Author: Kathleen Warner

My Secret to Dominating the Neighborhood? Pumpkin Bowling

Suburbia, circa 1994. We’d moved out of the New York City right about the time our daughter was to start kindergarten, seeking the bucolic childhood that my husband and I had deluded ourselves that we both had: house in the country; 2+ acre lots; great public schools; supportive, tight-knit community. While we moved back to an area very close to where I’d grown up, it had been a good 10 years since I’d left for college and I no longer had a circle of close friends. Barely 30 and working long hours at a New York City law firm, with my husband traveling all over for his sales job, we wanted a shortcut to meet people (just like us) with whom we could share stories of new parenthood and go for beers and burgers. So, at our 75-year-old realtor’s urging, we joined Newcomers. The Newcomers’ Club was just that: a club (with a small yearly membership fee) for people new to the community. There were mom reading groups, mom social hours, mom’s night out and the occasional …

How My Husband’s Cancer Changed Me — For the Better

At the start of 2014, I celebrated my half-century birthday. My New England home was packed to the rafters with friends, both old and new, family, music and food. I was enveloped in love and felt buoyantly optimistic about the upcoming year(s). My husband of 25-plus years, Ken, was starting a new senior role at a growing startup. I had launched a fledgling consulting business with a bunch of amazing clients. I had committed — finally— to getting on the biking bandwagon and going on a 62-mile race with my biking obsessed hubby. It was promising to be quite a year. Less than a month later, we learned that the funky little squamous cell carcinoma that my husband had removed from his lip two years earlier, to little fanfare, had metastasized. Stage IV cancer. The cells had spread into at least four lymph nodes. As a world-class problem-solver and fixer, I shifted into high gear. I researched and ranked doctors and surgical centers as my hubby, alternatively numb and angry, struggled to make decisions about …

Out of Time: How My Teenager Fell in Love With R.E.M.

My son doesn’t remember the first time an R.E.M song soothed him, but I tell him the story often, much to his chagrin. He was not even a month old, screaming his lungs out, defying sleep as only an infant can. My younger brother Philip, about 25 at the time, grabbed him from me. The song “Electrolite” was playing and Philip rocked my rapidly quieting son in rhythm, singing along softly, “Don’t be scared…you are alive.” Not a typical lullaby, by any stretch. But I’d always been a big music lover and in particular, a lover of R.E.M. Since 1982, R.E.M. had a song for whatever mood I was in, milestones I celebrated, or challenges I faced. In early 1997, R.E.M.’s album, New Adventures In Hi Fi was just a few months older than my son, and it eased and guided me through shifting postpartum emotions that were amplified by exhaustion. That night, as my son wondrously nodded off, I saw music settle him as it had so often settled me. It was one of …

How My White Perspective on Freedom Has Changed

Until fairly recently, I didn’t think much about how easily and freely I moved in this country. I took for granted the dozens — no, hundreds of interactions and experiences that I had over the course of any given week where I could just be, without worry, fear, accusation or confrontation. I have been able to work and live and love and play and move without really recognizing that these were freedoms, rather than just part of my daily life as an American. I took all of this for granted because America, the country that I love dearly, is “the land of the free, home of the brave.” [pullquote] I have been able to work and live and love and play and move without really recognizing that these were freedoms, rather than just part of my daily life as an American. [/pullquote] And while I’ve known that injustice and unfairness exist, I didn’t really know it. Not down to my bones. I didn’t really see that if we are not all free, then none of us …

The K. Warner Guide to Naming Your Child

When Kelsey McCook Warner was born in June 1989, my husband and I were grateful, ecstatic and a bit relieved. But nearly eight years later, during my second pregnancy, I realized that the name “Kelsey” — one that we both loved — had created a problem I could have never imagined. Not too long after we learned the sex of our second child (a boy!), I blithely pulled out a yellowed list of names that we had considered when naming our first child in 1989. I added a few new names to the list, then rambled them off to my husband. He didn’t say much. At first, I didn’t pay attention to his non-responsiveness, but after it went on for a good 20 minutes, I realized that I was talking to myself. “Hellloooooooo?” I said. “What do you think? We’ve got a good ten names here, and we’ve got a few months to decide.” Silence. I chose to ignore the body language. “Ken?!” Looking uncomfortable yet determined, and with a certain set to his jaw that …

TueNight Labels Kathleen Warner

When Being “The Good One” Isn’t So Great

The good one. The smart one. The athlete. The artist. The drama queen. The baby. The rebel. The sensitive one. The brat. The loudmouth. The playwright. Being the eldest of five children, with only eight years between me and my youngest brother, my beleaguered and exhausted parents often used shortcuts to keep us all straight. As the “good” and “smart” one, I had it easy, at least for a while. I was diligent and studious, I got good grades and my teachers sang my praises. What could be bad about that? Seemingly nothing, when operating in the outside world of teachers, other adults and the like. [pullquote]The hardest part was to re-write the narrative of who I was based on what I had internalized from other people’s expectations. [/pullquote] But within my family, my sibling relationships suffered, particularly with my brothers. I was only one year apart from one of my brothers and, as little kids, we were inseparable. He was creative and smart, played soccer and the guitar, and had a broad and sophisticated …

I’m Married, But Don’t Call Me Mrs.

I was absolutely terrified and not sure at all that I wanted to step out of the car and into the church. I was all of 24 years old and about to marry a man whom I loved deeply and who I wanted to share my life with. Have children with. But wife? Wife. WIFE. I felt not unprepared or ambivalent but rather, resistant and fairly resentful of both the word and the reality of “wife.” Or at least the reality I envisioned. I went into marriage with a fair amount of pre- (or rather, ill-) conceived notions of what a marriage “should be,” what it meant to be a wife and how my life and world would change. Part religion, part society, part too many hours spent reading and watching overly romanticized, conventionally and poorly written beach novels and Lifetime For Women television specials. And part me and my own family baggage and mythology. My mom married my dad at 18 after being sweethearts (what a term!) since they were about 12. My mom …