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Nov 13

Welcome to ShareWIK.com!

You’re smart, well read.  You want to know the truth.  And you want more than what you can pick up spending 10 minutes with your doctor.  You want shared experiences.  The kind of support that doctors, most medical web sites and textbooks simply can’t provide.


But there’s so much dubious and confusing medical information on the Internet and in the press.

What can you do?


Genuine Support Starts With a Real Conversation.


Over a year ago, I was lunching with friends, talking about problems we were having with our kids, disagreements with our husbands and concerns over how to care for aging parents who lived in another state.

The three of us leaned in and listened as we each took turns talking.

One friend weighed in with how she handled a certain situation.  I then shared what I had done in a similar situation, admitting I wished I had handled things differently, given the perspective of time.


There we were, three women talking about our lives, the way women tend to do over a cup of coffee, glass of wine or bowl of soup.


Not that fakey, fakey, “Everything’s fine,” kind of talk but rather “this is really what’s going on, can you help me, have you been through it, can you share what you know?” 


When my mom, who lived out-of-state, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, my girlfriends called friends who called other friends.  They directed me to treatments and different resources to help me care for her, long distance.

Thank God for my friends!  They saved me from wasting time and hitting frustrating dead ends.


What I Know Now Before Seeing the Doctor, Going in for Surgery, Trying that Experimental Treatment


All of us have a story to tell.  A loss, an illness, a tragedy begins to make sense when you can share that story with someone else, offering your experience and helpful advice so someone else doesn’t have to make the same mistakes you did.   


ShareWIK.com provides this personal, intimate dynamic on a global scale.   We are a community, a safe place where you can be real, ask questions, tell your story, share what you know and help others.     

We’ll talk about what’s important to women, men, your children and your aging parents so you never have to feel alone when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, when you’re waiting up all night for a teenager to come home or when you find out your father had a stroke.


A particular treatment didn’t work, or you experienced particular side effects?  A surgery hurt like heck or a procedure you tried wasn’t all that it’s touted to be?  Depression, anxiety, addiction stealing a family member’s life?  Is your husband no longer interested in sex? Caring for an aging parent is exhausting, challenging, heartbreaking?  What did you do?  How did you handle it? Are there resources you discovered that may help someone else?  Others want to know details, details and more details.  The good, the bad, the nitty-gritty.


You Don’t Have To Face Things Alone


 The videos, podcasts, columns and blogs on ShareWIK.com are grounded in solid medical research and scientific data but exhibit a personal, experiential approach to storytelling.


 Members of our site will benefit from hearing patient experiences and wisdom shared by others in blogs, vblogs and from our extensive panel of physicians and experts who will give you straight answers and make complex health topics easy to understand.


 Share What I Know (ShareWIK.com) is an informative, sometimes sassy but always smart interactive social networking medical site dedicated to allowing you to learn from the experience of others.  


 If you are interested in having these types of conversations, then let me encourage you to become a member of the ShareWIK.com community.


Join us.  Share your story.  Offer encouragement, a shoulder.  Discover others who have already experienced what you’re going through and can help.


We can’t wait to hear from you.


Oh, and one more thing.  Welcome home.


Best,

Diana Keough

Co-founder, Editor-In-Chief

ShareWIK.com


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

Dec 13
I met a guy named Neil a couple weeks back.  He decorates people’s homes for the holidays and will do anything you want, create any theme—Victorian, Modern, Neo-classic.  For a price, he will create any image you’d like. He’ll bring in the greenery, the lights and sparkle, clean up after himself and even come back after the holidays to take it all down. 

It sounded great. Finally someone to take the burden of Christmas decorating off my shoulders. All the work, all the mess, all the hassle. Sometimes decorating takes the entire weekend and more often then not, I never feel I did a good enough job anyway. What I attempt never looks like the magazines.  

Neil was my chance to get it out of the way and done. Neil was my chance for perfection. 

We set an appointment. 

The day before Neil came over, I brought up from the basement my boxes of ornaments.  Neil wanted to look through them and see what might fit in the theme he would choose for me.  I took a minute to go through them and eliminate the ones that were ugly, broken and too old. 

When I opened the first box, there lying on top was a red Power Ranger Action figure ornament with its crooked legs and its right foot chewed flat. We gave it to Tommy when he was 4--when every waking hour was consumed with the Rangers and he told everyone he wanted to be the red Power Ranger when he grew up.  A few years ago, when we were decorating the tree, he turned his nose up at that ornament, putting it back in the box, refusing to let me put it up. But I did anyway—in the back, where he couldn’t see it. But I knew it was there, representing Tommy’s growth from Power Rangers to crushes on girls, long division and his driver's license. 

In that same box were six silver ball ornaments, one which was broken and wrapped loosely in wrinkled, yellowed tissue paper. It was the ornament I dropped when decorating the tree with my dad on that Christmas that turned out to be his last. He loved these ornaments that were his mother’s. Each year I’d complain that they looked too old fashioned, worn out and mottled, with so much of the silver coating lying loose on the bottom of each ornament. But every year he’d insist those silver balls would go on, as he told me the same story of walking to the 5 & Dime with his mother to buy them when he knew she couldn’t afford them. It was the middle of the Depression and his mom bought them because it meant a lot to him to have something hanging on the tree, he told me. 

“These ornaments and a tangerine in my stocking were the only presents I got that year,” my dad said. He told me it was his favorite memory and the best Christmas of his childhood. (The reason, I realized, there was a tangerine tucked in the bottom of my stocking every Christmas morning.) 

I still remember my dad’s expression when I dropped one of his precious ornaments and how he stopped me when I tried to throw the broken pieces away. He told me it was all right, but that we should keep it to remember our time together. As he wrapped it carefully in the tissue paper, he told me that even broken, the ornament still meant a lot to him. 

So I did keep it, moving it from his house to mine after he died, making sure I kept the pieces together, as though one missing fragment would take away a chunk of my memory—of him teaching me how to slow down long enough to appreciate the taste of fresh chocolate pudding and the nuances of Frank Sinatra’s voice. When families are fragmented and parents are gone, traditions, rituals and yes, even silver ornaments are markers that give us continuity when everything else might not make sense. 

This broken, silver ornament was our last Christmas together. Holding it, I realized this wouldn’t be the Christmas I handed over the decorating to someone else. I called Neil to cancel our appointment. 

When I was young, I spent a lot of time dreaming about how to get out of my house. I longed for a richer, more complex existence—with skyscrapers, corner coffee shops filled with people discussing heady topics and men in tortoiseshell glasses who read Henry James on the subway. At 18, I finally got my wish as I headed off to school and then a job in Washington, D.C. But ever since I slammed the door of childhood behind me, I’ve been trying to go back home again. 

And every Christmas, that’s exactly where I go. 

And Neil might not understand. 

 
Diana Keough is the mother of four boys and Co-Founder, Editor-In-Chief of ShareWIK.com.  



©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC.
Dec 21

Every year, buying Christmas presents is one of those tasks I put off.  I’m not one of those people who can go shopping in a department store in July and think, “My sister would love this for…Christmas!”


I wish I were that organized.    


But one year, my friend, Jeanette, gave me the perfect gift: an empty box.  She gave it to me as a “thank you” gift after I spoke to a small gathering at her home.  Inside she tucked a note, thanking me not only for speaking but also for the gift of our friendship. 


I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the box.  But I graciously thanked her, carried it home and placed it on the hearth in my husband’s office (it was the first place I sat when I got home that evening.)   


And I left it there.

           

A month or so later, my husband--trying to clear his desk of all my junk that always finds its way there--placed a pile of letters in my arms.  They were notes and cards sent to me by readers and listeners of my work that I’d dumped on his desk because I just didn’t know what else to do with them.  It didn’t seem appropriate to file them and I certainly didn’t want to throw them away. 


The day my husband dumped all these on me, had been a frustrating one.  As I banged away at my computer, trying to meet an afternoon deadline, nothing seemed to flow.  I had walked away from my keyboard, discouraged and tired, wondering why I was doing what I do.  What difference was I making in others’ lives? Like the article I was working on, I had no focus, no purpose. 


I felt like quitting. 


And what the heck was I going to do with all these letters?  Trying to decide, I plopped myself down on the hearth next to that hand-painted box and began rereading each note and card.

  

“Thank you for your article on…it touched me,” one note said.  “Your article made me think,” said another.   On and on I read, and each time I finished another, I would place it inside my box.  Each letter encouraged me and buoyed my spirits.    


The very last letter I read, someone wrote: “I know you must get discouraged, but remember what God reminds us in Galations 6:9-10—“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”   


Wham.  A spiritual spanking.  I had taken my eyes off of Him.  The work I do isn’t about me, it's about Him.  


Why was I doing what I was doing?  For the letters?  For the praise or hope that others would admire me?  Did I need the praise of others to feel encouraged?  Why wasn’t it enough for me to know that one day He’d say to me, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant”?

            

After I read that last note, I wrote these words on a card:  “It’s not about me, it’s about Him.  Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” I placed it underneath the other notes, closed the lid and returned to my desk with a new attitude and focus.


The box now had a purpose and new name:  “The Encouragement Box.” 


One of my older sisters works as a hospice bereavement therapist and quite often, after she’s assisted someone through the death of a loved one and the grief process immediately following, the family will send her a note thanking her—sometimes telling her how good they think she is at her job; some gush.  She says the notes are wonderful and make her feel really good about what she’s doing.  But whenever she loses sight of the fact she is serving God, she says she feels disappointed when someone doesn’t send a note, making her wonder, “Didn’t they appreciate ME?” 


When that happens, she stops and calls to mind her personal verse: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 26:40. 


Every morning, on her way to work, she reminds herself of these four things:


1.  Be surrendered.  “Not my will, but Thine.”

2.  Show up. “Arrive ready to work hard, to the best of my ability because I’m representing the Lord.”

3.  Pay attention.  “Be present completely.  When I’m with someone, he or she will have 100% of my attention.” 

4.  Let go of results.  “It’s not my job.  It’s God’s job.  I am just His tool.”

            

I was weary, in part, because I had lost sight of the One I was serving.  It’s nice to get the letters, but they shouldn’t be necessary for me to stay the course.  Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t call us to be successful.  He calls us to be faithful.”

           

The “Encouragement Box” holding my letters may be full or empty—either way, the work I do is not done for a response. 

           

Since then, I have given away dozens of empty boxes to my friends as Christmas and birthday gifts.  And in each, I tuck a note thanking them for the gift of their friendship and the role they’ve played in my growth as a wife, mother and friend.  They all tell me they return to that box often to reread my note and others they keep there; to remind themselves of the impact they have on others.     

 

I, too, go back to my “Encouragement Box” often, especially when I’m tired and discouraged and feel as though I’ve lost my way.  But as soon as I lift that box lid, I am immediately encouraged, reminded again to let go of results and of Whom I am serving and what I hope to hear Him say to me one day.  


That’s what I'm working for. 

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


Jan 03

 

I remember stomping around the kitchen when I was 8 or 9 years old, telling my mom I would never, ever understand boys.


“They’re weird,” I told her.  “And they do dumb things.”


Fast forward 40 years, and here I am—the mother of four boys, ages 13, 16, 19 and 22—standing in my own kitchen, still thinking boys are a bit weird.  I’m no longer stomping around but I have to admit I still don’t get ‘em most of the time.  


But I'm really, really trying. 


When my husband and I first married, I used to ask him dreamily, “Honey, what are you thinking?”


To which he’d reply, “Nothing.” 


That used to really tick me off. 


How could he just sit there and think, “Nothing?” I’d wonder.


But now that I’ve raised four boys from the ground up, I realize that boys and yes, men, too—are in fact, completely capable of thinking, “Nothing.” 


A man can sit swinging back and forth in a hammock, his wife nestled in his arms, thinking of nothing but what he’s doing right at that moment.  He’s not writing out a grocery list in his head, fixing everyone's problems, or noticing that the deck needs a good cleaning.

            

Men can drive their cars, mow the lawn, sweep their garages, watch a ballgame, and even fold the laundry without planning next week’s meals, redecorating the house, or trying to solve world peace.  

            

It’s amazing. Really.  

            

Finally figuring out my kids’ propensity toward “nothing” has helped me immensely when it comes to getting them to help around the house.  If I ask them to do one thing—like, “clean up your room”—it’ll get done.  But if I ask them to clean up their room AND put away their clean clothes, I’ll find them an hour later, stretched out on the unmade beds in their (still) messy rooms, lying on top of all those clean clothes I wanted them to put away. 


When I ask them, “What are you doing?” their answer is always, “Nothing.” 


And they’re not lying.


When my boys and their friends were younger, they couldn’t just jump on the trampoline.  It had to be a competition.


They competed for who jumped the highest, who was the most original, who landed on his feet best, who was able to stay on the longest.  You name it.  One of them had to be Alpha Dog, the Big Kahuna.  The Best.


Even taking turns was determined by taking off their socks, balling them up and hurling them as hard as possible at the current jumper’s face.  When two socks hit the jumper’s face at the same time, the winner is the one who hit him the hardest.


Of course, if your sock left a mark, you automatically won.  And they would win not just a turn but the awe and respect of all the other boys playing.


Inevitably, someone would get hit too hard in the face and tears would erupt.  Still, whenever I suggested they use a Nerf ball instead of their dirty socks, they would all look at me as if I’m the weird one.


But as fast as the tears started, they stopped.  By the time I was on the scene asking what happened, they’d tell me, “Nothing.”


And they’re completely serious.  Everyone had moved on, they’re all best friends again, and they’d already resumed throwing dirty socks at one another.  No grudges, no pouting, no rehashing and no passing around enough blame to last the rest of the day.


In my experience, boys can never leave any puddle undisturbed, any dirt pile unconquered, any toilet seat down, any rock unflung.  They must always be jabbing, poking, stabbing, punching, and teasing one another, as well as moving their lips and making some sort of nondescript noise during their every waking hour.


And whenever I ask, “What are you doing?” they always respond, “Nothing.”


And they’re not lying.


When they tell me, “Mom, you look so pretty,” that’s all they’re saying.  There are no games involved.  I don’t need to second-guess their motives or wonder what they’re really trying to say.  


When they say they do or don’t want to do something, they’re not being passive-aggressive.  They're saying, "Yes," or "No," because they truly don’t want to do or don't want to do it.  The only martyrdom they're familiar with is in the books they read.  


When my boys are telling me about their day, they look at me and talk.  And when they’re talking, I can tell they’re not thinking about something they’d rather be doing or replaying their favorite Xbox game over and over in their minds.


There’s so much about boys—and yes, men—I don’t get.  But I admit I could use a bit more “nothing” in my head every once in a while.


So now, whenever I talk to one of my boys, I try to focus on them.  I try to just enjoy the moment, their enthusiasm and expressions as they tell me about their day or something that’s on their mind. I’m not planning out their lives, thinking about when I can get them in for a haircut, or about what we’re having for dinner that night.  I’m listening.


They’ve taught me this.


Now whenever they ask me, “Mom, what’s up?  I’m getting better at answering, “Nothing.”


And I’m not lying.


 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.




©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Jan 15
When I was young-no older than 10-I remember thinking that all of time lay ahead of me. I don't know what I did with it, except wonder how I could speed it up, so I could get on with "real life," even though I had this feeling, even then, that real life was probably marked by its share of hazards. A part of me always hung back. I didn't like surprises and I certainly didn't see any value in taking unnecessary risks. 

My third son, Tommy, is a lot like that. 

A couple years ago, when he was 10, he was invited to a friend's house for a sleep-over and a chance to ride go-carts and play paint ball, he was thrilled. But within minutes, he was having second thoughts. 

"How fast do you think the cars go?" he asked me. I told him I wasn't sure. "But if they let 10 year olds like you ride them, I'm pretty sure they don't go THAT fast," I said. 

But then he began to worry about getting one of the fastest cars and if that happened, how would he slow it down? I assured him that that probably wouldn't happen. He then moved from apprehension of the go-carts to his fear of being hit by the paintballs. 

"It might really hurt, mom," he said. "What happens if it makes me feel like crying? In front of my friends?" 

I then told him about the first time I dove off the high board one summer. How I stood there for over an hour, looking down at the water below, my hands clutched in a tight fist over my head, my heart beating wildly as I tried to psyche myself into it. The kids waiting in line at the bottom of the diving board's ladder heckled me, cackling like a chicken and urging me to "Just dive already!" The lifeguards stood on one edge of the deep end, encouraging me that it wouldn't hurt, that I'd be alright and that all I had to do was fall and let gravity do the rest. 

"Did you finally dive?" my son asked. "Yep. And the lifeguards were right. It didn't hurt and I was totally fine afterwards. In fact, I did it again, right away, and wondered why it took me so long to get the nerve up to do it in the first place," I told him. 

I then shared what my dad used to ask me whenever I was facing something new and perhaps, from the limited viewpoint of my age at any time, really scary-like diving off the high board, changing jobs or asking for a raise: What's the worst thing that could happen? After that, my dad would ask, "Is this going to be that big of a deal 10 years from now? And when you look back at it, will you regret not even trying it? 

I then told my son, "Ten years from now you're not even going to remember the kid who invited you to the slumber party, but you might remember how glad you were that you got the nerve up to try the go-carts." I then added one of the only Chinese sayings I know: Go straight to the heart of danger and there you will find safety. 

This was some of my best stuff, I thought. 

But 60 seconds later, my story of bravery and all my great advice was totally forgotten as he returned to the subject of surviving the go-carts. I kept trying to push for a good time, while he continued to try to tell me, in so many words, that he was absolutely petrified. 

And finally, I saw him as I was, perched on the edge of that high dive-puny and trembling, praying I wouldn't die or make a fool out of myself. He was imagining himself in the middle of a racetrack, panicked, about to go into a death-spin that would crash him the guardrail. He'd be embarrassed and humiliated in front of his friends. He felt he might die. 

No amount of reasoning with him could get him to change his mind: He was not going. It was time for me to give up. 

"I just don't like to do things unless I know what's going to happen," he said, quietly. "I want to know things for sure. I want to know all about God and whether or you're going to get sick with cancer." And then he paused. "I want to know everything that's going to happen to me, too." 

How do you tell a 10-year old that part of growing up is learning how to live with not knowing-and that after a while, not knowing doesn't seem so bad. And even when bad things happen, you get through them and start to wonder if it's better, in fact, to not know everything. As I tried to explain all this, he looked at me trying to understand what in the world I was saying. 

I suppose it didn't make sense to someone only 10 years old whose entire life still remained to be seen. I kissed him good night, with a heavy sigh and a prayer that one day, he would understand all this. 

As I was closing his door, I heard him call my name once more. As I turned around, barely able to see him in the darkness, he said, "You're so lucky." 

"Lucky? What makes you say that, bud?" 

"Because you're a grown-up and you've already made it through all this stuff."

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


 
©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
Jan 31

As hard as I tried, I couldn't stop staring at the long, black hair growing out of the chin of the female clerk scanning my groceries. One, lone hair growing on her otherwise hair-free face.

 

I was certain she wasn't growing it there on purpose. In fact, I was certain she didn't know it was there. Her eyebrows were perfectly plucked, her make-up impeccably applied and the space between her upper lip and nose had nary a hint of peach fuzz. This was a woman who obviously took time to coif. She either missed it or that little-bugger grew on her way to work.

 

This, as most females will tell you, is a woman's worst nightmare: A rogue hair that sprouts between your last glance in the mirror and your office.

 

Unfortunately, hair doesn't surface just on our chins. It can surprise us on our cheeks, our foreheads and sometimes on our necks. It grows like gang-busters above our lip.

 

I know there's probably a very good medical reason why this happens to women and why when the rest of our hair is thinning, hair grows so thick and quickly in places where it isn't welcomed.

 

As if aging isn't hard enough. None of us after oh, the age of 18, are immune.

 

What the heck is a woman to do? Elizabeth and Cindy keep tweezers in their car.

 

"Sometimes I can’t see it until I get in the car," Cindy says. It's amazing how the light reflects on those defiant strands. My very blond sister-in-law, Linda was tweezerless in her car when she noticed her first black chin hair. Trying to tug it out with her fingernails only made it curl. That made her panic and pull out a bottle of hair spray, squirt some of her finger and slick the hair down until she could get home to pluck it.

 

And yes, gentlemen, this is something women talk about.

 

Like the women in my book club. At one our meetings, Maggie shared that while her feet were securely fastened in stirrups and her gynecologist was busy conducting her annual exam, he said to her, "I can get rid of that mustache for you." 


