Lucky Latkes

images.jpg

Things are definitely different here in Washington state. If you follow the news, you will consistently read about Seattle as one of the strongest and fastest growing Jewish communities in the country. I have little reason to doubt this fact. Except that unless I’m at our wonderful new temple in North Seattle, I could swing dozens of dead cats and never hit a single member of our tribe.

We currently live about 20 minutes North of the city in a suburb at the tip of Lake Washington known as Kenmore. My kids have no Jewish friends at school, I haven’t seen a single home with a Mezuzah on the doorpost in our neighborhood, and I can’t find a decent challah within 20 miles of my front door.

I’m not exactly complaining. But it’s awfully weird for this North Shore Chicago girl who spent the last two decades in Los Angeles and Scottsdale surrounded by plenty of Jewish brethren to be living amongst all of these lovely people, most of whom have never even met a Jew. My oldest son, Levi, who is deeply entrenched in Judaism, torah and spirituality has mentioned to me several times that he feels kind of weird even telling kids at school about his Judaism because he’s always met with strange looks and  perplexed stares whenever he mentions his religious heritage.

Please understand that we have in no way met with unkindness or religious intolerance in any way.  Our neighbors are civil and have spoken to us on at least one or two occasions. But they’re not busting down our door with plates of great Aunt Sofie’s mandelbread or a sample of Grandma Sarah’s famous rugelach.

That being said, Levi loves his new High School. In part, this is due to the outstanding culinary arts program that he managed to earn a spot in as the only sophomore ever admitted. His culinary arts teacher is an amazing chef, teacher and yes, Iron Chef America winner. We’ve even talked about having her and the students cater my younger son, Eli’s, upcoming Oneg Shabbat Bar Mitzvah luncheon at the temple this March.

But the other day, Levi came home in a state of utter delight and could barely contain his excitement long enough to tell us why he was so elated. He explained that there was a new class competition in culinary. Each student would get to choose one kitchen appliance for the upcoming challenge and would have to prepare a specified dish with their appliance. Levi immediately began gunning for the food processor. But after picking numbers from a chef hat, he ended up being the last student to choose his appliance. “I knew there was no way I was going to get the food processor,” He told us sadly.

The other appliances included a blender, a Kitchen Aide, a waffle iron, a deli slicer and several other typical kitchen helpers. “But somehow,” Levi offered, “No one picked the food processor. I was absolutely last and I got it! Can you believe that?”

“No one picked the food processor?” I asked incredulously. “That’s really bizarre. That doesn’t make any sense. I would’ve thought the food processor would’ve been the first to be snatched up.” “I know,” he said with a huge smile plastered across his face. “I never knew I was this lucky. And guess what else? You will never believe what recipe I got with it.”

“What?” My husband, Mark, asked with intense curiosity. Levi cheerfully replied, “Dad, it’s our favorite thing to make in the food processor! You’ll never believe it. Guess! You have to guess.”

“Our favorite thing to make in the food processor?” repeated Mark. “Um…potato pancakes?”

“Not just potato pancakes,” chirped Levi, “But latkes! Actual latkes! That’s what the recipe said. Isn’t that amazing!”

Now comes the moment  where I regret lacking any internal editing programs to stop my mouth from speaking exactly what my brain thinks up. “Well, obviously you got the food processor because no one else even knew what a latke was.”

Both Levi and Mark looked at me in horror. “Mom,” Levi said, “That’s ridiculous. Who doesn’t know what a latke is?” Mark was smiling a knowing smile, “Yeah hon, who doesn’t know what a latke is?”

“Um…you’re right, Leves,” I stammered. “Forget I said that. You just got…lucky, incredibly lucky!

images-1

The inconvenient tinkle truth

One more reason to put down the friggin' seat!

One more reason to put down the friggin’ seat!

