Thursday Night Lights

We said this was never happening in our house. We weren’t going to let the boys play football.

And yet somehow, last Thursday night, Bennett ran in the winning touchdown for his high school football team. Let me explain.

In the early fall of 2020, several months into Covid, Bennett started talking about joining the football team, because he had a few friends on the team who wanted him to. Honestly, I ignored him. With three kids at home full-time Covid learning, and me at home full-time Covid working, I had no room in my brain to give this rational thought, and my sense of humor was at an all-time low, so this didn’t even seem funny. He knew we’d just always said no football, and none of the boys had wanted to play, so this all worked out fine.

Without me knowing, he started joining the team for their online, after-school workouts after football season ended. When I found out, I thought that was great, because it gave him something different to do, and it was good for him. Plus working out is great for mental health, and let’s face it, by a year ago, many of us were concerned about our kids’ mental health, so I was fine with this. Sure. Work out in our basement online with the football team…that doesn’t mean you’re joining. Several days a week after workouts, he and some friends would meet up at the high school on their own and throw a football around. Great! An outdoor activity with friends that felt Covid-safe enough.

Then he started carrying a football around the house. I posted on Instagram about this at the time, kind of laughing at how forthcoming he was when I asked if he was trying to send me subliminal messages about letting him play. He said it was that, and just to get more comfortable with carrying a football. More eyerolling from me.

And then, I don’t know, a couple of weeks before Christmas, Matt and I started talking about it. We could see how badly he wanted to do this, and we know how competitive he is, and how much he loves to be part of a team. A week before Christmas, I sent Matt this text:

And on Christmas Eve, he opened a gift from us: a pair of wide receiver gloves and a note we’d printed with a Parkway South Patriot on it, saying he was going to need the gloves for football season. His reaction was one of the best I’ve ever had to a gift I’ve given.

What followed was baseball season (his first sports love). As a sophomore, this was his first high school sports experience, thanks to Covid ruining freshman baseball. His JV team had a good season, he had a chance to figure out how to balance daily practices and school and work and friends, and he got stronger. Baseball was over right before the end of the school year, and the week after school ended, pre-season conditioning for football started. Minus dead weeks where they aren’t allowed to practice, it’s been all football since.

The first game of the year was an away game against Parkway West. In a nutshell, it went pretty badly. We lost by a lot. Our starting QB, a senior who had just recovered from a torn ACL that happened last season, tore his other ACL in the third play of our first possession. Things for the team kind of went downhill from there. Bennett was thrilled to get to play quite a bit, but playing in his very first football game ever, he sometimes struggled to remember his routes as wide receiver and slot, and he didn’t have a catch in the game. Of course, everyone around him was encouraging, and we all reminded him that now that he had game experience, he’d feel more confident the next game.

That next game was Thursday night, at home, against Webster Groves. I’m not a sportswriter, and you’re not reading this for a play-by-play, so I’m not going to try to recap the whole game. And also, while I’m obviously writing about Bennett, this is a team sport, and it was the whole team coming together that led to this outcome.

B had a 14-yard catch in the first half, and it was so fun to watch; he needed to have some success to know he could do it. Late in the game, when they were down 14-8, he had two more first-down catches during a very long drive that resulted in a touchdown. Tied 14-14 at the end of regulation, the game went into overtime. WG didn’t score on their possession, so it was South’s turn to try to score. Here, I’ll let sportswriter Greg Uptain paint the picture:

The Patriots sophomore quarterback stepped to the line of scrimmage at the 22-yard line for a huge third down play in overtime, took the snap, scrambled to his left and found Bennett Diehl open at the 10.

Diehl, a junior wide receiver, hauled in the pass and did the rest, weaving through the defenders into the end zone for an improbable 20-14 comeback win over Webster Groves…

The article is here, and it contains a couple of quotes from Bennett and QB Eddie Ahearn.

Matt and I could not believe what we’d just watched. And South hasn’t had a home win in three years, and Covid meant there were no fans in the stands last year, so the crowd celebrated like we’d just won state. It was so much fun. Jack Henry was there with friends, and yelled until he nearly lost his voice. And when B finally got home, the smile didn’t leave his face for 24 hours. Ok, maybe when he was still doing his homework several hours later, he was no longer smiling, but by morning, it was back.

He knows there’s still so much for him to learn, and that there will be lots of mistakes and frustrations as a rookie. But that play and this win is such a boost of confidence, both for him and the team, and we are so excited for the rest of the season.

A week or so ago, this memory from seven years ago popped up on my Facebook timeline. I took a screenshot and sent it to B, because this approach to life has never not been true of him. He’s not (usually) reckless – he’s brave. He’s willing to take a big risk for a possible reward.

It’s still a little scary to watch as a mom. But I’m so proud of him. I think this approach to life will take him far, and I could probably stand to follow his lead a bit.

Go Patriots!

Redemption. A Running Story.

Grab a cup of coffee or something stronger. This is a long one. It’s a story that really starts in November 2019, and there have been updates along the way, and since it never felt like the right time until now to actually write it, it’s long. But I want it documented for Luke’s sake.

End of July 2017, while midway through a glorious week on the beach in Siesta Key, Luke announced that when we got back home, he wanted to go out for Cross Country. Practice started Monday, and they’d be running every day of the week except Sunday (let me be clear – this sounds to me like what actual hell is). He’d been texting with three friends, and they were in, too. Nearly all of them planned to try out for baseball in the spring of their freshman year, and the thought was that XC would get them in great shape for the spring tryouts.

Sure, I thought. Go for it, kid. It was a no-cut sport, didn’t require a ton of new equipment we didn’t have, it would be excellent exercise, and being part of a team would be a great way to get acclimated to high school life. Why not?

Now of course, freshmen can’t drive. And thankfully, I had a flexible, part-time work schedule, so between me and the other boys’ parents, we were able to manage getting the boys to and from practice every day. (While not always convenient, I absolutely loved hauling these boys around in the minivan for a year and a half, until they could drive themselves.)

By the time the first meet rolled around, they were feeling pretty good about the progress they’d made.

First meet!

A few meets in, this group of freshmen boys was continuing to progress quickly, and the coach made a comment about how incredibly early on, they already felt like a team. This wasn’t surprising to me; I knew that this core group of freshmen on the XC team had been friends since second grade, but realized in that moment that the coach probably didn’t know that. In a large high school with two feeder middle schools (which had six feeder elementary schools), this wasn’t usually the case . . . freshmen drifted in, maybe with a friend, and it took some time for them to gel. But not these guys. They were taking this seriously and working their butts off, and they’d already created what felt like a team because they really knew each other, and they were willing to hold each other accountable for doing the work.

