Pandemic of the Unvaccinated? – Part 2

I thought I would follow up on my last post with some additional thoughts and number calculation breakdowns. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can do so here.

One of the arguments used to explain the high percentage rate of vaccinated breakthrough cases in a population is that we should expect to see a higher percentage of vaccinated cases because a higher percentage of our population resides in this group – 4,303,743 people or 71.5% of our population is vaccinated in Maryland versus 1,741,937 people or 28.5% of our population is unvaccinated.

I agree, this argument does hold validity. However, when looking a bit further into the overall data, this does not provide a full explanation . We have 71.5% of our population accounting for 93.3% of our total cases in December and 28.5% of our population accounting for 6.7% of our total cases in December. In addition, we would also expect to see the same percentage of positive cases coming from each group. In December, 129,494 vaccinated people tested positive – 3% of all vaccinated individuals in our population. During this same time period only 9,309 unvaccinated individuals tested positive – 0.5% of all unvaccinated individuals in our population. This indicates that vaccinated individuals were testing positive 6 times more often than their unvaccinated counterparts. 

Unfortunately, the hospitalization data does not allow for the same extrapolation. However, we can confirm a few things and hypothesize what we would expect to see currently by diving into some of the historical data available. 

Understanding the number of unvaccinated hospitalizations is of extreme importance. We are currently being told that by being vaccinated, our chances of becoming hospitalized or dying are greatly reduced. Our expectation then would be the majority of our hospitalizations would be in the population that is unvaccinated. 

Governor Larry Hogan stated on December 21, 2021, “…Marylanders who are not vaccinated make up more than 75% of COVID-19 hospitalizations. If you would like, you can read the article in its entirety here.

But the numbers provided on the MD Covid Dashboard historically do not support this statement. The bar graph of hospitalizations detailing the breakdown between vaccinated and unvaccinated, indicates a sharp increase in vaccinated hospitalizations beginning in June 2021, however, it is only updated through November 2021. I have compiled the information into one table for easy comparison. The percentage of COVID hospitalizations represented by vaccinated and unvaccinated groups are as follows:


As we can see, unvaccinated hospitalizations haven’t been near 75% since August 2021. Furthermore, it seems from the data above that unvaccinated hospitalization percentages are declining as vaccinated hospitalization percentages are increasing. Interesting trend.

But let’s just say Governor Hogan’s December 21st number of 75% of hospitalizations are unvaccinated is correct and apply it to the overall December 2021 data. After all, one would believe that the Governor of Maryland has access to much more data than any of us. 

Therefore, we can all agree that if a statement is made that 75% of hospitalizations are unvaccinated, then 25% of hospitalizations are vaccinated. By adding up all the vaccinated hospitalizations from January 2021 – November 2021 provided in the MD Covid Dashboard bar graph, we arrive at 2,910 total vaccinated hospitalizations for that time period. The total vaccinated hospitalization number from January 2021 – December 2021 has updated and now sits at 6,085. We can now extrapolate our December vaccinated hospitalization number: 6,085-2,910 = 3,175 vaccinated hospitalizations for the month of December. 

Per Governor Hogan’s statement, 3,175 should equal 25% of total hospitalizations for the month of December. Indicating that total hospitalizations (vaccinated and unvaccinated) for the month of December would be around 12,700 overall. Using this calculation, we can subtract 3,175 (25%) from 12,700 (100%) to find the indicated number for unvaccinated hospitalizations in December – 9,525 (75% of total hospitalizations).

There is just one problem, though. The total number of unvaccinated CASES for the entire month of December is 9,309. This would mean that not only would every single unvaccinated positive COVID case in December need to have resulted in being hospitalized, but also an additional 216 unvaccinated cases that never even existed. We know hospitalization rates are not 100% in the unvaccinated, in fact they are not even close. We also know that cases which do not exist, can also not be hospitalized.

Although the MD Covid Dashboard does not show December data for either group in the bar graph, we still have the data for January 2021 – November 2021. I thought perhaps if I took a look at the percentage of each group’s monthly total cases that resulted in hospitalization it may provide some insight. Again, I have put this into a table format for easier comparison and personally calculated percentages. 

Vaccinated Cases4734169715953162,0288,92010,1168,3189,725
Vaccinated Hospitalizations095114111760130522710583587
% of Vac. CasesHospitalized0%12.4%12.4%14.5%19.8%19%6.4%5.85%7%7%6%
Unvaccinated Cases8,68226,84331,31533,4149,6201,9525,65322,23925,20517,04117,953
% of Unvac. CasesHospitalized8.7%9.5%9.5%9.87%12.7%14.7%8.8%7.8%6.8%7.25%6.7%

Another interesting trend can be found when the information is presented in an easy format, conducive to comparing data. I wonder why this hasn’t been done on the MD Covid Dashboard. If it is meant to serve its actual purpose of transparency and informing Marylanders, you would think it would be presented in a very easy to read, user-friendly format. 

It would seem somewhere around September 2021 the percentage of cases resulting in hospitalization began to become just about even for both Vaccinated and Unvaccinated individuals, although overall total case counts were much higher in the unvaccinated. But that was November and we now know by studying the numbers and performing some simple arithmetic that for December this trend changed. So lets recap what we know…

For the month of December:

Total Vaccinated COVID positive cases – 129,494

Total Vaccinated cases resulting in Hospitalization – 3,175

Percentage of Vaccinated cases resulting in Hospitalization – 2.45%

Total Unvaccinated COVID positive cases – 9,309

Total Unvaccinated cases resulting in Hospitalization – Unknown

Percentage of Unvaccinated cases resulting in Hospitalization – Unknown

Looking at the table above, we can see that while the percentage from each group is almost even, the unvaccinated hospitalizations were about .25% – .7% higher. We can use this information and apply it to what we know. 

If 2.45% of vaccinated cases resulted in hospitalization, then we have a number to begin with. Let’s use the higher number of .7% for the unvaccinated cases resulting in hospitalization and add it to the vaccinated percentage of 2.45%. 2.45% + .7% = 3.15%. If December data follows the same trend in the months previous, in spite of the spike in overall vaccinated case count, then we can expect that 3.15% of total unvaccinated cases resulted in hospitalization: 3.15% x 9,309 = 293.23. Therefore, we would expect the number of unvaccinated hospitalized individuals to be around 293. 

We know 3,175 vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized, and we now have a hypothesized number for unvaccinated individuals hospitalized of 293. This would result in a total hospitalized number of 3,468. Indicating that 91.5% of all hospitalizations in December were vaccinated and 8.5% of all hospitalizations were unvaccinated. Even if the percentage of unvaccinated remained the same for December as it was in November at 6.7%. The resulting hospitalizations would only equal 624.

But please, enlighten me again about the selfish, inconsiderate, unvaccinated people filling up our hospitals and causing the increase in cases.

Honestly, I don’t care if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated at this point. My heart will never wish sickness upon anyone. It is no one’s fault if they become sick. It is no one’s fault if they require hospitalization from any illness. It is an unfortunate part of life, but no matter the circumstances which lead anyone to a hospital bed, we should always offer nothing but medical care and compassion. To suggest otherwise, is cruel and inhumane. To have national and local leaders not only contribute to this treatment but provoke it, is a complete dereliction of duty to the people they have been tasked to serve, oversee and protect. To do it intentionally, knowing the numbers do not prove the accusation, is a special kind of evil.

May God have mercy on your souls.

P.S. To our leaders, you can keep trying to hide numbers by making it confusing for the average person to find and compare. I’ve got time to dig and I am just bat shit crazy enough to keep spending hours sifting through numbers even though I hate math, just to expose and hold you accountable to the people you were elected to serve.

Your move. 


The Difference One Day Can Make…

Each morning we wake up to a new day, never knowing the role it may play in altering our lives or those around us. Some times the significance is known and written on a calendar, but often times we have no real understanding.

At my wedding, I had the traditional father-daughter dance, but I also picked out a specific song to dance to with my brother.

You see, siblings are our first friends in life and I only have one. A little brother born 3 1/2 years after me. My mom always said that I embraced my role as a big sister from the start, no jealousy or resentment. He was mine.

Sure, we fought just like siblings do. Spending every minute of everyday, takes a toll on two people. But as our parents’ lives evolved, so did ours and we became each other’s fiercest protectors. A role we both took seriously and carried into our adult lives. An unspoken pact void of right or wrong. That no matter the circumstance, we would always firmly stand in one another’s corner.

Because that’s what it is to be a sibling. A person who fights for you at your worse and celebrates with you at your best. The one who understands the funny, inside jokes from childhood and the one who remembers the rough times you both try to forget.

It isn’t until we look in the rear view mirror that we fully appreciate the precious nature of our shared childhood moments and the bond we hold with a sibling. It is like many things in life and can only be understood after the words have been written down, the chapter completed. But like all stories we carry those experiences and the lessons learned from each chapter with us until the last page.

It’s been almost 17 years since the photographer sent over the photos from my wedding and I remember joking to my brother that day, giving him a hard time because he looked terrified in alI of the photos. His response was one I never expected from a 21 year old, “I was a little scared, it felt like I was losing you and saying goodbye.”

And I didn’t exactly understand how he felt until last year, when I feared I was losing him. Being the oldest has a way of forcing you to lead from the front and life has a way of keeping you focused ahead.

And while we always thought that I was the strong one, it turns out he had the same strength all along, it had simply been waiting to be discovered. Strength is measured in a variety of ways and this year has taught us that it is the strong ones that ask for help because many times, it is easier to offer help than it is to ask for it.

I think about how many May 5th’s, I awoke to, never understanding the importance of this date. The pride that would be born from this day.

Today, I celebrate my brother finding his way. For understanding that there is no requirement of perfection to be my brother. Broken or whole, come as you are. I am proud to be your sister everyday but on this day, I am especially proud.

For having the courage to reach out your hand and for allowing me to hold it. I am fortunate to have been able to hold your hand as we endured life as it is and I am grateful to let go as I watch you live life as it was intended.

But whatever you do or where ever your path may lead you, just remember…

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes, I will…
You’ve got a friend

⁃ James Taylor

A sister and a friend, still patiently waiting for a niece. Maybe one day.

Finding Light in the Darkness

Thursday marked the Autumn Equinox. The day of the year where there are equal parts night and day. Exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness before night begins to outweigh the daylight hours.

Yesterday, cooler air helped to solidify the change and it almost felt as if on cue, the universe too had received the news that Jon was no longer with us. That the sun wouldn’t yet have the strength to shine as it once had and would need some time to learn how to keep us warm again.

Just as the end of summer always feels unfair and never long enough, Jon’s death has that feeling of unfairness. An injustice of time bestowed upon all of those that loved him.

That somehow God must have been mistaken in this decision. Somehow, we unintentionally have all found ourselves on the wrong side of right and wrong, fair and unfair.

Because nothing feels fair about losing Jon. Nothing feels fair about a wife being without her husband, a son without his father, parents without a child, brothers without a brother, friends without a friend.

Nothing seems fair about experiencing Jon’s infectious smile, his sense of humor, or his kind heart and having it ripped away. Suddenly and without warning.

Honestly, it almost feels cruel. That perhaps had we been afforded some type of warning we would have known better. We would have taken the opportunity to soak up his smile a little longer, hold the embrace of his hug a little tighter, listen to his voice more closely knowing it would be our last time.

The duration of darkness is often lengthened by such thoughts – a continuous loop of what ifs and should haves.

But I also think about all of those whom were never given the chance to experience his love. The unfairness of having never known Jon and what they missed. A life devoid of Jon would be the true injustice.

It is unfair to have loved him and have to endure the pain of life without him but man, what a blessing it is to have known him.

Most of you probably picture him exactly how I do right now, with that smile; the one that could pierce right through to your heart. One glance and you knew you would never be the same. A mannered politeness that could outshine any southern gentleman. So much so that years ago, I told him if he called me “mam” one more time, his shift at the bar would be filled by someone else. “Stop calling me ‘Mam’, Jon. I am only 2 years older than you”. The ability to tell a story that only he could tell. And boy could he tell a story. Jon had mastered storytelling the way a painter perfects his canvas. Effortlessly and with every detail perfectly placed. However, nothing compared to or even came close to his warm heart. A genuine heart which forced him to hold a willingness to help anyone, anytime, no matter the circumstance. If one person could define “he would give you the shirt off his back”, it would be Jon.

But if you really wanted to see his face light up, all you had to do was ask about Jonathan or John Boy as he liked to call him. Jon loved being a dad. His face lit up differently when Jonathan was around. The pride obvious. How blessed he felt to call you his son, Jonathan.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they interact with children, and Jon always found his way into any child’s heart. My children never left his house without a handful of candy and snacks, causing my youngest to always ask “where’s the man that hands out the snacks” after a haircut at Ms Amber’s house.

I spoke to Jon when I was pregnant with my youngest son and voiced my concern that my older two boys were only 2 years apart and my youngest son would be 6 and 9 years younger than his brothers. He laughed and told me not to worry, the age difference would not matter, the middle son would bridge the gap. Just to make sure they understood that brothers always take care of brothers and everything would be fine. He knew from experience, having been perfectly placed in the middle of two brothers.

