When the Fearless Pursuit of Peace and Sleep Leads To Trying Vape

We’re not smokers, so when I found out a while back that my 20-something son had been smoking for years to soothe his anxiety, I wasn’t happy. Smoking seems both stupid and gross. That’s not to say I didn’t try a few puffs as a teenager. I’m referring to cigarettes, which now are fairly un-hip.

vape juiceI didn’t realize my boy was so cutting edge when he went from tobacco to vape. When electronic cigarettes came on the scene a few years ago he switched over, touting the benefits of using a tobacco-less product, ignoring the fact that inhaling flavored nicotine chemicals called “juice” may not be such a good idea. In fact, I’m really worried.

vaporizersVaping connoisseurs believe that the clear, sweet-smelling vapor that they pour into their e-cig, aka vaporizer, is not only safe, but effective when needing a fix. Not to mention the devices come in different shapes, styles, sizes, colors and wattage.

I think I’m a little slow on the uptake of cutting edge anything, because I only recently learned that not only can you fill your customized e-cig with juice, you can also use it to smoke pot. I don’t smoke that either, but apparently a lot of folks do.

potThat’s a whole other story – the miracles and magic of marijuana to help with everything from mind-blowing to chilling out to chronic pain to insomnia. In the old days you rolled a few pinches in some rolling paper, licked it, sealed it – sheesh, what a time-consuming mess. Now, you just put it in your vaporizer and apparently you’re good to go.

can't sleepThe pot phase came and went for my kid. But imagine my surprise when a good friend shared a little secret she has. Upscale citizen, polished professional, magnificent mommy, exceptional human – the poor woman has a case of insomnia so bad she makes vampires look like wimps. Not only is she up most of the night, she still functions most of the day. She’s a survivalist.

And a hip one to boot. Because when she revealed her new plan to take a few puffs to aid her sleep, my ears actually perked up. I don’t sleep well either. Although I’m pretty sure I’m too uptight to try it.

Her story cracked me up – middle-age insomniac mom learns from other middle-age insomniac mom that vaping dope helps you sleep like a baby. While her husband is away, she secretly purchases a vaporizer, makes contact with a local and reputable dealer who delivers said product right to her door – arranged to ensure no one was home. She hides her paraphernalia and her substance knowing it’s there but invisible, a tempting little treat that may actually soothe her sleep.

I’m betting this is more common than we think. Melatonin to sleep? Nah, that’s old-school. When that doesn’t work, try pot. I’m not judging her, in fact I wish I was that cool. To not be afraid to try something “new” that is medically-approved for health issues? Longterm insomnia counts.

This isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about keeping up with the times, and doing so without fear. I can’t condone my son vaping vape, but my friend vaping weed? Right on.

 

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I Wasn’t Prepared For Red-Level Security When I Registered My Kid For School

red alertWe hear on the news what has become of the world – our national security, our cyber security, even our privacy. It’s disconcerting to know that we are not particularly safe on any level. Ironically, technology is supposed to help us be more safe, more protected, from secret intelligence to microchip credit cards, but nothing would have prepared me for what I went through to simply register my kid for high school.

Sixteen years ago I moved away from my quiet little town, just 10 miles outside of the big city I now call home again. A lot can happen in 16 years, and a lot did. I just didn’t know that as much as it has not changed, it’s really a whole new world.

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First I noticed increased traffic. This state is known for its traffic, but I thought we would relish in our quiet side streets like we used to. Nope. Then I noticed the small local businesses that I used to call for my home needs are now big businesses that don’t return my calls. Some family businesses survived through the years, but even they are different – nearly a generation gone by – grown children running the business their way.

The town has not changed in beauty, but has changed in numbers. That became clear when I saw that the high school that used to abut my neighborhood is now the middle school, and a big, shiny new high school stands where a plot of trees used to be. I was in awe of the new structure. But it was the inside that surprised me.

We had a registration appointment for my now-junior son. First we had to be buzzed through two sets of doors. Then they took my driver’s license and scanned it into a device that not only made an electronic copy, but printed out a special badge with my picture on it. At the same time that machine also let the administration know if I was a criminal.

paperworkWe had to provide more than 50 pages of signed documentation as proof of everything – residence, citizenship, marriage, language, driver’s licenses, notarized affidavits, utility bills, pay stubs, W-2s, home insurance, bank statement, house payment, and that was just for the parents. The registrar said that if they have any questions, they actually send the police to your house to be sure that you truly live there and with the people you say you do. I have never gone through anything like this to enroll my boys in school. It blew my mind.

