The Day I Almost Stopped Living for a Minute: A Dramatic Reenactment


Pretend you are reading a scene from a movie script…

Zero in on a woman sitting at a desk. She is me: a goofy crooked faced, bundle of forty six year oldness with very messy hair…but you already know this from my website picture…

…which by the way was one of the ONEHUNDREDANDFORTYTWO pictures that my daughter Maria took of me for peaceof8. Only SHE would have the patience to take that many pictures, knowing full well I would only like ONE out of that many. I just don’t photograph well…

…so actually, on second thought: the woman at the desk is Sharon Stone, PLAYING me (in the MOVIE) because she is more photogenic than I am even though she is FIFTY-six and is just…well…better for the role of ME then I am …

…any how…movie scene…

But wait, so that you know, I also use this same picture of me for Facebook, Twitter, Google Mail, Yahoo Mail and LinkedIn as well, so that there is no confusion…despite my multiple personalities…which is a common occurrence when you have too many social media networks…plus, well the other 141 pictures just plain sucked…

…so Sharon Stone (we will call her Heather from here on out now that you have a clear visual) is sitting at her desk and she just looks fabulous as usual, except that she has some really sexy dark circles under her eyes because she is weary, so very weary. Her lap top is on, her iPad is on, one iPhone is dead on her desk, another iPhone is plugged in and reads in big mean letters: “can not activate, please call your provider at 1-800-blablabla to resolved this issue”, and another phone is held between her ear and her very sexy shoulder.

(I will try to stop using the word sexy, but it’s really hard when Sharon Stone is playing you in a movie, so I can’t make any promises.)

The other line sounds kinda like this:

“If you are calling to pay your bill, press 1. If you are calling for anything else, please hang on the line for seventy two minutes while we can drum up someone really difficult to make you feel stupid and cry and not help you at all. Or you can go to our friendly website where we can complicate this seemingly simple task even further.”

Heather hangs up and rubs her forehead in a really sexy way. She still looks sexy despite her frustration because she is currently still in control and hasn’t started to cry yet (which can make her look not sexy, at all.) She thinks back to the time when her company switched from Blackberry’s to iPhones and promised herself that this would NOT be another episode where she ended up (literally) on the floor in fetal position, wailing and crying and hyperventilating while her cool, new iPhone rang and beeped and vibrated, messages pouring in and she, a once smart woman suddenly turned moron, could not figure out how to answer it. Her youngest (then SIX YEARS OLD) took the phone from her sweaty hands and answered “Mom’s phone, how can I help you. Oh, hey Heather’s boss, no, she can’t answer right now. I think she is in a coma…no wait…she just moved a little. I will have her call you when she pulls her thumb out of her mouth. Wow she looks bad, she may need to call in sick tomorrow.”

Now, as a mostly intelligent person I, like many professionals my age, have rolled with most of the giganticus changes that have occurred since we started our careers and have managed to see the value of technology. I mean man oh man, the fax machine sure saved MY life. And what about the pager? I knew for SURE (on account of the 42 pages) to call the office when I reached the next available pay-phone booth, which in my territory could be a hundred miles away.

So, me being a cool, roll with the times kinda gal, I gotta tell you that nothing makes me go dumb faster (by dumb I mean completely numb, blind, with no thoughts, dead woman walking zombie dumb) than having my technology shut down on me.

Because I need it. To go on living.

Heather pauses for a moment and then goes to her company’s website on her iPad to try and find her company help line number and doesn’t find it. Thinking old school will help, she gets onto the exact same website on her laptop and there it is in glaring large numbers. Lap tops are so much more friendly than iPads.

She dials the help number on the “other” phone which is the home “cell phone”, a nice simple phone made for CALLING people and talking to them, with your voice. The help line rings and a mean robot voice answers and requests that she enter her employee ID number so that they can best serve her.

And this is where things go kinda bad…

…because suddenly, after six years of using her company ID number EVERY SINGLE DAY, Heather can not remember it or where she might have written it down…and therefore can not get help, from the help line, that is supposed to be helpful…but is not.

In Heather’s defense, it is late in the day, and her mind is full from her usual daily sales challenges along with lots of information she acquired during a two-hour social media class where she learned how to Face, Twitter, Google and be LinkedIn all on her iPhone…which stopped working at 3:45 pm that day.

Heather had been in possession of her new improved much better corporate iPhone for a week but the seven page document explaining in (not enough) detail the 427 steps needed to activate the phone and all the necessary corporate programs seemed daunting and very time consuming, so she’d avoided it until this devastating moment.