Freshman team

If you’ve never been to a XC meet, I’m giving you an assignment: get yourself to one. They are FUN. They’re truly the most all-around-positive high school sporting event you’ll ever attend. We tried not to miss a race, and we often ran all over the courses to be able to see Luke in several places throughout a race, and then still make it to the finish line. Thankfully, Matt was really good at looking at the route and knowing where we should stand/run to see Luke the most times during a race.

Freshman year XC was pretty successful for this crew, and because I don’t want this to be 30,000 words, and also I’m in my mid-40s and my memory is shot, I’ll have to fast-forward. I’ll simply say that they were hooked, and all of them decided that instead of going out for baseball in the spring, they wanted to run track, in order to prep for the following XC season. Because now they had a goal . . . they thought they had a chance, as a team, of making it to State by the time they were seniors.

I should interject here that somewhere in the winter of his freshman year, Luke had his first running-related injury, which I believe was runner’s knee. I took him to a walk-in orthopedic clinic, where the ortho referred us to a physical therapist, Dr. Arik Poremba, who specialized in runners. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but was thrilled that Luke could get in to see him. Right away, Luke really liked working with him, which was fortuitous because as you’ll see, he has a recurring role in this story.

Sophomore year: frankly, I don’t remember a lot of specifics, beyond that this core group ran varsity and steadily improved over their XC and track seasons. The boys’ commitment to this sport meant that they ran and ran and ran over the summer; together, on their own, while they were on vacations. Always running. Hundreds of miles of running. I’m sure Luke had some minor injuries that our PT treated him for over the year. Like I said – the details are fuzzy.

And then came their junior XC season. They just kept doing better and better as a group, and on a freezing, rainy, late-October Saturday morning in 2019, the varsity team placed second at their District meet (we called this level Regionals where I grew up in Illinois, and it’s taken me years to call it Districts, but I digress), which meant that they qualified for Sectionals the following weekend.

Sectional meet was the perfect running day* . . . sunny, but crisp and cool. The boys’ confidence was high; if they ran a pretty typical-for-them race, they’d qualify for State as a team. They also knew that many of them stood to qualify as individuals. We positioned ourselves on the route to be able to see the start, and then had a spot where we’d see them go into the woods and come back out shortly after the 1-mile marker. We knew about where Luke should be compared to his teammates, so when more and more runners passed us, without Luke being one of them, we started to worry. My first thought was that he’d gotten hurt.

*so I’m told . . . as a non-runner, no day sounds perfect for running.

Finally, he came into view, and while it was clear he was having an off day, he didn’t appear to be injured. I snapped a couple of pictures, we cheered him on, and then we moved on to our next watching spot. Matt decided to jog and see him in another spot on the trail, while Jack Henry and I made our way to the stadium, where the race was going to end. Matt texted us a couple of minutes later, saying something was wrong, but he didn’t know what. Luke had dropped back even further in the race. I was already feeling bad for him, thinking he’d just had an off day at the worst possible time.

Runner after runner crossed the finish line, and when Luke crossed onto the track for the last 300 meters or so of the race, he was hobbling a bit and looked pained. It wasn’t until he collapsed over the finish line that the fact that he was only wearing one shoe caught my eye.

His teammates were at the finish line, waiting for him, as were his coaches. Three of the boys had qualified for State with their individual finishes, but the team was not able to make the cut. The race photographer took this picture.

Photo cred Chris Auckley at MO MileSplit

It was a few tearful minutes before we could make our way to him. My friend Maggie, whose daughter was running that day, too, caught a picture of us . . . she knew it might be painful in the moment, but thought we might someday like to have it, and I am so, so thankful for her thoughtfulness. It makes me cry every time I see it.

Despite his pre-race rituals and double-checking after attaching his timing chip, his shoe had simply come untied. He said he noticed about 600 meters in that it was coming loose, and he had to make a decision: stop and tie it and lose valuable time, or keep running in hopes of being able to keep it on? He chose to keep running, and somewhere right around the one-mile mark, right before we saw him, he lost his shoe. He ran the rest of the race in one shoe and one sock, and he didn’t even finish last. This makes me cry every time I think of it, too. That kid ran more than two miles in a sock over mulch and dirt and rocks, and he finished a race that he knew would not send him to State instead of quitting when he knew it was over. I was, and still am, so proud of that decision he made.

Amazingly, his foot was not in horrible shape after this.

Obviously, the disappointment for Luke was crushing. He’d been running nearly daily for three XC seasons to get to this very race. For both Matt and me what followed were a couple of the hardest days we’ve had as parents — all we wanted to do was somehow make it better. I don’t disagree that adversity is an incredibly important part of life, and it builds tenacity and the ability to persevere, but in the moment, the only thing that feels right as a parent is to try to make the pain stop, and clearly, there was nothing we could do. But there was also so much support – his coaches and teammates, all also heartbroken for him, were nothing but encouraging. One told him, and then us, “I’m so thankful he’s a junior. He’s going to get another shot at this.” His teammates all showed up at our house that night, and I remember the basement being full of laughing teenagers, which made it feel like he was going to be all right.

He went to state as a spectator for his three close friends, vowing that they’d all return senior year. He knew he had a chance to redeem this, and he planned to work hard to make that happen. (Insert horrible foreshadowing music here.) Daily running and workouts continued throughout the winter of his junior year.

Then, in late January 2020, Luke injured his foot in a non-running accident . . . leaving the hotel to attend his great grandmother’s funeral, he hopped over a pile of ice and snow, not realizing that his landing spot was right on a curb that was hidden. Seems like it would be no big deal, but he was instantly in pain and knew something was wrong. He took it easy for a few days, and when it wasn’t better, the orthopedist confirmed it wasn’t broken, but thought it was likely a deep bruise, and that for it to heal, he needed to be in a walking boot for a few weeks. (Ironically, Bennett ALSO ended up in a boot at the very same time after rolling his ankle on the mound at pitching practice. Because of course he did.) After those weeks in the boot, Luke worked with his PT to get back to running. All seemed well.

