Ellie Grad

I have seen a number of posts on Facebook, letters to seniors in high school and college, empathizing with the loss they’re feeling right now. They’ve lost proms, awards assemblies, senior trips, graduation ceremonies, final sports seasons. It’s right for us to feel for them; their loss is real.

But you know who else’s loss is real? Yours, mama’s and dads. Your loss is real, too, and I say you are allowed to grieve. I’m sure you’re grateful for my two cents and my blessing on this topic, seeing as I am no expert in the field of psychology. However, I felt compelled to write this to tell you that I think it’s okay for you to grieve because of the way I’ve seen many of you express your grief on social media.

Often what comes along with a mom’s post about the loss of an end-of-the-year school function comes a disclaimer: I know this really isn’t a big deal. I’m thankful that we have a roof over our heads and that we are healthy.

I get the disclaimer. You don’t want to look like a jerk boo-hooing over some cheezy graduation ceremony or silly dance when people out there are suffering life-and-death situations, wondering how they are going to put food on their table or pay their bills.  Those are some SERIOUS worries. You want to make sure you acknowledge those. But, it’s my suspicion that somewhere deep down you acknowledging those means you’re struggling with a little guilt over feeling grief at all. I mean, isn’t that a pretty common feeling? And isn’t that often what people say to us? Just be happy that….. You should be grateful for…..

But you know what? Your grief is real. Something that was very important to you has been taken away from you, and you know what? IT ISN’T FAIR. I’ve watched three of my children graduate from high school and two graduate from college. I know how much I looked forward to those moments. In fact, when I named each of my children, I was intentional about wanting them to have a “diploma name.” Their names can be shortened to cool nicknames, but they sound really awesome when you say the whole thing: first, middle, last. It’s really neat to hear someone else (other than me in a fit of anger) say those names out loud. I’ve been lucky enough to hear the first three as they walk proudly across stages. I got to go to tux fittings and I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect prom dress (okay, maybe that wasn’t as much fun, but it is a memory I always looked forward to creating). If I’m being honest, I actually took those moments largely for granted. Now I realize how fortunate I am, and that’s why I think your grief is real.

Those of you with senior athletes, I know the sting is even sharper. My sons played baseball from the time they were five years old, through high school and into college. When the seniors on Jay’s baseball team walked up to the plate for their last at-bat of their college careers, the crowd stood and applauded them. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about that special moment. It was special for him, but it was special for me too. In my mind’s eye I saw the little boy who I pitched whiffle balls to in the back yard; the little boy picking a dandelion in the outfield; the little-leaguer, the high school senior having a final catch with his dad, the college player hitting his first home run. This final moment was as important to me as it was to him. I saw him through that journey. I know how I would have felt having my son’s senior season taken from him. I know it would have left a bit of an empty feeling, a feeling of a job left unfinished.

Mama’s and Dads, you’ve seen your babies through their journeys too. Some of them have excelled through school and you were probably looking forward to awards assemblies and public scholarship awards. Others of you have those students who have struggled to get through school, who you’ve pushed and prodded and cried over. They’re finishing what at times seemed like an impossible goal, and you’ve been looking forward to that moment of joy that you can experience with them. Getting a piece of paper in the mail or experiencing a “virtual” graduation in front of a computer was not every what you pictured for your child.

I think you have every right to be angry about it. I think you have every right to feel sad. I don’t think you need to apologize for or feel guilty about these feelings because the truth is that you have lost profound, milestone moments in your children’s lives. Be angry. Be sad. Grieve, and don’t apologize.

To those of you who can’t relate to their loss, I would ask you to have grace. I would ask you to empathize with them. Listen. Cry with them. Please don’t judge them as shallow or ungrateful for their grief. Understand that loss is loss, and the pain of that loss is real.  

I’m amazed at the ways in which people all over the world have used their creative energies to create memories in unconventional ways. I think it’s good to approach this time with a positive attitude, continuing to be thankful for health and safety, looking for ways that we can use this abrupt change in our lifestyles to create fond memories for our children and families. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, though, that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I believe, mama’s, that you should also take your time to grieve.

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67 Calories

In the spirit of the New Year, and because Jay is getting married in June (WHAT??? I’m going to be a Mother-In-Law???), I’ve decided that I need to try to “get healthier.”  Well, that’s a vague phrase, isn’t it.

