The Awkward Greeting

Awkward greetings are coming.

Have you ever experienced an awkward greeting with someone you know? It typically happens when you’re not sure if you should go in for the one-cheek kiss, double-cheek kiss, the air kiss, the no-kiss-but-casual hug, or the casual kiss followed by a hug. Whatever you decide to do, my advice: don’t hesitate. Go right in for the kiss or the hug. Otherwise, you may experience the embarrassing side-to-side head bob, ensuring that you and the recipient make complete fools of yourselves.

I remember this happening years ago with me and one of my husband’s relatives. He and I were doing the head-shake dance, but rather than the kiss landing on his cheek, I inadvertently smacked one on his lips. My face lit on fire afterward, as did his. In hindsight, we probably should’ve laughed about it, but instead, we walked away from each other pretending our embarrassing greeting never occurred.

Thanks to the pandemic, greeting our friends and family members with a kiss and hug has been strictly forbidden. Yet that feels weird too, especially when you haven’t seen someone in a long time, and you want to touch them. So you find yourself standing there, feeling out of sorts as your body pulls you toward the person, desperate to reach out, while fighting the urge to remain at an appropriate distance.

What about the person who has been living under a rock for the past year, ignoring the COVID-19 safety measures? That would be the man or woman who wraps their arms around you in an embrace––without your consent––or reaches out and shakes your hand. Afterward, you stand there, frozen and eager to dive head-first into a pool of antibacterial soap.

I would have thought that since these casual, social greetings have been discouraged throughout the pandemic, I would be grateful that I was off the hook for a while and not have to experience the side-to-side head bobbing again. But I’ve come to realize that having been deprived from physical contact with other people (outside of my immediate family) has only made me yearn for it even more.

One day soon, when this pandemic is over, I’m going to take my affection toward others to a whole new level (appropriately, of course). I plan to hug everyone, sometimes with a cheek kiss, sometimes without. Heck, I might even consider standing on a street corner and hugging random strangers.

Human touch is so important. It’s how we show a person that we care about them. It’s a sign of empathy. It’s healthy. It’s good for our hearts. It’s love. When our children are babies and toddlers, we’re always holding them in our arms, in our hands, on our laps, and smothering them with affection.

I remember when I was a teenager, my mother would say to me every once in a while, “Can I have a hug?” I would always give in and let her wrap her arms around me, even though, as a stereotypical teenager, I was usually a bit irritated that I had to stop what I was doing to let her hug me. Now that I’m a parent of teenagers, I get it. Back then, I didn’t realize how important that was to my well-being. It was one of the ways in which my mom showed me how much she loved me.

Maintaining this type of affection with my daughter is easy. At nineteen years old, she still loves to snuggle with me in bed or on the couch to watch a movie. As for my sixteen-year-old son, I have to remind myself to periodically ask for those hugs—even when he thinks I’m being annoying.

Along with putting nutritious foods into our bodies, getting a daily dose of fresh air and vitamin D from the sun, exercising, and laughter, we also need to remember the importance of mental and physical connection. And for those of you who, like me, have experienced a few awkward greetings in your lifetime and are still a bit self-conscious about it, let it go––because as soon we’re all feeling safe from catching COVID-19, follow my lead and jump right in for that social hug or kiss—and just be grateful that you finally can.

The Greatest Goal Ever Scored

The greatest goal.

Recently, while listening to a guided meditation, I was asked to think about a memory that caused me great happiness. My mind ran through some of the celebratory milestones I had experienced in my past: the day my husband asked me to marry him, my wedding day, the birth of my children, getting into the college of my choice, etc. And yet, although these occasions were joy-filled and special, another incident popped into my mind, one that may seem insignificant in comparison, but was, nonetheless, a beautiful and rewarding parenting moment.

