School Jitters

“What if they don’t like me?”

She shifted around on the plastic blue booth seat, then fidgeted with her fork.

“I bought a really cute skirt for tomorrow. It’s cheerful.”

“Great idea. You will brighten up the room when you walk in.”

She slumped a little. But we weren’t here to discuss posture.

“I got so much stuff. I spent a lot of money. What if I forgot the one super important thing that I don’t know I needed?”

“You’ll be fine.” I scooped up bean dip with a fat tortilla chip and managed to get the whole thing into my mouth at once, rendering it useless but happy. “You were at this school last year,” I mumbled, “‘t’s not your first rodeo.”

“There’s gonna be a weird kid in the class, I know it. That one kid that waits until we’re all doing silent reading and then tips over his chair or starts tapping the desk or needs to go the bathroom a million times. Last year, kids kept moving things from my desk and it made me crazy.”

“Oh come on, it won’t be that bad. You will all get along great once you show up.”

“I can never sleep the night before the first day of school. I’ll have a headache. What if the alarm clock doesn’t go off and I’m late?”

“This happens every year. It’s just the jitters. You’ll love your class.”

Plates of fajitas, tacos, and a beautiful margarita arrived. Busy silence ensued because we have our priorities straight.

Then she took a long drink of lemon water and looked me in the eyes.

“Remember math?”

“Girl, you’re bringing up Common Core? I graduated as I recall. But I told you so. Well. I told America so. Or something like that, because if we would just stop doing a “new math” every five years and agree on one, single way of learning long division, we would all be rocket scientists by now.”

“I’m not sure anyone is learning anything. Every year there’s a new thing waiting for us and it’s nothing but tests and rushing and watching the clock until I get to go home.”

“You don’t have to tell me; you’ll be tested every five minutes! No crying.”

I looked at her for a beat, “And no cussing.”

“Seriously?”

“Okay fine, what about PE? Lunch? Do they even attempt music or art?”

“We might. I don’t suppose you want to come in and volunteer to teach it?”

We both got a little crazy in the eyes for a minute.

“Nope. Nopity nope. Like I said, I graduated. Everybody graduates sooner or later and there’s no going back.”

“Rub it in,” she frowned, “I only have…” She thought for a minute. I hoped she wasn’t using Common Core to figure it out. “…about a million more years to go.”

Stupid math. I took a drink.

She was shredding her napkin into tiny little confetti bits. “Even lunch is dumb. We used to always line up at the door in two lines. Boys and Girls. Last year we lined up in colors. Red and Blue. This year we’ll probably line up by attitudes: Good Kids and Tornadoes.”

“Take a few deep breaths. Smile. Introduce yourself. All the teachers and kids will love you.”

The bill was paid and we gathered our things to leave. I gave her a reassuring hug.

“You are the most organized, energetic, friendly person I know. You’re going to rock tomorrow. You are the Teacher. And you are changing the world.”

San Diego, August 28, 1965

She wore a hot pink and black granny dress chosen specially for the event, and white go go boots zipped up the back of her calfs. The boots she had begged for and received last Christmas. Her straight-as-a-pin strawberry blonde hair swirled around her shoulders as she hopped into the car, her freckled face rosy with excitement.

A sophomore at Castle Park High School, she barely knew the three senior girls who were giving her a ride to the concert that night. But it didn’t matter. This wasn’t a concert you take your boyfriend to. Her parents weren’t interested. And she needed to get there.

The girls parked in the lot of the Balboa Stadium, a horseshoe shaped AFL venue, home of the newly acquired Los Angeles Chargers. A pack of cigarettes was passed around, but after two coughing fits, her attempt at senior-level coolness was abandoned. The ride was enough.

With hard-earned nickels, she had purchased an advance ticket for a front row seat, the very best in the house for $5.50: on the field, with only a rail between the bleachers and an elevated stage. The girls pushed toward their seats, surrounded by over 17,000 fans.

The opening acts began. King Curtis Band, Sounds Incorporated,Discotheque Dancers, Brenda Holloway, and Cannibal & The Headhunters. Each new band raised the anticipation level for what was to come as the sun set in the west and stadium lights flickered on. In the open air that warm August night it was a challenge to not overheat from singing, dancing, or simply leaping over the benches with impatience.