I exercised three of the first six days of the year, but then I went back to work and I got tired.  I also generally use food as my reward for making it through the day, so it’s not uncommon for me to, after I’ve put Ad to bed, enjoy a glass (or two) of wine, several (15 or so) cubes of cheese, and a couple (a sleeve) of crackers.  And then I need something sweet.  Elle made cupcakes the other day.  I ate two.

Twenty years ago, my waistline could take this kind of nightly hit.  On the downslide to 50, not so much.  My body seems to be spreading like a pat of butter in a hot pan.

Jay is all into health stuff as a pretty serious college athlete, so he offered to help me come up with a plan.  I warned him it had to be do-able.  That means don’t cut out any food that I really like and don’t make me exercise every day.  So, basically, if he could use the Force on me or Harry Potter’s wand and just disappear 10 pounds or so and build up some muscle mass, that would be awesome.  Although he didn’t offer those solutions, he did come up with something I can do.

First, he said just log what I eat for a couple of days.  Well, this is a little problem.  Not because I can’t.  It’s because I don’t want to.  I don’t want to actually have to write down and admit I eat all that stuff.  (Could this be part of his strategy???)  Then, I’m supposed to up my protein intake.  Okay.  Whatever.  I like meat. Eventually, I’ll have a target calorie range for the day.  But, he says to me, “If you go over one day, it’s not a big deal.  Just make sure to hit it the next.”  Okay.  Forgiveness.  I like that.

The other element is the workouts.  But, he has a little lifting program that I only have to do twice a week!  Two times!  I can do that.  When I asked him about cardio, he said I could if I want.  But it’s not required.  Woo hoo!  Now here’s where this weird psychology kicks in.  I don’t have to do it, but I feel very magnanimous and proud of myself if I do.  So, yesterday when I got home from school, I plopped Ad in the stroller, tucked a blanket around her and went for a 20 minute walk.

Let me tell you about this walk.  I tried to walk fast.  Within three minutes – three – my calves start to tighten up and burn.  Really?  Three minutes. By seven, I could feel it in my thighs and hamstrings.  I could feel my heart rate pumping.  This is really hard (Oh my gosh – this is hard and I’m literally just walking.  Am I 100 years old?).  I think I must be burning some good calories here.

When I get home, I grab my phone and open up my little Fitness Pal app to log my exercise.  I burned 67 calories.  Really?  That’s it.  For twenty minutes, a re-introduction to my leg muscles and a little bit of sweat, actually, I burned 67 calories.  Only 3,433 left to go to burn off a pound.  That doesn’t at all make me feel like quitting – or like losing 10 pounds will be a herculean task.  Not at all.



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The Pee-Pee Problem

Twenty two years ago, when I was pregnant for the first time, I was pretty clueless about the whole “wonder of pregnancy” thing.  Instead of being in awe and wonder at the miracle of life, I was totally grossed out about the idea of an alien being growing and kicking and pooping stuff out inside of me.  And then there was the realization that the thing in there – well, it was going to have to get out somehow.  I didn’t even want to think about that.

I had a copy of that book What to Expect When You’re Expecting that everybody had back then. (There was no Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy like there is now, which is a way better resource, in my opinion.) At that time, I refused to read ahead of the month of pregnancy I was in.  I just didn’t want to think about what was going to happen to my body.

But a lot of the women I worked with loved telling me all about the terrific changes my body was about to undergo.  They scared me with horror stories about stretch marks and leaky boobs and hemmoroids.  But, the scariest prospect of all was that when this was all said and done, I would involuntarily pee myself.  That. Is. So. Nasty.

I got all that other scary stuff, but even after three (count ’em – three) pregnancies, I could hold my bladder with the best of them.  I could run and jump without fear!  I could laugh and cough and even sneeze and never have to worry about not having on a pair of Depends.  Ha.  I was so happy.

And then I got pregnant again, not intentionally and way later in life than I expected.  I hated that pregnancy every little bit as much as the other three.  In fact, I probably hated it more because my body was already creaky and stiff with old age (I was over 40), so adding an extra 30 pounds of weight to my mid-section felt great on an already bad back.  I couldn’t wait to get that thing angel out of me and be normal again.  Ha.