Too stunned to ask which mustache he might be referring to, Maggie finally croaked, "Oh?" He told her he was now doing laser hair removal and that she was a perfect candidate. She didn't ask how he would know that about her sitting where he was, but she did make an appointment. 


At book club, she walked around the room showing off her hairless lip as the rest of us ooh'ed and ahh'ed and began to tell our own horror hair stories.

 

One member, who asked to remain nameless, had an old boyfriend point out a chin hair to her. She was so embarrassed she ended the relationship. Peg thinks she wandered around for days with a long hair popping out right above her left eyebrow before she finally caught it in her rearview mirror.

 

"I went through every friend I had seen the past couple of days and wondered why no one had told me," Peg lamented. Through the grocery store, the dentist"s office, a party at one of her daughter's school. Dozens of people had seen her. She compared the humiliation of that to getting the back of her dress caught in her underpants on the way out of the restroom. At that point, someone admitted she had noticed it.

 

“NO WAY!” Peg screeched. 

 

“I noticed it too,” another friend croaked. 

 

Most of us wouldn't hesitate to point out spinach in a stranger's teeth or a tag sticking out of a friend's shirt. Why are we so bashful about hair?

 

After that, we promised each other, no matter what, we’d point out visible, stray hair. We also paired up and vowed we'd pluck one another's chins if one of us were ever in a vegetative state. We decided lying in a bed, hooked to machines wouldn't be half as bad as being caught with hair on our chins.

 

My friend, Sue has a theory. Since hairs usually pop up in the same place, we get used to checking that place every morning and again, when we get in our cars. What throws us, says Sue, is when hair decides to emerge in a brand, new place. Sue of course, has light hair and says she can go a few days without checking.

 

We dark-haired girls hate her.

 

But light-haired, dark-haired and no-haired girls' all of us need to stick together. We need a universal signal. So, here’s a suggestion: When you spot someone with a rogue hair, silently point to your own chin with your index finger. That way they'll know.

 

I’d suggest men could take part in this but when I asked my husband if he’d be willing to do this for me when the time came, he cringed, as if to say, "Please, please, please don't make me do that."

 

So much for better or for worse.

 

Jesse referred to his second-wife's lone-hair as "Bertha." (No wonder that marriage didn't work out.) When I queried one of my male friends what he'd call a single hair growing out of his wife's chin, he replied, "Gross?"

 

I think this better remain a chick thing.




Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

More content on Female Facial Hair

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010.




 

Feb 14

A couple years ago, I wrote an article for The Plain Dealer on teenagers who were addicted to internet pornography. For the article, I interviewed two male teenagers and their moms.  At the time, I remember thinking two things:  How brave these teens and their moms were to come forward to talk to me; to share their struggles with the hope to help others who were going through it and like them, may feel they are all alone.  I was also struck with how naive I was on the pervasiveness of pornography on the internet.  I was the mom of four boys--all of whom regularly used the computer.  At the time I was researching this article, I had no software installed to prevent my boys from surfing the net freely.  We do now.


The pornography available for free on the internet to our children is nothing like the Playboy of our youth.  Agree with me or not on the ramifications of porn on a teenager's life, at least be aware that pornographers are seeking your teenagers as a loyal customer base.  


What you do about it after reading this is up to you. 

 


WEB MASTER: There's nothing Parents Can Do To Stop Internet Porn 

The Plain Dealer

By Diana Keough


Rich likes talking about his work: How much he enjoys doing what he’s doing, how much money he makes and his hopes for his business’ s growth. Rich and his wife, Brice, a stage name, produce pornographic videos for their Internet Web site.


But don’t call what they do pornography. “I’d rather you call it art,” said Brice, who, like her husband,  spoke to The Plain Dealer on the condition their last names not be used. The attractive, 50-something Brice owns a fitness center. She also writes the scripts and said she prefers to exclude men from her storyboards.


“In most pornographic videos, there’ s a point when a woman loses her choice and becomes someone who is being taken advantage of,” she said, sitting beside her husband in their spacious Aurora home.


Because of that, their streaming videos have an all -female cast . They recruited actors by posting classified ads on Kent State University bulletin boards and local newspapers. They said they were inundated with applicants.


 “All the girls were over 18,” he said. They choose eight girls. In addition to running two other legitimate virtual businesses that use the same streaming video technology used to distribute his pornography, Rich serves as producer, director and handles all marketing for his pornographic Web site. He said he’s been involved in Internet businesses since 1993 and knows all the tricks of  the trade to increase traffic to his sites.


 Rich said he embeds holiday related words, such as  Santa Claus or Easter Bunny in his meta tag so that his site will pop up when people type those words into the search engine. Meta tags uses keywords that are embedded in Web sites so they can be indexed by Internet search engines. And though he said he has not done this, he knows others will simply misspell popular Web sites viewed by teenage and younger viewers, called mouse trapping. 


Last year, the Federal Trade Commission prosecuted John Zuccarini, who registered at least 6,000 domain names that were misspellings of popular Web sites. The FTC said he registered 15 variations of the popular children’s cartoon site, www.cartoonnetwork.com (e.g., “cartoon netwok” instead of “cartoon network”) and 41 variations on the name Britney Spears.


Once consumers arrived, Zuccarini’s Web sites were programmed to take control of their Internet browsers and force the consumers to view explicit advertising for pornographic Web sites. Consumers often were forced to choose between taking up to 20 minutes to close out all of the Internet windows or turning off their computers.


Rich said he sometimes implants spy ware that automatically dials a 900 number causing someone to incur charges up to $3.99 per minute when they click on his site. Broadband, he said, has allowed this technology to be transferable to instant messages, allowing him to send instant messages using gimmicks like telling customers they won something. This, he said, he’s done only a few times.


The FTC recently convicted a pornographer who was claiming consumers had won a free Sony PlayStation 2 or other prize through a promotion supposedly sponsored by Yahoo. The imitation Yahoo Web site instructed consumers to download a program that would allow them to connect toll free to a Web site where they could enter their name and address to claim their PlayStation 2.


“We are always one step ahead and seem to be the first to use the newest technology,” Rich said. Rich has also used “Jump tos,” also known as redirects that automatically redirect viewers of their free material to his paid site. The redirect embeds on consumers’ computers Web site links that are virtually impossible to remove.


When asked what parents can do to prevent him and others like him from exposing their children to I-porn, he replied, “Nothing, really.”


 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


More content on Pornography Addiction



Reprinted with permission from The Plain Dealer.

Feb 15
Easily accessed sex sites prompt troubling trend, experts say
The Plain Dealer
By Diana Keough

Every day, Daniel couldn’t wait to get home from school so he could turn on his computer. Once it booted up, he typed “naked women” into Google, settled in and took his time to pick through the 5 million hits those two words brought to his screen. 

Once in a while, he would turn around to make sure his mom, making dinner in the next room, couldn’t see what he was looking at. With the coast clear, he turned back to enjoy the view, his mom none the wiser. The Internet blocker that his parents installed prevented him from viewing some pictures or videos, but not many. “I still had tons of choices,” he said.

All for free.

Scrolling through the photographs, he felt the familiar rush of pleasure and guilt. When his mom walked in, he flipped the screen to check his fantasy football standings or to respond to the instant-message boxes filled with friends’ banter about teachers they didn’t like, what would be on tomorrow’ s test and embarrassing stuff that happened at the lunch table. As soon as his mom left, he switched back to the porn — just as he did every day from 3:30 until he went to bed around 11. Daniel said he was hooked.

“It was kind of like being an alcoholic, and you can’t get enough drinks, and you want to keep drinking. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I wanted to keep doing it, and it got worse, and I needed to see better stuff,” said Daniel.

First it was more skin. Then it was more sex. He watched as women were beaten as part of sex and had sex with animals.

Even after his parents caught him, he didn’t stop.

WEB - Kids being drawn to online porn

“I knew I was probably going to get busted again, and I didn’t care. It was like I craved it,” he said. Daniel’s grades dropped, and he stopped wanting to hang out with his friends. His mom, Jean, said he even asked if he could quit the football team. (Jean spoke to us on the condition that we did not use hers or Daniel’s last name).
“All I wanted to do was look at pornography,” said Daniel, 15, of Twinsburg.

Finding online porn without even trying

Experts fear Daniel is not alone. Recently, many psychologists and sociologists report a surge in the number of young males displaying symptoms of obsessive compulsive behavior to Internet pornography, also known as I-porn. In the past, objections against pornography were primarily moral ones, raised by religious and political opponents who warned against the impact of pervasive pornography. Now, an additional wave of opposition is warning about the impact of pervasive porn, arguing it is transforming teenage sexuality and relationships — for the worse.

Others, like psychologist Gary Brooks, go one step further, calling what he’s seeing lately, addiction. Brooks defines addiction as “a compulsive inability to not do it and the need to continually reach new levels of eroticism.”

“What used to get them excited no longer does it,” said Brooks, author of “The Centerfold Syndrome” and a psychology professor at Baylor University. The upward trend is so new, there’s no definitive data on the number of teens who may be affected or what their ability to maintain relationships in the future is. But with the ease of access and I-porn’s ubiquity, experts think the addicted teens coming through their doors now are just the beginning.

In 2001, over 17 million youths between the ages of 12 and 17 used the Internet, representing 73 percent of those in that age bracket. On average, kids were on computers two to three hours per day. But four years later, James Samad, senior vice president for the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, says the number of teens using the Internet has grown, as has the time they spend on it. The more time spent, the more likely it is they will be exposed to porn, he said. In fact, one polling group reports 91 percent of the first exposure by a teen to pornography was during benign activities, such as research for school projects or surfing the Web for other information.

Fourteen-year-old Patrick, of Hudson, couldn’t believe it the first time pictures of people having sex popped onto his computer screen. One minute he was researching the Internet for his history paper; the next, pornography. That first glimpse was all he needed. The ninth-grader said something in him clicked.

“It was like ‘Wow.’ It’s weird and hard to explain, but it was like I just had to see more,” he said. (His parents asked that his last name not be used.)

Before long, the free stuff didn’t satisfy him. When an instant message from “jenluvssex” asked him to come see pictures from her Web cam, he clicked on it. After hitting “ yes” when asked if he was 18 and then “yes” again when it asked if he was aware of the charges, he was on a paid site named “Hot Teen Sex.” No credit card needed.
He came back to the site every day for a month. That is, until an $800 phone bill and $400 Web charge showed up in the mailbox. His parents banned him from the computer. But he couldn’t stop.

“I knew the bill would come a month later, and I knew I’d get in trouble, but I just had to keep doing it,” he said.

“Downloading porn on the Internet is like consuming cocaine. It’s that addictive,” said Samad.

Research on porn’s effects in its infancy

Vanessa Jensen, director of pediatric psychology at the Cleveland Clinic, said addiction to pornography does not have the same physiological effect as an addiction to alcohol or drugs, where withdrawal affects you physically.

Internet porn addiction is a behavior that when it becomes excessive, either in amount or degree, it affects other parts of your life,” she said. Though research is in its infancy, she said psychologists are beginning to understand there maybe brain changes associated with viewing highly stimulating sexual images. Psychologist Brooks said teenage boys are particularly susceptible to porn’s pull.

“They’re already dealing with higher levels of physiological arousal, as well as a lack of comfort in intimacy in relationships anyway, ” Brooks said. He said psychologists know that when adult males have a steady diet of pornography, they begin to display an obsession with visual stimulation that makes it difficult for them to have a healthy relationship. It also prompts obsessive fetishes over body parts, the rating of women by size and shape and a fear of intimacy.

“There’s an inability to get beyond center fold images of women to have a real relationship,” Brooks said.

In young males, Brooks has discovered in his practice, viewing porn teaches them to wall themselves off from too much emotional intimacy in sex and to sexualize all feelings of emotional and physical intimacy. Because their closest approximations of emotional intimacy and most intense exposure to sensual pleasure occur almost exclusively in the context of rapid-orgasm sexual activity, male adolescents learn to closely associate sex with intimacy. Many men are unable to be aroused without porn.

Kids aren’t ready to handle it

When young men do not learn to distinguish the two sets of needs, they will be highly restricted in their capacity to develop and maintain relationships, Brooks said.

Daniel said he began to feel very uncomfortable around girls at school.

“I knew what they looked like without clothes on and wanted to have sex with them. I couldn’t turn it off,” he said.

Georgette Constantinou, a pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, said viewing pornography at that age “puts boys into a constant hyper-sexualized state.”
“Do you want someone who is like that baby-sitting your children or sitting next to your daughter in school?” she asked.

Some curiosity about sexuality and seeing the opposite sex naked is normal. But Brooks warned that “the nature of the sexual thinking and sexual arousal that goes with Internet pornography is unlike the normal sexual psychological cycle.”
“Kids that age aren’t ready to handle it psychologically because they’re still in the developmental stage. They’re still children,” said Constantinou.

Daniel admitted he watched a video clip of a woman being murdered during sex. Patrick has watched people and animals together. Experts say such images can frighten, disgust and confuse kids.

Jensen said that often sex portrayed on the Internet is not consensual.

“Having a 14-year-old watch a 55-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl have sex, thinking that’s acceptable to meet that man’s needs, is very concerning,” Jensen said.
“There are sounds and images that may seem like someone is emotional, when, of course, they’re not. And a child doesn’t have the context or maturity to make sense of all those things,” said Jensen. She said children begin to think that’s what sex is. And now they’re seeing it at an earlier age than before.

“Your kids are seeing things they’ve never seen before, and whether he’s masturbating or whatever he’s doing, the thrills he’s getting, he’s got to be so confused about it. ‘Why am I needing this?’ ‘Why do I want this so badly even when it’s getting me in trouble?’ ” said Constantinou.

Studying attitudes about women

Social scientists have been unable to establish any cause-and-effect relationship between the simple viewing of pornography and negative attitudes about women or violence against women, said Michael Kimmel , professor of sociology at Stony Brook, State University of New York.

“But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find that link because we know that obviously the things we see do have some impact on us,” he said, pointing to numerous studies that link viewing violence with committing it.

But Kimmel said pornography addiction is not just a male problem. Net Trends reported that 47 percent of computer users going to explicit Web sites were 12- to18-year-old females. Since children tend to learn sexual cues early, Kimmel said pornography trains boys to respond only to images shaped by porn stars while girls may learn that leather, submission and Brazilian bikini waxes are the keys to pleasing men.

“Looking at pornography excessively gives young men the distorted view that says, ‘Women are so sexually voracious, so sexually aggressive, they’re just constantly wanting sex, they want it all over the place, and you can’t stop them,’ ” said Kimmel.

Watch for changes in children, parents told

But how are parents to know? At school lunch tables, teens share secrets on how to get around the filters their parents have installed and swap their favorite sites. Constantinou advised parents to look for the following: Changes in your child’s mood, excessive secretiveness, a drive or need to be on the computer.

“When it’s starting to absorb their world and taking over their world, and it’s more important to them than any relationship or any other person outside their home, it’s gotten too big,” Constantinou said.

Samad tells parents to use their intuition.

“If you have a feeling something’s changed with your son or daughter, pursue it,” he said. Daniel’s parents have allowed him back on the computer in limited doses. Still, he admitted that every time he signs on, the draw to look at porn is overwhelming.

Patrick is still grounded from the computer. His parents disconnected their computer from the Internet. To do homework, Patrick has to do it on the school’s computer.

“I still think about looking at porn every day,” he said. Constantinou advises parents not to use the word “addicted.”

Addiction has this life long quality to it, and I don’t want to pin that on a 14-year-old,” she said. But then again, she said the trend is so new and research so scarce that it’s impossible to know if it will be a lifelong problem or not.

What parents can do about I-porn

Georgette Constantinou, a pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, Vanessa
Jensen, director of pediatric psychology at the Cleveland Clinic, and Jack Samad, senior vice president of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children, offer parents these suggestions to keep kids safe on the Internet:

  • Keep computers in a public area, like the family room or kitchen.
  • Restrict use when you are not able to supervise by restricting computer access. To sign onto the Internet, your child will need you to type in the password.
  • Limit use to two hours daily.
  • Instruct children not to provide personal information, including pictures, addresses or telephone numbers to anyone online. 
  • Tell children not to respond to messages that upset them. 
  • Use filtering software that keeps a log of Web sites your family visits. 
  • Find someone who knows more about computers than you to help you download filtering software and teach you how to track your child’s activities on the computer.


Helpful Web sites:

BeWebAware.com
Filterreview.com
Kids.GetNetWise.org

Support group:

Sexual and Pornography Addiction Support Group for Teens. Contact Joe Koch at the North Coast Family Foundation, 440-842-6867


 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


More content on Pornography Addiction


Reprinted with permission from The Plain Dealer.

Apr 11

Every year, as the grass begins to peak through the snow and the days gradually get longer, it’s hard for me to not think of her.  When we were introduced, Lisa was recouping from brain surgery to remove the first, of what would turn out to be four tumors, while I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other after the death of my mom.  It was March, 17 years ago.  She was so filled with peace, despite her illness.  I didn’t understand her, but I loved hanging out with her, secretly hoping some of her serenity would rub off on me.  All the time I thought I was the one nobly helping her—driving her to and from doctors’ appointments, watching her kids, running to pick up prescriptions or bringing her family dinner—I had no idea, I was the one actually being helped.


“Are you scared?” I’d ask when she would discover yet another lump.  Her answer would be slow and measured, “No, I’m trusting God.” 


And then she’d tell me about the conversations she was having with God—all the prayers, all the crying out and all the verses in the Bible that she felt God was leading her to that assured her that not only would she be alright, but so would her husband and four children.   


When I’d ask her how she could know, she’d give me some answer about knowing that everything that God was allowing in her life was not done in spite, but in love. 


“God wants us to grow,” she’d tell me.  Her cancer, she would say, wasn’t destiny spinning out of control or a case of bad luck—it was part of God’s plan for her life.


“That doesn’t make sense, Lisa,” I’d tell her.  “This God of yours is killing you.”  The whole idea of a protective, fatherly God annoyed me.  I wanted life to be something I did on my own.  Her ideas seemed weak. But she’d just smile and remind me that she never would’ve learned what really mattered in life if she were still well.

  

“The problem is not the suffering, but us,” she said.  “Most of us are miserable,  chasing after stuff that ultimately can’t make us happy, not knowing why we’re so miserable.”  And then she paused, making me look up and right into her eyes. 


“Look at you,” she said quietly. 


It stung, but she was right.  I was miserable.  My friend spoke in riddles, but the verses she quoted and her God were as real to her as I was, standing in front of her.  I could protest all I wanted, appealing to rational and scientific facts, but she was already sold out to this God of hers and that tattered, dog-eared Bible she carried around with her.

 

On one occasion when we were running really late before one of her chemotherapy appointments, she refused to get in the car until I followed her to her backyard.  Despite my complaining about the time, she began to take off her shoes, telling me to do the same.  My whining about how cold it was, how late we were and what a stupid idea I thought it was, did nothing to dissuade her.  So I took off my shoes and socks and followed her, tiptoeing, onto the cold, damp grass. 


I couldn’t remember the last time I slowed down long enough to do something like this.  She wanted me to feel the grass between my toes, to breathe deeply to notice the quiet of her garden and to stop being so trapped by my date book. 

  

“Life is passing you by,” she told me.  “When are you going to start living?”


As I became her project, she became for me a lens through which I could examine at close range some of the “insignificant details” of my surroundings, almost a miniature window on the world.  She lent me her eyes, perhaps hoping that my own would learn how to be captivated by things I’d never noticed before: the creak of the floor, a stuck drawer, the stream that flowed through the park near her home and the way the sun’s shadows hit the railing’s spokes, making the rocks below look like they were in prison.  

    

It was as though being so sick taught her the difference between things worth pursuing and things worth letting go.  She said God had taught her not to put her security in “stuff,” or in people, but in him.  As her hair fell out and her body grew more emaciated, her eyes got bluer, her laughter more infectious and her peace more evident. 


As cancer took her life, it seemed to give her life. 


She made me realize that perhaps diseases and other heartbreaks shouldn’t be viewed as good or evil, right or wrong.  They simply are.  It’s our response to them that assigns them values of right or wrong, good or evil.  As Lisa’s disease progressed, her tenderness grew, as did her understanding of all this. 


When I would plead for her to not give up, she’d tell me she wasn’t, that her acceptance of her illness wasn’t resignation or a “giving up,” but a gift of peace given to the suffering who choose to look to God for answers.  She knew we began saying goodbye the day we met. 


