Thursday, June 27, 2019

Humans

I'm reading Rachel Held Evan's book, Searching for Sunday, and part of her awakening as a Christian is understanding how much of the happenstance of your religious upbringing is based on where you are born.


It made me think.  As an American (I am assuming you are), do you believe in the monarchy, that certain people are born to rule a country? Do you believe in aristocracy, that certain people are better than you--entitled--because their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents were earls and dukes and, therefore, you are not as good as them?

What I love about America is that is not how we play.  We don't have a monarchy and we don't have an aristocracy.  We are all humans and we are all (supposed to be) equal under the law and God.

So why is it that some people believe that being born American makes you better than everyone else? Why is it that some Americans think that only Americans are human? Or that "yes, we're all human" but that Americans are born as better humans than everyone else, like the world's version of aristocracy? 

I love America.  I think our country--based on equality under the law and in every other conceptualization--makes us the best country in the world.  I'd love a little more US cultural appreciation of work-life balance, but I love America and I love being an American.

But I don't think that as a human, I or anyone else in this country, is better than any other human in this world.  And I don't think that view is shared by all my countrymen and countrywomen.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Holy Freaking Guacamole: What to expect when you are expecting Perimenopause Part 2

Y'all.  I have become the Pied Piper of perimenopause, scaring the bejeesus out of all the women younger than I am by leading them down a trail of the future horrors they are going to face.

Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating for effect. OR MAYBE I AM NOT.

I've already shared about the frozen fricking shoulder, which is doing better in that it hurts less, but I still can't move it very well.  Wine consumption has gotten less fraught, but I can really only have a glass or two at most without repercussions.

 But wait, there's more!

So let's just roll this out in story form, ok?

So last Sunday was Mother's day.  I woke up early per usual. A few hours later the kids came down and were snuggling on me for extra lovings for my special day.  All of a sudden, Christopher goes "MOMMY! Your EYE!!! What's wrong?! It has BLOOD in it!!"

Indeed.

I went to the bathroom and saw a spreading blossom of bright red in my right eye. That's weird, I thought. Let me see what Dr. Google has to say.  Since I wasn't coughing, sneezing, or had trauma to my eye, I decided to check my blood pressure.  145/95.

Indeed.

I have had very low blood pressure most of my life.  I'm usually around 105/70.  Dave and I compete over who has the lowest blood pressure and I always win.  If I ever get a score over 110, I ask for a repeat and do deep breathing.  The one time I have not had low blood pressure was when I had preeclampsia with the twins, and had to take Blood Pressure meds for 3 months afterwards. I had forgotten about that until this week.

ANYHOO, back to the story.

It's been a stressful few weeks. Thinking that my anxiety had caused a blood pressure spike,  I took a Lorazepam and meditated for a bit.  Then I decided to take a shower and get ready for the day.  All of a sudden, a wave of nausea and heat came through my body.  My vision started to tunnel and I felt very, very strange.  I took my blood pressure again and it was 170/110.  Oh, dear. I took another Lorazepam.

Dave and I started to head to urgent care, but a friend who is a nurse suggested I lie on my left side and deep breathe for 5 minutes.  I do. And my BP goes down to 135/95.  I decide to hang out on the sofa for a while.  Plus I'm so freaking stoned from the Lorazepam, I don't really have many options.

The next morning, I email my primary doc (male) who says it's stress and I should continue taking my anti-anxiety meds.  Since I'm still hanging around 135 to 140/95, I dutifully take my meds. I also spent most of Monday like a zombie.

Here's a newsflash: When I have anxiety, a Lorazepam makes me normal.  When I'm not having anxiety (and I usually don't and I usually DON'T take Lorazepam), I have discovered that it sedates me way, way too much.  (And I take the lowest dose) Y'all: there is NO WAY that episode on Sunday was an anxiety attack.  I'd already taken medicine and I had meditated. I would have to have some serious skillz to be having an anxiety attack that cause my blood pressure to spike that high.  It wasn't anxiety. It was something else.

