Who Cares?

Want to know what is great about kids?  They aren’t adults.  It is true that they can most definitely be little shits, but all in all, they are usually kinder, less judgmental and way, way, way more accepting than the older (particularly post-pubescent) versions of themselves.

When George transitioned to Jess in the middle of the week in the middle of 4th grade, how many kids cared?  Hmmm, let me think.  Still thinking.  Oh, right…not a one.  In fact, during one of my many, many, many conversations with the school principal (who, by the way, could not possibly have handled it better) I vividly recall her telling me that it wasn’t the kids she was worried about it was, yep, their parents.   And, truth be told; only one parent expressed concern.  Of note is that that parent is the same parent who sent her kid to my child’s 6th birthday party and told her that she could “watch the other kids” swim and have a blast, but they had plans afterward so she didn’t want her hair messed up…so, um, there you have it.

Perhaps you have caught wind of the national conversation regarding transgenders’ use of bathrooms in public places. Or, if you have not, perhaps you have been in a coma or had exactly zero access to tv, radio, internet or another human being.  And, it is possible that you think that the ban is appropriate, although given the fact that you read this blog, I suspect otherwise.  Either way, I view this as a great time for us judgie, fearful, mis- and uninformed grown-ups to take a page from kiddos’ playbooks and ask ourselves: who cares?

In all my bathroom experiences (of which there have beenmany: I am, after all, a woman of a certain age) I have never:

  • Been in one that did not have stalls. In “female” restrooms, trough peeing is generally frowned upon and, from my admittedly unscientific research, even men’s rooms with urinals have stalls for the urgent poop or the pee-er with stage fright.
  • Seen one single solitary vagina other than my own, and even that I don’t really see. I mean, really.
  • Felt uncomfortable for any reason other than having the bad luck of being the next visitor after a poor soul had their bowels explode. And trust me; it was no better for her having to make eye contact with me on her way out.
  • Lingered one moment longer than was necessary to empty my bladder, wash my hands and fiddle with my hair. Okay, there’s been the occasional lipstick application and chat with other bathroom goers, but it is generally a wham bam thank you ma’am experience.

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I have, however:

  • Emptied my bladder. And, in situations under which I had no control (Chipotle, anyone?) had to go #2.
  • Waited on line, often with adults who have children doing the I’m-going-to-cross-my-legs-and-jump-up-and-down-and-hold-my-crotch-while-whining-so-I-don’t-pee-in-my-pants dance, during which I have always given up my spot on the queue because, well, voiding and evacuating are done in private. Duh.
  • Waited until midstream to check for toilet paper only to discover none. One would think that would only happen once, but, well, whatever.

As for the rampant issue with molestation in the bathroom and everyone’s fear of such?  Well, here are my thoughts on that:

  • Implement a hard and fast rule: no one ever goes in the bathroom alone, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, no exceptions, Problem solved.

Listen, I am not so naïve as to not understand the trepidation.  I am not insensitive to anyone’s fear of the unknown.  In fact, I personally have so many fears of so many unknowns that one could, and maybe has, called it a full blown neurosis, but, but, but please consider focusing on something more important that could ever possibly effect you or your children.  I, for one, would be much more concerned about the person next to me with a handgun in her purse, or the drug addicted fellow who is so desperate for his next high that he will attack you for your wallet or the registered sex offender who is hanging out at the town playground.  Could any of them be transgender?  Sure.  But, and of this I can assure you, they are not packing heat, looking for their next hit or eyeing your little cherub because they are transgender.  No way. No how.

Kids don’t care if you have a penis or a vagina.  I am pretty confident they wouldn’t care if you peed out your nose.  They do care, however, if you are an asshole and, might I point out, their asshole radar is spectacular.

So, next time you have to pee in public, go in, do your business and stop worrying about other people and their parts.  Or, hold your bladder and bowel until you explode all over Home Depot which, for me, anyway, would be way worse than sharing a bathroom with someone who is transgender.

