Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lotus Flower

"Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise." Wikipedia, 2007

I feel like much is unfolding in my life.

I was able to stop my self, again, from going to that place. The I'm not good enough, I'll do anything to have someone else say I am okay place. It takes so many different forms. It is a shapeshifter, moving through my life.

I am, however, starting to see through it's disguises.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Peas, Protections and Popular Votes

Here we go again. Crumbling the very fabric of society.

Ben is plotting his next meltdown. (It was over the unfairness of having the do the dishes.)

Zachary, ever the anarchist, refuses to eat his peas.

Jake slowly accepts his fate, eventually eating his peas but taking a long, long time to do it.

Pretty horrible, mind blowing stuff. Every day we challenge what it means in our society to be a family.

In the next Constitutional Convention in Massachussets, the cry is to let the people vote. To let the people vote on whether or not I get to enjoy the 1,000 protections heterosexuals are entitled to.

To put my rights up for a popular vote.

I feel something crumbling, to be sure. More along the lines of my family's security, safety.

How do I explain this to them?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Callas Quarter

Can someone please explain to me why shrieking is a pre-teen form of expression?

Can they also promise me it ends at a sullen age, like… 12? Okay, I can hold out mean, I thought I was hormonal. This kid takes the cake.

Ben? You need to go to your room. You cannot shout at me like that. Go. Now.

And honestly? I’m very calm when I say this. It’s hard to get upset about … shrieking. It wears on me, yes, but mad? It’s like living in a cartoon.

There is Ben the sweet- this is usually a performance piece. He does have sweetness in him- somewhere. All great actors have to pull from some experience deep inside. For Ben? Very deep. In fact, he may have borrowed it from someone else.

There is Ben the goofy- also a performance piece, Ben is never relaxed enough to be casually goofy. Therefore, goofy behavior always ends up being so over the top, one feels as if they are at a vaudeville act. I remember him dipping his chicken nuggets into a coke to impress a girl at the table. Need I say more?

And then there is Ben, I got away with it. Ben is never afraid to challenge rules, to grab candy from some forbidden spot and then tuck the wrappers in his clothesbasket. Problem? I wash his clothes. He has sat, hands on hips, and told me with a swagger that would shame Maria Callas, You don’t know half of what I do.

Oh, Ben. Don’t ever challenge me.

Walter said to me the other day, you can’t tell when Zachary is lying but Ben? Just bluff him. He spills the beans every time.

Yup, I agreed.

Jake is still learning the skill, a transparent 6 years old, he will stand in front of a mess clearly of his own making and shrug, I dunno how it happened.

YOU HATE ME!! Ben shrieked at me… uh… about ten times yesterday, five today- but, you know, I had to leave early for a meeting.

We have a fine of one dollar for being a Negative Nancy. A dollar fine for swear words, which at this point I seem to be the only one paying. I handed over a five after the weekend in New York City.

I think I should get half price. It is New York, I said to Allan, the collector of debts.

I didn't get anywhere with my plea.

I am going to recommend a Shrieking Sheila dollar fine for … well… shrieking.

Or should it be a diva dollar?

With the way Ben is going, it better be a Callas Quarter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pocket Reference Book

I almost had a huge, narcissistic response to a friend last night.

I started to write a long, long response to something she had written me.

The truth? I was hurt. My feelings were hurt.

My response? Classic narcissism. I will prove I’m right; I will inundate you with information and bluster my way to the peak of perfection, pounding my chest. See? See? I was right!

In fact, I only wanted to feel understood.

I was afraid she thought I was stupid.

I stopped before sending it out. Wait. This response isn’t going to get me what I want. This is that crazy thing I do.

I went back to my book about Children of Narcissists. Ooooh, that’s it! Page 74.

Years ago, I had a friend who was in medical school. She went back as an older student, in her forties, and often joked about how hard it was to keep up with the youngsters. Memorizing wasn’t as easy anymore. She described early residency and I could not imagine having to walk through rounds and be able to know what she was required to in a second.

How do you remember everything? I asked, in awe.

I don’t, she said. I keep all these pocket reference books in my lab coat…

I need a pocket size reference book of my narcissism book.

I caught it before I went down my path of being right. She explained what was ultimately a misunderstanding on my part.

At the end? I felt understood and known.

Would my original response have done the same? Nope. I would have been on the peak of perfection, pounding my chest.


For the first time in a lifetime? I saw what I was doing before doing it. I stopped. I thought about what I wanted.

I said, Ouch.
She said, Oh, that’s not what I meant…

I thought she was telling me I was stupid. It’s the only filter critical information seems to come through. Someone says, have you thought about…

And I only hear, You’re stupid. You’re self-centered. You’re selfish. Yes, I’m working with a pretty harsh inner critic.

She was simply pointing out a very real boundary issue to me.

She didn’t think I was stupid.

False alarm.

It’s that hypersensitive to criticism. Page 74.

I’m too old to remember this stuff.

Need a pocket reference book.

Gasket Blown

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And She's Off...

I feel myself moving to that place again.

My friends are going to kill me.

The “I want to move, change, build, do something, anything” place.

It drives everyone nuts.

So instead?

I’m going to sit with it.

I’m going to be quiet in response. Listen to what’s behind the urge. Figure out where the anxiety is coming from so I don’t go blow a hole through my life. And my kids’ lives.

I had a friend say to me last night, Cheese instead of chocolate? I’m going to call you on that, if no one else will, I am. A camera at the restaurant?

I was being silly, to be sure but… to what end?

I realize it’s the drama queen in me. It’s a performance.

On the way back from New York on the train, I kept thinking, how do I achieve authenticity? Do I apply for an interesting job in New York City I saw advertised? Do I move my family to Jamaica Plain so my children aren’t basking in the white, privilege of Newton?

None of that feels very authentic.

What would slowing down look like?

One thought was to photograph all the meals we have as a family together. With essays to accompany them. Sometimes we have great discussions at dinner. We talk about the latest American Idol show, or the Red Sox. Occasionally, the boys’ giggle about who they have a ‘crush’ on, who they think the other has a crush on and the merciless teasing that goes with the admission ensues.

It’s authentic.

A bit pretentious, too. I mean, why would anyone care about my family? Is that the drama queen again?

Back to square one.

No, I’m not going to move, do, change anything right now. I’m resisting the lure of multiple emails to respond to by not signing on to my mail account except for twice a day. I’m not going to add any more meetings to my calendar. I’m not going to buy anything new, change anything major.

I will take pictures. I will write. I know those are two things that keep me present. Focused.

I will spend time with friends who know me and keep my mouth shut. I need to listen.

Somewhere in the middle of this storm rising inside me is calm. I know I can be calm. It goes against every fiber of my being, to be sure, but I am going to find it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Painful Irony

Maybe it’s the rain. Or the post vacation let down.

But coming back to read how one of the first statements out of the new State Senate President in Massachusetts, Therese Murray, was that she was going to have a vote on same sex marriage? Up or down, she declared.

Made my stomach hurt.

It's not that simple. Only fifty votes- far less an a democratic majority- are required to send a ballot to the people to vote on a constitutional amendment making gay marriage illegal. Fifty out of two hundred Legislators can vote to send this to a popular vote.

Um... being gay has never really been popular.

The majority gets to vote on a minority’s right.

