Saturday, May 8, 2010


My son is getting married this month. I am delighted, and I love his bride. I thought I had resolved the issues of letting him become an adult but maybe I haven't. I have been working for weeks on a video project that I plan to show at the Rehearsal Dinner. Gathering photos and pouring through memories, I find myself in an emotional heap and I am baffled by my confusion. It has been a bit like therapy--going back over the past--reliving the highpoints of mothering him. I am surprised at how territorial I have become about our history, and how really sad I am that a huge section of my life is over. I am finding that his marriage is a bit more about me than I thought; I am having a very hard time letting him go.

I have always believed that boys are easier to raise than girls. They are more “up front” and readable, “what you see is what you get.” At least that has been my experience. Also, my son is a lot like me in personality and in talents. He loves movies and stories; he is an English teacher and wants to work with adolescent kids. He has an army of friends and people confide in him and ask his advice. He is tall and red-haired and looks like his Irish ancestors and his quick witty comebacks make me double over in laughter. He is a wonderful friend.

He always wants to know my opinion about things and people. "Can I run something by you Mom?" he often asks. When he was in high school, we used to go shopping for the "perfect basketball shoes" every January before the season began. The ritual parade through the sports stores always ended at Friendly's where the biggest cheeseburger special and the chocolate Fribble were never enough to fill him up. As we shared the French fries, we also shared opinions of people and issues and talked about “ stuff” in an open and honest way. Both of us really learning to listen to each other.

I am puzzled as to how to keep this familiarity now that his life and mine are changing. I have no modeling for "letting go". My mother held me so close that I couldn’t breathe and she saw the changes in my life as a betrayal. She wanted us to be best friends and we never were. She was very able to say what she wanted and needed, but I never felt the same freedom. She could not allow for my change and growth. She had such a difficult time understanding that my first loyalty was to my husband when I married, not her. She saw everything as a judgment of her worth and a threat to her control. It was so difficult for me to deal with her as an equal. She wanted things to stay eternally the same--and of course that is not possible. Consequently, our relationship became a duty. It didn’t grow and it never changed.

Lately, I think that I understand her attempt at control--it was really loneliness and fear in disguise. She didn’t want to loose me. She didn’t want me to change or be different from her or from the life we had shared. If I remained a child, I would still need her and not go away. And if I am truly honest, I don’t want my son to change either. I want him to still need me in that special way of confidant and advisor—nor do I want him to go away. But of course he must.

Life is so hard that way. Just when you think you have a handle on the way things work—it changes. Just when you think you are managing the toddlers, they transform themselves into rational beings. Just when you think you can cope with the adolescents in your house, they become adults. And just when you think you really know how to mother your son—he is a man and no longer has a need to be mothered.

When I am really honest with myself, I want to go back to a time when I was the most important woman in his life. I am no longer that. He has a new leading lady and his wedding marks the beginning of another chapter for both of us. I am now in a supporting role. And that is as it should be. My job was to make him independent. I am delighted that he has found a wonderful partner who loves him and wants to share his life. And as I gather the pictures and the memories of Act I of his life and I display them in the video that will be my gift to him the night before his wedding, I am preparing to reload my camera so that I may be a witness for the future when we begin to forge a new relationship—while in my heart I know that nothing will ever be the same.

Friday, April 23, 2010


“So why do you go?” a friend recently asked me after I had ranted about my scandal ridden church. It is an excellent question and one that I have given a great deal of thought to recently. My anger is enormous. I feel betrayed and ashamed and stupid. How could I have believed these people? The same leaders who were admonishing us for our weaknesses and pride were covering up the most horrific of crimes and were arrogant enough to ask victims to never speak of it because it would bring infamy to the church.

“So why do you go” the question rings in my ears and it deserves an answer. To be honest, I don’t go all the time. I was better when my children were at home. You do not ask adolescents to do something if your behavior is not in line. They are seekers of truth and searchers for hypocrisy. So that is a large part of why I went then. But now? Well sometimes I think that I am married to the Pope. My husband keeps his promises. He feels that it is not such a bad idea to sit in a quiet place and be grateful for what he has and those forty-five minutes or so can be contemplative and calming he says. And I think he is right.

