October 30, 2012

Your Vote.

Posted in Life Lessons tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:04 pm by openendedcomment

I am a Catholic Republican and that is why I will Vote No on the ballot initiative limiting the definition of marriage in Minnesota as one man and one woman.  Please allow me to explain.  To be clear, I am more of a  Republican-leaning Independent than straight line Republican and I do not agree with every single line of the Republican platform, case in point, but in general I’m more right than left and it is fair to categorize me as a conservative.  I believe in the rights of the individual.  I believe that the government needs to limit its role in the lives of our citizens.  I believe in the separation of Church and State.  I also believe that the money spent on this insane campaign (in my mind it is insane to argue amending the State Constitution based on fear-mongering to allow for legislated prejudice) would and should be better spent re-educating out of work Minnesotans, funding school programs or feeding and clothing those in need.

I am a Catholic.  I do not believe in every line of Catholic doctrine, but I believe strongly that it is the leaders of the Church and not the Religion that is against same-sex marriage.  Further, even if I did agree with the Church’s stance on this issue, because of my belief in the separation of Church and State I would still be compelled to vote No.  Further still, as a Catholic I am compelled to vote my conscience. That is part of the Catholic doctrine and it is clear that regardless of the stance of the Church as a Catholic your conscience, the holy spirit within, is paramount to all else.  My conscience has no room for doubt on this issue.  Many Priests, Nuns and Catholic leaders agree with me.  Limiting love and legislating prejudice thereby limiting progress and unity, in my mind and in my heart,  is wrong on every level.  My conscience also tells me that the funds of the church could and should also be better spent re-educating out of work Catholics, funding school programs or feeding and clothing those in need.

I feel the need to state these things because it appears as of late that many people assume that because I do vote Republican more often than not and because I do cross myself before prayer and at my son’s games that I am somehow automatically in the “Yes” column.  I’m not.  I can be a conservative who believes in equal rights.  I can be a religious person who feels bigotry is wrong.

And I am.   And I’m writing this to all of you who are Republican and/or Religious.  I’m writing in the hopes that you’ll examine your conscience.  That you will pause before you enter that voting booth be it in Minnesota or any other state with similar legislation pending.  I ask that you think about it, no matter what the lawn sign on your yard may say or what your friends may think you feel.  Consider seriously if this is something you agree with because your party or your preacher told you to or if in your heart and in your mind with utter clarity you feel it is right and good and legal to limit the rights of others simply because it isn’t your personal preference.  I ask you to answer not to your congregation or social circle, I know the pressure they can bring, but answer only yourself and your moral code.  You are the only person in that booth.  Your vote is your own as is your legacy.  Please, on November sixth, be sure it is one you will be right with in the decades to come.

One last thing and it’s something I’ve never done on here before nor do I anticipte ever doing again.  I’m going to ask you to share this.  Add to it, comment, whatever…but get the conversation out there.  There are only a few days left and the margin on this is razor thin.  If you aren’t inclined to share this exact post then please, find something else that hits closer to home for you and put that out there.  This is a big deal.  These are people’s lives we are voting on.  There are no higher stakes.


October 23, 2012

Just Say No.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:36 pm by openendedcomment

Being a parent is hard.  Being a parent to teens is harder.  Being a parent to teens in this digital mass communication instant knowledge and self publishing world we live is insane.  I am sure that when I was a teenager my parents felt the same thing, but no matter how difficult 1989 was for my Mother and Father (the year I was 13) it is nothing compared to 2012.

I speak to my children constantly about the dangers of over-sharing online, that even though I have a face book account and a blog, I am also 36 years old and understand why and how privacy settings work.  I get that the internet is forever and delete doesn’t always mean “gone.”  I am able to take criticism and occasional snide comments and deal with them.  I don’t face bullying and memes and forwards of pictures that should never have been taken.  If I did, I would be able to handle it.  They can’t.  They may think they are old enough and they may tell me they can take it and that they understand, but really, they don’t and no amount of privacy settings or firewalls of Mom-Security is going to protect them from the cruelty of other kids online.  Going even further, I will not allow them the opportunity to be sucked into the cruelty that takes place intentionally or passively towards others in these forums. My unwillingness to allow for this has earned me the title of “the meanest Mom of all their friends.”  There are times it bothers me; times I question my rigid stance on these issues and there are times like now I’m reminded that (the mean Mom) is exactly who I ought to be.

