Keep saying thank you

Mom and the boys

About three years ago, Max told me, “I haven’t been working out at all. The only time I run any more is in P.E. My mile time has gotten slower and slower.”

I said, using my most loving mom incentive-y voice, “What will you do if someone is chasing you?”

Max said, “Lie down and give up all hope.” And then he stopped and said, “Or turn and run straight at them, screaming. No one expects that.”

My sons and I have conversations in the car, at the kitchen table,  via text, through the doors of my bathroom. Most of the time I am trying really hard to be a good mom without losing my shit and also conveying to them that I love them more than anything in the entire world but without being a helicopter or a tiger or whatever it is kind of mom. It’s freaking difficult. Every day I hear a woman say something about a man being a jerk or an asshole or uncommunicative. And here I am raising two young men as a divorced middle aged mom. I’ve got to make a difference. No pressure.

Like Max, my mile time has gotten slower and slower. I feel, often, like lying down and giving up all hope. Then last week my 83 year old mother had to move out here from Colorado to California to live with us and there was no way I could let her drive her 2005 Subaru and her 75 pound dog Lilo out here alone.

And my sons, my amazing sons, volunteered to fly out to Denver and drive back with her. Not only did they drive her back, they got her from Denver to Sonoma County in a day and a half. My mother said to me, “I am so impressed with Shane. He got behind the wheel and said, ‘Let’s go,’ and off we went.” Shane and Max took turns driving through Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. They stopped one night at a motel and a few times to eat. My mother said to me, “Your sons say thank you to everyone. They even said thank you to the person cleaning the floors at the McDonald’s.” My kids just said, “It was a great adventure.” Oh – and Shane said, “Mom, we didn’t get tailgated once until we got into California.”

Today I took my mom to Safeway to grocery shop. As we were leaving, she said to me, “I said thank you to the grocery clerk who handed me a bag. Your sons made me remember that because they say thank you to everyone. It really does make a difference.” I guess I forgot how often I said thank you to my sons, maybe that helped a little. I say thank you for calling me. Thank you, for doing your laundry, for cleaning your room. Thank you for remembering to call a family member on their birthday. Thank you for doing such a good job in school. Thank you for doing your best. Thank you, I appreciate you. Thank you, I love you. And I say to myself, I will remember to say thank you more often, too.

On the days when I feel like I want to lie down and give up, when I feel overwhelmed, something always happens to make me remember that it’s all worth it. And I take a deep breath and turn around and run screaming and laughing right back at life. No one ever expects that. Thank you. Keep saying thank you. It matters. Namaste.

Who you really are


Right before I became pregnant with Shane in 1997, I was struggling with my weight and my self-confidence. Again. Like many women, I had this image in my head of what I should look like. Because I didn’t look like an airbrushed supermodel. No one did. Not even the supermodel.

So obviously, every time I looked in the mirror the image in my head and the image in the mirror did not match. Then I got pregnant and I couldn’t follow my typical crazed exercise bulimic ritual. So I planned for After The Baby. I bought a 13” television-VHS combo and a post-pregnancy yoga video. The plan was that while the baby slept, I would do the yoga video and lose the pregnancy weight. Like all pre-baby plans, the VHS-yoga-weight-loss plan went in a completely different direction.

Because the baby didn’t sleep. So I never used the VHS player for the post-baby yoga video. My baby Shane was colicky and did not sleep more than two hours at a stretch. As it turns out, the only thing that would occupy him during these bouts of colicky crankiness were 1980’s movie videos. I would bring him into bed with me while he fussed and wiggled and I would put a movie into the VHS player.  And I would pass out. I’d wake up hours later, the movie would have rewound and restarted, and Shane would be sitting up at the end of the bed in his onesie, focused on the movie, swaying back and forth as he watched the movie.

Fast forward 19 years. We’re at the dinner table. It’s me, Shane, Max, and Shane’s friend. We’re discussing Shane’s imminent move to Oregon and what he will take with him. Max said, “You’re taking the VHS TV to Oregon, right?” Shane said, “If I could only take one thing with me, that would be it.” His friend says, “This is so cool. I don’t remember the last time my family sat down for a home-made dinner and just talked.” First, I have finally begun to enjoy cooking and food. Because life is short and you shouldn’t freaking deprive yourself. That evening, I had cooked a good meal, I’m just going to say. And second, we explained in that dinner conversation that the VHS-television player had been given to Shane, who kept it and valued it above the other electronics and technology he acquired in the 19 years of his life.

I have a B.A. in Psychology: in the books and studies I read towards that degree I learned that there’s been a long-standing dispute about whether an individual’s mental health is determined by genetics or environment. In my Shane’s case, I’d say environment was predominant, largely due to the movies of his infant years. He has the 1980’s VHS movies from his early years memorized. He can recite The Breakfast Club from heart, start to finish. And when I want someone to watch Better Off Dead with, I can count on my eldest son to sit through it, again, with me.

For his high school yearbook dedication, his brother and I wrote this, from his favorite movie:

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. And you see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

and an athlete…

and a basket case…

a princess…

and a criminal…

Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

My Shane moves to Oregon next week, to study film and video. He’s taking the 20 year old VHS-television. He is a unique, athletic, kind, rebellious, audacious, human being. And I could not be prouder of my kid who defies definition in the simplest terms. I will miss the hell out of him.

For the record, despite never doing the VHS yoga video, I lost the “baby weight.” I didn’t lose weight because of the VHS-television and the video I bought. I lost weight many, many years later. I lost weight when I let go of the bullshit reasons that anyone else put on me to lose weight. And it wasn’t the baby weight or the divorce weight or the stress weight or however else we define it. I lost the weight of expectations and definitions. I lost the weight of what I thought I should be as a wife, mother, daughter, woman, friend, lawyer. Those are the simplest, most convenient definitions.  But that doesn’t really define who I am. Or who any of us are. When we let go of the weight of unrealistic expectations, we gain this airy freedom of who we really are. Like anything else, weight is how we define it. I’m free. It doesn’t matter how much I f*cking weigh.

The world is an imperfect place. Screws fall out all the time. (The Breakfast Club.) But imperfections are just another convenient definition. In fact, imperfections define our uniqueness. Look in the mirror. Check out that imperfect, beautiful, audacious, rebellious, kind, heartfelt, badass, free, human being. And be proud of yourself.