Sheryl and Sons

Sheryl and Sons
I told you they were big.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Check Out My New Blog!

The boys are grown and gone, so I'm writing about my life as an empty nester.
Please check out my new blog, Sher Solo, at
Here's the link.  See you there! Thanks.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Love You

     I've told all the stories that I can tell.  Oh, I've still got a stack that are too sad, or too embarrassing, or that have the word "naked" in them, but basically, I'm done telling my stories of raising teenaged boys.
     I used to wonder why no one was writing stories about raising older, adult children, and now I know.  On a practical matter, my sons are just not around.  I don't have the same access to their stories.  All the news I get is secondhand.  And the subject matter is mostly off limits---I cannot post on the internet their stories about a prickly boss or a bad breakup.  Even though I still feel as strongly as ever about the funny, poignant moments of motherhood, the stories about my adult children do not belong to me.  The belong to my children, and they are the ones who get to decide whether to tell them or not.
     So I think I'm done, at least I'm done telling their stories.  I'm not done writing, and I hope in the new year that I will find new things to write about. . .work, friendships, aging, and marriage.  I hope you will still visit this space and find out what happens next.
    I'd like to thank my sons for being the best sports of all time.  I know it hasn't been easy for you, but writing these stories and hearing readers' responses to them has been one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done.  I don't think I ever understood how much I was loved by my own parents until I became a parent myself.  I hope that one day, when you are fathers, you will read these stories again and understand how overwhelmingly and thoroughly I love you.  How deeply and wholly and completely and utterly I love you.  Every minute of every day, no matter how furious or frustrated or frantic I get, I will always, always love you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Rebuttal

     I've been writing my side of the story for just about a year now, and I decided it was only fair to give my sons a chance to have their say.  It can't be easy having your mother write about you every week, telling every Karen, Linda and Sue the personal stories of your childhood.  
     About ten days ago, I encouraged each of the boys to write anything they wanted to get off their chests, and I promised to post it it here in this space.  This is from Rob:

     So I’ve been trying to figure out what to tell you people… clearly there’s not much about my family or me that you already don’t know so I’ll keep it brief.
     Two questions I’ll address right off the bat. Are the stories true? From her perspective… yes. Are the stories embarrassing? From MY perspective… oh yeah.
     Ok Ok. They’re really not that bad. You probably could tell that they have been written over many years. Hopefully by now this makes sense. Just to clarify, I am 23 years old. I would understand if you were initially confused. One out of sequence occasion happened in late January, early February 2012. One week I was a college sophomore throwing a rager at my new apartment. That very next week I was learning to drive with mommy in the passenger’s seat.
     Rest assured loyal Sheryl readers, I am not that big of a putz.
     My “little” brother Jesse and I are the blog subjects, and mom has graciously allowed her subjects to share their thoughts with the conclusion of this project. We feel the love every day in real life, and it’s great that you have been able to see this through her stories. As kids, we really never could relate to her perspective. When I told some kid that she would talk crap about him being rude, it didn’t click that it affected her as well. Now that I understand how she saw things, I’m just really glad we weren’t that horrible of children. Because good or bad, she was going to write about it. Glad the narrative has been positive.
     I am 6’3 on a good day, Jesse about 6’5. The blog is titled Looking Up, but I believe we look up to our mom more so. Though she writes about us much of the time, she actually reveals her own character through her stories of our growing up. Her literary voice is genuine and caring- exactly how she really is, and her mothering has been every bit as loving as her stories would detail. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


     On Tuesday, I poisoned myself with my own cooking.  I woke up in the middle of the night all shivery and clammy with a knot in my stomach, and set up camp on the notoriously cold and impossibly hard tile of the bathroom floor.
     I reviewed my lunch and dinner choices to try and find the culprit, and in doing so, realized it could have been any one of about a dozen different dishes.
     I'm not a great cook, but I don't usually make myself vomit.  When I did an inventory of my refrigerator, I found a smorgasbord of leftovers--salmon from Friday, black beans and sausage from Thursday, chicken stir fry from Wednesday, and a pork tenderloin from a date I could no longer remember.  The lunchmeat was two weeks old, and on the counter was its sandwich companion, a loaf of moldy bread.
     This is new territory for me.  With my two big boys and their friends, food never hung around for long.  But no more.  With one boy at college, and the other in his own apartment, my big eaters have abandoned me and left me with leftovers.
     Last week when I got on the scale I had to admit that the only one eating the potato chips was me.  Same with the fudge stripe cookies.  I can no longer use the boys as an excuse.  There are no boys.
     This is terrible news.
     I've come face to face with my demons.  I used to bake a banana bread knowing that I could eat one piece, and within forty-eight hours it would no longer tempt me.  No more.  Now it remains on my counter, day after day, calling my name, threatening to go to waste when children are starving somewhere in the world.
     I know this is a common problem when the kids leave home--mothers need to figure out how to shop and cook for a reduced audience. For Jewish mothers long accustomed to equating lots of food with lots of love, it's the final insult.
     I'm just sick about it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Doubt

