On Your Seventh Birthday

A Sestina

Born on the thirteenth of March,
you entered our world so fast and pure.
No epidural: there simply wasn’t enough time,
but for you, it was worth each searing pain.
Through gritted teeth I cursed and yelled
and brought forth another baby girl. You—Beautiful You.

It had always been the three of us before you.
Like Goldilocks, you marched
into our home to chatter and sing and yell.
You are sensitive heart and pure,
unadulterated joy. You are morning snuggles and growing pains.
You were six. Now you’ll be seven. Time

hasn’t slowed. If anything, time
is accelerated by you.
Years before your big sister, you learned the pain
of pierced ears. Marching
toward the next stage in life with lipstick on and pure
abandon. “Don’t rush,” I want to yell.

“Don’t grow up so fast.” But this yellowed
sun is already staining the sky pink. The time
of make-believe, this childhood purity
will come to an end for you.
Not this year, not this March,
but one day you will realize the subtle pain

of a closed door. A pain
that smells of nostalgia and feels like a phantom limb. As we yell
“Happy Birthday” this March
thirteenth, you’ll blow out the candles marking time
and we’ll celebrate you.
Abree Meli—hold on, for now, you are still pure,

and your innocence purifies
the air I breathe. It diminishes the pain
of an aged reflection, for when I look at you
I remember what it was like to yell,
to dance, to fly, to be present in each moment. Time
is ephemeral, but every memory with you slackens that march.

Abree, you are all that is true and good and pure.
As you march through life, may you wink at your pains
and continue to yell your presence to the world. Make a wish now. It’s time.

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Where My Heart Wants To Be

I like to listen to podcasts while I am getting ready for work in the mornings. Not only does it help break the monotony of my routine and primes my brain for another day in the classroom, but I often stumble upon a nugget of wisdom I didn’t even know that I needed.

I was sitting at a red light on my way home from work recently when the notion of going back to school entered my head, and I’m not talking about turning around and driving back from whence I came, rather going back to college… to get my PhD.

I had always said that I would never get my doctorate, just as I’d always said that I never aspired to end up in administration, but here I was wondering what if.

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The subconscious is funny in the way it works. This year, I had to reapply to my school district’s leadership pool—a pool that you get to swim in for three years and my three years were almost up. Having completed the essay tasks for requalification, I’d mostly forgotten about it. Somewhere an email had been sent saying when applicants should expect to hear of the results, but I never jotted it down on my calendar, and so while on my prep period the other day, I thought the time must be approaching soon. Searching through my deleted emails, I found the one that gave the date: it was that very day. And later in the afternoon, I received the news that I could continue to tread water.

Maybe it was the wake from this news, or maybe it was the interview I’d recently listened to with Lucy Calkins, literacy extraordinaire, that got me thinking about a PhD. Maybe it was the realization that I still have a good 15-20 years ahead of me in this career and I might want to branch out more than my current credentials allow me to (although I’m still certain that’s not in administration). Maybe it’s the little smile I get when I imagine being called Doctor—but suddenly I was entertaining an idea that I’d never really considered before.

A few days later, I listened to another episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. I landed on one with Steven Pressfield about unlocking your creative genius. I’d never heard of Pressfield and I didn’t exactly feel like my creativity was blocked, but something made me hit play.

A few minutes into the podcast, I heard about “Resistance’s Greatest Hits.” This wasn’t a music compilation by an indie rock band, but a list of all the activities in our lives that elicit resistance.

Oprah reads them off one by one: the launching of any entrepreneurial enterprise, any diet or health regimen, any program of spiritual advancement, any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals, any program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction, education of any kind, any act that entails a commitment of the heart (the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship), and the taking of any principle stand in the face of adversity.

According to Pressfield, anybody who is trying to move to a higher level encounters resistance, and, “the more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel towards it.”

To combat resistance, Pressfield says you must get out of your “little head and into that larger identity.” And what came next was that morsel of wisdom I needed to hear.

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Pressfield tells listeners that if they want to paint, to put their body in front of an easel. If they want to write, sit down at a keyboard. And so, by extension, if I wanted to get a PhD, I needed to put myself in a testing room for the GRE, I needed to be ready to take on more student loans, and then I needed to get back on a college campus and sit down in a lecture hall. And if I’m being completely honest, it all sounded a bit nerve-wracking.

“The key thing about resistance is that it comes second…What happens first is the dream.”

Was going back to school a dream of mine? I wasn’t sure, so my quest for information continued as I tried to work out the answer.

I found myself chatting it over with a colleague and my husband and, of course, my mom. And then I met with a couple friends one night, one of whom had gotten her doctorate years ago, and we talked about it over a few glasses of wine.

She told me about her experience: staying up from nine to eleven after her kids went to bed to work on her dissertation. She reminded me that most of the classes would be  held on Saturdays or after my work day ended, going from 4 till 8 at night. I thought of the many occasions when I tucked my children into bed and then tucked myself in a few minutes later. Gone would be my 4:30 A.M. workouts. Gone would be the reading of bedtime stories and my presence at weekend soccer games where I cheered on my daughter from the sides. Was that where my heart wanted to be for the next three to five years? 

The answer was a resounding No.

But with the recent passing of poet Mary Oliver, I heard—more strongly than ever—her words echoing in my head.

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It’s a big question, and I don’t know that I have all the answers, but I do know this: I’m going to start simply by putting my ass where my heart wants to be, and luckily for me, that’s exactly where I am right now.

It’s where I am when I stay in my pajamas on a Sunday to work on a blog. It’s where I am when I crack open a new novel and burrow in my couch. It’s where I am when I play an intense round of Exploding Kittens with my daughters or binge watch Schitt’s Creek with the hubs.

Resistance doesn’t necessarily indicate a fear of moving towards higher ground; resistance can sometimes be our subconscious telling us to stay put, to appreciate the ground currently beneath our feet. After all, it won’t ever be exactly as it is right in this very moment, and that, as my father likes to say, is a beautiful thing.

Once again, I found myself returning to the wisdom of Mary Oliver’s poetry as I realized that, “Sometimes, I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”

Just for fun though, perhaps I’ll have my kids start calling me Doctor Mom.

