Be a Jedi

One particularly gray day in October of last year, I came home to pick my mom up for her radiation therapy because her usual home health care provider kept forgetting her appointments. And my mom called me and said, “My helper is not here and I’m going to be late.” I raced out of work and drove home to get her. As it turned out the appointment was for a different time. When I found out, I was frustrated and tired and my mom started crying and it was the worst thing ever because she had not cried, not once, not even when the first oncologist we saw said to her, “I think if you want to travel you should do it now because I don’t know if you will be here next year.” I hugged her and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m mad at the situation not you, mama.” I took her to the appointment at the oncology center later. And while my mom was getting her treatment, two cancer patients began sobbing hysterically in the waiting room. I’ve sat in several cancer waiting rooms. There should be a much better design for them. A much, much better design.

I’d given Max my old lap top computer but it kept freezing so I took it to the Apple store in the mall. So after I took my mom back home from her doctor visit, I picked it up. As I was leaving the parking garage, the exit gate kept getting stuck. I was several cars back in a very frustrated line of people trying to get out and home. For some reason I remembered a date I’d had with a man I really liked the year before. We had parked at the mall and he’d gotten stuck exiting, too. He had jumped out of his truck and ran back to my car to kiss me before the gate opened and he drove away. Three months in, he met someone else and as far as I know, they’re doing well. Anyway, I finally made it out of the exit gate and drove away.

When I got home, I told Max I wanted to go for a walk and he said, “I’ll go with you, Mom.” And we started walking. I began telling him the frustrated story of my day and he said, “Hey, Mom. Let’s slow down. We’re just taking a walk right now.”  I said to him, “Max, I’m a little frustrated tonight. I’m just thinking about how sometimes people get their power through anger and guilt. They use that to manipulate others to get what they want. And honestly, I did that too. But it doesn’t feel good. I’d rather feel empowered by asking for what I want with love and respect.” And Max said, “Well, you get the same result. But with the first, you get a result with hate. And the second, with love. It just depends on whether you want to go to the Dark Side and be a Sith Lord. Or whether you want to be a Jedi.” I said, “I love you, Max.” He said, “I love you, too, Mom. And I think you should be a Jedi.”

Today, finally, we got the insurance approval on the estimate for the cleanup from the smoke damage to our home from the Kincade Fire. One of the contractors texted me in the middle of a hectic work day to schedule the cleanup of the “contents” of our home. Bedding, linen, clothing. When I finally got home, I walked into Max’s room and told him that we had to clean up his room for the contractors. He said, “I don’t want them to clean my room. There’s no smoke damage here.” (These are not the droids you’re looking for.) In typical Max and Mom fashion, we fought about it for about 10 minutes. Max went for a run. I texted my friends and ate chocolate and talked to my dog. And then, I realized this. Max could clean his room up. And it could be sanitized from the smoke and the past. Or I could just let it go. Because he’s leaving for college so very soon. And when he does, I will be furious when I have to clean up all the shit he leaves behind. But I will also be grateful to go through the reminders of every one of the 17 years that he spent here, even if they do smell like smoke. Fuck it. I cancelled the “contents” cleanup.

I went in and apologized to him and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know why there’s a need to have anything taken away. I got it straightened out with the contractor and they’ll just come here and clean the house.” I said, “I guess I was a bad Jedi today. I don’t think I was a Sith Lord.” Max said, “Mom, it’s okay. Even Jedis have bad days.”

Tonight, I went for a walk under the full moon shining down over the familiar blocks of the neighborhood I have lived in for 15 years now. Fifteen years ago, I thought I was moving into the white picket fence of the rest of my life. It turns out I was being tested for the armor and the saber. You will arrive where you are meant to be, I do believe that. It may take some days of loss and being stuck and heartbreak and fire and smoke damage and fighting with your kids. The important thing is, if you’re going to stay in the fight, do it as a Jedi. Use the force of love.

Be a Unicorn

I started this poem in 2016, right after my divorce. I finished it last month. I call it “Divorce.”

Lonely tastes like dust

Bitter steel

Turning into rust.

Lonely is the sound of pain

Glass shattering

Blood stain.

Empty is a cold embrace

Fake lover

Taking space.

