To All the MOMS (Magnificient Other Maternals)

Okay…please excuse the title. I didn’t have time to finesse it. But I couldn’t let that prevent me from writing today. Today, a day that hasn’t always been a favorite day of mine. But almost 27 years after my mother died it’s sinking in (yeah, not always quick on the uptake) that there is still much beauty in the world, that you find a way to move forward-even if you have to go backward first, and that there are so many people to connect with.

Mom encouraged us to see the beauty in all things and all people. In the current landscape of society that’s quite a challenge. However, about a month ago I sat in the car waiting in the school parking lot for my kids to come out. As raindrops began covering my windshield I began to grumble because that meant I’d need another car wash, I’d have to roll the widows up, the kids didn’t have rain jackets, the dog would trounce around in the soggy mess of a yard, and where was my umbrella!!!!! And then out of the corner of my eye I saw this little girl from the Kindergarten class, standing next to her car. Her mother was rushing to get her younger sibling in the car, but she just stood there. Head tilted back a bit and squinting between the raindrops. And that grin. She grinned as if she ha just been told the best secret ever. She was relishing in the beauty of the simple moment. The beauty is there. Sometimes you just have to look very hard. Maybe with bifocals. And wait. A long time. Until it rains maybe.

Difficult relationships, stale careers, and the death of someone you love sucks (no need to get fancy with words). Some will tell you to just “move on”. Worst advice ever. Why? Because if you could just move on-you would!!! Don’t beat yourself up. But yeah…do take chances. You may fail, but thinking you won’t is vain and honestly unrealistic. I fell at my front door. Not kidding. Opened the door, then fell (very simple formula). I’ve been opening doors for a long time, but that day I fell. As I lay on the top step I kept thinking, Man, I fell! And now I gotta get up! And that’s what I did.  I got up.  I’ve opened doors for many years but that day I couldn’t do it without falling.  Got a few bruises and great fodder for laughter. *Update…I resume writing this after a brief incident.  My youngest son was bringing me breakfast in bed and the fork dropped off the plate and got stuck in his foot! His foot is fine. So yeah about moving forward.  It’s attainable.  Sometimes with reflection, patience, and faith.  Other times a band aid will do the trick.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  No one, not a single person can take the place of my mother  Not even a close second.  But as I have gotten older (or rather more “mature”) I value relationships differently. From those who have known me long enough to have enough dirt to secure I will never have a career in politics, to the newbies who have yet to discover my incessant love of all things chocolate and cowgirl boots.  I’m talking from high school to college-neighbors, coworkers,family, and strangers (are you really surprised I talk to strangers?). You have helped me see the  wealth of beauty in this world. You’ve been there to help me move on (if even at a snail’s pace and sometimes stumbling). And whether it’s dogs, careers, kids, or chocolate, we find a way to connect.  I appreciate you.  Carry on all you MOMS (Magnificent Other Maternals)! I appreciate you.

 

 

Final Mic Check

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IMG_2245IMG_2247So today will be my final air shift. 19 years ago I started my career in broadcasting and have remained at the same station that entire time (that is almost a miracle). I used to joke that they wouldn’t can me because I’d bawl like a baby all the way out the door. Ironically, it’s my choice to step away and I’ve been bawling for days now, knowing the end was near.

But man what an amazing career. I traveled twice to Catalina Island (I know nothing about a “borrowed without permission” golf cart). I got to do stage intros for countless artists (why was Kenny G’s stage manager dude so rude?). I did countless broadcasts from Jazz in the Park (I don’t care what the dentist says about popcorn, I sure hope Doug the Kettle Corn guy is still there). I racked up more t-shirts and CD’s than I know what to do with-not kidding-any takers? I got to go to work in virtually the most fashionless but comfortable clothing ever made. Endorsements, free Summerfest tickets and goodie bags from local businesses were always welcome.