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{photo credit: Hunter Beadell}

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Valentine Foxes: One Mother’s Review

If ever I need a reminder of why I stopped making babies after my first two, the children’s book Valentine Foxes written by Clyde Watson and illustrated by Wendy Watson is it.

This past week, we had some snow, and as a result, we also had back-to-back, two-hour delayed starts for school, which meant juggling our morning routine. Since my husband was at work both days and since my day begins earlier than there’s does, our children got to practice walking themselves to school in the morning (in addition to walking themselves home from school in the afternoon).

After work, I had stopped at the store and so I was armed with groceries and ready to tackle dinner when I got home.

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{pictures by Wendy Watson from Valentine Foxes}

When I walked in the door, my youngest quickly informed me that she hadn’t done her reading yet. She had picked out a book at the library that day at school, and she thought I would like it, so she wanted to read it to me.

Once I got dinner going and had a few minutes to sit down, we snuggled on the couch with the book. It seemed like a good choice on her part. It was February after all. Valentine’s Day was only a week away. While it was a picture book, there was enough text on each page to challenge her, and the illustrations were rather cute. But from the moment the foxes wake up in the morning and Papa Fox hurriedly leaves for work (with his shirt on inside out), Mama Fox has, what I would call, a parenting day from hell.

Little Dilly is the baby of the four children (that’s right, FOUR) and it’s unclear how old Zandy, Pandy, and Poot are—but none of them head off to school and aside from identifying the first letter of each ingredient in a recipe for cake, none of them can read.

Mama Fox does her best to feed and entertain the crew, but there was no television in the fox den and shit goes from bad to worse starting with a breakfast where Little Dilly “sat on her banana and threw spoons, as usual.”

The kitchen is already a mess when Mama Fox decides to bake a cake for Valentine’s Day and puts some butter in a blue bowl to soften. She sets the kids up to make Valentines when the baby fox becomes “fretful” and “grumpy” and ends up grabbing the bowl and smashing it to pieces on the kitchen floor. Mind you, it isn’t even noon yet.

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{pictures by Wendy Watson from Valentine Foxes}

After lamenting the loss of her beautiful bowl, Mama Fox goes to the store to replace the butter, but she leaves all the children at home. This seems like a genius idea (although one that surely, the other fox mothers will judge her for) and I was secretly wondering if she hadn’t just decided to call it quits altogether and head for the nearest Greyhound station. Alas, she does come back, but the house—by that time—is a complete disaster.

“Zandy had cut up lots of red paper into tiny little pieces and was standing on the table making it snow. Pandy had glued most of her valentines to the chair. Poot was drawing designs on the floor, and Little Dilly was sitting there with her hair full of hearts and glue, eating a doily.”

And you know what Mama Fox does when she walks in and sees all this? She sighs—And then she unpacks her shopping. I think it’s clear that Mama Fox either picked up some Valium along with that butter, or it’s an indication that she’s resigned herself to this life just as she’s resigned herself to never fitting into her pre-pregnancy jeans again.

Of course, the minute the foxes see their mother it’s all wah-wah-wah and “I’m hungry,” so Mama Fox makes them some cream cheese and honey sandwiches, which surprisingly, no one complains about. Soon enough, they are eating lunch (leaving their crusts) and spilling their milk and demanding more—and never has a book hit closer to home.

By this point in the story I was looking to see if Wendy Watson had included in the illustration a picture on the wall that reads, “Excuse the mess, we’re busy making memories,” but there was none to be found.

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When Mama takes Little Dilly upstairs for a nap, the rest of the children attempt to make the cake in her place, which is sweet considering they’re illiterate little monsters, but they make even more of a mess in the process and when Mama Fox finds them, they are covered in flour.

As you may have predicted, the baby doesn’t nap although Watson leaves out the part where Mama Fox questions her life choices and hides in the bathroom for an hour…or five, because suddenly it’s dinner time and she’s heating up soup and worrying about what Papa Fox will say when he sees the house.

Mama Fox asks the children to help clean up, and they don’t—the baby has finally fallen asleep on the floor under the table and they use that as their excuse. I’m sure Mama Fox was thrilled knowing that Little Dilly would now be awake half the night, but she lets him sleep anyway because, let’s face it: Some days, you take what you can get.

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{pictures by Wendy Watson from Valentine Foxes}

By the time my daughter reached the end of the book, I was trying to figure out when I could schedule my tubal ligation, but thankfully, I remembered that we’d already gotten my husband a vasectomy and so I stopped hyperventilating and poured myself a large glass of wine. Then I poured one for the fictional Mama Fox and drank hers too.

In looking up the book on Goodreads, I found that I wasn’t alone in realizing that reading Valentine Foxes is the quickest way to induce a full-blown panic attack. Empathetic reviewers confess to feeling exhausted after closing the book. But, there was a bright side to this dark tale of woe: Following the anxiety came a wave of relief as I looked at my two children. Children who, thankfully, are not foxes. Children who know how to run a vacuum and cook and read (and occasionally, still nap). And children who can be trusted, when necessary, to walk themselves to school on time and back home again.

And if that was why my daughter thought I would like the book—she was absolutely right.

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My two Valentine Foxes {photo credit: Hunter Beadell}

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Another GenXer Lives to Tell: Parenting Through the Generations

Once upon a time, people woke up and read the newspaper. On weekends, perhaps they’d do the crossword puzzle or share the funnies with their kids. As time marched on, people stopped sitting down to breakfast and instead of the paper, they switched on the TV to listen to the news and hear the weather forecast. Today, upon waking, we reach for our phones to silence our alarms, and shortly after, start scrolling through various news feeds before beginning our day.

It was during this ritual on Monday morning, when I came across this tweet by @thebradking.

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Reading through the comments sparked nostalgia for my own upbringing. Born in 1978, I’m on the cusp of being a Millennial, but lugging my sister’s Brother typewriter with me to college cemented my GenX status.

Due to the popularity of his tweet, Brad King went on to post this: “GenX Tribe: Breaking Bones and Other Stories of Walking it Off,” which got me thinking…

While I have never broken a bone, my daughter has. As part of the GenZ cohort, hers was a similar story to many of those shared by the GenXers responding to King’s tweet.

It was my first day back at work for the new school year. Our children wouldn’t begin until the following week, so I had hired our babysitter and given her permission to walk to the park with the kids. My daughter decided that rather than walk, she’d Skip-it there.

