Author Archives: Suzanne Kosmerl

About Suzanne Kosmerl

I have two boys and a husband. I love J.D. Salinger, Godzilla, punk and '70s soft rock. Deal with it.

I said no…to lemon

I was inspired to blog this story because my amazing niece shared a post on Facebook where a woman compared her dog not eating the steak in front of it to men keeping their shit together and behaving. Meaning some dogs are better behaved than many men. Her caption was, “Teach your boys better people.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have two boys. I’m sick to my stomach every damn day when another celebrity or well-known person is outed for being a pig. Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming. I mean, I’m glad these brave women are speaking out and I’m proud of them. But the sheer volume lately is sickening. It’s like when you turn over a rock and tons of those little worms go wriggling for cover. There are far too many worms right now.

The up side, if there is one, is that it makes me super vigilant with my kids and how they are learning to treat women and be respectful.

My six-year-old LOVES to “make” you a water with lemon. I don’t know, don’t ask. Anyway. I’m not a fan of lemon in my water. So the other day, I asked him to put water on the table for dinner. He asked if I wanted lemon. I said no. He gave me water with lemon. When I reminded him that I said no to the lemon, he smirked and said, “I heard yes.”

Poor thing. Let’s just say he got the message that that is not acceptable. (Don’t @ me, I didn’t spank, yell or threaten to beat him.)

I know he was not being malicious. He’s six. He just likes to stick a lemon on the side of a glass. It makes him happy for some reason. But his happiness does not trump me saying no. That’s a really serious lesson that he needs to learn now.

What do you say? Let’s raise a generation where we don’t have to worry about all those worms under the rocks. It starts now.

On regret

My life has been kind of a shitshow lately. I don’t really talk about it publically. Besides, it’s small potatoes compared to the actual trauma some people around the world deal with. So whatevs.

But I got a sympathy card in the mail today from our vet, Clairmont Animal Hospital. It contained handwritten notes from Dr. Smith, our vet tech Joyce and a few of the other staff expressing their sadness for the loss of our beloved nut job, Roxy. It was so thoughtful.

That was the proverbial straw. I always fall apart when people show kindness—to me or anyone—and this did me in.

Roxy started acting strange around two months ago. Normally an insane bundle of jumping, barking, tail-wagging happiness, she was more sedate. She didn’t get excited about going for a run, and when we did run together, she lagged behind. I wrote it off to the heat.

Then she started limping off and on, and yelping if she moved the wrong way. She had torn her left ACL last year, so we thought she had now torn the right. “Crazy dog,” we said, and started doing the math in our heads, lamenting the cost of another surgery.

But it got worse–fast. I took her to the vet and they couldn’t find anything wrong. Long awful story short: two weeks, three different vets, many pain pills, X-rays and an MRI later, we found out she had bone cancer. We asked how much time she had. “None,” they said. Our hearts broken, we released her from her pain. She was four years old.

That was almost two weeks ago, and saying I miss her is a massive understatement. I keep thinking about all the signs that she didn’t feel well that I wrote off, or was too busy to think about at the moment. That tears me up. She had to be in a tremendous amount of pain. And the grace and strength she showed that last month just flattens me.

The very worst thing, though, is I remember so clearly the last time Roxy tried to get me to play. Her modus operandi was she’d find a sock, or hat, or something she wasn’t supposed to have. She’d come to me with a sparkle in her eye and a wag in her tail, showing it to me, taunting me to chase her. And around the house we’d go, me mock yelling, “Gimme that sock!” Her pretending to let me get it just before taking off again. It was her favorite game.  That day, I know she hadn’t been feeling well, and somehow she pulled herself together enough to bring me a sock and entice me to chase her. I was working, though, and brushed her off, saying, “Later, Rox.”

There wasn’t a later. She never asked me to play again. And I didn’t even realize it until she was gone. You can’t imagine how that hurts.

How often do we say “later” or “not now” or “I’ll do it tomorrow?” There is no tomorrow. Don’t buy into that “there’s always tomorrow” bullshit. Because there isn’t.

The next time someone you love asks you to grab coffee, read a book, go for a walk, look at their picture, talk, chase them around the house, or whatever, do it. Do it. Nothing is more important. Nothing. Because there is no guarantee that there will be a later.

On rejection

So, I wrote a story. I thought it was a really good, clever story. My writing group thought it was a really good, clever story. I was very proud of myself, because I hadn’t written (OK, finished) a short story in a long time.