And so, as I lay with her in her hospice bed, cradling her in my arms, our foreheads touching, I asked her again, “Are you scared?”  Her eyes fluttered open as a tear ran down the side of her face.  A moment later, barely audible, she said, “I can’t wait to know what Jesus feels like.” 


And then she began to slowly mouth the apostle Paul’s words from that Bible she loved so much, something about, not losing heart; something about wasting away outwardly but being renewed internally day by day. 


Even at the very end of her life, the last words I ever heard her say were about the God she loved so much.     


And now, years later, on nights that I lie awake pondering why bad things happen to good people and what life’s all about, I wonder if Lisa knows what Jesus actually feels like.


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Apr 25

The Centers for Disease Control’s most recent data shows that an average of one in 110 children land somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, hitting about one percent of children born today.

These stats are no surprise to the parents I had the privilege to meet at the Marcus Autism Center here in Atlanta, while working on this week’s segment. 

Like most parents when they first hear the word, “Autism” as a diagnosis for their child, the parents I met turned to the Internet for answers.  The question is always, "Where do you begin?"  

Here are five Web sites loaded with information on autism:  

Autism Speaks is an awareness and advocacy organization which supplies families with the ability to navigate the days following an autism diagnosis with its week-by-week 100-day kit.  The kit includes advice on how to build a team of support, including therapists; how to keep accurate phone records and adapt your home to protect your child from his or her uncontrolled behaviors.  Also helpful is their video glossary which has over 100 video clips comparing the behavior of children with autism spectrum disorders with the behavior of a typical child.

The Autism Society of America is another awareness and advocacy group that has support groups throughout the United States.  One of their primary purposes is to raise and allocate funds to address the many unanswered questions about autism.  To find your local chapter, click here.

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative investigates the causes of autism.  The site is geared largely toward researchers and scientists (and geeks who love research, like me) but it also contains a regularly updated blog that parents can monitor to learn about the latest news on autism research.   With so many anecdotal success stories of alternative therapies floating around the internet, it’s important to have a site like this one in your favorites. 

The Interactive Autism Network is said to have the largest online study in the U.S., connecting researchers with people and families affected by autism.  Its goal is to help further research and improve social services for people with autism.  The site contains a glossary of terms related to autism, which some parents have told me is extremely helpful when you first get a diagnosis and are trying to figure out the difference between the different spectrums while juggling the possibility of gluten-free diets. 

The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities helps parents find services through Early Intervention, a government mandated program that provides services to any eligible children younger than 3 with a developmental delay.   Services are free and vary from state-to-state, but they may include speech and language instruction and occupational and physical therapy.  To learn how to apply for Early Intervention, click on this state-by-state directory. 

 

If you have a child with autism, please feel free to add to the above list. 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

May 07

Last week, while I was waiting in line to mail a package at the UPS Store, I absentmindedly started flipping through the Mother’s Day cards sitting in a display near the front counter. 


There were a couple of really funny ones. And there were a couple of very touching ones, like this one that said, “When I think about my life and the things that matter way down deep, I think of you and the light you bring to my life. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”


And then, from out of the blue, it hit me: Sadness.


In that store, reading those cards, it hit me that I no longer have a mother. 

It was an odd thought, especially considering the fact that not having a mother is not a new thing. My mom died ten years ago. 


And getting sad about anything having to do with my mom and Mother’s Day was equally confounding for me. Mother’s Day was not one of those Hallmark Family Specials between my mom and me. 


When she was alive, Mother’s Day was a holiday I dreaded. 


Whenever I’d ask her what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she’d always respond: I want nice children. And every year, it would turn out that “nice children” would be much easier said than done for me—at least in her eyes. 


She and I didn’t get along very well for most of my childhood or for the years after I graduated from college, started working full-time, got married and started my own family. In her eyes, it seemed as though I was never going to grow up. She and I were constantly knocking heads as I tried to buck against her trying to micromanage so many aspects of my life. 


She wanted me to go to a certain college; I wanted to go somewhere else. She wanted me to play a certain sport; I wanted to try something else. On and on it went. Whatever she wanted, I didn't, and sometimes, I knew in the midst of our fighting, I was disagreeing with her, just to be ornery. Most other times, though, I knew it was just so I could pursue my own dreams. She wanted me to be an accountant; I wanted to be a journalist.


Standing there in line at the UPS store, reading those cards, it also hit me that history was repeating itself in my own family. 


Lately, my 12-year old son, Bret and I have been butting heads a lot. He wants to do his homework with his radio on; I don’t think he can concentrate if he has it on. His handwriting is so sloppy, I think he should redo his homework; he says if his teachers can read it, what difference does it make if I can’t. He loves rap music; I hate it. He wants to play the drums; I think he should stick with piano. He wants his hair to grow out; I think he looks so handsome with it short. Everything he wants to do, I can give him a million reasons why I don’t think it’s a good idea. 


Sometimes I feel as though he’s disagreeing with me just to be ornery. But in that store, waiting in line, reading those Mother’s Day cards, I realized he wants to be himself and not something or someone I think is best. He’s just trying to break out from underneath the constraints and expectations I’m already putting on him—constraints that for me weren’t broken until my mom died. 


I wish my mom were still around so I could ask her if this is what it felt like when you had a child that was, in so many ways, so different than you, but in so many other ways, so similar. 


I wish I could ask her if she was frightened to allow me to find my own way, make my own mistakes and possibly fail, so that I could become the person I was supposed to—the very same process I’m now going through with my own son. 


I wish I could ask her if she would’ve done anything differently. 


Standing in that line, reading those cards, I realized I really missed my mom. 

If she were living today, this year I would make her a Mother’s Day card and write the following inside: Thank you for being the best mom you knew how to be and for doing the very best job you knew how to do. 


And maybe, that card would finally be the perfect card for both of us. 


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

Other articles by Diana Keough:  The top 5 sites to check out if your child has autismLosing My LisaSeasonal Allergies: Southern Discomfort7 Tips to Beat Depression After DivorceAre Kids Addicted to Web Porn?Web Master: There’s Nothing Parents Can Do To Stop Internet PornFemale Facial Hair: Not By The Hair of Our Chinny-Chin ChinsPushing My Third Son Out of the Nest Using Some Of My Best WisdomFour Sons Later, I've Learned NothingArrhythmia: Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT); The Encouragement BoxThe Meaning of Nostalgia: Trying to Find My Way Home AgainNew Site, New Name, New Vibe

 

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Jun 24

I was fine shopping with my two youngest boys for Father’s Day gifts.   I was fine while I helped them pick out cards and fine while they wrapped their gifts.  I was ok when my oldest son called from New York City to wish his dad “Happy Father’s Day.”

 

But when my husband began reading aloud lines from the card our youngest son made for him, my lower lip started to quiver.  And after I noticed our family was the only one in the restaurant not accompanied by a pair of grey-haired in-laws or elderly parents, I had to close my eyes.  I couldn’t speak.  The tears started flowing and didn’t stop until dinnertime.    

 

My own dad is gone, dead for 20 years now.   And yet, every Father’s Day I still feel the loss—searing at times—of no longer having a father. 

 

This year, in an effort to work through the melancholy that inevitably follows Father’s Day, I made a list of some of the things he used to say to encourage me over a hump, try something I wouldn’t normally attempt or get me to view a problem from 30,000 feet rather than myopically.   

 

His “Dadisms” still resonate and are an essential part of my vernacular.

 

Top of the list would be what he said whenever I complained: 

·             “If you’re not cold, hungry or being shot at, you’ve got nothing to complain about.”  (He was a WWII veteran).

·              “Learn to live with discomfort.  It’s good for you.” 

 

 About work:

·  “If work was supposed to be fun, they wouldn’t call it work.”

·               “The best way to get something done is to…. do it.”

 

Whenever I expressed reluctance to try something, fear of the unknown or worry over something in the future:   

·              “What’s the worst that can happen?”

·              “It’ll be an adventure.”

·              “Let’s try this…eat this…taste this…it’ll be an adventure.” 

·               “Don’t worry about something before you have to.”


      Whenever I'd complain something wasn't fair:

              "Whoever told you life was supposed to be fair?" 

 

Whenever I returned home after being away, he’d say these lines to start a conversation:  

·              “Tell me everything and don’t leave anything out.”

·               “First you checked your lockers…”

 

Whenever I wasn’t listening or interrupted him while he spoke:  

·               “I understand the question; do you want to hear the answer now?”

·               “Excuse me for talking while you were interrupting.”

 

Whenever one of my brothers came home from college with facial hair, he’d tell them, “Now that you’ve proven you can grow it, shave it off.”

 

I would love to hear some of your father’s “dadisms.” 

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com

 


More Diana Keough articles, click here


©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Jul 19

My oldest son, Sean came home for a visit last weekend.  He doesn’t get home much anymore, having moved to New York City six months ago to begin his first ”real” job with an accounting firm.  In fact, last weekend was his first trip home since Christmas.  

 

I suppose that’s the problem with children: they grow up.  And leave home.  And live their own lives.    

 

And I suppose that’s the problem with being a mother of sons:  You miss them, feel displaced when they move out of your house and into their own place.  And as soon as you shut the door of their new apartment, you know—I mean, you really know -- you are no longer a major part of the week-by-week, day-by-day and often, the moment-by-moment of their lives.   

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be. 

 

After my first son was born, my oldest sister called to congratulate me, and then said this:  “The trouble with having boys is that every significant benchmark in their life is just another good-bye.” 

 

I thought about her words as a hairline crack made its way across my heart when I walked Sean into kindergarten, his first full day away from me, ever.

 

“Have a great day, bud,” I said as he ran in, giving me a brief wave, never even turning around.  To this day, he doesn’t know that I sat in my car and cried for 30 minutes. 

 

I recalled my sister’s words again when I dropped my second son at sleep away camp, helped my third son pack for a mission trip and watched my fourth son walk across the stage at his 5th grade graduation.  

 

It seems that more than usual, the past nine months have been filled with significant benchmarks in all of my sons’ lives.  Not only did my oldest graduate from college and move to NYC, but my second son, 20, is studying in Europe; my third son, 16, got his driver’s license and my youngest, 14, came downstairs one morning and was suddenly taller than I am.   And just like my youngest’s jump in height, all of these benchmarks seemingly happened overnight. 

 

As much as I want them to explore the world, learn to drive and yes, grow taller than me, I would be lying if I didn’t confess that a tiny part of me really misses snuggling with them every night or hearing them say, like my son, Tom did when he was 3, “I want to marry you when I grow up.”   

 

But I also know, in order to maintain a relationship with my sons as they leave home, I have to let them go and be hands-off—no demands on their time, no expectations of their visits home, no messages left on their cell phones that hint, even slightly, that I still need them. 

 

Recently, when I was having lunch with my friend, Kris, her phone kept ringing and she kept ignoring it. 

 

“Do you need to get that?” I finally asked.

 

“Nah, it’s just the girls,” she said, referring to her two oldest daughters and sounding somewhat exasperated. “They call All. The. Time.”  As we continued our lunch, I realized Kris wasn’t exaggerating. 

 

Her two oldest daughters are grown and living on their own. But more often than not, her daughters’ numbers pop up in Kris’ caller ID five or six times a day – just the girls wanting to discuss the minutia of their day with their mother. 

 

I can’t even imagine.  And more importantly, I'm not sure I want to. 

 

Whenever I meet a man whose siblings are all brothers, I ask, “Do you still love your mother?”  They always chuckle and answer, “Of course.”  And their wives always corroborate their stories of maternal love. 

 

When I ask, “How often do you call her?” most admit, “Not often enough.”   

 

I’m quickly on my way to becoming that mother whose boys call every so often to just “check in.”   I get it; I even understand it.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time; it’s even mentioned in the Bible and at most marriage ceremonies: A husband will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. 

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

My boys will never know how often I look at the pictures of the four of them scattered around my house and long to have them back in my nest, bickering, laughing and asking me what’s for dinner.  The ghosts of their childhoods continuously haunt me, teasing a smile from my lips at every memory.  It is my little secret. 

 

It’s not as though I want to go back or even have them living in my basement forever. It’s just that the quickness with which they move from wanting to kiss you constantly and tell you everything to not even calling can give a mom whiplash.  And just as nothing prepares you for being a mother in the first place, nothing prepares you for saying good-bye in tiny, spread-over-time, painful increments.

 

So, when my sons do call, I regale them with tales of the robust life I am enjoying with their father, my circle of friends and the challenges of running a small business.  I am happy, busy and content, learning new things, traveling and as far as they know, not missing them much at all.  

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.  

 

@ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Aug 04

             A friend of mine was executed in 1998 and before she died, it didn’t surprise me to learn she died with a smile on her face.  Nor did it surprise me to hear she felt very uncomfortable with the fuss surrounding her execution—the demand for interviews, the onslaught of supporters and critics—which made her death, in the eyes of most, a political issue.
         “This isn’t a man thing,” she told me.  “It’s a God-thing.”  And she knew better than the rest of us.  She had said it didn’t upset her when people doubted her faith in Jesus Christ and the dramatic change that faith brought about in her.
         “All they have to do is spend time with me and get to know my Lord,” she said to me.
         Before I met her, I doubted her conversion, dismissing it as a death row pretense and a play for public sympathy.  But that was before I met Karla Faye Tucker Brown and would be privileged to call her my friend.
         I met Karla in 1994, following the death of my mom.  My mom was involved with the Prison Fellowship group that regularly spent time “ministering to” the female inmates—both the general population of inmates and the inmates on death row—in Gatesville, Texas.
         When my mom began her visits to Texas, I vocally disapproved, considering her effort at “converting” these inmates a complete waste of time.  I was suspicious, to say the least, as my mother waxed poetic about this murderer named Karla, who, Mom said, “was a wonderful, spirit-filled person who had dramatically changed her life.” 
         Karla was sentenced to die for her part in the pick axe slayings of two people in June 1983.  Those murders she committed as a 23-year old, strung-out-on-drugs prostitute, are still considered two of the grisliest in Texas history.  My mom seemed to blithely forgive Karla’s horrible crime, while harboring extreme hatred and a lack of forgiveness for my father.
         Her rage towards him was understandable.
         My father, after living a secret, double life for over 27 years, had given my mother AIDS.  He had already died and she was struggling to come to grips with his betrayal.  She would sputter his name with venomous hatred, but since he was dead and could no longer shoulder her wrath, it fell on me to deflect.
         Each of my parents felt grossly maligned by the other.  My dad blamed my mother for his prolific philandering, accusing her of being cold and unresponsive, forcing him, he said, to find solace, companionship and sexual gratification in the sordid, free-for all bathhouses and brothels that flourished in the 1970’s and 80’s.  And, although he was responsible for the imminent death of my mother, I could easily forgive him because I, too, blamed her for my father’s disease.
         It took me far too long to forgive her for a host of past wrongs suffered during my childhood under her self-righteous, pious and brutal hand.  All those unpredictable beatings I received during her fits of rage left me deeply scarred and resentful. 
         “Please forgive Diana, Lord,” she would solemnly pray aloud after one of my beatings for rolling my eyes at her, clicking my tongue to my teeth or trying to voice my opinion.  “She doesn’t know how to respect and obey me.  Pleeeese forgive her.”
         Her summoning God to every beating would make the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up and made me conclude that her legalistic, disapproving God with his strict rules and unjust punishment, could never love me—a rebellious, hardhearted, sinful daughter. 
My mom had always told me so. 
         I held both my mom and dad responsible for the death of my family and death of our family’s basic philosophy: That we were better than everyone else.  We had always been so good at being condescending.  We were more righteous, more high-class, more respectable, more right than wrong. 
         My mom had always told me that, too.
         So how does a dying mother of six and wife of a prominent lawyer, civic leader and active church member explain to her upper-crust friends at the country club that she has AIDS and everything she had held as sacrosanct wasn’t quite right or even righteous?
         Karla understood my mom immediately because in a way, they were both sitting on death row.  Karla was condemned to die by the state of Texas.  My mom was condemned by a set of self-righteous, constricting social mores that kicked her out of her circle and left her standing helplessly alone, watching as her church and social community fled from the horror of her tragedy.  All of those subgroups of people she and her bejeweled, church-going friends had always felt justified in condemning because of their sinful ways, were now the ones offering her help, sympathy and, like Karla, a hand to hold.  These “undesirables” loved her and stood by her as Christ would.  Her former friends and neighbors were too busy whispering about her.
         Karla’s influence on my mother began showing itself gradually with Mom’s spontaneous apologies for past incidents, longer hugs, more kind words and more tears without anger.  Her bitterness began to dissipate.  She started talking more about God’s grace, than God’s judgment.  We didn’t have enough time to cross over the entire chasm of our pain, but the bridge was halfway there.  I was to build the rest without her but with God’s help.
         A month after my mom took her last breath, I entered the Gatesville prison on a quest to know what it was she had discovered there.  As that last maximum-security door slammed behind me, I saw Karla running toward me, her arms open wide.  It was my first exposure to prisoners, much less death row prisoners, and I was frightened.  I was sure she could hear my heart pounding and as she held me, I was certain she could sense the chill in my bones and feel my knees shaking.
         “After all your mom’s told me, I feel like I know you,” Karla told me.  Sitting beside Karla, as she held my hand, I saw peace beaming from the face of this woman who had so much to be forgiven for, and knew she had been.  I couldn’t stop staring.  She had been stripped bare of pretenses and had nowhere to hide.  
         “God always brings you to a place where you’ll finally listen,” Karla said to me.  “And for me it was really, really low.  It was pretty low for your mom, too.”  Karla knew she was going to die—even knew the date of her probable death—but was able to wipe my tears aside as I was leaving and say, “Don’t be sad, I know where I’m going.  And so did your mom.” 
         As I left her that first time, the Bible stories of my youth took on new meaning and made sense, in light of a forgiving God.
         In the book of John, I recalled the woman, caught in the act of adultery who, according to Jewish law, should have been stoned to death.  As the gathering crowd was preparing to stone her, Jesus said, “He who is without sin should throw the first stone.”  The crowd slowly started to drop their stones and walk away.  Jesus didn’t condemn this woman, way his finger in her face and say, “I hope you learned your lesson.”  But he asked her “to go and sin no more.”
         I, who in my past had always identified myself with Jesus, thinking myself forgiving and accepting of everyone, realized I was more like those in the stoning crowd.  I had always been quick to condemn someone I felt deserved it or hadn’t followed the “rules,” while overlooking my own sinful self and haughty heart.  That woman walked away from Jesus knowing she had been on the receiving end of God’s grace. 
         Philip Yancey, author of “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” writes, “What blocks forgiveness is not God’s reticence but ours.  God’s arms are always extended; we are the ones who turn away.”  Yancey goes on to write, “Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less.”
         In the parable of the Prodigal Son in the book of Luke, the younger son had run off and foolishly spent all his inheritance, returning home only when he found himself in the pigpen, fighting with the pigs for food.  Rather than be angry at his youngest son’s ignoble behavior, the father ran to the boy and threw him a party, so thrilled to have him home again.  The son, broken and repentant, begged for his father’s forgiveness.  The older son, who had faithfully stayed home, was angry and wouldn’t go to the party.
         I was that older son—good at following the rules and excellent at feeling I wasn’t as sinful as the next guy.  But in my heart I was angry and resentful.  I knew nothing about forgiveness.  I understood nothing about God’s grace.
         Most people think all they need to do to get to heaven is “be good.”  But these parables and all of Jesus’ teachings refute that attitude—we can never be “good enough.”  All we must do, the Bible says, is cry, “Help!”  The beauty of God’s grace, Yancey says, is that it doesn’t depend on what we have done for God but what God has done for us.
         I am not making a statement about the pros and cons of capital punishment.  More importantly, I am in no way minimizing the horrible, brutal crime Karla committed or the pain and suffering of the victims and their families.  Karla never did, either.  I am saying, however, when she died, she was not the same woman who brutally murdered those two people.  When my mom died, she wasn’t the same person either and because of God’s grace, I too, am no longer the same.
         Every weekend I would visit my dad before he died, he would ask me to take him to church.  During most of the service, he would sit in the back row, crying so hard, his shoulders would shake with the wracking sobs.  When I pressed him to tell me why being in church always brought him to tears and he said, “I just can’t get over the fact that God could forgive someone like me.”
         I thank God he forgives and extends his hand of grace and is able to change us so dramatically from the inside out.
         Otherwise there'd be no hope for any of us.  

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.  

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Aug 15

I saved my youngest son’s life this week.
 
My youngest son, Robby started choking at dinner earlier this week.  As soon as I realized he wasn’t kidding around, I walked over to him, told him I was going to put some pressure on his stomach and asked him to stay calm.
 
