9.14.2014

Find me at Kathrynmayer.com

http://kathrynmayer.com/
I'm moving, and taking this blog with me.

Today at Newtown will now be published at kathrynmayer.com

Please visit and sign up for blog posts at kathrynmayer.com for an inside view of life as I live it in Newtown, perils of parenting teenagers, hair chins, gun safety advocacy and wacky stories, and how we can work to create kinder, safer communities. 

Please go to Facebook right now and like my page: hurry, before family members high jack my entire reputation. Visit, like, comment and share the writer FB me where I'll link posts recently out of the the brain and onto the web and share lots of writing, gun violence prevention advocacy, and great stuff you won't want to miss. 

And if the haters get real loud, please don't engage. They're exactly like toddler temper tantrums, (except usually armed): if you ignore them, most get bored and go bully elsewhere. I'm not blocking those who disagree, but it's my party, and I will block asswipes looking for a fight. 

I am so crazy proud to just hit 200k views here, but hoping to build a bigger, stronger name and reach even more people to create real change in this crazy world we live in. I aim to connect more people to Newtown, so that our story does not become yours.

See you at kathrynmayer.com and over on Facebook. And thanks for the love.

Be strong, be kind, be loud.

Kate

8.13.2014

A boy and his balls

My kid, the Boy, is a jock. He may be a nerdy, mathlete jock with an affinity for yo-yos, rubik's cubes, MasterChef and Project Runway, but he's every bit an athlete. You can smell it on him. These days, about to go to high school, you can LITERALLY smell it on him.

When people ask what's his favorite sport, we tell them he's a dog. Just throw him a ball, any ball, and that's his favorite. Lacrosse, soccer, football, baseball. Doesn't really matter. Golf. Basketball. Frisbees too. He'll chase them and catch them and do it over and over and over again.

Woof.

It's tough to be the only boy in a house full of sisters, with girl cousins and girls in the neighborhood and nothing but girls, girls, girls hardwired in his brain. Too young to get started himself, he was dragged to swim meets, basketball games, gymnastic meets, softball and soccer games. Even girls motorcross. All girls, all the time.

I remember back when he was just a little guy, running out during half-time of his big sister's parks 'n rec basketball team and heaving the basketball with all his might. The crowd would cheer. He had a little Kobe Bryant jersey, and would sing: They're playing Bas-ket-ball .... with his hair braided like Lil Bow-Wow in Like Mike.



One time he ran into the stands after his half-time show at his big sister's 3rd grade girls basketball team, the Fluffy Purple People Eaters, breathless: "Mom-mom-mom-mom." He clearly had something to say, before climbing on my lap.

He declared with conviction: "Wisten to me. WISTEN" pant-pant-pant "When I grow up" pant-pant-pant "and I get a ba-gina" pant-pant "I'm gonna pway bas-ket-ball just wike my sis-tah."

BA-GINA???? 

Oops.

"Aw, honey. You're not getting a ba-gina. Not ever. You have a penis; no VAgina now or when you grow up. Never gonna happen. Sure, you can play basketball, but no vagina for you, but good news! You don't even need a VAgina to play basketball."

Rather attractive husband was not amused.

"Kate: do NOT crush his dreams. Don't worry dude, you'll get a vagina – someday, but you don't need one to play hoops."


"Geesh, Kate. Give the kid some hope," rather attractive dad growled, before turning back to the boy and swinging him high in the sky.

"You are awesome, dude, those were some great shots! You're gonna be a great hoops player when you grow up, Boy. And not to worry, you'll get plenty of vagina. Do not worry one bit about that." 


This was such a funny story way back then in that dusty middle school gym, but fast-forward a decade or so, to teenage daughters and a boy headed to high school, and rather attractive husband ain't laughing quite so loud now.


*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference. Be kind, be strong, be loud.



