Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Interview



For the first time in my life, I had an interview that was my true self. I did not say I could move mountains. I did not promise the sun, the moon and the stars. In fact, I said, I would not hire me for that position, but rather another. I’m good, but not that good. Maybe someday but not now.

My former boss, contacted for a recommendation, scoffed. You are not qualified for that position, she said.

But you would be great at the other.

I realized, I was not just stretching; I was reaching for something impossible. It was my need for admiration. For great achievement. Instead of focusing on a job I could be great at, enjoy and live… well, a normal life, I was reaching for something beyond my experience.

I wrote about this a while ago but today it sunk in. I do not have to be great. I do not have to be the very best. In fact, the hardest goal for me? Is to live an ordinary life. And to be happy with it.

I was honest. I told the truth about my strengths- and weaknesses. When I talked about the work I do with one of the foundation boards I sit on, my excitement came from a real place. I love that work. When I talked about the need for new language to get across old ideals, my passion was real, not manufactured.

When I was asked what kinds of direct mail campaigns I’d been a part of? I said none. We were never trying to get business. We were only trying to get notice to the issues.

I do love the work. I am not a zealot but a realist. I believe there are ways to change old messages to create a splash. And that we are uniquely positioned, in our society today, for change. It is the first time in fifty years we do not have an incumbent President or Vice President running for office. We are faced with a war long over due to end and a public finally opening their eyes to the daily carnage.

When the Dixie Chicks don’t get booed… we have come somewhere as a public. You can say that's a shallow measure but... I'm not seeing a lot of depth in a culture that has someone who can dribble a basketball making more money in an instant than a teacher does in a lifetime.

I feel the excitement every time I read the paper. The pendulum is shifting from the right, moving towards the left. I am poised, with the not-for-profit work I do to be a part of this amazing time.

Okay, I skip the parts about Anna Nicole.

It is change I want to be a part of. But I don’t need to be the head of the crowd. Or be the best at. I have the answer to my question the other day- I need to do more than raise three boys to feel good about my contribution to the world at the end of my life.

But I don’t have to promise the sun, the moon and the stars to be good enough.

My greatest accomplishment?

Being able to live a normal life.

Considering what I’ve come from? It’s not a given.

In fact, perhaps the greatest thing I can give my children.

I gave an honest interview today. First time in… my whole life. It doesn’t matter if I get the job.

I took a huge step in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Home Again, Home Again



When we were talking about travel plans for next winter break, Allan said to me, we can’t stop over on the way home. We have to just go straight home, even if it means 10 hours on planes.

I know he’s right.

I am waiting to fly home right now. I wish I had taken the 8am flight. I want to get home, read my mail, pet the cat and dog. Sit in my favorite chair for a few minutes before the kids get home. I can’t wait.

I’m a terrible traveler. Not that I don’t like to go places- I do. I loved seeing Baltimore, my first time in the city. I love seeing new places, favorite old ones. I love flying, even with the horrible security nonsense we have to go through. I prefer a window seat because like a child, I watch the clouds and the ground get smaller as the plane takes off.

My sister is terrified of planes. Brings out an anxiety response more about posttraumatic stress syndrome than it is about the actual flying. I feel terrible for her because I cannot imagine having something I love so much be painful.

But on the way home? I only want to get home. Now. Fast. Forget hanging out for one last day, I want to be on the plane first thing in the morning so there will be no delays. And then I want to be there as quickly as possible. It’s as if a switch is pulled and all my energy is focused on home.

Jeanine is the same way. While our boys are great on planes- the last time we landed, Ben and Zachary held their hands over their heads, as if on a rollercoaster, and enjoyed the G-force, yelling “weeeeeee!”- When the last day comes? They melt. Home. Now. If we say we’ve changed the flight to leave a little earlier? All three nod in agreement.

Even the time we left Disney Land.

Allan is right. We will book the flight for our trip with a few stops on the way. Non-stop on the way home.

I don’t care if there’s snow and ice. Or if there is no food in the refrigerator. Or if the dog wags her tail so much she knocks over everything in its path. Or when- not if- the cat howls at me, refusing to let me pick her up until she feels I completely understand her displeasure over my disappearance.

I can’t wait to get home.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Clarity and Chaos

Breathe in clarity.

Exhale chaos.

My friend keeps telling me this.

Is it chaos to want to go back to work?

Breathe in clarity. Uh… okay, I’m bored breathing in already. I want to move, to do, and to have things happen. To be a part of a movement. To be a part of a group.

Exhale chaos.

I am a part of a group. I am a part of a movement. I am working every day. Being a mother and housewife is a job. A very real job. If I go back to work, another friend said to me yesterday, I better get someone to help around the house. Period. I get too freaked out about laundry not being done. Feeding the kids the right kind of food. Being sure they are picked up on time.

Breathe in clarity.

I’m in Baltimore for a conference. It is quiet and the snow is falling. Everything is blanketed with a fine covering of white. The harbor is still. The contrast of the dark water and white snow is stunning. I have a meeting to go to. I will be a little late. I am not needed desperately anywhere.

Exhale chaos.

Where do you draw the line? Is raising three boys enough? Will I rest at the end of my life feeling I have done something important? I have contributed to society in a valuable way? Is this simply about being good enough, yet one more time?

Breathe in clarity.

I miss work. I miss being a part of something greater than myself, working towards a social good. Being in a workplace, helping create an environment where there is no daily drudging with moments of excitement sprinkled in but rather a place where work engages, challenges. Where every day can be a dance.

Exhale chaos.

Every day can be a dance. It’s what I bring to it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dinnertime



I have worked long and hard to teach my kids about dinnertime. It’s not about eating, although yes, you do need a vegetable to enter your body every once in a while. It’s about talking with each other. Sharing what you did that day, telling family stories over and over again.

In Savannah, the waiter was so impressed by our kid’s behavior in the restaurant- and it was a nice restaurant with no kid menu- he brought the chef out to meet us.

I have two kids, he said to Jeanine and I. I can’t imagine taking them out to a place like this and having them sit? Never.

And I am reminded of a friend’s advice to me- go out often. Keep doing it. Even when it means taking turns eating, taking whoever is acting up out of the restaurant. But don’t give up.

I passed on the advice. Start small, I said. And work your way up.

My kids passed around the glass of wine I had. Took a deep sniff.

Grape-ish, Ben said.

C’mon, I said.

Jake took it. Strawberries. No, just really a lot of black cherry.

Closer.

Zachary stuck his nose in it. Chocolate?

Yes, Chocolate.

How can wine smell like chocolate and taste so nasty? Ben asked.

So we talked about wine.

When we left, a few diners smiled and nodded to us as we passed. You can see the relief in their faces they are not in a restaurant paying top dollar for a meal and listening to kids scream.

The last couple nights in Florida, though, I found people were listening in to our family conversations. I didn’t think we were being that loud.

Will you buy me a Mercedes? Ben asked one night.

No.

Grandma would have bought me a Mercedes.

I started to laugh. No, she would not have. My mother would not have bought her grandson a Mercedes. Of this, I am sure.

How about an Audi?

No.

Miss M has an Audi!

Miss M is Zachary’s teacher.

Miss M has a job, I explained.

Is there anything you’d buy me?

Well... I said, Grandma did buy a car that I shared with my sibling. We had to pay for gas, repairs, but she did buy it.

What was it? A Cadillac?

No, it was a Ford Pinto.

And I told the story of the Pinto and it’s exploding gas tank and how my mother bought it because she did not believe we could make it go more than 55 miles per hour.

She was wrong.

At the end of the meal, and the story, a woman from the next table leaned over.

I loved the Pinto story, she smiled.

Thank you, I said. The boys all looked at me, smiling.