Empty screams like a siren

Chasing dreams of love away

Don’t come back again.

Alone says courage, my dear.

All of this will pass.

And you

Will still be here.

This year, I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas relatively unscathed. I made it through my Max turning 18 and my Shane turning 21. Even though my kids are now adults, it’s pretty clear I will never stop momming them. It just means being a mom moves to another more complex and a more expensive level. Next week is New Year’s Eve and I’ll make it through that as well. I’m very happy to say “peace out” to 2019. It’s been an action-packed year. I’ve said goodbye to expired relationships, appliances, and too many sweet friends, gone too soon. I’m ready to say hello to 2020.

It’s been five years since the Wasband and I split. When we were getting divorced, some of my friends told me I would “have no problem” meeting someone else to be with but guess what. As it turns out, that wasn’t true. And also, being with someone else is not the remedy to a divorce. Or to anything, really. I’ve learned that it’s important to be happy and fulfilled alone. You can’t be mean enough to yourself to effect real lasting change in your life. You can only do that by accepting and loving yourself. I’m getting there. It’s a journey, not a destination.

Tonight, for Christmas/Hanukkah, my mom gave me the awesome gift of a stuffed unicorn named Cinnamon. Tonight, I am happy to chill with the unicorn Cinnamon Girl, a glass of good Pinot Noir, and write a little bit. Alone. Tonight, I’m proud of myself for being courageous in the face of feeling lonely and empty. I’m still here. And I’m pretty damn happy.

I hope that if you feel empty or lonely you can believe me when I say those feelings are just reflections of thoughts you labeled yourself with and you can kick their ass in the journey to being the best version of yourself, alone. To the brave, badass, beautiful you who doesn’t give a f*k what anyone else thinks or expects of you. I think you should be proud of yourself for how far you have come. Because you’re amazing. You’re a damn unicorn.

Go where the love is

When Max was in Cub Scouts, he was working on the requirements for one of his badges. We were going down the checklist. “Max, do you know where we keep the emergency telephone numbers?” “Yes, they’re on the refrigerator,” he said. “Good,” I said. Check. We kept going down the list. First aid kit, care of bleeding, choking, etc. He assured me he knew it all. I said, “Max, do you know if you have an escape plan for the house?” He said, “You mean if there’s ever an earthquake?” I said, “Yes, or a fire.” He said, “Yes. I’d get the hell out of there.” Check.

On October 26, 2019, we were evacuated from our home as the Kincade Fire burned to the north of us.  We had been packed and ready since the Tubbs Fire in October 2017. But as the high-lo sirens blared and the police drove through our neighborhood announcing, “This is a mandatory evacuation,” I began to panic. My Max said to me, “Mom. Stop. Breathe. It’s okay. We are going to be okay.” I packed myself, my mom, and two dogs, Tommy and Lilo, into my car. Max took our other dog, Atticus, and all the musical instruments he could cram into his car. And we headed to my dear friend’s home*, south, away from the fire.

The next day we watched the videos and television footage of the fire burning towards our home. We watched as fire engines drove up and down the streets of our neighborhood. We watched as firefighters and first responders set up their command center in the county park half a mile from our house. We watched as firefighters fought flames back in the backyards of our neighbors and friends. I started crying. And Max said, “Enough, Mom. You’re done watching this.” He closed my laptop. And he hugged me. And he told me we would be okay, we would start over if we had to. He told me he had saved money and we could use it to begin again. My then-17-year old son who has always been an old soul, became a young man in front of my eyes that week. He took care of our family. And for that, I will always be grateful to him.

We went back home five days after we were evacuated.  

When I look at my sons, I am consistently grateful that I didn’t fuck them up. Or if I did, that at least they made it to adulthood as good human beings. Someone once told me that mothers and sons share cells and that those memories create an innate, intuitive bond between you. I’m sure it’s the same for mothers and daughters. Which, I think, means that by however many degrees of separation and cellular memory, we are all connected. Mothers and fathers and our children. All of us.

When fires burn towards you, get the hell out of there. Go where it’s safe and your tribe will love and take care of you. Know that badass, brave firefighters and first responders will risk their lives for you to come home again. They are part of your tribe, too. Maybe remember to say a prayer that they get to go home to their families.