7.26.2014

A Blog Grows Up: The Big Switcharoo Begins

Recently, when at my downtown (Panera) office, I met a prospective client. It happens often: I'm starved for human contact, so I leave the lonely work-at-home abyss, and end up getting more work from Panera than I ever do on LinkedIn. A quick intro from a soccer dad, swim mom – and waa-laa!

“So, where can I see your stuff? What you’ve written? Where can I find you?”


Well, right here in my handy-dandy 1980s black artist portfolio!! Let me just get it out of the trunk of my car, under the protest signs, jocks, water bottles, blankets, wet towels, empty coffee cups, bikini bottoms???? (not to self: major birth-control refresher ASAP for Kids 1, 2, 3 but please, please, please Darwin, no-way, no-how, not Number 4)

"It’s right here … just give me a minute." I say, wiping spilled Gatorade from the cover. 

"Oh! And I’ll send you a few links. And a couple PDFs, if not too large. And then there’s this blog I write ... but, you might not be interested because I curse. And apparently that’s offensive. Does cursing piss you off? How about gun violence? I write a lot about guns cuz, well, you know. Or not (air quotes) "about guns" really, but how to perhaps – it’s just an idea, let’s not get crazy – discontinue the rampant display of open-carry weapons of mass destruction in our local Target. I dunno, it’s just an idea." 

So it goes.


But the days of portfolio review on the trunk of the car in the Stop 'n Shop plaza outside Panera are over. Cue Fat Lady.

People, I’m putting on my big girl undies.

Vanita Cyril, the brains behind The Strategic Mama, is an invisible friend, an original follower and fan of my writing from waaaayyyyy back, and a constant cheerleader from the webiverse. She’s patient, kind, smart, and affordable. She’s been begging to build me a site for YEARS, get on WordPress and grow the fuck up. My fuck not hers.

"You're a kick-ass writer, mama," she said. "Your site needs to be as well." 

The time has come.

Vanita’s gonna build me a one-stop-blogorama kingdom where I will use my real name – all of them – to write, advocate, share work samples, and still poke fun and tell stories of my kids, my rather attractive husband, my family, and my town.

My writing, purpose, and being has evolved and changed, and well, isn't that what's supposed to happen? Isn't it in the handbook somewhere – What to Expect When Growing Older?

My intentions remain true: to connect people through stories to build kinder, safer communities. I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for the next couple years, and I’m counting on you to help make them happen. Whaddya say, come with?


*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.

6.12.2014

What A Difference A Sign Makes

 Since the shooting at Sandy Hook, every so often a few of us gather outside our friendly, neighborhood trade association representing the firearm and ammunition industry (aka gun manufacturers), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). These are your go-to lobbyists for the guys who make the guns, an equal opportunity money maker and fear monger similar to the NRA, the omnipotent lobbyists for the guys who shoot the guns.

We're a small group of 3, 4, or 5 protestors, spanning several generations. Sometimes we surge to 10 or 15, but not often. We carry handmade signs that promote accountability, responsibility. Background checks. Being a gun sense voter. Being a good neighbor. Supporting CDC research. Exposing NSSF as the lobbyists they are, and outing them as a non-empathetic, not-so-friendly neighbor here in Newtown.

After the Santa Barbara Shooting (but before the Seattle Pacific University and Reynolds High School shooting – land of the free, home of the brave, huh?), over 20 locals showed up carrying #NotOneMore signs to pay respects to grieving dad Richard MartinezOur beloved local paper even did a story about us. (NEVER read the comments.)

#NotOneMore
Why do it? Why stand there against immeasurable odds waving signs at passersby?

Because we must. 

Because when one truck pulls over to defend their hunting rights, and pulls away with a smile and wave and a friendly, "I can live with that," we think, can’t we all.

When a young vet, two weeks home from Afghanistan, pulls over to politely argue his absolute, Constitutional right for weapons, then concedes the average guy shouldn't have access to the same stash he's been diligently trained on for battle, and leaves shaking my hand. "I'm so sorry for your loss," he mumbled, walking away. "I'm so sorry."