So I had another episode on Tuesday, with another very high spike in BP.  My regular doc was on vacation so I went in to see another one.  A WOMAN.  Of a certain age.  She did NOT think I had anxiety.  She said, Yes!  You are having high blood pressure; the intake reading of 150/92 and her viewing my medical record with its history of being very low might have helped.  GUESS WHAT SHE SAID: Hormone change!!  Perimenopause!!  F.T.S. Come to find out, quite a few other women at this same stage have had the same thing happen.  Are you KIDDING ME!?  Why didn't anyone warn us?

Anyhoo, back to my eye, which at this point, the lower half is nothing but blood. It was lovely, and I had enjoyed scaring the crap out of colleagues and students for the last 3 days. She was concerned about eye damage and sent me to an ophthalmologist. The end part of that story is there was no optic nerve damage and I might have glaucoma.  But that wasn't the most interesting part of that visit with the MALE ophthalmologist.

Nooooo.  The fun part of that 10-minute encounter with him is his repeated insistence that I do NOT have high blood pressure, that my anxiety was causing all my high readings, and I had obviously scratched my eye in my sleep because that's what happens 90% of the time, and I have no idea, no insight, no possible knowledge about my own body or my own health experiences.


via GIPHY

OK. 

So I started my BP meds because I trust my *new* general doctor more than I trust anyone else right now.  And guess the eff what?  My blood pressure is back down to my normal.  But more importantly, for the first time in MONTHS, I feel like myself. I don't have a constant headache. I'm not nauseated all the time. I'm sleeping.  I'm eating. I'm happy. 

I'm sure it could be many other things.  Correlation does not imply causation. I could be wrong.  Perhaps this was all stress related and I'm an idiot with no insight into my emotional states and general functioning and all the other women I know who've had this same weird incident during perimenopause are all idiots, too.

Nonetheless. We will wait and see.  I'm on a very low dose of this med b/c I'm usually so low with BP anyway. I do think that occasionally I'm going a bit too low, but I think that is not althogether unusual for me, too. I can try exercising more (I'm only running 3 miles at a pop instead of 4; maybe that's it? That 4th mile really cuts down my BP?).  I can lose more weight (although I'm down to my pre-twins weight which is normal for my height). I can try meditating twice a day instead of once. 

Or let's let Minnie Driver express my thoughts at being told (by male doctors) every time I turn around that it's anxiety and stress. 

So yeah!  Getting old is SO MUCH FUN, y'all!!  I'm sure you can't wait either.

I'm actually just glad it looks like this week I'll be able to stick around a bit longer. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Little Sensitivity from Our Superintendent Would be Nice

I sent this in as an OpEd to our local paper.  It wasn't picked up.  And I can understand why.  It was really time delimited (the week after the shooting at UNC Charlotte) instead of a more timeless, community-wide issue (a discussion about the need for and outcomes of lockdown drills, gun control, etc).

Nonetheless, I still feel this was important.  Did we really need a lockdown drill for an elementary school less than one week after a mass shooting?  Could it not have been postponed one week?COULD THE SUPERINTENDENT NOT HAVE SENT SOME SORT OF COMMUNICATION TO THE PARENTS THAT THE LOCKDOWN DRILLS WERE CONTINUING AS PLANNED BUT PRECAUTIONS WERE BEING TAKEN TO HELP TRAUMATIZED STUDENTS? Maybe, I don't know, he could have made sure there actually WERE extra precautions for the children of UNC Charlotte faculty, staff, and students who attended the multiple schools in which the lockdowns occurred. Or maybe extra precautions for the actual UNC Charlotte faculty, staff, and students who work in our school district. Could the Superintendent have actually responded to parents' messages to him about this event? Or did it take several attempts by one parent (not me) in which the last message shamed him for this man to actually respond?

My impressions of our school superintendent remain: He is more concerned with checking a box than the emotional and physical well-being of our children.

