Catastrophic meltdown. That is what occurred this morning at 4:30 a.m. For some reason, the boy woke up. It hasn’t happened in months. And the truth is, any attempt to reason with a 5-year-old at 4:30 a.m. is futile, especially when the issue has to do with a toy. Raphael’s mask – the smallest part on the smallest toy – fell off in the bed. It is a tiny, red circle about ½ the size of a penny. When I got up to investigate, I found all of the stuffed animals and pillows on the floor, sheets askew on the bed. He was crying, and kept telling me over and over, “It is lost forever!”
I pulled the sheets back, moved all the books that live under the pillow (anyone else have the library in the bed at night? Apparently, he will learn to read through osmosis...), and ran my hands over the fitted sheet. Because the sheets are covered in red emergency vehicles, there was little to no chance that I would find the mask in my delirious state. So, I made the parent promise: “I can’t find it now, but I will look for it in the morning.” I had no idea if I would find it, but I knew that bed was the only answer for everyone in that moment. Through the sobs, I put the pillows and stuffed animals back on the bed, moved the remaining Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the top bunk for safe keeping, turned out the light and crawled in to bed next to him. Thirty minutes later, he followed me into my bed. That, of course, was the end of sleep for me.
I got up before 7:00 a.m. to make breakfast and lunch. After getting lunches prepared, I resumed the hunt. Miraculously, I found the lil’ bugger in the bed. He smiled from ear to ear when I handed it to him. And then I gave him the bad news: no more "Turtle Dudes" in the bed at night. With the mask safely positioned back on Raphael’s face, the kid took that news in stride.
Will he remember that I did this? Probably not. But I will. Little things with great love. That is what we do for our children. That is what we do for those who we love.
God help me if he loses that mask again.
I have a 5-year-old boy. He is built like a Tonka truck. Add to this that he is incredibly active, and he eats, which translates into a tall, solid kid who can knock me flat if he gets me off balance. Thankfully, he is a gentle giant. He never means to hurt anyone unless they push him too far. But that is a conversation for another day.
While on the subway the other morning, my son told me he wanted a seat. Because we were traveling during rush hour, few seats remained. Having taken the local, the train makes seven stops before reaching our destination. As will happen, people get on and get off. At one point, a seat opened up right next to where we stood. Although my son wanted to take it, I reminded him of the message I’ve repeated since he could understand me: “Ladies first.” I then told him that the seat should go to the young girl standing with her father at the pole in the center of the subway car. We offered; she sat. Instead of hearing a “thank you,” her father then said, “Confusing. We teach gender equality. And ladies first. An interesting line.”
In a word, I was flummoxed. Never before had I experienced this response. I’ve always operated with the mantra that men should practice courtesy, perhaps because my father did. He held doors open routinely, and would give up a seat to a woman in a heartbeat. But, his actions did not seek to unravel gender equality. Rather, he performed these acts simply out of courtesy. Interestingly, he was the only person who supported my mother’s decision to return to law school in the late 1970’s after having three children, a decision I would say was a supreme act of gender equality when it was not commonly practiced. My husband acts in a similarly courteous way. Together, we have tried to impart this level of courtesy to our son.
After processing what this man said, my brain raced to answer the unposed question: was I upending gender equality by teaching my son courtesy? It took just a moment for me to decide that these issues actually do not collide. Gender equality seeks a platform where everyone is given an equal chance, no matter their sex. Of course, I agree with this concept. Success is based upon personal performance; the chance to try must be given to everyone. Our son is learning about equality (what a 5-year-old understands to be “fairness,”) and he is learning to be respectful and courteous. As he gets older, I expect he will automatically give up his seat to anyone who needs it, such as elderly person, a person with a disability, a pregnant woman, or just to woman who simply wants it.
After turning to the father and looking more than slightly perplexed, I said, “Yes, it is an interesting line. And perhaps confusing. But he is generally bigger and stronger than most. And I am trying to teach him courtesy.”
We might see them again on the subway. And if we do, my son will again offer his seat.
Who invented the mammogram machine? Was it a man? Although I have not researched this information, I will bet that a man constructed that awful machine. For those who have not yet had the pleasure, individually, your breasts get squished between a metal plate and a piece of hard plastic. By pressing out the breasts, the radiologists are hoping to see all of the tissue in a flat plane, making it arguably easier to identify any abnormalities. Comfort is not the operative word here.
