"Don't Walk me In!"

HOPEspotters- be gentle with me. I’m tired. Today was a milestone morning. Ryan, my first born (14 y/o) left for his 8th grade trip. 60 hours away touring the state of Georgia with his classmates and some very saintly teacher chaperones. The itinerary would make a Navy Seal question personal stamina, but it is a long awaited “privilege” for the graduating middle school class. So today was the day and there was a mixed bag of emotions for both Ryan and me: anxiety, excitement, concern, joy. But at drop off time of 6:30 AM, we were just doing all we could to get there in one piece.

A disclaimer: I recognize my well prepared, well protected son was going on a school field trip and not leaving for Afghanistan. I get that. Really, I do.

Preparations for this trip began months ago and I’ve had off the charts anxiety every step of the way. My anxiety was really not at all rooted in Ryan’s safety or homesickness or anything other than, “Dear God, don’t let me miss a deadline, forget an essential item he is assigned to bring or do ANYTHING to mess this up.” That is the essential prayer of most middle school moms. It varies a little, but not much.

In the last week I have been scurrying around as if Ryan was going to Pyeongchang, driving the bus, with no possibility of communication or enduring any discomfort for 5 minutes. Yep, I fell in the trap. Guilty as charged. Helicopter Parent Buckley, reporting for duty.

Last night, Ryan and I packed together and proceeded to, of course, argue. “Why do I have to bring that?” “Why can’t I bring that?”  And the ever popular, “OH MY GOD, MOM!” Don’t even know why, but it was said A LOT.

So the school sent multiple messages for absolute clarity: DROP OFF IS 6:30 AM. FAILURE TO BE AT THE SCHOOL AT THIS TIME MAY RESULT IN YOUR EXECUTION. I exaggerate- but not much. Again, my primary goal was not to mess up any part of this for my beloved first born.

Ryan isn’t great at waking up. (Holy understatement) So I spent the night waking up every hour on the hour making sure I wasn’t late in working to get him up and in the shower (yes, I do, in fact, keep my helicopter in the backyard. Thanks for asking). When my alarm finally went off at 5:20 AM, I was up and working on the traveler. Lights ON! Shower ON!

And remarkably, we were ready on time. While he got ready, I felt like I did some really incredible things. I changed out of pajamas. I put on a bra. I brushed my teeth AND put my hair in a ponytail. I double checked that everything was packed and labeled his bags with his name. Still don’t know why the Mother of the Year award givers haven’t come to find me today. But, whatever…

We got in the car and it was a lot like a regular morning: Ryan on his phone and me listening to sports radio. Typically, a morning like this would conclude with me pulling into the carpool lane and with attention to alacrity, Ryan would jump out of the passenger seat, get his backpack from the back seat and say goodbye while heading into school.

Today, however, was a milestone day and I could sense the specialness. So when I arrived at the school, in the cold dark, at 6:20, I made some observations.

The first thing I observed was somewhat shocking. As I got closer to the front door and observed parents getting out to help their student with luggage, I saw many mothers IN OUTFITS. They were dressed. And I think they were wearing makeup! Who are these magic people? Did I mention it was 6:20 AM? Were they leaving here to appear on the TODAY show? Perhaps they don’t appreciate the subtle, yet thrilling, art of driving in the dark with one eye glued shut from yesterday’s mascara. This was shocking to me. I was reeling. Was it not enough that I put on yoga pants AND A BRA? Serious, M.Fing overachievers.

The next thing I observed was that to which I paid close attention. This drop off wasn’t like regular carpool with the school resource officer waving you on so as not to create delay. “Eject your student and proceed, please.” And I am nothing if not a rule follower! But what I watched in the cars that went before me was an undeniable pattern: student AND parent left the car. Parent handed luggage to student, student hugged parent, parent returned to car and the next in line was promoted.

I was not going to mess this up.

So when Ryan and I pulled up to the “departure slot” he got out of the car, and opened the back seat to get his bags. I put the car in park and walked around the front of the car to approach him. I extended my arms, ready to say, “have a great….”


And with speed that can only be compared to Usain Bolt, Ryan darted in the front door.

I stood there with arms outstretched for only a second, but I probably looked like Frankenstein. Given the hot fear that one could see in Ryan’s eyes, that must be true.

I messed it up. I messed it up.

