Parenting, Writing

Lose The Cape: Never Will I Ever (And Then I Had Kids!)

The big day is nearly here! Wednesday, December 9, 2015 is the release date for the latest anthology in the Lose The Cape series! An essay from Yours Truly appears in this gem. It’s the perfect gift for any parent out there. Be sure to grab one for the reader on your holiday list this season!

 

Lose the Cape! Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!)12036843_10153591622049757_8920000926856798482_n

Most of us had grandiose ideas of what we would be like as parents; what we would allow our children to do and all those things we would never allow our children to do. We may have sworn we would never let our child watch more than 30 minutes of television, or sleep in our bed, or eat chicken nuggets or God forbid, cheese from a can (gasp!). Yet, the moment those little bundles of joy entered our lives, reality took over. Soon enough, we realized that before children, we knew nothing about being parents.

From breastfeeding to co-sleeping, pledging to feed our children all natural, home cooked meals and so forth, there often comes a point in time where surviving parenthood supersedes your views and your “nevers” slip away. Right?

Never Will I Ever is a collection of essays by mothers (and one brave dad!) who share their stories of how they evolved as parents and learned that when it comes to raising children, we can never say never. This is the second book in the Lose the Cape! collection, dedicated to providing support and encouragement to parents in the most difficult stages of bringing up children.

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Serious stuff, Uncategorized

Oh, Captain, My Captain: On what would have been your 65th birthday

Robin Williams would have been 65 today. In honor of him, I revisit this post from last year.

Dead Poets’ Society, John Keating:  ‘To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?’

One of my favorite movies now takes on a different meaning, especially when I hear the line I quoted above. It’s been almost two years since the tragic suicide that relieved one man’s pain, but set the world to wobbling on its axis. I heard this line just the other night, and it hit me that Robin Williams’ verse is still being contributed after his death.

Robin Williams was so much more than the short, furry guy from Chicago, the actor and comedian whose stream-of-conscious comedy set us to belly-laughing so hard our faces and sides hurt. He was, at the very root of it all, the kindest and most generous of Hollywood royalty.

Few celebrities give as much as Williams did, and even fewer were as genuine about the reasons why. He was a board member for The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation where he committed time and his own money to helping fund spinal cord injury research. He will forever be linked to that foundation because of his friendship with Christopher Reeve, and also because of his innate ability to make a man smile. If it weren’t for that sense of humor he wore like armor, Reeve likely wouldn’t have started the foundation. It wasn’t until his friend Robin made him laugh for the first time since his paralysis that Reeve even wanted to live.

Robin Williams, along with friends Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, helped use their gifts for comedy to raise literally millions of dollars to help alleviate homelessness in the U.S. They even personally delivered checks to shelters all over the states, visiting and chatting with the homeless, hearing and internalizing their stories.

It wasn’t just the funny side of Williams that helped out America’s least fortunate. He advocated in Congress for funding for housing support centers for the homeless and wanted to give them better access to mental health care. He believed that homelessness could actually be prevented. On May 9, 1990, Williams testified before the United States Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, asking them to begin a grassroots program to end homelessness. His testimony stands as a catalyst to what would later become a law that did just as he asked.

In recent years, Williams was one of the celebrity faces that advocated for funding for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, hoping to raise awareness for their needs. Advocacy wasn’t the limit of what he did for them. He’d visit sick and dying children, making them laugh and spending time with them.

Following his death, his daughter Zelda continued his work for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, raising thousands of dollars for a charity event just one day after his death. Money poured in as fans who loved him donated in his honor.  She is continuing to honor her father’s memory and his drive for charity by picking up his mantel with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a group that helps athletes that face physical disabilities.

His son, Zak, is doing the same. He helps teach finance to prisoners in San Quentin. Like his father, he feels a responsibility to give back whenever and wherever possible. His hopes are that by teaching inmates about finances now, they will be better prepared to make it in society when their sentences are up.

It is evident that the play does go on. The world hasn’t stopped spinning since we all learned of Robin Williams’ untimely death. He made the most of his time with us, leaving a legacy of comedy and film that will forever be remembered. His verse in this powerful play meant so much because of the lives he touched through his work and philanthropy, because he literally did help to change the world. But, let’s not forget that his verse is still playing. It lives on longer through his children who have obviously inherited their father’s love of giving. May we all leave this world having lifted up those less fortunate in as selfless a manner as Robin Williams.

