Just because we saw it coming, doesn’t mean we could stop it.

We’ve seen our son relapse before. That time, his recovery was short and shaky at best, but he went through the motions. He tried to go too fast in returning to work and he thought he could use marijuana and alcohol recreationally. The relapse was quick and deep rendering him homeless again; however, within a few months it led him to a new treatment program and a period of nearly three-and-a-half years free from opioid use.

This time, the period of sobriety and recovery was steady. He participated in a 12-week, high-intensity out-patient program; began MAT, went in daily at first and graduated to weekly; saw his counselor regularly – the same one for three years; saw a mental-health professional for the first year; got and held a job; got his own insurance; earned tuition; returned to college, got straight A’s, earned his associates degree in mathematics and was accepted for a B.A. program. Moreover, he rebuilt trust with the family. Still, he struggled with social anxiety, depression and developing friendships.

Things started to shift and in spite of our efforts to be supportive, to address things directly but compassionately, a relapse begin. We saw it coming. We wished we could stop it. We did try to the extent that anyone can. Almost 11 months later, he’s lucky to be alive and to once again pursue recovery. What a rocky year, but what a hopeful outcome in the making.

Although I’ve updated the OYA Community from time to time this year, it hasn’t been as real-time or detailed as years past, so today I compiled a list of what we’ve experienced thus far in 2017.

The list that follows reflects just some of the things we observed. On the surface, some of these seem like not big deal or something that you could explain or rationalize. In reality, each represents a change in his sober behavior and that’s what concerned us most.

Right around the first of the year … January 2017

  • Going to bed early – even before 7 p.m.
  • Getting up early – leaving the house by 4:30 a.m. “to go to the gym and study before his 8 a.m. class.”
  • Taking frequent, deep-sleep naps.
  • Retreating to the basement to re-watch episodes of TV series he’d already watched several times.
  • Playing video games at home.
  • Taking extraordinarily long showers.
  • Saying he’s no longer able to study at home.
  • Becoming less and less conversational.
  • Not interacting or participating in family life.
  • Spending less time at home.
  • Air fresheners in the car and leaving the windows cracked open.
  • Finding lighters.
  • Finding wine-bottle openers.
  • Not wanting to travel out of town for spring break.
  • Keeping secret a romantic interest.
  • Falling asleep at the girlfriend’s house and not letting us know he wouldn’t be home.
  • Skipping a day of classes and science labs to hang out with the girl.
  • Not responding to text messages and phone calls from Mom and Dad.
  • Not wanting to talk about “it” let alone “anything.”
  • Spending more and more time with one of his former using buddies.
  • Going shopping and buying expensive clothes and shoes.
  • Arguing about the positive attributes of cannabis.
  • Self-medicating with cannabis including marijuana and cdb oil to combat anxiety and depression.
  • Going out drinking with coworkers.
  • Not communicating his whereabouts or schedule.
  • Not coming home night after night.
  • Finding pipes, a large quantity of marijuana, cbd crystals, wine and vodka bottles in the car.
  • Family meeting with his counselor.
  • Says he’s relieved he no longer has to keep his cannabis use a secret.
  • Blatantly not following the family rules.
  • Going cold turkey off Suboxone without tapering or utilizing the support of his treatment team.
  • Experiencing withdrawal.
  • Admitting he’s spending all day, every day staying high on marijuana.
  • Waking and baking, every day.
  • Not wanting to celebrate his 25th
  • Not opening his cards or presents.
  • Not eating any home-made cake.
  • Ignoring the dog.
  • Continuing to experience PAWS.
  • Getting a prescription for anxiety meds, but quitting these three days later.
  • Dropping out of his college classes and not making arrangements to apply his hard-earned tuition to a future semester.
  • Going on a bender that landed him a two-day stay in detox due to public intoxication with a BAC of .26.
  • Missing work.
  • Losing his job.
  • Not coming home or responding to calls and texts for a whole week.
  • Coming home, handing us his car keys and wallet, asking us to hold onto these for a while.
  • Visiting his cousin at rehab and noting, “he’s in denial and not ready for recovery.”
  • Five days later, going on another bender.
  • Smashing his car into a guard rail.
  • Getting arrested for DWI.
  • Refusing to take a breathalyzer.
  • Staying in jail for 48 hours.
  • Meeting with a DWI attorney.
  • Getting a voluntary chemical health assessment, but not acting on recommendations to go to treatment.
  • Enrolling in the state’s ignition-interlock program.
  • Interviewing and getting offered a new job.
  • Taking an Uber, instead of driving, to hang out with friends.
  • Not coming home that night.
  • Not showing up on the first day of his new job.
  • Drunk dialing and texting people.
  • Walking home 7 miles in the rain because his phone was dead.
  • Ringing the doorbell early on Sunday morning because he lost his keys.
  • Scrapes and scratches on his face.
  • Less than 48 hours later, heading out on another bender.
  • Sitting by the mudroom door the next morning.
  • Losing the spare set of car keys, the extra house key and his phone.
  • No memory whatsoever of where he had been – said he woke up on a park bench not far from home.
  • Agreeing to another chemical health assessment.
  • Not liking but agreeing to inpatient, dual-diagnosis treatment.
  • Waiting, waiting, waiting for a bed to open.
  • Hanging in the basement watching TV and playing video games.
  • Sleeping a lot.
  • Unable to start his car due to it detecting alcohol in his system.

