On Turning 10

In just a few short days, my Little Man will be turning ten.
The big 1-0.
Double digits.

Nearly a decade ago, my best friend, visiting me from across the country for just for this occasion, drove me to the hospital, ready to feed me ice chips, help me push, hold my hand through surgery, or whatever else I needed as I began this journey of motherhood. A journey I chose to take up on my own, as a ‘single mother by choice.’ A journey full of familiar avenues and unexpected detours, of steeply graded hills and expanses of flat open highways. A journey on a road, perhaps, less traveled by, but undeniably worth every moment thus far.

A decade. A span of time with its own name! Surely this cannot be. We cannot have been together on this earth this long already.

It is the end of an era, special and significant. He will never ever be single digits again. In fact, he will likely spend the entirety of his remaining life in double digits.

‘My next really special number birthday will be if I turn triple digits, Mom!”


I look upon this child that I birthed nearly a decade ago, with more than a little help from medical science and a lot of praying.

I look at his dirty blonde hair and freckle bespeckled nose and dimple dented cheeks to each side of his boyish grin. I look into his big dark blue eyes (that are much too close to being level to my own) and I see the light in him. The kindness and thoughtfulness. The passion and playfulness. My heart swells with pride at all he is and the thought of all he could be. Potential energy, waiting to burst forth in ways I can only imagine.

And at the same time, my heart also aches. For all those things that he will learn about the world, things I wish I could shield him from, but ultimately I simply cannot nor should not. I hope they will not turn him cold and hard and unforgiving. I hope that he will understand the myriad flaws of our world and the people therein and fight where he can to help right the ship.

I hope he remembers that our hearts are big, with a capacity for love and compassion that only GROWS when it is shared. That when we reach out a hand—a hand to hold, a hand to steady, a hand to lift each other up—not everyone will take it. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Because sometimes the mere act of having reached out to that someone ignites a hope within them. It is so easy to become cynical and bitter. But I hope he never stops reaching out, both to help others and to ask for help of his own.

I wish him a joyous life in double digits, filled with juuuust enough failure and heart ache and struggle to truly appreciate all of his blessings. And to remind him to stand up for those who are not as fortunate as I hope he will be.

So, it is with greatly mixed emotions that I will watch him blow out the candles on his birthday brownie this year. So much to be grateful for in my happy, healthy Little Man. So much to be anxious about (p-u-b-e-r-t-y! egad!!). So much worry and wonder. So much love.

Happy birthday, Little Man. Here’s to many, many more decades to come.


The End of the Innocence

My heart is so heavy from the events of this past week, from the senseless violence that has taken too many lives for no reason. Black men, policemen. None of it makes any damn sense.

Now almost 10, Little Man and I have been discussing race for a while now. As I’ve said before, I have to be careful what I share with him, as takes things hard and holds on to them for a long time. He does not know about Alton Sterling or Philando Castile or Dallas, TX. But he knows there are people who make assumptions and take actions based on race and it literally just does not compute with him.

This past week we were talking and somehow got onto the topic of the KKK. Little Man commented on how horrible they were, then said, ‘well, at least they aren’t around anymore, thank goodness.’

‘Yes, I said, ‘the KKK is indeed still around, along with other hateful groups and people.’

‘But they don’t hurt people, anymore, right? Like physically hurt them?’ And I had to tell him yes, sometimes they do.

‘Really? But they don’t,’ his voice got quiet, ‘they don’t kill people, do they?’ And I had to tell him yes, they sometimes do.

‘But why? Why would you hurt someone like that just because of their skin?’ And he fell silent.

Earlier this summer, we started talking about White Privilege. About how lucky we are to have certain things and how even without us doing anything, we get treated differently because of our skin color.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked.

As a very basic example, I explained how if we went into a store to look around, we might be greeted and smiled at and welcomed to ask questions if we needed help, while at the very same store, the very same clerk might follow around a person with brown skin and treat them suspiciously, even though they had no reason whatsoever to treat them that way.

