Happy Mother’s Day….

“God could not be everywhere.  Therefore, he created mothers.
~Rudyard Kipling.

Until I actually became a mother, my relationship with Mother’s Day was a complicated one.  My parents divorced when I was very young and in the years that followed, my dad felt no obligation to ensure my brother and I had something to give to our mother for the holiday.

My parents had a terrible marriage and an even worse divorce, so its possible this was an intended malicious act on his part, or it may have been something he didn’t realize he was supposed to do.  Regardless, the slight wasn’t lost on my mother.

It wasn’t that my brother and I had nothing to present to her.  There was always a school created craft.  Also, as we got a little older, my brother and I used to pay special attention to the neighborhood curbside trash and yard sales for treasures we thought she might like.

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This is pretty much what my brother looked like in the 80’s

We brought home things like second-hand wallets, old bottles of perfume and umbrella’s.  Sometimes, we’d scrape-up enough loose change and walk to the Hallmark store in town to pick out a small magnet or a mini-figurine.

Sometimes, we would pick flowers from garden beds throughout town and attempt to fashion a bouquet.  We also made her breakfast in bed, which usually consisted of a loaf of soggy french toast, cereal, pop-tarts and whatever beverage was on-hand.

If my mother ever appreciated our efforts, it was lost in her anger at my father for his failure to help us purchase more suitable gifts.  She would rant and rave, call him and leave screeching messages on his answering machine and grill my brother and I about what he’d purchased for our step-mother.

She would cry and tell us how badly her feelings had been hurt, how sad she felt at not having anything to open, how hard she worked and how she deserved more.  The day would be lost to her disappointment.

The weight of it all was not something we should have been expected to help carry.  We were just little kids.  But, carry it we did.  Every approaching holiday would leave me feeling crippled with dread and anxiety.  I worried endlessly about how we were going to be able to provide my mother with enough to make her happy.

As I got older and eventually began earning money of my own, it became easier to get through these events, but I would still spend weeks worrying that I hadn’t gotten enough, or the exact right thing.  I also knew that no matter what, my mother would want to compare it to whatever had been purchased for my step-mother.

When I reached adulthood, Mother’s Day began to take on a feeling of dreaded obligation, rather than a feeling of joy at celebrating the woman who had given birth to me.  When my relationship with my mother came to a final end, I was relieved not to have to deal with the pressures and unrealistic expectations.  It became just another day.

When I became a step-mother, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel about Mother’s Day.  In the beginning, it continued to feel like just another day.  I felt no maternal stirrings for my step-children, so I had no emotional connection to Mother’s Day.  I was not their mother.  I’m still not their mother, but I am something.

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Being a step-parent is the most complex and complicated relationship I’ve ever been a part of.  I know that not everyone’s circumstances are the same, but in my case, the biological mother of my step-children pretty much hates me.

Even though we’ve not once had a single conversation in the more than 10 years I’ve been around, and though I had nothing to do with the demise of her marriage, I seem to be symbolic of something she can’t handle.  As for what that might be, I can only speculate.

When I embarked on the journey of step-parenting, I was without great expectations.  I knew we wouldn’t love each other right away.  I expected there would be feelings of jealousy and resentment on their part and mine.  I knew there would be loyalty conflicts and lines drawn and hurt feelings.  I didn’t push.

I let them get to know me and I got to know them.  When their mother’s negative commentary seeped into our household, I refused to become what I knew she wanted me to be.

Overtime, I think the kids slowly began to see the motives behind what they were hearing versus what they were seeing.  Not that this caused them to love their mother any less and like me any more, but I think they began to form their own opinions and to open themselves up to a growing relationship with me.

I like to think I’ve been a positive influence.  When I first met the kids, they were often paralyzed by any new experience, whether it be trying a new food, visiting a new place, or trying a new activity.  It seemed they believed the world was fraught with danger.

Little by little, I worked to crack that shell.  I took them rock climbing and hiking and camping while patiently and continually reassuring them that they would, in fact, not plummet to the earth and die, get lost and starve, be kidnapped and eaten by hillbillies and/or obtain some type of biological disease carried by random woodland creatures.

I introduced new foods, my dad taught them to fish, I sought out fun and interesting places to visit, coaxed them onto their first plane ride, taught them to golf and tried to teach them to ski.  My step-son is now obsessed, but my step-daughter is still afraid that she will crash, head first into a tree….on the treeless bunny slopes.  We’re working on it.

But still, I’ve often said that if my step-children grow-up and do amazing things, some will say it happened despite my presence in their lives.  If they grow-up and become serial killers, it will be all my fault.

As the years have passed and our relationships with one another have continued to evolve and seek definition, I’ve continued to have no expectations of recognition on Mother’s Day.

In part, I’m sure it’s to save myself from hurt feelings, but at the same time, I know I am not their mother and if the day holds an exclusive meaning for them, I would never seek to intrude.

With that being said, I’ve not gone without it.  At some point, they began getting me a card and a small gift.  The card typically has the word “Step” written by one of them in front of the word “Mom” anywhere it’s printed on the card.  I’ve never viewed it as a negative, only as a boundary.  I am their step-mom.  It’s not the same as being their mom.  I like the distinction.

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My husband has always insisted he has not influenced the kids to acknowledge me on Mother’s Day, but I’ve always suspected he may have planted the seed.

However, one year, when my step-son was ten, he presented me with a school craft he’d made.  It was a long piece of construction paper that included a picture of himself holding a giant sunflower.  Underneath the photo, it said, “Happy Mother’s Day” and printed below was a list of things he loved about me.

I’m not a particularly emotional person, but when he gave it to me, I’ll admit that I thought my heart might burst.  I thanked him and told him it was the best gift I’d ever been given and I meant it.  Later, I took it to my room and cried.  Then I framed it and hung it.

Then, I became a mom in the traditional sense of the word and I still don’t want or expect grandiose gestures for Mother’s Day.  I just want to enjoy a quiet, simple day with my little family.

My own son always presents me with a handmade craft and I always cherish it.  More importantly though, he knows that I cherish it.  He know’s it enough and that he is enough.

All this week, I’ve been reading the various editorials written about the all the different kinds of mom’s out there.  The harried and frazzled, the mother’s who have lost children, the women who have lost their mother’s, the foster and adoptive mom’s and the all the other women who stepped in and took on the role of a mother when they were needed most.

I’ve laughed, sympathized, felt sad.  Mostly though, I’ve felt grateful.  And that is truly the best gift of all.

I hope all you moms out there get what you need this Mother’s Day too.

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Some People Have Family Home Video’s. I Have 500+ Pages of Police Reports and Body-Cam Video….

“Does anyone else hear banjo’s?” ~Me

Life has been weird.

A year and a half ago, my brother and I, along with our respective significant others, entered into a legal battle with our mother, who I haven’t spoken to in more than ten years.  Our fight was over my niece, Lele; the child of my middle brother.

The case has now mostly concluded, if you’d like to read about that hillbilly drama, click here:  The Legal System Sucks or, just scroll down to my prior post.

But if you’d like the Reader’s Digest version, the long and the short of it is this, my brother and I are now the proud parents of a seven year old.

Over the course of the last year and a half, my time has largely revolved around the case.        Every day, there was new evidence to review, conversations to be had with our attorneys and a near daily deluge of new issues created by mother, all of which had to be addressed and managed.

Essentially, my mother didn’t have a respectable case to put on, so her strategy was to attempt to drain me financially; to rob my family of our financial future….and let’s just say the court allowed her to do it.

Meanwhile, we did our best to stay on the high road.  We accumulated our evidence and prepared to present our case.

In an effort to help minimize some of the mounting legal fees, I did a lot of the administrative work for our attorney’s.  I indexed transcripts from various hearings and depositions.  I created detailed timelines and summarized dozens of records, from police reports, to more than 40 hours of jail/prison calls.