I love Target. I doubt they could do anything offensive enough to make me close my purse and boycott their establishment. So the ongoing hoopla over their gender neutral bathrooms seems more than a little silly to me. Plus, given the state of our current economic woes, the idea of a campaign targeting an institution that carries merchandise from high-end manufacturers like Dyson and Cuisinart, while also offering a plethora of products like Bud Lite, Alpo and Suave, seems wrong to me on so many levels.

Frankly, I don’t really care which bathroom anyone uses or with which gender people identify. I am enthusiastically in favor of allowing everyone to use whatever public bathroom they need when they need to use it. I mean, just think of the mess we will have to endure if any one group feels unwelcome and resorts to urinating on the sidewalk or, Heaven forbid, defecating along the side of the road.

But at a certain point, I must draw the line. If you eliminate while standing, put the friggin’ toilet seat down when you’re done! It is disgusting to have to handle a urine-stained toilet seat from a woman’s perspective. (I know it’s very politically incorrect to suggest that I speak for an entire gender. But I think it’s nasty, and I’ve never met a woman who relished the opportunity to touch, hoist or handle a slovenly seat previously sprayed by a sloppy stranger.

As an actor, I am used to sharing facilities with all types of folk. But several times I have had to bring up the annoying seat lowering negligence to male cast mates or careless crew members. I have discovered, however, that the majority of both men and women consider it uncouth and ill-mannered to leave the seat up. This is an issue all genders find rather revolting.

Again, I realize it is high risk these days to speak honestly about such a delicate topic. But I feel I owe it to society to address this despicable elephant in our public bathrooms.

Look, I’m a wife and a mom. I live with three Y chromosome individuals. But I taught them from the very beginning that if they intend to live in the same house as I do, they’d better put down the seat down after each and every turn in the toilet. It’s really not that difficult to train the males in your life on proper potty protocol.

And while I’m at it, I hate to sound critical. But as more and more restrooms are converted to co-ed, I’m a little appalled by the splashes of yolk colored puddles that seem to sit at the base of every public toilet I visit. I’m not pointing a finger, but we women don’t miss the bowl. That’s all I’m saying.

Come on, America. We have the first woman ever running for president. It’s an exciting time for our sex, even if we do only take home .77 cents to every dollar earned by our male counterparts. But we have power in numbers. We must insist on equal rights for all public bathroom users. Congress passed the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, in 1919. Women were officially welcomed into every position for which they were qualified in our military just this past January of 2016. Our strides continue to be bold, courageous, and powerful. But it is deplorable that the issue of seat lowering has not been championed and brought to the forefront.

I for one am ready to lead the charge. I am not afraid to speak loud and proud for all of us who relieve ourselves on our derriéres. We are not second class citizens. We demand respect in the bathroom and will not rest until each and every penis wielding person uses common sense values, compassion, and consideration when in the presence of a public toilet. So put the damn seats down!

Now who’s with me?

Zillow be damned!

UnknownYou know how you just know certain things about your kids? Like, your daughter may be delightfully quirky, but she simply wasn’t born with the grace to end up as an Olympic figure skater? Or your son might be the next Jay Leno, but chances aren’t good that he’ll win a Nobel economics prize? We all make certain assumptions about our children based on the reality of who they are and their strengths and weaknesses. Take my eldest, Levi, for example. He’s unusually bright, brimming with kindness and one of the funniest 13 year old boys I’ve ever encountered. Barring some unexpected psychotic break in his early twenties, (God forbid a million times), I feel fairly confident claiming that he is not and never will be a stalker, terrorist or mass murderer. But we live in unthinkable times where kids aren’t allowed to keep score in flag football leagues, lockers have been outlawed at most middle schools and bringing a PB&J sandwich to school can get a kid expelled for attempted homicide.

So when the fill-in vice principal at my son’s middle school called me today, I was a bit taken aback. He gently introduced himself and I immediately went into panic mode. “Is everything alright? Is Levi okay?” I asked with a tone of terror in my voice. Clearly he hadn’t spoken to enough parents in his early tenure to know that one must always begin the unexpected parental phone call with the obligatory, “Hello Mrs. Gettleman, this is Mr. X from your son’s school and EVERYONE IS JUST FINE.”

