The Doctor is IN

Keen Observations on Life … Whether You Need Them or Not


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Sometimes, growing up sucks

The best thing about having kids while you’re young is that you get to grow up with them. Our son was born two weeks after I turned 25 and ever since, we’ve referred to ourselves as ‘the Sickles Three.’ We’re family, but more importantly we’re friends. A unit. And while we’ve been working toward preparing our son for college and adulthood and life, now that we’re there, it sure is difficult to bear.

Progress is important. Change is inevitable. And sometimes growing up sucks.

I’ve been struggling this week with Peyton heading to college. He is exactly where he is supposed to be, doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing, and I am thankful and elated and supportive … but I am so sad. While his college is only an hour away, and I know he’ll be back, dropping him off at college this morning signals a huge shift in life. Things will never be the same again, and the future is unknown … and sort of scary. There’s childhood. Then marriage. Then kids. Now … something else new.

For the past 18 years, we’ve had our little peanut at arm’s length, there to hug and talk to and just look at, anytime we wanted. So much has changed for us this summer. We lived in our house in Apex for 19 years — my Sweet Pea came home to that house — but we moved on June 1 to a beautiful house on two acres half an hour away. We’ve got a grown up house now. And we’ve got a grown up son who isn’t in grade school anymore. And by default that means that I, too, am a grown up.

And that kind of sucks. So while I usher in a thrilling new chapter in our son’s life, I must also turn the page and begin a new one. I think I’ve been so focused on mentally and emotionally preparing myself for Peyton’s college departure that I forgot it what day-to-day changes it will bring: I’ll wake up on Monday morning at a reasonable hour — not the 5:45 am I’ve done for the past six years. I’ll fix breakfast and lunch for myself. I’ll miss cross-country meets in the fall, and track season in the spring. I’ll miss harassing the shit out of him to finish his homework before midnight. I’ll miss watching his dog trot up the stairs after him for bed.

Sigh …

So here’s to all the college-bound kids and their exciting new adventures … and here’s to all the parents establishing a new normal. And here’s to growing up. May you face it with a smile on your face, your loved ones close to your heart, and adventure in your spirit.

With me in San Diego, 2016; at the beach, flying with dad in 1999; running in the NYC Summer Streets long run in 2016.

With me in San Diego, 2016; at the beach, flying with dad in 1999; running in the NYC Summer Streets long run in 2016.

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A serious note to my (and all) college-bound freshman

Hooray! You did it … you graduated from high school! After a dozen long, studious years you’re in for the next phase of life, where you’ll be living away from home, setting your own hours and fighting your own battles. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not living in a remote silo, but for the most part your decisions (and their consequences) are your own for the first time. Dad and I are so proud of you.

We’ve always been open about, well … everything. You’ve grown up in an activist, non-profit household where you volunteered for Drag Bingo, built homes, stuffed envelopes for annual fund drives for HIV funding. You’ve listened when I took every opportunity to work in discussions on safe and responsible sex, alcohol and drugs. You’ve actively participated in conversations about responsibility, accountability and self-esteem. But it’s been easy because you’ve been here with us, and have to come home to face us at night after dates with your girlfriend and adventuring with your friends. At college, you report to no one but yourself. You are a legal adult now, so any trouble you might get into counts differently. You can go to jail. You can get kicked out of college. You can damage your permanent chance of future employment. You can change the trajectory of all future relationships. Fortunately, you know I’m not all gloom and doom … and that I’m going to use any opportunity I can find to create a teachable moment. Well, here it is.

