Seaweed Lover

Never meet your heroes, they warn. Their real world persona will never match up to your imagined excellence, and the effect will be a staggering disappointment. The only thing that can murder a hero is ordinariness. And because most of us are afflicted with that, even the best of us cannot keep our capes pinned to our shoulders in real life. Maybe a few can. Maybe Beyoncé. But better to never meet your heroes, they say.

I saw mine last night. Professor Craig Schneider, “Doc” to everyone who has ever taken his class was in town as an invited lecturer. When his son told me Doc would not only be in Boston, but would be holding court with slides and everything, I was all in. So was my friend, Lisa, who also partially credits Doc for putting her on a path to a PhD. Rooting through old photos to share with them at the event, I found my favorite shot from graduation. In this picture, Doc is younger than I am now.

IMG_5499

Me and Doc, May 1993

 

Texting with Lisa, we wondered if he would look any different. Probably not, we mused. We figured everyone at the lecture would fall half in love with him and decide to study seaweed tomorrow. Just like old times. I mean… it’s Doc.

Twenty-five years later, I’m sitting in an audience of prep school faculty watching Doc school us on conservation snafus in Bermuda and how DNA sequencing of algae is changing the field of Biogeography. As soon as he loads up the first slide, I’m 19 again. My first feeling was muscle memory panic that I wasn’t taking notes. Then middle aged me took a sip of Pinot Grigio, and I just enjoyed marinating in nostalgia.

Everyone has a favorite teacher: the one you wanted to impress the most, who could hold your attention for the entire 48 minutes, whose class you wouldn’t miss for even the worst hangover or the cutest boy. Doc was that teacher for me, likely for many of us. And listening to his lecture, I was transported back to those days when I could name every alga washing up on the shore of the beach in late spring. Ulva, Vaucheria, Fucus… I remembered a boy in the dining hall scribbling “Seaweed Lover” on my notebook, which made me giggle, but also filled me with a bit of pride. Apparently, I talked about algae more than the average co-ed. More normal undergrads acquired titillating memories of after-hours frat parties and naked quad antics. I kid you not, a true highlight of my college days was visiting a bog. Naturally, by senior year, I was one of Doc’s kids, an honor student doing her senior thesis under his direction.

Though he taught me how to succeed in the lab, and also to learn from failing, Doc didn’t care that I would never be more than an armchair phycologist. (Aside: Autocorrect knows how to spell Beyoncé, but does not recognize PHYCOLOGY.) I was gunning for medical school, but another year of murdering large rats in the Physiology lab left me with enough dread to switch majors entirely. This fear landed me in Doc’s office, terrified that Prof. Simmons would shun me for abandoning his projects in favor of pond scum. Plus, everyone knew if you wanted to get into med school, you had to kill those rats.

But Doc led me to a different path–one that led to a pond in a cemetery, the Long Island Sound intertidal, a publication, acceptance at a handful of medical schools, and ultimately a funded MD/PhD position. I’m not sure he knew that I credit him for all of that. But last night I got to see him, to tell him.

All these years later, Doc memories are still recounted any time I’m asked about my academic background. High school and college students—and quite often, their parents–wonder if there is some foolproof path to the kind of academic success that leads to the white coat. There isn’t. It’s usually a slog of hard-earned A’s, missed parties, and a million pots of coffee.

But if you’re lucky, there are heroes along the way. And if you’re really lucky, one day you get to meet them, tell them, and call them “friend.”

 

Who are your heroes?

 

 

 

 

In the Dark… by Steve Safran

For the past two weeks, I have been living in a Hell that feels especially designed for me. The staff at Dante’s Fitting Punishments were inspired when they green-lit this one for Stevie: I can’t look at a screen without getting sick. Yes, your faithful computer-addicted correspondent, status updater, and occasional blogger is writing this on a 1936 Royal Portable typewriter, fitted with an ancient ribbon that makes this draft a bit of a challenge to read, and more than a pain in the ass for Britt to transcribe.