My submitted Op-Ed
****************************************************


Suggested Headline: Lockdown Drills are necessary, but timing is a problem


On Monday, May 6, less than one week after the UNC Charlotte mass shooting, at least one school in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system encouraged students to wear green to show their support of the university and their recent traumatic event. Children of UNC Charlotte faculty, staff, and students proudly donned their favorite Niner Green clothing to let others know their connection to and support of the university.

Two hours into the school day at THE SCHOOL MY CHILDREN ATTEND, a lockdown drill started. In at least one classroom, there no place to hide so students put their book bags in front of their small bodies. My young daughter’s body shook so hard she had to stabilize herself on the floor. She was convinced that their school was being targeted by a shooter because of their UNC Charlotte clothing. Her twin brother said it was the scariest drill he had ever been in and kept whispering “Is this real?” Less than a week before, he had been inconsolable and afraid that I, his mother, would be shot when she went back to her campus.

As an Organizational Psychologist, I fully appreciate the importance of training. I know that the UNC Charlotte police force’s repeated training for a terrorist event made their responses automatic, focused, and, ultimately, successful. Employees in professions that save and protect lives such as police, fire, medicine, and pilots need frequent and repeated training so that when an event happens their training and their adrenaline automate their responses to the right action for the right time.

But did we really need a lockdown drill at a K-8 elementary and middle school this Monday?

I understand that lockdown drills at schools are a necessary evil that our children have to endure. I understand that it gives the administrators, teachers, and children practice on what to do if the unthinkable occurs. I imagine it helps the administrators find faults in their response systems and think of ways to correct them. I do not think it does much to help the children.

Each school needs at least two lockdown drills a year to be in compliance. Was this drill already scheduled weeks or months in advance? A prudent leader would check to see if he or she could rearrange the schedule, perhaps exchanging the location of Monday’s drill site for one in another school system or delaying the ones scheduled this week for a few weeks.

What about top of mind safety? We, in Charlotte, are all currently sensitive to the safety of our location. So, maybe it would be a good idea to have a lockdown drill to reassure everyone that the authorities have it under control. By that logic, it would have been a great idea to have had a lockdown drill the day the Parkland High School students returned to school (see below). Or maybe that would have been insensitive. What about a lockdown drill at another high school in the same district as Parkland. A leader sensitive to the emotional health of his or her students would realize what a bad idea this is.

But what happens if the drill is delayed and there is a shooting at the school the skipped their drill? If, by delaying a drill a few weeks, a leader suspects a shooting is imminent, I think a call to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police chief is a more strategic leadership solution than making sure the school has another lockdown.

I am flummoxed at the Superintendent of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. What sort of leader would not think critically about the necessity of a lockdown drill less than one week after an actual mass shooting in our city? Is he not aware of the close ties between UNC Charlotte and the children who attend CMS schools?  What sort of leader would not come up with a way to have the drill at a less emotionally fraught time or communicate about it with his constituents? I am concerned that his obvious lack of involvement and critical thinking about this lockdown drill carries over to other important decisions for our public school system.



*****************************

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

What to expect when you are expecting perimenopause

In all my free time, I'd really like to write a book about the Joys of the change of life, with the actual working title of What To Expect When You Are Expecting Menopause.



In case you haven't noticed, there are tons of books for what to expect at puberty, what to expect during pregnancy, and what to do and not do during your children's infancy.  But I'll be goddess danged if there is any actual useful guide to what is happening during perimenopause.

One reason for this is could be the fewer numbers of senior women (compared to senior men) in power at medical schools and academia interested in studying what the heck is going on during their shift in life.  A second, more cynical view, is that who really gives a flying fig newton about women after they are no longer useful for procreation, amiright???

Anyhoo--here are the things I've noticed as I'm going through The Change.

I am cranky and quick(er) tempered.

I (usually) cannot sleep through the night.  Online book club at 4 am, anyone?

Hot flashes can be rolling, in that maybe you have one, maybe you have 6 in a row. Maybe you have them when you cannot sleep, maybe they just spring up during any emotional point.

My belly fat is growing even though my weight is decreasing.

I have jowls.

When outstretched, the lower part of my arms (once known as "triceps") hang down to the spot my boobs used to be.