I hope your holidays are beautiful and bright. I hope you are at home and safe. And if you’re not sure, I think home is anywhere and everywhere love is. So, I think that you should go where the love is.

*Thank you, merci, arigato, Rene, and my beloved tribe, for taking care of us.

Wonderful World

Max and I had an intense conversation one evening five years ago about creationism versus evolution. Max was concerned that there were children who were being taught that the world was created by magic space fairies (I didn’t even know that was a thing) and that science had no part in it. However, he also questioned whether existence was really based on matter or thought. Big stuff for a 12-year-old. As he left my room and headed to bed, he turned to me and said, “Mom, if I walk out of this room and you don’t see me anymore, does that mean I cease to exist?” “No, Max,” I said, “I know for a fact that you exist because I am very sure about where you came from and I am pretty sure it wasn’t magic space fairies.” “Okay,” he said. “Just checking.” Sometimes my kid thinks himself right into and out of a corner.

This past Monday at 6 a.m., I walked in to make sure Max was up and ready for school. His red hair was piled on top of his head, like mine. Both of us were wearing sweatpants and yesterday’s regrets. “C’mon, dude,” I said. “We can do this.” He lifted his head up and groaned. I flipped on his lights and said, “I’ll be back at 6:30 a.m. You HAVE to get up!” Again, he groaned and fell back onto his pillow. I had court and was pulling on my shoes. “MAX, get UP.” At 7:00 a.m., I went back in and said to him, in my best Mother of Doom voice, “MAX you have to get up NOW RIGHT NOW or you are going to be a TRUANT today!” He lifted his head up and opened one eye and said to me, “Mom, I don’t have school this week.” It took a moment to register. Oh, right. Thanksgiving was Thursday. No school. Shit. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll turn these lights off. Get some rest.”

I’ve had so many of those Bad Mom moments. I forgot snack day. I was late for pickups. I didn’t wash uniforms. I didn’t sign homework. I was late and missed the race, the award, the performance. I fought with their dad. I got a divorce. I didn’t save their pets from dying. I didn’t keep their hearts from breaking. I missed the memo and picture day. I begged the yearbook teacher for one more day to include photos. I didn’t check the school calendar and see that this week was a break.

Last night, my sons and my mother and I sat down for Thanksgiving dinner together. I told Max, “Do you remember when your dad used to take the whipped cream and squirt it right into your mouth?” Max said, “Is that what whippits are?” I said, “Close enough.” After about a half hour of eating and listening to classical music, Shane asked me, “Do you have anything more upbeat?” I put on another playlist. My playlist was a compilation of unexpected covers. When Joey Ramone began singing “What a Wonderful World,” I started dancing mosh-pit style behind Max. Shane said, “Mom, did you do whippits tonight?” I said, “NO, but my generation invented the Pogo, Shane. So I’m gonna dance” Then I was breathless from mosh-pit dancing in my kitchen Maybe I did need some shots of Reddi-Whip.

Later that evening, I went out for a walk in a chilly Northern California evening. I walked out the door that I honestly thought I walked out for the final time a month prior, when the Kincade Fire forced my entire town to evacuate. Some of the blocks I walked were so dark I couldn’t see the sidewalk in front of me but I’ve walked there so many times, I didn’t need light. I knew where they started and ended. I’d wondered when I returned from the evacuation. Should I leave? What if the next time fire takes my home? Do I want to risk that heartache? Am I a bad mom for staying – or will I be if I leave?

I returned to my house after my walk and it was warm and cozy. My house still smells like smoke. There may be more fires. And more rain. But this is the house my sons grew up in. Where leaving a room does not mean you disappear. Because you belong here. It’s messy, there’s a lot of pets and laundry and unfiled papers. This house is where my kids are, where there’s a kitchen with a mosh pit, and where you can hear Joey Ramone singing “It’s a Wonderful World.” Yes. This is home.

#donebetter

A few years back, Max called to ask me to bring home pepperoni hot pockets. I said, “How was your day?” He said, “Actually not that great.” “Oh,” I said. “You know, I think you’re starting to go through puberty.” He said, “MOM, I HAVE BEEN GOING through puberty. It’s very stressful.” Oh I understand. Because adulting – same.