And then, if you’ll recall, came March 2020. Uncertainty and fear ruled as Covid was new, school was shut down, the world was shut down. In the midst of quarantine, Luke and friends continued training on their own or meeting up at parks, running daily in preparation for a track season they hoped might somehow eventually come to fruition. Somewhere around mid-April, Luke started complaining of some pretty serious right hip pain. And look, my approach to any injury that isn’t blatantly instructing me to take the child to the ER, like a protruding bone or a tongue that has been bitten through (yes, that happened, but it is another story for another time), is give it a couple of days. Rest, take Motrin, ice it. Luke took it easier with some short runs and didn’t feel great, but it was a little less painful. He and his teammates had planned a late-April time trial, and Luke wanted to run a mile on the track to see how he’d do.

He came home from that run both proud of his 4:41 time and incredibly certain there was something very wrong with his hip. Over the next couple of days, bearing any weight on it, even with walking, was uncomfortable. Our PT examined him and recommended he see an orthopedic surgeon, who would do an MRI.

Very long story short, we had the MRI and then met this orthopedist for the first time when he walked into the room and proclaimed, “You, my friend, have a wicked stress fracture.” He proceeded to show us the MRI and xrays, the web of tiny breaks evident on the pictures of his femur. He also pointed out that Luke also had a small tear in his labrum (kind of a small ring of cartilage in the hip socket) that likely did not need surgery, but could at some point in the near or far future. Needless to say, this was not good news, and not what we hoped to hear.

Because of the location of the fracture, he did not need to be in a brace, and he was allowed to swim or bike until he could return to running. So that’s what he did, for probably eight weeks. By July he was back to rebuilding some running stamina, but he had lost a lot of training time, and XC season was fast approaching. His PT, also an 800 runner, knew that Luke had a goal of a sub-two-minute 800 in track, and he encouraged Luke to consider XC season as training for that goal.

It took Luke a bit to get on board with this idea: not scrapping XC season, but knowing that he wasn’t in top form and thus likely wouldn’t be PR’ing during the season. What ended up getting him on board was the resurgence of some hip pain after a couple of races, and we worried it was related to the small labral tear, and that it might mean surgery. Back to the PT (truly, for the last year, he’s never really not been in PT), where we found out it was not the tear. After getting that pain back under control, Luke shifted his mindset to finishing high school with a strong track season in the spring.

Luke was able to remain on varsity XC, and the team ran a final Districts race together in October, but moving on to Sectionals as a team was not to be. So, another winter of training ensued. This time Luke added in weightlifting in the off-season (this *potentially* had something to do with spring break in Florida, too), and by the time senior track season rolled around, he was in the best shape of his life.

Spring 2021 did not bring a completely normal track season, of course, as many Covid restrictions remained, which kept meets smaller and reduced the overall number. However, it really felt like the kids and coaches made the best of it; they had fun and were improving week to week. The last regular season meet is the Conference meet. Our conference is not super competitive, and we often don’t see many of the teams until this meet. However, Luke ran an excellent 800 (in a hat, in misty rain) and won the race!

A week later was the District meet. And our District is nothing like our Conference. My statistics-obsessed son could probably rattle off the percentage of runners from our district that end up placing at State, because the number is unfairly high . . . meaning it’s pretty hard to get through Districts to Sectionals and then on to State when the competition is so tough at the first round. Luke was going to be in three races: two relays and the 800. We watched as their 4×800 relay missed qualifying, finishing in fifth and needing to finish fourth or higher. It wasn’t really that close, so it wasn’t the kind of race that breaks your heart, but we were bummed for that relay that it hadn’t gone better. Luke then had a nearly four-hour break until the 800, so I worried that had set the tone for the day.

All of us watching the 800 were so. nervous. Luke was seeded fifth, but needed to finish at least fourth to advance. Play-by-play is not my forte, but I’ll sum it by saying he had a strong first 300m but was well out of the top four, started to make some moves and lane switches around that point, and by the 500m mark or so, was in third place, which was the spot he maintained to the finish line. Matt and I were both crying while cheering for at least the last 100m.

It turned out that Luke was the only distance runner from his team to advance past Districts. It’s not what the team was hoping to have happen last Saturday, and it’s not what Luke wanted, but him advancing does feel like the tiniest bit of redemption for not tying his shoe tight enough one day in November 2019, and then having the world fall apart in ways no one could’ve predicted.

Luke will run again this Saturday in his Sectional (and his teammate Xavier, a sprinter, will also represent South in two hurdles races). Again, he’ll need to place in the top four to move on the State, and let’s just say that on paper, this is an uphill battle. That sub-two-800 has been elusive, but he’s got another shot at it. Whether he reaches that goal or not, I think he can end his high school running career really proud of what he’s accomplished and grateful for the growth and experiences and what he’s learned he’s capable of doing. I know I am.

Addendum: Luke placed fifth in his sectional race, which means he didn’t move on to state. He ran a great race, and he had a huge crowd of fans there cheer him on. It was a wonderful way to end his running career.

(Huge thanks to so many people who supported Luke along the way: amazing teammates, wonderful coaches, our families who have caught races when they can and regularly texted support, and his fabulous PT and the clinic staff as well as a myriad of orthopedic specialists who have put him back together more times than I can count!)

Thanksgiving.

If I had to declare a relationship status with Thanksgiving, the only possible answer would be, “it’s complicated.”

I’d describe my memories of Thanksgiving as a child as neutral. I loved getting together with both sides of my families for a big meal and seeing all of my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. I always loved seeing my big family. But I’d describe it as neutral because it wasn’t Christmas, and I was always just so anxious for it to be Christmas. 🙂 Thanksgiving was a milestone to pass on the way to Christmas.

College through early adulthood, I really started to appreciate the opportunity Thanksgiving gave me to take a break from school/work and just soak in the family time. So for a number of years, then, I really looked forward to Thanksgiving and going home to Effingham to spend a few days with our families. I loved that it wasn’t Christmas. It felt more focused on relationships and food and spending time together. I loved it.

And then came Thanksgiving of 2004.

To keep this from being ten pages long, I’ll give the quickest summary I can. My mom was diagnosed with cancer in September 2004. The next couple of months were a whirlwind of treatments and appointments. Because her cancer was so rare, she saw a doctor at Barnes in St. Louis who was managing her overall care. The plan included her receiving her lifetime max dose of radiation (which she was able to do back home in Effingham) over the course of about 6 weeks; choosing to use radiation like this meant it would never be a treatment option for her again, but by being this aggressive, her team hoped her primary tumor would shrink significantly. With the tumor smaller, it would hopefully be easier to remove.

