Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t get days off, but don’t expect some long and poignant post today. Well, maybe you shouldn’t expect that most days. Today is Thanksgiving, a day that people set aside in hopes that it makes them feel grateful for everything that they have for at least one day a year. It’s a day that politics should be left out of. I’m sure Halloween has pretty gruesome history behind it, still going to celebrate that. It’s not about the past; it’s about where we move forward.

I’m thankful for every day. I’m thankful for my beautiful boys. I’m thankful for their successes and their struggles, because both make me a better mother and human. I’m thankful for my supportive family, who’s always there when I need them the most. I’m thankful for my husband, who always lifts me up when it feels like everyone else wants to take me down. I’m thankful that I have a house, food, and loved ones. I have a lot to be thankful of, which I’m very thankful for every day. We don’t need a single day to be grateful. We should be grateful every day.

If you are lucky enough to spend the day with family, remember how lucky you are. If you are working today, putting your life on the line to ensure the safety of others, thank you for your service. We are thinking of you, grateful for your selflessness. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be with family, be with the family you choose. Blood doesn’t mean family. Love does.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember the lessons of today every day of your life. Even in darkness, there is something to be grateful for.

Social Media Help For Esports

Some teams have an awesome team behind their social media accounts. As a Boston Uprising fan, I feel as though they have done an amazing job. The Overwatch/Overwatch League teams (and Blizzard team in general) also have a knack for getting information out and actively engaging with their fans. This is just one of many things that I personally love about Blizzard. The problem is that PR on the social media front tends to be a problem for these teams/stars, especially in the Overwatch League and apparently now their Contenders teams.

You may have heard that there’s a new team in town: the Toronto Defiant. I cried a little on the inside when they had Neko in their video releasing info on 2 of their new players. The reveal was well-produced and the hype around it was perfect. This was social media used in an effective manner to achieve awesome results for the team. Even though this worst kept secret was something some Boston fans were hoping was fake. (Which quickly disappeared when Neko referred to HuK as a lying bastard on the internet, but still some of us clung onto hope that Neko would be our fearless Zen/Ana once again.) The Neko incident of calling HuK out on and it going viral on social media is just one of many ways that the PR team has failed players on the social media front. I could go into real life examples of how social media can give people a negative impression on you without the polish of an experienced professional, but I really don’t like to talk politics on Gaming Day.

Way back when DreamKazper did that terrible thing, I pointed out that this was just one of a few examples back then that you have these kids who are impulsive and inexperienced socially (in most cases) who need help navigating the finer points of engaging fans and social media strategies. As an Uprising fan, I can point to NotE and Gamsu as evidence that when a player uses social media properly can grow a massive following without any drama. Gamsu posts images of the beautiful views when he hikes or hilarious images of him missing his flights. Then there is NotE who goes the puppy route and keeps up this wholesome and goofy image that he has. These are players that have either been coached properly on social media PR or ones who just are personable and relatable people with a talent for social media.

Then you have teams like, I don’t know, the Toronto eSports Club who went full nerd-rage on Twitter. “We were told we couldn’t have our name so we quit Overwatch”. They sounded like petulant children. Does it suck that they had to change their name because of the Toronto Defiant? Absolutely. I don’t think it was right that they had to change their name. Throwing a childish fit on Twitter? Probably not the best way to go about it especially if you want sympathy over the situation. Plus, I mean just flat out quitting the game and bashing how awful it is? That brought up a lot of concerns for Uprising fans (and potentially even their players/staff) of what this meant for them since this seemed like a rash overreaction one the part of their academy team. When HuK comes off as a reasonable party in a situation, then you know you’re wrong. This is another case where someone who shouldn’t have a Twitter account while representing other people makes everyone look bad. (Applies to politics today as well.) In case you’re wondering Toronto eSports doesn’t actually own the academy team, the Uprising do. So, this really means nothing.

