Sequoia

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I dreamed of shadows and sheltered things

beneath the tree with golden leaves.

Today the mighty trunk sliced bare as bone,

the rings rough and splintered,

you take my hand as we count the lives together.

A thousand deaths, a thousand loves,

a thousand circles bound us with frayed fibers,

spinning its thread, the splinters cut deep.

Now and then at the wound’s core,

the sapling sprouts from a single seed,

always yearning and always bending toward love’s light,

free of pain again,

under the sequoia tree.

 

 

 

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The Final Curtain

 

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This is a true story that happened over 13 years ago.

 

“Say your goodbye,” the emergency room doctor suggested, his eyes brimming with compassion. But the deep wrinkles etched across his brow revealed the weariness of all the pain and death they had witnessed behind the hastily drawn curtain.

Say your goodbye.

The beeping of machines dissolved into the background. The relentless ticktock of the clock on the ER wall paused as if waiting for my response. I felt myself sinking into black nothingness. My fingers shook as I clasped her limp hand and traced her wedding ring, its sharp edges jolting me awake. The abyss beckoned me: Don’t be afraid! Lean in! Peer into the darkness!

Say your goodbye.

I leaned over to kiss her pale cheek for one last time. I knew my mother was minutes away from leaving her body, but never expected the stark coldness, the unforgiving finality, the emptiness lying beneath my lips.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. I never had the chance to say goodbye to my dying dad. How do you say goodbye? What do I say? Thanks? Thanks for raising me? For teaching me hard lessons? I’ll see you again someday? Catch you on the flip side? Don’t go? Don’t leave me here all alone? Fear gripped my heart, squeezing the air out of my lungs. I was suffocating right along with my mother. A torrent of tears spilled down from my eyes onto her face. My entire body shook as I held onto her hand.  I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye. I’m not ready.

“Mom…I love you,” I sputtered into the abyss.

“I’m…..fine….don’t….worry,” my mother gasped, her breath gurgling between each word. “I love you…tell….your brothers…I love them.” She closed her eyes.

This was it. I can’t believe she’s dying. My mom! Dying! It’s just not real. It can’t be real. An ER nurse gently ushered me away from my mother as the doctor closed the curtain around the stretcher once again. She walked me to a small windowless waiting room separate from the larger waiting room outside the ER. This must be the private room for family members waiting for someone to die? Will they move me to an even smaller room when they tell me she’s dead? “We will try and get her stable,” the nurse said. “For now just wait in here. I’ll come get you if anything happens.”

It was midnight. Only bad things happen at midnight.

Only a few hours before I was drifting off to sleep next to my snoring husband and one-year-old son in our upstairs bedroom. A heavy rain pounded on the roof of our house. Without warning, I felt the atmosphere shift; the particles in the air pulsing and bright. Something is off, the universe whispered. Something big is happening.  Electricity surged through my body. The only other time I’ve felt this way was the night my dad suddenly died in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away.

I sat up, listening intently to the steady thrumming of the rain above our heads. I nudged my husband awake. “What was that? Do you hear that?”

“What? I don’t hear anything,” my husband whispered. “It’s just the rain. It’s nothing.” He rolled over to snore again.

But the rain wasn’t right; the wind urgent. Something was wrong.

I crept down the hallway and stairs into the dark kitchen. I wasn’t sure why I was checking, but I knew I had to check. An unseen force propelled me to walk through the kitchen to the door leading to our attached garage. I slowly opened the door, the wind howling outside in response. A low grown escaped from the shadows on the floor. There was my mom, lying on the bottom steps below her in-law apartment above the garage.

“I…can’t…breathe,” she whispered, her tiny frail body wrapped in her nightgown and bathrobe. She was still clutching her phone in one hand. She had managed to make her way down the steps to get help, but didn’t have the energy to remain standing long enough to knock on my door.

Now I was in a hospital, with my mother and The Abyss hiding a few feet away behind a thin white curtain. Soon two of my older brothers arrived and we waited, the foggy early morning hours bleeding into each other. Finally, a nurse entered the “Waiting For Death” room where we had sat for hours like stone statues. “She’s turned a corner! She’s stable!” she informed us.