A fortnight without screens has been—forgive me, for “fortnight” and this pun—an eye-opener. Make no mistake, this isn’t one of those Author Unplugs and Discovers Life essays. No, I’m way behind on a lot of important work. Among other pressing tasks like taxes, kid graduation, and wedding planning, there is a softball team to organize. Not that there’s any danger we’ll ever play, with incessant nor-easters making fools of our Opening Day.

I have, however, rediscovered books—the bound and print kind!

Side note, on the 1936 Royal Portable, typing that exclamation point required period, backspace, apostrophe. With an economy of keys, a capital “I” subs in for a number one. And though this trusty, 30lb “word processor” inside of its carrying case was the war correspondent laptop of its day, it would easily topple a tippy Starbucks table. If I want to write, I’m stuck right here at home.

Luckily, I can tolerate sound and I’m searching through the free audio plays at archive.com, though I need to have my faithful fiancée or son Simon queue up “Henry V” for me. Any more than a quick glance at a screen makes me dizzy and initiates instant, blinding headaches. I can only use them briefly, in the dark, with the “Night Shift” setting that takes out the blue light.

Part of the reason I’m sharing (typing) this is to query others about similar experiences. This is scary. I’m worried. The doctors I’ve consulted have ruled out the terrifying possibilities I might find on WebMD if I could look at a damn screen, but they have no diagnosis yet. Until they do, I feel like an outcast, alone in the dark, bumbling through a non-screen life in an all-screen world. And as much as I love my loyal 1936 Royal Portable, I really miss my Mac.

IMG_1683

My “laptop,” the I936 Royal Portable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREAK US OUT… a message to our awesome teenagers, by Steve Safran

We have heard from our secondary principals that many of our students have reached out to them to collaborate on how best to address the student desire to walk out and express their opinions but do so in a safe manner… We are proud of our student leaders at all levels for the collaborative, thoughtful advocacy they have demonstrated.

This planned walkout, as we see it, is the “lab” experience for the teaching and curriculum we bring to our students. Teaching our students how to lead, think, propose ideas, disagree and take respectful and forceful action on issues is what we do; our students are indicating to us that they have learned and want to take action.

– Massachusetts Town Email to Parents

 

This is nonsense.

As a parent, I don’t want an email from my town explaining– in much longer detail than above– how a school-condoned walkout from classes will be arranged. I don’t want the town organizing with students. I don’t need a “heads up” that my kids are going to walk out of class.

I want them to get up and go.

Where goes youthful rebellion if it’s into the arms of those against whom they are rebelling? This is an angry generation and they have every right to be. They’re being shot at in their schools. We have let them down. We have failed to protect them in what should be a sanctuary. Don’t ask us for permission. The school is on fire and we’re offering you a hall pass for the water fountain? No wonder you’re pissed. (No wonder nothing has changed.)

I’m all for young rebellion. That’s what our country is about; it’s American in the best kind of way. Lobby for change, and let the marketplace of ideas decide. I take no issue with student protest and, in fact, I support it. At Wayland High in the ‘80s, we’d “walk out” in order to demand soda machines. IT’S NO JOKE! WE WANT THE COKE! IT’S OUR RIGHT… TO HAVE A SPRITE! (This may explain why my parents transferred me to private school, where I was once sent home for not having a close enough shave.) As a conservative, wholehearted support of youthful protest might seem out of character. As an anti-gun, pro-choice, anti-religion-in-schools, pro-women’s-rights, free-trade, anti-Trump conservative, however, these days I guess I’m what’s known as a “Democrat.”

But you can’t stick it to the man if the man sends gentle emails with sentences like, “We support this and find it a fine learning experience and we’re going to make it a lab.”

A lab?

Way to take the fun out of it, grown-ups. I officially protest the administration’s support, and will occupy their building. I will, of course, be alone, as the administrators will be outside, patting themselves on the back for being progressive as they make sure students do not wander outside of the “designated protest area.”

Personal politics aside, I think most of us recognize that this generation is creative in ways we do not understand. They are seriously skilled. I mean it– they really are. They make movies and music better than any big screen scene from the ‘90s… and they make them on a device in their hand. The best these Internet, gaming, and video wizards can do is…  walking out with permission? That might make Grandma and Grandpa Hippie sentimental, but today’s teenagers can do better.