It was mentally exhausting.  But it’s done now and so it’s time to box this mess up and carry on.  Which, is sort of a metaphor for the first 30-odd years of my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy dissecting my childhood and adolescence and early adulthood.  I’ve tried 1:1 therapy and group therapy.  I’ve had both male and female therapists and I’ve tried a few psychiatrists/psychologists as well.  But I’ve never been able to connect to counseling.

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I couldn’t understand the incessant need to draw parallels between my “trauma past” and my present.  I already knew about those parallels.

I had crappy communication skills and when I fought, I fought to win.  I spewed mean things, like really mean things that were intended to cut to the emotional quick.  I brought bombs to verbal debates.  

And yeah….I did it, because it’s all I knew.  I never learned the art of resolving conflict without drawing blood and/or causing permanent emotional trauma.

I knew that the way I responded to life wasn’t healthy or productive.  I knew right from wrong.  I never felt good about myself in the aftermath of a blow-out with someone I cared about.

So, self-reflection, got it.


As I got older, I stopped trying to hide my past and I became pretty open about my experiences, regardless of the audience.

You might talk about your idyllic upbringing on a maple syrup farm in Vermont and gush about how much you’ve come to cherish your relationship with your mother while we’re out to brunch for the first time….I might (most definitely will) talk about how my family got kicked out of church when I was a kid and that time my mom hit me so hard in the face, I saw actual stars.

So, ability to talk about it….check!


I could acknowledge that crappy things happened to me, but that in the grand scheme of things, I was still a person of privilege.

Perspective?  Yup.


I have sat with it.  I’ve acknowledged it.  I’ve mourned it.  I’ve felt all of the feelings for it.  I’ve analyzed it, accepted it, honored it….all the stuff.

I didn’t need to keep talking about it.  I needed to know what I was supposed to do with it.  I had been carrying around this load of emotional garbage for so long, I honestly didn’t know how to function without it.  And it was fucking shit up.

It was making me ugly and mean and jaded and really, just an asshole, but not the kind of asshole people like.

What I needed to know and what NOBODY told me in all the talking and talking and talking….was that I could just let it go.  That I could cut the shit, and stop being such a jerk, and just choose to be happy.

The revelation came after a rough session in couples counseling with my husband.  So, maybe therapy was helpful after all.  But, I don’t know, I think the Aha! was born more out of annoyance than therapeutic progress.

Anyway, I was talking to our therapist about something specific that was triggering me in our marriage.  A slight I felt was real.  And it was.

I wanted, desperately, for her to understand that this was a feeling I was having that was relevant to the present and not deeply rooted in my past.  But she wasn’t having it.  As I was word vomiting she said to me, “He’s not your mother.”  

And all hell broke loose.  Out of me.  It’s possible I levitated.  I got up and left, declaring I was done.

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From there, I did exactly what I always did.  I ran and took my garbage with me.  I disappeared from my life and my husband and into myself and my garbage.  I waged a war in my head with everyone until I was exhausted.

And then, something clicked.  My feelings and thoughts mattered.  I knew this.  But no one could hear me through the filter of my garbage.

And that wasn’t going to change until I made peace with it and let it go.

So I did.

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Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.  It requires taking a giant leap of faith into life; over and over again.  And sometimes, it’s scary and it’s hard.  Especially when you know you’re showing up without any of the tools you’re supposed to have.  It’s kind of like bursting into a crowded room, naked.  But the alternative, is not showing up at all.

And I wanted to show up.  I was married to a really great guy, like truly THE BEST, who was trying so damn hard to understand me and show up for me, even when I made it nearly impossible.

We had started a family of our own.  I was a mother and I worried every single minute that I would mess it up.

I believed I would ruin everything.  I knew I would self-sabotage and drive my life into the ground and there would be no coming back from it.  I didn’t want that, of course I didn’t, but I couldn’t figure out how to exist among the mess.

Forever, I had been trying to figure out how to live and behave and communicate through and/or around the garbage.  I had been waiting and listening and even asking for instructions on how to do that.  I thought that’s what therapy was for.  To teach me how to live like a normal person, but within the confines of my dysfunction.  I don’t even know if that makes sense.

It never occurred to me that I could just pack it up and put it away.  Yes, it’s still a part of my story, but I don’t have to lug it around.  And there is so much power in that.

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I have managed to break the cycles of abuse and dysfunction and addiction that I grew-up with.  I decided it wasn’t the way I wanted to live, and then I set about figuring out how to live the life I wanted.

Simply put, I decided to be happy.  And I think it’s the best way to honor the part of me that spent way too many years being afraid.

I read once, that “happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”

I don’t know about all that.  I certainly don’t love every minute and I’m not always willing to extend grace, but I am grateful AF.  Because, I have a lot to be grateful for.

So while I’d like to sit in self-righteous indignation for a little while longer (I never said I was perfect), I’m going to pack this stuff up too and let it go.  The question is though, where do I put it?  Not metaphorically.  I mean literally.

Should I tuck away the body cam videos with our collection of home movies?  You know, so that we can all gather together someday and reminisce while we watch my son blow out his first birthday candles….and then watch my mom stand on the front lawn, barefoot on a cold December day, the remnants of Halloween decorations and that one, cracked, plastic Santa that’s been there since 2001, visible in the background, while she tells a police officer she suspects one of my brothers of throwing a brick through the back window of her car….only, the brick isn’t anywhere to be found, until she magically discovers it lying at an angle that makes it obvious it was either planted, or it’s just part of the neighbors landscaping.

Would the police and court records related to the all those calls about dogs running at large and a missing ferret, go with the old mementos I saved from my first fur baby?

FYI on the ferret, I hope he made it out of there.  Or, I hope he was at least a meal for one of the pets starving to death in that house.  I’m not sure which I hope for more.

Do the various cards and letters I’ve saved over the years, go with the stacks of JPay communications I subpoenaed from two different correctional facilities?  (JPay is prison email, if you don’t know….and really, if you are going to follow me here, you’re going to have to learn my language).

You know, I think I’ll just leave it all in a nondescript box to collect dust in the deepest recesses of our basement and hope it’s one of those things the kids just arbitrarily dump off at Goodwill or something, after I’m dead.

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I Blame Ohio Child Protective Services & The Court of Common Pleas….among others

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
~The Joker, Batman

It’s been a minute since I’ve last been here.

Some of you might be thinking….huh, I hadn’t noticed.  

But to those of you who did,….I BLAME OHIO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES AND THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS (And yes, I blame them all in shouty capitals), for my lack of output.

Here’s why:

Thanksgiving weekend, 2017,  I got a call from my brother Allan in Ohio.

“I just found out that Lele has missed over twenty days of school.  I’m so fucking pissed.  We have to do something.”

Lele is our niece.  She is the daughter of another brother, Tyler, who has a long history of substance abuse, gang affiliation and other criminal activities.

Lele’s mom, Dee, has had her own struggles and a complicated backstory.  She gave birth to Lele when she was sixteen and a month later, her own mother was evicted from their home and Dee was abandoned with a newborn and nowhere to go.

I imagine that being a teen parent is hard.  Hell, being a grown-up parent is hard.  But for Dee and Tyler, it was about a million times more difficult.  Not just because they were rootless with a newborn baby, but because within weeks of her birth, Lele was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

CF is a hereditary, incurable, life-threatening disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. The disease requires strict adherence to a treatment plan that includes a lifetime of fistfuls of medications, multiple daily breathing treatments and chest PT.

After the eviction, Tyler, Dee and Lele lived briefly with my mother, which is the literal equivalent, of living in hell.

From there, they stayed with my brother Allan for a few months before finally settling into an apartment of their own when Lele was about six months old.

They had been in the apartment for less than a month, when Tyler was arrested for violating a restraining order our mother had against him….a restraining order she helped him violate, by picking him up at his apartment, so that he could come to her house and do drugs and get drunk in her garage with our youngest brother.  Because….family bonding time is important, obviously.