Turns out he was calling because of my son’s inquisitive mind and untraditional interest in real estate. Apparently, Levi and his classmates were sharing home addresses on googlemaps and Levi, imbued with curiosity, checked out their living quarters on Zillow.com. I cannot tell you why my son is fascinated by Zillow. Perhaps it has something to do with his unusual interest in HGTV and the myriad of home-buying programs they air. While it doesn’t float my boat, he loves watching “Love it or List it,” “House Hunters International,” and he’s entered to win the 2014 “HGTV Dream Home” at least a thousand times this year. I’ll admit it’s not typical, but I’d hardly call it risky teen behavior.

But of course, what one sane parent sees as idiosyncratic and amusing, another parent might judge as dangerous and threatening to their offspring. So I sat, slack-jawed, as I listened to this man’s explanation that a parent had called with deep concern about my son’s “inappropriate” behavior. After I determined that this was not a crank call or a set-up for an upcoming episode of Punk’d, I spoke rather tentatively. “Um…have you met my son Levi? I can assure you he’s not stalking anyone or posing a risk to other students.”

“Well, I did get a chance to talk to him,” he said, “And I too determined that he is a really sweet kid who just didn’t realize that looking up other people’s addresses on Zillow is a breach of privacy.” A breach of privacy? Really? Like every geographic, economic and political piece of information about each of us isn’t part of today’s public internet database? You’ve got to be kidding me. My kid’s in hot water because he Zillowed another kid’s house?

Maybe I’ve lost all sense of reality. Maybe I really don’t understand how dangerous the world has become. Maybe finding out that a 7th grader knew our address, square footage and Zillow Home Value Index would actually freak me out enough to call the principal and complain. Or maybe…maybe…I’m a little less neurotic than the average parent today. Now that’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

Middle school mayhem

Image

Throw away every kind, thoughtful or genteel thing you’ve ever learned. Do not offer your hand upon introducing yourself. Never hold the door open for anyone — especially not for a girl. No, strike that, boy or girl, same story. And whatever you do, never, ever admit to liking, respecting or even tolerating your parents.

This is a page out of our middle school preparatory training manual. My 12 year old son, Levi, starts middle school at a new school in four days. It’s his first foray into the public school system and he doesn’t know a single soul. So we’re all a little nervous about how he’ll like it and whether or not he’ll fit in easily, etc…

For those of you who don’t know Levi, he’s not your ordinary 12 year old boy. He’s delightfully chivalrous,  amazingly mature, deeply thoughtful and incredibly sensitive. Having these traits has necessitated some serious middle school tutoring.

My best friend in LA told me a horror story about her eldest son holding the door open for other students the first few weeks of his middle school experience. He was “dork” labelled and alienated for three quarters of the year. Luckily he found his niche and figured out that kindness and consideration were not attributes a middle schooler ought to display.

Another friend of ours was horrified upon meeting my son that he had warmly extended his hand, smiled broadly and happily introduced himself using his first and last name. “He’s not gonna do that in middle school?” My pal asked anxiously.

“No,” I stammered. “Of course not. He can be just as unfriendly and ill-mannered as any other child.” I grabbed Levi and fled the scene.

Once we were safely ensconced in the car, I clarified to him that going to middle school was a lot like going to a foreign country. It’s important to observe the culture and learn the language so you don’t inadvertently find yourself in the middle of an uncomfortable international fiasco. No standing out. No drawing attention to yourself. “Middle school is like a water color painting,” I advised, “Best done in muted shades that blend together easily.” What can I say? It was the best I could come up with on short notice.

“But I thought I was always supposed to be myself?” My son curiously inquired. “You’ve always told me to let my unique personality out and if people don’t like me it’s their problem, not mine.”

