This has been a pretty crappy year all around the globe. The Coronavirus swept in and ruined life for all of us. We’ve all missed a lot and suffered to more or less extent. When I look back on this year I will no doubt remember the frustrations, the tears and the stress of dealing with the unknown.
But the dread of being locked down for nine months isn’t the whole story. I want to remember that there were good times here. We found ways to keep busy and stay sane.
Here’s what I did for almost a year. I’ll warn you, there was a lot of television and screen time for all of us. I don’t care one bit. We are alive.
Top moment of 2020 quarantine:
Kristen Bell read my book, Ignore It!. Then she talked about it on the Today show with Jenna Bush Hager. Then she sent me kissy faces on Instagram. Thrilling doesn’t cover it. The thing is when this happened I was in a very low point. I just felt like I needed something good, and I said that to my friend Ellie. Then an hour later Kristen Bell posts something about my book. It felt like the universe was giving me what I needed at the time I really needed it. So thank you Kristen Bell.
I’m a podcast addict. These are just a few I liked from this last year. Warning…I lean toward investigative reporting with some serious topics.
Do No Harm: Not for everyone, but this is what happens when child protective services gets it very wrong. For any of my social work friends, I highly recommend.
Verified: The first season of this really stuck with me although I also liked season 2. It’s a podcast about what it means to be verified (spoiler: it doesn’t really mean safety).
You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton: I couldn’t love HRC more. Listening reminds me of what a smart, kind, funny and accomplished woman she is. She laughs so much, that’s my favorite thing.
Canary: About a woman who was sexually assaulted, the court case, the judge and a victim from the past.
Nice White Parents: Fascinating and depressing look at what happens when white parents try to “help” improve a school.
Even The Rich: Silly, fun 4-part podcasts about uber rich families like the Murdochs, Ted Kennedy, The Queen and Beyonce and Jay Z.
Meditative Story: There are many nights I wouldn’t have slept at all if it wasn’t for this podcast. It’s stories told quietly with nice music and some meditation at the end.
For Best podcast of all time with an update during Covid: In The Dark Season 2. Don’t google it. Just listen. Then tell me because I love to discuss it.
I am the slowest reader of all time. It’s so annoying. So, I typically read one book at bedtime (at a snail’s pace), and then I listen to one audio book. I love being read to and the audio books get me outside taking long walks. This year during quarantine I read more books than any other year. I guess there’s the upside to being locked down with nothing to do.
Here is what I read and a one sentence summary.
Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb –Funny and touching book about a Jewish grandma and her loving but critical relationship with her granddaughter. LOVED.
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker – Fascinating and devastating true story about a family of 12 children in the 1970s where six of the boys were diagnosed with schizophrenia. LOVED.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Highly researched historical fiction about Shakespeare, his family, the plague, marriage grief and love. I LOVED this book until the last word.
Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump – An inside look at the family dynamics of the Trump family from Donald’s niece. LOVED.
We Walk: Life with Severe Autism by Amy S. Lutz – Smart, thoughtful essays written by the mother of a severely autistic child. She has a lot to say and many opinions that are different from the cultural norms. I really enjoyed this book.
This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel – Story of a family of five boys when the youngest decides at 5-years old that he wants to be a girl named Poppy. It is so nuanced and thoughtful. I LOVED this book and this little girl so much I named my puppy Poppy.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Slow and steady telling of a family drama in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Very Good.
Born a Crime by Trever Noah – Memoir of Trever Noah’s youth growing up in South Africa. I enjoyed three quarters of this book.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller – horrifying story of the woman who was assaulted by Brock Turner and how she fought back in court. I listened to this audio read by the author. I have a hard time finishing due to the audio. But I found her Instagram account and I LOVE that.
On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming – A daughter looks into the brief disappearance of her mother in a small British town. Good not great but with some interesting family photos and details.
Adult Conversation by Brandy Ferner – Everything you may have felt about motherhood but couldn’t tell anyone, this book shows the real struggles of early parenting, marriage and how to find funny when nothing is funny. I actually laughed and cried. LOVED.