 

You’ve Got To Have Friends

Old friends are great.  I love my old friends.  In fact, some of my best friends are old friends.  It’s great: we have a shared history replete with awesome, gruesome, hysterical, heartbreaking, unforgettable and ridiculous experiences.  I met some when we were kids walking to elementary school (uphill both ways), or at Mass Ski Club when our parents dropped us off at the Howard Johnson’s at 5 a.m. and collected us at 7 at night.  Or in high school while we were hanging out in the smoking lounge (not all of us smoking…but it was the 80s) or in college somewhere on Caroline Street in Saratoga, most likely with a few LI Iced Teas and chili dogs on board. Others I formed an immediate kinship with as a young parent trying to navigate, negotiate and tolerate toddlers who would go on to spend the next twelve years going through school, complete with the myriad issues that arose on the daily. Or my work friends who, back in the day, I spent more time with than anyone.  Many of those people are now CVS/Marshall’s pals; you know, the folks you bump into after only having seen them on Facebook for months, maybe years, but wind up having a perfectly wonderful chat together in the store aisle – often for nearly an hour.  Time has passed, but your friendship has, albeit in a different incarnation, survived the test of time.

 

New friends, however, are pretty spectacular in their own right.  When you are a full-fledged adult and make a new acquaintance you are in an enviable position: you can pick and choose with whom you would like to embark on the friendship road.  Your meetings are more likely to be in  places you have chosen as opposed to the spots which you frequent out of necessity…soccer games in the pouring rain, anybody? And. It.Is.Awesome.

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Of note, and this is important: I cherish all of my old friends.  Without them, I would never have been able to grow from point A to point B.  I most assuredly would have crumbled under the pressure of attempting (sometimes in vain) to be a successful daughter, partner, mother, sister, friend and employee.  Had they not been old friends, just the time I would be forced to spend just to bring them up to speed and fill them in on all the players and backstories would  be too arduous for me.  My old friends have, and will continue to be, my most precious commodity.

 

I’m lucky in that lately I have made some truly wonderful friends.  Women I never would have met had my marital status, living and work situations remained intact and stable as they had been since the 90s.  I’ve met them at the gym, at synagogue, at the supermarket, through mutual friends and by Googling: “transgender” in my town.  They are married, divorced, parents, empty-nesters, widows, employed and unemployed.  Some have two living parents, others are not as fortunate.  There are locals, transplants and returning to their roots gals all mixed in.  So, too, are they tall, short, skinny (the bitch), dying their gray or letting it go. Women with kids in preschool, college and everything in between and beyond.  They are grandmothers (young, smoking hot grandmothers, but grandmothers nonetheless).  They have never married, are happily married, not so happily married, divorced.  One was even just starting to flex her, “I am woman hear me roar” strength in leaving her husband only to suddenly find herself a widow instead.  And they all rock.

 

Making new girlfriends at this age is to be celebrated.  The occasions under which you meet are different – they are more full of choice and less a matter of circumstance.  You each bring to the table your own history, expectations, learned-the-hard-way experiences and are better in tune to the “conditions” under which you are willing, at your advanced age, to engage in an open and honest relationship.  It’s kinda like dating without the fear, anticipation, horror and angst at potentially getting naked.

 

Admittedly, my repository for new blood (as it were) came easy.  I am in a new community, with a new partner, a new home and, hopefully sometime soon, a new job.  I arrived with my abundance of baggage (physical and emotional) and am, with open arms and an open heart, building a new circle of women.  These women have, in the few years that I have been migrating this way, made it clear that I’m going to be well taken care of.

 

I will never stop loving, appreciating and depending upon my old friends.  You know who you are. I am enormously grateful to my new bitches, too.  Julie, Becky, Nancy, Rachel, Jill and Sue, not to mention my beautiful, in every sense of the word, new mother- and sister-in law, Susy and Fannie, respectively.

 

We all need to enjoy and embrace the process of life.  One moment you can be sitting back thinking, “I got this” and the very next, all hell breaks loose.  It can and will happen on a dime.  There are friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime.  Enjoy every single one of them, every day, beautiful ladies.

I See…

Most of the things our kids do “behind our backs” are not good.  If they were good, I’d argue, they would be doing them in front of our backs and not, instead, in secret with the fear of being caught perched atop their heads.  Sometimes, however, the things that our kids do without our knowledge not only catch us off guard, but are utterly fantastic.

Last week I turned the very unspectacular age of 51.  I’m generally a terrible birthday girl and more often than not, wind up in tears for one reason or another; some are legit others I blame on hormones.  Anyway, this birthday started off with the youngest of my son-to-be stepsons having some, shall we say, fairly significant stomach issues.  Vomit, sofas and carpets were involved.  Swell.  Trying to be supportive while keeping my distance and willing away the fears of rampant contagions travelling through the house, I embraced the fact that, at least this year, my birthday tears would be warranted.

