Cancer & Lymph Nodes & Coffee, Oh My

Remember me?  I used to write a blog fairly regularly.

But just as I was feeling some closure (sort of) and relief (sort of) and chance to catch my breath (sort of) my life (once again) became topsy -turvy, off- kilter, askew, curve-balled and all together spastic.  Here’s a quick summary of the past couple of months.

Mid November:

Felt like poop. Went to doc.  Wound up at the ER. Cardio catherization. No major blockages, lots of little tiny ones.

Diagnosis: Microvascular Disease.

Treatment: Drugs.  For the rest of my damn life.

Early December:

Felt like doody with symptoms of yet another urinary tract infection (third in as many months).  Quick test sort of showed UTI, culture really showed blood.  Lots of it.  That’s not good.  Time for a urologist.

Diagnosis: Unclear

Treatment: See diagnosis

Mid December:

Sweet talked my way into an appointment sooner than the end of January.  Scheduled for a CT scan just before appointment.  Met with doc who, prior to doing a cystoscopy, shared an “incidental finding” on the CT scan – a 9 mm nodule just under the spot where, should I still have it, my right breast would be.  Huge WTF moment.

With the cystoscope (see pic below…looks like fun, huh?) he pokes around and utters  “looks okay”…until the very end: three little fronds.


 Diagnosis: Bladder Cancer

Treatment: Surgical removal (snip snip snip) of the fronds (which look like little trees but are actually cancer) and, given what he has seen thus with his handy dandy camera that went places no camera should ever go, that should be the beginning, middle and end of it.  But, will be followed for the rest of my damn life.

But, wait!  Remember that “incidental finding”?  Well, I didn’t.  I called my oncologist’s office and was given an appointment for the middle of January.  Yeah, no, that is not going to work for me.  Like at all.  I emailed the doc directly (love him) and he got me in the following week.  (I showed my appreciation by bringing him and his assistant each a freshly baked batch of my fabulous granola. If you are nice to me, you might be on the receiving end one day.  It’s pretty much the only thing I bake that is consistently outstanding.)  (I’m not much of a cook.) (But I can write.)

I spent most of the day at DFCI first having an ultrasound followed by a three hour wait for my afternoon appointment.  That was fun.  Oh, wait, no it really wasn’t.

Diagnosis: Stupid lymph node. Phew!

Treatment: Big glass of wine to celebrate.  Oh, and some reimaging in three months..just to be sure.



As if all this wasn’t enough and during a time some extra support would have been swell, one woman in the group I wrote about here decided I was no longer welcome: ousted, kicked out, stomped on, exiled, removed.  What began as a minor disagreement -for which I repeatedly owned my role – took on a life of its own.  Proof: one morning, having thought a little spat had found its place in history,  I approached the table and put my coffee down so I could remove my coat.  As I did this, she stood, told me (and by told I mean barked) that I was not allowed to sit there.  Incredulous, I asked her if she was serious. (She was.) Um, what? (I might have asked her if she owned the place…) Of equal upset was the radio silence from the other women.  I like to assume that they were all so dumfounded, horrified and disgusted by what was happening that they lost their ability to speak, but I am not sure that is the case.

This, my friends (my actual true ones, that is) is nothing short of bullying.  I have never been subjected to anything like it.  I have certainly never treated anyone else that way.  And, ironically enough: my initial, and apparently unforgivable, infraction was defending a third woman when the bully-lady went after her about something.  Seriously, that was all I did.  (Note: as this continued to escalate I began to think that I must have done something else, I had to have, right?  Nope…)

Not gonna lie: this stung.  And when it stopped stinging: it infuriated me.  And when the anger stopped: I was still angry.

Shortly after this watershed disagreement, I sent a thoughtful email apologizing for my role in what had gone down.  She waited three days and responded only with a “thanks for your note.”  Um, okay.  However, once she was told of my recent maladies she emailed me expressing her “sincere” (aside: if you have to say you are being sincere perhaps you are not really being all that sincere) concern for my health and I, quite mistakenly, assumed we were officially moving on.

My response:

Thank you.

 As much as I love “The Real Housewives” this whole thing was feeling more and more like a story line dragged on way too long for the sake of ratings. 

 I again apologize for the role I played in all of this and hope that we can do a reset to the way things used to be.

 Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and drama free year ahead.

 And hers:

I want you to know that I am sincere in my good wishes for you.

 At this point though, I don’t think that we can do a reset and go back to the way things used to be. 

