Deal with it

My daughter idolizes you, Donald Trump. You’re the star of her comics, and she does a killer impression of you. You’ve infiltrated her ten-year-old psyche. You’re rich, and she has a thing for money. You’re powerful, and she craves power. Plus, you’re funny, and she has a great sense of humor.

Not to disappoint you, Mr. Trump, but Hillary has my vote. Still, I pay attention to my kids, so my daughter’s infatuation with you has given me pause. I’ll admit it, I’ve given your candidacy some consideration.

Every time my daughter tells her brothers to DEAL with it, I think of you.

You’re scrappy, Mr. Trump. You started out small, with only a $1M investment from your father. Everyone deserves an investment, if not in money then in time and attention. I hope my kids make the most of my investment in them, same as you. You’ve worked your way up, worked tirelessly to put your mark on the world.

My daughter knows exactly where to find your tower on the Chicago skyline.

I hear you’ve got a concealed carry permit, Mr. Trump, and I like knowing that you want to defend yourself. Like I teach my kids, you’ve got all the tools you need within yourself.

Good, honest people should feel safe inside and out.

I like how much you want to protect us Americans, Mr. Trump. When you say you want to build a great wall on the Mexican border, I know how much you want to keep us safe. Trust me, I wish I could put a layer of cement between my kids and the rest of the world. Sometimes I even want to protect them from one another.

But one thing I’ve learned is that once you start putting up walls, parts of you die.

I know you care about the world, Mr. Trump. I’ve been to Vegas, I’ve seen what wonders you’re capable of producing with a bit of money and raw materials. And I know you’ve got to tear down the old before you can build the new. So when you suggest bombing the hell out of ISIS, part of me gets where you’re coming from, Mr. Trump.

Like I tell my kids, when you’re mad it feels really good to punch someone, anyone. But it’s funny, when you hurt someone else, you’re always hurting yourself, too.

When you suggest deporting Muslims from the U.S., Mr. Trump, I think you’re just scared. Everyone has their fears, but be careful, Mr. Trump. Fear can make you reductive, and even worse, reactive. I’m not proud to admit the relief I felt when a bully was removed from my daughter’s class a few years ago, never mind that the bully was just one child in a class of twenty, acting out, making a desperate plea for help. Never mind that all children act out at some time or another.

It’s simpler to shut down in the face of adversity than to face our fears head-on.

I like how you want to invest in mental healthcare for veterans, to treat the invisible wounds of war. It’s introspective of you, Mr. Trump. Everyone has those subconscious wounds, you know. I know I do. I often wonder what scars my kids will bear by the time they escape their childhoods, what damage I’m inflicting on them, or they are, to each other.

Mr. Trump, I see how you want to send all kinds of trouble packing, to lock it up somewhere so we Americans can find the solitude to consider the best course of action to ensure a safe future for ourselves. Trouble is, Mr. Trump, solitude is a luxury that even most Americans can’t afford, and silence is virtually unattainable these days. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about with three kids at home.

If you can manage to calm your thoughts though, you’ll find the quietest place on Earth right inside your own head. It doesn’t matter what’s raging outside.

I believe you really want to be a nice guy, Mr. Trump, and I have an idea for you, a gentle suggestion. Take your own advice: Deal with it. In fact, let’s all try it, regardless of race, orientation, or belief. Deal, as in cope, rather than confront or bargain. Be still. Look inward, be honest. Acknowledge your emotions. It’s difficult to weather the storm, I know.

You’ll probably find that you remember things that you haven’t thought of in years. You’ll recall what your life was like before you became a success. You’ll remember hurts, fears, and doubts that you’ll probably wish had remained buried. But it’s never all bad: You’ll also recall loves, and joys, all the small things that have lit you up inside over the years. And that’s when you’ll know what you’re made of.

It’s hard to admit that we really are all made of the same stuff.

Like I tell my kids, eventually the storm will pass. Your emotions will settle down, and you’ll be able to build something new from all the rubble.

Photo via
Photo via

My kid has a demon

A month ago I started taking my six-year old to a therapist. He’s shy, and with the onset of first grade, he was talking less than ever. Pretty much his only means of communicating with his new teacher was by whispering into her ear.