We sat at breakfast with the kids on Saturday morning and tried to explain why someone in Maine had to adopt her partner in order to get the basic benefits of being a family. In this case? A big inheritance was at stake. There was no other way for the two to guarantee what a simple marriage would have guaranteed. They did the only thing they could. One adopted the other. (“Legal Convolutions for Gay Couples,” NY Times Editorial, 3/24/07)

Problem is, now they want to get divorced. But you can’t really get divorced if you were never married. Bigger problem? How do you reverse an adoption? What does that mean?

Why would you do that? Zachary asked.

They had no other choice, Allan explained. Marriage for people who happen to be the same sex is illegal everywhere but in Massachusetts.

No, wait, can you explain that again? Jake asked, clearly confused.

It doesn’t make any sense, I said to him. That’s why it’s so hard to understand. Why would people adopt someone when all they want to do is marry them?

You can’t ever take away adoption, I added. I adopted you, Mom adopted Zach and Ben and that can never, ever change. Grandma adopted me. That never changed.

It doesn’t make any sense, Zachary said.

No. It doesn’t.

Will there be two classes of gays and lesbians in this state? Or will my marriage be annulled by the state because I’m a lesbian? If banning same sex marriage is put on a ballot, will my neighbors support me? It’s easy to joke about marriage, the ol’ ball and chain, when you have the right, have always had it and no one is ever going to threaten to take it away.

Does that mean you get to judge me? Cast a vote to decide if I’m… good enough? Moral enough?

Do I have to be a pretty enough, middle class, non-threatening, pearl wearing, PTO parent to be acceptable?

Do I have to stay married to have the right? Are the standards for my acceptance higher than everyone else’s?

Do they understand that to call it ‘something else’ ends up with a nightmare situation like the courts are now faced with in Maine?

Maybe I’m crazy but I don’t believe the majority has the right to vote on my rights. Happened before in history- people were denied the right to practice their religion because it wasn’t what the majority thought was acceptable.

And you know what? People left. Know where they went?


Established a country based on freedoms. Because theirs had been denied. Over and over.

The Declaration of Independence states:

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”

Ironic, isn’t it?

But when it’s your rights on the line? It’s hard to laugh.

It just makes your stomach hurt.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Familiar Places

I walked through the Guggenheim Museum today and could not stop thinking about my mother. I wanted to tell her how I remembered the first show I went to there with her- something that highlighted Picasso’s blue period. I can still remember her hush as she walked around the halls.

I don't think I had ever seen my mother awed before.

My boys wanted to run up the long spiral and back down. They did not. Walter told me his first memory of the Guggenheim was very tactile- he wanted to skateboard down, run down and around; the building calls for motion, he said.

An exhibit of El Greco through Picasso was hanging on the walls.

Jake walked up to a picture by Edouard Vuillard. I like this, he said. It’s like a place I know.

Where do you think it is? I asked.

Paris, he said casually and moved to the next picture.

I didn’t mention he hasn’t been to Paris.

I found myself standing at the edge of the rail, wanting to tell her how much I liked the Kandinsky, how I enjoyed Joan Miro more than the Salvador Dali. Mostly, I loved how Kandinsky was structured, pulled together and yet completely chaotic with his images.

I missed her.

I tried to stop and think about how grateful I was I spent time with her in that building. How much I love the art she showed me. It was a familiar place for me.

It still ached.

Afterwards, we went to the new Apple store by Central park. I went down the stairs, turned around and went right back up. I am easily overwhelmed and after a stunning show at the museum, my brain was full. Done.

Jake came with me.

Did you like the museum? I asked him.

It was okay. Kinda boring, he said.

You know, your grandma used to take me there. I thought it was boring, then, too. But I knew it was important to her.

Why? He asked.

Because she loved art so much. Art and music. It was everything to her.

Did you like it? He asked.

Now I do. Didn’t when I was little. Thought it was pretty boring. Now? I understand why she took me there. Someday? You’ll understand, too.

Okay, he said and jumped up to run around the fountain.

Watch this, Mom! He shouted.

Might not be Paris, but it is New York City. It’s a place he knows.

I hope it’s a gift I’ve passed down from my mother. Gently and with no strings attached.

Art museums as familiar places.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Free Fall

How could you possibly trust anyone? I was asked the other day.


I don’t know. I don’t know what it looks like. Can I free fall into groups’ waiting arms? Sure. It’s not about trust. I assume people will try their best and ultimately? The floor is not that far away. I believe there will be an effort. I’m healthy; I don’t think anything will break. I have an escape route planned already- I anticipate the pain and plan for it.

Can I open up sexually? Sure. I love having sex. I’ve had the same partner for almost 16 years. What’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s already happened to me. I’m not afraid to let go- there’s a huge benefit on the other side. Like the freefall question, I know there is no malice, no real harm that can happen. I can say no and no is respected.

Not that I ever say no.

I don’t walk around paranoid and afraid. But I find myself coming up against walls in my marriage. I see that I don’t trust Jeanine.

If you asked me, two years ago, if I trusted her, I would have said yes, absolutely.

Yet there was a great deal I held close. As much as I can talk- and I can talk- I kept a lot back. Like how our decision making made me feel cornered. I was afraid. Afraid she’d leave me. Afraid I was not being good enough.

Something shifted last week.

I don’t know why. Part of it was how clear I was about my motivations. My unconscious suddenly didn’t hold the upper hand. I knew what I was up to and stopped it. And with that shift, there was an opening.

I explained to Jeanine what I was doing around the decision I was accused of being manipulative and power hungry. I was ashamed and miserable. She didn’t hammer on me, she simply said, you’re figuring this stuff out, Sara. I think that’s great. It takes time.

It was like I moved a giant rock guarding my heart. It wasn’t an act of faith. It was recognition. Her response made me realize she is on my side and won’t berate me. She can and will hold this with me.

I spent the day yesterday at a conference talking about Racial Justice. One panelist, Angela Glover Blackwell, talked about how there must be two solutions for racial justice- one that identifies the issue and corrects it and the other that deals with the reality that racism is ‘baked in’ to our society. It is hardened, layered and will not go away with a simple policy change.

I feel like I am trying to get at what is baked in- it is one thing to identify why I approach the world the way I do, to understand it, and to learn how to see the world differently.

It is another to address the way in which my every muscle, my core moves with a level of anticipation for the next hurt to be inflicted.

To learn how to fall into waiting arms without an escape route planned.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Okay, New York City is amazing on a lot of levels, but my favorite?


I love the food.

I took pictures of my dinner last night. The waiter asked if we wanted a picture of us.

We both looked at him. Why?

I shook my head, no. It’s all about the food.

Oysters- big grassy ones from Long Island and ones from Washington State that are like the ocean in a small mouthful.

We moved on to a foie gras paired with a glass of d’Yquem, a sauterne wine that is… liquid gold.

Pretty much full at this point, we moved on to the main course- a dry aged rib eye steak and handmade raviolis stuffed with veal.

Yes, I care about the human treatment of veal… I mean, baby cows. It’s one of those moments when I am a bad person not living up to my ideals.

Could be much worse.

We finished with cheese. Once at a restaurant, we were asked if we wanted chocolate or cheese. It was a prefix meal and it was our last choice.

Are you kidding? Jeanine asked. Cheese, of course.

We heard the table next to us. Are you kidding? Chocolate!

We realize we are unusual diners. Bringing cameras in to photograph the food. Ordering a glass of rare, outrageous wine to be paired with a single dish. And ending the meal with cheese. The waiter brought over a brand new copy of the Zagats guide for us.

