Archive for the ‘love’ Category

The hardest and best job

Monday, July 20, 2015
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First, let me say I don’t consider parenting a job. But many times it can be like a job, in that work is involved. And it’s often compared to a job. So, if I’m going to compare parenting to a job, here it is:

Parenting is hard work. (I know, I know – deep stuff right here.) Being a parent is without a doubt the hardest job I have ever had or will ever have. I know I’m stating the obvious…or am I?

I always thought motherhood would come naturally to me, because I always knew I wanted to be a mother. But I’m not sure if being a mother does come naturally to me or not, some days it doesn’t feel like it. And other days it does. What I do know is that I work hard to try to be a good mom; it’s a job that demands both my body and my mind. I’m exhausted at the end of every day.

That said, to quote one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, “We can do hard things!” Hard is a good thing. It’s a great thing. Yes, being a parent challenges me in ways I never thought possible…

But being a parent is absolutely the best job I have ever had or will ever have.

That’s it in a nutshell – parenting is the hardest, most rewarding, most emotional, best, most wonderful job ever.

I love being AJ’s mom (now that’s stating the obvious). I absolutely love it. Although sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve got it all right, I always know I am where I am meant to be. I’m exhausted and contented at the end of every day. I work hard because I want to, because I love her, because my instinct tells me to.

AJ’s first birthday is in less than a month. This has been a whirlwind year (but I’ll save those emojis for another post). I wouldn’t trade a day of it. I’ve learned to do hard things, and I am loving this role in my life. The hardest things have the best rewards. Being a parent is the hardest and best job.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Charity Case

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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I was ready to shut down my computer, turn out the lights and leave my office for a much-needed holiday break.

Then, our office doorbell rang, and I knew I had to answer it. With less than 36 hours before Christmas, I also knew I wouldn’t be able to help whomever was at the door. The Christmas donations had been distributed, our emergency assistance dollars were expended, the case manager was gone until Monday and the immigration attorney, who fills limitless roles, was on her way out the door with me.

I answered the door anyway.

To my surprise, the person ringing the bell wasn’t a client. Instead, it was Kathy, a volunteer who was working with a homeless woman who had no place to go for Christmas.

Fortunately, I was able to help Kathy access the necessary resources so the woman would have a warm room for the holiday. With that done, I was once again ready to leave my office. That’s when Kathy asked in a rather off-hand manner if I knew a man named “Ed.” When I said his name was familiar, she gave me a knowing smile.

She described a homeless man who wanders through our community wearing open-toed shoes even in winter.

“He’s living in a barn,” she said. She described his circumstances, I expressed my concerns and we parted ways.

Only when I was driving home did I appreciate what she had told me. There is a homeless man walking around my community wearing open-toed shoes, living in a barn and teaching people like me a lesson.

I needed that lesson.

I spent the last few weeks looking forward to the holidays not because they remind me of the blessings of charity and love but because I’m exhausted and ready for some time off work. I’ve told myself that I’ve made a career of charity and therefore deserve a break. I’ve been ignoring the fact that, for the most part, my life has been one big break.

For some people, a break isn’t the luxury of a few days of sleeping in, the opportunity to curl up with a good book or time with family.

For some people, a break is a hot meal, a warm bed or a kind soul who spends time listening.

For some people, a break is help paying an electric bill so the power isn’t shut off during the holidays.

And for some people, a break is an opportunity to pay it forward.

People who pay it forward are the reason I even have a job.

Just a few weeks ago, a check arrived from a man who received assistance from Catholic Charities WV (where I work) when he was down on his luck. The check was for the exact amount we had helped with his electric bill.

There was no note attached. His check said everything.

It said that charity is rooted in the words “to love,” and  that love demands that we share our gifts with others.

It was also a reminder that each of us, at some point in our lives, is a  charity case.

Some of us might be homeless.

Some of us might need help with our electric bills.

And some of us might get so caught up in the demands of daily living that we  forget how fortunate we  really are.

Thankfully, all of us, no matter what are resources or circumstances, are just as capable of giving and receiving charity.

This holiday season, I wish everyone that joy.

Being Present

Friday, November 7, 2014
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I went back to work this week.

My last day at home with AJ was Monday, and we had such a special day.

We did the same things as we did in previous weeks, but this day was different.

