Don’t Just Disappear

She exists in two worlds—the reality that we all know and the reality that her mind creates.

Some days she’ll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she’s exhausted from running here or there for a husband who has been gone for years.

Looking at Gram in her wheelchair—where I know she’s been all day, all week, all year—I can see the confusion-filled cloud of dementia that hangs over so many that live in the home.

But lately she’s slipped past the frustrated stage into one of simple contentment most days. Sometimes she’s with us and sometimes she’s lost in that world of her own, but the fear of those two worlds colliding seems to have lessened a bit.

I’ve written about the relationship between my mom, my grandma and me here dozens of times, but this past year it’s been really hard. While there are moments of tenderness and heart-breaking hilarity, continuing to visit and watch mental and physical deterioration—and being powerless to change any of it—isn’t easy to do.

It’s no longer the way that it was.

She doesn’t understand watching baseball anymore, so our biggest shared interest is gone. And at times I don’t want to clean up the room or stop in and find that she’s still sleeping, blinds closed and room dark in the middle of a sunny summer day.

But recently an aide commented to me, “It nice that you still come and visit so much. So many families just disappear.”

As hard as it is, I admit I know exactly how those people feel. Most times I just don’t want to go.

Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s knowing that she is safe and in capable hands without me doing the work. Maybe it’s the difficulty in seeing a person you love with your heart and not just your eyes fade into the gathering darkness.

It’s hard when she’s not the person that she used to be, and in a way she exists in two worlds for me—the reality that we all know and the reality my mind creates, the way I want to remember she was.

But if being on the outside is rough, being on the inside must be harder, even if her recognition of this has passed, too. We all have times that we feel alone or fear that somehow we’ll be forgotten simply because we’ve changed in a way that others find hard to accept.

But while it’s not always fun and it’s not always easy, it’s also not all about me.

So I go to make sure she’s comfortable, to selfishly lessen my guilt, to connect her two worlds when I can and make sure she knows that I’m there—wherever her “there” is on that day.

I go because this is our reality now.

I go because deep down she’s still the same Gram.

I go because love doesn’t just disappear, and because she hasn’t either, neither will I.

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Nicole Leigh Shaw Has Issues

Friday means another blogger sharing their issues!

Today is none other than the Ninja Mom herself, Nicole Leigh Shaw. So without further ado, I’m going to let her take over because, well, she’s a ninja. You never mess with a ninja.

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Name: Nicole Leigh Shaw

Blog: Well, that’s a bit tricky. I started blogging, publicly, as NinjaMomBlog.com. I still do. But, I’ve recently launched NicoleLeighShaw.com, because it turns out I’m not only interested in writing about mommy things. Who knew?

Where, what and why do you write?

Why? Because I’m an incurable egotist who likes the metaphoric sound of her own voice. That’s the truth of it. The shine I like to put on it is that I might have things to write about that are interesting to other people. This proves to be true, some of the time.

I write essay-style humor and internet-friendly humor and even mime humor. I derive a certain pleasure from making fun of mimes. In fact, the more humor you write, the more you realize there are particular punch lines you can’t let go of. Mimes feature more than they should.

Also, dead pet jokes. I write a lot of those. Particularly about the unflushability of certain pets, say, ferrets. You can flush a goldfish, not so a ferret. This amuses me. It’s probably a topic my therapist would like to hear more about, but for now I let it play out in my humor writing.

Specifically, I currently write for NickMom.com, WeAreTeachers.com, Moms.FortWayne.com (as well as their print incarnation), Swimmingly.com, Mamalode.com, InThePowderRoom.com, and have written for Fandango’s Family Room and I don’t even know where else but if someone owes me a paycheck, would you kindly pay me?

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

First thing? I’ve never noticed. Gosh, what would be a great answer here? “I think about how I can put out positive energy for the day and end each night as a better person.” The truth is that I probably think about the Keurig.

What’s the one “issue” or frustration annoying you the most right now?

Professionally, I need a benefactor who will provide me a house-cleaning and babysitting stipend while I write. Not available on Craigslist. I’ve looked.