Sometimes I put my foot down and refuse to go with him and try to do something spiritual like meditate or walk by the ocean—but then I get lonely and feel badly that I didn’t go to church and wind up going again. But it is more than that.

I go to this Church because it connects me to my past. So much of my history involves being Irish and being Catholic. I understand guilt—the nuns---indulgences---purgatory. I get all the Catholic jokes—I lived a lot of them and going to Church is a little like going home again. I see myself in the shiny paten leather shoes on Easter Sunday morning with my new white lace gloves. I remember my mother’s Sunday hats, laden with flowers and netting and the families who lined the pews whose lives were just like mine—or so I thought at the time.

I go because it doesn’t change. And although this is one of the reasons that I rage against this institution, it is comforting as well. When I go to Mass I know exactly what to expect. I know the words to the prayers, I know the songs, and I know the responses. I know the Nicene Creed in English and in Latin; I know how to use the missal and where to lay the red ribbon that separates the Liturgy of the Word from the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I know when to stand and when to sit—there are no surprises here.

I go because I know all the people in my parish that go. I have watched my neighbors in the congregation change over the last twenty years. I have seen children come to adulthood on those Sunday morning sessions. I know the woman whose son was arrested for marijuana possession who is a Eucharistic Minister and the mother who lost her daughter in an automobile accident and I watch their courage and devotion as they return each week from communion. I watch the people who have “faith” who believe in this ritual despite all the terrible things that have happened. I watch the people in the choir. I love their blue robes and I love their intensity as they sing the chanting responses to the priest.

I go because I want to belong to something. Something larger than me. Something better than me. We are comrades, we Catholics. We are part of the Mystical Body. We are members of the same team, we are on the same road—or so I thought until recently.

The question for me right now is will I continue to go? Now that I know what I know. To be honest I have never been a traditional Catholic. I call myself an American Catholic—one who makes decisions using my conscience as well as my church. But will I continue to be part of this Church now that the worst has happened? I believe that it is possible for some positive change to come from this black hole of evil and deceit and the awful legacy of the arrogance of power.

But until something changes, I am left with the question ringing in my ears. “Why do you go?” And I continue to search my heart for the answer.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I didn’t know that having children would cause such a dramatic change in me. Somehow I thought that kids would just blend into the background and my life would continue as before. I would take walks. I would write books. I had this soft focus lens idea of what motherhood entailed and it was a cross between a Pampers commercial and a Christmas card.

I didn’t know that after having a child I would be constantly focused on others needs. That my life would be so circumscribed by their lives that it would be two decades until I regained my balance.

I didn’t know how little regard there would be for mothering in the ‘70’s. I was amazed that women at home were considered not very bright or lacking somehow because they took this commitment so seriously. Gloria Steinham scolded me about wasting my talents and Hilary Clinton denigrated “making cookies” as if that was all that was involved in this career.

I didn’t know that I would become so angry and defensive when I was asked, “what else do you do?” at every cocktail party as my husband climbed up the corporate ladder.

I didn’t know how my confidence would ebb away after children. I was someone’s mother and someone’s wife and someone’s daughter serving everyone and losing the essence of who I was.

I didn’t know there could be such spectacular joy in watching a child perform a skill. As I sat in the middle school auditorium on a steamy May night, I was breathless with pride and emotion as my eleven-year-old son took the stage to perform a solo on the alto saxophone. He stood confidently in the spotlight facing classmates and teachers and played a song I had never heard him attempt. It was Barbara Streisand’s tune, Evergreen. It was my Mother’s Day gift, my favorite song, and a moment I will always keep in my heart.

I didn’t know the depth of sadness I could feel when someone hurt my children’s feelings until my older daughter was cut from the basketball team and she ached with defeat and inadequacy. I can see her sitting at the kitchen table physically spent, wrestling with the defeat. “I tried as hard as I could. I worked as hard as I ever have at anything, Mom,” she cried, “but the truth is I just wasn’t good enough. There were others who were just better than me.”

I didn’t know how defeated I would feel when the adolescents I had nurtured slammed doors in my face, and wailed against what they saw as my injustice. “You’re ruining my life!” they claimed. “You are the only mother in town who insists on curfews!” they whined. Their relentless challenge of the rules exhausted me even though I knew my boundaries would provide a safer passage into adulthood for them.