Quarters at the bottom of socks, people.  Quarters at the bottom of socks.

My body's metabolism has changed regarding tendons and ligaments.  I don't really know what that means because, as this research article says, "the effect of estrogen on tendons and ligaments is poorly understood" (see earlier paragraph) but basically, what little is known is that it's entirely possible that my frozen shoulder, that stupid boot I wore on my right foot for tendon pain, and the fact that my ginormous bunions are increasing in pain are all due to my "Change" into a used up old hag (society's views, not mine).

And here's the most surprising part: Alcohol. Y'all.  Those of you who know me in real life know that I don't mind a glass or three of wine and can generally bounce back without too much problem. Nuh-uh. Not anymore. I thought it was because I was doing a low carb diet. Then I stopped doing that and it didn't get better. I cannot drink anymore without very severe consequences.   At this point, I'm on the wagon, occasionally sipping on very diluted drinks or one glass of wine over a long period of time.  Because otherwise, my body now considers alcohol as poison.  Oh, and the research? You'll be happy to know that drinking does not delay or accelerate menopause (You were very concerned about that, weren't you!?)

Some folks find that drinking increases hot flashes.  I do not have that problem.  I have just found that I can no longer drink and not have seriously negative effects. So, hot herbal tea for me, baby!

Memory and word recall have become bigger issues. What with all the children, animals, and grad students I have, I basically run through a long list of words and names until I get to some word that might start with the same letter as whomever or whatever I'm trying to talk about.  Sometimes I just get the defining characteristics as they are stored in my brain instead of the "Name" I'm supposed to use. Last week in grad class, I just called my students by their research topics.

So here is what you have to look forward to, womenses and some mens!  It's not a lot of fun.  And I'm pretty sure I've already forgotten some of the more interesting and important aspects I wanted to share with you.





Monday, April 15, 2019

Cycle of Life

Last week, I was providing academic insight for an article coming out on "mommy blogging."  I'll post the link when it comes out if I and the actual subject of the story do not look like assholes.  You never know sometimes, and I felt like this reporter had an agenda, more than I'm used to seeing.

Anyhoo, I have been reflecting on blogging and motherhood of late.  I have dropped off in my blogging, as reminded by a dear friend.  It's not like there is not a lot going on in my life as a wife and working mother of three children.  It's just that I think there's a lifecycle of parenting and I and my need to process everything has changed.

First, those early years of getting pg, being pg, and trying to keep my sanity and my children healthy have passed.  Those early years when everything is new and fraught have developed into years where everything is tweener and teenaged and there's more interacting with the actual humans I gave birth to in order to get it right instead of reaching out to other Mamas to make sure what is happening sounds normal.

Second, I am loving my career right now. I love my research (although, as the refrain goes, I should be writing a research paper right now). And I also have a lot more responsibilities, meetings, and less free time. Although, people, here is what I realized last week: I feel guilty if I am awake and not doing work. Cooking, mom-ing, doing chores, personal hygiene all feel like hobbies. My brain is set that awake means I need work. There is something wrong with that and it's not sustainable.

So those are the excuses.  What are the updates?

Conor will start high school in the fall. YIKES! We are going to a diverse, public IB high school that we love. He is a very good dancer and has taken up football. (Don't @ me; we are taking precautions.) He is self-driven at school and is actually starting to clean up his room on his own. We are negotiating the boundaries of his independence and our needs to ensure his safety.  He also cleans out the dishwasher, which makes him my favorite child.

Bridget is really progressing with her dyslexia.  It's amazing to see her confidence and pride in herself by reading more challenging material. Is your young child good at math but can't quite seem to get reading? He or she may be one of the 15 to 20% of people who learn to read differently than others. There are too many stories of my university students who thought they were stupid because they could not read, only to find out as adults they have dyslexia and are very, very smart.  It breaks my heart.  Bridget continues to train to be a lawyer first and a superior court judge second. It is clear that her early skills at telling people what they are doing wrong and how to do it better have continued to develop.  She actually talks to me and tells me things that have happened throughout the day unlike other members of the household, which makes her my favorite child.

