checking out…

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Friday afternoon as the doll and I exited our local Target store and approached the car, I noticed a Jeep full of teenage boys parked next to us. Only their car was facing out toward the parking lot, while mine was parked facing away. Deep in conversation, the doll was caught unaware of the other car until we sat down inside ours. “Oh my gawd, down’t look!” She said and I smiled. “What?” “I didn’t see them, I’m not looking, I’m not looking,” She said, her face red with blush as her hands raised to cover her face. “What? Haven’t you ever noticed boys checking you out before?” I asked with a laugh. “NO!”  She said with a laugh and a slight slap to my right arm. “Doll I’ve been telling you for years how beautiful you are…now you have valid proof,” I added. “It’s a little different when it’s your mom telling you that stuff…” She returned.

“You know I wasn’t trying to look at them, I just happened to make eye contact with one when I looked toward you…” She said. “Which one….the driver or the passenger with the ball cap on?” I asked. “The one with the ball cap…” She gushed. “Well he was a cutie…” I remarked and she laughed, “Yes he was!!” Her face growing redder with the admission. “One of these days doll, you’ll have the confidence in your look to say, “Of course they’re checking me out, cuz I’m fabulous…” I returned and she laughed, “Uh I don’t think that will ever happen”. “Something to aspire to doll, something to aspire to…”

*****

Last night as she kissed me goodnight and headed to bed she said, “Mom?” “Yeah doll,” I replied, “The boy in the ball cap really was cute!” she said, her voice rising when she said “cute”. I smiled and said, “Oh brother”, before offering up a prayer of hope she keeps her smart head when dealing with “cute” boys.

embarrassing mom–ftw!

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Last Thursday and Friday I had the honor to watch a student produced play at my children’s high school; my son acting as stage/sound coordinator. The play was first conceived and written by one of my son’s classmates who, coincidentally also directed and starred in the production and over the course of the last eight months worked with his drama club to make this happen. “Mom, you’ll enjoy this play, it has three different endings…” My son excitedly explained encouraging my presence.

What I came to find out however, is that when he said “three different endings” he meant something entirely different from what I conjured up in my head. The play was a murder mystery and I thought each night would have an entirely different murderer. No, instead the last character on stage uttered something different. Oh well, what do you expect from kids without a budget?

In any case, the play hosted a ten minute intermission and both nights in those ten minutes, I managed to embarrass both children with little to no effort on my part. “I was talking with you English teacher….” I began as the boy and I made our way out to the car, “She told me she can definitely see you as an English teacher, because you have to be a bit goofy to teach English at the high school level…” He grinned, “Yes, I like Mrs. F, she’s pretty cool…” “I told her I thought you should teach at the college level actually…” I added and he stopped, looked at me and said, “Did you just dis my English teacher?” “No…?” I replied. “I think you did. Mom, why would you say that to her…?” “What? That I felt you were smart enough to teach at a higher level, what’s wrong with that?” I asked confused. “You basically told her she wasn’t smart enough to teach at the college level, that’s all…” “What?” I replied still confused. Shaking his head he said, “I’m going to have to apologize to her in the morning for your embarrassing comments”. “What?” I replied lost.

Later, on the drive home he said, “I want you to know… I was yanking your chain back there…” Nodding  I let my right hand go and smacked him across his left arm. “You’re a jerk sometimes…” I said. “Yeah well, this nut doesn’t fall far from the tree…MOM” He said, as our conversation drew to a close.