Surgery was scheduled for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in St. Louis, and she was probably going to have to be in the hospital for a couple of days afterward to recover. Unfortunately, the tumor had not responded well to the radiation, but the surgeons decided to go ahead with attempting to remove it. They seemed confident that they’d be successful (I mean, who wants a surgeon who isn’t confident, right?) and while we knew there was a chance they wouldn’t be able to remove it or there could be damage to her larynx or esophagus, those seemed unlikely.

My family settled into the big family waiting area, anticipating several hours of waiting before we’d hear from Mom’s surgeons. So we knew it wasn’t good when the team came to see us after a much shorter time than that. The tumor could not be removed; instead of being able to resect it in large pieces, they described it as brittle, like they were having to chip away at it. Removing it would have meant removing or damaging so much surrounding tissue that they deemed it inoperable, and closed her up. We were crushed. They were, too.

Mom spent another day or so in the hospital before being discharged to recover at home. Thanksgiving 2004 is a blur (I didn’t mention yet that I was in my first trimester of Bennett’s pregnancy and Luke had just had a terribly scary health thing of his own where we had to make sure he didn’t have a brain tumor, so this wasn’t even the only thing going on). I remember arriving late in the evening on Thanksgiving Eve at Matt’s parents’ house with toddler Luke; I remember seeing my mom in the living room of our family home where we talked about what was next for her treatment; I remember nothing else of that holiday.

My mom had three more Thanksgivings with us. I always tried to enjoy them, but honestly, I just couldn’t. Thanksgiving 2004 had held so much promise, and when what felt like her best chance at overcoming this cancer was ruined, the two became inextricably intertwined. I really didn’t like Thanksgiving. I couldn’t.

The next several Thanksgivings after my mom was gone, we had a variety of different celebrations. We always celebrated with Matt’s family back home in Effingham, and for my side, it was sometimes with larger extended family, sometimes just my family of origin, and while I always enjoyed seeing our families, Thanksgiving just wasn’t my favorite. After a few years, it was at least back to being neutral instead of negative, though.

And then? One year, for specifics I no longer remember, I hosted my side of the family on Thanksgiving Day. It was the first time I ever cooked a whole turkey, and to feel like I could manage everything else the next day, I cooked it the night before with the intention of heating it up on Thanksgiving. Except it took a really long time to cook, and my sister and sisters-in-law were all spending the night and we had, ahem, a few cocktails while we sat around the kitchen for hours, so we were hungry when that turkey finally came out of the oven, and well, we sampled it. We had to have eaten over a pound, right off the bird and straight out of the oven, with the roasting pan sitting on the stovetop. It’s maybe my favorite Thanksgiving memory ever.

I mean…we needed a snack.

Thanksgiving changed for me that year. I hosted the next few years, with everyone in attendance pitching in by bringing the sides and appetizers, and I loved it. I finally loved Thanksgiving again.

Aaannnddd here we are. Thanksgiving 2020. #&*%. Like many of you, we won’t be spending it with either side of the family, because it’s not the safest decision*. We’re choosing to sacrifice something we love because we don’t want to risk inadvertently getting someone else sick, or picking it up from a loved one. It sucks. I hate having to make this decision. And I’m also unwavering in thinking it’s the best choice, when health experts in our region and nation are begging us to stay apart. They’re telling us, day after day, tearfully, that there is no room for us in the hospital if we get bad enough to need it. Which also means there’s no room in the hospital if we have a regular, non-Covid-related health problem, either, so we need to do our part to help. I feel like America needs a primer on understanding how public health works, but that’s a post for another time.

So. While this has been a garbage year that has been filled with loss, we’re going to try to make the best of it. I’ve made sure I know my family’s favorites from the Thanksgiving meal, and I’m cooking every one of them (except not the pumpkin pie, because let’s be honest, when Costco makes a pumpkin pie as good as theirs for so cheap, I’m buying it). The thing that really makes all of this feel less like a huge letdown is that I’m also cooking for my sister and her family, because she had a baby yesterday (thank you, baby August Lincoln, for being a bright spot in this year!) and they need to be taken care of. I think cooking for more people than just the people I cook for every single day makes it feel less sucky. So if you’re in the same boat we are, maybe look for someone in your area who could benefit from a porch delivery of the meal you’re cooking? (Also this tweet is one of my favorite things from the past week.)

This Thanksgiving will be memorable, for sure, and I’m going to try hard to keep the positive trajectory about this holiday going. Looking forward to Thanksgiving 2021 already. Be safe, everyone.

*I know that some families are going to extreme and creative measures to distance while they eat together, and if this is what you’re choosing, great.

Have You Teen-Proofed Your Home?

Remember when your first baby was on the way? You, like me, probably even added outlet covers and door knob covers to your baby registry before that little bundle of joy/puke/poop had even arrived.

And then, when that roly-poly baby started to move around your house, you, like me, probably noticed an incredible number of things that could easily injure your toddler, who likely seemed hellbent on finding things with which to hurt himself. So you bolted heavy dressers to the wall, or put those foam edge things around the fireplace, or you flat-out removed the coffee table (shoutout to those tiny first house living rooms!), trying to prevent emergency room visits.

Along the way, then, came all the other protections…car seats to fit them as they grew, helmets as they started to ride bikes and scooters and skateboards.

Somehow, though, it seems the urgency drops off around keeping our homes safe for tweens and teens. I don’t have the time or brainpower to reason through why that is. Instead, I’m going to ask you to join me in a task that will likely take you 20 minutes, and it could be life-saving. It doesn’t matter if you currently have tweens/teens…if they are ever in your house (because you have a babysitter for your little ones, or because you have nieces/nephews/grandkids), this is important.

Go to your medicine cabinet. Yes, the one where you’ve been shoving half-full prescription bottles for years. I see you! Take out EVERYTHING you don’t absolutely need, and put all of them into a bag or box. DO NOT FLUSH THEM.

Now, what should you do with them? Well, twice a year there’s National Medication Take-Back Day, a program supported by local law enforcement for safe and legal disposal of unwanted meds. If you’re in the St. Louis area, here’s a flyer put together by Parkway’s Alliance for Healthy Communities for the October 2020 Take-Back Day.

However, you don’t have to wait for the bi-annual event…simply go to the DEA’s website, where there is a location finder. Search by zip code to find where you can dispose of controlled substances year-round.

My sweet friend Julie, who has worked in drug prevention/education roles for many years, stresses to me all the time that kids don’t take a whole bottle to start with…they take one pill, and no one notices it’s gone, and the spiral after that is nearly always devastating. She has story after story of kids who say they knew from THE FIRST PILL that they needed more.