But what I will always be most grateful to Jon for will be for marrying one of my best friends. For showing her what it meant to be truly loved by someone. For bringing Jonathan into her life and an extended family to love and appreciate the woman she is. Jon and Amber could be as different as night and day sometimes, but like night and day they complimented one another perfectly. To see them together was to bear witness to true love and happiness. It may not have been enough time, but many spend their lives searching for what Jon and Amber had together.

For many of us, life will never be the same without Jon and it feels like there will now be a permanent indicator etched onto our life’s timeline. Life before Jon died and life after Jon died, in the similar way the Autumn Equinox evenly divides the light and darkness.

Jon was pure light. So bright at times, it could often be blinding and many may wonder how they will ever be able to find their way again without him. We often stay silent when we are unsure of the words to say or how to comfort someone being forced to walk through darkness. Instead choosing avoidance in an attempt to prevent the wrong words from being spoken. But the antidote to darkness is light and Jon left behind rays of his light with all of us. We each carry that gift having known him. We keep it aglow by speaking his name often. By sharing the memories out loud we were lucky enough to make even if we know he would have told them better. By still making sausage gravy even though it will never come close to being as good as Jon’s. By holding the hands of Jonathan, Amber, his parents, brothers and family members for as long as they need. By offering help without hesitation or hidden agenda. By smiling when we think of him, even though it may still hurt. We fight the darkness with the shield of his light.

Because although the Autumn Equinox signals that darker days lie ahead, they are always temporary. The sun and warmth ultimately find their way through, it simply takes some time.

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”

Olive Branch

I have taken quite a long break from sharing here. It would seem, the world is not what it once was, or perhaps, more specifically what I had always believed it to be.

Although I could feel the shift, often I would ignore it, attempt to reason it away because to accept what I was seeing in front of my very own eyes, would mean accepting much of what I had been taught in my 43 years would need to be questioned.

I don’t know why we are gifted intuition but I do know that more often than not, we ignore this gift. Whether by intentional design, or accidental unacceptance, too often we deafen its warnings and cover the eyes of the insight it provides. Although the more I have chosen to trust my intuition, the more I have learned to trust its ability to guide me in the proper direction. The way we learn to trust our legs to walk, without thought or hesitation.

Clarity can be a blessing and a curse and it doesn’t come easy. It can be a lonely journey, especially when the thoughts born are portrayed as not being held by a majority or are silenced and eliminated as a suitable topic for conversation. We have always been taught that there is safety in numbers and for many people this has served as the foundation to formulate opinions – all opinions, even those found to be harmful or hurtful. However, if you truly want to know the depth of your belief in something, just ponder if you would be willing to unwaver in those convictions if the numbers weren’t on your side. If the safety net of the group were removed, would you still be willing to fight for what you know and believe to be good and right. Would you be able to hold your head a little higher each day as stones were cast, even if the stone casters never realize you were fighting for them also. After all, a true test of a person’s determination, will and spirit can be measured by their ability to withstand isolation. It is why solitary confinement is used as a punishment and an interrogation technique. Only the mentally resilient can withstand the type of pressure bestowed upon many of us these past two years.

Fight fire with fire, is what I continued to tell myself as I riddled off facts to fight against smoke and mirrors and tried my best to offer Grace when confronted with those who attempted to demoralize me with terms chosen specifically for their ability to degrade and belittle my views, my intellect or my voice.

I have been accused of being greedy and putting money above lives for wanting our business to reopen early in the pandemic. I have been accused of wanting my children to die because I fought for their return to school. I have been labeled a “science denier” because I wanted them to walk through those same doors fearless and armed with a smile, not hidden behind the false promises of a mask. I have sat in a doctor’s office, across from judgmental eyes and condescension, because I chose to ask questions about natural immunity vs vaccine induced immunity and voiced concerns about the latest, convenient definitions used to define health. I have been called a “conspiracy theorist” for not immediately accepting what is being offered to me, even as obvious answers to ignored questions continued to pile up.

Time reveals all and I noticed something else… as the answers to all of those premature questions began to trickle out, the silence that followed has been deafening. The voices willing to jump out and attack me without warning or regard for feelings or logic, were suddenly absent. The friendships severed hastily and without consultation, have yet to be requested again. The collective confidence held from the comfort in believing one resides in the majority began to disappear, along side the notion that membership had entitled positioning on a higher ground.

We are at a point in this country where some of us must begin to accept responsibility for how we have treated the rest of us. Accountability that many were not only fooled into believing lies but manipulated into turning on friends and family who asked questions when what was believed to be the majority opinion did not add up.

Those of us that were turned on, we are not looking for an apology nor do we even request or need an acknowledgement that perhaps we may have been right about a few things. We are way passed that now. We simply look for you to join us in relentlessly asking questions and demanding accountability for what has been done to ALL of us. Eliminate all the labels and boxes we painfully shrunk to fit ourselves into and dig in to harmoniously and simultaneously create an environment where our children do not just have to endure life but will have the freedom to live it.

Hasn’t that always been the goal? Create a world where our children are better off than we were?

Our freedom comes with a responsibility to preserve it for those behind us and consequence is quickly approaching if we continue in the belief we do not hold the power to its preservation.

Perhaps the path leading to this vision varies but the intended outcome has always been the same. Freedom does not discriminate, it is for everyone, even those we may not see eye to eye. Its most important function designed for those with whom we may disagree, specifically when they are the minority.

We all yearn for a place, a country, a world, where our children have the opportunity and freedom to reach their full potential. We have been fooled into believing our paths do not intersect. They do. They always have. We were tricked into thinking that if we believed in the journey of one path, then travel was prohibited on any other path, and all ramps were closed. A “you made your bed, now lie in it” type of thinking. Lucky for me, I have never been one for making my bed anyway. However, more and more it would seem this was always the plan, to have us split up and run in different directions. Fracture us down into the tiniest of slivered pieces so we would never again believe in the power of functioning as a whole. For the task to put ourselves back together to seem so daunting and overwhelming, we would never try or give up easily if we did.

If you thought a racist was someone who didn’t have a black square as their profile picture two years ago but realize now a bigger problem may be that black children are reading at a level much lower than their white counterparts, then welcome. If you are starting to wonder why there are no protests as black communities in urban cities are experiencing the highest rates of death and violence in years, then welcome. If you thought schools should have opened but didn’t yet have the strength to voice your concern, and now your child is below level in reading and math, then welcome. If you thought your kids were being taught math, reading and history at school, only to find out that political agendas were also being pushed, then welcome. If you thought taking a vaccine meant you were no longer susceptible to a disease but you came down with that disease anyway, then welcome. If you chose to receive the vaccine but didn’t agree with mandating people out of jobs or society, then welcome. If you thought inflation was “transitory” and government spending could not increase it, yet you can barely afford groceries, then welcome. If you never really cared how someone chose to dress or identify themselves but see the glaring problem with allowing biological male athletes to participate with female athletes, then welcome. If you thought all of your elected officials worked for the people whom they have been tasked to serve only to find out many, from all sides, have been working for themselves, then welcome. If you can’t shake the small, tiny feeling living inside that something just doesn’t seem right, then welcome.

Membership is free, although it cost many before us. However, it will not cost you an apology, nor shame in the understanding you may have been fooled. We have all been there at one time or another, judgment is best suited to be served by those who are perfect and have never made mistakes. Shame doesn’t live here. Shame is a tactic used to quiet the determined. The only requirement is a willingness to stand beside one another. To fight for a world where our children will always have a voice and an ability to stand up for what they believe in without the threat of being labeled, placed into a group or ostracized. A world where all of our children will not only have the literacy level to read about freedom but be fully versed in its importance and willing to teach it for years to come.

Whether you took the scenic route or a short cut, it doesn’t matter the path. The only thing that matters is you arrive.

Unfortunately, there is no red carpet here, no cameras to capture your appearance. No fireworks on display nor a clever hashtag, as it would more than likely be removed anyway. Like most things in life, it’s a journey whose appreciation can be felt only after having traveled. A humbling destination where battle includes fighting for those who do not yet realize they need fighting for.

We won’t announce your arrival and our only weapons are the memory of a country that once was and hope in the possibility of what can be. When you land after your journey, you may feel weary and a little confused but no matter the speed with which it took you to travel, we promise to help glue your piece into place, grab your hand and kindly whisper “Welcome to the Revolution”.

If there is anything I have learned, it is if we allow it, intuition will always leads us to the right path but should you get lost, just head in the direction of the overgrown path with the name that was meant to connect us all…

it’s called Freedom.

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Luca Brasi was born on a farm and adopted by parents with a shared love of the movie The Godfather. Although fiercely loyal, he began going by just “Luca” when it was quickly determined his temperament would never allow him to rough up a band leader or anyone else for that matter. Although, he did once murder an entire plate of pigs in a blanket while his family sat unsuspectingly in the next room.

Ever the faithful and alert guard dog, you could find him most days at his self-assigned post of the dining room window from 3-5pm after his morning, mid-morning and early afternoon naps, announcing the arrival of every child, woman and man to arrive to their homes for the past 11 years. He did not work the midnight shift though, which was discovered when he was careful not to wake his family while someone broke into their car, parked in the driveway.

Although his ancestors’ bloodline is officially unknown, we are fairly certain he was a descendant of one of Pavlov’s dogs by the trail of saliva he left on the hardwood floors, yet couldn’t fathom his inability, in 11 years, to figure out standing too close to the mudroom door when someone exited, would result in being hit in the head when they returned. He couldn’t stand the thought of a solitary minute though, so he endured daily smacks to the head, followed by head rubs and apologies every single day for over a decade. His need to be with his people was also evident by his escapes from the backyard and journey to the front door where he would stare at us in disgust through the glass, until someone noticed and let him in.

To ensure we experienced guilt every time we did leave him, he would stand watch at his post and make sure his sad eyes pierced our heart as we pulled out of the driveway and greet us from the same spot upon our return, no matter how long we had been gone. I often wondered if he ever moved from that window or just sat there waiting and scanning for our car to enter the street. In addition, he was well known for his infamous hunger strikes if his mom left for more than 24 hours, unless you pulled out cheese. Cheese was the way to his heart, and he had the nose of a bloodhound that could pick up the scent of cheese from another room. Legend has it, even the slightest rustle of a deli bag could awaken him from the deepest of sleeps.

An avid ball hoarder, he never did master the game of fetch. Although in his younger years, he was an all-star outfielder during batting practice for his brothers. He did, however, learn to ring a bell to go outside and would give you a high five when prompted. He loved a short walk, not a long one and wasn’t keen on running unless it was in his sleep. He ran the equivalent of a few marathons in his sleep.

He was known to dabble in the city life and enjoyed visits to Baltimore to stay with his uncle when his family was away. Known for its dog loving environment and lack of rules, Luca spent city days napping on sofas in between meals of table food and spent nights sleeping in Uncle Tim’s bed. He often needed reminders when he returned home of the rule “what happens at Uncle Tim’s house, stays at Uncle Tim’s house”.

A large dog, he was once mistaken for a horse. His size could be intimidating for some, like the dog fearing Verizon technician arriving to install our cable one day, inquiring if he was aggressive. I encouraged him to keep his distance, but only if he didn’t want to fall in love with a dog. He doesn’t bite, I warned, but there is a strong possibility he may lick you to death. After several hours of installation, he departed declaring he was the coolest dog he had ever met. I imagine he is a dog owner himself now.

And that was his gift. He had the ability to cast a spell on anyone crossing his path. He was incapable of anything but pure, unconditional love. Well love, and the occasional bout of gas. Honestly though, there wasn’t a person or animal to enter his life that he didn’t love, he even held an affection for his uncle’s cat who smacked him in the face every time he said hello. 

He was a gentle giant who spent 11 years giving more than he ever expected in return. 11 years of comforting in sadness, loving in times of doubt and brightening every day his tail wagged. We spent 11 years experiencing his love and we will now spend a lifetime missing him. 

He is preceded in death by a Guinea Pig, who exceeded his life expectancy by years and is mourned by three heartbroken brothers, a doting over treating mom, a dad who didn’t want another dog, a loving uncle, grandparents, neighbors, a long list of friends, an extensive list of groomers, a few contractors, a lady at the dog park, a territorial cat and a Verizon technician. 

Rest Easy, sweet boy and tell them your mom said it’s time for a treat. 

The hardest part of loving you, is saying goodbye.

Pandemic of the Unvaccinated?

I have been following the COVID case numbers on the Maryland COVID Dashboard for a while, but began following it a bit more closely in August when it was announced the dashboard would begin to include vaccination breakthrough case data. If you would like to read the press release announcing it, you can do so here

Apparently, there was some type of Cyber Attack and the numbers stopped updating for about 2 weeks in December but luckily they began updating again the day after double vaccinated and boosted Governor Hogan announced he had tested positive for COVID.

