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I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Friday, December 13, 2019

How Sandy Hook Changed How I Parented Forever

I remember the Sandy Hook shooting like it was yesterday.

That morning, I was rushing to get the kids ready. 

My son was in 4th grade and hated being late.  To a point of almost being neurotic.

My daughter was in 1st grade and had no concept of time.  To a point that it was like herding a cat.

I had the TV on that morning and I overheard there had been a shooting at school in Danbury.  I lived in Danbury very briefly after college- not long enough to have connections, but long enough to know the area.

Instead of turning it off, like I usually did to keep the "out the door" flow going, I turned it up and realized it was the school near my apartment- I drove by it daily for 2 months.

I remember thinking it was probably a teacher's angry ex spouse or partner and hoping the kids were okay.  As soon as I noticed my kids were watching it, I turned it off and said "C'mon... let's get going..."  I didn't want them to worry.

I don't know if one of the kids went upstairs to get something (we called that the time vacuum--- they would always get distracted and I'd have to retrieve them) or if it was because I had watched the news, but we were running late.  My son was in a panic and my daughter was dancing or twirling because she was 6 years old, it was near her birthday and the holidays and why not?

I got them in the car, survived the mess that is school drop off and shooed them out of the car.

As I headed to the office- I was a block away- I heard sirens.  They were coming from the school area. 

I started to panic.

What if this was some sort of coordinated attack? 

What if it was something at their school?

I pulled over to calm down.

It takes a lot to get me that upset.

So as I sat on the side of the road the thought that I kept racing in my head over and over was this--

Had I said "I love you" before I rushed them out of the car?

Did they know?

Because all I could remember was being in a hurry and not being my best self.  I was upset about what had happened in Danbury, we were late-- and my worry about Danbury and being late made me miss all the good that was there with me in that car.

My amazing children.

Would their last memory be of me rushing around that morning too busy to tell them that I love them?

I got myself pulled together and I drove past the school.  Everything was fine.

There had been a fender bender a block away. 

Nothing to worry about.

But in that moment I made a commitment to myself- there will never be a day that I do not tell my kids I love them.  I will never let a last moment- a drop off to anything, be one of anger.

If it is, there's a text. "Sorry I was in a bad mood- have fun, I love you."

And what might surprise you is after 8 years of drills requiring them to hide under desks, my kids always say "I love you" when they leave.  They get it.

That one brief moment as we leave each other has become this sacred moment of "If I never see you again, know that I love you."

Later that day, we learned what happened at Sandy Hook.  I imagined my daughter- the same age as the children who were murdered- sitting in her morning circle, singing songs and starting her day.  She is a daily reminder of how lucky I am to have her when the other parents lost their babies.  She is nearly 14 and is this amazing, wonderful young woman. Every day has felt like a gift.

And I think it's because of Sandy Hook.  Because of that moment of terror after I dropped them off.

Because I live with a daily fear that one day, it could be my child.

The text I got the day my son's high school went on a hard lock down 2 years ago, shook my soul.

"Mom, we're on hard lock down- I'm under my desk.  I didn't want you to worry.  I love you.  I'm not supposed to be texting."

Don't worry.  I worry every day.

He was fine.  He came home.

When people comment on the relationship I have with my children- how we talk about everything, how we laugh, how we spend time together, how I stay calm with them-- it's because of what happened at Sandy Hook.  It changed me.  It changed everything.  It made me a better mother.

I will never take for granted each moment I have been given with them.

Because I know across the country there are parents who would do anything to have those moments with their children.

I will not squander my time on silly things that don't matter. 

I will appreciate just being.

Monday, November 4, 2019

How to Cook a F&%@ing Chicken

A Reddit user recently was chastised for asking his neighbor- whose name he did not know- to make him dinner and he would pay her.

He is 31 and he wasn't sure how old she was- "in her 20s?"  He had smelled her cooking and thought well, if she was cooking for herself, why not cook for him, too?  I swear, I'm barely paraphrasing this.

She politely said no.  He asked a second time.  She said he was being creepy.

So a Reddit debate began.

First, he didn't know her.  This wasn't a neighbor who fell upon hard times or sickness with whom she had a relationship and was happy to help.  Other than "hi" in the hall, they were not friends.

Second, she said no.  Let it drop.


That's sad on so many levels.

