No longer politics as usual.

A few of my son’s friends came over recently to pick something up, and they had not seen our house yet. My son gave them a tour, and the whole time I was thinking, “Good Lord. This house is a mess.” I was somewhat embarrassed, and a bit frustrated about the condition of the kids’ bedrooms and bathroom.

As I watched the RNC conclusion that night, a similar feeling crept in. I am embarrassed and frustrated by the state of our country and the presidential race, which is no longer about parties or contentious debate. Heck, I led my 5th-grade class in support of Nixon in a mock election; I know how it feels to be on the ultimately losing end of politics. This is not that.

“This” is the staggering number of Americans who seem to want to return America to a time when we were not, in fact, great. They want to return to a time when white males were in charge, a time when minorities and gays were allowed – encouraged, even – to be marginalized, a time when women were best found in the kitchen in full makeup with dinner cooking. They seem to want to go back to the days when violence was the answer to any given night’s saloon debate, the days when it was okay to hate because it was “us” versus “them,” and “us” was always right. The days when “them” could have been anybody.

Trump did not win the nomination based on his platform; one can logically argue the issues of a platform. He won the nomination by encouraging fear, prejudice, lies, hatred and bigotry, and there is no room for logic there. He condones – incites! – violence against those who disagree with him, and resorts to the name-calling and insult-spewing tactics of a schoolyard bully when faced with adversity.

This is no longer about Democrats vs. Republicans. We have survived that divide time and again. This is about the American people. As the great one once said, a house divided cannot stand. And with the depth of the hatred, racism and bigotry we have seen rise to the surface this year … I’m embarrassed and frustrated about the condition of our house.


The Arrogance of Youth, or how I learned to stop lying about hair color

Waiting for the Memorial Day Observance to begin last evening, I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between a few elderly people a few chairs away. They were discussing the lives and accomplishments of some of their relatives, and one woman said, “I’ll never forget my niece! She lives – wait. Where does she live, dear?” she asked her husband. “Cleveland. Yes. And what’s her name again?” I sat there chuckling, thinking, what do you mean, you’ll never forget her? You’ve already forgotten her!

I was feeling the smug of youth.

It reminded me of a visit a few years back to my hometown, when I went to the local YMCA to watch my mom teach her Senior Aqua-Aerobics class. They were all in the pool as I greeted my mother. She was thrilled to show off her students – her “ladies” – to me, and me to them.

“And this is my dance instructor,” she said at one point, introducing me to a woman in her eighties in a spiffy one-piece suit holding hand weights, who was also a redhead.

“I don’t know how you did it,” my mom said, “but you two both have the exact same shade of red hair!” She turned to me. “What do you use, honey?”

I was beet red. “Mom,” I said quietly, “there are those who might think this is my natural color.” She looked at me doubtfully.

“No . . . really? Huh.” She then looked at her ladies for help, and they all smiled at me and shook their heads kindly.

Youth-smug, people. The struggle is real.


An open letter to Donald Trump, from a mom

For seventeen years – all of their lives – I have strived to teach my children concepts I think are critical to a happy, healthy, charitable and compassionate life. Some of these concepts, like healthy self-esteem and body image, the ability to have difficult conversations, and the self-confidence to stand up for themselves and others, have been particularly challenging because I’ve had to learn them in the process.

As I sit here and read about your latest insult – comparing your wife’s picture to Mrs. Cruz? Seriously? What are you, 12? – I get the sense that you’re trying to undo all of it.

You are showing my son that to stand up to bullies can mean more – and worse – bullying. You are showing him that being insulting, degrading, condescending and threatening is a door to both economic and political success. My son, who is one of the nicest kids you’d ever want to meet, fortunately still sees you for what you are – a bigot and a bully.

You are showing my daughter that it doesn’t matter how smart she is, how hard she tries, how academically superior she may be, how athletically determined she is – if she doesn’t fit the standard definition of “beautiful,” none of those other things matter. She will not be worthwhile. My daughter, fortunately, who is one of the all-around coolest kids you’d ever want to meet, has a good support network to remind her what’s important, and still sees you for what you are – a misogynist and a bully.

You are showing both of my children that this country, founded on diversity, is instead thriving on hatred, divisiveness, misogyny, intolerance and racism. That we no longer live in the greatest country in the world because that country would not be anchored in those principles. My children, who are the future of this country, this year’s election notwithstanding, fortunately still believe in all that is good in the United States, and in fact may feel it a little more strongly than they did six months ago, when they first encountered someone trying to destroy it.