And then Harrison FaceTimed me.

I answered the call, and up popped his bearded face*, all smiles.  I felt better already.  He wished me a happy birthday, asked what I was doing (avoiding vomit) and then, with a hesitation in his voice that only a mother can sense, told me that he had something to tell me.  Again I say, swell.

“So”, he began.  “I’ve been working on something for about six months and I am finally ready to tell you about it”.  (He was talking too slowly.  I felt a wave of nausea pass over me, bracing myself) “There is something that I know you really really really want but will never ever ever do for yourself.” (Okay, I’m listening…) “While I was home last semester and you thought all I was doing was imprinting my ass into the sofa**, I was actually stalking your Facebook page, your blog, your LinkedIn so that I could get the word out to as many people that you know as possible.” (What word?  Aren’t I the one who is supposed to be stalking you? Still talking too slowly!)  He continued: “I set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to get you Lasik…and now we can do it!” (WHA???? OMG, NFW, WOOT WOOT!)

I was so touched.  I was so overwhelmed.  I was so proud that I’d raised him to be such a kind and generous soul.  And. I. Was. So. Psyched!

And then, because I am me, I pelted him with questions.  He laughed and directed me to the page so that I could see for myself.  His letter made me cry.  Like good cry.  Like not the lame ass birthday cry I always have, but a cry because his words (which, if we are being honest, he had not been using aloud for the past several months) were music to this mother’s ears.

My kids do not generally keep much from me.  We are pretty rock solid.  However, if that which they are sneaking around doing is something as fantastic as this, I’m down with it.

To those of you who so generously donated: thank you from the bottom of my heart and the pupil of my eyes.  I’m touched beyond measure.  I need to find a way to properly thank you, but consider this a start.

I really am blessed.  (And ridiculously excited!)  Here’s to being able to see my clock in the middle of the night…

p.s. If you have a Lasik horror story, I beg you to keep it to yourself.  I am anxious and neurotic enough.

 

*He’s had the beard for years, but I am still a little bit surprised every time I see him that he is, well, a man.  Here’s a picture of him with his first beard.

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**That’s true.  But he did so while listening to lectures, studying and becoming an EMT, so it wasn’t for naught.  Oh, and here he is now:

hjrbeard

 

#Truth

I love my kids.  It has (often) been (anything but) a pleasure to be their mother.  They have (when not embarrassing me) made me proud.  They have (when not infuriating me) cracked me up.  They have (when not being impossible) touched my heart with their warmth.  They have regularly made parenting  (not at all) easy.  I have learned from them (how to not lose my shit) every day.  I’ve grown (fatter and more chronically tired) as a person.  And I truly (most of the time) feel blessed to have them in my life.

truth

With (more than a) little exception, I have (almost) always  acknowledged (‘fessed up) when my kids have been too energetic (obnoxious), outspoken (rude), or inquisitive (disrespectful) . I have (happily) allowed them to watch (a ridiculously inappropriate number of) hours of television for the (entirely not) educational  value.  (I convinced myself that) I did it to (keep from killing them) afford them hours of (mindless) entertainment (that didn’t require me to do anything).

When they were younger, school vacations were (as) relaxing (as Chinese water torture). Weekends were often (Satan’s idea of) fun for everyone.  I looked forward (like I would to, say a root canal) to the two weeks at the end of the summer between when camp (sadly) ended and school (be still my heart) began.  My kids were (not) easy.  And I (really don’t) look back at those days with feelings of (entire) joy.

As I (miraculously) grew into my life as a parent, I (finally) realized that (not) being honest about (how difficult) my kids and their (endless) needs was (not) the way to go.  I needed (a crap ton of) support and, if I allowed myself (to be woman enough) to acknowledge that …then I would be (off the charts) better off.  It took (way too much) time, but eventually  I realized (admitted to myself) that I was (ridiculously) overwhelmed and that my feelings (of anger, exhaustion and resentment) didn’t mean I was a (shamefully) bad mother.  They meant I was being (brutally) honest with myself.

So, (with the ferocity of a mama bear) I began to (aggressively and somewhat desperately) reach out to other moms who were (over the top) relieved to hear that they were not alone.  We shared with (admitted to) one another that being with the kids could be (not at all) enjoyable and that we (often) felt that we got (stiffed with) the (least) easy parts of these little creatures.  But we never (ever ever) stopped truly, deeply loving them.