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Tyler got caught, because he and my mother got into a booze/drug fueled fight and the police were called.  Naturally, the two of them fled the scene.

But my mother is a narc.  After first lying to the police, who weren’t buying it….and I assume under a threat to her own freedom….she sold Tyler down the river and he was arrested.

In the midst of all this, Lele developed a rare, CF related infection and had to be hospitalized.   It was serious and scary.

So of course, my mother took the opportunity to make matters worse, by calling Child Protective services for about the eleventy-billionth time, and reporting Dee for a host of fabricated neglect claims.

The eventual outcome was that Dee was required to move out of her apartment and in with her aunt, where Lele would also be required to go and live after she was released from the hospital.

Lele and Dee lived with her aunt for the next three years and Lele thrived there.  Then, in early winter, 2015, Dee decided she was ready to move into her own place.  She didn’t make it a year before my mother drove her to a literal nervous breakdown.

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She inundated Dee with abusive and vile text messages and phone calls and threats….there were hundreds of them, (and that’s no exaggeration) a day, to the point that Dee’s body and mind began to break down under the siege.

Recognizing that she was losing her grip, Dee left Lele with her aunt and checked herself into the hospital.

When my mother figured this out, she took Tyler, Lele’s dad….who was fresh out jail and rehab….to court where he filed for emergency custody of his daughter and got it.

At the time, Tyler had an apartment in a neighborhood where the odds of being the victim of a drive-by shooting, were greater than the odds of not.

During her stays on the corner of Crack and Bone Thugs in Harmony, Lele witnessed multiple fist fights between her dad and his various on-again, off-again roommates.

One of her regular babysitters, was a registered sex-offender.

She witnessed one of her dad’s girlfriends slit her own throat in front of her.

And she got struck in the chest by a firework, lit by one of her dad’s best buddies, which caused third degree burns across her chest.

After a few months of a sick kid cramping his style, Tyler packed up his vaping supplies, bottles of Old English, dime bags and roach clips and moved back in with our mother.

Then, things went from bad, to worse.  If you can believe that’s even possible.

Tyler set up a pharmaceuticals business in the garage where he cooked up K2 in the dirty pots and pans he pilfered from our mother’s kitchen.  While Lele was a witness and also a victim, of my mother’s rage.

She saw my mother banging down doors, screaming obscenities (including at her), hitting people (including her) and breaking things.

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She took baths and brushed her teeth in a bathroom where a sick cat often vomited in the sink and no one bothered to clean it up.  NOT IT!

And she played around the dog shit and piss that littered the carpeting throughout the house.

She ate her meals at a table where the leftovers from previous meals were left to grow fur for weeks.

Her medications and the various components for her nebulizer, that are supposed to be kept sterilized, were strewn about the kitchen that was riddled with old food and garbage and filth.

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When tensions between my mother and Tyler came to a head, my mother evicted him.  But Tyler still had custody of his daughter.  So, he and Dee made the decision to again leave Lele with Dee’s aunt.

This time, it was my mother who filed for emergency custody of Lele and she got it, despite being denied at least two other times.

At the first emergency custody hearing, my mother lied about everything from Lele’s background to her medical history.

Of course, Magistrate Massengill (it’s fitting, trust me) who heard the case wouldn’t have necessarily known she was lying.  Neither Dee nor Tyler were present.  None of us knew about the hearing, so no one was there to refute anything she said.

But Massengill did know that when Tyler obtained custody of Lele a year or so prior….following Dee’s nervous breakdown….that it was agreed upon between Tyler and Dee, that my mother would be less of a presence in Lele’s life.

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This should have been a red flag.  But my mother was granted emergency custody anyway….without anyone even bothering to verify that the story she was telling was the truth.

From there, my mother drove to the aunts house to claim her stolen prize; taking Lele from a home my mother knew was clean and safe, back to her hovel that often served as a flop house for a revolving door of drug addicts and derelicts.

A home where the police had been called literally HUNDREDS of times.  For things like….my mother chopping up her lawn furniture with an ax in the midst of a domestic dispute with my step-dad.

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After a few additional hearings, during which my mother continued to lie….she was granted permanent custody.

And throughout the entire process, there were no checks and balances in place, that I have been able to identify, designed to ensure that Lele was going to a home where she would be safe.

There were no requirements that my mother call witnesses, or provide documents that supported the story she was telling.

There were no third party social workers assigned to investigate her claims.  No one did a home visit.  No one talked to other family members.  No one bothered to talk to Lele.

No one bothered to check police records, or consult with Child Protective services to see if there were any on-going, or past investigations related to Lele’s care.

OR, more importantly, whether my mother had any history of child abuse allegations….which she does.

Nope.  My mother just waltzed in there, spewed a bunch of bull-shit and walked out of there with a kid and an order for child support payments.  Cha-Ching!

And that’s how easy it is to “legally” steal a kid in the state of Ohio.

Had anyone bothered to do any amount of background checking, or even just a quick Google search, they would have found, that among MANY other things, my mother is a big, fat liar.

A woman who, just a few months prior, had been banned by a municipal court judge, from ever owning a dog again.

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That’s right folks!  She isn’t allowed to own a dog.  EVER.  But a kid with a terminal illness?  Eh, no problem.

Allan and I talked regularly about calling the Ohio Department of Child Endangerment Services, I mean Protective Services (honest mistake) for Lele, but we knew, thanks to our own wretched childhoods, that they wouldn’t actually do anything….because they don’t like to get involved until it’s time to exhume the body.

Seriously, it’s always the same story.  “There just wasn’t enough evidence.”  

Or, “Our case loads were too full.”  

We send people to death row based purely on circumstantial evidence, but when it comes to child abuse it’s like, “Yeah, it’s true the mom said those two broken legs and that black eye and those cigarette burns happened when little Destiny fell off the bike she didn’t have, but what could we do?

So, when Allan called to tell me that Lele had missed more than twenty days of school, barely three months into the school year, I thought, “tale as old as time.”

And then, I reminded him that if we called the authorities and told them what we knew, that our mother would find out who called….and then, not only would she never allow us to see Lele again, but she would have us permanently silenced by someone willing to accept a WIC voucher as payment.

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But, I guess we were feeling a bit ballsy at the end of the chat, because we decided Allan should at least try and speak to the principal at Lele’s school.

He knew her well enough, because he and his partner often did school pick-up and drop-off.  They were also the stand-ins at father-daughter events at Lele’s school, because Tyler usually had warrants and so wasn’t allowed on school property.

Of course, the principal couldn’t tell him anything, but she did listen.  And then she shared the information with the school’s social worker, who made a call to Child Protective Services.

When the social worker showed up to my mother’s house, she wasn’t home.  She’d checked herself into the hospital….which is where she likes to go when the authorities are closing in.

And while she was away trying to swindle some good prescription drugs out of the hospital staff, she left Lele in the care of Tyler….who had recently moved back in and was busy making dabs in the garage….and her husband, my step-dad; a non-compliant and blind diabetic, who, after serving twenty-years of time with my mother, has lost the will to live.

The social worker left her card with whoever answered the door, truly, it could have been anyone….and Allan and I were ultimately able to get the information and give her a call.

Fast forward to today….my brother and I are now the proud parents of a daughter.

Which means that someone out there from my adolescence, probably one of my elementary school teachers, just won a bet on how my life would turn out.

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But it didn’t happen overnight.  It took a year and a half and nearly $200k to pry my niece from the clutches of Satan’s chief lieutenant.  And no, I did not just happen to have that money lying around for a rainy day custody dispute.

When we started the process, I had no idea what we were truly in for.  I figured that if you tell the truth and you do all the right things, you have nothing to worry about.  But that’s a load of crap.