I made the conscious decision to be as present as I could be – to not worry about anything and simply enjoy spending time with my baby. For someone whose hobbies include making lists and organizing anything, this was a quite a challenge. I didn’t plan an agenda, I didn’t have a list of chores, I didn’t even worry about what was for dinner. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t pick up my phone (except to snap a few photos) and I didn’t get on social media. It was wonderful.

I spent the day savoring little moments and observations – the curiosity in AJ’s eyes when looking at my hands, how her smile is already verging on flirtatious, her determination when trying to roll over. We played, cuddled, “talked,” and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Her little personality shines through more each day, and I watched her figure out the world. Unlike many days of my maternity leave, I didn’t worry about things like crying or naps or what time we needed to be home for her to eat.

I really think AJ could sense my mood and it wore off on her. She didn’t cry at all and was all smiles all day.

It was an ordinary day, but it was one of the best days of my life. This might sound like an exaggeration but I promise you it is not. I will cherish the memories of that day forever.

Not every weekend or day off will be like my last day at home. Bills won’t pay themselves and the dishes and laundry will pile up. Errands will need to be run and chores will need to be done. Responsibilities must be met.

But I learned a valuable lesson Monday – sometimes we need a “pause” day. A day where we pause our busy lives and make the effort to be completely present, physically and mentally. A day where we put all our worries aside, turn off our phones, and enjoy what we love most in life. These days will without a doubt end up as the best days.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014
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My daughter, who is in seventh grade, joined Facebook on Saturday.lovesick

On Tuesday, an eighth grade boy was messaging her with professions of love. (No, they didn’t meet on Facebook. They are in show choir together and he apparently “fell in love” with her during auditions .)

Instead of calling or texting her friends, she turned me for advice. I couldn’t have felt more important, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was probably the last person who could help her. No boy was professing his love for me in seventh grade, or eighth grade or even ninth grade, so I didn’t have a frame of reference regarding love before age 13.

Kendall must have figured that out fairly quickly because she came up with her own plan. She told the boy that her parents didn’t allow her to date. He responded that he would explain his intentions to us. (Really? He’s in eighth grade!!!)  Then she said that she was glad they were friends and she didn’t want to lose that. He responded that maybe they could sit together at lunch, and she agreed.

All was right with the world until I sent a Facebook message about the situation to the guy I’m in love with. The guy who happens be my daughter’s father.

He was not happy. In fact, he freaked out. He even told me he’d checked out her Facebook page and found the boy. He then jokingly threatened to send the boy a message about leaving Kendall alone.

I should have known better. This had happened before.

When Kendall was attending her sixth grade orientation, I overheard a boy in her enrichment class tell his dad “she’s really cute.” He subsequently hounded her to “go out.”

She regularly told him she wasn’t allowed, but he was persistent. At least, he was persistent until my husband met him.

Then his interest waned.

I may not entirely understand my husband’s concern with my daughter’s love life because, well, I’m not a guy.

But I can understand his love for his only daughter and his desire to protect her. I also understand he wants exactly what I want for my daughter: a partner who cares more about who she is as person than what she looks like; a partner who recognizes all of her potential and her desire for independence; a partner who celebrates how smart and witty and rebellious she is. And, most of all, a partner who supports her being the person she is rather than the person other people think she should be.

I understand that because my daughter’s father has provided exactly that for me. And I also know without a doubt that is the standard my daughter will set for anyone she dates.

Which is exactly why my husband has absolutely no reason to worry.

Love Lessons

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
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This April, I will celebrate the 16th anniversary of becoming a parent. Since I was already in my thirties when that life-changing event occurred, I am now what  my children consider absolutely ancient. In  the world of adolescents, I am clueless, especially regarding matters of the heart.

That’s in their world.

In my world, or at least in my mind, I have enough experience to render my insights about love worthy of attention.heart

I am under no illusions that my children will even acknowledge my wisdom, but I don’t care.  As Valentine’s Day approaches,  I feel obligated to once again share ten lessons I’ve learned about love:

1. You can’t truly love someone else unless you love who you are. And who you are is an imperfect person who makes mistakes, gets mad and will sometimes say and do very stupid things. Love yourself anyone. How you handle your mistakes and flaws is more important than trying to hide them.