A few weeks ago, I texted Max and asked him if he wanted me to get him anything from the grocery store. He texted me back: “Can you get Oreos, milk, cheezits and hot pockets. I need it for my stress eating diet.” I doubled up on that request. Because -well, just – same.

I just bought Max more pepperoni hot pockets and the other stuff on his list. I know. They’re not healthy. But let’s be real. It’s all relative. My boss said to me several times when I was struggling as a first-year attorney. “Perfect is the enemy of done.” What we do – and what my sons do – are with an intent to make this world a better place because we were here. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe if it’s done with love, it’s perfect. I’d like to think so.

There’s a lot of perfectionist notions, great sweeping assumptions, that could give way to done. Or at least to the next step. Like: Getting to the perfect weight. Falling in love with “the One.” Eating organic/vegan/carb free/keto all the time time. All of these perfectionist goals have a silver lining. They can be subject to change, Which means, to get there, wherever you want to be, just means you have to change your mind. That’s the greatest power you have, by the way. To take a step and not judge yourself for it. And to know that the goal is whatever makes you happy, whatever that goal may be.

About a year ago, I had a text conversation with Max:

Me: I’m sorry I yelled at you this morning. I was having a bad morning and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. 
Max: The damage is done. 
Max: Jk. I love you Mom.
Me: I love you and I’ll pay for therapy.
Max: It’s ok. I’ll sell my body to make the money.
Me: Omg.

It is easier to be mad at yourself and admit defeat than to take one step towards a goal. It’s hard to apologize when you’re wrong. It’s hard to let something go from your life and admit it no longer serves you. Both are equally difficult. And equally necessary. You can’t take the next step if you’re stuck in the past.

My kids have never let me off the culpability hook, so whining about change has never been an option. For me or for them. Whether they know it or not, my responsibility to raise good men has been the underpinning to almost all of my major decisions. I am a better person because of this, I think. I may be a better human overall because I’m their mom.

As I write this, I am waiting for my Max to come home from his latest gig so we can finish college applications. As I write this, my Shane and I have come to an agreement about how to take an online class on writing together, which took some serious texting and a few smart-ass (typical) comments. As I write this, I realize I am hungry and I go downstairs and warm up a pepperoni hot pocket. Pretty sure Max will be okay with and understand me eating one of his stress diet staples. Often, as I am sure you do, I get stuck in what I should do versus whether what I am doing is right. And then my sons remind me.

From Max’s tenacity, I am reminded that if you get to a place where you are stuck, you just have to keep going until you are not stuck. From Shane’s steadfast calm and smart-ass humor, I am reminded that wins may be incremental but as our Samurai ancestors knew, incremental courage wins the war. And that is how imperfectly “done” will change the world. Which is really the point. We want this world to be better for our kids. And so I’ll get up tomorrow to be better and to do better. For my kids. And for yours. Keep going.

Current Balance

I set my kids up with checking accounts with debit cards to teach them about finances and how to manage money BEFORE they graduated from high school.  In early 2017, I found myself in the throes of trying to explain bank logic to a 14-year-old including why the bar mitzvah check he had kept in his drawer for a year didn’t count as “savings.”

Yesterday my Shane called me on the way to his bank to ask me if he should start using checks to pay his rent. I began explaining check registers and reconciling check registers to him and that there may be a charge for getting checks from his bank. Finally, he said to me, “Mom, I think I’m just going to get a cashier’s check for this month’s rent.” I said to him, “I think that’s a great idea.”

Today Shane called me and asked me if I could confirm that he had written his first check correctly. He’d decided to go with getting checks. He asked me what the various items on the check register were and we covered how to fill out his check register and how to reconcile his account. He got it all. Perfectly. I said, “You’re doing a lot of adulting today.” He said, “Yeah, I’m not sure I like it.”  I’m damn proud of him. And yes. Adulting sucks.

I never learned in high school how to balance a checking account. In high school I learned how to sew a straight hem and bake muffins (I still cannot do either, thank you). I did not know what a checking account was or that I had to balance it until I got my first job as a legal secretary after college and bounced multiple checks. It was not until after law school that I finally figured out how to balance my checkbook. And it was not until after my divorce that I actually began to do it.