“I’ll get it out, bud, I promise,” I told him.  But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I started praying I remembered how to do the Heimlich maneuver.   He was no longer making any noise.
 
It was 1986 when I took a CPR class, held in the dingy basement of a church down the street from where I lived in Hawaii.  At the time, I remember wishing I never had to use most of what I was learning and if I did, that I would be able to recall half of it.    
 
My first test came when I had to dislodge a large piece of meat out of the throat of my oldest son, Sean, when he was 3.  Thankfully, it all came back to me then.  But that was 20 years ago.
 
I took my place behind Robby, put my left hand on his abdomen (just above his belly button) and my right hand over my left.  The dining room fell silent, the wait staff hovered close by and I felt all eyes on Robby and me.   Using both hands, I pulled in and up gently on his abdomen, lifting him out of his chair.   Nothing.  I did it again.  And again.  Finally, out popped a very thick, 2 ½ inch piece of shrimp.
 
As I hugged him from behind, he croaked, “Thanks, mom,” looking back at me.   I was so relieved he was ok, I almost did a Herky in the middle of the dining room.  Knowing he was probably embarrassed enough by all the attention his choking caused, I hugged him again instead, tighter this time.  My legs felt wobbly.
 
After I sat down, I put my hands under the table so no one could see that my hands were shaking.
 
Maybe you took a CPR class long ago; or perhaps you’ve never learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver.  Regardless, I think a refresher course is in order.  You never know when you’ll be called on to save someone else’s life and when you are, you want to be ready.



 



Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.  


For more columns from Diana Keough, click here.
 


©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Sep 01

Everyone thought she was crazy to carry her third baby full-term, especially when she knew early on in her pregnancy he was going to be less than perfect.  Her little boy was forming inside her womb without a skull and would not live long, if at all, after his birth.


“When did you find out?” people would ask and I'd watch my friend, Pam take a weary, deep breath and answer, “At 13 weeks.”  She knew what their next question would be having been through this same conversation so many times already.  She knew how they’d react, how they’d take a step back and what tone their voice would take on.  


It was always the same.  


“And you kept it?  Why would you do that?” would come tumbling out of their mouths before they could stop, struggling to hide their horror. 


"Yes, I kept him and his name is Jeremy,” Pam would say, and I'd see her heart break all over again as she'd begin to share her personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  


In their shock, I could see bold strangers and flabbergasted acquaintances begin to wonder if they, too, could rely on moral principles in coming face to face with so much so much intense personal pain, sadness and such immense loss for the nine months of pregnancy, his birth and inevitable death.


I knew what they were thinking because I, too, thought it, felt it and questioned if I could be that courageous and trust God so completely to expose myself to the pain that Pam was drowning in every waking moment.   


Pam and her husband had prayed for more than 10 months to conceive this little guy and they both wanted him with all their hearts.  


"How can I pray for a baby so hard and for so long, and then tell God that it couldn't be his will that Jeremy was conceived?" she'd ask me.  She could feel his hiccups, his kicks, his sommersaults, see his elbows sticking out of her abdomen.  She could hear his strong heartbeat at every monthly check up and see his beautiful little body on the ultrasound screen.  


It wasn't up to her to not carry this baby, because, “God doesn’t make mistakes.  He only makes plans,” she'd remind me.  


As I watched her grieve openly after his death, just as she had throughout the pregnancy, I realized her selfless act of cherishing this baby until his death enabled her to grieve "cleanly" for him.  In letting principles dictate her short-term decision to carry Jeremy, despite society’s permission to terminate a pregnancy like this, Pam was able to get through his death without the long-term lingering burden of guilt and regret.  


Would she have thought of him less, felt any better, just getting rid of him to save herself from the personal pain of his birth just because she could justify her actions in the eyes of those around her?  I don't think so.  Ending the pregnancy would’ve made him into a shameful secret and unspeakable event that would return to her so often and with such fury for the rest of her life, leaving an indelible yearning to rethink and redo.  


We all have friends who struggle with remorse, longing to go back and reverse a short-term fix that took place, for some 15 and 20 years ago, a longing that won't stop haunting them today.  Innately, we all know what’s right and what’s wrong, no matter what choices we’re given.


In the bereavement groups I attended after the deaths of my parents, I noticed definite differences in the type of grief going on around me.  There were those who were just sad, desperately missing loved ones.  Then there were those who were thrashing about in utter despair, wallowing in deep, unmanageable grief that had been compounded by guilt and regret.  Many had let a father or mother die without letting go of silly, unreasonable estrangements.  Some couldn't force themselves to overcome irrational fears to visit, spend time or say good-bye, saying they had been too busy but really weren't.  


Many more sobbed, recalling inappropriate, selfish or abusive behavior toward the one who couldn't hear their cries anymore.  


As I stood beside Pam at Jeremy’s graveside, I caught a glimpse of the sadness she will always feel having lost this little boy.  She’ll be sad, but not emotionally crippled by regret.  And she’s able to go on, loving her remaining children with a clear conscience knowing she did right by naming and grieving their little brother, and his brief life. 


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.  


For more columns from Diana Keough, click here.
 
©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Sep 11

I have to admit I’ve been dreading this latest anniversary of September 11th. 

I haven’t been looking forward to being forced to relive that day, watching reruns of the planes hitting the towers and smoke pouring out of those buildings, as somber voices review what happened that day.  I don’t want to hear the panicked phone calls of people trapped.  When the New York Times printed the transcripts of some of those phone calls, I didn’t even want to read it.  I also don’t want to read about the commemoration ceremonies.  The thought of it all makes me want to scream, “I can’t take it anymore.  Enough already.  Let’s move on.”

That is, until I saw a copy of the email my husband had saved, sitting in a file marked, “Miscellaneous.”  It was a copy of an email, reminding him of a meeting scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.   

He ended up not going.  Something came up at his office back here and he asked someone else to go in his place.  That person was about to walk into the building when the first plane hit.   
 
Not only had I totally forgotten he was supposed to be there that day, but I had also forgotten the expression on his face as he slid the meeting reminder across his desk a day later. 

Nine years ago, 9-11 was a shock to the entire nation but when my husband showed me that email on September 12th, the event that took place elsewhere, hit me directly.  My life and the life of my four boys almost changed completely that day.  But two years later, the fact that my life didn’t change after all has allowed complacency to creep in and take the place of that initial shock.                   

But when I saw that memo my husband kept, I felt a rush of shame.  I couldn’t believe I had forgotten.  It’s only been nine years.  

September 11th exposed the shallowness of an entire society.  Television comedians went off the air, as did all commercials.  Professional sports ground to a halt.   In a heartbeat, we saw the comparative meaningless of much of our lives.  That three thousand people could go to work as part of their daily routine, boot up their computers and never come home, made us all aware of our fragile mortality. 

Churches, synagogues and mosques were packed, as people tried to find relief from the pain and to make sense out of something so senseless. 

Some married friends of ours cancelled divorce plans; my husband and I trimmed work hours to spend more time with our kids; we talked simplicity; we talked about our blessings, about helping out, doing more volunteering, about making the world a better place.  We talked endlessly about being thankful he was spared.

But what happened in the days, weeks and months following 9/11 was like watching an anthill that’s been stepped on.  Initially, all action stops and the ants rush around in wild confusion trying to figure out what’s hit them.  But sooner or later, the activity starts up again.  The ants go about their business and the damage that was done is repaired and forgotten.

At a party this past weekend, all conversation stopped and everyone looked up when a commercial plane passed over us, flying unusually low.  The disruption was only momentary.  The plane, just like the national alerts that change from yellow to orange and back again, was treated as a minor annoyance and then promptly forgotten.  The party went on with discussions about the Browns game being picked up right where they left off.  

Most of us have forgotten the vows we made on September 12th—our vows to change and begin leading lives of significance.  Our vows to make this world a better place.  We’ve forgotten our vows of unity.  There’s plenty of room to sit down in churches, synagogues and mosques again.   Politicians are back to bickering, name calling and posturing.  There’s no more unity. 

Initially, the pain of 9-11 served as an alert to most of us. 

How do we heal from the pain, but never forget the promises we made immediately thereafter? 

I don’t know.  

If it hadn’t been for that memo my husband kept in a file marked “Miscellaneous,” I would have.    

But now, instead, tomorrow I’ll keep the television and radio on, and listen, remembering how I cut back on my work hours immediately following; how I didn’t mind the hassle of the beefed up security; how I held my boys tighter and wouldn’t let my husband leave without telling him I loved him.  I’m willing to read the newspaper, remembering how I smiled at strangers and let people merge into traffic, no matter how late I was running. 

I’ll do all that, so that next year, when the 10th anniversary of 9-11 happens, I won’t feel this same shame that those 3000 people died but I had forgotten.

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.  


©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC.

Sep 26

In the past few months, I’ve reconnected on Facebook and LinkedIn with a lot of classmates and a few old boyfriends from high school and college. One friend has the distinction of having introduced me to my future husband in high school; another friend sat next to me in our college freshman English class. Many of these people used to be very important to me; their opinions once mattered. Many I haven’t seen or talked to in more than 25 years. 

 

The first old boyfriend I reconnected with on Facebook was Dave.  He and I had dated on and off for several years. His family owned a gentleman’s farm on the east side of town and we spent hours paddling around his pond in a rowboat or driving a vintage red fire truck around the property. He taught me how to fish, dress preppy and drink vodka tonics with lime. I loved his family and remember thinking at one of their family events, “I am happy here.”  Dave, though Robert Redford-handsome, was extremely shy and I did most of the talking, trying to draw him out and keep the conversation flowing. Our relationship was innocent—he was more of a friend than a boyfriend, though I think he may have wanted more.  Our relationship made me realize that when I did eventually marry, my husband’s family—and his relationship with his parents—would be an important part of who he was.  And though I loved Dave’s family, ultimately, it was the man I would live with, look at over a newspaper every morning, and yes, try to talk to.  

 

The last time I saw Dave, I told him I had starting dating my current husband.  I also remember he wasn’t happy about it.  But 30 years later, he had a different recollection about that last conversation. 

 

“I had just met (my wife) and I’m sure I wished you well,” he wrote. 

 

I also reconnected with Mike, a man I had a huge crush on my first year in college. Mike’s eyes were deep pools of black ink, lined with long, thick lashes that I often stared at, wondering how they didn’t get caught in his eyelids.  With Mike, I argued the theological differences between eternal security and losing your salvation, Calvinism and Arminianism, and why I loved C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham. He was one of the first to challenge me to defend my faith.  He’d listen intently, head cocked, but was rarely dissuaded from his point of view. Mike was driven, serious and made me feel smart and witty.  But I also felt that I couldn’t be myself around Mike, and that he was somewhat out of reach, as if there was a wall behind those dark lashes that I would never be able to break through.

 

Twenty-eight years after our last conversation, Mike told me about his wife and daughter; I filled him in on my husband, boys and journalism career.  We reminisced about our philosophy discussions (he is still dogmatic) and I mentioned, offhandedly, that I remembered being miserable my first year in college. 

 

“I don’t remember you being that way at all,” he said.  “You seemed content and very happy, in fact.”

 

And then there’s Marc.  He and I have known each other since we were 10-year-olds on the local swim team.  He knew me when I barely filled out the one-piece team swimsuit and when, in high school, I sported a Dorothy Hamill haircut and dorky green corduroy pants with a matching plaid shirt.  I knew him when he was a gawky, late-blooming adolescent, as opposed to the powerful, well-respected businessman he is now.  We are familiar with each other’s high school crushes and embarrassments.  He knows exactly what I feel when I mention the name of our swim coach—no explanation needed. 

 

Marc reminded me of the many times we ate nothing but french fries and slushies all day and played 4-Square and Hide ‘n Seek for hours, going home only when it was time to eat dinner.  I told him that back then, I had felt alone on the playground when everybody else seemed so effortlessly popular. 

 

He scoffed and said, “I remember that you seemed to have a barnyard full of friends.”

 

I started wondering why everyone remembered me differently than I remember myself.  Maybe it’s because I only remembered the disappointments, the humiliations, the occasions my mother embarrassed me in front of my friends, again and again. I felt as though I limped from one event to another, mustering enthusiasm while drowning myself in sports and activities; hiding what was really going on at home behind achievements and accolades. 

 

Throughout my life, classmates and the men I dated knew little of my tumultuous home life.  To them, I was a leggy brunette with short hair who played a lot of tennis and had strict, religious parents who rarely let me wear pants, even to ice skate or bowl. 

 

By reconnecting and sharing memories, I have been forced to recall the blessings.  And those blessings remind me that I've led an extraordinary life despite the disappointments, or maybe partly, because of them. 

         

My life demonstrates the power a woman has to overcome her past; to go beyond her mother’s predictions that she wouldn’t amount to much, to recover from mean girls saying they hated you and others who held my head under water too long at the Racquet Club pool.

 

As it turns out, each of my old friends, every recollection they share, and every memory I reveal, is a major part of the woman, mother and wife I am now. 

 

And for that, I will be forever grateful. 

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.    

Read other Diana Keough columns here.  


More Diana Keough articles, here. 


©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Oct 10

Cynthia and I didn’t hit if off immediately when we met a ten years ago.  Although, at the time, I thought it was her fault. 

She’s glamorous—always so well put together, with her shoes matching her purse and something funky always added to make her outfit different, unusual, so Cynthia.  She’s articulate and passionately opinionated, punctuating her points of view with sweeping gestures and a marvelous throaty laugh that starts low, like an engine revving, and ends with her head thrown back, fourth gear engaged.  She challenges me.  She stimulates me.  She makes me laugh. 

She is also black.  Not negro, not colored, not Afro-American and not African-American.  She’s just black, she tells me.  She hates all that politically correct stuff.  Our friendship has been slow going.  Cynthia does hand out the title “friend” easily, or to many.  If you’re white, like I am, she immediately puts you on the back burner to simmer.  Trust is something she doesn’t let go of often, especially if you’re white. 

The first time I referred to her as “my friend,” she corrected me, telling me I don’t know anything about her.  When I responded, “What do you mean, Cynthia?  You’re just like one of us.”  She shot back, “No, I’m not.  I’m not anything like you,” and then proceeded to tell me I don’t know what it’s like for her, a black person, to grocery shop, go out for coffee, to try to fill your car with gas or to mail a package in this lily-white town where we both live.  Slowly, quietly, carefully, she begins to tell me why we’re different and why I can’t even begin to understand what it means to be black in America in this day and age.

She tells me about wandering for over an hour through a local furniture store, ready to purchase a complete set of furniture, armed with a purse full of cash, with nary a head bob of recognition from a sales person.  I’ve been to that store.  I can’t go two feet without someone stopping to ask me if they can help me.  They hound me to the point of being annoying.

At our local paint store she is always asked for a $25.00 deposit, as well as her credit card number, before being allowed to borrow a wallpaper book.  Me?  I’ve never been asked for anything but my name and phone number when borrowing anything from that store.

She tells me she has to constantly warn her sons to never, ever drive more than one mile over the speed limit, reminding them the police are just looking for a reason to pull them over.  Her boys know she’s right.

She tells me about the white women clutching their purses tighter and leaning away from her and her husband in an elevator taking them to their regular mezzanine level seats for the symphony.  This makes her particularly furious.

“They don’t know anything about my husband and they’re acting like he’s a thief and a sexual predator,” she tells me, the anger, the hurt, the weariness from it all coming through.

I’m incredulous and I stop her.

“No way!  There is no way this is happening to you!”  I tell her.  I thought this stuff only happened to a certain type of black—someone on the edge of society, the drug dealers and the punks, I tell her. Not law abiding, well-educated, well-dressed blacks that live in my community, right down the street from me.

When I tell her I don’t believe her, that I think she’s just being overly sensitive, that she’s just overacting, she looks down, get quiet and takes a deep breath.

“Diana.  All I’m saying is something’s are very clear.  And how many times would you say it would have to happen to become clear to you?  To register that it’s a problem?”  she asks me.

It became clear to me the first time we met for lunch.  Walking in together, the hostess looked only at me and asked, “Can I help you?”  Cynthia was completely overlooked, ignored, persona non grata.  And she’s hard to miss.  She's beautiful and glamorous.    

When we are out together getting coffee, buying bread, greeting cards, luncheon meat, shopping for jewelry she is invisible, while I am not, to people whose job it is to help both of us.  Instead of helping her, I notice they eye her suspiciously, watch her closely and try not to obvious about following her through their stores.  I wish I could say these were isolated incidents, but they’re not.  The more time we spend together, the more I notice.

I want to protect her.  I want to go before her and make these ignorant sales people help her, pay attention to her, make them look her in the eye.  I want to stand at the doors of the great hall where the symphony plays, and hand out her and her husband’s resumes.  I want to shame someone, like I’ve been made aware of my own shame, ignorance and indifference.

She used to live in North Carolina, where she said it was much, much easier. Because there, at least she could tell who didn’t like her—they’d tell you to your face, she explains.  I understand that better now, living here in the South as I do.  Our contractor began my kitchen remodel weeks ahead of schedule because he quit the job before ours.  Why?  Because when he showed up with a black man on his crew, the woman of the house told the contractor "that man"--yes, she referred to him as "that man"--wasn't allowed in her home.  Instead of agreeing to her request, my contractor walked away from the job.  

Cynthia now lives in the Midwest, and she says it’s much harder.  White people aren’t as honest here, she says.  They pretend to like you, when in fact, they don’t.

I’m so sorry, I tell her.  But she doesn’t want an apology from me, or from anyone else. 

She just wants it to change.


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.    

Read other Diana Keough columns here.  


More Diana Keough articles, here. 


©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Oct 26

I was in my mid-20s when both of my parents got sick and required an ever-increasing amount of care.  


At that time, I had no idea what to do.  


Caring for aging parents usually begins in a crisis: Dad falls in the shower and ends up in the hospital or like my mother-in-law, collapses in a diabetic coma while walking to her car in the Walmart parking lot.  

 

That scenario is now a story that is replayed again and again in the lives of many of my friends.  And they, like me, have no idea what to do or what resources are available to caregivers.  


So, before you get to that crisis point, sit down and have a conversation with your parents and discuss the following: 


Personal Documents:

·           Ask your parents where they keep their important documents:  birth, marriage, divorce, adoption certificates

·           Medical insurance papers

·           Medical and employment histories

·           Military records

·           Financial records (with passwords to all relevant accounts)

·           Talk to them about setting up joint checking and savings accounts.

 

Legal Documents:

·           Power of attorney

·           Power of attorney for healthcare

·           Do Not Resuscitate (Known in medical circles as, “DNR.”)

·           Long-term care insurance policy

·           Social security and Medicare documents

·           Medical contact information and authorizations to share information

·           Make sure your parents have an up-to-date will

 

Here's another thing to consider:  While my mother was still lucid and physically strong, she asked all six of her children to come home so she could go through all of her things and let us know who was going to get what, even putting stickers with our names on it in the presence of all of us.  As difficult as it was at the time, it sure gave us a lot less to fight about after her death. 


Caring for a loved one can be expensive.  The AARP reports that out-of-pocket expenses for caregivers caring for someone 50 years old or older is $5531 per year and 37 percent have had to reduce work hours or quit their jobs.  


In 2001, the National Council of Aging developedBenefits Check Up,” a web-based program for adults 55 and older that allows you to discover if you qualify for federal, state and local benefits in the for the following:

 

·           Prescription Drug Discounts

·           Health Care Benefits

·           Property Tax Discounts

·           Home Energy Assistance Programs

·           Financial Assistance

·           Telephone Discount Programs

·           Housing Assistance

·           Legal Services

·           Home Support Services

·           Nutrition Programs

·           Senior Employment Services

 

Each disease state has its own advocacy group or organization which are there to provide information.  


Here is just a small sample: 


Alzheimer’s Association 

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Service 

Arthritis Foundation 

ALS 

Cancer 

National Cancer Institute 

Diabetes 

Heart Disease and Stroke 

Parkinson’s Disease 

 

If you think I’ve left an important organization off of the list or think I've missed another vital resource, please let me know and I’ll be sure to add it.   


As a group, we can build an important document we can print out and hang onto, so we can be somewhat prepared when the time comes to make the decisions we knew we'd eventually have to make.

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com. 

   

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Nov 11

Fifteen years ago, I went to visit the maximum-security women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas.  My original motive was two-fold: As a journalist, I wanted to meet Karla Faye Tucker, who was on death row for murdering two people with a pick ax.  I was also there as a grieving daughter whose mother had recently died.  