2.  Love is only genuine when you are being true to yourself.  Don’t pretend to enjoy something when you don’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compromise. You should. Love requires a great deal of compromise. But compromise doesn’t mean you should pretend to be someone you’re not.  If you do, you’ll wind up being miserable.

3. Love isn’t a competition, and you can’t make someone love you. You will always be loved for being the unique person you are and not because you are prettier, smarter, funnier, sexier or nicer than someone else. Therefore, you should never worry about what others are doing to attract attention or affection. Being yourself is enough.

4.  You don’t fall in love. That indescribable feeling of “falling in love'” is usually a combination of infatuation and physical attraction. Love is something that is grounded in mutual respect, grows slowly and doesn’t necessarily bloom as much as it thrives.

5.  Love isn’t about romance. It’s about experiencing someone at their very worst and realizing that walking away would still be more devastating than dealing with a tough situation.

6. Love is about having passion in your life – but not necessarily in the way you might think. Never invest so much of yourself in a relationship that you don’t have time for everything else you love. Be passionate about a hobby. Be passionate about a cause. Be passionate about your family and friends. And also be passionate about your love.

7. True love means you aren’t worried about what other people think about your relationship. If you spend time worrying about what others are thinking or saying, you likely have concerns yourself. If you’re confident about your relationship and the integrity of your significant other, you won’t care what others say. Always stay in tune with your inner voice and be honest with yourself.

8. Love means saying you’re sorry. Unlike the quote “love means never having to say you’re sorry” made popular in the 1970’s movie “Love Story,” love means that you’re willing to let go of your ego. Admit when you are wrong or when you’ve said or done something hurtful. And when you are in a relationship, you will say and do hurtful things at times.

9.  Don’t expect love to always feel exciting and new. Just like life, love can sometimes be dull and boring and predictable. Relationships are like roller coasters: sometimes they can be difficult and sometimes they can be easy and fun. But being able to work together during the uphill battles is what makes the downhill ride so enjoyable.

10. People do change, and that can affect your relationship.  Our experiences shape who we become. The person who you fell in love with several years ago will probably be different from the person you know today. And you will be different too.  Many times, you can join hands while you grow.  Sometimes, you drop your hands and grow apart. Often, the decision is yours, but sometimes it isn’t.

As I share these lessons, I realize I learned most of them the hard way. But I also realize that those experiences have made life more interesting. Which leads me to one final lesson about love: it doesn’t make life easier, but it does make it more meaningful.

80 Years of Marriage(s)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
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From the diary of Letha Bates Smith:  ”Nov. 29, 1933 Wed. Finished cleaning at the house this morning. Met Sylvia at 3:25. Morden, she & I met Martin in E. Lansing and had the knot tied at 8:30. Home then to Vilas and Evelyn’s for the nite.”

That’s how my grandmother described the day she married my grandfather, Morden, in the chapel at the People’s Church in East Lansing, Michigan with her sister Sylvia and her brothers Martin and Vilas in attendance.

Exactly 30 years later, my mother married my father in the same chapel. Unlike my grandmother, she didn’t keep a diary, but, just like my grandmother, she had a very practical wedding.

Exactly thirty years after that, at age 26, I was a completely different person than both these women. I was less conservative and more reckless. Yet the three of us would be forever connected not just by blood but by our sensibilities and our belief that a strong marriage, just like a strong woman, is defined by substance not glamour.

This Friday my husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and my parent’s will celebrate their 5oth. If they were still alive, my grandparents would be celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary.

I am under no illusions that my daughter will marry on November 29, 2023. In fact, I hope she won’t as she will only be 22. But I do hope that the  stories from three couples who passed their DNA on to her will serve as a reminder that weddings are not about a fancy show or an exotic honeymoon. They are about two people deciding to move forward together and create memories that can bond families together for generations.

Letha and Morden

My grandparents met on a blind date while they were both students at Michigan State College (later University) during the Great Depression.  My grandmother was one of four children from a farming family in Quincy Michigan who were all  determined to go to college. Despite the odds and through their own perseverance, all four obtained college degrees.

My grandfather, the youngest of seven children, grew up in a family that had an uneven financial history – sometimes they had significant resources and sometimes they didn’t.  My grandfather’s older brother, Carl, had died when he contracted smallpox working in a lab while in medical school. The money from his insurance policy allowed my grandfather to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

I know little about my grandparents’ college romance.  My grandmother wasn’t a talkative or an emotional woman. But for decades, she documented her life in diaries. The one or two sentence entries she diligently recorded provide some insight into the often hidden thoughts of a woman who, on the surface, was practical to the bone. The grandmother I knew had one dress that she wore to every special occasion (including my wedding) for decades.  But, that didn’t mean she never cared about a new dress.