Kit has turned into a renaissance boy.  He is doing very well at school, is excellent in math, loves reading challenging books, is a good dancer and piano player, and has created and sold paintings, although I have the best one and you cannot get that one from me. He has an innate sense of justice in this world and works hard to help the underdog.  His heart is bigger than most people's, so his emotions run deep. This means he loves hard and gets hurt badly, which makes him my favorite child.

The dingo loves me more than any other creature on this earth.  If I am home, Jules has her eyes on me.  I take a shower? She guards the shower door. I go downstairs, she goes with me. I go upstairs, here she comes! I work on my desk and she lies on the bed with her head facing me.  I've never experienced this sort of love/obsession before. It's nice and sort of weird to always turn around and see eyeballs on me. 

So things move along, right?  I would like to talk about life and the mother thing a bit more.  I've got to get out the mindset that every waking moment should be work.  That seems a particularly American issue and I don't want to end my life never having finished knitting those cute fingerless mittens that are supposed to be a weekend project. 

Right?

Right. 

Now off to my semi-daily hobby of taking a shower and getting dressed. If you see me today, at least you'll know I'm clean. Ish. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It Could Happen To Your Child, Too: Part 2

I am updating and reposting my post from March 20 here.

The updates:

  • My US House Representative Alma Adams has reached out twice to American Airlines on my behalf, and so far, they have not even acknowledged Rep. Adams' requests. 
  • When I explain the current situation at the southern US border to my younger children, I use this traumatic example to show my children just how little power parents have over government entities.  
  • I also changed the word "crew" to ticket agents to more accurately reflect who did this. 
  • I don't know what would have happened had they found that my son or I had done something "improper." I understand this is nowhere near as horrible as what is happening to families at our southern border. Our separation was short-lived. But if you don't think this signals, what COULD happen, you are not paying attention.  
  • I've contacted the ACLU and national and local media, but this is/was not story worthy enough.  I still think American parents should know.

It Could Happen To You and Your Child

For Spring break , I took a class of 10 University undergraduates and 1 Graduate student to Prague I also took my 13 year-old son, so he could experience international travel. You can read about what we all learned from being together here.

This post is about what happened on the way home from our Study Abroad trip.  And while I hope I can add some of my typical humor in here, what you might just hear instead is how angrily I am typing on the keyboard.

We flew back from Prague through Heathrow.  When we landed in London, we were greeted by American Airline ticket agents who asked us if we were going to the US.  "Yes!" we said. And they ushered us into a separate room.  At first, I thought maybe this was a separate baggage screening area so that we could quickly move on to our next flight.  But there was nothing quick happening here.  I asked the ticket agent at the door what this was and she told us additional security screening.  I pointed out we had now had about 1 hour and 15 minutes to make it through the "real" screening and make our flight.

A few minutes later, the ticket agent at the front asked for everyone on the 9:45 flight to Charlotte to move forward.  About 50 of the 75 folks in the room moved forward, so not really a lot of progress. But we were close enough that I could hear what was happening. They were quizzing a group of French teenagers where they were going in the US, where they lived in France, what they wanted to be when they grow up.  A middle-aged Indian woman and her much older mother were having a very difficult time understanding and answering questions. OK. I said to the students. This extra screening is for non-Americans traveling to the US. We should breeze right through.

We did not.  And when they started questioning one American about whether his house had a white picket fence around it, I thought, Oh, Sh*t.  How are we going to make our flight?

With one hour to go (and basically 5 people who passed through their questioning later), the American Airlines ticket agent told everyone who had a boarding pass that they could go straight to the gate.

My first reaction was that this was for show.  If they "had" to ask us all of this detailed information, and THEN they told us to skip on through, this was a bullsh*t show of phony security.

Next, we had our baggage screening for our carry-on luggage.  I told everyone that if they got through they should run to the gate and I'd wait around to make sure everyone got through.  Two kids got stuck. My son and I waited for them to finally be approved.  When everything looked clear with about 40 minutes to take off, the students, my son, and I ran across the terminal to the gate.

