Snow Day Moms

Blessed are the Snow Day Moms:

Who are grateful to have the time to take off work to make it to early dismissal, although they did have other plans for that vacation leave that did not involve being shut up in the house for an indeterminate amount of time under questionable conditions.

Who remain patient as they listen to their beloved children, who are so wound up from the weather, no recess, shoveling down their lunch in 15 minutes, that they have been talking NON-STOP since they crossed out of the school threshold, like a Starbucks virgin on a double-double espresso.

Who negotiate precarious roads while said children (who have just shoveled down their 15 minute lunch immediately prior to pickup) wonder aloud at 1 PM when snack will be and what’s for dinner.

Who brave the grocery store aisles to ensure there is milk for hot cocoa, eggs for baked goods, and bread as a backup plan, among other staples and food stuffs, waiting longer in the checkout line that it took to gather said supplies in the first place.

Who fervently pray that the power does not go out, which would, among other things, place said supplies in peril.

Whose ingenuity is tested, when the power does go out, to create a nutritious meal from a multitude of random frozen and refrigerated ingredients, so as not to waste said supplies.

Who sorely wish they’d remembered to hit the liquor store, too.

Who remind their children throughout the day of the 101 toys and games at their disposal when they sit staring blankly at them wondering what they should do next.

Who make a valiant effort to keep screen time to a minimum…or at least not an all-day event.

Who pull wet gloves from pockets, wet socks from boots, and wet boots from the hard wood floors, ensuring that they thoroughly dry out and are ready for future use.

Who use their day not only to clear the snow that so graciously made this day possible, but to clean, organize, catch up on that extra load of laundry, and tend to all manner of other household chores that slipped through the cracks over the weekend.

Who try very hard not to curse the snow plow driver who ALWAYS comes by just as she’s opening the screen door to go inside, no matter when she started or how late she finished.

Who put their children to bed at their scheduled time, assuring them that they can’t stay up late banking on the hope that they will have tomorrow off, too.

 Who go back out in their jammies and boots at 10 PM to clear off that evening flurry… and the sludgy cement left behind at the bottom of the driveway after the snow plow snuck by one last time.

Who play the odds of prepping tomorrow’s lunch box lunch tonight.

Blessed are the Snow Day Moms (and Dads!) who will not inherit the earth.  And that’s OK, because they’ve sorta got their hands full as it is.

New Year, New You?

It’s mid-January, and for many, their New Year’s resolutions are still (mostly) going full steam ahead. LA Fitness is a lot more crowded after work these days than it was just a month ago. Restaurants are touting their “healthy” menu items; white sales and work out clothes abound. The new year is perceived as a time for fresh starts. In fact, everywhere I look signs are practically shouting at me: “New Year, New You!” While this is not a new phrase, this year in particular, it seems to be everywhere I look. At the gym, the grocery store, the cafeteria at my work (where lemon water is the latest thing), the mall, the cosmetics aisle—everywhere I turn I’m encouraged to buy/try/rely on a product or service that promises a new me in the new year.

And I wonder, do I really need a NEW me? Is the old me really THAT bad that I have to shed her completely and emerge from her shell a brand new entity, like a cicada cracking through her crispy exoskeleton on a warm summer’s night? (now, there’s a pleasant image)

I must say, I’m rather partial to the old me. I’ve known her for a long time. We’re good together. Sure, she has her faults. Her rough edges. Is she a bit of a fixer-upper? Could she stand a little spit and polish here and there? Well, sure! I’m not saying that a new look, eating healthier, shedding a few pounds (or gaining a few, if need be) are bad things. But there’s a difference between tweaking what you’ve got and blowing it up and starting all over.

As benign as it seems, ‘New Year, New You’ carries an underlying message that says to me the you you are is not adequate. You are not enough. You are not worthy. You must be replaced with another version of you that will be sufficiently acceptable.

To whom, I wonder?

So I propose one of the following slightly less catchy (or alliterative) phrases:

New Year, RE-new You:
In the new year, lets find those things that invigorate us and make us feel good about ourselves. Did you love to draw? Was poetry your passion? Get back to it! Could your wardrobe use a little refresh? Would a new hair style put some bounce in your step? Would working out clear your mind and body? Get on with it! We let life get in the way of living sometimes, and the change of the calendar is a convenient reminder to taking stock of what we need to feed our souls. We deserve to rekindle those golden brown bits of happy goodness in ourselves that are sometimes so easily forgotten.