“Yes. Yes, I did,” I conceded. “But that hasn’t worked out all that well for us thus far. And all bets are off in middle school. Fitting in, laying low and not rocking any boats — that is our new M.O. By the way,” I added, “Do not, under any circumstance, admit to liking your parents or enjoying our company. That is a number one middle school faux pas.”

“I don’t think I’m going to like middle school, mom,” he said with the resignation of a soldier being sent to the front line.

“That’s okay,” I told him. “In fact, that’s perfect. Because no one likes middle school. Good job, buddy. Way to fit in.”

Backpack ban. For real?

No drinks. No boomerangs, No backpacks. No...circus ringmaster jackets?

No drinks. No boomerangs, No backpacks. No…circus ringmaster jackets?

My 12 year old son, Levi, will be starting middle school in August at a brand new public school. We’re all excited and nervous and trying to figure out how life operates in this totally unknown environment. Up till now, he’s been highly sheltered by our local private Jewish day school.

There’s a steep learning curve here and I admit it is causing us some anxiety. LIke the other day, for instance, he was perusing the district web site and confronted me in a panic.

“Mom,” he voiced fearfully, “It says on the website that kids are prohibited from carrying backpacks on campus.”

“Levi,” I responded with a doubtful glance, “That’s ridiculous. I’m sure you didn’t read it accurately. I mean, how are you supposed to carry your stuff to school? Picnic basket?”

He assured me that what he had seen had been real and urged me to call the district office to confirm it. His anxiety was growing and I figured that calling the office was the perfect way to allay his concerns. “Hello,” I started to the kindly woman who answered the phone, “I’m a parent of a new student who will be coming to your school in the fall and my son saw something on your website about backpacks not being allowed on campus. I know that sounds rather crazy. So I just wanted to check and make sure that he misunderstood whatever he thought he read.”

“Um…I’m not really sure what to tell you,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Can you hold for a moment?” Then she disappeared for like three minutes and I waited, wondering if she was using the same trick my insurance company uses every time I call to check on a benefit. I like to call it the “indefinite hold tactic.” It’s when certain organizations systematically put you on hold forever, knowing you’ll eventually get so frustrated you’ll hang up and decide it’s easier to just pay whatever remaining balance they insist you still have, even though you’ve already paid them three times already. But I digress.

Finally she returned, “The backpack rule is a campus by campus decision and I’m afraid no one at the district can give you the backpack requirements for an individual school. You’ll have to wait till the school reopens for the school year to call and inquire about it.”

“But…I mean…Are you saying there may be some rule against students carrying backpacks?” I’m stammering at this point because this sounds as silly to me as if she told me that number 2 pencils were being outlawed.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to call the school after July 22nd,” she curtly ended the conversation.

Baffled by this, I started to do some research and found that yes, backpacks have been items-non-grata at schools across the country for over a decade. Huh?

I found articles as far back as 2003 explaining the dangers of backpacks containing concealed weapons, drug paraphernalia, even bombs. The answer to some lunatic potentially stuffing a bomb into a backpack? No more backpacks. Maybe it’s me, but that sounds like the most inane answer to school violence and drug abuse that I have ever heard.

But that wasn’t all I discovered. There were other equally lame reasons for prohibiting the dreaded back carriers. The Academy of Orthopedic surgeons had come out with some declaration a few years back about the risks of long-term back and neck injuries and posture problems from kids hauling around overweight backpacks.

Other schools had outlawed backpacks because, and I’m not making this up, they proved to be dangerous threats to teacher safety both inside the classroom and in the corridors of learning. Apparently, teachers find themselves tripping over backpack straps on a regular basis during the school day. They also complain that they have been severely injured in the hallways by backpack-clad youngsters racing from one class to the next.