That sweet child ruined my bladder.  And when I say ruined, I mean completely destroyed my ability to control my pee.  For about a week after she was born if I even thought about peeing, I actually started to pee.  What’s worse was I couldn’t stop it.  Like, not at all.  It’s like there were no muscles down there in the nether region any more.  It was literally the most horrifying thing I’ve ever experienced.  (Yeah, I’ve led a pretty sheltered life.)

Here are the top 10 ways my life has changed since I now have limited bladder control:

  1.  I have to brace myself and cross my legs before I cough.  God forbid a coughing fit overtakes me when I’m on my way to the bathroom.  That actually happened this week.  Thank God I was at home and not at work.  It’s pretty sad when your potty-training three year old is telling you “It’s okay to have an accident, Mommy.  You’ll make it next time.”
  2. I can no longer run, do jumping jacks, or participate in any kind of impact aerobic exercise at all.  This kind of sucks because I actually like to do stuff like dance around like a fool in the kitchen when a totally awesome 80’s song comes on.  However, it’s a good excuse for why I’m not joining you to train for a half-marathon.  Sorry, I have a peeing problem.
  3. I can’t drink anything if we’re going on a long trip.  Okay, so this was always kind of an issue since The Doc doesn’t like to stop when we’re on a road trip.  Like ever.  He likes to find the perfect exit to pull off.  Usually we drive by 13 that look perfectly fine to me and my eyes turn yellow before he sighs and gives in.  But, I used to be able to hold it for those 13 rest stops.  This summer, I had to threaten to pee in one of the baby’s diapers while I was sitting in the front seat.  I was a little afraid he’d take me up on that threat but, thankfully, he didn’t.
  4. I can’t drink anything if we’re going on a short trip.  I went to the movies with Elle the other week.  I peed before I left home.  I had to pee when we got to the theater (we drove straight to the theater, for gosh sakes).  And then I had to leave the movie to pee and missed that scene in Rogue 1 where the blind guy thinks he’s saved everyone but it was actually the big dude with the gun behind him.  It was my fault, though, for drinking a large Diet Coke.  But, what’s a movie without popcorn.  And, if you give a girl some popcorn, she’s going to want some Diet Coke to go with it.
  5. I’m afraid to laugh.  But laughing is something you can’t help.  Plus I love laughing and don’t get to do it often enough.  In fact, it’s a resolution of mine for this year, so that brings me to #6.  (I know I said 5, but I thought of one more.)
  6. I don’t make fun of commercials for Poise pads or adult diapers any more.  In fact, I actually know which aisle in the grocery store to visit if I should need such feminine products.  And I call those Poise pads “feminine products” so my kids don’t make fun of me for needing diapers.
  7. I sometimes have to leave my classroom in the middle of teaching a class because I have to pee so bad.  I bring back blank papers so my students think I had to grab something off the copy machine.
  8. I give old-lady-sounding advice to teenage girls.  One of the girls on my cheerleading squad already has a pee pee problem.  Sometimes when they do a bunch of jumps, she pees herself.  I literally have to remind her to go to the bathroom before every game.  And this summer I gave those girls a big lecture on keegles.  I have officially become the old lady I was grossed out by when I was a teenager.
  9. Port-a-johns.  My boys play baseball.  I go to lots of games.  For many years I could avoid darkening the doorstep of these smelly, germ-infested excrement boxes.  But now, no chance.  You can bet that if I’m at a game, I’m gonna have to use the port-a-john.  Have you ever had to be in one of those in July?  On Sunday afternoon of a weekend tournament?  When it’s 98 degrees and that excrement has been stewing and steaming in there for two weeks?  (They have cleaning schedules posted in a lot of those port-a-johns, so I know what I’m talking about.)  I think enough said, don’t you?
  10. Panic at the disco.  Or, basically panic anywhere I am that doesn’t have a restroom.  I think Google needs to add a “restrooms near me” search feature.  It would be so awesome to be able to open an app and find a nearby bathroom stat.

If I really believed in Karma, I’d say this is all my own fault for being so cocky about not having had this problem after three kids.  It’s if the universe decided “we’ll show her who’s in charge here…let’s give her a surprise baby that wrecks her body in every way she thought she escaped….”  I imagine a nefarious laugh here.

That’s fine, universe.  But the joke’s actually on you.  When that little girl throws her arms around my neck in a death grip and licks the side of my face with a puppy kiss and then I laugh so hard I pee myself, I know that I’m actually getting the better end of this deal.  Those hugs and kisses are worth every drop of pee.