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{via Giphy.com}

When the Skip-it, along with many other 80’s and 90’s toys, recently made a come-back, I thought it was a clever marketing idea. I got a kick out of watching the mom in Target trying out a Pogo Ball in the aisle while her kid, trapped in the cart, continued playing on his tablet.

I never loved the Pogo Ball, but the Skip-it was my jam, which explains why, when I saw them being sold again, my kids I had to have one. In hindsight, it was an expensive mistake.

The walk to the park from our house is half a mile, downhill. If you’ve ever used a Skip-it, you know that momentum is key. If you ever Skipped-it while walking to the park…You probably haven’t because that is an utterly ridiculous idea that only a nine-year-old would have. Had I been home, I would have looked at her like she was crazy and told her no, crushing her spirit like only a mother can. But since she was in the care of a fifteen-year-old (partially developed prefrontal cortex and whatnot), this is what happened:

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As my daughter tried to keep the Skip-it in motion, and because she was also headed down a hill with a spinning ball hooked to her ankle, she ended up going faster and faster until, at full speed, she tripped herself. Putting out her hands to break the fall, she came crashing down on her own wrist.

When I came home from work, the babysitter told me about the spill. I asked some questions, checked it out, and found her arm a bit swollen, but it wasn’t bruised and she wasn’t crying or howling in pain at my touch. She moved it around for me, and so, we did what any parent would do: We took her to the hospital.

Did that sound right to you? Of course we didn’t take her to the hospital! We gave her an ice pack. We wrapped it in an Ace bandage. We kept an eye on it and asked her how it felt. Meanwhile, we took her to golf practice where she swung her clubs for an hour, and we took her to soccer practice where she ran drills with the ball. We took her to the water park where she went down slides and swam in the wave pool. We took her to a birthday party (at another park) where she practiced trying to make it all the way across the monkey bars. We did all this for two whole days. It wasn’t until day three that we took her to the doctor, and only because the swelling hadn’t gone down yet, not because she was complaining.

She had broken her wrist in two places requiring that she get a rather large cast that went from her hand all the way up to her armpit. After eight weeks in that sucker, she got a smaller cast for the last four weeks, thankfully getting it off just before we went on vacation.

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The comments on Brad King’s Twitter feed don’t just talk about broken bones that weren’t attended to, but being left outside to play for hours (unsupervised), being latch-key kids (after school and all day long in the summertime), and taking care of one’s own college admission packets (gasp!). There are stories of riding bikes without helmets, and sitting unbuckled in the back seat of the car—in the middle so as to have a better view. Parents smoked in the car and in the house, feeding their children bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread.

As a kid, I never owned a bike helmet. To this day, I still forget to buckle when I’m in the back seat. I drove myself (eight hours) to my college orientation, pre-Siri. And while my mother was always a fan of whole wheat bread, I have had my fair share of bologna sandwiches.

For GenXers, this was our childhood, and despite the few commenters who claim it was negligence and abuse, we’re no far worse because of it.

My mother laughs about how, when we were babies, she used to hold me and my sister on her lap while my father drove the car. She’d take our little baby arms and make us wave to the neighboring cars when they were stopped at a red light. (Britney Spears did something like this once circa 2006 and was publicly shamed for it.)

My mother will tell you that for many of the parenting decisions they made, they just didn’t know any better, and I think that’s the god’s honest truth.

When my father lit up a Winston while in the car with us, he wasn’t purposefully ignoring the dangers of second-hand smoke; his knowledge was limited to a Surgeon General’s warning that smoking may be hazardous to one’s health. While those warnings sometimes addressed pregnant women who smoked, they never mentioned the three kids who were riding backwards in the third seat of the station wagon making faces at the cars behind them.

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{via knowyourmeme.com}

Partway down King’s Twitter feed, I found a comment that read, “This thread completely sucks. Parents, do better.” But as Maya Angelou (and my own mother) said, people do better when they know better, and we (mostly) know better now.

Regardless of what we know, we are also a product of our upbringing. The fact that my mother continues to hang onto a biscuit cutter that she’s had since before I was born (wooden handle with chipped red paint that likely contains lead) is probably because she was raised by parents from the Silent Generation who fixed things when they were broken (although, not their children’s bones) and rarely threw anything away.

Evidence of this frugality showed up the other day in my own home when I cut up a cucumber for my daughters to eat with their lunch. After snacking on only a few slices, my youngest threw the rest in the trash. Hearing the wet thud it made as it hit the bottom of the garbage can triggered something in me and I lectured her for way too long about the starving children in Africa. Whether it was because of my mother’s upbringing or because, as a single mom, she often didn’t have the resources to go to the store and pick up all that was needed for dinner, I was raised to never waste food. In my home, we eat our leftovers. I may end up feeding some to the dogs, but rarely will you see food in my house go to waste, even if it is a 33-cent cucumber.

The “Parents, do better” comment is typical of the self-righteous, judgmental online culture we face today. My parents (like most parents) were trying to do better. When my mom held us on her lap, she probably thought that it was safer than having us roll around in the back seat. Had the five-point harness been invented, I know she’d have used it.

With the advancement of technology, we have access to way more information than our parents ever did. With my firstborn, I spent hours online researching the safest forward-facing car seats. It wasn’t a question of which one we could afford, it was a question of which one was best, with every reviewer’s opinion weighing in.

Even when we’re not actively seeking it, online parenting advice often comes unsolicited. Take Jersey Shore’s Deena Cortese , for example, who was recently mom-shamed for a photo she posted of her newborn in his car seat on the way home from the hospital.

In the end though, the parents of today, just like the parents of yesterday, mostly defer to doing what feels right, and often, parenting the way our parents did isn’t such a terrible idea. (If you haven’t kicked your kids outside to play in a while, I highly recommend it.)

Despite which generation we belong to, no matter how much we learn or what we do, we’ll never perfect parenting. Nor will the perfect parent ever exist.

I hope the day comes when my daughters will reminisce about their childhood with each other like my sister and I do, or reminisce online with a group of strangers who belong to the same generational tribe. My youngest might laugh about that time I totally freaked out for her having thrown away half a cucumber. My oldest already sees the humor in how she spent several days with a broken arm before being taken to urgent care. My husband and I will chuckle too, especially when our children become parents themselves and get to experience what it’s like to be the ones making the judgement calls, because in the end, isn’t that really what parenting is all about?