I get it.  Not everyone enjoys cooking.  But here's the thing- it's part of adulting.  You're going to need to eat.  You don't need to be a chef, but basic cooking skills are part of the gig.

I pride myself on the fact that my kids are decently comfortable in the kitchen.  My daughter even asked that I post a picture of her "perfect" fried egg the other day.  Yes, my 13 year old can fry an egg.  Last night, I taught my 17 year old the trick to making a good steak.  He knows how long to grill it to rare/medium rare (5-6 minutes each side for a 1 inch steak- less for a thinner cut).  He learned how to put the grill marks on and the steak rub I mix.  He will probably only remember the time but it's a start.  They can both scramble eggs.  They can make chocolate chip cookies.  They can peel vegetables.  They will survive. 

And I've shown them how to roast a chicken because it's my very favorite thing and ridiculously easy.  Way easy.  The chicken has the difficult part.

Which brings me to the story--

One of my very dearest and closest friends called me for some marital advice.  We've been friends since we were 5 years old.  We trust each other implicitly.

He explained some of the issues and I said "Your wife must be exhausted... " they have 2 young kids, she works full time and as much as I love my friend, I'm 100% sure his wife does the bulk of adulting.  And I told him this.  He didn't disagree. He called me because he wanted to hear the truth.  So I shared my opinion a bit, um... passionately? with him.

I yelled at him.  Really loudly.

I don't normally lose my cool but I really did. 

You see, I suggested that one way he help out his wife was that maybe he could cook dinner every once in awhile- lighten her load... grab an oar and row the boat....

I even used those words.  Very nicely.

Naw.  He can't learn to cook.  It's too hard.

And I said it's not-

And then he dug in with excuses.

And I got loud.


We exchanged a few more "pleasantries" and mutually decided it was best that we end the conversation.

My assistant came in and asked if I was okay.  I believe I said something like....


He pointed out that perhaps, from what he heard through the door, I was a bit a harsh.


And then I explained that I was 100% certain my friend had called me because he knew I wouldn't placate him and yes, perhaps, I had snapped.  I said I would cool off and call him later.

That night, I was telling my husband how I had kinda lost it with this friend and he was cracking up.  Again, I rarely lose my cool but when I do, it tends to be epic. And comical.  And entertaining to my redheaded husband who is usually the one on the ledge that I'm telling to calm down.  

So as we are lying there I said "And by the way- I have a late meeting tomorrow, can you throw the chicken in the oven so it will be ready when I get home?"

And he says "Sure- just send me a text with directions."

Really?!?!?  My own husband- my beloved- the zig to my zag- DID NOT KNOW HOW TO COOK A F%$#ING CHICKEN?

I quietly laid there next to him and texted him the following recipe:

How to Cook a F@#%ing Chicken

1. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.  Don't forget about it or we'll all die of something.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 

3. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil.  This is not a euphemism and get your mind out of the gutter.  Rub in salt and pepper.

4. Place the chicken breast side down in the blue pan.  Do not look for nipples.  Chickens do not have nipples.  I'm truly concerned for you.

5. Cut an onion in half and shove it inside the bird.  This keeps the chicken moist. Again, get your mind out of the gutter. 

6. Cover the wings with foil so they don't burn.  Those are the little pointy things.

7.  Wash some of the little potatoes and throw those in the pan, too.  Add some olive oil and salt & pepper.

8. Put the chicken in the oven which hopefully you didn't forget to pre-heat.

9. Set the timer for an hour.

10.  Use the meat thermometer to check the temperature-stick it in behind the thigh- it should be around 160.  Do not ask the chicken to say "Ahhhh."  It's a chicken.  If it's 90 or 200, order a pizza.

11. Assuming you haven't totally screwed it up, take it out of the oven, cover it loosely in foil and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Congratulations- you've made a f&%$ing chicken like a grown ass man.

Then I hit send.

He started cracking up immediately.

This is when our family started referring to our roasted chicken dinner as F^%$ing Chicken.  I'm not winning any parenting awards, but the kids laughed pretty hard.  Some people have Elf on the Shelf as their family tradition- my family now has F&%$ing Chicken as ours.

And as for my friend... his sister texted me and said she about fell over when he asked her for a cookbook for Christmas last year.

And our friendship... I posted a picture of lasagna I had made on Facebook and he replied "You should see my lasagna-- and it taste delicious." We're good.

And his marriage... apparently, it's going even better than his cooking. 