March (trilogy) by John Lewis – The true story (told in graphic novel) of how Congressman John Lewis and other brave people protested for civil rights in the 1960s. LOVED.
Me by Elton John – I’m an obsessive lover of all things Elton. So obviously I loved this memoir.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makki – Set during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, this book details the lives of several people affected by the crisis. It’s told in alternating voices and I liked only one half of the duo telling the story. Meh.
The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe – The complicated lives of two teens figuring out life. Liked.
My Life in France by Julia Child – This is a straightforward but lovely memoir of Julia’s time in Paris writing her epic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Very Good if you like Julia.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – Written as an anonymous advice column these long responses to reader letter vary in interest. Meh
Favorite book I read last year that came out this year: Three Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman
Currently Reading: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez – not my favorite.
Cooking and Baking
I love to cook but started really getting sick of my own food during so many days of eating at home. Here are a few of my favorites that I made over and over again. I lived by the NY Times cooking IG page and Smitten Kitchen.
Grape tomato kimchi – I can eat this entire bowl myself. Add cucumbers for even more deliciousness.
Best meatballs– I love this recipe because the meatballs are baked instead of pan fried. Easy and healthy.
Best chocolate chip cookies– I survived this quarantine by baking these cookies and sharing them with friends. I use salted butter, sprinkle some sea salt on top and use the highest quality chips. I promise these are the best cookies.
We don’t all like the same games. But we can all agree on Jackbox.TV. We have had so many laughs playing these games. We even bought a second pack.
The Great Outdoors
Living in California has afforded lots of safe opportunities to get out of the house. I have walked and hiked many miles and swam with fish and sea lions in the ocean. These activities 100% are the reason I didn’t snap on my family and we all still like each other.
Casey made friendship bracelets, Emmett felted a lot of little guys and I did some quilling which I hadn’t done in years. I also made a life-sized paper mache lady because when you have nothing to do and no where to go, you make giant paper mache people, right?
One of the saddest parts of the quarantine was saying goodbye to our beloved Norma the dog. We were all a bit lonelier for a few months. But then Poppy came to brighten our lives. She’s a mini Bernedoodle and she is a pain in the butt but also pure joy.
For much of the pandemic I could barely put two words together. But a few articles bubbled to the surface and I’m really proud of them.
“White Kids Are Using the N-Word at School!” How To Talk About Discrimination – I pitched this to Your Teen Magazine after my son and nephew talked to me about how kids use the N-word without a thought. This came out without much fanfare due to much more pressing issues in the country. Still, I worked hard on this and both kids also got a byline.
I watched so much television. It seems impossible I could have done anything else. But I promise I really did all the other things I already listed and also spent time with my kids. Here are a few of the highlights:
All of Grays Anatomy (I am so ashamed, there are 384 episodes)
All of Downton Abbey
All seasons of Somebody Feed Phil – Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond goes around the world eating and meeting the people.
The latest season of The Great British Baking show
Anne with an E – adaptation from Anne of Green Gables.
The Crown season 4
Lenox Hill – Follows 4 doctors at Lenox Hill Hospital (including my high school boyfriend). It’s amazing.
Virgin River – stupid but gorgeous nature and gossipy plot.
Indian Matchmaking – Just so much fun but unsatisfying in the end.
The Surgeon’s Cut – Kind of like Lenox Hill but different. Also great.
Next in Fashion – Like project runway but better plus I <3 Tan France.
The Queen’s Gambit – loved it all including the wallpaper
Challenger: The Final Flight – obviously about the Challenger and what lead up to the explosion.
Never Have I Ever – Sweet teen drama
The Octopus Teacher – man swims with and befriends an octopus. Nice if you like sea life.
Also, every 90-day Fiancé (because I have no shame) and Housewives of Salt Lake City (including my second cousin).
Favorite quarantine show hands down would be Voices of Fire. It’s like American Idol but for a gospel choir.
A few weeks ago, I donated my kidney to a man named Eli Valdez. Until our surgery date, we’d never met. I learned of his need when I saw a flyer posted in Starbucks. I wrote about the experience here and my husband’s perspective is here. It was an emotional, painful but still wonderful experience.