We were stunned. The ER doctor suggested many times to me that she would probably die that night as she was drowning in her own fluids, her lungs almost completely filled from the congestive heart failure. But now she was suddenly stable. “If you hadn’t found her when you did…” he said to me, his voice trailing off.

My mom almost died that night back in 2003. I said my final goodbye, but the universe had other ideas. They transferred her to Maine Medical Center in Portland and a week later she underwent a quintuple bypass and valve replacement surgery at the age of 69. After the ten hour operation, she emerged feeling like a new woman. “I have a new heart now!” she told me in recovery. The surgeon informed us the average lifespan after such a surgery was 10 years.

Of course, her Mainer stubbornness proved him wrong. I’m thankful to have spent an additional 13 years with my mother and counting. She’s 83 now and enjoys relatively excellent health. I’ve let a lot of things go since she almost died. Peering into the abyss will do that to you. Our once stormy relationship has softened over the years to one of forgiveness, respect, and love.

Often we talk about those final moments; the time she was almost pulled over the edge. I’ve asked her more than once if it hurt to not be able to breathe, or if she was scared to die.

“Oh no, not at all,” she insists. “There was no pain. It was very peaceful. I saw your dad, you know. He was standing at the foot of my bed with two really big angels on either side of him. I knew I would be okay. Not scared at all. I was ready to go.”

I’ve seen death up close before when I was 21 and viewed my dad’s lifeless body lying in a coffin. I’ve carried the burden of not being present when he left us. I felt cheated out of saying goodbye to him. Yet the years of guilt, anger and sadness gradually faded away, transforming into acceptance and gratitude.

I don’t know why I went out to the garage that night. But the universe has a way of balancing things out. Saying my last goodbye to my mom that rainy October night prepared me again for the final curtain. I know when the time truly comes for my mom or me, I’ll be ready to jump into that abyss with less fear and more love.

Mom For Hire

The following post I wrote over three years ago and I’m reposting it because I have little time to write lately. In case you’re wondering the snow in Maine finally melted so I’m spending every waking moment outside.  Plus I’m tired. So damn tired. Happy Mother’s Day!

OBJECTIVE            To prove that when you notice the huge 10 year gap on my résumé, snicker and ask, “What were you doing all that time?!” I wasn’t merely sitting around twiddling my thumbs and eating bon bons.  (Although some days I did take a few breaks and did just that.)

WORK EXPERIENCE          

2000-2002              Fertility Specialist

  • Managed  and supervised an in-depth  and labor-intensive fertility project overseeing one disgruntled employee.
  • Daily progress was tracked with temperature readings, charts, graphs and my husband whining, “Do we have to do this AGAIN?!”
  • Goal was achieved after attending several meetings with various nurses, OB-GYNs and finally one prayer-filled seminar with The Big Guy in the Sky.
  • Assisted in creating an entire human being using only my body.
  •  Increased members of family by one healthy baby boy, increased household grocery consumption by 50%, decreased maternal brain cells by 30%.

2002-2003                Newborn Coordinator

  • Directed various sleep studies involving the length of time it takes for a subject to start hallucinating giant gummy bears dancing in the kitchen in relation to the few minutes of choppy haze-induced slumber one has per night.
  • Involved in product evaluations. Determined diaper wipe warmers are about as useful as another a hole in the head.  Also, breast pumps are not more effective if you crank the setting up to maximum and grit your teeth to get through the searing pain.
  • Managed one colicky baby every night for three months and implemented several tactics such as, walking baby around in circles while shushing, driving baby around neighborhood at 2 am and sobbing hysterically along with baby.

2003-2006                   Developmental Therapist/Lead Teacher

  • Lead instructor for a toddler child with sensory issues and more energy than an Energizer Bunny on speed fighting with the Tazmanian Devi in the midst of a hurricane..
  • Taught child how to count, how to recite the alphabet. Instructed child on proper hygiene, sleep habits, eating habits, social decorum. Lessons included: Hot Wheels are not for the toilet. Crayons are not edible. The cat is not a giant fuzzy doll that hisses. Addressed behavioral issues. For example, how not to hit, bite, kick another human being.
  • Subjects included: Respect, Kindness, Love, Curiosity, Imagination
  • Daily therapy provided:  giggling hysterically, dancing like everyone was watching, and running around the outdoors with wild abandon. Seeing the simple beauty, magic and joy in everyday things.
  • Goals achieved: 1) Raised one loving, caring, sweet, happy boy  2) Increased heart capacity by 1000%.