Finally, riding with his dad to treatment two hours from home … October 27, 2017.

Welcoming us on family night … November 1, 2017.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Sober at 17

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One of my former students at Metro State University was especially supportive and informative when we were worried sick about our son’s addiction – because she had firsthand insight. We became fast friends and later colleagues at work. Today, she’s our guest blogger sharing her experience with addiction, sobriety and recovery as a young adult. Please welcome Lisa Grimm! MWM

Six shots of Bacardi Limon, I threw up and fell in love all in the same night. I was 15.

And I would fall truly, madly, deeply in love with alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine over the next two and a half years.

Up until this time my parents, sober alcoholics since before I was born, had said things like, “Don’t drink or do drugs. It won’t mix well with your body chemistry.” My body chemistry? Without further explanation that statement was awkward enough to keep me away, for a time. I was also acutely aware that most of my deceased lineage had died because of the bottle, which legit scared me.

My childhood was difficult for many reasons. Out of respect to my family I won’t air specific grievances. I will say that my parents were battling some significant issues. I was exposed to some very grown up things at a very young age (mental illness, anger management, financial struggles, legal proceedings of epic proportions, and the list goes on) and endured mental, emotional and physical abuse along the way.

My parents divorced when I was four. My dad remarried shortly after. I attended eight schools before high school making it difficult to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships.

As an only child with emotionally unavailable parents (P.S. I love them so much), I spent a lot of time alone (and lonely) leaning on movies, my imagination and wandering the streets to help me process my surroundings and teach me about the workings of life and the world. While I knew something was deeply wrong, I accumulated survival tools wherever I could find them and carried on. I deflected the hard stuff and became a chameleon of sorts, blending into my surroundings.

When I took that first drink my surroundings expanded far and wide. I had a new group of friends and a full social calendar. It felt like anything was possible.

Those warnings from my parents still had a hold, so I declared almost immediately that I would just drink and never do drugs. Two months later I started smoking pot.

Experimentation continued and within a few years I was smoking pot several times a day had dabbed in hallucinogens which led to ecstasy and cocaine, and boy oh boy what a joy they were.

As Josey Orr says, “The typical progression for many drug addicts goes something like this: 1. Fun 2. Fun with problems 3. Just problems.” Well, the problems began almost immediately with a rapidly plummeting fun quotient. There are so many details I’d like to share with you, but this isn’t a book nor are there pictures so I’ll cut to the chase :).

On November 3, 2000 at the ripe age of 17 I experienced my last of a long list of consequences related to my alcohol and drug use.