We had talked before about how people who actually commit crimes are sometimes treated differently for the same crime and that statistically African Americans are convicted at a higher rate and with greater sentences than white people because of an inherent prejudice in the system.

I explained that even though we don’t ask or expect to be treated differently, we still are.

His brow furrowed as he tried to process information. And then, distraught, he said, ‘I don’t WANT to have privilege! I don’t want people to treat me differently! And I don’t want people to treat people with tan or brown or black skin differently in a bad way.’

Sadly, I said, you can’t ‘give it back’ any more than a person with brown skin can ‘turn off’ how they are treated. What you can do is be aware of it, recognize it, and call it out when you see it. This is how we can start to make a difference.

I look at my son and my heart breaks as these little pieces of innocence chip away.

I look at my son and my heart breaks for the mothers who will never see their sons grow up. Mothers who wonder, each time their child leaves the house, even when they are full grown, if they will return. Because the truth is, in numbers far greater than one can imagine, they do not.

I Call Bullshit

So, here is the thing that scares me most about the recent shooting in South Carolina. It’s not the racist punk apparently intent on singlehandedly starting a second Civil War (because THAT went so well for his side the first time—try cracking a fricking history book some time, jackass). It’s not that this latest incident only reinforces the racial troubles seething just below and bursting up through the surface of American culture, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not (for an excellent commentary on this topic in regards to this specific event, Jon Stewart ’s recent monologue is pretty hard to beat: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/kb2h42/charleston-church-shooting?xrs=synd_facebook_061915_tds_2 . And if you have a few moments, I encourage you to watch the 2 part interview with Malala that follows—your soul will be glad you did: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/guests/malala-yousafzai/bdl9ix/malala-yousafzai-pt–1?xrs=synd_facebook_061915_tds_41).

No, it’s not that at all.

I look at the faces of these nine African Americans gunned down in their church and think, what a waste of innocent lives. And what really scares me is this: no matter how tragic I find this event, there is a part of me that has grown disturbingly numb. There is a part of my mind, of my heart, that simply cannot process it any more. Because I know that this is not some isolated incident—some gut wrenching story that will be one of those life defining moments, like the Challenger explosion or the Kennedy assassination.

Now, it seems, we have fallen into a perpetual state of mourning. Why bother raising the flags to full staff at all? Because somewhere, sometime soon, it is going to happen again. And again. And again. And again. To people of different races and religions and ages. And no matter how much my metaphorical heart bleeds, it does not stop the actual bloodshed.

Eternal optimist though I am, I am coming to believe that there is truly no horror great enough to cause the seismic shift needed to make a change.

We shoot up a high school. We shoot up a movie theatre. A meet and greet with a politician in a grocery store parking lot. A college campus. A school full of elementary children. A place of worship. And on and on. There seems to be no act so utterly vile that will cause us to take a step back and re-examine our priorities as a society.

While some try to fight the good fight, so many of our leaders sit back and hem and haw, making excuses, pointing fingers, and tell us again about why the Second Amendment cannot be hampered in ANY way by ANY means at ANY time.

And I say: BULLSHIT.

If you’d like to hear a great (amusing, offensive) commentary on why just about every NRA argument regarding guns is utter bullshit, I invite you to watch this entertaining NSFW video from Australian stand up comic Jim Jefferies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jl–YVnni0I&sns=fb .

Watch it all the way to the end. I could not possibly say it any better than this. Watch it with an open mind and tell me you can’t see the bullshit, too. Let’s call it, shall we?

The Hunger Games?

“Mom, I’m starving! When is dinner?” asked the bottomless pit that is my 8 year old son.

Giving an eye-roll to the heavens I replied: “No, you are certainly NOT starving, and thank goodness for that. You may be ready to eat, even a little hungry, but I assure you that you have never been starving, and for that you should be grateful. We are very lucky to have plenty of food to eat. Many people, right in this very town, are not so lucky.”