"Well, at least we gave him something to think about," said Katie, a teacher, mom, and original NSSF protestor.

When someone asks why are you there? What is that place anyways? What do they do? What does it matter? What do you want? I tell them, and they are always – always – surprised. Even all these months later. 


So I stand there, waving a sign, and friends, neighbors, strangers drive by. Waving, honking, smiling support. Some flip us off. A few slow down, stare. Two made a gun with their fingers, and pulled the pretend trigger at my face while looking me directly in the eyes.

I did not blink.
https://www.momsdemandaction.org/
My signs creates awareness, nothing more. I'm a real-live meme you can honk, wave, and point at, shedding light on my hometown, and a national nemesis to public safety: our Newtown neighbor NSSF, who continues to do nothing to help prevent the gun violence epidemic that killed two classrooms of kids just over the hill.

I stand there so people discover the great and powerful Oz behind the gun culture that is killing our kids and creating a nation of fear and paranoia – conveniently disguised as freedom. 

I stand there so maybe, just maybe, just one person will think twice before the next election, and make a conscious decision about who they want representing them from, all the way from school boards to senate seats. Because they make the laws.

#NotOneMore

Not one more preventable death, and not one more elected official in the pockets of those whom benefit most from the American obsession of arming ourselves to death.

So I'm holding my sign, wearing my MomsDemand shirt, hoping people will take notice and look a little deeper at themselves and at those they elect to make decisions and laws on our behalf. The NSSF and NRA are doing so, and it's time we did so as well.

*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.

5.22.2014

They Came, They Listened, They'll Vote

The first mom arrived promptly, walked to the front door, looking confused.
“Do I have the right night?” she asked politely.
I invited her in. “You never know how these things go. Might just be you, me, and a couple bottles of wine.” “Works for me!” she said. But I was nervous, and she knew it. “It’ll be okay. Everything will work out. Even if it is just you and me, it’ll be fine.”
In a moment of weakness … or maybe strength … I volunteered for a Moms Demand Action House Party, or meeting really, to rally friends and see what could be done at the grass roots level to help reduce gun violence. Simple steps. Big job, but teeny, tiny baby steps.

There are many, many formidable, effective groups committed to reducing gun violence, and I support every one, yet married to none. For everyday, regular ol' people like myself, I sometimes feel they lose the trees through the forest. 

I’m more of a tree girl. 

So I invited people of like-mind to listen and learn. No commitment, no solicitation, no pressure. Just talk. Do what you want. If you want. When you want. Become a gun sense voter. It's easy, and here’s how.

Spring is a crazy time for moms: games, concerts, plays, dinners, ceremonies. In fact, as 7:00 pm hit, my phone was buzzing with texts and emails of regrets: people who emphatically RSVP'd yes, but were sympathetically backing out. Too tired, too late. So sorry! Wish I could make it; had planned on being there; kid's sick; I’m behind you, Kate 100%. You go girl!

Go where, I thought? Where will I possibly get if I go it alone?

And then this happened: five, ten women showed up. Fifteen. Late because they had to park so far away. 20, 30, 40. Cars uniformly stamped with Sandy Hook green magnets lined my street. 50 – they just kept arriving. The house was rocking, rooms jam packed.

The vast majority were new to me. Virtual Facebook friends in person. Friends of friends, neighbors of neighbors, colleagues, clients. An email invite forwarded, forwarded and forwarded. 

For the 17 months since the Newtown shooting, violent opposition has been coming at gun violence prevention groups guns blazing. Pun fully intended. And the gun safety groups have consistently insisted: we are the silent majority. No one is coming for the guns, yet we want to live – actually live – amongst all gun owners, and limit the availability for those not responsible, safe, and accountable for their ownership and actions.

There were over 60 people at my house – primarily moms and grandmas – and I estimate over two-thirds were friends I hadn’t met yet. All committed to doing. All pledging their voice to the cause. All ready to talk, share, listen, and learn. Quiet maybe, but silent no more.