Just_Wear_ItTake sex seriously. Remember what Gran always told me about kissing: you’re kissing the person before them, and the person before them. Sex is the same way … you’re coming into contact with the person before, and the person before, and the person before … Imagine how embarrassing it’ll be to tell your wife or your partner you had gonorrhea or chlamydia or genital warts. How about HIV disease, Hepatitis C or herpes – those never go away. Sex is not dirty or scary or bad. It is a crucial, really fun and healthy element in adult relationships. Just be smart, be safe. And ALWAYS USE A CONDOM. Guys — you aren’t the only ones responsible for supplying condoms; girls — make sure you have them available, too. Do not trust a partner to tell you they’re clean, or taking birth control pills. Use a condom and keep YOUR body safe, which in turn will keep your partner’s body safe. Have respect for yourself and your partner. And for crying out loud, do not brag about intimacy. Have dignity. Oh — one last thing: just because you have gonads instead of ovaries does not mean you have to take abuse from mean girls. You have feelings, too.

When you go to parties:

  • drink water or a soft drink out of one of the red cups – you’ll look like everybody else (and your hands will have something to do) but still be in control;
  • do not accept drinks from strangers – bad, violent and violating things happen to guys, too;
  • do NOT ever get in the car with someone who has had anything (much less a lot) to drink – call a cab, call Uber, call me, or drive their car (as long as you have had zero to drink);
  • do NOT invite strangers up to your room – don’t put yourself in the position of having to confirm consent or risk your own safety or health. It’s easy to confuse friendly gestures for romantic ones – you’re cute and gallant and like catnip, and often ignore how girls react to you. Draw a substantial, obvious line; make it clear you’re strictly friendly classmates. A one-night stand is not worth it. No means no. Drunk NEVER means yes.
  • do know what kind of safety information girls are Googling — they just want to be safe, too (PS. you have strong protective urges, but it does not mean you are the only guy who can swoop in and save the day … walk away from physical altercations and call 911)
  • do NOT stick around if drugs come into play. Just leave.
  • do NOT fight the police if they show up. There are always attorneys and advocates. Go peacefully. Lie on the ground if they tell you to. Keep your hands visible. Follow directions. Most importantly: LIVE.

If you are going to try drugs:

Stay healthy and keep on running:

Develop a successful routine:

If something happens, find an adult. Call the police. Call us — it is NEVER too late to ring me up. Do not let your university silence you. We have insurance. We will forgive you. Just live to see another day.

And PS, we’re not paying for a fraternity.


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Rules of Engagement for Dating My Son

It has come to my attention, as the mother of a 15 year old son, that I need to establish rules for young women interested in dating my son. Though I’ve never been a fan of the accepted imagery that accompanies the fathers of daughters, sitting on the porch polishing weapons when boyfriends pull up to the house, I can confirm that this is a joked-about cultural norm that seems to only swing one way. At my house, guess what: if you want to date my son, then you need to get through me. And I used to be a young woman, so can the bullshit “I’m a girl so you have to do everything for me” attitude. Put on your big girl panties and pay attention. This advice will get you far in life.

My son is not a bank.
On the flip side, this is the new millennium, and as a strong, stand-up gal, you have the wherewithal to go Dutch, occasionally treat my son, share the burden of driving. My son will not be giving you his class ring or his letter jacket. He will not be giving you family heirlooms or expensive jewelry. Every date you go on doesn’t have to delve into his college fund. How about a picnic and a lovely hike? Two-for-one bowling? Movie on the lawn? Be creative, be romantic, be fun. But don’t be stingy. Do you want to pay for and buy all of the aforementioned things for him … every time? I didn’t think so. As an adult, you need to be able to stand on your own. When you marry, your house needs to be in both names; likewise with a car. As a woman, you have every opportunity to be as educated, well-versed, professionally accomplished as any man. Never forget that. Just don’t do it at the expense of someone else–no matter what genetic material they’re carrying.