OK, now I am deeply sensitive to teachers’ needs. Teachers deserve all the credit, gratitude and respect we can give. Their jobs are important and critical to our society. However, this is a little bit silly, don’t you think? I mean, are they sashaying down the aisles between desks while reviewing the Spanish American War? Tap dancing around the classroom as they pose thought-provoking questions about Odysseus? Kids can’t carry backpacks because teachers are tripping over them en masse? Maybe we need to have an in-service day focused on cautious strolling protocol.

And one more question: in what, pray tell, are our children supposed to carry their personal items, notebooks and other school supplies? Hefty trash bags? One girl somewhere out East faced this very dilemma and started carting her load around in a plastic, yellow sand castle pail. Come on! We have got to get a grip. Yes, someone hid a pressure cooker in a backpack and murdered innocent victims. That’s deplorable and hideous. But banning backpacks wouldn’t have stopped the Boston bombings. Believe me, they would have found another way to hurt people. That’s what evil people do. They figure out ways to destroy and ruin good, unsuspecting people’s lives. We need to address evil, not the outward accoutrements of it.

We didn’t ban underwear after the underwear bomber tried to blow up an airplane. We can’t outlaw every single item that some sick, twisted cretan uses to accomplish some heinous activity. We just can’t. It would be like…like…like…trying to eliminate peanuts from every elementary school in the country. Oh wait, we have done that.

Parenting and perfectionism; mutually exclusive?

The Perfectionist's Guide to Results (Lo)

I remember the moment I first became a perfectionist. It was a cold winter evening around 6 p.m. My father had just returned from work and was taking his first real breath of the day behind his faux granite bar with the padded tangerine vinyl facade. I sat across from him on one of the matching vinyl bar stools in my Lanz of Salzburg nightgown, my long locks pulled tightly into a neat ponytail. I am 9 or 10 and have just received my mid term grades. I can’t wait to show them to my father. We had a rule that we had to wait at least 10 minutes from the moment he walked into the house before we bombarded him with all of the critically important information we had gleaned throughout the day. My 10 minutes were finally up.

“Dad,” I eagerly started, “Wanna see my report card?”

“Of course,” he smiled with the warmth that assured me of his sincerity.

I showed him my prized tally of grades that reflected how hard I had worked all semester. “Almost all ‘As’,” I boasted. “Just two ‘Bs’ in social studies and shop. And that’s just because I was scared to use that circular saw.”

My father perused the report card closely, his expression as neutral as a high stakes poker player. “Well,” he said gently, “If that’s the best you can do…”

I remember the sinking feeling in my chest. I felt unsteady, as if someone had pulled the carpet out from beneath me. I nearly toppled off the barstool. My best? Well, of course that’s not my best. I can do better! I can! I am smart and worthy of your love. I will never disappoint you again! Never!

I actually said nothing out loud. But the horror of all my self doubts screamed so loud inside my head that I couldn’t hear anything my father might have said to lessen the sting of his comment. “If that’s the best you an do…”

I never got another B in school. I drove myself like an animal. I could not accept anything lower than an A from that moment forward. Throughout middle school, high school, even college, I never forgot the stabbing pain of my father’s disappointment at my better than average academic performance. I had let him down and it would never happen again.

Clearly this sits at the core of many of my “issues” to this day. I cannot tolerate letting people down. I will go to ridiculous lengths to finish projects, follow through on obligations, and complete even the most insignificant tasks with the fierce dedication and commitment of a soldier whose mission it is to save the world from the forces of evil. It’s really a sickness.

I have also achieved many amazing things in my life and past careers. I cannot blame my father without also acknowledging that he lit a fire inside me that enabled me to fight relentlessly and never accept mediocrity. A gift? A curse? I’m really not sure. Perhaps a little of both.

Which brings me to today. My kind, smart, funny, creative 12 year old son, Levi, got his 6th grade final report card. “Mom,” he asked the moment he entered the car, “Do you think that 2 “Bs” are bad? I mean, if everything else is an “A”?” I struggled to answer. Clearly there is a right and a wrong response to this question that will set my son up for either a lifetime of failure and disappointment or years of stellar achievement and accomplishment. I am dumbstruck. What to say?

