138: Grand-Parental Chicago Love

My parents are loving, wise, and so perfectly in love with their grandchildren.

M’s Nene and Papa have been friends forever. (Their journey began when they made their First Communion together in 2nd grade.) They’ve been partners, comrades, and companions through years of life’s twists and turns.

Growing up with the duo meant lots of great road-trips. Whether we were traveling back to the town in which their love memories took root, or driving to our favorite campground in Wisconsin, my sister K and I built some of our favorite and craziest memories. You see, we had the best road-trip mobile a kid could ever want…A Volkswagen Camp Mobile.

We called it the Green Machine. It had white hubcaps, green plaid curtains, and a roof that popped up 6 feet – when parked. Inside it had a table for playing rounds of UNO, a mini-kitchen, chairs that turned into a bed, and dozens of secret compartments.

Since the engine was in the back and mom and dad’s seats were so far away, we could never hear what they were talking about – which was perfectly fine with us. But when I think about the hours the twosome spent side-by-side, looking down the road, I wonder what they said to each other.


At the end of lunch yesterday, I gave the pair a call. They announced that they were about to hop in the car and go on a road-trip…to visit M and watch his basketball game.

For the remainder of the afternoon, I wondered and speculated about their road-trip conversations on their way to visit their 16 year old grandson…whom they love and miss so much.

When my husband and I make the trip, we take the book with us. (It’s the book that keeps me strong, gives us guidance, gives us words to say to him, and gives us hope.) I read a section or two, and then we talk. It’s sometimes similar to the talk a boxing coach would give his fighter before the bell rings. But sometimes it’s just like the sweet and hopeful conversations Dorothy had with her companions on the way to Oz.


My dad called on the drive home from the game…

“J, it was like walking into a Bulls game to watch Jordan play.”

Having grown up in Chicago – I knew exactly what he meant. And now, I also knew exactly what their conversations were like before and after the game.


137: The Uncomplicated Days

I was home by 4:15 today. After playing with the dog in the backyard, dinner preparation began. Tonight would be an easy dinner because we still had leftovers from last night’s crock-pot special.

K came flying through the door at 5:15 with a big smile on his face after basketball practice, “Mom, I have good news and bad news about some test grades. What do you want first?”

After the test discussion, we settled into our seats at the kitchen table, where one chair always sits empty these days. K suggested I enter my new side dish into a food contest, “Mom, you would definitely win. This is so good.”

Then K excused himself and headed to the piano. He needed to prepare for his 7:00 lesson, and I headed to the basement to start laundry. On the way up, I heard K asking, “Mom, did Mr. R email you back yet? I really hope I can get on his baseball team.”

Next, he sat back down at the kitchen table to do homework. He did his math without asking any questions, but I did get to help him through some vocabulary practice. Then suddenly, “Mom, today I found my good copy of the Harry Potter book we are reading!” (You see, the copy he’s been reading has pages falling out, is tattered, torn, and discolored due to a big coffee spill.)

At 6:50, we hopped in the van and headed to his lesson. The car ride was quick…but sweet. Nothing spectacular, just perfectly ordinary. “Mom, are you going to stay for my lesson?”

I sat on the floor and read my book; it was nice and it was easy.


It’s so uncomplicated when they are younger. Mothering M through his teenage years has not been easy and it certainly has not come naturally for me. I second-guess myself, I get sad, I get frustrated, and I get scared.

I pray this all turns out okay.

136: Holy Card Relief

“How is he doing?”

A simple question… that leads to a labyrinth of answers.

And so it begins…

I think he’s doing well…He’s safe…He has a lot of great people around him…I love that he’s playing basketball, and now he’s gearing-up for tennis…

And that leads to…

But I think we still have a long road ahead of us…Still not sure what we are going to do for spring break…This summer is a big question mark…I don’t know if he’s willing to follow our rules yet…He’s still only 16.