We get a bunch of them, he explained. I thought you might like it.

I have never had a waiter leave me with a gift before.

I love this city.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Princess in Butch Underwear

I’m in New York City.

I helped give an award last night at City Hall.

I was getting ready to go and… I realized I am turning into a princess.

OKAY, some might say I’ve always been a princess. But now? It takes me forty minutes to get ready. I have to blow dry all this hair.

I’d wear eyeliner if I had it, I said to Jeanine.



She looked at me.

Don’t worry, I said. I still have my butch underwear.

A Princess in butch underwear or a butch in princess underwear she mused. Which do I want?

Earlier in the day yesterday, I had asked someone why everyone comes to me looking for help.

Well, she said, you do come swooping in like an Amazon…

Amazon? Is that butch or fem?

Wonder woman Amazon, definitely fem.

Xena Princess Warrior? Definitely butch. And yet, she’s always in that little skirt…

But most importantly? Why am I playing with these gender roles now? I’m too old to learn how to wear make up. I don’t want to learn how.

Or do I?

When my colleague arrived at the event last night, she came over and gave me a big hug.

You look pretty, she said.

Tailspin. My gender identity flew out the door. I smiled and said thank you.

Later, I asked Jeanine. Pretty?

Yes, she said. You are a pretty woman.

Ew. I don’t want to be pretty.

What do you want? Handsome?

Maybe. No. I don’t know. I can’t handle pretty.

You’re the one who was going to put on eyeliner, she reminded me.

This morning? I pulled on blue jeans, a muscle tee and denim shirt. Phew.

Still took me forty minutes to get ready.

Princess that I am.

In butch underwear.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wild Turkeys

I saw my next-door neighbors yesterday.

The wife called me to tell me there were wild turkeys in the backyard.

I asked her what she was smoking.

She laughed and said she was taking her grandson out to see them. They had been running around. Really, she said. Come look.

My boys were in school yesterday, late. Ridiculous state mandated tests. They’ll be sorry they missed the enormous birds pecking and scratching at the lawn.

I love my neighbors. They are the kind of people you send your kid over to get a cup of sugar or an egg from and they stay and hang out. The wife calls and says, I have Jake here. Did you need something?

We don’t have to tell our kids to say hello and wave; they do on their own.

I’m going to [neighbor’s] house, Mom, Jake often tells me. He runs over to hang out. Watch the Wiggles.

They are grandparents and their oldest grandson is a year younger than Jake. They are also only a little older than me. They are my peers and yet old enough to be my parents.

They were smart enough to have four children while young. Really young.

We shovel each other’s walks in winter and stop to lean on our rakes in the fall to chat. They are thoughtful, smart, funny people. You want to stop and talk for a while. When I told them I quit my job last fall, he smiled.

Good. I miss seeing you.

No judgment, no hesitation. He nodded seriously and gave me calm I never knew from any father figure.

It happens, he said, quietly. Great jobs sometimes don’t work out.

I just learned he has a brain tumor. Cancer. Sixty years old and dying.

I guess we won’t be growing old together, she said to me the other day, tears brimming her eyes.

I was stunned. He’s so healthy, out running three or four times a week. Kayaks in their backyard and a Harley he rides in the warm weather.

No more.

As we stood watching the turkeys peck at the ground, I put my arm around my neighbor and said nothing. His grandson was stomping in the puddle in front of us. I looked at him and smiled.

I wanted to say something profound. Something kind. Something. I couldn’t. We just smiled at each other and nodded heads.

The turkeys gobbled loudly and made the grandson jump.

Why’d they do that? He asked his grandfather.

They heard a siren, he calmly answered. Think we can get them so do it again?

I walked over with the grandson closer to the birds, and tried some siren noises. We laughed at the birds’ complete disregard for our antics.

Life is so fragile. The thought of not growing old with Jeanine is impossible for me. I have been angry with her, frustrated with her lack of emotional availability, and desperate for her acknowledgement.

And yet I cannot imagine her not being by my side. That doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to kick her from my side. Scream at her.

I’m reminded of a quote from Rita Mae Brown:
"One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory."
Not just my bad memory but Jeanine’s. It’s about letting go of all the old places we’ve been that hurt. We’ve both been at fault. There is no an award for being the most wronged.

We might wake up one day and the choice will be gone. How old will we grow together?

As we stood together, I could not think of anything to say. I realize it’s not about words. It’s about actions. I can best honor him by rolling up my sleeves and working hard at my marriage. Being easy on myself when it comes to mistakes, putting the energy into healing and moving forward instead of hating myself.

By breathing in all the life around me. Celebrating friends. Reading about Foxes and Boxes with my son. Laughing about Depends, moss and escalators to the roof. Giving flowers, bottles of champagne or Nancy Pearl action hero dolls to friends, acknowledging an excellent radio interview or a child’s milestone or a simple moment shared over a love of books.

Taking time to throw rocks in a puddle.

And watch wild turkeys in the backyard.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Years...

I started to talk about menopause at dinner Sunday night.

Allan said, I don’t believe this is dinner table conversation.

What? What? Ben asked.

Walter said to Ben, You don’t ever have to worry about it.

He will if he marries a woman! I growled.

I guess he does because he’s living with YOU, Walter retorted.

Every morning I wake up and think, maybe today.


The song “Seasons of Love” from Rent comes to mind,

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?”

Okay, it hasn’t been a year.

Feels like it.

I keep reading online different pieces about perimenopause. Sleep disruption, anxiety, irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hot flashes, headaches, dry eyes, hair loss, and weight gain, or extreme emotional distress… and then the chipper article goes on to say, don’t you worry about a thing. It’s just common signs of perimenopause.

I’m not worried. I’m bordering on psychotic. At least I’m not losing my hair.


The article goes on to say many women are “terrified” but the thought they will never again be able to have a baby.

None of them have three boys.

A friend teased, You must be pregnant! after I told her I hadn’t had my period in a million years.

Then I’m giving birth to the next or first, savior. Forget the myrrh; just take me to a soft, white room. And lock the door.

I complained to another friend that I’ve gained ten pounds in the last couple months. She said, you aren’t going to need tampons, Sara, you’re going to need Depends if you get your period again.

Or a pile of moss and a separate tent.

My cheerful article, “Information, signs and symptoms of perimenopause” by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP ends with the encouragement “The joys of life after menopause are many and great — you just have to learn how to manage the symptoms leading up to it!”


Believe that and I have a bridge to sell you…

Monday, March 19, 2007

Three Silly Monkeys

Jake read to me tonight.

About the Fox and the Box.

Two years ago? He read to me. I thought the reading bridge had been crossed and we would soon be onto chapter books.

It wasn’t. He stopped. He became scared, uncertain and stepped back from reading. I have always been a reader. I love books. Deeply. As a child, I would go to the library with my friend and her mom and take out a stack of books every week. A couple mythology books- I always loved Greek mythology. A science fiction- my favorite was Ray Bradbury; my friend’s was Isaac Asimov. And some kind of quest book- too many to list. Never less than five, always limited to seven. We had to carry them all by ourselves to the car.

I thought the library was church. People were quiet because the beauty before them was awesome.

I still do.

Jake loves the Hardy Boys Mysteries. But he can’t read them.

