Missed Connections: The Extreme Version

I just stumbled across this gem and it sparked a memory.

The year was 2007. I was browsing the frozen foods section at the Sunfresh market in Westport around ten o’clock on a week night. In those days that was the only time I had to shop, since I worked for a political consulting firm that took up roughly one thousand percent of my time and energy. I remember looking at my now-husband’s job and thinking, wow, the sweet life. Mind you, he was busting his ass building a law career so he could someday be a partner, which has come full circle because now he is. He has an amazing, humble, rock-solid work ethic and serves as a daily example to both me and our daughters of how to set goals that challenge you, be a good person, and work like hell to bring your dream to fruition because no one is going to hand it to you. Blah blah blah, back to me. At the time, I thought it was perfectly normal to work on holidays and weekends and compulsively gaze at your Blackberry as if it were the last working oxygen mask on a disturbingly turbulent flight. (Kids, a “Blackberry” is a turn-of-the-century torture device used on young professionals in the early 2000s. Fun fact, the stress of having a Blackberry has been linked to the gene mutation that causes bosses of millennials to be so mean to them. See: survival mode.) Continue reading

Lessons In Broken Toys: Just Go With It.

Today we came home from school to discover that Savannah’s (weird, trashy, but favorite) My Little Pony “Barbie” had been severely mauled by Mr. Biffles. Savannah was understandably horrified. (Bif lacked any signs of remorse.)

Hearing Savvy’s cries of shock and grief, Avery and I made quick work of a rescue mission. Avery got the silver duct tape while I performed CPR. I patched up the arms and leg while Avery applied the defibrillator (a Shopkin), as Savvy hesitantly looked on. Soon the doll was stabilized and the wailing subsided. Avery declared the doll “still beautiful.” I offered that her name could be “Ilene,” as she was now missing one foot. Savvy was unpersuaded. Continue reading

The Hootie Diaries: A #MomFail

My daughter’s preschool periodically sends home the class owl named “Hootie.” He comes with a notebook and instructions to please add photos and a journal entry about all of the fun he has with your family. Since my daughter is 4 and cannot read, write, or pick up pictures from Walgreens, Hootie, while a fun concept, is largely just a homework assignment for me and pressure to look like we are “having fun” and “doing things.”

The first time Savannah brought Hootie home, we lost him. For like a week. I eventually found him hidden under the couch with several dog toys. I was just grateful that he still had eyes. Most of Hootie’s journal entries are lovingly crafted recaps of family leisure time with pictures of smiling children taking Hootie to church or posing with a fishing pole at their grandpa’s pond. ‘Here we are sharing an organic banana milkshake after a long day of helping the homeless!’

Savannah ended up with this:

Continue reading

Sunshine and Gray Skies: How I Explained Anxiety To My Kid

Anxiety Starter Pack

Congratulations, you’ve been born with a predisposition to Anxiety!

I’m not an expert at anything except my life, which is what I write about here. (This is a disclaimer.)

I’ve long been diagnosed with Anxiety disorder and was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago. As my mother likes to say, I come by it naturally, which just means a ton of my family has their own beautiful shade of “the crazies.”

Continue reading

Actual Things: Sunday Morning

I didn’t sleep well last night. When I finally dozed off it was around 3am and I woke up at 6. After reading the entire internet, I gazed lovingly at my sleeping children and determined that I could absolutely not be in this house with them any longer. Luckily church is at 9am so I did what any good mother does on a Sunday morning; for half an hour, I nagged, threatened, and berated them until they were bathed, brushed, and appropriately dressed. And then again for another fifteen minutes while they found their shoes. And we were only like ten minutes late. Win.

I forgot to feed them though. It’s always something.

As we listened to the service, both daughters so lethargic they were draped across me, Savvy whispered, “Mommy, I’m so thirsty. I’m so, so thirsty. I feel like I’m in a desert.” And Avery added, “I’m literally starving.” (The irony was not lost on me.)

Fearing mutiny, I whispered back, “I know, I’m really sorry. Just tough it out and we’ll get donuts after this. You know why?…Because they’re holy.”

And Avery-my-stone-faced-six-year-old blinked once and calmly whispered, “Mommy, maybe you want to save your jokes for a more appropriate time.”

Fine.

Sunday Donuts

When Will There Be Cupcakes Again?

When I was in grade school I read Number The Stars by Lois Lowry about little girls living in Denmark during the Holocaust. Since the Nazi occupation, resources are scarce but the little sister, Kirsti, longs for a “big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.” For some reason, I have never forgotten this detail.

My daughters both have summer birthdays so they miss out on the fanfare of having a school day birthday. Instead, we celebrate their half-birthdays. Today we celebrated my sweet Savannah sunshine’s four and a half birthday. I sat in a tiny purple chair and read a few of her favorite books to a bunch of wide-eyed, pink frosting-covered, grinning little faces.

Milestones always make me sentimental, even arbitrary ones, like a fifteen-minute preschool half-birthday party, but I genuinely believe in celebrating as much as we can, while we can.

When I was in first grade, I remember the exact moment I heard my teacher say the word “war” as it related to the Gulf War. As a Senior in high school, I remember silently watching Mrs. Goldberg scrawl the name “Osama Bin Laden” across the chalk board on September 11th. My own first grade daughter overhears words in the media like “protest” and “gender inequality” and “racism.” Though I grew up hearing about military conflicts, my own children are growing up amidst wars between all kinds of people, and it’s nearly impossible to tell if anyone is winning.