Personally, I have a nagging feeling I’ll have to initiate the sex talk with my oldest soon, because despite my telepathic messages “just ask me point-blank and I’ll tell you!” she seems to be waiting until her wedding night when I will be forced to tell her about things like “penetration.”

Three websites you visit every day.

NickMom.com, where I can see that all of my writer colleagues have been so very much funnier than I am.

Does Facebook count?

I’m not really good at consistency, truth be told. I visit different sites every day. I like Swimmingly.com lately, because the writing is sharp, and no I don’t mean my own writing, but sure, that too. I also like to hit up Medium, which is always loaded with thinky pieces. But, mainly, I use the Internet like a cat uses chopsticks.

What’s an unusual talent and/or accomplishment you could never put on a resume?

I can contort my tongue into three little folds. I’m not the only one, but it’s not like there’s a ton of tri-fold tongues running around out there. I also have only one-and-a-half toenails, but I hardly call that a talent or an accomplishment.

Favorite place to be?

Home, mostly. Unless it’s filthy, which it usually is. So, someone else’s home.

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

Well, there’d be very clear signs indicating that you can make a left turn on red if you’re turning onto a one-way road because that always makes me break out in nervous sweats. Turn, don’t? Wait for green? Why is this so hard?

What TV show would you want to appear on?

Can I pick none? Unless I can magically become a dancer with years and years of training, then I’ll be on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

All relative. Am I PMSing? Then the best thing in my fridge is cheese and dips for things, including more cheese. If I’m not PMSing, then it’s the veggies. I have a fair amount of veggies and fruits and also Greek yogurt, because if the current yogurt-marketing machine is to be believed, Greek yogurt cures everything from cancer to plantar warts.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

I wish you had asked me if you could give me money. I would have said “yes.”

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Birthdays are Weird

My birthday is in August, but don’t worry, I’m not going to write a post about everything I’ve learned or done in the past year. This is because a) I don’t remember what I did 10 minutes ago b) I write about enough crap on here c) I forgot the third reason.

See? I think I just proved my first point.

Anyway, even though I like celebrating everyone else’s birthday, I don’t like my birthday. It’s not because I hate getting older as much as I just don’t really like the hype or expectations.

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But when you overthink about it, birthdays are weird. People celebrate you for doing nothing more than pushing your way out of your mom’s lady parts after causing her heartburn and morning sickness for nine months.

That’s it.

You took a trip down the ol’ birth canal and voila! Every year from that point on, instead of honoring the woman whose loins you were ripped from, people buy you gifts and stand around baked goods covered in flames and sing to you awkwardly off key.

But with that said, my mom has always been awesome about making me feel special on my birthday.

Because it fell in the summer, my birthday served as an excuse to throw many large parties with copious amounts of friends, my large family and food. The crowds and hoopla gradually stopped as everyone grew up and away—or got tired of me—but the bits and pieces of birthdays gone by will always remain in my mind.

However, there were a few that were a little less than stellar.

Strike One

There was a Fiesta themed party complete with stereotypical sombreros and music, Mexican food and a piñata. While a piñata was good in theory, that theory flew out the window right about the time the piñata stick accidentally flew through the air and directly towards an inattentive neighbor lady.

Smarties and plastic jewelry did not fall out of the cut on her head. Our disappointment was profound.

Strike Two

Nothing fell out of the cut on my head a few years later when my presents were hid throughout our large backyard and I was blindfolded and forced to hunt for them on my hands and knees. A Frisbee was thrown from a great distance and managed to hit me square in the head. Being blindfolded and covered in grass burns, this was literally a blow to what dignity I had left.

We had cake. I forgave.

Strike Three

Then there was a year that the stars aligned and the Tigers were playing the California Angels at home on my birthday. I was convinced I was going to marry their first baseman—JT Snow. This was obviously a sign of our destined eternal bliss.

We drove the three hours to the game, where after a couple innings he came up to bat and hit a foul ball directly towards my dad. A great ending to this story would be that he made an effort, caught the ball and concluded the perfect birthday of his 10-year-old daughter.

Didn’t happen. We had cake. I had resentment.

