Mother’s Day Is The Worst Day Of The Year

My wife and I are about to have our first child.

The baby isn’t due until October, but my wife said people had been asking what I had planned for her on Mother’s Day. I didn’t have a plan. When she mentioned this to me, rather than just say I didn’t have a plan, I chose to complain about how she’s not a mother yet, and how “mother” is an earned title.

“Do people shower Mother’s Day gifts upon young moms who gave up their children for adoption?” I angrily asked.

I was hiding my devastation. She knows my life story, but still doesn’t know the depths to which this holiday sends me.

When I was seven years old, a man I never met killed my mother.

She was a marathon runner, training in the crisp chill of a late February morning. He was driving a pickup truck in the opposite direction. For some mysterious reason, he ran off the road and struck her. He was sober, and there was no problem with his car. She died instantly.

When questioned by the police, the 51-year old man had no idea what had happened.

It was murder wearing the softer exterior flesh of an accident. The newspaper that week said the reason for her death might never be known.

February 23, 1985.

I was seven. My siblings were eleven and sixteen, and we were each affected in different ways because of our ages, all uniquely tragic.

I had to deal with the especially harsh alienation that comes with kid gloves.

Because I was so young, only the bravest individuals dared even breach the subject of my mother’s death. I firmly believe my first grade teacher, Mrs. Bowker, had one of the toughest jobs in the world in dealing with me in light of this situation.

As a rural white kid in the 80's, the norm was very much the two-parent family, so much of a kid’s elementary school life was tied into having a mother. When I was in a class, language had to be altered slightly; subjects had to be handled with care.

No matter how lightly you tread, however, you can’t take a whole holiday off the calendar.

Every year as Mother’s day neared, school projects turned into giftmaking exercises for our moms. Kids would cut construction paper cards in pink and white, or make little tissue paper flower arrangements, thanking their mothers for their endless sacrifice.

No exceptions were ever made for me. I was not excused from participating in these exercises. Instead, I had to make the projects and address them to no one.

Every year of my elementary school age without fail, I had to make expressions of deepest youthful gratitude to an empty hole.

Thanks, ____. I love you for everything you do for me, thank you for always being there! XOXOXOX

This is something my older siblings didn’t have to endure. They were in middle school and high school, they had already had their chance to draw pictures for our mom or write her silly notes, to thank her for being so sweet and loving.

Mother’s Day was the annual reminder that I didn’t.

By the time I got to middle school, my father had remarried. This served to make Mother’s day even worse, because I could not allow myself to accept my stepmother as a replacement to my poor deceased mom. My siblings despised her, and my mother’s family loathed her. Even my father’s own family even treated her with lukewarm disdain.

If I didn’t know what to do when Mother’s Day arrived before, having a stepmother made it so much worse. It went from being painful to being simultaneously painful and awkward, and that’s how it’s remained my whole life.

Right now, my pregnant wife is sitting in the living room alone, unaware of the magnitude of my turmoil. As I prepare to walk out there and take her to breakfast, I am steeling myself against a lifetime of paper flowers and thank you cards with no recipient. My lovely, generous and caring wife has given me the chance to finally celebrate motherhood. She has finally given me an appropriate target for my Mother’s Day gratitude.

Next Story — It Tastes like the End of the World
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It Tastes like the End of the World

I somehow managed to make it to the age of 23 without ever tasting a curly fry.

It wasn’t a conscious decision; I didn’t even know they were a thing. By that I mean I knew they existed and that people sometimes ate them, but I didn’t know how popular they were.

Admittedly, keeping up with popularity was never my best skill. Popular music, books, movies, or food are all equally elusive to me in adulthood. I am often as ignorant of popularity as I am of the reasons why something might be popular to begin with.

Do not misconstrue this as some sort of brag. It sucks. A lot of people take pride in embracing only the most obscure and most arcane. As a teenager, that’s what I did. I’d actively shun what I thought was popular and seek out less lauded music and books and culture as if it somehow made me smarter or better than everyone else.

It didn’t. It never does.

The truth is, you want to relate to people. If you are truly out of touch with popularity, you are prone to making social errors in ALL cultural arenas, popular or not. This is what I do now.

