Today, I am grateful for a great many things: our close-knit community, divine-timing, and that my child doesn’t need an amputation.

Last week, one of my boys asked if I had anything in my pharmacopoeia which would ease the itch of poison ivy. It seems he’d tangled with some weeds while helping a friend’s family clear their backyard of debris. I brought forth a handful of supplements and salves, explaining to him how to use them.

Over the next few days, I noticed that he was showering more often, presumably to cool the inflamed tissues. He asked for another bottle of Calamine lotion. And yesterday, his discomfort prevented him from walking around the store with me.

But he’s an older teenage boy, and in trying to be respectful of his body, his desire for privacy and independence, I maintained a hands-off attitude.

Last night, I dreamed that it had worsened, had spread and was infected. I asked him about it over breakfast, and he laughed: “I’m fine, Mom. That was just a dream.”

This afternoon, wearing shorts, he flopped down on the couch across from me. For the first time, I saw his leg:


“Holy-fucking-shit, what the hell is THAT?!”

“That’s my poison ivy,” he replied.

“Oh fuck. OMG.” I put my head in my hands, trying to think clearly. “I should have been more vigilant. I am the worst parent ever.”

I sent a text and a photo to a nurse-friend: “I need help triaging this. Do I cancel my evening schedule and take him straight to the ER? Is Urgent Care enough? Can this wait till after work? What do I do here?”

She called as soon as she saw the swollen, blackened, infected limb. “Yes, that looks bad. Yes, he needs to go now. But he’s old enough to sign for himself…you don’t have to clear your caseload.”

Clear-headed advice from the Village.

We arrived at the clinic together, and the staff knew me from my practice. “Don’t you have patients?” they asked.

“Not until 3,” I replied.

It was 2:25.

He was promptly ushered in, evaluated, debrided, injected, and prescribed a handful of pills (all in time for me to see my own patients). “It’s not in the joint…yet. But if that gets ANY worse, or if it isn’t improving in 48 hours, get back in here stat.”

Parenting teens is tough: letting go, checking-in, detaching, remaining present. We walk a tight-wire act together.

“I’m so sorry, Mom. I was just trying to take care of it myself. I didn’t know…”

“It’s OK. I know. You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Sometimes we fall off the tight-wire. Sometimes they do. Maybe most important is that we help each other get back on it and find our balance again.

Grateful for subconscious nudges to take a closer look at his limb, for the clear-headedness of community, for the perfect timing in which my boy was able to be cared for.

Stormtroopers, Squirrels, and Skiers…oh my!

I traveled to NYC for a work-related workshop this past weekend. I’ve been there before with the boys, and also with Gerry, but this was my first time in the Big Apple by myself. After class dismissed on Saturday, I spent hours walking all over the city, watching the HONY.

I ran into this trio of characters up near Time’s Square:

I chattered with a squirrel who’d climbed onto my shoulder while I took a break on a bench in City Hall park. (He fled when I tried to snap our selfie.)

I watched a man propel himself on wheeled skis thru Seaport Market:​

​And then I saw a bro at Federal Hall angle his cell phone directly at the ass of the woman in front of him. It didn’t matter that her pants were practically painted on. Or that her young body was “perfectly” proportioned. Or that she would never be the wiser.

He had no fucking right.

I felt the fury of a protective mama bear who’s witnessing an attack on one of her cubs. I raged for friends who’ve been subjected to catcalls. I was angry on behalf of all the women who don’t have someone to stand up for them, or with them, or are just too broken down to stand up again.

I cut thru the crowd to reach him in a few long strides, aimed my mental diatribe, and grabbed for his phone.

But then I stopped short.

He was taking a selfie. (With a statue of George Washington looming over him in the background.)

Sometimes a scary “Stormtrooper” is just a goofball in a costume.

Sometimes an “asshole” is just a judgey story in our heads.

Grateful for the reminder to always check my stories. Or as Byron Katie likes to ask: “Do I know this to be true?”

I’ll try to sift thru my own stories more gently today.

Scientia potentia est

You know those people who are super excited to buy a new house, get a new car, grab the latest phone, upgrade anything and everything?

I am not one of them.

Which is why my cute little Jetta has lasted 16 years. Despite its rear driver door that hasn’t opened in 10 years. Despite the “check engine” light that’s been on for 5 years (my mechanics have assured me it’s a blip). Despite the front bumper that’s been falling off for 3 years. The front passenger window that doesn’t go down properly. The shards of compost from compulsive gardening which I can’t get out of the trunk (no matter how many times I vacuum). The faint smell of rancid butter which melted into the car’s upholstery when I drove it from Wisconsin to Maryland in the middle of July so very many years ago (don’t even ask…I was an idiot). The bodywork that is banged-up and scratched-up and rusting off.

Last weekend, while driving up a mountainside on the way home from Frostburg, my car seized: it began losing acceleration, the engine started smoking, and the whole thing shook. I pulled into the nearest gas station, and although the oil light hadn’t illuminated, I found oil all over my engine and leaking below.

(Or rather, the very kind police officer — who pulled up right next to me, right after I parked, and was undoubtedly sent by my guardian angel — helped me to sift thru the mess.)

oil car

The tank was bone dry. The line may have broken. The engine block could be cracked. I added oil and (eventually) arrived home…but the car was a shaking, smoking, stinky, hot mess.

I needed a new car.

Which is how I found myself touring dealerships a few days later:

Car salesman approached me.

HIM: These Souls are so cute, aren’t they? What color would you like to look at first? Red? Green? Black?

ME: Actually, I’d like to feel the difference between driving a 1.6 and 2.0 liter engine.

HIM: You know, this car sells very well b/c it’s rated highest in it’s class. You’re lucky we have any left!

ME: Actually, the popularity of boxy cars has declined, which is why the xB, Cube, and Element are no longer in production. Plus, Soul’s sales are down 22% from this time last year. So really, you’re lucky I’m even here looking.

Knowledge is power.

(And I’m now a new member of the Subaru family!)


Back to School

MOMMY’s FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN: “Ok Honey. I’ve filled your ergonomically-designed backpack with glitter pencils, superhero folders, power puff notebooks, a box of crayons (well, two boxes…just in case), extra glue sticks, and an apple for your teacher. There’ a gluten-free-dairy-free-nut-free lunch (b/c someone in your class might have allergies) in this Bento box. I also picked-up a dozen boxes of Kleenex for your community of kindergarteners. But you can’t carry all of that, so I’ll just escort you to your classroom on the first day of school (or maybe all week, since I don’t want you to get lost). I’ll miss you so much, baby!!!”

MOM SENDS BOTH TEENS TO HIGH SCHOOL: “Ok Dudes. You can reuse your backpacks and lunchboxes, since they’re still in good shape from last year. Your lunches kinda suck cuz I haven’t had time to hit the grocery store…sorry ‘bout that. We have so many extra school supplies from years past that I’m not bothering shopping until I have each teacher’s syllabus in my hands. I threw an old folder, your schedule, some loose leaf paper, and a pen in each of your bags, cuz that’s all you’ll need for the first day (or week) anyway. Oh, Xander: I stuck a map of the ginormous high school in there too, just in case you get lost. Good luck, men.”

back to school