Posted in Family, Humor, Life, Middle Age, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bring it on hard.

There’s stuff that people really like to be hard.  Like ice if you’re going fishing in January, or liquor.  Plenty of people like hard liquor.  I can think of other stuff, too, but I’d like to keep this a PG-13 blog, so we’ll leave it at that.

But a lot of people, and by people I mean teenagers, don’t like anything hard.  I’m thinking in particular of a certain 19-year old who has been primarily sleeping, playing video games and eating in my house for the last month.  They call that “winter break” from college these days.  I remember “winter break” as a period of four weeks shoveling snow for 25 cents an hour, 12 hours a day when I was in college, but times change I guess.  (Or I might not be remembering correctly.)

Anyway, it’s getting to be that time again when the reality of going back to college is setting in.  First semester was rough for him.  He’s at school over two hours away, he’s a college athlete so he’s ridiculously busy every second he’s not in class or at work, and he cares about his grades, so he studies all the time.  He’s pretty serious about athletics and his body, so he’s decided not to engage in the typical party culture that I’m sure I enjoyed a little too much during my freshman year of college (although I may not be remembering again).  Therefore, he spent the majority of his first semester pretty much getting slapped in the face with a giant dose of homesickness and the reality of adult life.  Haven’t I been telling you for like the last 19 years to not be in a hurry to grow up?  Yeah, this is exactly why.  Being a grown-up is totally not all that it’s cracked up to be.

While he spent the semester being miserable and sad and homesick, I (mom) spent the semester feeling all mom-ish and miserable and sad and homesick for him in only the way a mom can.  But, I also know that sometimes things have to be hard.

What I do remember pretty vividly from my first semester of college is being really homesick.  I remember wanting to come home for the weekend and my parents telling me no.  (I think they started walking around the house naked all the time or something after I left since they were empty-nesters, or having wild parties or doing all those other things on the list that Doc and I have of the fun stuff we are gonna do once all our kids are gone – which we thought was going to be in 2018, but because of our little 2013 “surprise” won’t be until the year 2031, assuming we are still alive).

Anyway, at the time when I was in college, I wouldn’t have dreamed of complaining about being homesick to my parents.  We just sucked it up back then.  We expected college to be hard.  We expected our first jobs to suck.  We expected to live in a crappy apartment and eat Ramen noodles for dinner five nights a week.  Going out on a date meant walking around the Meijers store on the West Side of Columbus making fun of people, counting tattoos (which you certainly didn’t see as often back then) and picking out stuff we would buy when we had money some day.  But, we were happy because we were grown ups.

When I tell my kids about how awesome those days were, I do it as a lump forms in my throat.  I guess I’m old enough now to remember “good old days.”  But because of those days, I really appreciate my beautiful home with more than one bathroom.  I appreciate that I have a garage and a full pantry and freezer full of real food.  I appreciate being able to get pizza from wherever I want it and on any night of the week because I can afford to do it.  I can even do it twice in a week if I want.

So as he gets ready to go back to school, I don’t feel sorry for him any more.  I try to tell him that it’s the hard times now that make you appreciate the good stuff later.  So, it’s my hope that he has some hard times, some adversity, challenges.  Because with them usually comes success and victory and that awesome feeling you get when you look back and realize you’re still alive.  You might be a little banged up or scarred, but you’re still breathing and kicking so, go you!  I know I look back.  I had to go through some pretty crappy crap over the last couple of years, but guess what.  Here I am, World.  And I’m all that much stronger for it, thank you very much.  So, Life, go ahead.  Bring on the hard stuff.  And to my kid – just know that Mom may not be going to rescue you, but I promise that I’ll always be here to cheer you on.


Posted in Family, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Democrats – play nice.

I’m one of those people who still feels waves of nausea when I think about the next four years, living in the shadow of a spoiled bully who has absolutely no filter over his ignorant mouth.  Now, don’t get me wrong,  I would not give myself over 100% to the democratic party either.  Call me crazy, but I think it would really be awesome if, in Washington, just like in Kindergarten, we could just all get along and play nice.

