Dear Senators Murkowski and Collins: Thank You!

Thank you Senators Murkowski and Collins, for your unwavering quest for a healthcare bill that is not cruel. I’m sorry your work is being upstaged by Senator McCain’s come-to-Jesus moment of understanding, but he could not have gotten there without you or the Democrats who stayed true, even those who represent pro-Trump constituencies. But you two, you get my huzzah and thanks for the day.

I’ve tried to tell my Senator, Todd Young, what the ACA has done for my family, but he’s not interested in listening to constituents that don’t agree with him. As one public figure might say, SAD! But I also know from friends who are solely self-employed that the ACA is not perfect. Premiums are too high because of the complete coverage offered. I get that. I understand that. I understand that the ACA is not perfect.

But I also understand that the ACA has solved more problems than it has created. My daughters, all diagnosed with chronic conditions as young women and/or teens, were guaranteed the option of coverage throughout their lives under the ACA and that is huge.

Five summers ago (or was it six? the crush of time of ushering three daughters through high school and into college has made my mind a little mushy), my eldest daughter and I went downstate to Bloomington, IN for her freshman orientation at Indiana University. We were separated from the start and my mind was not nearly as engaged by the people telling me what to expect in this first year of my daughter’s college experience. I was enmeshed with my phone quite a bit–work required me to be present in a way that was distracting, but so, too, was the news cycle. The Supreme Court was about to rule on whether portions of the ACA were constitutional.

On the second day, my daughter and I reconnected in the little room she shared with another young woman. We were alone in the room when the verdict came down, and I started weeping as i read it–a rush of relief washed through my body and came out through my eyes. Just then, the other young woman came into the room.

“What’s going on?” she asked as she saw me wiping my eyes.

I tried to explain. My daughter intervened and finished the explanation because I truly did not have words. It was visceral.

I had carried my dread in my body and I didn’t know it until the news broke. This morning, when I woke to the news that the two of you stayed true to your convictions that this was a bad bill and that Senator McCain finally realized that you don’t vote for a “fraud” or a sham, I was grateful and relieved in a similar way.

We don’t choose to have chronic illnesses. The doctor visits, treatments, and medicines that we take help mitigate the discomfort of physical illness and alleviate the stigma and isolation of mental illness. Not to put too fine a point on it, the mental health care that I received through my husband’s insurance literally saved my life and thus forever impacted the life of my husband and daughters.

Thank you for taking the time to be considerate through this whole mess. Thank you for taking your responsibilities seriously and not as a game to be won or lost. My faith teaches me that we are all here to take care of each other. I appreciate you taking that role seriously. And I think my family does, as well.

With love and gratitude,

Tina

Here in the Middle Book Event

Oh, I’m super excited. Next Saturday, I’ll be joining some of the other authors in the Chicago-land area for an author meet-and-greet/book signing for Here In The Middle. If you are in the area, join us (details, below). If you can’t make it, here’s a slide show to share some of the people in the book:

Details on the book signing are here.

Hope to see you there!

Tina

In the Middle

hereinthemiddleToday is the day! Release day for an anthology of essays written by some really thoughtful writers and compiled by excellent editors. Here in the Middle is a collection of stories about what has sometimes been called the “Sandwich generation.” But it isn’t really about a generation, it’s about a time in life when mothers and fathers find themselves involved deeply in the lives of their children and their parents.

This is a first for me, to have a piece I’ve written be included in an anthology, and I am thrilled that the first piece is this particular piece in this particular anthology. My story is from a time nearly nine years ago, when my children were still all at home here in Northwest Indiana, while my parents were battling my father’s cancer in Southern California.

momdadweddingIn looking through pictures at my mother’s house last summer when we moved her to a new home in a new state, I found this photo of my folks as they were “going away” on their wedding day. I love this photo for so many reasons, but mostly it shows these two as they set out in the world as a couple, a force to be reckoned with for more than 50 years.

But I also love the dress my mom is wearing. She kept it always and my sister and I would love to look at their wedding photos and then go steal a look at the dress. Alas, we outgrew that dress well before any time when it would have been appropriate for us to wear it, like, for real. So, instead, at their 50th wedding anniversary party, we hung that dress and her wedding gown from the curtain rods at my sisters house. I remember with a little embarrassed joy about how I fussed with that dress to pin the skirt out so everyone could see just how much fabric hung on that small but mighty frame.