Anyway, there are two handy bar graphs detailing monthly data from January 26th, 2021 – November 30th, 2021 for vaccinated COVID positive cases. Although they have not been updated since November, you can still gather the data for total monthly cases and hospitalizations for COVID cases in vaccinated individuals. Although we are nearing the middle of January, December data is not included. However, there is an updated number for total vaccinated breakthrough cases included near the bottom of the dashboard which updated today for total breakthrough cases January 26th 2021 – December 31,2021. I am including screenshots for reference. 

Clicking on each month in the bar graph, reveals the total monthly breakthrough case numbers and they are as follows: 

January 2021 – 4

February 2021 – 73

March 2021 – 416

April 2021 – 971

May 2021 – 595

June 2021 – 316

July 2021 – 2,028

August 2021 – 8,920

September 2021 – 10,116

October 2021 – 8,318

November 2021 – 9,725

Upon adding up all of these numbers, one can arrive at a total breakthrough case number for January 2021 – November 2021 of 41,482 vaccinated COVID positive cases.

As of today, the Maryland Covid Dashboard lists 170,976 total vaccinated COVID positive cases for January 2021 – December 31, 2021. 

One can deduce by subtracting 41,482 (total Jan-Nov 2021) from 170,976 (total Jan-Dec 2021) that the total vaccinated COVID positive cases for the month of December 2021 equals 129,494.

Included on the Maryland Covid Dashboard is another bar graph which details the daily case count for each day. I am providing a screenshot this also for reference. I would assume daily numbers reported are for the day previous, as they are updated around 10am each day. Therefore, when adding the daily case count numbers for December, I chose to use the dates of December 2, 2021 – January 1, 2022. When adding the daily case count for those dates together, the total case count for all of Maryland, regardless of vaccination status is 138,803 for the month of December. 

Based off the information provided by the state of Maryland on the MD Covid Dashboard, the total number of UNVACCINATED COVID positive cases for the month of December is 9,309 and the total number of VACCINATED COVID positive cases for the month of December is 129,494. In other terms, 6.7% of cases in December were unvaccinated and 93.4% of cases were VACCINATED. Wild, right? Even wilder, is that not one local media outlet or government official is announcing it.

I tried to understand the hospitalization data but it is not quite as easy to decipher. While the MD COVID Dashboard does list the total hospitalizations of vaccinated COVID positive cases, it only details a daily hospitalization number overall. I would imagine someone in the hospital for more than one day is counted each day they remain hospitalized, therefore, I am not sure how to extract the numbers to understand them properly. But let’s be honest, if the numbers showed it was mostly unvaccinated cases being hospitalized, it would not only be included but would be quoted by every news outlet and leader in this state, every day. It is being left out for a reason and that should tell us all something.  

Look, I am not here to prove that vaccinations are not working or that people shouldn’t be vaccinated. I am simply here to stand up for my family and others like us that can see when things are not adding up. Data is being omitted and hidden and we need ask ourselves, why? I have found over the past two years that I learn much more by paying attention to what is not being said rather than what is being said from the microphone. 

However, when we have schools and businesses implementing separate rules and policies for those vaccinated vs unvaccinated and leaders blaming the return of mask mandates on unvaccinated citizens, it would seem of extreme importance to fully understand our current COVID environment through the data available. 

I am not a mathematician. In all honesty, math is not my strong suit; but I am able to perform the simple math required to arrive at these numbers. The question is, why haven’t our leaders? They either believe omission relieves them of liability and guilt, they are lying or they are incompetent. In any of these cases, I do not want them leading me or my family.

Ask questions. Demand answers. And for the love of God, just be kind to one another. 

A person’s true character can be revealed by whether they are willing to fight for those with whom they disagree. 

It is time we begin to ask questions in unison.

Read Part 2 – here

Another Year Older

My oldest turns 16 today. 

My husband and I do not share their report cards, or their baseball stats, or their school awards on social media. Our lack of sharing is not from a lack of pride in their accomplishments but rather instilling in our children a desire to work hard to reach their goals for their own personal fulfillment, not the momentary validation provided by a computer screen. 

But every so often, it is nice to be recognized. And although he would never expect it, on his 16th birthday, he deserves to be recognized.

He makes parenting look easy. He makes my husband and I look like parenting rock stars. If you are looking for parenting advice on how to raise a great kid, I am not sure we have much to offer. We have legitimately been winging it since the day he came home from the hospital. While I hope we have more than contributed to help mold him, honestly, much of who he is was pretty evident from the beginning. 

He keeps a spotless bedroom but leaves dishes in the sink. He is an honor roll student and does his own laundry. He teases his brothers. When COVID hit last year and our restaurant was reduced to carryout for several months, he independently asked to work with my husband every day to help out and wouldn’t accept a paycheck for several weeks. He continued to work this last year every day he wasn’t in school. He saved his money and contributed half of the price for the car he wanted. He found his own car, communicated with the salesman and set up an appointment on his own. He once used Amazon Prime Now to order a pint of ice cream and a 4 pack of sweet tea while my husband and I were out to dinner. We changed our Amazon password and he figured the second one out in 24 hours. When he was younger and my grandmother would visit, he would take it upon himself to make her tea in the morning and take it to her. He was born a week late, but we quickly learned he often needs the confidence born from taking your time.

He was born an old soul and sometimes it felt like he was raising us. 

I have touched on the fact that, for a variety of reasons, my husband and I had to grow up quickly and too soon. Childhood is such a small fraction of our lifetime and it was always a top priority of ours to preserve it for our children.  Life sometimes has a way of disrupting our plans and just as life disrupted our childhood, life disrupted this past year of his childhood. 

I thought about that and the fact I probably should have popped a Dramamine, as I sat in the passenger seat that first time his hands clutched the steering wheel. He may be chronologically only another year older but some how, he seems much older than he did this time last year. 

Because while we try our best to shield our children from any discomfort the world is handing out, we often find we will never be able to fully protect them. We get to hold their hand for a portion of their life and guide them, but there comes a point when it is time to fall behind and let them walk ahead of us. It’s a tough transition from driver to passenger, it is even more difficult when you know you will soon be riding in the backseat.

The other day, while we were driving, I noticed his tightened grip at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel as he tried to turn. I reminded him that you can’t steer every movement of a car, sometimes you have to move your hands or loosen your grip and just guide the steering of the car.

“I am a little scared, Mom.”, he said

Me too, Bud, but you’re going to be just fine. You’re not the only one scared, we are not so sure we are ready to be the passengers soon to only be along for the ride.

Especially when all we can see is this face, looking back at us from the driver’s seat of a car. 


I have an affection for clocks. 

The oversized square clock that acts as a divider between my kitchen and family room. Its first home on a wall, in a failed restaurant my husband and I opened. When I spotted it on sale, a picture of it proudly displayed as a focal point flashed through my mind. Six months later, when closing the doors had become inevitable, it jumped to the top of my salvage list. 

“I want the clock, don’t forget the clock. Get the clock!”, words I repeated to my husband until he finally brought it home. An odd concern for someone who had just lost the bulk of their life savings, but time is always the biggest revealer of lessons, and I wanted a reminder of our lesson hanging on my wall each day. A lesson that will, apparently, always be 10 minutes behind.

The silver table clock appearing fancy in the aisles of Target. With zero family heirlooms to be handed down, it seemed like a good representation of my new fancy adulthood, at the age of 24. It first sat on the dresser, in the bedroom of our first home. Tarnished and on display in a new location, it is no longer fancy, but instead serves as a reminder of the moment my husband and I became synchronized, and our lives began the process of sharing the same time. 

The clock on the wall in my dining room, whose previous home was above the fireplace mantle. The glass and wood shattered by a ball thrown in the house by a phantom player. I had always admired it for the weathered wood surrounding the sole surviving clock face. I ripped through that same wood and threw it in the trash, as I carefully bent back the hands to rest them on a time never to be changed, storing it in my garage until I found its new home. It now hangs overlooking holiday dinners, just short of making it to 1:00. 12:59 was its final fate, so close in moving forward, but forever stuck in the hour before.

The dark bronze perfectly round clock hanging at the end of our upstairs hallway, flanked by my sons’ bedrooms on each side. It always reminded me of a porthole. I hate boats but loved the nautical aesthetic of it. The hands haven’t moved in years, forever 7:42 in roman numerals. The passing of time still evident, though, by the changing boys walking passed it every day. 

They and others, carefully placed throughout my house, resting in quiet disagreement. I have never been drawn to clocks by their time telling, but more by the representation of time told by each one. Maybe it is the reason I never feel inclined to wind their hands or replace their batteries. I have never needed a clock to alert me that time is moving. I would rather search for answers to the questions born when their time stops. How many hours, days, or weeks did it take me to notice their final resting spot? Was it evening or day? Was it a Tuesday, a Sunday? Was I sleeping or yelling at the dog to stop barking? Was there an obvious hint that the clock was slowing down? Oddly, I rarely read their numbers, yet for some reason, once the hands froze it was all I could ever focus on. 

Years ago, my grandmother tried to buy me a clock. She had fallen, broken her arm, and came to stay with my husband and me. It was the first time our roles as giver and receiver had ever reversed. One night, I mentioned I would love a Grandfather Clock in the corner of my living room. When she healed 3 months later and was ready to return to her home, she gave us a check and, in the memo, wrote “for your Grandfather Clock”. My husband tore it up and told her we would never accept money for loving her. 

I fell in love with him a little bit more that day.

My grandmother ticked like a clock.

She didn’t always, however, I held no memory of her silent heart. I was very young when she received a replacement heart valve from damage caused by a childhood bout of Rheumatic fever. She always said she could never hear her own heart although it always spoke to me.

Sitting near her as a little girl, I would carefully listen and focus on the click of her heart as the valve opened to allow blood in. Each time it opened I would silently count the pattern in my head to see if I could anticipate the sound of the exact point it would open again. Predictable, like my grandmother, it always ticked at the exact moment it was expected to. 

Unintentionally, she became the clockwork in my ever-changing world. The force behind the moving hands, keeping time moving at a steady pace as best she could. 

I remember the tick of her valve counting out the last seconds of my family, as she hugged me the night I knew my parents’ marriage was over, speeding up when she picked up the phone and asked my mother how she could do this to my brother and me. 

The way it sounded when she asked the question, “How is your mom?”, even though she already knew the answer. The space between each tick taking a little longer as she tried to absorb some of my pain. 

I remember the tick of her heart when I was sure it would break, riding next to her in the limousine from the church to the cemetery, on our way to bury my grandfather. I remember how it sounded in between her words, “I always thought I would be first. I never prepared to be here without him.” The realization setting in that I needed to begin my preparation to be here without her.

And as I became older, I began to resent the sound of my grandmother. With an absent face, the once comforting and predictable tick of her heart transformed into a constant, cruel reminder that the next tick was never guaranteed. It began to taunt me in its unnumbered countdown to the day it would not open. I no longer found solace in the anticipation of its predictable sound, but instead, began to constantly fear the silence provided by its ending. The silence that would limit the function of my own heart. The silence that would inevitably come while the hands on the clocks outside of my house kept moving.

In preparation, I began making a mental list of timely accomplishments I would need her presence for, followed by one-sided deals with God. A scheduled calendar of events combined with a prayer for a time allowance and topped off with a request to rewind her clock hands when needed, for good measure.

Unlike the clocks in my house, her valve tortured me with its continuous ticking. It echoed louder, as my list continued to grow in length. For each milestone and day that passed, another was added. When we ticked through see me graduate college, I immediately added see me get married, followed by be here for the birth of my first child. Quickly realizing relief never awaited at the end of any day on my list, only the yearning for another day – more time. I would never be satisfied. Time had become my greatest opponent.

The milestones I realistically knew were possibilities had come and gone, yet even as her valve acquired more clicks, I relentlessly continued to add days to our calendar. It became an extravagant indulgence in the possibility of time with no end in sight. I would never stop adding, choosing, instead, to simply adjust my requests to those with the greatest chance of defeating the clock. Arrogant victories in my competition with time. Keep her here for Christmaslet her see my youngest take his first stepslet me have one more birthday with her. I dared God to take her before I said so. Even when it became obvious time would ultimately win, I refused to surrender. I would not let go gently. I would fight for every last second.

I wanted her here for the big days and the little days. I wanted her here for all the times I didn’t yet know I would need her here. I wanted her here for the first day without her. I wanted her here for all of it: every minute, of every hour, of every day. I would never willingly experience one tick of any clock without her. 

And when it became obvious God would refuse to move the hands of her clock back, I still battled for control. Defeated in extending her time, I surprised myself with a plea to cut it short. I grabbed time and wrung out the last drop with my final request – I begged God to take her, to let her die with the grace and dignity she deserved. 

One week later, two weeks after my 36th birthday and 5 months before my youngest son took his first steps, I held her hand, whispered in her ear that she could go and I would be okay, listened to the final click of her valve as the nurse announced her time of death – 23:54.

6 minutes shy of another day, but a remarkable clock none the less.

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past

My earliest memories of Thanksgiving always surround my grandparent’s rowhome on Kirkwood Road. A table extending two rooms with half of us seated in the dining room and half of us seated at the other end of the table in the living room.