New Year, New-To-You:
We all know how easy it is to fall into that comfortable crease in the couch cushion of life. Let’s let the new year remind us to explore our world a bit more! Since we’re only living this life we’ve got once, let’s take it out for a spin and see what it can do. Whether it’s trying a new food, restaurant or recipe, taking a different route around the neighborhood for an evening walk, or ziplining across a canyon, now’s the time to try something you’ve never done before. A new passion might be lurking just around the corner, waiting to give us a big ole bear hug of happiness.

 

In the new year, I’m not sure a whole new you is as necessary as a reminder of the things that make you happy with the you that you are.

Runner’s Redress…and Resolutions

When I was in high school, all the freshmen had to take some sort of P.E. class. It didn’t matter what it was, you just had to take SOMEthing. Being new to the school (the city, the state, the time zone…) and less than “athletically” inclined, I tried to pick something somewhat non-threatening that I thought I could muddle through relatively unscathed. I picked tennis. Unfortunately, the only tennis class that fit into my schedule was first period. Really?

Now, anyone who’s ever been a teenager (particularly a teenage girl) can tell you that having P.E. first thing in the morning and then having to go through the whole rest of the school day thereafter is not a good combination. I tried very hard not to sweat. Ever. Because the 5 minutes you got at the end of class to change clothes and “shower” could not possible cut it.  Who were they kidding?  This was the 80’s, man! In Texas! It would take me 5 minutes just to Aquanet my hair. No, there would be no showering, and therefore no sweating, but plenty of extra deodorant (just in case).

Tennis was a challenge to me on many levels, but the class, overall, turned out OK. Our teacher, Mrs. Brown, was patient and kind, and tried her best to encourage even the least skilled of us towards improvement.  I met one of my best friends in that class, along with my other best friend’s brother (and his best buddy), with whom I am still friends to this day. I even picked up a few (minor) tennis skills.

But the class also had a deep, dark downside that hung over my head like that squiggly little cloud Pig Pen has in the Peanuts® comics.  And its name was “The Presidential Fitness Test.”

While I’ve tried to block it out of my mind, as I recall the ‘test’ required us to do a certain number of sit ups and pull ups in a specified period of time, and to run a 12 minute mile. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but to an athletically challenged 14 year old girl who was all about that bass before Meghan Trainor was even born, it was a nightmare.

Certain days were set aside throughout the year for us to work towards these fitness goals with the hope that come Spring, we would be able to ‘pass’ the test. My equally unathletic best friend and I would struggle through as best we could, agreeing that the president ought to have better things to do than torture high school students who were yet too young to vote.

There was a boy in our class, whose name I HAVE successfully blocked from my memory, who was not much help.  His idea of encouragement was to yell harassing taunts at us, as we crept by on our way round the track, about how slow and pitiful we were, as well as all manor of creatures who could move faster than us and how we were just generally pathetic. He did this, of course, out of earshot of our teacher, who clearly would not have stood for such nonsense had she known, but to whom we never mentioned it due to the simple fact that we were mortified by the entire affair.

In the end, I did some sit ups, maybe two pull ups (may-be), and I think we eventually ran a 15-ish minute mile. In theory, I think the idea of the test was to motivate us to reach a higher level of physical fitness. In practice, it proved only to knock another peg out from under my already abysmally low teenage self esteem.

Unlike his mother was, my eight year old son is quite active in a variety of sports, so this Fall when he decided to join the Running Club at his elementary school, I wanted to show my support in a meaningful way. Besides providing a way for the kids to be more active, a major goal of the club was to have the kids participate in one of the local running events at the end of term. This included a ½ mile or 1 mile kids run and a 5K race. Before I could stop myself, I was suggesting to my son that we run the 5K together.

Wait, what?