I had become careless and sloppy, as evidenced by the sizable bag of pot hanging out of my brand new winter coat as I was leaving the house to go party that Friday night. My stepmom, tired of it all and one to always call the kettle, called me to the living room and along with my dad offered me three choices. I could:

 

  1. Go to the Bloomington Police Station and take a possession charge (she wasn’t kidding), OR
  2. Go to treatment, OR
  3. Go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days

 

I was living with them after being kicked out of my mom’s house for the last time. Despite my family banding together through group therapy and other means to confront my use and problems, by this time I had been arrested twice, kicked out of flight school at University of North Dakota (the day before my solo flight) due to one of those arrests, nearly kicked out of Cretin Derham-Hall High School for disciplinary issues and declining grades, and a slew of other damaging things to my body and mind, and others—namely my family.

As with most addicts, it’s a long and varied list of shittiness.

I knew deep down that I was killing myself. I knew that the young woman I had become was someone not only unrecognizable, but someone I didn’t want to be. But the gravity of the emptiness and pain I felt inside had become so pervasive sedation was the most effective option to deal. So… I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. Not only was it was a far better option than treatment (or spending some time in a cell, even if brief) it was the easiest to manipulate. “Sure” I thought. “I’ll go to these meetings and carry on with my routine and they’ll never know.”

Naturally, I got good and high and went to my first meeting on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at Uptown House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. I didn’t know these people, they weren’t trying to tell me I had a problem. They were simple sharing what it had been like for them, what happened and what it’s like now. They didn’t look like me or talk like me, but for the first time ever I related to this group of people in the most real and authentic way I knew existed. I saw myself in them and it gave me a lot of hope. It also scared the shit out of me.

After an evening of tears and getting honest with myself, I made the decision that I would go to 90 meetings in 90 days and do what was asked of me. If I didn’t like what I found there I would continue as I had been and write the whole thing off.

I got a Big Book, a sponsor, went to meetings regularly, worked the steps, and found a wonderful group of young sober people to hang with. I told my friends at school that I had to take care of some things for a while and if there were still there when I got back that would be great.

I said the serenity prayer from my car to the door of school every morning and periodically throughout the day, just to make it through.

I showed up at meetings early to set up and clean up. I participated in leadership roles in my home group meeting. I took meetings to women’s treatment centers and detox facilities. When I had thoroughly worked through the steps, I shared my experience, strength and hope with other women. My family supported me, but continued to enforce strong checks and balances until I built up trust.

I’ve been sober ever since. I was a senior in High School a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

My life is better than anything I could have imagined, and it continues to get better. Even the shitty moments in life are better because I have the tools to deal with all of it, like a grown up. I have accomplished so many things because of my recovery, but the most lovely and dearest to me is restored relationships with my family and the relationships and love recovery enables. There is no greater gift in this life than being able to have true intimacy and love with other humans. No amount of money, material, professional or personal accolades will fill your soul like this does, at least this is true for me.

I’m beyond grateful for the people in that room that night, my family for loving me through the good, bad and the ugly, the amazing community of sober pals I have and the friends I have that don’t treat me/act differently because of it.

Cheers to another day!

Bio:

Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) is a Minneapolis native who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, where she leads social media for Whole Foods Market. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and American Bulldog, snacking, traveling, watching movies and documentaries, and volunteering at Healing with Horses Ranch.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 

 

How Full is Your Glass?

You know the  question about whether you see the glass half full or half empty; in may ways, this is an appropriate model for parents of young addicts. It refers to your mindset and point of view. Either vision is accurate, it’s a matter of attitude and perspective.

Even in the depths of my son’s struggles with addiction and mental health, I always had hope. In time, that hope became belief.

At first, my hope (the glass half full), was fueled by thinking and wishing that that he would stop using drugs, get help (treatment) and return to a happy, healthy life (recovery). To me, this made sense. It was a logical progression.

During his many bottoms, and yes there were MANY, there were times that others would sweat the glass was half full, if not empty. I refused to believe this. It was not denial; absolutely not. It was reality, however, that the more he used, the more he suffered, the more our family’s hope would diminish.

We worried. We wondered if he was going to make it, if he could turn things around, if he would ask and or get help. If anything, it was his denial of a problem not ours.

While we could not predict the future or will it into being, we never lost hope. The glass remained half full, if not three quarters full!

Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Midwestern Mama - always a positive thinker - sees it as three quarters full!
Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Midwestern Mama – always a positive thinker – sees it as three quarters full!

