Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Squeeze the Moment

April 2013 - 2 1/2 years old

Your cheeks will never again be this round

Your lips never this plump and pink

Your skin as soft and smooth as silk when I hug you cheek-to-cheek

Your lashes as lavish as peacock feathers

Your chin so dimpled and sweet

Five little toes I love to count on each of your pudgy feet

Your hair a wispy, velvet mop

Your laugh a boisterous gurgle

Your arms still reach for me to carry you over each hurdle

I know these days are fleeting

And one day you’ll be a man

I squeeze this moment, inhale it deep

Because today, I can


Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, March 27, 2015

"The Breakfast Club" is All Grown Up: Celebrating 30 Years


I sunk into my seat in the dark theater, relieved to be home free, palms sweaty from the rush of defying authority.

An older friend bought our tickets to see the new movie, The Breakfast Club. The movie was rated “R”, and I was far from seventeen, but there was no way I was going to miss it.

I fidgeted in my seat, crossing right leg over left, Converse high-top bobbing in time to my racing heart.  I dug in the pocket of my Guess jean jacket for the Junior Mints I’d purchased at 7-11.

The opening credits appeared on screen, set to the now infamous song, “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds.   A hush fell over the audience as one of the quintessential films of the 1980s opened with a quote from David Bowie’s 1971 song, Changes:



The screen shatters like glass and morphs into an image of Shermer High with this voice over from Anthony Michael Hall (watch it HERE):

Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong, what we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning.

*****

All of John Hughes’ films spoke to me as an adolescent in the 1980s, but The Breakfast Club truly touched on all of the Big Feelings I was having: peer pressure, fitting in, thoughts about boys, and growing awareness of kids with different or troubling circumstances.

The premise is simple:  five high school kids get thrown together to serve detention on a Saturday, each character a different stereotype one might encounter in the halls of your average high school:  The Athlete (Emilio Estevez), The Basket Case (Ally Sheedy), The Brain (Anthony Michael Hall), The Princess (Molly Ringwald), and The Criminal (Judd Nelson).

The movie follows these kids throughout their day of detainment, threatened by the laughably cruel school principal who instructs them not to talk, move from their seats, or sleep.

The kids, inevitably, break all of these rules and get into mischief.  But in the process, they open up to each other, form unexpected alliances, and eventually realize they have more in common than not.

Heavy stuff comes out.  We learn that The Brain, who appears to be “a parent’s wet dream,” contemplated suicide after getting a bad grade.

The Criminal has a cigar-shaped burn on his forearm as evidence of his troubles at home.  The Athlete is under constant pressure from his father to be The Best.  The Princess is caught in the crossfire of her parents’ marital troubles.  The Basket Case is a compulsive liar.


These personalities connect after hours of chipping away at each other.  But the harsh reality that these common bonds will not be enough to cross the lines of the cliques come Monday morning is a jagged pill which most teenagers are familiar with swallowing.

In 1985, I identified with parts of each of these characters.  As only a teenager could do, I had phased through different personas, like trying on prom dresses in a poorly-lit dressing room, always looking from a different angle and never being satisfied.

Thirty years later, I am still enamored with each of these characters and the stories they have to tell.

And I suppose this is why I can’t help but gather some girlfriends together to catch The Breakfast Club on the big screen one last time to mark the milestone 30th anniversary.

*****

I sunk into my seat in the dark theater, crossing my legs out of habit, then correcting myself, remembering that this is what causes the unsightly spider veins on my legs.

There are no Junior Mints in my pockets, but I’ve brought a gluten-free, 100 calorie treat in case I need a sweet fix in addition to the popcorn I’ve allowed myself. There’s bottled water in my seat’s cup holder, instead of Coca-Cola.  Caffeine triggers my migraines.

This is 44.

But once the movie started, I felt like a kid again.  I dutifully laughed at Principal Vernon right up until the scene where he and The Criminal go head-to-head, and The Criminal ends up with two months of detention.

At that point, I slid back into parent mode and recalled a similar exchange recently between me and my tween daughter.

I did not use the “you mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns” line, but now I have that in my back pocket for next time.

Sheesh.

When did I become the uncool, pain-in-the-ass adult in the scenario?

Watching this movie as a grown-up really does have its advantages, though.

Top parenting takeaways?