Mom, Ben said to me as we walked outside, you should have told her about your blog.

I shrugged.

The next night? I noticed the couple next to us were laughing when Ben was telling the story about how he and his friend had come across the Teletubbies at one o’clock in the morning. We then all launched into our favorite Teletubbie moments.

They got up to leave before us and the woman came over and smiled, thank you, she said. You’re children are wonderful.

I smiled and nodded, thinking, not always. Believe me, not always.

It is curious to me how unusual it is to have kids who sit at the dinner table and eat. Talk. Laugh. Share. It’s not about the vegetables or too many rolls- although I do keep an eye on all of that. I’m not above the ‘two more bites’ rule or settle down and have a carrot.

But it’s in between discussion of why wine smells one way, tastes another, when you order lobster- in Maine- and when you don’t- in Florida.

And stories. Always stories.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Every Little Piece





I dropped off my mother’s things today at Good Will. My kids helped me load the car.

Why are we taking Grandma’s stuff? Zachary asked. I almost lost it. The time I had spent, over the last week, slowly packing her things away, crushed together.

Grandma doesn’t need it anymore, Zach, Jake said. Not nicely, mind you, but with the exasperation only a six year old can muster.

Oh, yeah, Zachary said quietly.

It’s okay, Zach, Ben said, Grandma would want to share.

Folding each sweater into the plastic containers, I could remember so many of them on her. The line of shoes, all barely worn. I placed the few pieces of jewelry into the box of scarves I am taking back.

I kept a few pieces of clothing hanging for me to decide about the next time I’m here. My mother and I wore the same size. Very different tastes, mind you. There was, however, a jacket of mine down here she had placed in her own closet. A suit coat with the tags still on it I thought would look good on me.

Each piece was part of her. I never thought something as meaningless as clothes would have such an impact. My hands started to shake. I took her bathrobe off the hook and folded it.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

And then there were the letters. I finally found the stash of letters my mother kept for years. From her Grandfather. When she died, we all looked frantically for them. Once she showed me a single letter. It was more than important to her. It was something she held so close to her heart. She was not a person who kept much. She kept every one of these letters. There are easily over a hundred of them.

I found them wrapped in two different plastic bags. At a glance, just after her death when I was here, I thought it was a set of sheets in plastic.

Odd, sure, but I was in her closet. Not somewhere I was allowed to be. Looking through things that were not my business. I opened very little.

Yesterday, I knew nothing could leave the house without me opening it. Holding it. Being sure of what it was. Acknowledging it.

Then packing it in a container to be given away.

No, shared. I think Ben is right. It’s about sharing.



I also chose a realtor today. All realtors are annoying. Out of the few I spoke with, she seemed the most competent and least cheerful. Just straight forward. No plastic smile. Not dreary, mind you, but not Doris Day chipper either.

She convinced me the condo should be sold furnished. People want to step inside and know they can be here right away. It’s a second home, you know. Even if they don’t like it, they’ll have something to use for a while.

My original goal was to be savvy and negotiate the furniture. I have bought and sold a lot of houses. I know the deal.

Well, if there is anything they don’t want… I found myself stammering.

She smiled kindly and didn’t say a word.

Let me check with the others, but yes, I understand it should be furnished.

I knew their responses already. Neither wanted anything. A piece of art. Some of the decorative glass.

The thought someone might throw away what she loved was hard for me in the moment. The reality? It’s all brand new. She adored it. But none of it has any history.

Not like the clothes I dropped off at Good Will. Her shoes. Left over hearing aid batteries. The blue cloth sweater with a small flower on the front. Mock turtlenecks. I sincerely believe she was the only person left in the world who actually wore them. The white silk slippers. The long, flowered nightgown.

As I drove away, I realized I forgot to get a receipt. It’s my job to take care of all the details. My head was swimming as the boys helped me load the boxes into the large, gray bin. No tax benefit for any of us.

I’m sorry.

The realtor came by and dropped of the paperwork. Sell it furnished, I said.

Good, she nodded and headed for the elevator.

No plastic smiles. Down to business.

And as I said a few days ago? It doesn’t get any easier.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Kissing Jellyfish




The boys and I are in full vacation mode. Jeanine is gone- back to work- so we pretty much live by the pool with an occasional trip out for food.

No two-hour drives.

Yesterday, at the pool, Ben shouted to his brothers, Now for the ULTIMATE underwater challenge! TEAPARTY!

And sunk to the bottom of the pool, legs crossed, pretending to serve tea.

The second best part of vacation, after being able to recharge in the sun and by the water? Hanging out with my kids.

Currently, Ben is obsessed with a certain girl. He goes between two, back and forth, sometimes one, sometimes the other. There is a third- someone from his class- but that’s a more closely held secret. I’m not allowed to blog about her.

Two days ago, we were driving around in a golf cart and everyone wanted to get a drink. We stopped at the little shop and I said whatever you want.

I'm easy when I'm at the beach. Want a ton of sugar? Sure. Ride in a golf cart? Yup. More sugar? Sure. They know to take me to the beach once a day and they're pretty much getting anything they want.

Ben grabs a sprite. Zach, coke and Jake, a mango odawall juice.

Of course. Jake is my foodie apprentice. Ben and Zachary always grab the chance and go for a Coke. Sugar and caffeine.

Sprite? I asked Ben.

Well, [girl] and I have the Sprite is the best club, he said.

Really? Zach asked.

Uh, no. But I'm sure she'd want to join because [girl] loves sprite, he said and took a less than delicate gulp.

I mean, totally... he finished.

Zachary rolled his eyes.

Jake copied Ben.

Totally. He nodded.

At each meal, Ben’s ordered Sprite. Anything you want, I said the other night. Sprite, he ordered. Of course, Jake had milk. Zachary? Coke.

No wonder Jake and I fell asleep mid-American Idol that night.

Yesterday, we were walking on the beach and there are hundreds of beached jellyfish. Maybe it's the season; maybe it's the nuclear power plant twenty miles down coast. Maybe it's the paper mill ten miles up coast. You decide.

We come across two jellyfish touching.





Look mom, Ben shouts, they're kissing!

We all go to look and Zachary says, yeah. Like you and [girl].

Does Ben punch him? Yell at him? Chase him? Nope. He just sighs.

Yeah.

To avoid laughing out loud, I start walking away.

MOM! Take a picture! Ben shouts.

So... thus the [girl] and Ben ... uh... dead jellyfish... uh... kissing? picture.

Mom, they have no brains, right? Zachary asked me after I took the picture.

I wanted so badly to make a comment about pre-pubescent boys...

People have asked me if I think Ben is straight or gay. I have no idea. I don’t care. I only want him happy. Comfortable in his skin. It’s not always easy for him. Being away from the pressure of school and what is and isn’t okay allows the best part of him come out.

The girl kissing, tea party challenging, gentle soul.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how a massive anti-gay marriage campaign in Massachusetts would affect my kids. You have to understand- I’m in Northern Florida, an hour away from the Georgia border. This is not South Beach. This is a place where more than once I’ve been driving behind a car with a KKK symbol painted on the back. When Jeanine and I are with the kids? Her dark features pretty much peg her as the nanny.

All this is to say, there is always a level of fear.

I don’t want that for my kids in their own home. I cannot bear the thought of the airwaves being bombarded with negative images of gays and lesbians. At least when I was coming out as a young teenager, there simply was a void of information. It did not exist.

And not just for kids struggling with their sexuality but kids that may simply be different in how they approach the world.

Like my son, Ben.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deliberate Choices



I was thinking about the cemetery in Savannah this morning. How the tombstones still line the wall, never returned to their rightful places. As deliberate as Sherman was to have his soldiers camp there, the decision to keep open the wound was made.