But despite the few (literal) hits and misses, I have to say that I’ve had it pretty good. I don’t expect a marriage proposal or physical and emotional scarring this year, but I do expect applause when I enter the room and a tiara to wear.

In other words, treat it just like any other day.

What have been some of your birthday hits and misses?

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Kim from “Let Me Start By Saying” Has Issues

It’s Friday, so that means another blogger is spilling their issues.

Considering she has a massively popular Facebook page and writes everywhere from NickMom to The Huffington Post, you’ve probably seen her before. However, you’ve never seen her HERE, promising fruit, so buckle up and get to know Kim.

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Name: Kim Bongiorno

Blog: Let Me Start By Saying

Where, what and why do you write?

I write in a hermetically-sealed Lady Cave I created in my home. It is basically a cube of notebooks, old books, writing books, one zillion pens and pencils and scraps of paper I jot ideas on and toss in there whenever I pass by.

Unlike some organized people (what an adorable concept!), I don’t have a rhyme or reason to my writing. I’ve written a complete Young Adult novel and a partial Women’s fiction one. My normal schtick is humor–mostly parenting–but I kind of just do whatever comes to mind. It’s fun listening to all the voices in my head. Luckily I have a very calm-looking face, or else I’d have been locked up a long time ago. I don’t think I have any other choice than to be a writer.

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

Cripes on a cracker someone get me coffee RIGHT NOW.

What’s the one “issue” or frustration annoying you the most right now?

The lack of soundproof walls in my home. I really need to work on that. Or for school to start sooner than later. Once of those things.

Three websites you visit every day.

1. Facebook, to see what’s going on in the world and hopefully read a new dirty joke that will make me laugh first thing in the morning.

2. IMDB, for my goal in life is to have as much useless Real Life information as possible stored in this little golden head of mine.

3. PicMonkey, where I make useful graphics for my blog or social media, as well as stupid memes I only share with friends because wasting time is why the Internet was created.

What’s an unusual talent and/or accomplishment you could never put on a resume?

I can wiggle my eyes and do the splits. At the same time.

Favorite place to be?

At home on the couch in my office reading a real, physical book in the middle of the day during a quiet moment when my kids are out of earshot and hopefully not bleeding from the head.

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

Free weekly massages and monthly pedicures for everyone, always. And capes would totally come back in fashion (I would wear a sparkly silver one–like, really bedazzled).

What TV show would you want to appear on?

I have a 3-way tie for SNL, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers–but mostly because I want to hang out in the writer’s room. I’d do whatever they told me to do on the show, itself, to make this happen. Seriously, anything.

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

Best is cookie dough. I can make magic if I have ready-made sugar cookie dough on hand. Worst is the petrified once-was-foodstuffs that are rolling around in the three drawers. It scares me too much to actually clean it. Please stop making me think about it.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

What will you do when you’re a multi-millionaire author of a slew of best-selling novels? I’ll buy a compound somewhere really quiet with a book store on one end and massive spa on the other end where all my friends can come and write, relax and laugh together whenever they need a break. Oh! And we’d have stand-up comics appear every night to keep us entertained. And the menu would be the same as The Cheesecake Factory’s. That is a MUST.

And yes, there will be lots of fresh avocados to entice you to join me.


She knows me so well! Now go click her links and get to know her better, but not in that creepy “wiggle the eyebrows while you say that”-type way. She is a married woman. But regardless, there will be cookies.

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Girls Gone Mild

I shared this story in my first book, but I was recently reminded of this situation and thought I would share it on here in case you missed it because you’re waiting for your book to arrive.

Right? Right.

It’s a story about the time me and my best friend B went on Spring Break. This could conjure up expectations of a “Girls Gone Wild” type post if I failed to omit one important detail—we were 8th grade girls and we went to Florida to stay with my grandparents at their condo.

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Every morning we would throw on our suits and flip-flops, hop on 3-wheeled bicycles and spend our days in the sun by the community pool. The afternoons and evenings, however, weren’t always quite as smooth.

As you might remember, my grandma was someone who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated. What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large Ziploc bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

Because of a desire to avoid food poisoning, we often suggested frequenting various chain restaurants for dinner. This suggestion was often well-received, not only because my grandpa loved to eat anything anywhere, but because Happy Hour drinks were 2-for-1 at most of these restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

The waitresses were thrilled with their tips, I’m sure.

