about something scary. A haunted house of sorts. No, this has nothing to do with the terrifying creatures  in Washington DC, this is not another political post.

The house I’m referring to is not so much a house as a yellow trailer covered in tin sheets the same thickness as aluminum foil. A place that was literally falling apart under the feet of all those who dared enter. Someplace so horrific that hot water refused to make its presence known. Are you stumped? Cue dramatic music…..it’s where I USED TO LIVE!

I moved the boys and myself into the above-mentioned hell hole because I could afford it, it was a nicer part of town than the hell hole where I lived before, and it had a big yard for the dog. I am a woman who has made some stupid decisions, and lots of mistakes. I am nothing if not fully aware of how imperfect I am.  Choosing to “make do” in the little yellow trailer was not in my top 5 of dumbest decisions I have ever made. That should tell you how many mistakes I have chalked up in my 40 something years. It was solidly in the top 10 however.

The place itself wasn’t HORRIBLE at first. The landlord said we could paint! How nice! I’ll just throw away all the weird stuff left behind by the last tenants. I don’t think I need any more Halloween decorations, especially not jack o”lanterns that are supposed to plug-in and light up and have cords that look like they have been chewed by…um…something…and are covered in electrical tape.  I also don’t need any more Easter decorations featuring creepy bunnies wearing sundresses and straw hats. That in itself is not bad, who doesn’t love a rodent in clothes, but the dresses were covered in some kind of red and presumably sticky substance. I’m going to say raspberry jelly just in case any of you are eating while reading this.

So, I painted the living room dark green and made curtains with greens and blues in the fabric. It was adorable! I couldn’t open the windows because the ones that were not painted shut didn’t have screens and this is Florida, open an un-screened window for 2 seconds and risk catching malaria (and whatever else mosquitoes carry).

The boys picked out a nice bright blue paint for their room. This would be fine. This would be just fine. Until things started breaking and it became very apparent that my landlord insisted on making the repairs himself, and that meant a full day with him in my place, tinkering away with parts that he had more than likely pilfered from junk yards, and the repairs would not stick. The only time that something that he fixed stayed fixed was when he replaced my air conditioner when it went out. In July. In Florida. And he didn’t return my call about it being out for 2 1/2 weeks.

I learned tricks to keep things working that were almost broken. My refrigerator teetered at death’s door for months and months, but I learned that if I adjusted the temperature every now and then, that would breathe some life into it. I changed the door knob myself when it became so loose that my door could be opened whether it was locked or not.

When my hot water heater stopped working I could not fake or fix it myself. It was still summer, so I was okay with taking cold showers, but the boys weren’t as easy-going about it, so I broke down and called the landlord. After a couple of weeks, he arrived with duct tape and screwdriver in hand. I don’t really know much about water heaters, but to me, this seemed like he was woefully unprepared to actually fix the problem. I was correct in my assessment of the situation. It broke again a few weeks later. I called him again and told him that I had no hot water once more. Here’s where it got really ugly. It broke the second time at the end of the month. I told him I would not pay rent until it was fixed. He would not fix it until I paid rent. We had reached an impasse. One that meant I would be living without hot water for the next two months.

At this point, I had heard from a lawyer friend that what the landlord was doing was illegal. I did some research on this thing called “the internet” (thank you Al Gore) which is really so much more than cats and porn and blogs (not that I don’t love blogs…and cats…and porn) and discovered that my friend was right, the slumlord was wrong, and I sent him a letter using the words “pursuant” and “statute” and I told him that he was wrong and that he must be used to dealing with people who were afraid of him and/or stupid and that I am neither of those things. He showed up, sprayed some tire sealant all over the hot water heater (no joke. Tire. Sealant) and called it a day. My water still wasn’t hot, but it was very chemically tasting and smelling, so it was a good trade-off.