I submitted it.

I did the research and picked a publication that I thought would be perfect. It fit the genre. It was the right length. It seemed to match the other things they published. So I held my breath and clicked Submit.

They turned it down. Swiftly. And, since I asked for feedback, they kind of tore it apart. My sweet little story, that I thought was so clever.

It stung. A lot.

I went through the stages of rejection. Shock. Anger. Denial. Wine. Anger again. Acceptance.

Then I looked at the story again, and realized maybe–just maybe–they were right. A little. I shared the feedback with a creative friend whose opinion I value. He kind of agreed with them. So I went back to work–editing, rewriting, rethinking–to make the story better. And I went back with a vengeance, because darn it, this clever little story is going to get published.

Sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Take the hit, feel sorry for yourself for a minute. Then get up and get back to work.

Photo by Georg Nietsch on Unsplash

I miss my baby boy.

My son is 12. I check his web search history and read his texts. He knows I do. I want to make sure he’s on the right path, so for now, I’m all up in his business. (We’ll save the privacy debate for another time. )

Recently, I was looking at his search history  and found something that broke my heart. (To protect his privacy, I’m not saying what it was.) Oh, man. It was like a punch in the gut. It still hurts my heart just to think about it. Why did it hit me so hard? Not because it was something shocking or bad. Because it made me realize how much I miss my son.

There was a time he and I were inseparable. We did everything together. We talked about everything. He never hesitated to ask me questions, about anything. It was me and him. We were buddies. Then, things changed. Mostly for the better, sure, but still… I got a promotion and had less time. His little brother came along. Puberty came along. Girls came along.

Now he’s this pre-teen boy with secrets who won’t be seen with his mother. Who won’t hug or kiss his mother (God no!). Who won’t talk to his mother. I don’t know how to reach him. And I miss him. I miss him somethin’ awful, as my Gram used to say.

Here’s a boy who for years started every morning by curling up in my lap for a few minutes. Every. Morning. I tell you, there is no better way to start the day. Now, I’m lucky if I get a “good morning” grunt.

And every day would end with us snuggled in his bed, with books and bears and talk of what we did that day, and what we’d do tomorrow. Now, I get a quick “good night” and when I go in for a kiss I’m met with a turned cheek and an eye roll.

And now he’s a young man who Googles things instead of asking his mother.

I know it’s normal. (I hope?) Boys grow into men and to do that they must change, and pull away from their mommies and start to figure things out on their own. But when I see that my boy, my baby, is looking for answers to something, and that looking doesn’t include me, I want to go full on momma bear.

I’m not gonna lie. I worry. I worry that it’s not normal and this divide between us is something I did. Or some pain he’s harboring. Or something that went wrong. (WHY DIDN’T HE ASK ME?!) I worry about him a lot.

So, what do I do? How do I get this man-child with the thin mustache and croaky voice to open up to me? Is that even possible? And how to I deal with the guilt I have for my part in this? Was there something I could have done to prevent this chasm? Should I have been more engaged?

It’s not all bad. We still have “our time.” I do my best to make time for him alone. We have movie dates, which are my favorite. And we do talk. But mostly about lacrosse and Nirvana and which Avenger would kick which Avenger’s butt and how the Beatles influenced most music we hear today. But not about how to talk to girls. Or navigating middle school society. Or the thing he Googled.

I miss my baby boy.

 

 How Many Socks Can I Pick Up?

Bob Bobson: Welcome ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for America’s favorite game show: How Many Socks Can I Pick Up?!

(applause)

Please say hello to our returning champion: Suzanne Kosmerl! Suzanne hails from a little town just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, is married, has two boys, and is defending her How Many Socks Can I Pick Up title of an amazing 45 socks in one swoop. Suzanne, what’s your secret?

Suzanne: Well, Bob, having two boys and a husband, I have to pick up a lot of socks! And, we have a crazy dog who likes to steal socks and hide them in strange places, so I’m used to the odd numbers. Let’s just say I get lots of practice!

(laughter)

Bob: Well, Suzanne, it sounds like you are a picking-up-socks pro! Let’s see if you can hold on to that title. We’ll meet your next challenger, after a brief word from our sponsor, Maytag.

