Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gun Nonsense, Not Common Sense, Rules in the Hearts of Some Politicians

Bullies use words to harass those of a different sexual orientation, of a different race, or a different gender. Some fragile kids even kill themselves because of the relentless abuse. So now, as common sense dictates, there are federal civil rights laws that protect our children from this kind of sadistic behavior.

Flimsy cars in the 70's and 80's killed children by the thousands. The federal government responded with a litany of safety standards to protect not only our youngest but anyone from injuries and fatalities recognizing that automobiles could be killing machines. These standards are too numerous to list, but here are some: head restraints, impact protection, mandatory seat belts and child restraints, roof crush resistance, side impact protection, rear impact guards and rear impact protection. 

Between 1987 to 1996, hundreds of children were hurt or killed riding bicycles without helmets. Today, 37 states have helmet laws to protect these growing bodies from unnecessary harm. 

There are 22 FDA regulations placed upon companies that make baby formula. They, of course and rightfully so, protect our smallest from putting anything untoward into their rapidly developing bodies and brains. 

In 1982, the Reagan Administration recognizing a drunk driving epidemic responded responded to the crisis by forming a commission that put forth 39 recommendations ultimately resulting in a change of the age in which it was legal to drink from 18 to 21. It is estimated by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) that over 21,000 lives have been saved because of this law.

Imagine would you...just imagine what our country would be like if our Federal Government in these instances didn't step in and demand, require, regulate what is right and necessary to keep its citizens safe, whole and alive. I mean, imagine it. No, really.  I want you to picture someone from Congress standing up from his or her comfy seat in the Capitol Building and saying something like, "Stuff happens. We can't stop people from harassing other people who happen to be different! There's freedom of speech you know. They can hurl epithets as much as they want. And well if it kills a few here or there...we can't do a thing about it! 

Or how about this: Hey...How about we let the automobile industry make cars out of plastic made in China! Think of the MONEY they will save in manufacturing! Aww..WHO CARES if a few die here or there! Do you know how much campaign contributions those car companies give us!?? Let's thank them by allowing them to make substandard cars!

And what if those state lawmakers said that helmets would infringe on the their constituents' rights of the pursuit of happiness. Can you just picture the idiocy? "Ahem, friends, I think that forcing a 12 year old to wear a helmet may cause him or her to throw a mighty fit. And well, we don't want the parents of those children to have to deal with that!" 

I think it would be laughable, just unheard of, if that Reagan commission analyzed the horrific data that accompanied the wide-spread DWIs of the time and said, "Well, there is unequivocally nothing we can do. Yup. We are just going to go with status quo here. Change is not necessary. In FACT, maybe just maybe the solution might be that we encourage MORE drinking by our young. Yes. Now that we think about it, that makes a whole HELL of a lot of sense. That way, if someone drunk comes at us with a car, we'll be drunk TOO and we can hit them back!  

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Stupid. Just plain stupid. Who? Who in their right mind would ignore harmful, murderous things? Who would do nothing when there are common-sense solutions to be had? Who indeed?
No one could possibly be that unfeeling. No one could possibly be that callous. No elected official could be that apathetic! 

I am not well-versed in the politics of the 80's and 90's, and so while I am sure there were a smattering of congressional members that tried that "aw shucks there's nothing we can do" move for the above laws and regulations, I am positive that it wasn't the majority. How do I know? Well, those things mentioned above got done. The votes were cast to make changes for the betterment of the American people. Laws were past to keep families safe. And for that I am grateful.

Unfortunately, it seems that lately the opposite is true. That stupidity and nay-saying reigns supreme. That the majority of our elected officials are apathetic asshats that care more about the mighty dollar than the safety of their constituents, hell, than the safety of their country's children-- especially when it comes to gun safety. 

Cases in point: When asked about the Oregon shooting, Jeb Bush in an interview at Furman University actually boasted about Charleton Heston saying, "(He)gave me a gun on stage in front of 15,000 people. That was pretty cool, to be honest." 


He then went on to say that the impulse in Washington is to take people's civil rights away from us, and it won't solve the problem." 

Really!? What would solve the problem?

He continued to speak about the Oregon tragedy by saying, "It's very sad to see, but I resist the notion--I had this challenge as governor--we have--stuff happens, there's always a crisis, and the impulse is to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do." 