I am (beyond) elated (and a little bit surprised) to report that my children are now (way more often than not) a pleasure to be with.  They have (with lots of personal work) turned into lovely young people.  We’ve all needed (lots and lots of) help, support and love to bring us here.  And there is no shame in that.  None at all.

#Truth

Embrace the Vomit

I need only to hear the word to become entirely skeeved out. Even if from afar, I (am not proud to say) I have a physical reaction which usually looks a little like this: all the blood drains from my face, I break out in unfettered sweating and, most certainly, a veritable near-tidal-wave of panic. Just the descriptor alone can bring me to my knees. Call it whatever you like: barf, puke, gooch, yoke, upchuck, hurl, retch, spew, vomit… in any verbiage I fucking hate it.

vomiting

No seriously, my vomitphobia is so problematic, that I have wasted time, explored its deeper meaning with more than one therapist.  (Usually this has been in a clinical setting, but friends who happen to have degrees have been subjected to my neuroses, as well.) A few years ago, during one such conversation, my therapist told me to “embrace the vomit”. Or maybe it was “appreciate” or “enjoy” or “admire” or even❤ it…I truthfully don’t recall. Had I not had years of successful and fulfilling interactions with her, I most likely would have walked out, announcing her quackery upon exit. In fact, I am relatively sure I looked at her and asked if she was smoking dope. But, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I sort of, kind of, in a way, knew what she was getting at.

Enter three o’clock yesterday morning. Jess, for the first time in probably 12 years that she’s awoken me in the middle of the night for any reason suggested she might throw up. I dutifully dragged my ass from bed, accompanied her to the bathroom, assumed the position alongside her (wait, who am I?  I actually went in!) on the floor and assumed (prayed) it was nothing. All was quiet and calm…and then Linda Blair showed up.  Despite the sheer volume and ferocity, she (Jess, not Linda) was calm, impressively quiet and what could only be described as matter-of-fact. Three tremendous boots, a few follow-up spits then she turned to me, smiled and said, in her best Miranda voice “I feel better now”. Once we were as sure as we could be that (what would turn out to be) this wave was over, she stood up, put her palm on her belly, turned size ways toward the mirror and announced that she looked thinner.

We gathered ourselves up from the bathroom floor and, after I checked for errant splashed matter,  we returned to our respective beds to try to sleep.* Jess grabbed her phone which sleeps in my room every night (points for me for good parenting) and began watching something (possibly, no, probably) inappropriate on Netflix. I, on the other hand, lay back down and metaphorically pat myself on the back. I handled that like a real mom. I was right there in the thick of it and did not tentatively rub her back from the threshold of the bathroom door, eyes clenched tight, breathing stopped as I maybe might have with Harrison back in the day. Um, I think I actually embraced the vomit.

I understand and acknowledged that for my fellow vomitphobes out there this was sweat-inducing to even read it. It probably sent you running for the closest vat of Purell. You might even be trying to will away the voices in your head that keep taunting you with, “you’re next”. You can admit it. No judgment.

Three hours later: round two.  Three hours after that: round three.  And then all was quiet. My takeaway:

  • It wasn’t so bad
  • Jess is a champion shot
  • I learn from her everyday
  • I really really really really hope that I don’t get it

We are now a solid 24+ hours since the final episode.  Jess is fine.  Mom is fine.  She’s watching more (inappropriate) Netflix in her room.  I’ve showered. called Wegman’s, blaming the sushi, dumplings and sesame chicken.  They’re sorry.  They are giving me my money back.  But aside from the $35  back in my pocket, I feel way richer: I might just have conquered the vomitphobia.**

*I know many a mother who would have brought ill child into the big bed with them for comfort.  I, with only a little bit of shame, will admit to not being that mother.

**Special thanks and love to KB, HR & BS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stayin’ Alive

I returned to my car, turned the key and jounced a little when the radio came to life with the euphonious “Stayin’ Alive”.  In and of itself, this was unremarkable.  After all, the dial was set to the classic hits station (read:  they play “oldies” which, ouch,  happen to be from the era during which I grew up) and that song is, by all accounts, a classic.  What was remarkable, however, was that it was playing after I had spontaneously (more on that in a moment) visited my father’s grave.  For the uninformed, my father freakin’ loved the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.  In fact, he had been known to listen to it often, always loudly, proudly and while in his car.  It was not unusual for him to pull into the garage with “Night Fever” blasting so loud we could hear it in the house. He would then remain in the car until the very last note, when he would finally kill the engine and come in to join us.  It is not often that I catch The Bee Gees on the radio, but when I do it is as if my dad is right there in the car with me.