Here’s where the gratitude part comes in. I was able to tell my landlord that very next day that we would be moving out within the week. I could do this because my brother and sister-in-law offered me and the boys the chance to move into their HUUUUGE house in a beautiful neighborhood in town, for rent that I can afford, because my brother had moved to Texas and my sister-in-law was ready to join him.  As of a few weeks ago, the boys each have their own room, we have two bathrooms, I have an indoor laundry room, a dishwasher, closet space, a yard for the dog, and so much more. To say I am thankful seems like an understatement, but I am so very thankful for their generosity. I am extremely fortunate to have a generous and supportive family who COULD very well let me flounder in my own stupid mistakes, but they don’t. They help and comfort and support me and have never made me feel like a loser who makes bad decisions.

thank you

In the midst of hot water heater-gate, part 2, I had a little breakdown after a very unladylike screaming match in the yard with my FORMER landlord who dropped by to ask for money one night. I had sent the boys inside so that they wouldn’t be scarred for life at hearing their mother cursing at an old man, but they snuck out onto the porch and heard me doing just that.  After he left I was crying and saying that I was so sorry for making the boys live someplace so awful and that I was trying to get us out as soon as I could. It was a great moment in parenting for sure.  My eldest, who at 12 is smarter and more sensitive than a lot of adults I know, said “oh yes mom. Be sorry for putting a roof over our heads and working to feed us and give us things we need. Suck it up”.

I am so grateful that the boys appreciate that I AM trying. We appreciate our family so much, and we can all agree that we will NEVER take hot water, or each other, for granted. This Thanksgiving, or EVER.

gratitude

 

Dear 12-year-old Amy

27 Aug

typewriter

When I was writing this, it sounded very familiar to me and I realized why.  The advice I’m giving myself as a 12-year old is essentially the same that I gave to my boys in the post, A Letter to my Sons.  It makes sense. I have often said that children sometimes act as mirrors and reflect back to you those things you like about yourself, and what you don’t like so much as well.

I see so much of myself in my boys, for better and for worse. I want them to “GET” things earlier than I did, I want them to not beat themselves up for being flawed, I want them to learn from their mistakes, but mostly I want them to know that they can do so much more than they think they can because they are amazing. I let the fear of failure, and on many levels, the fear of success, color my choices. I hope the boys realize the only thing standing in their way is themselves.

None of us can go back and do things differently, and by and large, I don’t want to.  I do wish I had more time with my dad, and Brett, and I lament some of my choices, but even if I had the chance to go back and change things, I don’t know if I would because I feel like every broken heart, every rejection, every seemingly wrong turn, led me here, parent to the two most incredible boys on the planet. BUT, if I could go back, this is what I would want to tell myself.

Dear 12-year old me,

You’re kind of mess right now, aren’t you? You feel like school sucks, your parents are dorks, your siblings are jerks, your hair is a nightmare, your braces will never come off, and you will always live in a tiny town and feel something like a fish out of water. Well, never fear, 43-year old you (me) from the future is here to soothe your troubled soul. Granted, your hair will always be kind of a nightmare, but the rest totally works out.  I have some guidance for you to help you on your journey.

When you start high school, you will meet some fantastic people. Brett will be one of your closest friends. He will be there for you when few others are. Cherish him. He will be gone far too soon.

Dawn is someone who is very special and she will teach you about strength and love. Don’t lose sight of her.

Mom and dad love you but yes, things will get weird. Dad’s a complicated man and slowly you will start to realize that he is a human being, not a super hero. That’s okay. He can still be your super hero. He gave you his sense of humor and he loves the hell out of you and would do anything for you.

Emulate mom if you can. She’s incredible and totally comfortable in her skin. Also, give her a break about crying over Little House on the Prairie episodes and long distance carrier commercials. You will be exactly the same way. Also, you will do other things like she does too, so…keep that in mind the next time you laugh at one of her eardrum shattering sneezes.

Missy and Clay will always have your back. Clay will become one of the best guys and fathers you’ve ever seen (and probably won’t fart on either of his children’s heads even once like he used to yours) and Missy will grow more than you thought possible and will teach you about introspection. Listen to her. They will be your friends forever. Don’t fight with either of them about stupid shit. It’s not worth it.

Your family will grow to include a sister-in-law and two nieces.  Enjoy time with them when they’re little because soon enough they will be grown up and you will be in awe of the women they become.