My mom just left my home on Tuesday after spending Thanksgiving with me and my family. We are in a much different time now than the time I wrote about in Here in the Middle. And so are my husband and I in our journey with our now grown daughters.

I invite you to buy this book. My essay is only one of many that reflect the wide variety of voices from people who are here in the middle with us all. Wherever you are on your journey through life, I’m sure the honest writing about life’s full measure will be familiar to you in some form or another.

Find the book, here, on Amazon.

#hereinthemiddle

92. Pad See Ew and You

pad-see-ewThai food is a treat
almost as much as
seeing you, my love,
my baby, my friend.

How lovely to look
up from my noodles
that slap my face and
soil my shirt to see

you there, looking back
at me. Precious,
rare, sweet and spicy–
pad see ew and you.

10. For all the times

Forgive me

For all the times
I shushed you when
I should have
elevated your roar …

For all the times
I warned you to be
careful, take your drink
with you to the bathroom,
don’t walk alone at night,
when I should have been
teaching you to dismantle
the patriarchy

For all the times
I told you to stand down,
stand back, back down,
retreat
when I should have had
your back on the front lines

For all the times
my ferocious mother love
looked like failed
protectionism and a
dismantling of your innate
sense of right, justice,
and fairness

For all the times,
my darling daughters,
I was distressed more
over your anger
than the reason for it

For all the times
I minimized
when I should have
been maximizing
your ferocious desire
to live uncaged by
safety

For all the times …
you led me to
better understanding
and loved me despite
my failings …
thank you
with all the pieces of my heart.


photo/art credit: http://www.galleryoilpainting.com/images/a042.jpg

6. You Grew Up

I remember
my mom telling me
when I was little
and the others were at school
She would lie down on the couch
with me on top of her
and we would nap.

Today, I was on the couch
with a big orange cat on me
his weight evenly distributed
across my chest and belly
his head burrowing into
the space where my head
bent toward my shoulder.
And he snored.
And soon, I did, too.

But not before
I thought of you
and all the times
I held you as you slept
Your head nestled in
where my head bobbed
down toward my shoulder
as I slept, too.

You grew up,
as you are supposed to do
and it would be weird
but some days I miss
the weight of a child
holding me down,
grounding my weightless
dreams.

I hoped it would be different

It’s cold and snowy and it’s April. And for some reason, I think it should be different.

My children have grown up and soon there will be none that live at home. And for some reason, I think it should be different.

My soul is pensive and my brain moves slowly, and for some reason, I think it should be different.

People are moving in and out of my life or staying forever, and for some reason, I expected it to be different.

I’m growing older and it is difficult for me to get out of my couch, and without doing anything different, I expected it to be different.

My heart travels around the globe while my body stays local, and though I’ve never bought a ticket, I hoped it would be different.

I love billions of people, some I’ve never met, and it takes me by surprise every time I ponder it, because I knew it would be different.

I’m sad today, with reason and without, but for some strange reason, I thought it would be different.

And that is all I’ll say here, right now, today, because I know I’ll turn around and everything will be different.

—–

Image: Young Peasant Having Her Coffee, by Camille Pissarro; photo taken by the author at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Internet Parents: Right, Wrong, Whatever

Oh, internet parents, how much I adore you! And you know what else? How much you annoy me.

There I was, in the midst of my review of the world via social media and the links embedded within, minding my own business and enjoying the kitten videos and baby pics when I got slammed by a blog post about how to be at the park with my kids.

Of course, my kids don’t go to the park anymore. Most of them don’t even live at home anymore. In fact, I think if someone wrote a blog post on “how to be at the bar with your (young) adult children,” I’d be very grateful. Well, not really, when you see what I’m about to say, which is: Shut up about my parenting styles. Sure, tell me about yours, but stop telling me that I’m deficient because I’m not you.

Okay. Taking a quick breath now. Breathing in good vibes, breathing out judgy-ness.

Here’s something I learned in the trenches: I was a better mom because other women around me challenged my way of being a parent. Sometimes they did it with care and concern and sometimes they did it snarkily and to my face. Other times people just dropped out of my playgroup or my life. Many other times I simply watched at how other women were being with their children and if I admired it, I tried to emulate it.

But no one was ever able to shame me out of my bad or just plain odd behaviors. No snarky blog post about how this is better or that is better–even the ones I wrote–changed one bit of my method of interacting with my children.

And, sure, there were enough times that I challenged other people and their tight reins or lax grips by being who I was with my children in their presence.

