Tag Archives: perseverance

Owning the Suck

Do you know what I’ve discovered?    A Zombie Apocalypse really is coming and our millennial offspring are going to get their proverbial asses kicked (or their souls sucked out), whichever comes first.   Every generation has an “apocalypse” of some sort.  The Baby-Boomers’ parents (arguably the greatest generation that has ever lived) had their apocalypse of WWII, the Holocaust, and Jim Crow brutality and inhumanity that cost millions of lives and shattered equally as many dreams and destinies.  The Baby Boomers had Viet Nam, AIDS, presidential and iconic assassinations, 9-11, and now economic devastation denying us the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in our golden years.  We, the Baby Boomers, sold our children, the Millennials, a bill of goods about what to expect out of life when they were growing up, and now they are ill-equipped to handle the shit that is already coming their way.

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In our desire to protect them, we wrapped our cherubs in cellophane to preserve their self-esteem, hovered over them like they were Fabergé eggs, and decried that “there were no losers, only winners” while demanding our babies win a trophy just for showing up.  We gave our pumpkins bicycle helmets to stave off concussions (even though we would have collapsed from laughter at the thought of us ever wearing one while we rode on the handle bars of our older siblings’ bikes before we were old enough to tie our own shoes).  We demanded bigger and better Fort Knox car seats for our dumplings, we tore up asphalt playgrounds so our darlings’ little knees wouldn’t get scraped, we succeeded in declaring peanut butter public enemy #1, and we put paranoid warning labels on our babies’ $800 strollers that said:  “Please Remove Child before Storing Stroller in Trunk of Car.”

Now the Zombies are coming, and how do we tell our adult children (before they pass this suffocation on to their children) that none of that self-esteem bullshit and über-maniacal safety paranoia will stave off the destruction of their hopes and dreams or keep their fragile hearts from breaking when their lives go to hell in a handbasket?  Oh, shit!

Buckwheat Magnet/Little Rascals||image from

I can’t sit back and do nothing.  I must warn my fellow parents that we’ve blown it with our kids before it is too late.  I must do what I can to save our babies from the zombies by giving them the only sure-fire zombie weapon that has worked for every generation since the dawn of man:  knowing how to own the suck.  Recently, I took my “Big Mama Speaks” show on the road and held a couple of “Helicopter Moms Focus Groups” to chat with mothers who are trying to break free of the helicopter syndrome, and it was quite an eye-opener.

Helicopter Mom||image from



BIG MAMA:  Evenin’ everybody and welcome.  My name is Big Mama, and I’d like to let you know that, believe it or not, I am a survivor of the “helicopter mama” syndrome and have been clean and sober for a decade.  I no longer wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night freakin’ out that something has happened to my kids that I didn’t prepare them for or protect them from and screamin’ to the high heavens:  “Help me Jesus to fix this wayward child, oooh, help me Lord!”  Can I get an Amen?


BIG MAMA:  We’re here tonight to learn how to “let go” of our kids and our fears for them and teach them how to soar without being afraid to fail while doing what I call “owning the suck.”  Does anybody know what our motto, “owning the suck,” means?

SANDY HOMEMAKER:  Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh . . . I do!  It’s a military term that soldiers use on the battlefield and it means, acknowledge the crap (excuse my French) that has come against you (being shot at, watching your buddies die, missing your loved ones), and then muster the grit and perseverance through the miserable conditions on the battlefield and rise to seize the day.  We learned about “owning the suck” from Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth who was our guest speaker last year.  She was shot down in Iraq, lost both her legs and the full use of one of her arms, for which she received the Purple Heart.  Lt. Col. Duckworth is running for Congress and has devoted her life to making the lives of injured veterans more palatable. There I think that about does it.

BIG MAMA:  Excellent Sandy!  Does anybody know what the term “Helicopter Mom” means?

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, I do, I do!  Ask me, ask me!  It’s a derogatory term that means an overprotective and overly-involved mother who hovers—helicopter-like—over her children (at school, etc.) to see how they are doing, and then swoops in to give advice or aid if they seem to falter or fail, never giving them a chance to work things out on their own.

BIG MAMA:  Go on girl, with your bad self—aren’t you the smart one!   Now that we’ve clarified what we don’t want to be and where we’re going, who would like to give us an example of their bad-ass helicoptering mama ways?

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  Oh, oh, oh, oh I have a story, although it’s way in the past because I got free from the helicopter mommy syndrome quite a few years ago.  I just come to the classes to help support my friends.

BIG MAMA:  Ha . . . and what a support you are, Sally.  How about letting one of the other sistas share their stories for a bit, okay?