150 San Diego police roamed the area, keeping fans in place. The chanting thousands stood up, searching for any sign of impending phenomenon. Her hand kept straying up to the commemorative pin given out by the sponsoring local radio station, KCBQ, the station who knew her by name, she called in so regularly with song requests.

And now they were bringing her the music in person. She could hardly stand the wait.

Just after 9pm, the British Invaded.

The screams reached octaves that only dogs can hear, it’s likely ships in the harbor began evasive action. The Beatles ran on stage and began a one and only, last minute concert in San Diego. There was mass gyration, a flailing of female forms, as devoted fans completely lost their minds. Our sophomore, only sweet 16, watched John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr performing only a few feet away, their perfect mouths singing into microphones…and couldn’t hear a single note.

With no intermission, they played a dozen hits: their truncated version of Twist And Shout, followed by She’s A WomanI Feel FineDizzy Miss LizzyTicket To RideEverybody’s Trying To Be My BabyCan’t Buy Me LoveBaby’s In BlackI Wanna Be Your ManA Hard Day’s NightHelp! and I’m Down.

There were Charger-worthy football tackles as each song brought more fans over the rails. Police held back the tide of sobbing humanity while the Beatles worked off their pre-show dinner of sodas, sandwiches, and KFC.

We know now that this August would mark the last of their commercial concerts, at the end of a frantic four year touring schedule. They could not compete with the fanbase wall of sound, realizing that live performances no longer had anything to do with their music. The next step in their musical journey would be the creation of Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band.

So I’m glad our sophomore – when she realized The Beatles were done, when she watched them abandon their instruments on the stage and flee for their lives across the field to a waiting helicopter – hiked up her granny dress and hopped the rail. Racing ahead of the surge, she and everyone else ripped up the turf that the musicians had run their rhythmic shoes over. She held onto that contraband fistful of sod for the next 25 years. In a baggie. Like weed. Until it turned into dust.

She kept it next to every album The Beatles ever made, heaps of memorabilia, and of course, her KCBQ pin.

Fast forward to June 6, 2019. I’m at the Fair, standing right in front of the stage, singing at the top of my lungs with the band: The Fab Four. I’m delighted that my childhood training was so thorough: I know all the lyrics. I know all the dance moves. I hitched a ride with girlfriends. I’m only missing the go go boots.

I’m happy to report that mom never did take up smoking, although The Beatles were all heavy smokers and worse. KFC, however, remains a family delicacy.

Moms Graduation Speech

As I ponder the idea of no longer being a participant in the public school system, the thought that I am rid of fund raisers, done with dirty basketball jerseys, shed of tracking a textbook assigned ten months ago and never used, and altogether destitute of paperwork to be filled out in triplicate with a blue ink pen…a single tear of pure joy glistens in my eye. My left eye. The one that twitches.

Let freedom ring.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this moment possible.

I could not have worn such a deep trench in the elementary school doorway, had not Hubby insisted that homeschooling was “not an option”. Thank you, Hubby, for challenging me to find a way to homeschool our kids anyway by bringing home sixteen years of creative projects for all 800 of the students I adopted there.

Thank you, Middle School Principal, for welcoming five siblings in a row, children who brought their bicycles with them instead of their mother, children who learned the value of a dollar by hustling duct tape wallets, the value of deodorant after gym class, and the value of functional stall doors in a bathroom. We learned there’s no place like home after all.

Shout out to my firstborn for teaching me that we all learn in our own ways during high school. Some of us learn while sitting in the back row, staring out a window, and doodling on the homework. We learn that teachers are furious when they call you out in front of the class and you actually know the answers.

Second born, thank you for becoming fluent in Spanish so that I don’t need to be. It’s as entertaining as the German, Russian, and whale your siblings pretend to speak. You taught me that there’s no such thing as too many boxes full of awards.

Middle child, my never-in-a-hurry-why-do-you-want-to-rush-stuff one, thank you for waiting until two weeks to graduating to decide that you actually did want to attend college. I think your degree in “Communication” is as authentic as the panic attack I had.

I appreciate the effort it took, oh fourth one, to move to a new high school, forsaking the legacy of our family reputation to create a name for yourself. You played varsity sports as a freshman, losing every single game for a year, and ended your senior year with mono. You taught me gumption. One of us deserves a gold sticker.