Here’s my message to them: don’t walk out, freak us the fuck out. We’re 50. We get spooked by a 1% drop in our IRA. We’re easily panicked. You’re going to need to scare the status quo out of us. Be creative, make movies, share them with your zillion followers. Show us you’ve got more game than a supervised walkout. Take a page from your ‘60s forefathers and put a tech twist on it. Walking into a field while the principal says “Yes. Good. You get an A in civic engagement studies” sure as hell wouldn’t have ended any war. A VR vision of what it’s like to be helpless as you are slaughtered in your own homeroom, even as you have a gun that’s useless against an attacker’s armor? Now we’re talking. Get coding.

Me? I hate the damn guns. I truly believe this is the generation that will do something about it. Every generation that grows up in fear is the one that brings about change. We hated the day-to-day worry of nuclear annihilation. Anti-nuke protestors took to the streets, while conservatives encouraged Reagan just to spend the Soviets into oblivion. Whatever your macro-political view, it worked. The people who grew up watching their older brothers and classmates die in Vietnam put an end to that. These teens have grown up watching a non-stop war and “Hamilton.” They KNOW they can do something. And they’ll probably make it catchy.

So protest, kids. Skip class, but take the detention. You can’t change the world if you can’t take the hit. Don’t walk into a field and hold a sign. March in the streets. Go to state capitals. Make and share videos that answer the NRA like the Parkland Students did so poignantly and slyly. Be subversive. You have the tools to out-media the media. You can podcast and VR-simulate and disseminate your message virally. You can be so much more creative than we can imagine (we still don’t understand SnapChat stories). Where justified fear and anger meets youthful peak creativity is where change happens. We’re watching. We’re listening.

So go ahead. Freak us out. That’s how you change the world.

parkland florida protests_1519289520467.jpg_13213760_ver1.0

United, they stand. #NeverAgain

Home

Post op day 8. Dad’s hip replacement recovery is going fairly well, but he doesn’t understand why he isn’t 100% already. If you know Dad, this is no surprise. I am here with my parents mostly to provide comic relief and a respite from the boredom of convalescence, to prevent Dad from torturing Mom, to reassure Mom that Dad wasn’t going to fall or die, and to make the 11th hour Wawa run in the snow.

A few weeks ago, as we were enjoying a kid-free lunch after Church, Bernie voiced the inevitable: you should be there after your Dad’s surgery. Most moms—even those with young, independent teens—assume we’re absolutely essential. Bernie assured me I wasn’t. In, like, the best, I’ve-got-this way. So we booked a one-way, not knowing how Dad would fare surgery, and I told the boys I was going home for a few days, maybe a week.

Brodie was confused.

“Wait. You said you’re going ‘home’ instead of ‘to Philly.’”

And I had. Home is where your parents live, I told him. I guess that never changes. I’m home: here in the Over-55-on-a-Golf-Course condo complex where I didn’t grow up and where the only vestige of my youth is this trio of high school graduation pictures.

IMG_5365

Paige and I rocked the ’80s scrunch and mousse ‘do.

Home is where I spend the first hours of the day working the crossword with Dad and making him an egg sandwich while Action News announces anticipated weather that mom will fret over for the entire day, even if we have no plans to go outside. Home is also where Wawa is on the corner, the accent is hilariously homey, and I can order a hoagie.

After marriage and kids, it’s rare to spend this much quality downtime alone with your own mom and dad… rarer still when everyone is pretty much healthy. This is lucky, stolen time. On Sunday night, two Proseccos into a Feast Day cocktail hour, Dad and I predicted with stunning accuracy the scores of flipping snowboarders, marveling at the “big” mistakes that cost Olympians a hundredth of a second and a medal. We’ve also logged 6 hours of golf tournament napping, entire mornings of talk show programming, 60 Minutes, and naturally, a lot of Fox News. We haven’t missed an episode of Jeopardy and dammit if that Vanna White isn’t still stunning.

This is 75. I’m writing the screenplay.