*****

My doll happens to have five classmates with the same first name; all are similarly spelled. In order to keep from being confused when telling me about them, she’s come up with identifying monikers for them. For example, there is Band Mary–she’s in the band, Chinese Mary-she’s a foreign exchange student from China…etc. Friday night after the play, the gentleman I sat next to made the point of introducing me to his daughter; one of the actors in the play. During the course of our conversation, I asked. “Oh, do you know my daughter, the doll?”  “Actually,” She began, we sit at the same lunch table together. “Oh, you’re a Freshman? You’re one of the many “Mary’s in your class? I bet that’s difficult for you…” I said. The girl rolled her eyes then said, “Yes,” followed with a small laugh. “You know, my doll has a way to identify the “Mary’s” to me…” I began and then explained, “There’s band-Mary,” I began and then the girl filled in that Mary’s real last name for me. “Chinese Mary, Cartoon Mary, um….” I said, forgetting the remaining girls moniker. “Well anyway, I thought you were very good in the play these last two nights…” I said changing the subject, which she thanked me for, then excused herself.

While waiting for the boy to finish up, I sent a text to my doll asking her the other “Mary’s names  so I could place this lunch mate and she returned, “Long Hair Mary…” “Ah…I met her tonight, but she doesn’t have long hair,” I replied. “She recently had it cut…” My doll responded.  “Okay,” I replied and the text conversation dropped.

A few days later, while driving home from school, I asked if “Long Hair Mary” mentioned meeting me Friday night? “She sits further down the table from me…” She replied conjuring up a memory, “Yes, she told me that you don’t really talk that much, but that there are two other Mary’s seated among you,” I returned. “Mom, what did you do…” My doll asked. “We talked about the many “Mary’s” in your class…” I said noting that I couldn’t remember what moniker you had given her. “Why would you tell her any of them?” She asked, embarrassed. “Obviously, she has her own way of telling them apart…probably similar to yours,” I replied and then added, “I mean did she say anything to you about it?” “I already told you we sit at opposite ends of the table,” She said, clearly upset with me. “Well doll, sucks to be you among the many Mary’s at your school…” I said, chuckling. “Mom, next time just don’t talk to my classmates, okay?” She said perturbed. “I make no promises…” I replied then winked through the rear view mirror at her while she stuck her tongue out at me.

 

the best reason why…

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Several years ago, the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, was recommended to me by a therapist the boy was seeing at the time. The book, which was published in 2007 dealt with teen suicide as the result from bullying–some subtle and some quite overt; was written for the young adult audience and was a quick, but compelling read. A few years later, after the doll read a different book that ended with a teen suicide, she became very upset-rightly so. I invited her to read this book, to give her a different point of view and to open (and remain open) a dialogue between the two of us.

Last Friday, online entertainment network Neflix, released the book as a thirteen episode series and over the weekend, the doll and I binge watched, finishing up last night. If you have a teenager, 13 Reasons Why, the book by Jay Asher is a must read. If you have Netflix, I strongly recommend this series for your teen, so long as you have the time to watch along with them. In addition, there is a thirty minute wrap up with the writers, producers, actors and child psychologists to help parents understand how the teenage brain is wired and why suicide may look like the best answer–when we all know this is the furthest thing from the truth.

Billed as a drama, mystery, the series follows  a shy young teen named Clay, who receives a package in the mail containing thirteen audio tapes, created by Hannah Baker, a classmate who recently committed suicide. Before Clay begins listening to the tapes, he’s given the information that other classmates have already listened to them, because every classmate mentioned on them is one of the reasons she killed herself. Neflix does a great job of dramatizing the anger, worry,  fear and despair Hannah derived from all the people who let her down, Clay included.

****

Trigger warning:

One of the most difficult scenes to watch was Hannah’s suicide as she contemplates and then summons the despair masked as courage to actually kill herself. I kept looking over at my doll, as we both cried at what we were seeing. My heart especially hurt as her parents found their dying child and how powerless they were to stop her from doing so. After we watched the follow-up show, I looked over at my doll and reiterated what I told her the first time she read the book, “I want you to know, anytime you’re having problems at school or with anyone, please talk to me or your dad. While we may not always agree with your decisions, we will never stop loving you and helping you find the answers you need. Nothing will change the love we have for you and I will always be in your corner regardless”. My doll nodded then leaned in for a hug–one we held for sometime. “Death is not an answer to anyone’s problem, only creates more heartache and blame. Please stay safe…” I added before she kissed me goodnight.