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DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:    (Sigh!)  I’ll go next, if you don’t mind.  I know the definitions too, but I can’t put them into practice.  I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t let go of my son no matter how hard I try.  I’m so afraid he’s going to do the wrong thing and fuck up his life.  I finally got him in college last year but that took an arm and a leg to make it happen.  I had to fill out all of his college applications because he kept procrastinating, and then when he got there, I found myself calling him every morning at 7:00 a.m. before I went to work to wake him up (as I did every day in high school) for his 8 a.m. English Comp class.  Even with all that, he ended up missing most of his classes from what I understand.  “Just couldn’t wake up,” he said.  How is that fucking possible with me ringing his phone off the hook every three minutes?

BIG MAMA: Oh girl, you’ve got it bad—I’m so sorry.

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  Dottie, I see instantly where your problem is . . .

BIG MAMA:  Sally, sweetie, would you mind doing me a favor and going out to my car to get the door prizes from the trunk?  Thank you ever so much, Baby.  (Everybody holds their breath until Sally is out of the room and then they all breathe a collective sigh of relief!)  Go on, Dottie.  That should buy us at least five minutes.  After that, I can’t give you any guarantees you’ll get a word in edgewise.

DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:  Well, it gets worse than that, Big Mama.  At the end of the year, my son got an F+ in English Comp on his final paper and a laundry list of nasty comments from his professor:

  • “I’m to believe you’re the student who read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Pastall 4,211 pages—when on the first day of class you said the only book you’d read the entire summer was the juvenile lit books, The Hunger Games?”
  • “Tell your mother congrats on having read Proust’s most industrious work and her substantive dissertation about him; I recognized her syntax from all the emails she’s sent me over the semester on your behalf. For her input, I gave her the “plus” to marry your “F” for plagiarism.”

BIG MAMA:  Oh, Lord Jesus . . . I’m speechless!  You know this story is wrong on so many levels, right Dottie?

DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:    I know, I know, but I’m scared to death about my boy’s future.  By the time our kid figures out how derailed his life will be without a proper education, he’ll be saying, “Do you want fries with that?” for the rest of his life while still living with my husband and me until the day we die.

BIG MAMA:  Baby, I’ve got to ask you a very important question:  who is it that wants the education—you or your son?  Whose life is it—yours or his?   If he can’t “own the suck” of getting his sorry ass up in the mornin’ and won’t attend classes or do the hard work required, then you need to let the chips fall where they may, Sugah, and let him shuffle on down to McDonald’s putting an end to his Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Time to let the little dude go, Mommy, until he can acquire the grit and determination needed to work hard to get whatever he wants out of life.

True Grit Baby|image from

ROSEANNA, THE RECRUITER:   Speaking of “letting go,” I have something to say.  I don’t have any children and with what I’ve seen of your offspring, I don’t want any children.  I am a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company and I am here to plead with all y’all mothers to stay the fuck out of your kids’ lives.  Excuse my crudeness, but I don’t know how else to say it.  By the time your urchins start looking for jobs, you can’t help them through the process.  The best you can do is listen to them after they have run the gauntlet of an interview session, but unless they ask you for advice, shut the fuck up!

Shadow Mom||Image from hreonline

BIG MAMA:  Hold the phone, girlfriend.   You want to dial it down some?

ROSEANNA, THE RECRUITER:  I’m sorry.  But I am losing my religion over you mothers.  Over the past year, I’ve had five mothers come to the job interviews with their Johnny or Susie—parking their asses right in the waiting room of our office building, and at least one mother came in and tried to negotiate salary for one of our interns.  A colleague of mine had a mother try to contest the fact that her kid was not given employment and “didn’t we know how fantastic he was—any company would be thrilled to have him?”   If your kids can’t send in their own résumés, or show up to interview for a job without you shadowing them, then heaven help us all, because some of these people will be our future leaders one day.  Do you know that some of my competitors are instituting a “Take Your Parents to Work Day” so that Mommy and Daddy get to see their little angels’ work environment, as if this were their kindergarten class?  This is not what I signed up for.  Somebody shoot me now!

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  I’m back, everybody.  Now who needs my advice?


I am discovering that “shit happens” to all generations.  It has been so since the dawn of man and it will be so until the end of time. There have always been wars and rumors of wars, unfathomable diseases, devastating natural disasters, and holocausts of man’s inhumanity to man—in other words, “zombie apocalypses.”  Much of it comes like a thief in the night, and much of the mayhem is beyond our control—no matter what the religious and political grand pooh-bahs tell us.   But all of it can be conquered by strength of character if we learn how to own the suck!