2006 to present             Mom Extraordinaire

  • Aided and assisted in creating and maintaining another human being using only my body.
  • Supervised two active, clever, bordering on maniacal children on a daily basis.
  • Provided safe, loving, nurturing home.
  • Taught subjects such as: sharing, caring, taking turns, being respectful of others, loving oneself
  • Goals Achieved: 1) Raised one sweet, loving, caring, happy girl. 2) Increased heart capacity by infinity.
  • Other Duties as Assigned: Chef, referee, maid, chauffeur, coach, dish washer, singer, dancer, party planner, counselor, public relations, nurse, doctor, teacher, professional hugger, boo-boo kisser, hand-holder, tear-wiper, confidence-builder and self-esteem engineer

SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS

    • Time Management  Able to flip pancakes, clean ketchup off ceiling, figure out an algebraic equation, unclog toilet filled with Polly Pockets, do 10 loads of laundry, drive kids to various practices, classes and play dates simultaneously.
    • Debating  Successfully presented and defended stance that Halloween candy consumed in large quantities for breakfast is a bad idea; flinging a Barbie at your brother’s head is a bad idea; jumping off the roof of the house into a snowbank wearing only underwear is a bad idea.
    • Patience  Able to withstand endless hours of ‘Why?’ questions, followed by listening to relentless whining, Spongebob episodes and sibling games of “But I’m Not Really Touching You!”  and “Stinky Feet”.
    • Love  Provided endless quantities on an as-needed basis until my heart hurt.

References Available Upon Maturity of Children.
Ask them how I did in 15 years. My guess is not too shabby.

What a Woman Really Wants

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Snowflakes drifted down in slow spirals, landing on my cheeks like bits of delicate lace. I peered through the window and saw him standing inside the foyer waiting for me. A bolt of excitement flashed down my spine, sending tingles to the darkened corners of my heart. Despite the cold, the heat emanating between us was radiant, a blistering flame threatening to engulf us both with its power, leaving nothing but dying embers in its wake.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” he had whispered to me on the phone earlier that day.

“Oh, really?” I purred.

“You’re gonna love it,” he promised in that silky voice that drove me mad. “I can’t wait for you to get home.”

And now after eight agonizing hours at work, I was home.

He threw open the front door with such force, a gasp escaped my lips. I ran to him, the space between us electric, filled with the pounding pulse of aching desire and raw lust. His hands slid underneath my heavy down jacket, squeezing my yearning body tight, enveloping me in a passionate embrace. His breath heavy and hot in my ear he teased, “This is your night, my love. Yours.”

I stood trembling as he kneeled before me, gently sliding the snow-caked boots off my legs, my breath quickening with every tantalizing touch.

“I think you need some warming up,” he said, wrapping his arms tight around my legs.

I nodded, still in a trance, willing to relinquish my very soul to this man. “Yes!” I begged. “Please, do it now! I’m so cold!” He caressed my feet, slowly placing them into my soft brown slippers. An instant rush of release, the dam finally bursting and giving way to a thunderous flood. “Oh, yeah,” I murmured, my voice barely a whisper. I wiggled my toes and sighed. “Ooh….that feels so good.” I shut my eyes, surrending to the pleasure, my arms limp and powerless at my sides.

“Please, don’t make me wait any longer–you must come with me now,” he demanded.

“But–what about the kids?” I asked, nervously glancing around the room.

“No worries. They’re gone for the night,” he whispered. His feather-soft lips brushed against my cheek as his hand trailed slowly down my back. I shivered. “We’re all alone,” he breathed into my ear.

He held me even closer, tracing the outline of my trembling chin with his finger. “Come, darling, please…” he pleaded. He took my hand and led me down the darkened hallway.

One glance to the left and I squealed with delight.  The clothes in the laundry room sat stacked in several tidy piles. “Oh, you didn’t!” I yelled and squeezed his hand. The bathroom sparkled in the moonlight, smelling of lavender. I felt my heart stop. My eyes watered as my hand flew up to cover my mouth.