I had my annual mammogram 2 weeks ago, and I got called back in…again. Last year, on my birthday, I received the delightful news that there was something questionable on my mammogram, a finding that prompted the need for additional imaging. Results of those additional images prompted my physician to order a bilateral breast MRI. So, after having my breasts squished twice within a 2 week period, I had to lay face down on a cold, metal plate for 30 minutes, keeping my body perfectly still while this remarkably LOUD machine took more pictures of my breasts. DE-light-ful. Thankfully, my breast surgeon concluded that I simply needed to be kept on a short leash. I went back in January for another mammogram, which did not raise alarms. Dr. breast surgeon told me to resume my annual spring mammogram. Queue the audible “phew.”
As I retrieved the voicemail left by the imaging center last week seeking to schedule follow-up imaging, January’s good news transformed into a cloud, floating away into the abyss of my stress. Since that point, I’ve been pushing my fear into the background, trying not to overthink the outcomes. But I am nervous as hell, and hypersensitive. Do I feel burning? Is my right breast swollen? Will they find something that must be biopsied? Do I have cancer?
I know I am not alone in my psychological madness. I am trying to remain calm, not to worry. Although I don’t have any statistics, I’d bet my last dollar that many women have felt as I feel now. And this helps a bit. So will the bottle of wine that I plan to pick up on my way home.
I was an impressionable seven-year-old when Lynda Carter brought Wonder Woman to life. Clad in my bullet-repelling wrist bands and boomerang-esque headpiece made from my mom’s heavy duty aluminum foil, I would sit on the piano bench in the living room flying my invisible plane to destinations unknown. String from the junk drawer served as my golden lasso, and the footstool became every ne’er-do-well known to mankind. At the end of each story, I’d put the criminals away using every superpower I possessed, with my secret identity remaining (remarkably) intact.
Making a landmark return to the big screen this weekend, Gal Gadot beautifully breathed life into this icon we know as Wonder Woman. Curious but true, never before has a female superhero headlined a movie. Early indications suggest that the movie has been well-received by the public. For some, including me, this is not a surprise.
Growing up in a household with a strong, educated woman at the helm, I have always gravitated towards smart women leaders. In a vacuum, these women understand every circumstance, can rise to rise to any challenge, acknowledge the difficulties in life and are able to find a solution despite any undercurrent of fear. Wonder Woman encompasses all of these traits and more, making her the ultimate role model. But, we do not live in a vacuum.
It is easy to get lost in the magic of Hollywood. Bad people are easily identified and brought to justice; love interests arise in uncomplicated situations and without baggage; friendships are constructed with impenetrable armor. Truth is, life is messy, complicated and challenging. Few things go according to plan. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a 40-something is that you cannot control anyone but yourself. And many times I don’t act like Wonder Woman: I am selfish, cranky and introverted. I am imperfect. In a word, I am human.
Because we are human, we are subject to emotion; we are swayed by circumstances; we operate in the gray. Holding the moral compass gets heavy, and lonely. Thinking that our faults are perpetually exposed, we gravitate towards those who are less-flawed, those who make the decisions look easy, those like Wonder Woman. But, Wonder Woman didn’t do what you did today. She didn’t fix the issue with the client; fix lunch; put on the bandaid; tell the bedtime story; fix dinner; pay the bills; talk to the in-laws; talk to the family; talk to your spouse; make a friend laugh. But you did.
You are Wonder Woman.
And your secret is safe with me.
Stress became the focus of a conversation I had with very good friend last week. Responsibilities at work are impacting her ability to sleep. She hadn’t slept much the night before. By the way, she lost her husband to cancer and has a five-year-old son. So, her job is important for many obvious reasons. She asked me what I do to manage my stress. Having never described to anyone else what I routinely do to manage my stress, I fumbled the answer a bit. But, eventually, I came up with the following list:
Pretty obvious suggestions, right? I completely agree. But I assure you, they work.
For the record, I am not always successful at managing my stress. A good glass of red wine is my back up plan, although this practice frowned upon by some. But it is my #8 on occasion.