Let’s say I’m talking to someone about a particular song. Because I do not know how popular this song is, I just assume they’ve never heard of it. The person I’m talking to will be like “yeah, I know that song…” and then I’m surprised that the person knows it. Then I get a look. It’s not a good look. My surprise always comes off as condescension. It always turns out that the song was in a TV commercial that everyone on Earth saw and I somehow missed. It was like I was surprised that somebody knew how to tie their own shoes.

Where I grew up, we didn’t have an Arby’s. For our fast food roast beef, we had Roy Rogers.

Roy’s was the first real job I ever had. It was the first exposure to the stench of a grease trap. It was my first exposure to being yelled at for leaning against a counter instead of working. The food there was all familiar. There were no firsts in that department.

I’d heard people talk about curly fries from time to time. They’d get a passing mention on TV or by a school friend, but that was the limit of my knowledge. I didn’t realize they were a common thing that basically everyone had experienced. I also didn’t know that they were an attraction at Arby’s. I’d never been to an Arby’s.

I remember seeing Arby’s restaurants pass by when I sat in the back seat of my dad’s car. There was one on route 40 near Laurel that had a big brown-and-orange cowboy hat sign. Brown and orange: the color pairing retailers universally agreed upon in the 1970’s.

I remember passing by one outside of Salisbury where my older brother went to college in the late 80’s. A silhouette of a cartoon Stetson glowed neon orange in the evening sky.

That very Arby’s was the first one I’d ever go to, but it wouldn’t be for many years.

Our senses of smell and taste deeply map upon our memories. They’re literally visceral sensations. When you smell or taste pop culture, you remember. You remember the smell of Drakkar Noir on the boy you liked when you first spent all night dancing together. You remember the taste of Orange Julius from those delinquent nights at the shopping mall.

In my case, the confusing revelation that curly fries did not taste like regular french fries became an instant memory.

I was sitting behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler with a girl I was dating. The Jeep was hers. I didn’t have a car. We’d just gotten drive-thru at the very Arby’s I mentioned earlier. We were leaving Maryland’s Eastern Shore and sat in the parking lot eating our lunch.

I took the bag and dipped my hand in, bringing out a fistful of warm-ish curly fries. Their touch on my lips was a shock. They were slightly spicy, kind of crispy and soft on the inside without being limp and over-greeezy.

“Oh…” I blurted, “What…?”

She looked over at me. She was listening closely to the radio.

“Hm?” she intoned, thinking I was referring to the news she was listening to.

“I’ve never had these before,” I said, peering into the bag with one finger pulling it open.

“You’ve never had curly fries?” She asked, with a half smile replacing her prior look of concern.

“I …no?”

She and I both had off from work and we went to Ocean City for an impromptu weekend getaway. We’d stayed in a hundred-dollar-a-night hotel and swam in the outdoor pool even though it was not at all warm outside. Summer was over.

The sky was also very blue

Though I was very smitten with her, our relationship was a sham. I never learned exactly why she and I ended up together, but I learned she was using me to get back at her ex-boyfriend who happened to be my roommate and bandmate and close friend. I didn’t know. I honestly had no idea. I was blinded by her animism and both of them were playing some kind of game that neither one was telling me about. The whole thing ended quietly and quickly after six months. I wasn’t hurt, and hopefully I didn’t hurt either of them. Though I never spoke to her again, my relationship with my friend continued unchanged even after he ended up getting back with her.

We are capable of such strange relationships in our early twenties.

She was the first time I felt a tangible “spark” between two people. It happened when she was sitting in the front seat of my friend’s car when he was driving…I made some joking remark from the back seat about something long forgotten, and she turned around and gave me a look that sent an electrical jolt through my body. I felt that look hard. There weren’t any accompanying words. Within a week, the two of us found ourselves acting on that spark.

“Good, huh?” She chuckled as I stuffed my face.

She shook her head and smiled, turning her eyes straight ahead again. We listened to the radio in silence, waiting for the news that it would be okay to drive across the Bay Bridge and head home.

That’s something a lot of people don’t remember about 9/11. The entire country shut down. The four mile-long bridge across the Chesapeake Bay had defensively closed while the terror threat was at max. We were stranded on the wrong side of the Bay while the twin towers were crumbling into cancerous ash on the radio. I was having curly fries for the first time.