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My Top 10 Reads of 2018

A couple of years ago, I decided to keep a list of all the books I read in a year. After recording the twenty-somewhat books of that year, my competitive nature showed itself and I decided I would read more the following year. I set a goal to read at least 25 books in 2018. I ended up reading 38. In addition to those titles I completed, I also abandoned a few. When I was younger, I wouldn’t have dared to not finish something I’d started, but I’ve come to that place in life where I no longer feel I’ve got something to prove. Life’s too short and there are far too many books out there to waste time on the ones that don’t thrill me.

This year, unlike last with My 18 Resolutions for 2018, I haven’t been able to decide what my goals for the new year will be yet. Sure, I want to get more fit and eat healthier, but that’s nothing new. I’d like to replace screen-time with face-time or even just me-time, but as for the big goals, this year I am going to have to wait to see what life unfolds. Whatever my intentions end up being, I know reading will be a part of it, so for those of you who also enjoy curling up with a good book, here (in no particular order) are the top 10 books from my year of reading.

  1. The Untethered Souby Michael A. Singer (Non-fiction/Self-Help)

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“You are capable of ceasing the absurdity of listening to the perpetual problems of your psyche. You can put an end to it. You can wake up in the morning, look forward to the day, and not worry about what will happen. Your daily life can be like a vacation. Work can be fun; family can be fun; you can just enjoy all of it.”

I’d first heard about this book when I listened to an episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations; I’d written about that experience in To Forgive, Divine, but at that time, I hadn’t read the book yet. Well, as the second book read last year, this one deserves a place on the list; it’s actually a great choice for starting a new year. This is the type of book you will want to read with a pen in hand. You’ll underline a phrase here and a quote there, and then eventually half of the page will be highlighted. You’ll write “WOW” in the margin or you’ll bracket off whole paragraphs that speak to you. There’s a reason it is a #1 New York Times Bestseller with more than one million copies sold.

  1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (YA Fiction)

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“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

I’d had students who had read this book in the past and really enjoyed it, but I hadn’t read it myself until I planned to include it as a book club choice for my students last year. The story centers around three teens who are unlikely friends in a small, southern town, but it’s more than just a book about friendship. The protagonist’s father is a religious man who is in prison, but the story behind his imprisonment is disturbing, to say the least.

At one point, I had to put the book down, then pick it up and reread, then put it down again. “Did that just happen?” I asked my husband who wasn’t reading the book and therefore had no idea what I was talking about. “I can’t believe that just happened.” Later, when my students were reading it, they’d come into my classroom at lunch or in the morning to ask me, “Did that really happen?” While it is a YA book, it certainly doesn’t read like one.

  1. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir)

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“I was an incurious student that semester. Curiosity is a luxury reserved for the financially secure; my mind was absorbed with more immediate concerns, such as the exact balance of my bank account, who I owed how much, and whether there was anything in my room I could sell for ten or twenty dollars.” 

 Every now and again, I read a memoir that depicts a life that is so incredibly different from my own and from anyone else’s with whom I am acquainted that I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t a work of fiction. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs was one, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was another, and Tara Westover’s Educated was a third. Westover beautifully tells the story of her childhood growing up in the mountains of Idaho with a father who did not believe in public education. She was seventeen when she first entered a traditional classroom yet ends up with a PhD from Cambridge University– although it came a a cost.

The quote above is a great example of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and a good reminder that not all students have the “luxury” of being engaged in school. This book has garnered a lot of praise and publicity this year, and it is definitely one that is worth the read.

  1. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (Sci-Fi)

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“It does no good to tell a beautiful woman how beautiful she is. If she already knows, it gives her power over the fool who tells her. If she does not, there is nothing that can be said to make her believe it.” 

Sci-Fi is not usually my genre of choice, but a girl who I went to high school with (who is now a librarian) posted about this book on social media and I thought, if a librarian is posting about a book, then it’s worth a shot. It was. This was one of those picked-it-up-and-read-it-in-a-day kind of books. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where any woman who attempts to bear a child dies, as does that child. The protagonist, the midwife, is a fiercely independent woman determined to help save humanity.

This is Book 1 in The Road to Nowhere series, but despite liking this one a lot, I haven’t checked out any of the others.

  1. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (Fiction)

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“We girls. Afraid of the wrong things, at the wrong times. Afraid of a burned face, when outside, outside waiting for you are fires you cannot imagine. Men, holding matches up to your gasoline eyes. Flames, flames all around you, licking at your just-born breasts, your just-bled body. And infernos. Infernos as wide as the world. Waiting to impoverish you, make you ash, and even the wind, even the wind. Even the wind, my dear, she thought, watching you burn, willing it, passing over you, and through you. Scattering you, because you are a girl, and because you are ash.” 

If I had to pick ONE book that was my favorite read of the entire year, this would be it.

Girls Burn Brighter was not only beautifully written, but also told a story of friendship, love, and female empowerment unlike any other I’ve read. It was disturbing and heart-breaking, powerful and poignant. Every woman should add this book their list, then read it, then cry about it, then get together with friends and drink wine and talk about it together.

  1. There There by Tommy Orange (Fiction)

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“This is the thing: If you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that’s how you know you’re on board the ship that serves hors d’oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning, or clinging to little inflatable rafts that they have to take turns keeping inflated, people short of breath, who’ve never even heard of the words hors d’oeuvres or fluff.” 

This book has harvested a lot of accolades this year. Told from the perspective of ten different characters whose stories come together in the end at the Big Oakland Powwow, Tommy Orange gives voice to the urban American Indian, a voice not heard nearly enough in modern literature. While I loved the Indian legends and lore peppered throughout this tale, it was quotes like the one above that made me stop and re-read entire passages and then just sit with it for a few minutes only to go back to the page and read it again.

  1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Literary Fiction)

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“But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.” 

Years ago, I read Silver Sparrow by this same author and I friggin’ loved it, so when I realized this was also by her, I knew it would be a great read. It’s a story about love and marriage and race and family and everything in between. Reading the letters sent between Roy and Celeste felt deeply intimate and immediately drew me into this story that satisfied me all the way to the very end.