Once my mother knew we were behind the coup to free our niece, she did the following:

  1.  Got my brother Allan fired from his job.

  2. Accused him of sexually molesting Lele….and then going so far as to subject her (at six years old) to an internal forensic examination.  And just in case in you are wondering, my niece was clear, repeatedly, that no such abuse had ever occurred.  Even the medical professionals and a detective who interviewed my niece extensively, were like, “yeah, this didn’t happen.” And my mother was like, “peek in there anyway.”

  3. Got Allan kicked off the Board of Directors for the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where he had volunteered his time since Lele was an infant and helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for CF research.

  4. Made multiple phone calls, often as an anonymous tipster, to accuse Allan of molesting and endagering, not just Lele, but our other two nieces as well….one of whom was a newborn at the time.

  5. Accused him of verbally assaulting her and threatening her in the parking lot at Lele’s school during a court ordered visitation exchange.  Good thing there are security camera’s covering that parking lot.

  6. Accused me of attempting to bride witnesses, including Lele’s dad, by offering money and housing if they would agree to lie on my behalf.

  7. Lied at every single hearing and throughout her deposition, all under oath.

And you know what the consequences were for all the harassment and lying and deflecting and squandering of resources?  Nothing.  At least not for the liar.

But for us, it cost THOUSANDS in additional legal fees in order to protect and defend ourselves.

My brother had to obtain a protection order against our mother, which didn’t matter, because she repeatedly violated it.

I guess the way it works, is that unless the violator is clutching your still beating heart in their hands, while making snow angels in your blood, the protection order is really just a piece of paper that means nothing.

Early on in the case, Child Protective Services bailed out, leaving us to duke this out in the Court of Common Pleas on our own.  Thanks for nothing, assholes!

And as the case progressed, and the legal fees mounted, and my mother continued to create barriers toward progress and lie without consequence, I came to understand why no one ever stepped up for me when I was a kid.  Ah…I’m healed.

We had six days of trial scheduled.  Our attorneys spent hours preparing.

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We subpoenaed something like 30 witnesses, all of whom had to be served and then organized and scheduled to appear on specific days and times.

We had over 500 copies of police reports and body cam video’s.

We had more than 10,000 pages of medical records.

We had transcripts from prior hearings, the deposition transcripts and hundreds of text messages and photographs.

We had copies of jail/prison communications between Tyler and my mother (because yeah, he was incarcerated shortly after the case got underway) and all the audio of their phone calls….including a call in which my mother could be heard both screaming, and then hitting Lele while she cried in the background.

We showed up on the first day ready to present our case.

My mother’s free lawyer, Melanoma McChiclet-Teeth, an ambulance chaser with no family law experience she suckered into representing her pro-bono, showed up with a yellow legal pad and a bag of shit, aka, his client.

We never got a trial though.  Instead, we arrived to find out, as is apparently typical, that the court was double booked and we were in second place.

While we waited, we were encouraged to try and figure it out on our own.  As if we hadn’t already been trying to do that.  For a year and a half.  With no resolution.

But, we did ultimately settle under pressure from the court.  My mother caved and we agreed to a resolution we were happy with, but not until the end of court on the second day.

We never got the opportunity to present any of our evidence.  Our mother never had to answer for the things that she did.

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And we never got to bring to light all the ways in which the system failed Lele.  It took my mother only three trips to court and virtually no real evidence, to obtain custody of her.   But it took a year and a half and nearly everything we had, to free her.  That is shameful.

At one point, I commented to someone that I was disappointed in Child Protective Services and their lack of action.  She said, “What Lele has been through is bad.  There’s no doubt about it.  But it’s not as bad as a lot of the other cases we have to deal with.”

And that makes me so sad.

But I am glad that Lele won’t be one of those kids who falls between the cracks in the system because she just wasn’t being abused enough.  

Now that it’s mostly over, I’ve got to deal with some pretty heavy feelings of resentment and anger, because what’s been taken from my family and me, can’t ever be repaid.

I’m angry for all the once in a lifetime moments I missed out on in my own son’s life, while traveling back and forth for court while my mother found shady new ways to drag it all out.

I’m angry about the ways the court system and law enforcement allowed my mother to abuse us throughout this process.

I’m angry about the occasional snide comments made by Magistrate Massengill about the size of my house….OBJECTION!  Relevance, your honorable asshole?

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And, I’m angry about the significantly disproportionate way in which fees were allocated among the parties (I paid the bulk of everything), which was based on nothing other than   a household income number.  A number that did not take into account cost of living differences, or a detailed accounting of household expenses.

My husband and I are frugal savers.  The only debt we carry is mortgage related.

And the “big house” the magistrate was so found of commenting on, is a fixer upper that was built in 1731 and purchased for about half the market value for homes in our community, due to the extensive renovations it required and still does.  

My mother on the other hand likes to accumulate massive amounts of credit card and other debt and then file for bankruptcy.

She refuses to work a job that doesn’t pay under the table, or isn’t tip based….and not because she lacks the education or ability, but because it’s the only way she can make sure she qualifies for as much government assistance as possible.

So it was a particularly bitter pill to swallow when the court allowed her to steal from me too….especially given that I did nothing to cause any of what was happening to be necessary.

No good deed goes unpunished.

As for Lele, despite everything she’s been through, she remains an incredilby upbeat and positive and sweet and compassionate kid.

She’s insightful and smart and funny and silly and FULL of energy and life.  And she isn’t afraid to give her love her away, despite all the many ways her love has been rejected by those who should have cherished it most.

She’s got a small army of people now who are committed to helping her heal, adjust and grow and thrive and she will.  Because….“though she but little, she is fierce.”

The Birds & The Bees….

Do you pee out of your butt? ~ My Son

A few years ago, my son, Snugs McNugget (yes, that’s his real name), walked in on me while I was using the bathroom.  He was about four at the time and immediately upon seeing me on the toilet, he inquired, “Are you dropping a deuce?”

When I informed him that I was peeing, he began laughing as though I was a complete imbecile.

Snugs:  You pee standing up.  You poop sitting down!  

Me:  Honey, Mommy is a girl.  Girls pee sitting down.

Snugs:  Where is your penis?

Me:  Mommy, doesn’t have a penis.  I have a vagina.

Snugs, laughing hysterically:  A bagina!  What’s a bagina?

Thankfully, he lost interest shortly thereafter and I was spared the need to provide any additional detail.

Now my son is six and a Kindergartner and he’s become interested in understanding where babies come from and the anatomical differences between males and females.

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Earlier in the school year, he came home from school and informed me that one of his classmates, Jacob, had seen his sisters “wagenda.”

Me:  Her what?

Snugs:  Her wagenda.  You know, her wagenda (points to his crotch).

Me:  Oh…her wagenda.  I see.

Snugs:  Can I see yours?

Me:  No.  That would be inappropriate.  You should never ask a woman if you can see her wagenda.  It’s a private part and remember, it’s important to respect a person’s privacy.

Snugs:  I just really want to see one.  Jacob said it looks like a butt.  Does it look like a butt?  Do girls have two butts?  Wait, do you pee out of your butt?

Me:  Um….

HELP!

I haven’t the slightest idea how to have these conversations.

For the most part, nobody talked to me about this stuff when I was a kid.  When I asked my great-grandpa where babies came from, he told me he found me in the yard one afternoon, sitting in a buttercup.  And I believed it….for years.

Later, I picked up the general basics from movies and from walking in on my mother having sex with a guy named Ron she met in rehab.

The only other bit of education I got was when my mother said, “Do you want your cooter to smell like a fish stick?  No?  Then keep your pants on.”

I’m fairly certain the fear of smelling like a Gordon’s fisherman was the reason I preserved my virginity far longer than most of my peers.

So, what amount of information is too much information?

What if my son goes to school and shares his knowledge with other kids, who tell their parents, who then call me and are all like, WTF!?

Honestly, it’s moments like these I feel woefully ill-equipped as a parent and a little bitter about the lack of accurate information I was given as a child.