These teams and players need better social media coaching. Fissure has an awful reputation due to his social media presence. xQc has a reputation due to his online persona where you either love him or hate him. Social media today can make or break your brand if you let it. In a lot of these cases, they are letting it break them. I’m no expert on social media, but I have done enough where I don’t utterly squash the brand I’m trying to build up. If you don’t have the funds or means to get social media professionals to manage the more difficult people, maybe it’s a good idea to at least train them better in these areas. In most cases, the Overwatch League players are freshly 18 with their own income, living on their own, coming into a massive fan base. It can be easy to get caught up in the fame, not realizing the consequences of your actions in the grand scheme of things.

When Talking to Your Child About Death

The first time I had to discuss a death with my son, it was my aunt who had passed away. He was still young enough where he didn’t exactly comprehend it and it didn’t ultimately have an impact on him. (I want to say he was 3ish at the time?) The second time I had to discuss a death with him, it was my paternal grandfather. This time he was in Kindergarten. Still, he was too young to really understand. I asked him if he wanted to go to school, if he wanted his birth father’s family to take care of him (it was just before his Christmas break started) while I attended the funeral. I missed the wake to take care of my son. I couldn’t miss the funeral.

My son, who even still is a lot older mentally than he should be, decided he wanted to come with because it was the right thing to do. I reluctantly agreed that he could go, thinking that he was too young to be at a place like this. But I figured if he was mature enough to ask and understand what was happening, that he was able to attend. He wanted to come up to the body with me. I held his hand and we prayed together while kneeling in front of my grandfather. We attended the Catholic mass afterwards, where people were crying and remembering my grandfather. I stayed stoic, as I tend to do. Probably why I have the reputation for being “cold”. I stayed stoic until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my son was trying to be like everyone else. He asked for a tissue, and started dabbing his dry eyes because everyone else was crying. He started forcing sniffling noises while doing it. I didn’t want to laugh during a somber mass, but I chuckled. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he knew the motions that he needed to go through and he just wanted to make sure he was doing it right.

It was a long time later when I had to tell my now older son about a death in the family. This time, it was his biological paternal grandfather, a man he maybe met twice? I remember failing at this opportunity, making a joke because that’s who I am. “Dylan, you know what sucks more than your computer dying?” Yeah, you can finish the joke. I said it. I should be ashamed of myself, I know. But you have to be me and my son to understand. He didn’t react. He didn’t even really know the guy. He was confused as to whether he should go to pay his respects, be alone among a room of people who he didn’t even really know. Ultimately, he decided that it was better for him not to go. He was 15; that was entirely his choice.

My youngest son’s school was doing a project about Veteran’s Day. We decided that it would be cute to write about my maternal grandfather, who served in the Navy and passed away when my oldest son was about 2 or 3 months old. We named our youngest after my grandfather, so we thought it would be cute for our son to learn about him. It was cute until he asked why he didn’t meet my “Grampa”. I calmly explained to him that my grandfather passed away a long time ago. “He’s dead?” I nodded. “Did he die in the war?” I explained that he died of cancer and that cancer sucks. “What happens when you die?”

I stopped. What was my approach here? What do I say to him? Do I say what I believe? That he’s just dead and there’s a body in the ground and that’s really it? I couldn’t do that. I found myself saying the words I’ve learned through all my years of Catechism. “Well, he’s in Heaven watching over us to make sure that we’re okay. He’s protecting us.” My son went on. “What’s Heaven?” I found myself getting wrapped up in a lie that I didn’t believe, as parents often do in so many situations. “Well, it’s where good people go. And your great grandfather was a very good man.” He nodded, asked a few more questions, and that was the end of the conversation. Until he kept bringing it up. “How can he protect us if he’s up in Heaven?”

I wanted to say to  him “Mommy doesn’t believe in God or Heaven or angels, I just lied to you because the truth sucks”. There was no right answer here. I had to keep going with this lie to protect him. Just because I didn’t believe, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to believe if he wants to. It’s a loaded topic dealing with death, especially when discussing it with your kids. I worry about the day when I have to tell them that someone they were close to died because I’m the last person I’d want to tell me if someone passed away. The last. I’ve done it before. I’m not very good at it. I blurt it out without softening the blow. I answer questions honestly. I’m brutal and cold. I admit my faults. I have no idea how I would tell my child that someone they loved died. I could barely make it through a conversation about telling them how someone they didn’t even know died. Did my child need to know that my grandfather died of cancer? Was that too much to put on him? Did I screw up my oldest by telling  him the news through a joke?