  1. What School Could Be by Ted Dintersmith (Non-fiction/Education)

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“We treasure the occasional story about a child who climbs out of poverty, graduates from a prestigious university, and goes on to success. Since it’s possible for a handful, we cling to the view that nothing is broken in America. But it is. Education has become the modern American caste system. We fuzz up the issue in a sea of statistics about test-score-gaps, suggesting that social inequity is a classroom issue. We bemoan the achievement gap but dwell on the wrong ‘achievement’ and the wrong ‘gap.’ Achievement should be based on challenging real-world problems, not standardized tests that amount to little more than timed performance on crossword puzzles and Sudoku. The gap we need to face is how much more we spend to educate our rich children than our poor. We can test until the cows come home, and we won’t begin to bring meaningful equity to our youth. As an educator in the Midwest noted, ‘If a cow is starving, we don’t weigh it. We feed it.’”

I already raved about this book on social media and wrote about it in Dear Fifth-Grade Teacher, but I had to include it in my top ten list too. I found the book to be inspirational and thought-provoking for anyone who is involved in education or policy-reform. The quote above is my favorite from the book. I considered getting it as a tattoo, but it’s a tad long.

  1. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Fiction/Drama)

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“In the silence, Leni wondered if one person could ever really save another, or if it was the kind of thing you had to do for yourself.”

 I still think Firefly Lane is my favorite Kristin Hannah book, but it was the first of hers I’d ever read, and I have a habit of latching on to firsts (i.e. My Sister’s Keeper is still my favorite Jodi Picoult and Looking for Alaska is still my favorite John Green). For some reason, I refused to buy this book since it was still in hardcover, and I had to wait ages for it at the library, which may be why I didn’t love it as much as I should have.

My mom read it first, and once I finally got it she kept asking me what I thought. It really was a great read, but it was also over 400 pages, and I really hated the protagonist’s father, Ernt. Somewhere in the middle of the book, I got sick of his shit and kind of lost momentum as a result. Still, it deserves a place on the list. It may not have been worth waiting months for, but it’s worth the eighteen bucks to not be cheap and buy it.

  1. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo (Fiction/Romance)

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“What I wanted to tell you is that there are lots of ways to love people and I know that you’ll love someone else again. Even if it’s not the same, some of it might be better.” 

Last, but not least. One of my favorite people told me about this book and I had the title written on a notes page in my phone for a few months, but then, I saw a former student post about it on social media and it reminded me to check it out from the library. It was another can’t-put-it-down book that I texted every reader in my life when I was done to tell them about. This is a book you can lose a day in, and even though I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, this book won my heart (and gave me a bit of a book-hangover too.)

Well, that’s it… for now. I’ve got The One Thing by Gary Keller and Michelle Obama’s Becoming to start off 2019.

What are you reading this year?

Note: ReadingWhileEating is not affiliated with Amazon.com. If you click on a link to purchase a book, I do not get anything, but you get a book, and books are awesome.

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In Defense of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Why Grandma is still invited to Christmas

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Winter has arrived and lately, I have been hitting that snooze button over and over and over again. The lyrics to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are, quite frankly, my inner monologue each morning as I fight to leave the comfort of my bed.

I really can’t stay.

          Baby it’s cold outside.

I’ve got to go away.

            Baby it’s cold outside.

I got a text message from my friend the other day. A week had passed since her annual “Girls Night In” Christmas party and someone wanted the recipe for the Jell-O shots I brought.

Hey, What’s in this drink?

The answer: Fireball.

When “Baby It’s Cold Outside” comes on the radio, I don’t think about that one time in my twenties when someone actually did slip something in my drink, rather I think about my favorite scene from the movie Elf.

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That scene, much like the song, captures a moment.

We’ve all experienced moments like this—times when our good sense and reason gave way. When our hearts didn’t listen to our minds.

It’s every make-out session in a car that rubbed our lips raw. It’s every broken curfew of adolescence. It’s the too-expensive Christmas present you buy for a loved one. It’s the ladies at my friend’s Christmas party who put on their coats to leave but then stood around for another twenty minutes talking and laughing (and doing just one more Jell-O shot) before finally heading home.

Last year, I wrote about how I just couldn’t Christmas. This year, I’m thankful to say that isn’t the case. In fact, the one thing that has moved me this holiday season is the music.

I find myself humming a few bars from a traditional Christmas tune while I’m waiting for my students to settle down at the start of class. Like a musical meditation of sorts, it’s helped to calm the frayed nerves of a teacher in December and remind me that Winter Break is on the horizon.

I sing a few verses of Same Auld Lang Syne while blow-drying my hair till I can’t remember what comes next and start back at the beginning. “Met my old lover at the grocery store. The snow was falling Christmas Eeee-ee-eeve.”

I purposefully scan through the radio channels till I get to the one that plays non-stop Christmas music because this month, the cacophony of modern music annoys me.

There are a lot of things we do around the holidays that are antiquated. Mailing cards, chopping down trees, and baking cookies from scratch are just a few, but these things, like the Christmas songs and movies that we’ve grown to love, serve to remind us of simpler times.

The holidays are about traditions and traditions, like my Grandma, are old-fashioned. Grandma doesn’t always say the most appropriate things, but we still love her, just like we still love “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and all the other traditions that make up Christmas.

I don’t think it’s fair to apply the standards of today’s political correctness to the classics of yesteryear.

Rather than analyzing a single line from a song or a single scene from a movie, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If we criticize George Bailey for his attempted suicide and the way he verbally attacks his family (ugh, and that poor teacher), we’ll never enjoy the moment when he realizes that It’s a Wonderful Life.

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The last time I handed my grandma a family photo that we’d had professionally taken, she took one look at it and said, “Ooooh, you look like an old lady!” Rather than taking offense, I threw my head back and laughed. “I shouldn’t have said that,” she added. “I’m just not used to seeing you in a long dress.”

“It’s okay, Gram.” I chuckled. Secretly, I live for the shit my gram says. And seeing as how I don’t often get to visit with her anymore coupled with not knowing how many more Christmases she’ll have–or any of us for that matter– I want to cherish every moment.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” is seventy-four years old. My gram is eighty-eight. Both are welcome in my home for Christmas. I love them just the way they are.

 

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On Giving Thanks

Confession: Our family does not go to church.