This perspective sustained me and helped out family believe in the possibility of our son’s recovery.

I am a naturally positive person, some might even call me Polly Anna, but without a doubt my attitude and perspective pulled me – if not my son – through. I hope it will you, too.

I learned that hope precedes belief, and to me, this it the process that shifts perspective from a glass half empty to half full to three quarters full. Wishing you and yours the same.

Midwestern Mama

#TBT – Maybe Today Will Be The Day

In today’s #TBT column, Midwestern Mama writes about the guiding, calling HOPE that “Maybe today will be the day,” that her son would choose sobriety and recovery.

Every parent of a young addict hopes and prays that TODAY will be the day that addiction ends and sobriety and recovery begins. None of is knows how long the journey will go on. All along though, we must maintain hope – for ourselves and for our young addicts.

A Real Mom – Maybe today will be the day 1-31-12

Several years after writing this column, after lots and lots of hoping (and other things), that day came. My son made that choice on July 11, 2014, and I’ve never been so grateful.

Midwestern Mama

Sunrise – The Miraculous Transition from Addiction to Recovery

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” It’s something my mother used to tell me, and as I grew older I thankfully learned she was right.

Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.
Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.

Throughout my son’s addiction, when not only the nights seemed dark but the days as well, our family always looked for the bright spots – the bright spots we hoped would be ahead. Sometimes, we would get a small bit of sunlight and it would make us hopeful for more. Then it would dim and darkness returned.

As his days became darker and the light was less and less, our family learned to move forward. There remained a shadow of his addiction no matter what we did, but we found our own guiding lights and the hope that each new day would bring – if not for him, for ourselves.

Addiction is a time warp for the addict as well as their family and friends. We wonder when it will end with the hopes that it becomes a transition to recovery as opposed to the unthinkable end to end all ends.

From Addiction to Recovery

The pivot from addiction toward recovery often comes on unexpectedly but no less gratefully. When night turns into day, it is a miracle of sorts.

One year ago today, our son was in the depths of his addiction. He had been to treatment several times. He had recently relapsed horrifically just a few months after an in-patient program and halfway house transitional program. I feared we were coming to the end – not the good kind of end. I could not believe how bad it had become.

It was as dark as it had ever been … and then, he was ready to stop being an addict and was ready to change. His recovery began on July 11, 2014, and continues forward. We are so happy for him.

And, we are immensely proud of him, too – we are learning that recovery is hard work. Recovery, while the opposite of addiction, is not necessarily all joy either. It too has dark days and nights. It takes an effort to see the light, and some days are easier than others.

The Sun is Shining

Most recently, I’ve witnessed some of the brightest days of our son’s recovery and it fills my heart with joy because not only is he sober, his personality is transforming in such a positive way.

Just last week, for example, he asked if he could go downtown with me over the noon hour. I had a client lunch and he thought he’d shop for his sister’s birthday present. I said, of course, however, I was leaving shortly. He doesn’t like to be rushed, so he hemmed and hawed about whether he’d be ready. Then he was concerned about how long the family dog might have to be home alone. I nudged him to make a decision one way or the other neither choice being right or wrong. Ultimately, he decided to come with me, but was non talkative during the ride as if he weren’t so sure he was glad to be going.

Now in the past, this might have been one of those get a ride with mom and then disappear for days at a time doing you know what. We’ve come a long way since then. Not only is there trust, he no longer yearns for the rush of scoring drugs and using, and he no longer wants that transient, lonely lifestyle. Phew – such a relief.

After my lunch, and to my surprise, he told me he’d run into one of his old tennis buddies from high school. They were grabbing lunch from one of the food trucks AND he invited me to come join them as they caught up. NEVER, in a very long time, has he encouraged me to participate in conversations with friends. Today, he was including me.

A couple of blocks up, I joined these young men as they chatted. We laughed, talking about the tennis days, and shared news of their siblings. My son was animated, smiling, laughing, conversational … he was happy.

Not only had he made the effort to go downtown, he got the unexpected positive reward of reconnecting with a former friend, and the chance to share updates of his own about going back to college, having a part-time job, and being sober.