I’m a mom trying to figure out this hard stuff just like everyone else. My way probably sucks and I don’t know how to fix it but it surprisingly has worked up until this point. I’m numb to the death thing and admittedly that has hardened me. My first thought it never “oh that sucks”, it’s always “okay, what needs to be done next.” I hope that I figure this out because as you can see, my gut instincts are not great here.

All The Downsides of an Epidural, Without Any of the Benefits

On August 1st, our little Beanie was born. As mentioned in previous posts, it was far from an easy pregnancy. My boys both had relatively uneventful and easy pregnancies and deliveries. Even the induction of the youngest boy was pretty easy. I was able to avoid the epidural, something that I avoided not because I wanted the bragging rights of natural childbirth but because the idea of a needle going into my spine was too much for me. I could only think about the things that could go wrong. Plus, I’m pretty unlucky and usually have bad reactions to medications. Which is why, as a general rule, I avoid taking anything when possible.

After a long induction process that started 3 hours after I was first admitted at 7 am, I was finally given the Pitocin to really start the induction at around 10-10:30 pm. I heard the contractions on Pitocin were going to be far worse than anything I had ever experienced before. I made it until about step 2 of doses before I realized that things were only going to get worse. It was semi-bearable, but it wasn’t going to be if things kept going this way. Finally, I was convinced by my support team that the epidural was going to be the right call.

After about 20 minutes, the anesthesiologist came in. I was sitting on the exercise ball in hopes that Beanie would get herself in the best position (she was backwards, causing back labor) and to help ease the pain. When being moved back to the bed by the awesome nurse (who really was my hero during the birth), my water broke. This is where I knew that there was going to be trouble. My first was born 45 minutes after my water broke. My 2nd, about 20-30 minutes. I mentioned this before, which was why I was being induced a week early. Between my age and the cord insert issue, no one wanted to risk me not being in the hospital when the time came.

To avoid getting into too much detail, my mother was kicked out while they administered the epidural. The medical team rushed into the room, but didn’t really understand that this baby was going to come before they were ready for her. And the anesthesiologist had just enough time to put in the catheter, only to have to pull it out because there was no time. Beanie made her appearance, and made sure that Daddy and Gramma would only hear her entrance into the world with those loud little lungs. A loud scream that she still has, in case you’re wondering.

The aftermath? My spine was bruised and swollen, though the bruising has finally started to fade. I have (still) some intermittent nerve pain. I had all of the negative side effects of getting this epidural without being able to enjoy the perks the medication was supposed to offer. But it was all 100% worth it for that little angel and for our family to become complete.

Going home was the best part. Seeing her brothers meet her was amazing. Having her oldest brother walk over to her and declare that he would do anything for her was the sweetest. Even having my wild child younger son seem as tame as he could muster was a sight to see. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the look of adoration between father and daughter. My boys are doting on her and she seems to enjoy their attention.

A College Education is Wasted on an 18 Year Old

This upcoming weekend, we will be picking up our oldest as he completed his first year of college. Then, he’ll be home for the foreseeable future, as he’s decided that it wasn’t for him. The major was full of people he didn’t want to work with for the rest of his life. The major was one where they wanted more of the same, not someone who wanted to shake up the system to make it fair. The college itself just wasn’t for him. Did I fight his decision? Did I tell him he was wrong and he should suck it up? No. I didn’t. Because he’s a smart adult and I trust that he made this decision after careful thought, not rushing to some rash idea that he stubbornly stuck to.