I’m not usually one to promote television shows on my blog, but I can’t recommend viewing this series enough, especially if you have a teenage son or daughter. Bullying takes so many forms and wrecks havoc in many lives and I don’t think other kids realize how easy their words or actions hurt others. Perhaps reading or watching Thirteen Reasons Why, may be the best reason they now can or maybe even broach the topic with their parents. I know for my family, it certainly has.

 

 

 

Hang on loosely, but don’t let go…

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Over the course of eighteen years, from time to time,  I’ve asked my son, “Do you know how blessed you are?” His usual response to me would have been a small head shake or the glossing over of his eyes, as he anticipated the oncoming lecture from me. But very late Saturday night, when his father and I returned home from our South Carolina excursion, he said,  “I’ve finally figured out what you’ve been saying to me all these years…” “Huh?” I asked, not sure where he was going with this line. “You’ve been right all along, I am very blessed…” and then proceeded to give me a monster hug–that also served to crack my back, in the process.

As alluded to in a previous blog, my son attended a Kairos Retreat with his high school class last week and was mad with me for not coming up with an excuse to keep him home. “This is a requirement for graduation,” I began, “Perhaps you might come away a changed person–one ready to attend college–not just academically,” I argued. He complained he would be losing three days of learning, in lieu of being “Indoctrinated” into our crazy religion. So when he met us at the door, excited to see us and fill us in on what he DID learn and how thankful he was for the opportunity of self discovery, my heart felt very full and of course vindicated for being right.

Of course, Friday night, he called when his father and I were on our way to dinner and gushed over and over how much he loved us. “Is this due to the retreat or because we’re not there?” I asked him, laughing into the receiver. “Both… no but honestly, thank you for making me attend…” He said and then filled me with small glimpses of the retreat… “One time I got up and did a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble on for the class…” “Dear God…” I said into the receiver. “Yes, when I finished, several classmates told me I should become a comedian…” He laughed into the phone. “Oh and mom, there was so much food there…except, on Thursday morning we came down to breakfast and there was this huge bowl filled with sausage… So I filled my bowl with like twelve links, smothered them maple syrup and then discovered they were horrible. I mean I ate about six of the links to make sure I hadn’t picked up a lone horrible one, but no. The disappointment was palpable…” He finished.

“Of course he’s talking about  food here…” I thought and worried for a moment he would use this experience as an allegory for the rest of his retreat. But then he said, “But the rest of the food was great. I think I gained ten pounds–easy. “Whew!” I thought to myself and the listened as he recalled more of the retreat…

“I want you to know, my sweat shirt coat is now made up of more tears than fabric…” He said. “What?”  I replied a little alarmed. “Because many of my classmates cried in my arms and shoulders. I simply wrapped them up in big old bear hugs when they were struggling and held them while they cried,” He said, pride coming through voice. “Bay, that’s always been your self appointed job,” I replied and he agreed. Then he quickly changed subjects, “That bastard Dad, made me cry too…pulling out the old school typewriter to write me a letter…” he said with a laugh. “Well, I’ll let you talk with your dad about that,” I said laughing.”But Mom, when you get home, I want you to know, I wrote you a letter one one piece of paper, then on the other side, I wrote one for dad too…” He said. “What, they didn’t offer you more than one piece of paper?” I asked in a sarcastic tone. “Eh… you know me, Mr. Minimal…you’ve been calling me that for years…” “True,” I replied and smiled.  Beginning to wrap up our conversation, I reaffirmed how much his father and I loved him and were sad we missed his homecoming. “Tomorrow night, okay?” I asked. “Tomorrow….” He replied before we disconnected the phone.