I didn’t know I was capable of such anger until my younger daughter was held up at gunpoint on her urban campus. Sitting in a courtroom watching her assailant ask for bail and release made me realize I was quite capable of violence and revenge. I was frightened by the range of emotions that came to me when my children were hurt or threatened. I became a grisly bear, irrational and combative to anyone who would threaten their well being.

I didn’t know I had such an ability to give, and I wouldn’t have know if it weren’t for the ear infections, the stitches, the tears and the sleepless nights when their problems were far more profound than mine.

I didn’t know the pride I would feel when I looked at three adults and could say. “I like these people, they are good people, and some of the reason for their goodness is me.”

I didn’t know how the career of mothering would turn out when I started, and of course it isn’t over yet, and I am so very grateful that I didn’t know, because I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it.

Friday, April 9, 2010


There wasn’t a person of color in the crowd of four thousand Arizonans.
The parking lot was filled with motorcycles and trucks of all sizes and shapes. People wore cowboy hats and carried American flags. They had all come to see Sarah Palin. It was a rally for the re-election campaign of John McCain, but the crowd wanted to get a glimpse of the little lady from Wasilla. “We want Sarah” the crowd chanted in rhythm, folks wore buttons that said SARAH—FOR PRESIDENT.

“She speaks her mind” the woman beside me said. “She has common sense and that is really all you need to be the president”, another chimed in. I smiled benignly as the woman turned to me and said, “Now she is a real role model for women.”

The Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson was a fitting backdrop for this rally of like minded souls. The red Arizona dust swirled in the parking lot as we all inched up the line to have our bags examined by burly policemen. But it was a peaceful crowd, peaceful until Obama’s name was mentioned. “Are you sorry yet?” the hand held sign screamed carried by a man wearing a shirt imprinted--- OBUMMER!

As Sarah whipped up the crowd in her introduction of McCain, her references to the President were met with responses like “put the cuffs on him”. To her rhetorical questions about liking the new Health Care Bill there were shouts of “Hang him”. And although both Sarah and McCain spoke the platitudes of not wanting violence, there was violence just a little below the surface on this sunny afternoon.

Sarah was dressed like a biker chick. Shiny black cropped leather jacket with silver zippers, a very tight and very short skirt, upswept hair and the librarian glasses. Her accent was a mixture of hillbilly and cowboy. She does say “youbetcha” and the crowd loves it. Her voice was high pitched and shrill, but she talked like the girl next door. Like she was chatting with you in the supermarket, like she was sympathizing with you and felt exactly as you did about the world.

She said that John Mc Cain would never win the Mr. Congeniality Award in the Senate; she said he is not known for “going with the flow”. And what I thought was the best line of the day she added. “I am a commercial fisherman and I know that the only fish that “go with the flow” are dead fish! We do not want someone representing us who goes with the flow.
The crowd went wild. “That’s my girl,” a scraggly man dressed in black who was standing beside me roared. “Tell it like it is, Sarah!” And she does and she did and John McCain seemed grateful.

Cindy McCain looking blond, bland and put together said a few dutiful words. And John McCain spent his time beating up on the health care plan. He vowed to be part of the constitutionality challenge that will happen in many states and he vowed to represent the people in the room and to FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT---against big government, Washington, and all things threatening to the constitution. And so the members of the Arizona Republican Party with its “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and take personal responsibility for your own life” message seemed to rally around the Maverick senator who all will agree is an American Hero.

But Sarah Palin summed up the mission of the Republican Party’s future when she said that the evil press is calling them, “The Party of NO.” She railed against the belief that her party is just a group of obstructionists at heart. “That is just not true”, she screamed. We are not the party of NO---we are the party of HELL NO!


So here I am a way more than middle-aged woman who has just created a blog. I am at the beginning of something here--scary--beginnings. Why would anyone read this? Am I being a total narcissist? Who cares what I think or what I am sorting out? Nothing ventured....

I don't know what this will eventurally be--but I think I will treat it like MY OPINIONS ABOUT EVERYTHING.

So hang on.