When the threat of no recess (hers) and even the offer of a new LEGO set (mine) only seemed to make Gabe more anxious, I complained to another mom, who came to the rescue with a therapist recommendation. This isn’t the first time I’ve weighed the possibility of taking one of the kids to a therapist. In the past I’ve always decided against it, thinking that paying too much attention to the problem would only make it worse. This time, though, Gabe seemed genuinely fraught about going to school, so I called the therapist and Gabe and I have been visiting once a week since.

This week his therapist began with some art therapy. She handed Gabe a sheet of paper and a box of markers, and asked him to draw his worry as if it were an animal or a monster.

Gabe started to draw right away. He drew a devil engulfed in multicolored flames, and even before he finished it I was almost crying. “This is a worry demon,” he whispered into my ear. “He talks to me. He tells me he hates me, he’s stronger than me, and he’ll beat me up if I talk at school.”

I nodded, trying to figure out the questions that would help more than harm. While I was choosing my words, the therapist asked Gabe to draw a weapon that he could use against the worry demon. He turned to another page and drew a red and blue rocket. “This is a worry blaster,” he whispered triumphantly. “Whenever I talk, it blasts the worry demon into ashes and he DIES,” he explained into my ear. “The worry demon’s flames set off the rocket,” he finished, clearly proud of putting the demon’s flames to good use.

Gabe is only six years old. He and the other kids have had a relatively calm childhood so far, and play fighting with his sister and brother is his only actual daily torment. Yet, still, Gabe is living with a demon inside him. He, thankfully, has no idea that mental illness runs rampant on both sides of his family: schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and dissociative personality disorder, to name a few. No, thankfully, he has no clue that demons are a thing beyond television and Halloween. Hopefully I can protect him from that harsh reality for a very long time.

Yet something about the way he dove into his drawing, so sure of his worry demon, just breaks my heart. Something about the worry rocket, fueled by his demon’s flames, strikes me as uncanny.

The human mind is a mysterious place.


It’s been awhile since I posted something personal, I know. This demon thing has really gotten to me.

Once I was afraid

This is not a birth story. This is a story about fear.

This is not a birth story, I swear. I’ve had three kids, three labors. Three times, I’ve observed my body open, like a scene from some twisted sci-fi flick. Three times, a baby emerged from my body, impossibly and in spite of all logic to the contrary.

With my first two pregnancies, fear was a constant companion. I felt afraid for weeks, even months, before labor began. Spread out over time, my fear mellowed out into a steady but firm pressure on my mind, akin to a pair of hands squeezing my throat. Let’s call it my awareness of the impossible becoming reality. Over a period of weeks, I coped. I read constantly, I took classes, I nested, I distracted myself from the large, cold hands around my throat.

In spite of all of my attempts at distraction, those hands remained firmly around my throat the entire length of each of my pregnancies.

When I was pregnant with Nate, things felt different. Anna and Gabe kept me busy. I felt foolishly confident. I’d been through labor twice before, I knew what I was doing. I barely read; I took no classes. I relegated my emotions to the far corners of my mind.

Want to know something about me? I’m stubborn. I knew those strong, cold fingers were pressed to my esophagus, but I refused to acknowledge them.

My third labor developed over a number of weeks. I recall feeling annoyed when contractions began at eight months. But I continued caring for my toddlers, I continued doing what I needed to do. I did not permit myself to pay attention to my fear.

The night before Nate was born, I readied the house. I think I might have even baked banana bread. I put everything in order, and I ignored the fingers on my throat. When it was time to go to the hospital, Geoff actually argued that I wasn’t ready because I did not seem afraid, but I was certain.

At the hospital, I calmly signed in, I quietly let the nurses do their thing. In just a little while though, I fell apart. I called my midwife even though Geoff was right there with me. “I’m afraid,” I told her. I was. The cold hands squeezed my throat and shut out my air. Nothing could have prepared me.

“Of course you are,” my midwife said matter-of-factly. She rubbed my back and a few minutes later, Nate showed up and I could breathe again.

Photo via Deviantart
Photo via Deviantart

“Want to guess his weight?” one of the nurses asked my midwife.

“Ten-three,” she answered right away.