And I learned alot. I learned that you can spill liquid on the board and it may or may not still work. Speaking of the board…I learned that there are lots of buttons to press and after a decade of pressing them, you’ll still occasionally hit the wrong one. I learned that a truly talented jock can use the bathroom in less than 60 seconds. This does not make for a patient potty trainer, “C’mon, c’mon…get it going! We only have 30 seconds left.” I learned that dead air makes everyone in the building run toward the studio (some faster than others). I learned that the Wauwatosa Police Dept. will only be slightly impressed with your on air abilities…just enough to maybe let you out of a ticket. I learned that people who work in radio are connected-to the music, to the community, and to fellow radio peeps. We “get” each other. And I have learned that despite our many differences, opinions, and preferences, radio  (if only for a short time) can bring a common bond between people.

I was a single lady (shout out to Beyonce) when I started my career in radio. With one dog. Since then I got married (shout out to my husband, Charles), got another dog, several homes, and two kids ( yeah another two shouts out to my husband). I’m not even sure we had email back then. I do know my cell phone was huge (but my bill was a fraction of what it is today).

I’d like to say I loved every minute of it. But receiving Amber Alerts is always awful. Sharing information about an impending storm or someone who has died can be difficult. I can’t even describe the numbness 911 put over all of us. But that’s part of the job. And I have been privileged to have that job for so long.

Why leave? Because things are going well. Huh? So, for me it’s like staying too long at the party. You know-when the buzz you had going wears off, the dip has that been-out too-long look (artichoke dip takes a dive after two hours), and there are only crumbs-not whole chips-left. You spilled sauce on your shirt and your hair looks like you need to either run a brush through it or use a half a can of hairspray on it. Plates are piled up and the trash bags are full. I never wanted to leave when things were messy. I have always known I wanted to leave while my relationships were in tact and I could hold my head high. It’s kinda like the longer I stay, the harder it will be for me to go.

So I will go. And as I do, I want to say thanks to our clients for trusting us to promote your business. Thank you to my coworkers who had to put up with my quirky habits and constant hunt for chocolate (wait…is there more? Seriously, is there?) Most of all thank you for listening. Maybe you won a prize during my show (I know-IMG_0154 IMG_0159you want that trip-I get it). Or perhaps I played a song for you or your office mates. I hope I made you smile or laugh or gave you a momentary diversion from your day’s stresses.

Keep calm, and please keep listening.

Yes, You’re Going to School…on King Day

My Dear Sons

Yes, I know that for the first time in your elementary school history you will be going to school. On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I’ll admit, at first I was not pleased. How could school be in session on such an significant day? I was tempted to keep you home. Then I thought about it it (and I am not a big thinker of late).

You’re going to school. And when you go, you’ll see people riding the bus. And they can sit wherever they please…unless someone just happens to be in their favorite seat because they got there first. See..this is why I say get up early.

Daddy will drive you. In a car that he bought because he has a job. A job teaching. And he teaches…wait for a it…children of all backgrounds. Imagine that.

When daddy drops you off you will walk freely up the school steps. You won’t need an armed police escort to see you through the front door. There will not be a line of racist people shouting insults so nasty you’ll wonder if the trek into the building is really worth it. No. You will likely bolt out of the car in effort to beat your brother to the entrance. (Please be careful of the little kids and the ice okay?).

When you get to school you will see kids of practically every hue there is. Black kids, Asian children, Hispanic kids, White kids and there’s a few I don’t know what the heck they are. And you and your brother won’t have to go to separate classrooms than your white friends. That thing in the hall where you get water? You’re free to use that to. Bathrooms too.

While you’re in school in that one class you may not like so much and you begin to daydream, think of others who fought hard. I’m talking damn hard, for you to be in that one class you might not like so much. Think of your Grandfather Endom. You know the group photo of the men in uniform in the dining room? The one with the lone man of color (with that beautiful smile, like a young Denzel). Think about how he, and countless others fought for the freedoms of many. Think about that because of where he lived he could not vote when he turned 18. You’ll be 18 in a few years. Think of how your Grandmother was the first Black female pharmacist in this state. Think about all of that, and then think about what you can contribute and what you wanna be when you grow up. And pay attention too, okay? Even in the class you don’t like so much.

Daddy and I will be home. Yes, the same home in which I recently found out had a a clause in the deed when we bought it stating that it could not be sold to any Black person. Ha…makes me wanna stay here forever…even with that kitchen I dislike so much. Yup. We will be home in the house we were able to get a mortgage for without regard to our race. And the same house that when we bought it, the neighbors didn’t all decide to sell their homes.