(applause)
(cut to commercial)

Regret

The rosy bloom
turned its face to me
like the sun
Reaching
Soft petals caressing
as I hurried past

Days turned cold
pink faded to white
petals wilted
Brown
gently dropping
Rushing, I didn’t notice

As the flower died
I recalled the rosy hue
The petal’s soft embrace

Too late.

Subject Line Poetry

I like to make poetry using email subject lines. Here’s a few:

so I don’t forget
I got a bad feeling
part of the reason
sounds like something you would do

lucky in love
Give me a break
Something to consider
Another one bites the dust


Virus Warning
One more time!
NOW EVERYONE SAY IT WITH ME
not a virus, it’s a hoax
mystery solved


i am the walrus
tonight
Lunch and Learn Next Week!

It’s Flannery O’Connor’s Birthday.
this pm
Can you believe?

This could have been us


travel expenses
pay day part two
engagement record

double-billed

To prove we really did this…


These poems originally published in 2003.

What the hell, World?

Has it always been this crazy?

The presidential election. (Sigh. This election.) Terrorists. Mass murder. Hate. Racism. Every other ism. Allowing ourselves to be pitched against one another. It’s madness.

My motherly instincts want me to hide my kids away, shield them from the absolute insanity going on in our world today.

But. They have to live in this world. And hopefully make it better when it’s their turn. So don’t they need to know it. All of it? Even the bad stuff?

It’s enough to drive a mom mad.

And yes, I do think it’s always been this crazy. We just didn’t know it. We didn’t always have social media, where we can literally watch things unfold in real time.

We didn’t have the news in our Facebook feed showing us every missing child, every murder, every abuse case from every small town in America. (Seriously, how do I turn that off?)

We didn’t have live tweeting from the scene. Giving us a perspective we’ve never had before. (And if you’re like me, you find out about things happening from Twitter.)

In the old days, if you skipped the 11 o’clock news and didn’t read the newspaper you were blissfully ignorant. (As long as you could dodge Gladys from down the street.)

Now, it’s everywhere. It’s difficult to ignore because social media and all things online are ingrained into our every day lives. It’s hard to escape, even if you wanted to.

I do love social media. I must, I do it for a living. I love keeping up with family and friends far away. I love seeing their pictures, hearing their stories. I love getting to know people from all over the world in a way that I could not have before.

But with the good comes the bad.

I also get to see the world as it is. Warts and all. And I get drawn in. Refreshing that feed too often. Checking the phone one too many times. And you know what? It makes me unhappy. (At least sometimes. I still love a good puppy pic.)

All the more reason to unplug regularly. (Or go off the grid altogether if that’s your thing.) I want to set a good example for my kids. I do think that, within reason, they should know what’s going on in the world. But they also need to learn moderation. And that constant exposure to social media and the insanity that comes with it is not healthy.

Earlier today as I sat in front of my screen working, my younger son waited patiently for me to read to him. I’ll tell you what, watching him giggle over a baby firefly being called a pupa was the most awesome thing that happened to me today. I’m glad he reminded me to unplug.

The best thing we can do is put our devices down and spend quality time with our kids. Raise them to be good human beings. As Whitney says, they are our future. Maybe if we raise them right this world will have a chance. I know I’m going to try harder.

People can be mean

I called a little boy at the playground “nasty.”

It was not my finest parenting moment. In fact, it was a missed teaching moment. But he made my son cry and I lost it.

If you knew my youngest son you might understand. At five, he’s the sweetest, most friendly, outgoing, easy-going kid.

He just wants to play. He’s never mean. (Unless it’s to his older brother, but he usually deserves it.) In fact, when has encountered mean kids he’d get a confused look, like he just didn’t get it. And why should he?

He’s the kid who runs on the playground to join a group of kids he doesn’t know without reservation. (And being his shy, introverted mom, I’m always awed and thrilled by this.) He’s also the one who, when he sees a kid playing by himself, will invite him to join whatever he’s doing. He says hello to everyone he passes and never turns down a chance at a conversation, with kids or adults.

So, we were at the playground alone and he was doing his thing. A group of kids around his age showed up. He immediately tried to play with them. He ran over and tried to engage. It was pretty obvious from my view that they blew him off. But he’s easy going, so he went back to his thing. A little later, he tried again. No success.  But again, he just went back to playing alone. No biggie.

Then, they all descended on the play equipment that he was on. He was sitting at the top of the little slide, and a girl was trying to climb up it. He wouldn’t move. (He can also be pretty stubborn.) She started yelling for her mom, and eventually he moved aside so she could pass. A minute later, he’s standing there, head hanging down not saying a word, and this blond boy a good two inches shorter than him obviously just laying into him. I couldn’t hear what was being said, so I inched closer.