My midwife was spot on.

I was afraid once, for good reason.

My two-year old is a monster


Yeah, Nate is a real monster, just like every other two-year old in the world. They even have their own moniker, like some kind of generational coup condoning their bad behavior. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

On the walk home from school today, he pulled me over to the row of snow-capped ice piles lining the sidewalk.

“I yant to climb on the snow mountains, Mama,” he told me, slipping off of the nearest one onto the concrete. I held his arm tightly and helped him navigate.

The five-minute walk took twenty monster minutes and I arrived home chilled and with a left arm sore from dragging the happily oblivious terrible two-year old. He was red faced and thrilled that his day included a mountain-climbing adventure.

At lunch, he yanted my pancakes, and helped himself to my food without asking.

Now, he’s looking for the dimes he calls diamonds that he hid in his cargo pants this morning. He doesn’t yant to nap, so he’s busy setting booby traps for his brother and sister who get home in three hours. He’s yammering, always yammering, invading my consciousness, making me angry.

Honestly, this kid invaded my consciousness long before he was born, even before his conception. He lurked in my imagination, demanding a life of his own. He haunted me, and against my better judgment, despite all logic, I gave him what he yanted.

Come to think of it, all of my kids are monsters.


Thanks to this guy for inspiring me to write this post. I think he knows what I mean when I say that sometimes we parents just have to give our kids what they yant.

I wish I had been an orphan

The past few months I’ve been reading the kids Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. We just began book five, The Austere Academy. The kids are obsessed with it, and Geoff and I like it a lot, too. It’s dark and funny, with lots of big words. In other words, it’s awesome.

The stories are about three orphans, siblings whose parents died in a fire, who go on to have adventure after adventure. In each book the kids narrowly avoid a different disaster, and they regularly find themselves in situations that they never would have if their parents had survived.

When I was a kid I used to wish that my mom would die just so that I could have the kind of adventures that the Baudelaire orphans do. No, I didn’t actually want my mom to be dead, I just wanted my life to be more fun. If she died, I thought that I could go and live with my godmother, who seemed infinitely more interesting than my mom. I also wanted to live in an RV and travel around the country, something that was out of the question for my mom. Needless to say, my mom lived into my adulthood and I was at least seventeen before I ever had a real adventure.

My mom nearly gave me up for adoption – did I ever mention that? It’s a long story of its own, but when it came down to it, she changed her mind. She was single, poor, divorced, and unwed. She had little going for her in general, so when she found herself pregnant with me at 38, she first thought that adoption would be the best option. Then I was born two months early and my mom nearly died from complications. When things settled down, she decided that the universe had a message for her. She decided to take another stab at motherhood.

I’m glad that my mom did not give me up for adoption. I mean, I hope that goes without saying. I’m lucky in so many ways to have been raised by my mom. She gave me all that she had to give, and now I often wonder how she did it. Yet looking back, my life feels like a series of narrowly missed adventures. My childhood was safe and quiet, I went to college just 20 minutes from home, I got married at 23.

I’ve never been thrown to the wolves. I’ve never risked it all on my own in the world. I’ve never entrusted myself to the universe just for fun. Damn it, I want to.


I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

Thoughts on Father’s Day

There’s this guy I know. He’s a single dad. Until recently I tried not to pay much attention to him because he’s hot. But it’s hard because it’s so obvious what a great dad he is.

His daughter shares a teacher with mine. The girls are not friends, but that’s another story. She struggles, that’s clear. She wants more attention, special attention, from her mom.

Her dad is crazy about her, though. He carries her cowgirl boots when she gets a blister. He drags her bike on foot all the way to school so she can ride home. He remembers all the little things for her, he braids her hair. He dresses up in crazy costumes for the Halloween parade. He’s so happy to see her when she runs out of school that his face lights up.

She knows he loves her. But it’s not enough, and she always seems needy. She bosses the other girls and she begs for special treatment from the other moms. Maybe that’s because she only sees her dad for half the week. Maybe it’s that her own mom is distracted, too busy to give her undivided attention.

And I’m struck by this: Why do we sometimes squander the love that we have in our search for the love that we don’t?

But that dad is an inspiration.