Because taking care of people you love-  whether it's making a meal or simply taking some of the load for them-- or hearing them when they say "Take an oar, I'm drowning"- is really what it's about.  It feels good.  It says thank you.

And to the 31 year old guy who can't cook- you owe it to yourself to learn.  To take care of yourself.  Because it's really hard to care for others if you don't know how to care of yourself.  That girlfriend that you hope to have one day per your comments- she's probably going to want a functioning adult partner.  At least the good ones do.

In short, sometimes, you need to be a grown up and learn to make the f&^@ing chicken.

It's really not that hard.

I promise.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

When Joe Biden Grabbed Me

I run on the outside of political circles. 

It's actually a great place to be. 

Rather than meet politicians in their official donor wooing mode, all charming and baby kissing, I get to see them when no one is looking.  I get to see how they treat people who aren't making donations.  Or, because I'm active in the community, I get to know them before they are big names.

It can be eye opening.

During the 2016 elections, we were fairly involved.  And because I have friends on the inside of the circle, I get to meet a lot of people.  In that circle, they are always charming and kind.

On the outside of the circle, some, not so much.

When my friend who is an activist told me to be sure I showed up at the Clinton election office, I said "Is Joe going to be there?"  She said it was going to be a surprise for the canvassers and not to tell anyone.

I picked up some donuts, granola bars and water for the canvassers and "happened" to show up when she said.

Secret Service hadn't arrived yet.

My very dear friend who I will call  Liza also showed up.  She had her 10 year old granddaughter with her who I will call Anna.  She had custody of Anna because her daughter had passed away the year before.  Anna's father wasn't able to care for her at the time, and Liza and her husband were her guardians.

Our family had gotten to know Anna over the year and we brought her into our clan- The Bean Team- during a holiday party when we were playing in a party game tournament and we all realized she was a viciously competitive as our family.  She is a feisty, smart young girl and we love her.

She was having a bad day.  It was just past the year anniversary of her mother's death- from cancer, a long, painful battle- and the social worker at her school had made a comment the day before about how she might not be able to stay with her grandparents because of some technicality.  It was an offhanded comment not meant to upset her, but it did. 

That morning she didn't want to leave my friend, her grandmother's side.  So Liza brought to the event.

She was the only kid during the school day there.

She picked out her favorite donut and we all talked in the back during the training session for the canvassers.

Then, the Secret Service came in the room and let everyone know what was really going on.  They had been invited there because the Vice President of the United States would be speaking.

The crowd of about 100 got really excited. 

We told Anna to go grab a seat so she could have a better view.

The Secret Service was VERY clear, if you were next to the VP, you could not take a selfie.  They also said that Biden tended to get off schedule, they had a very busy day so please, don't delay him.

They were not warm and friendly.  They were serious.  They wanted to stay on task. 

Liza went to the side of the room to see our friend's newborn baby.  I stood in the back of the room, letting the canvassers have the good seats. 

Biden got up on the stage and gave a phenomenal speech.  He was energetic.  He was hopeful.  He was gregarious.  During the speech he started to talk about the vulgarity of the debates and stopped himself when he saw Anna in the room.

"See?  We can't even talk about what Trump said because there's a child in the room!"

Anna immediately replied, "That's okay- I can't stand him."

And the crowd laughed, including Biden. 

After about 30 minutes (?) of positive, energizing comments, he hopped off the stage and went around the room to pose for pictures and meet the canvassers. 

Biden IMMEDIATELY went over to my friend with the baby and it was adorable. (We had teased her and said she brought the baby to lure in the politician for the photoshoot and she said "Darn right, I did!" )

I stayed in the back because I'm not all about the schmoozing.  I was happy to hear his speech.

Then, he said:

"Hey, let's do a group selfie--- let me get to the back and you all crowd up in the front."

And about 10 seconds later, there I was- the woman in the back of the room, avoiding everyone,  standing next to the Vice President of the United States.

And then it happened.

He grabbed me.  He put his arm around me as if we were war buddies reunited 20 years later.

I'm sure the look on my face if anyone had snapped a picture at that moment would have been "WTF?"

It's not because it was sexual.  It's because it was sudden.  It was unexpected.  It was firm.  And I'm not a huggy touchy person.

He looked at me and with this big giant smile, I immediately relaxed- and then he said /yelled "Hey- let's get a future President in the picture" and he called Anna over.