How am I going to close these wounds?

Because I don’t want the memories to become armor, locking me in place, keeping everyone out.

How do I keep moving forward but not running away?

I had a friend call me up the other day and gently remind me of a lost priority.

Are you done with the book proposal?

No, I said. Almost.

Nice to be applying for the job but will you have time to do it with the book you’ll be writing?

The book will be about this year in politics in Massachusetts and the country, my experience as a lesbian parent and the looming debate about gay marriage. It cannot be written at another time.

I have never thought about my writing or my photography as my number one job. Always second to anything else that comes along. I do not find value in my own work. I find value in working for others.

I’ve had offers to hang my pictures, to film a script (we’re still doing that Julie!), and my gracious friend- who wrote almost all of my book proposal- is patiently drumming her fingers, waiting to review it before sending it to her agent.

I believe, without question, I could be extraordinary at the job I sent a letter of inquiry about.

The timing, another friend said, is suspect.

Is it moving forward? Or just running?

I want to be deliberate.

And I want to close wounds.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today's Song...




The song from the play, Annie, keeps going through my head.

The sun'll come out
Tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Just thinkin' about
Tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,
Oh!

The sun'll come out
Tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!


Oh my god. Maybe I am manic.

Maybe it was sitting with Jake last night playing cards- Gin- while Ben and Zachary played Scrabble. We were all wiped out from the pool, fresh from showers and baths, in our jammies at 7PM, killing time until American Idol started.

Maybe it was Jake asleep in my arms, Zachary asleep leaning on my shoulder at the end of the show last night. Or how Ben whispered his thoughts on the last contestant, careful not to wake his brothers out of his own consciousness, not because I told him to be quiet.

Maybe it was falling asleep reading the book Allan gave me because I could not put it down. He and I share the same love of books and historical tales.

Maybe it’s that no one haunted my dreams last night.

But the song was the first thing on my mind this morning when Jake came in clutching his stuffed gorilla, asking me if I was awake.

I’m not one to ‘stick out my chin and grin.’ I tend to act like a first-born, clutching the wound and wailing at the indignity. Second born kids almost always shrug it off. I am the baby in my family of origin- some might say with a capital B. But I am also the first born from my birth mother. Like my son Jake, I carry both traits.

If there is one thing I am learning through this process, though, it is to remember every day is different. Some days, I am full of voice, stand my full height and can carry the world.

Some days, I cannot.

It’s not over yet.

And- because it is and, a holding together of many pieces- I can do it. It’s okay to cry. There will be days when I catch a flutter of something out of the corner of my eye and jump- not a little jump but one of heart pounding panic. Days when a waft of cigarette smoke brings tears to my eyes, the smell reminding me of my mother.

Days when I look at my kids and am overwhelmed by the love in my life.

So… you know…

The sun'll come out
Tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!



Yup. Manic.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Not Over




My father was in my dreams last night.

Around my children.

I kept screaming at him to go away.

He would not.

My kids were young- Jake barely two, Zach four and Ben six.

He wanted to help change Jake’s diapers. He tried to grab Zach to bounce him on his lap.

Ben kept running away.

I threw things at him. I was trying to get the kids ready for school. I was trying to get them away. Everywhere I turned, he was there. Talking about horrible things.

I didn’t know where Ben was. I grabbed Zachary and Jake and tried to run. They were so heavy. I could not find Ben. The school bus was coming. Was he in the road?

My father reached for me. In an instant, I was too small to fight back.

I want it all to be over.

It’s not.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Two Hour Sandwiches




Jeanine is a jerk.

In case you didn’t know.

She insists on spending vacations driving in the car.

I hate driving in the car.

The kids hate driving in the car.

It gives her a sense of accomplishment. We have driven, covered ground and returned. Something useful was done. Action took place.

To me? The kids were cooped up in the car for a couple hours driving to have lunch in a far away place.

A lunch that sucked.

Yup, that’s a dollar word.

She was angry with me because I didn’t want to go into Jacksonville. I did not want to spend two hours in the car. I never want to but today I had explained to her I have been struggling. I am anxious and uneasy about dealing with the sale of the condo. I am putting my mother’s clothes into boxes. Nothing feels easy or comfortable. Suddenly, I want it done. And I want it done now.

And she wanted to drive to Jacksonville to a sandwich place.

Oy.

In fact, she got angry with me for not wanting to leave.

I got angry at her for insisting I go.

The kids stood frozen.

I need to be able to say no.

She needs to be able to say no.

It is a hard place to be.

Without anxiety, I am someone who sits on vacation. I love to swim, to sit in the sun, to swim, to sit in the sun. Read. My mind slows down- a little. With anxiety? I am frozen in place. The car makes me feel captured. Closed in.

Jeanine wants to go, do, move, drive, see, taste, shop, experience as much as possible in the time available. Not at all unreasonable. Until the demand is made with angry tears in her eyes.

Usually, the answer is that I sit, she goes and the kids go with whichever activity they want to do. That was unacceptable today.

The old triangle of my mother and Jeanine was revisited. Jeanine always felt like my family came first- for vacations, for visits, for everything. The condo is the very real reminder of her experience. It wasn’t true. I have always cherished going to her family. I adore her mother and anyone who would ever say anything to the contrary is crazy. And I even adore that crazy person.

There is something special at each place. My family, Jeanine’s, Walter’s and Allan’s. Lots of families in this family.

There was always a push pull with Jeanine and my mother. They both wanted to be the most important person in the world to me. They both were. In different ways. Each one could pull me away from the other. Each did, at different times. Since my mother’s death, I have felt very protective of her around Jeanine. Jeanine, in turn, is very protective of me.

Don’t forget, she warns. Don’t sugar coat the truth.

I have. I know I have. It’s easier to swallow. I’m tired of fighting. I want it all to stop.

Today it came through as an argument about taking a two-hour car ride for sandwiches.

Lousy sandwiches, I have to add.

She reminded me the condo was always a disappointment. It’s not warm in February. The food for miles around is awful. The place still smells like cigarettes.

We’re going to sell it, I finally said to her. Can you stop harping on it and try and enjoy what little time left here we do have?

She lightened up only because she got to drive two hours. By the end, Jake was carsick and had to pee so bad the whole car had to sit silently, lest a small giggle break loose the dam. We got back and I took the boys to the pool and sat in the sun.

We have to stop arguing. I am defensive and angry- my back is against the wall. No one is going to let me keep this place. She thinks she understands my attachment to things. She doesn’t. It’s layers and years of love and hate. It is a push and pull, back and forth. Yes and no.

Trying to make me pick one of them only made me miserable. I never chose. I loved them both. It did not save me from any pain for Jeanine to be angry with her.

Everything feels fresh again. Like the wounds have all been stripped raw. I’m anxious and impatient. I feel tense and hypersensitive to everything.

I want her things and I don’t. It feels good and it feels incredibly unsafe. I feel the red flags popping up everywhere. I have gone too far over the edge. Things were never perfect. There is a great deal I do not miss and will never miss. Jeanine’s tugging only hurts. It makes me feel alone.

Jeanine has to stop fighting against a ghost. My mother is dead.

I don’t want to be in the middle anymore.

She can drive two hours for lunch.

I can sit by the pool.

The kids can choose between each parent’s specialties without the tension of an argument sending them for cover.

Either way, the condo will be sold.

It’ll be over soon.

And it will never be over. I need Jeanine’s help. Her understanding.

Not two-hour car rides to prove my love and willingness to compromise.

(Photo is by Jake. Yes, that is me holding the sandwich in a pink shirt. No, I did not frame it. His choice to focus on the sandwich. )

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Savannah




Savannah is beautiful. Grand.