And then there was Carly Fiorina who said, that Obama's response was premature!! What Carly?? Premature? Well my dear presidential candidate, how many mass shootings and deaths of children do we need to experience for the idea of change to be a MATURE thing? How many? She also said that it was an "unfortunate politicization of this tragedy." 

My dear Carly, Jeb...I have news for you...politicization is the only God-damned power we-the-people have, and you can be very very sure that the people will rise up to do what's right. I have to believe the American people do not reflect the majority. I have to believe that unlike the far right, the NRA, and the Republican presidential candidates, that we, the people, have empathy, have common-sense, and would go to the ends of the earth to keep our children safe. I don't underestimate the smarts of this country, I can't. This gun issue is too important, it's to pressing. 

If, thirty years ago, Congress reacted the way I have delineated above, I would hope that we would have been outraged enough to kick them to the curb. In fact, history shows that that is indeed what happens to the naysayers. They get kicked to that imaginary curb. They are over thrown in the most democratic way. They are removed from their cushy office to make way for someone that reflects the times and the culture and the majority.

Civil rights were a given. Seat belts and car safety were obvious. Helmets keep children from unnecessarily dying while joy riding to their local playgrounds. Common sense told us to feed our infants safe and nutritional formula. And when facts showed that their was a drunk driving epidemic, those in charge--those put in charge by the very people at risk of being harmed by that drunk driving-- stepped up to make solid changes. 

If you are reading this, I urge you to do a common sense litmus test on the politicians you want to vote for. Let's only populate our the seats in our government with those who are empathetic, logical, fact-driven, and who will look in your eyes and tell you that it's time to do the obvious, to bring back common sense, to stand up for our children and promise to change the gun laws in our country.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ashley Madison's Leather Clad Narcissistic Arrogant Photographer Vs. My Husband and the Pacific Coast Highway

 Ashley Madison subscribers are in big trouble it seems since hackers broke into the site's member's list. And while there is all this hulabaloo on the web that screams, "Serves them right" and all that jazz, I couldn't help but think about why it is that marriages fall apart aside from horrible abuse or mistreatment. Instead of salivating that those humans will get their due, perhaps it'd be more fruitful to have a discussion about why so many need to find something else...someone else to be fulfilled. Perhaps it is as the old saying says,"Familiarity breeds contempt". That may be true, but what if it also bred something else that we are all overlooking?

I've had this fantasy. Well I suppose I've had many. But this particular one was an escape. And although it was a different kind of escape than Ashley Madison provides, it was also similar in ways. It was an escape from the daily grind and took me far away geographically and, perhaps more importantly, mentally. It's been around for awhile and was devised in part after a fierce Steinbeckian phase of my readerly life. In it, I'd drive up the California coast on the back of a Harley, clad in leather and jeans, with my arms wrapped around some arrogant, narcissistic, artsy photographer-type. We'd travel where the wind blew us and sleep where the wheels stopped surviving on cheese, sourdough bread and California wine. Kinda nice right? Mmmmm hmmmmm.

I have always been a fantasizer. It started when I was just a kid. I never felt quite good enough as Logan Beth Luce. I just couldn't seem to get it right most least in the eyes of those who were most important. I am not sure exactly when it happened, but I began to compensate for that inadequate feeling by fantasizing about things that I could do or be or happen to me that might make me a better version, might make me stand out, might in fact finally make me feel special. Luckily, that tendency to live in an alternate reality began to dissipate the older (and wiser) I became, but I will admit, when life's highly stressful, I still have a tendency to slip away back to the land of fantasy, back to the California Coast, to the Harley, to the wind in my hair.

Is it just me? Or do you all have fantasies as well? I mean we have certainly discussed ad nauseum here that this parenting thing can be a real ass-whipping from time to time. And we now know that there are MILLIONS looking for fantasies on that Ashley cheating site. So, I suppose it's natural to day dream or night dream or laundry dream about being somewhere else or being someone else...right? Perhaps, right...but I am starting to think that living your fantasies, that is, taking them OUT of your head may help to foster things other than contempt for the familar. 

What? No. NO!  I am not advocating running away with an arrogant photographer artsy type intellectual dude. Not at all. It's just that lately, I have had this urge to stop fantasizing and make some things--the recurrent fantasies into realities. If I can dream it, then I can do it.