WHEW!!!!

We were some of the last in line, but WE MADE IT!

It was time to get on the plane. My student, my son, and I handed our boarding passes to the first American Airline ticket agent. They told my student to go straight (I think; things get fuzzy here). They looked at my boarding pass and told me to go to the left. I took a few steps into the left line and I turned around to see what line my son was put in.

And he was gone.

Gone. Missing. Not there. His body was no longer where it was supposed to be in this world. He had disappeared.

I started calling his name.  My student turned around and I told him my son was missing.  My student (6'6" with a very deep and loud voice) started calling his name.  I am not a quiet person at all.  I called his first name.  I called his first and last name. The room was not that big.  Where the HELL could have gone?  Why would he go?

The passengers still waiting in line stared at us.  The ticket agent stared at us.  We called and called his name.  I told another student who had already passed the gate to go on the plane to see if he had sneaked past us.  I told my male student to go on board and I'd stay and wait for my son.

The room was not big.  There were not obstacles to seeing around it.  And yet, my 13 year-old son was disappeared*.

Just writing this makes me want to throw up.

I finally spotted, in a corner of the room, a make-shift space covered by white curtains with an opening.  And there I saw my son, with some of his clothes off, his shoes off, as they were inspecting the inside of his book bag.

I burst into uncontrollable tears.

I found out later that one of the ticket agent with my son said "Oh, Look! That's what mothers do when they are worried about you."  They KNEW I was his mother.  They HEARD me calling for him.  They did NOTHING to let me know where he was. And then they MOCKED me when they saw me crying. ((And yes, he wanted to call back to us, but being the very compliant child he is, he instead asked them if he was going to miss the plane))

I went to him.  He got dressed.  We went to the gate where they asked him what his zipcode was and what middle school he went to while I nearly snapped the head off the gate attendant.

We were the last people on the plane. My students were calling to me across the plane very relieved that we had made it. We sat down and I am pretty sure I began to kiss him. Yeah.  I'm sure he "loved" that and I really don't care.  Three more times during the flight, I broke down in tears and kissed and hugged him.  I'll blame the sleep deprivation that he let me do it.

Even now, right now, writing this, and thinking about it all, I still want to throw up.

We came back and I tweeted to American Airlines.  They first responded with concern and wanted to take care of the situation.

Then they responded again.  And it was less supportive. My son had been chosen for additional screening by a government mandated computer system called CAPPS.  Because we bought our tickets at different times, our tickets were not linked.  Therefore, they were under no obligation to let me know that he was being escorted away for private, additional screening.

SURE!!!!!!!!!!!  13 year-olds FREQUENTLY travel internationally without adult supervision while at the same time random people repeatedly and loudly shout their names at the boarding gate!!! It happens all the time, right!??!?!

OK.

So I have since found out that minors 13 and above can be separated from their parents by TSA.  (By all security???) But still: without the parents' knowledge??? By AIRLINE TICKET AGENTS?  When did they become TSA/NSA/customs and border control agents?

Again, it's one (horrible) thing to search a 13 year old apart from his mother.  It is another to take him without even letting her know that is what you have done.

They took my son away from me without letting me know. GOD! YES! I feel guilty I put my boarding pass ahead of his. What a horrible mother.  Seriously.  But he was Right. Beside. Me.  He was my appendage on this trip.  Why would I think someone would take him from my SIDE?

So a few more thoughts:

*I am using the phrase: "My son was disappeared" purposefully.  If you don't know the meaning of that phrase, read this.  Yes, it was only 10 minutes that authority figures took my minor son from me. But I refuse to think it was normal or moral.
*What about those families who separated by INS at the border here in the US?  There is no difference in motherhood across cultures.  Again, mine was only 10 minutes. I cannot fathom the trauma to these families who are separated for months.
*The ACLU is not a big fan of CAPPS.  Go figure.  CAPPS keeps being suspended and reintroduced. I can't follow the news on it and its Wiki is out of date.  Someone who knows something should fix that.  I think back to that the first room with the excessive quizzing of all passengers (i.e., "does your house have a white picket fence?"). Is that related to some new implementation of CAPPS? I haven't traveled overseas in two years. But this felt really, really weird. I don't know. It seems weird.