In most situations, when I don’t know the exact right answer, I say, “We’ll find a book on the subject.”  

A quick internet search proved that there are apparently a million choices.  Does anyone out there have a recommendation?

Something by Dr. Seuss perhaps….There’s a Wagenda on the Agenda!

Actually, that sounds more like something Mike Pence would write and so no.  Just no.

I don’t want my son to grow-up misinformed (except for the whole wagenda thing, I’m going to let that one go for a while), or embarrassed to ask questions he might have about sex.  I’d prefer he ask his dad, but whatever.

I’ve convinced him that I know everything and so heavy is the head that wears the crown.  I need to deliver.  But first, I need book suggestions….

 

Valentine’s Day Isn’t For Everyone….

“All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Shulz  

So, my son is now a first grade and I’ve learned that a lot has changed since I made my way through the public school system.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when people didn’t care all that much about your feelings, so this whole, everybody get’s a Valentine thing is new to me.

When I was in elementary school, I loved Valentine’s Day.  I spent days preparing my tacky Valentine’s box with construction paper hearts, feathers, stickers and paper doilies.

On Valentine’s Day, we placed our boxes on our desks and walked around our classroom depositing Valentines and treats into the boxes of our friends and our enemies?  Well, they could go right on ahead and choke on a box of those chalky conversation hearts for all we cared.

Personally,  I never gave a Valentine to a kid named Olin who had a harelip.  Not because of the harelip, but because he cut a chunk out of my hair in Kindergarten and I never let go of a grudge.

I also refused to deposit a Valentine into the box of a kid named Bobby, who used to pick his nose and wipe it on all the girls.  To this day, anyone with the name Bobby makes me want to vomit.

I spent years campaigning to blacklist a girl named Roberta, who beat me up, EVERY DAY, on the playground in second grade.  That is, until I told my gramma, who arrived at the school one afternoon during dismissal and confronted Roberta using a variety of clever obscenities none of us really understood, but delighted in repeating whenever possible.

Example:  “If you ever lay a finger on my granddaughter again you hussy, I will kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

Not only could we exclude our classmates, but because nobody actually looked at the Valentine’s we were passing out, we were free to send hate mail too.

I got a few and I gave a few.

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In middle school, we gave up the Valentine boxes and instead we got to purchase candy heart lollipops for fifty-cents in the cafeteria, to be delivered, with a note, to anyone we chose.

Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, our classes would be disrupted by a knock at the door and the candy courier would walk in and announce who the lucky recipient was. Which of course made the rest of us feel like ugly, unlovable ducklings.

My friends and I sent candy hearts to one another, but mostly I sent them to myself and claimed they were from a secret admirer. I wanted the candy and I wanted to make the other girls jealous.

I also sent one to my seventh grade science teacher, because he was smokin’ hot for a middle-aged science teacher and I hoped to woo him away from his wife and kids, apparently.

In high school, candy hearts were replaced with single stem roses. The concept played out the same way. The roses were purchased for a dollar and delivered throughout the school day. Tables were set up before school, in the hallways between classes and during lunch, allowing ample opportunity for rose purchases.

Girls with boyfriends ended the school day with a dozen roses by final bell. Girls without boyfriends told everyone it was because those girls put out….because it was really the only way to save face when walking through the dismissal crowd without a single rose.

Honestly, all of it sucked. There were years in elementary school when my friends and I got into huge fights over Barbies and who got to be the teacher when we played school. We teamed up against one another and if Valentine’s Day happened to fall during a rumble, things could get ugly.

“Nobody give a Valentine to Laura….she’s bossy and she’s got a knock off Cabbage Patch.”

In middle school and high school, the number of candy heart lollipops and roses you received were symbols of how popular and well liked you were compared to others. Clearly, there was something wrong with you if NOBODY thought you worthy of fifty-cents or a dollar.

So, I think it’s better that kids these days are expected to spread kindness equally on Valentine’s Day.

They’ll have plenty of time as adults to be biter and cynical when the day ends without a bouquet and takeout for one.

And by then, they can acquire alcohol.

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10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent….

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” ~Gwyneth Paltrow

I admit it.

Before I had a kid, I was 100% one of those judgey, know-it-all jerks who made grand proclamations about all the things I’d never do when I became a parent.

Which was pretty bold considering that, for years, I’d known nothing about raising children.  Like, literally nothing. 

Was it acceptable to put Kool-Aid into a baby bottle?

Did you wait to change a child’s diaper until it had reached maximum capacity?  I mean, diapers are expensive and if you can make a 24 pack last 24 days, that’s practicing good economics….no?

And, it’s not that big a deal to leave a toddler in the car if you’re just running into K-Mart for ONE thing, right?  So long as the kid is strapped down somewhere and unable to reach the lit cigarette resting in the cars ashtray?

What can I say?  I didn’t have the best maternal example.

It wasn’t until books and television taught me that I was basically a degenerate, that I began to form loftier opinions about things.

The police never showed up at the Seaver residence because Maggie was in the backyard with an ax hacking up the lawn furniture after a fight with Dr. Seaver.

Mrs. Walsh, of Beverly Hills 90210 never hissed at Brenda, “I am going to kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

And not one of those chick’s from the Babysitter’s Club, had to take their earnings and immediately spend it all on candy at a sports bar/grocery store called Smokies before their mother could steal their wages.

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Smokies #ICan’tMakeThisShitUp

So, it’s really thanks to the likes of the Tanners, the Camden’s, The Huxtables, Mr. Belvedere and Beverly Clearly, that I became self-righteous AF.

10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent

1.   Let my kid eat a hot dog

Fast forward six years:

Me:  Hey Snugs, want to have a hot dog and mac & cheese for dinner?

Snugs:  I had that yesterday!

Me:  I know, but it’s your favorite!

2.  Leave the house in my pajama’s

Post Kids:  Ok, I’ll never leave the house in my PJ’s without a bra.

A few more years post kids:  Well, if I’m staying in the car and just going through the teacher assist drop-off line, it’s not like anyone will notice I’m not wearing a bra.

3.  Let my kid buy school lunch

Me….Every Day:  Oooh, buddy!  French toast sticks are on the menu at school today and tomorrow, it’s nachos!

4.  Allow screen time

A hot minute after giving birth:  Get ready!  To Wiggle!  

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5.  Forego my personal hygiene

Post Parenthood Google Search History:

  • How many days in a row can you use dry shampoo?
  • How many days in a row can a person go without showering before the smell is too great to mask.
  • Is Listerine an acceptable alternative to teeth brushing?

6.  Give-up my corporate career for family

My employer (a year ago):  You haven’t made a career move in five years and we’re going to eliminate your current position.  You’ll need to either move up, or move out.

Me:  Cool, should I go ahead and start packing now?

I know I’m supposed to be leaning-in and pulling up a seat the table and bursting through the glass ceiling and blah, blah, blah, but I was over my career.  OVER IT.

I didn’t want to spend my time traveling all the over the place, working insane hours, while someone else raised my kid, all for the privilege of helping to stuff the already bulky pockets of the executives and shareholders of corporate America.

I decided I didn’t want to pull up a seat their table.  I decided to build my own table.  I’m sorry if this isn’t the choice I was supposed to make.

Actually, no.  I’m not sorry.

7.  Participate in the Elf on the Shelf

Before my son was born, I considered the tradition to be an unnecessarily stressful addition to parenting and the holiday season.

Actually, I think I was just really jealous that I hadn’t thought of that bajillion-dollar idea myself.

After my son was born, I jumped right onto the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon and I’m not getting off anytime soon.

Quite frankly, I participate in the tradition for one person and one person only….and that person is me.

My childhood had all the magic of life at Spahn Ranch with the Manson family, so it makes me feel good to sprinkle my son’s youth with wonderment.

Also, that little Sprite gives me a whole month off from parenting….and I’m not going to lie, I can use the break….especially during the holiday season.