We’re reading House on the Cliff. Smugglers and a bad guy named Snattman. We always read the Hardy Boys after he struggles through the readers his teacher sends home.I read aloud and not only Jake hangs around to hear the story. Ben and Zachary are always pretty close by.

Tonight? Jake read the stack of readers. All of them.

He laughed about the Fox and the Box. He caught the change of words, direction when the box was on top of the fox.

Silly fox.

He brought over a “D” book and said, this is going to be hard.

And he read all but two words. I held my thumb over half of each and he got it.

My silly, stupid drama. I’m worried about being a bad person, about not doing things the right way. I think I’ve done so much wrong I cannot live anymore.

And then my son reads to me.


The golden light I so need? I so crave?

Was sitting in my lap tonight reading “Three Silly Monkeys.”

Do As I Say...

Trying to be more optimistic today.

Felt terrible that I scared my sister yesterday. My point was misunderstood. I go to extremes when extremes are not necessary.

I can’t have simply made a mistake. I have to be the worst person in the world.

Walter and I were talking yesterday about the boys. He had taken Zachary to a scary movie on Saturday afternoon. Jeanine was unhappy with the movie choice. It wasn’t one I would choose but I felt like Walter needed his own autonomy to make the judgment. His time with the kids, his choice. Sure, we all need to talk about some decisions, but what movie to go to?

Hello? Micromanagement hotline?

It was too much, on some levels, he said. But, Zachary and I talked about it afterwards. He was fine. It was a good conversation. And then they had a manly nighttime snack of peanut butter, chocolate chips and a big glass of milk. Spoons straight in the peanut butter.

Walter said, I think it’s my role to take them to scary movies, push the limits you two (Jeanine and I) set. I’m their Dad. That’s what Dad’s do.

I could have listed about a thousand other non-traditional things he teaches them, like how to listen, how to reflect thoughtfully, how to love deeply and openly… but I let him have his say.

You are their Dad, I said smiling. It is your job. I knew when I had kids I needed someone who would push them, let them fail, let them lose, and be there when they did encouraging them to try again. My instinct is to shield them from harm. Make sure they’ve washed behind their ears. And don’t use spoons in the peanut butter.

But I know better. I know kids need a balance to be healthy. They have to fail. They have to fall down. Our job is to be there when it does. We can’t keep them from pain or fear or sadness. If we try to, we’ll smother them.

He looked at me and said, Do you hear yourself? Do you think it could apply to you? Maybe you need to fall down and make some mistakes, too? So you can learn it’s not the end of the world?

I should know better. I’m an adult, I said. No, I fucked up. No room for a break.

Cut yourself a little slack, he said. Everything is still pretty fresh. Your mom, all the stuff going on with your family…

It’s easier for me to talk about my kids.

I realize he is right. I need to cut myself some slack. I saw my mistake. I know my mother would have ripped into me for making one but I also know she was terrified of making mistakes. It froze her in place. I am messy, sloppy, and broken.

But I can’t stop trying.

Because if I do, what am I telling my kids? Do as I say, not as I do?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cilice or Betty Carter?

I’m trying to not feel like the worst person who ever walked the earth.

I do feel that way. I know it’s about being hypersensitive. I’m trying to see the suicidal impulses come from that place. I’m trying to hear I am catching these things; I am getting to a better place.

Not the voice that says I’ll always be this way. Selfish, self-absorbed.

Get out the cilice for a little corporal mortification.

"Good morning, Mom," Ben said to me when I walked into the kitchen. He gave me a big hug.

Beating myself up gets me where? I tried to shake it.

I made breakfast. Listened to Betty Carter. Her soulful voice. Make It Last…

“Love is sweet
So let’s savor it well
How too soon the dream will be passed
Make it last”

Can’t cry anymore today. Yesterday, it felt like my mother had just died again. I heard her voice, I could see her face. I wanted to say I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

I screwed up, Mom. I didn’t do a good job. I hurt people. Worse? I was completely oblivious. I’ve made a mess.

Yes, I took responsibility. Doesn’t make it any better.

Yes, I know. I keep doing these things, over and over. I do.

Somehow, I think I should replace my mother’s voice with Betty Carter’s.

Put away the cilice and get out the strawberries.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I realized yesterday, I was still searching for love, acceptance and acknowledgment from someone who will never give it to me. Someone who stood in, in so many ways, for my mother last summer. Someone just as narcissistic. Someone just as needy.

I was trying unconsciously to get it. Months later. Anything to feel like I was good enough again. To fill the void.

Because my mother is dead. She’ll never look me in the eye again and say I’m proud of you. She’ll never laugh at my stories. I’ll never be able to take care of her again and in doing so, get the golden light of her approval.

How could I not know what I was doing was manipulative and wrong? I’d love to say because I’m an idiot but… it’s not simple. I didn’t see what I was doing. I was scared, mostly. Uncertain. I didn’t trust anyone. I wanted something familiar, no matter how much it would hurt me in the long run.

I wanted my mom back. I wanted her reality. Sure, she could rip me up one side but she could also soothe my fears. Do the best you can, she would say. Don’t worry so much. And then she’d remind me of all the bad decisions I’ve made in the past. Lived through those, didn’t you?

I could tell her how much I needed her. How helpful she was. And the golden light shined. No matter what hurtful things she said, I made her happy. My sense of self was complete.

I was accused of a power trip. Of using my resources to manipulate people, to get me what I wanted. It’s true. I wanted the acceptance, love and acknowledgement from my stand in. I was in a stressful situation that left me wanting the safety of something familiar

I wanted my mom’s love. I’ll never get it from her again.

I miss her. The void is intense. I keep thinking I’ve moved on but I have not. I circle around, at times clear, at times completely lost.

My worth, my value, my everything was around making my mother happy. I found a fabulous, perfect stand in, just as needy, just as self absorbed, just as desperate. My mother is dead but the stand in is not. I was trying to find that golden light again.

It’s like an addiction. I’m used to being treated like shit, I need to be treated like shit to feel worthwhile. I joked about it last fall, in the essay Jerkaholics Anonymous, but it’s not funny anymore.

I hurt people to get my fix. Did I do it consciously? No. Absolutely not. Does that matter? No.

It’s not okay.

I’m ashamed and embarrassed.

Somewhere, deep down, I have a healthy voice. If not? I would be still going down the path, looking for impossible love. I stopped. I called myself on it. I walked away from the manipulative situation but not before admitting it. I asked another friend to give me time to get clear- really clear- about what my intentions are.

I am asking for help.

Input from people who love me flawed, mistake ridden and broken. Who know I have a healthy voice, somewhere, and won’t let me get away with ignoring it.

From Trapped in the Mirror, by Elan Golomb:

You may see only your best and call it perfect, or only your worst and feel helpless. You have been parent-trained to look this way to please them. You may be unreachable to contradictory comment. How are you to find your blind spots and errors if your introject makes it too miserable to approach your self and your personality disregards your self’s comments as a problem.

Given such obstacles, reasonable input is called for. … We do not advance by focusing on our image. We want to change from a self-hater who refuses help and exposure to a self-lover who accepts errors and openly works on difficulties.

I keep falling down. I keep making mistakes. But for the first time? I feel like pieces are starting to come together from so many different directions.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friend of Melissa

Years ago, gay men and lesbian women identified themselves as a ‘friend of Dorothy’ referring to the character from The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland, a fallen diva and favorite of drag queens. Drunk, whacked out on drugs, and miserable in her body.