In the coming years you will feel immortal and you will drive after having had a lot of alcohol to drink. You will do this more than once. Don’t do this ever, you freaking idiot.

Stay in journalism class. Continue in college. Writing is the one thing that you have always done and it is what you will always do and it would be fantastic to be paid for it.

Rethink that crush on Ashley Wilkes.  Weakness is not a quality to be desired. Trust me on this. Ashley could never have handled Scarlett anyway.

I know it seems like a self-destructive streak in boys is fun and desirable, but realize, that streak is inside you. Don’t seek it in them, deal with your own.

You feel like the chubby funny girl who boys don’t like. Boys DO like you, exactly how you are, and if one boy doesn’t, another one will.

Don’t even think about changing yourself for anybody. Ever.

It feels like you’re the girl who will never be kissed.  Not only will you be kissed, you will fall in love, several times, and boys will fall in love with you. You fall hard and you always will. Things inevitably end and it will hurt. It will not hurt forever though. I promise.

There are other things you could change and do, but it is imperative that you go to the On the Border restaurant with Missy and one of the guys she works with and one of his friends. The guy she works with will be more into Missy, but just hang in there. Meeting him will lead to two of the most amazing creatures ever.

Life is short. It’s really short. You will make choices in the coming years that you will not believe sound like a good idea to you at the time, and they probably aren’t, but I think you have to make them to get to where you end up. Remember this, nobody can beat you up the way you can. Give yourself a break after you make amends for your mistakes..and you will make so many mistakes, but everything will be fine. It really will.

Trust yourself, know your boundaries, love with everything you can, learn from and clean up your messes. You will be just fine. 

It’s a Boy. Two, Actually

30 May

booksThe last day of school is approaching in T – 4 days. Tuesday, June 4, is the day. The day I have circled in red marker on my calendar. I have never looked so forward to the end of a school year in my life.  Not even when I was the student. It’s so much more stressful as the parent.

It’s been tough, as any and all of you who read this blog on any kind of regular basis know. If you don’t read on a regular basis, let me sum it up – eldest son lost his mind this year, his first year of middle school, and decided to do as little as possible AND do everything with a terrible attitude and argue everything from the color of the sky to his middle name (slight exaggerations MAYBE).

Thanks to his super freak out plus modern conveniences like school websites that show practically up to the minute updates on his progress, (or shows what homework I know he DID, but did not turn in for whatever reason) as well as teachers (and I do appreciate it) emailing and letting us know what we knew already because of the websites, his dad  and I have been big balls of stress this year.

Facebook updates from parents who seem to never have any problems or issues with their kids certainly don’t help, nor do reading comments on those posts that say things like “that’s a reflection of great parenting!” True, it probably is, but that means that we are NOT great parents?  But I know I’m a wear my heart on my sleeve parent, and person, and many parents, and people, feel the need to present a certain front. I should probably do that…but I don’t.

It also seems that I have read many tug your heart-strings stories about kids who are saddled with the task of raising their siblings while working a part-time job and living in a box all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.  SO, as any concerned parent would do, next year I am kicking my 12-year-old out of the house. I am kidding, of course. It does make one wonder just what the hell factors are present that motivate some children and how I can do the same.

My kids are awesome. I just want them to do the best they can do and my eldest has not done that this year. They are both so clever and  could do anything, and anything is what I want them to do. I want the world to be their oyster, not their dried up chicken nugget. I really should have eaten dinner before writing this.

So here we are at the end of the year, and even though math camp and some extra work on math programs loom in the summer horizon for my 12-year-old, the summer will be so much more relaxed than the school year.   I can be a mom again, not some stressed out drill sergeant wildly clutching my chest as I vacillate between helicopter parent and letting  my kids have autonomy and dealing with the consequences  on their own if/when they don’t do what is expected of them. I can also get to know my kids again.