They say it’s the most haunted city in the country. I have to say, standing in the cemetery, with the wind swirling the dead magnolia leaves around me as I took the picture of the headstones Union soldiers kicked over? It felt haunted.





The city looks like a picture book. Not a house, or a street doesn’t call to be photographed. The trees are full of Spanish Moss, and light dances through the branches.





Old and new are blended together not in layers but in unison. New houses are built in strict adherence with the historic commission, and only a careful eye can tell them apart.




Ben is in love with the city. It is the most amazing place, he said. He does not use the word amazing very lightly. Last time I heard it was about Camp Out.





He loves the drama of the city. The style. The grace. We went and had Coca-Cola in the bar before dinner. Because in Savannah? You have the time to say Coca-Cola.

It is just so cool, he said, lounging back in the leather couch.

We talked about what we had seen that day. The ironwork on the buildings. The codes that said no elevators. The webkins in the storefront window on River Street.





At least they were paying attention.

The boys practiced dueling on the public dueling grounds.

Why did people do that? Jake asked. It seems a little silly to him to take ten steps and shoot someone over an argument.

Because it was the 1800’s and everyone was stupid, Ben said.

People still shoot each other today, I reminded him.





Why did that General guy burn everything? Jake asked. Did he burn Savannah?

Sherman. General Sherman won the Civil war by marching to the ocean and burning everything in his path. Savannah surrendered. He didn’t burn it. Atlanta didn’t. He burned that to the ground.

Why?

Because he wanted to win the war.

What I didn't say was he wanted to humiliate the enemy. He was the first in modern warfare to appreciate it as a tactic. He had his soldiers camp in a cemetary. It was the ultimate insult. Our level of horror is different now. Today, soldiers rape women and children for the same purpose.

I could hear my great aunts voices. Daughters of the Confederacy, their stories rang through my head. My ghosts. Friendly and full of patience for my Yankee naïveté. Sherman was an evil man. You could not mention his name without real disgust coming from them.





I had grits for breakfast. And ham. I may not be southern but I was raised by southerners. I would never want to live in Savannah but I loved drinking in all of it.

Savannah is gracious and dramatic. Warm and full of ghosts.

Beautiful.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Exploding Rolls




Ben made us breakfast this morning. Crescent rolls, yogurt.

Where does… did Grandma keep the cookie sheets? He asked.

Look for a long skinny cabinet. If they aren’t in there, she didn’t have any.

They all stood around in anticipation of the pop the rolls make when the can is twisted.

It’s not going to shoot you, I said to Zachary.

Grandma didn’t like to cook, Zachary said.

She liked to cook when she was younger, I said. She taught me. She just got sick of it when she was older.

Jake sat down at the table with his yogurt. I love this place, he sighed.

Jeanine looked over at me.

We decided last night it must be sold. There is someone interested and I am going to follow up on it.

Maybe, I said, we can keep the furniture. Some of it. Not sell it furnished.

If you want, she said. Jeanine does not want to own this property. Her family is in southern Florida. She does not understand my emotional attachment. I hope she doesn’t for a long, long time.

I asked a friend, who is a family therapist, why telling Ben it was not okay to go in the bathroom- at 4:30AM- to brush his teeth because you are ON THE TOILET requires loud wails of sobbing in response?

She said maybe it was because I had “no business being on his toilet at the moment when he MUST brush his teeth.” I know this is true. And then gently added it might have something to do with the transition to staying at his dead grandmother’s house.

As much as I process, I was not prepared for how it would feel.

Nor did I think about how it would feel for them. Ben loved his grandmother. He talks about her.

Grandma still has this! He said, pulling out a cup that Jake made for her. He goes in between past and present tense talking about her.




I gave it to Grandma, Grandma, Grandma, Jake said.

We’re going to Savannah today. Take the short road trip to see the haunted city. Pass on stories about the Civil War to my boys. Share the parts of their family they know little about. It is hard to be in a southern city and not hear my mother’s voice. How it slowly crept back to a drawl, as she got older and older.

Tomorrow, I will contact the interested buyer.

She’s dead. The condo makes no sense to keep. It is, after all, a thing. Just a thing.

It’s time to let go.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ocean View



Doesn’t get any easier to be here.

I’m back at my mother’s condo. I feel tremendously sad. I know I need to let it go. A neighbor who knows someone interested in buying the place has already approached me. I sent out an email to let my siblings know before taking the next step. The market is down and an eager buyer is a blessing.

My heart sank.

Doesn’t get any easier to let go, either.

Ben opened a drawer to look for a Chip Clip.

Grandma sure liked chips, he said, noting the large collection.

Cheese Doodles, Zachary chimed in. Grandma liked Cheese Doodles!

Oh yeah, Ben nodded in agreement.

I’m photographing the different things so my siblings and I can go through them, virtually. I opened her closet and it was like she was standing there. Cigarettes and White Diamond perfume.

There was a box of scarves on a shelf. I opened it and remembered when Ben was two years old and visiting Grandma. She brought out a silky, long scarf for him. He ran with it, draped it over himself, laughed and twirled. She was so delighted.

See? She said. They don’t need anything fancy to play with. Just what’s around the house.

Uh… I don’t have silk scarves around the house, Ma.

I pulled one out and held it to my face. I can’t let go of this, I thought. I can’t. I don't want to box anything up. I don't want to give anything away. I want to keep it here forever.

Jake called me from the other room.

MOM! Where are you?

I’m in here, I called. Grandma’s closet.

Whatcha doing? He asked.

How do I answer that? I’m crying. I’m longing to touch something that is gone. A friend commented to me the other day she had no idea I ever had a close relationship with my mother.

I did.

Even at our worst, I said, we could always talk about politics, religion and money managers.

At our best? She trusted me.

Once I came down here with just Zachary. It was his special treat- a trip with mom and grandma. He was about three years old. At one point, he started to have a fit. One thing about Zachary? When he gets into a mood it is so hard to get him out of it. Ever since he was a baby and still now. He was wailing away, having been put in time out in the house- my mother and I sat on the deck.

We both stared out at the ocean.

Zachary screamed.

Not much you can do about that one’s mood, now is there? She mused, taking a long drag off her cigarette.

Nope, I shrugged.

And I remember just sitting there with her, my kid going bizerk, watching the ocean. I was calm. I knew in a minute I’d go into Zachary and figure out how to break his mood- that time I threatened to put him in the trash barrel and playfully picked him up, tickled him as I walked toward it.

I knew my mother wasn’t upset or rattled. She sat, quietly amused.

I know I have to sell this place. I know it makes no sense to keep it. Somewhere in these walls? There is the very best of my life with her. I don’t want to let it go.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Earth Saved by Trained Cats

As a mother of a newborn baby, I used disposable diapers. And I felt terrible about it. How could I add to the overflowing landfills? I should be washing cloth diapers, saving the environment. I was bad bad bad.

Then a friend of mine, also a mother of a young child, said, that’s hooey. What is filling the landfills is mostly construction waste. Building materials. But it’s so much more fun to blame women and their baby’s diapers. Besides, women feel guilty about it. Big business does not.

Ahhhh. I said.

And if you take the amount of energy it takes to wash diapers in hot water, the amount of chemicals used to get them clean, it is, in many ways, a wash.

Pardon the pun.

So I used my disposable diapers. It wasn’t a choice of pride but one I no longer felt guilty about.

Now? I read a plea to train your cat to use the toilet instead of kitty litter.

Why?

Because all the cat litter used in a year would fill Yankee stadium.

Please.

Jeanine showed me the article. She had tried, in vain, to teach our cat to use the toilet instead of the kitty litter.

I told you, she said.

No. I’m not buying it. For one, our cat goes outside. She rarely uses the kitty litter. I’m not filling more than a half a garbage can a year with her. Secondly, it’s one more way we are finger pointing at the wrong person, the wrong thing. We are entertained by images meant to keep us from the truth.