But my little four and a half year old is still blissfully unaware of such topics. She thinks the President’s name is Donald Trumpet and once asked me to help her fill out a postcard to send to the White House because she overheard concerns of people losing their rights, but she heard “writes” and surmised he was stealing crayons and various other items. For real, we actually sent a postcard we tore out of a Highlights magazine to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue asking the President to please stop taking things from people and also give Savannah her fictitious stuff back. She doesn’t worry that someday someone could come into her school with intention to hurt people for no reason. She thinks skin tones come in colors called “brown” and “blonde.” She doesn’t live in fear of friends or family being deported. She doesn’t worry that she’ll be denied an education because she’s female.

And she loves cupcakes.

So as silly as it may sound, I made these symbolic cupcakes to mark an arbitrary milestone with a bunch of preschoolers today. Because I can.

And that’s something to celebrate.

Cupcake

“Mama, is there anything to eat?”  Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mother’s mind away from the soldiers.
“Take some bread.  And give a piece to your sister.”
“With butter?” Kirsti asked hopefully.
“No butter,” her mother replied.  “You know that.”
Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen.  “I wish I could have a cupcake,” she said.  “A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.”
Her mother laughed.  “For a little girl, you have a long memory,” she told Kirsti.  “There hasn’t been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time.  A year, at least.”
“When will there be cupcakes again?”
“When the war ends,” Mrs. Johansen said. 
She glanced through the window, down to the street corner where the soldiers stood, their faces impassive beneath the metal helmets.  “When the soldiers leave.”

-Lois Lowry, Number The Stars

 

Let’s Hear It 4 The Boys: Joining the #MeToo Conversation

Alternate Title: Decency Saves Lives.

Red Solo Cup

via

This is about four men I haven’t talked to in well over fifteen years. They were never particularly close friends of mine, but each played a pivotal role in my life.

The first three are Dan, Steve, and “Toga” Greg. It was the summer after I graduated high school and some girlfriends and I drove 45 minutes to attend one of Toga Greg’s house parties, as we’d done many times before. I helped myself to a solo cup of Captain Morgan and 7 Up. I left my drink with a girl when I went to use the bathroom, as you’re told to do for safety. The problem is, she didn’t watch it. It was pretty obvious to my best friend Tori that something had happened when all of a sudden I couldn’t move or speak coherently. She called our high school friend Steve who picked up our other friend Dan and drove quite a ways to come to our rescue. Most of the memories of that night are lost to me forever, except for the relief I felt looking up and realizing I was safe in Dan’s arms as he carried me out of that house party to Steve’s car. I have a few mental screen grabs of Tori, Dan, and Steve’s scared faces as I intermittently vomited and passed out on the floor of someone’s parents’ basement. I woke up the next day and went home as if nothing happened. I never said anything to Dan or Steve about it, and they never said anything about it to me or anyone else, to my knowledge.

Months  later, I was a 17 year old Freshman at Millikin University heading to class in Shilling Hall when my cell phone rang. It was Toga Greg. Class was starting and the hall was emptying, but I was compelled to answer.  I could barely get out an incredulous ‘Hello?’ before he said, “I have to tell you something, I’m so sorry. A couple months ago when you got sick at that party, it was because someone drugged you. It was actually a guy I know. I just found out. He didn’t know you were my friend, and…I’m just so sorry. For what it’s worth, you were safe the whole night and I’m never talking to him again.” I was stunned and relieved at the same time. Part of me had forced myself to remember that night like you would remember a nightmare: vague and shadowy, but hearing his words all of a sudden it was over for good. When I think of the integrity it took that 20 year old boy to call me up months later to apologize and give me the gift of peace of mind, I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude. We never saw each other or spoke again; but if he hadn’t had the courage to call me that day, I’d have wondered about that night forever.

The next story is about my sophomore year of college and a boy named Matt. He’s actually the second boy I ever kissed; I was a Junior in high school and it ended up being a somewhat awkward experience so we decided to be friends. Cut to a few years later when we attended the same college…I’d had too much to drink at a wild costume party at his fraternity house. In the middle of kissing in his room, I suddenly realized I was about to pass out so I crawled onto his bed, curled up and immediately fell into a deep sleep. What he could have done in this moment: anything. What he did: put his hoodie on me over my somewhat scandalous theme-party costume, locked me safely in the room so no one could find me compromised and went to find my best friend to take me home. About a year ago I watched the documentary The Hunting Ground about the prevalence of rape on college campuses. As the credits of the documentary rolled, with tears in my eyes I looked up Matt on Facebook and sent him a very random and overdue thank you message. He replied modestly, reassuring me not to worry about it.

My point in sharing these unflattering stories of myself is that all four of these men had the capacity to destroy my life; I unwittingly gave them that option. But they chose to protect me. They were just acquaintances who put themselves between me and the types of guys who could have done me indelible harm, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It bears repeating; anyone that has a #MeToo story is entitled to exactly as much blame as I’m entitled to my good fortune in these situations: which is none. Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is to do what is decent. Decency can save lives.

So here’s to the heroes in my life and the heroes in yours. If you’re reading this and part of the #MeToo movement, I hope that for every horrible man that happened to you, there’s a good and decent man who was there for you a different time. If you’re a young girl reading this, do as I say and not as I did; Blackout is a fantastic Britney album, but never a good look for a lady.

If you’re Dan, Steve, Greg or Matt: thank you so much for your decency, it may very well have saved my life.