Don’t talk down to kids & treat them like jerks, or you’ll end up like the Barry Manilow wardrobe-raided idiot principal.

Teenagers are balled-up tangled webs of emotions walking around begging to be heard and understood, yet shooting off at us like firecrackers for even daring to try. We must persevere, lest our kids feel ignored, which according to Ally Sheedy’s character is the worst.

Times really have not changed that much, and all the pressure kids feel to perform academically, socially, and athletically is not really a 2015 thing.  It was a 1985 thing, too.

Watching The Breakfast Club is every parent’s dream come true. How often do we long to get inside our kids’ heads? It all comes flooding back…the uncertainty, the insecurity, the angst…it is all very real, and I never want to forget what that feels like.

In three short years, my daughter will be a teen.  If she ever accuses me with, “Mom, you just don’t understand!”

I want to be able to say, “Yes. Yes, I do understand what you’re going through.”

And I want to really mean it.

The Breakfast Club was one of the first movies that took teen’s emotions seriously and validated their struggles, which allows the film to stand the test of time.

Bottom line? Teenagers are people, too.

In the words of Carl the janitor to Principal Vernon,

“C’mon, Vern, the kids haven’t changed, you have.”

Carl was a smart man, even if he did major in the Custodial Arts.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lighten the Load

It was really hard to come here.

Is that a confession I’m allowed to make?

Coming here means acknowledging that a mother can lose a child.

That this kind of thing really happens to people other than strangers on the news.

Coming here means admitting that it could just as easily have happened to me, instead of you.

I don’t have an answer for why it’s you and not me.

I don’t know.

I do know that there should never be a funeral for a child.

Never.

Ever.

But then never turns to sometimes, and sometimes becomes your worst nightmare.

I didn’t have the privilege of knowing your baby, but you know mine.

And that means something to me.

For the better part of a year, you spent more hours of the day with her as her teacher than I did as her mother.

You were sweet, kind, stern, loving, and exactly what she needed you to be.

She came out better for having known you, for which I can never repay you.

Except maybe I can try today.

Today I come here to lift one brick off the load that has tumbled out of the heavens and buried you alive, somewhere between the Darkest Place on Earth and Hell, I imagine.

It’s all I can do to be here today, to lift just one brick off the pile of your suffering, I know.  It’s only one small piece of your pain and tears.

But I hope that the person before me will do likewise, as well as the person beside me and behind me, and together, with each person who passes through the door of the church, you will feel your load lightening.

And with each friend who reaches out to you with a card, a meal, or a remembrance, we will all together create a crack in the pile of bricks just large enough for a ray of light to shine through to your darkness.

A light that brings hope, peace, and love, even just for a moment in time.

We are all here, and we don’t know what to say or do, but we know we can do this for you today.

I am here today, as a fellow mother, holding space for your precious girl.

Carrying & absorbing whatever grief and pain I can manage and sending back love and prayers to surround you.

I’m sorry, and I wish I could do more.



In remembrance of Kobi Isabella Pickett (March 15, 1999 - January 11, 2015)



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014

2014 is coming to a close, and the ads on tv say I should be wearing a sparkly, silver mini-dress while  laughing and holding a glass of champagne.  But since overindulging consistently since Halloween, I can fit into nothing but yoga pants or a muumuu.  C'est la vie.

And since I'm too stuffed and bloated to write anything new, I give you my top five best-read posts of 2014, in case you missed any of them:

Head + Heart - My Messy Beautiful

I wrote this for the "Messy Beautiful Summer Series" at Momastery.com.  Glennon Melton is one of my favorite bloggers/writers, and I wanted to be a part of the collection of personal essays from her readers. Out of the many writers who submitted their stories, I was thrilled and honored to be selected as a featured writer.  The comments my post received on her site and on social media were overwhelming and encouraging.  This is the reason I do what I do.


Divine Secrets of the Duran Duran Sisterhood

The number one search term that leads traffic to my site is Duran Duran, so I guess I'm doing something right.  There must be a plethora of insomnia-riddled, middle-aged women googling DD at two in the morning.  Maybe they didn't find exactly what they were looking for, but I hope I made them smile and remember some things they hadn't thought of in awhile.



A Letter to the Preschool Teacher

One thing every mother in the world can identify with is the trepidation with which we hand off our little ones into unknown hands.  Things can go well, and your child can be blessed with a second mother. Or things can not go well, and you end up undoing the damage done for many years to come.  I am happy to report that my Little Man is in good hands, and I am sleeping well at night.