So with some careful planning and budgeting I made the California trip a reality. No--again--not with the arrogant, narcissistic, intellectual artsy photographer but with my husband of 15 years and our five-year-old daughter. Instead of a Harley, we traveled in a Toyota Corolla. (It WAS supposed to be a convertible, but that is a DIFFERENT story. PS--Never rent from Budget! **Eyeroll**) Instead of the wind blowing us to and fro, we had tightly planned stops recommended by many thoroughly read articles about the PCH. And instead of the wheels stopping where they may, they stopped to let us sleep at some of the top recommended hotels along the coast. I know. I know. That doesn't sound at all like the fantasy I had in my head does it?

Well, you'd be right.. It wasn't. But you know what else? That trip, the real trip was BETTER than the fantasy. So much better. The views were breathtaking. The distance from home was exhilarating. The experiences were life-changing. It will be looked back upon as the trip of a lifetime. But really, I knew that the trip would be ALL that before I decided to make it a reality. But here's something I didn't know...the thing I want to share with you can absolutely live a veritable fantasy with those that are your reality.  I am not sure why I didn't know this before. I am not sure why it took a trip across the country to teach me that, but I am so completely happy it did.

Try and follow me here...even IF I somehow pulled off that fantasy in my head, the cycle, the wind, the wheels and all, there'd still be a reality waiting for me. There'd still be the consequences of the escape.. There'd of course still be my mom-brain that wouldn't stop thinking  about those children of mine. There'd still be the mortgage to pay back home. There'd still be my work, my writing. There might be flat tires on the bike and those hog wheels might stop us at a motel infested with bed bugs. And that's just it; when it comes to those fantasies that we conjure and sometimes concentrate on we forget that fantasies NEVER include inevitable realities.

But with my husband, Jeffrey, that inevitability WAS the fantasy. Let me explain. On the fantasy trip there's no way that the narcissistic photographer would have tolerated or understood my tendency to burst into tears at each overwhelmingly breathtaking ocean vista on the Pacific Coast Highway. But Jep did.  I am sure the fictional photographer would have guffawed at my sobs of joy when we pulled onto Mission Street in Carmel. But not Jeff. Nope. He knew enough to let the tears flow. He'd reach for my hand and remain quietly pensive knowing how very thick the wanderlust cords are that tie me.

That artsy dude may not have known or cared that the sight of a 15 year old gangly boy walking down to the ocean next to his older brother would instantly transport me to memories of my second son which would instantly make me think the sad thoughts that come with his addiction and his prison sentence. He wouldn't have known to tell a corny joke to us right at that moment to take me out of the gloom. But Jeffrey did. The photog wouldn't have rejoiced at the fearlessness my daughter had for the white foamy monster-waves that crashed the pacific shore. my FANTASY, my daughter wouldn't have even have been there. That means I would have missed those high pitched squeals of delight that emanated from her when we crested those giant roller-coaster-San-Francisco-hills on our tandem bike and flew down them at light speed.  Without Ila and Jeff there, I wouldn't have belly-laughed to the point of exhaustion at the her dad's attempt to win Ila a giant bear at the strongman game on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Without them, the trip wouldn't have been fantastic.

In the human experience, I know that there is nothing so intoxicating as the zippy passion that happens with the newness of a relationship. The courting chemicals pulsate and make it so that every nerve ending is on fire and wide awake. That feeling, for reproductive's sake, is understandably heady and exhilarating. I suppose that is the pull of Ashley Madison's cheating site. That high is hard to deny. Long term relationships like the ones with our spouses and children lack that "I feel like I'm parachuting into the Grand Canyon" kind of feeling. But I would argue that while habitualization causes a loss in that way, we gain something so much more. With intimacy and familiarity, we are gifted a depth of understanding for one another, a tolerance and acceptance that I sometimes think we seek eternally. We shouldn't overlook the obvious humans in our lives. There is a distinct sweet satisfaction of living your dreams along side of someone whose dreams are similar, whose thoughts are in tandem with yours and whose experiences are parallel. 

My favorite part of the California Coast trip was a quiet moment at Carmel Beach.  There, sitting on our beach towels while Ila ran along the shore, Jeff and I unpacked our lunch. There was sourdough  bread and 8 kinds of cheese picked out at a local store. While we ate and watched our daughter, Jeff said, "I can't think of any other place I'd rather be." I couldn't either. It was quite a fantasy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sweet Freedom Vs. Child Protective Services: (How Free Range Parenting and the System Scare the Bejeesus Out of This Run-of-the-Mill Mama)

She walked around the block...all by herself at five years five years old. She had her daddy's phone. She knows how to talk to Siri. She knows how to say, "Call Aidan" or "Call Mommy". There are no streets off of the block. That is to say that the block is self-contained.