Last week, the sun rose and shined as brightly as I’ve seen it in a long, long time. At many points over this first year in recovery, I have sensed the positive transition from addiction; each one has been amazing and this latest one was as affirming as any of them – my son is recovering!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Hope, Belief and a Team on the Addiction Journey

Midwestern Mama recently participated in a podcast with 100 Pedals that highlights the origins of Our Young Addicts and formation of the #OYA Community.

For your listening pleasure and some key takeaways for parents and professionals:

http://www.100pedals.com/it-takes-hope-belief-and-a-team-to-get-through-the-addiction-journey/

Midwestern Mama

Never Say Never

Midwestern Mama and her family have been modeling for us what it means to be the loving support system for a family member with a substance use disorder. They keep him close and include him in family activities without enabling or condoning his use. They treat him with dignity and respect, while encouraging him to get the help he needs. This is a very difficult line to walk and it’s easy to step outside the path, but I believe it’s better to make mistakes and keep our loved ones close.

I have always said to both my sons that I am glad God gave them to me. Someday I believe Midwestern Mama’s son will tell his family that he is glad God gave him to them.

Recently Midwestern Mama tweeted “I keep praying that a guardian angel will show up and that my son will trust and have faith in the help this angel offers.” It looks to me that that angel has shown up and it’s guiding this family.

“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill

Mid Atlantic Mom

Let’s Chat

One of our goals at Our Young Addicts is to provide a place where family and friends of young addicts can talk to each other in a relatively anonymous way.  We expect to be able to provide a forum for that kind of interaction on our web site, it’s just that we haven’t developed it yet.  It’s in the works though!

In the meantime we are offering a secret Facebook group to those of you who want to connect in a meaningful way.  To join the group you must first friend our Facebook group Our Young Addicts.  https://www.facebook.com/OurYoungAddicts   After you join, send us a direct message asking us to add you to the group Family and Friends Place and we will  add you.  From there you can chat with us or others in the group.

Your profile WILL be visible to others in the group but the general Facebook public will not see that you are part of the group.

We respect the privacy of you and your young addicts and expect all who join the group to have the same respect for each other.

Looking forward to connecting with you.

Our Young Addicts

Email ouryoungaddicts@gmail.com

Twitter @ouryoungaddicts

A Second Chance for Midwestern Mama’s Son

Addicts of all ages deserve a better, more fulfilling life.  I strongly believe that no one wakes up and decides he wants to be an addict.  If anything, it just happens.  Sure, it’s the results or consequence of choices, but those likely weren’t the original intentions.

From a parent’s perspective, I think it’s understandable – even reasonable – to ask, “What were you thinking?”  Frankly, the addict wasn’t thinking, wasn’t even capable of thinking.  Addiction got the better of them. 

Yet, as a parent, I still wonder why my young addict says and does the things he says and does.  More over, I grapple with why the words and actions rarely match up.  And then I remember that it’s part addiction, part mental illness (in my son’s case), partly a lack of perspective (as Mid Atlantic Mom wrote about), and partly age, partly the chemicals (substance and brain).  It’s many, many parts that add up all funky.

I can rationalize this.  I can understand it on a text book level.  I can even relate to it from an experiential perspective – after all, we’ve been witness to this for quite a few years.

Recognizing all this, I am again wondering what will happen next.  Nothing will surprise me, good or bad.  That’s just the reality of being the parent of a young addict.  However, nothing will stop me from hoping and praying that this is the day that he makes another small commitment to sobriety and recovery, and that in time his steps will be bigger and more confident.

About two hours ago, my son received a second chance at continuing his recovery program in a new halfway house, the one he originally said he preferred.  A bed became available.  Funding became available.  But we had to reach him and get a “yes” by 2 p.m.  By the grace of God, we did reach him and he did say, “yes.”

We were willing and ready to give him a ride right then and there.  He declined a ride from us.  He says his friends (users themselves) will give him a ride there and ensure he arrives by 4 p.m. today.  If not, the halfway house will have to give the bed and recovery opportunity to someone else … who really wants it.  