Surgery is no fun and being on the other side of it for the second time (albeit, a bit removed since it wasn’t me getting the new hip), I’m ever more aware of how ill prepared patients are for what comes next. Dad only heard that the pain of recovery would never match the agony of an arthritic joint. Well, not so fast, amnesic advice-givers. This was, and continues to be, plenty painful. Dad needed every single pain pill… and they only gave him a handful of days to wean himself, never once preparing him that weaning would be necessary, or that we might feel like dope peddling criminals to want more in the house, just in case. I snort-laughed at the 20 year old secretary who handed me a ‘script for a measly, additional day-and-a-half of pain relief for my dad who was dutifully doing his laps around the condo, icing and elevating, and choking down an entire fruit basket to ward off the inevitably awful effects of Percocet. I stopped short of demanding more. I’m here as The Daughter, not The Doctor.

Because he’s not 100% yet, Dad doesn’t feel like he’s turned a corner. But yesterday, his pedometer counted a good amount of steps taken with little more than Tylenol on board. So I’m going back to my boys in the morning—back to the house where I’m the one who birddogs the laundry and dishwasher, plans the meals, and knows the status of the pantry’s snack reserves. My boys spent the past week in an extended culinary celebration of Chinese New Year, eating an insane amount of noodles and dim sum and fish jerky, and getting taller without me. Their stories will hint at how independent they have become, but their hugs will betray them. As we’ve all witnessed in the past week, teenagers are awesome, and I miss mine.

But until I know my own Dad is feeling like his return to 100% is somewhere on the horizon, my heart will still be… home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I get it… by Dan Hines

Danny walks. An update from Dan, who is kind of miraculously, and certainly inspirationally, recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. He posted this video a few days ago, which prompted our exchange:

ME: You. Are. Walking

Dan: Sort of. The video you saw was the third try. The first two I fell.

ME: You know I want five paragraphs about that.

And here they are:

 

There’s a scene, a few actually, in the movie ‘What About Bob’ where a young boy stands on a dock. He’s staring at the water and all he wants to do is learn to dive. He wants it, doesn’t know how to do it, and is scared of it. Despite encouragement from Dad, Mom, Sister he continuously backs away, making excuses, and goes back to the house.

I get it.

Some of you know my story so I won’t go through it all, but it was 16 months ago when I last took any real steps on my own without some form of help. Whether it was a wheelchair, a walker, a cane, a therapist’s arm, or even a kitchen counter or wall. A few times in therapy, I was able to do it for, like, 5-6 feet– my therapist waiting in front of me, open-armed, like a mom teaching her baby how to walk. “Come on, I’ve got you’” ‘Cause I am, in fact, a giant baby.

When you go through something, anything really, you go through “the stages.” You know ’em. But there’s one they rarely mention, the one that really matters. It’s the, “Fuck it, I’ve had enough of this” stage.

December was a bit sad for me, personally, which made Christmas a bit tough. New Year’s Eve hit and I made the same declarations as everyone else, “This year will be different!’ I woke up January 1st, and I played the daily game:

“Am I wearing socks?’”

With peripheral neuropathy, you gotta check. I look down…I guessed wrong. Shit. This year is the same.

So January 23rd was a big day. I was growing frustrated. The wheels in my head were spinning. I was missing the things I once had: life, love, ability, purpose. I know my value, but was obsessing over my weakness. About 8:30pm, I reached the unspoken last stage.

“Fuck it. I’ve had enough of this.”

I get up, turn on the lights and set up my phone at the end of the hall. I head back into the kitchen, and turn around. I let go of the cane and the counter. And I start. I get 5 feet and BOOM, I’m on the ground. Now, since I can’t stand on my own, I crawl into the kitchen so I can use a chair to get back on my feet.

2nd try. This time, ten feet and… BOOM. Crawl to the kitchen, grab my cane, and head towards the phone. Like a coach at halftime, I need to review this. I think I see my mistake. I re-set the phone, press record, and start again. Third try’s more than a charm. It’s history.

 

So there the boy stands, on that same dock, with that same view, and those same fears. He knows what he has to do; it’s run through his mind a thousand times. Just dive, just dive, just dive. And from somewhere courage builds. He bends his knees, puts his hands in front him, takes a deep breath. And dives. That dock (the hallway), the unwitting stage.

“Fuck it. I’ve had enough of this.”