And now, the last man standing, he who had to grow a sense of humor at birth, the one who had no idea his vision was bad until twelve tender years of age, the man who can perform quantum physics yet struggles with a pencil and long division, is poised on the platform, prepared to join his siblings in the world of adults, so long as there’s no laundry involved.

Thank you for doing your homework, love. Even if I think it’s cheating to do “research” from your couch instead of fighting classmates over the last three reference books in an actual library a day before the term paper is due. Sorry about that dopamine addiction. We all thought educating through an iPad was a good idea four years ago.

I’m so happy. I’m so blessed. I’m so tired.

I hope I can make it through the ceremony.

In conclusion, an Honorary Mention goes out to my fellow moms. Yes, that award given to our kids at school assemblies, recognizing that they have been showing up and breathing in and out all day. The one that reminds us that we are all winners.

To the girlfriends who stood by me during Common Core Math and the common cold; those who heard my battle cries and administered hot tea and hugs. Thank you for reminding me that the school system with its trappings and traps, is temporary after all. Our educations are priceless. And our possibilities are endless.

Let’s do this.

The 12 Steps

“Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.”   asam.org

I think you already knew from today’s title that “The 12 Steps” refers to the Alcoholics Anonymous program for overcoming alcohol addiction. Many recovery organizations are modeled after it, and there are other programs that use alternative strategies to support people who are struggling to control their drinking instead of their drinking controlling them.

Talk. They hear you. Most parents have already discussed drinking, drugs, sex, smoking and other things that people use and abuse to help cope with their internal and external struggles.  It’s even more important to speak up if addiction runs in the family. It certainly does in mine. You might want to remember that perfectionism, bulimia, multi-tasking workaholic behaviors, gaming, and other actions are also our attempt to curb or numb things that hurt, scare us, or feel out of control.

What’s strange is that sometimes, the very thing we turn to can quickly make us feel…hurt, scared, or out of control. Making healthy alternatives available to ourselves and our family can help circumvent this cycle with better ways to cope with these feelings. I’m sure you can think of a great list, including what we learned last week at the end of our Stress Test questions.

If you are at Step One with alcohol, click here and begin the first day of the rest of your life. If you are unsure, click here and do some self-investigation. Alcohol abuse is not the same thing as being an alcoholic. Using prescription medication post-surgery is not the same as abusing it because of addiction to opioids. I’m by no means a “tea”totaller, but understanding what you do and why you do it is important for us and our families.

As addicts or alcoholics,

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Proverbs 20:1
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by it is not wise.”

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

If a Gun Walks Onto Campus

Before the beginning of a school year, a mandatory meeting is held that covers the idea of what to do if a gun walks onto campus. Everyone from cafeteria workers to the janitor attends. Not halfway through the meeting, many are in tears. It’s inconceivable that a teacher might end up taking a life to protect themselves and their students.

The burden on school staff to maintain “a safe and secure environment” for students is heavy and unsung.

I imagine that people train to become teachers because they have the gift of teaching. Of leading young minds to new places and rejoicing with them over the growth of a school year. They certainly don’t become teachers to get rich or because they like job security.

What other profession receives a yearly “pink slip” along with the assurance that “very likely” they will be rehired in two months? But no promises. What other profession balances Common Core, administration, gangs, parents, class sizes increases, grades, students, budgets, politics, sex, standardized testing, religion, cell phones, puberty, attitudes, drugs, feelings, sports, and glitter glue? You know, sometimes in a single day.

It’s something no one wants to consider and unfortunately, many communities have already experienced. I don’t believe anyone decides to go into the teaching profession thinking they will also act as a body guard. Or worse. Because what if the gunman is also one of the students you teach?

Where are the days we only worried about earthquakes, pop quizzes, and whether our outfits were cool?

Today’s message is short and to the point: hug your kids. Thank your teachers.

Read this first. Can you even?

What schools are working with: training.

Should teachers be armed? The debate.

What kids may be thinking about it: view.

Resources that teachers use: words for processing it.

Are the schools ready? Is yours?

Psalm 141:10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

Vaping, School, and Your Kid

You know what I hate? Feeling naive.

If my girlfriend knows something I don’t know, she fills me in so that I can be as cool as she is.