As a parent, I am asking you to stop. Stop trying to undo my parenting … because you’re wasting our time, and – thank God – you’re wasting your own.


Irony at its best

I recently realized that for the last month I have not written a “Boom with a View” post about being a 50-something working mother of teens with elderly relatives because I am a 50-something (with some of the health issues that accompany this age) working mother of teens (both involved in after-school activities and neither of whom drive yet) with elderly relatives (with some of the health/mobility issues that accompany that age).

Coincidence? Perhaps. More will follow, I’m sure, as the strands of my brain unwind, slowly and surely, like a twisted telephone cord of old. In the meantime, please enjoy this random picture of one of our three cats (yes, you read that right. Three. Cats.), Lenny, when he was but a wee one. :)


♫ Isn’t It Romantic? ♪

Gather ’round, kids. Our very favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day, is fast approaching. It’s the one day we are allowed to blatantly display our love for each other, and every year Auntie Maggie takes particular delight in sharing the special story of this most romantic time.  Yes, Auntie Maggie has an issue or two.

Our story begins in Rome in the year 269 A.D. Emperor Claudius wanted to build a really big army so he could prove his manhood by having other men slaughter his enemies. Unfortunately he forgot to invent the draft, and instead just asked the guys to join with the promise that hey, it might be fun.

Much to the emperor’s chagrin, his volunteer army consisted of about zero soldiers, once again proving the theory that given the option, people would rather live. Misreading this most basic of tenets, however, Claudius determined that men were not cowards but rather, for lack of a better term, whipped. They weren’t joining his army because they didn’t want to leave their wives.

In a burst of classic male logic, he outlawed marriage, because obviously if a man couldn’t have a wife, the next best thing would be to kill people. He apparently overlooked the Golden Rule of the male psyche, i.e., if they can’t have it, they only want it more. Or actually, maybe he invented it. Who knows. I didn’t write the story. I’m just telling it.

Anyway, society was incensed at this turn of events, and an outraged young priest named Valentine continued to perform marriage ceremonies secretly until he was ultimately busted by the love police and sentenced to death for the crime of condoning marriage.

While awaiting his fate in the dungeon, he was befriended by a prison guard’s daughter who apparently was allowed to play down there. She supported his defiance of the emperor’s edict, offering encouragement and friendship. He really liked this young girl, and on the day he was scheduled to die – February 14, so the story goes – the priest left her a thank-you note and signed it, “Love from your Valentine.” Wasn’t that sweet? Then they cut off his head.

Fast forward to the 1700s, when American settlers were experiencing their first taste of the hell we affectionately refer to here as “winter.” They invented Thanksgiving for November, Christmas helped pass December, and my birthday got them through January, but what would prevent them from going nutso in February?

“Hey, I know!” someone said. “Let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day, in honor of that priest whose head was lopped off because despite the fact that he probably never had to live through it, he thought marriage was a good thing!” And that, or something like that, is how Valentine’s Day came to America. Isn’t that wonderful? I get goosebumps.

So you see? You don’t have to be hurt or lonely if you don’t have someone special to share Valentine’s Day with, or if you have someone special but he or she is too dense to buy you things. It’s okay.  Things really could be worse.

The truth of the matter is we’re celebrating the fact that a really good man lost his life in a really disgusting way because another obviously unhappy man blamed love for other not unhappy men’s lack of desire to kill. When it comes right down to it, I just don’t mind not getting flowers for that.

For everyone else, those who are happily in love with people who actually remember to buy them stuff, um, hey! Happy Valentine’s Day! Woohoo!



There’s No Place Like It.

I want to go home.

It’s funny to type that as I sit in my chair at my desk in my office in my house, because of course, I AM home. But this home – this house where my children have grown up and this neighborhood where I walk my dog every day and this city in which I’ve lived for three decades – is not the home I’m talking about.

That home is back in time somewhere – the house I couldn’t get out of fast enough, in the neighborhood I couldn’t wait to leave, in the city from which I couldn’t flee far enough. It’s where my siblings and I – best friends one minute, sworn enemies the next, with allegiances that changed with the wind direction – formed a cohesive unit that at once bonded us against the outside world and made us chomp at the bit to get out into it. It’s where I spent the first third of my life, 18 years of memories that are fading with each passing day no matter how hard I try to hold on to them.

That “home” represents a time, challenging as it could be, that still allowed for the naïve, passionate, unquestioning hope that is unfortunately not as easily grasped anymore … or maybe just not as readily acknowledged. The time that truly is wasted on the young.

