My two-year-old graduated from high school last month. Okay, I know. In the eyes of the world and according to his birth certificate, he’s seventeen. But I only have to close my eyes for a second and he’s two. In fact, it seems I’ve only blinked a couple of times and somehow two became seventeen. It’s a bittersweet journey, this parenting thing. I’ve always seen it as my job to raise him to be independent. Self-sufficient. Capable of spreading his wings to fly when the time comes. Which means that I’m basically been training him all along not to need me around anymore. By the time a baby takes his first precious steps, I think every mom feels a mixture of relief and sadness. For those first few months, you are attached practically 24/7 to this creature who demands more of you than you ever thought possible to give. Walking gives them a measure of independence that means you are no longer obliged to carry them everywhere they go. Which can be quite freeing, but also a little scary. It’s the beginning of a series of ribbon-cuttings. The first day of school. The first time they get embarrassed if you hug them in public. The first day of middle school. The first time they don’t want you to tag along for an activity. The first time they don’t need your help with a school assignment. The first time you discover you’re no longer cool. The first day of high school. The first time they get behind the wheel. The first time they drive away in the car alone. The first time they go out with their friends alone. Each of these milestones pricks the heart, swollen as it is with pride. It’s a natural progression. You want them to succeed. You want them to grow. You want them to experience the world and all it has to offer. But the flip side of that journey is that each step along the way takes them farther away from you. I’m beyond proud of Dr. Smooth. I am in awe of his accomplishments thus far. I actually enjoy his company, which is a blessing based on some other horror stories of moms I know with teenage sons. I see so much potential in him, and I marvel at his sense of humor, his unique personality, his drive to succeed, and his ability to see the world around him through lenses that are both inclusive and realistic. He is kind. He is funny. He is compassionate. He is smart. He is motivated. He is industrious. He is socially conscious. He is just. He is honest. Direct. Straightforward. Intuitive. Communicative. He is a young man on the threshold of a future that is bright with broad horizons. And yet, he is still the baby I nestled in my womb, the toddler I cradled and soothed, the young boy I nurtured and encouraged, the teenager I supervised and annoyed, the very essence of my heart. I’m in a maelstrom of emotions as we turn the page for this next chapter. I couldn’t be more excited for him, but at the same time, my heart aches for just a few more hours…days…years. I mean, it’s not like my job is over. I’m still his mom. Always will be. I’ll still be here to guide him. Listen to him. Counsel him. Rejoice with him and cry with him. Whatever is needed, he’ll always have. But my role is changing. Already. He’s handling the college paperwork on his own now. Managing the deadlines and filling out what’s necessary. Corresponding via email with them when he has a question. He’s working almost full-time hours. Getting himself up for work while I sleep. Making his own lunch. Managing his own bank accounts. His own investments. His schedule is his own. He’s home less often for dinner. A sign of things to come in the fall when he’ll be gone far more often than he’s here. He’s doing well in these new ventures into independence. But I still feel a faint sense of panic in my mama heart. Have I taught everything I should have? Have I given him all the tools he needs? Have I equipped him to make the difficult decisions life will throw in his path? Have I instilled in him all the values I was supposed to impart? Have I been the mother I strived to be? After all, since I somehow missed teaching him not to spit his gum on the ground, what other crucial nuggets of wisdom have I failed to convey? I asked him, as I was preparing to write this blog. You know, just to get a sense of how I’d done. If I’ve screwed up royally and need to request an extension to cram in more knowledge before he goes off to college, or if I’ve done okay and can sleep at night knowing he’s on his own. Me: “What are the three most important life lessons you think I’ve taught you?” Dr. Smooth: “I don’ t know.” Me: “C’mon. Think about it. When you look back on your life so far, what are the most important lessons you think I’ve taught you?” He thinks for a moment, and I wait anxiously in hope that he can come up with at least one. Dr. Smooth: “To always think about how my actions will affect other people.” My heart smiles. That’s a good one, right? That one was intentional on my part. It was one of my biggies on the goal list as a mom. He’s silent. In thought. I’m nervous that it’s taking him so long to come up with a second one. Dr. Smooth: “To always push the button on the trip odometer when my gas light comes on so I’ll know how many miles I have until empty.” Okay. Well, that wasn’t one I had ranked high on my goal list, but that’s still important, right? He made to leave the room and I stopped him. Me: “That’s only two. Can’t you think of one more? C’mon. Didn’t I teach you anything else??” He thinks for a moment and grins. Dr. Smooth: “Oh yeah. You taught me to wipe from front to back, not back to front. Oh, wait. I think my dad taught me that.” He walks away with a laugh. He’s humored me, and now he’s off to his room to pursue his own interests for the day. I guess I just have to trust in the job I’ve done. And move forward to the next chapter. A college mom. No longer a toddler mom. Or soccer mom. Or baseball mom. Or tennis mom. Or a transportation to and from everywhere mom. Or a high school mom. But still a mom. Dr. Smooth’s mom. My favorite role I’ve ever played. So here we go. Turn the page.