“Ok, Mom… But, when’s dinner?”

My effort to instill an appropriate level of appreciation for our food security seemed to have been a fail. Sure, we had donated items for various food drives before and had discussions about why we were donating food and how it helped a wide variety of people who for one reason or another were not able to meet their food needs. But now I felt like it was time to take our understanding to another level.

And so began our first experiment. I proposed to my Little Man that in order to have a better understanding of what it was like to not have enough food to eat, we would pick one weekend day and eat normally for breakfast and lunch, but then skip dinner completely. No extra snacks. No big lunch before to lessen the effect. I suggested that he take notes throughout the weekend so he could write about what he experienced afterwards.

Being a fairly compassionate 8 year old, Little Man was completely on board with this project, although his first comment was that we would need to have a ‘feast’ the next morning, which in his world basically means a ‘big’ breakfast (eggs, bacon and toast, etc).

“Oh no,” I said. “People who don’t have food for dinner don’t have food for a big breakfast the next day. Just a regular breakfast for us.”

A bit dubiously, he agreed. Food, after all, is a main focal point of his young life. A little man with a big palate, he enjoys trying different foods, experimenting with combinations, and generally reveling in good quality (and sometimes mediocre quality) grub.

And so, we embarked on this little experiment together. I did not cheat—no midnight snacking for me once he had gone to bed. I stayed true to the intentions of our design, even though he would have been none the wiser if I hadn’t.

As he talked to me about his thoughts and feelings over the two day period, one thing I noted is that he referred several times to “those people.” “Those people who don’t have enough food.” While subtle and unintentional, the distinction bothered me—as if it put a distance between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We talked about how they are just people, as oppose to those people. People in our own town, in our very own school, even, who don’t have enough food to eat.

We also talked about how this experiment would only give us a very general and basic idea of how it must feel to not have enough food to eat, because we are ‘food secure’: even if we skip a meal, we know we are going to come downstairs in the morning to a house well stocked with a wide variety of food. People who have food insecurity not only may not have dinner, but may not know if or when they will have breakfast. Or lunch.
Ultimately, our experiment led to a little better understanding and a little more gratitude for what we are lucky enough to have. And we have stricken the phrase “I’m starving” from the vocabulary.

A few weeks later, however we had a tiff over tomatoes.

Little Man, as I mentioned, is certainly not a picky eater by any means, but he is still 8, and sometimes his taste buds will turn on a dime. Witness the case of the cherry tomatoes. While cleaning out his lunch box after school, I noticed that 1/2 the cherry tomatoes I’d sent for his lunch that day had come back home.

“Why did you not eat your tomatoes?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t really like them. And the teacher at lunch told me I should bring them home instead of wasting them by throwing them away.”

“What do you mean you don’t really like them? I just bought them 2 days ago. You picked them out!”

Yes, he told me, but they just didn’t taste that great to him, and he didn’t care for them anymore. I assured him that his teacher was absolutely right to tell him not to waste them. However, my son is a strep carrier, and after having caught strep from him 3 times in the last year, I was not inclined to eat his leftovers that he brought home from the cafeteria, and since he didn’t want to eat them either, we had a bit of a problem.

It is all well and good if you decide you don’t like something, but I JUST bought them and only because those were the ones he asked for. The time to tell me that he wasn’t too keen on them anymore would have been BEFORE I rang them up at the store.

Consequently, I had him go up to his spending money bank and bring me $2, the price for half the container of tomatoes. Since I would eat the rest of them, I thought it fair that he pay for half of them, since he was the reason I bought them in the first place. He agreed that this was a fair conclusion.

He handed me the money, and I was going to just put it in my wallet, when an idea came to me. Rummaging around in the closet, I found an empty canister. I took Little Man’s $2 and put it inside and told him that this was going to be our Food Pantry jar. We would start it with his money and we would then donate it to the local food pantry or use it to buy items that they need and donate them. In addition, since Little Man likes dining out so much, any time we went to a restaurant, we would add a dollar to the jar to show our gratitude for being able to go out to eat.

