Into the Woods

Though it’s not something I like to brag about, those who know me well are aware that I spent much of my late teens and early 20s lost in the woods. I don’t mean the literal woods but the figurative ones. There was a time when I made many wrong turns and bad choices. This includes the choosing of a particularly bad, insecure, erratic, dangerous man. You know the type. He’s the guy who’s charming until he’s terrifying, who’s so very sorry (again), who never meant to hurt you, who was only joking, who will never do it again…promise.

While it may seem weird and counterintuitive…escaping, surviving a man like that is what fuels my hope on hard days. The fact that I shouldn’t be here at all makes me beyond grateful for the fact that I’m experiencing anything at all…even the bad stuff. It also keeps me grounded in what I have the capacity to survive, in the truth that a dark chapter doesn’t have to mean a terrible ending. It is possible to experience despondence and fear, to almost be lost forever and still go on to be found, experience joy and fulfillment…to move on.

And so it is with this perspective that I have been navigating the post-election dystopia. While many of my closest friends are understandably completely freaking out and sounding alarms, I’m finding myself eerily calm. It’s not that I’m not upset. Of course I am! I’m a mother, a woman, a human. THIS is NOT the America I want to show to my children or anybody else’s. America is lost in the woods and I’m terrified and sad. I’m resolved to do whatever I can to help her find her way out. This said, instead of shouting for America to come back, I’m conserving my energy…waiting and listening for a sign that America is ready to be found. I’m afraid that if I shout and chase, she’ll just run farther away…slip deeper into the darkness. I sense that at the moment America is still guided by the parts of her that are cockily convinced that she knows right where she’s going.

And so, while the best part of America is screaming, “What are you thinking?!?! Where are you going??? You KNOW this is wrong!” the loud, angry part of America is boldly marching into dangerous territory, confident in her chosen path. To the voices that are trying to convince her otherwise, America is shouting, “Calm down! It’s alright! He didn’t really mean it! He LOVES me! He WILL stop, change, be different, be better. You’ll see, silly conscience!”

Right now, a large part of America is so determinedly lost that she sees no need for a compass. She will continue to ignore the signs that she’s on the wrong path. She is not interested in a map. She will let the trees close in around her, convinced that his “love” and her own ragged breath are enough to guide the way. And so begins a very dark chapter for America.

But I sincerely believe that this does not have to be the end of America’s story. Though she may teeter precariously on the brink of oblivion before she’s ready to listen; hope remains that someday before it’s too late America will be humbled, will reach bottom, will find the clarity and courage to say to herself, “How many times does he have to show me who he is before I believe him???” And in that moment, she will cry for help and the well-organized search party that has been praying for America’s safe return will shout and wave flashlights and bring blankets and holler, “Over here!!! She’s over here!!!” And in that moment, America and all who have been searching for her will collapse with relief that she survived. Collectively, they will see that—while she sustained some damage and alienated many who love her—she will go on to heal, to hope, to write a different ending. This is the future I imagine on the hard days and I still have faith that this is the future I can help to write.

Into the Woods

In Spite of Us

Earlier today, I read this blog post about the current controversy surrounding girly Legos. When I read the concerns some parents are expressing, I heard an echo from the distant past and had to wrinkle my nose a little at the remembrance of my high-and-mighty pre-mommy self…the woman who had many theories but no practical information on how this whole parenting thing was about to go down. In my pre-mommy theoretical mind, I used to fantasize that any children who entered MY house would have a gender neutral experience…that girls would play with trucks and boys would play with dolls. I had many self-righteous “My child will NEVER _______ !” thoughts and plenty far-from-reality visions of how things will ultimately work out.

In my pre-mommy mind, I surmised that me and my artist/musician/metrosexual hubby would surely produce sensitive, artsy, calm, dancing children who would spend their days zenfully contemplating life and sensitively caring for others. Boy or girl, I imagined my offspring would be comfortable playing against type and mixing it up with the opposite gender. Imagine my surprise when–in fact–we ended up with a couple of potty-mouthed, wrestling, “Where-the-Wild-Things-Are” frat boys.

Almost seven years into this little experiment called parenthood, I have come to realize that the actual truth about who kids become is this: they are who they are, they like what they like in spite of us. There are girls who love girly things, boys who love boyish things, girls who love boyish things and boys who love girly things. All of that wishing that everything would be gender neutral was a bit unrealistic and naive. Some girls (and boys) just like girly things. Some boys (and girls) like boyish things. There isn’t really a darn thing all the gender-neutral thinking in the world can do about it.

With regard to this particular issue, here is the truth that I have come to understand: it’s not my job to make things neutral or to mold my kids into some preconceived fantasy of what imagined they’d become. It’s my job to DISCOVER who they are and to love them accordingly. It’s my job to make sure they always feel loved and accepted–even when they surprise me. It’s my job to help them understand that lasting happiness can never be achieved by pretending to be something you are not and that life is too short to waste time wishing that folks will be any different than they are. It’s my job to model what it’s like to be open and accepting of all different kinds of folks. Hopefully this will help my rambunctious ruffians to be open and accepting too…even if they grow up to be pirates.