But I worried...

She walked with resolution. Heading west. Her arms swung back and forth and her feet...her teeny teeny tiny feet were determined. She walked away--her small frame shrinking with distance. She didn't look back. Not once.

But I was scared...

As she rounded the corner, disappearing from sight, she remained here with us. Her essence swirled around my bedroom where I opened my window to listen for her. She was there in the living room, where her older brother fretted and talked to himself under his breath..."I don't know WHY they let her do that!!" She remained out in the front yard where her dad suddenly had the urge to mow the lawn, eyes squinting for the sight of her rounding the opposite corner.

We all held our breath...

Lately, she's had a wish for freedom, "Sweet freedom" she calls it. Earlier that day, when we left our local library, she ran way ahead down the sidewalk away from her dad and me. She looked back once, twice...but the determination was there. When she reached the end of the walk, when it was time to cross the street, she yelled over her shoulder, "I know how to do this. Look left and right and left again." I recognized the need. I understood where she was coming from, but the fearful mom in me took over at that moment and answered, "It is not an option to cross a busy city street without your mom and dad." She complied but was clearly disappointed. Her chin touched her chest and she scuffed her feet. When we caught up to her, my husband offered a consolation. "How about you do the looking and let us know when we can go. We won't' hold your hand. You can lead us across the street."

And while that seemed to appease the pint-sized independent, it didn't fully quell the need for that sweet freedom. As we were driving home she said, "Mom, you know what I really want to do? I want to walk around downtown all by myself. Just walk around. Look in the shops. Go to the library. But I want to do it all by myself." I gulped and swallowed the boulder that suddenly appeared in my throat and she continued. "You always say that you are here to help me solve my problems. How can I do that? I really want to be free."

The drama in that statement brought a chuckle from my husband, but a wistful smile to my lips. "I really want to be free." How I completely understood this statement. How many times had I uttered it over the last 20 years...Those amazing moments where it's just you alone with your thoughts and your ponderings and the wonders of the world around you. Being solitary is such a tightly woven fiber in me...perhaps it was something that had already started to weave itself into the marrow of my daughter's being as well.

Like all parents, we want her to practice independence, to WANT to separate herself from us in a healthy way. So we couldn't dismiss this moment, and instead came up with this let her walk around our block--6/10 of a mile--by herself. But even as the decision left my lips, the fear set in.

I am sure you think that my fear came from images of kidnappings or dog bites or bullies lurking in the bushes. I am sure that those things were the foundation of my son's nerves and surely her father's nerves as well. But the fear for me came from a seemingly even scarier place.

And while it wouldn't be the truth if I didn't admit that PART of my fear was the bogeyman and all that comes with those thoughts, it was "the system" I was afraid of...the "know better" humans who might report us as bad parents for allowing the independence-jaunt. I was more worried that at the end of the walk, Child Protective Services would be standing on my front porch accusing us of neglect. I mean, we've all seen the stories lately haven't we? The parents in Baltimore whose children were removed from the home because they were allowed to go to the park by themselves. How about the latest story about the Florida parents who lost custody of their two children for over a month because their ELEVEN year old son was playing basketball for 90 minutes in the driveway of their the afternoon...after school...waiting for his parents, who happened to be stuck in traffic and in communication with said son, to come home. Therefore, dear readers, I was afraid to lose my child over a decision to let her experience a bit of freedom.

After an agonizing 7 minutes 29 secs (but who's counting??) the pretend mowing became too much for my husband and he jogged down to the corner. She was there...rounding the bend and he sprinted back without her knowledge, turned on the mower and began to whistle. When she rounded the final corner, her hands went up Rocky-style, a triumphant 5-year-old experiencing her "sweet freedom." For a split second, all the fear fell away and we all reveled in her pride and satisfaction. The smile on her face was worth it all...for a split second. But then IT happened.

"Mama, when I was walking back there a nice lady asked me if I was lost..."


"I told them NO! Then she asked me if I wanted her to walk me home. I told her no again!"

My palms began to sweat...and then I heard my husband's voice through my window...he was talking to someone!! We peeked out the window..."Is that the lady who asked if you were lost?" I asked Ila. "Sure is!" she chirped.