‘How far is a 5K?’ he asked. Good question! (how could I not know this information before making such a suggestion?) We Googled it: 3.1 miles. (Slight waiver in my resolve). He was doubtful. But I pressed forward: the walks we go on in our neighborhood in the summer are about one and a half miles—heck, we’re almost halfway there! (who WAS this person talking?!).

Ultimately, we agreed that he would start Running Club and I would start training and we’d check in with each other in about a month and see how we were feeling. If all was going well, we’d sign up for the race on Dec. 7

As you now know, I didn’t exactly have a stunning ‘track’ record with running. In short, once I survived PE, I did not run. Did. Not. Run. In fact, I used to jokingly tell people that if you EVER see me running, I suggest you get up and start running too, because either my ass is, literally, on fire (in which case I should NOT be running, but doing the stop, drop and roll) or I am being chased by a large and hungry wild carnivore. Yet, here I was, printing out the Couch to 5K program, counting the weeks and making sure I had enough ‘squoosh’ room to meet my training goal. I’d been going to the gym for a little over a year, so it wasn’t like I was entirely inactive, but still. 3.1 miles? Hmmm.

Everything’s great when you’re starting out alternating running 90 seconds and walking 60 seconds for 15 minutes. I began obsessing about training, making sure I ran 3 times a week. Looking over the course for the race. Looking at times from last year’s participants. We discovered that last year an 80+ year old woman ran the race in 45:08. Our goal became ‘beat the old lady’s time’ (said with all due reverence to this woman, whomever she was—I was thoroughly impressed by her!). We were both feeling good. About 2/3 through the training program, I was thinking, ‘I might really be able to run this whole thing!’

Until I got to the week that said ‘run for 25 minutes without stopping.’ That was the first week I did not meet the training goal for the first day. Doubts surfaced. Self-esteem swayed precariously in the wind. I pretty much convinced myself I could not run 3.1 miles without stopping. I could finish, yes. Run the whole thing? Doubtful. I was disappointed in myself. Disappointed that I was going to let my son down. But I kept training all the same.

By the time we got to race day, I still hadn’t run 3.1 miles; the furthest I’d gone was 2.75. It was a sunny but cold day with an icy wind and I was sure I was going to crap out somewhere in the middle of the run.

We were surprised how fast we came up on the first mile, and by the time we rounded the course and hit the second mile, we were beginning to think that we might possibly actually make it. As we neared the finish, the capital city looming in the distance, we were cheering each other on—we were going to make it! We sprinted across the finish line, high-fived Santa, and immediately sought out the hot chocolate and Christmas cookies that were promised at the end of the race.

I finished in 40:31, my son finishing 2 seconds ahead of me. My pace was 13:01. Holy crap! Did I really run faster and farther at 43 years old than I did at 14? No WAY. Fourteen year old me felt totally vindicated. Can I get a ‘hell yeah!’

We both felt great after the race and had already decided we wanted to do another one (perhaps in warmer weather next time). Our goal is to finish under 40 minutes, which would put me under a 13 minute pace. Not quite presidentially fit, but slowly edging closer…

So, what’ve these two long stories got to do with resolutions, you ask?  The answer is this:

At 43 years old, I tried something I have never done before. Never imagined I could accomplish. Never even occurred to me to try. Something I told myself I could not do.

And it made me think that I ought to do that more often. Put myself out there and just give more things a go. So instead of some random specific goal, I resolve to live bigger and bolder in 2015, whatever that comes to mean. Whatever that turns out to be may not appear particularly big or bold to the outside observer. But to me? I want to see me be brave!

 

 

 

A Thankful Heart

This afternoon I was snuggled up with my son watching “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” one of our favorite holiday movies. I love this kid-friendly version, which wraps the closely followed original story (and its language) in the warm, fuzzy, funky blanket of Muppet-ness.

Listening to the film that I’ve seen countless times (many of them before I even had my son), I was struck by the lyric in “Thankful Heart”–

“Life is like a journey
Who knows when it ends?
Yes, and if you need to know
The measure of a man
You simply count his friends”
(lyric reproduced from MetroLyrics)

and a name instantly sprang to mind: Ryan Roach.

I would say Ryan was a friend of mine, but in truth, he was merely an acquaintance- a friend of a friend whom I had met in passing and encountered on a few subsequent occasions. I really knew more OF him than anything else.