 I spent most of my childhood living in the same neighborhood my dad had grown up in, just a short walk from my grandparent’s house and I visited often. If I was lucky and visiting two days before Thanksgiving, my grandmother would assign me the job of setting the two room Thanksgiving table. I would pull out the ivory china plates and gravy bowl with delicate pink flowers etched on each piece from her china cabinet. A gift she had given to her mother for Christmas while my grandfather was away in the Korean War. Having placed them on layaway at a jewelry store months before Christmas, she visited every Friday, after receiving her paycheck, to pay toward the balance because as she always reminded me, “You could only purchase fine china at jewelry stores, back then”. 

 And Thanksgivings continued that way for years but just as families evolve, so did our Thanksgivings. My brother and I began attending every other year, an alternate schedule most children become accustomed to after their parents’ divorce. My grandparents eventually retired to the beach and we decided it would be memorable to move our family Thanksgiving to Deep Creek Lake. A few of my grandfather’s siblings each renting houses with their branch of families and turning Thanksgiving into a 4-day extended family celebration, complete with my grandmother learning the game of Asshole and never hesitating to yell “beer bitch” when she finally had a good handle on the rules of the game. Our branch was kicked out of a few houses that Thanksgiving night but Mommom didn’t care, she just invited everyone back to our rented lake house for the remainder of the night, after we provided a detailed explanation of the game of Flip Cup to her.

We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last Thanksgiving in Deep Creek Lake and the last Thanksgiving we would celebrate with my grandfather. Life can be cruel that way. We do not always get a chance to appreciate the importance of a moment until it is in the rear-view mirror.

We, as a family, decided that the Thanksgiving following my grandfather’s death would be less weird for my grandmother if we held a Hawaiian themed Thanksgiving, complete with Hawaiian shirts. This was not so. It seems Mai Tai’s and leis do not distract a person from realizing their husband of 50 years is still dead.

 After that, Thanksgiving in our family lived a nomadic lifestyle and bounced around between my dad and his two brothers’ houses until firmly landing in my lap about 10 years ago.

Always ready for a challenge, I took on the role of Thanksgiving hostess with desire and determination, despite being the only family member with two small children. I created a menu complete with detailed shopping lists, flower arrangements and set my table not 2 days early but 3 days early, just to be safe. 

On the eve of hosting my first Thanksgiving, after putting my two boys to bed, I grabbed the turkey I had been thawing for days, per the Butterball thawing recommendations, grabbed a pan, ready for roasting brilliance. Removed the turkey from its plastic casing, pulled out the neck and bag of giblets, (wondering what in the hell I was supposed to do with those) and placed my turkey in the pan. Then flipped it over, again, and again and again. “No problem”, I thought.  Nothing a quick google search can’t solve. How do you know if a turkey is upside down?.… Nothing. I searched again. Photo of turkey in roasting pan… Still couldn’t tell. I was out of options, I decided to call my dad. 

“Dad, don’t let Mommom know you are talking to me. How do I know if the turkey is breast side up or back side up?” I asked.

“HOW DOES SHE KNOW IF THE TURKEY IS UPSIDE DOWN?” he replied, yelling out from the phone.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph! She doesn’t know if the turkey is upside down or not?”, I heard my grandmother eloquently yell from the background before grabbing the phone from my dad and offering, “THE POPPER UPPER!”.

I realized by her volume I should have understood but her description provided little guidance. She completed her advice, with instructions “not to listen to my stepmother and to cook the turkey covered, on low, overnight and then pop it up in the morning”.

My stepmother’s voice was next on the phone, offering zero advice on how to locate the breast on a turkey but instead, instructing me in a hushed voice, “to not listen to my grandmother and to not cook that turkey below 350 degrees or you will give everyone food poisoning”.

I hung up the phone staring at my turkey, still unsure what side was the breast of the turkey, picked a number between food poisoning and 350, threw the turkey in the oven and called it a night. That Thanksgiving, eenie meenie miney mo prevailed, no one died of food poisoning and my grandmother said it was one of the best turkeys she had ever eaten.

This year, on my 10th year hosting Thanksgiving, I am reminded that our house is bigger than the rowhome on Kirkwood Road, but our table is smaller. Family now scattered amongst different states and different time zones, celebrating at different tables, some with new faces and some with empty seats.

This Thanksgiving may be very different for many families. Traditions change through the years, even when we don’t want them to. Some we are only able to visit in our memories, enveloped in nostalgia but if we are lucky, a few survive for us to pass down through our family.

On Tuesday, I will pull out the ivory china with the delicate pink flowers etched around the edge and matching gravy boat, although I haven’t heard my grandmother’s voice in 5 years. My children will help me set the table, as I tell them the journey of our Thanksgiving dishes, reminding them of course, that the finest china could only be purchased in jewelry stores back then.

All while still wondering how you know if a turkey is upside down. 

Remembering those that created the memories of Thanksgiving past, grateful for those creating the memories of Thanksgiving present, and hopeful for our children who will create the memories of Thanksgiving future. 

Climbing Marriage Mountain

My husband and I went to a wedding a few weeks ago and I have come to realize weddings are one of those things you either love attending or simply go because you feel obligated. I love weddings. Honestly, what’s not to love about an event surrounded by smiles layered with happiness and optimism, topped off with an open bar, dance floor, and hopefully a few 90’s hip hop songs?

As I think it does for most people, each wedding I attend always floats memories of our own wedding day to surface. I think back to the day we stood with crowns on each of our heads connected by ribbon, at the front of a little Greek Orthodox church tucked away on a side street in Baltimore. And how when we fell into bed at the end of the night, it felt like a dream because the day had gone so fast, neither of us had even had the chance to eat our dinner. How all the decisions that had seemed so important during the prior year of planning faded into the background unnoticed. Through all the culture compromises, flower arrangements, seating charts, and attempts to appease our families, what stands out the most about that day is us. 

We may have shared an optimistic naivety about marriage that day, but we decided we were in this life together moving forward. I also always assumed those were the exact words coming from the priest’s mouth during our ceremony, but I don’t speak Greek so I decided to trust that God had my back on that one. 

But that’s kind of what marriage is, isn’t it? It’s putting your faith into another person and trusting that person to have your back until one of you dies. The concept is simplistic, however, for anyone that has been or is married, the journey to this accomplishment can be treacherous and daunting, at times. 

It’s like the climbers that attempt to climb Mount Everest. I imagine, at the bottom, during the beginning of their journey, they are optimistic and proud to be attempting such a difficult task and I imagine many of them even feel fully prepared for the trek, but as they climb higher and the altitude increases and it gets colder and colder and oxygen levels lower, some begin to wonder if they are too weak for the climb or crazy for even trying. Some even give up or get injured and climb back down. But a few get injured and keep on climbing. 

Climbing the marriage mountain is no different. I have friends who are divorced. I have friends who have been on the verge of giving up but decided to keep climbing. I have a friend who was widowed far too young and chose not to abandon her journey, but simply changed her course to the top. 

Because the marriage mountain does not have a set path. 

And sometimes we forget this. We see strategic photos shared on social media of other couples or families and the doubt starts to creep in. We start to wonder if we have taken the wrong path in our climb to the top or why it is so damn hard much of the time for us but seems so easy for others. 

But you see, I imagine the climbers of Mount Everest only snap their photos to document the journey when it is safe, or they have just finished a really hard climb, or the sun is shining and they have been overcome with a feeling of empowerment. I am fairly certain they do not pose for a selfie when they are hanging from a cliff contemplating their death, or in the middle of a blizzard, or on the verge of giving up.  They share the near-death experiences only after they have reached the top and taken in the view.

My husband and I have not reached the top – yet. And from the conversations I have with those closest to me, they haven’t either. So I am here to report from halfway up marriage mountain that the climb is often difficult. It is filled with bickering and loud kids who seem to miss the toilet more than they hit it and arguments stemming from small and insignificant situations. A dog who loves without limits but literally barks his head off every single day between the hours of 3 pm and 5 pm. It is filled with taking care of parents, doubleheader baseball games on different fields every weekend, middle of the night trips to the ER, and date nights that are canceled because, well honestly, life gets in the way. We are torn in so many directions most of the time we do not have an hour to ourselves, let alone with each other. 

And I often wonder if the priest should have not only spoken in English during our wedding ceremony but perhaps have been a bit more specific in our vowels to each other. Replaced the vague for sickness and health and for better or worse with more specific situations, you know, just to keep it real. “Do you take him to be your husband even though he will leave his items on the bathroom counter, every day for all of eternity, when it is in strict violation of your no personal items on bathroom counters rules, or will you take her although she will rotate black leggings on a 3-day schedule for 5 years and befriend many bottles of dry shampoo” 

But then I think about if the priest had said, “Do you take this man to be your husband when he does the dishes even when he is tired because he sees just how desperate you are for a small break, or will you take this man when he works a ridiculous amount of hours just so you and your children will have not only the things you need but the things you want also. Or, will you take this woman to be your wife when she takes on the bulk of raising your children, when she is sick but still finds a way to wake up with the kids and make lunches with crustless sandwiches and get them to school because she knows even though you wouldn’t complain that you still need some sleep.” 

Because the climb, it’s a tricky one. It’s filled with arrogance and celebration on the way up and it’s being humbled while you hold on for dear life as you begin to feel yourself sliding down. It’s staying up all night with sick babies, it’s handing out grace when your husband snaps at you and it’s accepting grace when you’re not quite sure you deserve it. It’s feeling under-appreciated while not being quite sure if you are as appreciative as you should be. 

And as I think back to that night we plopped into our bed on our wedding day, that’s what this life feels like much of the time. All the decisions we stress about and bicker over and all the decisions we have deemed of utter importance at times, fade into the background as we reach new altitudes. 

As our boys get older and their needs shift and they become more independent, the view has changed. The climb has often been scary and tough but we never once thought to take those crowns off while we were climbing. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we even remember to stop along the way on our ascent and take in the view and it is a spectacular one. It may not look the way we had always anticipated but it is still breathtaking and humbling, none the less. We never forget that it was killer sometimes but many of those memories hide in the shadows when we remember that we were never lonely. 

Because we trekked it together.

Perhaps we can talk about all of that and how it almost killed us when we reach the top…

And of course, get the chance to pose for a selfie. 



It seems today, according to Facebook, is National Daughters Day. I am not even sure it is a real holiday, but each year the world of Facebook is hell-bent on reminding me of every person in my friend’s list that has received or birthed a child with a vagina, but me.

If I sound a little salty, it is because I am. I mean I can French braid for Christ’s sake. How do I not have a daughter or a sister, for that matter.

When I was a little girl and would screech to my parents “But I want it!”, they would without fail, begin singing “You can’t always get what you wa-ant”, in their best off key Rolling Stones impersonation.

When my cousin’s daughter was born deaf, we never spoke of all the sounds I already knew she worried her daughter would never hear. A bird chirping, the crescendo in a song ultimately leading to the emotional understanding of a listener, or the possibility of her daughter never hearing her own mother’s voice. I wasn’t alone in this avoidance, most people skirted around these topics. But there were always the people who seemed genuinely clueless and maybe it was meant as an attempt to comfort, but the phrase that would always irritate me was, “You don’t miss, what you don’t have.”

Fortunately, my cousin’s daughter was a candidate to receive Cochlear ear implants when she was young and is able to hear the sound of her mother’s voice. But what if she had never been able to hear her entire life? I am not sure she still wouldn’t have missed the idea of hearing because the understanding that those around her did hear would never be muted. She still would have understood that although she had never experienced sound, those around her did. That there was an entire level of communication that she was not privy to. An entire sense that she would never experience. Never hearing a sound would not necessarily equal never wanting to hear a sound nor negate her longing to hear.

Most people always assumed my desire for a daughter was simply filled with dreams of ballet slippers, leotards, glitter, and pink tutus. Don’t get me wrong, those definitely would have provided a much-needed break from urine splattered toilet seats, stinky cleats, and athletic cups left on my kitchen island, but I was never looking to fulfill some fairytale dream of holding my very own real-life daughter baby doll.

Having three boys herself, my grandmother always understood how it ran much deeper than lacey dresses and pretty hair ribbon. It had nothing to do with disappointment or an ungratefulness for mothering sons. It was about the lost opportunity to become the mother we had both longed for. To right the wrong that had been handed to us in an effort to tip the mothering scale in our favor. To prove that good mothers didn’t always come from perfect mothers. To raise a daughter the way we had both desperately wished we had been raised.

I love my sons and I cannot imagine a life of mine where each and every one of them doesn’t exist in it. There is simply a very different dynamic provided by having a daughter. Perhaps a daughter life would be nothing like I have always pictured it to be. Perhaps I am like a person who is deaf and misses the sound of laughter because they can still see it and understands it exists for others, just not for them. Perhaps, one day I will be like my cousin’s daughter, who was so overwhelmed by sound when she received her cochlear ear implants, she used to try to throw them out of the car window from the backseat, while my cousin was driving. And now, now I watch videos of her singing and dancing, to the music she almost never heard.

I also understand that my sons are on loan to me.