Lately, every poll I read says that the Baby Boomers’ greatest fear is that their children will not be better off than they.  I suppose that means that we’re afraid that our kids won’t get to have the American dream of a great job, a beautiful home, and 2.5 kids that can grow up to go to college and start the cycle all over again.  But what if the very threat of the loss of those things is meant to produce something else in our kids—something money can’t buy—like character!  What if our kids are meant to be heroes wherever they may end up—whether that’s working in a drug rehab in Harlem or lobbying for better medical care for veterans who have lost their limbs and minds because our kids have walked a mile in their shoes without any legs?

Tammy Duckworth||image from

Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth is a double-amputee veteran who won a Purple Heart for her service in the Iraq War.  “She found a way to turn profound adversity to her advantage. That makes her a model for other people suffering hardship. Being forced to recover from an extreme challenge amplified Duckworth’s sense of purpose. ‘I was always about other people’s approval,’ she said of herself looking back, before being shot down changed her life. Afterward, she said, ‘I had a new sense of fearlessness, because even on my worst day, nobody was shooting at me.’”—by Rick Newman, Huffingtonpost||What Joe Walsh Needs to Know About Tammy Duckworth


“The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.”  Seneca quotes (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

“Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil.”—Epictetus (Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics, AD 55-c.135)

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Grit Is the Word

(Dedicated to KLT)

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  I should be writing about Valentine’s Day but I just can’t do it!  I’ve got nothing against Valentine’s Day and less against romance.  (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I think I’ve made it pretty clear what type of relationship I have with my husband [“White and Wonderful,” a.k.a. “WW”] , and that our reoccurring theme song—even after thirty-two years of marriage—is “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.)  It’s just that this once a year shot at force-feeding romance down our throats sort of leaves me cold.  I’m much more of a “show your love to me all year long through random acts of kindness routinely administered” kind of gal. 

So I’ll leave V-Day in the capable hands of more accomplished bloggers than I and move onto something near and dear to my heart:  TRUE GRIT!

“Research shows it’s not enough to be smart.  To get where you want to go in life, you’ll need determination, stamina, and grit.”—Lisa van Gemert (MENSA Bulletin)

The remake of “True Grit” by the Coen brothers is one of my all-time favorite movies because it deals with the fortitude and perseverance—the grit—that it takes to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal.  Grit becomes a character, in and of itself, in the movie, and it pulls the viewer into an intense journey that is both perilous and triumphant, and not without cost.

I am not a stranger to “grit” myself.  It has been my companion all my life and rode on the train that I took out of the Cleveland ghetto through the hallowed halls of my higher education and prosperous life.  I understand true grit, but I’ve never liked itIt is way too hard to acquire, and if one lives long enough, it always returns and beckons one to revisit it at another time, in another place, during another journey.


Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about grit because I’m trying to become a writer at sixty three years old, and I’m hitting some hurdles in the callous dog-eat-dog world of literary agents and publishers.  Nothing worth having comes easily—I know that—but haven’t I already paid my dues to the god of true grit in my hard-knock life?  As I pondered the definition of “grit” over and over in my mind (“perseverance and passion for long-term goals”), I thought of what it would be like to form a panel of two or three women who seem to be oozing with “grit” and ask them questions that would help me stay the course in my new adventure.

So I put about fifty names of “women with true grit who have authored at least one book” in a bowl and promised myself I’d have an imaginary discussion with the first three names that I pulled out—dead or alive—no matter how disparate.

Harriet Tubman/Google Image (public domain)

Ellen DeGeneres/Google Image

Maya Angelou/Google Image/AP Photo

ELT:  Good evening ladies.  It was so good of you to accept my invitation—especially you Mrs. Tubman. It is such an honor to meet you, and I hope heaven is treating you well.  Ellen, so good to see you—can I tell you that I love, love, love your talk show, and I think you were the bomb in Finding Nemo.   You made that movie! Dr. Angelou, you have been one of my idols for years.  I was so jealous that Oprah asked you to be her mentor before I could get a word in edgewise.  But I’m over that now because I learned from you not to be a hater.  I know you wouldn’t want me to hold a grudge against my girl Oprah.

Ladies, I’d like to present my readers with a short bio about each of you before we start our question and answer session, if that’s okay with you.