What I did know about Ryan first-hand was that he was a fabulous actor, well known to the Dallas/Ft. Worth theatre community. He had a broad, genuine smile, a wickedly wonderful sense of humor and a rich, full belly laugh that reverberated through a room. Everyone knew when Ryan was in the audience by the unmistakable sound of his laughter. And his hugs—Ryan was known for big, warm bear hugs, as if he might literally squeeze just a little bit of his own joy for life into the very heart of you.

Ryan became a mail order pastor before it was such a popular thing to do, and performed the wedding ceremony for my best friend. I look back at the pictures of his positively beaming face and cannot help but smile myself.

In the summer of 2013, Ryan passed away unexpectedly at the age of 44, devastating the friends and family he left behind. They started a Facebook group dedicated to him where they could share memories and grieve together. The group has over 600 members. Over a year later, they still post messages and memories, and remind one another to embrace life joyously, both literally and figuratively to “Hug Like Ryan.” I learned so much more about Ryan from reading the beautiful, funny memories that people shared. It was like a huge online wake. Or the sendoff of a beloved character on a long-running television series that no one wanted to let go of. It was genuine, but surreal.

Upon his passing, I felt compelled to write about this man who has inspired such love and compassion in just about everyone he’d met. I attempted several times to write about him, but knowing him personally in such a cursory way, everything I wrote seemed inadequate. Fraudulent, even. As if I were pretending to be closer to him than I was, to know him better than I did. In truth, I wish I HAD known him better.

But when I heard these lyrics again today, it struck me that they were so Ryan. And as I snuggled on the couch with my arm around my Little Man, with our Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, full of three generations of ornaments made by friends and family, I realized that I had found the right time to say what I wanted to say about Ryan:

I hope, in my heart of hearts, that we may each be so blessed as to leave those who have touch our lives with joy in their hearts and the desire to inspire others as we have inspired them.

“And beg you to share my days
With a loving guarantee
That even if we part
I will hold you close in a thankful heart.”

Black Friday Must Haves!

Ah, another Black Friday come and gone. Although the term has clearly become a misnomer, since so many stores were open on Thanksgiving Day, with some starting their Black “Friday” deals on Wednesday and extending them through the weekend or beyond. It seems each passing year pushes the holidays back further and further. This year at Target, nearly two weeks before Halloween, there was one whole side of the aisle full of costumes and accessories and the other entire side filled with shiny new Christmas decorations. Sigh.

In fact, the whole month of November was filled with ad after ad building me up for “Black Friday” events, screaming at me about “must have” items.

I know I am not the first to see the irony in the slow backslide that Black Friday has made into Thanksgiving Day. What better way to celebrate the day set aside for showing our gratitude for what we have than to go shopping on that very same day, to get more stuff we must have?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bargain just as much as the next girl. And sure, it can feel great to get that ‘perfect’ gift for your child, spouse, friend, family member. That thing that they MUST have. But still…

I got to spend Thanksgiving with my Mom who now lives in the same state, for the first time in over 20 years. We ate a delicious meal at my friends’ home, where they not only welcomed us as their extended family, but also friends of theirs who were not able to make it to their own family celebration due to the weather. My 8 year old son secretly made us thank you cards letting us know why he was grateful to have us in his life. His elementary school principal suggested to the children that making cards was a nice way to show their gratitude (the character trait of the month), and was something that their loved ones can hold onto in a way that the texts and emails of the electronic age can’t be kept.

On Black Friday, I stayed in bed until 8:30 AM and in my pajamas til noon. The only shopping my son and I did was at the happily deserted grocery store where we breezed through the aisles checking off the items on our list. Later in the evening, we decorated our Christmas tree, pulling out ornaments collected from far and wide, telling the stories of where we got them, who had made them, and which ones were our favorites.

Family. Friends. Memories. Love. Gratitude. Paid holidays. Vacation time. Elastic waist pants. I guess my list of “must haves” is not quite what Corporate America had in mind.

Hope your weekend was full of all the must haves that make you happy.