One of my favorite bands, Poi Dog Pondering sings, “Complicated – it’s all right. Wanna get it right this time.” I am grateful for all that I have. For sure, it’s complicated. The law degree. The home. The car. The stuff. The shoes. I want to get it right this time. I really hope I get it right this time.

I did not go to school and graduate just to pay for school for the rest of my life. My dream of being an attorney should not be subjugated to the loan that paid for it.  I do not want my kids to believe that dreams die for mortgages and debt. Yes, pay off your shit. But your salary, your debt, and the money in your bank account do not represent your value.

I think our available balance is the difference between infinity and some random number (eight dollars did not then or now at all represent the Maximum-ness of the Max for sure) in a bank. I think our current balance is the minutes left in this day. I think our true currency is love and we need to spend it every damn day and as often as possible. I think our value is defined by how much we give, not how much we keep. I believe, maybe, it isn’t that complicated. And we’re all going to get it right this time.

Cracked Heart

Max told me when he was still in elementary school, “I was immature in 2nd and 3rd grade, but then I started getting pretty grown up once I got to 4th grade. Now that I am in 5th grade I am definitely getting grown up. Then in middle school I will be a teenager so there’s that.” I asked him, “What about high school?” “Well, I will be all grown up then and I will probably have my own place. But my girlfriend and I will still come and visit you. But not every weekend because I don’t want her to think I am a mama’s boy. Maybe more like once a month or something. You’ll be okay with that, right?”

At a certain point your kids become adult-ish. They no longer require you to feed them, sign them up for stuff, wash them, drive them. They actually don’t include you much in their lives any more. It’s a moment you should have been prepared for because let’s be real. You did it, too, back when you were in high school. Back when you became adult-ish.

When Max first started high school, I remember going into his room to get him for dinner. “Dinner’s ready!” I said. He looked at me and returned to his phone. I said, “Don’t give me the teenaged angst eye-roll. I have a copyright on that.” He eye-rolled at me again and said, “I will be down IN A MINUTE.” I did the mature parenting move. I walked out of his room, closed the door, did an eye-roll (copyright 1976) and said, “THIS is how it’s done.” I take my momming wins wherever I can get them.

I have been divorced since 2015. I’ve learned a lot, dating again in my 50’s. About a year ago, I gave up completely on dating for a while. I was tired of putting my heart out there and getting it handed back to me. But I now believe that every relationship is a lesson and it brings you closer to being the best version of yourself. That’s your gift. And you are here to bring your gift to this world. If you don’t, the world will never have it. And that would really suck.

It’s been a hard fight against my own brain to get here, but I am truly fucking grateful. For each relationship in my life. For the one-time dates that went nowhere. For the amazing friendships with badass women that sustain and support me without judgment. For my divorce and for all the relationships that cracked and broke my heart. Because I think if you’ve got a cracked heart, that just means there’s more space for love to be poured into it. Like gold gets poured into the cracks of broken pottery in the Japanese art of Kintsugi, to emphasize and celebrate and make the breaks beautiful.

Last summer, my sons, my nieces, and I went to Oahu’s Northshore to stay for a week. To visit our family and just to be together. We stayed in a two-bedroom local cottage, happily crammed together. Every morning we wandered into the kitchen and made coffee, tea, and our own version of loco moco. We spent our days exploring the local beaches and restaurants. We met up with our family and body-surfed at Ewa Beach.  And we promised that we would come back again. As soon as possible. Because being together filled up and made beautiful all the cracks in our hearts.

For every relationship that never happened, there are so many more that do – and will. Those are the ones that fill the cracks of your broken heart and make it shine. That is your gift to the world, your shining, beautiful, brave heart. That and maybe – your teenaged angst eye-roll. But I still hold the copyright to it.

The Trail

One evening several years ago, Max and I were sitting outside in our backyard and it was getting chilly. I asked Max if he wanted me to get him a sweatshirt. “No, Mom. I need to get used to being uncomfortable. Life is not always going to be comfortable. I am not always going to be perfectly warm or perfectly cool so I have to practice being cold right now.”

Last month something happened to the HVAC in my office at work. For a week during the hottest week of the summer, there was no air conditioning at all. My office was like a hot yoga studio. Or hell. Take your pick. And then, miraculously, the air conditioning came on. And it didn’t go off. It was fucking freezing. I realized that I had gotten complacent and a little princess-y about being too hot or too cold.