Do I think Trump and a completely Republican-run government is going to be a complete disaster?  Oh yeah, without a doubt. At first I just thought that because of the elitists and racists and generally horrible candidates I think Trump has already surrounded himself with in his cabinet.  But after reading Nancy Pelosi’s comments about the talks surrounding the Republican repealing of Obamacare, I have even more reason to be especially dour about America’s forecast. (I might just head over and hang out in The Blogess’ Pillow Fort for the next four years.  She’s got the right idea, I think!)

While my personal health care situation isn’t immediately at risk with any congressional action surrounding the Affordable Health Care Act, I know several people whose is.  I worry for them.  It’s a really, really super important issue.  A  CNN article today reports that Republicans recognize that repealing the act without a reasonable replacement would leave many Americans stranded, without the health care they so desperately need.  So, Republicans have hearts after all, which I was kind of relieved to hear.

Apparently they’re thinking about putting a repeal on the table, but delaying some elements of the repeal to leave time to come up with a better plan of some kind or to account for people who would otherwise be immediately devoid of health care.  They’re calling it “repeal and delay.”  (Somehow that echoes “shock and awe” to me.  Not sure why, but it does sound awesome and ominous at the same time.)

So anyway, that plan sounds like maybe that could be reasonable.  To be sure, Obamacare needs work.  Not gonna lie, it makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy when I think about these lawmakers actually taking a second to stop and think about the ramifications of their knee-jerk reactionary threats.   I sort of worry about the blind repeal of everything that’s transpired over the last 8 years in a matter of 8 hours on January 20, not because everything that’s been done was so awesome, but because it’s not always a good idea to do something just because you can.  But now, instead of taking their balls and going home, (I’m sure my son could give me a great joke here about the Republicans and their balls about now, but he’s not here) the Republicans have agreed to re-negotiate the rules so we can keep playing.  That’s a good thing, in my opinion. That seems kind of common-sensical.

But then, as I read on I see that Pelosi calls the strategy of “repeal and delay” “an act of cowardice,” which I wish she would explain.  I’m not sure what’s cowardly about backing off what was a terrible threat to begin with. That actually seems kind of mature to me, like when my 3 year old is considering throwing her entire dinner on the floor but then decides that would probably be a bad idea.  I’m not sure why caution in this case is being equated with cowardice, but I suspect that she really doesn’t see it as a cowardly act at all.  Instead, it’s just an opportunity to continue the petty name-calling that has saturated our political system.

What’s worse than her baseless name-calling, however, is her warning that, “Democrats will play no role in helping their colleagues across the aisle replace the ACA.”  What the what????  So that’s how we’re going to continue to play politics, huh?  After being on the receiving end of a party who made it their mission to stymie progress for four years, after having dealt with that kind of frustration, the plan is to refuse to cooperate back?  So the Democrats aren’t going to play.  You’re mad that you lost, so what?  You’re going to sit in a corner for the next four years with your arms folded across your chest?  That’s real mature.

Seriously.  Could that comment be any more childish or counter-productive?  Aren’t our politicians supposed to care about what happens to us?  Didn’t people bemoan the Trump election because they felt like the new administration wouldn’t actually care about people?

How are Pelosi’s comments any different?  Wouldn’t it make sense to have a bipartisan group work together to try to preserve and protect the parts of Obamacare that are serving the public, but generating solutions and alternatives to the parts that are broken?  Pelosi, with her comments, demonstrates the appeal that Trump had with so many voters – the disgust of politics as usual and the insular nature of Washington insiders.  She’s regurgitating the same infuriatingly childish rhetoric that is the true root of what’s keeping America from being “great again”  – childish immaturity.

I’m no political analyst. I’m not an expert in government policy or in health care.  I don’t even begin to suggest that I could come up with better solutions.  But, I am a mom and a teacher; I have a pretty good amount of common sense, and to me, the best way to make America great again (if anybody with any power actually cares about stuff like that) would be for the Democrats to put on their big kid panties, roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Posted in Life, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Nipple Twisting, Please

A skinny, floppy-haired Senior darkened my doorway this morning.  He’s coming from Jeanday Friday’s video production class – the class that broadcasts announcements and shows to the building, 6th -12th grade.

“I have a question.  Is it appropriate to twist someone’s nipple?”

“No.”  I say, “Absolutely not.  You cannot twist someone’s nipple.  Especially at school.”

He turns, entering Jeanday’s classroom I hear him say, “I’m pretty sure she said okay.”