In my living room, the silent majority became invigorated, inspired, and energized. While most are not willing to scream from the rooftops, we did all pledge to use our actions and let our voice be heard loud and clear at the voting booth.

PS: Moms Demand Action-NYC is hosting a 2nd Annual Brooklyn Bridge March June 14th for Gun Violence Prevention. I'll be there and would love to meet you!


*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.

5.01.2014

Show me the benefits baby!

Like that product placement?
You want sexy? I'll show you sexy.

After rather attractive husband was downsized, outsourced, laid off, and/or became a victim of the recession, we were not immediately panicked. Financially, that is.

We hoard our money the way most Americans spend it. We're cheap. Not frugal; cheap. Started saving for college when our kids, all 4 of them, were babies. Our 401ks were maxed and matched in our 20s, and we always lived below, far below, our 'my-SUV-is-bigger-than-your-SUV' suburban neighbors. Saved and saved and saved.

When we moved back to Newtown after a brief, tortuous stint in Ohio, the realtors, banks and Fairfield County culture tried to bully us into homes 3, no 4x the price of the Brady Bunch fixer-upper we purchased. They tried to bankrupt us, but failed. (If only more Americans walked away from that bait 'n switch mortgage game...)

Our only prerequisites: that we fit. And that we could pay the mortgage on one income: mine, the female 77 cent to the male $1.00 adjusted downward to accommodate for a decade off raising kids return-to-work salary. Just in case it ever came to that. Which it did.

But health benefits aren't something you can save for.

We are all too aware we're one bad diagnosis away from being homeless, and we don't gamble. Not ever. So while we were never without benefits, we did upgrade, or perhaps it's downgrade, to catastrophic coverage and everyone started flossing regularly. Which is a big leap when you've got a boatload of kids playing a boatload of sports in a petri dish of a school whose parents sole bedside manner consists of:

"You're fine." 
"Get over yourself." 
"Suck it up." 
"Get up NOW and go to school."

All this momming. Makes you all warm and tingly inside, huh?

My kids had it drilled into their head from kindergarten (when the nicest nurses in the world lured them into their offices with cooing promises of cool, clean compresses; cherry cough drops; and non-generic, non-stick BandAids): the school nurse was OFF LIMITS. Even if her name was Mrs. Teagarden and she rubbed your back and took your temperature. They're evil. Never go to the school nurse – because that's where the pink eye puke monster lives. Do not enter the office, and NEVER, under any circumstances, lie down on the pleather recliner.

You can go to the school nurse if, and only if, you have any of three mandatory, pre-qualifying conditions: puke, asthma, or blood. And there better be lots of it. We communicated this lovingly to the nurses as well, and I'm sure DCF was notified.

Why do I tell you this?

Because today is May 1st, the magical day when my rather attractive husband's brand new health benefits kick in. Which means already today, I've already had a vice-gripping mammogram, ultrasound of lumpy, dense breasts (if only), and a long-overdue doctor visit for cough-cough-coughing allergic Boy. Tomorrow: three – count 'em – three dentist appointments. Next week: colonoscopy for this girl right here, and a sports physical for kid3 two days before it expires! Winner! College girl #2 comes home next week and she's getting her wisdom teeth yanked.

"But Mom, do I need them pulled? They don't hurt anymore."


"Yes they hurt. They hurt a lot. They hurt when I say they hurt and they hurt when we have coverage. Which is now."

Years ago I chased guys with muscle brains, muscle chests, and muscle cars. Today, you wanna get lucky?

Show me some good orthodontic coverage and I'm all yours.


*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.

4.24.2014

How to Become a Single Issue Voter


I became a one-issue, gun sense voter in December 2012. 

That’s when gun violence prevention trumped all other social issues, because everything else doesn’t matter when your community is dying.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Yeah, I know. People with guns kill people, and people with more powerful guns and more rounds and no background checks kill even MORE people.