My son did better with it than I did, I felt fairly invaded. Why would I lie about who I am, where I live, or anything relating to our identities? Apparently people do. It was like a government agency background check. Then I learned the school re-checks periodically to be sure we’re still good.

That was just for high school. When I learned what we have to do to get our driver’s licenses and car registrations I was shocked again. We don’t live in a police state…or maybe we kind of do. I’ll be so glad when the administration of moving is done and we’re finally real residents here. I must have been living under a rock before, but I bet now even that’s not too safe.

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When Your College Kid Drops A Bomb It’s Not A Piece of Cake

“Hey are you awake?” texted my son yesterday morning. “Can call you?”

I knew something was up, I paused, took a breath, and prepared for what I like to call, an incoming.

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From that moment on, the previous day’s birthday upset looked like a cakewalk. So my youngest wanted to hang out in his room on his 16th birthday. Whoopee. That’s not a big deal compared to what my middle son relayed as soon as I answered the phone.

MitchCollege27 copyThis one, who works for Apple and is Mr. College Poster Boy, lost his resident assistant gig. In other words, there went half his ride.

Nooooooo … 

Between his job at Apple and being an RA, his college costs were covered. But his over-achievement in all of his additional roles – student government, class representative, orientation leader, event team leader, let’s not forget a full course-load – his grades went down. So far down that he missed the GPA cut-off requirement by a fraction of a percent.

I’m adept at crisis management, God knows I’ve had enough practice to last perpetual lifetimes. But this one stung, deep in the gut, and in the pocketbook.

A mother is never off duty. She may think she is – that whole midlife change is supposed to bring freedom, a renewed sense of self, dancing around the house naked and having wild sex with her husband. It’s a myth.

It killed me to hear my son in distress. Although he had a week to absorb the fact that he had been laid off before he called his mom. So this one came out of the blue of course – but what else is new. I am good at handing incomings.

Over the years I’ve learned how to dodge their hits, and slow these stress missiles down. I can grab them in mid-air and juggle them until I diffuse their impact. That’s not to say it’s easy. Triaging crises no matter how big or how small eventually takes a toll.

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I spent the day working with him, explaining how to set up a budget, the costs of living off-campus, the costs of real life. He went to look at apartments while I was on the phone, he shared videos, and we talked about Plan Bs.

It’s hard to have him 10 hours away, we rarely see him and miss him so very much. I secretly hoped he might move home due to this change in course. You know – get his finances in order, and go to school in Boston, where we are about to live. That was his home once before, so it’s a familiar cushion.

There’s a lot to consider now – especially how to pay for everything without the RA safety net. But he thinks he has it under control, so this is the part where I have to stand by, watch and wince as he tries to work it out.

But it’s visceral. This incoming hit my mother-gut. I know this is a life lesson for him. He lost his ride. His path has changed. Our path has changed. The comfort-zone is gone. Life is different than I ever thought it would be…seems there’s always more to learn.

 

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Even on His Birthday My Teen Won’t Leave His Room

tyler bday 007 copyBirthday season just opened in our house. We have three birthdays in just under a month, starting yesterday when the youngest turned 16.

I love to celebrate special occasions, especially birthdays, especially for those I birthed. I’m pretty sure I even celebrated in the delivery room as my kids were being born. I remember my doctor on the third child asked me why I was so smiley despite all the pain. Little did I know what that truly meant.

I spent my boy’s 16th birthday pretty much by myself. No cars and friends and cheer for him, he just hung out in his room. Like almost everyday, I can’t get my teenager out of his room and I don’t know what to do.

I have tried everything, but he won’t really come out except to go to school and eat, and it’s been going on for a couple years. Why am I waiting so long to speak up? Because I keep hoping it will change.

He isn’t hiding anything that we can tell, he’s got a fancy computer and spends all his time online. Introverted, totally tech, smart as a whip honors student, he’s not like me or his sibs. He opts out of interaction and seems perfectly happy. But it makes me really sad.

No matter what I do or say to try to help him, he pishaws and rolls his eyes. I realize this is teenager-speak, I’m not new to this. My other two 20-somethings seem to be fine, so I guess this will pass. But it’s worrisome nonetheless. He’s isolated and putting on weight, and even with encouragement from family and friends, it’s like trying to move a boulder. 26_23.jpg_24 copy

Nobody tells mothers that one day they will feel pain with their children like they did in the delivery room. Having children is as heartbreaking as it is joyful, and the teenage years are intense. All kinds of factors come into play – genes and environment, family status and stability, extended family, community – everything plays a role. So on some level I have to wonder where in all this I failed to help him be the best he could be.

Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe this is his best. Teenagers are still developing in their bodies and in the world. So I try to give him the benefit of the doubt instead of blaming myself. He’s not young anymore, not to mention he’s the size of an adult, unlike when he was two and I could control his life.