My entire class looked at me.  We all bust up laughing.  This is why I love my job.  I’m not sure if anywhere else I would be asked whether or not nipple-twisting was appropriate.  I’m making a positive difference in the world.  You’re all welcome.


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Thank you, Officer Butthead.

“Up against the car – spread ’em”

A little dribble of pee might have run down my son’s leg at that point.  He didn’t include that detail in his story, but as jacked up as he was when he got home Monday night, I’d say it’s a distinct possibility.

“I’m gonna pat you down.  You got anything on you that’ll stick me, poke me?”

“I’ve got this pocket knife,” Lou said to the cop, drawing it out of his pocket.

“A weapon!  What’s this for?  What do you need to carry a knife for?”

“I was just out fishing.  I’m on my way home.”  He pulls out the Swiss Army knife he got just two days earlier as a groomsman’s gift.

I’m not sure when it became a crime to carry a pocket knife (except for some time after 9/11 in an Airport) in your own pocket, in your own car, in a small community where over 80 percent of the population hunts and fishes and where over half are farmers – a population that would, logically, carry pocket knives, but whatever, Officer Butthead.

I think that’s what I would have said to Officer Butthead had he pulled me over for not having a front license plate, accused me of being a pothead and then pulled me out of my car to search both me and my vehicle.  But, my 18-year-old son was probably smart to keep his mouth shut.

The officer who pulled him over had a legitimate reason for doing so, I suppose – a missing license plate.  Although, it was displayed in the front window.  I suspect if it had been me, the officer would have let me pass on through, but a teenage boy after dark?  No chance.

Not having the license plate on wasn’t the biggest mistake my son made, though.  His real offense was reaching down to get his drivers license before the cop asked for it.  It makes cops feel like their safety is at risk.  Ok.  I can buy that.  But the way in which the officer treated him throughout the stop – completely unacceptable.  And I feel stupid to admit it, but I was completely shocked at what my son described next.

According to Lou, the officer walks up to my son’s car and, after establishing why he was pulled over, says, “Where’d you get that license?”  Lou looks at the plate and says, “Well my dad just got these for the car…”

“The DRIVER’S license,”  the cop sneers at him.

“Oh – down there from my wallet,” Lou points at the floor of the passenger seat.

“You got your weed stashed there too?”

“Um, no.”

“Oh really?”  The cop asks him.  “When’s the last time there was weed in this car.”

“Never,”  says Lou.

“Where’d you get this car?”  the cop asks.

“My grandma gave it to me.”  The car in question, just so you can visualize, is a maroon 1992 Escort station wagon affectionately named Red Velvet.

“Oh, so you and your boys weren’t just out smoking weed?”  Lou glances over his shoulder at his empty backseat.  As he re-tells it, he wanted to ask the officer if he noticed the car was empty, but he decided against it.  Probably a good call.

“Take off your belt.”

And I am not lying to you when I say that Lou starts loosening the belt of his pants.

“Not that one!  The seatbelt,” the cop yells at him.

Now, if anyone out there is familiar with a 1992 Escort, you’ll remember that these sweet little cars have automatic seatbelts.  The only way Lou knew how to undo the belt was to pop the door ajar.  Mistake #2.  Apparently the cop couldn’t see his hand shaking as he held his license or figure out that his naive responses indicated that he was scared half out of his wits by this cop.

“Out of the car!” he yells, “Out – now!”  And that’s when the pat-down occurs.  After taking the knife, he tells Lou, “Step over to the bumper.  I need to search this car.”

Now I’m no constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure there’s an amendment about unlawful search and seizure.  I think it says that there needs to be some kind of indication that you’ve done something wrong before they can search your vehicle.  Or, they need to ask your permission, which this guy did not.  Not that Lou would have said no – he had nothing to hide.  But, I don’t think that’s really the point here.

I have to admit that I’ve seen all the stories in the news about police brutality and police harassing young people, particularly young black men.  I’m going to be honest and say that my stance as generally been, “Well, if there’s nothing to hide….”  And, judging from my own personal experiences with the police (which have been several.  I’ve got a handful of speeding tickets under my belt, and I’ve gotten out of more than one ticket too, I’m proud to say), usually the police are pretty fair and respectful.  And I’m sure most of them are.  To most people.