If you are feeling judged by another parent’s behavior, maybe you ought to consider who is doing the judging in that relationship. Lighten up, Internet parent police.

Take a deep breath and ask yourself: What’s got my panties (or tighty-whities) in a knot? Chances are you aren’t as comfortable with your parenting expertise, after all, if you feel challenged by someone else’s behavior.

Yeah, I know. I’m doing it now, but I get to. I put in my years (and years), and my children no longer drink from a bottle (generally), wear diapers, or depend on me to remember things for them or run interference for them. They’ve grown into mature young women who are masters of their own lives (mostly) and who have carved out their own independent path either because of me or despite me (and sometimes both).

Yeah, I was pissed a lot then, too. And, yeah, you want commiseration rather than an old mom’s advice. I get that. But here’s what I want you to know that I didn’t: I learned so much more by having people with diverse approaches in my life than I ever would have had I stuck only to my slackermom friends (who I will forever love and adore for providing fun company that provided a soft place to fall into when the trenches were so brutal.

I learned from all the moms. I just didn’t know it how much I was picking up at the time.

So, internet parents, I’ve been writing about being a parent in this crazy world for two decades now. I’ve been snarky, judgy, mean and exasperated on occasion but the thing I feel most right now is just plain grateful that I wasn’t doing this parenting thing all by myself or with only my husband as co-parent and co-conspirator. Because things didn’t always go smoothly and my way turned out to not be all that reliable a lot of the time. Still, I was smart enough to take what worked for others and fold it into what worked for us.

I just spent a weekend with three talented, kind, smart, and funny young women. I would love to take credit for who they are, but I recognize that they are who they are on their own dime, but also on the backs of all the other mothers, the church friends, the close and distant family members, the teachers (oh, the teachers!) who all modeled for them what it is to be a functioning adult in the world.

It was a lot more fun to be judgy (which I guess I’m being right now–or perhaps more preachy), but I say this with all the love in my heart: unless someone is being openly hostile to you and yours (like calling the cops on a three year old), figure out what the take-away is for you, either in the behavior of the other person or in your resistance to it.

And be kind to the mom who seems overly anxious. One of the reasons she may be anxious because she’s pretty sure she’s “parenting” wrong, too. And maybe because she thinks you are judging her, too.

With love and tenderness,

Tina

___

P.S. See the brand new “Ugly Pies” logo up there? I’m so grateful to my friend Melissa Washburn for the design. Be sure to click on her link to view her portfolio of art and design!

Love You, Forever

The big orange cat
spent the night out
hunting

But just now, he curled up
on my chest and slept so soundly
as if the scares of the night hunt had
worn
him
out.

The heft of him on my chest,
and the rhythm of his breathing
reminded me of all the mornings,
afternoons,
evenings,
middle-of-the-nights
with babies breathing
much sweeter breath
on my neck

I wait for my grown girls
to come home
for an entire weekend.

Finals done, after a semester
that seemed like an eternal night hunt
that has
worn
them
out.

How weird to want
to hold them
and let them sleep that
deep, careless sleep
they did all those years ago.

Thinking of “love you forever,”
and how I read that book over
and
over
debated it with other parents
who found it creepy and strange.

And yet, here I sit,
day dreaming
about a ladder
strapped to the top of my
Honda on a star-lit
four-hour drive.

But now, in the anticipation,
there are beds to make
and food to consider
and a home to stretch
to fit all these bodies and
all their noise and
all our love.

Shedding

I was brought here

I appeared
Like you

Once was two separate things,
but they joined forces
and became me

And every day, things get
added to me
labels, boils, burdens

And every day, things get
taken from me
memories, loves, hair

Or I shed them–
seems much less violent that way

I just appeared, and then I became
and then I became something else
and then
and then
and then

Perhaps we are busy so much
and invent new things to do
because then we don’t notice
so much happening all at once

we spend so much time
adding on
until we get to a place where
it is all too much

And we start shedding our identities
like toddlers do their socks,
pants, hats and diapers

Still, I was conjured here
by the dreams of someone else
And now I have conjured you

And piled you with labels
and clothes
and advice worth only in that I
breathed as I gave it

Off you go now
with a driver’s license and a job
and a new sense of your own accomplishment
which will someday fall away, too

Be sure in what is there, beneath
the layers
Be sure in what is at the core

That is what is summoned
and shows up for me
when you and your layers are elsewhere

the core that travels with me

I miss your touch, your laugh
the warmth of your breath,
and the heaviness of your body
as you lean in to me

but never you