We know.

Public safety sort of wins, don't you think? Suddenly, reproductive rights and immigration reform and banking regulations just don’t seem all that imperative when gun violence ends life as you know it...      just       like       that.

So I became a Gun Sense Voter, and had my first experience practicing this position outside Newtown Middle School when I trotted my pro-education, SUV driving ass into the gym to once again vote for our now 0% increase in education budget. (Which was predicted to fail, because people don’t vote until their football-marchingband-giftedchild-leadintheplay-allstatemusician program is on the chopping block. THEN they vote, but not until, so our budgets notoriously get voted down, down, down because parents don't vote and everyone else post reproductive bearing years does.)

That’s another story.

Outside the middle school gym, sat a smallish man with a table and a petition. He had the “look:” the pro-gun, gummet-ain't-gonna-take-my-godgiven-guns look, but I try not to right-wing-nut-job profile folks I meet.

“Lady? I’m trying to get my name on the ballot to run for 5th district. Would you sign?” 

Nice enough. Except I LOVE our 5th district Congresswoman Elizabeth Etsy. LOVE HER. She writes back and even called back – twice – when I contacted her office after the shooting. And I'm nobody!

I stopped at his table. I smiled and was friendly. He smiled back. 

“I don’t know. Where do you stand on gun violence prevention?”

Rolled off my tongue, like "Fill it up, $30 the cheap stuff." No big deal. Didn't even waver, my voice didn't shake or squeak. Just where do you stand? Like I'd been doing this forever. Except this was the first.

“Whooooooooaaaaaaa there,” said my congressman in waiting in his very best Connecticut cowboy. He stepped back, put both hands up in a stop position, shaking his head like a bobble head. “It’s our constitutional right to bear arms. CON-STI-TU-TION-AL RIGHT.” In case I needed the phonetic breakdown. "I'm not touching the guns." If only.

His voice wavered. Angered. He was pissed I had even asked.

“Well okay then,” I said. “That’d be a big-fat-no from me.”

I walked into the gym, to cast my ballot and support my town and schools.

Do this. Ask questions and vote accordingly. Little elections count, and if you don’t think so, imagine a sick man with access to automatic weapons and unlimited rounds unleashing horror where you live. And then dealing with the aftermath with local officials you voted in. They either rise to the occasion and govern like human beings, or they don’t. Lots of them don't. And when they don’t, they need to go.

If we don't vote, then someone else will be making the big decisions for us. The only way to change this is by asking the questions that matter to you and vote.


*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.

4.18.2014

Phil Donahue Saved My Writing Soul

I went to Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop desperately seeking my funny. Not sure what to expect, but there was plenty of funny to go around.

When you’re surrounded by 300+ women writers and a handful of men all of whom are genetically talented, it has the distinct possibility to leave you crying in the bathroom. Forever alone. A girl and her cellphone. And a quite possibly a cocktail.

The Erma groupies had the goods, and it was more than a little intimidating: books and columns and syndication and by-lines. Comics and screenplays and blogs and podcasts. Thousands of followers. YouTube and fan clubs.They had proof.

I got nuthin'. And not only that, I had lost my funny and was dying, quite literally it seemed, to try and get it back. I was counting on Erma to come through: help me find my funny.

After Sandy Hook, I could no longer poke fun at the town I love to call home. It’s not easy to make fun of everyday life when that life stops abruptly with a simple, non-assuming text alert: LOCKDOWN.

So when Ermies asked what I wrote, I told them I was an advertising copywriter: ‘I’m the kind of writer who gets paid.’ It was all the funny I could muster.

A couple pressed. What do you WANT to do? What do you LIKE to write? I so wanted to answer honestly: I write congressman and senators. I write fucking asshole board of ed members from neighboring towns that think it’s funny to make ammunition jokes to grieving parents. I write letters to the editors and speeches about gun violence and blog about it sometimes, to Paul Revere warn people: WE WERE JUST LIKE YOU!!! Newtown is you! Don’t you get it? This could happen to you because it damn well happened to me!! This is not some made-for-tv movie, this is my life and it will be yours if we don’t do something now!