That’s not to say that we’ve never gone to church, it’s just that we aren’t regular church-goers. Heck, we aren’t even annual church-goers. To be completely honest, we’ve been to church together as a family once. It was Christmas Eve and my sister thought we should  “try it out” for something different to do. It was as though she were suggesting we prepare a roast beef for dinner as opposed to our usual glazed ham.

“Why not?” And since none of us had a good enough answer, we went.

Our church experience that evening was neither good nor bad, but with the lights and the stage, the cushioned chairs and the Christian rock band, it was nothing like the church we remembered.

We haven’t been back since.

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I mean, I don’t think our visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City counts. Does it?

Fairly early in our marriage, I realized that my husband and I didn’t exactly share the same religious beliefs. I would say that I’m two-thirds spiritual and one-third Christian. My husband? I would call him agnostic, which is why I was a little surprised when not that long ago, I suggested we start saying grace at dinnertime, and he wholeheartedly agreed.

What I was proposing wasn’t necessarily religious. I’d been listening to this podcast with food writer Michael Pollan about conscious eating, and in it, he suggested that we take time to really think about where the food on our plates came from: Think about the farmer who grew that lettuce, the animal who provided the meat in your hamburger, the chicken who laid those eggs.

If I wanted our family to begin a practice of saying grace, this sounded like a good place to start, and it is how we initially introduced the idea to our kids. Still, the end goal wasn’t to raise children who were just more conscious of their plates, rather to raise children who were more conscious of their world.

I’ll admit, right from the start, my husband was better at remembering to say grace than I was. By the time I had prepared the meal, served it, and sat down, I was often on my second or third forkful when my husband would “a-hem” and begin, “I’m thankful for…”

Our girls quickly learned to give thanks for everything on the table. From slaughtered salmon to sacrificed broccoli, there was not a grain of rice nor a garnish of parsley that wasn’t included in the litany.

Still, if we wanted to encourage our children to move beyond just talking about their food (and we did), they were going to need some better modeling.

Giving thanks is an act of appreciation that needs to be practiced, but, according to Happiness Coach Andrea Reiser, “gratitude goes beyond good manners—it’s a mindset and a lifestyle.”

It was this mindset, this lifestyle, I wanted to foster.

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Studies have shown that cultivating gratitude results in living a happier, more satisfied life. It can also increase self-esteem, optimism, hope, and empathy.

I’d witnessed this empathy recently when I chaperoned a field trip with my daughter’s fifth-grade class. They were headed to the Reno municipal court to learn about the legal system, but first, we’d taken the children to a nearby park to eat their bagged lunches. It was here that they encountered several of the area’s homeless sitting by the river and napping in the sunshine. Unbeknownst to their teacher, some of the boys in the class had decided to give their lunches to them.

“Had they asked me first, I would have told them no.” Their teacher said. “That’s probably why they didn’t ask me,” he chuckled.

On our way to the courthouse, I ended up walking behind these same boys. As they passed by the people to whom they’d donated their food, the men called out their thanks. “God bless you. God bless you.”

The boys waved, and walked a ways in silence before one of them remarked, “That made me feel really good and warm inside.”

“Yeah, it made me feel good… but also, kind of sad.”

“I know what you mean. I’m glad we gave them our food, but I’m sad that they don’t have anywhere to live.”

I wondered if those boys would think differently about their dinners that night, or about their warm beds when they went to sleep. I imagined they would.

Fundamentally, gratitude is about being aware of who or what makes positive aspects of our lives possible, and acknowledging that.” Children especially have a hard time recognizing these things. I hoped that through the act of saying grace, my children might hone their awareness.

Because in some way or another, we’re all blessed, and it serves us well when we recognize that.

We’d been giving our thanks to pigs and chickens and cows for months, when finally, one night, right before we ate, my oldest daughter said, “I’m thankful for people like my mom who care about education, and I’m thankful for the nice people who write books for other people to read.”

This, I thought. This is what I had hoped would come from a ritual of saying grace.

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According to Brené Brown, “What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” My children are certainly privileged—more than some, and less than others– but I don’t ever want them to grow up feeling entitled. Saying grace is one of the many ways we can combat that, but there are so many other benefits to living a conscious life.

We still don’t go to church, and we occasionally forget to say grace before we eat, but a few times each week, we remember to pause and reflect upon our blessings, and for that, I am thankful.

What are you grateful for today?

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The Dads Who Do

I’d like to give a shout-out to the dad in Safeway at 8:45 Saturday morning walking straight to the donuts with two kids following behind like baby ducklings. They were all in pajamas, and while they had shoes on their feet, no hair had been brushed and you could still see the sleep crusted in their eyes.

I hoped that there was a mama at home who was getting a little break. Maybe she had gotten the chance to sleep in that morning. Maybe she would wake up to a steaming cup of coffee and one of those donuts the kids were carrying in their clear plastic bags as they all shuffled towards the check-out line. Whether they were gone for twenty minutes or an hour, I knew she’d relish that time.

This one is for the dads who do.

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Dads, like my husband, who volunteer to referee the Saturday soccer games even though he himself was never a soccer player. Dads who chaperone field trips, fill up flat bike tires, and don a gigantic hair bow at the JoJo Siwa themed birthday party. Dads who watch The Little Princess on a Friday night and shock their daughters when he cries at the ending. Dads who learn how to braid hair, help with math homework, and don’t complain when they spend an entire afternoon of their vacation at The American Girl Doll store.

You may not think we always see you, but we do.

We see you playing a game of keep away with a football on the living room rug while we read our book. We see you having sword fights with foam noodles on the front lawn while we decorate the house for Halloween. We see you packing school lunches and folding the laundry, and we couldn’t love you more if we tried.

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For all the times you remembered to hide the tooth fairy money or to move the elf on the shelf, saving us from self-inflicted mom-shame, we owe you more than just a sheepish grin and a whew. For all the times you thought to snap the picture–a picture that shows us really being a mother, in all its strength and tenderness. For all the times you told the children, “your mother is right.”  You might shrug it off as no big deal, but to us, it means the world.

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Those nights when we end up crashing before the kids’ bedtime and you keep them quiet so that we can get some rest. Those nights when we head out for drinks with our girlfriends and you give us a kiss as we leave, telling us to have fun. Those nights when you clean up the kitchen after supper and suggest we go take a hot bath.