Translation: You are no longer welcome to sit at a table when I am holding court.

Conclusion: Don’t worry…I won’t.

If I have said it once I have said it a billion times: women have to be kind to one another.  We all come to the table (both figuratively and literally) with our own history, fears, vulnerabilities, dreams, insecurities, hopes, opinions, strengths and weaknesses.  Everyone needs and, more perhaps more importantly, deserves to feel supported and safe.  Women who are not kind to one another confuse me.  People who assume and then abuse their perceived power – yeah, don’t get them either.

I thought a lot about whether or not to post, let alone write, about any of this – the medical or the otherwise. I am not looking for sympathy or even empathy…rather I am taking advantage of my audience to remind everyone that you can be a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian, just don’t be an asshole.




George Who?

Late last week, I changed history.

Although I had been gently messing with it for several years, actually changing history was a way bigger (emotional) deal than I had anticipated.  Ultimately, all it took was a few precisely worded documents, a very specific notary stamp and less than $50 (if you don’t count the retail therapy I might have engaged in) to erase all signs of George R. Ross having ever existed.  First came the legal name change.  Then the social security card.  And, finally, the birth certificate which now reads:

Jessie George Ross[1]



It was six years ago today that my wild, hysterically funny, often impossible to deal with mermaid, Barbie doll and wig-loving little boy tearfully told me, “my whole life I’ve wanted to be a girl.”  And, boom, everything changed.

The social transition was immediate and relatively simple: grow out the hair, buy some new clothes, change pronouns and, oh, yeah, let them know at school.  I was totally on board, tearing up the girls’ department at Target, treating my new daughter (a word it took me years to use) to more than a few haircuts with my hairdresser and even a manicure here and there.  “I got this” I told myself over and over again…often in the middle of the night when I had jolted awake in a panic over what life was going to look like for my kid.  On the daily people would tell me I was awesome.  I wasn’t any more awesome than anyone else would have been.  In fact, I was far more freaked out than I ever let on.

After a few years of what was essentially playing house, Jess pushed (translation: really, really hard) to begin medical intervention.  I just couldn’t get my head around it.  Everything still felt much more surreal than it should have.  While my panicky awakenings had died down a bit, I still cop to not being totally convinced that this was the real deal.  I am not sure if my trepidation was fueled by any dimension of reality, but I was steadfast in my insistence that we revisit things in a few (and then a few more) months.  In fact, it wasn’t until this calendar year that I felt comfortable enough to agree to meet with the gender specialist and see what was what.  And I dragged my heels.  And I freaked out a little.  And I might have cried a few times.  But in the end, we hopped onboard.  It is the happiest I’ve seen Jess since the first time she went to school decked out in pink, purple, orange and green pajamas.

Although school had happily addressed her as “her” and, more specifically, Jessie, I still needed to make it legal.  I’ll tell you the truth: when that name change came through, complete with the state seal, I was entirely certain that I was going to be named Mother of The Year.  Sure, I could change her name (to anything I wanted – Jessie Mermaid of the Sea, perhaps) but it didn’t really mean much other than me kicking the can down the road.  But, out of respect for my own process, I left it at that.

Suddenly and inexplicably, Jess was about to turn 16 and turning 16, if you are my spawn, means getting your driver’s permit at the first possible moment.  And getting your driver’s permit requires three things: passing the test, handing over the cash and, the kicker: a birth certificate.  Damn.  You see, when you change the birth certificate (stop and think about that for a moment…literally changing history) you also have not only the opportunity, but the obligation, to change the gender.  And that’s precisely what I (with medical professional support) did.

(Not gonna lie: it knocked me for a loop.  Fortunately, I was able to collect myself with the aid of a tried and true remedy…a gigantic ice cream sundae.  This is the actual sundae…before I inhaled it. )


This ice cream thing is nothing new:


Last night, I, along with Barry, my ex-husband, Rich, and his girlfriend Maria, as well as Barry’s parents and Maria’s daughter, all went out to dinner.[2]  We had two gifts – one from Rich and me, the other from Rich & Maria and me & Barry.  The first was a framed copy of her new birth certificate.  The second: a silver necklace with her new initials on the front and today’s date on the back.  I would argue that it was the second happiest moment of her life.