But it's the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop and these people are funnnnnnyyy! Everyone is a comic writer! People laughing, hugging and drinking, and everyone seemed to already know each other. Birds of a feather, you know? This was the place to be: surrounded by talented people not afraid to share what they know.

I’m telling you, my tongue swelled up to the size of my ass and 26 funerals of tears were right beneath the surface every single time someone asked what I wrote. So I asked them instead, and they all answered the same: "I'm a humor writer, we all are all," one writer waved her hand to include the crowded room. "Like them, like Erma!" Family, work, marriage, school, kids, sports, divorce. I wanted to say that. I used to do that. But not anymore.

I did not belong here. I did not belong anywhere. 

Phil Donahue to the rescue. Seriously, who wudda thunk it? Selected as the keynote speaker because he and Erma were Dayton neighbors and lifelong friends. He talked about love, friendship and his never-ending admiration for Erma, her groundbreaking work, her bravery to say what hadn't been said, and the power of the written word. 'This power is in your hands,' he said. 'You have the distinct opportunity to write about everyday life and share your stories.' And because we had the talent, we have the obligation, the responsibility, to do so. Or something like that. I don’t know really, because all of a sudden, in a room of 400 talented writers, he was talking to me. Just to me.

And then he said something about putting your children on a schoolbus expecting them to be safe, to come home, and when they don’t ...


Can. Not. Breathe.

A writer gently puts her hand on my shoulder. One of the first but far from the last of powerful, life-changing and life-affirming moments of the conference. I was sad, yet so very determined to tell our story, because it is only through our stories, funny or not, that the world can become a better place.

My three days in Dayton were extraordinary, and when the laughter died down I learned this above all: the line between tragedy and comedy does exist, and while laughing in the face of any horror is nearly impossible, the only way through the tears and darkness is with laughter and light.

*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.

3.26.2014

The Healing Power of Mud

I actually know exactly when I realized we would all be okay.


It was in the middle of a muddy cornfield, with smoking fire sculptures, freezing, dirty kids, bands blaring Irish music, and lots and lots of strangers – laughing, running, hugging, and climbing, then eventually, drinking, eating and dancing.

Kids were free falling into waves of mud; rolling, picking themselves up and doing it all over again; laughter echoing and teeth chattering throughout the Mohawk Valley.

The Daniel Barden Highland Mudfest in upstate New York, was started by Deansboro residents Dan and Melissa Williams who "had to do something" after the Sandy Hook shooting. (Their sister Karin is a Sandy Hook resident, local hero, and very impressive human.) So they physically 'minecrafted' their MKJ Farm to raise funds and awareness for Daniel Barden's memory, creating a Daniel Barden Highlands Mudfest, complete with bagpipes, bands, kilts, and plenty of mud.

It was there, on the coldest day April ever saw, that I knew we would be able to go on.

The MacTitans, an entire Newtown youth soccer team, came with cleats, game faces, siblings, parents and coaches, all wearing kilts, or green tutus, face paint, and smiles.
Our own hodgepodge team, the Newtown Cannonballs, with #NewtownStrong hashtagged proudly on our backs, began to get a little nervous. People were serious about this inaugural Mudfest. Perhaps were in a little over our heads.

And magic happened.

We pulled into a dairy farm, parked in a frozen field, and saw truckloads of people rambling up the field. Moms, dads, teens, and tots. College kids, townies, farmers and firefighters. All there for Daniel.

We met up with our team, and ventured to the starting line. It was like Woodstock: music blasting, people everywhere, hugging, dancing, laughing. And it wasn't sad. Not at all. It was happy. Festive. Fun.

Joyous. Kind. And very positive. Very, very Daniel.


Thank you Barden Family, for sharing Daniel's message of kindness with the world.