My mom was involved in a group that spent time ministering to both the general population of inmates and inmates, like Karla, on death row. 

Karla and my mom had become very good friends and she couldn’t say enough nice things about her, describing her as a “kind, loving and spirit-filled Christian,” a description that made me laugh. 

 

When my mom began her visits to Karla, I made fun of her, considering the time she spent with Karla and the other inmates a complete waste of time.   When she tried to tell me that Karla and other inmates she spent time with had changed, I’d cut her off.    

        

“People like that don’t change,” I’d remind her.  And to make sure she wouldn’t say anymore about it, I’d call her a “do-gooder,” the ultimate insult in my family.   I felt all inmates, no matter their crime, deserved to rot.  As for Karla Faye Tucker and the other inmates on death row, I believed they couldn’t be executed fast enough.   I knew my mom shared these views because they happened to be the exact same views I overheard eavesdropping as a child on the long dinner table conversations that took place between my parents and their wide circle of friends.  Those who opposed the death penalty were nothing but a bunch of “do-gooders,” in her opinion. 


But something had dramatically changed my mom’s views on the death penalty and it happened down in Texas, after meeting Karla Faye Tucker and spending time with these female inmates. 

  

After my mom died in 1994, I had to find out what it was. 


What hit my mom coming through the prison gates for the first time hit me too. 


These women shared communal showers and their toilets are wide open.   A lack of privacy and being treated with no dignity is part of their punishment, I suppose.  Some dorms, house 72 women in one room, with beds lined up and stacked in cubicles.  Under each bed is a drawer that holds everything they are allowed.  The inmates who have families that haven’t disowned them, make out better than those who have no one.  Family members send breath mints, paper, pens and sometimes, a book, a Bible or a journal. 


Three fans hanging from the rafters push around hot, stale air that smells like sewage, sweat and too many bodies packed into too small a space.  The guards warn us the dorms stink because of recent flooding.  “Stink” is an understatement.  The rank smell crawls in and fills every pore.  I am dripping with sweat because of the heat.  


It’s one thing to say these women deserve to suffer for their crimes.  It is quite another to be there and see how they are treated. 


Quite often death row inmates are disciplined by being kept in cells 23 hours a day for sometimes, like it was for Francis, years at a time.  When we visit, we are allowed to sit five feet away from their cell door.  They are hungry for any human contact.  Many sleep most of the time for lack of anything else to do.

 

The first time I sat cross-legged on the floor of death row in front of one of these cells, I realized I was witnessing what happens when a person is made to literally rot to death from boredom, lack of human contact, and a lack of hope. 


It’s one thing to debate and pontificate this is exactly what these people deserve, like I had done all my life.  It’s another thing to see it actually taking place. 


The first time my mom met Karla and the other women on death row, she asked them if there was anything that could’ve prevented them from committing their heinous crimes. 


One inmate said that she had asked herself that same question over and over again and then proceeded to share with my mom the story of her “normal childhood.”  How her father had sexually abused her after her mother abandoned them; how her mother died in a car accident the year after she disappeared; how after being put in eight different foster homes she was put in a juvenile detention home at the age of 10.  


My mom was flabbergasted that this inmate considered her childhood “normal.” 

 

In listening to their stories, learning about their children, their mistakes and how one bad decision inevitably led to another, I realized these women were more like me, than not. 


Every year I go back to these same Texas prisons, I come away thinking how much we as a society have failed these women—and their families—long before most of them set foot in prison.  Most of these women would never tell you that though. 


I spend time with hundreds of women every year and contrary to what I used to believe, most do not walk away claiming they are innocent.  

Neither did Karla.  


But like so many of the women I’ve met, Karla changed so much from that angry, violent young woman she was when she murdered those two people.   After my first visit, I was hoping I would be able to tell the world that Karla and the rest of the inmates I met who were claiming they found God and changed, were nothing but a bunch of phonies.  Seeing the sincerity of their faith for myself took me completely by surprise and changed my mind about capital punishment, as it had my mom’s.

 

Karla was executed on February 4, 1998.  When she was executed, I lost a friend. 


Last year, as I was waiting to clear prison security, I overheard one of the guards mutter, “There goes one them do-gooders.”

    

I was going say something, but didn’t.  Being a “do-gooder” isn’t an insult anymore.


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com

   

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Nov 22

In my family, Thanksgiving is not only a time for reflection but also a time for forgiveness.  

It hasn’t always been that way.  

Before my mom died, she made my five siblings and me promise we’d get together for Thanksgiving after she was gone. 
 
“Promise me,” she asked. “Promise me that no matter what, you’ll always get together for Thanksgiving.”    In turn, we all promised to do what she asked.  Our vow seemed to settle her down and bring her peace.  How strange that of all the things she wanted was to know that we’d continue the tradition of getting together as a family, without her. 
 
Maybe she was recalling what had happened after her mother died, how viciously she and her siblings fought over the estate, how nasty they talked to one another.  My siblings and I grew up hearing them fight while hiding in the next room, pledging to one another that we’d never be like them.
 
When mom took her last breath, years had gone by without hearing the voice of several of her brothers and she couldn’t remember what they had fought about.  It was something, I know, she regretted.
 
“Promise me,” my mom asked again. 
 
When she died, my siblings and I behaved just like she hoped we wouldn’t, dividing her things with increasing tension, saying harsh words on the way out of the door.  At the time, it seemed ok—we lived in separate states, existing among friends, units unto ourselves, not acknowledging what was missing or left behind.        
 
When that first Thanksgiving after my mom’s death rolled around, one of my brothers offered his home and one by one, the rest of us reluctantly said we’d be there. 
 
After all, we had made a promise.  
 
“I really don’t want to do this!  It’s such a long drive, the kids are so little,” I told my husband, already making excuses.  “What a drag to travel so far just to have dinner with a bunch of people I don’t want to see anyway.” 
 
“You promised,” he reminded me.    
 
That year, the hugs at the door were forced and the small talk, nerve wracking.   The football games were a welcome distraction since it meant we really didn’t have to talk to one another.
 
That year, my little sister and I had a huge blowout that ended in slammed doors.  We both swore we’d never talk again. 
 
And we didn’t.  For a whole year.  Until Thanksgiving.  I had made a promise to be there and so had she. 
 
Once again, forced “Hello’s,” along with obligatory hugs and lots of small talk.   “Great haircut.  Have you lost weight?  How’s the job?”  I wasn’t too interested in the answers, but at least we weren’t fighting.   
 
As we stood in my kitchen preparing dinner, all of us chopping onions, dicing celery and peeling potatoes, the conversation grew less stilted as we settled into the scraping rhythm of the vegetable peeler.  My little sister and I began reminiscing about playing “Barbies” under the ping-pong table, Trick or Treating as Raggedy Ann and Andy, of her seeking safety in my bed during a thunderstorm.  We laughed about listening to Supertramp in the basement and about the mirror on top of the stairs where she had watched me get ready for the prom.   
 
“I wanted to be like you, you know,” she told me. 
 
As the pile of potato peels grew I couldn’t help but notice how alike our hands were—our fingernails, the veins on top and even the way we grasped the peeler.  When I looked up to tell her this, she was already asking, “Can you believe how similar our hands are?” 
 
“No, I can’t,” I answered, both of us smiling.  It was all the 
“I’m sorry,” either of us could muster, but enough for us to be more thankful for one another than not.  It helped to be reminded we have a lot more in common than not.  
 
Last month, while lunching with a friend, I complained to her about the latest drama going on in the lives of some of my siblings. This friend, who is twice divorced, has no children, no siblings and recently lost her mother and father looked right at me and said,  “At least you have a family.”   
 
As my siblings and their families sit around the table this year, keeping the promise we made to my mom almost two decades ago, we are mindful of missing both my father, mother and of the fact that we almost lost our oldest brother in January of this year.  All six of us are getting older and who knows how many more Thanksgivings we have to spend together. 
 
We still fight and I’m embarrassed to admit that some of us still let weeks and sometimes, months go by without speaking.  But when Thanksgiving rolls around, one of us offers our home and the rest of us show up.  Disagreements get worked out, the differences in our personalities disappear, walls come down and oftentimes, before the potatoes are mashed and the table is set, all is forgiven.  When we ask, “How are you?” we’re actually interested in hearing the answer and good-bye hugs made at the door bring tears.
 
When the long holiday weekend is over, I know another year will go by until I see some of them again.  And more than likely, throughout the year we’re apart, there will be disagreements between us.  But when Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll get in our cars, hug at the door, make dinner together and stay up way too late catching up and giggling. 
 
And once again, I’ll be reminded that these people, with whom I share memories, eye color, voice inflection and expressions, have more in common with me than not.
 
And for that, I am thankful.
  
Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   
Read more Diana Keough articles, here
 
©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

Dec 19

It wasn’t your usual family gathering.  My mom had summoned all six of her children home at Christmas so she could go from room to room, assigning each of us her possessions. 

 

She was dying of a terminal illness, already a year into her death march.  One down, three to go, it turned out. 

 

“I think this will look nice in your front hall,” she said to one of my older brothers, her hand resting on a chest of drawers.  And so it went, on and on.  A macabre ritual demanded by our well-organized matriarch, able to square off against Death in the realm of the mundane, but unable to face the broken and stressed out relationships looking right back at her.

 

“And I don’t want any fighting about any of this after I’m gone,” she said. 

 

This was my mom at her finest: in control of both her possessions and our fragile feelings.  We were her obedient children once more, as well as contestants in her game show of random kindness. 

 

I didn’t want her stuff, but then again, I did.  For that was the yardstick of her love: she gave to her favorites, her favorite things. I was a little girl, again, and I hated her for making me feel that way.  All I wanted was to hear her tell me how much she loved me.  But a family heirloom covered in dust, broken and tucked into the back of her closet would have to suffice.  It was the only love she knew how to give me. 

 

When all of her earthly possessions were dispensed, she told us there was one more thing.

 

“I want you all to know,” she began slowly. “That when I feel the end of my life is near, and while I’m still able, I’m going to take my own life.”

 

She sat looking at us, with her hands folded tightly and placed demurely off to the side of her lap.  Her spine was rigid and straight against the back of the chair; her chin was raised high, her legs crossed at the ankles.  She had orchestrated this moment and I could tell it was playing out exactly as planned.  She had declared her intentions, trying to extend a hand of control upon a disease already so out of control.  And now, she sat there, quietly, triumphantly, almost daring us to stop her or even object.  And then she went on, saying something about how much our family’s been through and wanting to spare herself from a death without dignity.  She said something else about it being her right.  I tried to protest, but you didn’t change my mom’s mind once it was made up.  No, she just bulldozed her way through yours.

 

After I returned to my own home in another state, I tried to go back to my daily routine but found myself startled every time the phone rang, anticipating the news that my mom was dead.  But as the weeks tumbled into months, it was my mom calling, telling me only that she was taking another trip, going back to school, planting her vegetable garden, repotting her geraniums, lunching with friends or simply calling to say “hi.”

 

“Just checking in,” she’d say whenever I’d answer, launching into all the happenings of her day, including another doctor’s visit, where she learned a new pain was caused by her advancing disease.  During many of these phone calls, she’d be somber and reflective, as she talked about her burgeoning personal faith, her hopefulness in seeing my children again, or how good the sun felt on her skin, that she said, “felt so cold all the time now.”

 

She seemed to be experiencing life with a new richness—thrilled with the simple and content in her acceptance of the inevitable.  As her horizons narrowed to only the view outside her bedroom window, there was no complaining for the opportunities lost, only thankfulness for the gift of another sunrise, and the sound of my voice.  The physical pain she had feared so much, was controlled with medication and never came close to the emotional agony she twisted in prior to her terminal diagnosis.

 

“Life is such a precious gift from God,” she told me.  “Don’t waste your life or any of the time that God gives to you.  Promise me that, okay?” 

 

We battled for so long, both of us feeling completely justified, and so full of pride and self-righteousness.  The deadline of her death launched her on a soul trip and in taking me along, we were able to call a truce, leaving me to mourn what could have been, not the torment of what was.

 

In the hospice, as she lay gasping for breath, holding my hand, looking right into my eyes, she said, “This is the sickest I’ve been isn’t it?” 

 

I held her hand and thanked her for being the best mom she knew how to be.  I thanked her for so many long talks and hugs and for not killing herself. 

 

She smiled and squeezed my hand back with all her might as she struggled to say, “I would’ve missed out on so much.”

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

 

Jan 17

As a mother of four boys, I often hear, “Oh, you must have your hands full with four boys.”

 

Hands full?  It’s my ears that are full, listening to guffaws and giggles after the mention of male private parts and inappropriate bodily noises.   Not to mention the flabbergasting things I have to say to keep them from killing themselves, someone else and/or each other.

 

In one day, I’ve scolded, “A light bulb will not cook the creepy crawlers,” and, “Of course the dog’s invisible fence collar will work when it’s around your brother’s neck!”

 

When I saw my third son, who was then 5-years old, holding a garbage bag over his head , getting ready to jump over the top edge of our (very high) tree fort, I quickly yelled, “STOP! A garbage bag is a terrible parachute!” 

 

Unfortunately, I knew that because his older brothers had tried the same thing when they were around that age.

 

One son seemed to be particularly fascinated with sticking things in other people’s ears.  After one such incident which required a trip to the principal’s office for my son and a trip to the ER for his friend, out of my mouth flew, “Why did you think that was a good idea?” 

 

“Because I wanted to see if it would come out his other ear,” he said, seemingly perplexed I could ask such a stupid question.   A month or so later, I had to ask this same son, “Why didn’t you see if the Legos would come through your digestive tract first, instead of making your little brother eat them?” 

 

On another trip to the hospital ER, I had to ask of my youngest son, “Why did you think wearing Superman underpants would enable you to fly off of the top bunk?”

 

Saying this stuff defies logic and makes you feel as crazy after it comes out of your mouth as the behavior that solicited it. 

 

Many-a-dinner has been interrupted with flatulence.  I tried to put a curb on it by requiring them to put money into my “Swine Fine Bucket” every time they “slipped.”  That is, until I overheard one of them bragging about being the most flatulent at the dinner table. 

 

That night we discussed setting higher goals.

 

I remember the moment they added the word “booger” to their repertoire, substituting the phrase, “you know what,” for “booger,” so as not to get a rise out of me.

 

“You know what is on the window, you know what is on the chair, you know what is on the table, you know what is in my hair,” my oldest sang with glee, making his younger brothers collapse to the floor in laughter.

 

I didn’t want to, but the situation actually called for me to say, “Ok boys, let’s not discuss or sing about boogers anymore!” 

 

I’ve admonished, “Don’t smear peanut butter on the dog; don’t use the Spaghetti-O sauce to write your name on the counter” and, “Fuss all you want, you’re NOT having ketchup on your cereal.”  I’ve also said, “Please do not eat your sleeve,” Do not use your sleeve to wipe your nose,” and “Stop chewing holes in your shirt collar.”

 

Answers to questions about whether or not they washed their hands before eating were cut off prematurely with, “And having the dog lick them doesn’t count!” 

 

Dirt used to be one of my boys’ favorite collections, which never bothered me until my second son tried to plant flowers and vegetables in his pockets—not forgetting that seeds need plenty of water to grow and a few earthworms probably would help, too.  After my washing machine clogged with and, dirt and seeds, flooding both the laundry room and the basement, a new rule was laid down: No more gardening in your pants. 

 

I’ve had to beg all of my kids, at one time or another, to stop biting the dog, stop licking the dog, stop eating the dog’s food and to stop drinking the poor dog’s water. 

 

I have also been forced to say, “Don’t paint on your brother,” “Your brother didn’t need a haircut today,” “Quit eating the soap,” and “What did you think was inside this pillow?” 

 

After one particular long day of begging, bargaining, pleading and cajoling, I was really looking forward to a long, solitary soak in my tub.  As I sank down in the bubbles, I landed on something sharp and gritty.  Pulling a fistful of very sandy, very dirty army men from the bottom made me realize I’d have to start the next day with yet another edict: No more building bunkers for their army men in my bathtub.

 

My boys are now 23, 20, 17 and 14.  The messes they make now are bigger and tend to cost more to clean up.  Bodily noises still crack them up, they still can’t keep their hands off of each other and they never want to wear coats, even when it’s snowing outside.  And though my oldest lives on his own and the rest are relatively self-sufficient, I still can’t believe some of the stuff I have to say to correct them.  

 

Take this morning, for instance.  I had to ask the two youngest to stop jumping and tapping both hands on top of the doorframe every time they walked into the kitchen.   Every doorframe in my house is thick with fingerprints.    

 

And then, minutes later, my second son, who was running late for church, took his bowl of instant oatmeal in the car and actually wanted to carry it into church with him to finish eating.     

 

That’s right.  I actually had to say…   

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

 

Jan 30
The 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion passed with little notice from most people.  That’s not to say the newspapers didn’t run columns both for and against abortion, and that the annual “March for Life” wasn’t covered by all three networks. 

But just like every other year, this year, no one will be putting women, like my friend, Anna on the news. 

Anna never carried a political sign, passed out campaign literature or became a member of either side of the abortion debate.  But she’s well aware of two anniversaries: the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the anniversary of the abortion she had 33 years ago.  And if you gave her a chance, she’d tell you she’s chronically sad about the abortion. 

Yes, she would agree she had a choice and that she felt nothing but relief right after.   She also used to believe, adamantly, it was “just a blob of tissue” and that she was doing the most responsible thing for everyone involved.  But time, she told me, has a way of making you relive decisions, both good and bad, over and over again, whether you want to or not.

She wished someone had warned her about that.

She also wishes someone had warned her just how hard the reality of what she’d done would hit when she held her first newborn son, fingering his tiny toes.  She wishes someone had told her that this legal “right” of hers, would have lifetime consequences; that what she thought would let her get on with her life and make her happy, comes to mind at least once, if not more times a day, 25 years later. 

When I ask her if she would make the same choice again, she says she’d like to think she wouldn’t.  But she’s not sure. 

“Maybe if it wasn’t so easy,” she starts.  “Or maybe if I had known I was taking a life, I wouldn’t have done it.” 

But when I remind her she told me she didn’t realize all this until years later, she looks away. 

“I knew then.  I really did,” she tells me.  “I just wish someone had told me how much I’d regret it and for how long it might hurt.” 

Sometimes she lets herself imagine how he or she might get along with her living child.  But to give her aborted child an age is to remember all over again that he has no age, no birth date, because of what she did.  This is when she feels the most alone.  When the reverie stops, the despair starts and there’s no one to talk to. 

According to Planned Parenthood’s research arm, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, about 1.3 million American women have abortions every year.  That means in the 38 years since Roe v. Wade, an estimated 39-plus million women have had legal abortions—numbers that break down to mean that out of 5 women under the age of 45, at least one has had an abortion.

Among my group of friends, those numbers are right.  Anna is just one friend I mention here.

We all need to realize that when we’re saying things like “every child a wanted child” or making “a right to choose” sound like we’re taking the highest moral ground and looking out for everyone’s political good, that women like Anna, women we work with, women we live next too, women we pass on the street; women who have had abortions but have never told anyone.  These women’s hearts’ are breaking.  That when we show pictures on the news of people waving signs that say “Abortion Kills Children” and shows them yelling at women going into the abortion clinics, that these women cringe inside.

Anna wonders why there won’t be a single newspaper column or TV report about women like her—women who still struggle with overwhelming feelings of loss over the choice they’ve been unable to put behind them. 

This is not meant to be a political statement but an apology.  An apology to my friends and to the millions of others in this overlooked group.  This issue for them is not politics—it’s their life.  Hearing them describe such similar post abortive grief as though it just happened yesterday, I wonder why we aren’t asking them when life begins?  Why aren’t we asking them how to counsel women facing crisis pregnancies?  And why aren’t we warning all women that they, too, might be at risk for being haunted with lifelong emotional consequences if they choose to abort their baby?

Pro-choice organizations won’t recognize that emotional aftermath of abortion, denying the existence of post abortion syndrome.  Anna has confided in a few people at her conservative Christian church, but learned very quickly that that wasn’t a good idea. 

“They couldn’t handle it,” she told me, adding she feels they now avoid her.  She says they pray for the unborn, but no one seems to be praying for her. 

To whom do women like my friend Anna go to, to talk and try to work out what happened so long ago if neither side is listening to women like her? 

Could it be that both sides of the abortion debate might actually be failing the women they’re both trying to help? 


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com. 
 