I recently had a back procedure done, and I was written a prescription for Percocet. Now, I hate taking Percocet, and I avoided it even after childbirth. However, not knowing how much pain to expect after my procedure, I filled the prescription. Thankfully, I didn’t even need one of the nine pills prescribed to me. But I absolutely do not want them in my home.

We can’t safeguard our kids from everything, and even parents who have done preventative things can find themselves in the horrifically painful reality of having a child with a drug addiction. As when a tragedy happens to a younger child, there’s often no one to blame for addiction. But when tragedy happens to a little one, and there’s some safety measure that can be taken to try to prevent other families from suffering the same tragedy, we take those precautions.

This is one of those precautions. This is something we CAN do. We can make sure unneeded prescription pills aren’t readily available to the kids in our lives.

These babies that many of you followed for years on here?

Picture from my very first blog post.

One is now choosing a college, another is trying to convince me to let him play football next year, and the other one is rebuilding a computer from his own learning. You can probably surmise which is which.

They’re no longer little and cute and vulnerable. They’re now big and cute but you know what? They’re still vulnerable. It’s just that the vulnerability looks a lot different now. Couple typical teenage angst with a global pandemic that has radically changed their lives, and you have even more reason to do this right now.

Please join me in this simple task that could have a really far-reaching impact on the teenagers in your life.

(Disclaimer: there are obviously other precautions that are extremely wise to take with tweens and teens, like locking up your firearms, for the love of all that’s holy, and not providing alcohol to your teens and their friends. Also talk openly about drug use and safe driving and sex and social media usage, etc. etc. etc…)

Resource List for Studying Race

*Please note: I am not writing this because I think I’m an expert. I’m doing work on this, and maybe, knowing that someone you know is working on this makes you do the same. That’s why I’m writing.

In the post On Being a White Person, after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I listed several resources as places to start investigating race in America. Shortly after posting, I realized I’d forgotten some, and then I also got lots of great recommendations from others about additional books, shows, podcasts, etc.

So, I decided to compile them here (I know I’ve missed some . . . I tried to take notes all week long when I could). I did most of the writing of this post, but hadn’t finished it, and then . . .

Then came Monday night, and on Twitter, I saw the first of the Central Park Ramble incident. I was frustrated and angry over what a despicable thing it was to do, to fake hysteria on a 911 call to try to get an African-American man in trouble. I woke Tuesday morning to see the typical “not all white people” defensive response. Ugh. Sure, it’s true that not all white people think this way, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not appropriate for that to be your response. Because plenty of white people obviously DO think this kind of behavior is ok.

And while it’s fine to be blown away by Christian Cooper’s education and accomplishments and love for birding, the fact remains that even if he was a homeless man who appeared unkempt, he does not deserve to have the police weaponized against him when he was in no way committing a crime. That white woman didn’t like being told she was breaking the rules of the park, and she used what she thought she had at her disposal – her white, hysterical voice – to get “justice.” What if there wasn’t a video?

And then, right on the heels of the reporting of the Ramble incident came the Minneapolis police and George Floyd. Again there is video. I stopped watching when I realized the full story, that this was a video of yet another black man’s life being taken by someone who was sworn to serve and protect. I couldn’t watch police kill him as he begged for his life.

When you hear this story and see this video, what is your reaction? Is it that you want to know the rest of the story? Is it that he shouldn’t have committed a crime, and then he wouldn’t have been in trouble? That he shouldn’t have resisted arrest?

He did those things. He appeared under the influence of something, was accused of forgery, and resisted arrest. But when he’s on the ground, handcuffed, unarmed, and under arrest, repeatedly telling the officer he can’t breathe, with onlookers pleading for the officer kneeling on him to get up, with THREE OTHER OFFICERS allowing this to go on and on minute after minute after minute . . . are you telling me forgery and drug use and initially resisting arrest deserve this? He didn’t even stop kneeling on him when his nose was bleeding, and he was unconscious.

And now, a picture of this officer has surfaced, with him wearing a red “Make Whites Great Again” hat, styled, you guessed it, after his dear leader’s slogan hat. Don’t tell me this doesn’t impact how he polices the streets of Minneapolis. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that he can keep his white supremacy separate from his job.

(Edited: this was proven to be a fake picture. I commented about it after a leader whose voice I trust posted it.)

I’m so tired and angry, but I’m not nearly as tired as the people of color in this country who repeatedly have to deal with this shit, who repeatedly lose their lives over this ignorance. This is on us, white people, to be tired of it and keep educating ourselves, and keep talking about it. So here’s the list I put together. This list is small, and if you have resources not listed here that you consider vital, let me know.

Let me reiterate: It doesn’t help to just be vocal when an outrageous news story appears, and then not continue to stand up for injustice, or continue to educate yourself. Start now. Examine every angle. Talk to your kids. Don’t hide from this. Help them understand racism from the slavery angle they’re taught in school, and then help them understand it as it is today, so they become ANTI-racist. Actively anti-racist.

Here’s a list of words or phrases to define and understand. Teaching Tolerance or The Innocence Project are two good places to begin as resources:
Racism
Systemic racism
Bias
White privilege
White supremacy
Colorblind
Cross-race effect or Cross-racial identification, as they pertain to witnesses

Study the history of the neighborhoods in the city in which you live. I’m willing to bet you’ll find it very informative.

The asterisk means I’ve read/watched myself. As I stated in the last post, I highly recommend following these authors on social media platforms, as a way to constantly be educating yourself. Honestly, the viewpoints they present (particularly in reaction to events like what is going on now) and the articles they point to have contributed significantly to my understanding and make me question myself regularly to examine what I think. They are where I keep learning. Follow the book authors and journalists, follow the historians and activists, follow projects committed to equality, like The Equal Justice Initiative and The King Center (and also Bernice King) on Twitter and Black Coffee with White Friends on Instagram. This list is long, but I’ll compile it if it makes one white person do this work. Let me know if you need me to do that.

Sidenote: Be sure to investigate the voices you follow. Shaun King comes to mind, as he is yet again being exposed for his shady practices.

Books:
*I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Built for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
*The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (currently reading)
*Waking up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
*An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
*Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
*The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
*Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
*Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (currently reading)
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique Morris
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street by Matt Taibbi
Real American: A Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Movies/Documentaries/TV:
*Just Mercy
*42
13th
*When They See Us
The Central Park Five
The Hate U Give

Podcasts:
*Catlick
*Somebody
1619

TED Talks:
*Lucky Zip Codes
*Color Blind or Color Brave?