I was telling my OB about it at our most recent appointment, where she said “I always say that a college education is wasted on an 18 year old.” She’s right. I wouldn’t have been as successful in college had I jumped right in after high school. It works for some people. It’s the right path for some people. But for others, they just waste money only to end up at a fast food restaurant and hoping they can make enough to cover their student loan debt. Will it eventually be the right move for my oldest? Probably. As hard as it is, we just have to sit back and let our children take control of their own destiny. We can’t make their decisions for them forever. Part of being an adult is raising them and hoping that you did enough so that they can make the right decisions for them. Whether you agree with it or not. I trust my son. I support him. I agree he made the right choice. $15k a year is a lot when you realize you have no clue what you want to do with your life. It also couldn’t have been easy for him to do, since he’s spent his entire life working towards this goal.

My love for my son isn’t contingent on his getting a college education, going to a fancy school, or having a fancy job title. My love for my son isn’t contingent on anything. I only want him to be a good person who makes a positive impact on the world around him, while being able to financially support himself and be a productive member of society. That’s what I care about. I’m not better than anyone because I graduated college. Having a graduate degree doesn’t make you smarter than everyone or a superior being. It’s the little things. It’s how you treat others. A person who treats everyone as equals will always be the superior person in my book. You don’t have to put someone down to be on top.

Will he eventually go back to school? Who knows. It’s not my decision. He’s nearly 20. These are the tough decisions that he is going to have to make for himself. But, at least he can make them knowing that he has the love and support of his parents no matter what.

Sometimes Things are Just Out of Your Control

I was hoping that by the time I reached 24 weeks pregnant, I’d feel a lot better not having to manage with morning sickness. I was mostly right, but when it hits, boy does it hit. After going to a few regular checkups, I was happy that despite my age they determined that I was a low-risk pregnancy. That was great news. After that appointment, I scheduled my ultrasound, excited to see our little Beanie. (Bean was the nickname my husband gave her. It stuck with us and has become her name until she’s born.) It was a big day. My husband took the time to come with me, because ultrasounds are never appointments that he misses. It was a great day.

It was sweet. Beanie was active (and has grown to be so active that we now sometimes refer to her as our “Jumping Bean”). She was developing perfectly and she was healthy. There’s no better news to hear in the world. After sharing our pictures with family that day, we finally broke out the Baby Book. One just like I had purchased for the boys. Where I worked on it for a single day and never once filled in any of the other pages. It was a fun time, until I got the email about a message from my provider. I read through it, thinking no big deal. They would have said if there was something to worry about. Apparently it was determined that there was a minor issue: marginal cord insertion.

At first you hear something’s wrong, then you start a spiral of “what does it all mean?” Do you immediately doomscroll through Google? Do you just wait to hear from your doctor? Me, being me, just assumed if the doctor emailed me rather than called me, it was probably not a major concern. I went to reputable medical sites like the Mayo Clinic (which my doctor later confirmed were the right places to go). From what I read? They generally don’t know why it’s really highlighted as much as it is. I avoided mommy blogs, because they’d try selling stuff like “it’s because you need (insert essential oil here) in your life” or “it’s because you were vaccinated”. I read some forums, where everyone who had the issue said “no big deal”. That satisfied me. No downward spiral. No anxiety. What good would that do anyways? Anxiety is not great for myself or Beanie.

Now, I just need to go through more frequent appointments to measure my size and get another ultrasound at 32 weeks to make sure her growth is on track. My OB isn’t too concerned. She told me not to be too concerned. That this is why we get closely monitored, so in case there is a problem they can catch it right away. That ultimately, the biggest issue could be when I deliver, but even then it’s rarely a serious issue. I’ll take the win.

Pregnancy is there to prepare you to just give up control. You can only control so much during the pregnancy and delivery of your child. You can only control so much as a parent. Some things are just out of your control, and being okay with that is the best thing that you can do. No sense in stressing about all the things that you can’t control. It’s not good for you.