My sixteen year old son suffers my vigilant self far better than my thirteen year old daughter.  He too requires some monitoring, but he doesn’t really care.  He doesn’t want to be so visible and “involved”…for her, it’s an entirely different story.

Last week there was an incident at my daughter’s middle school.  Hundreds of kids in sixth through eighth grade were on sites of “Memes” created about and at other students at their school.  They got the idea from the high school page.  Middle schoolers want to be like high schoolers.  That much, at least,  remains the same through the decades.  What also remains the same is the ability of high school students to recognize and self-police (to a point) abject cruelty.  They were still (in my opinion) rather idiotic in their postings, but not to the point of bullying and intentional pain the younger set brought it to.   The school got involved.  A girl was pushed to a breakdown, another came close.  Dozens were called out publicly as “nerds” “sluts”  “bastards” and “geeks.”  Secrets were exposed and lives were irretrievably altered. The kids got spooked, but they did not stop.  They took down one site to put up another.  Again and again they did this.  People I know have children who were on these…children “liking” and “following”  and some even commenting on this sad display of unchecked freedom not fit or designed for such emotionally immature beings.  I did not call these parents, the ones I knew, though I was tempted.  The school did send a letter (not at my urging but I was glad to see it) and I hope that it was read.  I hope those parents actually did what they were asked to do by the administrators and looked at what their children were and are doing.  I hope that now that they know, they set those accounts to feed back to their own to keep tabs if not  take them down entirely, as I wish more would do.

It’s tempting and it is so easy.  So simple to think that “everyone” is doing it and “all” the other kids their age have smart phones and face book and twitter and instagram and e-mail…so easy to tell yourself as a parent that you’re “invading their privacy” by reading the text messages and IMs and scanning the accounts…so damn time-consuming to even attempt to keep up with the constant barrage of communication from and to your kids on top of your own.  I know.  I get it, I’ve been there and I’ve failed, too.

But we have to stop.  We have to start.  We have got to pay attention.  My children don’t have Facebook.  My daughter has tried a few times and I’ve always caught it.  I have friends who think I should let her and just monitor it.  Well, I don’t agree.  Each child is different and my child isn’t ready for this step.  It was proven again less than a week ago.  It is a big deal and a big risk and I’m not willing to risk her.  Not yet.  I do know that I can’t avoid it forever and that it is a part of our new reality so I do make some concessions.  She does have email, and it copies to me as does instagram.  One violation and it’s gone.  My kids can’t use a computer unless they sign in and I do have tracking software.  Computers are not used behind closed doors in our home.  My kids know I read their text messages.  On my account, so deleting is pointless.  If they write or send things that aren’t within our family value set, they lose the phone.   I’m not perfect in this and I do occasionally let my guard down.  Tonight I was reminded again why I can not do that.

After the news there was a story on Dateline, a show I don’t normally watch.  It was a story of a girl bullied so badly online that she took her own life.  It was a story we’ve heard too many times.  These are fragile years we are entering, my daughter and me.  I know too well the intensity of emotion that comes with the journey from child to woman.  The tears and the agony; the love and the heartache.  The way your emotions at such a fleeting and ever-ending onslaught of new experiences and discoveries of and in yourself can lead to utter ignorance of consequences and danger…and I know that for so many I love and loved it was a time that tested their souls.  Some did not make it through.  I know that it was hard enough when there was a moment to get away, a safe place where alone existed…and I know that for her and for all of them now, in this time, that alone is a theory…a nice idea, but not something they truly understand.  Everyone is a swipe and a face time away.  A ping of a new message and a flash of a comment made.  That in this so very egocentric time that is the teen years the pictures and the moments shared are not always to be thought through and considered…and it is that which makes me, this mean, mean Mother denying her what “everyone” else has who will continue to be vigilant in protecting her from herself.  As all parents do to one degree or another.  We all keep our children from adult situations and dangerous things as much as we are able for as long as we are capable.  This is no different.