I sipped on my bucket-sized cup of Dr. Pepper, looking at her smooth face and its distinct First Nation contours. She could roll out of bed and be gorgeous. That’s precisely what she had done that morning.

We’d woken up to enjoy the day, and turned on the television in our hotel room. We watched the second plane hit and we immediately terminated the vacation. Neither of us had a mobile phone. Neither of us could be sure nobody we knew had been killed.

We didn’t expect to have to rush home as black Hummers appeared from nowhere to patrol the empty beach highway. We didn’t expect a police barricade at the coastal side of the bridge. We didn’t expect to be so afraid to see a single airplane streaking through the sky after the radio told us every single airline was down.

We didn’t expect it could all somehow be paused by introducing one of us to curly fries for the first time.

Next Story — Virgin Mary Poetry Book
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Virgin Mary Poetry Book


When I was 25, I had no idea what I was doing.

I was living on minimum wage, jumping from house to house to squat to parking lot. I couldn’t make enough to pay my bills. I was single and “living the life” while my teeth rotted and my poverty worsened.

I thought poetry was stupid, yet wrote it all the time. I’ve never taken it seriously. It’s just an exercise I love. Because I was in bands since age 16, my poems often became song lyrics. I felt it was justified.

At 25, I was beginning the short climb to the financial apex of my music career. What follows is the exact content of a one of my notebooks that I never filled. It was a small one, with an image of the Virgin Mary on the cover.

Everything has been transcribed exactly as it appears in this book. I wrote it when I was 25 and playing shows every weekend in two bands. Most of the poems are about people I knew then who I no longer know.

One of the poems (“school of flips”) eventually became a song for my brother’s electro band Hustlepunch after MASSIVE editing. I added the final version at the bottom as a footnote.

One of the songs is about a transgendered video game programmer from the 80's.


Page 1

How do you describe burning flesh to someone who’s never felt pain?

You say you don’t have to touch a hot iron to know it hurts.

But you don’t know what that pain be.

scorch th skin w/ bald-faced lies

As !ng as they’re delivered

by tits and thighs

Page 2

A good child listens

sun perched between soul and cold

it grew from ice like mold.

As the years left

kept beasts instead of friends

that wondrous plague

came like vespers

to the Christian bedside

casting a mariner’s shadow

hands gripping two gaffs

Page 3

Four is too long

She’s getting what she wants

She don’t get anything.

Chance-blessed for now,

Ignominious. Too

conscious to be glad

sand blasting idiot fashion:

calculator watch (check mark)

chambray shirt, vintage (check mark)

one-of-a-kind suit (check mark)

your own label glasses (check mark)

prototype shoes (check mark)

hand in a glass of

thousand dollar per shot



only good

if no one else has it yet.

Page 4


Page 5


Page 6


I invent this

Shaping Grandly

Elementary youth have

(N)ever risen up.


one half revision

one half phoneme

name them. you know them.

it’s waaaaaaaay more

than you even know

Page 7


Page 8

Dearest strumming smoke wand,

You turned up at my door

in a strange car

carrying an Alice pack

Shaking AWOL terror

You made my air burn

and didn’t know what “residual” meant.

You lived in a tent

and carried all your memories.

(I kicked you out in the morning, but never apologized for turning your personal life into song lyrics.)

Page 9

Marriage of an Old Fling

Put spirit to glass

and raise it high

but to remember the touch national

in a principality

Will you honeymoon

at the elephant graveyard?

or the miniature golf course?

No more parking in the woods for us.

Take a note…

“Dear Dickhead,

You have scabies.


Johannes Fistfuck, MD”

Page 10

(Illustration with note)

O so devilish!

Ice queen in summer

is but a puddle duchess.

(scribbled out)

Page 11


(red pen)

  • walking into an apartment building in the morning, you smell other people’s coffee brewing through their front doors


Page 12


Systems cannot translate

nor experts chronicle

the prisoner

were we not beings

with no escape

outlines in the dust

we’d conquer galaxies

empire powers empire

with robot will

and devouring purpose

each bound to the other

in synchronous orbit.

You feel like a toaster now,

but bread burns inside you.

Page 13


Page 14–15

(Ripped out)

Page 16

(orange pen)

kneel here in the dying grass

I’ve got white-soled shoes and

green-kneed jeans

I’ll tell you all you need

in a flat two minutes

better roll up your sleeves


[Captain O’s school of flips, to be precise.]