Clearly, she's getting something to read before heading in.

A picture of a cat squatting on a toilet is far more eye catching and interesting than a pile of construction waste. The image of Yankee stadium filled with kitty litter? Okay, I don’t know if I’d call it sexy but it’s definitely more engaging than the already familiar shot of a landfill.

How about my pile of diapers from all three kids next to the last ranch house in Weston demolished to make a new McMansion?

Jeanine can train the cat to use the toilet, I don’t care. Cat pee, boy pee, cat poop, boy poop- it’s all the same to me. None of it gets flushed anyway until I come along.

Just don’t try to tell me it’s going to make an enormous difference.

It’s time for people to reflect on their own trash barrel, to be sure, but not at the expense of seeing the real problem.

And it isn’t disposable diapers.

Nor are kitties on the john the solution.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day



Ugh.

I woke up this morning to Jake’s shrieks of delight.

It’s a snow day, it’s a snow day! He shouted.

He came running in our bedroom and flung open the shades.

There was a dusting of snow on the ground.

No no no, I said. You’ll have school today.

Never underestimate the power of the media. Ever. The panic spread over the last three days about a MAJOR storm coming in to BLANKET the city with ICE, SNOW, SLEET causing DANGEROUS roads made everyone lose their minds.

I laughed as Ben ran to the computer to check to see if the schools were closed. They are not, I said.

WHOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO! He screamed. Schools are closed!

No way, I went over and squinted, pre-coffee, at the screen.

No fucking way…

Mom! That’s a dollar!

I can’t believe you don’t have school. It better get pretty bad out there.

As I sit here, at almost 5PM, I can say, it has not. It’s fine. No worries. The kids have the whole week off next week. What’s another day?

Except that it’s New England and somewhere in the deed to your house is a line about being hearty, frugal and only able to give bad directions.

Let’s get one thing clear. We should be afraid of, terrified by, the fact that we have had no snow this winter. We will have a drought this summer. Storms in Europe have been so severe- and unseasonable- trains have been blown off their tracks. Upstate New York is not experiencing snow, it is experiencing multiple feet of snow- daily. The whole month of January here was above 50 degrees, often in the 60’s.

There is something TERRIBLY WRONG with our environment. I wish the news media would focus on that instead of frightening school superintendents into closing school for three inches of snow. Little rain.




So here we sit, with Jake running around in circles with the dog -

I’m giving Beanie exercise, Mom!

That’s great honey but can you do that outside?

Zachary still running a fever but unable to stop wrestling with Ben-

But Mom what else can I do?

READ A BOOK!

And the desperate efforts of the Public Works department to scrape off the top layer pavement, cashing in on much needed overtime from the dry winter, echo in the background.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sick Baby

Zachary is sick. He’s a fairly tough kid, rarely breaking down over a physical wound or ailment. As a baby, he would bang into a corner, suffer a huge lump, but never cry.

Or slow down.

When he was almost three, he needed to have surgery on a small hernia. He was, and still is, a generally shy kid in a new circumstance. Sitting in a hospital ward with his two moms, funny yellow slipper socks and a Johnny on was clearly a moment to give pause. When they gave him the little purple drink though, he suddenly became chatty.

With everyone.

Jeanine is the calmer of the two in our marriage, at least that’s the story everyone believes. But when they wheeled Zachary down to surgery, she whispered, you go. I held his hand, listened to him gab with the nurses. He looked so small on the gurney. Part of me was terrified I’d lose him, most of me knew better. The anesthesiologist covered his face with the mask and kept him talking for the few seconds it took before Zachary was out. I remember squeezing his hand just before and saying, I’ll be right here when you wake up.

And I was. The nurses advised he might be groggy or cry when he woke up. Zachary just woke up. Ready to go. Keep him quiet, they said as we brought him home. Shouldn’t be too hard.

Within two hours of getting home, he was tearing around the house after Ben. I worried about his stitches; the fresh wound but was relieved his eyes were bright. There seemed to be no bad side effects from the anesthesia.

When Zachary walked out to the playground yesterday after school, he told me his throat hurt. His voice was garbled and he came up and leaned against me. This does not happen on the playground under normal circumstances.

The boy was hot. I knew he had a fever.

In the middle of the night last night, Jeanine got up and gave him some Advil. His fever was back and he complained of not being able to breathe- his throat too sore and nose too clogged. Jeanine tucked him in and came back to bed. Within a minute, I heard him still struggling to breathe- I knew he was afraid it would not stop. I went in and sat behind him in his bed and had him lean back against me.

The rough coughing stopped.

It hurts, he whispered.

I know. I’m right here. Just close your eyes. You need to be sitting up.

Eventually, he fell asleep.

It was three thirty in the morning and as I held him I remembered something really important. All the different jobs I have had, the different people I have touched, none are as important as my children.

Last week I applied for a job. I don’t know what will happen, whether or not I’ll get very far in the process. It was a door, in a line of many that I have in front of me. Choices of different paths to take. As I peek into each, I have to remember one thing; it may not be revered in our culture, it may not pay and it may not look sexy on the city census, but being a mother is the most important thing in the world to me.

Zachary is a tough kid. He could have gotten home by himself yesterday. Crawled into bed, knowing he didn’t feel well. He’s not a baby anymore.

Jeanine may appear to be the rock in this family but my boys know better. In the middle of the night, they go to her side to sneak a forbidden snooze in our bed. But when they’re sick, I’m the one who calms the painful cough and rubs their back. I’m the one holding their hand in the operating room and again in the recovery room.

And when we walked home together, my arm around him, and his head against my shoulder? It was the only place in the world I wanted to be.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Kindness

I saw an old friend today. We haven’t sat and talked for years. Kids, life on opposite sides of the city- we lost touch. But sitting in her kitchen today, I remembered the connection we always had, the way we both think deeply about our lives, consider choices thoughtfully.

Okay, we are both process queens.

Lesbian heaven, Walter said to me when I described my visit.

I laughed. Yes, it was. She’s not sick of hearing it all.

I know Walter is not sick of hearing it. He’d listen to me over and over. He never loses his patience with me. Maybe he’s taking a pill… one of those calm down pills Allan gave me before the wedding when I was zipping along at about nine hundred miles per hour about everything, every detail.

Why did I get so far away from wonderful people, Walter? Why did I move towards people who would suck me dry?

They sense it in your posture, he joked, your shoulders tight, slightly hunched over- ooo. That’s a ripe one.

Like pheromones. Some hidden scent that draws narcissistic personality types in for the kill.

Don’t forget that’s where you needed to be for a while. You got some benefits from it, too.

I know I did. I felt needed, wanted and important. It made me feel better about myself when I had lost the ground under my feet. Years of staying home with the kids, taking care of the house, being a housewife, made me feel irrelevant.

I let my world slip away. I let my friends across the city become strangers. Good people who love me and think the world of me.

Got ‘em fooled, I tell ya.

I feel… hopeful for the first time in a while. I am looking around my world and finding a lot of love and support. I feel… cared for.

And while there are echoes of the past that still haunt me- I found myself looking back over my shoulder for acceptance where there will never be any just the other day- it is, I realize, behind me. The effort hurt. It didn’t feel natural.

I don’t need it anymore. The need to care for another to fill my empty space is a whisper. It is part of an old route, clearly worn, but I’m no longer willing to travel it anymore.

The story of the pianist’s amazing performance and fear to take a bow, for one in the audience did not clap has always been true for me. I have always wanted everyone to clap. It led me into hurtful places, giving up everything for the approval of a single voice hog who was oblivious and neglectful.