He has gone through a lot with our family trauma, problems and pain. But all I can do is keep showing him things are now really good, and role model every day.

So as I search for the answer to help my teen thrive, I keep repeating the old standbys – everybody is on their own journey…parents are only vessels, kids are individuals…don’t make him someone he isn’t…he has to want to change, nobody can do it for him…  But some days it’s really hard.

I guess one day he will come out of his room. In the meantime I’ll keep trying…and waiting…and trying…and hoping. This is parenthood.

 

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In A Box Of Heirlooms, It’s The Words That Really Matter

barbie weddingWhen little girls dream of their wedding day, it usually involves dolls dressed in a pretty ruffly dress. Maybe it’s Barbie, or an American Girl Doll, or her favorite stuffed animal adorned in special doll clothes, but she imagines with all of her might. Then the real day comes, and more often than not we wear a traditional gown that becomes an heirloom in our mind, the dress our daughter will wear, maybe her daughter after that.

I did that. I even wore my great-aunt’s veil which made it through decades of basement storage in an old yellowed cardboard box. I paid a fortune to preserve my own all-lace form-fitted gown and that long antique veil which were neatly tucked into a new box, ready for my daughter.

Oops. I had sons. Three of them. The third one was supposed to be my girl, the one who would would wear that dress. Life happens.

When I learned I was pregnant with my first baby and the ultrasound confirmed he was a boy, I set out on the journey of preparation. I wrote him letters in a journal every week, telling him things I thought he would want to later know, about my pregnancy, his family, and any wisdom I could impart at age 29.

Next baby, same thing. Baby boy revealed during pregnancy, excitement, preparation, writing, more wisdom shared, now at age 31. The pages continued to fill in my journal, hand-written in black ink. With each entry I moved the red satin ribbon over to mark the special spot where I would continue to write to my sons.

xmas and new house 006 copyBut as time went on and the daily routine of raising children became my focus, I just wrote when I felt inspired. I kept the hardbound journal in a small wooden chest next to the pristinely-preserved wedding gown tucked away in its box in the basement. Only now it was next to christening clothes that my two baby boys sweetly wore.

Eventually the third boy arrived, the journal now worn, the entries less frequent. The wooden chest was filled with memorabilia – baby books, tiny blankets, zippered bags holding their first locks of hair, important documents, special gifts, silver cups, even my own silver rattle, an antique, quite tarnished and chewed, the only thing left from my infancy.

For years my carefully-preserved wedding dress was nestled safely between hope and trust that its future would be secured. But I had three boys, and eventually divorced. The gown’s value now minimal and purpose lost, I finally opened the box that had been sealed some two decades before, to decide its place in my life. I kept the dress…its preservation not mattering anymore.

So it’s tightly rolled up with the veil, even smashed a bit in a plastic bag underneath the remnants of my babies’ keepsakes. The wooden box is long gone, along with many of the things that lost their significance as time went on. The boys grew up, we moved frequently, so much “stuff” lost along the way.

A few pieces of tangible memories now stay safe in a plastic storage container, perhaps one day important to the boys. It’s the journal’s worth that is immeasurable. Not the gown, probably not the veil – although almost a century old, not the christening clothes, the blankets, or even the old tarnished rattle. It’s the words hand-written on the pages, that rose from the depths of my heart and soul. The heirloom is the love. It makes the memories, sustains all time, and is the true foundation of our dreams.

 

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Coming clean – A Closet Germaphobe Reveals Her Dirt

IMG_1845Birthday season comes a few times a year in our family, and this weekend we had an abundance of cake and celebration. Until our oldest – who was here visiting for three days – texted us in the wee hours after leaving that he was violently sick. The out-of-both-ends gross kind of sick. Yea I freaked out.

I felt so bad for him, he’s already got Crohns and often feels like crap. At the same time I was also glad he was back home, in his own bed and space. But let’s just say I’m scared. I don’t do well with throwing up, and other than morning-sick moms, who does? I’ve got a whole fear thing going that came on in 2001. First I got a parasite from an invisible poopy diaper in a public pool that put me in the hospital with a tube down my nose, and made me sick for months. Then I had such a bad round of the norovirus I was hospitalized for a week, and sick – no lie – for years. It shut down my digestive system which all this time later still operates on the fritz.

hand sanitizerSo my firstborn dealing with this just after leaving our house has me a little jittery. But honestly it’s more than that. They say the first step is to admit it…ok here goes. I don’t use other people’s pens in stores or anywhere for that matter. I flush public toilets with my foot. I open the doors of public places with my elbow if I can, like I just scrubbed-in for surgery. Out in the real world I baby wipe pretty much everywhere I turn. I even carry Purell in my purse and the car and use it all the time.  And that’s just the beginning. Yep, I’m a germaphobe and I hate it.