A Letter for Later RE Boston

April 15, 2013

Dear Boys,

Perhaps you noticed that Mama’s not quite herself today. I’m a little sad…a little impatient. For reasons you don’t know and can’t yet understand, I am out of sorts. Today, two bombs ripped through Boston and tore through my heart. Today, a boy—just a little older than you lost his life simply standing on the sidelines cheering for his dad. His mom and sister will never be the same. In what should have been a moment of such triumph, so much was lost.

I couldn’t help but think of all the times that you boys have stood on the sidelines with Daddy cheering me on for so Finish Linemany races. Grandma couldn’t help thinking about that too. With cracked voice, she called just as I was putting you boys to bed to express how very happy she was that I hadn’t been running that particular race…that you and Daddy hadn’t been the ones holding the signs…standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The pain of parenting is just too overwhelming at times…loving someone so ferociously from your core and knowing, being reminded that you can’t always protect them…knowing, being reminded that with the freedom to experience beauty and joy and adventure comes the risk that something terrible could happen out there in the big, wide world. Sometimes I am almost suffocated by the knowledge that there is so much outside of my control when it comes to you boys. That knowledge perpetually pulses beneath my skin. On days like today, it comes screaming to the surface.

So, years from now, when you look back on the days in your childhood when Mama wasn’t as patient as she should have been…when the tolerance for brotherly bickering was nonexistent, know that THIS is what that was all about: I need to know that even when I’m not around to love you that you will at least try to love each other…even when I’m not around to protect you that you will at least try to protect each other.

In the best of circumstances, the time we get to be here is far too short. Please spend your time loving, laughing, helping. Make sure your time here is joyous. Forgive each other and forgive your Mama for the times when she just couldn’t bear to see you fight. Have adventures, experience beauty and when something ugly happens… thank all the beautiful people who are trying to make it better, BE one of the beautiful people who is trying to make it better.

Love You Madly,


Stephen Colbert on Gun Control

It takes a special kind of genius to simultaneously cause both laughter and deep thought about the most serious of topics. This is perhaps the best piece on gun control I’ve seen yet. Thank you, Stephen for–once again–explaining it all in a way that everyone can appreciate and understand. Stephen Colbert on Gun Control

2013 Oscars: A Few Thoughts About Gender and What’s NOT Funny

I have been quite surprised by the amount of serious debate and discussion that has been sparked by something as light and fluffy as the Oscars. Who knew that this annual glitter fest would ignite so much passion about gender inequity? When a friend posted this thoughtful article, it resonated with me. I re-posted said article and have been gratefully surprised by the conversation that have ensued…the personal realizations that have resulted. So…here are my thoughts…

While the old adage: “It’s funny because it’s TRUE!” may accurately describe many topics, there are so many issues that I have difficulty thinking of as “funny.” For example, I think I’d be hard pressed to laugh at any joke about starving children, rape, or genocide. Some of life’s truths are just too painful to be funny. Thanks to the thoughtful discussions prompted by Seth MacFarlane’s performance at the Oscars this week, I think I will be adding “misogyny” to the list of topics that I personally find very unfunny.

First, let me state that I DON’T hate Seth MacFarlane. I think “Family Guy” is nothing short of genius. Having said this…I DON’T think that his jokes about women’s breasts, mistreatment by boyfriends, eating disorders, and men dating inappropriately young girls were funny or appropriate. I think these things very sadly represent how devalued women STILL are in many segments of our society.

Because I grew up in a home where women where shushed when the game was on, where I was told over and over that only men should be in positions of authority–it’s hard for me not to take stuff like this to heart. I spent too much of my life struggling to find my worth, to believe that I deserve equality and respect. So I apologize if I’m just not able to “lighten up” and laugh along on this particular occasion.

As the mother of two boys, I take very seriously my responsibility to teach them that women are humans with hearts and brains to be valued rather than empty vessels to be objectified. There are many things in the world that are TRUE but (at least in my opinion) are NOT funny. I guess the objectification of women and jokes about said objectification are categorized–at least in MY brain–as “NOT FUNNY.” Because I believe in democracy, it’s truly OK with me if others don’t share my opinion. I fully recognize that my reaction is coming from a very deep personal place. I hope that those who don’t agree can see where I’m coming from and perhaps even believe that my perspective is legitimate–even if they don’t happen to share it.

Do We Have the Courage?

When feeling overwhelmed by what happened in Newtown, Connecticut…guilty for feeling any amount of happiness when so many had their happiness stolen forever…hopeless because I wouldn’t even know where to begin to articulate what I think needs to be done or how I can help…angry when I saw suggestions by the NRA and others that MORE guns are the solution, I read this article. It didn’t make me feel less sad but it did make me feel comforted to see practical, data-driven solutions so exquisitely articulated. It gave me hope that—if only the right people are willing to listen and act—something CAN be done to curb the craziness. I think every American should read and share this article…especially those who are in positions to legislate some change.

Illinois Senate Legalizes Same Sex Marriage!

Here is the happiest news I heard this Valentine’s Day: Illinois is one step closer to joining the states on the right side of history.  As a mom, it is so important to me that my boys grow up in a world where everyone has the right to–without shame or limitations–publicly be the person they were born to be. I am thrilled to see the dominoes falling. I hope that California will soon join the fray.