“Oh! Honey!” I cried. “You cleaned!”

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“Wait, there’s more,” he said as he led me toward the living room. Flames from a dozen candles danced with the shadows on the walls. In the center of the coffee table, a silver bowl filled with Godiva chocolates. A bottle of red wine gleamed in the candle’s glow.

“Oh, sweetie!” I gushed. “It’s all so beautiful!”

“Shhh…” he soothed and pushed me down onto the couch. He leaned my body back onto the cushions and stroked my hair. Our eyes locked, the flames of desire licking at our souls in a near explosion of searing heat as we edged ever closer to becoming one.

“For you,” he said and ceremoniously placed the remote into my trembling hands.

“Oh, no, honey…I…I couldn’t…” I protested. My heart skipped a thousand beats. I gazed down in wonder at the buttons, all shiny and begging to be touched.

“There are 3 seasons of Scandal on Netflix, please…watch all of it.”

“But I–”

He placed his finger on my lips. “Shhh….it’s okay. Please, do it. The dishes are done, the house is clean and I’m going to put the last of the laundry away. There is nothing more for you to do now but watch your show.” He handed me a glass of wine and a hunk of dark chocolate. “And we can do it….all….night…long.”

“All night?” I asked, blinking.

“Unless you want to talk about your day at work?” he asked, leaning back, his eyebrows raised in genuine interest. He started to rub my feet, the day’s strain melting away with the gentle touch of his hands.

“What was it you told me yesterday?” he continued. “That Debra told Lisa about Sue and she didn’t even care that Sue wasn’t speaking to Lisa anymore because of the time she caught her rolling her eyes at what she said about Wendy?”

“Yeah! I mean…huh? You really want to talk about that now?” I sputtered in between bites of chocolate. Swigging back a gulp of wine, I sighed, “And it wasn’t even what she said it was–”

“How she said it,” he said, shaking his head.

We laughed. We watched Scandal for 10 hours straight. Exhausted and spent, the first pale rays of morning light spilled onto our entwined bodies still curled together as one on the couch, basking in the afterglow of a perfect night.

“Honey?” I asked with a slur, still drunk on wine and chocolate.

“Yeah?” He reached over, absent-mindedly twirling my hair with his fingers.

“Do we have any Excedrin Migraine left?”

“Yes, I’ll go get you some.”

“I love you,” I whispered.

“I know.”

“It’s just…what with the red wine…and all that chocolate…it’s a migraine waiting to happen and I–”

“Shhh…it’s okay. It’s okay. I know,” he said, tenderly rubbing my temples. I began to shiver again. As he drew my hot pink Forever Lazy Snuggie tighter around me, his arms created a cocoon of pure bliss I never wanted to escape.

“Oh, and honey?” I asked, grabbing his hand.

“Yes, my love?”

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Love is in the air…or is that cabbage I smell?

Valentine’s Day greeting cards for that special someone in your life.

For your nursing home roommate:

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For your celebrity spouse:

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For your pet human:

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For your cellmate at the state penitentiary:

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For Justin Bieber:

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For your newest blog follower:

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Stand-Up Saturday: Marriage

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Welcome to the first installment of weekly no holds barred, profanity-laced, semi-comedic rants straight from the rambling mind of the Supreme Destroyer of Bullshit — The Maineiac.

Today’s topic: Marriage

I remember a few years ago when Al and Tipper Gore dropped the big bomb on us. Apparently, it was top news that after 40 years of wedded bliss — after popping out several kids, rockin’ the robot dance at the inaugural ball to Aerosmith’s Dude Looks Like A Lady and displaying one chillingly awkward public kiss — their marriage was over.

Al and Tipper Gore Dancing at Inaugural Ball

“But it can’t be!” people cried. “How is this possible?” people gasped. “Oh! But it’s so sad! They were married 100 years! And to end it after all that time? It just doesn’t make any sense! Such a shame!”

Shame? I’ll tell you what’s a shame — that we aren’t admitting what really happened to their relationship.