Right about then, my niece India called me from the Pacific Crest Trail. “I think I need a doctor. My feet have blisters and I am getting on the next bus to Sonoma County. Can I stay with you?” While India’s feet healed, we went to REI a lot. She got new socks and trail clothes. I got some hiking shoes. After a week, we put India and her fresh feet on a bus to Oregon to finish the PCT. And I got back on some trails myself. And I found the girl I used to be, growing up in the foothills of Colorado.

I realized I’d missed her. I’d been staying too long in classrooms. In libraries. Behind books. Behind a wall. Hanging onto nonexistent relationships. Holding onto boxes of old memories. Sitting in an office that ran hot and cold. It was time to to lace up and spend more time with the girl-who-was-me, who loved being in the wild, on a trail, in the hills, up a rock, on a mountain.

Last week my mom told me, “I need to do more weight bearing exercise for my bones,” after her visit to her oncologist. I came downstairs the next day to go to work and she was getting ready to take the dogs for a walk. She had on a backpack. “What do you have in there, Mom?” I asked her. She said, “My i-Pad, my book, my phone, my glasses.” Then she got the two big dogs, Lilo and Atticus, and went out the door for her weight-bearing walk.

Tonight, my Max skated outside in the moonlight then came in and gave me a big sweaty hug. My beautiful India is finishing the Pacific Crest Trail. My mom put on her backpack today and walked the dogs and kept kicking cancer’s ass. And I’m looking forward to being in the wild, even if it’s just a park trail, very soon.

Max was right. Life is not always going to be comfortable. But there’s beauty on the trail if you keep going. Keep going.

Keep Dancing

“You don’t stop dancing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop dancing.” – Jellybean Benitez

My birthday is in two days, August 16. I will be 57 years young. I recall a time when, four years ago, I was driving Shane and Max to the skateboard store. Shane said to me, “Mom, what’s your best dance move to bring to the dance floor?” I said, “Duh, it’s the Smurf!” Shane turned up the radio and I started car dancing to 50 Cent (because teenagers picked the music). Max yelled from the back seat, “Mom, STOP! You’re making God cry!”

My Max, my youngest, my baby, began his senior year of high school today. When his older brother, Shane, was starting high school, he would announce himself whenever he came home. He would slam the front door open and yell, “SHANE’S HOME!” When he stopped announcing himself, I missed that. I still miss that.

Today, on social media, I saw all the photos of my friends’ kids heading off to the first day of school. I don’t have pics of my kids’ first days of their last couple of years of school. First of all, they were usually at their dad’s house and he’s way more relaxed than me about that kind of stuff. Second, that’s not their jam. But here’s what I did do today, for Max’s last first day of high school. I went into his bedroom this morning with my headphones on, listening to a playlist that I made for him. And I danced. “Ooh-oo child, Things are gonna get easier. Ooh-oo child, Things’ll get brighter….Some day, yeah. We’ll get it together and we’ll get it all done.”  And so – I danced the Smurf to the Five Stairsteps in my high school senior son’s bedroom at 7:00 a.m. on a Wednesday. I’m pretty sure it made God laugh until they cried.

A few weeks back, Max was hanging out on my bed while I was practicing salsa steps. And I realized that we had gotten past the whole car dancing debacle. It’s an anti-climatic moment when you realize that you no longer have the power to embarrass your kid with your old school dance moves.

When Shane was here earlier this summer, he didn’t announce his entrances. But he would come into my room each day and tell me his comings and goings. He still calls and texts me enough to let me know that he has not been eaten by bears in Oregon.

I think, perhaps, maybe, this whole mom thing may be working out in my favor. My sons are moving on and out and I am going to have this entire house as my dance floor. Silver lining. And yet, I will always have them here – in my heart, my soul, my amazing kids. Yeah. This mom gig, it’s turned out to be the best job I never got a job description for.