He was in our bed last night…again. At four feet tall, 54 lbs. and five-and-a-half years old, he isn’t what you would call small. In fact, I have affectionately referred to him as my “Tonka Truck” since his birth. My OB said he would be 7.5 to 8 lbs – instead, he came out “naturally” at 9.5 lbs. Yup, that was a surprise. I said goodbye to every piece of clothing labeled “newborn” right there in the delivery room.
He doesn't come to our bed because he has nightmares. He comes to our bed because he wakes up randomly and he would rather take the middle space in Mommy and Daddy’s bed instead of staying in his own. Of course, there is a certain amount of grumbling, probably more from me than from my husband because he likes to share my pillows. But when I get too grumbly, I take a moment to realize how special it is that he wants to be with us. Soon enough, that will be over.
It also makes me think back to the last week I spent with my mother. She had this horrible cancer – myleodisplastic syndrome (MDS) – a precursor to leukemia. Diagnosed at 67, she wasn’t considered a good candidate for a bone marrow transplant. So, she pushed through the disease with medications and blood transfusions. The doctors gave her five years; she lived only 16 months.
At the end of July 2008, I got a call from my mom because she was having another bone marrow study. A strong woman from beginning to end, she never wanted to say she needed help, but I knew that was the reason for this call. I left work and did not leave her side for the next 48 hours. When I got her home, she crawled into bed and I crawled in next to her. We spoke about where she wanted to travel when she felt better. Ever the musician (she played the piano flawlessly) and the Catholic girl, Vienna and Rome topped the list. Sharing her pillow and talking about the future, I was again her youngest child taking up space in her bed. Two days later she went into the hospital, her MDS having converted to leukemia. She died within the week.
Memorable moments occur when you least expect them. While in bed with me the other morning, staring eye to eye, my son said, “Good morning, Mommy.” With three simple words, he washed away all the complaints poised on my lips. He may not remember this, but I will. And that is enough.
Being the youngest child, and somewhere between the ages of 10-12, I was often tasked with certain jobs my older siblings (appropriately) refused to do. On this one occasion, while driving through a residential area, my dad pulled the car over after passing an enormous lilac bush. He turned to me and said, ”Go pick some lilacs. Go! Go! Go!” As bidden, I jumped out of the car, ran over to the lilac bush and tried to break off a few branches. For those of you who have knowledge of lilacs, you will understand when I say that this was an impossible task. Larger lilac bushes have very strong branches. Gardening scissors are necessary when taking a cutting. Having no such tool, I failed at the task. After 10 minutes, I was directed back into the car sans flowers. I am sure our lack of permission to take those lilacs played into that directive.
In his youth, my dad worked for a florist. I was often amazed by his ability to flawlessly arrange flowers. Although I never asked him, I suspect his love of lilacs originated with that job. Vibrant purple, brilliant white or any of the subtle lavender shades and ever so fragrant, they are beautiful flowers. But, as with many spring flowers, their lifeline is short. Where I live, lilacs come to life in May. By June, the lilac bush is barely distinguishable from other hedge bushes.
For many years after this failed foraging event, my dad and I would chuckle if one or the other said “Go, go, go!” I can’t pass a lilac bush without this trio of words ringing in my head. He’s been gone for 6 years, which I still find incredible. He gave me so much – his love of science, pervasive curiosity, permission to engage in petit larceny – and he is the reason why I will always stop to smell (and then buy) the lilacs.
I have one child - a boy. At first blush, it might seem strange to some that I've started a website with the goal of providing inspiration, guidance and resources to women. But, as a mother, a wife, a former high school biology teacher and former NYC paramedic, and in my current role as a lawyer, I think the pressures placed upon women (particularly teens) is great. Because these pressures come from so many angles, I've written this open letter to all young women who are taking steps to establish their respective independence.
You are on the path to adulthood. It is a journey that is not alway smooth, but I assure you that the lessons you learn now will guide you in the future. Some of you are, or have moved away, from your parents, perhaps for a job or school, or another pursuit. Some of you are learning how to deal with life while at home, perhaps because of pressures from supposed "friends", social media, or family. Wherever you find yourself, there are a few things I'd like to share about life that might help guide you along the way:
You are beautiful, strong, resilient. Be brave and brilliant.