Growing up, my daughter, Taylor, had always been open-minded about trying new activities. Throughout her formative year, she did it all: gymnastics, dance, ice skating, tennis, soccer, ski racing, softball, basketball, lacrosse, art classes, and music lessons. Some of these activities lasted a few years, others a few months. But no matter what she chose to do, she did it with a wide smile and a happy-go-lucky attitude.

Lacrosse was the one sport Taylor stuck with the longest. She had great hand-eye coordination, but she lacked the inner aggressiveness, or what I like to call a “fire in her belly” that made her stand out and dominate on the field. As far as I was concerned, none of that mattered. She was having fun, which, at the time, was more important.

By seventh grade, the level of lacrosse competition had increased, and that was when everything had changed.

After lacrosse practice one afternoon, Taylor hopped into my car hysterically crying. Through a fit of tears, she told me that none of her teammates were passing the ball to her, even when she was wide open. Despite having played the sport for nearly six years, longer than most of the girls on her team, she had never once scored a goal. And her friends on the team were crushing her confidence, making her believe she wasn’t a good player.

My heart broke for her. I suggested she go outside every day and practice on her own. She said she would, but my advice wasn’t helping her feel good about herself in that moment. So, I made another suggestion: I told her to write a letter to herself, in the past tense, describing her perfect lacrosse season, giving details about the type of player she imagined she was. That night, she wrote her letter in private, put it away, and forgot about it.

As the months passed, Taylor worked harder, practiced more, and gave it her all on the field. But she still wasn’t a starting player and she wasn’t scoring any goals.

The last tournament of the season, Taylor’s team made it to the championship round. But since Taylor wasn’t getting that much playing time, I was secretly hoping they would lose in the elimination round, so I could start the three-hour drive back home. With only five minutes left in the game, Taylor’s team was down by one goal, and her coach subbed her in. I was praying she would play well, while simultaneously watching the clock on the scoreboard.

Out of nowhere, Taylor scooped up a ground ball on the defensive side, charged down the field dodging her opponents, and shot the ball into the upper left corner of the goal—and scored. My girl, the underdog, tied the game. I screamed. I cried. I clapped. I cheered. I jumped up and down like a lunatic.

In the final sixty seconds, the other team scored, and won the game. I, of course, didn’t care about that. I had just witnessed a real-life scene that could’ve been stolen out of the movie, Rudy. In my mind, Taylor had the greatest goal of all time.

On the drive home, after calling our family members to share the exciting news, Taylor reminded me of the letter she wrote to herself in the beginning of the season. She said she had described the goal-scoring scenario exactly the way it happened, adding how proud her parents and teammates were of her. Hearing this, chills ran down my spine. The only difference in the letter was that she was an all-star player throughout the entire season, rather than in the last few minutes of the final game.

I am blessed for having had so many wonderful celebrations in my lifetime, and I look forward to having many more. But there was something about the goal Taylor scored that day that stood out in my mind as a different kind of blessing. It was unexpected and miraculous and appeared to be manifested through my daughter’s imagination.

This was also about believing in oneself, never giving up, and rising above setbacks. The stories we tell ourselves, literally and figuratively, can be written and rewritten as many times as we desire––and our words serve as powerful tools that have the potential to make our dreams come to fruition.

I Really Want to Throw a Yogurt Drink at My Son’s Head

Throwing yogurt drinks.

Lately, I’ve been having this dark fantasy: I want to pick up a Yoplait yogurt drink and chuck the half-filled, open bottle at my teenaged son, Judd’s, head and watch the pink liquid dribble down his perfectly coiffed hair.

There are a few reasons why I’ve been yearning to do this. The first is simply a matter of payback.

When Judd was an adorable, happy-go-lucky toddler, he and I were driving along in my brand-new car, fresh off the lot. He was sitting behind me in his car seat, sipping on a yogurt drink and singing along to The Wiggles. Meanwhile, I was focused on the road, inhaling the clean, factory scent emanating from my shiny vehicle. The ride was smooth and pleasant, until out of nowhere, a yogurt drink whizzed by my head, droplets landing in my hair before the container smashed into the dashboard, splattering the creamy beverage everywhere.