Between watching my teenagers at the start of their lives, and so many friends and family members at the end of theirs, I’ve never wanted to return to the days of my youth as desperately as I do at this moment. I don’t want a “do-over,” although certainly there are times I think that would be nice as well; no, all I want is to go back for a bit, to remember more. To feel that way again. Fortunately this moment is just that – a moment – and it will pass and my life will continue exactly where it left off, but in that moment, I’m walking in the pasture at Davis Road picking wild strawberries, or sitting in the high school library with Anne and Katie talking about tests or boys, or skating behind a shovel on the pond trying to clear it smooth, or lying in my bed listening to the Eagles’ Greatest Hits.

In that moment, at least, I am home.


Don’t let the door hit you.

Dear thyroid cancer:

You never did scare me, though you scarred me for life
Removed as you were by my surgeon’s knife
But with his skilled hands, you still didn’t mar
My precious neck which now bears your scar

You tried and you failed to make me feel sad
You weren’t even the worst that I’ve ever had.
You crept into my life with intent to disturb
And so with my clean scan, I kick you to the curb.



Disturbing Thought for the Day

“Kids! Where are my tweezers? I have a mustache again!”

“Oh, come on! I’m old enough for an AARP card but too young for discounts?! That’s not fair!”

“Yes, I know these mood swings are killing you, honey. They’re killing me more.”

Recalling some conversations of the past 24 hours, it occurs to me that in my mid-50s, I am in the puberty of old age.



The grief of stages

A few years ago my kids reached ages that I vividly remember being. Every song from the ‘70s serves to keep those memories fresh, and they translate, somehow, to my parenting. Those memories inform the way I talk to my kids, respond to them, make requests, challenge them, congratulate them. I remember the roller-coaster emotions, the raging hormones, the displaced anger, the confusion. I remember the “being with friends” moments from which emerged life memories.

I feel like I’m a better mother for having been a child.

And then I remember that this part of it – the mother part, being the mother of teens – is all new to me, just as every other stage has been. And I continue to be stunned at how painful each stage can be, in its own way. Knowing the pain isn’t in the stage, but in knowing that the stage will end.

When my son was an infant, I remember crying one evening at the sheer intensity of my love for him, and the thought that somehow, it may not last. I memorized as much as I could, but in a way I was right; it didn’t last. The love certainly did … the stage, necessarily, did not.

It gave way to another stage, where he could walk, and talk, and laugh, and give spontaneous hugs. And the next, when I stood with him at the bus stop, knowing that his learnings, his world exposure, were no longer under my exclusive control. It was terrifying, and a little bit of my mother-cord was cut – snipped so surreptitiously, really, that it was almost imperceptible in the moment. But he always got off that bus and ran to me.

The cut became more perceptible as he became more independent, which of course is supposed to happen. We raise our kids to be their own people, to work hard at what they love, to get back up when they fall. We do this so we can eventually send them out in the world and not spend every moment of the rest of our lives biting our nails. And as my son grew, started spreading his wings, started heading to his room from the bus, he still, on occasion, would come up to me with the spontaneous hug.

And now, at 17, he has a girlfriend, and we are in yet another stage for which I was totally unprepared – a stage where I am no longer the one he comes to first to share, to celebrate, to mourn, to rail, or to just converse. I’m a pretty close second, I think, but after being first for 17 years, second is a pretty distant place to be. His girlfriend is absolutely lovely, and I couldn’t be happier for him – for them. But the cord has taken a pretty significant hit. And I miss my son.

renblog renblog2It’s an odd feeling, to miss a person who is sitting next to you at dinner. Thank God for the random hugs; they remind me that even though he’s grown, that little boy is still in there, somewhere. And that my goal now is not just to remember my own childhood, but to remember his.


Kids. I know I love ’em.

I was wakened from my nap today by the boy coming home from school. He asked how I slept; I told him I slept well and had a good dream about Rome. He asked me to describe it.

“I had dropped you guys off at a restaurant,” I said, “and was apparently driving into a village somewhere to pick something up. I’d crossed over a couple multi-lane highways and traveled through some roundabouts, and decided at a red light that I’d better look back and try to remember how to get back. When I looked behind me, a thick fog had crept in and I couldn’t see a thing. I realized I didn’t have my phone, and that I didn’t know the name of the restaurant I’d left you. I started panicking a little, and that’s when you woke me up.”

He was watching me curiously through the story and finally said, “How was that a good dream? It sounds terrifying.”

“Well, you know, because we were in Rome . . . ” I said, lamely.

Quiet. Then, “Mom. If you get shot in Happyland, you’re still dead.” Then he walked away, shaking his head.

“Good insight . . . !” I called after him.

Blasted teen years.