Knowing that a fear is irrational does not make it any less powerful. For instance, I know there is no reason to be terrified of cockroaches. They are much smaller than me. They are, for all intents and purposes, harmless. (Well, if you don't consider the ramifications of spreading disease, germs, and bacteria.) It's quite possible they are more scared of me than I am of them, but I doubt it. I pretty much go bat-shit crazy when I see a roach. I'm talking screaming, dancing, levitating, all-out panic kind of crazy. Evacuating to the nearest surface capable of holding my weight. Even if that happens to be another human being. Back in my VIP Tour Guide days, I literally crawled over a client's lap...well, technically three client laps since the family members were sitting next to each other...to escape a roach that scampered across the deck of a boat ferrying us from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian dock. I scared the bejeezus out of my middle school students (and quite possibly taught them a few new words) when I pulled a book from a shelf in my classroom and had a roach run across my hand. I mean, this is Florida. Quite possibly the bug capital of the world. So roaches are an inevitable reality. My Knight and I saw something on 20/20 or Dateline or some TV show that revealed that movie theater floors are a virtual paradise for rodents and roaches. It makes sense when you think about it. A never-ending supply of sugary sodas spilled, buttery popcorn dropped, and a variety of candies scattered across the floor. Even the most diligent theater crew doesn't vacuum and mop the entire floor between each showing, so throughout the day/evening, quite a feast can be amassed. Add to that the fact that the room is shrouded in darkness the majority of the time, and it's pretty much the perfect storm for infestation. Learning this was harrowing and horrifying. After all, going to the movies is my absolute favorite hobby, and while I certainly get plenty of mileage from Netflix and Redbox at home, there is nothing like the theater experience. The smell of popcorn. The previews. The anticipation as the lights go down. The laughter and shared emotion with fellow moviegoers. So to learn that my cinematic comrades and I were not alone in the theater was disconcerting to say the least. But my love for movies was strong, and it won out over my fear of roaches. I continued to go to theaters, but told myself I'd be more cautious. I vowed to never put my purse or bag on the floor and swore I'd take antibacterial wipes for the armrests and backs of chairs (though I never did). Maybe it's the same kind of voluntary amnesia that allows women to give birth again after experiencing labor the first time, but somehow I pushed the unpleasant knowledge from my mind in my pursuit of silver screen happiness. I must have been lucky. I cannot count the number of times I've sat in a dark theater and never encountered a rat or roach. Perhaps they have different tastes in movies than I, or perhaps they were there with me all along and I just never saw them. It makes me shudder to think they were scurrying unnoticed around me as I sat riveted to the screen, but it's possible. And may I say, I was perfectly happy being oblivious. Until this weekend. When I nearly unseated an entire movie theater at the Oscar Best Picture showcase. We attend the showcase every year to see the Best Picture nominees back to back. It's an all-day event, and one I look forward to almost as much as Christmas. This year, our theater gave us white tent cards with our names on them to place on seats. During the breaks between each film, people tend to go out for fresh air, concessions, restroom breaks, etc., and it's helpful to have a card indicating which seats are reserved. Like many other patrons in the theater Saturday, the passionate fan in the seat in front of me had placed her tent card on the back of her seat so that it sat just above her head. As we sat entranced by The Revenant*--our last movie of the day Saturday and my least favorite of the eight nominees--I noticed she was not alone in her seat. A roach was clearly silhouetted on the top of her chair against the light of the screen. I nearly came unglued. It was one thing to consider the vile beasts on the floor around my feet. I had never even conceived that they would be ballsy enough to crawl up the seat and so near our heads. I immediately pulled my feet and legs as high into my seat as I could get them, gripping the armrests for dear life as I struggled not to scream and cause mass pandemonium. The roach tiptoed across the top of her chair and then across her tent card as I tried to climb into the seat next to me on top of My Knight, who had noticed my behavior and was peering into the darkness to seek the cause. I pointed at the black splotch against the stark whiteness of the card, and just as My Knight realized what was happening, the roach disappeared over the top of the card mere inches from the woman's head. As I pictured the roach making his way into her hair as she sat unaware, I almost lost my shit. I slapped at my own hair as phantom sensations of creepy crawlies rippled across my scalp. I bit my lip against the scream that rose within me, aware that I didn't want to send an entire theater into panic and be featured on the evening news as a stark raving lunatic. I wanted to muster the strength to tap the woman on the shoulder and warn her, but before I could get my courage up, the roach reappeared at the top of the card and headed down the back of her seat into the darkness. My panic multiplied, and I cursed our position in the middle of the row. I scanned the people blocking my exit on either side of us to gauge which ones would be easiest to climb over. My Knight tried to comfort me and tell me it was gone, but I knew the truth. It was still there. Lurking in the darkness. I tried to take deep breaths and tell myself it was irrational to be so terrified. That it was only a bug. And only one bug. But not knowing what was in the darkness was maddening. I pictured hordes of roaches covering the underside and back of my chair, their bodies writhing together as they prepared to attack. Leonardo DiCaprio may have fought off a bear and hypothermia to survive that film, but he wasn't the only one suffering. My calves cramped from holding my legs at such an unnatural angle to keep them in My Knight's seat. My feet had pins and needles as they went numb from the loss of circulation. My neck and shoulders ached from the tension as I held myself away from the seatback and scrunched my head down to avoid the top of my chair. I kept my arms off the armrests and cradled my purse to me, hoping it hadn't already been invaded. I have no idea where the roach ended up, but the remnants of his memory crawled all over me long after we left the theater. It's a wonder I didn't awake screaming in the night from roach nightmares. What I have seen cannot be unseen. My days in the theater may be over. Do they make pocket-size cans of Raid???? *Side note: The Revenant--kind of ironic that the word means bogeyman, visitor, demon, haunt, phantom, bump in the night. How apropros!