I watched my husband's face...he was smiling. They shook hands and he came toward the house. I instantly called an emergency wife/hubby meeting in my bedroom and pumped him for details.

Who were they?
Did they think we were awful parents?
Did they call the police?
Did they call CPS????????

And while it seems as if they were just lovely neighbors wondering about this five-year-old they've never seen by herself before, it didn't quell the massive nerves. It's a travesty this screwy system, one that won't remove children from homes where there are drugs and alcohol that flow undeterred, but will take a child away for going to the park. It's the unpredictability of it all that has me and other parents fumbling for what's right...And sadly we aren't fumbling for what's right for US. No. And that's the thing...we have to seemingly figure out what might not be right for the powers that be, and adding that to all the other parenting dilemmas just feels wrong.

I don't have answers. Really I don't have any. I know that I spent the better part of the evening after Ila's "walkabout" waiting for the phone to ring or for a hard knock at the door. And I know that that was wrong...just plain wrong. It should have been a day of celebration for my daughter's new found independence. After all, when it comes right down to it ultimately we have done our jobs right mamas and papas if our children fly out of our nests to unknown trees bravely and confidently. And I know that they will only be able to take those long flights after many many many shorter trial flights. After a serious discussion, my husband and I aren't sure if we will allow that walk around the block again for awhile. We just can't be sure how the outside world would react to another and it feels too precarious. But we're determined to find ways for Ila to do things on her own. The world won't stop us from helping her find that "sweet freedom."

POSTSCRIPT--Tonight putting at bedtime our freedom loving daughter said, "Mama and Daddy, I can't wait to jump out of a plane someday!"

Oh. Boy. OH. SHIT!!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mothers of Addicts--A Mother's Day Prayer For You

Mothers of addicts, I see you. Don't think I don't. I have an intimate knowledge of the very particular pain that you will feel this coming Sunday. Now I know. There are mothers out there, mothers whose children have died and who are far worse off than us. But ours, our pain is difficult to put into words. Our addicted children are indeed alive, but they're not living. They are here, on this earth, but not HERE (mentally and sometimes physically). Each day, mothers of addicts walk around with an empty crater the size of Mt. Vesuvius in the very center of our solar plexus. However, on Mother's Day, that emptiness mixes with powerful grief, soul-aching sadness and an oil-slick gloom that envelops us and permeates the day. But not this year, mamas. Let’s not do that this year. Let’s celebrate the day the way it is supposed to be celebrated. Okay, okay okay. I know what you are saying! “How? How can we possibly CELEBRATE motherhood when our children are in imminent danger?" Well, if you will, give me a chance to convince you on this Mother's Day to rejoice in your role INSTEAD.

I know it is a daily occurrence to have a moment where your thoughts wander, despite your best efforts, to where your addicted child might be, to what he or she might be doing at that very moment. These moments during the day are often fear-filled. We allow ourselves to go to the very darkest parts of our imagination. Why not try this INSTEAD--when a vision of your son or daughter lands squarely in the center of your mind, push fear aside and on Mother's Day instead feel LOVE. Be mindful of the love you have for that child. Concentrate on that emotion and wrap the familiar fear-feeling in an impenetrable bubble and let it float right over your head. Keep your mind steady on that loving feeling and if you want, when you're finished, wrap that LOVE in a bubble as well and send it out into the universe with explicit instructions to go and find that son or daughter. Send them your love. Who knows, it just may reach them. 

When you lay eyes on happy mamas surrounded by their children, at breakfast, at dinner, at the park, or on a walk. Don't...just don't wallow in the "I remember when's". Just don't. INSTEAD, think on those memories with the reverie that they deserve. Think about that day at the beach and the jingle-bells in a tin-bucket laughter that came from your son. Think about the day when you braided your daughter's hair. Go ahead. Revel in those memories. They are truly truly treasures. They are YOURS. No one, nothing can ever take those wonderful good-day memories away. Not the system, not the drugs, not the alcohol, not the bad choices, or the destructive behavior. Rejoice, mamas. Rejoice, laugh, smile and deeply sigh at all remembering on this Mother's Day.

If you have other children, healthy unaddicted children, don't let anything taint how you enjoy them, They need you just as much. They love and laugh and disappoint and grow and change and have hopes and dreams and fears and wants just like your addicted child does. I know that sometimes, all that encompasses being a mama of an addict can make it so you are only focusing on what seems like the most imminent emergency. But not today. Take a look at those other faces. Look right into their eyes. Be proud. Be present. Be contented in their company. Marvel at how they have grown since the last Mother's Day. 