And in the next second, God winked at me with the all the humor and irony that only God can deliver. Embarrassed, I dropped my arms and smoothed my jacket. I glanced into the windshield of the driver behind me and, of course, it was her. OF COURSE, it was her.

Who’s her? I don’t know her name. I’ve seen her one thousand times since Ryan was in kindergarten but I swear we’ve never met. She stood out to me on this morning because two weeks ago at the MANDATORY parent planning session for this trip, she asked a question. This anonymous woman raised her hand and asked, “When do the students get to pick their roommates or when will they know who they are rooming with?”

When this loving, probably tired, trying not to mess it up Mom asked this question, many of us looked at our feet. Oh my goodness. They chose roommates one month ago. That’s already decided. Doesn’t she know? Well, even I was aware of that.

And I swear I did NOT judge her - but I will confess her lack of knowledge on this point really made me feel better on the scale of “how much do I know about my tween?”   

So on this morning, in the cold, when I dropped my Frankenstein arms and caught her eye, I understood. This mothering of growing up kids thing is really hard. And sometimes awful. But always hard.

I drove home humbled. Profoundly humbled. And I prayed for the wisdom to let my son grow with grace and faith and not fear and white knuckles, which seems to be my approach. I’ve been blessed beyond measure with a son who seems to have a limitless future. My original mission was right in its simplicity: don’t mess this up.

So I came home in time to put my 11 year old son on the bus, who let me walk him RIGHT UP to the stairs and I said a silent prayer of gratitude for that. And then I got on the treadmill and soothed myself with the following knowledge:

Dear Ryan:

I am sorry I messed up the goodbye moment. Rookie mistake.

You left so quickly I didn’t get a chance to tell you that I wasn’t planning on actually walking you in. Even I know better than that.

But I need you to know this: I will ALWAYS “walk you in” because from the day you were swaddled and placed in my arms, we became a team. I really hope I’m not going to be one of those creepy boy moms (your aunt will make sure I’m not) but if you think for A SECOND that I am not with you every step you take, you are mistaken. More and more, I won’t physically be there, but I am in your heart and you are in mine.

I’ll walk you in to high school, to college, to your first job, to your wedding chapel, to your future. I will remember my place and I’ll keep my Frankenstein arms at my side, but be clear on this, my love, I will walk you in.

And tonight, when you are bleary eyed exhausted and put on your pajama pants, you will find a note in your pocket. It says, “Hope you are having a great time. I love you. Mom.”

You can roll your eyes all you want. I’ve walked you in.

Peace out, Mamas. I think today reminded me, if nothing else, you CAN'T mess this up because there really is no way to do it “right”. Just do it with love.


Olympic Parenting

Hopespotters: I spoke to an old friend today who asked me how the “blog” was going.. I shamefully admitted that it needed some love. I told my friend that, like in the case of many things that were truly important to me, I lost sight of its importance over the summer. I told him, and I meant it, that I have every intention of reigniting my passion for my blog baby soon.


So tonight marks the end of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. If you follow me on social media, you know I have truly enjoyed - and participated as one can from a couch in - these games. The past two weeks have brought in front of our eyes the whole enchilada of athletics that I so deeply love - the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and all the compelling human interest stories in between.


Back here in reality, something else epic happened in the last two weeks: school began. Whether it be for the first time kindergartener whose backpack goes from neck to ankles or the first time leaving for college freshman whose parents are trying to stand up from a gut punch, back to school is the parental Olympics.


Many of us have seen the footage of gymnast, Aly Raisman’s, parents watching her perform. It is the ultimate depiction of parenting- while Aly’s parents were in an uncommon placed while viewed, their leaning, peeking through hands, can’t watch - have to watch, body girations spoke volumes about parenting in general. Holy hell, as our babies go back to school, we, as parents, have to pretend to stay cool. And yet, like Aly’s parents, we are terrified: will you fail and we will have to provide comfort? Will you madly succeed and we will have to find the next best step for you? Will you be treated justly? Will you find worthy “teammates”?


To Aly Raisman’s parents, I offer a heartfelt slow clap. Check all the boxes in things done right. Successful? Check.  Leader? Check. Sportsman? Check. All the best things? Check. Check. Check.