For all the foot rubs and back rubs. For all the nights you stopped at the store to pick up a bottle of wine on your way home from work. For all the times you watched This is Us despite still not knowing what happened to Jack…

This mom thing is hard. This full-time working mom thing is even harder. Adulting day-in and day-out while simultaneously keeping small humans alive is the toughest work we will ever do. The best gift you gave was the acknowledgment of that fact by giving us a break. Whether it be a time-out or a time to ourselves, whether it be entertaining the children so we can get a chore done or taking over a chore we would normally do ourselves, you strengthen our super powers so that we can go back to being the super-moms our children believe us to be.

For all the dads who do, we thank you. We wouldn’t want to do this without you.

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There’s No Place Like Home

When you pack up all your belongings in a U-Haul and move to the other side of the country, everything changes. Your relationships with family and friends, the way you travel, and especially holidays.

Growing up with a mother who has six sisters, you end up having more cousins than you can count on both hands. There was only a slight age gap between my youngest aunt and my oldest cousin, and each year, our family grew.

From games of Yahtzee in my grandmother’s basement to Secret Santa gift exchanges at Christmastime, family parties were a regular occurrence. There was always lots of food and even more laughter. Family members would take turns hosting; warm homes would welcome us from the cold. Women would cluster around the kitchen table and gossip on sofas while men stood sentinel around the cooler, drinking beers and smoking cigars. Children would run and play games until the time when we’d all load our plates high with homemade favorites, vying for a place to sit. Whether it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter, there’d be a cake and we would gather round and sing, for someone always had a birthday nearby.

Moving to Nevada, perhaps the hardest adjustment to make was redefining the holidays, especially once my husband took a job where he didn’t always have them off.

I remember our daughter’s second Christmas, I sat on the floor in her nursery and rocked her in my lap while she sucked at a bottle. I felt the wetness of my cheeks and I felt the loneliness. I couldn’t put words to my sadness, but it was as heavy as my daughter’s little body on top of me. My husband was at work and we were at home alone. No one would know that we had stayed in our pajamas all day, but we hadn’t gotten dressed for there was nowhere to go. Santa had come the night before so that my husband could watch our little girl tear at the wrapping paper, but even that had felt wrong. That morning, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I picked at the leftovers from the dinner I’d prepared the day before. Hours spent in the kitchen for a meal for three. There’d been no procession of tinfoil covered dishes, no hotplates plugged into every wall. There wasn’t a line of women with dishtowels ready to grab the next pot or pan as it had been washed. All day long, I talked to family on the phone, hearing the clatter and din of their company in the background, hearing the TV in mine.

Eleven years after moving, I’d like to say that I’ve adjusted. Most years we spend Christmas with my folks and Thanksgivings with my sister. Even when she moved to California, one of us would make the drive so that when we gave thanks, we were holding each other’s hands. Some years, the friends who have become our family have joined us, adding a few more place settings, making it almost feel like home.

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This year, however, things have changed. My sister lives in Florida now, making a Thanksgiving reunion not possible, my friends are traveling for the holiday, and while my husband will be off from work, it will just be the four of us.

Realizing this, I spent weeks musing about what we could do. I felt the need to make the holiday different somehow. I mean, it was already going to be different, but maybe if we did something so unlike our traditions, I wouldn’t feel the sadness I feared. Could we rent a cabin in the woods and get away? I pictured us playing a board game near a fireplace, snuggling into flannel sheets and waking in the morning to take a hike through pine-scented air. Yet I knew that renting a cabin wasn’t really in the budget so soon after our vacation to New York and one month before Christmas, and besides, we could do all those things from our own home. Still, I kept wracking my brain and asking my husband what we were going to do.

“What do you mean, what are we going to do? We’re going to have Thanksgiving.”

He didn’t understand, and I didn’t know how to tell him.

“Yeah, but it’s just us, so like, what are we going to do?”

This need to do was palpable.

If I could come up with a plan, if there was an itinerary, perhaps it would be enough to distract me from the fact that it was just us, perhaps it could thwart the sadness, because if I felt the sadness at Thanksgiving, I most certainly was going to feel it at Christmas when my husband would be at work and when it would, for the first time in a long time, be just me and my girls, because this year, my parents weren’t coming for Christmas, and this year, we weren’t going there either, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would handle that.

I wish I could say that I only wept that one Christmas when my daughter was two, but the Holiday Blues are something that I have felt each year. Sometimes, after Christmas has passed, I begin to cry and it’s days before I can stop. I’ll be standing in my kitchen with a cup of tea, steeped in sadness and shame. What’s wrong with me that I cannot feel happiness at what’s supposed to be the most joyful time of year? Despite combatting it every way I know how, sometimes it’s stronger.

A few weeks into my quest for what we would do on Thanksgiving, I was driving in my car, listening to Pico lyer speak about The Art of Stillness when I realized that I didn’t need to do anything for Thanksgiving, I needed to be. It didn’t matter if we decided to go cut down our Christmas tree or run the Turkey Trot. It didn’t matter if we stayed in our pajamas or got dressed up. It didn’t matter if we deep fried our turkey or went to KFC. Whether there were four of us at the table or twenty-four, unless I could be fully present with my family, there would be no hope of holiday cheer.

You can’t have your body in one place and your mind in another and feel anything but conflicted. The answer wasn’t in the doing, the answer was in the being.

Thanksgiving is a time to be full. Full of food, yes, but also emotionally full. We take time to reflect all that we’ve been blessed with. When I think of my family—both near and far—I know that I have so much to be thankful for.

I can’t say for sure that I won’t end up feeling the Holiday Blues this year. I know that I will miss my sister fiercely come Thanksgiving and that Christmas isn’t going to be the same, but I am going to try hard to remember this: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

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My Children Will Never Know

When I was in junior high, my mom saw a bunch of boys that I was friends with buying Trojans in the local grocery store. Even though many of those pimply faced teens would never get the chance to use those condoms until long after they had expired, my mother panicked.

Deductive reasoning told her that if the boys in my grade were purchasing rubbers, then…

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We hadn’t had “The Talk” yet, and so, like a mad woman, she raced home to find me, only I wasn’t there.