“What were the “Bs” in?” I ask non-judgmentally.
“Hebrew and Social Studies,” he answers. “And my social studies teacher was the hardest teacher at the school.”

“I certainly don’t think that’s bad,” I stammer, “I would have liked to have seen all “As” of course. But it could have been worse. Are you happy with these grades?”

“Well, I really wanted to get all “As”,” he shared, “But I think I’m pretty okay with how I did.”

“Great,” I tried to smile genuinely, “As long as you’re satisfied with yourself. That’s all anyone can ever ask of you.”

But this particular issue about grades seems even more potent for me. What is a parent supposed to say? Truthfully, I was disappointed that he didn’t get all “As”. But I’m pretty sure that’s because I have a skewed view of reality that doesn’t allow for me to make mistakes. So how can I overcome my own issues in order to accept my son for who he is, even if sometimes who he is isn’t perfect.

I have to tell you, I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering which of my many maternal missteps will poison my children’s developing psyches. I have truly developed this type of worrisome brooding into an art form. Whether its a careless public comment about an unzipped zipper or an insensitive wrist slap as one of my boys reaches for their fifth brownie at Thanksgiving dinner, I am certain that I am, or will be, the reason my children end up deeply disturbed, depressed, or at least depicted in numerous chapters of the DSM-VII (or whatever number it is by the time they’re in therapy.)

By accepting our kids as they are, are we encouraging them somehow to be less than they are capable of becoming? Does that even make sense? I want my son to be happy and well adjusted. I also want him to work hard and achieve because he has the capacity to accomplish great things in his life. How do you instill work ethic, determination, and tenacity while also allowing for imperfection, error and the occasional foul-up?

This is hard, parenting. I want to do it right so badly. But I don’t even know what right looks like most of the time. Anybody have the answer to this one?

Bomber mom

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boston Marathon bombers’ mother swears that her boys are innocent. “It’s some kind of hoax,” she keeps repeating. I’m watching her words tick across the bottom of a muted television in my Dentist’s office. I can only read the larger headlines from across the room, not her actual words. Why do they silence the volume? We’re all sitting here struggling to read the small type. She is gesticulating madly and I manage to surmise that she truly believes her boys are good, solid citizens, going to school, chasing the American dream. Who could actually believe their offspring were capable of killing and maiming hundreds of people in a violent, inhumane terrorist attack?

I think I could. Honestly. I think I pretty much can assess my boys’ capabilities to do evil rather accurately. At this point in their young lives I can sincerely boast that terrorism is not on either of their agendas. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if your kid commits a heinous act of violence, your only means of self-preservation is denial.

I have a friend who takes pride in asserting that her kids are average. She says it all the time. Laughs when she tells people. “My kids are average looking, average intelligence, average in every way.” I used to think she said it to stun other parents who were gloating about their children being intellectually gifted or having some kind of superior artistic or athletic prowess. But now I think she actually believes it.

I don’t see my kids as anywhere near average. But maybe that’s my version of bomber mom’s denial. The other night we went to my 12 year old son, Levi’s, Spring Showcase at school. I can tell which teachers recognize his unique inner sparkle and which do not. Some of them see him as average and I know they are missing the boat entirely. They seem more focused on what he inadvertently blurts out in class or his messy hand-writing. I feel sorry for those teachers. They don’t see his quirky creative mind or his sunny, delightful disposition. They want him to fit in, to act like everyone else, to be…average.

I try to teach my kids how to “act” average so that they do fit in in school, with peers, in life. It’s a challenging task for a mom who believes whole-heartedly in shining your inner light and allowing the world to see you for who you really are. But the world of kids celebrates “average.” I can’t tell you how many teachers, administrators, and therapists have warned us about the ever-encroaching middle school madness where fitting in is the only way to get by and standing out in any way makes kids automatic bullying targets. I want my boys to know how to fit in.