If my kid knows something I don’t know, he hides behind a bowl of cereal, hoping no questions are asked before he runs off to school. Or in the case of my own brilliant and sarcastic child, he puts it in plain view and laughs at me for being naive.

Which, let me repeat myself, I hate.

Today I am advocating, once again, family conversation. The kind where the parent has to open a door, yank technology away from little Johnny, and ask some hard questions while remaining a calm, open-minded good listener. Like Ghandi. Or maybe Don Corleone.

He isn’t going to volunteer to have this conversation. Your education will be inadequate and you will glance into his room one day and notice the sweet little plants in his windowsill and think to yourself what a great parent you are that your kid knows about gardening and ambiance.

Little Johnny is growing pot. In his room. It’s so much cheaper than the dealer down the street, and organic, too.

Mom won’t figure it out. She is busy chasing toddlers. Or paychecks. Whichever.

As a parent, I died just a little when it was voted “legal” here in California because everyone interpreted that to mean “safe”. Pot shops opened up, serving a glamorous variety of goods.  Smoking a joint or a cigarette is just so pedestrian now…what’s a kid to do?

Enter vaping.

My contacts tell me that vaping has been the cool experience of choice in the school lavatories for the last year or two. Most kids are vaping socially, meaning there’s a party in the bathroom, and these kids are not really engaging their brains at the time – which, I suppose, is the whole point.

  1. It is illegal to have marijuana or nicotine in any form if you are under the age of 21
  2. but it’s the easiest form of both for kids to access
  3. and, the kids are pretty comfortable trying it and feel that a puff won’t hurt them.

Not the way popping a pill might, or drinking a shot of liquor might. And here’s why: because the industry says so, that’s why.

As you will notice during the picture time of this presentation, vaping is marketed to youth. Although the packaging is clear about what is in the product you are buying, this is the first thing thrown into the nearest trashcan. The vape pens are sleek little packages or covered in cute cartoon figures and the cartridges that you put into them come in fun flavors from bubble gum to gummy bear.

You won’t see this kind of marketing on prescription medication or alcohol. Not even on cigarettes. The potent thc content now on the market is scientifically engineered. This is not your mama’s pot. But the industry is going to make sure it’s your child’s.

Getting the rechargeable battery-powered pens is not too difficult. But this doesn’t matter because you can walk into the school bathroom during lunch and help yourself to the party pen being passed around. If I saw one in my kid’s room, it might register as another random piece of technology or a charger pack of some kind. It could be a pen or a highlighter. The different cartridges (“carts”) full of flavorful fillings can be purchased for $20 in the store, or conveniently at school for $30. I can see myself now, spotting some vape juice, “Oh, look, little Johnny is into essential oils!”

Vaping leaves a faint scent around you for only a few minutes as it dissipates. (“Wait, little Johnny likes scented candles now?”) Kids sometimes exhale into empty gatorade bottles and cap them tightly to contain the tell-tale smoke. Either way, you can walk into a classroom ten minutes later and no one will smell it on you. My kid can get high at school all day long and not be noticed.

“Why?” I asked certain knowledgable high schoolers, “Why would you want to smoke at all?”

They hadn’t really thought about that question. I had plenty more. Why would you pass around a communal anything and put it in your mouth? Do you know which product is inside it? Or what strength?

“Hey!” calls a friend from the little group huddled in the bathroom, “Try this! You just press the button and inhale.” Many kids caught vaping are just trying it.

“But I didn’t know what it was. It was just one puff. They’re my friends. It didn’t look like it was hurting them. What’s the big deal?

Well, for originality, ask the group if anyone there wishes they could quit.

There’s one who might be brave enough to confide in you. Nicotine is addictive. Sometimes they will tell you that they began vaping in order to stop smoking cigarettes. Ask how that plan is going. And the kid vaping alone in the bathroom stall? He’s not going to share.

(And this is where you might one-up your kid and mention you know that “dabbing” is not just a dance move.)

From the time a student leaves his house until the time a student returns home, the school has a certain level of responsibility for behavior. Whether my kid sells carts off campus or just delivered money from the sales, whether he took one puff at a friend’s house or bragged about it on social media, there are civic consequences. There are words like “suspended” “expelled” or “police” involved.

The burden on school staff to maintain “a safe and secure environment” for students is heavy and unsung. Next week we go further into it.