Facing the Darkness

Probably not my most cheerful post, and certainly difficult to write, but life-changing for me.  My eyes are open, and although I still haven't figured out what I can do to really make a difference in the war against human trafficking, at least I can help spread awareness, pray for the victims, and add my voice to the many who are dedicated to bringing light to this tragic issue of modern day slavery.

Love Letter to My Girl

My firstborn turned ten this year, and the milestone did not go unchecked with me.  I think every mother's heart bursts with emotion on these important days, and I wanted my daughter to have something tangible she could tuck away in a drawer and read and re-read as the years pass by, as they tend to do, without our permission.

Thank you for being here with me in this cozy, little corner of cyberspace.  Reading and thinking.  Laughing and maybe drying a tear.  I treasure your comments, likes and shares here and on social media.

Blessings and love to you all in 2015!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ghost of Christmas Past

The house is quiet.

Perry Como is crooning about Christmastime in the City.
 
My wine glass is full.

After cleaning out the DVR, I plan to crawl into bed with my book and prepare for a long winter’s nap, not to be interrupted by anything short of an earthquake.

Contentment and satisfaction reign supreme, but then I feel a whispery tap on my shoulder, imploring me to turn away from the ease of the present and remember what is missing.

*****

“HO, HO, HO, time to wake up! It’s Christmas morn!”

I burrowed deeper into my nest of covers and clamped my eyes shut to the light from the window and the booming, cheerful voice I instantly recognized as my father’s.

“Come on now, Tootsie, everyone’s waiting to open presents!”

I was tempted to roll over and dig deeper into my cover-cave, but at the mention of “Tootsie,” his pet name for me, I couldn’t help but acquiesce to his request.

I dragged myself out of bed and followed him down the hall as he cheerfully hummed “Joy to the World” in time to my every step.

*****

The presents had been opened, the wrappings discarded like old dishrags with holes.

The parade on tv was over, and there was nothing more to do than wait for Christmas dinner to be served in the dining room, timed perfectly to conclude just before the start of the football game.

“Tootsie, let’s have some Christmas carols, shall we?”

With an eye roll only a teenager could muster, I shuffled to the piano to indulge the requests for “We Three Kings” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

As I belted out the majestic opening chords of my father’s favorite Christmas carol, I braced myself for the booming baritone that was sure to follow.

And I was not disappointed.

*****

As the last of the presents are wrapped, the wine glass is emptied, and I start off for bed, I pass by the old, out-of-tune Chickering piano and feel like I’m seeing it for the first time.

The rich, cherry-wood exterior, hiding the gilded gold strings inside.  Antique white keys offset with (some) faulty black notes comprise a beautifully grand set that provide an endless recipe for glorious song.

I couldn’t help but sit down on the creaky old bench and dig out my very first Christmas book, the music I’d been playing since I was a kid.



Silent Night

The First Noel

O Come All Ye Faithful

As I tuck into the familiar striking of the notes and placement of my fingers, I can feel the comforting, strong presence of my Dad standing behind me at the bench, belting out each of the carols with uninhibited zeal.

This is the piece of the Christmas experience that I’ve been searching for this year, wanting for, desperately.

Something I wake in the night dreaming of, wandering through the house seeking.

But it will not be found.

He is gone and nothing will bring him back, and I have to remember this over and over.

But he is with me as much as he can be.

In the smile of my son, his namesake.

In the carols I play on the piano, always remembering his favorites.

In the memories I replay of Christmases past.

I take small pieces of all of these holidays gone by, wrap them up in my arms like a newborn baby, and carry them around with me as I go through these days.

And together, these pieces all come together to complete me.

The me that I believe he always knew would be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Love Letter to My Girl

Dear Big Sister,

I am writing this letter to you on your tenth birthday.  I still can’t believe that you are ten.  I will always remember the day that you were born, and how ecstatic your Dad and I were to meet you.

When the doctor announced, “Congratulations, you have a daughter!” that was the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.  And the first time I held you in my arms and kissed your sweet little face, I knew my life would never be the same.

I want you to know how extremely proud I am of you.  You have grown into such a beautiful young lady who is kind, sensitive, caring, funny, and blessed with many talents.  I love the passion I have seen you develop for dance, and you have truly blossomed into a ballerina over the past year.