But the more I teach them to fit in, the more I remind them that it’s only an act. That in society we all learn tools to make our lives easier, more comfortable, less stressful. Fitting in is one of those tools. But it doesn’t mean you stop thinking, acting and believing in all of the charming inner traits that make you unique and extraordinary. That’s the louder message I hope to convey. And if that puts me somehow in the same category as my pal who really sees her kids as average, or bomber mom, who’s incapable of seeing who her children have become, so be it. I’ll live in denial. Recognizing indubitably that my children are spectacularly gifted with a sense of kindness, a creative wisdom, and a flair for the eccentric that sets them apart from the pack, and that if used well, will bring them success, inner fulfillment and joy as they share it with the world.

Bingo dammit!

imgres“B-37,” one of the moms in my son Eli’s third grade class called out.

“Bingo!” Yelled Samantha. I enjoyed watching the victorious young lady’s glee as she celebrated her triumph.

“N-11,” the mom loudly announced over the myriad pronouncements of joy and despair by the remaining players.

“Perhaps she doesn’t know how to play this game,” I thought to myself.

“G-7,” she continued calling.

“Bingo!” Yelled Taylor. There were more “ahs” and “darns” from the ensemble.

“O-63,” she went on.

She must be on auto-pilot, I worried. Maybe being the Valentine Bingo caller was too taxing an enterprise for her. I decided to leave my post at the bagel and cream cheese station to see if I might be of assistance to her.

Quietly I whispered, “Someone’s already won.”

“N-11,” she proclaimed as if she hadn’t even heard me.

“There’s already a winner,” I spoke out with conviction.

She looked at me askance. “Everyone has to win,” she stated matter-of-factly. “We can’t stop until every child gets Bingo and wins a prize.”

At first, I thought she was joking. I mean I’m well aware of eternal T-Ball ties and even-Steven itty-bitty basketball games. But even in 3rd grade Bingo we aren’t allowed to have winners and losers?

I returned to my bagel station dejected and disillusioned. This is what’s wrong with the world today. We insist on perpetuating a ridiculous myth of equality when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Bingo, someone wins. This also implies the converse. Someone, (usually several someones), lose. It’s a game! That’s the whole point. One person gets the lucky numbers first. That’s why it’s fun. It’s not skill. It’s not personal will or sheer determination that dictate the outcome here. It’s a silly game of luck. Why are we shielding our youth from this reality?

No Junior, you will not always win. Life is about losing some times. It’s about learning resiliency, bouncing back, accepting defeat and fighting to win the next time around.

Instead we are raising lazy, pathetic people who expect prizes for failure and unlimited chances to win. That’s not how life works. Why are we doing this?

Later that night when we were sitting around the table I asked Eli, a fiercely competitive child, if he noticed anything unusual about Bingo. “It was really fun,” he concluded. “But what do you mean by unusual?”

“Well, who won?” I inquired.

“Nobody,” he answered plainly.

“But I kept hearing kids yell ‘Bingo’,” I asserted. amazed that he had missed something so obvious.

“But we were playing ‘Black-Out’ Bingo, mom” he clarified, “You know, where you have to fill in the whole card before you win?”

“Ah ha,” I smiled. “So nobody really won? That’s interesting.”

“Why mom?” he questioned, “Tell me why you’re asking.”

“Just curious,” I replied, unsure if I should reveal the truth or not. Maybe it’s better this way, with him believing in the illusive golden ring that remains always a bit out of reach.
“But everyone got a prize,” I just couldn’t leave it alone.

“Yeah mom,” he laughed to himself, “Everyone always gets a prize. That’s just how they do it these days. But don’t worry, I know that nobody really won. They just don’t want to hurt the kids’ feelings. I think it may have to do with law suits or something.”

I shook my head and giggled. “Yeah,” I said, “You’re probably right.”

So while most kids walked away feeling like winners, my competitive junkie filled in the blanks a little differently. I guess competition really is in the eye of the beholder.