Museums:
National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The King Center in Atlanta

Here’s an entire Google doc of resources. It’s full of links to social media, books, etc. It’s really good.

On Being a White Person.

From the moment I woke today, I’ve known I needed to write about this. All day long, thoughts about what I’d include in a post like this have run through my head. And as I sat here, after four attempts at logging in before I remembered my blog password, I couldn’t get this started.

But I have to write this. I know I do.

I’m going to say up front that I know I won’t get all of this right. I have come a long way, but I also have a lot to learn. Understanding race and bias is complex.

On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was killed by two white men, a father and son, in a neighborhood. They saw him run by their house and believed him to be the person responsible for breaking into houses in their neighborhood. They ordered him to stop, and he kept running, so they followed him in their truck. A brief scuffle happened, and Ahmaud was shot and killed.

Yesterday, a 40-second video surfaced on the internet. It was filmed by a friend of theirs, for reasons I don’t understand. The video only contains the final seconds of whatever exchange happened between the parties, and then shows Ahmaud being killed.

The three men have not been charged in the killing. In the last couple of days, the DA of Georgia’s Atlantic Judicial Court has decided the case should be presented before a grand jury. Two prosecutors in the area recused themselves from the case because of their connection to the suspects.*

*Update: as I finished the end of this post, I saw the news that the father/son suspects have been charged with murder and aggravated assault. That it took two months is an abomination, but I am glad they’ve been charged.

Everything I’ve stated above is fact. Here’s a link to a Time Magazine article (I’ve chosen what I hope can be considered a neutral reporting source, so no one will discount credibility) with what is currently known about the story. If you are unfamiliar with the details, I recommend you take a minute to read the account they’ve provided.

Before we go further, I want to address anyone who may be saying, “But, but, but…you don’t know everything that happened! The video only shows 40 seconds!”

Yes. You’re right. I don’t know what happened before those 40 seconds beyond what has been reported in addition to the video (again, read the Time article if you are unfamiliar with the timeline).

And I submit that for what I have to say here, it doesn’t matter that I don’t know more.

Because here’s the thing, and please read this carefully to fully understand what I’m saying. If, indeed, this man HAD been breaking into houses in a neighborhood, he was still
gunned down in broad daylight,
while not committing a crime (the 911 call does not report that he was in the act of committing a crime),
by two men who saw it fit to chase him down and take the law into their own hands based on the color of the “burglar’s” skin.

That father and son made themselves judge, jury, and executioner, without having a shred of evidence they had the right person. Because EVEN IF he was the neighborhood thief? He deserves a trial.

I hate that I even feel like I had to write all that, because that’s not at all what I believe happened.

When you call 911 like the shooters did, and the operator asks what your complaint is, and you respond that a black man is running down the street after looking at a house that’s under construction, you’ve just outed yourself as a racist.

>>>

It’s time, white friends. We have a responsibility.

It’s time to own the horrible way we’ve dealt with race in this country. It’s time to understand our history–really try to understand it, and all the ugliness it entails–and acknowledge that systemic racism exists, and that we have a role in dismantling it. It’s time to understand privilege, and what it actually means instead of rejecting it as not applying to you, because you’ve also had a hard life. It’s time to stop saying or thinking, “I’m not racist – I have a black friend!” or “I don’t hate black people!” and instead, really look at your belief systems and what you’ve been taught, and examine it under a microscope. It’s time to embrace the fact that race issues didn’t end with slavery ending, and they didn’t end with desegregation. Not even close. It’s time to understand generational wealth and what opportunities are offered based on your race, and have been for generations, how the law worked in favor of my white relatives, but not my fellow black Americans’ relatives.

And then, it’s time to be really, really aware of what we’re teaching our own kids.

I don’t know exactly when this journey began for me, but I know Ferguson solidified a lot of things in my mind. I started in earnest to read different viewpoints, sought out posts and books from people who had already done this work, and went to hear a speaker about race for the first time.

Wanna know something? It’s really, really uncomfortable, examining your own beliefs in this way. It’s undoing thought processes, and figuring out where you learned things. It’s thinking through phrases you use, and it’s making yourself aware of prejudices you didn’t even realize you had. It’s sometimes embarrassing.

It’s embracing the truth that other people’s lived experiences may look different than yours, and that doesn’t mean yours is wrong, but it also doesn’t mean theirs is wrong. And this isn’t an argument for relative truth; it’s acknowledging that our own life experiences shape how we interpret events.

Which leads us to white privilege. Ahh, white privilege, the term that shuts people down so quickly. Because this is just a blog post, I have to keep this part shorter than I’d like (linking to a great resource for this topic below), but we can simplify it here to this: it is acknowledging that the color of your skin does not put you at a disadvantage in any way, or in any system. White privilege DOES NOT MEAN you’ve never struggled. It does not mean you’ve lived in affluence. It does not mean you’ve been handed everything in life.

So for instance, I’m the mom of a runner. He’s a 17-year-old white kid. Do I worry about him when he’s out running? I mean, I’m a mom. I hope he stays safe, and by that I mean I hope he doesn’t get hit by a car or he doesn’t get hurt. But do I ever, EVER, worry that him running through a neighborhood (or driving his car somewhere) might not be safe, because someone might take one look at him and think he’s a criminal based on his skin color? NOPE. White privilege.

So…if you’re one of the people reading, and you’re interested in examining this for yourself, where do you begin? All I can tell you about is my experience. What I’ve read, who I follow, what terms I’ve tried to understand better.

Let me say that I live in a pretty white world. I don’t have a lot of black friends. So when I went back to work several years ago, and a black woman around my age was hired at the same time, we became friends. I talked to her about what I was reading. We asked each other things about being black and being white, with the understanding that we were both curious and learning, and we might sometimes step on each other’s toes a bit. (Shenekia, I love ya, and I’m thankful for our conversations, and how comfortable you made me feel about my questions!) So…I’m NOT saying go pick out a black person to be friends with…that would dumb and weird. But maybe, have a hard conversation with someone you know, and ask them if they’d be ok talking with you about what you’re learning. Also, caveat: this friend is there to help you as you process, not to do the work for you.

Commit to learning about different terms: racism, bias, systemic racism, and this article from Teaching Tolerance is a very good place to start. Understanding these is key.

Read this Instagram post from today, from Marcie Walker of Black Coffee with White Friends. It will give you a peek into systemic racism. It’s heartbreaking and profound.