“I’m done,” the little shi*t behind me yelled out, with a big smirk on his yogurt-stained face.

Along with scolding Judd about the dangers of throwing things at a driver, I also told him that one day in the faraway future, when he gets his driver’s license, and if he’s lucky enough to get a car of his own, I’m going to throw a yogurt drink at his head and dashboard.

I’ve been waiting years for this day to arrive. And we’re finally here. Judd has his driver’s license and a car to drive, too. But, of course, as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and so I’ve held back with my sweet revenge, even though the thought lingers in my imagination more often than I would like to admit.

Yet there are other reasons why I want to chuck a yogurt drink at my son.

It’s because my cute little boy, who occasionally acted like a little shi*t when he was younger, grew up, and now he sometimes acts like a big shi*t to me––his mother––the woman who gave him life.

What does he do to thank me for bringing him into this world? He picks on me.

Judd tells me I’m a bad driver. I don’t put my blinker on. I swerve on the road. Really, Judd? I’m a bad driver? The same lady who sat in the passenger seat, holding on for dear life while I taught him how to drive.

Judd tells me I’m a gaper. That’s slang for someone who looks silly on the ski mountain. Really, Judd? I’m the same lady who, when he was a toddler, skied with him between my legs, held onto him with a harness, lugged his skis and my skis to and from the mountain, and wiped his snot-stained nose throughout the day. Oh, and I’m also the same woman who helped him out of his Superman underwear and cleaned his four-year-old ass when he took a big shi*t in the middle of a ski run.

Judd tells me I make annoying noises when I chew. Really, Judd? I’m the same lady who nourished him from my breasts the first year of his life, only to be left with two sad-looking, wilted, deflated balloons for a chest.

The other day, Judd told me I was rude to the lady working in a toll booth because I didn’t respond when she asked me how my day was. I do feel bad about that. But, really Judd? Maybe I was a bit distracted getting him to his lacrosse game on time in another state in the middle of a pandemic.

I also hear this: “Mom, how did you make this steak? It’s gross” or “Mom, how much salt did you put on the chicken?” and “You bought the wrong sweet potatoes, again.”

Sometimes Judd tells me my jokes aren’t funny, that I nag him, that I don’t listen, and despite the thousands of hours I’ve put into watching him practice and play lacrosse, I don’t understand the sport at all.

I realize this is all part of the child-rearing cycle. It happened with my daughter, too, when she was in high school.

Growing up fast.

My kids started off precious and cute, treating me––their momma––like I was a famous rock star. They only wanted to hold my hand. They ran into my arms after school. They cried when I said goodbye. They embraced me tight, not letting me leave their rooms when it was bedtime. They listened, wide-eyed, when I told them stories. They giggled at all my ridiculous jokes.

And then one day—BAM—they hit their teen years, and my celebrity status took a nosedive.

It’s all okay. This, too, shall pass. I know Judd appreciates me. He tells me he loves me––a lot. And he thanks me for everything I do for him. He also tells me I’m the best mom ever. Then again, that line usually comes after he asks me for something.

As far as I know I never threw a yogurt drink at my mom when I was little (considering yogurt drinks didn’t exist back then, I definitely didn’t). And thankfully, my mom’s rose-colored glasses skewed her memory of my early childhood; she has no recollection of her darling angel doing anything of the sort. However, she and I both clearly remember my teenage temper tantrums, slamming the bedroom door, claiming that she was ruining my life, and my overall sassy attitude. There were probably many days when my mom wanted to throw a yogurt drink at my head.

To this day, for the purposes of amusement only, my brother and I still enjoy ripping on my mom––in her presence, of course. I suppose I will be enduring the same fate. From here on out, I will be the butt of my children’s jokes, an easy target to laugh at. It’s fine. I’m a big girl. I can take it.