After a bunch of primal screaming and a desperate call to her boss (who now has evidence that she is a lunatic) Heather is able to enter her now very memorable employee ID number and she makes contact with a real man named Brandon.

“Oh Brandon. Thank God you’re here. I need you Brandon.”

Brandon has a calming, soft southern drawl “How can I help you Heather?”

“I just don’t know what to DO Brandon. My phone isn’t activated and I am quite certain it’s only the beginning of really bad things ahead for me here Brandon!”

“Did you call your network provider Heather?”

“Well I tried Brandon (insert breakdown sob here) but I just so very much needed a real person to help me through this.”

Okay, so you know how when you were a little kid and you fell down and were fine until you made eye contact with your mom and then the tears just started squirting out of your eyes in big giant drops without your permission? Well it was like that with me and Brandon. It is not one of my prouder moments. Thank goodness Sharon Stone is me in this scene or it would just be mortifying.

“I can make the call for you Heather. That’s what we are here for. It’s okay. These things can be frustrating. Now hold on the line for just a minute.”

Heather hiccups and in a shaky crybaby voice weakly says “okay”. She thinks to herself that he is probably calling the suicide hotline or holding up a sign to his fellow cubical dudes “Send for back up. We’ve got a crazy on line seven!” Brandon gets back on the line and Heather sees that her phone is now activated. It is a miracle. “Oh Brandon! Thank you! Ummm…do you have to go now or can you help me with the seven page instructions on what to do now that my phone is activated?”

She hears Brandon softly sigh.

But he is a professional and hangs with Heather to the end…forty five minutes of his calm soothing voice telling her exactly what to do step by step and her crazy tears turn to puffy faced joyful sobs of relief when she sees all of her contacts and emails and apps have been properly transferred to the new iPhone. She has twenty voice mails, fifty-two emails, four new tweets, some google alerts, nineteen Facebook messages, one LinkedIn message and seventeen texts.

“Oh Brandon, thank you for being here for me. I simply could not have faced this madness alone. You saved me! I can go on living now!”

She says goodbye and hangs up before things get weird(er) with Brandon (the conversation IS after all being recorded) and there is a soft tap at her office door. It’s is her littlest one (now nine) who must have been concerned about the primal screaming. He looks at her puffy, red eyes solemnly. Clearly (like Brandon) he doesn’t realize she is Sharon Stone. And sexy means nothing to nine year olds, especially when they are your maniac mother. “Oh mom, phone problems AGAIN?”





Why Do You Miss Me?


The career I have requires travel. Usually I am only gone one night a week which does not disturb the Siwinski universe a whole lot. In fact there have been a few times when I don’t think anyone noticed I was gone. Case in point, one evening I received a phone call from Dillin asking me if I could bring him a heating pad. “Well…I can tell you where it is, but I am not home right now.” There was a brief silence and then “Oh…sorry mom…I thought you were upstairs somewhere….ummm…where ARE you?”  My reply: “Well…right now it feels like I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone, but you could probably look at the family calendar and tell me where I am SUPPOSED to be.”


But recently I had to be out of town for an entire week to participate in a convention. When I wheeled my giant suitcase (in lieu of the small one) into the kitchen on Monday morning a few of the kids gasped. “Where are you going mom?” I glanced at the calendar where giant words in blue marker saying “MOM GONE ALL WEEK” had been for at least four months. “Well…remember last night when I was packing and you asked me the same question and I told you where I was going?  Today is the day that I go do that. The laundry is all done and your dad will feed you, he is best at that anyway, so you probably wont miss me too much. See you all Friday.” And with that, after touching Mitchel’s lucky bracelet, putting 26 kisses in his pocket for later, hugging everyone who needed a hug, knuckle bumping the others, and strategically placing love letters for all six kids and husband in the clean laundry baskets, my big suitcase and I left for the week.

Moms and dads who are able to stay home with their kids may gasp at my seemingly callous attitude. But as a mom who has worked inside and outside the home for as long as I’ve been a mom, I have learned, as a survival tactic, to detach myself from the painful mom/child separation anxiety that could bring me permanently to my knees if I let it.

