I Really Need to Cuddle with Tom Skilling Right Now

Tom Skilling is THE rock star of weathermen. When I learned my friend Ian had interned with him, I pummeled the poor guy with a million questions. Which aftershave does he wear? What makes him laugh? Where does he live? Like Game of Throne‘s Peter Dinklage, WGN’s forecaster Skilling has been the enigmatic source of fascination for me and a few of my friends. But today, I just need to cuddle with Tom Skilling. Preferably beneath a bed. Also, that bed needs to be in a deep basement. I need Tom’s reassurances that everything is going to be just fine. Here’s why:

Dude...we are SO screwed right now.

Dude…we are SO screwed right now. (Image courtesy of U.S. National Weather Service Chicago.)

After Hurricanes Ivan (which wiped out our Florida home) and Dennis, weather anxiety has become a thing with me. Dave Dorman and I lost too much. I’ve never recovered from the panic it caused me. It even prompted our move back to Illinois. This, despite me being a sturdy Midwesterner. I’m accustomed to death-defying weather like the Blizzard of ’79, where snowmobiles were racing down Michigan Avenue. I lived here during the 1990 Plainfield tornado, so devastating it made the cover of PEOPLE magazine.

Prior to my hurricane experiences, the weather unglued me only once. I was unaware my next-door condo neighbors had just installed surround sound. They were watching the movie Twister” at what I’m guessing was 11–the loudest volume. My entire condo was vibrating. As Helen Hunt was diving into the storm cellar on their TV next door, I was bending myself into a frickin’ pretzel, trying to squeeze behind my spiral staircase to certain safety. I couldn’t reconcile why, from my cramped vantage point, I was peering out at blue skies through my transom windows. Post torna-faux, we all had a good laugh about it. (If only they’d watched Jurassic Park, like most folks with new surround sound at that time. I probably wouldn’t have freaked over an impending T-Rex attack.)

So..before Hurricane Ivan, I never gave weather forecasts a second thought. I scoffed at the old farts for whom the Weather Channel was their MTV (yes, I’m old enough to use MTV metaphors). All that changed when Jim Cantore suddenly appeared on our TV screen, reporting from two miles down the road. Like a bad horror movie, at that exact moment, our power was cut. We were sitting in inky, black darkness. We couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces. The winds howled from the depths of hell. It was the longest, most terrifying wait for dawn I’ve ever known.

Now I sit. And I wait. The eerie stillness outside like the mosquito who has ominously stopped buzzing. It’s about to hit the fan, folks.

I get it. Chicago needs Tom Skilling in studio right now, reporting the weather. But I also need Tom, my weather teddy bear, here. Reassuring me. Beneath the bed. Preferably in my basement.






Today Marks A Decade of Jack-ness

Ten years ago today, 16 days past my due date, Master Jack arrived at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Jack rather enjoyed his own personal swimming pool, and no amount of Pitocin was persuading him to leave it, so a c-section it was. He was born at 4:23 a.m., and he’s still an early morning person.

Those were crazy times for us. Our home was half-destroyed in Hurricane Ivan on September 15th, so we were trying to rebuild our house with a shady contractor (who regaled me with his tales of prison life and the finer points of cooking crystal meth) while also working full time as two freelancers, and mentally preparing for life with a newborn. I’m glad it’s all in the rearview mirror, but I’m still awed by how this Decade of Jack-ness has whirled past me like the Tasmanian Devil on a tear.

I can still remember how Dave was taken aback by Jack’s bad horseshoe arrangement of frizzy orange hair, which reminded Dave of his least-favorite relative. My friend Denise Daughtry was taken aback by Jack’s strong neck muscles–at 12 hours old, Jack lifted his head up off of my shoulder to watch Denise walk across my hospital room to greet him. His intense gaze never left her, and he held his head up insistently, minus any neck support from me, for several minutes. I had zero experience with newborns, so I had no context for how weird this was at the time.

Jack’s light blue eyes couldn’t handle the fluorescent lights above his crib in my hospital room, so he grabbed his bassinet blanket and pulled it over his eyes with intention, creating a sleep mask. I knew he meant business, because I tried pulling it off of his face, fearing SIDS, and he just grabbed that blanket in his tiny fists and pulled it back over his eyes. It was our very first battle of the wills. He won.

At age five, Jack sat down at my piano and began playing what sounded like New Age music. His music kept evolving with each passing day. I was brimming with ideas that Jack might have some innate musical talent, since Dave’s Russian grandmother was a professional violinist. I signed him up for piano lessons. In no time, those lessons erased any joy Jack ever felt for playing piano. Even now he refuses to play the improvisational music that was so effortless for him five years ago. I beat myself up over the fact that I’d ruined him for music, but then a glimmer of hope arose. This past six months, Jack started asking for a guitar.

One-Half of the Band, "Strings of Lightning"

One-Half of the Band, “Strings of Lightning” with one of his birthday gifts


I asked Jack his plan for learning guitar. “YouTube,” he replied. Tonight over birthday cupcakes, Jack divulged that he and his friend have already formed a band, Strings of Lightning, despite having almost zero musical prowess. I have a soft spot reserved for ambitious earthlings. We talked through his logo design–a zombie fist holding a guitar, as lightning strikes it, forming an “X” pattern. In my mind’s eye, the t-shirt design is already being worn by an amphitheater full of adoring fans holding lighters, beckoning an encore during Jack’s first world tour. (There’s a little Beverly Goldberg in the heart of every mom, isn’t there?) Of this I’m certain: This next Decade of Jack-ness will whirl past me lightning fast–like the Tasmanian Devil on yet another tear.