And I get it.

Lil Yachty, Aziz Ansari, and Tide Pods

My boys listen to a variety of rap music, the breadth of which I am only recently learning. Last night, Brodie magically connected his phone to the car stereo and DJ’d the ride home. As he and Teddy giggled and guffawed over particularly embarrassing lyrics to endure in front of Mom, I started earnestly listening to them.

Ick. Now my children were literally SUV-trapped in a parenting moment that I couldn’t let go.

“You guys realize how BAD this is, right? You understand misogyny? These lyrics are dismissive and demeaning and maybe a little violent and otherwise terrible. YOU KNOW THIS, right? You cannot possibly SING ALONG to this… right???”

“Yeah yeah yeah… we know. We would never. We just like this beat. It’s sampled by everyone. And mom, the next song is seriously only about it being cold in Minnesota.”

And it was. But between the sophomorically raunchy lyrics (that they totally know), Aziz Ansari (who they love), and Tide pods (WTF), I feel like our kids are being bombarded with troubling examples of intimacy and flagrant stupidity. If teenagers are eating detergent, what other things must we remind them not to do? And though my boys aren’t dating yet, I kind of need them to know that what they’re reading isn’t the norm, except that it is, only it shouldn’t be, and then beleaguer them with definitions of consent and power differentials… ultimately encouraging them to lean on their faith, or at least rely on how they see Bernie treat me. The mortified eye rolling and protestations to please stop ensued.

But I won’t stop. I have no idea how the fuck-the-insecure-girl rap message is playing on their pliant brains. They are also reading an un-nuanced defense of a grown ass man who is so awful at sex, it seems like he’s using these very wretched lyrics as some sort of primer. And when my otherwise lovely, kind child actually uttered, “but she could have left any time,” well, I died a little. And then another trapped-in-the-SUV parenting moment began.

It’s frequently exhausting being the only girl in the house. I mean, even aside from the fact that I’m the only one who ever knows where anything is. Though it is up to both of us to make sure our boys know what it means to be a man, they spend most of their time with me. Dammit if they’re not going to learn what it means to be a feminist, an ally, a chivalrous friend, and whatever the opposite of Aziz Ansari is, dating-wise.

I explained how it happens, how a woman could feel so gross after a date, she’d publish a play-by-play, effectively shaming him and attempting, I guess, to exonerate her participation in it or even alleviate the ick feelings of being duped. Every woman I know has had an Ansari date—hopefully few of ours involved someone with that much fame, or with all of the fingers in mouths. What do you think we’re talking about when we drink Chardonnay and make horrible paintings together? Why don’t mommy book clubs ever read anything? Bad sex stories can be hilarious.

Except this one wasn’t because of the power, fame, and even age differential between a woman hardly sprung from girlhood and a man acting like a teenage boy with a porn problem. Though few 22 year olds on a date with an actual, award-winning person would be savvy enough to memory bank his fumbling, creepy advances to make fun of them later, I think all of us wish she had had the wherewithal to high tail it outta there. But I know why she didn’t, and every woman I know gets that. But how do I explain that to teenage boys?

Teddy and I were driving home from the orthodontist. The campy fabulous REO Speedwagon just couldn’t fight the feeling anymore. Immediately I was transported back to the roller rink at the mall, where this song was usually designated for the couples skate. Preteens with sweaty hands and back pocket combs would hold hands and make awkward circles and conversation. It was a sweet memory that my children will never know. Teddy is 13 and I’m trying to explain what constitutes sexual assault and why firm lines around consent get blurred when people drink wine and get naked. Apropos of this conversation:

“Did you know Wilt Chamberlain said he had sex with, like, twenty thousand women?”

“I remember that! That was a popular sound bite in the ‘80s. I remember boys trying to figure out if that was even mathematically possible.”

“Yeah. Three times a day for 24 years.”

So, maybe kids really aren’t all that different.

I thought I had a few more years before I was teaching them that casual sex can be super lame, occasionally dangerous, and ironically requires an even higher level of communication than when you’re with someone you know well and love deeply. Thanks, Aziz. And just to be safe, I keep reminding them not to eat Tide pods.