Of course, I will always be their mother and that will never change. I am the most important woman in their lives, for now. However, one day, in a future that seems to be approaching at lightning speed, I will pass the torch 3 times to each of their wives. And if I have done my job correctly, she will become the most important woman in each of their lives. She will become their support and the one they will seek out for advice and comfort. Still, my hope is that one day, she will smile at me in a way that says “thanks for raising such a good man,”, even if he never did learn to lift the toilet seat up and still leaves dishes in the sink. More than that, I hope she will understand that when I handed her that torch, I also handed over the very piece of my heart that ignited that flame, three times.

My soul sister and I have 7 boys between the two of us and they each fill us up in ways we never dreamed. Our cup runneth over with love and worry and how did we ever endure life without them. (a bit quieter, I imagine) Still, every single one of those 7 pregnancies, we prayed for one of us to have a girl. It didn’t matter which one of us, because the best friends in life are the ones that still want you to listen and dance to the music, even if they will never hear it.

A few months ago, I picked up my son from baseball practice, and on the car ride home I asked him, as I always do, how practice was. He said it went well and that he had worked with the pitching coach this practice and the pitching coach was impressed with his changeup and wanted to know who showed him the grip.

“My mom did”, he said

And I thought about that Rolling Stones song. The one my parents used to sing to me when I was a little girl and how when I was a bit older, I heard that song on the radio and realized there were additional lyrics.

“You can’t always get what you want… But if you try sometime you find, you get what you need”

Because sometimes, it takes a little longer for the music to reach your ears.

A Day to Remember

Everyone old enough to remember, remembers where they were on September 11th, the way my parents still remember the day John F. Kennedy was assasinated, even though they were only 6 years old.

I remember the horror, watching as the second plane hit one of the Twin Towers. I remember the fear, when we all realized that there were possibly more hijacked planes. I remember the sadness, as we watched people die right before our eyes. But for me, during the aftermath, when the dust settled and the fires were extinguished, I remember the healing.

How every person in this country grabbed hands to form a giant bandaid to cover the wound we had suffered. How our first instinct was not to place blame on one another. How our first thought was not one consisting of engaging an attack on a side with would have, could have, should haves. It didn’t matter how we had arrived where we were that day in September, we just knew we needed to leave together. We understood there was only one side and we were all on it, because there is strength in numbers and we refused to allow anything to divide us, whether it be evil, politics, or a plane. We chose to focus on one thing, our sameness, our commonness, our love for our country and everyone in it. A one for all, all for one approach. If one of our buildings was burning, all of our buildings were on fire. If one of us lost a father, mother, son, sister, daughter, brother that day, then we all mourned – in unison.

We may have been battered and bruised that morning, but when we went to bed, we were one – a whole.

Yet we never knew just how temporary it would be. And I think about where we are now, two decades later, and how different we have become. How, if the powers that tried to divide us with planes that day, knew they just needed to be patient. Because we we would do their dirty work for them, fracture ourselves over and over again. We would point fingers at one another and place blame for any and every thing we could find. We would decide that the pieces of that whole were better off solitary and cease seeing their beauty as the sum of their entirety. We would decide to rip off that band aid we had formed, and not only stand around to watch, but hand out fault as to why it still bled.

Today, when I think of those that were sacrificed, the families that paid the ultimate price and the ones whom risked their own lives to save strangers, without knowing where they stood politically, religiously or other wise, I remember what we all were that day – we were human. And I wonder what it will take for us to realize that again. In loving memory and honor of all those that lost their lives that day, the families that still grieve, and those that continue to pay the price. One for all, all for one. Let it not be in vain.

The Last Kindergartener

My youngest heads to kindergarten this year. One, in a series of lasts for our family. The last baby to cradle, the last to place to sleep in a crib, the last to pose for the obligatory first day of kindergarten photo. Despite this being my actual third time at the kindergarten rodeo, it very much feels like my debut. 

Yes, it will be a very different first day because of this recent pandemic. Yes, I wonder if I am choosing the right path for him, but what really keeps me up at night is wondering if he is ready for the world without me and if the world is ready for him without me as a shield, for an entire school day, 5 days a week.

He is my spirited child. He has a spirit that I stopped trying to tame years ago. It took me a while to realize, but to tame his spirit would mean to put out the very fire that fills his soul. All three of these kids will have plenty of material to discuss at future therapy sessions and I am in no way looking to add soul extinguisher to their list or my conscience. 

I realized a few months ago, it isn’t necessarily his willfulness and his defiance, at times, causing concern. It is his willingness to express openly and vocally every emotion that floods his heart. If vulnerability is the equivalent of standing naked in a room full of clothed people, he is like some type of rogue emotional streaker running through life, leaving a path littered with his clothing along the way. For a life long people pleaser, it is beyond comprehension how someone so young and so small, cannot only be comfortable with expressing every emotion, but fiercely confident in the demanding of others to recognize and respect those same emotions with little regard for their acceptance.

My husband and I both, for different reasons, spent a large portion of our childhoods being adults. We learned at a fairly young age that our personal emotions needed to take a back seat most of the time. It is why we and our marriage work – many times we understand each other without needing to verbalize it. Yet we have been given this child to raise with complete opposite expectations from himself and from us. Who makes no apologies for his vulnerability. The child Ying to our parent Yang. It is astounding the many lessons our children offer us, when we are willing to pay careful attention.

We have grown to love, appreciate and most importantly, admire this part of his personality, even though it is very foreign to us. However, I worry many will not have the acceptance or admiration for our emotion streaking warrior as we do. That the very same fire I have tried desperately not to extinguish, will be put out with ease one day when I am not around. He represents everything we have worked hard to undo and the mistakes we never wanted to repeat. The baggage we both silently swore to leave behind on the carousel and never force our children to tote around. 

After I signed and submitted his school intent form, I took him to the dentist. He had two cavities at his last check up. Luckily for me, our dentist is a family friend and agreed he would not place an asterick beside my name or place my name on any wall of shame.

I am terrified of the dentist. Apparently, my own vulnerability issues extend to dentistry. I don’t make the rules, I just endure them. He is a great guy and dentist but still, I avoid it at all costs. I faithfully take my children though, because I think I read somewhere that routine dental visits were on the list of what good moms do and I already abandoned the no yelling and baking homemade birthday cakes from the same list.

I have always accompanied my youngest to the back. Every cleaning, I have sat nervously in the little swivel chair at his feet and smothered him with “great jobs” and “wow, you are so braves”. My praise was completely genuine. I am always legitimately amazed at his calmness when I white knuckle it for a routine cleaning in the same seat.

But, this was no routine cleaning. This visit was fillings, needles and a crown. I was anxious enough for the both of us. The dental hygenist arriving in the waiting room dressed in the equivalent of a hazmat suit to escort us, didn’t exactly ease my nerves either.

I asked if I was still allowed to accompany him to the back but before she could answer, he jumped up from the stack of toys he was playing with and announced confidently “I’ve got this by myself this time”. I gave the hygenist a look of question as he promptly walked over, patted my back and said “Don’t worry, Mom. I am going to be just fine”.

And maybe, just maybe, he will be.

Get Naked

I have written for years but only recently started sharing again. After a recent post, a couple of girlfriends reached out to me on a group text, to ask how I had never shared this secret of mine. The answer is simple – vulnerability. Whether you have a knack for putting together words and structuring paragraphs or not, sharing your inner thoughts and how you process life in your head is very personal. It is why diaries come adorned with locks.

For a writer, the feeling of vulnerability isn’t absent, it hopefully becomes overshadowed by the compulsion to take the words and sentences floating around in your head and the need to pour them out on paper and make sense of them. The way a photographer sees a sunset cast a shadow in a unique way and is compelled to grab a camera, or how I imagine a runner feels the need to run, even without a destination. The last one still boggles my mind because the only time I have ever been inclined to run is if one of my kids is about to dart into a street, but to each his own.

When asked why I was hesitant to share my writing, I responded by asking them to envision standing nude in a room filled with fully clothed people. Their response was “Get naked”.  Not, literally, in a weird Girls Gone Wild way, but figuratively, which can still feel just as weird and actually a little scarier for me.

Usually, I have my mom, husband, or best friend read over pieces before I publish. Generally, my mom cries, my best friend tells me how much she loves my writing, and my husband has a similar answer when he finally has a chance to read it, in between running our restaurant and being a dad. Having those closest to you believe the words floating out of your head are gold, is great. Everyone loves a compliment, but what I am usually seeking is a different type of feedback.

My high school creative writing teacher popped into my head the other day. “Wonder if he would be willing to read a few pieces and offer some guidance?”, I thought. A few days ago, after a quick search on Facebook, I sent him a message:

Dear Dr. Blankenburg,

My name is Shannon Armenis, previously Kearney. I took your creative writing class, as a sophmore in high school, about 25 years ago.

You probably will not remember me. To be honest, there was nothing memorable about the writing I submitted and shared in your class. I was much too busy hiding during my high school years, rather than displaying myself.

But you, you wore your pain and failures like a badge of honor. Proof that you had lived life, with no apologies and this has remained with me. All these years, I never stopped writing, although it did take many years to gain the courage to begin sharing and I have you to thank for that.

I am aware that you have mentored many writers over the years. Would you be willing to read over and critique a few pieces I have written? I do not have a writers’ circle, and I would be grateful for your input in any capacity.

Once a Comet, Always a Comet.

With Gratitude,

Shannon Armenis

I was not alarmed when I did not receive a response the next day. However, I found out yesterday he had passed away, the day after I sent my message. Is it coincidental that I thought of him and sent him a message the day before he died? Absolutely. But I am a strong believer that, intuitively, we are somehow connected to the people that have had an imprint on our lives, whether they realize it or not. Dr. Blankenburg never knew how he had affected my life as a writer, but I did.

Vulnerability is not only the key to elevated writing. It is also the key to elevating the encounters we have with other people. When we open ourselves up and share our stories, with honesty, we may just reach someone. Many times we will not be aware of those hearts we have connected with. We may not receive a thank you note or a hug. We may not receive a like or a comment.  A lack of response does not always indicate a lack of connection. Although not visible, the imprint we leave is still there.

Sometimes, it’s quiet eyes behind a computer.

Sometimes, it’s a struggling mom in a grocery check out.

Sometimes, it is a 15 year old girl trying to hide in a creative writing class 25 years ago.

“The greatest use of a life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

– Willam James

There Are No Sides, Just Paths

I have been quiet the past two weeks. Honestly, I think my brain is on complete overload and overwhelmed by all of the opinions, conflicting data and options concerning the school year.