A day off? C’mon…the weekend is only 5 days away.King day

Why I Love My Kids’ Dad

 

 

guys

There isn’t just one reason I love my husband. There’s a gazillion. And since a gazillion s too many to write, I’ll list my faves which include that fact that he:

 

  • wasn’t too proud to cry at the birth of our sons
  • bought me all the chilly cheese dogs I wanted when I was pregnant
  • easily spent over 1000 hours rocking our oldest to sleep…while standing
  • stays strong when two sets of sweet brown eyes beg for more sugar
  • lets me borrow his good black socks…you know the ones that aren’t gray yet
  • tells me I’m beautiful
  • reminds our boys the rich heritage they come from
  • never says my butt looks big in my jeans…or out of them
  • plays catch with the boys even when he’s tired
  • gives the best foot rubs
  • buys the boys ice cream even when he first said no
  • doesn’t think I’m weird for my love of cowgirl boots
  • knows how to feed my love of chocolate
  • will lay down the law when the kids mess up
  • often busts out laughing while trying to lay down that law
  • makes daily life a science project for the kids
  • makes no qualms about his place on the couch
  • tells the kids to marry someone like their mom
  • demands the boys to finish what they start
  • doesn’t charge for his pedicure services
  • cleans the basement…well, one day

Happy Mother’s Day

This is my Mommie

I figured I’d post a photo of my Mom too…just like 75% of the other cool kids on FB.  One problem…I couldn’t find one.  Brief panic set in as I headed to the attic twice to find one.  Not wanting to feel any more motherless than necessary, I had to find one.  Alas…thanks to a rusty trunk that looks like it was made circa 1810 I found it.  It was there in the album my mom had made just for me after she became ill. How about a collective F you to cancer?  Thanks.

She’s been gone twenty-five years. That’s a quarter of 100 (and I suck at math). Mother’s day was the last day she was able to speak. S­­­he died 3 days later. And after that I used to count the days from her death. Then the weeks.  And months.  I stopped doing that a few years ago when the years without her outnumbered the days I had with her.  That, and again the fact that I suck at math. 

Then a few weeks ago my oldest son asked, “Do you have any pictures of her?  Of  Grandma?  You don’t really talk about her much.” Oh boy.  For years I would just give them a quick, easy answer. “She was really nice and she would absolutely love you.” That answer wasn’t cuttin’ it anymore.  I could sense he wasn’t going for the short version. 

But in talking about her I might be emotionally inconvenienced. I would have to explain that she wanted to stay, but she couldn’t, at one point looking me straight in the face and explaining there was nothing left the doctors cold do.  Man, I wish she would have lied. 

 Or do I tell them about all she missed? My college graduation. My first job. My wedding.  My husband.  And the biggest of all…my boys.

 Then I realize she didn’t miss a thing.  I missed her.   My mother raised me better than that. Good comes from bad.  And someone always has it worse.

 She told me the important life lessons.  About marriage…you have to be unselfish because your spouse will change. You have to make a decision whether or not to accept that change. I should mention at this point that my husband and I both are youngest kids.  Stubbornness abounds.

 About kids. You’re going to get upset with them but you need to make sure you calm down when you discipline them because you don’t want to punish them out of anger. Even if they call their brother a butthead? 

Treat others they way you want to be treated. Yes, even if they really are buttheads. 

Career?  She thought maybe I could do something where I could write or talk. Mother really does know best.

 The good so outweighs the bad.  So I thought of what I loved, liked, and missed the most about my mom.

I remember she always smelled good.  Not in a perfumey way, although there was a brief Jean Nate phase. But she smelled sweet.  Really.  Like honey. I took comfort in laying my head on her shoulder or lap just to take in that good mom scent.

 Hands down the best bread baker in the neighbor hood.  I know my crew from the old neighborhood will back me up on this.  Some of them got Twinkies but my mom made bread and cookies from scratch.  My baking skills pale in comparison.  Okay, there is no comparison.  

