Monthly Archives: March 2016

Run Boy, Run


I once saw a traffic control video of a guy running across a busy street. Somehow this guy, despite—or maybe because of—never once looking back to see the chaos behind him, managed to avoid being run over like six times. And not because of his mad parkour skills or anything like that, but rather because of some perfect combination of dumb luck and the driving skills/mercy of the people around him.

I was thinking about this guy the other day when I heard about the sentence that was passed down on the Virginia college student in North Korea—the kid who was caught trying to steal a propaganda poster off of the wall of his hotel. This kid (and yeah, as a mom I feel pretty secure in calling a 21 year-old man a “kid”) was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor. Let me repeat that. Fifteen years hard labor in North Korea. This is, for all intents and purposes, (and for people other than a Tom Hardy character), essentially a death sentence.

Death. For tearing down a poster. True, it was a poster that belonged to North Korea, and also true, in any country it would have been considered an incredibly stupid and disrespectful action, but I think that most everyone can agree that in this case the punishment in no way fit the crime. But then again, the punishment for being young and stupid very rarely ever does.

Some kids—most kids, really—are like the guy who ran across six lanes of traffic. They do amazingly stupid things and yet, somehow, they survive. Others find that their “youthful indiscretions” merit a death sentence. Why? It’s a question that torments every single parent.

If you have children, they will do something stupid. No, scratch that: they will do a lot of somethings stupid. That’s a given, and giving them the freedom to make those choices is one of the hardest things about parenting. Because there is absolutely no way to know what the results will be. Will your kid be the one who makes it across the street? Or the one who ends up sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in North Korea?

It doesn’t help at all that some kids seem like they are blessed to be able to run across that busy street again and again without consequence, and others are struck down on their very first time. That’s because, in the end it hardly matters whether it happens the first time or the fiftieth—the aftermath will still leave you reeling.

I don’t know anything at all about the Virginia college student. I don’t know if he was raised to be thoughtful, careful and respectful and just had a momentary lapse of judgement, or if this was the latest in a long string of destructive “pranks” he has pulled in his short lifetime. I do know that his fate sent a chill down the spine of every parent who has raised a child who is now old enough to make their own decisions, and therefore old enough to fully pay the price for making their own mistakes.

The legal term for dying while doing something stupid is “death by misadventure.” This, I think, is one of those rare examples of the English language being truly evocative. Because “misadventure” implies nothing so much as an adventure gone wrong. In other words, “we were having the best time ever, right up until we weren’t.”

Right up until we got to that last lane of traffic.

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Shirt Tales


As a woman, I must admit that I’ve always been rather envious of men when it comes to clothes shopping. Not only do their styles tend to remain consistent over time, but the sizing always seems to make so much more sense. How much simpler must it be to buy a pair of pants marked “30/30” and know that the waist and the inseam will both measure thirty inches, than it is to grab a pair of “size 12s” off of the rack and find out the hard way that there can be as much as a four inch difference between those “size 12s” and the last pair of “size 12s” you bought somewhere else?

And don’t even get me started on bra shopping.

So yeah, I always thought that men had the better deal when it came to clothes. And then, of course, I went and had a son, and all that changed, because now I know first hand the hell that is shopping in the men’s department.

I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads at this and wondering what I’m talking about, because you also have sons, and you’re probably thinking, “Clothes shopping? Boys? These two things go together like peanut butter and mayonnaise.” And I know: for many parents their greatest dream is that one day their son will allow them to buy him new clothes—anything at all, really, just so long as he’ll stop wearing those ratty sweatpants and holey sneakers. And I feel your pain. I really do. (Mostly because I have ridden in a car with some of your boys, and the smell of those holey shoes could strip the paint off of a barn.) I myself, however, have a different problem. I have the curse of the “sharp-dressed man” boy. And as everyone knows, you can’t really be a sharp-dressed man without a nice dress shirt.

And this is where my troubles all began, because I haven’t got a single clue as to what the numbers on a man’s dress shirt are supposed to mean. For all I know they are like the “lucky” numbers you pull out of a fortune cookie, or the numbers you circle on a keno card after you finally get drunk enough in Vegas to try your hand at keno. (Seriously, I’ve had better luck playing keno than I have had buying dress shirts for Clyde—at least when I choose the wrong numbers in keno they still bring me free drinks. When I choose the wrong numbers in dress shirt buying all I get is the wrong size shirt.)

Of course, I’m sure it doesn’t help that every time I have to buy him a new dress shirt (which is every time he grows, or drinks a cup of coffee—don’t judge, I’m hoping the coffee will stunt his growth) I try to buy the cheapest shirt possible, so that not only am I staring at numbers that make absolutely no sense, I’m also doing it while up to my elbows in the bargain rack. (Or bin, depending on exactly how cheap I am being at the moment.)

Or at least that’s how it used to be. Last week my frustration finally overcame my cheapness and I found myself in a real department store (the kind where the employees are in possession of such things as a measuring tape), bound and determined to get Clyde a shirt that fits. Surprisingly, getting the shirt wasn’t nearly the ordeal I was afraid it was going to be, and I was so happy about that that I forget to check myself when the guy with the measuring tape said, “And do you need some t-shirts to wear underneath those new dress shirts?” Which was unfortunate, because the next thing you know we had an armful of plain white t-shirts that cost more than the licensed merch at a Madonna show, and suddenly I was $175 poorer.

Walking back to the car, pockets noticeably lighter, I found myself suddenly remembering what drove me to those bargain bins in the first place. And, come to think about it, what made the free drinks so appealing about keno as well.

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