As for my son’s trash talking, that’s a different story. One of these days, I might reach my boiling point, and when that happens, Judd, beware: I’m coming after you, with the biggest yogurt drink I can find.

What It Means to Be the Mother of a Teenage Athlete

The life of a sports mom.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been the ultimate lacrosse mom, making round-trip drives to Denver for my sixteen-year-old son, Judd’s, hour-and-a-half practices, twice a week, roughly two hundred miles from my home. (I’ve written about these drives in another post.)

In addition to practices, I’ve flown all over the country for tournaments, standing on the sidelines of games, cheering for Judd and his teammates. While doing so, I’ve encountered a range of weather conditions from freezing rain, hail, light snow, ferocious winds to oppressive heat waves that made me feel as though my body was liquefying on the turf field. I’ve had to find laundromats in obscure places to wash his mud-stained clothes. I’ve also had to tolerate a smelly teenage boy’s sweaty body odor and putrid equipment stink for hours of long car rides.

On many occasions, I’ve asked myself what the purpose is in all this. Is Judd good enough to get a college scholarship? Is he good enough to play in college at all? Is it worth the time, the money, the stress?

With lacrosse taking center stage in our lives, I’ve missed parties at home, holiday dinners, celebrations with friends, including this past New Year’s Eve with my husband. I’ve struggled to get my work done while on the road, and I’ve had to leave the other half of my family for extended time periods.

And since lacrosse tournaments weren’t canceled these past few months during the pandemic, Judd and I put our health at risk, wandering around crowded fields, travelling via crowded airplanes, staying in crowded hotels––all during the busiest travel season of the year.

As a sports mom, I get to experience every kind of emotion on the field. The racing heart, the beads of nervous sweat, the silent prayers when the score is close. I’ve felt the anger at referees for an unfair call, the frustration of a bad play, the pseudo pain of a hurt player, and I’ve felt the joy ripple through my body when Judd scores a sweet goal. I know all too well the disappointment when his team loses to a team they should’ve beat. And there’s no greater rush than the exuberant cheers when his team defeats their opponent in the final minutes of a game.

Of course, I do all of this for the incredible benefits Judd has gained from being part of a team. He has formed new, beautiful, and hopefully long-lasting friendships. He has learned grit and perseverance. He has learned failure and triumph. He has learned that to win, he needs to work together with his teammates. He has learned to support each person on that field––giving fist-pumps to players who do well and offering kindness to those who are struggling. He has learned to make healthier food choices and to go the extra mile on his own to get better: running more, lifting weights, shooting on the goal by himself in the dark, in the cold, and playing wall ball for hours on end.

But there’s a more important reason why I do this, and why so many of my lacrosse parent friends do this too. It’s because we LOVE our children. We love them so much that we make sacrifices for them. We jump up and down on the sidelines, our hearts shining on them like spotlights. Our offspring are precious gifts that have come here to help us become better people. It’s not about losing or winning (although it certainly feels good to win!), or about whether they end up living their lacrosse dreams in college. It’s about giving our kids the opportunity to fuel their passion. And it’s about finding gratitude in each moment, enjoying the time with our boys, riding the waves along with them, and acknowledging how lucky we are to have these experiences—for physical life on Earth is temporal, so being a sport’s parent is just another avenue for expressing our infinite love for our children.

A Cure for the Other Disease Plaguing America

The other disease plaguing America.

Recently, someone in my community wrote a statement in the newspaper bashing those people who opposed his politics. When I first read what he had written, I was flabbergasted—to say the least. I couldn’t understand how a highly educated man who values family and religious tradition would make such harsh, negative comments about people who do not share his political views.

At first I went into attack mode—in my head and on the phone with my friends, lambasting this man—but once my anger subsided, I realized I was no different than him. After all, who was I to judge this man for having different views than me? Who was I to stoop to his level and spew venomous words out of my mouth about him?

Through my reaction, I had become his mirror image. Read more