Unfortunately, schooling has become another addition to an already long list of divisive items accumulated in recent months. The notion that we can only set up camp in one of two sides is utterly and completely exhausting.
I have a high schooler, a middle schooler and a kindergartner. My oldest and my youngest attend private school and will most likely have the option to attend in person school in some capacity and we will be choosing to send them.  Our local public school system has decided that we will not have options or a choice concerning my middle son. He will be forced to either continue remote learning or I will un-enroll him and pick an appropriate homeschooling program for this year. I believe my children need to be in school. I also believe that someone else’s children may not need to attend in-person school this school year. Disagreeing with a choice for my family is not indicative of disagreeing with your choice for your family.  I believe in the right of each and every family to determine and choose what they feel provides the best education for their children.
Crazy, right?
I have zero opinion or judgment concerning how another family is choosing to school their children this year, or any other year for that matter. The same way I do not hold an opinion concerning your choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed, co-sleep or not, allowed your child walk around with a pacifier or refused to give them one. Your family, your choice, your decision. I follow this weird ideology of staying in my lane and minding my own business. I never have and never will attempt to force the choices I make for my family on another family because I fully understand the uniqueness of each family’s situation. While I am confident in my ability to make my own decisions, I am absolutely aware of the possibility I could be wrong. I do, however, have an opinion concerning decisions being made for parents and options being removed, specifically when the decisions have consequences and the consequences do not affect each student and family equally.
I have the luxury of not worrying about childcare. A luxury I understand many parents are not afforded and directly correlates to the reason working parents deserve a seat at the table. Unfortunately, their chair was ripped out from under them and they were told to stand. I am not interested in hearing an argument about schools not being responsible for childcare either. Let’s be honest, for many families, a parent’s ability to work during the day is directly related to their children being in school. It is not about free childcare for many parents, it is about access to childcare. It is insulting and arrogant to suggest otherwise and reeks of ignorance when many are unwilling to acknowledge the burden this presents to many families.
A response often aimed at those advocating for the opening of schools is  “I care too much about my child’s health to send them to school”, as if to insinuate a family needing two incomes or a single parent needing to earn a paycheck must clearly feel the health of their children to be trivial. A person advocating for a child’s education also cares about health, they also understand health is multifaceted and not solely defined by illness. Dismissing a parent’s concern about attempting to balance education with their ability to provide basic necessities, by suggesting they must not care about their child’s health, is not only privileged but cruel. A person’s health is comprised of many factors, food and housing rank pretty high up on that list.
This same argument was also applied early in the pandemic when small business owners were begging for the ability to open. Greed was being prioritized over human lives. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. Many are just trying to survive, simply a different type of survival. The decisions being made concerning closures of schools and businesses affect families differently. The problem is and always has been the removal of choice – the choice to work, the choice to send a child to school, the choice to be able to decide what is best for each of our families.
While some students can learn online, many children are unable to effectively learn via remote schooling. I encountered this in my own home. My high schooler didn’t miss a beat, my middle schooler needed limited assistance and my youngest struggled with all online instruction even with assistance. Those are three children from the same household with access to the same resources. Now, factor in children from different households with varying levels of income, education and resource accessibility to see how quickly we further ourselves from the idea of an equitable education.
Many special needs children have largely been forgotten or have become a complete afterthought throughout this decision making process, as well. The daily educational intervention and therapies these children depend on to progress have vanished. The schedule and structure at the core of their ability to thrive has been removed and seems to not be of concern to anyone but the parents, who continue to watch them regress and fall further behind. Their health matters also and they too deserve a seat at the table but they also have been left standing.
Teachers, I do not envy your position. I have many friends whom are teachers and most want to get back to the classroom. If you are uncomfortable returning, you should absolutely have the choice not to and the only person making that decision should be you. It seems an effective solution would be for teachers wanting to return to the classroom to teach the students also wishing to return and the teachers choosing not to return to handle online learning for the students remaining home. I am unsure why this logical approach has never been offered. Recently, the teacher’s union has discussed the possibility of a “Safety Strike” for teachers. Educators have been undervalued and underpaid for years and to be frank, your safety has been jeopardized long before this pandemic. I do not recall the Teachers’ Union threatening a strike as the violence against teachers from students has continued to increase inside schools in past years, while also being largely ignored. In fact, many times those students are allowed to return to the same classroom with the very teacher they have assaulted. Why was your health and safety not made a top priority in the past? If the Teachers’ Union is requiring strict safety measures to prevent infection, what safety measures are they requiring to protect teachers from suffering from verbal and physical assaults while on the job? Physical safety is not just a matter of protecting from infection, it is an inclusive term requiring more than one protection and you should be demanding it, in its entirety.
The safety and health of the grocery store worker checking me out since March and the millions of other essential workers that have continued to work throughout this pandemic to collect a paycheck are also of importance. Unfortunately, I have not witnessed a similar public outcry. The risk to these workers and their families exists also. The risk is present for anyone working outside their home right now. It is a risk that will not be disappearing anytime soon. It isn’t fair, it is simply the current world we live in and will be living in for the foreseeable future. Exactly when would it be deemed safe for schools to reopen?
My county does not have a casino, however, the city and county that border mine do. They have both announced that schools will continue online instruction through January, yet their casinos remain open for business. We need to ask ourselves if our leaders genuinely have the best interest of our children at heart when it is deemed important for a gambler to have a casino to gamble in and our children are not afforded a school to learn in. Couldn’t gamblers have the same experience through “remote gambling”? We must ask questions and demand answers when the rules are contradictory and are not applied across the board. We cannot tolerate a haphazard approach applied out of political convenience.
With so much conflicting information every day, one thing is for certain – not one of us knows, with certainty, what the right answer will be. Not one of us. Not me, not you, not the politicians, not the school board nor the doctors with conflicting opinions. I have questions, a lot of them. The majority of them remain unanswered. My hope is we never stop asking questions and demanding answers even when it threatens the validity of what we thought to be true. As parents, we all have the common goal of simply wanting the best for our children. Our goal is the same and there should never be sides, just varying paths of travel.
May we always be mindful of our common desire and never be willing to block or sacrifice another person’s path, just so we may comfortably walk our own.

Parenting Grace

An edited version of our family’s story about international plane travel, was shared on the TODAY Show media channels over the past few days. The unedited version can be found here.

In true internet fashion, the opinions were abundant, both positive and negative.  Many had been in a similar experience, but many clearly had not and felt the need to call me “selfish” for traveling with my youngest, that I obviously did not know how to parent and my favorite “I needed to set clear expectations for him.” After 3 boys, I practically have a PhD in setting expectations and handing out punishments.

What they did not know was this trip had been planned for months, before the first flight. We were traveling for my children to meet my husband’s family and see where their father had grown up as a child. Fortunately, I was born with thick Irish skin toughened by years of victories and failures. It still may be unable to withstand sunlight without being lathered in SPF 70, but after 15 years of being a mom, it has become a shield for parenting opinions and criticism to roll off of.

The irony is the original article had two paragraphs which discussed not passing judgment on fellow parents and maybe choosing to replace it by offering grace instead. It costs absolutely nothing to extend grace to another person and at the same time, may mean everything to the person it is being offered to. It is certainly something that we could use a lot more of in the world.

I am a mom to 3 boys. I have 3 extremely different and unique sons. In all honesty, my oldest was so easy to parent from the start, it resulted in my own arrogance for a time.  It is the reason I continued to have more children. My second proved to be a little more difficult and was completely different then my first and my youngest; I imagine God either saw me floating around in all my parenting arrogance and decided it was time to serve up a slice of humble pie, or knew I was going to be in need of some serious parenting experience under my belt, before parenting him. “Yup, she’s ready. Let’s put her skills to the test and send in number 3. Better yet, take it up a notch and make him willful and stubborn.”
I received more unsolicited opinions and parenting advice during his toddler years, than his older brothers combined. Most of the strategies and parenting tricks I had used previously to raise his two compliant and rule following brothers, simply did not work. The advice being offered was always connected by the same theme – I must be doing something wrong.
Parenting is like running a relay marathon. We all have the same goal to get to the end, but we may not all be running the same leg of the course to the finish line. Each of us has strengths and each parent may stumble and struggle at different times. It isn’t always an indication that we are doing anything wrong, it may just mean that some of us are stuck running the uphill portion while others are able to easily pace on the flat land of the course. Even in an individually ran marathon, the person crossing the finish line last has worked just as hard as the runner who finished first, many times even harder.
Imagine if we approached racers running a marathon the same way mothers are approached and sometimes attacked concerning their parenting abilities. If the spectators spread along the race course offered criticism, judgment and opinions to the struggling runners ready to quit. “YOU ALREADY HAVE A CRAMP!?! YOU MUST NOT BE RUNNING RIGHT!!”… “YOU NEED A WATER BREAK ALREADY!?! I NEVER NEEDED A WATER BREAK THIS EARLY!! YOU OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T SET CLEAR HYDRATING EXPECTATIONS!!”…”WHY ARE YOU RUNNING SO SLOW!?! YOUR RUNNING IS INTERFERING WITH THE PACE OF THE OTHER RUNNERS!!… YOU CLEARLY NEED NEW SHOES! KNEES TO CHEST, MARY!”
Spectators are strategically placed along a marathon course to serve as a constant cheer-leading section for all the runners brave enough to attempt such a daunting task. They are there to give them a nudge when they feel like giving up. They are there to encourage the runner running up hill they are almost to the leg of the race that is downhill. They are there to say to the one trailing behind, we see you and we are proud of your effort, keep pushing. And sometimes, when a runner has given everything and collapses before crossing the finishing line, a fellow runner, in recognizing the effort, has even abandoned their own goal to carry them to the finish line.
What if we applied this same marathon strategy to parents? When we see a parent stuck running up hill, we replaced opinions and judgment with grace. Grace costs absolutely nothing to offer, yet may mean everything to the person it is being offered to. When we see another parent losing steam and falling behind, we chose to slow our pace and run alongside them. When they are on the verge of collapse and ready to give up, we abandon our own arrogance, offer a kind smile and a back for them to hop on should they need a little help to the finish line.
I have learned more parenting my youngest son than any of my children. At times, it is a battle of our wills and stubbornness. He has exposed my control issues and forced me to allow him the room to be his own person. The most difficult aspects of his personality to parent, are the exact traits that will lead to his greatness. He was born to lead, not to be lead. Even though he was surrounded from birth by two brothers calling me Mom, he chose to call me “Shan”, until he was just about 3 years old. I have accepted that he will always live life on his own terms and will never be easily defeated. He is not easy to parent, but I take pride in the fact that we are willing to learn alongside him and will continue to nurture the person he is meant to be. He is extremely charismatic and I pray each day he will understand the power included with that characteristic and use it to change the world for the better.
The results of our parenting efforts are not always immediately visible. We catch a glimpse now and again, but often a lot of our hard work isn’t obvious until our children are much older and begin interacting with the world independently.
Unfortunately, many continue to assume that a willful child who may take a little longer to understand their emotions and boundaries is a direct result of a lack of parenting. However, in many cases those parents are working twice as hard. Believe me, I have been on each side. I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to parent two children with fairly easy going personalities first. I am also lucky enough to be humbled by a head strong, independent little wild card, so when I see another mom struggling I will never hesitate to say “I know it’s hard, I have been there. Keep pushing, you are almost done running uphill. Let me tie those laces for you. Better yet hop on, let me help you to the finish line.”
Two years later he was the mayor of the plane and was sure to fist pump the pilots as a thank you and tell them they were doing a great job.

Backyard Hindsight

Photograph Courtesy of Dawn Kearney Photography

Each spring, for years, my husband would throw grass seed in our backyard. As soon as the soft green spikes would begin to rise from the ground to make their presence known, they would disappear. His dream for a sea of backyard grass would be trampled by the feet of young boys and his hope would be quickly diminished by just one neighborhood wiffle ball game.

Defeated, he would begin grumbling about how the grass in our backyard would never recover and why we had the only yard with a homemade baseball diamond comprised of oddly shaped dirt base baths, yet with a perfectly round large pitcher’s mound in the center. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the boys would faithfully hose down and rake that pitcher’s mound when he wasn’t home, in preparation for the next game to be played. Instead, like a supportive wife, I would just yell helpful advice to him from our deck like, “NOW YOU KNOW WHAT I GO THROUGH INSIDE THE HOUSE!!! “YOU SAID YOU WANTED ALL BOYS!!!…REMEMBER, HONEY: IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME!”

And they did, for many summers.

Many times a day, I would find myself startled by a foul ball smacking me in the head as I relaxed on our deck or one drilling the side of our house causing the dog to bark and the baby to wake up. I would often open an empty refrigerator in our garage, after having just filled it with drinks the day before. I spent much time picking up the pieces of mangled wiffle balls left behind to become victims of our lawn mower.

The grass worn and the dirt spread, as the base paths grew larger and larger, signifying the start of base leading in little league. We were forced to replace the pickets on a neighbor’s fence every couple of weeks, as the home-run boundary moved further and further away. Right handed batters started batting left to add an additional challenge for each player. Until one day, the last game was played. The last strike was argued. The last home-run was hit. Bats were put away for one last time, even though a few wiffle balls still lay strewn across the yard, waiting for the next game that had always come.

No one knew it was the last time. Not the boys in the backyard, not the parents calling them home for dinner that day. It seemed almost overnight, the field had suddenly become too small, the game no longer challenging enough and the boyish voices I had listened to make bad calls all those summer days in the backyard, had now lowered several octaves.

One of the benefits of having a larger age gap between our older two boys and our youngest, is the benefit of hindsight. We are often reminded how quickly these “lasts” happen. We won’t receive a sign from a third base coach, warning us. There won’t be an announcer or a score board to let us know what inning we are playing in the game of their childhood. It serves as a reminder that if we aren’t paying careful attention, these lasts will wiz past us like a carefully placed fast ball on a batter, caught looking on a third strike. 

We all know the quote “the days are long, but the years are short”. I knew it would happen quickly but even still, I was caught looking. In my efforts to calm my husband down, I would often remind him that one day, very soon, we would look out from our kitchen window and find the most beautiful yard filled with luscious green grass, worthy enough to be the envy of any golf course. Our hearts though, would look out that same window and envy the old, dusty, dirt base paths and carefully crafted pitcher’s mound.

We have one little boy left in this house, our last. Now, when I look out from the kitchen window and see an empty yard with overgrown base paths, I try my best to enjoy him a little more. To listen and memorize the mispronounced words spoken in his little boy voice. To hold his hand that still fits neatly inside mine. I still forget, at times, but I think about the boys in our backyard and I am able to remember much more often.

Our youngest son was riding his little motorized 4 wheeler in our front yard the other day, while our older neighbor watched him from his porch. I use the term riding fairly loosely. It really is just my son pushing the gas while I run after him shouting, “PAY ATTENTION!” and “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!”, combined with the efforts of my hands quickly cutting the steering wheel, to prevent collisions and protecting our gardens.

He spotted our neighbor, left me in the dust and hightailed it through their lawn, dismounted his four wheeler and stomped through their garden to join my neighbor on his porch. I quickly scolded him and apologized to our neighbor for the fresh 4 wheeler tracks on his front yard and the 5 year old foot prints in his flower bed. He smiled, welcomed my son and said “Don’t ever worry about that. We raise children, not lawns.”

True words spoken from the father, in our neighborhood, with the most beautiful grass.