Just today, I saw a notice from the food pantry in our town indicating that they were low on specific items and listing what they needed. So I went to our jar and counted $10, which we will be using this weekend to purchase needed items and drop them off with the town.

It may not be much, but every little bit helps.

The Reluctant Carnivore

One of the best parts of being a parent is sitting back and watching your child figure it all out. In starts and spurts, they begin to muddle through those murky questions of life: Who am I? What do I stand for? What are my priorities?

My Little Man has pretty much always been a champion of civil rights and social equality, wondering with utter frustration what the big deal is about differences in race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. His go-to question is ‘who cares?’ As in, why treat people any differently because of these things—who cares? We’re all just people, right?

More recently he’s been cultivating a greater concern for animals, as well. Big game hunting, killing merely for sport or specifically for horns, hooves, etc. gets under his skin. ‘That’s just wrong,’ he tells me. I agree.

And so, it was no great surprise to me when the topic of vegetarianism came up at the dinner table last month:

Little Man: Mom, I might want to be a vegetarian one day, because I’m not sure I like eating animals.

Me: Well, that is certainly a decision you could make. There are lots of people who are vegetarians.

Little Man: So…are there some vegetarians who eat just one kind of meat?

Me: Well, there are all different kinds. Vegans don’t eat any type of animal product, including eggs and milk products. Some vegetarians do eat eggs and dairy. Some are mostly vegetarian but will eat fish. Or chicken. Just depends on what type they are and why they are a vegetarian (or mostly vegetarian).

Little Man: Oh. Because I would want to eat bacon. I love bacon. I’m not sure I could give that up.

Me: You know bacon comes from a pig, right?

Little Man: Yeah. But, it’s so good. Can I be a vegetarian who eats bacon?

And there it was. The main thing standing between the 8 year old and a decision to ‘go green’: bacon.

I, for one, would have to agree that if you’re going to question your morals over a meat product, bacon is clearly the best choice. Arguably, there is little in the culinary world that is simply not better with bacon.

A few days later came the follow-up question:

“If I’m a vegetarian, can I still eat pizza?”

To his great relief, I assured him that pizza was, in fact, still ‘on the table.’ As long as no meat was involved, he was good to go (although I did remind him that if he chose to be vegan, he’d have to alter things up a bit).

Having pizza on his side seemed to give him something to chew on as he continued to contemplate his potential herbivor-ious future. But still there was the pressing problem. The problem of bacon.

A week or so later, he came up with this little beauty:

“Mom, is it possible, for pork products for example, to just take the skin or something off, but still keep the animal alive?”


Firstly, I explained, bacon doesn’t come from the skin of a pig and secondly, there is no animal I can think of for which you can take some of the meat of the animal and yet keep the animal alive. Sadly, it just doesn’t work that way.

Although, truth be told, if there is anyone who is motivated to figure out a way to bring home the bacon while keeping the pig alive and well down on the farm, it is my son.

‘Oh,’ he said and was silent on the subject, off to think through it some more.

I have to tell you, it was a challenge keeping a straight face on this last query. For, while the image of a skinless pig running around the farmyard is utterly disturbing, I found the question itself highly amusing. It was almost as if I could SEE the wheels turning in his head trying to reconcile his love of bacon with his concern for animals. The internal struggle. The moral dilemma. Trying to find a satisfactory compromise. I love that he is still thinking it through, mulling it over, deciding what is most important to him and why.

Who knows how long it will take him to decide, or how many times he will change his mind in the process. It matters not to me. For, in the end, it is the journey that I admire the most.

And the bacon. 😉

Loaves and Fishes…and Wedding Cakes

Unless you’ve been hiding under a media rock these last few weeks, you may have heard about a little law proposed in the great state of Indiana that had cause a bit of an uproar across the land. A bill proportedly about protecting religious freedom (which in and of itself is not a bad thing), but was seen by many civil rights groups as an excuse for shop owners to openly discriminate against certain potential patrons (LGBT patrons in particular) for ‘religious reasons.’