In fact on my drive away that morning I tried to come up with reasons why my family would miss me, aside from laundry services, half-assed clothing mending, take-out food when it was my night to cook, and my giant purse that contained useful emergency items like band-aids, hand warmers, the magic eight ball (for immediate argument solving) and a flask full of Fireball (for stressed out adults in the family) well…I could not come up with a single reason for them to do so. I thought “I am a convenience who yells a lot, nothing more.” So with my “all-about-me drama queen” thinking, I started pondering all the reasons why I would not miss THEM:

  • Tooth-paste spit globs in the sink (do they ever actually get any on their teeth?)
  • Knife in the sink with peanut butter all over it, EVERY single morning (which always makes me wonder what is more wasteful, the hot water it takes to dissolve peanut butter or a paper towel used to wipe it off…real solution: wipe the damn knife CLEAN on the bread!)
  • Moldy half eaten sandwiches in baggies under beds. Really.
  • Open pop cans, half empty, left in places where pop isn’t allowed
  • Dirty socks stuffed in the couch cushions

You see…when I am in detached mother mode, it is very easy to focus on all the annoying business aspects of being a mom and make them so much more important than they really are…and I was therefore able to place myself in a comfortable state of indignation without a drop of guilt and dive head first into my long week of work.

But half way through the week my indignation began to fade some and I found myself purposefully leaving toothpaste globs in the sink for weird comfort and I joyfully left dirty towels on the bathroom floor in the hotel. And I was nearly done in when I found out I missed some serious excitement at home. It seems that the icky weird growth behind Duke’s left ear finally fell off when Dillin was petting him. Apparently the dog was quite relieved and the kids were enthralled with the disgusting, hair encrusted, shriveled up acorn piece of yuck and were all gathered around it in awe, that is until Duke tried to eat it, which caused a few kids (and Grant) to gag and others to shriek loudly, almost making the poor dog pee himself. Thank goodness for technology…someone sent me a picture of it so I wouldn’t feel left out.

And this got me to thinking about how different things are now compared to when Duncan was a tiny boy and I had to leave him at day care…there were no cell phones then, at least ones that didn’t weigh five pounds…the only thing I could do was leave lipstick kiss marks on the day care window…and try not to cry when I left his sweet, sad face…every single morning…and pray he would be okay without me.

But now all day long, no matter where I am, I receive phone calls, texts and pictures from my children and husband…

”Where is the tyenol?”

“I love you mom but I wish you wouldn’t have taken the sparkly headband with you when you left.”

“When are you coming home…it’s total mayhem here and dad seems to be a little edgy. See attached picture of dad and judge for yourself.”

“Hi mom, this is Dan on Dad’s phone, can I have the last pudding?”

One night, I was sitting at dinner with a couple of clients and actually received a VIDEO from Maria. She had recorded the outfit she was planning on wearing the next day to school and wanted my opinion, ASAP.  I texted quickly: “I love it! You look so pretty! But…wait…is that my SKIRT?” Her reply: “Why yes it is. Is that my sparkly headband you are wearing?”

…so really it’s mostly like I am there, right in the middle of things, when I am gone…only with less noise.

But I cannot decide if this technology is a good or bad thing. While I do not want my children to dwell on the idea that someday I will be gone permanently and be unable to (except possibly through a Ouija board) tell them where the heating pad is (and I absolutely refuse to linger for even a nano-second on the idea that any one of them could leave me first) I do wonder if we all take for granted the constant availability we have to each other via texting, phone calls, Facebook, etc.  Has it allowed us to detach from each other so that we don’t have to face the worry of loss or has it created a way for us to better and more continuously bond to each other, making each moment count?

When I returned home Friday night and most of us were gathered in the living room, all kind of schlumpy (that is not a word) and tired from the week, I asked a couple of the kids if they missed me and why. Mitchel immediately said yes, but couldn’t say why. I think eight year olds just miss their moms all the time, especially when the extra pocket kisses get used up. Smart aleck David said it just seemed wrong to not be yelled at all week over his messy room  and I made myself a mental note to make him a recording of my obnoxious ‘get your room clean’ yelling voice next time I left for more than a night.  Maria said she missed my fashion advice…and the sparkly headband. (Females have such are hard time letting things go, don’t you think?) Dan looked up from his iPod, said “You were gone?” and grinned. Grant sent me a text “Oh I missed you alright. Meet me in the laundry room and I’ll show you just how much. Wink, wink, nod, nod.”

So yeah, we use technology to show our love and to hide from it. We take each other for granted because, thank God,  we can.  Should there be a time when we truly have to understand why we really miss one of us, well the list will be infinite and painful. But for now, I think we have a nice schlumpy (if I use this enough, it will become a real word in H Street spell check) kind of comfy (note rhyme) love for each other. And yeah, when I am gone, I miss being in the middle of it all: the good, the bad, the funny and the icky. But as of right now, I’m not really gone, whether I am here or not. I have the pictures, videos and texts to prove it. That’s why they don’t really miss me, nor I them.  And this is so good! It makes things feel less schlumpy.