During my 56th year, I said goodbye to many beloved friends and family. One of my dear friends told me the day before she passed away, “Know that you are always loved. And keep loving and appreciating. And don’t forget to dance.” Every morning, I get out of bed and I put on music. And I boogie downstairs to get coffee, with my beloved furry co-counsel Atticus Finch in tow. Starting with that first cup of coffee, I remind myself. This is good. Know that you are always loved. And don’t forget to dance until you make your kids and God cry. Happy birthday to me. Happy every day to you.

#Truant

When Max was in third grade, he told me that he had too many sick days to get into a good college. He said: “The government isn’t going to let me have another chance, unless I figure out a way to reverse the time-space continuum and re-do a couple of tests. And I’m not sure I want to do that.”

My greatest joys and proudest moments in my life have come from being the mother to my two sons. As have my most vulnerable and scared moments. My fired-up-tiger-claws-out-I-will-eat-your-face-if-you-hurt-my-kids-moments. My moments of deepest despair and shame came from the times when I felt like I failed my sons as their mother. I didn’t sign them up for the thing on time. I didn’t sew the patch on the right sleeve. I forgot to bake the class snack and I sent in a pack of Oreos and a side of sorry. I have this thing about the time-space continuum. I usually end up behind it. But I hope I have shown my children through this process that I am imperfect, I am compassionate, I am vulnerable, I am creative, I make mistakes, I fall down, I get back up again, and I’m going to be late.

I am the kind of late where I am trying to do one more thing before I left the place where I was. I’m trying to do a load of laundry. Read and respond to an email. Answer a text from a sad friend and I don’t want them to feel alone. Listen one more time to a song that someone I love shared with me and it makes me think of them.  I’m the kind of late who stayed up the night before reading an amazing new book or transcribing music on my cello or writing a poem or practicing salsa steps. But I promise, I’m not going to be really late. Maybe 5-10 minutes. And I promise. I will be there.  

My son Max – he’s that kind of late, too. Up too late, and in the mornings, during the school year, this meant he showed up to his 8:00 am class often 10, 20, 30 minutes late. At the end of the year, I got a warning letter from the school district letting me know that my son was a truant. My creative, brilliant, son, who gets letters from colleges weekly, who spends his free time playing jazz and busting his ass working as a grocery clerk, who stays up too late because he is trying to do better and be better. Well, according to the school district – he is a truant. But what the district doesn’t mention is that he always shows up. He just shows up late.

In a world that allegedly celebrates creativity and thinking outside the box, the problem is, we are unwilling to relinquish boxes. We crave definitions and certainty. In many ways, I get why we need that. I’m an attorney. I’m a bit of a rule-follower. But I also see, day in and day out, that we forgo the practical because it’s “safer” to cling to a definition and stay in a box. As an example. One of my favorite quotes from “The Breakfast Club” is:

“Brian: I’m a f*in’ idiot because I can’t make a lamp?

Bender: No, you’re a genius because you can’t make a lamp.

Brian: What do you know about Trigonometry?

Bender: I could care less about Trigonometry.

Brian: Bender, did you know without Trigonometry there’d be no engineering?

Bender: Without lamps, there’d be no light.”

When he was in middle school, Max said to me, “Mom, I don’t understand why we take some of the classes that we do. I understand why we take Language Arts and Math and Science. But I don’t know why we take Social Studies. I mean, yesterday we learned that Mayans considered big noses a sign of beauty. When am I ever going to need that in life?” I said, “Max, maybe one day you’ll be at a cocktail party and you’ll see a pretty girl and you’ll need a conversation starter. You’ll walk up to her and say, hello, ladies. Did you know that in the Mayan culture big noses were considered a sign of beauty?” He said, “Yeah, I’d say, hello ladies, did you know that you would be considered beautiful in Mayan culture? Your big nose would actually be a sign of beauty.” Definitions are mutable. Boxes are different sizes. Noses are relative and relevant to faces. It all depends on the lamp and the lighting.  

A friend of mine, who was an NFL football player, once told me, “You’re always a twisted knee away from oblivion.” And – his career ended because of a knee injury. But before that happened, he accomplished amazing goals. And that’s the thing. You can either be diminished by what might happen or other people’s expectations and definitions of you. Or you can keep going and take care of sh*t right now.

No matter where you are, no matter when you get there, you are perfect and exactly right. And if I’m supposed to meet you there, I’ll be a little late. But I promise. I’ll be there.