Being transgender is not for the faint of heart.  Parenting anyone of any gender is really not for the faint of heart.  I still worry about what life will look like for Jess.  But not that much more than I worry about how it will look for Harrison or my stepsons.  There is a fabulous, outrageous, funny, complex, complicated and exciting world out there and, as long as she remembers that it doesn’t matter if she is a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian…but never an asshole, everything is going to be just fine.

If anyone can say this, it’s Jess.  Happy birthday, awesome daughter of mine…

[1] Named for my grandpa whom I adored, the name George was wildly important to me.  Jess, because she is a rock star, kept it as her middle name as a thank you to me.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

[2] Divorced friends: once you’ve allowed enough time to let go of the bitter and resentful feelings, if there is any way that you and your ex can do this, please do.  It means the world to the kids.


My Grandmother’s high rise in Hallandale did not have a 13th floor.  Well, it did, but if one were to take the elevator buttons at face value it would seem otherwise.  When choosing your destination floor the buttons went thus: … Continue reading

Have A Heart

Things I have learned in the past week:

  1. Buying an old fashioned hair dryer – as in the kind you sit under – can indeed change your life.
  2. We need to listen to our bodies.
  3. A broken ceramic plate produces just as many shards as a glass bowl does.
  4. It is possible to get a discounted price in a store. (See #1)
  5. Exhaustion, fatigue and chest pains are not always just part of being a woman of a certain age.
  6. The Crockpot was invented in the 40’s by a nice Jewish boy who wanted to observe Shabbat and have a warm dinner the following night.
  7. When your husband insists you go the ER, go. (See #5)
  8. And when three docs tell you that we did the right thing coming in, thank your husband, even if he might be gloating to himself.
  9. Having a father- and sister-in law who are physicians is whatever is better than awesome.
  10. Not being able to use one of your hands in the shower makes it very difficult to wash one’s hair.
  11. Ruling out the biggest scariest things provides equal parts relief and frustration.
  12. My husband is the worst patient ever, but a great caregiver.
  13. He also loves to tear recipes out of magazines and share the yummy ingredient list, even while his wife is not allowed to eat or drink.
  14. My ex-husband has proven again, that he is a better ex-husband than he was a husband.
  15. Even with a normal EKG…
  16. And blood pressure and cholesterol levels that are “within range”…
  17. One can fail a treadmill Stress Test and…
  18. Pass a Cardio Catheterization and…
  19. Yet still be diagnosed with Micro Vascular Disease or possibly
  20. Syndrome X.
  21. Group texts can be annoying AF, but do the trick. Thanks to my core folks for being so responsive (HJR, JGR, JML, DTL, RRL, FRS, PS, SS, MLS, MFKG, AS, KN)
  22. My team of all female doctors and all male nurses – cool, right? – took great care of me. The private room notwithstanding.
  23. Had to include a 23…which is how old Harrison will be at the end of the month!

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

I am fine.  I have no major blockages, but likely some micro ones.

I have IV and Cardio Cath bruises: one on each arm.

I actually feel no different than I have for the past several weeks, but at least I am out of that damned johnny…



I am, for now, anyway, on ❤ meds and baby aspirin.  Special thanks to my father-in-law who has my back and told me exactly what to expect from them…

I am chalking this up to my list of November Distemper:

  • 1983: Middle of the night surgery to remove the ovarian cyst that was so large it was pressing against my back. The incision was from hip to hip and the doctor told me that he made it low enough that I could still wear a bikini.  Oh, those were the days.
  • 1989: Elective but highly necessary foot surgery. Fun Fact: the surgeon I used operated on the great Larry Bird right before me.
  • 2004: The big one: Bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction. My family has never eaten as well before or since. (It’ll be 13 years on 11/18)(Please let the fact that it is the 13th year not…never mind.)
  • 2011: See above.

Note: I always hate to think about the recurring shitty Novembers because November, 1994 was the BEST November ever because I became a Mom to Harrison who is a gem of a guy.  In fact, when I called to tell him what was going on he made me promise to take a baby aspirin and never drink a Diet Coke again.  ❤


Ladies: Listen to your body.  I assumed that my symptoms were nothing other than the side effects of life and actually went to the doctor to see if I was anemic or something.

I did not have a ❤ attack…but all signs pointed to it.

❤ issues look very different in women than they do in men.  Don’t think that because the pain isn’t crushing that it doesn’t mean something.

Join me in trying to do something I’ve always sucked at: not sweating the small stuff.  If nothing else, this week reminded me of that.

If you partner insists you go to the ER, go.  (Aside: if you tell the triage nurse about the chest pains, you get taken right away.)