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8.  Formula Feed

To be clear, it never crossed my mind to judge another mother for the way she chose to feed her kid.  If it hadn’t been for Hamburger Helper, Chef-Boyardee and Tang, I might not have survived my own infancy.

So, fed is best, as far as I’m concerned.

But I had a lot of guilt about being diagnosed with cancer while I was pregnant and so I felt like if I couldn’t breastfeed, I would essentially be a worse mother than Susan Smith.

Mom guilt.  Am I right?

I wanted to breastfeed, but I couldn’t.

To make a long story short, my son was born premature, I had to finish chemotherapy and it wasn’t safe for my son to breastfeed while I was pumped full of R-CHOP.

I tried to “pump and dump,” but my body was all, “F-You.  I’m not cooperating.” 

Since starvation is, in fact, the worst of all options, I decided that what was best for my son, was formula.  And what was best for me, was to stop torturing myself.

PS….to that lady from the online La Leche support group I reached out to for advice on stimulating my milk supply, the lady who told me I should really consider stopping cancer treatment because, Breast is Best!

I still know who you are.  My social media stalking skills are on point and oh honey….time has not been good to you.

 

9.  Subscribe to a parenting philosophy

Me, today:  I’m the I Don’t Give a F*ck Mom.

The IDGAF mom is the one who can’t even commit to the long term implications of a bumper sticker, let alone a parenting philosophy.

She’s the one who sometimes feels like she’s got her shit together and other times, get’s stuck in her sports bra.

The mom who roots for other mom’s, (except that bitch from the La Leche support group….I never let go of a valid grudge), because she knows that parenting isn’t actually a competition.

We’re all just doing the best we can to roll with the punches of parenting and life and in the end, we all want the same thing.  Nice kids who are healthy and happy and who go on to be productive and kind members of society.  That’s the only trophy we’re going to get.

10.  Allow my kid to throw a tantrum in public

I really thought I would have this one down.  I assumed that I was the adult, the one in charge.  I thought my firm, but loving approach to child rearing would be thing that would separate me from the mom with the toddler sprawled out and screaming on the floor at Target.

I thought that right up until the time my son was about three and I told him it was time to leave Chuck E. Cheese and he looked at me and said, “Over my dead body.”

Ok, so he didn’t actually say that, but trust me, his wails and feet stamping and fist pounding on the Skee Ball machine made it clear that I could suck it.

So, now I just like to tell myself that he’s strong willed and that strong willed children become adults who change the world.  I high five myself and hope that he’s at least a good dictator someday.

Then, I take another helping of humble pie with a side of crow, pull up my yoga pants and tell myself that, at the very least, I’m still way better than that La Leche lady.

 

The Gazelle….

“Running is fun!” ~Psychopaths

About three years ago, I joined a women’s only fitness studio and truly, it changed my life.  I have always enjoyed physical activity, but in the past, I had a habit of joining big gyms, for like five minutes.

Then, I would get super bored, because I didn’t know what I was doing, and then I would quit….four years later….because canceling a gym membership is the tenth circle of hell.

But after I had my son and completed my cancer treatments, my body felt like it had been run over by a truck.  In addition, my anxiety, which had been a minor issue for me all of my life, suddenly started to attack more often and more viciously than it ever had before.

quote-anxietyI talked about it with my doctors and also a therapist I had been seeing for a while.  It was normal and typical for cancer survivors to experience symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.  Medication was an option, but I didn’t feel like it was a good option for me.

I just needed some way to release that energy from my body.  I began to recognize its build up.  I could feel that it was trapped, but I didn’t know how to go about getting it out and it made me feel manic.

On the advice of my Oncologist and my Cardiologist, I decided to start working out again.  Their suggestion was based more on the physical benefits I would get from regular exercise, but I thought maybe it might be a good way to exorcise some crazy while I was at it.

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At first, I bought the book, Fitness for Dummies, thinking it would help me understand how to properly use the equipment at the gym and create a worthwhile routine for myself.  And yes, I could have just asked someone, but no I could not.  (See post, I’m Known as the Death of the Party).

Anyway, I quickly realized that I was just on my way to falling into the same old failed routine I had gotten myself into so many times before.  So, instead, I turned to my community Facebook page for local moms….because if you want to know anything from where to get a good bikini wax, to what that noise was over on Main Street at 4:37am, that’s where you go….and I posted something like the following:

“Hey ladies.  I’m looking to join a new gym.  Somewhere with maybe small group classes and trainers who tell me what to do.  And if they are mean, even better.  I need someone to shout my ass back into shape.  Thanks!”

Within minutes, I began to receive a flood of responses. Eventually, I chose a new, women’s only fitness studio that had been open for just a few months.  I chose them, because I loved their body positive message.

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After my first class, I knew this time would be different.  Exercise has been a game changer for me, both physically and mentally and it’s a literal lifeline I can’t do without. And it was thanks to joining my gym, that I came to know my friend Gazelle.  (I call her this, because she has the body of Gisele, minus the height, and she runs like some kind of prancing, dainty, woodland creature).

Gazelle doesn’t teach at my studio. I know her through a game of six degrees of separation that includes both a personal and exercise related connection.  It was through that combination that I came to attend a cardio-kickboxing class she was hosting to raise money for charity.

The class kicked my ass.  In a good way.   So I began following her around to other gyms, where I take her class as a drop-in whenever possible.  She’s amazing.

Fitness is her full time job.  She has a degree in Exercise Physiology, but instead of working in a clinical setting, she likes to teach.  She gets up most mornings around 4:00am to begin her day, which includes a variety of classes taught at several different gyms.  I’ve seen here around noon-time when she’s already five classes into her day and you’d never know it.

In addition to her workload, she’s an avid runner and she’s constantly trying to get me to take it up.

“Hey, want to go for a run today?  It’s going to be so nice out!”  she texts.

“No.  Running is dangerous.”  I say.

“Running isn’t dangerous! What are you talking about?” 

“Um, have you never seen Dateline?  Or 48 Hours Investigates? There’s like a 90% chance I’ll be murdered.”  I tell her.

“We’ll be together though.”  She says.

“No, we won’t. I’ll quit after three minutes and tell you I’ll catch up. And by the time I’m attacked, you’ll be too far away for me to trip you as a sacrifice to save myself.”  


“Want to go for a run?  The foliage is beautiful!”  She tries again.

“Imagine how much better I’ll be able to see it while walking.”  I say.


“Let’s go for a run today!  Just a short one!”  She begs.

“I’d love to but I can’t.  Oh wait.  No, I wouldn’t love to.”


“Ok, I know you’ll probably say no, but how about you give running a chance today?”

“No.”


“Run?”

“I can’t, I hate it.”  

“Have you ever tried it?  Like REALLY tried it?”  

“Yes, that’s how I know that with every stride, a part of my soul dies.”

“You are so dramatic.”

“I know.”  


“Hey friend, great day for a run!”

“Evolution.”

“What?”

“If God wanted us to run, he would not have killed off the Dinosaurs.”

“That makes zero sense.”

“It makes perfect sense.  Think about it while you’re running today.  Alone.”


I’m just not a runner.

There have been many times I’ve gone out and invested in expensive, top of the line running shoes, devised a training plan and envisioned myself crossing the finish line of the Boston marathon.  But then, I just end up gardening in my expensive, top of the line running shoes and watching the marathon from a bar on Beacon Street.

And I can always tell who the real runners are vs. the people like me who go out thinking, I’m going to pound out some miles and then end up walking three minutes in, because running is stupid.

Real runners seem to glide, their strides steady and light, their facial expressions stoic, their breathing, steady.

When I run, I look like a sack full of rocks being dragged across a bumpy road as I desperately suck wind.  My facial expression says, “This sucks, I’m bored, I hate every minute of this and it’s only been half a block.”