Harriet Tubman was a slave from Dorchester, Maryland who escaped the brutality of her masters by fleeing to the North as a young woman but not before being routinely beaten and hit by a heavy metal weight in the head which caused disabling seizures and headaches all of her life.  Upon arriving in Philadelphia, she hired herself out as a domestic and with the money she saved made twenty rescue trips to the South—freeing hundreds of slaves without losing one of them.   Known as “Moses” to slaves near and far, she became a prominent conductor of the Underground Railroad, an outspoken abolitionist, an advocate of women’s rights, and a scout and spy for the Union army.  Mrs. Tubman wrote her autobiography with Sarah Hopkins Bradford in 1868 which was entitled Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman.

Ellen DeGeneres is an Emmy-winning talk show host, comedienne, author, host of the Grammy, primetime Emmy, and Oscar awards.  Ms. DeGeneres has written three books entitled The Funny Thing Is, My Point and I do Have One, Seriously. . .I’m Kidding.

Maya Angelou, who was mute for eight years after a brutal childhood rape and living under systemic racism, grew up to become a celebrated poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist,  producer, and director.  Dr. Angelou has received over 30 honorary degrees and written over 20 books.  She has served on two presidential committees, was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.  Dr. Angelou is best known for the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her Pulitzer Prize nomination of her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie.

ELT:  Well, on that note ladies, let us begin!

How would you tell someone how to find their “calling” or their “path” in life—what they were meant to be?

Ellen:  Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.  Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path; then, by all means, you should follow that path.

ELT:  All of you broke new ground as women and human beings when there were no road signs to direct you.  When did you find out that you were special?

Ellen:  I was doing stand-up at a restaurant and there was a chalkboard on the street out front. It said, ”Soup of the Day: Cream of Asparagus. Ellen DeGeneres.”

Harriet Tubman:  I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death.  If I could not have one, I would have the other—for no man should take me alive.

ELT:  What was your greatest accomplishment?

Harriet Tubman:  I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.

ELT:  How would you define success?

Maya Angelou:  Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. . . . You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.  Don’t make money your goal.  Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

ELT:  Did you ever fail and how did you deal with rejection?

Ellen:  I’m on the patch right now. Where it releases small dosages of approval until I no longer crave it, and then I’m gonna rip it off.

Maya Angelou:  You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!

ELT:  What advice can you give my readers about not giving up no matter how difficult the journey?

Harriet Tubman:  If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

ELT:  Did you ever get angry with yourself about your choices or your life in general?

Ellen:  Sometimes when I am driving I get so angry at inconsiderate drivers that I want to scream at them.  But then I remember how insignificant that is, and I thank God that I have a car, and my health, and gas.  (That was phrased wrong—normally you wouldn’t say, thank God I have gas.)

Maya Angelou:  I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself.  But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself.  It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes—it is inevitable.  But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all.  So you say to people who you think you may have injured, “I’m sorry,” and then you say to yourself, “I’m sorry.”

ELT:  Has anything about your life ever really frightened you?

Ellen:  My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.  She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.

ELT:  Ellen, recently, a defamation group, calling themselves a “family values group” by the name of One Million Moms, tried to bully JC Penney into dropping you as a spokesperson because you’re a lesbian.   Didn’t that frighten you?  Would you explain what happened and how you dealt with that type of hate?

Ellen:  They wanted to get me fired, and I’m proud and happy to say that JC Penney stuck by their decision to make me their spokesperson, which is great news for me because I also need some new crew socks.

I usually don’t talk about stuff like this . . . but I really want to thank everyone who is supporting me.  And if you don’t know me very well. . . I want to be clear.  Here are the values that I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.

ELT:  Crew socks?  Ellen, you’re too funny—even in the midst of haters trying to sabotage what you’ve rightly earned.

Ellen:  I’m glad I’m funny. I’m glad I make people happy, because that’s very important. But I’m most proud to be known as a kind person…Because kindness spreads, and the world is a little nicer out there.

(All words uttered from the mouths of my panel are exact quotes said by them at some point in time and utilized in this imaginary discussion for the illustration of “true grit.”)


I am discovering that there are human beacons in the past and present that illuminate our encumbered pathways to the fulfillment of our dreams.  They show us by example how to “get over.”  We just need to stop, listen, learn, and never, ever, ever, ever give up!


Fred Astaire/Google Image

At Fred Astaire’s first screen test, he received this verdict from studio executives: “Can’t act, can’t sing. Balding.  Can dance a little.”

Fred Astaire was an “American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer, and actor.  His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films.  He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute.  (Wikipedia)

Astaire’s immensely popular dancing style appeared relaxed, light, effortless, and largely improvised.  In reality, he was a hard-working perfectionist who tirelessly rehearsed routines for hours on end. (


Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Uncategorized


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