When Things Start Falling into Place

I haven’t been around as much as I would like to be. But I promise there’s only a good reason for that: not very serious but moderate enough morning sickness. While I’m lucky enough to not have extreme morning sickness, I have to admit that every day can be a bit of a struggle to function as a normal human being. I’m a “suck it up, buttercup” type of girl, so I do my best. I’ve managed to make it through my work day without too much of an issue, mostly thanks to medications. But once I’m home, it’s hard to do anything aside from trying to get comfortable on the couch or attempt sleep.

It’s exciting though, because my husband and I had always agreed upon 3 kids. That was our number. That was our goal. 3 seems like a good number. Plus, apparently I have 1 kid every 10 years, which is a hilarious thing to think about. When my husband first brought up his wish for another one, I was scared. I’m now 38. That’s an “elderly” or “geriatric” pregnancy. Would I even successfully get pregnant? If I do, what complications would I suffer from? It was scary, but this was also something I really wanted. And I knew I had the best partner by my side through this process.

I had given up after some time of trying. It wasn’t going to happen, I thought. I forgot about it. Until I started to just not feel right and decided maybe I should take a test. I had stopped tracking dates but realized I didn’t know how late I was. It happened. I was so excited that I woke my husband up at what he would deem an obscenely early time. It was 5 a.m. He wasn’t mad. He was excited. 3 tests a day a part later, we started the plan. I chose a new doctor. The next few weeks were getting doctor appointments setup, scheduling viability ultrasounds and blood tests. Explaining that I’ve never had morning sickness but I thought losing nearly 10 pounds wasn’t great. (Turns out, it wasn’t bad since I was slightly overweight, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.) Then having them prescribe medicines that would help. It still feel like death, but at least now I can eat a little more.

The baby was healthy. My blood work was great. I got the Panorama blood test due to my age and risk of chromosomal disorders, which gave this extra benefit of finding out the gender before the 20 week ultrasound. My husband and I hoped for a girl, since we already have 2 boys. But we really didn’t care as much as long as it was healthy. My OB asked me what I thought it was. I told her that I thought it was a girl. Not because that’s what my hope was, but because this pregnancy had been so different so far. With both of the boys, I was exhausted all of the time. I just wanted to eat and sleep. I had no energy. This time, I felt like I had a flu that I just couldn’t shake. She said that she always thought that if the pregnancy felt different, it’s probably because it was and agreed that I might be right. Turns out… I was.

We’re in the second trimester now. 14 weeks. Anything can happen still, but I’m hopeful. We bought our first onesies and footie set for her. We won’t buy anything else for her for a while, just in case. But she is so loved already. She’s the only granddaughter for my parents, which makes it especially exciting for them. But all I can do is follow the doctor’s orders and hope that things work out.

That’s what’s so odd about pregnancy. It’s makes you feel so powerful and so powerless. You can’t really control when it happens. It happens when/if it’s meant to. You can’t control if the pregnancy goes full-term or if you have a miscarriage. Sometimes, things just happen even if you did everything right. But, it’s so powerful knowing that you are creating a life. But you feel so powerless if something goes wrong. I’m trying to stay positive. That this is something that is falling into place and show that good things are coming. I feel such joy and hope, that I’m worried it will come crashing down. But I just have to keep telling myself that what will happen, will happen. I just have to trust the journey.

Raising the Next Generation of Wusses

My school district cancelled school today due to freezing temperatures. Yes, I live in Massachusetts and it’s cold in winter. The sheer amount of people with their panties in a twist over it was shocking. Do these people complaining even have kids? “What’s the big deal?”, I wondered. “This is why the next generation is full of wusses.” That was the answer.

I get it. There is some questionable behaviors from the next generation. But what bothers me is that they say, “Well, it was good enough for us to go to school during a blizzard in negative 20 degree weather…” Great, we should just settle for the status quo because that’s how it’s always been done? Shouldn’t we want better for our kids? Parents in my generation took a belt to their kids. Doesn’t mean we should be doing that today. We shouldn’t just make things, especially with the safety of our children, stay the same when there are things that we could do to improve their lives. For instance, car seats. Car seats used to be optional, but we use them today because it’s safer for kids. But I mean, because not having seat belts and car seats was good enough for us, it’s obviously good enough for our kids. (See how ridiculous that sounds?)

