Don’t Say Nothing When Facing Tragedy

Don’t Say Nothing When Facing Tragedy

I have a list in my head of what people said to me when they heard that I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. There were those whose words, presence and actions were real comforts. Then there were those who probably meant well, but totally missed the mark — and they are the reason for this list. To be sure, talking about a terminal diagnosis is one of the most emotionally fraught conversations you’ll ever have. It is devastating to hear from a loved one that they are dying. How you react to the news matters, yet most of us have no idea what to say when somebody we love shares their tragic news. In that spirit, I offer my own personal don’ts and dos. DON’T say “let me know what you need.” A generalized “call me for anything” is nice to hear, but understand that those of us who are really sick can only tolerate certain people washing our hair or driving us from a chemo session as we barf in a bucket en route. A good thing to text or email would be: “If there was one thing I could do today in your house or garden that would be helpful, what would it be?” and then be prepared to do it. Empty offers are just cruel. DO make sure you ask if they can handle flowers or scent of any kind. Before showing up with lilies or spritzed with Chanel No. 5 just check. Many medications create bizarre and shifting sensitivities, most of them to smells and flavours. Perfumes, flowers, cotton candy and even spaghetti sauce have sent me to the bowl for a gag. DON’T pelt them with 20 questions. I know that for some people getting all the gory details is the only way they can absorb the news. But detailed questions can be exhausting to answer. Never ever ask how much time they have left. There is a really good chance that, like me, I told the doctor I didn’t want his estimate. A good question might be “What is the plan for your treatment?” then let them talk. DO notice when they are tired, and leave. Are they blinking longer? Shifting uncomfortably? Maybe they don’t want to admit being tired or unable to stay up. Notice, and then make a loving and speedy exit. DON’T touch them without permission. Sound strange? Consider this: Maybe they are just barely holding it together and leaning on you in that moment might result in a meltdown they can’t bear. Depending on your relationship, you might want to ask them if they would like a hug, and be ok with whatever their answer is. DO let them know...
Gazing at Memories

Gazing at Memories

Today I am hanging pictures on the walls of my home. I had a box of framed photos that just hadn’t been dealt with for some time, and today was the day. The pictures are of my children, their friends, our family, vacations and happy times. They are of moments I snapped from behind a camera that were so beautiful, they merited a frame. When I put them into those glass and wooden dedications, I didn’t think things would ever change. I thought those toothless smiles would be forever. Chubby cheeks, sand covered little fingers and cupcake smiles, it was our world in that golden time of sunshine. Looking at the pictures, I realize I somehow blinked for a few years, and haven’t framed anything new. My golden babies sat in a box all this while. I look at them now and ache for the moments I had the sense to capture. The new moments, the now, is where I live. Time has moved forward and teeth have grown in. Feet and fingers are no longer chubby, but are starting to resemble the adult appendages they will become. Cute is fading, and we are entering the age of interesting challenges and tearing away slowly. “Mommy” is turning to “Mom” and the photos are of reluctant poses with embarrassed slightly tolerant smiles. No longer does my lens get the love of big fat easy grins. They no longer run to me when they hear the shutter click and say “Mommy see da piture??”. I walk around the house clutching my framed babies as they were, and find places of honour for them. If I had known that their years of being so little aren’t endless, in fact they are breathtakingly fast, I might have done things differently. Like a roller coaster ride that suddenly screeches to a halt, you wonder why you closed your eyes on the big hills, because now you realize you could have enjoyed it more. You were safe and it was ok. I cried over some of those pictures today. Because like the period of life in which they were taken, time has moved on. I know how lucky I am, I know that many people can’t glance up from the picture of their toddlers and look at their happy healthy older children. That doesn’t mean I am not going to take this day and look at pictures of the way we were. Pictures don’t belong in a shoe box. They cover the walls of our happy home and in a few years I will be missing the people they are today. Time to take some more pictures.   This post ran originally on BluntMoms.com...
High School Parent Advisory Committees – The Real Game of Thrones

High School Parent Advisory Committees – The Real Game of Thrones

When my daughter entered high school, I was positive I would finally be welcomed to join the High School Parent Committee. This is the upper echelon of the super-elite PTA. I had spent my kid’s elementary grades sweating and laboring through years of cake pops and cookie dough fundraisers, so I was ready. Now, at the high school level, I would help raise a bazillion dollars for band instruments, or a new stadium for the football team, or whatever. I had done all the volunteering and auditioning, so I knew this would be my time. Surely, I was in. Oh, but I was the opposite of “in” because apparently a high school PTA is a whole other game. It is a ruthless, dangerous underworld fraught with intrigue and deception. You can’t see it from the outside, but these seemingly friendly PTA members are disingenuous schemers with malicious intent to rule the high school as its evil overloads. High school PTAs are the real world version of Game of Thrones. Most PTAs have a Queen Bee at the helm. Let’s call her Cersei. She rules from the Iron Throne and is the unquestioned sovereign of the small council, or as we usually know them, “the executive.” These people are an exclusive cadre of elected parents (more on that later) who direct all the activities of the school. I held back and didn’t run for the small council in my first year. I decided to serve instead as a common serf to learn how the kingdom was run. As a result, I find myself tasked with the modern-day equivalent of “hamlet rat catcher.” Relegated to tasks usually reserved for the village idiot, I am trying to learn how one becomes worthy of the inner circle. My position as an invisible nonentity at PTA events and meetings allow me to surreptitiously observe the machinations of the maneuvering sycophants. They are masters at building their networks, peddling influence like courtiers in King’s Landing. Queen Cersei is the puppet master, and only the fundraisers of her invention are lauded as genius and drizzled in gold. The small council is ostensibly formed by democratic election. Or so it is advertised. The most crushing revelation to me: It is not actually an election. Being granted a seat on the executive board is about who has been the most enthusiastic in their pandering to the Queen. What is worse is that these special alliances have been cemented for years, dating back to the preschool era. There is no room for interlopers or ambitious rat catchers. The same Queen I have been trying to avoid eye contact with for years, now rules the universe of high school. She...
8 Ways to Rock Christmas Like an Evil Genius