“You aren’t my friend!”

“You can’t play with us!”

“We are all friends, and you’re not!”

I asked what was going on. The boy said my son tried to hit him. “No,” I said, “I saw him and he didn’t.”

“He was going to hit my sister.”  “No, I said again, “I saw the whole thing, and he wasn’t.”

“Well, he was mean to me.”

At this point, I looked at my son. He looked pitiful. Big fat tears slid down his cheeks. Snot ran out of his nose and puddled on his upper lip.

This is where I went wrong.

Instead of walking away, or finding the mom (who was in a gaggle of ladies not paying any attention), or saying something more adult-like, I turned into a petulant child. I said, “Well, you are not nice. He was just trying to play with you and you were mean to him. You are a nasty little boy.”

The boy tried to argue back, and I again said, “You are not being nice.”

And then, I took my boy by the hand and we walked away.

I told him that sometimes people just aren’t nice and we shouldn’t let it ruin our fun time. Even though he was crying and asked to leave—and my heart was breaking—I took him on the swings and eventually got him to smile again. But his heart wasn’t in it, so we left soon after.

I forced myself to be pleasant all the way home and talk about how fun the playground was, and what we’ll do the next time we go, because I didn’t want him to focus on the negative. But my blood was boiling and, worse, I knew I blew it.

So, yeah, it was not my finest moment. And an opportunity to teach my son to be the bigger person was lost. But, damn, when I saw those tears and that wounded face…I just couldn’t.

Look up and smell the roses

We recently took the boys on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Universal Studios. I feel truly blessed to be able to do this for our kids. When I think about the memories we are making, and how they will look back fondly on these fun times, it makes me so happy.

But there was one aspect of the trip that just made me sad: So many people staring at their phones.

Granted, when you go to a major theme park on a holiday weekend there is lots of waiting. It can be tedious and frustrating. My patience was tried a few times, the boys got bored, and a few times we had to remind ourselves to just breathe and enjoy it.

But the number of people staring down at screens really struck me.  It was just sad.

During a 45 minute wait to get into Hogwarts, a group of young girls in front of us spent the entire time each engrossed in their own screen. Occasionally, one of them would show something to another, they’d laugh, and go back to their own phone. There was no conversation. No excited chatter about the upcoming ride, no talk about boys, or school or what they had done the previous day. (Unless, of course, they were texting each other.) I was astonished, and even my son mentioned it.

In another line, there was a very young girl with her mom. Her mom was on Facebook pretty much the entire wait. The girl had her own phone, but she tried to talk to her mom a couple times without success. So she kept opening and closing apps, not really doing anything on the phone, but staring at it nonetheless. I think that made me saddest. She seemed to be either mimicking what she was seeing around her and wanting to fit in, or she was resigned to the fact that her mom wasn’t engaging and was just bored. What a wasted opportunity!

(And no, I wasn’t being nosy. When you are stuck in close proximity to someone it’s very easy to see with a glance what they are looking at on their phone.)

Those are just two examples of what I saw over and over again.

We really are having a zombie apocalypse, but instead of some mystery virus, it’s our smartphones that have turned our brains to mush. Did I mention how many times we ran into or had to walk around someone because they were doing the zombie shuffle, or stopped in the middle of the path to look at their phone? Maddening.

I’m not perfect. I wasn’t always 100% engaged with the kids. Yes, I pulled out my phone to text my husband who had the younger one on the other side of the park. Or to take a quick picture and post it to Facebook. And frankly, there were times during our waits that I wanted to sleep. (Sleeping in the same hotel bed with a four-year-old? That’s for another post.) Or I didn’t really feel like engaging because I was thinking about how much my back hurt from all the standing, or I was people-watching.

But most of the time, we enjoyed each other’s company. We talked. My older son and I made up our own versions of the rides we were about to get on. We talked about why he can’t see Deadpool.  (And he didn’t cry this time. Whew.) We dreamt up our own movies or stories. We laughed.

I would not have traded that time for any app in the world.

What are we doing, people? These are the memory-makers. These are the times we should be laughing and talking and sharing (IRL not social media sharing).  When else do we have time to just hang out with our kids without having to rush here and there? And we’re spending it on our phones?

It just makes me sad.