One day my grandparents presented us with an exciting proposition—going to the beach about an hour away where the “real” action was. We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the back seat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.

As we got closer, B and I exchanged excited glances and gathered up our bags, waiting for the car to slow down and park so we could join in the whole beach experience.

The car never stopped.

“This is the beach,” said my grandpa, proudly pointing it out as we kept driving by. Confused, I asked where we were going to park.

“What? Why would we?” asked my grandma, looking at me as if I had just suggested only playing 12 Bingo cards at once or actually refrigerating leftover chicken. “It’s too busy, too hot. Do you girls want some ice cream?”

Now mortified, I looked at B and saw panic in her eyes. The only way we wanted ice cream was if it could be eaten on the beach, which meant the car would have to stop at some point soon.

But despite my protests, the next time the car stopped was at McDonalds just off the highway. Grandpa placed the order of sundaes and cones while we sat in shock in the back. No basking in the sun on the sand, no dipping our toes in the ocean—just a drive-by in the Caddy and “Sweet Caroline” on repeat.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, my grandma leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle, turning around to face us in the backseat. “When you’re paying (.99 cents) for each ice cream, you better make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Because after all, nothing completes a day at the beach like free ketchup and mustard to hoard with your ice cream.

“Now who’s ready for happy hour?” she asked, tucking the packets into her oversized purse, no doubt to make room for the sugar sure to be swiped from the restaurant.

I looked at B and saw resignation in her eyes.

We were ready.

Make it a double.

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I’m a Weather Wimp

We’ve been lucky lately in that aside from a rare tornado, the weather has been pretty pleasant this summer. However, we’ve still had days when if I get any closer to my window air conditioning unit I’m going to have to change my status to “in a relationship.”

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I know.

The me that made it through the harshest most brutal winter in my history just slapped the me complaining about summer weather, but this just goes to solidify my declaration that I hate weather.*

*Excluding days between 60-80 degrees with no rain and a gentle breeze lightly tinged with the scent of cut grass.

I hate sweating or driving on three inches of ice, and while I know I won’t melt if I get rained on, I will be wet and uncomfortable which is pretty much just as bad.

Living in Michigan, this is an unfortunate situation seeing as everyone loves to say, “If you hate the weather, wait five minutes! It will change!” and then laugh and laugh while I shoot daggers with my eyes.

Why?

Because with any severe weather situation, there is the chance that I will lose power, and ergo, lose my shit.

I’m not high maintenance, but when the power goes out, all rationality and Zen-like tendencies go right along with it not to be restored until Consumer’s Energy plugs things back in.

And you can be sure I obsessively call Consumer’s Energy to get a restoration estimate, usually being told it will happen at some point hours or days after the time I totally freak out (which is, of course, the second that I lose power.)

So when the semi-creepy weather rolls in, I get on high alert, assuming that rumbles in the distance are an impending weather-related disaster headed directly for my house.

If I’m at home, everything not related to obsessively watching the weather channel and lighting candles ceases while I play out various scenarios in my head that will necessitate a reenactment of events on the news.

If I’m at work, all productivity ceases while check radar online and take into account exactly what I have in my fridge/freezer at home, as food waste is my main concern with possible loss of power. If it’s winter, I figure I can throw things outside and warm up some food on the stove. If it’s summer, I freak out and pack that bitch up like an igloo.

In part, I blame the meteorologist.

Yes, we’re blaming him now, as he delights entirely too much in delivering potentially catastrophic (see food situation above) news.

Plus, he makes me feel like a social reject with absolutely no life (on this he’s only halfway right—as usual.) Every forecast is prefaced with something along the lines of, “If you’re getting ready to go out to dinner tonight” or “If you’re planning a picnic followed by a long walk on the beach tomorrow” etc.

Never does he say, “If you’re planning on sitting on your couch in your yoga pants watching the ball game and writing a blog post while trying to find that piece of food you just dropped down your shirt,” plan on partly sunny skies.