We all identified.

Now? We’re a healthier group of people. Muscles and long hair, crew cuts and finger nail polish.

And we have a new friend. Melissa. A straight, fabulous, stylish hairdresser in Cambridge.

She’s the ‘wink wink’ name of all lesbians in Boston. Think I’m kidding?

She has a clientele of faithful lesbians. Myself? I’ve been having my hair cut by Melissa longer than I’ve known Jeanine. Her hair has been frizzy and blonde like Madonna’s, spiky and short, long and wavy… whatever was current, Melissa was.

Until she hit about 40 and then, she stuck with easy.

At one point, she offered to pass on her (at the time) boyfriend’s condoms for sperm donations to Jeanine and I. He’s cute, she said, and very smart.

Which is why I love her. Up for anything, rarely shocked, always ready to laugh.

She teases my hair up and says, Look! Tina Turner!

If I only had the legs…

I think she loves making us big ol’ dykes look like straight women. Although, once I said to her, I want to just take the clippers and cut it to the nub…

She held up the clippers up and said, Okay…

You wouldn’t let me look like a fool, I said.

No, but I really don’t know what your head looks like. Could be okay…

Once, when I wanted a hairstyle that the 18 year old set was sporting, and I was in my thirties, I made her promise to never let me look like a wanna be youngster. You know, I said, no comb-overs.

Gotcha. Promise, she agreed.

Every time I walk into the salon, Melissa is working on some dyke’s hair. Every time.

She offers a ‘straight gal for her lesbian pal’ clothes-buying service. She takes you out and helps you pick out clothes for important social events that you, as a lesbian, had no idea how to dress for. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals.

Black high tops are really not what you should be wearing to a funeral.

We’re trying to avoid the group picture with the woman in the back row you look at and say, “Who’s the dyke?”

A friend, who also gets her hair cut by Melissa said, we need a Friend of Melissa party. I agree. And we need to anoint her with the honor as the new secret ‘wink wink’ name for all lesbians.

Dorothy, after all, as been gone a long time. Enough of the drama of misery. It’s time to give up the gingham checks and move forward to a more fashionable look. Someone who is happy in her body, laughs out loud, and loves life. Someone who reflects the healthier nature of community now.

And we can casually meet in grocery stores, restaurants, public transportation- anywhere someone catches your eye and say,

Are you a friend of Melissa’s?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Laundry Lessons

Never insult the Laundry Fraü.

I am the Laundry Fraü. Ben went off this morning on the lack of clean laundry. He had, after all, brought his laundry basket down on Tuesday. It was Thursday. He had no clean clothes.

You’re not doing your job, he huffed at me.

We talk a lot about jobs around the house, how we all have jobs and they need to get done. I am not, however, used to having an eleven year old evaluate my performance.

Watch it, I said. I wanted to say something else.

I walked away.

Allan said to me a few weeks ago, there is no reason why the boys can’t help with the laundry. Jake can bring it down. Zachary knows how to sort and put it in the washer (he does this at their house). Ben can learn how to fold.

I already have them put their own things away.

After Ben’s comment this morning? He just added a new job to his list. I’m retiring.

Like I said, Never ever insult the Laundry Fraü.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mud, Money and New England Charm

Seventy degrees today. Beautiful. Sunny, warm breeze. The ground is thawing and the mud is piling up. Everywhere.

I once read a great article on the mud seasons of Vermont. I know Vermont has it much worse that we do but in Boston, we have six seasons, not four. Summer, Fall, Fall mud, winter, spring mud, spring…

The boys were stomping in the mud the other day. And then tried to enter the house. No.

But half the city of Boston is built on harbor sludge. We respect our mud along with surly waitresses and holding money tightly- it’s part of the New Englander theme song.

And dirty water. We love our dirty water.

We’re famous for being a hearty breed that complains about weather every chance we can. We drive like maniacs; although the rest of the area would like to have Boston, and Boston alone, hold that title. We can give good directions but will lose the deed to our homes if we do. Rotaries give new meaning to “Live Free or Die.” We root for the Red Sox and secretly enjoy being forever the underdogs. We love the Patriots winning Superbowls, but they will never be the Sox. We celebrate waitresses that berate us and then leave them a lousy tip.

Which brings me to the reality that New England is one of the least generous areas in the country. Donations to public charities are much lower here. Need help shoveling? Sure. Ask me for a donation? Go work for it yourself.

I’m having a fundraiser for a political candidate that I really believe is great for the position. I sent a mass email out to a bunch of people- having a party (which means free food and booze), bring your kids (I'll do anything), please support the cause (I'd be better off asking for a kidney).

One friend responded, not sure if I can make it… love to swing by…

He knows I always have good food.

It’s okay, I responded, just send a check. Five hundred is the max you can give.

Is that lira or bucks?

Bucks. You wish it were lira.

Not missing a beat, he responded, no YOU wish it were bucks.

Like getting blood from a stone.

Or mud out of your carpets between March 1st and May 30th.

But I love New England. It's all part of the charm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

And the Point is....

Don’t ever, ever work for a friend.

Didn’t I write that last September?

“Don’t ever have a friend for a boss or a boss be a friend. It doesn’t work out.” Words of Wisdom, Sept. 5th, 2006.

A friend offered me a job today.

The last time I worked for a friend it ended horribly. I don’t ever want to do that again. Ever.

Why am I such a sucker for sweet talk? Do I really think so little of myself that when someone says, ooo, you are smart I automatically feel obligated to do whatever they need me to do?

How have I managed to work with two friends for years and years? I don’t work for them. They don’t work for me. It’s an even playing field. That could be a part of it.

They don’t need me.

We’re good friends, I respect them, I know they respect me but… there is no need. No pull to take care of them just to do the work, do it well and be as thoughtful as possible.

When I took what ended up being a sabbatical, they were sad and wished me well. When I came back, they said, Hooray! Let's get to work.

I felt so pulled to help today. Do the right thing. When a friend asks for help, you help.


Even if it’s something you don’t want to do?


A very good friend said to me last week, you are not ready to take any job. You don’t know how to say no. You respond on impulse, not thought. And you think nothing of giving yourself away because you don’t really think you’re worth much.

Uh… and your point?

Working with a friend has worked out for me. In an amazing way, it’s worked out. I am so proud of the work I do with them. As we approach the second decade of taking on public education together, we grow as friends and colleagues. We push each other and respect each other.

How do I learn to know the difference between someone needing and a positive work environment?

I’m going to have to say no to a friend. It feels awful. But honestly? I know I don’t know the difference. I know the boundaries set with the relationship that has worked weren’t set by me.

I guess that is the point.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chuck Taylor's

I can’t believe you are choosing those, Ben said to Jake.

We were shoe shopping. Jake, classic in so many ways, picked bright red high tops.

Cool, I said. Chuck Taylor’s.

The sales woman, all of maybe 18 said, they have come back. Big seller now.

Mom, they are high tops, Ben corrected.

Chuck Taylor’s, I said.

Mom, Converse high tops.

I dragged him over to the sample shoe as the salesperson was in the back searching for Jake’s size. I pulled him close and pointed out the label.


Oh, Ben said quietly.

Several of the parents around eyed me and smiled. We have all, clearly, been at the end of our children’s ire about something. When we get to be so clearly right? It’s like a moment of nirvana. We all soaked it up.

Jake grinned as we laced up the shoes.