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Monday will be ten years since my father died.  Every year since, I’ve viewed January 11th as a day-to-get-through knowing that eleven days later is his birthday…also known as a-day-to get-through.  But this anniversary feels somehow more permanent than have the previous nine.  Ten years is a long time.  So much has happened.  My father knew my two little boys.  Now I have one young man and one teenage daughter.  I’m fifty.  I’ve gotten divorced.  I am gray! How could he have missed all that?

I have been feeling out of sorts, not known how to commemorate it, not known what to do with myself.  So, today, while making a return to a store that happens to be about five minutes from the cemetery, I headed over.  (Of note: the store is a chain.  There are others nearer to home.  So, um, perhaps it wasn’t quite so spontaneous after all…)

I thought I knew where to find him, although I am not sure why I thought that since every.single.time. I go there I get lost in the beautiful winding roads that seems to go on forever.  I was sure I knew which section, but once I got there (and saw that he wasn’t) I knew I’d taken a wrong turn.  (Of note: there are no headstones at this pristine cemetery, rather all identifying plates are on the ground…therefore, frankly, every section looks pretty much the same.)  Finally, as I began to feel my shoulders rise, anxiety and irritation percolating, I followed the signs to the “Welcome Center” (yeah, I thought it was a rather absurd choice of words for a cemetery, too) and approached the gentleman tending the front desk of the bright, yet somehow somber office.

“Are you able to tell me where I can find someone?” I asked.  He hesitated, and I knew that I needed to be a bit clearer.  “Oh, I’m not looking for a welcome center employee (of which there seemed to be many); rather, it is a permanent resident, if you will.”  He smiled. I smiled.  But I hated that I didn’t know where to find my father.  He looked up the name, confirmed his date of death (like I needed to hear that!) and told me where I could find him.  He used a bright pink highlighter to show me the route on a map of the grounds and then proceeded to tell me exactly where to find him at Mt. Nebo, Section 28A.  I flashed a smile, cut him off and assured him that I could handle it from here…mostly because I can read.  And then I left, map in hand, feeling the weight of the welcome center follow me out the door.

Well, I can read,  but, unlike my father, I am literally incapable of following a map.  It is source of embarassment, but one I can live with given the fact that I am never far from a navigation system. As such, once in the car I managed to get lost.  Again. This time was different though: this time I knew where I was ultimately headed and that whole ability to read thing was going to work in my favor.  I drove around in just a few circles before I spotted the austere sign telling me I was in the right place.  I got out of the car, pulled my sweater more tightly around me, found a rock that felt strong, meaningful and appropriate, and headed across the lawn, taking care to not step on any of the nameplates in the ground.  There was one new one, from just last year, while the rest had been there long before my father.  I placed the rock on his stone, told him the highlights of the year (“I’m engaged”, “Harrison got his EMT license!” “Jess is holding steady and still making me laugh every day!”),told him I love him and asked him to keep on showing up when I least expect it.  I was there for less than ten minutes.  The air got colder, the sky grew darker and my heart became fuller.

I seldom go to the cemetery.  The last time I went it was a stunningly beautiful day.  I took a long walk around the grounds, trying to ignore the fact that there was a burial happening several hundred yards away.  I cried like a baby.  I may have even lain down on the ground next to him begging him to help me through the day.  And I definitely stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home.

Today felt different.  I am strong. My kids are strong.  My mother is strong. My brothers are strong.  None of us has lost our sense of humor which we were taught was more important than just about anything.  My father’s legacy is apparent – like his father before him, all seven of his grandchildren will vehemently support the assertion that they were his favorite.   I have a wonderful partner whom my father would most definitely approve of.  My brothers and I remain the best of friends…just how my dad wanted it.  But we all still miss him every single day.

Ten years.

Now turn up the volume and go: Stayin’ Alive

Let’s Hear It For The Girls

We had logged a few hours of intense outlet shopping and already consumed a reasonably healthy lunch when we popped into the nearby McDonald’s for further sustenance and caffeine. I was beginning to fade and, for no good reason (particularly after the shopping scores I had made) was feeling a little down. When we walked in there was a table of women, mostly blonde, all notably attractive, with their Diet Cokes, McWraps and cell phones in hand, oozing of a connection to one another which was, somehow, ridiculously powerful. I made note and kept walking. Barry, my gregarious, never-shy fiancé, however, commented aloud about what a great photo it would make. All seven women laughed as one…not at him, but with him.