“Oct. 30, 1932 Sunday. My sweetheart down today. And what did he bring me  – Um does it sparkle? Simply gorgeous delightful! The dear boy.” 

“Nov. 1, 1932 Tuesday Met Sylvia downtown this P.M. spent the nite with me. The ring fixed –  lovely now –  more thrilled than ever. A new dress.”

Even after my grandmother died, we never found picture of her wedding or her wedding dress.  At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was a relatively new employee at Citizens Gas Fuel Company. My grandparents chose to get married the evening before Thanksgiving because my grandfather would have a four-day weekend.

My grandparents’ marriage ended when my grandfather died in 1998, just shy of their 65th wedding anniversary. My grandmother would live for another seven years.

The words in her diary will be passed on to future generations.

Evadna and Ken

Following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother, my mother attended Michigan State University. After graduation, she moved to Manistee, Michigan, but neither her job nor her location were exotic or adventurous enough for her. She wanted to see the world and submitted an application to join the newly established Peace Corps.

After he graduated from Idaho State University, my dad, a Massachusetts native who had already seen a great deal of the world while in the Navy, also applied to join the Peace Corps.

They were among the first individuals ever selected and were in the third group deployed. Before they left for Chile, my parents attended training at Notre Dame University, where they spent days in Spanish class. My father excelled with his ability to speak the words perfectly in his  loud, booming voice while my mother shot him dirty looks while she struggled.

Her irritation didn’t last long. Before they returned to the United States, my parents were engaged. Instead of a diamond, my mother wore a simple gold band on her right hand that she would transfer to her left hand when she was married. The only diamond I’ve ever seen my mother wear is her mother’s engagement ring, the one that sparkled so brilliantly in 1932.

After returning to the United States, my father, a forester, got a job in Montana. He hadn’t accumulated any leave, but he was allowed to take a few days for Thanksgiving. And so, a wedding the day after Thanksgiving made sense, and my parents spent their honeymoon driving west to their new home.

They’ve spent the rest of their lives sharing stories of their adventures with their children and grandchildren.

Trina and Giles

Ironically, I met my husband on a November night.

On  November 8, 1988,  I was a college intern helping cover election results in the newsroom at West Virginia Public Radio. Giles was reporting for his first night of work. He thought I had an attitude, and I thought I had work to do. No sparks flew, and I didn’t give him a second thought.

But after I graduated from Ohio University, our paths continued to cross and our circle of friends became one in the same. Over time, we eventually ended up together.

Our relationship was nothing like I imagined everlasting love was supposed to be and everything my mother had told me it would be. (She’d told me on multiple occasions that common values  and compromise, not romance, were the key to a successful relationship.)

In the beginning, our schedules were very different, and we accommodated. Our schedules are still very different, and we still accommodate. In the beginning, we watched a lot of Star Trek. Giles still watches a lot of Star Trek, and sometimes our kids even watch with him. And in the beginning, we laughed at my intensity and his lack of it. Now, we work around our differences… and we still laugh a lot.

Giles and I didn’t get engaged out of some romantic notion of marriage. We got engaged because his roommate bought a house, and moving in together just made sense. When we realized the significance of the year, we picked a very significant wedding date.

Unlike the two couples before us, we didn’t marry over Thanksgiving weekend nor did we get married in Michigan, Instead, our ceremony took place the Monday after Thanksgiving in Charleston, WV.  And yes, our wedding was also simple and practical (my mother made my dress), but it was also a bit quirky.  We received gifts of Star Trek dinnerware and had Star Trek action figures on top of our cake.

Our children look at the photographs and simply roll their eyes.

I get that. I used to do a lot of eye rolling as a child, especially in regards to my mother’s stories about being married on her parent’s anniversary. But, like many children, my eye rolls eventually evolved into an appreciation of family history.

Something tells me my children will do the same someday.


Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Monday, June 10, 2013
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She slept through it all.