I get it. With stories like a basketball coach being suspended because their team had 80 something points on the other team, there is some level of babying that goes too far. The coach shouldn’t be suspended because the other team sucked. That’s life. There’s going to be something/someone miles better than you. Doesn’t mean they should be punished for it. That’s a line. There’s a difference between a participation prize and a babying prize. There are things that are making kids not ready for the real world, such as not having any rules or consequences for their actions. But, making them walk in negative wind chills is not really the play here. Especially when your argument is, “I have to work in the cold.” Well guess what? You’re an adult. If you don’t want to work out in the cold, get a different job. Isn’t that the argument when fast food employees want more money? It’s just that easy to find a new job, right?

The point is there are things that are making the next generation soft, but is that really necessarily a bad thing? When done right, this is what helps make a generation of people who want to do good in the world, and honestly we could use a lot more of that these days. Now, when they start asking questions like “Is peanut butter and jelly racist?” then that’s a line. When they think they can do whatever they want without consequences (cough: Kyle Rittenhouse, “affluenza teen”, Brock Turner) that’s a line. No one is above consequences for bad behaviors. But frostbite because kids are walking to school in negative wind chills really is not the hill to die on.

The New Year is Coming for Us All

I remember back as 2020 was approaching, I had some atypical optimism of how that was going to be a great year. I very quickly learned that what I was feeling was probably more impending doom and I was lying to myself with how that year ended up. 2021, it was going to be my oldest son’s year. He would get all those fun senior activities, filling out scholarships and college applications, getting accepted to his first choice school. Then, a fun graduation. He didn’t get all those fun senior activities, which apparently he was thrilled about. But, he did get into his top choice school so there’s that.

In 2022, I’m going in with trepidatious optimism. This could be my year. This could be a fantastic year for me. It could also go very wrong. I never go into the New Year with that “New Year, New Me” crap. If I wanted to change something about me, I’m not going to wait. I’ll just do it. I don’t believe in resolutions. Those are just lies that we tell ourselves for about a week before forgetting the whole thing. I do go in a little hopeful of a fresh start. For instance, I’m hoping that this is the year where I get at least a single parking spot in front of my house from the apartment people who don’t feel like using their parking lot. Which is honestly, much closer than walking from my house. Maybe I get that wish this year. Doubtful though, because they own our street and we have to just suck up the fact that I can’t use my driveway sometimes or that my guests have to park at the end of my street to visit me. /endrant

The thing is that you could let the fear of the New Year take you down, you could let it inspire you to make that change you’ve been wanting to… or you could just view it as another day. It doesn’t matter. The New Year comes for us all. We are just living out whatever fate it brings us. Hopefully, it has decided that we’re all due a little big luck. Maybe I hit the lottery, the housing market finally cools a bit, and I can move out of this house. Maybe people will suddenly realize that the “conservatives vs. liberals” is just something that the politicians use to control us, so while we’re all bickering like toddlers about it they can do whatever they want without us noticing. Maybe people will learn to be more open-minded to other’s beliefs and accept others for those beliefs. There’s a lot of possibilities. That mostly won’t happen because people are only going to get worse and I have no faith in humanity left especially after these past few years.

The New Year is coming for us all. We can either change what we put out in the world or we can stay the same and nothing happens. There’s always a choice and maybe this new year is the year we finally make the right choices. But I do want to wish you and your families a very Happy New Year.

There are 4 Sleeps Until Christmas

It’s that time of year again when I remind everyone what the greatest gift of all is: love. And love is free. I would rather have your love all year long than an expensive present. I love the thought behind gifts, but what I love most is being with the people who are family, whether by blood, marriage, or friendship. That’s the most important thing this time of year. Family. It’s something we missed out on last year to keep everyone safe, but I’m actually really excited to get back into something more normal this year. And it’s going to be a great Christmas.