I chimed in that I, too, had noticed the beauty of the moment and we began to banter back and forth for a few moments, my need for caffeine still firmly in place. We said a tentative goodbye and headed for the counter to order with a promise (threat?) to return. I requested an iced coffee and hot fudge sundae and Barry (strongly, unrelentingly, vigorously) encouraged me to go back and chat. I resisted. I sometimes do that. I wondered if the moment had passed, if they had actually just given us a courtesy laugh and were now chatting about the crazy couple that just intruded on their otherwise lovely lunch of Mc-things. My confidence faltered. Reluctantly I returned to the table and was greeted by lovely, warm, funny women. Women I could sense had a story….and everyone knows how much I love a story.

Ramona, with the bright smile and quick wit commented that Barry and I were such a cute couple and asked what our status was. I told her we are engaged and she, like I would have, grabbed (in the best way possible) my left hand to inspect the goods. She held my hand, in a way that did not make me feel the least bit uncomfortable and kvelled about the design of the ring. Noticing the two young women (later to be known as Paige and Brynn) as well as the early teen (Amelia), I implored them to “marry a man who cherishes you” and Ramona, with a subtle sadness said, “I did”. I knew she had a story.

They enthusiastically inquired as to the when and where of our wedding plans. We don’t have any yet, but told them of the kids’ suggestion that we do it at Water Country . “That would be awesome!” they gushed but went on to joyously encourage us to do it right then and there, on the beach at nearby Kennebunkport and they would be our witnesses, bridesmaids and flower girls. We would then, they implored, post a picture on Facebook to tell the world. And, I might note, they were only half joking.

The conversation became funnier and even more animated every moment. At this point, I was seated next to Paige, a beautiful young lady with gorgeous thick hair in a (fantastic) mess on top of her head. At the table were her mother, her grandmother, her sister, her cousin, her aunt and a dear friend who, while not a part of the blood line, was clearly one of the girls. Earlier in the day, I had (lovingly) (and repeatedly) called Barry an asshat, an expression I see all over Facebook but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but just saying asshat is funny, so I did. Paige, being of a certain demographic, seemed like someone who might actually know what it meant, so I asked her and she did not know, which, in a way, made me happy. We asked Siri (who did know) and she told me it is “a dumb person”. “Ohhhh” we said collectively. “Better than calling someone a ball sack”, said Ramona. A nanosecond pause and we all busted out laughing: from Grandma down to 12 year old Amelia. And it felt great.

A good half an hour passed as Barry and I melted into the family, side bar conversations between us. We learned about one another, if only a little. Ramona, who is someone I would most definitely want to call my friend, touched my heart with her quick wit, irreverence (she said ball sack in from of the kids…and her mother!) and honesty when she elaborated on having been cherished by her husband. The same husband (and father, and uncle, and son- and brother-in-law) who had, just in June, lost what I am sure was a hard fought and vicious fight with brain cancer. We instinctively and tightly hugged at her saying the words. She’s a strong, beautiful woman who is wise, lucky and blessed to be surrounded by the same.

It was fun. It felt natural. I wanted to know these women. These women I had not wanted to bother while they were “dining”. The ones that Barry forced me to go back to, coffee and sundae in hand, and integrate myself into their conclave. I used to be better at that. Before I felt broken and worried for my children. Before I felt challenged beyond what I thought I could handle. Before I began to lose confidence in my ability to connect. Barry made me do it (he makes me do a lot of things I never thought I would do…and I love him for it.)

I’ve always been all about the sisterhood. I love women who support, love, laugh and encourage one another. This table of women define how women should interact and simpy be with the women in their lives. I detest bitches that make everything a competition, who are not willing to protect, support and share and, perhaps most egregiously, who reject the strangers who approach them at McDonalds.

ramona
Brynn, Paige and Amelia: While you are most definitely blessed with strong, fabulous women in your lives, allow me to chime in: Marry a (Jewish)* man who cherishes you, who encourages you to be the best version of you and who jostles you out of your comfort zone enough that you plop yourself down at a table of strangers and walk away with a new set of friends.