Apparatusless measurements


making plans by eyeballing the lay of the land

with a backpack full of baggies

full of crackers and chips

l’ecole de flips*

Page 17




Hold on first

then replenish

friend or fiend

narc or nebbish

who will smile

when your place gets trashed

your envelopes of cash

lost or passed

jewlry pawned

moped crashed

Page 18

Welcome to the Department of Transient Scientists.

Please stand and mispronounce your own name.

Page 19

(blue pen, center of page)

There are dark brown smears on the carpet

Page 20

a braindead, yet still breathing


— — wrapped by the hot hands of winter

Page 21


Page 22

Goodbye, Eastern Capital

‘Tis noble to fight

for brother or wife

and armies

of he-who-defends

will stand eternal

skirmishing factions

of starving agrarians

would die for a half-demolished

patch of good soil

while the emperor

with golden hair smirks

and raises flags of conquest around them

They’ll fall one by one

taking themselves and each other out

then he’ll send in his men

to round up the children

and turn the coveted land into a bunker.

There is a computer on the table inside of it.

Page 22

Do I see myself here?

tell a story everyone will love.

one time I punched out a

Page 23

(mechanical pencil)

I’ve made up my mind to turn this apartment into a fortress

so nothing can fail.

You can’t protect yourself from an unknown outcome






Thy amino set.

The tiny soma.

I’m 1/10 soy.

This is my A note.

Atheism Tony.

(purple pen)

Closed from 2–6pm

Amy Brantley — (408)974-xxxx

*SCHOOL OF FLIPS (song version, completed five years later)


Next Story — Companies that started with a loan from the founder’s parents
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Companies that started with a loan from the founder’s parents

Maybe they didn’t inherit the family business like Donald Trump did.

They built successful empires through hard work, perseverance, and…a hefty investment from their mothers and fathers.

What follows is a list of companies started by founders who got start-up money from their parents. There’s no guarantee that any of these companies would exist today if these parents didn’t have enough money to invest in their ambitious kids.

The perpetuation of wealth takes many forms. This is one of them. If your parents don’t have money to invest in you, I’m sorry. Founder Jeff Bezos got a $100,000 investment from his parents to start the famous online store.

American Apparel: Founder Dov Charney borrowed $10,000 from his father to start manufacturing clothing.

Chipotle: Founder Steve Ellis opened his 1st restaurant outside the University of Denver with an $85,000 loan from his dad.

CompuServe Corp: Pioneering online service provider was founded on $1 million from co-founder Jeff Wilkins’ father-in-law.

Spin Magazine: Bob Guccione Jr. is son of the publisher of Penthouse Magazine who loaned him $2 million to get started.

GoPro: Nick Woodman’s parents, (father is co-founder of investment bank Robertson Stephens), lent him $235,000 to get started.

Poundland: The UK’s massive dollar store chain began with a £50,000 investment from founder Steve Smith’s father.

SpaceX/Tesla: Elon Musk’s first company Zip2 was founded with $28,000 of his father’s money. That sold to Compaq for $307 million and $34 million in stock options and set Musk on the path to creating, SpaceX, and Tesla.

Squarespace: Founder Anthony Casalena received $30,000 from his father in 2003 to build his all-in-one web publishing suite.

Xmission: Utah’s oldest ISP was founded in 1993 based on an undisclosed investment from founder Pete Ashdown’s father. French e-commerce site was built by Jackques-Antoine Granjon with $3,000 he received from his father, a real estate developer.

Applebee’s: In 1980, husband and wife restaurateurs Bill and TJ Palmer received $5,200 from their parents to construct the first Applebee’s restaurant in Atlanta.

Friendly’s Ice Cream: Brothers Prestley and Curtis Blake opened their signature ice cream business in 1935 with a $500 investment from their parents. In 2015 dollars, that investment is worth $8,679.

Jimmy John’s: Founder Jimmy John Liautaud accepted a $25,000 loan from his father to start his chain of sandwich shops.

Enso Capital Management: Founded by Joshua Fink with a “minority investment” from his father Laurence Fink, a co-founder of BlackRock Inc.

Cobalt Capital Management Inc: Founded by Wayne Cooperman with a starting investment from his father Leon Cooperman, founder of Omega Advisors Inc.