In the weeks leading up to the donating and since I’ve been asked lots and lots of questions. I’ve learned that most people know very little about organ donation. I didn’t know much either until I started the evaluation process. I am not encouraging everyone to go out now and be a donor. But I do want anyone who might be interested to learn more. Feel free to contact me if you have any additional thoughts or questions. I’d be happy to give whatever information I can.
Did you get paid?
No, it’s illegal in the United State to accept compensation for an organ.
What do they do with the recipient’s kidneys?
Well, they disconnect them and just leave them there.
So, a person can have 3 kidneys?
Yes, a person can have 4 or 5 depending on how many times they’ve needed a transplant. If the donor is a baby doctors will sometimes insert both of the baby’s kidney into the recipient. It’s all kind of fascinating.
How do you know he (the recipient) is a good person?
I don’t. It doesn’t really matter to me. I hope Eli takes good care of my kidney. But that’s really up to him. I’ve given him a chance, and that’s it. Everyone (literally, every person) deserves a chance.
Why can’t someone in his family give him a kidney?
There are lots of reasons someone cannot donate. High blood pressure, diabetes, kidney stones and chronic use of medication for arthritis are all reasons someone is denied. In fact, I learned that only 15% of people who want to donate are actually approved for surgery. Also, just because someone is healthy enough to donate doesn’t mean they should. There are many personal reasons such as family situation, employment, finances and religious beliefs that may also make it difficult to donate.
Who pays for the testing and surgery?
The recipient’s insurance pays for everything. The only out-of-pocket cost for the donor is transportation and lost wages during recovery. For me these were negligible. I did get a free parking voucher and one for a meal in the hospital cafeteria. I LOVE free parking so this was a nice gesture from the kidney program.
What happens if the donor gets kidney disease and needs a kidney in the future?
There is a 1% chance I will need a kidney donation in the future. If that does happen, I would jump to the top of the transplant waiting list. I didn’t know this before this process and it was probably the most comforting piece of information I learned.
Is your life expectancy affected by having only one kidney?
My life expectancy will not be affected by my one kidney assuming I don’t start performing high risk behavior that could injure my remaining one. So that rules out skydiving. However, I personally would never, ever, have done that anyway. Just the fact that I was deemed healthy enough to donate means I will likely live longer than someone who is ineligible to give a kidney. But I believe we never know how much time we have. I want to make the most of each day I’m given. There are no guarantees.
Were you an exact match?
I was not an exact match for Eli. Really this is an extremely complicated issues that I am not qualified to expand upon. However, I was a good enough match for Eli. I learned though that one does not need to be a match at all to donate a kidney to a friend or loved one. There is something called paired exchange. Basically, if someone is approved to donate but isn’t a match they can be matched with a total stranger in a database. Then another stranger would match with your loved one. It’s absolutely revolutionary.
With Eli and his wife, Monica, two days after transplant. My husband, Jeff (tall guy with hat), was the best support team ever.
How was the recovery?
It was much harder than I anticipated. I think it’s hard to go into surgery completely healthy and imagine the kind of pain I’d experience. It was rough. For the first day I was on constant stream of pain killers. But by the next day I was up and moving. For me, the most difficult part of recovery was my stomach issues. The anesthesia and pain medications did a not-so-nice job on my gastrointestinal system. But within two weeks I was driving, walking, and mostly back up to speed. Doctors say after 6 weeks I’ll be like my old self.
What is the follow up you have after donating?
I will follow up with the doctors at 6, 12 and 24 months just to check my kidney function. Other than that, I go about my life. The only change I’ll have to make is taking less Advil, which is probably a good thing in the long run for me anyway.
How difficult is it to find a kidney donor?
For some people they have so many friends and relatives that are lined up to give. Many are healthy and can just donate. However, for many people, they struggle to find someone to help them. They advertise their need on the backs of cars, in Starbucks and on social media. Think about how hard it must be to do this. Right now, 113,601 people are waiting for a life-saving organ. This means they are waiting for someone to die who is also an organ donor and also a match. Eli, my recipient and I are both blood type O+. I learned that people with this blood type wait the longest because they can only receive a donation from someone else who has the same blood type. People with other blood types can receive from multiple types. It’s complicated and the wait can be excruciating.