Our kids are in over their heads. They’re being advertised to and presented with something they know little about and understand even less. Vaping is touted as “safe smoking” and it’s clearly not. We need to have some conversations.

So I am here to fill you in and start you off. And you and I will be cool together.

(Resources are included via text links. Click em.)

Picture Time:

Sunset Sherbert. Delish.

Because you always wanted to smoke a strawberry. Admit it.

Now you know how to spell “Shwifty Sticks”. You’re welcome.

I CAN. NOT. EVEN.

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

There Be Bullies

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

This month, we are focussing on issues in the school system (and this means any school system: homeschooling, charters, etc are not exempt) that are prevalent, insidious and hard for us to talk about with our kids.

Bullying has been around since Cain and Abel, but if Eve had given them smart phones I think they could have avoided going out into the field altogether and Cain could have ruined his brother from the comfort of his couch.

What this means for today’s kids is a perceived power imbalance (which is what sells technology in the first place) so magnified that the result, more times than we want to look at, is death. Death of an idea, death of self-worth, death of a child. Please stop right now and call, text, message, hug, or high-five a kid. It doesn’t have to be your kid. And you don’t need a reason. Every kid needs that little ping of positivity because – people listen up – we are fighting an undercover avalanche of insidious bullying.

And you count. I’ll wait while you send it….

According to my many teacher friends, schools are educating kids about proper web use and ethics. They know it’s hard for some kids to admit to being bullied, so it’s discussed regularly in the classroom. Some teachers have an app that can check a kid’s iPad at a moments notice to see if it’s being used appropriately. They have counselors, social workers, and technology staff and partner with police and programs for nonviolence and peace. The message they are sending out is: “Bullying is not right. Everyone deserves a safe place to be in school.”

But of course, there’s a flip side: how do you distinguish between bully behavior and normal, age-appropriate immaturity, or even teasing between two children who both think it’s funny? The “bully” label is easily triggered in students and parents alike and they expect dramatic reactive steps on the part of school staff, regardless of the circumstances. (Here’s my fun story on that.)

Usually a quick, real-time intervention by the teacher, having kids apologize or just a stern talking-to, resolves many incidents. Seasoned teachers definitely know the difference and they also know their students personalities.

But the teacher is not you, the parent. (Unless of course you are homeschooling like Eve was and we are praying for you. Get yourself a favorite aunt who will take your kid for ice cream and have this conversation.)

You, the parent, should also be using real-time intervention by talking to your kids about when they were bullied and also when they bullied someone else. The answers are perhaps not so important as the process of opening the discussion. We all have to find ways to get along on the planet and this is a good place to practice the conversation. Earn their honesty by trusting them to find solutions along with you. Suggest ways they can hand out those little pings of positivity, too.

Conversation Prompts:

  1. Technology is just a tool and you control the “off” button. No one can access you via technology unless you allow them to. Others can block you, too, if you lose their trust.
  2. Bullying can be physical, emotional, or verbal. Harassment or intimidation via technology is called cyberbullying. Look up your school policy on it and read it together.
  3. Make an action plan as a family. Consider and act out scenarios where you are the target, the witness, and the bully in turn. How do you feel? What can you say? What will you do?
  4. Restorative Circles will give you the dialogue you need, and here is the other side of that with examples.
  5. Find resources on stopbullying.gov.
  6. Find more resources from the national PTA here.

“Love your enemies as yourself” Lev. 19:18

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

Leaving Home for College

Good morning everyone and welcome to our next installment in the January series on “Moving”. Today we are going straight to the experts for advice about the transition when Little Johnny moves away to college.

As far as I can tell, I have successfully sent three children to college while managing to keep them living at home. The fourth kid is up for grabs but unless the right college grabs him, I will have the honor of four college graduates and zero dorm experiences.

On the other hand, I also have a kid with nothing but dorm experiences and zero college degrees.

There are pros and cons.

But I am obviously not an expert.

I watched a coworker send her son to another state for college and he was homesick and she was optimistic and the week before winter finals that boy got the flu. His entire building got the flu. He called her from the floor of his room and she did what every sensible mom would do: she overnighted him a case of Gatorade, and begged him to pass his finals.

That Christmas break, he came home and refused to leave.