About 10 times this year I have said “that’s it! I can’t do it. I’m done with this” to my friends and/or the boys dad.  I’m not even sure what I meant, but I imagine I meant I was done with this being a grown up responsible parent thing. This summer, I’m going to be less of one. We all deserve a break dammit. We’re going to try all the new frozen yogurt places in town (Three have opened in the last few months) and stay up until 10 and go to the beach and start with a clean slate in August.   I have missed my boys.

We have had plenty of talks about how the behavior that was exhibited this year, will not be exhibited next year. He understands, he says that he had trouble adjusting this year. I nodded my head and agreed with him and gave him a big hug rather than going over in detail any issues he has had. We’ve already done that. And this is the beginning of a stress less summer. EXHALE.

sand heart

That Time I Got Lucky in Las Vegas

23 May

Way back when I was in my 20’s, I was fortunate enough to have a job that allowed me to travel all over the country. I was a , we’ll call it, “meeting planner”, because I really don’t know what other title to attach to it, and when I preface it by saying “we’ll call it”, it sounds very intriguing, and since I recently bought a pair of very large prescription sunglasses, and one person told me I looked like a European movie star from the ’60’s, I am all about intrigue.

SO, here I am in my 20’s, traveling all over the country setting up “meetings” for a “company” that may or may not (may) have had some “unsavory business practices”, but I was very naive, and nobody was getting hurt, except for the people who were using their life savings to buy into what the company was selling, but again, I clung to the hope that perhaps SOMEBODY was making the kind of money with the system we were selling that they were told they could make. Also, I was very selfish about enjoying the travel and money. I am AMAZED that many people in their 20’s seem to have their shit together, because my 20’s were all about me and partying, unlike my 40’s that so far are about my children and…hmm…can I say my children twice? Because there ARE two of them.

Anyway, one of my business trips took me to Las Vegas, NV (NV is probably not necessary but there it is). I was so very excited to go to Las Vegas because I have said for slot machinemany years that I plan to retire there and be one of those old ladies who spend their afternoons in the casino, bucket of quarters in one hand, gin and tonic in the other. Sadly, now all of the machines give out a ticket or some such nonsense when you win and also even more sadly, I really hate gin and tonics, but that part of my white trash dream can be modified easily enough.

When I used to travel, I would park my car in long-term parking in a lot that was located off airport property. The trips would take me away for a week at a time, sometimes more, so this lot was a necessity. From there I would take a shuttle bus over to the airport and go on my merry way. This was all pre 9/11 and I haven’t flown much, if any, since then, but then I would roll my giant ass suitcase (filled with booklets and other crap for the meeting), and my not so giant suitcase filled with sensible work dresses and 3 lbs. of makeup (I don’t even wear a whole lot, but I own a lot and I travel with a lot), off the shuttle bus, tip the nice men generously to check my suitcases and I would go relax and have myself a latte and peruse the airport shops for some worthless shit that I did not need. The money I spent on soy candles and earrings and corkscrews or whatever interesting must-have item I found in an airport shop every single time I traveled is sorely missed these days. OH 20’s…you came and went too fast.

The lot where I parked was not free, of course, as not many things in life are. I usually managed to save just enough money from my trip to get my car out of the lot, but not much more. For some reason that I cannot remember now, I did not have a bank account. I traveled with CASH. I know, right? What was I, a damn caveman? This means that not once but twice, both times involving a bar, I lost all my money and had to borrow money for the rest of the trip and to get my car out of the lot. The times that happened, I was fortunate enough to be traveling with a group of wonderful people who were also in their 20’s, but had their shit together more than I did and at least had credit cards and bank accounts.

I traveled to Las Vegas alone, which is pertinent to the story. On the way back home, I had just enough money to get my car out of the lot. I was so proud of myself. If ONLY there hadn’t been a delay in my flight and I wasn’t stuck at the airport being taunted by those slot machines. They would beckon to me “come on, stick a quarter in me. You may win. You may win BIG”. I have no willpower. NONE. I slowly fed all my quarters into the slot machine, and I watched my money dwindle down to nothing. What’s even crazier is that I told myself that if I won really big I was going to just stay in Vegas. I didn’t have much in Orlando any more, and my friends there would love to come visit me in my high rolling bachelorette pad, and the guy I was dating would just have to find a way to pay for his own food. And gym membership. And clothes. And other girlfriend.