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Uncategorized

The Best Movies With Killer Soundtracks From the Early ’90’s

Every teenager loves music, and I was no exception.  The early ’90’s were that transition period from high school to college for me.  It was the beginning of the grunge movement, a rock offshoot that still makes my musical heart go pitter-patter and yearn for those youthful days before bills and kids and Snoop Doggy Dog.http://mrg.bz/jRAj32

As the mother of a teenager I try to remember how important music used to be to me, especially when he’s be-bopping around the house with earphones and singing off-key. Somewhere along the line, I lost my connection to that part of me that revolved around a great tune.  When I brought this up to a friend recently, she agreed that the older we’ve gotten the less we’ve listened. This brought us around to our favorite movies of that time period that had awesome soundtracks.  We whittled it down to five.

(Click on the titles for a direct link to purchase each soundtrack. I make no money from this. Just sharing the awesomeness. 😉 )

1. Empire Records

This movie did not do well in theaters and it baffles me to this day.  It’s worth the time for Gen Xers to watch for two simple reasons: a) the soundtrack is amazing, featuring up-and-comers of its time like The Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries and Toad the Wet Sprocket, and b) it takes place in the relic of our youth–a record store. Filled with a representative of every social level you ever encountered in high school, there isn’t much for someone who loves the ’90’s not to embrace here. It’s a classic coming-of-age movie that truly does ROCK.

2. Singles

No list of ’90’s movies is ever complete unless it includes this one. I have to admit, though, that I love this movie for three reasons, the third being the most bizarre. First, of course, is the fact that it’s a great romantic comedy and the perfect date night movie if you’re looking for the nostalgia of your youth. Second, this movie not only has oodles of cameos of significant people from the Seattle grunge movement, but they also appear on the soundtrack. Those of us who were really into that scene will forever consider this album when picking out their college anthem, with bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam (when they were just starting out and were known as Mookie Blaylock). Which leads me to my third reason for loving this movie.  Two words: Eddie. Vedder. He has a brief cameo in the movie. Every self-respecting grunge lover had a crush on him in the ’90’s (some of us still do!).

3.  Forrest Gump

Seldom has there ever been a movie whose soundtrack was so huge.  It took 2 full CD’s to capture this album’s awesomeness. Because the movie takes place over the span of one man’s life, the music feels like the soundtrack to history itself. Featuring Elvis, Joan Baez, Creedance Clearwater Revival and Bob Seger, it has something for everyone. This movie is a lovely tear-jerker and the music doesn’t disappoint.

4.  Reality Bites

Whenever I bring this one up, my friends cringe, but I can’t help but love it. For one, it’s full of pop culture references and I am a pop culture junkie. Who doesn’t like a movie that beckons memories from our youth like “Conjunction Junction?” And, again, this soundtrack is really great, featuring Lisa Loeb’s breakout hit “Stay (I Missed You).” She didn’t even have a record label yet when this song got popular, all because of a little movie about our generation becoming disenfranchised after college graduation. Let’s face it, it was a little prophetic, too, wasn’t it?

5. Dazed and Confused

Maybe this list says more about my movie taste than it does about my love of music, but this movie does not deserve the cross-eyed looks I get when I mention it. I love it because it takes place in the ’70’s–not because I particularly care for the fashion, but because I love the cars. I remember driving in the back of a few of them as a kid.  I miss the days an entire family could fit comfortably in a car and no one worried about gas mileage. Not only was this film a spot-on reflection of high school dynamics, but the soundtrack harkens me back to my childhood and dancing to KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd in my grandfather’s living room. We saved Alice Cooper for home.

Very few movies of the ’90’s could boast the shear talent found on these soundtracks.  Seldom do you find a movie that is both great and has a killer soundtrack. I think I am going to wrangle my teen into a ’90’s movie night this weekend just so I can share some of the tunes his mama used to sing off-key.

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Serious stuff

Meniere’s Disease and Me: Be kind when I ask you to repeat yourself

I’ve had issues with hearing for years. Because of horrible ear infections when I was a kid, I have a build-up of scar tissue around the bones in my right ear which makes it difficult for me to hear. If I cover my good ear to listen with my bad one people sound like they are talking in tin cans, and I can only make out that they are saying something, not what they are saying.  You can’t whisper in my right ear and expect me to respond.  Except for feeling someone breathing on my neck, I won’t hear anything.Meneire's Disease, hearing loss, deaf, deafness

In the last few months I’ve learned that I have something called Meniere’s Disease, which only adds to my hearing issues.  (Find out more about the particulars of Meniere’s Disease here.) Now, instead of one bad ear, I have two– the hearing in my left ear is in decline, also. Basically, something is wrong with the fluid in my ears and I am slowly going deaf. Not something you want to hear when you’re 41.

While my husband and children have learned over the years that a person with hearing issues requires a little more thought when speaking to them (like not turning away mid speech, not trying to speak without moving your lips, not speaking to me when my back is turned, not expecting me to hear them and the person I’m talking on the phone with…), the thought that I may be completely deaf some day is unsettling for them.  I am terrified.