Meanwhile, I know a few Little Johnnys who have managed to go back after Christmas break, and I have some nuggets of wisdom from the moms who survived it:

  1. Believe they are adults. You raised them right and it’s all in there. When needed, your voice is in their head even if it’s screaming “Dumb*ss!” Which will happen many, many times in the first year.
  2. The campus life schedule (especially in a dorm) is not the same as the class schedule. It’s erratic and unscheduled. This means calling home is not a priority! We made a deal to not bother them if they simply called every Sunday to check in. And they did.
  3. College and living away is tough and there are calls home that make you want to rush in and take care of it . Having to give phone advice and help them through life from a distance is HARD and a whole new perspective. This is a reminder to empower and encourage. Follow up with a full glass of wine (coping measure).
  4. Join the parent group on Facebook. Most don’t allow students in so you get to share the feels and get insider info too! I missed this with my first student, but found it with my second. Ours has moderators that have links to info, Senior parents armed with experience in the trenches, invited guests like the Chief of Campus Police, support from parents who live locally and even an Uber driver file. (This is) your support while the student insists they “got this” lol!
  5. Learn what Venmo is and join – this is how roommates share expenses, lunch dates share the check and Mom sends money for a much needed frappacino after a hard test.
  6. I also completely support getting in on the college sports team fun!
  7. It’s that hard realization that they live somewhere else, and have a life outside of you and the small family you had together with all of your kids when they were little. That day in and day out you don’t know what they’re doing, how they’re doing, and that they’re doing it apart from you.
  8. I guess you wonder will they come back and will it ever be the same? But it will never be the same even when they do come home because they are adults now. They leave with their childhood and return with a form of adulthood. I guess that’s how it’s meant to be: it’s the end of an era.
  9. Wow, I didn’t expect the intensity of the sorrow of saying goodbye to him as we send him back across the country today. It almost seems worse than the first time we did this last fall. I’m so thankful that he’s happy and thriving in his college environment, I can’t imagine how hard this would be if he weren’t.
  10. I also thought that it would be easier to say goodbye to them once they left for the first time, but every time they come home for winter break or spring break or summer break it’s equally hard to say goodbye as they go back to school. I feet sad every time. 
  11. I think of how it must feel to be my parents standing on that step, watching their heart go away again and again. I can physically feel the pain of time passing in my body, and it makes me realize how valuable beyond riches it has been to spend these special days together in our cherished home.
  12. And lest these feels and formulas be a wee too much, here is the only idea I had prepared for this moment. A mom has to do what a mom has to do.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecc 3
The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

I Can Make Your Hands Clap

I spent today questioning all of my life choices. Was I a good mom when the kids were little? Did I teach them the things that really matter? Could I have gotten a day job sooner and provided them with cars in high school instead of flip phones?

I stopped long enough to go get my last-born from high school at the actual time that school ended; my first small victory of the day.

I pulled to the curb, a quite-unemployed mom, and my very-broken son (ankle tendons hate to be snapped) put his “wheelie” into the backseat and wrestled his giant boot into the front. We took a moment to collect ourselves. There were kids and moms and cars everywhere.

As the school year winds down, mothers are trying to decide whether they will cry or rejoice or both or neither, and funneling that conflicted energy into a frenzy of summer planning. Depending on which way the wind blows, there will be bonding cross-country family road trips or individualized music or pony or surf day camps that entertain while mommy works the day job to pay for it.

Not many will do what we used to do: hunker down for our annual summer stay-cation and make plenty of koolaid.

One of my worries was: did we, in afterthought, drink too much koolaid?

We waited our turn to escape the parking lot while the kid commandeered my smart phone, said some magic words over it, and music played through my car speakers. I surreptitiously turned the volume down while he studied his choices. He skipped around, then landed on, of all things, the Barber of Seville.

I beamed at him as we turned onto the road, “Oh, I did do something right!”

The flashbacks to his third grade music lessons lasted only moments before he replied, “Yep, Bugs Bunny is a classic.”

Deflated, I reminded him, “Well, Rossini was real, and the fact that you can appreciate his music puts you ahead of a lot of other high school juniors.”

“I ask people once in a while whether they listen to opera, and I get the strangest looks…” he said.

He skips to Verdi’s Rigoletto, and we sway the car a little and try to hit the note that goes and goes and goes….