27072419_10155741187736084_9165495719736134589_n

A more nuanced commentary… 

Fifty and Fine with It… by Steve Safran

I’m 50.

This will mean very little to you. Your Facebook feed is full of people who can’t believe how old they are, how old their kids are, and how time flies. You can’t believe you’re older? He can’t believe his daughter’s starting kindergarten. Apparently, none of us get how time works.

But believe me, it has happened. I’m 50.

Here’s a summary of my forties: Divorced, cancer, failing eyesight, impaired hearing, relentless back and nerve pain, job losses, and I shut down my own company.

But here’s another summary of my forties: Two kids in college, employed, healthy family, great summers, travel, and… I’m engaged.

A friend emailed and asked me “What have you learned?” Well, plenty. I’m comfortable telling you: the older I get, the less I know. Honestly, that’s a great feeling.

When you’re a teenager, you have an answer for everything. At least, that’s what the adults told me. “You have an answer for everything!” they yelled. I thought that was a good thing. Shouldn’t you have an answer? But as I’ve gotten older, I realize I don’t have the answers. My previous answers were, in fact, bullshit. I was bullshitting people and was damn good at it. I am quick enough to hold court on any topic for about 30 seconds, and simultaneously afraid people will find out I have no idea what I’m talking about. Dad still thinks I should have gone into law, but history has proven this quality was perfect for many years spent working in TV.

Now, at the ripe age of 50, I don’t bullshit. If I don’t know the answer, I say, “I don’t know.” It’s liberating. I also don’t care that I don’t know. Scratch that– I love when I don’t know, especially if it’s an interesting question. It gives me the opportunity to do a little Google research and learn something new. We live in a time I’m calling “The Great Overconfidence.” Everyone has an answer for everything. But they’re bullshitting, too. When the Supreme Court lays out its decision, suddenly everyone is a legal scholar. When scientists make a discovery, everyone with a Twitter account has a Ph.D. in Science-y Things. Too many people are sure they have the hot take on everything from broth diets to Oprah’s Presidential fitness. Me? I’m happy to learn from experts.

At 50, I’m confident and comfortable enough to say “no.” That peer pressure thing? We’re done. Guilt trips for no-shows or last-minute cancellations are for your 30s and 40s. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. And I love that my friends are all of the same mind. Can’t make it to the party? Fine. Just don’t feel like coming? You don’t need an excuse. We’ll catch you at the next one.

It’s not all “I don’t know” and “no,” though. I’m a (slightly) less cynical middle-ager; I just know what I like. But these days, I’m more inclined to try new experiences. Fiancée Kim will come up with a “pop-up vacation” idea, and we just go. The kids are older now, so we have that flexibility—another perk of this aging thing. Seeing my three kids mature into young adults is an absolute joy. I raised them all the same, but they’re three distinctly different personalities. I love that about them. At 50, I appreciate them even more for being the unique beings they’ve become.

Perhaps the biggest secret is that I’m a squishy sentimentalist. As I age, I get squishier. The truth is, I really hated being a kid. I wasn’t good at it. I was one of those “old for his years” kids. I’ve been 50 for a long time. It’s just that the calendar finally caught up with me.

Funny to think now that I dreaded turning 40, when I’m really looking forward to my fifties. I’m getting married in July. The next few years are filled with graduations and other great milestones. Eventually, because time insists upon marching on, even Britt will turn 50 and that will be fantastic. (For her friends, I mean, because there will be a Prosecco party, for sure.)  I may even become a grandparent in the next 10 years. (No pressure, kids.) By 2028, I fully expect to look back on my fifties with pride.

Not that I’m rushing to get there. Those things are really far away, and also right around the corner. Seriously, I can’t believe I’ll be turning 60 in 10 years…

STEVIE KID

Stevie, in his “old for his years” suit.

 

Applications

My boys are applying to schools. Even though the local public school is award winningly awesome, and even though they are currently thriving at a competitive, wonderful, traditional private school that goes through high school… we’re applying to schools. Sometimes (most times) I think this is bonkers. However, it’s also the only conversation I keep having because everyone else also has kids applying to schools—mostly colleges, but still, it’s all very similar. We’ve bought into the expensive, privileged idea that the “right school” will coax our children into becoming contributing members of society rather than boomeranging back to our basements. And it won’t. Deep down we know this. Yet still… we’re applying to schools.