I love them, Mom, he said.

Very cool, the salesperson nodded.

Jake did the obligatory run, jump and twirl through the store.

Zachary picked out an average pair of running shoes. Functional, not fancy. Black and gray.

It was Ben’s turn. We have to go to the adult part of the store for him. The boy has big feet.

Pumas, he said at first. No, Vans… no…

And he turned to the display of Chuck Taylor’s.

I want Chucks.

I witnessed fashion lingo being born. I had only referred to them as Chuck Taylor's.

What color? I asked.

He went through each pair and held them to his jeans. Green, black, navy blue, and red.

Red, he said. Red is a statement.

Yes, it is, I agreed. Meanwhile, Zachary and Jake were taking each other down between the racks of shirts on display in the store.

There was no running or jumping to see if these shoes were okay. Straight to the mirror. Careful posing.

Well? I asked, not meaning to be impatient but… I feared the shoe racks on the back wall were not capable of holding two young boys dangling from them.


You’ll have the same colored shoes as your little brother…

I know.

Once you walk out the door, that’s it…

I know. It’s a statement. I like them.

I hope tomorrow when he goes to school, excited with his bright red shoes, that his friends ooo and ahh over them. I hope it is a beginning of many fashion choices that will be embraced- a little girl can choose sparkly shoes and be patted on the head for such prowess. A boy? Gets teased and humiliated for being “girly.”

I often think misogyny is about deeply rooted homophobia. But don’t get me started.

Ben has an amazing sense of color, fabric and patterns. His bright red Chucks are the bomb.

Even if he didn’t know what they were called.

Tampon Free Household

A friend forwarded me a tampon gift site last night.

Click on the little heart and drag it in the house. It’s a real site for donating products to shelters in your state. (The Consumer Relations Department at Seventh Generation confirmed the program.)

This is clearly because there is a surplus now I haven’t had my period in 9 weeks. Seventh Generation said, well, damn, that Whitman woman is done so whadda do with all these extra tampons?

Jeanine apologized for getting her period the other day. And then tittered something under her breath about being so much younger. Of course, she will probably breeze through menopause. Her mother, who not only has flawless skin, she also barely remembers menopause.

Titter away, big girl. You’re the one who has to live with me through this.

And thus the unique joy of two women living together. So many straight women have said to me, damn, if I could have made my husband give birth to one of the children, I would have in a heartbeat.

Realize, ladies, that there will be two of us going insane. Not going to be pretty. And it doesn’t mean any more compassion and understanding. Just two really angry, volatile women under one roof.

Pity the boys.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

IM Etiquette

How to you explain to your son, who is only eleven and learning how to do short cuts on the computer that “cum” is not an acceptable short cut for come?

Can [friend] cum? He IM’s me this morning.

Mind you, I am in my office, he is in the back room. We are about four feet apart.

Come, I write back.

Mom, u r so old

This is his response to me when he feels I am clueless to current culture.

BEN, I type back, some short cuts aren’t short cuts.

Well, can [she] cum?

Give me strength.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I haven’t taken a picture in weeks.

What is my priority?

What is an authentic life?

I love books, and yet I barely have time to read. I love taking pictures and yet I haven’t taken a shot in weeks.

I want to be a productive member of society. It’s not just about me. Marian Wright Edelman says, we will be judged not on how we treat our own children but by how we treat other people’s children. I believe that. Deeply.


If an authentic life means being honest about what I’ve done, I can’t pretend my old job was glamorous. I filed a lot of paper. A great resolution or two, but mostly? Paper. Taxes. Forms. Signatures.

I did not make a difference.

A friend said to me last week, I am working on the civil rights movement, keeping it alive, one person at a time. It’s what I can do. You? She smiled. You can move hundreds at a time.

I’ve been trying to understand that ever since. My need for outstanding achievement balanced with an authentic life.

How the hell do I figure that out?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings

I love Friday, Ben said this morning. It goes so quickly. Don’t you think?

Friday’s only go by quickly when I’m not done writing before I have to go pick up the kids. I didn’t think I should say that.

Sometimes. Depends. It’s been a long week though. Too many meetings.

What do you do in those meetings anyway? Zachary asked.

Talk. A lot. Make decisions. Listen to people present their ideas. And you usually eat a lot. Drink too much coffee.

Sounds boring, Zachary shook his head.

Sometimes, I agreed.

Yesterday, I had four meetings. The first, and most fun, was with a friend for coffee. She and I started by talking about intense decisions I’m making. Then our kids and how we don’t even realize we’re so nutty sometimes but they always do. She understands, listens and gives good advice. Then we talked about the old work I used to do that she still does. It was very exciting. I miss going after the bad guys. Good stuff. The food? Cranberry scone and a cup of decaf coffee. I knew I couldn’t’ get hopped up that early.

The next meeting was filled with information and an enormous amount at stake. I listened. Tuna salad roll up, chips and a giant cookie. No coffee, just water. My heart was heavy when I left the room. Worried.

I left late and realized, what I did not share with Zachary was the very important bathroom breaks you must take when in meetings all day. Too late to stop, I proved my dedication by going straight into the meeting.

Okay, I also grabbed the key to the ladies room after saying hello, but I did go in first.

The next was a long long long meeting about candidates for a job I’m on the search committee for. It was fun, playful, and at times, intense. It was later in the day so my phone kept ringing- Walter- am I getting the kids. Yes. Jeanine? Yes, Walter is going to get the kids. Fresh fruit, cheese, crackers and a big cup of regular coffee. One more meeting to go. At this point, if I’m not hopped up, I’m going to start mumbling.

Last meeting was couple’s therapy. Never, ever have couples therapy on a day when you have talked and listened for 8 straight hours. It is not productive. There are no beverages or snacks allowed in therapy. Perhaps it would be more fun if we could have a glass of wine and some cheese but… as I was reminded the other day, therapy is not suppose to be fun. Or easy. I believe I started the session with… I’m really done today… and ended with, I’m done. No more. I was incoherent, words spilling over me only leaving me in the corner saying, leave me be.

Ben looked at me this morning and said, yeah, but at least you don’t have a job. And you don’t have to go to school.

Yeah, Zachary added with a wishful sigh.

Some days? I wish I had a job.

But the day has gone by at a perfect pace, no frenzied rushes in traffic. I ran, sorted mail and responded to the 30 emails accumulated throughout my absence yesterday.

The best part? Grilled cheese sandwich with a glass of milk and chips. The sun pouring in the window. The only noise is the clock ticking and the dog snoring at my feet. No one is talking to me.

And finishing my writing ten minutes before I have to get the kids.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Perfect Parenting

Tonight was Newton Unplugged, a time when everyone in the school is encouraged to not have any TV or computers or electronic entertainment.

My kids asked if they could have a plugged night.

We never get to watch TV during the week! They all complained.

It’s true. They don’t. Somewhere along the line, when they were all little, I realized I was using television as a babysitter. I didn’t want to do that anymore. It made my life easier to a degree- when it came to pull them away from the TV, they would fight like little drug addicts losing their fix. So I said, no TV during the week.

As they got older, they had homework, reading, and baths- too much to do and have time to watch television. And they always wanted to go out and play, too. No time for much else.

That was fine until American Idol came along. Ben is a fan. Big fan. Huge fan. Why can’t I watch it during the week? I’m the only one who can’t…

It’s true.