I am no longer voiceless. I am ready to hear the applause for who I am without the superhuman effort.

I feel myself softening. My posture, as Walter pointed out, is no longer stiff, rigid. I am able to move, smile and stand tall; kiss, hug and laugh.

I soaked in my cup of coffee with a good friend.

I am surrounded by kindness.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Newspaper



A friend told me the other day that in five years newspapers will no longer exist. The actual paper thrown on the front walk, because of cost and lack of audience, will not be printed.

My jaw dropped. No.

She works for a newspaper. Big one. She said she thought it would be ten but people have started to shift their projections. Five years.

They said that about books, I scoffed. You can never replace a book.

But I knew, from my previous job doing research on stocks, that newspapers do not make money. Without a serious shift to online media, there was no way to make a profit.

Five years.

I cannot imagine Sunday morning without the newspaper. It was a mark of true adulthood to me, being able to have the paper delivered and read it in bed with a cup of coffee. It meant having a real job, my own place and time, on Sunday, to read.

I remember- vaguely- being in bed with Jeanine on Sunday mornings reading the paper. Having sex, reading, napping, more sex, more reading, more napping. Those were the days.

Then we had children and for a long time, the Sunday paper remained in the plastic bag, untouched. I get to read the paper now, rarely in bed, and usually at the end of the day. There is something about the crinkle of the paper, flipping and folding of pages, I find comforting. I read many articles online but still prefer the paper in my hands.

I have my routine. Comics first. I can't help myself. Then the editorials. Book reviews and straight to the Travel section. The Arts section. Sports- I have read the sports section of newspapers since I was very young.

There has always been a newspaper in my life. Except in college when the choice was a six pack of Utica Club beer or a week of newspapers. Please. No contest.

You’re a dinosaur, my friend said. One of the few.

So even though Jeanine is away this weekend, and the kids were running around wild, unwilling to go outside? I read the paper in bed this morning.

I’m going to savor it while I can.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bowling



Bowling is a little different today.

The balls are fluorescent colors. Scoring is computerized and completely automatic. Brand new socks are given to each bowler to use. And there are kiwi ices.

Kiwi ices were not a part of my bowling past. I remember the smoke filled hall, too tight shoes only doused with talcum powder between users and the small nub of an eraser-less pencil you used to keep score.




On paper. You had to know to add the next frame after a spare, and how to score a strike. I don’t remember how to score a strike but it didn’t matter. The computer did it for me.

I can remember going to the lanes with my father, and later as a teenager as a hang out place. It was cheap, you could smoke being fairly certain your parents weren’t going to show up and it was the only place aside from Pizza Hut with video arcade games.

Everyone knew how to bowl. I watched my kids toss the balls from the ball return area and realized we have not gone bowling enough. I started by rolling the ball between my legs because I was too small to have my hands reach the grip.

There are some things I feel like I’ve always known. I always knew I was adopted. I always loved food. And I always knew how to bowl.

Duckpin? My friend asked, whose son I was taking along.

Huh?

To me, being from Upstate New York, there was only one kind of bowling. None of this silly candle pin stuff. I didn’t know there was a name for regular, normal, bowling. But this is New England and I should know better by now. It’s been twenty years. There are bubblers, frappes and candlepin bowling.

I don’t like the little balls and thin pins. Too hard. No heft behind the ball. Although at the Milky Way lounge last summer, Walter and I learned the secret from a sweet boy we were bowling with- put a little spit on your hands.

Hey, it works. I still want to throw those balls over-hand at the pins, though.

Today was fun. I have to be honest, if the bumpers weren’t up, I wouldn’t have broken 100. That’s another thing I don’t remember. Bumpers.

Jake’s a natural, as we’re finding he is at most sports. Ben has a weird twist but can really knock the balls down. Zach loves his pal and they both share an incredibly sophisticated sense of humor that I love. Bowling, it seems, amuses them.

Walter and I found we share a bowling past. My mother may have been a southern debutant but my father was more working class. Well… fossil hunting wasn’t all that working class. Okay, I don’t know why he took us, except for the fact that everyone bowled when I was a kid.

But not with fluorescent balls.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Why Write Fiction?

Current news headlines continue to prove my point- why bother writing fiction?

It is a relief to know that Reverend Ted Haggard is “completely heterosexual.” The prostitute using, crystal meth snorting nightmare is a Heterosexual. Thank God, because we homosexuals don’t want him in our midst. Might scare the children.

Six feet of snow in five days in Upstate New York. Schools closed for four days in a row. It brings new meaning to the term, “cabin fever.”

There is a comedy club in Florida that has changed the name of the “Vagina Monologues” for their billboard because people objected to the word "vagina." -- they're calling it the “HooHaa Monologues.” I wonder if they changed “Puppetry of the Penis” to “Winkie Wonders?”

I can’t even comment on the astronaut except to say, how do you kick some bitch’s ass wearing diapers?

Which reminds me, I’m not turning fifty. A friend was reviewing my resume for me last night while preparing for her first colonoscopy. Above and beyond the call of duty because some calls are far more important. I’m not turning fifty.

Sinkholes swallowing cars in Portland, Oregon. Around here we call that driving in Allston. It’s part of the charm, along with the surly waitresses.

Dutch gym to introduce “Naked Sunday.” As if watching people in spandex isn’t hard enough. Just one more reason to stay home on the couch with a bag of chips.

Anna Nicole Smith. I’m sorry for her family but is it really headline news? War in Iraq or Anna Nicole?

3,115 American casualties, 23,417 wounded. We have been at war since 3/19/03. There is no U.S. mechanism to accurately track the number of Iraqi killed and wounded.

Truth is stranger than fiction. It is essential we remember to laugh every day.

It is essential we remember news headlines are created for our entertainment; uncomfortable realities will always be buried on page eight.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

ALRIGHT ALREADY

Here I am, pouring my heart out.

And what does everyone keep asking?

Where's the picture?

Are there any pictures of the party?

Can you send it JUST TO ME?

Listen, if I'm going to humiliate myself, I'm doing it for the blog.





No, Walter, they don't have their own moons orbiting them. Yes, they are real.

AND, I'm taking Jeanine down with me.




Some might say, it's not really a costume.

Over and Over


You never let anyone know what you’re thinking, Jeanine said to me this morning.

I know you go over things, again and again, in your head. I know you don’t make sudden decisions. No one else does, though.

I was still chewing on the manic-depressive description. Where did it come from?

You’re always stressing about something, she added.

I’m not stressing. I’m high strung.

Same difference.

No, not the same. I cannot help but go over things again and again. It’s the only way I feel safe. I am wired that way.

Okay, you’re high strung. But no one knows what’s going on in your head. I understand these perfectly formed nuggets or decisions come from stressing-

High strung-

-whatever, about something. How long have you thought about getting a job?

Since December.

What have you thought about?

And I went on to describe, at length, all the different thoughts I’ve had, what I’d like to do, why I wanted to go back to work, on and on. The steps I’ve already taken, the time I’ve spent looking.

At the end, she smiled and said, you know, it still surprises me when you come out with stuff like this. I didn’t know you were thinking about it so much. To be honest, I didn't know you were thinking about it at all.

I realize the reason why I was hurt by the manic description was because it showed a complete lack of understanding of who I am. I never, ever make quick decisions. The idea is terrifying for me. People described my move to Rochester, NY as sudden. Jeanine and I had talked about it for two years. There was a single event that pushed the decision forward. One I kept to myself. I was afraid to share it.

I asked Walter.

You’re crazy, sure. But not manic. I know you think about these things over and over.

Another friend said, You have your own way of being in the world. For good reason.

I think you have processed a little more than most people. Stop processing so much.

But I’m a lesbian. It’s my job.