What are the chances of rejection and how would you feel if your kidney didn’t take?
People who receive organ transplants are on antirejection medication for the rest of their lives. There is always a chance of rejection. But the doctors monitor kidney function and other measures very carefully, and they can intervene if rejection seems to be in progress. It is absolutely possible that my kidney will not work out for Eli or that it will eventually fail. But any chance was worth it for me. Side note: my doctor told me at his clinic they just celebrated a parent who donated to a child 50 years ago and both patients and kidneys were still going strong. How incredible is that?
If I want to be a donor but don’t know someone in need who should I contact?
If I’m not sure about giving a kidney right now, how else can I help?
Become an organ donor in death. If everyone did that, the numbers of people waiting would drop drastically. Also, give blood, platelets or join the bone marrow registry. If none of this feels comfortable, here are some other options: volunteer at a dialysis clinic, offer to drive someone on dialysis or sit with someone having treatment. Lastly, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day, especially someone with a chronic illness. If you know someone who is dealing with an illness, just ask, “Hey, how can I help?”
“Are you breastfeeding?” the stranger asked while I waited with my newborn to order a drink at Starbucks.
“Um, Well…” I said awkwardly, “it’s complicated.”
I picked up my iced tea, collected my lingering morsels of pride and shamefully shuffled out the door. Then I sat in my car and wondered why, exactly, did a woman who didn’t even know me care about my breasts, my daughter and how I choose to feed her?
Shortly thereafter, I went to Bloomingdales with my little one. I thought I’d run in, exchange a few onesies and rush home. But then I was accosted by another stranger who let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it was far too cold to take a baby outside. Then, like a boxer throwing one last uppercut toward the head of a crumbling opponent, she looked at me and snarled, “And what kind of mother risks a baby’s health to do a little shopping.”
The advice for parents from well-meaning friends and family members begins even before the birth of a child. You hear it all, 1,000 times over: Breastfeed, take time off of work to bond, co-sleep, read, put baby on back to sleep, make your own baby food, buy only organic BPA-free everything, do baby yoga and massage, use natural soaps. On and on and on and on.
With the invention of smartphones, the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle parents are being watched (and recorded) more than ever. This puts parenting on the front line for all to see and judge and—far too often—shame. It’s those watchful eyes from the public that impact our parenting the most. We end up making choices because we are afraid of being embarrassed.
It’s almost impossible to avoid feeling the competitive pull of parenthood. We all want the best for our kids. If our neighbor is making her baby food from scratch, we think we should, too. “It’s easy,” she’ll tell you. “I blend organic peaches, grapes, apples, tomato and …” Does that sound easy to you? If a close friend starts tutoring her child to better prepare her for an upcoming placement test, it is hard to fight the urge to begin tutoring too. Parents don’t want their kids left behind.
However, what works for my neighbor or friend, might not work for my family. Jobs, schedules, temperaments, allergies, abilities, strengths, financial means, philosophies, values, siblings, religion, culture and more all play a part in how we raise our children. Those differences are perfectly fine. There is no one way to raise children. And as long as we aren’t abusive or neglectful we should be entitled to parent as we see fit.
The problem is our kids aren’t robots who perfectly follow our instructions and whose behavior is exemplary. Sometimes they act out in public. Kids whine and tantrum for a cake pop or chocolate milk or a new Matchbox car. They can be obnoxious in restaurants without an iPad. They complain about running errands. They misbehave at the most inopportune times. All the while the checkout person, waiter and onlookers are watching parents to see how they react. The playground moms are watching you. The stay-at home moms or the working moms, they are all watching you. The members of the PTA, they too, are watching you.
When parents feel those watchful eyes they often feel shame and guilt. And they tend to make parenting mistakes that will make life harder in the long run. Quelling a tantrum with that cake pop will only ensure more tantrums because the child will have learned the behavior is highly effective. Yet, parents often try to cut the unpleasantness off before it begins. That’s a big win for kids.