I have so little time.  Four and a half short years and she will be on her way.  For that time and for these months I will make her crazy, but I will keep her safe.  I will, as the years move forward, release my grip and allow her more space, more privleges…but I will never turn a blind eye.   I can’t.  No matter the title at the bottom of any e-mail I send, this is my job.  The pain in that Mother’s eyes tonight on my television screen, describing what her daughter read each and every day…I can’t help but wonder how many more Mothers and Fathers and Daughters and Sons are feeling that now…at this moment…how much could be helped if not stopped by more parents demanding a password and reading what is there for the rest of the world to see?  It may not save a life to read your child’s phone tonight and it may not make the world better to know who they are following or what they commented on today, but if it could, would you?  I promise you I will.

October 19, 2012

Full Circle.

Posted in Life Lessons, My Five tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:50 pm by openendedcomment

So many say that the advent of social media is leading to the breakdown of communication as we know it.  I know many people whom I consider friends that flat-out refuse to participate for various reasons.  Some state that they don’t want their personal life available for view, others that they don’t feel the need to know everything everyone is doing and still others, my husband among them, because they feel that everyone they want to speak to or know about they already do.  I can understand all of these things, but I do not agree.

Social Media, Face Book, Blogs and even the simplicity of email and text have enriched my life in ways I could not have foreseen and will be ever grateful for.  Of course there are the posts that drive me nuts and the ones I wonder at…but then I know I do the same to others and all is well.  We are grown ups and grown ups (should be) able to understand that not everything is to be taken literally.  Hence the reason I feel these things are mostly adult(ish) forums, but I digress.  The bit about who should/should not participate in these social networks is a post for another day.  As I enter the back-end of my thirties my life has become almost unsustainably busy.  I have a full-time career.  I am a Mother of four active and very wonderful children with whom I am extremely involved.  I have a husband, parents, siblings and friends.  In order to keep up with all of these people and all of these things, this wonderful age of technology and communication is not only easier but essential.  Without it I would never know of or be able to keep tabs on what the people I care about are doing in and with their lives.  I would not be connected to family members, aunts, uncles and cousins scattered throughout the country.  I use it less for gossip and more for lovely things like friendship, family, humor and information.  Sure, I could call…but in reality, I don’t have the time and neither do they.  I suppose writing a letter is possible and some would say more thoughtful, but again, that requires getting to the post office and waiting for a response and though it may seem lazy to admit, I know myself better than to think I would have the time to do that.  I mean, I have dry cleaning that hasn’t been claimed in six months…speaking of which…I must do that today. We don’t have a “main street” or “corner cafe” at which we have breakfast or see friends known from childhood.  The world just isn’t like that anymore.

It goes further than light conversation or keeping tabs.  It goes to the basic human need to be connected and the joy of rediscovering people I would not know today that were so essential in my life at one time.  Friends I had in high school and even junior high school with whom I lost touch these past decades.  People who were dear to me and lost to me are found again on my own little digital home-town.  There are so many who fit this criteria of people I am glad to know again but for this post and because of this day it’s about two women I once knew and again know.

As an eighth grader, one of my dearest friends was a girl named C.  We hung out at each other’s homes constantly.  We even made a band.  A band of two…but there were signs.  In high school we grew apart and after that we saw each other only once, at a ten-year reunion, at which we really didn’t speak.  Through social media I “found” her again and we “speak” semi-regularly now.  No, we aren’t “best friends” but each time we write I am reminded of why we became friends in the first place all those years ago.  She is smart.  She is kind and she is hilarious.  She and I also lead somewhat similar lives today as step-mothers and wives and women.  I am invested in her blog because through it I found my friend and some sound advice combined wth many laughs.  We’ve been trying to set up a lunch and not shockingly, can’t find the time.  But we will and as I write even this I am wondering how her weekend is set and who is home with her children over MEA and if a certain plan she has in the works is working out the way she hopes (if you read this I’m referring to the twofer plan…fingers crossed!)  Again and happily so,  she is someone I care for and someone I want to see have everything in life.