My friend Liza, from across the room said "Hold on-- wait for Grandma!!" and ran across the room in her heels.  It was hilarious. 

Biden's arm was still around me and I have to say, I went from"WTF" to "Holy crap, the Vice President is standing next to me as if we are the best of friends... "

He put his arm around Liza as well.

We snapped the picture. 

The Secret Service was trying to get him out the door.

Liza turned to him and said "Thank you for making what started as a terrible day, a wonderful day for my granddaughter.  My daughter lost her battle with cancer about a year ago and it was one of those bad days for us..."

Then, what happened next, what I got to witness, was the single most impressive action I've ever seen from a politician in my lifetime.

Despite the Secret Service motioning him to go, Biden got down on his knee and starting talking with Anna.  Everything stopped. 

The only people who could hear or see him were me, the Secret Service agent (who had that "Here we go again" look on his face), Liza and our other friend I'll call Donna.

He started to talk with her about how hard it was on his son when his wife and children were killed in the car crash.  How he never forgot the pain, but they got through it.  How she would get through it and never forget it either.  How lucky she was to have a grandma that loved her so much.  And Anna, usually tough as nails, started crying.  And all us of, except the Secret Service agent, started crying- ugly snot crying-- and he hugged Anna and held her, told her she would be okay and let her cry.  Then he stood up, with tears in his eyes, looked at Liza and told her that losing his son was the hardest thing, how awful cancer was, and he knew how she felt.  And they cried and they hugged.

And then Anna looked up at him and said "It's okay- you're going to be all right" - and that was it- full flood gates were opened-- snot was flowing and the Secret Service ushered him out the door as he wiped his eyes.

No one else saw it.

It was not for a public viewing.  It was private.  It was real.  It wasn't a photo op (although I did take pictures in between the sniffles). 

It was a man who has met with world leaders, who was in line for the presidency, who took 10 minutes of his very busy schedule to console a little girl he had just met who was mourning the loss of her mother.

So yes, Joe Biden grabbed me.  Not just by the shoulder.  He grabbed my soul. 

He exuded a kindness that I haven't seen in many people.

Especially in local political circles where if there isn't a camera present, a very different person shows up.

And I'll leave that last comment there for the locals who know exactly what I mean.

As for personal space issues, that's an entirely different conversation that I've blogged on before. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Assholes Among Us

I'm tired of people being assholes.


So, so tired of it.

Of dressing others down.

Of insulting, humiliating, degrading others.

I'm done.

This week really was my tipping point.  I'm blaming a mixture of the full moon and PMS.

On Saturday night, my husband and I went out to dinner and to listen to a friend of his who plays in a jazz combo.  It had been awhile since we'd had the opportunity for just the two of us to go out.  Valentine's Day had passed, we've both been busy with work and kids' activities, we needed a night to listen to some great music at one of our favorite Italian restaurants.

He made reservations for 6:30.

We pulled in at 6:20 and the place was packed. In fact, we knew about a third of the people there- all friends with the band.  My husband went up, gave them our name and we chatted with some friends in the crowded waiting area and listened to some good music while we waited.

I remember those nights when I waited tables and it was so incredibly busy you didn't have time to pee.  The wait staff was flying all over the place.  The owner was bussing a table or two, bringing drinks- as a small business owner myself it made me happy.  I am so sick of chain restaurants destroying our fantastic local restaurants.  This place was buzzing and alive.

And then in walks Mr. Dickwad.

Older gentleman in a sport coat.

I didn't originally think he was a dickwad.  At first I thought he was classy and I wished my husband had worn a sport coat- of course, that would require that he own one but whatever...

Then the sport coat opened his mouth.

The owner was hosting. A woman who was holding flowers and with the sport coat man, approached and he wrote down their name.

Well, Mr. Dickwad didn't trust her so he approached.

"We have a reservation."

"Yes, I know- I put your name right here."  The owner smiled.

"I see that you wrote it down, but we have a reservation."

"Yes- I have it right here-'

"But it was for 6:30!" Mr. Dickwad demanded!

The owner- who is  a great guy (evidenced by his bussing and water pouring, helping his staff and having hung out with me one time during lunch when my friend and I were asking about a special and it turned into him joining us)- said incredulously---

"It's 6:34."

"It IS!" Mr. Dickwad seemed to think this made his point.