She saw beauty in anything and everything. A tree wasn’t just a tree.  It was a rich, strong figure extending its branches leading to something else.  Yes, this is why I stop and look hard at trees. Really hard.

 She was the happiest when she was painting.  I mean the kind of happy that when you and your best friend wanted to stay out late and she was painting, she would nod her head and say. “Okay sweetie, have fun.” All while keeping a steady eye on the canvas.

 And she was nervous about lots of stuff .Yes, boys take note I am not the only one that says you can’t be letting just anyone walk in your house. Or that gloves need to be worn in the winter even if it’s for a 3 second walk to the car.

 She wrote notes. Lots of them.  Found one in her golf bags a few years ago.  In her final days she wrote notes to remember things she wanted to talk with God about.  Kinda wish I could have gotten something on that list too.  And this may be where my love of post-it notes derives from.

 When she saw you off she would wave.  She would stand there until you were out of sight.  I know because I looked back. I often wondered how long she stood there.

 She didn’t believe in waste or care about being fancy.  The good fluffy bathroom towels and the real butter (who invented margarine?) only came out when company came. Oh how I longed for more visitors.

 She was grounded in her faith and believed in attending church as close to every Sunday as possible. That determination was quite possibly the only advantage of growing up in a family that believes camping hundreds of miles from civilization was fun.  There are no churches in national forests.

 She was really good to others and put them first. I’m the youngest…still working on it.

 She understood hard work.  She picked cotton as a kid.  She mothered six children.  The thought of both of those scenarios amazes and frightens me at the same time. 

So boys, the short answer is she was really nice and she would have really loved you.  The long answer unfolds every day in the beauty around us in caring for others in relishing every moment with those we love.

Mom, thank you seems so minimal for all you taught, gave and sacrificed for me. I would give anything to see you give me that close-to-forever wave.  At least now if I do turn to look back, I know that somehow you are waving back.  I may not see you, but your presence surrounds me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Me. It’s You.

I can barley remember a time that I didn’t know you.  And even though you’re an important part of my life, I have to wonder if it’s not best to part ways.

I thought supporting you would be good for me.  But let’s face it, I’m not the only woman you’re involved with. I get the attraction.  Brown­ and sweet.  But lately when you’re around I think I am too into you.  Do you feel the same about me?  Likely not.  I want to believe that you still stand for the greater good. On the other hand, I am beginning to wonder if you are good for me.  I have become selfish in your presence. I don’t want to share you with the kid­s. And of course not with other women. 

 I didn’t want this to be public, but I realized that many others are aware of this situation already.  Plus, they probably notice the change in me; one minute I am excited to see you then next-not so much.  When others question me, I tend to downplay your impact on me.  As if the weight gain isn’t a big enough clue. 

Maybe it is time for a break. Just for awhile.  We could try a year.  It’s not me.  It’s you. Yes, Thin Mints, it’s you.  So until this time next year we may need to take a break.  By then I may be able to work off the ten pounds you helped me gain.  By then I’ll have more money to spend on you.  By then I’ll have that warm fuzzy feeling you gave me the first time we met.  Don’t worry.  I’ll explain it to the kids, and the milk and I will be fine. 

 Take care.

thin mint photo 

*The above was for satirical purposes only.  In no way, shape, or form would I suggest I, or you, not support buying gobs of the best cookies, from thousands of tomorrow’s female leaders.  Get your own box-or fifty. If you’re in Wisconsin here is the website so you can learn more. http://www.gswise.org/Home.aspx

 

 

What’s Not to Love?

Happy BirthdayOkay, so this is where I wonder where the time has gone.  I reminisce  about all those milestones in your life and bore you with the story of your birth….”It was really cold….I was in so much pain..we thought the car was going to get stuck…I asked for beer at the hospital….”  And then I freak out realizing that today you hit double digits!  And sadly it may be I’m not ready for this.

But just for now, let’s just have time stand still.  Just long enough to relish the last bits of little boyhood.  I love the fact that on your shelf is a stuffed elephant that plays the most annoying but wonderful song. That you still have Hot Wheels on your shelf mixed in with flaslights, used gift cards, and game chips.  I love (sort of) that your closet smells a bit like Cheetos and vinegar.  I love that you still wear pajama sets.  I love how you ask complex questions (although I can’t answer most of them), yet are fine with the simple things in life.  I love how you thought it would be cool to be a police officer because you could speed. And how in third grade you and your friends decided you were gonna buy a island (and not tell me the password).