How many of us parents entering into back to school pray for the same report from teacher? We pour our hearts and souls into these wonderful, wicked, weird human beings and after a summer of driving us crazy and pretending they’ve never abided by a rule, they go back to school.  Like Aly’s parents, I watch Ryan and Sean leave with my hand over my eyes, fingers offering a very slight peek. And I know I have great kids. For reals.


Back to the Olympics: I am so grateful for the personalities that played out and offered me, and millions of other parents, teachable moments. For example:


The Phelps:  Micheal Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. And my sons enjoyed his impressive run in this year's games.  For my money, Micheal is my favorite, FAVORITE story, because there is nothing I love more than a redemption story. Michael, always awesome, hit rock bottom with addiction and CHOSE to FIGHT back to use the gifts God gave him. Dear Ryan and Sean, take note….


The Simone:  Excellent is excellent. I have always believed people are born with gifts and it is a HOLY act to behold them executing their gifts.  Micheal Phelps was born to swim. Mother Teresa was born to minister.  David Beckham was born to play soccer. No one ever has been born to be a better gymnast than Simone Biles. Ryan and Sean:  this girl wasn’t born into the best of circumstances. When God placed her in the right path she worked hard and she worked hard and she worked HARD.  And then when her hard work paid off with success, she celebrated her teammates and had class.  Viva. La. Simone.


The Lochte:  I have to bury this in the middle to not end with negative. At the beginning of the Rio games, when Ryan Lochte came out with his bleached hair, my Ryan asked, “ Am I the only one that finds Ryan Lochte unlikable?” The events surrounding Mr. Lochte and the vandalism in Rio sicken me. What I want Mr. Lochte’s antics to teach my sons is, don’t hang around with bad eggs and Ryan Lochte has proved to be a bad egg. I’m actually sorry for his compadres caught in the madness. . If you look for trouble, you find it.


The Gabby: So social media buried “crabby Gabby”. What an absolute shame. Gabby Douglas won gold for USA in London and did with absolute class. Gabby was a contributing part of the “final five” and mentored and celebrated alike. To Ryan and Sean: be classy and be yourselves. Social media is an unkind, disparate, uninformed jury.  Know who you are and what you contribute, like Gabby, and don't worry about anything else.


The Kerri Walsh- Jennings: Finally, cheers and bravo to Kerri Walsh Jennings. As the most decorated beach volleyball Olympian, she and her partner lost the gold medal round in a shocking upset. Her and her partner admirably battled back to win the bronze medal.  The sound byte I wanted Ryan and Sean to hear after Kerri lost the gold medal match to Brazil was, “I am a blessed woman. This loss makes me no less blessed.”


The Olympic Spirit:  there's nothing like it. I am so pleased to have that spirit so ever present in this back to school season that requires the toughest guts and the hardest hearts. Parents: you belong on a podium for bravery, grit and belief in the “relay team” that will receive your child.

Good night and God Bless!

On the Occasion of my Parents' Fiftieth Anniversary

Hello, HOPESpotters! It has been awhile. I know I’ve been busy, just as you are, I am sure. There have been many blogs I’ve started and many things I have wanted to say, but I haven’t had the time to give adequate thought to the words I’d like to publish. And boy oh boy, there’s a lot to talk about these days and I can’t think of a time when there has been a greater need for HOPE.

Today I write solely in honor of my Mom and Dad because today is their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Per my parents’ wishes, there is no formal celebration. They are humble people. My family and my sister’s family will be honoring my parents when we go on our annual beach vacation to Hilton Head with some things I cannot mention yet.

My Mom and Dad were married July 9, 1966. Friends in high school that became a couple in college, the bride and groom were 23 and 22, respectively, when they tied the knot. As my sister said today on Facebook, “what they didn’t know that day could fill oceans, but thankfully, they were quick studies.” And for that Katie, her children, my children, and I are grateful.

Let me be clear: if I wrote a whole blog to published for the Internet at large about the ins and outs of my parents 50+ year relationship, I wouldn’t likely find a seat at Thanksgiving dinner. We are private in that way. There are things, however, that this milestone inspires me to share.

I have said in the past, “..I said, I do. Priest didn’t let me finish. I should’ve said ‘ I do not have a clue what I’m in for. Marriage is highs and lows, imperfections and tolerance, glee and grit. Starting a family is a miracle like inventing fire: one part “wow” one part “what did we just do?”

