Mother-Daughter Turbulence in the Early Teen Years

A few weeks ago, I was welcoming students to an overnight for a middle school comprehensive sexuality class when a mother dashed in without her thirteen-year-old daughter. “Sarah won’t be here for a while,” she said. “I kicked her out of the car and told her to walk the rest of the way.” She went on to explain her daughter had been outrageously disrespectful and hateful on the drive over, and she’d finally had “enough.” Seemingly overnight, her sweet child had turned into this moody, sullen, hypercritical stranger. I admit I’ve never directly experienced this phenomenon. I didn’t acquire an on-site mother until age twelve when my dad remarried. I was so thrilled to have a mom that I had zero interest in mouthing off to her. Besides, I raised sons, not daughters. Sure, at thirteen, they kept their distance from me in public. Who wants to run into a kid from school at the grocery store and be seen with your mother? Best to walk several paces ahead or behind to stave off the potential embarrassment. And sure, we had plenty of disagreements. But since I was not a guy, I don’t think my sons had the same need to disparage my every thought and action along the way to carving out their own identities. If I’ve never personally experienced mother-daughter turbulence in the early teen years, however, I sure have been a frequent witness. I still remember one single parent friend lamenting the change in her newly adolescent [...]

By |2019-05-27T13:03:50-05:00May 27th, 2019|Family|0 Comments

Feeling Grateful

My son Ed with his new daughter My son Joel and grandson Cameron My students have been studying Clint Eastwood’s remarkable 2008 film, Gran Torino. We’ve been talking a lot about its themes. One is, of course, that “real” family is wherever you find it. The protagonist Walt is profoundly disappointed with his sons and families, and they don’t care much for him either. But, despite his long-standing prejudices, Walt becomes close to his young immigrant neighbors, Sue and Thao. They are worth dying for: they are his family of choice. The theme of creating our own intentional family has permeated my own work. We all need loving and caring connections in our lives, and when they’re missing on the home front, life is hard and painful. The reality is, too, that sometimes, there is plenty of love, but love isn’t enough when emotional, mental, or substance abuse problems interfere. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about broken relationships in families. In the last few weeks, I’ve encountered several folks who’ve shared that their children barely speak to them. Some have been on the losing end of a child taking the other parent’s side in a bitter divorce. Others have children who blame them for a multitude of sins while they were growing up, and have held on to their list of grievances for decades. The pain of these parents is palpable. It has reminded me of just how lucky I am that this has not [...]

By |2019-01-18T11:45:23-05:00January 18th, 2019|Family, Gratitude|0 Comments

One Month Later

It was a little over a month ago that our younger son Joel married Priscilla Hernandez, the love of his life, at Cliffview, a rustic retreat near Red River Gorge. It took him a mere fourteen years to convince his bride to marry him, and I’ve never seen anyone more thrilled than our son! We are incredibly happy for him, and to officially be a part of Priscilla’s family. Our extended families spent the weekend at Cliffview, and it was wonderful to spend time together. Priscilla’s mom Betty and other relatives prepared the most amazing authentic Mexican food. My waist line will never be the same, but it was definitely worth it! Meantime, I have some fun book events coming up. This coming Saturday, November 10, from 2-4 PM, I’ll be signing books at the Hurstbourne Barnes and Noble in Louisville along with other mystery writers in Derby Rotten Scoundrels, our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Then next Thursday, November 15, I’ll be attending Indiana University Southeast’s opening reception for an Authors and Artists exhibit that includes my YA novel, It Should Have Been You. And on Saturday, November 17, I’m thrilled to be a part of the annual Kentucky Book Fair from 9 am to 4 pm at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.  At 10 AM in the Spalding Room, I’ll be a panelist along with YA writers Mindee Arnett, Geanna Culbertson, and Kristina McBride on “Fierce Females in YA Literature,” a topic near and dear to my [...]

By |2018-11-08T13:51:28-05:00November 8th, 2018|Family, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Re-Creating That Small Town Feel

The long-running joke in our family is that if my dear husband didn’t have an errand to run, he’d invent one.  And since his retirement, the number of weekly errands has at least quadrupled. I’m convinced he’d lose his mind if he were ever sentenced to house arrest. I used to think that his constant run-outs were a way to refuel his batteries. After all, we’re both introverts who need our alone time. But now I’ve started to think that these errands are my husband’s way of socializing and re-creating the kind of neighborly interactions I associate with small town living.  Clearly, he’s talking to folks on his run-outs, and the conversations include me. This explains why Julie, the avid reader who works at the nursery, one of my gardening husband’s favorite hangouts, came to my book signing. And why the man at the liquor store, while advising me on what beer my husband might like for Father’s Day, announced he really enjoyed my vocals in the last CD of our music. And why yesterday, the friendly teller at the bank wanted to know how my book signing event the night before had gone. My husband playing at a friend's party I admit it. Thanks to my loquacious spouse, it’s been kind of nice to feel that folks know who I am and seem happy to see me. My college students who’ve grown up in small towns tell me that it can be stifling because “everyone knows your [...]