My first pass at the applications was to make fun of them. You know, just a little. It’s so ridiculous to ask teenagers to write essays about a life changing experience when they really only have a handful of sentient years to draw from. Or asking parents what our short- and long-range academic goals are for our kids. HOW DO YOU NOT MAKE FUN OF THAT PROMPT? Any parent a generation ago would have snort-laughed and groused that the goal was to get the kids outta the house and paying their own way. But I refrained, and Bernie and I gave the usual reasons for applying to their school: reputation, academic vigor, something about “good fit,” and a nod to whatever they bragged about during the tours. To date, I’ve seen 6 art rooms with pottery wheels. The pricier and more exclusive the education, the more likely a kid is to make urns.

Every school is desperate to be the most inclusive and diversity is a religion. Brodie wondered aloud how the white kids were answering all of these We Are the World prompts when he can just bring his mixed DNA into the conversation. And me and Bernie? We can play that up. That is, when they recognize that I’m the mom. Although DIVERSITY gets an entire page in all of the brochures, I was assumed to be the “handler” for Brodie at one school, and at another the interviewer looked right past my outstretched hand for the more likely mom. This happens lots anyway, and it’s fine… but when it happens right alongside a framed mission statement about how inclusive and safe and wonderful and kind and diverse everything is… just calm down, diversity cheerleaders.

I am sure my own college essay stunk worse than a hockey bag, but Brodie devoted three painful days to revising a statement of how he became a better person when something bad happened… to get into high school. And he didn’t even throw down the Cancer card. Tackling these prompts with Teddy was much more fun. He has quick, witty answers for everything. And when he wrote about going to Taiwan, meeting a now favorite uncle, and writing, “the saddest day was when Ah-Bei went back to Shanghai” with actual tears in his eyes… I fell in love with my own kid all over again and preemptively hate anyone who plans to reject him. Asked to provide any additional information, Teddy wrote only one sentence: “I am a skilled dancer and I love musicals.” Love that kid.

We’re nearing the end of this process and probably the most useful aspect is now we’re a bit more prepared for the hellish torture college applications will be. Hats off to you, parents who have suffered through Early Action stress. Because there are always smarter, more athletic, ability-to-build-a-new-library, legacy, politics, and other factors that go into curating a class at these incredible schools, we have no idea what outcome to expect. I keep returning to the only thing that is true: it doesn’t matter. Home schooled, public schooled, boarding schooled, or frankly left to their own devices, Brodie will still be this old soul with an impossibly gorgeous face spouting factoids (did you know there are more chickens in the US than people on the planet?) and Teddy will always know he’s the smartest kid and best dancer in any room (mostly true). Where they go to school and what they do will never be who they are. Never. I can only hope these (stupid) applications captured their zany differences, their deliciously voracious intellects, their uniqueness, their lovable Lee-ness.

enhance-5

These boys. Lee boys.

 

 

Christmas is Cardio

Are you chastising yourself for avoiding the gym during the 12 days of Christmas (and beyond)? For me, it’s the first thing I’ll drop. Happily. But I’ve been so much better at the barre, and have really loved what sustained plies are doing to my bits, but there’s just no time. Then, eureka (!), today I realized something grand:

CHRISTMAS IS CARDIO.

Seriously, friends. I have never made this many trips to and from the car, doing a shivering half-run that totally counts as jogging. This morning I broke down 114 boxes because recycle dudes who don’t appreciate my more-Jenga-than-Tetris assemblage of Amazon Prime containers will leave a nasty note. You know how long it took to break down all of those boxes? Like, half a spin class. And though I wasn’t sweating, afterwards there were foam peanut pieces and cardboard dust particles everywhere, so I had to bust out the Dyson. MORE CARDIO.

The boys are enjoying their first week of school vacation, which all parents know means… EXERCISE. My nerdy children spend untold hours in front of screens and almost never leave the house. But dammit if they won’t stop making laundry (of the multi-layered/inside-out variety) and expecting proper meals instead of baked goods and gift cheeses. The laundress and short order cook gigs are definitely burning calories, especially because in between loads and meals, I’m wrapping presents. This is total ab work.