With that in mind, I’d like to do my annual Christmas reminders:

  • It’s easy to get caught up in spending a fortune on Christmas presents. I’ve learned a long time ago that I never go into debt for Christmas presents anymore. Your kids and family members may like the presents for the short-term, but your credit score and financial stability are far more important than being impressive. If you can afford fancy, go for it. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter. Your thoughtful gifts matter no matter how much they cost.
  • Don’t forget to give back. Find some little way to give back this year. You may not think that you’re fortunate, but I guarantee there are plenty of people out there that wish they were as “unfortunate” as you are. Buy that bag of groceries to donate to a food pantry or family in need. Buy grocery items off the list for the U.S.O to help our troops. And don’t forget the furry cuties in the shelters, who could also very much benefit from your generosity.
  • Be kind. Holidays can be extraordinarily hard for some people. Maybe they recently lost someone they loved and this is the first holiday without them. Maybe they are missing someone every year that they wish could be with them. Maybe they have no one to share the holidays with. Even if you can’t be bothered to go out of your way to be kind, do everything in your power not to be an ass.
  • It’s all about family and those who matter most to you. These are the people who are there for you for your ups and downs. Take this time to really cherish how fortunate you are this holiday season as you are surrounded by love. I know I will.

I say all of this as a self-professed Grinch who absolutely hates the holidays. There are better emotions to spend your energy on this holiday season than negativity. You may even find some glimmer of hope this year. Because we could all use some of that after the past year or 2 that we’ve had.

When They Come Home Again

My oldest has only been back from college a handful of times since he moved on campus across state at the end of August. He was home a couple of times on random weekends. He came back for a week at Thanksgiving. But next week, our boy comes home for an entire month and I cannot be more excited. While he does indulge his sometimes-too-loving parents on a nightly phone call, a routine he doesn’t seem to mind or complain about, it’s just not the same as having him home. The hardest part of parenting is when they grow up.

They do leave eventually, and that’s the point, isn’t it? We spend all of our time and energy trying to shape them into productive adults that, at minimum, live long enough to move out on their own. At best, they do something remarkable to leave a lasting impact on the world and making it a better place. But ultimately, we just want them to be happy. We want to teach them that their worth doesn’t come down to their income, that as long as they are making enough to get by that’s an accomplishment that not everyone has the luxury of. That they don’t have to accept what they have, because acceptance means they remain stagnant. No. We want them to be grateful for everything that they have, but to have aspirations that take them to the stars and beyond.

When my oldest comes home again, he will be (hopefully) welcomed by his favorite Christmas cookies that were lovingly made by his mother. He’ll get long talks about video games, anime, and superheroes with his father. His little brother will just have long talks about anything, while he politely obliges his brother’s inability to stop talking. He’ll be welcomed home by all of his family that love him dearly, excited to see their college boy that they’ve been so proud of for as long as he’s been born or since he became a part of their lives. The grandmothers will dote on him, asking him about when he’s going to bring home a “friend” or whether or not he’s eating enough at school. He will catch up with his friends and cousins to the point of I’m not sure if I’ll even get time with him while he’s home. But at least he’ll be home, for a month anyways.

It’s always that torn feeling you get though. You want them to go out in the world to accomplish their dreams. You want them to grow up and become the amazing individuals that you believed they would from the minute they were born. But, you want them near you so that you can protect them forever even when you know that you have to let some of that go. For now, I’ll just enjoy having him home.

Thanksgiving is Nearly Here

This year, people can share their homes for the holidays after that year we would like to all forget. But with this annual holiday, I’d just like to remind people of a few things.

Be grateful for what you have, even if you don’t think it’s that much. You have more than others and that’s something to be grateful for. I’m grateful because I have an amazing family system, both my biological family and the one I married into. I’m grateful because I have the best friends on the planet and you can’t change my mind. I have a roof over my head, that may not seem like much, but it’s ours. We worked hard for it and I don’t care whether or not you’re impressed by it. It’s mine and I’m grateful every day for it. I’m grateful for my writing jobs and my current job. I’m grateful to have my husband and the boys. It’s easy to forget about the things that you should be grateful for when you’re busy trying to keep up with the Joneses. But once you start listing them, you realize there’s a lot to be grateful for.