Chatroulette: The popular-for-a-second video chat site was built on a $10,000 investment from 18-year old Andrey Ternoviskiy’s parents.

Motown Records: The most successful African-American business in the United States was founded in 1959 with $700 from Berry Gordy’s father. Correcting for inflation, the investment would be the equivalent of approximately $6,000 today.

Greenlight Capital: Famous hedge fund manager David Einhorn opened his first fund in 1996 at age 27 with a “significant investment” from his parents.

*This list is far from comprehensive, however I’d like to keep it growing. Please contact me on Twitter (@timconneally) with noteworthy additions.

Next Story — A Postcard to Mother
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A Postcard to Mother

One year ago, I wrote that Mother’s Day was the worst day of the year.

It was a belief I’d held my entire life. Mother’s Day was not a holiday, but a once-a-year insult to the injury of being a motherless child.

Every day of my young life, I felt an absence where a mother should have been. On Mother’s Day, that feeling worsened against my will. She was killed when I was barely seven years old. I had almost nothing to remember but the hole that she left behind, and on the day that we give thanks to our Mothers for the lives we have, I had nothing to celebrate; no one to thank.

Yet I was always thankful.

Years later, I thought becoming a father would be my chance to reinvent Mother’s Day. My wife — the compassionate, loving, and beautiful mother of my child — could be the person I’d revere on this special day.

We had a baby girl. A gorgeous, blue-eyed angel sent from the farthest reaches of the unknown into a part of my heart that never existed before.

When the doctor first handed her to me, something happened.

But it wasn’t what I thought would happen.

I did not cease to be that motherless child. The motherless child just went on vacation.

I became a tourist.

I was witnessing the invention of a person in real time. Everything that I took for granted became a fresh experience. I watched in astonishment as everything happened anew.

Air…light…sounds…sensations…were these things always here? I stood in awe of every silly little thing, and everything made me choke up. Everything.

It’s been six months, and I’m still clueless and eager and so easily impressed. I am wearing sandals with socks and sunglasses with a lanyard.

Today I watched an almond-shaped leaf no bigger than a postage stamp lazily fall from a tree in front of my daughter’s lap. We were sitting on a beach towel in the backyard. I watched her gently pick up the leaf and pass it between her hands. I was counting down the seconds til she put it in her mouth, but she never did. She just felt its edges and studied it, eventually letting it go. It was as awe-striking as the grand canyon, as eloquent as W.H. Auden, and as moving as the first ten minutes of the movie Up.

Having our daughter didn’t magically turn my wife into some matripotestal idol to worship on Mother’s Day. She is the same incredible person she was before, only she has become a tourist too…and she’s taking way more photos than I am.

Our daughter is crawling around on her own, she’s started solid foods, she babbles and sings. My wife and I are enamored.

If I’m being totally honest, I don’t really know WHAT I expected. Maybe I thought the Genesis of motherhood would replace the missing experiences in my own life, and that everything would make sense.

Maybe I thought my wife, my partner, could act as some kind of surrogate for my broken inner child.

Whatever my expectations were, they were unfair and confused.

To a person without a mother, Mother’s Day is about their own suffering and sadness and loneliness. I know that feeling never goes away. The part that changed is that I’m not alone any more. It’s about having mothers, but it’s also about being mothers.

And if you’re not a mother, and don’t have a mother, It’s about being a person invested totally in another person.

We are not born parents. Parents are just tourists who have visited a city enough to become the tour guides.

Mothers and fathers lead us through the city that is our life. They help us pack and tell us not to carry our money in our back pocket. They communicate with the waiter in his native tongue and ask if they can just make a plain hamburger instead. They point out the beautiful architecture and let us splash barefooted in the fountain.

My wife deserves to be a tourist for a while.

Maybe on Mother’s Day she can stay in bed a little longer than usual, to grab onto that tiny bit of extra sleep she so desperately needs.

But I can’t let her sleep too long. There are so many new things to see in this growing city. There are foods to eat, dogs to pet, and tiny hands to hold.

My own city, meanwhile, still has no tour guides. My mother will never come back. The truth of the matter is that Mother’s Day will always bring pain to my heart, but that’s okay…

I’m visiting a new city, and I am having the best time.

Dear Mom

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