Lessons Learned from a Cabbage Patch Kid

When I was 4, I dreamed of having my very own Cabbage Patch Kid doll.  It was a fairly common dream in the minds of many little girls as the Christmas season approached, strategically stepping up the pressure on their parents a notch. It created what was known as the Cabbage Patch Craze in 1983, filled with determined parents attempting to shop and fulfill the desire of their little girls cradling a Cabbage Patch Kid doll on Christmas morning.
I had been sent a baby brother about a year before and I dreamed of cradling a little girl doll with flowing yellow yarn hair that resembled my own and a pink dress with lacy edges. I had wondered what assigned name would read on her cabbage patch birth certificate when I pulled it out of the yellow and green box with the clear window front. I thought about all the places she would go with me and all the fun we would have together. And on Christmas morning, I awoke to find a Cabbage Patch Kid waiting under my tree with mint green overalls, a white shirt, short brown hair and a boy name – Jeremiah.
In retrospect, it was probably one of the first, in a series of hints from the universe, indicating that I would be raising 3 boys, no daughters. It was also indicative of the kind of father I would have.
Children generally are not aware of the difficulties their parents may be experiencing, as they shouldn’t be. I didn’t know that Christmas morning my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and often worried how they would stretch money to make it through the month, let alone be able to afford to buy me a baby doll. I didn’t know that my father had woken up early one cold morning to wait in line, outside of a closed toy store before heading to a 12 hour shift at the shoe store he managed at the time. I didn’t know when the shoppers rushed the aisle, my dad arrived to an empty shelf and argued with another woman as she grabbed the last doll to be placed in a cart already packed with several dolls. I do know that he won that argument because I opened a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas morning in 1983.
I didn’t have a shiny new car with a big red bow on my 16thbirthday, but I did have car when I moved in with my Dad half way through my senior year of high school to prevent me from needing to change schools. I didn’t get to attend a fancy, out of state college, but I did attend a 4 year in-state college and graduated debt free, thanks to my Dad. He taught me the value was in the work put into the degree, not where it came from. I didn’t have chair covers at my wedding but it was a beautiful wedding graciously paid for by him and I had a dad whom I was proud to have stand beside me and walk me down the aisle that day.
I have a dad that taught me the importance of my independence as a woman. He made sure I was the first to graduate college in his family because he knew an education provided me options and prevented me from ever needing to stay in a bad marriage because of financial dependence. I have a dad that made sure I married a good man and would never be in a bad marriage by setting the expectations for how I should be treated by men and the type of a father to expect for my children. Who taught me to always trust my own instincts in life and to not require a confirmation from anyone else. Any request for his advice was and is always answered with “What do you think? Go with your gut.” Who never boasted or bragged about me to others, yet never let me question his pride and, at the same time, taught me to be humbled by that pride. I have a dad that taught me where my stubbornness originates, even if we both continue to refuse to admit it.
The outcome of our actions often does not reflect the heart of our efforts. My parents made many mistakes raising my brother and me, just as I have made many mistakes in raising my own children. However, it is in those same mistakes that I have learned the most valuable of life’s lessons. I gained the most insight not from what I had as a child, but what I didn’t have. It taught me the vast differences between need and want and the pride in earning will always outweigh the gratitude of being given something. Sometimes I forget this in raising my own children. We try our best to prevent any unhappiness in our children, often failing to realize the missed opportunities for learning when preventing their slightest discomfort.
The lessons of my childhood at times were obvious, but most didn’t come into focus until I saw them through adult eyes. I may not have had everything but I did always have a dad that tried and that was everything, even when it was a little boy Cabbage Patch Kid, named Jeremiah.

Dear Preschool Teacher

Dear Preschool Teacher,
They say “you never have a second chance to make a first impression”. I repeated these words over and over in my head, last summer, as the days passed and the countdown began toward the first day of school for our son.
We were worried. Worried his willful nature and impulsiveness would forever cast a shadow over the wonderful aspects of his personality during that first impression. Fearful, he would be the student you would secretly exhale with a sigh a relief when not hearing his voice call out “here”, during morning attendance.
When we entered this school year, in addition to our anxiety, we expected a preschool experience similar to the one living in our memories of our older boys. We expected he would learn his letters and numbers. We expected, with time, he would find his friends. We didn’t realize spending 5 mornings a week in your classroom would cause him to grow and mature more than any one of the 5 years since he entered this world. We certainly didn’t expect an unscheduled, premature end to the school year or the lost opportunity for a fitting goodbye to the last of our family’s little boy years, before our youngest heads to Kindergarten.
We never expected you would drive to our house to drop off schoolwork at our front door. We never expected the excitement we would witness on a little boy’s face as he waved from behind a glass door, while you stood in our driveway. We never dreamed that a pinwheel you personalized and left for him to enjoy, would be proudly displayed to our family and friends, while also keeping it safely beside him every day, even as he slept.
We believed we were seasoned parents with nothing left to learn, but very soon he exposed all the flaws quietly waiting amidst our arrogance. While we concerned about his progress and his weaknesses, you always chose to focus on his kind spirit and empathy. We never expected that you would always choose to see his heart first and his shortcomings second. We expected you would teach him how to change for the world, yet instead, you chose to the lay the groundwork and began teaching him how to change the world.
You not only taught our son, you taught us also.
You reminded us that learning happens every day, all around us and should not always be measured by traditional standards. You reminded us that learning happens differently for all children, at different times and just requires a little patience. To appreciate the sum of his combined traits because they each contribute to the total of his uniqueness. You never pushed him too far or too hard, you encouraged him by holding his hand and gently leading him in the right direction. You offered him grace in abundance and always waited patiently for him to join you, in his own time.
It is true, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. How grateful we will always be that his first impression of school included you as his teacher. How grateful we are that your lasting impression will now serve as the basis by which we will measure our expectations for all his future teachers. May they be willing to fill the big shoes you have left for them. 


I have hesitated to write about George Floyd and the current racial divide in our country. Not for fear, but because it seemed better suited as an opportunity for listening, rather than talking.

As I watch city by city in this country burn and crumble from within, I am reminded that not only do we have a portion of our population being marginalized, undervalued, attacked and killed, we have a portion of our population exploiting that very same pain.

I will never pretend to understand the anger and frustration of the black community. I refuse to pretend to relate to the fear any mother of a black son feels when her son leaves the house. I will not pretend that although I was born into a family lacking wealth, connections and power, I still may have had little to overcome in comparison to the obstacles experienced by many others.

I will also not pretend that one of the issues preventing change in this country isn’t accountability.

Accountability that bad cops, unfortunately, do exist and are too often given the benefit of the doubt until video surfaces. Accountability that good cops, with noble intentions, are met with misplaced anger and prejudice every shift of every day. Accountability that a black man’s pulse must rapidly increase when a siren sounds and lights flash from behind his car.

Accountability that the issues plaguing much of our inner city communities run deeper than overt racism and are much more systemic in nature. Accountability for the continued election of failed leadership in my city of Baltimore and also around the country. Accountability for the small crowd that gathered when a 7 year old little black girl was shot and killed while riding in the back seat of a car a few years ago. Accountability for the lack of media coverage when her 5 year old sister was shot just 4 months later, while playing in front of her house. Accountability for why our city did not erupt in protest for either of them.

Accountability that burning down businesses and neighborhoods only further marginalizes the communities being fought for. Anger and frustration are normal human emotions, destruction is never a solution and must not be tolerated nor excused, as it will never reach the ears it is aimed and will only confirm and validate current biases. If change is what is being sought, it is necessary to project your voice to those that stand in front of you, not just the ones standing beside you. Accountability for allowing groups instigating violence, to be combined with those peacefully protesting.

Accountability that although we all may have experienced discrimination at one time or another, some of us historically pay a much larger price.

Accountability that many white people do not consider themselves racist simply because their families were never slave owners and a quick social media post quoting Martin Luther King Jr or detailing their outrage is enough confirmation for many others.

Accountability as to why the last times my city received this much media attention was in April 2015 and when it was referred to as a shit hole. Accountability for the fact that our city has not only never recovered from those past riots, but has been on a steady decline ever since. Accountability for the change that never occurred.

Accountability for the ease with which we use our voices when we are reminded to by the news. Accountability for the muting of our voices when the news cycle changes, the cameras go home and the politicians are done taking photos. Accountability that the same voices crying out now for the protesters right to be heard, were some of the same voices attempting to silence different protesters a few weeks ago and vice versa. Constitutional rights should be supported at all times, not just when it is of political convenience for either side.

Accountability that we have never fought for change in the way truly needed. Accountability that change will never happen until the cameras are turned off, the fires extinguished and we each take a seat at the table to not only acknowledge, but accept responsibility for the past and present.

 I do not have a full proof solution to offer, but I have a pretty good idea where to start.

We can start by repairing the relationship between our police and those they have been tasked with serving and protecting before it becomes irreparable, which is quickly approaching. We can start by fighting for justice all the time, not just when we are told to by the media. We can start by recognizing the same fingers used to point at someone else, can also be pointed at our selves. We can start by removing the corruption that plagues many of our local, city governments and ask questions when our elected officials get richer and our schools do not have heat. We can start by not re-electing politicians that have already been caught stealing from the constituents they promised to help. We can start by electing representatives whose focus is to help the people, with a willingness to work hardest when no one is watching, not just when it is time for re-election. We can start by teaching those who need to learn, how to fish, instead of just throwing a fish to keep them quiet. We can start by not using every crisis as an opportunity for a political play.  We can start by understanding and accepting the multitude of factors that have contributed to our current state.

But if change is our goal, we must first start with accountability before we can start the process of healing.

The Petticoat Rulers

                                          Photograph – JHHSM Collection 1958. 0263.001
In the past few days, I have been bombarded with articles, videos and comments sections filled with attack, finger pointing and hurtful words. Unfortunately, this rage is hurled back and forth, in most cases, by women.
At the same time, I encountered several messages, in a writer’s group, from women scared to use their voices. Some of the fear linked to the vulnerability required when sharing your words with the public, but I fear that part of the apprehension is attributed to a concern in becoming victim to an attack from someone fulfilling the need to prove their rightness.
It is reminiscent of the mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials, except witches have been replaced with opinions and pitch forks replaced with keyboards. We allow ourselves, as women, to become further divided by an invisible barrier. Eventually, we will find ourselves surrounded by wall after wall until, finally, we will each stand in solitary silence.
We continue to blare the sound of why we are right, instead of listening to the reasons we might be wrong and, in the process, censor the voices that could possibly offer insight due to their fear of being forced to a side.
The scariest part, some of our most objective and positive voices are being muted. When we, as women, begin silencing each other, we are undoing all of the hard work endured by those before us to allow the opportunity for our voices to be heard. Remember, there is room for everyone’s voice in the choir, we just need be sure we do not drown one another out. 
We have become deaf to the world of possibility. The possibility we could be wrong, the possibility we all lead very different lives, the possibility someone else’s opinion can still be valid even if doesn’t align with our own, the possibility that support doesn’t necessarily equal agreement and the possibility that our voices become more powerful when they blend together.
Angry voices have evoked change in the past, but more often than not, we lose our listener when anger turns to rage. I am not referring to angry voices demanding change, I am referring to rageful voices demanding to be recognized as right. When we become too arrogant to admit there is a chance, however slight, that we could be wrong, we lose the ability to communicate and, unfortunately, it seems this is the path many are currently traveling.
I continue to remain hopeful and hope, for me, came in the form of a small article shared by the female voices of one of my favorite families. An article about the Petticoat Rulers, a group of women who ran and won for Mayor and Council in a little town called Jackson, Wyoming in May of 1920, shortly after the Spanish flu pandemic. The women had won an election, in spite of the fact they had not yet been granted the right to vote by the government. A group of women had won and promptly appointed women to hold other municipal positions. Three months into their term, the 19th amendment was passed. In 1922, when asked about their assistance in proving that women could not only hold political opinions, but were capable as effective leaders, Mayor Grace Miller replied “We simply tried to work together.”
Nearly 100 years later, I believe we still have much to learn from those words.


I don’t remember the first time someone pointed out my astrological sign. I always found it presumptuous that a person would claim to understand anyone based simply on a day of the year they had entered the world. Maybe it’s the fact I was given a sign with the connotation of ravaging bodies and killing people, or that of all God’s creatures, my assigned symbolic spirit animal is the crab, a sideways walking crustacean. 

Cancer is the dimmest of all the zodiac constellations. It isn’t as easy to see like all the rest. It’s light takes time and careful patience to catch a glimpse of in any night sky and is not visible to the naked eye from most urban cities.

Crabs continue to form a new shell when they grow; except the female crabs, they stop growing when they reach sexual maturity. The male crabs are allowed an infinite amount of growth. They are allowed to get bigger, stronger and nature just keeps providing them with a new, larger shell. It is not that the male crabs have told the female crabs not to grow. For whatever reason, the ocean has told them they are done growing and they are expected to stick with the same shell for the duration of their lives.

At times, marriage can begin to feel like the world is requiring you to stay in the same shell. That your light has been dimmed by the shadows of motherhood. Endless days of jobs, kids activities, bill paying, errands… It is unavoidable and the monotony and mundane activity of each day can start to allow restlessness to set in. Maybe this feeling is just the soft whispering of life telling us it is time to grow so we may comfortably fit into our new shell. We have learned and mastered the lessons of those days and now is the time, as a couple, for learning new lessons and new growth. To enter a different stage, together.