I didn’t win big, BUT I did win enough to get my car out of the lot. Lesson learned, right? Not so much. I was YOLO before YOLO was even a thing (mom, that stands for You Only Live Once), sometimes to my detriment (please see years…too many to reference here) but SOMETIMES, it is fabulous and fun and amazing to fly by the seat of your pants.

As a mom, I see SO much of myself in my boys and I have NO idea how to tell them how to figure out when they should go with their gut, and when they should carefully measure their decisions because honestly, some of my fly by the seat of my pants decisions have led to amazing things, and I don’t want them to miss out on THEIR amazing things.

There is no pretty bow to tie this up at the end. We’ve established that I make poor decisions sometimes,  but sometimes they work out okay, and sometimes better than okay, and sometimes they hurt like hell (me and others). My wish for the boys is that they experience their amazing things AND they make measured decisions. There HAS to be a happy medium, and I think they can find it, especially with my constant story-telling about the time I almost had to resort to prostitution to get my car out of a parking lot or the time I thought that eating escargots all night then drinking copious amounts of whiskey would NOT end up with snail carcasses being vomited down the side of my sister’s car. Kids love stories.

That’s Hilarious, Now Watch Your Language

21 May

parental_advisory_magnet

My 12-year old is the source of many posts on this blog, mainly because of the “rough patch” he has been going through in regards to refusing to do his homework, his need to be right even when I’m pretty sure he knows he is wrong, and his sassy mouth.

That mouth of his definitely gets him into trouble sometimes, but it seems whenever I share something he has said that is particularly sassy, I am met with comments like “oh where DOES he get that, I wonder?” and “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”, and often I find myself nodding my head and agreeing that my boys’ dad really is an epic smartass, but then I realize I think they might mean ME.

Of COURSE they mean me, I am not delusional (in this sense), but in my defense I come from a long line of funny smartasses, on both sides of the family. My father was a mad genius/smartass, my aunt majored in biting sarcasm in school. Cousins, uncles, and my grandmother, all well-versed in the fine art of sarcasm. My sister and brother carry the gene as well, as do my nieces.  My mom has a subtle sarcasm that sneaks up on you. Sarcasm and smart-assery have been elevated to new heights with my children however,  and I am simultaneously horrified and proud.

georgeBesides being delightful smartasses, my children cuss sometimes too. Thank George Carlin for that bit of parenting advice, though he didn’t actually use it as parenting advice, my ex-husband and I took it upon ourselves to decide that we would apply a famous comedy bit of Carlin’s to parenting, and our children would be allowed to use words deemed “wrong” because really, they are just words.  Carlin’s “Seven Words you can Never say on Television” was the bit and I still stand by my original assessment that it is STUPID that some words, regardless of context, are deemed “wrong”. This applies to what is known as curse words, not words that refer to any group of people.  I believe some of those words are FAR more offensive than the word “tits”, for instance, and the boys would be severely reprimanded by us if they used those words.

We have told the boys since they were born that as long as the words are not being used maliciously, that they would not get into trouble for saying them. We have also told them that they are not allowed to use the words in school or around grandparents (hey, we don’t want our parents yelling at us for our children’s use of curse words, plus there is a matter of respect, of course).

In hindsight, this bit of parenting was probably a misstep. The boys have stuck to the rules and very rarely, and usually only with each other, do they use the words in any kind of malicious way, but still, other parents probably wouldn’t be too thrilled when my kid loudly proclaims “SHIT!” on the playground after falling off the”mother fucking balance beam”. The previous scenario is fabricated, but it could happen. Backtracking and trying to regulate what words your now 8 and 12-year-old sons are allowed to say is a bit like trying to put silly string back into the can after you have squeezed it all out.  Or string cheese. Look, I’m bad at similes, but you get what I’m trying to say.