 
Read more Diana Keough articles,
here. 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC   

Feb 14

The dream always starts with the monthly arrival of my Bon Appétit magazine.  In it are pictures of adults sitting around an outdoor table, dining al fresco and sipping wine, always looking so pleasant.  Everyone’s smiling.  They’re having fun.  Some are tilting their heads, concentrating on what seems to be incredibly stimulating conversation.  The table is overflowing with grilled vegetables and dainty kabobs skewering tender scallops and juicy morsels of beef, all lit up by the glow of torches.
 

It’s perfection.  I want that.  And I want that bad.  I want to bask in the essence of great food and outdoor lighting and throw my head back and cackle with spontaneous laughter. 
 

I start making my grocery list with high hopes that this time will be different than all the other times I’ve tried to push my family of four little boys and one picky husband to a culinary high beyond macaroni and cheese. 



Trolling every grocery store in a 20-mile radius in search of all the exotic ingredients I need for this fantasy meal, leaves me little time, between naps and car pools, to actually prepare it.  But I will not be denied.  I slice, chop, marinate and dip stuff, stopping every five minutes to break up a squabble, clean sand out of the baby’s mouth or run someone to baseball practice.  With the outdoor table set and the torches in ready position, I fire up the grill and toss the tuna steaks and veggies on, calling everyone to eat. 
 

As they reluctantly approach the table, my oldest rolls his eyes and whispers to his brother, “I betcha this one’s from a magazine again.  We’d better be sweet.”
 

Unfortunately, my 5-year old, noticing the hefty dish of pesto-covered noodles sitting smack dab in the middle of the table, doesn’t know how to whisper or spare mommy’s feeling and blurts out, “Oooh yuck, what is this stuff?”  Fond of imitating everything his brothers do, the 2-year old repeats the question and takes off for the sandbox.  After heading him off at the swing set, my husband corrals the rest, reminding them all about the oldest of our house rules: All I ask is that you try it.
 

“Nooo way, dad.  This stuff looks disgusting!  It’s green!” my second son says, and I know he’s old enough to know how to spare my feelings.  But I guess he’s so overcome with negative emotions about the color green he’s forgotten all the manners I have forced on him the past eight years of his life.
 

“Sit down,” my husband barks and they obey.  I get the fish and the veggies off the grill, bringing my feast to my men on serving platters that haven’t seen the light of day since last month’s attempt at civility.
 

“Are those new plates?” my husband asks. 

 

“No honey, and you ask me that every month,” I tell remind him. As I serve it all up, I pause to brush the flies away and have to move one of the torches because we’re beginning to choke on its exhaust.  I know I have never seen images of pesky insects and overly active torches in the pages of my magazine.  Nor did I ever see anyone else’s children gagging on the pesto, whining about bones in the fish, or beginning to slide down in their seat and disappear under the table.  No one is secretly feeding the dog the marinated fish, throwing the veggies into the garden or sporting food in their hair.  Not a soul in those magazine spreads has dumped over an entire glass of milk, fallen backwards in his chair or wiped green noodle remnants down the front of his shirt.  And I bet no one has been sent to his room for trying to sneak half-eaten fish into their pockets either.

 

I also didn’t notice any of the adults in those pictures yelling, “Get off the ground and back in your chair, Tommy!”  “You two, stop kicking each other.”  “Please close your mouth while you’re eating.” 
 

Ahhh.  The ambience of good food and deep and meaningful conversation.
 

After it’s all said and done, I’m surrounded by picked-over plates and little boys leaving the table giving each other high-fives, as fellow members of the “I- Ate-Something-Green-and-Lived-to-Talk-About-It-Club.”  I feel somewhat defeated but pleased they at least tried a little of everything. 



I can hardly wait for next month’s magazine.

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com. 
 

 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 


 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC   

 

May 08

Last week, while I was waiting in line to mail a package at the UPS Store, I absentmindedly started flipping through the Mother’s Day cards sitting in a display near the front counter. 


There were a couple of really funny ones. And there were a couple of very touching ones, like this one that said, “When I think about my life and the things that matter way down deep, I think of you and the light you bring to my life. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”


And then, from out of the blue, it hit me: Sadness.


In that store, reading those cards, it hit me that I no longer have a mother. 

It was an odd thought, especially considering the fact that not having a mother is not a new thing. My mom died ten years ago. 


And getting sad about anything having to do with my mom and Mother’s Day was equally confounding for me. Mother’s Day was not one of those Hallmark Family Specials between my mom and me. 


When she was alive, Mother’s Day was a holiday I dreaded. 


Whenever I’d ask her what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she’d always respond: I want nice children. And every year, it would turn out that “nice children” would be much easier said than done for me—at least in her eyes. 


She and I didn’t get along very well for most of my childhood or for the years after I graduated from college, started working full-time, got married and started my own family. In her eyes, it seemed as though I was never going to grow up. She and I were constantly knocking heads as I tried to buck against her trying to micromanage so many aspects of my life. 


She wanted me to go to a certain college; I wanted to go somewhere else. She wanted me to play a certain sport; I wanted to try something else. On and on it went. Whatever she wanted, I didn't, and sometimes, I knew in the midst of our fighting, I was disagreeing with her, just to be ornery. Most other times, though, I knew it was just so I could pursue my own dreams. She wanted me to be an accountant; I wanted to be a journalist.


Standing there in line at the UPS store, reading those cards, it also hit me that history was repeating itself in my own family. 


Lately, my 12-year old son, Bret and I have been butting heads a lot. He wants to do his homework with his radio on; I don’t think he can concentrate if he has it on. His handwriting is so sloppy, I think he should redo his homework; he says if his teachers can read it, what difference does it make if I can’t. He loves rap music; I hate it. He wants to play the drums; I think he should stick with piano. He wants his hair to grow out; I think he looks so handsome with it short. Everything he wants to do, I can give him a million reasons why I don’t think it’s a good idea. 


Sometimes I feel as though he’s disagreeing with me just to be ornery. But in that store, waiting in line, reading those Mother’s Day cards, I realized he wants to be himself and not something or someone I think is best. He’s just trying to break out from underneath the constraints and expectations I’m already putting on him—constraints that for me weren’t broken until my mom died. 


I wish my mom were still around so I could ask her if this is what it felt like when you had a child that was, in so many ways, so different than you, but in so many other ways, so similar. 


I wish I could ask her if she was frightened to allow me to find my own way, make my own mistakes and possibly fail, so that I could become the person I was supposed to—the very same process I’m now going through with my own son. 


I wish I could ask her if she would’ve done anything differently. 


Standing in that line, reading those cards, I realized I really missed my mom. 

If she were living today, this year I would make her a Mother’s Day card and write the following inside: Thank you for being the best mom you knew how to be and for doing the very best job you knew how to do. 


And maybe, that card would finally be the perfect card for both of us. 


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief ofShareWIK.com.


For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


 

Other articles by Diana Keough:  The top 5 sites to check out if your child has autism;  Losing My Lisa;  Seasonal Allergies: Southern Discomfort;  7 Tips to Beat Depression After Divorce;  Are Kids Addicted to Web Porn?;  Web Master: There’s Nothing Parents Can Do To Stop Internet Porn;  Female Facial Hair: Not By The Hair of Our Chinny-Chin Chins;  Pushing My Third Son Out of the Nest Using Some Of My Best Wisdom;  Four Sons Later, I've Learned Nothing;  Arrhythmia: Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)The Encouragement Box;  The Meaning of Nostalgia: Trying to Find My Way Home Again;  New Site, New Name, New Vibe

 

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Jun 05
At the end of March, I was asked to speak at the TEDx event put on by Creative Coast and taking place in Savannah, Georgia.  The theme of this year's event was "Inspiring Innovation."  

We were given some guidelines, like "no selling from stage," "don't toot your own horn," and encouragement to challenge our audience and make them think.  

Immediately, I knew I would talk about the power of personal story--that story that lives inside each of us that we try to hide or somehow reveal every time we interact with someone.   

The video below tells the backstory of what gave birth to the idea of ShareWIK.com.  

I would love to hear your comments.  And please share if you feel someone else would benefit from watching this.  




Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.



For more Diana Keough articles, click here.


 

Other articles by Diana Keough:  The top 5 sites to check out if your child has autism;  Losing My Lisa;  Seasonal Allergies: Southern Discomfort;  7 Tips to Beat Depression After Divorce;  Are Kids Addicted to Web Porn?;  Web Master: There’s Nothing Parents Can Do To Stop Internet Porn;  Female Facial Hair: Not By The Hair of Our Chinny-Chin Chins;  Pushing My Third Son Out of the Nest Using Some Of My Best Wisdom;  Four Sons Later, I've Learned Nothing;  Arrhythmia: Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)The Encouragement Box;  The Meaning of Nostalgia: Trying to Find My Way Home Again;  New Site, New Name, New Vibe

 

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2011

Jul 31

In the past few months, I’ve reconnected on Facebook and LinkedIn with a lot of classmates and a few old boyfriends from high school and college. One friend has the distinction of having introduced me to my future husband in high school; another friend sat next to me in our college freshman English class. Many of these people used to be very important to me; their opinions once mattered. Many I haven’t seen or talked to in more than 25 years. 

 

The first old boyfriend I reconnected with on Facebook was Dave.  He and I had dated on and off for several years. His family owned a gentleman’s farm on the east side of town and we spent hours paddling around his pond in a rowboat or driving a vintage red fire truck around the property. He taught me how to fish, dress preppy and drink vodka tonics with lime. I loved his family and remember thinking at one of their family events, “I am happy here.”  Dave, though Robert Redford-handsome, was extremely shy and I did most of the talking, trying to draw him out and keep the conversation flowing. Our relationship was innocent—he was more of a friend than a boyfriend, though I think he may have wanted more.  Our relationship made me realize that when I did eventually marry, my husband’s family—and his relationship with his parents—would be an important part of who he was.  And though I loved Dave's family, it was not his family I would ultimately live with, look at over a newspaper every morning and yes, try to talk to.  

 

The last time I saw Dave, I told him I had starting dating my current husband.  I also remember he wasn’t happy about it.  But 30 years later, he had a different recollection about that last conversation. 

 

“I had just met (my wife) and I’m sure I wished you well,” he wrote. 

 

I also reconnected with Mike, a man I had a huge crush on my first year in college. Mike’s eyes were deep pools of black ink, lined with long, thick lashes that I often stared at, wondering how they didn’t get caught in his eyelids.  With Mike, I argued the theological differences between eternal security and losing your salvation, Calvinism andArminianism, and why I loved C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham. He was one of the first to challenge me to defend my faith.  He’d listen intently, head cocked, but was rarely dissuaded from his point of view. Mike was driven, serious and made me feel smart and witty.  But I also felt that I couldn’t be myself around Mike, and that he was somewhat out of reach, as if there was a wall behind those dark lashes that I would never be able to break through.

 

Twenty-eight years after our last conversation, Mike told me about his wife and daughter; I filled him in on my husband, boys and journalism career.  We reminisced about our philosophy discussions (he is still dogmatic) and I mentioned, offhandedly, that I remembered being miserable my first year in college. 

 

“I don’t remember you being that way at all,” he said.  “You seemed content and very happy, in fact.”

 

And then there’s Marc.  He and I have known each other since we were 10-year-olds on the local swim team.  He knew me when I barely filled out the one-piece team swimsuit and when, in high school, I sported a Dorothy Hamill haircut and dorky green corduroy pants with a matching plaid shirt.  I knew him when he was a gawky, late-blooming adolescent, as opposed to the powerful, well-respected businessman he is now.  We are familiar with each other’s high school crushes and embarrassments.  He knows exactly what I feel when I mention the name of our swim coach—no explanation needed. 

 

Marc reminded me of the many times we ate nothing but french fries and slushies all day and played 4-Square and Hide ‘n Seek for hours, going home only when it was time to eat dinner.  I told him that back then, I had felt alone on the playground when everybody else seemed so effortlessly popular. 

 

He scoffed and said, “I remember that you seemed to have a barnyard full of friends.”

 

I started wondering why everyone remembered me differently than I remember myself.  Maybe it’s because I only remembered the disappointments, the humiliations, the occasions my mother embarrassed me in front of my friends, again and again. I felt as though I limped from one event to another, mustering enthusiasm while drowning myself in sports and activities; hiding what was really going on at home behind achievements and accolades. 

 

Throughout my life, classmates and the men I dated knew little of my tumultuous home life.  To them, I was a leggy brunette with short hair who played a lot of tennis and had strict, religious parents who rarely let me wear pants, even to ice skate or bowl. 

 

By reconnecting and sharing memories, I have been forced to recall the blessings.  And those blessings remind me that I've led an extraordinary life despite the disappointments, or maybe partly, because of them. 

         

My life demonstrates the power a woman has to overcome her past; to go beyond her mother’s predictions that she wouldn’t amount to much, to recover from mean girls saying they hated you and others who held my head under water too long at the Racquet Club pool.

 

As it turns out, each of my old friends, every recollection they share, and every memory I reveal, is a major part of the woman, mother and wife I am now. 

 

And for that, I will be forever grateful. 


Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.


More Diana Keough articles, here. 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Aug 14

My oldest son, Sean, came home for a visit last weekend.  He doesn’t get home much anymore, having moved to New York City six months ago to begin his first ”real” job with an accounting firm.  In fact, last weekend was his first trip home since Christmas.  

 

I suppose that’s the problem with children: they grow up. And leave home.  And live their own lives.    

 

And I suppose that’s the problem with being a mother of sons:  You miss them, feel displaced when they move out of your house and into their own place.  And as soon as you shut the door of their new apartment, you know—I mean, you really know -- you are no longer a major part of the week-by-week, day-by-day and often, the moment-by-moment of their lives.   

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be. 

 

After my first son was born, my oldest sister called to congratulate me, and then said this:  “The trouble with having boys is that every significant benchmark in their life is just another good-bye.” 

 

I thought about her words as a hairline crack made its way across my heart when I walked Sean into kindergarten, his first full day away from me, ever.

 

“Have a great day, bud,” I said as he ran in, giving me a brief wave, never even turning around.  To this day, he doesn’t know that I sat in my car and cried for 30 minutes. 

 

I recalled my sister’s words again when I dropped my second son at sleep away camp, helped my third son pack for a mission trip and watched my fourth son walk across the stage at his 5th grade graduation.  

 

It seems that more than usual, the past nine months have been filled with significant benchmarks in all of my sons’ lives.  Not only did my oldest graduate from college and move to NYC, but my second son, 20, is studying in Europe; my third son, 16, got his driver’s license and my youngest, 14, came downstairs one morning and was suddenly taller than I am.   And just like my youngest’s jump in height, all of these benchmarks seemingly happened overnight. 

 

As much as I want them to explore the world, learn to drive and yes, grow taller than me, I would be lying if I didn’t confess that a tiny part of me really misses snuggling with them every night or hearing them say, like my son, Tom did when he was 3, “I want to marry you when I grow up.”   

 

But I also know, in order to maintain a relationship with my sons as they leave home, I have to let them go and be hands-off—no demands on their time, no expectations of their visits home, no messages left on their cell phones that hint, even slightly, that I still need them. 

 

Recently, when I was having lunch with my friend, Kris, her phone kept ringing and she kept ignoring it. 

 

“Do you need to get that?” I finally asked.

 

“Nah, it’s just the girls,” she said, referring to her two oldest daughters and sounding somewhat exasperated. “They call All. The. Time.”  As we continued our lunch, I realized Kris wasn’t exaggerating. 

 

Her two oldest daughters are grown and living on their own. But more often than not, her daughters’ numbers pop up in Kris’ caller ID five or six times a day – just the girls wanting to discuss the minutia of their day with their mother. 

 

I can’t even imagine.  And more importantly, I'm not sure I want to. 

 

Whenever I meet a man whose siblings are all brothers, I ask, “Do you still love your mother?”  They always chuckle and answer, “Of course.”  And their wives always corroborate their stories of maternal love. 

 

When I ask, “How often do you call her?” most admit, “Not often enough.”   

 

I’m quickly on my way to becoming that mother whose boys call every so often to just “check in.”   I get it; I even understand it.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time; it’s even mentioned in the Bible and at most marriage ceremonies: A husband will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. 

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

My boys will never know how often I look at the pictures of the four of them scattered around my house and long to have them back in my nest, bickering, laughing and asking me what’s for dinner.  The ghosts of their childhoods continuously haunt me, teasing a smile from my lips at every memory.  It is my little secret. 

 

It’s not as though I want to go back or even have them living in my basement forever. It’s just that the quickness with which they move from wanting to kiss you constantly and tell you everything to not even calling can give a mom whiplash. And just as nothing prepares you for being a mother in the first place, nothing prepares you for saying good-bye in tiny, spread-over-time, painful increments.

 

So, when my sons do call, I regale them with tales of the robust life I am enjoying with their father, my circle of friends and the challenges of running a small business.  I am happy, busy and content, learning new things, traveling and as far as they know, not missing them much at all.  

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.  

 

@ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Aug 28

I am the proud owner of a new dog named Rudy.  I didn’t need Rudy.  Nor did I really want him.    

 

But at the time, I was moving my oldest son out of our home and into his own apartment in New York City, helping my second son pack for a semester in Italy, congratulating my third son on passing his driver’s test and realizing that I suddenly had to look up to my fourth son, who was too tall (not to mention, way too cool) to snuggle with anymore.  

 

It was either get a puppy or throw myself at my children’s feet, begging them not to grow up and leave me.  And since I am too old to throw myself at anything (or anyone) without hurting myself, I went the puppy route. 

 

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  One of my sisters, who is eight years older than I, always says perimenopausal women past childbearing age need to stay away from puppies and kittens. Of course, since she is my older sister, I ignored her.  I thought I could handle my drying uterus and my kids leaving.  But as Rudy is my witness, I was wrong.  Obviously.  

 

And now, as he devotedly follows me from room to room wagging his tail and looking up at me like I am the best thing that ever happened to him, my fluctuating hormones and I are left to wonder, “What-now?”    

 

Recently, I was asked to put together a resume—an exercise I haven’t done in at least 10 years.

 

Since I was eight, I wanted to grow up and be a journalist.  I studied journalism in school and did all the appropriate internships. My goal was to work for a major newspaper and I told everyone who would listen I didn’t want to marry until I was 30; didn't want to have kids until I was at least 35.  I wanted to work.

 

But love—and then life—derailed those dreams as I walked down the aisle at 22, followed closely by one baby after another.   

 

On paper, my work life skips around as my husband and I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to Cleveland to Australia and back to Cleveland again.  Oh, I was able to carve out a fairly impressive variety of writing and editing gigs between moving boxes, bad nannies, diaper changes, day care situations that didn’t work out, naps and carpools.  I was able to freelance for major newspapers, national magazines, National Public Radio (NPR), online news organizations and even dabbled in TV.  I can proudly look back and say I was a working journalist, winning major national awards and racking up skill sets I wouldn’t have been able to achieve if I had worked for just one news organization.  And though all of this is accurate, it isn’t the entire story of the uphill battle I waged almost daily to pursue it. 

 

For most of my boys’ lives, I have routinely gotten up at 3:30 am to get a couple hours of work in before getting them up and off to school.  I’d pack in a full days work while they were at school and then work some more after I tucked them in at night.

 

When they were all in school full-time, I jumped at the opportunity to parlay years of freelance experience into a fulltime job.  (On my second day of work, my youngest, home from sick from school, slept under my desk in the newsroom all day.)     

 

A couple of years later, we moved yet again.  I cobbled together all of my freelance experience and my full-time work to create the media company I currently run, and that is (finally) taking off.  Once again, I am up at 3:30 am, mindful not to schedule travel when my sons have a cross-country meet or tennis match.  

 

Having been married 27 years and spending the last 24 years raising children, I'm well aware that being a wife and mother require one compromise after another.  I have spent decades eating all-cheese pizza instead of what I really wanted: mushrooms and black olives. 

 

Now, I really want to have my pizza with mushrooms and black olives.    

 

My friend, Ronnie, recently wrote a blog about her lack of dreams—or more accurately, the fact that her life as a mother and wife revolves around making others’ dreams a reality.  Her daughter’s dream to go to law school, her husband’s dream of a mountain house, her other daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor.

 

When I told her I was going to use her blog as a launching pad for my next column, she told me she thinks people believe most women have created their own path; that they are who they have made themselves to be.  But she says her life was never that way; that she has rarely had the opportunity to express herself or fulfill her dreams; instead, she has put her life and her desires on the backburner. 

 

Like Ronnie, I have often been my husband’s and my sons’ dream maker.  But I hope my best is still to come.  Why?  Because I am still that little girl staying up way past my bedtime, huddled with a flashlight filling reams of paper with words because if I didn’t get them out, I was sure I would explode.    