My son does not deserve to be a notch on your bedpost any more than you deserve to be a notch on his.
For many years, I was the grantwriter and public affairs officer (read: General Assembly lobbyist) for an HIV/AIDS  organization. There is nothing that I cannot talk about, and there is nothing that will embarrass me if it’s important to hear and be said. With access to spectacular community health educators, I got the skinny on raising teenagers from them when the mini me went to middle school. Did you know that there’s something like 65% of all teenage pregnancies occur during 3 – 5 pm during the week? The exact percentage is lost to the vast wasteland of time, but the sentiment is the same: teenagers with no parental guidance and nothing better to do between the end of school and parents getting home from work do not need idle time to practice their coitus. And if they are practicing their coitus, at any time of the day, they need to be doing it responsibly and with accountability. I tell my son: “Don’t you bring home no babies.” I also don’t want him to bring home chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV disease, syphilis, herpes, or anything communicable. On the contrary, I don’t want him to be scarred when it comes to physical relationships with girls; sex is fun and healthy and a natural part of being alive. I just want him to wait until he’s older.

Know this witchy women: I have put the fear of God in my son … whatever things you do—or do not do–with your girlfriend are private. They are not for public consumption, or to be Tweeted, or Facebooked, or put up on Reddit or Snapchatted. If I ever hear rumors or see pictures, or hear any smearing of my son’s reputation or the smearing of his girlfriends’ (past or present), I will take names and kick ass. I’m not playing; I name names and point fingers, and will face down Satan himself if you mess with my child. Angry girlfriend parents won’t know what hit them. My former community health educators cautioned me that while boys often get the bad rap for being looser with sexual morals, it is the girls who often push the boundaries. Boys are so ingrained with caution nowadays that once a girlfriend gets on board, they let their caution dissolve. It takes two to tango, so everybody needs to make good decisions.

Just because my son has gonads instead of ovaries does not mean he cannot be hurt.
Yeah, believe it: boys have feelings, too. They have hopes and dreams and expectations, and their first girlfriends should not be manipulative bitches under the guise of “strong woman,” expecting my sentimental son to jump to do their bidding. Speak to him and say things to him that you want and expect him to say to you. He is not heartless and he is not aggressive; he has been raised to be a feminist, and believe me: he appreciates everything about what makes you a girl. I say again: I used to be a young woman. But I was raised by a single mother and learned early to stand up for myself, to know that I can earn my own keep, speak for myself, not expect a boy to fight my battles (or, to that point, fight for me at all). Compassion, empathy, trust, innocence and happiness are qualities that shine in my son, and they should be the things he finds in you. If they’re not, then you need to reevaluate yourself.

Make an effort to have a relationship with my husband and I.
If you are sneaking around out front with my son, dropping him off at the park and making him walk home, then we don’t trust you. When I drop off my son at your house, smile and say hi. When we invite you over for dinner, don’t wait until an hour after they start to have my son tell me you changed your mind. Girls will come and go, particularly during these teenage years, but my son is ours forever. We are fun people, and we love kids. We love our son’s friends, and we would love to like you. We make an effort; so should you.

Stay in touch … to this I focus on my son.
How simple is that? All you gotta do is text or call me to let me know what the plan is. If you’re supposed to be having lunch at a particular restaurant, then you better be there and coming home unless you get in touch to tell me the new plan. Sneaky travel is lying, and lying is never okay. In fact, lying at my house is the penultimate sin. Lying will get you grounded. And your technology taken away. And heavy, gut-wrenching, layered guilt.

Be nice to my son.
Bitches need not apply. I shit you not.

So are we hard to get along with? Not at all. Most people will tell you I’m actually very fun, and quite liberal and accepting. But I take no chances with my child, you know … the one with gonads. He is my gift from God. He is a vibrant, intelligent, FUN, Technicolor kid, and we hope he will be drawn to a partner who exudes the very same qualities.


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Hey @Pintester: I Rocktopussed the Socktopus!

mochaFor the past week, we’ve been keeping our friends’ dog, Mocha. Holy hell, what a whirlwind. I don’t know how people with more than one dog do it.

