Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My 40 Years In 40 Photos That Any 40-Something Can Relate To

I just turned 40.  4-0.  Forty.

No matter how I say, type or print it, it just doesn't seem true.

Then looking back at these photos, as I searched for a way to commemorate my climb to the tippy top of that proverbial hill before tumbling gracefully down the other side,  I realized that this milestone is meant to be a celebration- a remembrance- just like the memory of things that made those years exactly what they were.

Each of these things, good or bad, happy or sad, has left an indelible mark on my first 40 years- and helped bring me here- to where the next 40 are supposed to be.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Grew Up With Snow Days... My Kids Just Had A Bomb Day

We returned from a weekend away well after midnight on Sunday so I kept my kids home from school on Monday because I knew they would be exhausted.  I kept them home today because of a bomb threat to their Los Angeles school district.

A plumbing problem?  A computer system failure?  Or a massive power outage that is somehow impacting their campus but not our home less than one mile away?  What am I supposed to tell them about why their school is closed today?  My daughters are only 5 and 7 years old.  One is in kindergarten and the other is in 2nd grade. I guarantee they will be excited to have an extra day of play but are bound to realize quickly that today isn't what they'd usually call an "S" day (unless that "S" is for scary).

The fact is, no matter what I tell them, they are going to hear the truth tomorrow.  There is no way for me to shield them from that.

A week ago I was concerned about a classmate who told my eldest that her parents are Santa Claus.  While I think I covered that one up for now,  it will inevitably come up again.  I won't be able to preserve her Christmas magic forever.  But how do I preserve the fact that my children should feel safe in their classroom during a history lesson, on the playground at recess or with best friends while eating their favorite snack?  The bottom line is, I can't.  Today is a stern reminder of that.

As Southern Californians, we are strongly encouraged to leave a personalized Earthquake Kit in our classrooms.  On the list of items to pack is a handwritten note of support and encouragement.  "Hang tight, sweetheart!  Mommy or Daddy will be there soon to get you."  There are a million positive ways to spin the message but somehow I've never settled on the right one.  What if I don't get there?  What if that message is the last I'll ever communicate to my daughter and I didn't say absolutely everything she needs to hear?

Humankind has survived so many great threats, plagues, wars.  Those victories are the things I want my daughters to learn about in history lessons.  I want them to learn about the forefathers (and mothers) of our beautiful country.  I want them to learn about our biggest discoveries and most life-changing inventions while cultivating the knowledge and experience they need to make an amazing history of their own, no matter how big or small.

I don't want them to learn about terrorism or Al Qaeda or ISIS.  I don't want them to learn about the failure of our government to keep us safe while simultaneously manufacturing lethal weapons without drastically changing our own laws to protect us from them.  And I don't want them to learn the importance of paying attention during the same school safety drills that I laughed about as a child.

Then again, I need them to learn about all of those things.

Whether today's bomb threat is a credible one or not, the reminder I've heard over and over again is how it's better to be safe than sorry.  I think that rule applies when getting to the movie theatre early so tickets don't sell out.  It applies when throwing out cheese that may or may not have gone bad so no one gets a belly ache.  It even applies when hiding Christmas toys outside the house just in case your Santa Claus cover-up wasn't nearly as strong as you thought.

Today I realized it also applies when keeping your children at home because of a terrorist bomb threat to their school and every other in your city of millions.

I just wish that were a lesson my kids never had to learn.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Most Important Teacher's Gift You'll Never Give

A 47th mug, an engraved picture frame, even a homemade maybe-an-ashtray/maybe-a-sombrero clay tchotchke thingy.  Almost any teacher gift is better than this.

I’ve seen several versions of this wine bottle floating around on social media.  The problem is that I am seeing them as real life gifts, personalized with photos of children I know and love, as opposed to memes poking fun at what I find to be one of the most inappropriate teacher gifts since the naked selfie.

Don’t get me wrong.  My kid can be an asshole, just like yours.  And my kid drives me nuts to the point of complete insanity, so I cannot imagine what she can do for someone who doesn’t share her DNA or call her family.  But the very last thing I want to think of my daughter being is responsible for driving her teacher to drink anything but a triple shot espresso.

And it’s not even labeling my child as the catalyst for drinking that bothers me.  If she can drive me toward a cocktail, God bless her underpaid teacher.

I’ve never been a goody-two-shoes.  I was known for a pretty mean keg stand in college and have tried almost every drug imaginable.  I smoked more marijuana in my mid-twenties than I ever did in college, which is saying a lot.  Hell, I’ve even shared here about the time celebrating Jerry Garcia’s life with a strange trip of my own landed me in my small hometown grocery store believing I was being engulfed by honeydew melons.


I don’t enjoy sharing more information than my mother would ever want to hear but am willing to do so not only because I am way too old for her to ground me but also because a reminder is clearly needed that you never can guess what someone’s true experience has been with drugs or alcohol.

You never know who is struggling to cut back on their drinking.  Or had their license suspended because of a DUI that could have killed you both (heaven forbid your child) and is now Uber-ing to work because of it.  You never know who lost their parent to addiction and is terrified of inheriting that deadly gene.  Or, passing it on to their own innocent children.

I guess you never really know until you know- and that painful reminder is no longer necessary.

Me?  I’d rather play it safe and give the clay thingy.