My husband and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary today. 16 years of high tides and low tides. 16 years of growing and protecting one another’s soft exterior while awaiting our new shells to harden. That is what marriage is about, allowing each other the space to continue to grow and patiently awaiting for that growth to happen. Growth makes everything stronger. Most living things struggle to survive when their growth is stunted and marriage is no exception. 

Not accepting the lessons in the mistakes you have made as a couple, will almost always guarantee the weakening of anyone’s shell. We have made plenty of mistakes. We have yelled, we have bickered and we have remained silent, at times. I have always wondered who came up with the rule “never go to bed angry”.  Nothing can bring reflection and fresh perspective like a good night’s sleep and the light from a new day. We try our best though, to not repeat the same mistakes. Like the words of one of my favorite writers, Maya Angelou “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, you do better”

We are not successful at this all of the time. My husband still has yet to learn the lesson of not leaving all of his personal items spread out on our bathroom sink every day. I still have hope one day he will absorb this lesson and “do better”, before we enter a retirement home. For now, I try to love him for the man that he is, not a man that puts away his deodorant, shaving cream, floss, and aftershave. The same way he still loves me and all of the blonde hair he finds daily in his brush.

I do not have the secret to a lasting marriage. Just like the ocean, it can be scary and unpredictable and other times, calm and steady.  What I do know, is that my husband and I are at our strongest when life gets rough and choppy. When the storm brings the tide waters crashing into our house, we do not wait and watch it flood our lives. We start shoveling sand, bagging and building a wall together. When that water finally recedes, we always find we have not only grown; but have found a deeper bond between us; the way the best seashells present themselves on the shoreline following a bad storm.  

Upon first meeting my husband, one of his first questions was my birthday. When I told him the date, he replied “Ah, you’re a cancer. That’s the best sign. I am a cancer too.”

Thank you for walking with me on gray beaches, when you prefer the contrast of black and white.  For teaching our children the truest meaning of the word father. For sacrificing so we would never find ourselves needing to. For always having the patience to see my light, even when it is at its dimmest. For pinching me, when I deserve it and for always handing me a new shell and reminding me to grow. 

There is no one else I would rather crawl sideways through life with. 


I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when hitting publish on my last post. With the current climate in this country, expressing your feelings concerning any politics seems to almost guarantee emotional backlash. I asked for my husband’s opinion beforehand, not because I needed the approval but more for the nudge, since he is much more publicly vocal than I am.

Unfortunately, it seems, we have reached a point where we have lost the ability to listen to points of view differing from our own and this is a really scary place to have arrived. We search for things to keep our selves divided, rather than taking the time to find the parts we share. I have yet to meet a person I have been unable to connect with, even if the commonalities are minimal; but we miss those connections more often than not, while browsing in search of the pieces that do not fit.
The voices that do not harmonize perfectly with mine, are the voices that can sing a powerful song and give me the most to think about and we need to be careful not to drown one another out. We are all allowed to have a voice in the choir, but the loudest voices are sometimes the most difficult for me to hear. I tend to tune those out, the way my kids tune me out when I am angry cleaning. My ears respond better to the softer melodies, like most people. The most brilliant musicians were inspired by all genres of music and play many different instruments, not just one.
Somewhere along the line, we all started to believe this notion that if we did not agree on every thought, belief or political ideology, than we should stand across from each other, on opposite sides.
My husband and I usually can’t even agree on what to watch on TV, let alone the meaning of life, yet somehow we find a way to stay married and raise a family.

I have never fit neatly into one box and, honestly, I don’t ever plan to. Most of our beliefs change and evolve over time, either succumb to or grow from the wisdom of our individual experiences throughout life. To continue to fit in one place would only stunt any growth and I plan to continue to grow for as long as I continue to breath. I would be okay, though, if my thighs weren’t copied on that memo.

We do not need to pick a side, there is not always a right or wrong. I have sat on the fences of both sides and realized long ago that I am able to balance myself much better when keeping one foot planted inside each. We may never have the opportunity to walk in each other’s shoes, but we sure as hell can listen to the story about the trip, believe it and try to understand it. One person’s path doesn’t erase our own, it confirms that there will always be more than one way to travel. We can take different routes and still arrive at the same place, if we are willing.

But my voice, my voice is just as important as anyone else’s, even when it sings out of key for some ears. No one will ever be able to hear me if I just continue to lip synch. All are welcome to sing along or to stop to listen. Just don’t change the channel until the song is over or you may miss out on singing the words you know.

Political Chess Match

I try my best to not involve myself in political banter, especially on social media, but today marks the third day in a row that I have read an article of yet another restaurant closing its doors in this state. This does not even include the small “Ma and Pa” shops that will never reopen their doors, deemed not newsworthy enough to grace the pages of our local newspaper. The name of the newspaper may change, but the story reads the same across the country. Minute by minute, we are losing small businesses at an alarming rate. For many of us we are left wondering not if, but rather when we will be next.
“We are all in this together” has become the slogan of Covid-19. Business owners are accused of being selfish or putting money before lives simply because they want to salvage what is left, certainly doesn’t ring the sound of togetherness. It is a very easy task to agree with the forcible shutdown of businesses and the economy when you continue to receive a paycheck and I have a feeling many opinions would shift, if required to forego their entire income for 8 weeks with no possible end in sight.
However, this would require empathy within all of this togetherness. The act of understanding another person’s experience and situation may be very different from your own. Compassion for families wanting to keep what they have sacrificed and worked hard to build, for years. Grace for these same families, as they only ask for the opportunity to attempt to rescue what little is left from their livelihoods. We all value human life, but starvation kills just as easily as illness and it seems many have forgotten the effects of famine on the human body and spirit. This is not about money, it is about survival.
My husband and I, we are some of the fortunate ones. If our income was currently measured by the heart and support of our loyal customers, soccer and baseball families, friends and community, we would be millionaires at the end of all of this. While our business has received continued support in its limited working capacity, it is not a sustainable business model. We can only accomplish so much with our table and chairs empty inside. The mortality rate of small businesses will far exceed the mortality rate for this disease. These lives deserve your consideration also.
We understand the effects of death on a family. We mourn the loss of anyone that has fallen to this virus, but we cannot run for the rest of our lives. When will it ever be enough? Wouldn’t it be possible to balance this equation by allowing those vulnerable to remain at home and those in desperate need of providing for their families the opportunity to do so? I posed this question once to a woman who said she feared going to work because her mother and husband were immune compromised and she would be afraid to bring illness back to her home. She would lose her job if her employer opened and she did not return. In other words, I am to continue sacrificing my income so you won’t need to lose yours? Doesn’t really sound like “we are all in this together”.
In March we were told by our Governor that we needed to take one for the team, close down for 2 weeks so our healthcare system was not overwhelmed. This announcement happened to come the day before our busiest day of the year. No problem, we knew we would never recoup that money, but we were willing to do what was being asked of us. Then, an additional 2 weeks was to allow for hospitals to be fully prepared with proper PPE, equipment, testing… Next, a couple more weeks because we needed to see 2 weeks of downward trends in hospitalizations and ICU admittance. Now, when a check mark sits beside each of these, the Governor transfers the decision to county leaders. Our County Executive releases a statement that we still need PPE, equipment and increased testing capabilities before we can even begin to enter Phase 1, directly following the Governor’s announcement that the state now has enough of all of this.
So which one is it fellas? Do we have enough or do we not enough? Where are the 500,000 tests that we overpaid for? Do we need to have hospitalizations decrease over a 2 week period to reopen or not? If you cannot test enough people, how do you know the true number of people that have already been infected and recovered? Where are those antibody tests? Might be helpful to know how many people you are illegally forcing to stay home that are not in danger of becoming ill or infecting anyone else.
There are dangers all around us, every day; but we find a way to work together to minimize the effects. We do not split up, run in different directions and hide. This has never been an effective solution in the past and certainly isn’t one now. Despite pool drowning deaths, I never kept my children from ever entering a pool. Instead, I explained the dangers and taught them to swim.
I will no longer allow my family to be used as a pawn in your political chess match, and that is exactly what this has turned into. I, along with many other citizens, are no longer willing to move around the board to keep the King safe. You were elected as a public servant. To serve, protect and hold the best interests of ALL those you govern. I urge you to re-read those words carefully and be sure this is your only concern when developing an approach to reopen. There is no reason to sacrifice any of your pieces. We are all important to the success of our state, counties and communities. It is becoming clearer every day that the basis of these decisions are fueled more from political agendas and less from the needs and well-being of those who trusted you to objectively hold your office. Remember, the king is only as valuable as all the pieces willing to move to protect him.

Find your Elephants

                                                      CREDIT: BIG LIFE FOUNDATION PHOTO/NICK BRAND
While yelling at my kids the other day to get off electronics and find something productive to do, I came across a video during my 37th scroll of Facebook. The video was of a honey bee whom had accidentally fallen and was covered in honey.

When the beekeeper placed the bee at the entrance of the hive, the other worker bees immediately began cleaning their friend without hesitation. Each took a section and went to work. One cleaned the face, two worked on the wings and another started cleaning the body until the bee was back to normal and could fly again.

As someone born lacking coordination, I was intrigued by these honey bees and their willingness to help a clumsy friend. I thought to myself what a great metaphor for the type of friendships we should all have. This led to an hour long reading session about honey bees. It turns out honey bees haven’t caught on to the idea of democracy, are tricked into submission by the queen bee and in all honesty, a little shady. Basically, they play a game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe to find a leader, feed some royal jelly to the winning egg and poof a queen bee is born. The queen bee rises to power, without qualifications and having never even submitted a resume. She immediately starts casting some type of hormone spell to keep the worker bees in line, which also happens to make them infertile. When her hormone powers start declining, they kick her to the curb and make a new queen.  I have come across a few honey bee friends over the years, definitely not the kind of friends a girl wants around.

You’re not going to be for everyone and everyone is not going to be for you. It took me a long time to understand and embrace this concept but it is a very important one.

I yelled up to my kids to make sure they weren’t wasting their time on electronics and settled in for another hour, on my phone, searching the social hierarchy of the animal kingdom. Low and behold, I found my metaphorical posse.
The elephants.
Elephant parades are comprised of female members. They have a matriarch but she is not self-appointed, voted in or haphazardly chosen. The parade members push her into leadership because she is respected for her wisdom and knowledge. She has proven overtime that she can be trusted to make wise decisions. Like any strong leader, she is always accepting of suggestions from parade members, even from the youngest elephants. Each member has a unique personality that contributes to the protection and success of the parade. They cooperate and work together for survival. This includes anything from providing defense to protect the group from danger, to sharing responsibility in caring for any or all young calves of the group. Elephants grieve when a parade member dies and have the capacity for empathy. They also remember and recognize one another upon being reunited, after living apart for long periods of time.
If there is one thing I am sure of, it is the importance of strong friendships. Just like the elephants, my parade is filled with an eclectic group of women. Some are family, some I share a name with, many are friendships that were formed long ago but we still recognize our connections when we reunite. One even attends drive-thru confession during quarantine and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t planning to drop her name when I arrive to the pearly gates. I’m sorry God, could you check that list again? SH is part of my parade, she attended drive thru confession during quarantine.”  I have never attended confession but if I can confess my sins the same way I order a cheeseburger, I may be willing to give it a try one day.
They are as different and unique as night and day, but like night and day, they compliment each other perfectly. They deserve to be celebrated when their suns rise and when their suns set. I have always believed that each person is born with a gift or an insight to be shared with the world. Sometimes that gift takes patience and trust before it can be revealed. Just like the time it takes for the wisdom and trust of an elephant matriarch to be proven before she begins her leadership.
It is said “everyone has a friend during each stage of life but only lucky ones have the same friend in all stages in life”. Of all my parade members, there is one that has spent more time standing inside, than outside of it. We may have even spent some time together in a hive, hanging with some honey bees. For whatever reason, a sister was not in the cards for me but instead, I was sent a soul sister.
A phone call to my soul sister in the middle of the night, on any night would be answered with “Do I need to bring a shovel or a bottle of wine” and I would reply “For Christ’s sake soul sister, what kind of person do you think I am? I would never run out of wine. Get over here and bring a damn shovel”. She would show up in minutes with a shovel and an alibi.
My soul sister and I share in an ability to make inappropriate jokes during uncomfortable situations and we both share in the pain hiding just beneath that coping mechanism. A person willing to stand with you to watch your sun rise but also stick around after it sets. Sharing pain is the most selfless act of any friend. Finding one that can also make you laugh while you endure it, is a friendship you never loosen your grip from.
Wherever life takes you, be sure to find your parade. Fill it with people willing to protect you, provide support and make you laugh through the tough times. If you are lucky enough to find one, be sure to include a kindred spirit with a willingness to help dig a grave in a moment’s notice, without asking any questions.
But please, for the love of God, stay away from the damn honey bees.