And, yes, as soon as I could get my wrist wet (that is how they got to my ❤ ) I washed my hair, grabbed People Magazine,  sat under my new dryer and

Sad Dog

It was just me and the good folks working at my local Dunkin Donuts during an unusual lull in the morning rush.  My head planted firmly down looking at my phone, I became aware of three adults standing around the table next to me, speaking loudly, initially their words just noise.  I tried not to, but the louder and more animated they became I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.  Apparently, a kid had somehow messed with one of these men’s kid at school, the details never mentioned.  The father was, with each word, growing increasingly agitated and aggressive about whatever had happened, and said, more than once, “That’s my fucking kid we’re talking about…” his anger and volume steadily rising.

His companions were aggressively agreeing with him, goading him on, encouraging his fury.  As their voices and ire continued to increase, I kept my head down, allowing them whatever privacy they might believe they were owed.  The conversation turned from the offense of the child to his parents who, for what it’s worth, were spoken of with as much distaste as their progeny.  At precisely the moment I happened to look up and to catch his eye, the male friend spit out, “He’s a Jew dog.”

Our eyes locked. Neither one of us looked away.  “Don’t say anything, don’t say anything, don’t say anything” I advised myself as we continued to hold our gaze…yet it slipped out, I couldn’t stop myself: “Did you just call someone a Jew Dog?”

He lit into me.  He asked me why it was my business (because you have loudly and aggressively overtaken the place), what was it to me (I was offended and, frankly, wondering what the expression Jew Dog actually meant) and then, with as much charm and class as your local neighborhood thug, he told me to fuck off.  It all happened so quickly. The looks on the faces of the employees that stood behind him, mouths agape, said it all.  We all knew that this could get ugly and fast.

Seconds later, the three made their way to the exit, but not before leaning into me and issuing a threat: something about coming to my house, “getting” my husband and a long string of expletives, none of which made any sense.  The only thing that was entirely cogent and clear was abject anger.  Rage.  Fury.  All of which, I suspect, had less to do with my inquiring about his word choice and everything to do with the state of our world.

As my coffee buddies began to arrive, I shared what had happened.  Each of them, as had the employees, asked if I was okay.  I was okay insofar as feeling, or not, as the case may be, safe. I was saddened, however, at how quickly and fervently this man lost any semblance of propriety or maturity he might have had.  His anger was rightthere waiting to be unleashed at the slightest provocation.

sad dog

Aren’t we all feeling that way; that at any given moment someone will say or do or think or believe something that is just enough to have us flip our lids?  That we are all thisclose to losing it over something that perhaps has merit, but might just as easily not?

This happened several days ago.  Being a woman-of-a-certain-age, I often forget experiences I had ten minutes, let alone days, ago but this has stayed with me.  There is so much anger out there in the world.

I’ve always tended toward “sad” before “angry”, yet lately, there have been a few instances where I’ve gone to the dark(er) side and felt like the possibility of letting loose on the first poor soul to cross my path was never out of the question.  (Aside: I haven’t.  Yet.) And here’s the thing about anger: it is a terrible way to feel.  My body, breathing and headspace change.  My limited sense of having control is null and void.  It is really bad.  Worse, however, is what it must be like to feel that way allthetime.

I still don’t know what, exactly, a Jew Dog is but I think it is reasonable to assume that the goal was to malign, disparage and insult.  At the time this happened I’ll cop to engaging, in part, for the fight.  But, not seconds later I realized that this seemingly made-up epithet spoke more to a pervasive need to release anger with little care as to who it is directed toward than anything else.

And in the end, it just makes me sad.

Why I Love Facebook

I take a fair amount of crap for being on Facebook perhaps a bit more than some think I should be.



Here’s why I love Facebook:

Allison.  She is far closer in age to my children than to me.  We met at our group interview at TCS and then slogged through training together, working side by side for several years, always having a good time.  She left, then I left, but I’ve had a ringside seat to her engagement, her wedding and the birth of her ridiculously cute son.  And, if that isn’t enough, I am able to continue, as I did when we saw each other daily, to live vicariously through her as she travels the world…most recently to Paris with her boys.  It warms my heart.