I keep thinking about all that I will miss out on when my hearing finally goes kaput.  I’ll not be able to hear my husband and children say they love me anymore.  Will I be able to hear my grandchildren’s voices? Will I have to wear hearing aids and still be hard of hearing? Will I talk funny? Will I need to learn sign language?  Even though I’m a writer, I don’t relish the idea of writing down every word I want to say.  Will I feel isolated, even more so than I do now?  Will people give up communicating with me because it’s just too damn hard? I already have a hard time deciphering what characters in shows are saying sometimes, but will the day come that I need closed captioning to understand anything I watch?

I see people who live with others with hearing loss issues. They get angry when whoever they are speaking to doesn’t hear them or asks them to repeat themselves a few times. I hear their families chastise them about getting hearing aids and how their hearing loss is frustrating their family members. It breaks my heart, and it seems incredibly insensitive, but I can see why it would be difficult to live with someone who can’t hear.

I think of all the things I love to hear:  birds singing, my children laughing, spoken word poetry by Shane Koyczan, and my favorite authors speak. And I wonder how they will change for me when my world goes silent.

So, I stand on a precipice of sorts when it comes to my hearing. For now, I will be thankful for what hearing I have. I’ll try to focus on the fact that I’m not deaf yet.  I have no idea when my hearing is going to be gone.  There’s always a chance that I will just be hard of hearing and not completely deaf.  Declining hearing sucks no matter how you dice it.  I’m still missing out on sounds that others hear, little clues in daily life that completely pass me by.

One thing is for sure: the list of what I can’t hear is only growing. And it’s breaking my heart.

Do you have an experience to share about Meneire’s Disease?  Have you or a loved one been faced with a sudden disability? Share your experiences in the comments below.

If you’d like to read more of my writing, please check out Lemonade and Holy Stuff, available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

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Snark

Let’s face it, boys are weird

I never realized the extent to which boys are weird until I had nieces.  Girls sit still.  They are sometimes quiet. They play house and they teach school.  They even mother their dolls and give Barbie high fashion makeovers, not to mention aspirations of becoming a lawyer or doctor.

Boys do not do “sitting still.”  They come with two switches at birth:  on and off.  “On” means full tilt, through the dirt, all day.  Boys are dipped in sugar, rolled in grass clippings and mulch, all the while attempting to break the sound barrier while going anywhere.  “Off” happens while being wrangled out of the bath and wrestled into pajamas.  Nine chances out of ten, they fall asleep mid-squirm and mid-sentence, their batteries just as drained as yours.

My sons had a doll each when they were small.  Both of them asked for one for Christmas one year.  They learned how to father them, of their own accord, for about a day.  After that their babies were stark naked Nerf gun targets and cannon fodder.  Their dolls were given jobs like Hollywood stunt double or dinosaur attack victim.  All I could do was sit back and watch as one of their babies launched across the back yard, a failure at making it over the swing set via the slingshot they created (with the goal post from a long-lost football game and a piece of elastic scavenged from my sewing basket).

Once they had cousins who were female I thought some calm may rub off on them.  My hopes were dashed pretty quickly.

Tony came home from his aunt’s house one day, excited beyond belief.

“Mom, Alexandria said I could have some of her broken Barbies.  She even said I could have her Barbie house when she was done.”

Visions of Barbie’s new career as Fay Wray to Tony’s RC King Kong ran through my mind.  “What are you going to do with a bunch of broken dolls and Barbie’s Dream House?”

“Well, I thought I could decorate them with Sharpies and turn it into a haunted mansion.  It won’t matter what shape the Barbies are in.  I plan on turning them into the zombies that live in the mansion.  I’ll need some Halloween spider web, of course, but it would be perfect!”

I guess I’ll give the kid ten points for creativity.

I know you’re sitting back in your chair, thinking that I’m making this up.  Well, you’re wrong.

So accustomed to their weirdness I have become, that I don’t even notice anymore.

Case in point:

I woke up with a stuffy nose, laryngitis and aches and pains.  We were out of milk. Like many mothers out there I was the only one with a license who could drive.  I dragged myself and Tony to the store.  I gave him the few dollars he needed to go in and purchase our milk.  It wasn’t until he came out that I realized what he looked like.

Zombie preparedness at its finest.

Zombie preparedness at its finest.

Yeah, that’s my kid.  In a gas mask.  At the grocery store.

And you wonder why I say boys are weird.

What’s the weirdest thing your kids have ever done?  I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

For more stories about what my crazy kids do, purchase my book Lemonade and Holy Stuff.  It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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