I said, I need to talk to your mom and dads about this, okay? It’s a family rule.

Walter said to me, you know, most kids get to watch some television. Ben really loves the show. They engage with each other while they are watching… and…

Yeah, but... too much television… I hate TV. I don’t like it on. I think it’s bad…

You know, I watched Gilligan’s Island and still went to college, he said. Sometimes, you just have to lighten up.

I know he’s right. Part of it? A big part? Being gay parents there is such pressure to be perfect. To do everything really well and to have perfect kids who are well rounded and never struggle… because if they aren’t perfect? They’re fucked up because we’re gay parents.

My friend Margaret- the Martha Stewart of Parenting- lets her kids watch TV during the week. Always has. But she’s straight. Nothing to prove. Although the quartered grapes she fed her girls when they were little did seem a bit extreme.

Tonight, I turned on the television to tape the show. The opening number was on. Ben came running in.

MOM, Thank you! And plopped into a chair, ready to watch.

Uh… no honey. I’m just taping it. But… sure. Let’s watch the opening number.

Sad, sad puppy eyes looked at me.

Listen, we still need to talk about it.

You know. Two moms, two dads. Lots of opinions. And an underlying fear- on my part at least- that I have to be perfect.

But at least tonight? He was the only one in Newton who got to watch the opening number for American Idol.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


When I was growing up, and was finally invited to girl-boy parties, I can remember sneaking a bottle into whatever room we were all hidden away in and playing Spin-the-Bottle. It was an advanced version of Truth or Dare. Truth or Dare was what you cut your teeth on, so to speak. You could play with a whole group of girls and spend the entire evening doing nothing more than telling make up stories about who you have kissed, who you would like to kiss and why. Only a few brave girls would choose dare.

I think it wasn’t simply being brave but an escape from having to pretend you liked a boy. I think all the girls who were brave enough for dares were really young lesbians yet to come out. I was certain there wasn’t a boy I liked. The girl sitting next to me, sure. Boys? Nope. Get caught feeling that way? Never.

Spin-the-Bottle led to a new level of panic. It meant kissing the person on the other end. For me? I would pray it was a girl.

And then I was horrified I was hoping so much it was a girl and I would get caught actually enjoying kissing a girl.

Needless to say, girl boy parties as a young lesbian were… stressful.

Both games, however, were well hidden from any adults that might be supervising the event. At the time, basement rooms redone into rec rooms were all the rage. The minute the door at the top of the stairs opened, everyone quickly pretended not to be in a close circle hovering over a bottle, which would be kicked under some piece of furniture.

New generation, new rules. I’ve written before how we have tried to be far more open with our kids about sexuality, bodies, never afraid to answer a question- although the answer may come out in a slightly choked way at times.

No one talked to me about what to do if your penis gets hard in the middle of class. I’m working from scratch, here.

My son Ben came up to me this morning and said, Mom, my life is great.

He said it with such sincerity and peace, I was blown away.

I’m so glad, honey. That’s great.

And he came over and gave me a big hug. Sweet boy, I think, and kiss him on top of his head because for another inch or two, I still can. I turned to get some coffee.

Mom? For my birthday?


Can we play spin the bottle?

Coffee spills all over the counter.


You know, spin the bottle. It’s when you take a bottle…

Ben, I know what spin the bottle is. It’s not a new game. I believe even your grandmother played it.

His face scrunched. Bad image, I realize.

No, honey, you can’t play spin the bottle.

But I want six girls and six boys to come to my party. I’ll be twelve so I can invite twelve people…

Yes. You can invite whoever you want.

I told my friend Margaret, aka Martha Stewart of Parenting, who replied, “How about Two Minutes in the Closet? I think your boy is a little ahead of himself.”

Ooo. I forgot that game. I think I may have blacked out emotionally during those encounters. Thanks, Marg. I’m sure to have nightmares tonight.

I think my boy is a little ahead of himself. But for a moment today, with his face so serene and sure, maybe a little ahead is where he feels more comfortable. Maybe the safe re-introduction of girls in his social circles- because everyone is inviting girls- will be a blessing for him.

And he knows it. On some level.

But with all our openness and freedom we are encouraging? I’m not letting him play Spin-the Bottle.

It too far ahead of me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

To the Sun

I was in the kitchen, making dinner when Jake came wandering in, too cold to stay outside. Could be because he refused to put on gloves and it’s seven degrees but… what do I know.

Mom? Can I look at one of your cookbooks? He asked me.


I handed him one off the kitchen counter.

You have a lot of cookbooks, don’t you?

Yes. I love cookbooks. Here.

He went to sit in the back room, looking through it.



When I’m a grown up and you are dead, can I have all your cookbooks?

When I’m dead?

Yeah. Can I have them?

Uh… sure. Your brothers may want a few but yes, you can have them.

You know me, I love to cook.

I know. And you're a good cook, too.

He really is. Not simply my motherly pride, mind you. He pays attention, is careful and loves flavors. Pretty much what it takes to cook.

Can you get me the naked guy book?

The Naked Chef. Jamie Oliver. Sure. Want to cook from his book later this week?

Yeah… I’m gonna be a chef, mom.

That’s great. I love to eat!

During dinner, Zachary asked what planet was closest to the sun.

Mercury, Ben said, rolling his eyes at the audacity to ask such a question.

Can we go there? Jake asked.

No, I explained, it’s too hot. We don’t have anything we can wear on such a hot planet. It’s up to your generation to figure that out.

After dinner, Jake came in the living room and told me he was going to create a special suit to go and stand on the sun.

Maybe a robot first. Then a human if it works, he said.

Yeah, you may want to try it on a robot first, I agreed.

I’m worried about Jake’s reading ability. I don’t understand what holds him back- is it attention deficit disorder? Is it low frustration tolerance? Has the constant level of fluid in his ears from infections compromised his hearing?

Is he simply a late bloomer?

But after our discussion tonight? I realize he is not afraid of dreaming big dreams. His self-esteem is in tact. He is ready to go to the sun. Be a chef.

The rest will come with time.

Another Early Morning

I’ve been up since 4AM.

I think I’ll make eggs and bacon for the kids this morning because… oh… I’ve been up since 4AM. What else to do?

I’m starting to realize I’m never going to have my period again. It’s been 8 weeks. The plus? I don’t have to buy tampons anymore.

Did you know in Massachusetts, there is no tax on what you eat or what you wear but there is a tax on tampons? We may not be eating them but I’m pretty sure we are wearing them.

You see, these are the things you think about at 4AM when you haven’t had your period in 8 weeks.

God help me.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Tonight, I am numb.

Reading a book about being raised by a narcissist has made me… quiet. Thoughtful.

I realize I have been sabotaging myself. I am, at once, trying to impress and trying to fuck up all at the same time.

There are a few people I want to send this book to- out of a new understanding.

I’m tired and there is so much to do tomorrow and the next day… my mental health day was spent a month ago. No breaks until next Saturday. And then I have my kids to be with…

I read to Jake tonight. He is struggling with reading. His body is so big now, not a toddler on my lap, but a boy. He cannot decipher “television” in the book he is reading. He gets angry and throws the book to the floor.

I’m heartbroken with his frustration.

We sit together and read the rest of his books. He only misses a few words- I no longer make him tap them out but do the phonics myself.

The tears dry on his face. I can remember being so frustrated and sad I gave up. I still give up. I hold him close and hug him. Great job reading, I tell him.