I’m fully aware that a) it’s not his fault and b) there’s nothing we can do about weather anyway, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Mini-blinds will be shut and the TV will be turned up loud to drown out the sound of the thunder.

I will perfectly situate my flashlights under my blankie fort and wait, making promises to unseen higher powers that as long as I don’t lose power, I will be fine and work on saving the world in the morning (a task that would conceivably require electricity, therefore eliminating me from the impending power outage.)

Then again, maybe I just have to wait five more minutes. There’s always the chance it will change.

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Lynn from “Nomad Mom Diaries” Has Issues

It’s Friday, so another blogger is sharing their issues!

Today we’re going international to visit Lynn from “Nomad Mom Diaries, a self-proclaimed “smart-ass American raising two prim princesses with her obnoxiously skinny Italian husband in Oxford, England.”

Oh yeah. And she’s also an, “I Just Want to be Alone”co-author with yours truly. But considering this is long distance, I’ll cut the chit-chat and just present Lynn!

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Name: Lynn Morrison

Blog: The Nomad Mom Diary

Where, what and why do you write?

I write about my life and when that gets really boring and predictable, I write about fake lives that are having much more interesting adventures. I try and not disparage the husband too much, so when he does something particularly noteworthy I change a few names and slap a fiction label on it, but I’m pretty sure I’m not fooling anyone.

I write on my blog and over at BLUNTmoms and on HuffPo and Mamapedia. And, let’s be honest, also most anywhere else that will take me. As to the why, well that’s simple: I write to keep my head from exploding.

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

Where’s my phone? I’d like to say that this is because I use it as my alarm clock, but I think we both know that the real reason is because I am on Facebook before my eyes are even open.

What’s the one “issueor frustration annoying you the most right now?

I’m currently trying to understand why my husband decided to steal the toilet paper out of one bathroom to replenish the other, rather than getting a new roll out of the cupboard. He claims he didn’t want to wake up the dog, but I suspect it was really because he knew I’d be the next one to go in there. I’m not ashamed to say that I used a diaper wipe. No wait, I am ashamed to say that. Ugh, can I start over and we can pretend that all of this is fiction?

Three websites you visit every day.

Oh man, there is no way to answer this without admitting I have a problem. Facebook. Facebook. and Facebook. But listen, if I go down for this, I want you to know that you are partially to blame. If you could just be a little bit less ridiculously clever with your Facebook posts, I just might look at another website.

(Editor’s note: I promise I didn’t pay her to say that. You know that I’m too cheap for that.)

What’s an unusual talent and/or accomplishment you could never put on a resume?

I once had, um, “relations” in a former vice president’s house. But not with the vice president because that would be icky.

Favorite place to be?

In my bed with my laptop in my lap. Oh look at that! That’s exactly where I am right now. Squeee!

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

Is it wrong if I say that the only thing I want is for my stuff to be MINE and for others to keep their grubby hands off of it? My side of the bed, my time in the potty, my dinner, my glass of wine, my chocolate chip cookies, my computer, my ipad, the list goes on and on. No, I don’t want to share dammit!

(Editor’s note: No, no it’s not wrong. Especially if we’re talking snacks.)

What TV show would you want to appear on?

I’d like to be on Dora the Explorer so I could smack her upside the head and say, “Listen up you little hussy, the m*&*f*&*ing map just told you where to go 2 minutes ago. It’s two measly stops from any A to any B in your world. Write it on your hand if you have so much trouble.” (Jesus, where did that come from? I clearly have some anger issues to work out.)

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

A half-eaten chocolate bar and most of a stick of butter. Don’t judge; tomorrow is grocery day.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

I wish you’d asked me why everything is better with Nutella. I don’t know, but I’d like someone to ask so that I could have an excuse to go and eat a jug of it and see if I could find some food item that isn’t improved by a 1-inch layer of that hazelnut spreadable goodness.


See? She’s like an international delight for your cyber coffee. Be sure to check out her blog and her links. Who will be featured next week? You’ll just have to wait and see. (Amy Poehler, have your people call my people…that would be me.)

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P.S.  I created a new “Illustrated Issues” tab to the top of my blog where I added some of the most popular images from Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Enjoy!