After that set up, I wanted to share some funny quips penned by my eldest child. I have to say, yes, they might be a bit racy and include curse words, but they also are really funny and are not MEAN in any way and the fact that these are from the same child who gave up his chair this past Sunday so an older man could sit down, and did this when he didn’t know I could see him,  makes me think meh, they are just words.

This is part of a blues song and is an ode to a woman who works as a clown  –

Spending all my money on your big ass shoes

Seriously, that line cracks me up every time I read it.

Brace yourselves,it’s racier than the other, but for a 12-year old boy, still not too bad, and it really is funny –

I’ve got a fire dick

You’ve got a water hole

Baby our love is like stop drop and roll

I am telling you, that is better than like 90% of the songs on the radio these days.

I think the boys are turning out pretty okay, even with all the doomed sarcasm genes and iffy parenting.

* Parental Advisory picture from Stabilitees

* George Carlin picture from his official website

A Letter to my Sons

17 May

typewriter2.jpg

Hello my boys,

As I write this, you are 12 and 8 years old, and I am 43.  I have lived probably about half my life, give or take some years. Although you both think I was born this age, I actually started out as a child! A baby even. Weird, I know.  I started as a baby and grew to this age, and along the way, I learned a few things that might help you in your journey to whatever lies at the end of this road.

I will try not to get philosophical and I will try to keep this short. I will be honest with you, it took me a long time to learn some of these things myself and some I work on still, but my hope for you both is that you actually listen to my words and you realize that I come from a place of pure love for the both of you.

There will come a time when you both will fall in love, the kind of love that will knock you on your booties. It will happen. Love is grand. Love is lovely.  I LOVE love. What you need to know about love is that you cannot “fix” anyone.  It is not your duty as a friend or boyfriend to be a magic elixir for someone else. There is a bit of a romantic notion attached to the “broken” individual. It is not romantic to be a mess or to be attached to a mess. It will rub off on you and leave you a little “broken” and messy in the process, and won’t do a thing to fix the other person. Be supportive, but realize, the hard work that needs to be done will need to be done by the person who is “broken”.

Don’t be afraid of love. Don’t be afraid to express it, and don’t be afraid when someone shares their love with you. When someone gives you their heart, be gentle with it. You don’t have to love everyone who loves you, and you probably won’t, but you don’t have to play with the hearts of those who love you. Don’t be that guy.

You will screw up. It is inevitable. How you deal with yourself and those you hurt after you screw up will define you as a man. Don’t let what others think of you enter into your mind other than as a passing thought. Try very  hard to absorb the good things that are said about you or to you and dismiss the bad.

Never forget that while you grew up living in a trailer, many grew up living in boxes, or worse. Be thankful for everything you have and have been given, and give back as much as you can to those who have less.

Hold tight to your true friends. You will know who they are.

Your family loves you. Your family may drive you crazy sometimes, but try to mend fences with them because they really do love you. I know this for a fact.

It is better to be slightly over-dressed for an occasion than under-dressed.

Keep a blanket in your car. Make sure your spare tire is not flat. Keep jumper cables in your car. Know how to change a tire. I can teach you if you want.

If someone needs money and you have some, give it to them. You both have seen me do this with people standing on the side of the road, and you have both asked why. There is the reason. I had it, they needed it, and I truly don’t care what they wanted to do with the money. My father taught me this and I have never lost one second of sleep thinking “sure hope that guy didn’t spend that $5.00 I gave him on booze”.

Help other people whenever you can. Pay for someone behind you in the drive thru if you can.

Never park in a handicapped spot unless you are handicapped.

Say “please” and “thank you”. Common courtesy should be truly common. Do it every day.

Never ever forget that everybody, every single person on this earth, has a story and has been through some shit. Try to remember that when dealing with the jerks, and you will encounter some jerks. You cannot tell by looking at someone what kind of a person they are inside. Be kind to everyone. EVERYONE.

After a break up, and I hope you have breakups because from my breakups I learned the most about who I am, take your part of the mess, look at it, own it, learn from it, then leave it in the past. We all have baggage, but yours doesn’t have to be a big honkin’ steamer trunk. A carry on will do.

Never underestimate the power of laughter, and of making other people laugh.