Instead of feeling the pressure to parent in public to suit others, here are five tips to parent your way.
Don’t take it all too seriously. Parenting isn’t an exact science. Provide love, support, education opportunities and a safe place to land in troubled times and your kids will be just fine.
If you are having a bad day, laugh. Laugh at the comments from nosey strangers. Laugh when your kids show up to school and you forgot that is was Cowboy theme day. And laugh when the babysitter quits right before you have an important meeting at work and you are forced to drag two hungry and tired children with you. Just laugh. It will make it better.
Surround yourself with nonjudgmental people who build you up instead of tearing you down. It’s easy to feel we have to keep up appearances but that does no one any favors. Instead find you tribe of moms and dads who let you be honest about your parenting struggles. These parents empathize instead of criticize. These parents don’t care if your kids watched 18 hours of television over the weekend.
Hold on to your values. It’s tempting to be swayed by popular trends. But if they don’t fit who you are, they aren’t for you.
Remember, strangers aren’t raising your children. You are the person who will bear the brunt of the consequences of your children’s misbehavior. Don’t let others shame you from disciplining as you see fit. If that means ignoring a giant tantrum in the Target parking lot, so be it. If you give in at that moment you will only teach your child that having a tantrum out in public is effective in getting something wanted (cookie, toy, attention for negative behavior).
This post is based on a chapter from IGNORE IT!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction. For more information on how to Ignore It! check out the book here. Follow Catherine on Twitter and Facebook.
There are four words that when spoken to me incite my most aggressive impulses. I become fiery and almost hostile. It happens fairly regularly and yet, I’m still shocked when I hear it.
Tonight, as the contractor was leaving the house, he said this: Is your husband around?
That’s it. Is your husband around? What could be so terrible about that little sentence?
Well, the reason I become irate is pretty simple really. I’m a smart woman who can handle just about anything my husband can handle around the house. In fact, generally I’m the one who fixes something when it’s broken. If I can’t fix it, I’m the one who finds, contacts and schedules the work person. I pay the house bills and arranged for the mortgage. And yet, everyone asks if my husband is around.
Just the other day the mortgage company called and asked for Mr. Pearlman even though both of our names are on the loan. Why not just ask for Mr. or Mrs. Pearlman? No one thinks Mrs. (actually, it’s Dr.) Pearlman can handle any of the “big” decisions for the family. The solar company wouldn’t even come to the house if my husband wasn’t going to be there (yes, they lost my business).
Apparently, I am not qualified to make decisions about, basically anything. I couldn’t possibly understand how to turn the water off to the house. I probably wouldn’t be able to discuss the fee for the gardener to do an additional job in the yard even though I am the person discussing it with him. I likely couldn’t understand the tricky financial lingo from the bank. I’m the one who has purchased all of our cars and yet every car salesman talks to my husband upon arrival. That all infuriates me on so many levels.
My husband does a lot around the house and raising the kids. He does all the laundry, cleans all the dishes, runs to the supermarket, takes the cars in for service, shuttles the kids endlessly, talks to coaches and teachers, arranges pick up and so much more. He’s a 50% parent, and I’m a lucky lady. He also takes care of mice and bugs, because I cannot do that (although I’m great at hiring the exterminator). Clearly, we dodge typical gender roles. And that tickles me. My dad taught me to fix things. When we bought our first house, he bought me a drill, and I adore that drill. I used it recently to hang my son’s shelves. My mom taught me how to ask for a supervisor and write a letter to speak my mind. My grandmother loves to tell the story of how she acted as the general contractor in the 1950s to build her house from scratch.
The house my grandmother built
I grew up wanting to be a woman who can do just about anything if I set my mind to it. And usually I believe I can. But every time someone asks for my husband all of my effort and education and time is relegated insignificant. Actually, I become insignificant. If mothers are taking on most of the emotional labor for the family, exactly when are we going to get credit for that? I’m waiting, not so patiently.