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I will hike for dozens/hundreds of miles carrying a 20 pound backpack up and down mountains for days and I won’t complain, even once.  I will bike ride for hours.  I will Spin and Barre and Booty Build and Muscle Pump and Namaste every day of the week….but I cannot bring myself to jog a lap, let alone a mile.

So I will keep on telling my friend no.  And she will continue to ask.

I will offer to drive alongside her in my car, while she runs.  Promising to shout out inspirational quotes, throw paper cups of water at her and play Eye of the Tiger at the highest volume setting for as long as her little legs will go.

And she will attempt to trick me into running by using words like “fun run” and promising a “yummy lunch” afterward.  And I will tell her that her idea of “yummy” includes a plate of twigs and crab grass and my idea of “yummy” includes cheesecake.

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Though it probably doesn’t sound like it, I do appreciate her persistence.  I know that it comes from a good place.  She’s rooting me on, because she thinks I can do it.  She has faith in me and my abilities.  Running is a passion of hers and she wants to share it with me.  Motivation is part of her job and she is really good at it.

It’s just that in my case, there is no will to find the way.  But her constant nagging has encouraged me.  I work out harder, because of her.  I push myself every workout and when I think I’m at my max, I push just a little bit more.

But if you ever see me running, you should probably start running too….because chances are, a zombie, or a serial killer is gaining on me.
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I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….and Neither Do You.

“Opinions are like butt-holes.  Everybody has one.”
~Unknown, but I wish it was me

As a mother, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.

Just the other day, while in the toothpaste aisle at Target, I was accosted by a woman who approached and said, “You shouldn’t choose a toothpaste that contains aluminum.  Unless you want your kid to have Alzheimers.” 

How do you even respond to that?

When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-two weeks.  Once, while shopping, a woman approached and asked, “Don’t you think you should have been more responsible?”  

Throughout my entire illness, I never had a problem sharing my story with curious strangers.  I spent many minutes in check-out aisles and at my doctor’s appointments, chatting it up with random, but kind, strangers, about my diagnosis and how it all came to be.

But this woman?

No.

She was a twat-waffle.

So, I didn’t feel bad when I suggested that she should hop into her douche canoe and row, row, row the boat far away from me….before I did actually make an irresponsible decision.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t able to breast-feed.  My son was born one week before my last chemo cycle.  Although the medications were unable to cross through the placenta while my son was safe and snug inside my womb, they could pass through my breast milk and that wasn’t safe for him.

In the beginning, I tried to “pump and dump,” which I would need to do for a minimum of six weeks after my last chemo cycle, in order to flush out all the poisons.

I tried.  I really, really did.

I followed every bit of advice from the hospitals lactation consultants.  But nothing worked.

My body had been through a lot and it seemed to draw the line at producing breast milk.    I was never able to produce more than about a teaspoons worth, which, admittedly, made me feel like a horrible mother.

As a last ditch effort, I reached out to a La Leche Group I found online.  Now, I’m sure that if you are a regular woman, who is struggling to breast feed and looking for advice, that these groups are helpful.  In my case, not so much.

I explained my situation and for the most part, I got back the same advice the lactation consultants had given me.  In a few cases, some of the women essentially said, “I’ve got nothing, I’m sorry.”

But then, one woman decided to offer me this piece of sage advice.  “You should stop your treatments so you can breastfeed.  It’s really the most important thing you can do for your baby.”

“Um….like, more important than being alive?  Bitch.”

That’s all said.  I might have added in a GFU.

Ok, I did definitely add it in, because who says that!?

And honestly, my experiences with breast-feeding shame didn’t end there.  I found a super expensive, organic formula that made me feel a little bit better about my inability to feed my baby from my own body and I’m not even kidding, but nine times out of ten, when I was at the store purchasing his food, a woman would tell me that breast milk was best.

And you know what?  I agree!  It is THE BEST.  I get it.

But, we can’t all do it and for some, we don’t all want to do it and that’s OK too.  It really is.  Because you know what’s second best to breast?  Fed.

A few years ago, while my son played at an indoor playground, a man asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that letting your son wear a pink shirt will make him gay?”

He asked, as though being gay was a bad thing.

As if I would be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being the number one woman in my son’s life….forever.

As if a child’s preference in color, is indicative of his sexuality.

But, I suppose when you can still recall the smell of the air from the bough of the Mayflower, you can sort of be forgiven for your ignorance.

I am by no means a perfect parent.  There are days I think I’m nailing it and there are days when I wish that life allowed a control z function, so that I could have a do-over….or five.

I appreciate and even love, all those Parenting Blogs that talk honestly about the trials and tribulations of raising children.  It’s nice to find a community of like-minded parents.  But the second they hop on a sponsored soap box and start using words like “should” and “never.”  They’ve lost me.

Because, I’m sorry, Karen, you don’t know squat….unless you have a PH.D in child-rearing, in which case, what you know is still debatable.  Parenting, like everything else, is constantly evolving.

My generation is the first to raise children in the age of social media.  And I think a byproduct of that, is that we’ve lost a bit of our self-confidence and our willingness to trust our gut and our instincts as parents.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing.  All we have to do, is open up our computers, or our phones and we are immediately transported into the lives of families all over the world, which brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  

But the truth is, we are all just winging it and hoping we get it right.

Personally, I vaccinate, because Polio seems like a real bitch.

I don’t spank my child, because I got my ass kicked as a kid and from that, I learned only one thing.  That I don’t want to hit my child.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m a helicopter parent.  Other times, I’m that mom, sitting in the corner, reading a book.

Some days, I make homemade, from scratch, wholly organic meals and other days we go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

I allow screen time, almost every day.  Some days, it’s no more than hour.  Other days, whatever.

I am at times, authoritative and strict and other times, weak and super permissive.  Most of the time, I’m weak and super permissive.

I’m a big believer in the importance of self-care; for moms and dads.  And sometimes, I prioritize myself over everyone else.  And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.

My house is obsessively clean and organized.  Because my brain needs it to be that way and I have no problem doing all the work.  In fact, I LIKE it.

I have been a corporate career having mom and a stay-at-home mom.  Both are hard.

Sometimes, I let my son win and other times, I wipe the floor with him.

And I don’t care what kind of mom the internet, or the media tells me I should be.

I can’t force him into a specific parenting philosophy.  I know this, because I have actually tried.  But I don’t think he came out of the womb a blank slate.  He was already a person. Predisposed, I guess, to certain personality traits and needs that would and do influence his interests.

So I only care about being the kind of parent my child needs me to be.  And I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I trust myself to get it mostly right.  Because no one knows him and loves him like I do and nobody ever could.

I’m Known as the Death of the Party….

“I am not a jerk.  I am an introvert and I say fuck a lot.” ~Charles Bukowski

I don’t get invited to a lot of parties.

This is not surprising, because I don’t have a lot of friends.

This is not surprising, because I’m the human equivalent of a turd in a punch bowl.

I don’t necessarily mean to be, but I’m a definite introvert trying to force myself to function like a “normal” person, in a world that is noisy and won’t shut up.  A bi-product of which, is a somewhat bizarre form of what I suppose could be called, social anxiety.  Or, a bad case of chronic, verbal diarrhea.

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When I get blindsided by conversation, you know, normal, friendly small talk, I tend to contribute something like, “Hey, did you know that humans shed forty pounds of skin in their lifetime?” just as you’re about to sprinkle some parmesan cheese onto what used to be your favorite dish.

I once said, ” Well, I hate the Yankee’s” during a professional networking event, in New York, with a bunch of Yankee fans, at YANKEE F*CKING STADIUM, in response to the question, “Do you like baseball?”

And you know what?  I don’t even really hate the Yankee’s.

I’m sure it would be quite nice to be a social butterfly, instead of a wall flower; to be the kind of person who oozes charisma and charm, instead of oozing verbal diarrhea.

But I wouldn’t know.