As any bored thirteen-year-old would do on a Saturday afternoon, I had hopped on my bike and pedaled to a friend’s house. I’m sure I left a note of some kind, albeit one that didn’t reveal my destination since I often didn’t have an exact end in mind, but these were the days before cell phones, the days when it wasn’t unusual for kids to spend whole afternoons in the fresh air. Yet seeing how I didn’t live in a neighborhood so much as in the middle of a potato farm, my boundaries were less-defined. My mother could yell for me till the cows came home, and cows might literally show up before I would.

In this instance, my mother had only two choices: to wait for me to return (mind racing, envisioning worst-case scenarios) or to track me down like a bounty hunter.

With the determination and paranormal instinct that only a mother can possess, she got in her car.

I was a whole town over when she pulled up alongside me. By the time she had stopped and rolled down the window, my mother had worked herself up from a low simmer to a full boil.

“Get. In. The. Car.”

I’d heard that tone many a time: I was in dangerous territory.

“But my bike.”

I didn’t know what I had done, but I reasoned if I could ride back home, I’d buy myself some time. Hopefully, it would allow for my mother to calm down enough to realize that killing me wouldn’t benefit either one of us; instead she popped the trunk.

I struggled to fit my ten-speed in the back while she waited inside the vehicle, and once I had buckled up, it didn’t take long before she broke the silence.

“I saw those boys you’re friends with buying condoms at the store today. Condoms! What were they buying condoms for, Sara?!”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“Mom, I’m not having sex if that’s what you think.”

“I know you’re not having sex. You know how I know? Because I’m your mother. I know everything.”

“The Talk” ended up being fairly short– the gist of it being that I was never, EVER, to have sex with those boys. I was able to reassure my mother of my virtuous ways (“Ew, Mom, gross!”), and seeing as how she didn’t really want to have “The Talk” any more than I did, we dropped the whole conversation, that is, until my sister came home later that evening and I got to retell the story over dinner in a dramatic rendering that left us both laughing. (Mom did not find my reenactment all that funny.)

Still, this is more than just a story about my mother’s psychic abilities, which I still believe she possesses today. Rather, this is a story about an experience that defined my adolescence.

Last year, my oldest daughter began sex-Ed in school. She was traumatized by some of what she learned, refusing to play with the boys at afternoon recess that day because, as she put it, “It’s just weird now, it’s like, I know their secrets.”  After she came home, and in the weeks that followed, there were lots of questions. I guess, in many ways, we’ve already begun “The Talk.” Still, if they are fortunate enough, my children will never know what it is like to have me hunt them down and find them with only sheer will, maternal instinct, and a little bit of luck.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of all the experiences that today’s children will never have.

Fewer and fewer kids are making mud pies or playing outside till the streetlights come on. When my children start roaming farther from home and I want to know where they are, I’ll probably just send a text. And by tracking their phones, I could know exactly where they are, letting a GPS take me there turn by turn, a thought that terrifies the teenager I used to be.

On the flip side though, my children will also be able to text me when they need a ride. They won’t sit outside the dentist’s office for hours plucking at the grass and wondering when their mom will finally remember she was supposed to get them. They won’t wait outside after play rehearsal watching one by one as their friends leave, the occasional mom or dad calling out from a minivan, “Do you need a ride?” They won’t hoof it home after swimming at a friend’s house, walking for miles in damp jean shorts that chafe the inside of their thighs, turning them an angry red. No. With phones at everyone’s fingertips, my children will probably Uber before they’ll scrounge for a ride.

Technology has made it so my children will never know what it is like to go to 7-11 in order to find out where the party’s at. When the parking lot of Sevs was empty, we didn’t get FOMO. We got Big Gulps. Then, we got back in our cars and drove from beach to beach trying to find the party for ourselves.

When I was a teen, we didn’t have group messages, we had three-way calling. If you were lucky, your family had a portable phone. If you weren’t, you stretched the cord from the kitchen to the bathroom to talk in privacy until your mother picked up the other line and told you to hang up.

We weren’t drug dealers or doctors, but nevertheless, we carried beepers and sent our boyfriends the first numeric text message: 143. And when our best friend stayed home sick, we took a quarter to the pay phone in school and dialed one of the many numbers we knew by heart to find out how she was.

We waited all night for the radio to play the perfect song to record on the mixed tape we were making for our Boo, and waited all week for our pictures to get developed at Genovese Drug Store. Out of an entire roll, we were lucky to get two or three good ones, pictures that wouldn’t go on Instagram, but ended up in our scrapbook next to collages we had made from Seventeen magazine. That was our #aesthetic.

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My children will never spend the first week of school making covers for their textbooks from brown shopping bags. They’ll never know card catalogues or what it’s like to find information without Google. They’ll never peck out their first papers on a typewriter, feeling the agony of every mistake. While I would much rather write a research paper today than when I sat at a microfiche machine, there are some things I experienced growing up that I hope will remain the same.

……………………..

I hope my children will know what it’s like to have someone ask them out face-to-face. I hope they will know what it feels like to hold a sweaty hand in a darkened movie theater, wondering if tonight will be their first kiss.

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{via Gifer.com}

And even though I work in a public high school and vomit a little in my mouth each time I witness a make-out session in the halls, I hope they will have someone who waits at their locker and walks them to class someday. They don’t need an elaborate promposal, a grotesque gesture designed to get the most likes on social media, but a simple, heartfelt request that makes their cheeks blush and their heart flutter before they answer yes.

I want my children to see their friends’ faces illuminated by bonfires, not screens. I want them to know what it feels like to spend hours on the phone talking with a loved one. I want their relationships to take place in real life, but fewer and fewer these days do.

Still, when I recently chaperoned the homecoming dance at the high school where I teach, I realized, as more and more kids showed up to dance the night away, that it hasn’t all changed. As I watched the awkward encounters of boys and girls and listened to the shouts as the DJ played a favorite song, their movements becoming more frenetic, the gymnasium hotter, the air less sweet, my friend yelled over the music to me, “I’m glad they still do this. I’m glad that technology hasn’t taken away everything.”

Looking out at the sea of bodies on the dance floor, I thought about my oldest daughter who in four short years would be here, singing along with her friends to the song that marks the end of every dance. As the students swayed, belting out the lyrics of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, I couldn’t agree more.

 

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