Ten years ago, I ate a pound of tortilla chips dredged in hot salsa, chased it with Mexican combo dinner #6, washed all of that down with sweet tea, and then walked a mile around our neighborhood park. Four hours later, I was having my first baby.  She was delivered in part by a friend from college who was training a new nurse, who would end up buying our house.

But wait! There’s more!

Ava Elizabeth was born on June 10th and went home, the color of a Georgia peach, on June 12th. We pulled into the driveway to discover neighbors in our yard, eager to see the interior of our house, which had been flooded when a drain on the hillside became clogged with debris following a violent rainstorm.  Only the bottom level of the house was damaged, but the laundry room floor was beneath several inches of muddy water.  Maternity clothes, which were borrowed, floated on top.  The washer and dryer were ruined.  The phone lines were ruined.  The walls were ruined.  The carpet was ruined.  The furniture was ruined.  Everything seemed ruined.

It had to get better.  It just had to.

But, it didn’t.

A week later, more rains drenched Charleston, and the same drain (which didn’t belong to us or the city) clogged again.  The basement, newly bleached and recently stripped of everything down to the car in the garage, would undergo another soaking.  My husband climbed the hill to clear the drain, but the force of the water snapped his shovel in half, sending the wooden handle to the road.  I was certain he had died…a drowning…possibly a heart attack..maybe a stabbing…possibly a beating.  I just knew he was gone.

With hormones raging, I called 911.  I informed (correction: screamed) that my husband had been overtaken by rapid waters.  I yelled for him, but he didn’t respond.  I couldn’t hike the hill to check on him because I had just given birth to a baby girl — with jaundice.  She was by the window, by the way, wearing only a diaper…

First the police pulled in, then the rescue squad, and then the longest firetruck in the fleet.  BIG JOHN, I think they called it. Superheroes jumped out of their vehicles in black hats and rain gear.  They pounded on the door to check on us and to find out where my husband was last seen.  I pointed to the hillside behind our deck.  I cried. I shook. I hyperventilated.

A paramedic sat with me as the others tackled the waterfall.  Getting to the top was still nearly impossible, so they started shouting for Mike.  “CAN YOU HEAR US?” a fireman bellowed through a bullhorn. “MIKE! ANSWER IF YOU CAN HEAR US!”

When the skies cleared, a confused voice could be heard from the top of the ridge.  “Hello?” Mike replied.  He was alive!

“ARE YOU OKAY, SIR?” asked the fireman.

“I’m fine!” he yelled back.


Mike obeyed and slid down the hill with the bottom half of his shovel, which then resembled a trowel.

“Is she all right?” Mike asked, breathless, cold and extremely wet.

“She’s fine, but she’s worried about you,” answered the fireman.

Mike informed the Superheroes that he had broken his shovel trying to dig out the stopped-up drain, but his wife had lost her damned mind.

A news crew had filed in behind the string of emergency vehicles.

“She wasn’t in danger, but she was scared,” a paramedic told the reporter.  “We sent mother and baby to the neighbor’s house across the street so she wouldn’t be alone.”

But, mother and baby had to return home because the neighbor had pneumonia.  It really wasn’t a good time.

That evening, as I sat on the couch because I wasn’t allowed to get up or even think about making a telephone call, I noticed that Ava couldn’t open her right eye.  An infection had set in, which I feared would render her as blind as Stevie Wonder. Mike phoned our new pediatrician.  Medication was called in for Ava. Rest for Mama. A bottle for Daddy. Doctor’s orders.

The next morning, June temperatures swept through the house and roasted all of us like baked potatoes.  Ava’s chest, stomach, arms and legs were covered in red bumps.  I broke into a familiar hysteria, calling the pediatrician again to beg for an appointment. She worked us in within the hour and diagnosed our new baby with a heat rash that would go away once I took the winter pajamas off her.  After that, we replaced the central cooling unit at a cost that could have sent our next daughter to an Ivy League school of choice.

Once the house was dry (and cool), and the weather crisp (and calm), we sold our home (to the labor nurse) and the first memories that went with it.  A decade later, this beautiful little lady with blonde hair, healthy blue eyes, deep dimples, long legs and even longer feet, represents everything motherhood has to offer.  With her love of Harry Styles and the British band, One Direction; for reading and writing; for all things formal and proper; she is so lovely.  And it has been wonderful.

Happy birthday, Ava.

Click on the Harry Styles hyperlink for a very special birthday message to Ava. 