There are poignant moments, too.  Just today a girl, now a mother of three, with whom I was very close my junior and senior year of high school and again, someone I haven’t seen since, wrote something very personal.  She is going through a difficult time and I wish I could do more for her to ease her pain.  I found myself crying at my desk remembering being in her home at sixteen.  Remembering her family and the talks she and I shared over saltines in her basement and lunch tables at 6th hour.  Wondering at the strange and long road I’ve been on these last twenty years and feeling as though I had been a  terrible friend for letting something that was once so important to me go with such ease.  She and I also communicate now and from what I can tell, she is exactly who I had always thought she would be, an amazing Mother, Wife, Woman and Friend.  She and I had the same English teacher Senior year.  He had us write ourselves a letter, which was to be mailed to our 27-28 year old selves to review.  In mine, I had spelled out a vision of a life for myself I do not lead.  I wanted such different things back then…and today, reading her post, something became clear.  What was most important to me then is what is most important to me now.  The rest may have changed, and most for the better, but these women were spelled out by name to remind me to know.  Her name was in it.  Hers, along with a woman in San Fransisco, another in a Northern Suburb, one now in Iowa, one who had her second son only weeks ago a few miles from where we went to pre-school together, and a woman who today celebrates her birthday.  I told myself that I would always know them.  Some I never lost touch with, others I did, and thanks to this world we live in, all I now know again.

For women this is essential.  We need our friendships.  My circle is small in part because I prefer it that way and in part as I have been remiss in keeping ties bound.  I have Glitter and I have Cielo and I have my Mother, too.  But aside from them and sometimes even including them, I am terrible about keeping in touch to the level I mean to and want to.  We are all connected again and in so I am enriched and blessed.  We’ve come full circle these women and me.  We started out fast friends, took different paths, changed our ways, changed our minds, became new people, found our homes, built our families and learned who we are.  And in the end, at least for a few, found that the core of who we were is more of who we are than we had ever imagined and as such rediscovered that those girls we knew we liked are women we know we need.

October 18, 2012

Where the Boys Are.

Posted in Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , at 3:48 pm by openendedcomment

In my home.  That’s where the boys are.  I can prove this by the chaos that unfolds here on a daily basis.  Today it has been highlighted.  It is MEA week.  In Minnesota that means our children are off of school for two days as the teachers are all at an educational conference, though of all of the teachers I know most are enjoying their time off as opposed to being in downtown St Paul listening to speakers.  I don’t fault them for this.  I would, too.  Especially if I had children.  Which I do…see above.

My children, during MEA, are like caged animals set free after six weeks in captivity (aka school.)  They arrived home last night ready to party like rock-stars.  I was ready to go to work today and was not feeling great.  My two eldest, 16 and 13 respectively, managed to get themselves grounded Tuesday night so they were/are not happy teenagers without their phones/i-touches/computers, etc.  For those that aren’t aware, this appears to be relatable to ending/ruining their lives and/or removing limbs and they have taken every opportunity to tell me so.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love puberty?

My younger boys, 11 and 9, are on a mission.  That mission appears to be to 1) make the teenagers nuts and 2) to destroy our home or at least to test the limits of our insurance coverage and my ability to not drink before six pm.  One would think that with children aged 16,13,11 and 9, one could leave the home for a few hours.  One would be wrong.

I arrived back home within three and a half hours of work to the following:

  • A plant that was not in its pot (plants vs zombies, their version of cowboys and indians, was not a good plan.)
  • A dishwasher leaking everywhere with a copious amount of bubbles coming from it.
  • A couch that is the wrong color, in a  splash pattern.
  • A cat who is terrified and a dog who is smug.  Not sure I want to know the back story.
  • A mouse who is/was in parts, many parts,  scattered through my garage and the other cat who is…happy (they caught a mouse, threw it in the garage and then threw the cat in because “he’s a natural hunter and he looked bored”…OMG…please don’t call PETA)  I stepped in said mouse when exiting my car so it’s fair to say I’ve been punished enough.
  • A Keurig in need of repair.
  • Two weeks worth of groceries utterly decimated.
  • A bathroom far wetter than it ought to be.
  • A child with a bruise from a plunger backfiring (no, you most certainly do NOT want to know.)
  • Two little boys in robes because they’re having a “no pants” day.
  • One 13-year-old girl ranting about said boys and the tragedy that is her life.
  • One 16-year-old boy close to tears because he’s only been able to communicate with his girlfriend four times using the (gasp!) house phone which he has to actually talk into as opposed to text…the horrors.


It’s been three hours since my return and the house is clean(ish), my home repair company has been called and is en route, two children are gone (thank you, Jamie!), the other two are quietly playing a game as I’ve sufficiently clarified what will happen if they do not.  I am working and am far more productive than I would be at my office fielding calls from these little (ahem) angels.  I’ve managed a webinar, two marketing pieces and several emails.  My husband, bless his heart, is unaware of all of this as he (smart man) has been utterly unreachable since 5 AM.