Rachel.  It was better than ten years ago when I met Rachel and we bonded over the fact that we’d gone to the same college, albeit about twenty years apart.  We worked on a project together, she the professional, me and my son the volunteers.  Our collaboration has long since ended but I have kept up with her and her decision to have a child, buy a house and start a business all on her own.  So, too, did I share in her excitement when she became pregnant with a little sister for her awesome little girl and then, in one of the most heartbreaking posts I’ve ever read, learned that her Sadie was still.  I think about Rachel all the time and am so happy to see her successfully reinventing her life.

Laurie.  We’ve never met in person, although we consider ourselves to be dear friends.  Through an abundance of mutual friends, she learned of Jess’ story not long after her transition and has been not only an ardent follower of my blog, but of huge support, often providing free psychotherapy first via messenger and eventually by text.  We went through the college application process with our kids, hers to University of Miami, and mine to University of Massachusetts.  When her son lost his life after making the same mistake any kid could make and taking a pill for the thrill, we messaged every single day.  Nothing makes me happier than a photo popping up in my feed with her tremendous smile and spirit, despite a pain I can only begin to imagine.

Dawn.  Again, we’ve never met.  She is the mom of three, one of whom, due to an injury at birth, is a quadriplegic who happens to be, and this is not an exaggeration, the cutest little person on the planet.  Without competition.  She has the most infectious smile, darling personality and soaring spirit EVER.  I often hop over to see if mother and daughter are doing one of their live videos just to brighten my day.

Karen.  My fantastic, wonderful loving and kind oncology nurse who was with me not only through every step of my diagnosis, surgery, recovery and follow up, but we managed to get divorced and re-partnered at the same time.  I am not sure we did much other than share stories (ahhhh, new love!)  during those six month check-ups.  I’ve gotten to watch her and the guy-from-high-school-that-she-didn’t-quite notice-until-a-reunion start to date, move in together and, not long ago, get engaged!  Karen dedicated her life to helping people in some of their darkest days and deserves all the joy she has found.

Kaity and Charles.  I was quite literally the last person at work to know that each other was the boyfriend/girlfriend that the other was so gaga over.  We’ve all moved on, but I saw them get engaged and then married.  Just waiting for the baby announcement!

Nikki, Paige and Brynn.  Who knew that a chance meeting at a McDonald’s would yield a wonderful friendship?  And, if not for Facebook a couple of weeks ago, not only would I not have known that we were day tripping in the same town, but I certainly wouldn’t have had a chance to have dinner with them!  And, Brynn will be enjoying her new iPad thanks to Barry finding her a deal.  Yep, saw she was looking for one on Facebook.

I could go on.  And on.  And on.  (And please don’t take offense if you are not mentioned here…I had to end somewhere! )

We are living in tough times, boys and girls.  We all need love.
We all need support.  We all need to feel connected.

So, next time you want to give me crap about Facebook, I will repeat: whatever.


As a kid, I never felt afraid of anything other than a tremendous clap of thunder or a random unexplained noise in the house or trying something new for the first time or having to tell my parents I had screwed up.  I never feared going to school.  Or the mall. Or the movies.  Or a concert.  Or walking down the street.

Sure, as a well documented pre-worrier, I sometimes became unreasonably anxious before going to school. Or the mall.  Or the movies.  Or a concert.  Or walking down the street…but I was in the minority and could never describe it as fear.


Kids should never know fear.  Kids are supposed to feel and, even more to the point, be safe.  At home.  At school. At the mall. At the movies.  At a concert. Walking down the street.

Only they do not.

Each morning, as I scroll through my phone, catching up on whatever might have happened overnight, I far too often learn of something terrible.  Between natural disasters and political unrest and mass killings; it overwhelms me, seeping into my mood, my sense of self, my comfort in my own skin and the world that my children are growing up in.  My body aches from the assault on our sense of safety. And haunting to me is the fact that as adults we are supposed to not only know how to cope on our own, but it is our job to be the protectors of our kids.

Only we cannot.

There is so much fury in the universe that our children’s daily lives are nearly unrecognizable and certainly incomparable to what ours looked like growing up.  It feels like we are all just one stroke of luck away from horror.   And, as we have learned time and time again: it can happen anytime, anywhere.  We need to make it to stop.

Only we cannot.

Attending a concert will forever be associated with a man who, from what first accounts report, just snapped.  His family has said that learning that the shooter was their brother was akin to “Mars falling to the earth”.  This of a person who –  as it happened, had a significant cache of automatic weapons packed away in his suitcase –  could well have been standing next to you in the elevator heading to his room at Mandalay Bay.   He might even be in the room next to you, but this time his target was the crowd below.  You lucked out this time.  Yep, we are all just one stroke of luck away from terror.