Many nights as I lean in to say goodnight I remind you to love people, and to let people love you back. That is my wish for you every day.  For you my son are very, very lovable.

There aren’t really Cheetos in your closet are there? Okay.  Okay.  Just checking.

 

 

For Love of Family

opb As a child who was adopted, I so despise the phrase, “Blood is thicker than water.”  So is mud, and they’re both practically impossible to get out of  clothing (seriously, ask your dry cleaner). So I figured I would just run down a list of things maybe you shouldn’t say when someone is considering adoption.

I WANT ONE OF MY OWN. Hmmmm…let’s see. You gotta feed the kid, provide an education, give the child a name.  Hell, you even get a tax write off.  Your own? Go away selfish person. As an infant I became part of a family who already had five kids (that is crazy, huh?).  I became one of their own.  

WELL, YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’LL GET. Bet you didn’t know you’d get VD from your college boyfriend either did you? C’mon. It’s not like that carnie-type game at the grocery store and Chuck E Cheese.  You know the one with the mechanical arm that either grabs an ipod or the troll doll.  Let me make it simple-you’ll get a child! My parents didn’t care what they got.  But I can assure you that I got a lot….love, tons of friends, a family of brothers that still look out for me (one even said they’d do damage to my husband if he hurt me). Ha…take that you blood-is-thicker-than- water believers!  

BUT IT MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING WRONG WITH IT? It? What the hell is it? Perhaps you mean the child may have something medical concerns. So your logic is that because you are aware of some of your family’s medical crap that if someone adopts a child there will automatically be some horrible the sky is falling type of issue?  Look at your family tree.  Anyone have heart disease? How about cancer? Or mental illness, hypertension, or diabetes?  Kinda blows that whole “biological is better theory” to smithereens, huh?  Okay, so do I have something wrong with me? Yeah.  I have to wear glasses, might have arthritis, and I had ear infections in elementary school.  Yes, hard to handle, right?  All that without knowing my DNA.

BUT THEY WONT LOOK LIKE THE REST OF THE FAMILY. Umm…have you looked at YOUR family?  They’re average at best.  If you adopt a child they may actually make the family look better.  Just sayin’.  True-I don’t look like the rest of my family.  They’re white guys with receding hairlines. I can’t compete.

ADOPTED CHILDREN ARE SPECIAL. No we are not. Biggest lie. Plus that would make non-adopted kids non-special and that could start an East Coast/West Coast rapper kinda sparring. I know that type of  thinking is supposed to be a compliment to make adopted kids feel better about the whole being “given up” thing.  First of all, don’t assume that adopted kids are walking around pouty-faced and feeling bad.  Secondly, all babies come from the same place.  A woman’s body!!!  Special would be the stork delivery.  That would be very special.  However, I do kinda  feel special, but that’s because I had such a wonderful circle of love. 

WHAT DO WE TELL OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT THE CHILD? I dunno.  Maybe the same lookwahtmykidcandoohmygoshtheyaresoamazing junk other people talk about.  If you don’t go around saying stuff like, “That’s my trampy one” or “She’s my kid who’s headed for juvi”, then you sure as heck better not say, “That’s our adopted child.”  And what have people said about me being adopted? Hear crickets chirping?  Okay, moment of truth.  My family is white.  I am not (can we get a collective gasp here?). (First person to say “Hey, just like that show, Different Strokes gets verbally assaulted.) So, I kinda figured it out early on what was going on and so have most people.  I like to joke that, “Papa was a rollin’ stone.”  Okay, maybe not everyone thinks that one is funny.  But no one has lost a job over it or become ill upon hearing it.  Nothing to see here folks…keep it moving.