There are white people I follow on social media, or whose books I’ve read, because I know from their work that understanding their whiteness is important to them. Of course, this does not replace following and reading black authors. But since I’m white, it’s helpful to hear white people talk about how to understand race. Jen Hatmaker, Mike McHargue, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle are some that I follow on Instagram and Twitter.

I follow a whole host of black authors and speakers and activists on Twitter and Instagram. Here are just a few I would point you towards if you’re looking to understand the lived experiences of black Americans: Austin Channing Brown. Ava DuVernay. Jemar Tisby. Ashley C. Ford. Michael Harriott.

Read books.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Built for Whiteness
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (I’m currently reading this one)
Waking up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
An American Marriage (yes, it’s fiction, but it’s eye-opening about issues of race)
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (also, the movie was fantastic)

Listen to podcasts. Catlick by BT Harman weaves an incredible tale of the racial history of Cabbagetown in Atlanta.

There’s so much more I could write about, and maybe I will. Someday. But this is all for now. I’m so grieved that another mother of a black man had to bury her child. I’m grieved that this happens over and over again. I’m scared for my friends with black children, as I can only imagine the pain they feel every time something like this happens AGAIN.

It’s time, white friends. All of us are responsible for doing the work.

EDITED TO ADD: It’s way, way past time. Way. Thank you to a commenter on Facebook for saying so…she’s right.

(Of course, I would love to talk, and I welcome comments. Disagreeing is completely fine; being rude or dismissive is not.)

 

Showing Up.

Remember how I wrote a book, and how it’s still in draft form on my computer? Right. Well, I have no idea if or when I’ll do something with that. So in the meantime, because I have something new to write about, I’m going to use a tiny excerpt to help tell this little story.

My sister Hayley is getting married next week! I’m so excited for her, and we all love her fiance, Matt. I’m one of two matrons of honor, but we already need to stop this story because…

…for real, who came up with matron of honor? It’s just a horrible word, matron. I feel like there’s probably some historical reason why it mattered whether your maid of honor was married or not and therefore needed/wanted a different title, but I don’t care to research it, and I’m just going to call me and my cousin Karah, the other matron of honor, MOH and leave it at that.

Anyway, back to the point, Hayley is getting married!!!

There are hundreds of details involved in planning a wedding, as anyone who has ever been closely involved in one knows. Obviously, for most brides, their mom is a huge part of the planning. And obviously for Hayley, this isn’t an option.

It is sad, planning a wedding without your mom. However, Hayley has been amazing at not hanging out inwhat if” or “I wish…” I am sure that it helps tremendously that it’s been nearly ten years since we lost our mom; we’ve gone through a whole lot of things without her here, and time does, truly, take away some of the sting. I can’t help but think this would be much harder if this was just a year after she died. But, there is no denying that we wish Mom was here to do all of those little wedding details with her.

Again, though, we aren’t dwelling there. This is a celebration, and we’re making it one. Which, of course, means that we had a shower for Hayley.

So here’s where I’ll back up and pull an excerpt from the book…

My parents met, married, and lived in my mom’s hometown. Actually, my mom lived there her whole life minus her years at Eastern Illinois University, where her roommates were even friends from home for some of the time.

My mom was soft-spoken and kind; I have to think she was pretty easy to like and befriend. She had three lifelong best friends, all girls that she had known since elementary school. Those three friends, Val, Marty and Joan, all also married men from Effingham and settled there. Naturally, the four husbands became close friends, too.

Doesn’t that sound like a movie? Even as I wrote this, I had to blink back tears thinking about how special and unique it is to have close friendships that literally span your entire life like my mom had. Those relationships impacted me both as a child who loved times when these families gathered, either to enjoy each others’ company or to help when there was a need, and again as an adult who learned so much from watching these friends spring into action when circumstances changed.

This group of friends watched their crew grow from no kids to 15. They saw each other through the births of all those babies, illnesses and deaths of some of their parents, job changes, moves to different homes. When they all had houses full of really young kids, the moms got us together for morning “coffee,” which was likely code for “we don’t see each other often enough so let’s have the kids burn some energy together so we can catch up.” The guys went fishing. These families did life together for years and years.

And when the years passed by and my mom’s biopsy revealed cancer, they didn’t walk away. Not even close.

(There’s so much more to that chapter, including information on other groups of friends and our family, but I have to get back to the wedding story…)

Hayley’s lived in the St. Louis area for well over a decade, and our dad doesn’t live in Effingham anymore, so we decided it was easiest to just have one big shower in St. Louis. In addition to our family from all over, we invited several of Mom’s lifelong friends, and our former neighbors, and Hayley’s and my boss from Homewood Grill, Mindy, who was also a good friend of Mom’s.

And they came, to celebrate Hayley. And to honor our mom, really. I didn’t think to take group pictures until it was almost too late and several people had already left, but I am so thankful that I got this one.

Val, Joan, Hayley, Mindy, Marty.

[I know that several people who wanted to attend couldn’t because of other commitments or distance, so please don’t read into this further if you couldn’t make it. I just think it’s really amazing to see friends of my mom’s show up so long after she died to help us celebrate.]

Wedding day: coming soon 🙂

inked.

When I got my second tattoo, the word courage in my mom’s handwriting on my ribs, I didn’t post it here for several months. I love my simple little tattoos, and I’d honestly love a whole bunch more. And I can deal with them not being everyone’s taste – that’s totally cool, you don’t have to get one. I don’t have much patience for people who are rude or super judgy about them, though, which is why I’ve always waited to share here.

I’m guessing you know where this is going…

A couple of weeks ago, I got a text from one of my closest friends asking me and another friend if we were available for “lunch on Friday and maybe a tattoo.” I laughed and immediately said I was in…for both.

I’d been thinking for a while about adding more of my mom’s writing to my ribs, and the timing couldn’t have been better – we were going on the Friday before Mother’s Day. On my 10th Mother’s Day without my mom. So I quickly grabbed my only writing sample of hers and decided on the other two words I’d have added to courage.

It’s all healed up now, and I am so happy with it. It’ll be a while before it blends with how settled into my skin courage is, but I’m fine with that.

And yes. It hurt, but it was totally worth it.

Driver’s Ed.

Luke, seen here as he first appeared on the blog in 2007, as a preschooler…

…is now learning to drive.

Oh. And because I didn’t blog for like a year, I forgot to post this a year ago, when he finished middle school. He’s taking his second-semester finals this week for his freshman year, so that’s cool and clearly I’m on top of documenting the big life changes around here.

he was still 1″ shorter than me in this picture a year ago (I was in heels)…he is now almost 2″ taller than me.