After his massive hugs, he handed me his love letter to me, which makes me smile. I guess I’ve been a good influence after all… 

 

a home with a view…

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We’ve been thinking about the future…

Between recent college visits; looking to find the most affordable university, that will also be the best fit for the boy and figuring out where my husband and I will be in ten years can be exhausting. Last summer when our friends Matt and Laurie told us about their decision to move to Myrtle Beach, SC, full time–not to retire, but to live in an environment that had more growth potential (more job opportunities) than the one they currently found ourselves in; the wheels in my husband’s head began to turn.

The summers of his youth were always filled with a week spent at the beach in Surf Side, South Carolina. “I remember running out to jump into the ocean with my dad and thinking, when I’m older I’ll be doing this with my son from the same beach. Only difference being, instead of renting a week, I was going to buy a home…” He’s told me over the 27 years of our marriage. Hearing that Matt and Laurie were making his dream a reality, brought that old dream back to roost. The prospect of living so close to the Atlantic Ocean, in the next ten years became a bit of an obsession for him.

He researched the area, found out the laws and bi-laws and everything we would need to know about buying a house/manufactured home down there. Then last September, he sprung a last minute weekend trip and together we flew down to visit with our friends and pick their brains about the cost of living there and if this really could be a reality for us.

When we arrived home, following the visit, we tabled the discussion. “We’re bright white people moving to an awfully sunny, hot place…” I offered. “Would you be interested in moving there full time?” He wondered. “No…I can’t see myself living there. Vacationing there, couple times a year, sure. But living there I can’t–especially since we don’t know where our kids will land…and if there are grand babies…I’m going to want to live nearer to them…” I replied. “Maybe I can find a cottage closer to home…” He said and went back to his favorite obsession…looking at properties in and around our home area.

“What about this one…?” He’d ask, and I would look at the picture, semi-interested in what he was showing me. “Eh, I don’t know…” I’d reply and go back to what I was doing. At the end of February we had made the decision to go back to Myrtle Beach and look around, considering the busy season was fast approaching and the house values would begin to rise. “We’re going to need to get down there again if we’re really serious about this,” I offered. “Are you really serious?” He asked. “I think this could be a good investment for us–though I’m still not convinced I can live there full time,” I explained. “We’d have a permanent place to go on vacation that wouldn’t break the bank…,” He offered. “Then let’s go back and see,” I agreed.

View from front porch


Last Saturday, after spending three days walking through several manufactured homes, imagining ourselves living in every one, we found one we liked, within our price range that also included beautiful views from the front porch and made an offer–which was accepted. After signing the necessary paperwork, putting down some earnest money, we drove away in a daze. “Did we just do that?” My husband asked. “We did…” I concurred and then we sat in silence, as we drove down the road with no real destination in mind. “Are you okay with this?” He asked me for the zillionth time and I allowed a long pregnant pause to rest between us. “Marsh?” He asked again. “I”m happy you’re happy.  I’m happy with the choice we made. I’m happy we found one that fits all our criteria and I’m happy my future with you includes this home. I’m happy Matt and Laurie will be ten minutes away and are willing to act as “caretakers” when we’re not there. The only think I’m not happy about is that we won’t get back here until June,” I said. “We could always move…” He smiled. “In ten or so years, yes…and maybe then the doll will attend Carolina Coastal College…”

Small “party house” for 2


This morning my husband asked, “How do you feel, a few days removed; about everything?” I looked back and said, “I think our future is gonna be so bright, we’re gonna need shades…and plenty of sunscreen.”

 

 

Get out of your own way!!!

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The boy left yesterday with his high school classmates, to attend a three day retreat, an hour north in Canton, Michigan–far away from electronic devices and other noisemakers that could prevent him from participating in the message that God is real and God is love. As an incredibly arrogant eighteen year old, he has told me regularly that he no longer believes in God–as there are too many other choices out there to explain everything. “That’s fine,” I’ve said, “I was in the same boat when I was your age,” I’ve told him adding, “But don’t throw he baby our with the bathwater, okay?” Hoping he would understand the analogy.