8 Ways to Rock Christmas Like an Evil Genius

I was at Costco earlier today. Now I am drinking. They have Christmas trees festooned with sparkly lights, reams of wrapping paper and boxes of dingle balls for sale in their stores. It is August. Clearly their marketing department is a den of evil geniuses. Their plot is brilliant if you think about it. Now, months ahead of time, we are thinking about Christmas purchases before we even close the pool. I am already panicking about Christmas because of all the pressure and work and thankless tasks involved in putting on a family “holiday.” Why is it my job to make Christmas happy for everybody else? Screw that… I have a new plan… an evil plan… to make the holidays great for me. Here’s a handy list of things you can do to elevate your Evil Genius status to Master Level: 1.Start leaving hints for gifts in your husband’s underwear drawer. Make sure the notes are written in crayon using small words so there is no question about what should be under the tree for you. Print “Dolce and Gabbana” carefully so you don’t end up with a Dusty Cabanna instead.  2. Make sure the kids start getting the message that there is in fact no Santa, and that Mommy has no cash. Lowering their expectations makes for a nice peaceful Christmas morning, as long as the children weep quietly. This allows you to buy more chocolate and wine for yourself.  3. When the kids are outside playing with friends in the early fall, start your car and make a big show of running over the elf on the shelf in the driveway. Once they have seen you roll over that mischievous little fuck ten times, they will know how misbehaving little turds are dealt with at your house.  4. Photoshop some counterfeit airline tickets with the names of you, your spouse and the kids on them. Make sure the tickets clearly show a departure date of December 23rd to some far away destination. Email copies to your in-laws and let them know how sad you are that they can’t come spend their usual three weeks at your house for their Christmas visit. Tell them they can however send their gifts ahead of time and maybe you will make a ham for Easter.  5. Stockpile the treats you like to keep for yourself during the holidays, then wrap them in boxes with gift tags made out to you. Write with your opposite hand so you can convincingly credit them as gifts from co-workers, or the mailman or whatever. Just for you… no sharesies.  6. Put out notes to your girlfriends, neighbours and school mom PTA over-achievers to tell them you have already got...
Teaching Children to Lie, One Ice Cream at a Time

Teaching Children to Lie, One Ice Cream at a Time

We all sometimes witness things that make us want to BARK at other people. Bad drivers, fashion victims, slow walkers and close talkers all bring out the worst in me. I know you can’t picture old Magnolia popping a vein from all the restraint, but truly, I do sometimes just turn the other cheek. There is one thing I cannot bear and you shouldn’t either. As Mothers, we often entrust our children to other people. Sometimes babysitters, our in-laws (shudder) and day cares. We breathe a sigh of relief when the Daddy takes them out for an errand so we can deal with our body hair or whatever is currently plaguing us. But do you know that very often these folks – although incredibly well intentioned – might be teaching your child to be a victim of abuse? I might stand alone in this view, and will withstand the torrent of screechers who I offend, but if you think about it for a second, you might agree with me just a little. People want to give your kids treats, or let them sit in the front seat, or do stuff with them that everybody knows Mom would not permit. They want to feed them contraband chocolates, or Pop or let them watch movies you wouldn’t. The lure of being the provider of the special treat is so great that they do it even though they know you disapprove. And rather than owning up to their blatant disregard for the rules, because they are assholes, they tell the child not to tell you. This is teaching the child to keep secrets. It is teaching them that secrets from mommy are especially okay. And worst of all, it is teaching that Mom isn’t safe. It has been done by Grandparents since the beginning of time, but that doesn’t make it right. A friend of mine talked about the time she brought home doughnuts. Her two year old picked up a cruller and said “Look! A don’t tell mama bun.” The now busted, and currently doghouse-residing husband had been teaching the child to be dishonest. I don’t think I have to draw the line for you smart people, but I will because some of you might not be. A child who is taught to keep secrets will do so when threatened by an abuser. Children do not have the skills to differentiate between an innocent secret and a really bad one. It may be a point of friction in your life, it sure was in mine. Everybody got informed of the “no subterfuge” rule, and when broken the consequences were harsh. We have compliance from all caregivers, and my children are now just...