But, I can tell you I’ve changed my stance on this one.  This isn’t the first, but the second time my son has been (what I would consider) harassed by a police officer, being pulled over for a petty infraction that, committed by a middle aged woman like me, would never have gotten a second glance.

The car was searched thoroughly (by the cop.  Lou asked if he wanted help, but he declined.  Politely, I’m sure) and the officer found nothing, which is no surprise.  After taking the knife back to the cruiser and doing whatever it is cops do back their in their cruisers while you are breaking out in a cold sweat waiting to find out if you’re getting a ticket, he came back and let my son go.  He had to have realized pretty early in the stop that my son was no threat to him, whatsover.  Yet, he felt like it was necessary to intimidate him anyway.

The incident had several effects on my son.  He was humiliated that he was standing spread eagle against his car, being patted down like a criminal in the middle of our small town.  No doubt there’s going to be gossip about The Doc’s son being a criminal (I’m not kidding.  Everyone knows The Doc, nobody in this small town minds their own business, and everyone likes to fill in the blanks of a story that’s missing any details).  He was scared out of his mind.  He was angry at being treated like a criminal when he hadn’t done anything wrong.  He resented the implication that he had been smoking pot or in possession of it just because he is an 18-year old boy.  Being spoken to with such a condescending and accusatory tone immediately flared his defenses up.  Thankfully, he’s mature enough to control the urge to return the same treatment as he was being given.

The incident had several effects on me, too.  First, I was outraged.  How dare someone treat my kid like that?  He’s a good kid!  With that reaction came the realization that I might be a little bit too overprotective as a parent.  That reaction was reinforced when The Doc went storming out of the house to have a conversation with Officer Dickhead himself.  Then, I was afraid.  I was afraid not only for my son and what could have happened to him had he made the bone-headed choice to talk back to this cop.  Kids make bone-headed choices all the time.  It’s kind of part of being a kid.  I teach high school, so I know this for a certainty.  But I was also afraid for the other kids out there, and I’m going to say it even though it might not come across politically correct:  I felt afraid for the black kids, especially the boys.

I know full well that had my daughter been driving that car, my husband, me – we wouldn’t have been stopped.  And, if we had, we certainly wouldn’t have been accused of having drugs in the car, pulled out of the vehicle, patted down and searched.  I know it.  (I’m actually considering intentionally trying to get pulled over to test this theory, but a ticket would kill my insurance premium).  There’s no doubt my son was targeted because he was a teenage male.  In our small town, with a very small African-American population, I can only imagine what would have happened had that cop pulled over a black kid.   This incident has, for the first time in my life, really made me feel suspicious of the police.  Not for myself.  I’m sure I’ll still be treated with the same kind of respect I always have been.  But I’m going to forever more wonder about those stories I hear.

It’s a shame, really.  With so many wonderful, caring, professional and respectful law enforcement officers on the streets, it only takes one encounter like this one to taint an attitude and a perception.  The distrust that people feel – I understand it in a way I never thought I would.  It makes me sad, actually, that this is the world we live in.  It’s sad that a few people, given a little power, feel the need to use it to intimidate and antagonize others.

So in closing, and in the spirit of trying to find the good in everything, an important lesson here, my friends is this:  don’t bend down until someone asks you to.  Now that I look at it, I think that could be a helpful lesson in many-a situation.  Thank you, Officer Butthead.


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Take That, Aging

Well, it’s that time of year again, girls.  It’s that time of year when we pull out those little short shorts and say “What the hell happened?”

I went out on a limb at the end of last summer, said “Why not?  When I am an old woman I shall wear purple and all that shit” and I got this hot little pair of bright yellow short-shorts.  Usually my bottom-half wardrobe consists of three colors:  black, khaki, blue (jeans).  I took a walk on the wild side, and I probably don’t have to tell you that I felt like  20 year old again in those little babies.  (If a 20 year old is always exhausted and has chronic back pain and an iffy bladder, that is).  I’d look in the mirror and think to myself, “Hello, hot stuff!”

I pulled those suckers out the other day when I got home from school.  I might have had to tug a little bit to get them over my hips.  I might have had to suck in my tummy, and then suck in my sucking in to get them zipped.  When it was all said and done and I looked in the mirror all I could think this year is, “Muffin anyone?”