You’ve processed enough for all the lesbians in Boston!

It’s true. There is a fine line between healthy insight and obsessing. I obsess. I wrote about it the other day. It comes from a need for safety. I never have felt completely safe. Ever. In any situation. I can talk and talk and talk. But if I don’t feel completely sure about something, I won’t say a word about it. I keep it in.

Time to try and change what I can. I know I can’t erase the abuse. But I can change my reaction to it.

Things I’ve been obsessing about, to no one’s knowledge:

Selling my mother’s condo in Florida. I have spent a great deal of time researching, thinking about, going over possibilities. Do I keep it? Can I alone? Why do I want to? What’s financially responsible? What’s my emotional attachment to it? Can I separate the two? I think about this every day. Every day. Pretty soon, I’m gonna blurt out that I want to keep it, buy my siblings out and it’s going to sound like a brand new, fresh idea. It’s not. Look in my desk drawer and you’ll find all the calculations on a sheet of paper. Ones from November, from December and January.

My mother. There is not a day, not an hour, that goes by without my thinking about her. Okay, you could probably guess that one but I haven’t talked about it a lot to my friends. As a good WASP, I think, enough already. Who wants to hear it again? But when I start to cry about her over the weekend, it surprised people. No one should be surprised. I think about her all the time.

There’s more. Little things like the stock market, what’s going on with those pesky small cap stocks and where the heck is the price of oil going to settle. How will a fresh terrorist attack affect everything, where is a good place to be positioned and who the hell is making all the money off this war? And the stupid baggie rule at the airport?

I think about Jake’s reading ability and whether or not we are doing enough to address it. I worry about Allan and the tests he’s going to be taking next week. Will Ben do well in middle school or should we have applied somewhere else? Can I get Zachary to try out for baseball or do I just make him do it? How do I approach it? Should I say this, or this, or this…

Over and over.

Which is why, I smiled broadly to Jeanine, I need to get a job…

I know I’m crazy.

I’m working on it.

Every day.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Step in the Right Direction?

I’m applying for a job.

Oh, don’t get your panties in a knot. I probably won’t even get called.

It feels important to do.

It feels important because it’s in a field I love- Socially Responsible Investing- and it is about things bigger than myself.

And I miss work. I miss making a difference in the world, in a real, tangible way. I miss the fun of being on a team and creating something spectacular. To make a big splash and feel like, if but only for a moment, you got to move the rock of unfairness off the shoulders of the people.

I know I do that on the foundation boards I sit on but it’s different to be active, daily, working to achieve a goal.

A friend emailed me the job description. Said he thought I’d be a good candidate.

I said, oh, no. I’m not qualified.

I thought about it. I thought about all the things I’ve done and suddenly, it struck me. Yes, I am qualified.

Wow. That means I’m old.

I’ve canvassed door to door for an environmental group on Cape Cod- okay, I didn’t last long because I couldn’t stand asking poor people for money. Being active, I would say, is plenty. Don’t worry about donating. I was standing there telling them the local air force base was poisoning their kids. How could I give them only one-way to redemption, cash preferred over check?

I’ve worked in a fish market. I learned how to manage from my boss there. He was never afraid to do anything that needed to be done. He cut fish, cooked chowders, and washed dishes. He also balanced the books, created budgets and kept inventory under control. He treated me like a great employee. Stood up for me when a customer complained loudly that I would not cut open a live lobster for them.

If you won’t do it, why should she?

I’ve had so many different writing jobs- technical writing- I learned to lose my ego when handing out a document to be reviewed. It’s about being effective, not whether someone likes my use of adjectives or not. I developed the ability to take criticism and turn it into something better.

I’ve sat on these boards and learned about social justice. About organizational budgets and what can and cannot make a difference. How to include a staff in a discussion in a way that is thoughtful, respectful and positive. What it means to be responsible for the lives of people who work for you- to see how change creates fear and anxiety. How to harness both to create excitement. When it’s important to stop by and say hello, great work and when you need to ask what can I do to help? Because I can have the big ideas but it is those who do the daily work who make them happen. I have learned how to be humble. I talk the talk- they walk the walk.

At my last job, I created excitement about the work where it had been long lost. I loved taking on the big, bad corporate criminals. I savored making people think. I learned computer programs, database applications- whatever it took to do the job.

Mostly? Every day was a challenge. I loved that. It was about being a part of something bigger than myself.

A friend said she thought I was being manic- depressive. One day, sad and feeling incompetent, the next, ready to run an organization. It’s true. I was sad the other day. I felt lost and alone without my mother. I wanted her around to give me guidance. And today? I know I could run the organization I’m applying to. I believe I could bring exciting leadership. It is something I believe deeply in- making the world a better place through investments.

Okay, stop snoring.

If I were asked the other day? The day I was missing my mother? I would have had the same response. Yeah. Maybe. Maybe I can. I don’t feel like I’m spinning out of control. Just willing to try. Take a shot. Taking a peek into one of the many doors that are open to me right now.

I’m applying for a job.

Probably won’t even get called. But you know what? It feels like a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Four Months


It’s been four months since my mother died.

I sat in a meeting today, one I would not have been invited to without the resources she left me, and kept thinking about how fresh it still feels.

Raw.

The last few days, I have been tearing up over the smallest things. Getting ready for a party or sitting in a meeting. Driving home today, I started to cry uncontrollably. It was the kind of moment I wanted to share with her.

Damn her for making me wait until she died.

I came home and curled up on the couch with an old coat of hers. Okay, it’s a fur coat and what the hell else am I ever going to use if for other than a blanket? I stuck my nose into the fur hoping to smell her again, if only a little. Cigarettes and White Diamond perfume. I’ve had the coat for too long. It smells like me.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

It started the other night. Jeanine reminded me she was going to my mother’s condo for the weekend. Meeting her mom and aunt, they will spa and shop and relax.

Do you want me to do anything with your mom’s stuff? Like her clothes?

And I was angry. No. It’s mine to do. No.

You know, we could help…

No. Absolutely not. Don’t touch anything.

There is so much post her death I have no control over. There is a bank person who is the executor. I don’t live in the same town where her house is so I have no daily understanding of what is going on with it. I receive long, complicated bank statements in the mail I have to decipher.

On my own.

It’s the kind of thing I would call my mother and say, HUH? What do I need to do? How are these people? What do they want? What is reasonable, what is not? I could draw on her experience. She’d always have one funny story to tell.

And one careful reminder to watch my back. Never let anyone buy you lunch. Always know what they want.

I feel her absence intensely right now. The way she would have an opinion- a strong, carefully worded one- and let you know what, in her mind, was the right thing to do. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes I didn’t, but I always valued her input.

Well, about finance, philanthropy and community involvement. Her insights to my personal life usually hurt.

I don’t want Jeanine to touch her things. I want to do it. It feels like a part of the grieving process I have not had the chance to do. To take the clothes off the hangers, carefully fold them and place them in a box.

Maybe I’m a hypocrite. I spent so much time fighting with my mother over the years, why am I so sad now? What right do I have? Why should I get to demand anything? Why do I want anything?

I don’t know.

I only know it’s been four months.

And I want to smell her again, cigarettes and White Diamond perfume.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Day After

Twenty-seven adults. Twenty kids. Jeanine kept inviting people till the last minute.

Yikes.

One kid showed up unexpectedly. Ben had invited him. His mother walked in, a little surprised.

Uh… I don’t dress like this every Sunday, I said. I was Stevie Wonder Woman. Red boots, too tight velvet wonder woman costume, wig and big sunglasses.

Okay, she smiled. Is it okay to leave him here?

You will have to come pick him up, I said.

No problem, and off she went.

Oh my. I guess my reputation proceeds me. Hopefully, as responsible parent not the hopeless nutcase who loves to play.