 

Liberty and Justice for All

Having just watched Jon Stewart’s commentary on racism in the U.S. (and if you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely should; you can find it here: http://www.upworthy.com/this-might-be-jon-stewarts-best-rant-ever-because-ferguson), I felt compelled to share a few stories of my own:

1.

When I was in high school, a few friends and I decided to go to the mall. There were five of us, three girls and two boys, all clean cut, white bread looking youths, who’d parked our cars outside of Dillard’s department store and were simply making our way through as we headed to the main section of the mall.

Shortly after we walked through the doors, an employee of the store began to follow us. He made no attempt to hide the fact that we were being tailed. To the best of our knowledge, we had not done anything to garner such personal attention other than being teenagers. We weren’t goofing around, weren’t acting suspiciously, weren’t causing any trouble whatsoever. When we noticed him following us, we intentionally stopped to look at something just to confirm our suspicions. The man stopped too, glared at us for a few moments, then came up to us and asked in the most condescending voice possible if there was something he could help us with. “Oh, no, we’re just looking,” we replied and moved on. He followed us all the way to the mall entrance and, once satisfied that we would not return, he turned and walked back into the store, presumably content at a job well done—keeping the hooligans at bay.

My teenage indignation was monumental. I was livid! How dare he treat us this way? I used to fantasize about going back to that store with a huge wad of cash in my pocket, enough to buy something very expensive. I would engage a sales person with feigned interest in some costly item, pull out my large bankroll, and then say, “so sorry, I wouldn’t dream of spending my money HERE,” and walk out in a haughty huff. That would show THEM!

2.

Years later, I had been in El Paso for the wedding of two friends with whom I had gone to high school with several years before. After the ceremony, the three of us drove back to the Dallas area (where we all lived) together and stopped along the way at a Dairy Queen for lunch. My white friend and I went to wash up while her newly-wed Hispanic husband, Pete, got in line to place our order. We came out of the restroom just as the women ahead of him completed her order and slid to the side to wait for her food. Pete then stepped forward to place our order. The white woman looked casually to her left, noticed Pete standing there, and proceeded to WRAP HER ARMS around her purse, which was sitting on the counter in front of her, in a BEAR HUG and stare him down until her food arrived, at which point she quickly shuffled away. Not ONCE did she take her eyes off of him, nor release the death grip from her purse.

My friend Holly and I were enraged! What the hell was the matter with this woman?! We had a strong inclination to go give her a piece of our minds. Pete is a one of the nicest guys ever! But she did not know that. All she saw was a Hispanic man standing next to her in a fast food place (in broad daylight, mind you). She had no similar reaction to any of the white people, male or female, in the place. Pete remained calm and tried to blow it off, which made the two of us all the angrier on his behalf. Why was he not outraged?

Clearly, this was not the first time he had encountered such a situation. Sadly, I am sure it was not the last.

~~~

Mind you, this first incident especially was the most minor of slights and both occurred some time ago. I mean, I graduated from high school 25 years ago, yet I still remember these incidents vividly, the impressions they left still burning in my memory. Mostly, I remember how I FELT—being followed, watching a woman shrink away from my friend, simply because of how we looked and their biases.

Is it really that hard to imagine what it might feel like to a person who endures such slights (and much, much worse) over and over and over again based solely on the color of their skin? That in some cases it has become a literal life or death situation? Is it that hard to believe that people get tired of just shutting up and taking it, and that maybe they are not ‘tired of talking about it’ because they are living it?

~~~

3.

Last month, I had occasion to be in the great state of Michigan, where I was lucky enough to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The place is enormous, with all manner of exhibits on American culture and history. One such exhibit, titled “With Liberty and Justice for All,” traces America from her humble beginnings as we mounted and eventually won out Revolutionary war, through the trials and tribulations of various people at various times in our nation’s history. A timeline stretching the length of several exhibit walls reads like a who’s who of oppressed people: Native Americans, Blacks, women, immigrants, Japanese, the Red Scare…

Turning the corner into the section on the Civil Rights Movement, you come face to face with a KKK outfit on display. The sight of it sent a chill through me. My 8-year old son asked me to explain what the KKK was. I told him they were people full of hate who did horrible things to other people just because they were Black. ‘Like what?’ he asked, his beautiful innocence showing in full force. I explained that they hurt people very badly and sometimes even killed them. “But why would they do that? Just because they were Black? That doesn’t make any sense!” Exactly.