We all know one day Al was lounging in his silk bathrobe in his king-sized bed, smoking a cigar and writing his upcoming book, Hanging Chads, Climate Change & Other Big-Ass Bummers, when he turned to look at Tipper’s green mud-mask-caked face and said:

“Hey, honey? …we’ve been together what…forty-odd years? Well, for forty goddamned years I have had to wake up and see your goddamn fucking face every goddamn fucking morning. And you know what? I am sick of this shit. I am tired of watching your mouth flap on and on and on. I have finally fucking had it. It’s over. This shit is done. Finito. Peace out, dude.”

Then he carefully took off his reading glasses and shuffled into the kitchen to knock back a shot of Metamucil and call his lawyers.

It’s true. This is definitely what went down in their marriage.

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At the beginning of every relationship, we all manage to hide our own deep personal shit. Stuff we cram down and try to bury with either sex or booze or chocolate. Stuff we bring to the marriage from our own bad childhoods. Most of us are basically more than a little screwed up from the get-go.

Then we bring this shit to the table. We show it to our spouse, but slowly over time so they won’t run away in horror.

But you can’t hide it forever can you?  That’s when your spouse realizes, Hot damn! You have some serious messed-up shit!

The longer your relationship,  the more you reveal. Then your spouse starts to think, Oh no! HELL no. This is WAY too much shit to deal with! I got my OWN shit! I can’t handle YOUR shit too!

This is often why people get divorced. It’s not just because someone cheated. It’s not because of arguments about money or parenting or crack habits. It’s simply “Hey, y’know what, honey? I’ve been thinking things over and….um…I have come to the realization that I am officially bone-ass sick and tired of you and your shit.”

For some couples this takes a few decades. Others, only a few months. It’s that moment of clarity when it hits: I am sick of you. There’s no shame in this. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s only natural. And very likely your significant other feels the same way.

It’s really not a question about love. Do you love your spouse? Of course you love them! This is why marriage can suck the life blood out of you.  It’s all the little daily annoyances that build up over time. It’s more a question of “how much shit can I stand and for how long?”

It’s your sanity versus loving your partner. One chips a little bit away from the other. You have to ask yourself the hard questions:

  • Does your love override the fact that they leave nasty shitty food in the sink?
  • Does your love overcome the fact that they fart in their sleep?
  • Does your love trump the fact that you have to sit there and watch the same M*A*S*H episode for the 1,500th time?
  • Can you just once get out of the fucking shower, Hunnicutt?
  • For the love of God, can you for once stop sucking down that martini, Pierce?
  • Can we finally admit that’s all M*A*S*H is — people wearing various drab shades of green standing in outdoor showers drinking martinis?

But I love my husband, so I suffer on through it.

And he puts up with my severe, unpredictable hormone-fueled mood swings and extreme hatred of Alan Alda.

I think it’s a fair trade.

People that have been married 50-60 years — we celebrate them. We think, “Wow! they must really have their shit together!” We are in awe of these couples, we hold them up as a high standard that we one day hope to achieve. “Damn! They must really love each other! They must be soul mates!”

Oh no. Sure, they love each other. But y’know what it is, really? Why good ol’ Martha and Frank are still together after slogging it out day after day, year after year, decade after soul-sucking decade?

Because those two can really put up with a whooooole lotta shit.

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Happy Double 1s, Little Man

This week is my son’s birthday.

From the very beginning, I knew he was going to be a handful. He refused to vacate his comfy home for his due date, deciding instead to roll around in my belly like the Tasmanian Devil partying in a hot tub.

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Today, my son is the sweetest, kindest, most adorable-est boy in the universe.  He’s still got a bit of the Taz in him, but that’s okay.  He’s the light of my life.

So it only seems fitting that I show the world my sweet Baby Boo in all his glory (and in the process, call him by as many nauseatingly cutesy nicknames as I possibly can.)

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Of course, I would never ever think of posting some of his extra-adorable/horribly embarrassing photos.

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Because that would just be plain wrong.

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But I’m a mom and if exposing my son’s unbearable cuteness is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

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And it definitely would be wrong of me to post a video of him at the age of five doing a lovely spaztastic dance number.

Dear CJ — my Chub-Bub, my BaBoo, my Lil’ Buddy — I love you more than the moon and stars (even more than trucks and cars).