Yesterday, as I drove him to school with his gear, he sat unhappily in the car, rather stone faced. I kept joking with him,  trying to get him to talk with me considering I wouldn’t see him for a few days, but he wasn’t playing. Finally, tired of my jokes he yelled, “I can’t believe you’re making me do this…” Smiling I replied, “What? This is a requirement for graduation and you’re probably going to have a great time…” I explained. “I have no doubt I’ll have an enjoyable time, but I will be missing three days! Three days when I could be using that time learning!!” He exclaimed. “Oh, like you did this weekend…?” I asked alluding to the time (several hours) spent playing video games. “Mom, you’re not getting it…” He tried again. “Oh I get what you’re saying bay, and  you know what? You’re full of Bullshit… 100 percent bullshit. In addition, “Since you were a little boy, the one thing that has been the most detrimental for you…” I said, fired up, ready to give him my what for; when he interrupted me and said, “My autism”. “No, your inability to get out of your own way!! Whether you want to blame this on your autism or on your ego is up to you, but frankly bay, I’m tired of watching YOU keep YOU from experiencing life,” I finished and he sat stone faced.

When we pulled in front of the school for drop off, I tried again, “Bay, don’t close yourself off from experiencing something… Just because right now you have no faith in God, does not mean he does not exist. You say you love to learn, but if you keep your mind closed during this retreat, then you’re the antithesis of what your profess. Be open, you might be surprised…” He opened the car door and began to get out. I met him on the other side and tried to get a hug from him, but he resisted. “Are you embarrassed?” I asked him. “No, I just don’t want to give you a hug right now,” He replied. “Okay,” I said, grabbing his scruffy face, leaning over and giving him a kiss. “Have fun bay…” I said as he turned and walked away from me…

 

moving forward…

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The other day, the boy sat at our kitchen table telling me about some Dungeons and Dragon’s campaign he was creating with his friends, when his sister mentioned something concerning the end of the quarter. Stopping he looked quizzically at her, then me and said, “Oh man, the school year only has about eight weeks left… I gotta get… I gotta…” and then he bowed his head into his hands, looking a bit depressed.

“Ya bay, turning eighteen should have been the sign,” I said waiting for his response. “I know, but, still… I can’t believe I’m almost done with high school…” He replied. “Aren’t you excited and ready for it to be over?” His sister offered, believing that’s where she would be standing, if the roles were reversed. “No, I like school and my teachers. Next year is so far off…and I’m comfortable here,” He replied. “I gotta get busy…” He added, before getting up from the kitchen table and exiting the room.

“I don’t see why he’s all weirded out,” his sister offered. “No? Graduating high school and stepping out into the real world is getting him one step closer to adulthood and being responsible for himself. Your father and I have been trying to impress upon him this very thing for the last year, but he’s been resistant. You can’t resist when your future is staring you right in the face…” I replied and she nodded, taking it all in. “Plus, he’s lazy…” She remarked. “We’re all lazy in one form or another, but growing up is difficult to do. I know, I only did so in the last ten years,” I said and smiled. ” I watched as the doll turned her head to the side, as if trying to understand my last remark so I elaborated, “Doll, figuring out what you want to do when you grow up is a process–which is in the very beginning phase and will only get more intense once he leaves for college. The overall process can be daunting and down right scary–even for a boy who acts like he has everything together,” I explained.

She nodded in reply, bringing our discussion to a close.

***

I knocked on the door and entered the boy’s bedroom. “Are you okay?” I asked, concerned his realization of waning time was resting heavily on his mind. “I just have a lot of things to finish,” He replied. “Like…articles for the newspaper or homework?” I wondered. “No, the dungeons and dragons campaign I’m writing for my friends. There is so many options and landscapes I need to finish putting into place,” He explained. “I see,” I replied and told him to carry on as I left his room.

Yes, growing up is hard to do… “