Mocha’s a great little dog. Chipper, well-behaved, friendly, amicable. She’s invited back anytime she’d like to come back. But despite her awesomeness, our beagle Maggie May, could just not adjust to having to share her space. She’s an only dog, you see, and used to being the princess. When Mocha went home yesterday, we launched our Happy Maggie campaign to get her out of the funk.  I’m no stranger to parenting-through-bribery. I’ve got a 15-year-old son, after all. How do you think I’ve made it eight years without unloading the dishwasher? Bribery. Suck it, ethics.

When I saw Sonja’s invitation to join the Pintester Movement, I knew I could find a quick DIY or Craft to perk up the pooch, and following in her footsteps to make a Socktopus was my path to salvation. I used bribing helping Maggie to get past her melancholy with Kristofferson Mocha’s visit as my inspiration. I even found an old pair of striped holiday socks like the original Socktopus. And as an artist, I thought my chances of duplicating the perfect Socktopus for my grumpy girl were on the up and up. Sigh … have a look for yourself.

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01As you can see, Maggie was unimpressed with my plan. “Stuff ’em back in the sock drawer,” she said.

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02I started with a perfectly good pair of Christmas socks, an old-busted pair of white athletic socks we got at the bowling alley one day when we just had flip-flops, and some great naturally dyed orange jute twine I use for wrapping packages. I buried my sewing machine in the spare closet a couple of years ago once I didn’t need to make superhero and knight costumes for our son anymore. Who needs needle and thread when you can tie knots?

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03I tied off eyeballs that I thought would be quirky and fun, but turned out to look more like Invader Zim’s crazy-ass eyes.

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04Since there’s nothing I can do with one striped Christmas sock, I used it along with the reject bowling socks to stuff Socktopus’s head.

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05See, I told you I didn’t need needle and thread. Just tie that jute twine tightly and bingo!

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06Socktopus!

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happy maggieLook at happy Maggie!

On a side note, yo … sitting with her and an afternoon nap made it all better. All is right with the world again.

Thanks Socktopus!

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wrist_bandBONUS Badassery: this super-awesome wristband.

pintester-movement-200


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Time In A Bottle

Perhaps Jim Croce said it best, with Time in a Bottle. It works with my soul mate, but it also works with our son, who fills my heart to bursting. Oh, my…what an emotional day. Time, as they say, must go on, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Our next first day of school will be high school. I’ve been battling my instinct all day to grab him and hug him and kiss him as much as I can.

My arms are killing me.

If I could save time in a bottle,
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away,
Just to spend them with you.
If I could make days last forever,
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you.


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Happy Mother’s Day!

Egads, the day has gotten away from me!

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Rah-Rah, and the important mothers in my life. I’m thankful and proud everday to be a mom, but today is extra nice because I can hug and kiss my son all day and he doesn’t complain. 🙂 If you haven’t talked to your mom yet, there’s still time before you turn into a pumpkin!


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Happy 14th Birthday to My Sweet Pea

Fourteen years ago I was drifting on a plane of blissful post-23 hour labor recovery, holding in my arms the most perfect little person I could have ever dreamed of calling my own.

What an adventure my little Sweet Pea has led us on. He’s so full of laughter and happiness, curiosity and cunning, kindness and generosity. He makes me a better, more patient person. He keeps my husband and I young, and I find that I can’t wait to visit with him in the morning before school … I never know what he’s going to say.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Peyton!


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Please ‘Like’ Me …

… or, rather, please LIKE Peggy Noodle, Hula Hoop Queen on Facebook if you get a chance.

That would be just swell!

And go ahead and mark
your calendars for the
Peggy Noodle
book launch celebration and HOOPLA!, with special guest judge
Ira David Wood III. 🙂

Saturday, February 11, 2012
Halle Cultural Arts Center
Downtown Apex
2 – 4 pm

Peggy Noodle, Hula Hoop Queen now available for pre-orders.
Just follow this link. Thanks!


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Drunk Drivers Never Learn

I am completely intolerant of drunk drivers.