Ah. Also, it turns out he’s a runner. Like, a real runner. He had a great cross country season last fall, and an equally successful track season this spring, and I’m just a tiny bit proud of how dedicated he is to this. Indulge me one bragging mom/record-keeping moment to say that his 1 mile PR this season was 4:54. (Also SERIOUSLY if I don’t write something down it will NOT be remembered. #thisis40)

I couldn’t run half a mile in 4:54, by the way.

luke cross country 2

I just want to say that I’ve been trying to get him to take up running since this one cross country season 5 years ago.

His summer goal is to run 400 miles total, which sounds like absolute madness to me, but you do you, Luke.

not gonna lie…track meets are looong. but the 5 minutes your kid is actually doing something is really, really fun. xc meets, for the record, are FAR more enjoyable.

But back to the driving: guys. I don’t understand why this isn’t a standard part of the school curriculum like it was when I went to high school in Illinois, but it’s not and either we have to teach him to drive or we pay someone to do it. Currently, I’m teaching him, and he’s doing fine and gradually getting better. I can’t help but think of how much harder it is to learn to drive in the suburbs than in a tiny town like I did, so all things considered, he’s doing great. But all of the sudden, in the last several weeks with him doing more and more driving, and I’m not proud of this but it’s true, I am so sweary all the time…not like the worst swear words if we’re putting them on a spectrum but still: not good.

Close friends and family are right now saying, “Um, Nicole? You and curse words is not a new, sudden occurrence.” And I would answer that with this: you are correct. However, I have been very effective at keeping my bad-words-saying away from my children a vast majority of their lifetime…but when Luke is driving, it’s like I can’t even help it. It’s not directed at him, and I’ve been careful to clarify that with him, but it’s over seeing my life flash before my eyes repeatedly in a ten-minute span of time a couple of times a day with no recourse but to yell “THERE’S A CURB THERE!” that’s doing it to me. I’m trying to stop.

All I can think is how this is going to be so much easier with the next two boys. Right?

Reliable.

First, I had to think long and hard about how to even log in to this account to be able to write on my own blog that I used to write on multiple times a week, so I realize that no one may read this because you don’t know that I’m still here. It’s been a minute since I’ve written…but if you’re reading this, welcome. I miss writing and I’m here because I’m a little bit fired up.

it’s not rocket science, people.

I used to spend a LOT of time in coffee shops when I was writing a book (I don’t want to talk about it…it’s in draft form, begging for a revision that I already have in mind, and I’ll get to it someday but who knows when). I usually had earbuds in, but occasionally I’d grow tired of the music and instead listen to the din of noise around me. I feel like I got pretty good during that time at reading people who were there in my usual spot. Most people were pretty considerate of those around them.

Lately, when I have work to do between appointments, I sometimes settle in for an hour or two at a coffee shop. I did just that today. Again, when I’m working I generally have earbuds in, but the group of three at the table next to me was so loud that I could sometimes hear them over my music. So I had some idea of what they were talking about.

From what I gleaned, Mid-50s Lady had a small business she created (the product was on the table and you’d die laughing at how ridiculous it was, but in the interest of keeping this anonymous, I’m not going to link to it…I’ll just say that there’s something for everyone, right?). Slick-Guy-in-His-30s was self-employed, had contacts in the radio industry and does marketing-ish stuff, and she wanted him to help her get her product out there, in magazines and on the radio (and I hilariously heard him trying to explain podcasts and streaming content to her). Other Man at Table, with his back to me, was also in his late 50s, and after 90 minutes next to them, I still have no idea why he was there because he seemed clueless about both her product and marketing in general.

M50L left after a while, and the two men remained at the table. I was still listening to music, their conversation was a bit quieter, and I was just working away at writing a report I needed to get done. I took out my earbuds when I got up to refill my iced tea, and as I came back to the table, I heard Slick Guy say he was looking for a full-time graphic designer to work with him, how he had trouble retaining people, blah blah blah. He then told a quick story of a recent female employee who thought she deserved a raise, and he told Other Man at Table why she didn’t. But I left my earbuds out when I heard Other Man at Table say something to the effect of how he’d just seen a story last week about women still making 70 cents on the dollar compared to men.

“You know why, though, right? It’s because women aren’t as reliable as employees. Got a sick kid? They’ve got to go get them, and then their work doesn’t get done. That’s why they don’t get ahead. And then if they stay home with kids, they completely lose their skills.”

MMMKAY. So now you all know why we’re here on the blog today.

I shot Slick Guy a look that probably scared him because I’m positive I looked possessed. He knew I heard this. I looked back at my computer immediately, and listened to Slick Guy say something to the effect of how he could kind of understand needing to tend to kids, as he was a single dad, so he sometimes had to leave work, too, etc. Then he quickly tried to move on and wrap up their conversation and go.

In the moments I forced myself to stare at my computer instead of sharing with this gentleman what I thought of his opinion, I bit back a million words, and trust me that some 750,000 of them are not fit to publish. I side-eye glanced at the tables around me: a young woman studying her medical books; a middle-aged couple having lunch; another young woman working diligently on a spreadsheet. I decided in that moment not to let the redneck girl in me unleash a sweary tirade lest I set my fellow women back further. I forced myself not to tell him I’d taken years off to stay at home with my boys (did he have children? Who raised them?), and that I’d since gone back to work (clearly having gained NO skills while I raised children), and that I was sitting there, reliably meeting my deadlines and getting my work done while he was running his mouth and perpetuating the stereotypes that keep women from ever catching up, all while making less than I probably would if I’d just stayed in the work force all those years.

The funny conclusion to the story is that those guys left, and Other Man at Table left his coffee cup sitting there (this is a place where you clean off your own table)…y’know, cause an underpaid woman was probably going to clean it up for him. A woman did walk up to the table and asked those of us in close proximity if it was taken; the man from the couple sitting close immediately commented, “No, the man before you left it there.” My ears perked up and I looked at him, and he said, “Did you hear what he was saying? I told my wife I’d be fired if I said that about a woman. Are you here working?” I nodded, and said, “And, I’m one of those women who stayed home for years, too.”

His wife said she had, too, and then gone back to work. I told them I’d had to force myself not to respond to the loud talker. They both smiled and wished me well as they left a couple of minutes later.

Equality. It’s not really a thing just yet, friends. But keep being reliable, ok, ladies? We’re gonna get there.