I’m writing to you because you are old enough to know the truth. Actually, you aren’t. You are innocent children who deserve a childhood without fears and nightmares. But the truth is unavoidable, and at this moment there is nothing else I can say. So here it is.
I cannot protect you from a gunman. Not at preschool. Not at a concert. Not even in temple. There is no amount of guns that can make you safe because those same guns will always find a way into the wrong hands. If someone wants to kill you while you are peacefully playing tag in the playground, I cannot help you. If you are having fun at a concert with your friends or enjoying the latest movie in the theater, I cannot protect you. You could get shot, and you might die.
My beautiful daughter, I can almost guarantee you will experience lots and lots of sexual harassment. You will have unwanted attention from strangers who will look at your body and sexualize it. You will probably have a boss who will discriminate against you because you are a female or while you are pregnant or after the birth of your beloved child. You may even be raped by a stranger, or worse, someone you know. And if you choose to speak up you may not be believed. You may lose everything in the process. There are people in powerful positions who will work to silence your voice. Even if you present the most compelling evidence and you are believed, sometimes nothing will change. Because lots of people don’t care.
I’d like to tell you that you get to make decisions about what happens to and in your body, but I can’t. The right to an abortion is a fragile one, and there’s a chance you may lose that right. Even if your life is at risk, you may not be able to have life-saving surgery because some will value your fetus more than you. Don’t think you can rely on contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy because that right may go away too. Depending on where you live or where you work you may not have access to an IUD or the pill. And you may not always have enough money for condoms. This makes me terribly sad, and I’m sorry.
My science-loving boy, I’d like to tell you that science and data matter. That people rely on high-quality research conducted by respected institutions around the world to make decisions about our planet. But that’s not always true. There are many people who look at widely accepted beliefs about climate change and deny the existence of overwhelming data. Some people will govern with the narrow focus of getting themselves reelected. They make the rules that we all have to live by. Your grandchildren may not have any water to drink or a dry place to build a house. I know it’s scary but that is already happening to many.
You have the right to vote and voting matters. You still have this right, but some will make it difficult to actually cast your ballot. People will change the rules at the last minute to favor their political party. They will try to minimize dissenting voices by making it difficult to vote by asking for identification or limiting voting hours or moving polling locations without notice. People will say every vote counts but sometimes it doesn’t. The popular vote can go to one candidate but an antiquated system will have the electoral college pick a different winner.
In these horrible times I wake up nearly every day with astonishing disappointment and pain. So it’s really hard to continue to pretend that these terrible things won’t happen here. I cannot look into your beautiful innocent eyes and say, “It can’t happen to you.” It can. It happened to school kids just like you in Miami and Newtown and Columbine. It happened in the supermarket in Kentucky and in a temple in Pittsburgh. It happened to a professor, just like me. The congressman in our district doesn’t believe in climate change. It’s all around you, and I can’t lie to you.
But in all of this painful uncertainty, there are some truths that might help you.
I will speak up to do my best to protect you. I’ll do this by fighting the school district or suing my employer for discrimination or by writing about injustice. Speaking up may not always change things but it will show people that I care and support them. That’s not nothing. If I see something that is hurting someone, I’ll say something. If I can right a wrong, I’ll do it. It will not always be easy. But that’s usually when it’s most important. I will do this for you and you must do it for others.
I will vote until my last breath. I still believe change can come. People sacrificed in significant ways to give us the right to vote. I’ll do what I can to protect that vote, and I’ll exercise my right in every single election.
I will create a home where everyone is welcome to Sunday dinner or Passover regardless of faith or race or sexuality. I’ll make Christmas dinner for our Christian friends or Iftar for the Muslim ones. Why? Because our lives are made better by people who are not exactly like us. I’ll teach you to be open-minded and have an open heart. I’ll be kind and generous whenever I can and sometimes when I think I can’t. I’ll show you that you can make a change in this world even if it’s just to one person. To that person, that might be the difference between life and death.
I will try to live my life to the fullest because bad things can happen. I can’t prevent a lot of the bad things I mentioned. But they are less painful when we live our truest best life. Go out and live your lives and enjoy it. We owe that to the people who have been lost.