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Happy 11th Birthday! I’m so happy to be your mom!

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Dear Dad

Part of a parent’s job is to make us feel safe. Comforted.  Accepted. Loved. Hopefully, this gives us the ability to venture out into the big bad world with little fear.

You did that for me. Thank you.

When I try to visualize your face, I see your smile and your twinkling blue eyes — like we’re sharing a secret joke no one else would understand.   “See? Life is funny!” you chuckle.  “Isn’t it ridiculous? Let’s laugh about it. It’s gonna be all right, Punky.”

You helped me to always find the humor in life. Thank you.

When I think of the person you were, I remember a quiet, intelligent, loving man who stood up to do the right thing. You always wanted to help others. No matter where their life’s path had taken them or their circumstances. You weren’t scared, you just did it. Actions speak louder than words. You weren’t looking for praise or attention. You did it because it was the right thing to do. You once told me, “Who knows, one day they might turn around and help you when you need it most.” What you put out there will come back to you times a hundred.

You taught me to reach out and help others. Thank you.

You gave me the power of having an open mind, to see all sides to things. You allowed me to discover my beliefs on my own, to keep questioning and learning while always practicing respect for another point of view. You taught me that being gentle to myself and others takes strength. Kindness is more important than being right.

You gave me the gift of compassion, trust and faith.  Thank you.

Compassion for others starts within. If you’re not kind to yourself, you can’t be kind to others. You will never resolve negativity you feel with others in your life — anger, resentment, jealousy — until you resolve those issues within your own mind, your own soul. The ability to love myself is crucial if I want to fully love and be open to others in my life.

You showed me to trust in myself. To love myself. Thank you.

Today  would have been your 75th birthday. And I know that wherever you are, in my mind you’re still chuckling, calling me Punky, and telling me it will be all right. And I know it will.

Thank you for everything you taught me.

I am the person I am today, I am the mom I am today, because of you.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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Why I Want to Have Jason Bateman’s Baby

Everyone has their secret celeb crushes. On my short list — Sting, Jon Stewart, Hugh Laurie, Robert Downey Jr., Conan O’Brien, Ryan “Hey Girl” Gosling — to name just a few. (It’s really not a short list at all, actually.)

But no one compares to my undying devotion to Jason Bateman.
Ah, yes. Jason and I go waaay back.

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—-The following post is narrated by Ron Howard—-

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We’re talkin’ way back to Little House on the Prairie, when Jason made his TV debut as the adorable freckle-faced young orphan boy, James Cooper– and who not much later in his career would occasionally bear more than an unsettling resemblance to his real-life sister, Justine Bateman.

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Continue reading “Why I Want to Have Jason Bateman’s Baby”

This Mom’s Wish

Dear Kids,

This is all I want for Mother’s Day (and beyond):

  • That you realize half-eaten tuna sandwiches don’t belong in the far corner of your closet buried under three tons of toys.
  • You learn to fight less and love more.
  • Hands are not for hurting but for helping — also for helping Mom by picking up all your stuff off the floor. Here’s a tip: open your hand, pick something up, put it away.
  • R – E – S – P – E – C – T Find out what it means to me. And to anyone else you’ll meet for the rest of your life. I’ll give you a big hint: it’s probably the single most important thing, other than love, you can feel for another human being.  It will carry you throughout life and help you learn from others, shaping you into a positive force that can move mountains.  If you give it, others will return it to you.
  • Silence. Just ten minutes will do.
    OK, five is fine too.
    One minute?
  • A hug. A real one. Not the kind where you wiggle away in horror like I’m trying to pull the teeth out of your head.
  • That you help one another. Always.
  • If you ever see someone down, try to help them. If someone needs a hand, help them. If someone is struggling, help them.
  • Did I mention you should always help one another? Yeah, do that. Always.
  • That you realize what you put out there in the universe, positive or negative, will come back to you times ten. It’s the hardest lesson of all, but one worth remembering.
  • That you know love is all you need.
    And chocolate.
    I need some right now.
    Did you buy me any?

By the way, you both have already given me the above gifts.  All I ask is that you keep it up. I’m proud to be your mom.

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Happy Mother’s Day