Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stoking the Fire.

“Come on Mom, it’s not that hard.”

“Sweetheart, it totally is.”

“Mom … (whispering) … you are really good looking. I mean it. You really are. It’s not that hard.”

It’s come to this. My son, smelly and dripping wet courtesy of the rigorous hockey schedule that now consumes five days of our week, has become my wing man. And the man on the other side of the glass is in his crosshairs.

And my son has good taste. Very good taste.

“Sweetheart, this isn’t something I’m very good at.”

“What do you mean? Just go and ask him out. Like you did with Dad.”

With Dad. Except that I didn’t ask him. It was a standing joke between us that the only reason I got married was because he wouldn’t go away after invading my sweaty bubble at the gym on an early Sunday morning, and it was our standing joke that he was no good to me dead. But he did go away, and he is now very much dead. And has been for four very long years, the first two of which provided a seat front and center in Dante’s Inferno. And then the Ferryman, paid in tears and anger, let us cross back over to the land of the living.

And living includes dating. Which is like being tossed right back into the fire.

“What should I say?”

“Just ask … ‘Are you married?’ And if he says no, tell him you need a date.”

“Hmmmm. So what do men like?”

“They like girls like you, you know, ones that are in good shape. And they like when girls are fun. And pretty. Definitely pretty. Just think about Addie and what I like about her. That’s what men like.”

“What about clothes?”

“No dresses. Men don’t like dresses.”


“Jeans are good.”

“Can I wear my sandals?”

“Ooooh. That’s a hard one. Because men like girls like you that work out, so sneakers are good. But sandals are okay.”


“No makeup. Men don’t like makeup. Not good.”

“So, what do you think I should do?”

“Well, you need to go places where men are. But not really scrubby men. And not old ones. You need to go places where the ones, like, your age are. Like the grocery store.”

“The grocery store?”

“Yup. But are you ready for the most important part?”

“What is that?”

“This is really important. Are you listening? … Okay. When you are in the grocery store, just walk around and pick up your things. But don’t act like you want a date with them.”

“Maybe you should help me with this.”

“Mom, I’m sorry, but I can’t. I don’t have time. I’ve got hockey and basketball and school. You’re on your own for this.”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thin Blue Lines.

He was the kind of man who stood in front of you to protect you, beside you as a friend and behind you to be there to help and support you. 

Years after I read these words, handwritten ink stained with someone else’s tears, they still stir deep within me. Because I know them to be true of the man they honored. And because I have learned in so many ways that they are true of every man and woman standing in front of, beside and behind each one of us.

I see the depth of those words in the police officer that recognized a little boy’s need for friendship in place of a father lost. In the young man that sought to do good where good was needed, reminding me that honor and commitment are not defined by age and experience alone. In my children’s laughter as firefighters hang our wreath each holiday season and who, without question or judgment, erase obstacles that seem insurmountable in the moments when they are.

In the thin lines of blue and red that stand proud in heavy uniforms when others would wilt under the weight and the heat. In the men and women that move bravely forward when others would retreat. In the brotherhood that puts their heart, souls and lives on the line every day.

In the hundreds of men and women that wake early on a Saturday morning each fall—a field filled with pride and respect for the first responder community—to honor the memory of those that we have lost, those who have been left behind, and those that continue to stand strong where others would falter.

In the remarkable women—left behind because lingering illness changed their lives, because the pressure simply became too heavy a burden to bear, because tragedy strikes unexpectedly, and because their spouses did not come home from shift—who show us that loss is universal. In the smiles and laughter that remind us that the greatest tribute we can pay our fallen first responders is not only in remembering them, but in remembering the children that are the legacies they leave behind.  

In the 100 Club and what it stands for, and the men and women it stands behind.

Since its beginnings, the 100 Club of Arizona has provided support for more than 1,300 first responders and their families. In 2011 alone, 216 families were touched by its gentle hand. But what is remarkable about this quietly powerful organization is that its mission crosses the line to support first responders and their families in both line-of-duty and non-line-of-duty deaths, for injuries catastrophic and those that are not, and in times of illness and hardship. It is a network of support, from the writing of wills and financial counseling to volunteer opportunities and events and programs dedicated to building even stronger bonds between first responder families.

Like so many others who have come before me and those yet to come, I knew of the thin blue line and the 100 Club of Arizona and the bonds of pride, duty, friendship and compassion that bind the two together. And both were there from the very first moment that I needed them to keep me from falling and to help me as I once again stood on my own.

In the years since the 100 Club of Arizona quietly knocked on my door I have learned much about the resilience of the human spirit, and the quiet strength not only of the first responders but also of the families and friends that stand with them. And of my own strength.

As I watch with pride and respect as the thin blue line stands strong for others, I know that we will never be forgotten. They are simply standing in front of, beside and behind those who need them as we needed them. And standing quietly behind the heroes that silently touch our lives every day is the 100 Club of Arizona.