Travel as much as you possibly can.

Stand up for yourself but don’t be an ass about it. People can disagree with you and that is okay. Listen to them, try to see things from their point of view, and always respect them. If you enjoy debate, then debate, if the other person enjoys it too. If they don’t, and you insist on debating them, you are being a bully. Don’t be a bully.

Don’t let anybody else define you. YOU define you. Know who you are (and you will figure this out probably sometime in your 30’s…or later if you take after your mom) and be proud of it. YOU BOTH ARE AWESOME.

Water parks are not ever as much fun as you think they will be, but if you must go to one, always wear sunscreen and the longest pair of swim shorts you can find. If you go down any slides, you will thank me.

Be comfortable in your skin. If you are thin, own it, if you are heavy, work it, if you don’t like where you are as far as your body or anything else in your life, do something about it, but don’t ever shame anyone because of their body and how they look, and don’t do the same to yourself. Don’t buy into advertisements that tell you that you MUST buy or do something to be better,cooler, faster, hotter. They want your money. That’s it.

Alone time is okay and good for you.

When you are hung over, and you will be hung over at some point, wake up and drink as much water as possible and take a couple Excedrin. If you feel like throwing up, do it.  You will feel much better afterwards.

Those nights before you woke up hung over, don’t drive. Take a cab or arrange for someone to be your driver. Take turns with friends.

Play music, or write, or paint, or run, or do Tae Kwon Do or something that shakes your soul every day.

You can learn something from everyone you meet even if that lesson is “don’t sit next to Bob anymore”.

This is your journey. You only get one. Do with your life what you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else, and it makes you happy.

Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. That is them. This is you. And you rock.

Never ask a woman if she is pregnant or when she is due unless she is wearing a shirt with a huge arrow pointing to her belly. Even then, maybe just say “nice shirt”.

I am sure this is not the end, but this is the end for now.  I cannot imagine my life without both of you and even though there are times that we seem to not like each other very much,  I want you both to know that I am proud of you and I cannot wait to see you grow into men. You will both be EPIC and kind and original and hilarious and I love you both every second of every minute of every hour of every day, forever.

Mom, Mommy, and sometimes Amy (stop calling me Amy by the way)

Books for Kids that Don’t Suck

14 May

When my boys were younger,  I would tell them non-traditional versions of classic stories. In my version, after the prince helped Rapunzel out of the tower, the two of them rode their horses through several little towns that were in need of a doctor, and she decided to go to medical school and provide medical services for the townsfolk.  She and the prince got married and their child ended up being the girl in Rumpelstiltskin, which featured a misunderstood disfigured little person who befriended the little girl who saw past his exterior.

Before the movie Hoodwinked even came out, in my version, Little Red Riding Hood was a bad ass and she didn’t need to wait for any lumberjack to come and save her from the wolf. She took care of that herself.  By the time the lumberjack came along, Red and granny were enjoying the treats Red’s mother had made and the lumberjack hauled the body of the wolf away.

The Little Red Hen was less about the lazy farm animals and more about why the little red hen couldn’t earn a living wage and had to live with 3 other animals (okay, I never told that story, but now I kind of want to).

Granted, I might have told the stories the way I did partly because I couldn’t remember the original versions but also  because I was sorely disappointed in the stories of my youth. In the stories I heard, females were helpless and waiting for their princes, or they were helpless and waiting for a lumberjack to come take care of the big scary wolf for them, or they were hens who couldn’t afford to live alone because they earned so much less than their rooster counterparts.

I heard these stories growing up, but my mom was far from one to tell me to wait for anybody or anything to save me. I vividly remember as a child watching a news report with my mom about a study that was done that said that during an attack women who did not struggle were more apt to get out of the attack unharmed.  My mom looked at me and said “you fight. You fight like hell”.

Once the boys got tired of my willy-nilly style of story-telling, I made it my quest to find books that were intriguing, had good lessons, and characters, male or female, in non-traditional roles. Here are a few that I found that fulfilled that wish and are charming and appealed to the boys, and didn’t make me want to stab myself in the eye when reading them aloud.