My Birthday Boy

Saturday, June 1, 2013
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My baby turned 4 this week. I can’t believe another birthday has come and gone. Once again I’m left asking how time has passed so quickly. Most things baby related are now a distant memory—no more diapers or board books, and even most of the baby toys are gone. The only remnants of the beautiful creature I brought home from the hospital are his pudgy little hands and an occasional cuddle in the rocking chair after a bad dream.

Thinking back, I can still remember most of his major milestones. He rolled over at four months and crawled at seven. He walked at nine months and practically ran at ten. He gave up his bottle by a year and a half and was potty trained by the time he was 3. Now he’s enrolled in preschool, which means he’ll be away from me all day, every day, in just a few months.

The Birthday Boy- newborn, 1st birthday and now.

There were laughs and giggles and plenty of sleepless nights. Sometimes it felt like weeks would drag on through the endless cycle of work and day care, dinner and play time, bath and bed.  Somewhere along the way my baby grew into a big boy right before my eyes. I wish I’d known the time would go by so fast. I took much of that precious time for granted, not realizing that one day I’d be looking ahead in disbelief that by his next birthday my boy would be getting ready for kindergarten.

During a recent cleaning spree, I stumbled upon his diaper bag in the bottom of a closet, abandoned immediately once the diapers were gone. After a few tears, it dawned on me that what used to seem like an inconvenience is now another sign that my baby is relying on me less and less all of the time.

There are many perks to his new -found independence – no more diaper changes in the middle of the mall and a lot more sleep at night. But on special occasions like this, I can’t help but fondly remember the baby I once had and gaze astonishingly at the little boy that he is now.

How do you celebrate birthdays?

Lordy, lordy! Look who’s…

Monday, May 13, 2013
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The beginning of May is a tremendously stressful time for my husband.  It begins with my birthday on the seventh and it ends with Mother’s Day weekend.  Two behemoth holidays (yes, Katy Day counts in my bizarre world) mean that Mike stands at the greeting card racks, suffering in search of someone else’s thoughts to sign his name to.

And as I read the wit and wisdom of Scooter the Squirrel, I began to ponder four decades.  FORTY.  I’m now at the age I most associate with my mother’s life.  An era of maturity and maternity.  Yes, at this moment in time, she was holding a newborn. This was headline news in 1973.

But then as I think about the decades that have passed, I also think of the labels that have passed with them.  For the first phase, I was someone’s child.  For the next, I was someone’s student.  Then, in my twenties, I became someone’s employee.  As that chapter evolved, I became someone’s wife, and then someone’s mother.  That role changed a little as I became someone’s caregiver.

Now that I’m forty, it feels like the “f” word stands for “free.”

I guess I won’t be 100% free until I’m retired in a paid-off house with college-educated children.  But for some reason, forty feels different.  I don’t feel older or wiser…but I do feel more secure. I feel like I can finally say “NO!” to things that made be feel obligated along the way.

As a child, I felt a duty to obey.  I felt a duty to perform well on assignments and tests, because I was being graded by teachers.  I felt a duty to land a scholarship to ease the financial burden of higher education that turned a retirement portfolio into a college fund.  I felt a duty to show up at work by 7:30 a.m. and stay until 7:30 p.m., to prove my value to a company.  I then felt a duty to work at least part-time to help diminish expenses that rested squarely on my husband’s shoulders.  I felt a duty to take on every volunteer post and special event to prove my dedication to two daughters and their school.  I felt a duty to care for aging, ailing relatives who had loved me when I wasn’t capable of taking care of myself, either. I felt that duty three times.

But now, I’m entering a phase that seems to have a clearer calendar.  I feel as though I have some control again, even if  “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” (according to John Lennon).

Until the day I die, I’ll be a loyal wife and mother.  I hope to remain a writer in some way or another.  I’m certain I’ll always be a pet owner (because these nine animals seem to be in perfect health). I want to “be” these things. But I’m hopeful that this new decade — my forties by any other name — will be about strengthening a relationship.  I hope this is the stretch in which I realize a sense of duty to become a great friend…to myself.

Generation Why

Monday, April 1, 2013
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Young and set in her ways.

On the morning Ava was born, my husband and friend stood at the nursery window and stared at the 7.3 pound baby girl who had just failed her sucking test. Her lips remained pursed; her brows wrinkled between two puffy blue eyes. It was her first protest.