I love the way that you are so in tune with others around you, and that you are always there to give a kind word to a friend who needs cheering up.

I love the way that you comfort your little brother when you see that he is upset.  He will always remember it.

I love your smile and your laugh, and I love to hear you singing in the shower.

I love that you make a friend wherever we go, and that you always see the best in people.

I love the way that you try and help me when you see that I am struggling.

I love everything about you, inside and out, and there is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.

Though I may become annoyed, angry, or disappointed with you at times, that has no effect on the infinite bank account full of love for you that I carry deep inside.

Please forgive me for all the times I fall short as a mother, especially for the times I lose my patience or forget something important.  I promise I am doing the best I can, but sometimes I make mistakes.

There is a saying that to have a child is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body.

You are my heart, my soul, my first love, my everything.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for you.

I hope that you have the most special birthday ever.

Love and kisses,

Mom

P.S. Double Digits!!!!!!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Friendship Files: Just Hang in There

When you can't make it to the Duran Duran concert in Austin, this is what you do: you send the family out, play the concert movie, crank up the surround sound, shut the blinds, and DANCE. And possibly take pictures of the tv, because you are a 15 year old girl trapped in a 44 year old's skin.

David Lynch's "Duran Duran Unstaged"

And then you collapse in the recliner, because your 44 year old body is not used to jumping up and down and squealing.

And while you’re collapsed, the music creates in your mind a jumbled mess of memories, mixed with present day worries, and you start to see patterns and faces, and everything runs together to the point that you don’t know what is Real and what is Regret.

*****

With a daughter in the house who is sneaking into tween territory (without my permission, I might add), emotions, hormones, and tempers are running high. There is often screaming and door slamming, followed by teary apologies and requests to cuddle.

Baby-ness fighting against a takeover of grown-up proportions.

The approach of puberty has brought with it a whole shit-storm of issues, one of the top hot-button subjects being friendship troubles.

All of a sudden, everything has become about friends.  Friends have always been important, but now, it’s all WHY DIDN’T SO-AND-SO INVITE ME TO HER BIRTHDAY PARTY.  And WHO IS PARTNERS WITH WHOM IN SPANISH CLASS.  And SO-AND-SO IS STEALING MY FRIEND AWAY, MOM.  And NO ONE LIKES ME, AND LIFE ISN'T FAIR.

Is your head hurting yet?  Because mine is.  In fact, I need a drink.   Or an escape pod to the Planet Why-Can’t-We-All-Just-Get-Along.

Cue the memories, some buried deep, but loosening and scraping their way to the surface, aided by an evening of indulging in the songs of my youth.

*****

Poised in front of the phone on the kitchen wall, curly-q cord twisted around my arm for good measure, I gripped my mother’s VISA card, waiting for the numbers on the “digital” clock to flip from 9:59 to 10:00 am.  The year was 1984.

Weeks of planning led up to this moment when Rainbow Ticketmaster seemingly held the key to all future happiness.  My heart raced as the clock turned and I dialed the phone number, only to be greeted with an annoying busy signal in my ear.

After a frenzy of frantic redialing, I finally broke through to a bored female voice on the other end of the line, and I placed my order for tickets to the Duran Duran concert.

*****

As I savor this enjoyable memory, I realize it is also tinged with a ghost of a dark cloud.  There are snippets of discourse attached to it, details muddled.

I can hear my own teenaged voice lamenting, WHY IS SHE GOING TO THE CONCERT WITH HER INSTEAD OF ME? WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ME? I THOUGHT WE WERE BEST FRIENDS!  I’LL SHOW HER! I’LL FIND EVEN MORE FUNNERER FRIENDS TO GO WITH! *sobs into pillow after slamming bedroom door, sending Duran Duran wall poster plummeting to floor*

Ah, youth.

Times have not really changed, even though phones are anchored to kids’ palms instead of kitchen walls.

Amidst all the fun they have together, girls still have issues with each other in the form of jealousy, competition, and hurt feelings.

I don’t have any magic advice to give my daughter other than 1) be yourself, 2) be kind, and 3) it will all be OK.

Oh, and someday, you and these same girls will all be friends on The Next Facebook, all the drama will be long forgotten, and everyone will love each other and live happily ever after.

I promise.

Just hang in there, kid.