Best costume of the night, in my humble opinion, was Sandman. Classic comic book character, it was pulled off to perfection.

I lost Best Cross Dresser to Dale Evans.

She’s not a superhero! I cried foul.

She is to me, responded the lovely gentleman in the red wig and enormous breasts.

I think it was the boobs. Mine were real but the judge got to feel up the fake ones. Next time, no lesbian judge.

Cat woman, Super Geek, UnderDog, Superman, The Wonder Twins, Natasha Fatale, Homophobia Man – never got it if he was pro or against- Umpire Woman, Metallica Man, Xena, Captain Underpants, and my personal favorite, Amamom- a mom armed with a speculum as her weapon. A few cowboys.

I promised no photos. No photos.

I’m not sure I want to remember how silly I looked.

Today I kept thinking about how lucky I am to have such good friends. Ones who tolerate my craziness, odd sense of humor and are willing to be good sports. People who are willing to laugh, be silly, take risks.

It was a great party. Not because of the oysters or the cosmos or the goofy costumes but because of the people.

Next year? Stay tuned… same bat time… same bat channel…

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Quiet Morning



It’s quiet right now.

Except for the yelling at the video game.

A lot to do… a lot to do…

I have to go get some last minute things for the party- crushed ice, a couple bags of limes for the cosmos, a strapless bra…

Who wears those things?

Apparently, me, today.

I may just borrow Walter and Allan’s corset.

Do you need a bra with a corset?

These are the times I miss my mother. She would answer these questions for me. Laughing hysterically, mind you, but she would. She would call when I was elbow deep making something and want to chat. I loved telling her about the preparation and how I could not talk- and continue to yammer away anyway.

Every time she was sick and threatened to die, I would think about what it would be like if she died. I tried, as I do with everything, to predict the future, cover each angle, to be prepared. I always knew I would miss talking to her on the phone the most. And when she would recover, for a while, I would cherish being able to pick up the phone and call her until it became routine, or we started to fight again.

Tonight, all the new things I have from her are on display. The beautiful artwork. The new dining room table. I’ve worked myself into a tizzy to get the house ready not only because I always do before a party, but because so much has changed.

I did not predict how proud I’d be to have her things.

So, Mom? While I’m shucking the five-dozen oysters with Walter today- because Walter IS going to help- I’ll know you’d be dialing midway through the first few. There’s crab, and ribs, and big hero sandwiches. Pigs in a blanket for the kids although you know the adults dig into them, too. Chips, salsa and I really have to go or it’s never going to get done.

The paintings look amazing. My house has grown up. Thank you.

Yes, I’ve put the Chihuly away. No chance of it getting broken.

I promise to send a picture of me in my outfit. Stop laughing.

For all the time I put into going over and over the possibility or her death, I never could predict how the loss would rise in my throat, unexpectedly.

The last few things need to get done. The house looks great.

It’s quiet.

I did not predict how deeply I’d miss her.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Game On



Why would a group of otherwise normal adults dress as Superheroes?

“Fine depth and complexity in both aromas and flavors. Citrus, ginger, vanilla, whole-grain bread and nut elements combine for a harmonious presentation. Full-bodied, yet sophisticated and lively. A long, luxurious finish. Drink now through 2015. 400 cases imported.” (review by Wine Spectator, August, 2005.)

It’s what we’re playing for tomorrow.

Game on!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Yellow Walls and Red Boots



I don’t know why I get so wound up.

It’s just a party.

Few people.

Superbowl game.

No big deal.

I’m all into my Zen space. Calm. Peaceful.

YUH. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

Not only am I wound like a top, not only do I start a major painting project- the entire back room in yellow color that required four coats- on, uh, Wednesday because I had to just had to, I go give the party a special twist.

You have to come dressed as a Superhero.

Why?

Because life is short.

Gotta have some fun.

Okay, I was mesmerized by a pair of knee high red boots. Superhero boots. How did I know they were Superhero boots? Because the three year old wearing them told me he was Superman. And seeing that he had the cape and the boots, I was inclined to believe him.

I wanted the boots.

One friend called me today and asked if I really wanted her to dress up in tight black pants and a tight top. Really? Did I want her to come as a Superhero?

Yes. I am your lesbian friend. I want to see you in tight black pants. Are you kidding?

Another friend emailed me and asked if people were really coming scantily clad as Superheroes.

I relayed the tight black pants comment.

Maybe it should be the hot and bothered party, she said.

Uh, no. We’re all forty some odd years old. It’s not going to be pretty. I have already promised no photos.

Well, no photos for the blog.

Yet another friend emailed and said, I think martinis will be a must.

Yes, I assured her. Pitchers of cosmos will be available as you walk in the door.

To date, I have ordered some seafood to be delivered. And… nothing else.

Because, I love to torture myself.

Walter stopped in to pick up Zachary for his sleepover.

Sara. You gotta get happy.

I’m standing on a ladder, finishing the last few touch ups.

I’m happy, I growled.

Um… he hesitated.

OKAY, I’VE BEEN ON THE ROOF, COME BACK DOWN AND HEADED TO A HIGHER ONE!!!

Yeah, I can tell. We’ll be here. We’ll get it all set up. It’ll be perfect.

I did not respond.

It’s a party, he said. Do you have your costume ready?

AAAAAHHHHHHHH!

You know, I did it to myself. I had to have my yellow walls.

And red boots.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Brooding

Walter called me today to see if I was still brooding about something that happened two days ago.

Are you still going over it? Is all he said. He knows me. He knows I get stuck in a place and refuse to move out of it. Even if it’s a painful bed of nettles.

I was not. Not about that, anyway. I talked about it incessantly for two days to whoever would listen and moved on. To something new.

I realize the one downfall of me painting for days on end is that while I’d like to think I’m letting my mind wander, I can easily get fixated on a single thing. I play it over and over again, having different conversations, imagining different outcomes. Some of it is healthy.

Some of it is not.

I want to run every option through my head so there will be no surprises. What is the worst thing that can happen? How will I protect myself?

For the first time, I am aware of doing it. It never occurred to me before why I had to have every angle covered. A deep, physical need to know where safety was- if I go to the party and I feel uncomfortable I will say I have to get up early and leave. Or the actual planning of appointments so I have real reason to leave- a dentist appointment so the time to mingle in an unfamiliar crowd would only be an hour. When I would visit my mother, I had to drive so I could leave anytime I needed. Airplanes were not acceptable. I would be in someone else’s hands for whatever period. The mere thought provoked panic.

I can remember sitting in the back of the closet, as a child, with the wool coats and stifling hot air. I wanted to be safe. The problem? I was claustrophobic. I couldn’t breathe and was too afraid to dash for the safety of the outdoors. I had planned poorly.

I don’t trust. I’m trying to heal these ancient wounds and the first step is to be aware of how it has made me move through life. I brood over every detail. I must plan carefully. I need to have control.

When I was young, there was no control. No stopping the demands. The urgent requests in strained voices.

Jeanine was deeply hurt tonight when I admitted I did not trust her. Not completely. She does not understand I don’t ever want to be caught in the closet again. She thinks it’s about her and what she can and cannot do.

It has nothing to do with her. It is about closing the wounds. Understanding no one can hurt me again.

I can try to explain, describe the scenes, say the words but she does not understand the level of fear I lived with. No one can understand, no matter how well written, or acted in a movie or painted, unless they have lived through it.

It is not an instinctive response. It is beyond the fright or flight. It is years of terror coating ever muscle in your body. There is nothing natural about it.

One more coat to do tomorrow. I am going to try and stop brooding.

Instead of staying in the closet, dreading my poor choices, I will imagine the glorious freedom of the dash outside.