Unknown.pngI’m attending a wedding at the end of the month and the last time I saw many of the people who will be in attendance, I filled an awkward moment of silence with the following:

“Hey, did you guys know the average fast food eater consumes like 12 pubic hairs a year?”  

I don’t know why that was necessary.  I have no words….also, it was me who caused the awkward moment of silence.
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The thing is, when left to my own devices, I’m just perfectly happy being alone.

It’s not because I’m sad, or depressed, or need to be pried from my shell.  I’m not shy, or lacking in self-confidence.

And it’s not that I don’t like people.  I think people are fascinating, especially from a distance, when they don’t know I’m watching them.

It’s the socializing I don’t love; the small talk and the pressure to contribute to a conversation. I don’t like the pauses, with expectation, waiting for me to share my thoughts, which usually consist of something like, “Every year, 40,000 people are injured by a toilet in the United States.”  Except no one is ever talking about toilets.

I am capable of having regular, deep conversations with my small circle of close friends and family, but take me to any sort of outing where there are large groups of people and shit gets weird, real fast.

When I manage to find a quiet, dark corner where I can lurk in the shadows and just observe and eavesdrop, there is always some do-gooder who tracks me down with a “Why are you over here all by yourself?  Come join us!”

And I think, “Damn-it, Susan, you’re ruining everything!”  

For a long time, I was hard on myself for my shortcomings as a socialite.  It bothered me that nearly everyone else I knew gracefully made their way through parties, networking events, conferences, etc., while I spent my time rehearsing a series of basic social niceties, only to then spend days months obsessing over all the ways in which I still ended up accidentally telling someone her purse was ugly and then insulting her entire family for good measure.

But, I’m pushing forty now and honestly, I don’t care anymore.

This is who I am.

My idea of excellent of customer service is to be completely ignored, until I ask for something….which I will never do.  The other day, I discovered that I can look up a specific product on Home Depot’s website, while in the store, and it will tell me the items exact aisle and bay number, thus forever sparing me an awkward encounter with a store associate.  I am now a lifelong customer of Home Depot….so long as I can continue to get a decent cell signal in their stores.

I have had the same cell phone provider for eighteen years.  Because even if I wanted to break up with them, I don’t want to have to actually initiate the conversation.

But you know what?  Loyalty does it have its rewards, even if it’s unintended loyalty….because I have a seriously good cell phone plan that is so good, they don’t offer it anymore.  I’ve been grandfathered into it with like two other people, because….eighteen years.

I’m that friend who will never answer the phone when you call, but will immediately respond with a text and then tell you I’m somewhere with shitty cellular service.  And of course you’ll know I’m lying, but you know me, so you’ll let it go.

Actually, if we’re really friends, you’ll never call to begin with, unless it’s a true emergency.  Like, you need help burying a body, or something.

Also, if you invite me to your wedding and I look thoroughly confused in every photograph, you’ll know it’s because I’m trying to work out exactly why I needed to include the world vulva, in a conversation with your new mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.

I know, I know….I sound like a real pain in the ass.  Truly, most of the time, I feel like I’m not worth the effort, but believe it or not, I’m a good friend when it matters most.  *See body comment above.*

I’ll just never be the life of the party.  And I don’t want to be.

When life requires me to people, I will always be that person trying desperately to blend into the wallpaper.  Literally.  I call ahead so I can match my outfits to the décor.

I now have a six-year-old son, who is a first grader, which adds a layer of challenge to my hermit-like aspirations.  He wants to socialize, which means that, by extension, I need to socialize; with other parents at playdates and birthday parties and school events and so on.  And of course, I do these things for him.

But there is also a part of him that is just like me.  He’s dreamy and imaginative and for as long as he’s been able to string a sentence together, he’s declared that he wants to be a writer.

At six, he’s written dozens of very short stories in a little notebook he keeps.  Sometimes the stories have no real beginning, or ending.  Just a thought he worked out and put to paper with an illustration.

Sometimes, when I pick him up from school and I ask him abut his day, he’ll tell me it was good, but he played by himself.  And I’ll ask, “How come?  Is everything OK?”

“Of course, Mommy,” he’ll say.  “I just needed some alone time.” 

And I get it.  So we’ll drive home in a comfortable silence.  Both of us, a little lost in ourselves for a bit.

♥♥

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The Spotty Banana….

hate waste.  Seriously, aside from littering, it’s among my biggest pet peeves.

When I see someone grab 30 napkins for an iced coffee, my blood boils.

When people go through the drive-thru and order a walk-in amount of food, backing-up the line of people waiting in vehicles that are just burning through fuel, I want to go all Towanda on their asses.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Light pollution makes me want to take a hostage.

Anytime I drive by an office complex or through a major city, all I can see is the draining of resources.

And I hate to admit it, but even my own kids suck at light conservation.  Anytime they travel from one room to another….every….single….light along the way, must be turned on.  Even in broad daylight.

It pains me, deeply, that while I have taught my children many things, I have apparently failed to teach them that the exact same mechanism that provides light, also has the power to extinguish it.

And while I’m on a roll here, riddle me this, bat folks….is artificial lighting really necessary when nature’s light bulb provides hours of natural light?

That’s a rhetorical question.  Turn off the f*cking lights.

Also, people toss so many things that could be repurposed into something useful, or made new again.

Some of my most favorite possessions are things I’ve salvaged from someone’s curbside trash.  I pulled my current deck furniture from a Salvation Army dumpster.

Don’t ask me how I came to be shopping in a Salvation Army dumpster.  It’s not that interesting a story.

Anyway,  I stripped down the set, painted the frames and added new cushions.  You’d never know it had been destined to take up real estate in a landfill for all eternity.

Even my house was a well loved, but deteriorating relic, when my husband and I bought it a little more than two years ago.  It’s a historic, New England, saltbox colonial farmhouse that was built in 1731; before there was a United States, or a Declaration of Independence.

After we bought it, we embarked on an eight month restoration/renovation project with a local contractor.  And we still aren’t done.  Now begins a long list of DIY projects I’ve been tackling one room at a time, as we continue to breath life into this old beauty.

But the thing that really chaps my ass, is the wasting of food.   I mean, come on, there are hungry people, like next door.  Maybe not literally, but you know what I mean.

12.6 million US children are “food insecure,” which is a nicer way of saying, hungry.  Yet, in the US, we waste approximately $160 BILLION dollars in food a year; 150,000 pounds of food EACH DAY.

I think I inherited my focus on minimizing waste from my great-grandparents, who I spent a considerable amount of time with as a kid.  Both grew up on farms in Pennsylvania Dutch country during the Great Depression and they carried the memories of that experience with them for the rest of their lives.  Nothing went to waste; least of all food.

When my grandma cooked, it didn’t matter if she was making food for 20 people or two.  She always knew the exact right amount to make so that there was just enough leftover for supper (lunch) the next day.

At Thanksgiving, every bit of the turkey was used.  After the meat was carved, my grandma would take the carcass and boil it down in a large pot, making broths she froze for later use in soups and stews.

With the bones, we sat around her kitchen table and made jewelry, like wishbone necklaces and ribcage earrings.

Just kidding, I don’t know what she did with the bones.

Anyway, my point is this.  Waste not, want not, ya know?

The other day, I purchased a bunch of banana’s.  And before we managed to get through them, they reached a state of spotty, mushiness that made them unappealing.  When the fruit flies started to circle, my husband asked, “Should we just toss these?”

“Um, have you just met me?” I asked.

Old Spotty Banana Bread Recipe:

  1. Wave the fruit flies away from 2-3 very ripe (aka, spotty and borderline not edible) banana’s.
  2. Preheat oven to 350
  3. Mash bananas with fork until smooth.
  4. Stir in 1/3 cup melted butter
  5. Mix in 1 tsp baking soda and a pinch of salt
  6. Mix in 3/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg (beaten) and 1stp vanilla extract
  7. Mix in 1 1/2 cups flour
  8. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes to one hour.