And it is our responsibility—our privilege—to stand behind them.

Teeter Note: September 15 is National Tell a Police Officer "Thank You" Day. This blog was written for the current issue of the 100 Club of Arizona's newsletter. You can learn more about the 100 Club of Arizona at But in my opinion, first responders deserve our thanks each and every day. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Now Seeking Something a Little Less Creepy.

This was not in the agreement.

And this, I am certain, is a brown recluse. Waiting.

I didn’t vow to clean to toilets, kill ominous-looking invertebrate, or purchase protective cups. I didn’t promise to fish soggy dead bunnies out of the pool, and I certainly didn’t guarantee that I would willingly send a live tarantula via catapault over the back wall. My job description did not include fixing bike tires, scheduling car maintenance or explaining why parts stick to other parts and why things get bigger and smaller at will.

Since the day that we moved into our house—a house not of my choosing in a neighborhood that I didn’t want—we have had a problem with undesirable things that creep and that crawl. In the first month, I watched an army of ants march its way through every room on the western side of our brand new house. It took a two-weeks-post-c-section meltdown for my husband to realize that I was not happy with I-can-do-it-myself efforts and that if he ever wanted to sleep in the master bedroom again he would start making calls to the very best pest control firms money could buy.

I airlifted my infant daughter from her soft blanket in the middle of the room when the first scorpion was found. Eleven nasty specimens of varying size, agility and attitude later, I informed my husband that if he didn’t find the source and go apocalyptic on it, we were moving.

The day that my 17-month-old son woke from a nap covered in 18 red pustules, I demanded that my husband tear apart the room. I didn’t care what it took, as long as the offender was eradicated in the quickest and most permanent manner imaginable. And that’s exactly what happened to the inky black spider plotting her next cherubic meal from the baseboard below his crib.

I wanted the head taken off of the king snake at the front door. Every centipede that entered our house experienced one hundred deaths by Swiffer. And if you looked like you might make a meal out of my plants, green paste was made. One dead husband and hundreds of scorpions later, I have moves Bruce Lee couldn’t match.

I am a fiercely independent and driven woman. But this is a man’s job and it has become top selection criteria in the “now accepting applicants for companionship” position listing. And at 5:30 in the morning on a day when I have just blasted raspberry smoothie across my kitchen and when I need to be at work ahead of schedule, I have neither the patience nor the good humor for the Swiffer jujitsu I’m displaying in my cream lace pencil skirt and peep toes.

“Mom, STOP! You’re going to ruin my jelly spider!!”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Odd Life of Me.

“Why did he have to go away?”

Her little arms are wrapped around me, wet checks against my neck, and after a year of watching her race forward she suddenly feels small again. Walking silently beside us, I feel his little hand touch her back, a gesture both comforting and jarring to us all.

We have been here many times before. And we will be here again. But tonight it is a collision of senses, memories and milestones.

For weeks, our house has been a maelstrom of order and disorder. New classrooms and teachers and frantic schedules barely managed. Surgical procedures minor in scope yet emotionally draining for the memories resurfaced. Painful inquisitions about the moments that changed everything and tensions long simmering and expected bearing rotten fruit. Birthdays of note and notes of importance.

“He was so nice, and they loved him so much. Why did he have to go away?”

She is on the cusp of her seventh year, a celebration that will arrive in five days. For days excitement has mingled with reflection, wishes for presents combined with wishes for presence. She does not remember a birthday without a void, and each year her excitement mingles with frustration and sorrow.

But the past year has seen change for us all, and the sensitive girl in my arms has shown me strength and a capacity for love beyond imagination and understanding. She has struggled to understand and deflect the stinging barbs that children hurl with unerring accuracy. She has led us toward a future filled with new love and happiness, while the past is remembered in equal measure. She dances with abandon in ways I dream I could. She sheds her tears openly and without rebuke, secure in the knowledge that we will shelter her in the way I wish I could be sheltered. Watching her gentle hands lift an insect to flight, I watch as she is transfixed by the beauty of the world around us. A world we are too eager to let pass us by.

“Timothy Green was such a nice boy. Was the movie real?”

Was it real? It was real for the lessons that we learn about life, love, loss and longing and a family broken. It was real for the pettiness of others who do not understand, who are scared and who are envious of others. It was real for understanding that life comes with loss, and with loss comes renewal. And with renewal comes new life, love and laughter.

“Sweetheart, even if Timothy Green wasn’t a real person, he’s the kind of person we all should have in our lives and the kind of person we should all try be.”

“But his Mom and Dad were so sad when he went away. And his friend was sad. And I’m sad.”

“It’s okay to be sad. The more you love someone, the sadder you are when they have to go.”

“Can we go to New York?”

“I think that is where Timothy Green went.”