Thank you Sandy Hook Promise for committing due diligence to protect families everywhere.

And thank you Compeer Project for thinking globally and acting locally; for being the change so many kids need.

Thank you especially to the Williams family for creating the Mudfest and helping us all make the world a little smaller, a little kinder, and much, much stronger. And for letting this Newtown mom know that tomorrow will be a better day if you just add a little mud to the mix.

This year's Mudfest is Saturday, April 5th, a day long event dedicated to peace, love and kindness. This is not just a muddy competition, it's a open invitation to do something that matters. Join us. It's what Daniel Would Do!

The Daniel Barden Mudfest has an active Facebook page for up to the minute details, or visit their website here to find out how you can get muddy too.



*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.



3.19.2014

Remembering Mike

The very same day of my last blog post back in January, my sister and I moved in with my parents to provide 24-hour care for my dad in his final days of fighting that assfuck pancreatic cancer.  Sadly and gladly, he's gone, and I'm proud to say his obituary went somewhat viral amongst the 20-odd members of the Class of '58.

Here's what I proudly had the honor to share at his memorial service in the small town where he was both literally and symbolically, larger than life.

Wow! Humpin' Jesus! There are a whole lot of you here to pay respects to our Dad. Thank you. Thank you thank you.

 First, and foremost, I must personally apologize for a glaring, erroneous statement in our father’s obituary. I wrote the obit, attributing that he is likely driving a Porsche, and clearly this was me – projecting my own car preference – onto my dad.

My mistake.

Because not sure if any of you saw this, there was a news story out of Kentucky, clearly part of Mike's the bigger plans: the day our father died, a massive sinkhole appeared underneath the National Corvette Museum swallowing eight – count ‘em – eight pristine corvettes. Can’t make this stuff up; Mike Mayer died and took 8 museum quality Vettes with him. Job well done, Dad.

Shudda known it’d be a Corvette. While other families rented clowns and bouncy houses for birthday parties, Grandpa Mike made our house the most popular place in town. Mike would pull up in the corvette, the roof open and a carseat strapped in the front. One – ok, sometimes two kids would double buckle into the car seat, and Mike would floor it to the end of our road, Willie Nelson blaring, and rip multiple donuts at the dead end with squealing kids inside. Every kid in town wanted an invitation, yet few parents would look us in the eye.

Mike’s driving abilities had few limits, and we didn’t have the balls to tell him when to stop driving. He had a birthday tradition to take each grandkid out separately for lunch and a personal birthday shopping spree, and did so every year with every grandkid within driving distance. So even though parkinson’s limited his ability to drive the way he should, after much deliberation, last year I just couldn’t tell him he couldn’t drive the Boy for his annual trip. I only hoped they would go slow enough to only damage their own car, and not harm anyone else.

When thankfully Boy returned safely, I asked him, how was grandpa’s driving? Everything okay? what happened, anything happen? The Boy looked at me confidently, and said, "All good mom. No problems. There’s just there’s a whole lotta pricks on the road, ya know? Those goddamn pricks!

11 grandchildren and I’m pretty sure prick was a part of each their pre-k vocabulary – and they knew exactly how and when to use the word.

They also accrued a stable of other helpful sayings from Mike.

After helping Mike to the car one day recently, my dad complained loudly, Humpin’ Jesus! It’s colder than a 3 legged woman out here!”

Boy was clearly confused, immediately asked, "Huh? What’s that Grandpa? What happened to the witch’s tit?"                      

This past month, as our dad’s health weakened, he had to go into the hospital – twice. Both times he was slightly embarrassed to be seen in a jonny coat. The hospital gown was somehow really embarrassing.

Which we girls really don’t quite understand. While growing up and bringing home the occasional boy late at night, he never once was embarrassed to storm out of his bedroom like a raging bull into the living room, wearing only 50-year-old threadbare, Fruit of the Looms, and bellow: 
DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS? YOU. LEAVE. NOW: and DON'T let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!