Lastly, mamas. Lastly. If you can't keep your mind off of the addiction, off of the child for whom your heart often bleeds and aches, then be grateful.  Yes. I said grateful. For we all know that although few and far between and hardly worth the pain, there ARE some things that have been good that have come from an addicted child. Be grateful for the friends who have rallied around you, supported you, joked with you and let you cry. Be thankful for the strength of character that you have developed through each and every crisis. Give thanks for empathy that has deeply changed your view of the world and the humans that inhabit it. Feel indebted to each smile, laugh and giggle that come despite all of the pain. Look around. Do you live near mountains? A lake? The ocean? Take in all the beauty around you. There IS so much beauty in this world.

Mamas, there may be flowers tomorrow, or breakfast in bed. There may be rudimentary drawings and books entitled "What I love Best About My Mom." For some of you, there may not be any token given at all. Either way, either way, let's give ourselves a gift tomorrow. Let's be completely and utterly satisfied and incandescently fulfilled in our roles as mamas. Let us take care of our tired hearts and minds tomorrow mamas. Let's give them a day of rest before they once again begin their vigilance on Monday. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Mother's Fingers

A mother's fingers start the day gently pushing blond wispy hair from her child's closed eyes. They reach up under a fleecy pajama shirt to rub a warm sleepy back trying to ease the morning into drowsy skin.

A mother's fingers deftly work stuck buttons into tight holes and they squeeze together quickly as a reminder that the child's fingers need to do the work on a coat zipper (even when those fingers are late for work).

Those digits on a mama's hand clasp the seatbelt buckle and secure the strap tight across her child's chest. And before they pull away, they pause, ever so slightly, to cup the irresistible round cheek of that five-year-old.

On the way to school, pointer digits tap in time to Taylor Swift's newest song and occasionally help the rest of the hand turn into an imaginary microphone. 

Those same fingers grip the steering wheel tightly, white-knuckling it, as mama's chatty daughter recounts a sad story of mean kids and disappointments. They comb through mama's hair and stroke her chin as she tries to find the right words, soothing words, soul-building words that will linger with that little girl all day, all week, and for a lifetime. 

Crossing the street, mama's fingers itch to reach out and hold the hand of the fiercely independent pint-sized powerhouse. Instead, they discreetly snag a backpack strap but ache for the days of infant death-hold finger-grasps.

Fingers can be quite impatient especially on a mother vacillating between doing-it-herself because she's late and the knowledge of the child's need to unpack at her locker all-by-herself. They intertwine with each other and flex and pulse. They listen as she exasperatedly sighs and help to punctuate her agitation with the distracted kindergartener by rubbing her forehead hard. But in the end, they soften and gently take hold of the angel-girl's shoulders. They clutch her tiny back in a fierce goodbye-see-you-later hug.

At this time of day, it seems that mama's fingers go to sleep. They become the property of a working woman. They move through the work day holding pens, passing papers, patting backs, opening doors, tying shoes, sticking band-aids, clicking on keys, reassuring, waving, and pointing.

But mama calls them back again in the late afternoon when their family is back together. They shake off the dirt and unclench from the disappointments of the day. The meanspiritedness of, say, a friend is forgotten and so those fingers no longer find themselves chewed upon. As her daughter chats away about the day's events, they fiddle with her barrette.  Fingers are amazing math instruments and become 'fifteen' when one hand rests along side of two tiny finger-splayed hands at homework time. They pretend they belong to Rachel Ray when chopping, stirring and whipping up a tasty dinner. They wrinkle and prune and make a bevy of beautiful mermaid-princesses at bathtime. Afterward, those grateful fingers soak up the warmth that radiates through the fluffy towel at drying-off-time and they can't wait to turn the pages of their favorite book right before bed. 

At the end of the day, those fingers are so grateful to be running through that blond hair again. They pull the covers up under that cute little yawning jaw. Happily, they are quite often taken and held by the daughter's tiny fingers, the ones they had longed to hold earlier in the day. The mama smiles and uses her thumb to trace the outer edges of each of the child's fingers moving in time to the mother's lullaby.