BUT WON’T AN ADOPTED CHILD BE CURIOUS ABOUT WHO THEIR BIOLOGICAL PARENTS ARE? Yes but I’m also curious about sex (well I used to be), and what makes snow, and why the word colonel is pronounced like there is an “r” in it.  Yes, children who are adopted are curious, but we make shit up if we have to.  I decided that Diane Carroll gave me up because her acting career wouldn’t allow her to give fully to me. But mainly, I’m thankful.  Thankful for the family I do have.  I know that I am loved.  

To Mothers and beyond

So last year I mentioned how this day should include lots of people.  Not just people with children and not only our own mothers.  Because I think nurturing and connecting happens on so many levels. People that care mother Earth, for animals, and other people’s kids.  All of it.

But today is a day that I’m always tempted to feel sorry for myself. It marks 24 years since the last time I spoke with my mother.  Three days after Mother’s Day she died.  Let the pity party begin. The corsages, the special brunches, the family gatherings used to make me wanna puke. If you had a mom “F” you.  If you were happy, who cares?

But somewhere within my soul is the notion my mom spent most of the years she was here instilling in me-being grateful for what you have.  Sounds easy, but college graduations, weddings, and the birth of children are very important occasions.  Moms should be there, right? The reality is the fact that I graduated from college is nothing short of a miracle.  Somehow an incredible man actually asked me to marry him!  Icing on the cake?  I somehow managed to bring two healthy little boys into the world. Yep…be grateful for what ya got!  Even if it doesn’t happen according to your plan.

Yes. I think it is great we pay homage to our mothers.  I really do.  Frankly, we should do it every day. I’m not gonna turn away mushy cards, boxes of chocolates, and breakfast in bed. But in my life there are a ton of people who deserve much gratitude.  It makes no difference that they are not family. And don’t tell me, “Blood is thicker than water.”  Adopted children take exception to that.  Mud is thicker than water too and do you know what that crap does to dress shoes, sink drains, and carpet?

Trust me, I wish my mother were here with me more than I can put into words.  But I like to think she played a hand at making sure so many other people were here to pitch in.  So I salute you all.  For being like a mom, a sister, and a friend-thank you!

Now get your corsage on and hurry to brunch before the all the free champagne is gone!

 

The Morning After

207800-250I waited as long as I could to shower. And goodness knows I needed a good soaking. I still had layers of camera-ready makeup caked on.  And despite half a dozen applications of antiperspirant, the stage lights and my nerves had created the perfect condition for sweat. I was ripe.

Although I looked a mess and it was time to get back to normal, things were moving (or at least I was) in slow motion. It  was sort of like the day after prom.  Or New Year’s Day.  Without the hangover part. Our Listen to Your Mother event was still so fresh in my mind I didn’t want to move.  Not even for a shower.  I feared the memories along with the makeup and the day old sweat would fade. 

I didn’t want to forget the blue bracelet the Lisa so selflessly gave me. It was similar to the blue of Alec’s shirt. Or Bonnie saying something comical during our group shot. And the last minute nod that Alexandra gave, reassuring us we’d be great and really wouldn’t fall apart on stage. Posing in the mirror and nearly peeing in my dress seeing Rachel scrunch up her face. How Lindsay got excited seeing her husband enter the theater lobby. Afterward, Darlin Nikki telling me her father had tears in his eyes after hearing her story. Pamela’s curls. Kathryn explaining why she loved the color red. Seeing Tara’s mother, so youthful herself and so proud of her daughter.  Asking Liysa more than a few times when we had to be ready for photos. Rochelle giving me a look that always makes me want to burst out laughing.  All the colors of Rebecca’s tattoo. Feeling Amie walk past on stage, knowing she made it through her story as we all cried. Kalia…looking so grown with a smile that was reminiscent of her grandmother’s. Strangers saying what a wonderful job we all did.  Friends hugging and congratulating us. The sound of peanuts winding down the chutes at AJ Bombers. The goodbye hugs and promises of future gatherings.

 Reluctantly, I made my way to the shower, still foolishly thinking that as the dirt disappeared so too would all of those gestures, words, sights and sounds.   Then I heard a familiar cackle in my mind. It was Jennifer’s laugh.  That’s when I knew those memories, our stories-our connections weren’t going anywhere. It’s also when I knew I was way overdue for that shower.