The rest of us were all rolling our eyes.  Because it's FOUR MINUTES.

And the guy begins to berate the owner about how they must not really take reservations and on and on and I had enough.

This was my night out with my husband to be an adult.  A grown up date with music, wine and making goo goo eyes at each other (don't throw up).

And I turned...

This is when I could see my husband go whiter than he already is.  He knew what was next- I was going to go what we refer to as "full pit bull."

And while I wanted to say "Listen asshole, you're embarrassing your wife, this is the OWNER and what the hell do you want him to do?  Kick out someone while they're eating?  Throw their food on the floor?  Shut the hell up and wait your damn turn with the rest of us."

But I didn't.

Because it's a nice place and I love my husband and if I'm going to start taking on assholes, I'm going to take the high road.

"Sir, we all have reservations.  All of us."  I motioned to the entire waiting area who was nodding in agreement. I was firm.  I was not rude.

He backed off.

And then the 2 couples next us snickered.  The young couple said "Our reservations were for 6:15 actually... but I think we'll live...."

The other couple said "Nice job." 

And then I said "Well, his Viagara is probably going to wear off soon- maybe he's in a time crunch..."

So don't anoint me with sainthood.  I still need to work on my kinder, nicer approach.

And my husband looked at me and said "I'm sure the owner was fine.  He's probably used to it."

He probably is.

Because screaming at people is the new norm. 

But it bothered me.  My kids were not known for having temper tantrums (they did but rarely).  The reason they didn't have them is because they didn't work.  I didn't tolerate them.  You have a temper tantrum, you get nothing.  I can wait it out.  Ask my mother in law.  My daughter and I sat outside a restaurant in January in a stare down because she would not behave.  No one else in the restaurant needed their dinner disrupted by my 3 year old. I can get mine to go. The other people don't need to pay the price.

And I certainly did not want my date disrupted by a 70 year old man having a temper tantrum.


When the owner was seating us (before The Dickwads, who were still waiting), he apologized because it was a small table in the back.  We aren't small people.  I said "Well, if it's a really shitty table, give it to that guy." He laughed and said "Thank you- that guy's a fucking asshole." Our table turned out to be fine- nice and quiet in the corner so we could make ample goo goo eyes.

It did matter that I had said something because I've seen people like Mr. Dickwad and they don't back down.  The owner didn't deserve that.  Good customer service doesn't mean letting someone treat you like crap.

I didn't get in Mr. Dickwad's face- I didn't call him names.  Had he said something back... who knows, but more than likely I would have rolled my eyes.

But he didn't because my guess is, he's gotten away with this for a long time and no one has ever said anything.

And I'm just done watching people do this.

To anyone.

The cashiers at Target.  Or the waiter at the restaurant.  Or the teacher at your kid's school. Or the receptionist at the doctor's office.

People make mistakes.  They don't do it on purpose.  If a grade goes in wrong or I'm handed the wrong change, there is no reason for me to dress someone down as if they caused the collapse of the universe. 

People don't sit around thinking "Wow, how can I screw this up and ruin Mr. Dickwad's day?"

They don't.

Restaurants get busy.  It means they are good. Wait your turn or leave. We have a LOT of restaurants in Las Vegas.

Teachers have a lot of students.  As long as a wrong grade gets corrected before the end of the term, who cares?

But nasty gram emails and phone messages and "letting people know what you really think"-

Here's a heads up to all the Mr. Dickwad's- what they think is that you're an asshole.  The waiter is probably spitting in your food.  The cashier is probably going to go extra slow with the person in front of your next time, so you go to another lane.  The receptionist at the doctor's office is never going to squeeze you in.

So the next time you feel like giving someone a piece of your mind- don't.  You need it.

And if you see someone berating another person for no other reason than they want to feel big by making the other person feel small, say something.  Something polite. Something kind. 

We have to stop bullying in the adult world.

Kids will be kids.

Grown ass men in sports coats know better. 

For all I know, maybe they were celebrating his wife's 5 year cancer free anniversary.  Or their 50th wedding anniversary. Or maybe it was a first date (and hopefully the last because she needs to run).  Maybe he was having surgery on Monday.  I don't know.

I do know that he had no right to speak to someone as if they were less than.

No one does.

Maybe if we all start acting a little kinder and start looking out for one another, it'll catch on.

Be kind. Stand up.

It makes a small ripple in a big pond.