He’s in first grade and hasn’t passed kindergarten skills. His brother’s talk about chapter books at dinnertime. He knows where he is. I want to make it okay. He can remember every word to every song he’s ever heard.

He has the ability to carry a tune.

How do I separate all the negative images passed down to me to create whole children? Can I or am I dreaming?

I only want to be a good mom. The rest can go to hell.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I'll Pass...

All I can say about dresses and make up and heels is… why?

Why do women do that? The shoes hurt. The make up makes your face itch but you can’t touch because you’ll smudge. Dresses are fine I guess but you can’t bend over to pick something up, you have to gracefully… squat.

The gentlemen tried to catch me last night, having me pick something up off the floor. They didn’t realize I had debutant training.

It’s true.

Did you learn how to curtsey?


But could I in those damn heels? NO.

Dressing up in what is considered a traditional manner for women? Way overrated. I’m glad I gave it a shot. Next year? I’m going in a tux again.

I look good in a tux.

And I can bend over in a tux.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dress Up

For the first time in my adult life, I am going out in a dress tonight.

Sure, I’ve worn dresses as a gag or a joke. This time? It’s for real. I’m going to a party where the first part is black tie. I am… dressing appropriately.

My mother would be so proud.

Well, okay, perhaps she would not have approved of the knee high black boots but… they do look good on me.

I am going to put on make up. Ben helped me pick out the right colors yesterday at the store. At first, he kind of slinked over, embarrassed to be at the make up counter. Then, when I reached for a fairly neutral lipstick color, he perked up.

No, Mom. You should go for a statement. Candy apple red. He picked up the brightest red lipstick he could find.

Uh… no, Ben. This isn’t drag. This is to look nice.


He started picking up different eye shadows and holding them up to my face, finally choosing what I hope is a great color.

Are your going to use blush? He started to go over the different colors.

No, I’m still pretty tan from Florida. I don’t think I need blush…

Well… he picked on out anyway, it couldn’t hurt.

I thought this was a Barbie party, he said.

It is, but you go in black tie. I wore a tux last year. I thought I’d surprise the guys and look… nice this year.

Are you doing Barbie?

No. I’m doing Ken. I won’t need any make up for that. Well… a little eyeliner but that’s it.

I think you should do Barbie, he said. You make a great woman.

Uh… thanks, I said.

I’m often struck by my conversations with my kids around gender, gender identity and appearance at the ease they have with my trying out different roles.

As long as I don’t do it at the school, mind you.

In this last year, I have started to drift towards a more feminine look. My hair is the longest it’s been since I was in high school. I have bought jeans not two sizes too big but ones that actually fit. The same for shirts. Understanding my fear has made me more comfortable to be a woman.

Tonight is a big step. Of course, it’s somewhat tongue and cheek. It is a party where halfway through everyone changes to drag and does a lip-synch routine. All the guys know me well enough to know I never do this. I take the spirit of their party seriously and am pushing the envelope. Trying something new, being a little outrageous.

Okay, really outrageous.

Ben will help me with all the final adjustments. Partly because he’s comfortable with it but mainly because he sees it as his duty to make sure I don’t make a fool of myself, thus him.

I’m not sure how it will feel to teeter down my front walk to the waiting car in high heels. I’m not sure how it will feel to put on make up in a serious way, not to be silly but to look… good? But I’m going to find out.

Tonight, I’m going to dress up.

Friday, March 02, 2007

but if you...

do this with your hands,

and Jake holds his hands in a sign language "I love you",

he said, it makes sense.

but if you do it to your toes?

he tried to hold his toes in the same pose,

it doesn't.

Have I mentioned how much I love my kids?

Power of words

I am slowly coming to recognize the power of words. My words. Written words. Spoken words.

Sounds silly, perhaps, because of my work, my writing, one would think I understand the power. But I don’t.

I ran a meeting today and had people thank me afterwards. Good meeting. Well run. It came naturally, so I am quick to dismiss any skill. I have a big mouth, I laugh.

But I don’t. The truth is, as loud as I can be, I hold a tremendous amount back. I do not share of myself easily. I am too afraid of what people will really think. Of my failure to be what I should have been. I am not good enough, smart enough, successful enough.

I often think I need to put on a show to be good enough. When I’m being myself and people say good job? I am completely surprised. I wasn’t’ trying. I wasn’t pretending. Why would they think that?

I read this quote the other day. It is me. It is my struggle. By Elan Golomb, from the book, “Trapped in the Mirror:”

The narcissist who hopes to change through analytic psychotherapy will find that the treatment is not easy. The process must be arduous because it requires that she admit to human failings; that she recognize the need for other people, who have the choice to give or not to give (you cannot commandeer love). It means once more experiencing the feelings of being a helpless and manipulated child who sustained considerable damage at the hands of unloving parents. She will have to see the emptiness of a life compulsively controlled by the need for admiration and ostentatious achievement. The outcome of her struggle to uncover an authentic self will be the ability to lead an ordinary life, one with real joys and sorrows, not the fictitious pleasures of a mirrored image."

My words can be powerful, big, and brassy. The reality? I feel like a small girl trapped in a corner.

Where is the truth?

I want an authentic self. I want to be good enough. Being a mom. Being a writer. Being a wife. Nothing powerful.

Mostly? I want to be true. I want to make a difference. I want to be a good mother.

And I want peace.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


My friend Marg reminded me today I was only 43. I will not be 44 until the end of May.

Stop exaggerating, she warned. Don’t make yourself bigger than you are or older than you are.

Does this mean I can take ten pounds off my weight when I go to the doctors next? I mean, I don’t want to over-emphasize the unnecessary…

I stand corrected. I am 43 years old.

Still perimenopausal, mind you, but only 43.

Normal. Stay normal. Not more than, not less than, just who I am.

This is going to be an interesting process for me.

Wide Awake

3AM. I’m wide-awake.

When I was pregnant with Ben, I can remember him kicking every night at 3AM. I would have to get up and go to the bathroom. As the pregnancy progressed, it was pretty much every two hours but always a big turn and kick at three.

Three AM seems to be the time now when I either wake up from a horrible dream or I simply open my eyes and cannot shut them.

I’m perimenopausal- pre-menopausal as menopause is when it all stops. Prior to everything stopping, you have to go through the slow down. Insomnia is one of the first symptoms. Hot flashes- I’ve been having those, mainly around my period, for about two years. Nothing horrible yet but clearly, not a normal rise in temperature.

And perhaps I go a little irritable from time to time over nothing. Walter did mention something about installing an escalator for my constant trips to the roof.

I can’t believe my body is changing. I feel like I’m still 32, except that I’m not pregnant- thank god. But when I sit here, wide-awake in the middle of the night, I have to realize, I am not. I’m 44 and starting to shift into another physical gear of my life.

The worst part? I know I’ll be tired all day tomorrow. I have things to do and can’t pull a mental health day. It’s annoying. I’ll heat up some warm milk. Lie on the couch so I don’t wake up Jeanine with my incessant tossing and turning.

Not that anything wakes that woman up. Ever.

That’s annoying, too. She’s a few years younger than me and has great genes. Not only is her skin wrinkle free- she still gets carded at the liquor store- she will probably sail through perimenopause with one hot flash and a single somewhat restless sleep.

Up escalator.

What the hell. Might as well obsess about something ridiculous.

Wide awake, wide awake, wide awake.