The vows are the thing that fascinate me about weddings and marriage. Weddings are such beautiful, happy events and the vows are, most often, seemingly taken for granted.  Knowing what I know now, and I can only imagine what my parents know now, I have somewhat a different vision for weddings: bride in mouth guard, groom in cup, priest in referee gear… “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to see if these two have any clue what they are getting into and are subsequently up for it.”

I am so blessed to have parents, and grandparents, that have gone the distance. I am painfully aware it isn’t easy and to those reading who are divorced, you also have my admiration. Sometimes I just muse, what if weddings vows were more specific:

    For better or worse.. Kids, you’re gonna disagree- on houses, discipline, friends, vacation destinations. Your dog will die. Your toilet will overflow before your son’s First Communion party. There might be more worse than better. Endure.

    For richer or for poorer… Guess what? The economy, the stock market, luck -all might work against you. Every bride in America takes this vow with beautiful tear filled doe eyes thinking there is no level of poorer that would change her love for her groom. Unfortunately, poor hurts. And hungry sucks.

    In sickness and in health… This one.  Perhaps brides and grooms should be hooked to polygraphs when they make this vow.  When you're young and beautiful, this one seems irrelevant. Until it becomes painfully relevant.  Imagine the priest or rabbi or whatever officiant sitting the beautiful youngsters down and saying, “Best case scenario you two will grow old together and one will die before the other and it will be devastating. OR one of you could get sick, maybe each of you and it is up to the other to take care. Real care. Walking to bathroom. Picking up from falls. Smelling poop. Assessing memory. ALL. OF. IT.” And not all sickness is terminal - sometimes this vow is just a gut check for a couple asking if they can tolerate the sound of each others vomit or the moans of each other's pain. Sickness and health, to me, probably because of my profession and life experience is the biggity biggest vow.

    To love and to cherish… Yup. You forgot this one, too, right? This one gets to the crux of longevity, in my opinion.  Love and cherish is flowery. Close your eyes and think about three couples right now. Do they love and CHERISH? Is laundry on the floor an abandonment of cherishing? Harsh words? Staying married is hard - maintaining cherishing is…. Is… Is… Unusual.  For me, maintaining cherish in the life of 2016 is rare and difficult. Perhaps,  many of us need the reminder that this virtue was part of the vows.

    Finally, and essentially, the “from this day forward until death do us part”. How? HOW? Do twenty early year olds make this vow? In fact, how does anyone until you’ve seen that death part? Imagine again the wedding officiant looking into the eyes of the beautiful young bride and groom and getting them to honestly buy into nursing the other to death??? As this blog is in honor of my healthy and younger than biological age Mom and Dad, I am not going to dwell on this vow. It speaks for itself. I will only say I recently had the privilege of caring for a 68 year old man and his wife, to whom I’d become very fond. I was with them as he was moved into the hospital bed that he would inevitably die in within days. I won’t forget them clinging to each other, saddened by their defeat by cancer, and saying, “I’ll find you again. We found each other here. I’ll find you again.” So, death do us part? For how long, I say..

I hate that it is so easy for me to point out the ‘bad vows’ because, in fairness, that hasn’t been my life experience.  Marriage can also be better, richer, healthier.  Couples that work hard can enjoy together first steps, milestones, stolen time away, and comfort in each other's embrace. I have been truly blessed to see parents and grandparents who endured trouble, cancer, disappointment, changes and come out with love. This perserverance is what I hope for my sons because I am certain that there isn't anything I can say same to them in the presence of hot romantic love that will resonate with any form of relevance.

The purpose of my dissection of the marriage vows in light of my parents’ 50th is this: life and work have underscored for me how hard marriage can really be. I am really grateful to have been raised by two people who made the rounds on the up and downsides of each vow and found a way to stay together.  The Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind…” And who am I to question the Bible? For me, growing up with my Mom and Dad, I learned that love IS, in fact, patient; love is tolerant; love is enduring and not always pretty, BUT love ultimately is coming together to celebrate the family you created and forgiving the imperfections of fate that you had to endure.

Mom and Dad, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in a public celebration of your anniversary. I just think, along with Katie, that it needs to be said: it wasn’t easy or pretty, but we remember it as also happy and fun and safe. There has been constant and unconditional support. Thank you. We love you. Congratulations for honoring the hardest of vows for 50 years.
Here’s to marriage and all that comes with it. Here’s to love. And here’s to longevity and its example.