I love you. I pray that’s enough to comfort you.
Sometimes as parents we wonder what we would do for our children if given the chance. Of course I’d give an organ, arm or leg for my kids.
But would I spend $25 to check an overpriced bottle of barbecue sauce at the airport?
After five blissful days celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary in Maui we arrived at the Kahului Airport with a bit less than the requisite two-hour window. We returned our Chevy Malibu to Budget and hopped onto the bus waiting to take us to the terminal. We completed the agricultural scan, printed out our boarding passes and checked our bags to LAX. Everything went remarkably smoothly.
Our luck continued with all four of us snagging TSA Precheck. My daughter and husband placed their bags onto the belt to be scanned. Emmett, my son, loaded up the bag we were sharing, and we all passed through the metal detector. And then it happened. My bag with Emmett was placed in the bad lane. We had something impermissible, but what? A stray bottle of water maybe. Nope. It wasn’t water or sunscreen or something else inconsequential, either. When the TSA security guard pulled out the banned item, my heart sank.
One day during our vacation Emmett and I had a surfing lesson in the morning. After chilling in the hotel for a while I convinced him to come to town with me for a Dole Whip. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the local supermarket for some snacks. Emmett asked, “Can I look for a bottle of barbecue sauce to take home as a souvenir?” Sure, I told him. Last year when I went to Austin for a conference I brought him back sauce from The Salt Lick. He’s been slowly rationing the bottle since then. Some kids want keys chains or T-shirts or bracelets to remember their vacations. My son wants a condiment. I couldn’t be prouder.
So when the $8 Da Kine bottle was lifted out of my bag I thought, “Oh crap. Emmett will be crushed.” The TSA attendant read the look on my face, and told me I could go back out to the check in area and see if they could find my bag. If not, I could check it for $25. I gave my husband the boarding passes for him and the kids. I took mine and the bottle of sauce and left the secure area on a mission. No condiment left behind, right?
At the check in I meet Aleah, the Hawaiian Airlines employee contracted by American Airlines. I explain my plight. She isn’t moved. But she takes my bag tickets and says she will go out a take a look. Ten minutes pass. Then 15. I’m sweating and starting to lose faith. Finally Aleah shows up with bad news. She can’t find our bags. They have probably been taken already to board the plane. I go with Plan B. I ask Aleah if there is any way she can just check the sauce for me as a courtesy without charging me a fee. I explain I’m a loyal American customer with frequent flyer miles. Aleah says no, but agrees to ask her manager anyway. Before walking away she asks me what I will check the sauce in. She can’t just check a bottle. Then she walks away.
It’s now 11:46 am. My flight is boarding in 30 minutes, and I still have to go back through security. Finally she appears with more bad news. Her manager said she wouldn’t courtesy check the bottle for me but she would allow Aleah to go out once more to look for my bags. Aleah makes it clear this is a one-time privilege. I once again give her my bag tags and wait.
Tick, tick, tick. Aleah is nowhere to be found. I decide then and there that if Aleah comes back without my bag I will just check the darn sauce. The thought of seeing my son’s little lower lip quiver in sadness when he realizes his one special purchase was left in the airport was too much for me. I cleaned out my purse preparing to check it.
It’s noon, and I get a text from my husband—WHERE ARE YOU?. I’m starting to stress. At this point I just want Aleah to come back so I can check the bag, pay my $25 fee and run to catch my plane. But just then, like a Love’s in the desert, Aleah appears with one of our bags. I tell her she is a miracle worker. I tuck the Da Kine barbecue sauce made with real Hawaiian pineapple juice into the bag, close it up and thank Aleah. I pass through security with ease and run to the gate with a triumphant smile.
Would it have been ridiculous to buy a costly bottle of barbecue sauce then spend an extra $25 to check it? Probably. But I would have done it. I don’t think I would have regretted it either.
That would have been a great ending to this story. But it isn’t the end. Upon landing when our bag arrived on the carousel I noticed it was opened. Lo and behold, all the contents of the bag were there…except (you guessed it) the barbecue sauce. So there you have it. That’s parenting in a nutshell.