Further down the corridor, in all its refurbished glory, stands the Rosa Parks bus. THE Rosa Parks bus. The one she was sitting on in 1955 when she was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white man, thus beginning the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The bus is not set back behind some velvet rope, either. You can actually go right into it and sit down. Sit in the very seat that Mrs. Parks was sitting in, even. I climbed up and took a seat, listening to the recording of Mrs. Parks describe what happened that day that she refused to give up her seat. It was quite a sobering experience, unlike any I have felt before.

I sat there on the bus for a few minutes, just absorbing it all. Eventually, as I rose to leave, a wave of emotion overcame me. I am not sure exactly why this particular exhibit hit me so hard. Before I could stop them, great sobs gushed forth from deep within my chest. Something about it struck me at my core. It is all so stupid. So senseless. So utterly maddening! I mean, what is WRONG with people? Why do we keep treating each other this way?

~~~

Racism is not going away just because some of us have grown weary of the discussion. Gee, what a luxury it is to just decide that it is no longer a worthy topic of conversation. While racism may seem like a ‘non-issue’ to some–something we have overcome in the past and need to ‘get over’ –this is clearly not the case for people who are still facing it every day. Nearly 60 years later, there is still so much to do.

 

A quote on the wall in the “With Liberty and Justice for All” exhibit reads:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

If you’re tired of hearing about racism, you may be part of the problem.

If you’re tired of hearing about racism, maybe you stop should complaining and join the efforts to end it.

Just Say No: Igniting the Anger of the Little Man

It all started because my 8 year old wanted a beer.

When my son was younger, her would tell me I was “the best Mom in the world.” Super sweet, but so not true. Any mother worth her weight in Mommy-guilt could tell you that. You know you could always be better, strong, faster (clearly, bionic). More granola. More hip. More sporty. More Pinterest-astic!

Eventually I began to tell him so:

“I’m not the best Mom in the world, but that’s OK. I don’t need to be. I just need to be the best Mommy for you.”

Now he says, “you’re the best Mom in the world (universe, galaxy), for me” and I say, “ditto for a son.” But sometimes I will tease him and ask: “Are you sure? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have a Mom who let you play video games and eat candy?” To which he assures me he would not, because in the end, that would not be good for him and he knows I am looking out for his health and well being (did I mention that he’s 8??).

 

So the other night, after we finished reading before bedtime, I asked with a grin, “What if you could have a Mom who let you do anything you wanted?”

“ANYthing?” he repeated. He thought a moment, then laughed and said, “Well that wouldn’t be good, because if she let me do ANYTHING I wanted, I’d probably be drunk right now.”

<insert record scratch noise here> Ummm, what?!

I laughed, perhaps a bit too nervously. “Why would you be drunk?” I inquired.

“Well, I’d really like to try beer, but I can’t because I’m not an adult, but if she let me do anything I wanted, then I’d try it and I’d be drunk.”

“So, first of all, you don’t have to drink to the point of getting drunk. And when you’re 21, you can try beer and see if you like it or not.”

“Is 21 the Mommy Law or the real law?”

“No, 21 is the real law. The Mommy Law is 42.”

 

The next day, still perplexed by this sudden and unexplained interest in beer, I decided to pursue the discussion further. Since I don’t drink beer, or much of anything in the ‘adult beverage’ category around him (or at all, for that matter), I was curious as to where this idea had come from. After work that day, I revisited the topic.

“So, remember yesterday when you were talking about wanting to try beer?”

“Uh huh.”

“What made you think of that particular thing? Had you hear someone talking about it, or was it mentioned in something you read? What made you decide that you wanted to try beer?”

“Oh, I don’t know. No one was talking about it or anything. I just thought I might like to try it. Is it sweet? I know birch beer is soda, not beer, not alcohol, but is beer sweet like that?”

(A month or so ago, we were out to dinner with my Mom and they happened to have birch beer made by a local company, so I ordered one. Little Man does not drink soda, but he wanted to try it so I let him have a sip. His comment now made me laugh.)

“No, honey, beer is NOT sweet. Not a bit. I think it’s bitter actually and I don’t really like it at all. I almost never drink beer.”