And finally…

And so I just keep on loving and keep on praying. (Because that’s what my St. Therese prayer card reminds me to do.”

“…to the heart that loves, all is well.”

135: A Road Trip With Mom

Is it crazy that I still believe that a good, old-fashioned road trip with M will solve everything? In my dreams, we hop in the van and head…somewhere.

Hours of silence would begin the voyage, but even the silence would feel nice. And something would break it – maybe it would be a song he’d want me to hear on his iPod, or a story about a ridiculous thing he and his friends had done at school. The icebreaker would come from him, and then it would lead to what is really on his mind.

This is the point at which my M would begin to return.

M is intelligent, sensitive, and kind.

Is it possible to drive and drive until he returns to me? Is it possible to take a road trip that would shake and remove his impulsive teenage decisions? Is it possible to take a road trip that would span the duration of the development of his frontal lobe?

I am convinced that I am not crazy for wondering or dreaming. I’m just his mom.

134: Who Is In Charge Here?

Last Saturday’s candid lunch was enlightening, effectual, timely, and…excuse me if this sounds a little exaggerated, but it did seem a bit … life-changing.

Sitting in a cozy Panera booth, my friend, N, shook me to the core. Her shocking news hit me and began to rock my world, brought tears to my eyes, and – here’s the best part – gave me permission to breathe. She simply said…

“J…God is in charge here…Not you. God has the wheel…Not you. Thank Him every morning for another day. Tell M every day that you love him, and live your life.”

Thank you, N, for your simple and marvelous words.

133: At the Top of the Hole

Years ago, I would have considered marching into the District Attorney’s office and arguing…

What do you mean that my son doesn’t qualify for the “Diversion” program? Everybody’s kid at that party got “Diversion. So now he’s the only one that has to wait for a court appointed attorney to contact him, then he will have to stand before a judge, he’ll probably get a parole officer, and then to top it off…it will always be on his record. This is not right!

But today, my march is different.

The letter we received in the mail is just another step in this journey. Maybe this will get his attention.

Probably not, but maybe.

Dear Sweet M,

Society really does have rules you need to follow. As you continue to fight the system, you will need to prepare yourself for some excruciating lessons. It is hard for me to watch you go through this, but it will never change my feelings towards you, Sweet M –  I love you, and I always will. Certainly, someday you will tire of this stubborn fight you seem to be having with the society. My prayer for you is that you will wave the flag soon. But in the meantime know that my hand is right there at the the top of this stupid hole you seem to be digging.

Love you, Mom

132: Once There Was A Mother Camel

This is the story of the straw that broke the mother camel’s back.


Occasionally, you reach a breaking point. My most recent collapse occurred just today moments after my last class.

At 2:15, I was erasing the white board and waving “Goodbye” to my final round of students when the display on my classroom phone caught my eye. I had missed three messages. This was surprising, as our phones are used so rarely.

Honestly, my first inclination was to leave the messages for Monday, but instead I dropped the straw and pushed “play.”

The insistent woman leaving me messages over the last two days was the scheduler from the breast center. (You see, after my heart check on Wednesday, I meandered by the Walk-In Breast Center in one of the hospital’s corridors. Since I still had the recent mammogram script in my purse from my December doctor visit, I thought…”Why not get this one over with too?”)

Apparently she needed to get in touch with me to schedule a re-check because Wednesday’s mammogram had “shown an area which requires additional imaging.”

It’s Friday. It’s 2:30.

I scrambled to my cell phone, dialed the number as quickly as I could and tried to get through to someone.

The dazed and confused expression on my face was correctly read by my friend K, and we stood together in the hallway while my appointment was made for next Wednesday. Hanging up, I filled K in on what had stolen the life out of the usual Friday afternoon smiles. And that is when my sweet friend sat in my room and gave me a little reality check…This “recheck” call has happened to her too…it happens all the time to women…it’s going to be nothing…we throw ourselves into a tizzy too quickly…it’s better that they look carefully at everything…and, again – Chances are, it’s nothing.