     My kids have a lot of self-confidence.  They get that from me.
     My husband has always marveled at it.  I know it's not something most people say out loud, but I think I am terrific. Joel has what is probably a normal amount of self doubt, but he should know by now that I wouldn't have married him if he wasn't pretty great.
     My sons are fairly confident in just about all situations, and it is not because they were the best students or the hardest workers. I have told my children since birth that they are wonderful, and evidently they believe me.
     My husband teases us and calls this phenomenon "Confidence for No Apparent Reason."
     You can laugh at us, but it works.  Go through life thinking that everyone loves you, and see how far it gets you.
     Pretty far.
     I got my self-confidence from my parents.  I've written about my mother, who thinks that everyone loves her, but that is because everyone actually does love her.  My mother told me the following story of her trip back to Florida after Thanksgiving:
     She was in the security line at the airport, putting all her things in a bin, and a TSA agent reminded her to take off her shoes before she went through the scanner.  My mother told the woman that she was old enough now to keep her shoes on, and the TSA woman was surprised and complimented my mother for looking so young.  My mother asked the woman if she'd had a nice Thanksgiving, and they exchanged pleasantries.
     My mother walked through the scanner, and the TSA agent held out her arms to pat my mother down.  My mother saw the woman with her arms outstretched, and walked over to her with her own arms outstretched.  My mother gave the woman a big hug and said "Happy Thanksgiving!"
     My mother assumed that the TSA agent at O'Hare airport on Thanksgiving weekend wanted to give her a hug.
    Even I am speechless.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nachas Part II

     Last week, just before his younger brother sang his way into the hearts of dozens (see post from last week!) my older son was quietly making nachas of his own.
     Rob and his friend G came to volunteer at Friedman Place, where I've worked as a fundraiser since April. Friedman Place is a residence for 81 adults who are blind or visually impaired.
     Rob and G had created a program for residents called Sports Night, something we had never tried before.  They structured it like a talk radio show-- two guys dishing on sports, with the participants asking questions.  They had notes and stats on the Bulls without Derrick,  the Bears lousy offensive line, and the NHL lockout.  They also prepared long lists of trivia questions to try and get everyone involved.
     Rob asked me a lot of questions about Friedman Place residents.  He wanted to know if they had always been blind, and how they "watched" sports.  He wanted them to have fun, and he asked what sports might be particularly interesting to them.  I answered what I could.  There was a lot I didn't know.
     Rob and G scheduled their event on the evening of our Board of Directors meeting which I would be attending, and my boss generously invited them to join the board for dinner in advance of Sports Night.
     G was running late, so when Rob arrived I gave him a quick tour. I showed him our aviary in the lobby where the birds sing to our residents and guests, and our library with braille books. One of our residents brought us into the computer room and showed us how the talking computer program tells him all the scores from the ESPN website.
    I was surprised that Rob so readily agreed to dinner with the board members.  I thought he might find it intimidating but he was happy for the free meal. I knew the board members would be friendly to Rob, but I also knew they'd be curious.  For the last 23 years, I've spent most of my time working on being a good mother.  If someone wants to know if I do good work, meeting my son is a pretty good test.
     Lucky for me, Rob is wonderful. He is smart and well-spoken. He is kind and helpful.  He looks you in the eye and is genuinely interested in what you have to say.  If you look in the dictionary under "Fine Young Man" you would see his picture.  Did I mention that he is handsome?
     I graciously accepted many rave reviews from the board members and my colleagues.  This was different than when my son hit a home run or sang a song.  I don't take any credit for their talents.  But these compliments were because Rob was a mensch, and I take lots of the credit for that.
     After dinner, the boys shared their sports insights with a group of blind adults.  One person wanted to talk about bowling.  Another reminisced about Kiki Cuyler who played for the Cubs in the 1920's.  Two people fell asleep.
     It was a huge success.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nachas in the Bank

     It was my husband Joel's birthday last week.  I bought him a new coat which he sorely needed, but the poor guy has been under a lot of stress lately, and I felt that a more light-hearted gift was in order.
     Our younger son Jesse is a music major at college, and had two end of semester performances scheduled on Friday. I decided to buy my husband a plane ticket to see him.
     There is no medicine that cures what ails you like watching your child shine.  I remember Little League games when my son hit a home run and the other parents would congratulate me, as if I had anything at all to do with the bat in his hands.  It was awhile before I understood that I received their good wishes for being the lucky beneficiary of so much pleasure.
     Buying Joel a plane ticket to watch Jesse perform as the lead singer of a 15-piece swing band was the foolproof birthday gift.  My husband coined the ideal term to describe it: Nachas in the Bank.
     Nachas is the Yiddish word which most closely translates to pride, and is usually used when talking about the accomplishments of children.  But unlike pride, which is sometimes tinged by its cousin conceit, nachas is pure.  Nachas is pride plus love, in equal measures. Nachas is this.  (Click to watch video. Enjoy!)