Part of me had a good mind to go buy a warm can of beer and let him have a sip, just to get a sense of how truly revolting it is and demystify it for him, at least for a while. But my Mommy-guilt shut me down: what if he had a genetic alcoholic tendency that I inadvertently set off and sent him spiraling into a lifetime of fighting the bottle at the tender age of 8? No, I’m not quite ready to go old school just yet.

We talked a bit more about beer—was there any kind of sweet beer? What about wine—was that sweet? Did I ever drink wine? Did I like dessert wine?

Somehow, our conversation eventually turned to drug use, which seemed a natural path to follow given the current subject. So I reiterated conversations we’ve previously had about how we only take medicine when we need it, only the amount we’re supposed to take, only medicines that are prescribed to us. How even if someone has the same sickness we do, we don’t take something that was prescribed for them and not us. How we NEVER take something when we don’t know what it is, what it’s for, and what it will do.

I told him about how some teenagers take different medicines from their homes and throw them all in a bowl and then take a handful to see what will happen.

“What?! People really do that? That is really stupid, Mom.” (YES! This was a good reaction)

“You’re right, it is. Why do you think it’s stupid?”

“Well, they’re not sick. You don’t take medicine when you’re not sick.”

“Right! And you don’t know what you’re taking. You could be allergic to it, it could be medicines that counteract each other, or are meant to treat something you don’t have. Like Grandma—she takes medicine for her high blood pressure to bring it down. But if your blood pressure is normal and you took her medicine, it could lower your blood pressure too far and make you really sick. AND if you take a bunch of stuff that you don’t know what it is and you get really sick, when you go to the doctor for help, they may not be able to help you right away, because they have to run tests to figure out what you took so they can give you the right thing to fix it. And by that time. you might be so sick that they can’t fix it.”

“I would never do that, Mom. That’s so dumb.” (can I record this for later use??)

“This is why your pediatrician was telling you at your check up that you need to make sure that you pick good friends—friends who bring out the best in you and that you bring out the best in them. So you have each other’s back. Sometimes people we know might give us something that is bad for us and not tell us what it is, just to see what will happen, because they think it’s funny.”

“Are you kidding me? That’s not funny, that’s just mean. Why would you do that to someone!”

What happened next was at the same time funny, sweet, and just amazing to me. First he made this sort of frustrated sigh and then he said, very calmly, “ Excuse me for a minute, Mom, I’ll be right back.” He got up from the kitchen where we’d been talking and walked swiftly into the living room, where I heard this sort of muffled thud.

“Are you OK?”

“I’m fine. I just needed to come hit a pillow.”

Hit a pillow?? He came back into the kitchen and sat down at the table.

“That just makes me so mad, Mom. How could people do that to one another?! That is just so MEAN. I tell you, that ignites my anger, Mom. Like, this is my anger (he holds up the fingers of his left hand as if her were holding a match). And this is me thinking about those kind of people (he brings the other hand over and makes an explosion sound and movement).”

He did this with all the sincerity that only an 8 year old can muster when they come to the realization of something in this world that makes no sense whatsoever to their pure hearts and minds.

I sat there for a moment sort of stunned. I could feel the corners of my mouth twitching, but I did not dare smile for fear that he would think I was somehow making fun of him. Nothing could be further from the truth. In that moment, I was reminded once again of the truly remarkable boy that he is.

We talked about a lot of things after that. About who he could think of right now that were true friends that would not ever treat him in such a way (and that those were the kinds of friends to surround yourself with). About how our brain chemistry changes in our teenage years and how those changes sometimes lead us to make bad choices (that are made even worse by drinking or taking drugs). And about how if he or his friends ever find themselves in a situation where they may have made some bad choices and needed help, he can always come to me. It doesn’t mean that I might not get mad, but he can always come to me. Always.

As I watched him climb the stairs to brush his teeth before bed, I smiled at my little boy who is not so little any more. He is far from perfect, as am I, and I know that he will stumble and fall many times along the way. But he is, and always will be, the best son in the world, for me.  :-)