At last, after that mama uses those fingers to lock doors, shut off lights,  and brush her teeth and hair, she climbs into bed and clasps those fingers in prayer thanking the universe for the chance to be the mother of this daughter.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


If you look the word "grace" up in the dictionary you would find these two definitions: 
    1. N Christian belief of the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

       2. V To do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one's presence.

Grace--a blessing bestowed by both God and humans is an awe-inspiring gift. Grace--Lately, I have been thinking about it in all of its splendor and experiencing it all around me. Has it always been here? Or am I simply more cognizant of the abundance of it? I am not sure to be honest. I am just not sure. 

What I am sure of is that Grace has been a constant companion these last six months and I hope beyond all measure that it is here to stay and that I am wise enough now to keep it close. It is an old cliche...out of bad comes good. Lord knows that I have often written about this phenomenon, but I often struggled with a tangible label for the pure and intoxicating good that comes smack in the middle of true trials. But not anymore. It is Grace. Grace comes in the worst moments and brushes hair from my face so that I can see clearly. It strokes the back of my hand to calm me and fills me with light--enough to blind any darkness. 

In September, when Son2 went to jail it was Grace that reminded me that he was now safe from the addictions that turned him into a stranger. And it was the Grace in that incarceration that brought us together braiding thick strands of healing-love during nightly phone calls and weekend visits. 

This past half-year, Grace has followed me and refused to let me wallow. She came in the form of laughter with a life-long friend in a coffee shop after a particularly hard visitation. Grace handed me a fierce and meaningful diversion in the form of a Boston show that shines light on the stigma that often accompanies mental illness. It is this diversion that I dove headfirst into when I felt powerless to help my own son's illness.

Grace bolstered and lifted me at my lowest by introducing me to a prayer mentor who connected me with my God who had been so completely out of reach for the longest time. Grace was there when that same prayer mentor gathered complete and utter blessed strangers who took to praying fervently on behalf of my son. 

When searching for a residential treatment program for Son2, Grace showed up in the form of my "won't-give-up" attitude. She stood firmly next to a probation officer's tenacity and compassion. Grace was there on the other end of a phone line in the form of a kind voice attached to a motherly woman who upon hearing my fear-cracked voice clucked and shushed and walked me through rehab's bureaucratic obstacle courses.

And just two days ago, Grace didn't abandon us on the momentous day of my son's release. She showed her face first thing in the morning when a friend sent a powerful "we are in this together" message. She was on full display in the long embrace between Son2 and his step-dad. Grace even showed herself in his biological dad's tears and quivering chin. Grace soothed me when she showed herself in the understanding smile of Ashley, the social services case worker, and her careful explanations that ensured that my son understood the process. 

Driving down the highway, as the exit for the treatment center loomed large and grew closer, I closed my eyes overcome with fear and sadness and nausea. I prayed for Grace to take my hand. I prayed that she'd help Son2 find a welcoming place in which he'd spend the next year. Exiting the car, I prayed that Grace would stop my legs from buckling and my teeth from chattering. I prayed that Grace would help me be what it was that my child needed me to be. It was sheer Grace that provided the strength that allowed me to walk up the treatment center's steps with resolve and to open that door and to look back at a crumbling Son2 with an encouraging smile. 

And as we entered the tiny office to say our last goodbyes to my weary and frantic child, I was sure that even Grace couldn't keep me from collapsing under the weight of distress and poignancy of the moment. But right then...right then...a blessing bestowed.

A woman, the center's director, walked purposely toward us. Her empathy was palpable. Her eyes were warm and understanding. She reached for me. She took my hand and she said. I am here for your son. I am here for you. 

My name is Grace. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Superbowl 49--Nissan's Epic Commercial Fail!

'And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home, Dad
I don't know when, but we'll get together then

You know we'll have a good time then."
(Harry Chapin)

Nissan--your maudlin Superbowl ad--what, WHAT were you thinking?  An absentee father misses most of his child's life to DRIVE A FAST CAR? 

Really? Really? You must not and your executives must have never been at the other end of that life. Are there no single mothers working for your company? Are there no fatherless children? I cannot imagine that you asked them their opinions of that monstrosity. If you had...if you had asked you would have found out that being part of a family where the father is absent; where the father is non-existent in the everyday lives of homework, school, sports, play, friends, morals, values; where there is no father that creates a solid foundation for the shaping of another human being---well sirs and madams--that life is not glamorous or sleek or shiny at all. Not one bit.  