Lockdown

imgres-6My 12 year old son, Levi, has anxiety issues. This isn’t a secret. So to those of you who might suggest that I’m exposing some kind of family skeleton, I want you to know that I always check with my family first before airing our dirty laundry in public. As long as they’re okay with it, I figure it’s fair game for public consumption.

That being said, the other day at school his math teacher sent him to his homeroom classroom to make copies for her during class. He happily complied and set off to do so. Apparently, only seconds after leaving the classroom, word got out about a ponytailed, pistol carrying stranger at a school a few blocks away. Our school went into immediate lockdown. I’m not talking “drill.” I’m talking serious, “we’re in a different kind of world after Newtown” lock down. So while Levi haplessly skipped across campus, everyone else bolted their doors, pinned up paper to cover the windows and huddled in bathrooms, closets and corners.

Levi thought it was more than strange when the door to his classroom was locked. Even more odd were the darkened windows that left no view to the inside of the room. He looked around and noted that no one else was anywhere within sight. Hmmm? He remained calm and clear-headed though and knocked softly on the door. Luckily, his teacher slyly squinted through a side gap in the papered window. Then, like an episode of “The Munsters,” the classroom door opened a crack and a hand emerged, grabbed my son, and dragged him into the room. It wasn’t until after he was safe that he felt the anxiety of the situation catching up to him. But to his amazing credit, he held it together and was able to talk himself down and maintain control of his emotions.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me. But I find the irony of this inane confluence of events staggeringly comical. I mean how is it possible that my kid, the one with severe anxiety issues, ends up on the wrong side of a lock-down, only days after the most gut-wrenching massacre in our nation’s history? I guess it’s okay to find humor in the irony since no one was hurt and nothing bad really transpired. I can’t even contemplate the real devastation that could have occurred had a copy-cat ventured onto ours or a nearby campus. Maybe the humor is simply survivor’s guilt or some kind of defense mechanism to protect myself from the overwhelming pain etched into our souls by last week’s horrific destruction.

Sometimes it’s just too painful to contemplate the very real risks we endure every day as we try to live our lives, watch over our families, and protect our precious children. And so to all who suffered a loss in Connecticut, our hearts ache over your pain. The nation grieves along with you and sends love, strength and healing to you.

May you all be blessed with a sense of peace and may God bring comfort to those in mourning who must now learn to accept the unfairness of life as they struggle to live without the earthly presence of someone so deeply cherished.

Ancient battles

I’m not a poet. I wouldn’t know how to technically craft a poem to save my life. I like to write funny. Funny is safe. Funny is easy. But sometimes nothing feels funny. Every moment hurts. Bitterly.

 

 

 

Ancient Battles

When they are small it’s so easy to

kiss away boo-boos,

Wipe soggy tears,

And dab ointment on cuts and bruises.

A mother’s salve.

Healing.

 

But time changes all that.

And pains become immeasurable.

My words cannot erase the hurt

of treacherous laughter

and taunting betrayal.

 

My heart aches inside me.

I want so to help.

Instead I remain outside his fortress,

Unable to soothe.

Ill-equipped to protect him from the child warriors

who rage at the walls of his porcelain ego.

 

We are both wearied from battle.

“Don’t give up,” I manage to eke out the words

like a fallen soldier,

desperate to embolden the barely breathing comrade by my side.

“You will win in the end.”

 

He tries to believe me.

The corner of his mouth curls just enough

to tell me he’s not ignoring me.

And then silence.

We drive on through the night

alone —

together.

His fresh wounds bleeding.

My scabs ripped open to

once again remember the agony of childhood.

 

Don’t mean to depress anyone. But this is where I’ve been living this past week. So many good, kind parents have no idea that their children are viciously tormenting others. Please, talk to your kids about bullying. Teach them that cruelty wounds deeply and childhood scars can last lifetimes. Even if you’re certain it’s “not your kid,” think again. Because it just may be.