Pirate Girl  by Cornelia Funke – This is the story of plucky Molly, who is kidnapped by a not really very scary pirate, Captain Firebeard, while pirate girlsailing to visit her grandmother. The pirates take her aboard their ship with high hopes of holding her for ransom.  They try to convince her to tell them the name and address of her parents but Molly refuses.  Molly waits until the  pirates are all asleep every night and she puts notes into bottles (empty rum bottles, hence the pirates sleeping so soundly) and tosses them overboard hoping to signal for help. Help does come, in the form of Molly’s pirate queen mom, Barbarous Bertha.

The boys both really liked this story and the pirate voices are always fun to imitate when reading aloud.

I read an Amazon review that said that this book might be a little much for some kids, so I guess  if your child has a fear of pirates or the ocean or ships or rum or frightens relatively easily then skip this one, or read it to them as kind of immersion therapy, it’ll put hair on their chest.  I kid,of course. I suppose you won’t know what your child likes until you read it to them or they read it themselves, so your local library is a great place to try out books before you add them to your personal collection.

ThePrincessKnight_000The Princess Knight  by Cornelia Funke – I don’t know if I knew before right this second that Cornelia Funke wrote both of these books. You go, Ms. Funke. Anyway, The Princess Knight is Violetta, the king’s daughter, who is told that she has to get married because that is what girls do. Violetta would much rather learn how to be a knight, like her 3 brothers. Her father, the king, tells her that she will marry whoever wins a contest he has set up for her.  I don’t want to give away the ending but Violetta enters the contest herself and wins and makes her own decisions. DANG, I gave it away anyway.

Once again, the reviews on Amazon for this book are mixed, manly because the first page of the book states, without fanfare, that the queen, Violetta’s mom, dies when Violetta is born. This was never an issue for the boys and it actually gave me an opportunity to tell them a little about what it means when someone dies.  But, again,  if this is not something you are comfortable with or think they won’t be comfortable with then cross this one off the list.

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed  by J.C.Phillips –  My youngest is fascinated with Asian culture and has been for many years. Ininja found this book because of the whole Ninja aspect, but was delighted, yes delighted, when I discovered that it has a lot to do with individuality and being comfortable with following your own path as well. Wink is in ninja training but would really rather be a performer than a stealthy ninja. His grandmother helps him realize his dream and combine his love of ninja-ing and performing, and yes, ninja-ing is totally a word.

Amazon reviewers have nothing negative to say about this book.  WHAT THE HELL, Amazon reviewers? Just for fun I read the three reviews that gave Wink a 4 out of 5 and their reviews are good too. I’m shocked that nobody could think of anything snarky to say, but unless your child is scared of ninjas, this book should be a good fit for them.

stripesA Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon  – Camilla Cream is the little girl who develops a bad case of stripes and only when she stops worrying so much about what other people think of her do the stripes go away. This book is still a favorite in my house and I am even asked to read it aloud every now and then.

This book has all positive reviews except for one reader who gave it 1 star out of 5 because his kindergarten age child has had nightmares since the book was read in her kindergarten class, and apparently is so scarred by the book she mumbles “the girl with the stripes” in her sleep, so, take that into consideration, albeit, with a huge grain of salt.

I will say, you never know what is going to scare some kids. I was terrified by the movie Gremlins. I was less a “kid” than a “teenager” but still, that Spike creature scared the bejesus out of me.

Todd Parr – This one is only an author because anything this man has written is awesome, from the silliness of Zoo Do’s and Dont’s,  that is still it's okayquoted by me and my ex-husband on occasion,  to the lovely  It’s Okay to be Different, because really, it IS okay to be different, to his books featuring his dog Otto, because who doesn’t love dogs?  All of his books are super bright and the illustrations are simple but engaging and the stories are sweet and/or funny.

I refuse to read the Amazon reviews for any of his books because I would like to hope that nobody has anything bad to say about them, but I have given human beings the benefit of the doubt before only to be proven wrong. I prefer to live in my bubble of ignorance on this particular subject.  Yay, bubbles!

J. A. Allen

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