 

I know I am luckier than many working moms.  I have been able to both work and witness nearly all the moments of my kids’ wonder.  I also know my turn is coming--still a few years out until my youngest heads to college, but I must confess envisioning the day when I am able to work without worrying about what to make for dinner keeps me folding their laundry and picking up dirty socks with a smile on my face.    

 

In the meantime, I will continue to do what I need to do--what I love to do--as a working mom: rescheduling meetings because of sick kids, juggling my work day so I am available to bring enchiladas to Spanish class; finding a way to be at every single swim meet.   

 

My boys just walked in from school and called to Rudy, who was sound asleep under my desk, his head on my feet.  Rudy looked up at me, as though asking permission to greet them.

 

“Go on, boy!” I say, and like a shot, he’s out the door of my office. 

 

And I am alone.   


And I am okay with that.


At least until dinner time.  

 

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Sep 25

I remember as a young mother reading Virginia Woolf’s words that noted for a woman to write, she needed a room of her own and freedom from interruption and thinking to myself, “I could really use that.”  So I set up a room of my own—an office to work and write—and warned my sons that they could only disturb me if the house was on fire or they were bleeding. 

 

But as the years went by and my sons grew along with my career, a room of my own was no longer enough.  Because as long as my husband or my kids were in the house, my instinct as a wife and mother to please and be available to others made me switch from anticipating inspiration to wanting to meet everyone’s needs.     

 

Lately, I must confess, I’ve been feeling a bit lost, tired and sort of disconnected from others—something I know happens whenever I’m feeling disconnected from myself and my “inner core.”   What I needed was time away by myself to recharge my batteries, to hear myself think and get back to the core of my inner stillness.  No kids.  No husband.  No distractions.  No noise (especially no football games).

 

Last weekend, I got my wish.  I rented a cabin an hour north of home, and packed nothing but comfortable clothes, a bag of books and my journals. 

 

When I first walked into the cabin, I felt relieved to be alone and excited about the prospect of spending an entire weekend by myself, with no plans and no expectations to be somewhere or please someone.  But I also felt restless, wondering what I should do first?   I had to kill the impulse to be productive, to accomplish a “goal” and work down a “to do” list.    My first desire was to read a book without distraction—no checking emails or text messages; no getting up to thaw meat for dinner; no wondering if the dogs needed water or if I needed to switch the white clothes from the washer to the dryer. 

 

It might not seem as if fulfilling the desire to read would be a big deal, but growing up, my worth was often measured in productivity.   Saturdays were filled with chore lists and most activities—no matter how mundane—had clear goals.  Daydreaming was often met with, “Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING!”  So just watching a fly circle my soda can, a bee land on a black-eyed Susan or a hummingbird discover the feeder for the first time felt like stolen moments, done in secret.   As a child, I remember watching a rabbit makes its way from the shelter of the pines in our back yard to the garden and feeling something I now know as “joy,” bubble up from my belly to my heart, making it swell.  Funny what you remember, when you give yourself some time.    

 

In my solitary cabin, after I filled my ice bucket and unpacked, I forced myself to sit on the couch and close my eyes; I willed myself to breathe in and out, giving myself permission to just…be.  I pulled a book out of my bag, grabbed my journal and a pen and headed to the front porch swing. 

 

I couldn’t stop smiling. 

 

I always thought my desire to be spend time alone was unique to me; that other women were completely happy shuttling children to and fro, making brownies for birthday party celebrations at school and making sure their husbands were happy and that dinner was on the table each night.  I thought other women were content to be mom, wife, chauffeur, nurse, cook, teacher and house manager and satisfied to walk out of their house every morning, their calendars synched, without a hair out of place. 

 

I have always envied that. 

 

But the more I shared with friends about where and how I was going to spend my weekend alone, and how, the more I realized that most women are trying to find that inner stillness and a balance that doesn’t involve giving ourselves away piece by piece to our families, the PTA and the high school football concessions.   

 

Like most women, I always take on much more than I should because I have this incredible desire to be everything to everyone.  I want to be a great mom to my kids, a great wife to my husband, a great colleague and a great volunteer.  But all that greatness requires a constant giving out of myself until sooner rather than later, I have nothing left to give.    

 

And like so many women, I run on empty.    

 

My friend, Elaine said that her new motto is:  You can do everything, but you can't do it all at the same time!  As a coach, she said she spends a lot of time with women doing the opposite of what you'd expect a coach to do—not getting them to do more but instead, helping them find a way to do what they want out to do out of passion, not obligation. 

 

In her book, Gift From The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote:

 

            Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life—when one is alone.  Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.  The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the saint, to pray.  But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.  She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still.”

 

Over the course of the weekend, I spent time in prayer, read five books, filled an entire journal with thoughts and excerpts from some of the books I read and outlines for new columns (this one included).  In the stillness, I heard God’s voice and felt long-needed comfort.  The books fed my soul; the writing, unleashed my imagination and let creativity seep in once again.  I left my room only twice in 72 hours.      

 

As I packed up, it began to rain.  Into my bag, I tucked the pen that came with the room—the pen I used all weekend to journal.  That pen now sits here on my desk, forever reminding me that I need to be alone for part of each year—a few days, a week, if possible; and without a doubt, a few minutes each day so that I can be still, keep in touch with my core.    

 

Because if I don’t, I will have nothing left to give to my family, my friends or most importantly, myself.   

 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer prize nominated journalist and the mother of four sons.  She is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Oct 24

Lately, I feel as though I've been surrounded by bad news:  the sputtering economy; people I love continue to struggle with mental illness and addiction; a number of close friends’ children in dire situations, as well as other friends wrestling with personal and financial crises.  Add to that my own business deadlines, too much work and too little time, plus all the low points that come with being an entrepreneur, and well, let’s just say that some days it feels as if the weight of the world is sitting on my chest making it hard to breathe. 

 

But instead of feeling paralyzed or letting myself go into a funk, I sit here watching a very cute YouTube video a friend posted on Facebook that features a 6-year-old girl opening up a backpack to find she’s been given a trip to Disney World.  

 

I don't feel a single pang of guilt.  Instead, I am appreciating every smile and laugh the video elicits in me.  


Distraction?  Perhaps.  But right at this moment it’s either find something to laugh about or let myself sink into an abyss of sadness. 

 

I suppose this is my way of putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses. 


There was a time when I felt enjoying something as frivolous as a funny video when surrounded by so much suffering was a crime and that the only moral thing for me to do was to dutifully jump with both feet into the funk of those around me.   

 

No longer.   That was a pretty high price to pray for "friendship."

  

Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home, I heard the word “repentance” a lot.  But in that setting, it was always linked to “sin” and of course, in my mind, always had a negative connotation.  What repentance means, though, is “a change of thinking.”  In other words, change your thinking and change your behavior. The same could be said of attitude: Change your thinking and change your attitude.   

 

It takes enormous energy and great discipline to crawl out of a funk.  And sometimes I think that it would be much easier to let myself give in and unravel instead of putting one foot in front of the other, especially when I really don’t feel like it.  But I also know that once I start climbing out from under the blanket of darkness, each day, each moment gets a little easier.  

 

My friend, Tony, is incredibly upbeat nearly all the time.  When I asked him how he maintains such a positive disposition, he said that every day he deliberately does three things:  First, he finds something that makes him belly laugh; second, something that makes him cry—not just sad, but touching; and thirdly, he seeks to learn one thing he didn’t know previously. 

 

While eating dinner with his family, he makes a point of sharing all three things.   And then he asks his family to tell him about the worst part of their day.  After he listens to their answers, he asks, “What was the best part of your day?” 

 

He puts the questions in that order, “Because you always want to end the conversation on a good note,” he said.     

 

That kind of attitude tends to sustain someone through good times and bad.  My oldest sister’s 94-year-old father-in-law is an example.  He has always been an optimist and an absolute pleasure to be around.  But now, his health is failing rapidly and his mind has disappeared into dementia.  Still, whenever my sister asks him how he’s doing, he replies, “I’m doing great.  Is there any other way?” 

 

My friend Sara is allergic to just about everything—a number of foods and almost all preservatives and additives in foods.  She has to carry an Epi Pen at all times and struggles with migraines.  But in spite of how hard it is for her to eat out without getting sick, whenever I ask her how everything’s going, she responds, “It’s all good.” 

 

Her allergies, she says, have taught her a lot--how to cook wholesome food and to listen to her body.  She focuses on things she can eat and enjoy rather than what she can’t eat. She lives a very full, rich life. 

 

Her enthusiasm is infectious.    

 

Multiple studies have found that life tends to be easier for those whose outlook on life is sunny.  Are optimists just kidding themselves?  I don’t think so, especially because I believe that all of life is a classroom and everything that happens to you or someone you love is intended to be a lesson for your soul or theirs.  And if that’s the case, our circumstances tend to thrust us either into a position of learning or teaching.  If we’re not doing one or the other, then we’re just banging our heads against the wall until we “get” the lesson we’re supposed to learn.    

 

In the Bible, God instructs: “In everything give thanks.”  Certainly not an easy thing to do.  

 

So, yes, I work at giving thanks for the economy.  Thanks for the hardships of my siblings.  Thanks for the pain so many of my friends continue to walk through.  Thanks for my own low points and even the times I do unravel. Thanks because of my belief that it is all about the learning and the teaching for our souls.

 

If this is what life is all about, then nothing we experience is a mistake — not the sadness, the disappointments, the loss or even the funks.  

 

Instead, it’s all good. 

 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist and the mother of four sons.  She is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Nov 20
In my family, Thanksgiving is not only a time for reflection but also a time for forgiveness.  

It hasn’t always been that way.  

Before my mom died, she made my five siblings and me promise we’d get together for Thanksgiving after she was gone. 
 
“Promise me,” she asked. “Promise me that no matter what, you’ll always get together for Thanksgiving.”    In turn, we all promised to do what she asked.  Our vow seemed to settle her down and bring her peace.  How strange that of all the things she wanted was to know that we’d continue the tradition of getting together as a family, without her. 
 
Maybe she was recalling what had happened after her mother died, how viciously she and her siblings fought over the estate, how nasty they talked to one another.  My siblings and I grew up hearing them fight while hiding in the next room, pledging to one another that we’d never be like them.
 
When mom took her last breath, years had gone by without hearing the voice of several of her brothers and she couldn’t remember what they had fought about.  It was something, I know, she regretted.
 
“Promise me,” my mom asked again. 
 
When she died, my siblings and I behaved just like she hoped we wouldn’t, dividing her things with increasing tension, saying harsh words on the way out of the door.  At the time, it seemed ok—we lived in separate states, existing among friends, units unto ourselves, not acknowledging what was missing or left behind.        
 
When that first Thanksgiving after my mom’s death rolled around, one of my brothers offered his home and one by one, the rest of us reluctantly said we’d be there. 
 
After all, we had made a promise.  
 
“I really don’t want to do this!  It’s such a long drive, the kids are so little,” I told my husband, already making excuses.  “What a drag to travel so far just to have dinner with a bunch of people I don’t want to see anyway.” 
 
“You promised,” he reminded me.    
 
That year, the hugs at the door were forced and the small talk, nerve wracking.   The football games were a welcome distraction since it meant we really didn’t have to talk to one another.
 
That year, my little sister and I had a huge blowout that ended in slammed doors.  We both swore we’d never talk again. 
 
And we didn’t.  For a whole year.  Until Thanksgiving.  I had made a promise to be there and so had she. 
 
Once again, forced “Hello’s,” along with obligatory hugs and lots of small talk.   “Great haircut.  Have you lost weight?  How’s the job?”  I wasn’t too interested in the answers, but at least we weren’t fighting.   
 
As we stood in my kitchen preparing dinner, all of us chopping onions, dicing celery and peeling potatoes, the conversation grew less stilted as we settled into the scraping rhythm of the vegetable peeler.  My little sister and I began reminiscing about playing “Barbies” under the ping-pong table, Trick or Treating as Raggedy Ann and Andy, of her seeking safety in my bed during a thunderstorm.  We laughed about listening to Supertramp in the basement and about the mirror on top of the stairs where she had watched me get ready for the prom.   
 
“I wanted to be like you, you know,” she told me. 
 
As the pile of potato peels grew I couldn’t help but notice how alike our hands were—our fingernails, the veins on top and even the way we grasped the peeler.  When I looked up to tell her this, she was already asking, “Can you believe how similar our hands are?” 
 
“No, I can’t,” I answered, both of us smiling.  It was all the 
“I’m sorry,” either of us could muster, but enough for us to be more thankful for one another than not.  It helped to be reminded we have a lot more in common than not.  
 
Last month, while lunching with a friend, I complained to her about the latest drama going on in the lives of some of my siblings. This friend, who is twice divorced, has no children, no siblings and recently lost her mother and father looked right at me and said,  “At least you have a family.”   
 
As my siblings and their families sit around the table this year, keeping the promise we made to my mom almost two decades ago, we are mindful of missing both my father, mother and of the fact that we almost lost our oldest brother in January of this year.  All six of us are getting older and who knows how many more Thanksgivings we have to spend together. 
 
We still fight and I’m embarrassed to admit that some of us still let weeks and sometimes, months go by without speaking.  But when Thanksgiving rolls around, one of us offers our home and the rest of us show up.  Disagreements get worked out, the differences in our personalities disappear, walls come down and oftentimes, before the potatoes are mashed and the table is set, all is forgiven.  When we ask, “How are you?” we’re actually interested in hearing the answer and good-bye hugs made at the door bring tears.
 
When the long holiday weekend is over, I know another year will go by until I see some of them again.  And more than likely, throughout the year we’re apart, there will be disagreements between us.  But when Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll get in our cars, hug at the door, make dinner together and stay up way too late catching up and giggling. 
 
And once again, I’ll be reminded that these people, with whom I share memories, eye color, voice inflection and expressions, have more in common with me than not.
 
And for that, I am thankful.
  
Diana Keough is a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   
Read more Diana Keough articles, here
 
©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

Dec 19

It wasn’t your usual family gathering.  My mom had summoned all six of her children home at Christmas so she could go from room to room, assigning each of us her possessions. 

 

She was dying of a terminal illness, already a year into her death march.  One down, three to go, it turned out. 

 

“I think this will look nice in your front hall,” she said to one of my older brothers, her hand resting on a chest of drawers.  And so it went, on and on.  A macabre ritual demanded by our well-organized matriarch, able to square off against Death in the realm of the mundane, but unable to face the broken and stressed out relationships looking right back at her.

 

“And I don’t want any fighting about any of this after I’m gone,” she said. 

 

This was my mom at her finest: in control of both her possessions and our fragile feelings.  We were her obedient children once more, as well as contestants in her game show of random kindness. 

 

I didn’t want her stuff, but then again, I did.  For that was the yardstick of her love: she gave to her favorites, her favorite things. I was a little girl, again, and I hated her for making me feel that way.  All I wanted was to hear her tell me how much she loved me.  But a family heirloom covered in dust, broken and tucked into the back of her closet would have to suffice.  It was the only love she knew how to give me. 

 

When all of her earthly possessions were dispensed, she told us there was one more thing.

 

“I want you all to know,” she began slowly. “That when I feel the end of my life is near, and while I’m still able, I’m going to take my own life.”

 

She sat looking at us, with her hands folded tightly and placed demurely off to the side of her lap.  Her spine was rigid and straight against the back of the chair; her chin was raised high, her legs crossed at the ankles.  She had orchestrated this moment and I could tell it was playing out exactly as planned.  She had declared her intentions, trying to extend a hand of control upon a disease already so out of control.  And now, she sat there, quietly, triumphantly, almost daring us to stop her or even object.  And then she went on, saying something about how much our family’s been through and wanting to spare herself from a death without dignity.  She said something else about it being her right.  I tried to protest, but you didn’t change my mom’s mind once it was made up.  No, she just bulldozed her way through yours.

 

After I returned to my own home in another state, I tried to go back to my daily routine but found myself startled every time the phone rang, anticipating the news that my mom was dead.  But as the weeks tumbled into months, it was my mom calling, telling me only that she was taking another trip, going back to school, planting her vegetable garden, repotting her geraniums, lunching with friends or simply calling to say “hi.”

 

“Just checking in,” she’d say whenever I’d answer, launching into all the happenings of her day, including another doctor’s visit, where she learned a new pain was caused by her advancing disease.  During many of these phone calls, she’d be somber and reflective, as she talked about her burgeoning personal faith, her hopefulness in seeing my children again, or how good the sun felt on her skin, that she said, “felt so cold all the time now.”

 

She seemed to be experiencing life with a new richness—thrilled with the simple and content in her acceptance of the inevitable.  As her horizons narrowed to only the view outside her bedroom window, there was no complaining for the opportunities lost, only thankfulness for the gift of another sunrise, and the sound of my voice.  The physical pain she had feared so much, was controlled with medication and never came close to the emotional agony she twisted in prior to her terminal diagnosis.

 

“Life is such a precious gift from God,” she told me.  “Don’t waste your life or any of the time that God gives to you.  Promise me that, okay?” 

 

We battled for so long, both of us feeling completely justified, and so full of pride and self-righteousness.  The deadline of her death launched her on a soul trip and in taking me along, we were able to call a truce, leaving me to mourn what could have been, not the torment of what was.

 

In the hospice, as she lay gasping for breath, holding my hand, looking right into my eyes, she said, “This is the sickest I’ve been isn’t it?” 

 

I held her hand and thanked her for being the best mom she knew how to be.  I thanked her for so many long talks and hugs and for not killing herself. 

 

She smiled and squeezed my hand back with all her might as she struggled to say, “I would’ve missed out on so much.”

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer- Prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and CEO, co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

Jan 02

As many women know, being a wife, mother and well, a woman, means you often must lead a life of compromise.  

This column I wrote in August seemed to resonate with many women who, like me, had to make--and continue to make--a choice between pursuing their dreams or helping their husband's and children pursue theirs.  It continues to remain in the top 10 most read blogs, along with the one I wrote that said, among other things, that every benchmark in a son's life is just another good-bye.  

Most of the women who wrote to me after this was published said they did what they did without regret.  One woman said that she feels she turned 50, then 60 and now looks back on her life with nothing to show for it.  

I don't feel that way.  At.  All.  As my boys continue to leave home to pursue the dreams their father and I have equipped them to follow, I, too, have no regrets.      

--Diana 


My Dreams Took A Back Burner To Sons' Dreams.  Will It Ever Be My Turn?  


I am the proud owner of a new dog named Rudy.  I didn’t need Rudy.  Nor did I really want him.    

 

But at the time, I was moving my oldest son out of our home and into his own apartment in New York City, helping my second son pack for a semester in Italy, congratulating my third son on passing his driver’s test and realizing that I suddenly had to look up to my fourth son, who was too tall (not to mention, way too cool) to snuggle with me anymore.  

 

It was either get a puppy or throw myself at my children’s feet, begging them not to grow up and leave me.  And since I am too old to throw myself at anything (or anyone) without hurting myself, I went the puppy route. 

 

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  One of my sisters, who is eight years older than I, always says perimenopausal women past childbearing age need to stay away from puppies and kittens. Of course, since she is my older sister, I ignored her.  I thought I could handle my drying uterus and my kids leaving.  But as Rudy is my witness, I was wrong.  Obviously.  

 

And now, as he devotedly follows me from room to room wagging his tail and looking up at me like I am the best thing that ever happened to him, my fluctuating hormones and I are left to wonder, “What-now?”    

 

Recently, I was asked to put together a resume—an exercise I haven’t done in at least 10 years.

 

Since I was eight, I wanted to grow up and be a journalist.  I studied journalism in school and did all the appropriate internships. My goal was to work for a major newspaper and I told everyone who would listen I didn’t want to marry until I was 30; didn't want to have kids until I was at least 35.  I wanted to work.

 

But love—and then life—derailed those dreams as I walked down the aisle at 22, followed closely by one baby after another.   

 

On paper, my work life skips around as my husband and I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to Cleveland to Australia and back to Cleveland again.  Oh, I was able to carve out a fairly impressive variety of writing and editing gigs between moving boxes, bad nannies, diaper changes, day care situations that didn’t work out, naps and carpools.  I was able to freelance for major newspapers, national magazines, National Public Radio (NPR), online news organizations and even dabbled in TV.  I can proudly look back and say I was a working journalist, winning major national awards and racking up skill sets I wouldn’t have been able to achieve if I had worked for just one news organization.  And though all of this is accurate, it isn’t the entire story of the uphill battle I waged almost daily to pursue it. 