“Oh my God,” said my friend, covering her mouth.  “That’s Katy’s mother!

Yes. I gave birth to my mother down to the feet. Ava’s stamped footprint was so long that her heel smeared off the cardboard certificate. My mother wore a 7.5-AAAA shoe. Long and skinny, like a rabbit. Ava wears that size now.

Nearly a decade later, I am more convinced than ever that Ava really is Betty reincarnated. Between the facial expressions and attitude, I know exactly what to expect from this petite person who insists on wearing a robe and house slippers for shuffling around the house. Oh, yes, she does.

Is she a little old woman? Well, not really.  She’s just…mature.  And I have to tell you (as I start a sentence with the word I was taught NOT to use in grammar class), she didn’t inherit this trait from me.

The other day, Ava asked a loaded question about equality after reading my blog blasting Sheryl Sandberg (the chief operating officer of Facebook) for being out of touch with real, working women.

“Why do women want to be like men?” she asked.  “I don’t want to be like a boy,” she announced.

That’s not exactly what it means, I began. The writer wants women to be competitve; to go out for the same positions in jobs or sports.  She wants women to get the same level of pay for that work, and she wants them to stop being afraid of trying things that are hard.

Ava wasn’t impressed or inspired.

“But I don’t want to be treated the same way,” she insisted.  “I like being treated like a girl.”

And how is that? I asked.

“I don’t want to be rough,” she said simply. “Boys get crazy and I don’t like that.”

Have you seen your sister? I asked. She’ll go out for the football team, and I feel sorry for the boy who tries to block her.  The kid likes Pink Floyd and has asked to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to see “The monster from ‘The Wall'”.   Clearly, this is Mike’s child.

But my throwback means what she says. I also feel sorry for the poor chap who tries to ask her to the prom.

“But, Ava, what do you want to do with yourself?” I know the answer to this question, but I was curious if it had changed.

“I want to go to U.C. and get a degree in elementary education so I can teach kindergarten,” she announced.  “Then, I want to get married and have a boy and girl.  And then, I want to stay home and take care of them.”

(You see? Last week’s blog wasn’t b.s.)

Whom are you going to marry? I asked.

“Harry Styles,” she replied, giggling.   The British boy band has invaded our house to the point that the Union Jack hangs in her bedroom.  (I can’t be a hypocrite. I have a life-sized cardboard cutout of Paul McCartney in mine.)

Be serious, I demanded.

“I am serious!” she protested.  “I’m going to marry a man from England because they have better manners,” she announced.

And where would you have learned anything about manners? I countered.  Her father opened the car door for me last Saturday night because the child safety locks were stuck and I couldn’t get in.

“Harry has beautiful speech and he wanted to study law and business before he became a singer,”

Oh. I see.  You intend to marry well.  Then what?

“I don’t know yet,” she said. “But I want a spa tub in my bathroom so I can relax.”

Later than evening, Ava entered the kitchen carrying the book, Scat, by Carl Hiaasen.

“Mummy,” she began.  I swear, she called me Mum.  “This book has bad words in it,” she confirmed, handing the well-worn paperback to me.

Oh? How so? Didn’t you get it from the library?

“They say the “D” word and the “A” word.”

Are you new here, Miss? Have you not observed your father watching “Morning Joe” on TV?

I think you’re old enough to handle those two, I said.  While I don’t want you to use foul language, you’re going to have to get used to hearing people express themselves in cheap ways.

“Well, I don’t like it,” she said.

Forget marriage.  I’m now worried about middle school.

The next afternoon at elementary school, Ava emerged with a new book and a new experience to report. She stepped into the car with her pea coat and stuffed backpack; her blond hair tucked behind her ears.

“Guess what?!”


“Today was our physical fitness test in gym, and I did an entire set of  BOY PUSH-UPS without stopping!”

Boy push-ups, huh?  Why’d you do a thing like that? Why not the girl kind?

“Everyone had to do the same ones. We had to be equal.”

Oh. I see. There’s that word again. And how did that work out for you?

“Well, I got really hot and really sweaty, and my face was red, and my shirt was sticking to my neck, so I want to go home and change, please.”

And with my throwback in the backseat and little sister belted in next to her (wearing blueberry yogurt on her shirt), we went home so one of them could slip into something more comfortable.