*These lovelies are not Jewish, but Ramona and I agree: they make the best husbands.  I trace it back to a (healthy, not at all creepy) fear, er, adoration of their mothers.

The Fraternity Paradox

They are often, as recently as this week, in the news, and it is seldom for something good.  The houses where they reside will bring any self respecting parent or, for that matter, adult, to their knees.  Reputations for partying and acting stupid macho prevail.  But I am here to tell you that there is another side to fraternities that you probably do not, but certainly should know.

This past week, our family found ourselves, yet again, in crisis.  Everyone is safe and things are more under control than a week ago, but my hashtag for the foreseeable future: #gonnabeabumpyride remains.  Our world flipped upside down, sideways and backward…and this time it has nothing to do with a certain transgender kid living in my house.

The details are not necessary and while it is not a “secret” right now the story is complicated and raw and personal.  What is, however, available for public consumption and discussion: the behavior of a group of fraternity brothers who have, quite literally, blown me away with their concern, kindness, empathy and respect.  These are young men who, to a person, I would be proud to call my own.

aepi

Yes, these boys party.  Yes, they stay up late and often, but not always, look ugly the next day.  And yes, they talk trash, swear and fart with abandon.  Their pledge names, which morph through the years, stay with them…for life.  BUT: they study hard, are philanthropic (in this case breast cancer research and Autism Speaks) and will do anything, absolutely anything, for a brother and, I have learned, his family.

I had been told of the power of the fraternal order, but, admittedly, didn’t think it could possibly be so fierce.  The maturity, compassion and life experience of a group of 18-22 year olds was, to me, underdeveloped and ultimately incapable of acting like kind, articulate and caring men.  Wrong.  And wow.

Harrison sent his brothers a beautifully raw and honest email telling his story.  At the end he gave my number for anyone who wanted to talk  (and, I might add, he said I was “super chill”, just sayin’).  Within moments of his hitting the send button, my phone blew up with texts.  And not trite, obligatory texts, either.  These were long, thoughtful notes all of which told me how much they love (yes, they used that word) Harrison and their willingness, no, desire, to do anything possible to lend support.  As the text notifications rang out I had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes.  He, and we, are blessed.

In his email, Harrison referred to his favorite quote by Ernest Howard Crosby.  I neither knew the quote or of the power that its words hold for him, but I know it now.  Amazing what one can learn from a crisis.

NO one could tell me where my Soul might be.
I searched for God, but God eluded me.
I sought my Brother out, and found all three.

 

#gonnabeabumpyride

My Snowman

Update: As predicted, I am being blown up (in a good way) by texts, emails and FB chat messages…you guys are the bomb.

One week ago today my family’s world was, yet again, turned on its ear.  As crises tend to do, it came on  with far less warning than I, for one, would have appreciated.  Out of respect for the players, the details are not necessary, although I anticipate an onslaught of backdoor messages once this has posted which is, actually, part of the “beauty” of this whole mess.  It has been among the most horrible times ever for us (and that’s me talking) but, like all the other “most horrible times ever”, already we’ve seen silver linings take shape.

snowman

Those who do know the details have shown undying support.  Seriously broken relationships have been rehabilitated and grossly deteriorated fences have been mended.  Burgeoning adults have stepped out of their comfort zones and have robustly demonstrated more empathy and compassion than one knowing them superficially would ever have presumed.  Full grown adults have put aside their own issues, concerns, responsibilities and adventures to make room for us and our needs.  And, while there is quite literally nothing any of them can do to make this all go away, they’ve rallied around us fiercely.

In the past, it has not been until a crisis is more comfortably in my rearview mirror that I have been so acutely aware of the astounding level of support not only for me, but for my family.  While I firmly stand behind my assertion that with every crisis there is always one person who disappoints you, I find that it, and that person, no longer matter.  The benevolent in my life so far outweigh the, um, assholes, that it is, in a silver lining kind of way, almost funny.

Let this serve as the first of many thank yous: to my family of origin, my new and wonderful family, friends of long standing, friends of shorter but no less loyal standing, colleagues dating back further than twenty years, professionals, friends who are professionals in this field who have been holding my hand and guiding me to the right people and places, a slew of kids who spent their high school years in the basement of my house and, with perhaps the greatest fervor:  a certain group of frat boys.

We will get through this.  We always do.  But not without our village…all of whom we love.

p.s. Don’t even try to figure out what the snowman has to do with this: it means something to us only.❤