What do I want from American Airlines?  I want a better apology than the one saying they were sorry for my frustration at this event. Don't ever apologize for how you made someone feel.  Apologize for what you did.  I also want to make sure this doesn't happen to another family. Don't yank a minor out of a boarding line without asking him/her if they are traveling with someone.  For Pete's fudging sake, it that REALLY a novel idea?

So, yeah.  This happened to me.  It probably won't happen to you.  When I am telling this story to my friends, I see them trying think of the ways they will prevent it from happening to their own children.  It's normal.

But it happened.  It has already happened. So it could happen again.  In this day and age, in this version of America, I wouldn't be so sure it couldn't happen to you, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It Could Happen To You and Your Child

For Spring break , I took a class of 10 University undergraduates and 1 Graduate student to Prague I also took my 13 year-old son, so he could experience international travel. You can read about what we all learned from being together here.

This post is about what happened on the way home from our Study Abroad trip.  And while I hope I can add some of my typical humor in here, what you might just hear instead is how angrily I am typing on the keyboard.

We flew back from Prague through Heathrow.  When we landed in London, we were greeted by American Airline crew** who asked us if we were going to the US.  "Yes!" we said. And they ushered us into a separate room.  At first, I thought maybe this was a separate baggage screening area so that we could quickly move on to our next flight.  But there was nothing quick happening here.  I asked the crew** member at the door what this was and she told us additional security screening.  I pointed out we had now had about 1 hour and 15 minutes to make it through the "real" screening and make our flight.

A few minutes later, the crew** at the front asked for everyone on the 9:45 flight to Charlotte to move forward.  About 50 of the 75 folks in the room moved forward, so not really a lot of progress. But we were close enough that I could hear what was happening. They were quizzing a group of French teenagers where they were going in the US, where they lived in France, what they wanted to be when they grow up.  A middle-aged Indian woman and her much older mother were having a very difficult time understanding and answering questions. OK. I said to the students. This extra screening is for non-Americans traveling to the US. We should breeze right through.

We did not.  And when they started questioning one American about whether his house had a white picket fence around it, I thought, Oh, Sh*t.  How are we going to make our flight?

With one hour to go (and basically 5 people who passed through their questioning later), the American Airlines crew** told everyone who had a boarding pass that they could go straight to the gate.

My first reaction was that this was for show.  If they "had" to ask us all of this detailed information, and THEN they told us to skip on through, this was a bullsh*t show of phony security.

Next, we had our baggage screening for our carry-on luggage.  I told everyone that if they got through they should run to the gate and I'd wait around to make sure everyone got through.  Two kids got stuck. My son and I waited for them to finally be approved.  When everything looked clear with about 40 minutes to take off, the students, my son, and I ran across the terminal to the gate.

WHEW!!!!

We were some of the last in line, but WE MADE IT!

It was time to get on the plane. My student, my son, and I handed our boarding passes to the first American Airline crew** member. They told my student to go straight (I think; things get fuzzy here). They looked at my boarding pass and told me to go to the left. I took a few steps into the left line and I turned around to see what line my son was put in.

And he was gone.

Gone. Missing. Not there. His body was no longer where it was supposed to be in this world. He had disappeared.

I started calling his name.  My student turned around and I told him my son was missing.  My student (6'6" with a very deep and loud voice) started calling his name.  I am not a quiet person at all.  I called his first name.  I called his first and last name. The room was not that big.  Where the HELL could have gone?  Why would he go?

The passengers still waiting in line stared at us.  The crew** stared at us.  We called and called his name.  I told another student who had already passed the gate to go on the plane to see if he had sneaked past us.  I told my male student to go on board and I'd stay and wait for my son.

The room was not big.  There were not obstacles to seeing around it.  And yet, my 13 year-old son was disappeared*.