The good news is I’m not alone – lots of celebs are too, and are starting to admit it. Turns out one in three Americans says they’re afraid of germs, nearly a third of wipes
our population! Hello fist bump, goodbye handshakes and hugs. It’s not all my fault, we’re deluged with fear about disease – you can’t leave your house without needing a hazmat suit anymore. Between bugs wielding death-bombs, and people breathing contagions all over the place, where are we even safe? I knew it was all over when they put Purell wipes in the grocery for people to clean their carts. We are now a nation of crazy germ killers, and I enthusiastically participate. germs

Plus, new information is revealed every day – which does not bode well for germaphobes. I just learned the five-second dropped food rule doesn’t apply anymore according to NBC, we best leave that food in the dust, even in our own home.

I make my family crazy though, and I guess I get why. But if you ever get as sick as I have been, you would freak out too. So the minute the texts came in from my son, Sir Husband started to moan. Oh no here we go, he said as he pulled the covers over his head. This man has no fear, a trait I covet and adore. He spent an hour convincing me we were fine in spite of my anxiety.

steripodIt’s not easy being me, it takes a lot of work. The mental torture alone is enough to make us sick. So I try to let things go – if I must use a pen in public I try not to touch my face….or if I don’t wipe the cart handle going in to the store, I grab a wipe on my way out and quickly clean my hands. I know it’s kind of loser so I do the best I can to both embrace and erase germs as the situation demands.

Yea it’s pretty hard if we’re at a social gathering, I don’t touch communal food. Or I try not to… it depends on how hungry I am and then I say a little prayer and talk myself through the moves.hand washing

That’s kind of a good overall m.o. for life if you think about it – say a little prayer and talk yourself through whatever you need to to feel good. Besides, it’s not a crime to be clean. The World Health Organization says the best way to wash our hands is to lather up and sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Perfect. In our house it’s the theme.

 

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I Must Have Birthed An Optimist, Who Claims That Life’s All Good

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No matter what is going on, my middle son without fail says, “It’s all good.” No matter what. For years I thought this was some kind of denial, or illusionary perspective counter-posing a raunchy reality of unmitigated mediocrity. But no. He truly means it, no matter what. Whether he gets a flat tire, or didn’t get the role of a lifetime after an audition, his mind is fixated on the ebb and flow of life as being “all good.”  First of all, where did he come from? But also, I love it.

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I imagine the child was like this in the womb as both he and his mother struggled to stay alive on the brink of a vehement placenta previa that was relentless in its detachment. I was on bedrest and then an inpatient on the maternity wing right on the heels of a successful first-attempt at in vitro fertilization – both so rare – the positive result on IVF round one, and a placenta that just won’t attach. That should have been my first clue that I was going to birth an optimist, who in the very petri dish decided it was “all good.”

all good kidAfter a routine (i.e., non-emergent) scheduled cesarean section, I sat in the neonatal intensive care unit with the premature baby attached to tubes and wires and heat but never for one second imagined he wouldn’t be ok. Illusionary denial at the time perhaps. Or maybe I carry the optimism gene and just wasn’t aware.

Is there even such a thing as the optimism gene? Or is the glass-half-full a learned trait? Oftentimes we do the opposite of what our nurturers do. In an interview I  just saw with Anderson Cooper and his mother Gloria Vanderbilt, Anderson said that he plans his entire life almost obsessively, because his mother is not a planner. I am the opposite. My mother is a planner, and I run away from considering a schedule beyond the daily routine. I hate to say my son is an optimist because his mother was a pessimist, but maybe she is.

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We are products of our environment no doubt, nurture verses nature intertwined. But the question remains can we really change who we are at the core? This is the zillion-dollar question for self-help junkies around the world. Technically we are always changing as life does – beliefs, knowledge, wisdom, experiences and events shape us both inside and out. Add some motivation and skills or tools and perhaps we can genuinely recreate aspects of ourselves. If we want to.

Everybody has their own things dictating how they roll in their lives and the world. For example, I communicate – talk or write or yell or text to deal with ups and downs. I have family members who build walls against life, or attack those around them, who eat or drink too much, we’ve even got a couple of shunners in our midst. But my son – for him it’s all good. All of it. Except those very rare times when “It’s whatever,” might eek through his rosy lips.

We can either meet ourselves where we are, or we can dig deep and make some changes. Whatever way you look at it, it’s all good.

 

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