Could be that since I was nearly killed by one my freshman year in college, my view is a bit skewed. In fact, the bastard longshoreman who smashed into my world at 18 not only counted my accident as his third, but he went on to get at least two more within a year’s time before I just stopped paying attention to him. But I digress …

I have been heartbroken over news this week of a local high school student killed in a drunk driving accident. Not only was she killed instantly, but her driver was a 16-year-old boy.

What the what? Where are his parents? Where did he get the alcohol? Why is his bail only set at $51,000–is that the price of a life?

The families of both of these children … yes, children … are irrevocably changed. Forever. And here I sit, 20 years later, still furious at the continued  sad state of drunk driving filling the roadways.

The News & Observer had an interesting article in this morning’s paper with the slug, “Others could be charged in Raleigh girl’s death.” Well, no shit … you think?

What if she didn’t go out with him Saturday night? What if they had just put on their seatbelts? What if his parents knew where he was and what he was doing. What if hers did?

My mother’s great-aunt always said, “if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle” … meaning that ‘if’ doesn’t really get you anywhere. But in this case, it does: what if that had been my son in the driver’s seat, or in the passenger seat? What if he hasn’t learned through example and conversation the difference between right and wrong? What if he gets in a situation where he’s scared to call home for help, or a ride home?

One thing I’ve learned for certain over the last two decades: drunk drivers never learn. But the people in their lives should. Know where your children are. Know what they’re doing and with whom. Give them a specific time to be home and know how much money they’ve got with them. Know the types of conversations they have on the phone and through social media. Ask them why they might feel the need to sneak out. Parenting is a lifelong job, so don’t give me any grief about your 18-year-old being old enough to be an adult. Parent up! Be involved. Better your children think you’re a tool than for them to be dead. Or to kill someone else.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth Molloy. And to Garrett Lane Prince I say this: now you know the price a person can pay for a bad decision; for a moment of weakness or perceived coolness. May you find some peace in prison. And may both of your families find peace in the days, months and years to come.

And may your friends never have to duplicate the horrendous bad decision you so callously followed last weekend.

“Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to  console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For  it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are  pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
– St. Francis


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Good Children’s Literature is Empowering

A decade after I let my membership in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators guild lapse, I have decided to renew it.

I was actively working on manuscripts while my 13-year-old was brand new and into his toddler years, but full-time work along with my interest in mainstream fiction and the romance genre eventually won the battle of time.

But I’ve always been a big believer that good children’s literature is empowering. The most effective stories are those that provide a snapshot of life and troubles that a child can understand, and then show how the characters come to a resolution on their own. My son is no stranger to the ins and outs of building friendships, learning how to deal with arguments, dealing with the death of family members, financial woes from his parents being laid off, and now puberty wreaking havoc with his wiring.

On Monday, which was his first day of eighth grade (he attends year-round school here in NC), we got to engage in our of our favorite activities: school supply shopping. Whoever said free public education was free is smoking crack. After a trip to Barnes & Noble for required reading and Staples for supplies, we were $150 poorer. But, it’s the required reading that gave me pause.

Three stories they’ll cover this year in Language Arts: My Brother Sam is Dead; The Giver; and The Pearl. Yawn. Really, with all of the spectacular children’s literature that’s come out in the last decade, I wonder why public schools continue to push the same required reading that I had in high school 20 years ago. In searching the required reading table for this year’s three selections, I was not surprised to see that I had read probably 90% of the titles–either in grade school, college (I’m a literature major), or on my own. Many of the books are good and do have good messages, but how about Kate DiCamillo’s The Tiger Rising, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games … or hell, how about Harry Potter? I think classic required reading titles definitely have their place, but I wish Language Arts teachers would include a newer novel from the last five years in the list. But realize this: new stuff is worthwhile, too, and focuses on age-old issues with very current situations. One of the reasons required reading should be required is to foster an interest in sitting down and actually, you know, reading. Morals and lessons are extremely important; but so is learning that books can take you anywhere, regardless of where real life has you.

More to come on my regenerated interest in children’s literature … soon.