Allow me to enlighten you on what you just prettified.
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes according to the Center for Disease Control.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.  
That's 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from homes in which the father is not involved with their everyday lives.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts--you guessed--fatherless homes!

And speaking of education.....Did you know?
  • That children whose dads are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
  •  They are more likely to get A's.
  • They are more likely to join and enjoy extracurricular activities.
But Nissan, as bad as all that seems it can be much much worse--much worse. How about THIS:

Researchers at Columbia University found that children living in a one-parent household with a poor relationship with their father are 68% more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs compared to all teens in two-parent households. Teens in single mother households are at a 30% higher risk than those in two-parent households.

Drugs? Alcohol? Smoking? Not convinced? Why don't we try these statistics on for size?
  • 75% of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers come from families with fathers who were weekend dads. 
  • 70% of  kids in state-run institutions come from fatherless homes.
This is NINE times the average. (US Dept. Of Justice)
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.
This is TWENTY times the average.
What?  Do you want me to stop? Too painful?  You bet your ass it's painful.  It is so incredibly searingly agonizing. Perhaps that's why I found myself shaking with rage watching you make it cool and suave and so very chic!

Cold statistics not doing it for you? Then let's talk about the moms of fatherless households. Yes. Let's talk about them.  Those moms, they aren't dumb.  Even if YOU didn't know about the steely hard reality and statistics of children with less than worthy fathers, THEY know. 

From very early in their children's lives, they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their jobs are going to be hundreds of times more difficult. They know that keeping their children walking the responsibility-line will be a epic battle.  After all--dad's not responsible...why should his children be? 

Moreover, in those households where dads roll in on the weekends to take those single-mothers' children camping, or to the zoo, or to a Knicks game...those same moms become enemy number one. After all, how much fun is it to be the nagger, the cajoler, the keeper of the homework, chores and things like kindness and respect? That kind of adult gets OLD really quickly--so very very quickly. 

Take it from someone who knows--those moms get sick of themselves, sick of their voices, sick of the I-can't-let-my-vigilance-slip exhaustion.  They are tired of having to be the bad-guy, of not having backup, of hearing "if dad were here" and the incessant slamming doors. 

Moms of girls worry beyond all measure that her daughters will look for and find the same kind of men their fathers are--absent, unwilling, disrespectful, self-centered and self-serving.

Moms of boys agonize that their sons will end up being those irresponsible, disrespectful, self-centered and self-serving men just like their dear-old-dads. 

Those single-stalwart-moms--they are strong and they are tenacious and they have guts and hearts of steel.  They do everything possible to prevent those kinds of futures from coming true.  But alas--as you can see from the statistics above--that muscle, that resolve quite often isn't enough. 

It's interesting, Nissan, at the end of your commercial, when the dad picks up his son from school in your shiny, shiny glistening lustrous car, he is crying.  I wonder why? Is it because he knows that that boy that he created, his son, is now grown and it's too late...Does he know that he missed it?  He missed the parent conferences and the 13 first days of school.  He missed his first home run and the high fives in the dugout.  He missed it when friends became bullies and dreams were dashed and when they came true.  He missed the lengthening of limbs and the lowering of voices. He missed a chance to mold minds in a positive way, to be an influence that lifts and guides and encourages. That dad...and all the other dads who choose to figuratively drive those fast cars instead of slow and steady ones...they are the problem. They are not to be idolized and commercialized.  And so I say to you, Nissan, shame on you. Shame shame shame for lauding a culture of sadness and emptiness and irresponsibility--all in the name of selling cars.   

But life is a series of checks and balances isn't it, Nissan.  And just as my rage was eating a hole into my very weary stomach, along comes a Toyota Camry commercial on...(can it be?) ...of all things, dads. And mercifully, gratefully they are a company who got it right. I know that this single-mom will happily buy their products and forever forgo yours, Nissan. Let hope all other humans who care about future generations follow suit. 

Miss the Toyota Camry commercial, Bold Dad? You can find it here.  Here's the transcript:

Truer words have never been spoken...

Being a dad, is more than being a father,
It's a choice.
A choice to get hurt, 
Rather than to hurt.
To be bold,
When others are scared.
A choice that says,
you'll be there
To show them right from wrong
By your words and by your actions.
Being a dad is more than being a father
It's a commitment
One that will make a wonderful human being...
Who will make their own choices