So if a shop owner can refuse to make a cake for a gay couple because they don’t agree that they should, oh, I don’t know, be ‘allowed’ to be gay, or be ‘allowed’ to get married, or because they believe they are going to burn in a fiery purgatory of eternal flames, because their interpretation of the Bible tells them so, then anyone should be able to refuse service to anyone, right?

I can’t make you a cake, you are a black woman and a white man.
I can’t bake you a cake, you’re a Jew.
I can’t bake you a cake, you dirty Republican; get out of my bakery and stay out!!!

Ridiculous? Cleary. But, I mean, isn’t this the kind of the ‘slippery slope’ type of argument that uber religious types are known for?

What if the gay couple came into a flower shop to deck out their wedding. No dice? But if the same couple were buying flowers for a funeral, could you sell flowers to them then? Would it be ok if they were gay but the funeral was for a straight person? Is it difficult to see how utterly idiotic these arguments become??

Personally, I don’t consider myself to be much of a religious person. Though I have fond childhood memories of being raised in the Presbyterian church, I have grown to feel that the concept of God simply cannot be contained by one all-encompassing doctrine. And sadly, I find that extremists of every stripe too often twist the words and ideas of organized religion and use them as an reason to perform inexcusable acts so despicable that I find it difficult to comprehend how anyone could follow THEM.

While it’s been quite some time since I’ve been to church, I do have, as I’ve said, some rather fond memories as well as strong recollections of Christian teachings that I’ve carried with me throughout my life. Mostly, I remember the emphasis on God being love. About loving one another as we love ourselves. About turning the other cheek (tough one, that). About he (or she) who is without sin casting the first stone (even tougher).

Because in the Bible I read, Jesus didn’t care if you had sores on you body, your heart, or your soul. Jesus loved you, man. And he wanted you to love everyone else, too.

And I am reminded of the story of the loaves and the fish (Matthew, 14: 13-21).

As the story goes, Jesus was having a hard time about the death of John the Baptist, and was seeking some alone time to gather his thoughts. But this big old passle of people (a “throng,” if I recall properly) heard tell of where he went and followed along. Well, Jesus being Jesus had a soft spot for the poor souls and wandered amongst them, healing the lame and such, as he was wont to do. As the day wore on, the sun sank low in the sky and being situated in an ‘out of the way’ location, his posse suggested it might be a good idea to dismiss the crowd so as to head to their local villages for some grub. ‘No need!’ says Jesus, ‘Just feed them here.’ Well, the Jesus peeps were rather hungry themselves and not inclined to share their own meager stash comprised of only five loaves of bread and two lowly fish. But Jesus, seeing the look on their faces, said ‘Give ‘em up, yo.’ And he blessed the bread and seafood and said, ‘Alright, go on and feed these people.’ Now his entourage had their misgivings, but they figured Jesus must have SOMETHING up his sleeve, so they set out to pass around the sad little offering and steeled themselves for the ensuing mutiny they felt sure to come. But, lo and behold! “They all ate and were satisfied…And those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.” (Matthew, 14: 20-12)

Jesus made sure everyone had a full belly before he sent them on their merry way. He did not feed a select group amongst the throng. He did not ask where people were from, who they loved, who they slept with. He did not decide who was ‘worthy.’ He fed them all.

So, dear shop owners, I say unto you, as you pass a judgmental eye on the next patron who meanders through your humble establishment’s doors and you wonder, ‘WWJD?,’ here’s your answer:

Feed them.
Serve them.
Love them.
Every one.

Body Beautiful?

As the snow slowly melts in Southern New England, I’ve finally been able to emerge from my frozen cocoon and, although it was snowing (again!), this Saturday I managed to make my way back to the gym. Amongst the clink of weights and whir of cardio equipment I’m attempting to relocate my workout groove.