Just writing this makes me want to throw up.

I finally spotted, in a corner of the room, a make-shift space covered by white curtains with an opening.  And there I saw my son, with some of his clothes off, his shoes off, as they were inspecting the inside of his book bag.

I burst into uncontrollable tears.

I found out later that one of the crew** with my son said "Oh, Look! That's what mothers do when they are worried about you."  They KNEW I was his mother.  They HEARD me calling for him.  They did NOTHING to let me know where he was. And then they MOCKED me when they saw me crying. ((And yes, he wanted to call back to us, but being the very compliant child he is, he instead asked them if he was going to miss the plane))

I went to him.  He got dressed.  We went to the gate where they asked him what his zipcode was and what middle school he went to while I nearly snapped the head off the gate attendant.

We were the last people on the plane. My students were calling to me across the plane very relieved that we had made it. We sat down and I am pretty sure I began to kiss him. Yeah.  I'm sure he "loved" that and I really don't care.  Three more times during the flight, I broke down in tears and kissed and hugged him.  I'll blame the sleep deprivation that he let me do it.

Even now, right now, writing this, and thinking about it all, I still want to throw up.

We came back and I tweeted to American Airlines.  They first responded with concern and wanted to take care of the situation.

Then they responded again.  And it was less supportive. My son had been chosen for additional screening by a government mandated computer system called CAPPS.  Because we bought our tickets at different times, our tickets were not linked.  Therefore, they were under no obligation to let me know that he was being escorted away for private, additional screening.

SURE!!!!!!!!!!!  13 year-olds FREQUENTLY travel internationally without adult supervision while at the same time random people repeatedly and loudly shout their names at the boarding gate!!! It happens all the time, right!??!?!

OK.

So I have since found out that minors 13 and above can be separated from their parents by TSA.  (By all security???) But still: without the parents' knowledge??? By AIRLINE Crew**?  When did they become TSA/NSA/customs and border control agents?

Again, it's one (horrible) thing to search a 13 year old apart from his mother.  It is another to take him without even letting her know that is what you have done.

They took my son away from me without letting me know. GOD! YES! I feel guilty I put my boarding pass ahead of his. What a horrible mother.  Seriously.  But he was Right. Beside. Me.  He was my appendage on this trip.  Why would I think someone would take him from my SIDE?

So a few more thoughts:

*I am using the phrase: "My son was disappeared" purposefully.  If you don't know the meaning of that phrase, read this.  Yes, it was only 10 minutes that authority figures took my minor son from me. But I refuse to think it was normal or moral.
*What about those families who separated by INS at the border here in the US?  There is no difference in motherhood across cultures.  Again, mine was only 10 minutes. I cannot fathom the trauma to these families who are separated for months.
*The ACLU is not a big fan of CAPPS.  Go figure.  CAPPS keeps being suspended and reintroduced. I can't follow the news on it and its Wiki is out of date.  Someone who knows something should fix that.  I think back to that the first room with the excessive quizzing of all passengers (i.e., "does your house have a white picket fence?"). Is that related to some new implementation of CAPPS? I haven't traveled overseas in two years. But this felt really, really weird. I don't know. It seems weird.

What do I want from American Airlines?  I want a better apology than the one saying they were sorry for my frustration at this event. Don't ever apologize for how you made someone feel.  Apologize for what you did.  I also want to make sure this doesn't happen to another family. Don't yank a minor out of a boarding line without asking him/her if they are traveling with someone.  For Pete's fudging sake, it that REALLY a novel idea?

So, yeah.  This happened to me.  It probably won't happen to you.  When I am telling this story to my friends, I see them trying think of the ways they will prevent it from happening to their own children.  It's normal.

But it happened.  It has already happened. So it could happen again.  In this day and age, in this version of America, I wouldn't be so sure it couldn't happen to you, too.

**ETA on March 21, 2018: I've been using the wrong terminology.  It was the TICKET AGENTS who did this.  Not the flight crew or the ground crew.  American Airline confirmed to me in their direct message that this additional security was conducted by their employed ticket agents.