Anyone who was ever a gymnast or dancer or bendy kind of girl probably wraps gifts the way I do: straddled on the floor, using my knees to support a package to get that perfect, hospital corner effect on the ends. Maybe other, former twirly girls aren’t as insane as I am about having perfectly wrapped gifts. Their loss. But seriously, try it: AB WORK. It’s also the only time of the year I use my former surgeon skills, whipping out one-handed ties with double-faced satin ribbon and probably burning more calories than using the stick-on bows.

Have a series of rotating guests over the holidays? Well then, you can extend that hold on actual gym classes because the slightly shrunk fitted sheet will really blast your core. Making and remaking beds is the new (or at least seasonal) planking. Moving all of the junk piles from one place to another to fake a tidy house, then repeated closet-spelunking to find missing items? Holiday burpees. A well-rounded exercise regimen should include weight-bearing exercises, and frequent trips to Gary’s Liquors are keeping my arms toned and bones strong. Probably.

We think we’re exhausted because there is so much to do. But we’re actually tired because this constant cardio is us getting it all done. In heels. I mean, with all of this actual exercise happening, it’s no wonder our bodies are craving carbs (cookies) and good fats (“good” meaning yummy and also meaning cheese). We’re all bound to be bikini bodied by brunch on New Years!

Merry Christmas, friends. I see you out there getting it all done. And I’m raising a glass (or three) to you… because wine is good for circulation. There are studies.

women-clipart-christmas-shopping-2

Look at these svelte gals: they’ve been holiday prepping for months!

The Dude at the Door

Dear WBGH door-to-door fundraiser guy,

I was going to leave a short, “it’s not you, it’s me” note on the door. But I won’t. Because it’s not me. It’s you.

It does appear that you’ve been trained to identify yourself and point to your WBGH badge, even if it is one I could reproduce with a 2 second Google search and my laminator. It’s a nice touch to thank me for being a loyal supporter. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve never given money to any public radio station, and it makes me uneasy that you’re pretending to check my name on your clipboard. So as quickly and politely as I could, I asked you to leave information in my mailbox. I have to go, I said. Good luck, I said.

Anyone walking door to door in cold weather to raise a few dollars for the local station probably spends his free time finding homes for stray dogs and never balking about tampons on the grocery list. Your hand-knitted wooly hat and ice-grippy boots belie a dangerous dude at the door. But there was something that made me want you off of my stoop, and your response only reinforced why:

“I’m going to the other houses, so I’ll just circle back and check with you again later.”

No, don’t do that. Just… no. Is not taking “no” for an answer in the training? Is a woman’s first refusal always a springboard for negotiation? Is this me reacting to too many #MeToo stories?

Perhaps.

But now I’m hiding at my dining table away from the front windows hoping a stranger doesn’t think I’m being rude. It’s a well-known situation for many of us, this worry about hurting the feelings of others, even if said “others” are making us feel pressured, unsafe, badgered, or beholden. Well, no more, WBGH dude. I don’t believe you when you say you “need to sign people up today” or that you cannot accept donations via mail. It’s cold outside and I want the door closed. I didn’t invite you to my home or ask you to return. And frankly, I hate you a little for not reading (or worse, ignoring) my body language that is screaming, “Get off of my stoop!”

My boys just got home and I told them about you: how you leaned in a little too close, how you insisted on returning, how I was home alone and didn’t want you lingering around my door. Teddy ran upstairs and grabbed his nun chucks. Brodie found his wooden “practice sword.” They’re only too happy to defend the hearth and home in a playful, mom-is-being-nutso way. But I made sure they understood where I was coming from: always listen to a girl when she is telling you “no.” Respect and honor that “no.” Don’t be the clueless, close-talking dude at the door.

“Duh, mom. We know. He’s probably just SUPER awkward. I mean, he’s raising money for WBGH.”

But the weapons are still on hand. Just in case. The little dears.

Sincerely,

The Mom Not Answering the Door

1427747565093

Go. Away.