In the aftermath of each successive atrocity, we watch any news program or read any article or listen to any podcast and are told by the experts, professionals and politicians to continue about our daily lives, lest we allow “them” to win.  Or “We need to come together as a country and comfort those who have been victimized.”  “Everyone should write their senator, or attend a rally…hell, plan a rally, all in the name of making it all stop.”

Only it just keeps getting worse.

Perhaps most frightening to me is that all of this terror, destruction, cruelty, horror, distrust and anxiety is not only affecting our kids now, but will shape the rest of their lives.  So many of the simple joys of life have been attacked violently enough to render them unworthy of the risk.  Our world has evolved to the point that going to school or the mall or the movies or a concert or walking down the street could actually mark the end of your, or someone you love’s life.  The world in which we live has become an unwelcome guest that we want to be (not so) gently escorted off the premises.

Only it is not that easy.

Is it an issue of mental illness?  Or gun control? Or politics? Or devastating anger? Or complacency? Or hatred? Or fear of fear?  No one seems to able to answer that question which, in turn, leads to even deeper depths of despair and, yep, fear.

I worry not only about today, but what tomorrow and the next day will bring.  I wish I had a way to make the life my children have ahead of them feel safer, kinder, better.

Only I don’t.

I’m Sorry and Thank You – 5778

On this, the eve of Yom Kippur, allow me to apologize:

To my mother for feeling, and sometimes acting, like a 10 year old when she decided to and then actually did, move across the country.  I’ve never lived so far from you, and the distance, if we are being honest, still freaks me out a little.  Thank you for taking up residence near the ocean and being bad-ass all the time.

To my son for my inability to right certain wrongs, much as I would love to.  Thank you for making me so proud and for being a kind, responsible and independent man.

To my daughter for upending your life and moving you away from all that you knew.  Thank you for being along on the ride with me and for making me laugh every damn day.

To my stepsons for my getting frustrated with your 10- and 12-year old selves.  Thank you for telling me you love me every day. I love you back.

To my brothers for my not always being able to re-pay you, in every sense of the word,  for all your wonderfulness.  Thank you for always being the brothers that every girl wants to have.

To my husband for (almost always) understanding what a big deal my move was to me and my kids.  Thank you for providing us a beautiful home and a beautiful new life.

To my in-laws for allowing me the occasional freak-out and bouts of neediness.  Thank you for being the best in-laws ever.

To my ex-husband for taking what I am going to thank you for in the spirit in which it is intended.  Thank you for being a better ex-husband than you were a husband.

To my husband’s ex-wife for my having barged on the scene, your scene.  Thank you for allowing us to get to the place that we are with one another.  It takes a village.

To my old friends for understanding my need to make a life in my new town, often not making enough time for you.  Thank you for the love and support you have always shared with me.

To my new friends for allowing me to shake things up a little…but in a good way.  Thank you for embracing, including and loving me.

May this be a year of new adventures, growth, happiness and good health.

Wishing you all a meaningful Yom Kippur and an easy fast.

How To Parent

I just finished watching a video making the rounds on Facebook in which a father has recorded his daughter’s first day of school every year from first grade through high school.  Each snippet was short and sweet, ending with “I love yous” exchanged between father and child.  After watching it, I commented, “File under: shit I wish I’d done” …and, at the time, I really meant it.  “Man, I am a failure for not having done that for my kids” regret settled in.  Knowing that I can hardly remember to return all the paperwork needed to make my kid legit in school, I certainly wasn’t equipped to pull out the video camera the first day of school every year…mostly because I was too busy doing the happy dance.


But it did get me thinking about other things I wish I had done as a parent but didn’t:

  1. Have family portraits done every year. To be more precise, I wish we’d not only taken annual photos, but that we’d all worn white shirts and jeans and sat in the same position in the same place. Love me some comparison shots.
  2. Taken family vacations every year. Yes, we did, in correspondence to an annual conference, go to Disney World several years running. It was the perfect destination for two wild kids born seven years apart.  Something for everyone!
  3. Saved, as my father did, every single school report card. In fairness, I do have most of them, but cop to misplacing a few.  My own personal experience is twofold: they serve as the greatest reminder of why we should choose our battles with our kids (“talks to much in class”, anyone?) and settles the score among adult siblings as to which one really is the smartest. (Hint: I fared better than I had expected…)
  4. Served as room parent. Okay, if we are being honest, I would rather open a vein with a ballpoint pen than be responsible for staffing and pulling off every party or celebration or event or send-off or picture day or project or concert, but my kids probably would have, if nothing else, gotten a kick out of me pulling that shit off.
  5. Been more creative in the Halloween costume department. I was often, okay, always, that mom who would run to Party City on the 30th (never waited all the way til the 31st because that would be irresponsible) and hope to find something left that didn’t look creepy or make me nauseous. That being said, I did, in 5th grade, give into pressure and allow Harrison to wear a grim reaper mask that, upon the push of a button, bled.  In my defense, he was one of about seven boys wearing it, so there.
  6. Made a “Baby Box”for Jess…like, um, the one I made for Harrison. And what a box it was! Aside from the box itself – shown below – the contents are many: sonogram pictures, pregnancy test, cards, notes, first diaper (unused, duh), newspaper headlines, hospital bracelet.  You name it, I put it in there.  I know, I know…first babies get everything. And, while I had every single possible intention of doing the same for Jess, yeah, it just didn’t happen.  File under: something (else) for her to talk about in therapy.
  7. Spent less on toys, more on experiences. If I had a nickel, even a penny, for every Lego brick I bought, I’d be way, way, way richer than POTUS claims to be. If I had a dime for every DVD that I bought – and, ultimately gave away – I would be rolling in dough.  In fairness, though, there was nothing better than sitting down for our umpteenth viewing of “George of the Jungle”, “Inspector Gadget” or, um, “Austin Powers”, “Happy Gilmore” or the entire “Gilligan’s Island” series.
  8. Not given my children so many choices. I’m not sure if it was an attempt to be inclusive, a desire to please or an inability to make a decision, but I did too much asking and not enough telling.  You’d have thought I might have learned that asking two kids where they want to have lunch is seldom (and by seldom I mean ever) going to result in a consensus.  The same for what movie to watch, which dinner to make, who to have babysit, when to play outside and when to sit on their asses watching aforementioned movies.  I like to think that too many choices results in unnecessary anxiety.  For my kids.  Yeah, my kids.
  9. Had, and enforced, just a few more rules. Ask my progeny and they will tell you: I had very few rules but the rules that I did have were (for the most part…unless I was really tired or overwrought or angry or defeated) non-negotiable.  It is the way I grew up, so, naturally, I did the same.  As a child of 60s, 70s and 80s, here were the rules: no one could start dinner until my mother was at the table, no answering the phone during dinner (This one was nothing short of torture; I’d hear the “kids’ line” ringing upstairs and would have to assume a death grip on my chair to keep myself from running up to see who it was.  This, dear readers, was in a time before answering machines.  It was hell.) And, perhaps the most important of all the rules was to never forget the Levinson mantra, “Don’t embarrass us and we won’t embarrass you.”  Despite being fairly far-reaching, it was a hard and fast rule which was taken very seriously.  My children knew that the rules on the shoulders of my youth were now on theirs and that they would be better served to fess up to anything they did because I would definitely find out about it on my own and then I would be realllly pissed.  No curfews, once they hit puberty: no set bedtime and the responsibility of doing their own damn laundry.  It is truly remarkable how much more thoughtful one is about throwing a perfectly clean shirt in the laundry when they are the ones who have to wash it.  You are welcome future spouses.

And one thing I did do:

  1. “I don’t care if you are a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian…you just cannot be an asshole. I consider it the updated version of my parents’ directive of not embarrassing them.  Generally, my children have fallen into line and obeyed the rule, but certainly have had their moments (which have sometimes morphed into weeks on end), but I think they will be able to successfully navigate the world.


As a collective, I would assert that most parents have experienced the whiplash of feeling as though you are either the best or worst parent ever at least once a day, if not more.  A part of you feels like shit for not videotaping your kid on the first day of school every damn year, but then you remember the things that you did do (Clean up barf? Stay up all night? Drive to ten stores in search of a “Tickle Me Elmo” doll? Teach them to have a sense of humor…particularly when things are at their suckiest? Tell them when they are the bomb and when they might have made a better choice?) Yeah, we all have our own flavor of good parenting.

So, despite the fact – or maybe because of it – that I don’t have annual photos or lots of vacations or every report card or room parent experience or killer Halloween costumes or a baby box for Jess, I still feel as good as any parent allows themselves to feel about that which I have (or, have not as the case may be) for my kids.

You should, too…really