I’m tired of this closet of mine randomly shrinking my favorite summer clothes.  I swear it happens every winter.  And I know it’s not the dryer’s fault because when I squeezed my hand into my pocket I removed a receipt from The Frosty Frog in Hilton Head, which I apparently visited the last time I wore these babies before school started.  I’m thinking it was when me and Jeanday were having our All-Girls-End-of-the-Summer-Hurrah, but unfortunately I don’t remember.

It’s not just the Spanx-like constriction of those shorts that was concerning, though.  When I looked down at my legs, I noticed that my grandma’s legs were sticking out of those yellow shorts.  Somehow over the summer I’ve got too much skin for my leg and it’s like sagging there.  And in the back, there’s cottage cheese under it.  And again I say, “What the hell?”

I guess it’s time to get serious about this watching what I eat thing that I kept saying would some day catch up to me.  I guess age gets us all eventually, but I’m not going down quietly.  Bring it on, Father Time, you little bitch.  I’m coming for you.

PS – I totally polished off two pieces of eating during the writing of this blog post.

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The Empty Locker Breakdown

I grabbed the little guy’s sweaty palm and brushed a couple of pop tart crumbs off the Jeff Gordon t-shirt.  We walk through the doors and introduce ourselves to the Pre-school teacher.  She leads him to a little table full of coloring papers and crayons.  I pat the little guy on the head and say, “See you later, bud.  Have fun!”  I practically skip out the door and hop in my car.  I simultaneously roll down the windows and crank up the stereo, singing all the way home.

I was not sad to see my son start pre-school. People expected me to be sad.  They told me I would be sad when he started kindergarten.

I wiped traces of chocolate chip pancake from his chin before helping him strap the backpack on his back.  We walked up the sidewalk and waited for the crossing guard to wave us across the street.  I watched him, wide-eyed and silent, checking out the older kids who he would share his first bus ride with.  He didn’t want to hold my hand, but he  stood close enough to me that I could hear his quick, shallow breathing.  He boarded the bus, looking back nervously at me once.  I waved as the bus pulled away from the curb and headed home to my baby and toddler.

I was not sad to see my son start kindergarten.

He slid into the passenger seat, yawning.  The musky scent of Axe fills the van, so I crack the window.  At least he doesn’t smell like B.O.  We drive to school in silence because we are both too tired to talk at 6:30 am.  He sits in my classroom reading a book until 7:25.  “I’m gonna go, mom.”  He tells me, packing up his stuff.  “Okay, Jay.  Have a great day today!”

I was not sad when my son started middle school.

Neither was I sad when my son started high school.  I wasn’t sad when he started driving or went on his first date.

I was not sad on the first day of his senior year of high school.  I wasn’t sad on the last Opening Day of baseball season.  I was not sad at the Top Ten breakfast, or when my son was named Salutatorian, or when he got his college acceptance letters.  I was not even sad on the day where the Senior baseball players play “final catch” with their dads.  I did get a knot in my throat, though, watching The Doc (who strategically wore his Oakleys, even though it was kind of cloudy) discreetly wipe his cheek.

I was not sad at graduation or on the day of his party.  I couldn’t believe it. Not a tear over high school graduation.  I was just not sad.

On the last day of school, the hallways are empty.  The building is nearly silent.  Lockers have been cleaned out, and to prove that they are clean, they stand with their doors open.  I am walking the short distance between my room and the teacher’s lounge.  It’s a trip I make probably 15-20 times every day, often before and after school and between classes when the hallways are jammed with kids.  For the past four years, my son’s locker has been in that path.  I’d walk past and give him a pat on the shoulder, or I’d stop to ask him if he had any extra gum in his locker, or what time he was going to get done with practice, or what he wanted for dinner.

Today I walk past his empty locker.  I can barely make it into the teacher’s lounge and into the restroom before I lose it.  Hot tears stream down my face as I realize that I’ll never pass by him again in that hallway.  I realize that he won’t be home for dinner every night.  He won’t be stopping in my room for a couple of bucks because he forgot his lunch.  He won’t be driving me crazy by putting his head down in my class anymore.  And he won’t walk up to my desk on a particularly bad day and say, “Come here, Mom, you look like you need a hug.”

I am proud and happy that my son has turned into an intelligent, funny and kind man, but I am a little bit sad every day to walk by his empty locker.







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Guest Blogger

Check out my guest post on Le Clown’s Black Box Warning’s Blog!

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