By |2018-09-02T12:19:30-05:00September 2nd, 2018|Family|0 Comments

Fourteen Years Later…

Priscilla and my grandson Sebastian There’s a reason the wedding invitation simply announces, “At last,” followed by the names of the bride and groom and the date, time, and place. It’s been a mere fourteen years since my younger son fell madly in love with his long-time partner Priscilla, a vivacious, feisty young woman. Three children later (one from my son’s previous relationship and two they share together), lots of bumps on their journey, and the world’s longest engagement, these two are finally making the leap to matrimony.             If it had been up to my son, they would have gotten married years ago. But Priscilla was hesitant. After all, the men in her life growing up hadn’t been… well, let’s just say, they weren’t the most reliable bunch. And she’s always been fiercely independent. In fact, when I asked her why she’d finally decided they could set a date, she said simply: “The idea of marriage has always made me nervous, but he’s the only person I would ever want to be with.”             These two have literally grown up together, and it’s wonderful to witness their commitment to one another for the long haul. Besides, there’s something exciting about all of these rituals and traditions. This past week, I got to go wedding dress shopping with Priscilla. She found a beautiful dress. It brought back such happy memories of wedding dress shopping with my older son’s bride Lauren and her mom. Talk about vicarious pleasure!             [...]

By |2018-07-16T09:55:23-05:00July 16th, 2018|Family|0 Comments

Living Life Vicariously

Going to become a big brother! As parents, we’re not supposed to live our lives vicariously through our adult children. We’re advised to focus on living our own lives and following our own dreams. But sometimes, I’ve decided it’s A-okay to savor life’s joys vicariously. Take this past Monday, for example. Our beautiful daughter-in-law, now in her mid-thirties, waited anxiously all day for the results of tests on the baby she’s expecting. The call finally came in the late afternoon. The baby was developing just fine. There were no signs of any problems. Furthermore, they were having a girl, a baby sister for their three year old son. When they called us that night, their excitement and happiness was palpable. And it was contagious! My husband and I couldn’t stop smiling long after we’d hung up the phone. This is such an amazing time in a young couple’s life, and I admit it. I am loving every minute of living this stage of their lives vicariously! It’s their turn to experience the miracle of creating new life and growing their young family. And truthfully, it brings back such wonderful memories.  I was 37 when I became pregnant with our younger son.  I’d had a miscarriage, and I was anxious about how this pregnancy would go. I can still remember calling my husband to tell him the news that the amniocentesis test revealed no problems with the baby’s development, and we were going to have a younger brother for [...]

By |2018-01-18T15:35:31-05:00January 18th, 2018|Family|0 Comments

Real Men Eat Quiche– and Sometimes They Cry

The year our son Eddie was in third grade, I was on the dance faculty at the University of Oklahoma, while my husband held down the home front. Bruce Feirstein’s satirical Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche was a best seller at the time.  Ed thought the title was very funny, especially since he dashed home for lunch each day to inhale one of my husband’s specialties, homemade quiche. A few years earlier, Eddie and I were checking out a nursery school when we witnessed the director admonishing an upset little boy for shedding tears. “Big boys don’t cry,” she announced. I grabbed my son and said: “We’re outta here.” No way did I want him being in a place where it wasn’t okay for him to cry or express his feelings. The fact is real boys and real men do eat quiche, and they do cry. And that’s a good thing. I was reminded of this last week when I was having dinner with my sisters and brother-in-law. He was recounting the time his grandson’s single parent mom was temporarily unable to care for him. My brother-in-law got on the next plane to California to retrieve his grandson before Social Services took over. He teared up as he recalled the little boy flying into his arms and saying, “I knew you’d come for me, Grandpa.” In that moment, I saw so clearly who my sister’s husband really is beneath his light-hearted banter —a man who deeply cares about his loved [...]

By |2017-12-19T14:48:01-05:00December 19th, 2017|Family, Gratitude|2 Comments

Life:Beginnings and Endings

Wishing all of you a beautiful Thanksgiving! Holidays invariably put me in a reflective mood. Here’s what was on my mind during my travels yesterday: The train ride between New York and Boston is a mere four hours long, but the distance I travel between my son’s Manhattan household to my mom’s Cambridge apartment seems so much greater. With my mom, I have no choice but to confront end-of-life issues up close and personal, even as I celebrate the blessing of new beginnings in my son’s family. My son and beautiful daughter-in-law gave us the best Thanksgiving gift we could possibly imagine—the news that they are expecting their second child, a baby sister or brother for three-year-old Milo. Milo is an absolutely joyful child—full of energy and imagination.  He is on the go from early morning until bedtime, serving his “customers” ice cream from his “ice cream shop,” dancing to his favorite Spanish song, and playing endless chase games. For Milo, every day is exciting and new. Spending three days with him was magical. And now, as the train speeds to my next stop, I’m headed to see my beloved mom. Her dementia continues to progress, yet not so completely that she doesn’t mourn the loss of who she once was. I often think of that old Woody Allen line: “It’s not the idea of death that bothers me. It’s the hours.”  I have a different, less funny version: "It’s not the idea of death that bothers me. It’s losing [...]

By |2017-11-21T10:10:29-05:00November 21st, 2017|Aging, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Mental Health|0 Comments