 

For most of my boys’ lives, I have routinely gotten up at 3:30 am to get a couple hours of work in before getting them up and off to school.  I’d pack in a full days work while they were at school and then work some more after I tucked them in at night.

 

When they were all in school full-time, I jumped at the opportunity to parlay years of freelance experience into a fulltime job.  (On my second day of work, my youngest, home from sick from school, slept under my desk in the newsroom all day.)     

 

A couple of years later, we moved yet again.  I cobbled together all of my freelance experience and my full-time work to create the media company I currently run, and that is (finally) taking off.  Once again, I am up at 3:30 am, mindful not to schedule travel when my sons have a cross-country meet or tennis match.  

 

Having been married 27 years and spending the last 24 years raising children, I'm well aware that being a wife and mother require one compromise after another.  I have spent decades eating all-cheese pizza instead of what I really wanted: mushrooms and black olives. 

 

Now, I really want to have my pizza with mushrooms and black olives.    

 

My friend, Ronnie, recently wrote a blog about her lack of dreams—or more accurately, the fact that her life as a mother and wife revolves around making others’ dreams a reality.  Her daughter’s dream to go to law school, her husband’s dream of a mountain house, her other daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor.

 

When I told her I was going to use her blog as a launching pad for my next column, she told me she thinks people believe most women have created their own path; that they are who they have made themselves to be.  But she says her life was never that way; that she has rarely had the opportunity to express herself or fulfill her dreams; instead, she has put her life and her desires on the backburner. 

 

Like Ronnie, I have often been my husband’s and my sons’ dream maker.  But I hope my best is still to come.  Why?  Because I am still that little girl staying up way past my bedtime, huddled with a flashlight filling reams of paper with words because if I didn’t get them out, I was sure I would explode.    

 

I know I am luckier than many working moms.  I have been able to both work and witness nearly all the moments of my kids’ wonder.  I also know my turn is coming--still a few years out until my youngest heads to college, but I must confess envisioning the day when I am able to work without worrying about what to make for dinner keeps me folding their laundry and picking up dirty socks with a smile on my face.    

 

In the meantime, I will continue to do what I need to do--what I love to do--as a working mom: rescheduling meetings because of sick kids, juggling my work day so I am available to bring enchiladas to Spanish class; finding a way to be at every single swim meet.   

 

My boys just walked in from school and called to Rudy, who was sound asleep under my desk, his head on my feet.  Rudy looked up at me, as though asking permission to greet them.

 

“Go on, boy!” I say, and like a shot, he’s out the door of my office. 

 

And I am alone.   


And I am okay with that.


At least until dinner time.  

 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 19

Last week, during the process of doing a “hard reset” on my cell phone, I was asked to answer the following security question by the customer service rep:  What’s my favorite food?  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what I had given as my answer when I had first registered this phone.

 

“Try steak,” I told him.       

 

That wasn’t it. 

 

“Meat?”  Nope.  “Dark chocolate?  Nope.  Neither was Italian food, red wine or mushrooms.  I couldn’t narrow it down because frankly, I don’t really have one favorite.    

 

Take breakfast.  Some mornings I crave Rice Chex.  Other mornings, I just have to have scrambled eggs.  Sometimes I’m not hungry.    

 

I felt like I stepped right into that scene from “Runaway Bride,” when Richard Gere is pointing out to Julia Roberts’ character that her choice of “favorite” eggs in the morning changed to match whatever her fiancé du jour preferred.  And because her preference was swayed so easily by others, Gere said, she couldn’t possible know who she really was.     

 

Now, I’m as much of a sucker for chick flicks as the next girl, but I have a problem with that scene because changing your mind from eggs Benedict to over-easy is superficial and just a preference.   Most of us want a little variety.  And preferences are bound to change over time and have little, if anything, to do with knowing who you are.   

 

Knowing who you are has to do with your value system, those principles on which you won’t compromise:  honesty, integrity, character and love. 

 

This whole concept of “knowing who I was” was something I thought a lot about while I watched both parents die, four years apart, in the early 90s.  My parents were well known in our community for their work in church, politics and in multiple charitable organizations.  My mom, a beautiful socialite; my dad a partner in a prestigious law firm.  Together, they traveled the world.  And though they looked good, no one knew what very different people they were inside of our home.

 

My mom had a mean streak and explosive temper that sometimes erupted in beatings.  She was extremely critical and many of her comments bordered on cruel.   Most mornings, we didn’t know what mood of hers would greet us. 

 

My dad, who was married to my mother for 40 years and fathered six children, lived a double life for 27 years, hanging out in gay bars and keeping boyfriends in apartments.  Ultimately, he infected himself and my mother with AIDS.  

 

They both blamed the other for their misery.

 

The sicker my parents became, the less able they were to do what they were known for in our community.  Near the end of their lives, they were physically unrecognizable. They couldn’t walk, could barely speak and were completely exposed and vulnerable.  Gone was their ability to pretend that what they owned, what they did, where they traveled, how they looked or even, what they preferred to eat for breakfast, defined who they were.     

 

And as I sat beside them both on their death beds, all I could think was:  what a waste of a life.  To live a life so filled with lies, leaving behind so much pain and heartache.  A few of my siblings wanted nothing to do with my dad; a few couldn’t bear to be with either one of them as they died.  And as my parents each drew their last breaths, the reality of the havoc they had wrought played out in fractured relationships left behind and ensuing years I, and my siblings, spent piecing together our emotional brokenness.    

 

In the hospice where my mom spent her last days, I talked to other people whose dying parent lay in a nearby room.  It surprised me how many confided what lousy fathers their dads were; or how distant; or how he left their mother for a younger woman, breaking up their family.  Like me, they knew a different man (or woman) than the world outside knew.  Often family members could hardly stand to be in the same room with the person dying—they’d visit once, and I’d never see them again.  It was heartbreaking to watch so many of the people ultimately die alone. 

 

I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t want to have to go through the process of dying to be stripped bare and find out who I was and what really mattered.  I wanted to stop pretending, right then and there, that I was something I wasn’t based merely on whims and petty preferences.  I wanted to make decisions based on how I’d feel five years later. I wanted to live authentically, letting go of ego and demanding to have my own needs met, choosing instead to live instead based on doing what was right. 

 

Am I a writer?  Yes.  Am I a mother of four sons?  Yes.  Do I like to cook, work out, read and hang out with my family?  Yes.  But when all is said and done, what kind of human being do I truly want to be?     

 

Whether we realize it or not, most of us live our lives based on an “unseen observer,” that person we want to impress, please and hear say, “I’m proud of you.”  For some it’s God; for others it’s our father, boss, neighbor, spouse or our children.  

 

With my parents gone, who was I going to live for, try to impress and please?  What kind of person was I going to be when no one is watching?  What was that going to be based on?   

 

In a workshop at a women’s retreat I attended shortly after my mom died, I was handed a ball of clay and instructed to make a sculpture that portrayed who I thought I was in God’s eyes.  After sitting there stumped for a very long time, I began to mold my clay into a pitcher, making the opening and its spout just about the same size.  I am no artist, but what I was trying to convey is that I wanted to open myself up as far as possible to allow God to pour Himself into me which would allow me to be filled up so full that I could pour myself into and serve others. 

 

The other day, my friend Henna told me about meeting a woman at an ashram whose eyes emanated so much love that it made her weep.  Henna, who left behind a six-figure corporate salary to coach women in business, said ever since that experience, she’s wanted to be the kind of person whose eyes made others feel loved and accepted.  She wanted to live a life of meaning, to make an impact on others’ lives. 

 

I do, too.   

 

Deciding who I am and what type of person I want to be is something that occurs every moment of every day with every decision I make.  Am I going to lie or tell the truth?  Am I going to lose my temper or hold my tongue?  Am I going to be kind or rude? Am I going to cheat on taxes or not?  What kind of person am I when no one is looking?  Am I going to live a life of secrets or with nothing to hide? 

 

As I watched my mom gasp for air in her last moments of life, I knew I really wanted to be the same person inside my house, interacting with my children and husband, as I was with work colleagues, my friends and people in the community. 

 

I am embarrassed to admit how often I fail at this.  But as singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan says, “When I fail, I get up and turn back toward the goal as though my life depended on it.”

 

Indeed.  My life—my authentic life—depends on it. 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer- Prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and CEO, co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC   

Feb 02

I swear they heard us coming, those grocery store employees, and felt helpless to protect themselves against the onslaught of “hungry-family-of-six-passing-through-on-way-home-from-church.”  We had trouble written all over us, and we didn’t disappoint.


I just wanted to pick up a few things for lunch, really.  A little of this, a little of that.  A quick stop, I promised my four boys.  They respond with the cacophony of loud, whiny protestations that echo in the grocery store’s foyer, making us the center of attention before we’re officially in the store.


After wrestling my 2-year old into the grocery cart seat, I’m so thankful for the belt that will keep him in one place, legally.  I have to beat the other three boys off the cart while they climb all over each other jockeying for the “chosen boys to sit in cart” position, yanking on each other’s shirts.  One of them must’ve missed Tommy’s shirt and grabbed his pants instead, ‘cause there he is, his little white bum exposed to the entire produce section.  For a split second, there’s blessedly rare silence, as we all realize Tommy's standing there mooning the cantaloupe.


“You made me naked,” Tommy yells, cranking back his arm and planting a fist firmly in the gut of one of his older brothers, who responds in kind.  We’ve made our usual grand entrance, and I still haven’t put a single thing in my cart.  In fact, I’m beginning to forget what I needed besides a vacation.


“Twinkle, twinkle little star,” my littlest one sings as loud as he can, breaking the rhythm only to scream out the name of things he recognizes on the store’s shelves as they whiz by him.  I know we have exactly 30 seconds before recognition turn to temper tantrum, so I start giving out, “Please go get” assignments to the older guys, two of whom are trying to take swipes at each other, while the other one informs me about all the things he just can’t live without.


“What was that all about?’” my husband asks, peeking around a corner, arms loaded with stuff I’m pretty sure we don’t need.


“It’s over, hon. You can pretend you’re with us again,” I suggest, but instead he dumps the junk and goes in search of more, leaving me alone with my little crooner. 


A sweet, kind-looking older woman notices my cherubic-faced singing angel and says, “Oh, isn’t he darling?”  To which he responds with a rippingly loud Austin Powers-accented, “Yeaaaaaaaaah babeeeeeeeey!”  The color drains from her face, as she backs away with a shocked and horrified expression.  I’m not sure if she’s going to throw up or what, but I’m fairly certain she’s listening to my blubbering vows that I would never, ever, in a million years, let my two-year-old watch a movie like that.


“In fact, I’ve never seen that movie either, really, I swear.  Ya gotta believe me, please,” I cry to her retreating back, praying she won’t report me to the authorities.


“Jesus wuvs me dis I know,” he begins to warble.


“Oh, nice try,” I tell him, trying to find room in the cart to place the first item actually on my list.  But the thing is heaped so high with enough calorie-loaded, sugar-packed, neon-colored and artificially sweetened stuff to make even the Easter Bunny sick and I still don’t know what we’re going to have for lunch.


When I meet up with everyone at the checkout, the two middle boys are still swinging at each other.  Only now, they’re arguing about which of the superheroes wear blue tights, while my husband tries to balance yet another bag of chips on top of the hundred boxes of dry cereal.


“All boys, huh?” the woman in front of me ask, holding the hands of her two wide-eyed, apprehensive little girls who are mesmerized by the constant motion of my tussling little bear cubs.  I was about to tell her how blessed I feel to have all these boys when my “little blessings” start threatening to depants Tommy again.  Amid Tommy’s shrieks and pleas for mercy, all I can do is croak back, “Yeah, all boys.”


Two hundred dollars later we’re outta there as the door closes behind us and the employees, as well as the remaining customers, heave a collective sigh of relief, I’m certain.


“Any ideas for lunch?” my husband asks on the way to the car.


“Yeah.  How ‘bout some chips and dry cereal?” 


Diana Keough is a Pulitzer- Prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and CEO,Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com. 
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

Mar 12

Lately, I feel as though I've been surrounded by bad news:  the sputtering economy; people I love continue to struggle with mental illness and addiction; a number of close friends’ children in dire situations, as well as other friends wrestling with personal and financial crises.  Add to that my own business deadlines, too much work and too little time, plus all the low points that come with being an entrepreneur, and well, let’s just say that some days it feels as if the weight of the world is sitting on my chest making it hard to breathe. 

 

But instead of feeling paralyzed or letting myself go into a funk, I sit here watching a very cute YouTube video a friend posted on Facebook that features a 6-year-old girl opening up a backpack to find she’s been given a trip to Disney World.  

 

I don't feel a single pang of guilt.  Instead, I am appreciating every smile and laugh the video elicits in me.  


Distraction?  Perhaps.  But right at this moment it’s either find something to laugh about or let myself sink into an abyss of sadness. 

 

I suppose this is my way of putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses. 


There was a time when I felt enjoying something as frivolous as a funny video when surrounded by so much suffering was a crime and that the only moral thing for me to do was to dutifully jump with both feet into the funk of those around me.   

 

No longer.   That was a pretty high price to pray for "friendship."

  

Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home, I heard the word “repentance” a lot.  But in that setting, it was always linked to “sin” and of course, in my mind, always had a negative connotation.  What repentance means, though, is “a change of thinking.”  In other words, change your thinking and change your behavior. The same could be said of attitude: Change your thinking and change your attitude.   

 

It takes enormous energy and great discipline to crawl out of a funk.  And sometimes I think that it would be much easier to let myself give in and unravel instead of putting one foot in front of the other, especially when I really don’t feel like it.  But I also know that once I start climbing out from under the blanket of darkness, each day, each moment gets a little easier.  

 

My friend, Tony, is incredibly upbeat nearly all the time.  When I asked him how he maintains such a positive disposition, he said that every day he deliberately does three things:  First, he finds something that makes him belly laugh; second, something that makes him cry—not just sad, but touching; and thirdly, he seeks to learn one thing he didn’t know previously. 

 

While eating dinner with his family, he makes a point of sharing all three things.   And then he asks his family to tell him about the worst part of their day.  After he listens to their answers, he asks, “What was the best part of your day?” 

 

He puts the questions in that order, “Because you always want to end the conversation on a good note,” he said.     

 

That kind of attitude tends to sustain someone through good times and bad.  My oldest sister’s 94-year-old father-in-law is an example.  He has always been an optimist and an absolute pleasure to be around.  But now, his health is failing rapidly and his mind has disappeared into dementia.  Still, whenever my sister asks him how he’s doing, he replies, “I’m doing great.  Is there any other way?” 

 

My friend Sara is allergic to just about everything—a number of foods and almost all preservatives and additives in foods.  She has to carry an Epi Pen at all times and struggles with migraines.  But in spite of how hard it is for her to eat out without getting sick, whenever I ask her how everything’s going, she responds, “It’s all good.” 

 

Her allergies, she says, have taught her a lot--how to cook wholesome food and to listen to her body.  She focuses on things she can eat and enjoy rather than what she can’t eat. She lives a very full, rich life. 

 

Her enthusiasm is infectious.    

 

Multiple studies have found that life tends to be easier for those whose outlook on life is sunny.  Are optimists just kidding themselves?  I don’t think so, especially because I believe that all of life is a classroom and everything that happens to you or someone you love is intended to be a lesson for your soul or theirs.  And if that’s the case, our circumstances tend to thrust us either into a position of learning or teaching.  If we’re not doing one or the other, then we’re just banging our heads against the wall until we “get” the lesson we’re supposed to learn.    

 

In the Bible, God instructs: “In everything give thanks.”  Certainly not an easy thing to do.  

 

So, yes, I work at giving thanks for the economy.  Thanks for the hardships of my siblings.  Thanks for the pain so many of my friends continue to walk through.  Thanks for my own low points and even the times I do unravel. Thanks because of my belief that it is all about the learning and the teaching for our souls.

 

If this is what life is all about, then nothing we experience is a mistake — not the sadness, the disappointments, the loss or even the funks.  

 

Instead, it’s all good. 

 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist and the mother of four sons.  She is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jun 26

I knew I had hit middle age when, during a meeting, a male business owner never troubled himself to move his body or his computer so he could see, much less make eye contact with me.  And because he didn't move, I sat craned at an awkward 90-degree angle for over 40 minutes, desperately trying to make eye contact.   


I thought his behavior was a tad strange, but when I relayed the entire scene to my oldest sister, she said, matter-of-factly, “Welcome to Menopause.”  


I guess that's how it begins.  First, men ignore you in one-on-one meetings; then they ignore you altogether.  You’re persona non grata to women even five years your junior in the same room.  Age discrimination begins to creep in with expressions like, “Ma’am” and, “You look good for your age,” and the next thing you know, you’re experiencing something you adamantly refused to believe existed before it started happening to you.     


I recently saw a picture of Isabella Rossellini that identified her not only an older woman but as a woman who was turning 60.  She was wearing a man’s suit and tie and her face looked as if it was sans makeup.  Her mouth was framed by deep parentheses, her eyes surrounded by fine lines and under them, dark bags.   She stared into the camera defiantly, as if daring someone to say something about her age, her lack of make up or her wrinkles.   


I think she looked beautiful. 


As someone who recently celebrated my 50th birthday, I’ve been struggling to get my head around my age and the best way to approach this whole aging process.  In the city where I live, it’s not uncommon for lunch conversations with girlfriends to eventually fall into comparisons of fillers versus Botox, microdermabrasion versus skin peels, while exchanging numbers for dermatologists and plastic surgeons.  

   

There’s gotta be a better way.   


If I'm honest, I have to admit I’ve been fretting about aging for the past 30 years.  And now, when I look in the mirror, I can see that I’m getting older.  My eyes are encircled by fine lines; my mouth, by deeply rutted laugh lines.  These are the upper arms and the thighs of a fifty-year old.  My profile no longer boasts a distinct neckline and my waistline is thickening no matter how much I exercise.  The likelihood of me wearing a size 2 again is, well, unlikely.  


But I also see that my eyes have mellowed and the person looking back at me is calmer and kinder, especially to myself.  This body has carried me through a lot of good times and blessed me with the privilege of giving birth to four healthy sons.  It’s never been perfect but it’s been a pretty darn good package.  

 

Being older has allowed me to make my home my own.  It is no longer a reflection of what my parents gave me or what was brought into my marriage.  It doesn’t boast the latest designer fabrics or trendy colors.  My home is decorated in my favorite colors and every wall and shelf holds things that evoke significant memories and meaning.  


As I round the half-century mark, so many things seem to be taking a different priority.  I no longer want to waste time on things that don’t matter.  A stack of magazines and reality TV can be mind-altering and numbing.  But the older I get, the more I realize that whatever I was using to distract and keep the pain at bay also robbed me of feeling the good, the bad and the disappointing--flecks and nuggets of wisdom living this long can give you.   


I long for simplicity and the ability to sit still and experience the lush, sensuous feeling of the lawn under my feet, the birds at my feeders, watching the sun rise in the morning.  How many simple moments did I take for granted when I was younger, thinking there’d always be more?  All four boys laughing together around the dinner table, a letter from my grandmother, singing along to Glen Campbell and Frank Sinatra with my dad, a hug from my mom.   


Over the years I have returned again and again to familiar beaches instead of exploring new, exotic locales, figuring I’d get there eventually.  I now know that’s not the case.  In fact, now when I travel to a foreign country, I am keenly aware that it is more than likely my last visit there.  I don’t have enough years left to see all the places I haven’t seen yet.   


And that’s ok.  Venturing forth has less allure than feathering my nest and looking inward, to know what’s going on inside my head and heart, rather than searching for something else. Sitting quietly when I was younger would’ve seemed like wasted time but now it is a necessary reestablishment of grounding, essential to my living intentionally.  Frenetic activity for the sake of being busy is a waste of my time. And I don’t have enough time left to waste any of it.  

    

It’s taken me years to get here and really, I’m not quite there everyday.  But whenever I waver or find myself slipping back into frenetic activity I ask myself this question:  How do I want to spend the rest of my life?  


I want to spend the rest of my life with people I love, doing things that I love to do.  Turning away from the culture and turning more to what rings true is a wonderful benefit of old age—a fact I wouldn’t have known in my 30s or even my 40s.  


And I think that more than compensates for the double chin and the sagging skin. 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist and the mother of four sons.  She is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.  For the record, she is not menopausal… yet.  Follow her on Twitter @Dikeough.

For more Diana Keough articles, click here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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