During a rest period between reps, I took a quick glance around me at the varied patrons of this fine establishment. My gym has a pretty good mix of people (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) from those seriously buff to those seriously not, and everything in between.  Old and young, thick and thin, it’s a comfort to me to see each of us here doing our own thing.

And then my eye came to rest on the 12’ high photos of men and women plastered across the walls, their stomachs flat and muscles well defined, beads of sweat glistening artistically across their determined brows. They are meant to motivate me to work harder, go longer, and ultimately to look just like them.

And a thought struck me:

We don’t expect everyone in the world to have blonde hair or blue eyes.  That would be ridiculous, right?  Downright Aryan, even. We don’t expect everyone in the world to be 5’9”. Or wear the same size shoes. How stupid! 

So why then, do we expect everyone to have or desire the exact same body? And if we don’t have or desire said body, why are we expected to be ashamed of ourselves?

It’s not logical.  It’s not even possible. But yet we spend billions and billions of dollars listening to people who tell us so many lies to convince us that our bodies MUST look alike.  We must make them so, or go down in flames in the attempt.

From the peddler of the magic pill, whose soothing voice assures us that our size (which is assumed to be inferior and unacceptable) is not our fault and completely out of our control, but if we just order today, we will have that perfect beach body in minutes without lifting a finger or changing our habits in any way.

To the innumerable shapers and shifters that help us suck in things here and push up things there, creating the illusion of curves in one location or flattening them out in another.

To the mental trainer screaming ‘get your lazy ass up off the couch you miserable, pathetic slug! You CAN have that beach body, you just don’t WANT it bad enough!’ 

My personal truth is that a ‘beach body’ will never be my reality. I can and have dropped some weight in the past, and will continue to work to maintain a healthy weight in the future, but I will never achieve the type of body that stares at me from the walls of my gym, not without devoting basically the entirety of my existence to weight loss and maintenance, using dieting drugs, having weight loss surgery, developing a severe medical issue, or some combination thereof and even then, the ultimate results are doubtful. Closer, perhaps, to ‘perfect’ than where I am now, but never quite hitting the mark, I am sure. And none of these options appeal to me. Why should they have to?

Because my size 14 body is really offered only two options: get the body that everyone is supposed to have (or die trying) or live in your size 14 body in shame. Never mind if you are fit at 14. Never mind if you are healthy. If you are unwilling or unable to achieve beach body status, you deserve to feel humiliated. Do not expect to be allowed to have a positive self-image. Do not expect to be considered beautiful.

Which brings me to this:
 Are we freakin’ crazy? Why, WHY do we buy into this shit?

The thought of wrapping our self worth and concept of self beauty around this idea that we can and should all have the same body is so mind-blowingly stupid. And I am the first to admit to being caught in this trap which I have just revealed to myself to be an utter dung pile. A trap laid for both men and women of all shapes and sizes that are not THE shape and size.

How is it possible, for example, that after forty-something years old I have never once considered myself beautiful? Seriously. Never. Not even the in the obligatory ‘90s Glamour Shots pics, with my hair and makeup professionally done up (by a Dallas stylist who, mercifully, agreed to forgo the “Texas hair” for the shoot), with the soft focus lens and fuzzy lighting. Even this fake me has not been enough to overcome the inexplicably asinine idea ingrained in me that we should all look the same and that I am a complete failure by not doing so.

It is so hard to fight against this kind of ingrained belief that has been drilled into my head for most of my life.

I currently have in my arsenal only one weapon with which to defend myself.

My amazing son, now nearly 9, still tells his Mommy how beautiful he thinks she is. And should I slip and make a negative comment about my appearance in front of him (something I try very carefully NOT to do (just as important, in my opinion, to avoid in front of our sons as our daughters)), he becomes cross with me.

“Don’t do that,” he says. “Don’t talk bad about yourself; I don’t like that. You ARE beautiful, Momma. You are beautiful just the way you are.” 

While I can’t say I believe it, I believe that HE believes it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. 🙂