“I have no idea what he’s saying,” I say, “but it sounds like he’s having a good day. In Italian.”

I remember that our big plans to get our last driver permitted and practiced this summer have now been scrapped and replaced with physical therapy sessions. A car for him would be superfluous.

The music moves from Thomas Rhett to techno beats to Queen, then we’re HandClapping with Fitz and The Tantrums.

“I have no idea what he’s saying, either,” I admit, “but it sounds like he’s having a good day, too. In illiterate repetitive gibberish.”

I remember throwing all kinds of music at my kids, hoping their thoughts and horizons would keep opening and exploring and enjoying. I still wish most music came without lyrics. Much like a cross-country family road trip, there isn’t a need for running dialogue. Everyone gets to put their own spin on it.

“You don’t even know,” sings the kid.

We pull into the garage to the inspiration of the “Rocky” movie theme song. Even the car is motivated.

No, I don’t even know. The summer will bring what it will and the music says to look forward, not backward.

Rich with family time, exploring ways to get our feet back underneath us, and a run to the store for koolaid comes to mind.

That can make my hands clap.

I wrote this at the end of MAY, people…. Whattayagonnado?

Defensive Driver Dating Course

“While it should not be used in interpersonal relationships, the basic premise of defensive driving is to assume to worse in others. It is better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.”

In other words, everyone on the road is a moron except you.

This, Hubby knows.

But also…everyone in the dating world is guilty until proven innocent.

And this, mom knows.

I submit to you “Exhibit A”, the Defensive Driving Course I had to take at work this week, and from whence the above quote cometh:

Immediately, I understood that this was much bigger than ensuring that employees of this fine city demonstrate model behavior behind the wheel of city vehicles.

This course presented as a training tool for defensive driving is actually spot on for Defensive Dating and interpersonal relationship strategies! I plagiarized, if you will, from an unwitting yet brilliant driving instructor.

It’s not his fault.

I will now exchange the concepts of “driving” and “dating” with reckless abandon.

Having five children between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six demands a constant repetition of Proper Mindset Strategies for those about to drive or date.

The youngsters are anticipating zero traffic in downtown LA at 5pm on a Tuesday.

This is not the Proper Mindset.

To recap:

“People constantly make assumptions about others while driving.”  Per Exhibit B.

“Assume the worse.” Per Exhibit A.

Just because you are driving next to a Prius, one cannot assume that said Prius will keep up with the flow of traffic and stay in it’s lane. One must prepare for the possibility that the Prius will come from a totally dysfunctional family, swerve into every pub you pass, have a fondness for jazz, and keep a spider monkey in the trunk.  It happens.

And you need to Anticipate it.

When approaching a dating situation, do not develop a fixed stare. He chose that tie on purpose. Probably.

Maintain your personal space and stay aware of your surroundings using peripheral vision to monitor distractions like other pretty girls, or notice your ex is sitting across the way, throwing peanuts at your head.

“An acute sense of hearing is an important skill for daters. There are many sounds that are intended to alert a dater to possible hazards, and not hearing these sounds can have tragic consequences.”  Per Exhibit E.

If your date sighs heavily between the salad and main course in the fancy restaurant, you have been alerted to incoming boredom, drama, or confession. Pay attention.

If you hear the words, “Nothing”, “Whatever”, “Wow”, or “Fine”, go into high alert. Put out orange cones. Slow to a stop safely off the road and wait for the explosion to pass.

Never text and date.

You will be locked up in the doghouse faster than you can say, “But honey, I heard everything you just said!”

You have choices as a dater.

Dating on a familiar route and steering clear of challenges is obviously not one of them. No one wants to date a boring dater.

On the other hand, always leave room for an out. We present Exhibit G:

Following your date too closely is another bad strategy. No one likes being tailgated. She is going to drive independently and erratically and no, you’d better not ask if she’s impaired by hormones or attempt to take her keys.

Give space to the vehicles around you and allow enough time to respond to a sudden stop or maneuver. Go golfing with the boys once in a while, for heaven’s sake.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the definitive test question of the Driving, er, Dating, Course, proving that the Course itself was a litmus for whether it was passed with pleasant surprise or failed with bitter disappointment:

Are we really choosing between a mindset and a seatbelt?

Lesson 1: Assume the worse in others.

I had my suspicions about this Course all along.

I win.