We seldom saw the same boy twice.

He did end up getting comfortable in his jonny coat after one minor procedure. When anesthesia left him needing a catheter, he looked the nurse right in the eye, and said, smiling, “getting awfully cozy for a first date, doncha think?”

A couple days later, we went to the urologist early one snowy morning to have the catheter removed and were tempted by a pristine, unplowed, completely virgin empty parking lot. "Ready Dad?" And we ripped a couple of donuts like our dad taught us the best we could in all-wheel drive Subaru. 

Mike wasn’t the least bit phased, he barely looked up at all. He was on his cell phone, calling his buddy Stan and announcing proudly, “finally got the stick out of my dick and am headed home to take a leak.”

I had another error in the obit, which was taken out prior to publication. I had a paragraph on how Mike had a strong distaste for judgmental SOBs, that he never judged anyone by the clothes they wore, the positions they held, or the cars they drove, but only upon the content of their actions and the validity of their word.

And when I read this to Mike, and to his buddy the honorable Dr. Reverend PhD smartypants ethicist, they both hesitated. That’s not true. Mike judges. "I judge people, I sure do." And judges hard. So we took it out.

But what I meant was Mike always offered an equal playing field for everyone. Every person, in his book, has value and purpose, whether working at the dump, a teacher, bagging groceries, a PhD, septic cleaner, sales person, waiter, pilot, brain surgeon, mechanic. He firmly believed everyone has value and should be treated with respect: his judgment came to play when others didn’t recognize this value and treated people unfairly to which he had zero tolerance and less forgiveness.

Mike respected everyone until given a reason not to, and that reason would have to do with their actions and not their being. He was, and remains, the original equal opportunity friend: black people, gay people, poor people, rich people, and sometimes – but not always – elected officials. 

He taught us early on, that assholes come in all economic, political, class, religion, intellects and race. People should be treated fairly, until they prove you otherwise by their actions.

Where I live, we’ve turned Mike into a verb. When at a party, and you grab something without waiting to be served, “Did you just Mike that steak?” When swiping a handful of brownies and shoving them in your mouth when you think no one is watching, “I saw you Mike the brownies!” Stick your fingers into the icing of a cake? The original miking of the cake. Miking has gone viral; my kids and their friends, they Mike chicken wings, pizza, cake, burgers, fries – whatever they can whenever they can. And I think our dad might have been a little embarrassed by this, and a teeny bit proud.

But a weird thing happened just this past week. My niece, a nationally ranked motorcross racer that Mike pretended to fret about in front of his wife but secretly was prouder than proud that that apple didn’t roll far from the goddamn tree, went and bought a used truck to tow her bike, off craigslist out near where I live in Connecticut. She negotiated and wheeled and dealed like a pro – and got a great truck at a great price.

And get this, the seller let her take the truck, with his own plates and insurance, and drive it all the way back to Upstate New York. “You seem like a good kid with a good head on your shoulders. I know you’ll bring the plates back.”

My sister immediately told my dad, “Good news Dad! Get this! She bought a truck from a real Mike Mayer, dad, ya know? One of the good guys. A real Mike Mayer.”

So next time you’re miking the cake, I challenge you to extend your Mike Mayer altruism a little farther, a little deeper, to reach even more people with more kindness to make this world a little bit brighter for someone when they just might need it most. 

Don’t do it because someone is watching, don’t do so because you want someone to owe you one, or because you want to get your name in the paper. Do so because it is the right thing to do.

Who here – show of hands – ever received a favor, a lending hand, needed advice, or show of kindness from Mike Mayer? Look around: this – this is his legacy, and it is now your obligation to return the favor, by continuing his good work now that he is, sadly, gone.



*Please commit to doing any action possible to make a positive change where you live, so our story doesn't become your story. Join a group in your community. Send an email. Be a friend. Find a cause. Share on Facebook. Hold a sign. Make a difference.