You don’t have to agree with someone to be kind to them. These days, there’s this hard line drawn between conservatism and liberalism. It still boggles my mind how crazy people are about this. Instead of tossing childish insults and ignoring the other side, maybe try finding some common ground. Can’t find anything to agree on? Who said you had to? One person’s beliefs should not dictate whether or not you should be kind to them. Kill ’em with kindness anyways. Sometimes taking the higher ground is the best choice, because then you can walk away with the moral satisfaction that you didn’t stoop to someone else’s level. Just be kind. And here’s a little hint: it doesn’t even need to be a holiday for you to be kind. Think about it.

And finally, take the time to give back. I’m of the belief, and this is something I’ve worked so hard to instill in my kids, is that you should do something that can make a difference in someone’s life. I think you should do this every day that you can, but this is especially important at the holidays. Some people have difficult relationships with their families. Some people don’t have families. Some people don’t have homes or money for their own holiday meal. You shouldn’t need to advertise your good deed to get social media karma points. You should just want to help your fellow person. Even the smallest act can have some significant impact, whether you realize it or not. Make your impact today.

That’s my annual reminder for the holidays. Enjoy your time with your family or friends or anyone else that you choose to spend your day with. Life’s too short, so appreciate it more.

Finding Your Voice

I’ve always encouraged a little activism in my boys. I told them to fight for what they believe in, whatever that may be. That if they believed so strongly in something, they should educate themselves and if they need to fight for it, then they should. That’s how positive changes are made in the world. Whatever they are passionate about and believe in, that’s what cause they should back. I would support them no matter what. Well, I mean within reason. If they aren’t hurting anyone or encouraging anyone to be hurt, then knock yourself out. Well, I mean also within reason. I think people who hate on others and start hurling slurs at another human being deserves a nice knock to the jaw. Not that I would actively encourage that on any platform. I just won’t denounce anyone for it. What’s the joke? Punching Nazis is the American way?

My oldest son has always been hesitant to fight. He wanted to participate in things like walkouts at the school to support the teachers, but he was afraid of the consequences. I told him that was his choice. But that if he was suspended for doing that, I certainly wasn’t going to punish him for it. I’m a firm believer in the right to a peaceful protest. He wanted to go to college and not have any blemishes on his record. I told him that the right school wouldn’t care. As far as I know, he never participated in those protests. He’s boring. I would bet anything my youngest boy wouldn’t hesitate. Mostly because he’s a bit on the mischievous side. And we love him for his… willfulness.

On my oldest son’s Facebook, he posted a thing about a counter-protest on his campus. This protest was for a supposed preacher who was spewing hate on campus. (I believe no true man of God spews hate. If they do, then that proves my side of atheism because that’s a God I want nothing to do with.) That if you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or support them, you’re going to hell. From what my son had told me about him, he walks around the area where the classes are, speaking fire and brimstone. Which, I suppose tracks for Salem, MA. I’m hopeful this is a sign that he has found his voice. That he was going to use his voice to fight for something he believes in. And I’ve never been more proud of my boy.

It’s empowering when you finally find your voice. Whether it’s being away from your comfort zone causing you to stand up more for what you believe in or age or wisdom or newfound confidence in yourself. Your voice, oral or written, is one of the most powerful weapons you have. You have the choice to use it to fight for whatever injustice you feel needs to be fought. You can use your voice to make a difference. And I will always support a strong voice as long as they aren’t used for the wrong things. If they are used to incite violence or hate, then I will never support that. I don’t care what side of the aisle you are on. As long as you’re being respectful and aren’t running on a platform of hate and/or violence, you should use your voice. The minute we stifle that voice, especially because we don’t agree with it, we’re stifling another person’s voice. And as much as it’s hard to think about in this divisive world, they have the right to their peaceful voice.

Find your voice and use it. That’s it. That’s the advice.