The halfway house and the funder have done their parts, nothing short of a small miracle.  Our son says, “yes.”  That’s a small miracle, too.  What will be a true miracle is if he actually shows up, on time and works the program.  You know what they say:  the program works when you work the program.  Words are one thing, but actions are what it’s all about when it comes to sobriety and recovery.

I am grateful that he has another opportunity.  (Since becoming an addict, this kid has had opportunity after opportunity.  He seems to attract them.  He also tends to waste them.)  

Today, right now, I am praying for all of you and the individual places you are on your journey.  You may be an addict.  You may be a parent, a teacher, clergy, family member, neighbor.  Whoever you are, I pray for you and am so glad you have joined Mid Atlantic Mom and me as part of our community of caring people who are concerned about the young addicts in our lives.

Will he show up at the new halfway house in the next 45 minutes?  As soon as I know, I will share with you.

Journey on ….

Midwestern Mama

 

Always hopeful, ever realistic

There have been few surprises on our son’s addiction journey.  That’s not to say we have been able to predict the future nor that we always have all the facts, however, it has followed patterns of other addicts and patterns that are uniquely his own.  We’ve just gotten pretty good at expecting the unexpected/expected.  With that, we’ve also become calmer and more accepting.  It’s just what our life is about.  We do our part, but cannot control the other things going on.

And do our part, we do.  My husband is a problem solver.  I am a connecter, a doer.  Together, we are in this together and whether we are directly trying to help our son or offering guidance, experience and a shoulder to others, we are compelled to do our part.

Before I tell you what I felt I needed to do this morning, let me fill you in on what transpired this weekend.  Since walking away from the halfway house on Wednesday evening, the family has not heard from my son.  By Friday, however, his older sister started posting on Facebook and friends pointed to a photo he had been tagged in.  She reached out to this person and introduced herself.  Meanwhile, I looked the person up on Instagram and found a photo of my son and some friends; they were using drugs and he was sitting there with them.  I do not know if he was using, but he was certainly around them and that’s hardly a good place for someone in recovery … if he is indeed in recovery.  I tried to hold back from entering the online exchange, but felt the urge to at least say we were concerned and hoped he would reach out to us.

So far, not contact with us, but he did call his sister from a friend’s phone late Saturday night.  Said he didn’t like the halfway house (after just a few hours of being there), planned to stay sober and would go to his first-choice halfway house when a bed became available in early February.  He even said, he had already talked to them about this. 

As always, this sounds good on the surface, but addicts are adept liars.  Hate to say it, but they are.  If he’s telling the truth, it still doesn’t align with his actions.

Meanwhile, here’s what else I was compelled to do and I believe it was my Higher Power’s will for me:  I called the “preferred” halfway house.  The intake director said he was glad I called because he needed to reach my son as a bed was opening up this week.  I updated him on the situation as he was not aware. But he said, this isn’t uncommon and if our son could provide a clean Urine Analysis, that he would go to bat to help him get the funding to admit to their program as soon as possible.  In other words, in spite of the poor choice and actions, my son my have another chance to continue his treatment recovery within a halfway program.

Now, we just need to reach our son and see if his word is good, if he truly wants to do it.  So far, we’ve not been able to find him, but his “friends” say they will let him know we have good news to share.

As much as I hope he will get back with the program and that everything will work out, I am ever realistic that it may just be him saying whatever he thinks we all want to hear.  Either way, he has a clear choice and his answer will be one of the first truths we’ve heard in a long, long time — even if it’s not what we would choose for him.  Only he knows which way he’ll choose.  It’s his choice. 

Midwestern Mama

 

The Journey Continues – Treatment Day 2

Yesterday morning my son entered a 28-day residential treatment program for dual diagnosis – MICD (mental illness & chemical dependency). He was deemed “highly appropriate ” for the program. We hope he will embrace this gift of time to commit to understanding his challenges, feelings, actions and addiction. We pray he is ready and willing for recovery.

Although he is not happy about going to treatment, he realized he no longer has any other options.  He did not put up nearly as much fight as he has previously.  Perhaps his resign will rally as relief once he begins the hard, but insightful work ahead.

Midwestern Mama