He will arrive home at about 5:30 or 6 this evening.  I will have dinner ready not because he expects it but because I don’t want to goanywhere with all of them tonight, not because I don’t love them all but because with the roll they’re on I don’t want to pay for damages.  I will smile and provide him a quick recap, leaving out many of the highlights as there is no real point after all is already addressed and done.  And when he asks why I’m on my third drink when I so rarely drink during the week (or at all and yes I am absolutely planning this, the wine is chilling as I type) or why I won’t want him to leave me here with all of them tonight if a neighbor should call and request his company, I will calmly direct him to this little post and remind him where the big boys may go.





October 9, 2012

Hockey Mom.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 12:13 pm by openendedcomment

For the past three nights I’ve watched my son be judged.  A panel of experts, clip-boards in hand, have sat on a  cold metal bench and scored him on his skill and his stride.  I have held my breath, encouraged his performance, felt overwhelming pride in how far he has come and the gains he has made and more than once I’ve cringed when he’s had a move that was les than stellar…wondering if they too noticed, hoping they were focused on some other Mother’s son for those few seconds in time.  I’ve looked into their faces…those Mothers and Fathers all pressed to the glass (the ones that could bear to watch) trying desperately not to look overly concerned while biting their tongues raw…many my friends and easily some of the best people I know, and I know we’re all in this together.

My middle son plays hockey.  Try-outs are a part of the process. No different from many other sports and activities, dance, soccer, football, voice or theatre…to make the cut you have to shine and you have to be judged.  And as a parent, seeing my child judged is one of the most difficult things I do.  I want to run over to those clip-board wielding people whom I try to avoid even eye contact with and explain to them his heart.   I want them to know that the effort he puts forth is beyond anything I’ve ever seen…certainly beyond what I’ve ever managed to do.  For me it was always easy.  If I wanted to do something, I tried out and I made the team or got the part.  If I wanted an “A” I got an A.  I never really had to try.  These “try-outs”, twenty odd years ago, were a formality.  A step I had to take, not a hurdle to leap.  I learned that lesson, that not everything is easy, much later.  I suppose in many ways too much later. I learned it the hard way.  In various areas of my life as of late I’ve not been able to get to my desired goal.  This is new to me and I’m not very good at dealing with it.  I need to refocus and regroup but I’ve been so focused on the fact that something didn’t work for me that I was at a stand-still.  I was being judged by life in general and my scores sucked.  I never learned the lessons my children know so well…and it dawned on me that it was about damn time I started figuring it out.

It is that knowledge, that this is indeed something he and they will have to know and have to face throughout their lives that makes the whole process of watching my little boy be evaluated a bit easier to take.  I know that regardless of how he does or where he lands that he will have pride in knowing he gave it his all to get there.  I know no matter what team he makes that he will approach the season and the next year’s try-outs with renewed determination to be better…to try even harder still. 

Some people have told me that I’m putting undue pressure on my children in encouraging them to be their best or in allowing them to participate in such competitive sports.  I disagree.  There are a myriad of reasons that I feel make these activities not only good but necessary.  The friendships, the self-confidence, the academic effects, the character and the kindness, he is as concerned with how his friends are faring through these evaluations as he is with himself.  He is thrilled when one moves up and feels terrible if someone is brought down.  The bonds these boys are forming are without question a good thing.  When it comes to the encouragement my husband and I give to do well, I believe I am doing them a disservice as a parent to not encourage them to strive to reach the height of what is possible and to attempt even when success is a reach as opposed to the given outcome.  I know  that when they excel it will mean more and instill greater confidence because it was hard, not despite it.  I am endeavoring to raise the type of children our world will need in the generations to come.  The ones that never quit.  The ones that know excellence is an obligation, not a decision.  The future that will understand that each effort doesn’t deliver the desired results and that there will always be someone better and sometimes that just doesn’t matter. 

Last night, watching him strip off that pinny soaked in sweat and effort, I felt ashamed.  I’d been wallowing in the pity and the excuses of not hitting my mark.  Meanwhile, this little bundle of sheer will who should have been exhausted was busy explaining what he could correct for his next skate, bound and determined to try even harder the next round.  I helped make him that way and now the teacher has become the student.  In helping them become these people, they’re teaching me to do it, too.  I’m getting better.  I may not have hit my goal this time around, but I’m laser focused on making sure that it doesn’t happen again.