Okay, I have something new to obsess over when traveling. Not that I needed something new. Or was looking to fill an empty spot in my obsession closet. But thanks to Owen Wilson's new movie NO ESCAPE, I have new fears to address. I already knew that traveling to foreign lands carries with it an inherent danger. Well, let's face it, traveling anywhere--domestic or abroad--can be dangerous. But when you leave your country and travel to another, you are at the mercy of their laws, their government, and their problems. I have always weighed those risks against the benefits of meeting other people, experiencing other cultures, and expanding my life horizons and found that the benefits far outweighed the possible issues. I still feel that way, and I'll still travel. As much as possible. But thanks to NO ESCAPE, I've learned a few new things I should be concerned about.
1. A CoupUm, yeah. I never really considered this one when planning my itinerary. But as NO ESCAPE so clearly illustrates, if the country you're visiting experiences a hostile takeover while you're there, YOU ARE SCREWED! All existing laws, treaties, policies, and procedures are thrown out the window. Even the citizens of that country aren't safe in those instances, so people from other countries? Expendable. No internet. No phone. No newspapers. No regular bus service. And airport schedules? Fuhgeddaboutit.
3. The EmbassyI think this was the most eye-opening revelation from this film. I have never researched the location of the American Embassy prior to traveling. What?!? I feel like that's kind of irresponsible of me now, but I never thought about it before. There's a moment in the movie where they realize they don't know how to get to the Embassy. Under normal circumstances, you could just ask someone or walk around with a map. But under extreme circumstances such as the military coup, you may not be able to navigate that easily and it would help to have a route planned out ahead of time.
4. I May Just Have to Be ShotThis movie puts Lake Bell and Owen Wilson in a never-ending stream of situations that made me hold my breath, gasp out loud, and occasionally come up out of my seat a little. To say I was entertained by the thrill ride is an understatement, but I also had a sickening realization. I don't know that I'd survive. Granted, they were on a movie set with a camera crew around and perhaps some CGI, so they didn't really have to do those things to survive, but I don't know what I'd be able to do if it happened in real life. My Knight and I discussed this on the way home, and I do have a pretty strong survival instinct. I'm sure I would probably do whatever it took to survive. But watching her jump from one roof to another in the movie nearly stopped my heart. I don't know if I could do it. Would the fear of gunfire be worse than my fear of heights? Would the need to survive outweigh my lack of physical ability and the fear that comes from my knowledge of it? I don't think you just suddenly develop new skills because your life depends on it. Let me just say, I hope I never find out. But my hat's off to Lake Bell's character in the movie!
5. And on a good note...I loved this movie! It was a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute, action-packed adventure, and I enjoyed the ride. I felt like it was a departure from Owen Wilson's normal roles, and I was impressed to see him branch out. I didn't have any prior experience with Lake Bell, but I'm now a fan! I thought her performance was awesome. And I'm always up for a Pierce Brosnan viewing. He and I go way back to the Remington Steele days when I thought he was the most handsome, debonair dude on TV.
So anyway...Go see NO ESCAPE if you like action and adrenaline. I felt lightheaded from holding my breath by the end of it, but I definitely recommend it if that's your kind of movie. And now if you'll excuse me, I need to go map out the American Embassy for every location on my bucket list.
Believe it or not, even though I've been quite vocal about my distaste for cooking, there are a few dishes that I actually enjoy preparing and eating. I don't think there's any danger at all of this turning into a recipe blog, but today happens to be a dear friend's birthday, and one of my family's favorite recipes was given to me by her about twenty years ago. (When we were both just babies--tee hee!) I happened to prepare this meal tonight at the request of Dr. Smooth, so I thought I'd share it with you in honor of my friend's special day. Now, if you're looking for something particularly healthy or gourmet, this ain't it. But if you want something quick, easy, and delicious with very little clean-up, this is a recipe for you! My family requests this recipe more than anything else I make. (Which may actually say more about my cooking repertoire than it does this particular dish, but anyway. They like it when I make it!)