She’s right.

We headed back to our Friday afternoon routines, and I began to water my plants. As I was staring out the window, probably over watering my plump aloe vera – the flood gates broke… And I mean really broke. It was a double-fisted, tissue-grabbing sob.

Deep down, I know what caused the niagara. It wasn’t worry about the mammogram, it wasn’t worry about the heart monitor waiting for me at home, and it wasn’t worry related to the fact that M was coming home in a few hours…It was just all those things together – I needed a good cry. (That mission was certainly accomplished today.)

I have always been a “glass is half-full” kind of girl. And today, I still feel that way. My zen friend K is probably correct – the mammogram will be fine. And my sweet husband B is probably correct, too – my heart thing will most likely turn out to be fine too.

And M, I’m going to make sure that he is better than fine.

131: Sooner, Rather Than Later

M’s papa, my dad, is a great man who loves his family.

When I was a kid, dad’s career took us to several cities throughout the Northeast and the Midwest. Mom must have spent years packing and unpacking, but she consistently performed her magic and transformed each new house into our home in record-breaking time. Coincidentally, our new house usually became our home at the point in which dad’s sweet smelling pipe had infiltrated the air.

But dad smoked cigarettes too. It’s funny that I don’t really remember seeing or smelling dad smoke cigarettes – but I knew he did. (The cigarettes, he smoked in the garage – the pipe was smoked in the house.)

At some point in my childhood, I began to worry about what the cigarettes were doing to my dad’s lungs. Scary stories about lungs coated in tar and cancer acted as catalysts to my long discussions with God about looking after my dad’s lungs. Oh, how I prayed that He would keep them healthy.

It didn’t help knowing that Dad’s smoking habit had begun long before my sister and I were born. Our concern was for good reason, and Dad knew that we were worried about him – but he didn’t stop.

That is, until something happened.

That “something” was not a health scare – it was a person. A tiny person. Dad quit smoking because of M.


So here we are 16 years later, and M smokes cigarettes. I worry and pray for so much more than just his lungs. My prayers for him span much wider than my childhood prayers for my dad, but they come from the same place. I love them both so much.

If M gave up everything but cigarettes – oh, how happy I’d be.

M, each night I pray that God looks after your lungs, your heart, your brain…your entire body and everything that makes you…you.  I also pray that you find “something” that makes you stop doing all the things that worry those who love you – sooner, rather than later. Love you, Mom

130: Good Advice

LDL…High.   Triglycerides…Way too high.   HDL…Borderline.   Glucose…Just a mere fraction from “pre-diabetic.”   My BMI places me in the “overweight” category.   Those little facts and statistics were given to me within minutes of the little prick to my finger. The results from all the other lab tests will come back next week.

That was just phase one. In two days my little monitor will arrive in the mail. Then, next week two more procedures will be completed.

I’m fairly certain that these tests will tell me what I already know…I am stressed. Certainly these little flutters I feel in my chest are just related to my concern for M and our family.


New strength has been coming from a former enemy…Facebook. There are dozens of “groups” out there with members who have worries just like mine. Tonight I read a post from a mother. She sounded so sad, so discouraged, and so defeated. Her words made me ache for her; it was obvious that her suffering was reaching new lows. So I wrote to her…

Stay strong – I know this is torture for you, but you’re stronger than you think you are. Please take care of yourself.”

After I posted that, I read it back to myself. Hmm. Good advice.

129: Accepting the Ride

Last week, I was growing excited as I was making plans for him to come home for the weekend.

This week, I am making no plans at all.

The roller coaster ride is tiring and dark. There is no time to prepare for its highs and lows because you can’t see what’s around the corner.

It probably sounds like I’m having another pity party…but that’s not what this is.

It’s acceptance.

I do not have any control over the decisions he makes.

But I do have control over how much I pray. I’m headed to bed to say my prayers.

I love you, M.