Monday, April 30, 2007

Going National

I’ve been asked by Huffington Post to blog for them.

I’m going national, baby. Well… no. I’m going international. 3 million unique visitors and 60 million page views a month.


Got my head shot done today. I hate having my picture taken. Too old. Too fat. Too old. Too fat. Too old and fat.

Where the hell did all this blonde hair come from?

The boys went through the seven I thought I could bear to have posted.

Oh, you look evil in that one, Mom, Zachary said.

Mom, you can’t be smirking- that one you look like you are smirking, Ben points.

I kinda like that one…

They’re all just weird, Zachary said and walked away.

That one, Ben picked. The rest… no.

Working on the bio.

Sara Whitman plays well with others and is well known for her fried egg sandwiches. She is often seen running back and forth to the school to pick up her children. Recently, she finished ten loads of laundry and actually got more than half of it put away.

I hate writing my bio. I’d rather go to the dentist.

I can’t believe I have this opportunity. I’m grateful and nervous. Until now, most of the pot shots I’ve taken are from people I know and most of the praise has come from complete strangers.

When I started this blog last August, my mother was dying. My marriage was on incredibly rocky ground. I knew I was going to leave the job I loved because after working every day of my vacation I understood it wasn’t okay anymore. In the middle of the crisis, I could do it. Sure. But, crisis over. Enough already.

I woke up and realized I needed to take care of my family first. I needed to get grounded if I was going to be a good mother, good wife and a good friend.

I was a great assistant. It was a total and complete waste of time. I hid behind someone else’s needs.

It was a familiar place.

Since last August, I’ve put my heart and soul on the page, every day. I’ve risked everything. I’ve peeled back layers and layers of shame. I’ve been criticized and asked to stop. I’ve been encouraged and implored to write more.

I’m doing what I love.


I’m eager to let the world know about what it is to be a lesbian mom in the suburbs. To be laugh about the places we share as parents, as women, as adults, and as survivors. To acknowledge the places we are different. If I can make a couple connections with people who may be voting on my rights at some point in their life and they can say, wait, I remember this lesbian mom… then I’ve done more than I have ever dreamed of doing.

Bottom line? It’s all about the kids. Creating a world where their lives are celebrated and recognized.

When Jake came home later, I asked him about the pictures.

Which one?

He picked the smirking one.


Because you look like a pirate.

That’s my boy.

(I’m not sure when my first post will be- stay tuned.)

(and I agree with Jake.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pink Socks

It finally happened.

Jeanine’s sister, who has twin boys a year and an half older than Ben, said to me, buy things in pink. Then they won’t take your stuff.

I scoffed. I am not wearing pink.

You’ll see, she said.

Okay, I’m wearing pink now. Pink socks.

Seems my socks- because I wear very short socks- are in high demand. Ben and Zachary are always digging in my sock drawer.

Good thing they stay out of my underwear drawer, or else they’ll end up in therapy for the rest of their life.

Don’t ask.

When we were in Florida a few weeks ago, a pair of perfectly good goggles ended up in the trash. Why? They were pink. When Ben was younger, he loved pink. It was Blossom’s color, the head power puff girl.

Now? You have to be kidding. He won’t get near pink.

It’s a girl color, they all informed me when the goggles remained untouched.

Colors are colors. They can’t be girls or boys. They are colors.

Nice try.

The only plus to their pink phobia? I’ll have socks to wear.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Cup

The cup has been on the kitchen table. The coffee table in the living room. On the floor. In a laundry basket. Today? The cup is going to be worn.

I'm not talking about a coffee cup. I'm talking about a save your penis from hard cup.

Zachary is playing catcher and part of the uniform? An athletic supporter and a hard cup. He didn’t wear it the other day. Walter was horrified.

He doesn’t have his cup on?!?

Once again, I’d like to point out, I am penis challenged. I don’t have one. I haven’t spent any time with one. Don’t have much to do with them except for the fact that I have three boys and they all have one.

Bottom line? Don’t entrust their care with me. I don’t know what to do. Catching without a cup didn’t seem like a big deal. Clearly, I was wrong.

I have been told that when big league players are standing at the plate or on base or in the dugout and holding themselves, tugging away, it’s because they are adjusting their cups.

Yuh. I may not know much about all things penis but I’m pretty sure what they’re doing, they did as little boys. Checking to see that it’s still there.

It’s a comfort thing, Walter explained.

It’s not going to fall off and run away, I responded.

Today, it’s definitely not going to run away. How could it? All protected by some high tech plastic material designed to be comfortable and provide protection from a third grader’s scorching pitch. It even has a couple little breathing holes.

Not that it breathes.

We get to the field. Cup in place. Ready to go. No instructions needed. Thank god.

Zachary runs back and forth across the field.

I settle in with my coffee for the day- I know I’m not home till 3pm. It’s 10:30am.

Zachary comes up, tucking something under his shirt.

Mom, he says very quietly, I can’t wear this. It hurts when I run.


The cup, he implores quietly again, pushing the offending object from under his shirt.

Oh. Okay.

Here, he tries to hand it to me on the sly.

What am I going to do with it? I asked. Just leave it here.

I pointed to the ground next to me.


I shrug. Seriously. What am I going to do with it?

Okay, he tucked it in the back of my folding chair.

You had it on your head the other day, I said. Why is it a big deal now?

He shrugs and runs off to the field.

When Walter gets to the game I report the cup problem.

He’s not convinced Zachary isn’t in grave danger.

They don’t throw that hard, Walter.

You never know and it only takes a little hit to hurt a lot…

I rolled my eyes.

I’ll get him one that fits better. Or he can take it out when he goes on the field.

That’s ridiculous, Jeanine piped in, and she’s the hysterical what if they get hurt mother.

Zachary ended up playing shortstop, catcher and right field. Nary a single close moment that would have called for a cup.

But you know, I think I’ll keep it in the back of my chair. Just in case.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Queen in Charge

I re-read yesterday’s post and realized I’m right back where I started.

Suburban housewife. Little bit more at times but mostly? That’s my job. It’s not pretty and no one wants to write “housewife” on tax forms. I like to put “queen in charge.“ It has to be pretty boring at the IRS. Why not spread some humor.

A meeting I was scheduled to attend was canceled today. I had the joy of stretching out on the couch and wrapping up in a blanket.

I took the business suit off first, of course. Saved a trip to the drycleaner. This is how you think when you're a housewife.

I looked out the window and noticed the tiny drops of rain on the end of a Japanese maple. Each branch had a drop on the tip- perfectly balanced.

Sounds perfect?

Then I remembered the dirty baseball uniforms and two friends joining my boys tonight for sleepovers. I had no food in the house and while I can order pizza for dinner, I know I am going to have all those charming little faces looking at me tomorrow morning, begging for Sara’s fried egg sandwiches.

I rolled over and pulled the blanket up.

Sounds idyllic unless you add the twenty pounds I’ve gained since I stopped going to work outside of the house. Even with ‘nothing to eat’ there is always something to eat. Clearly, when the words run dry, refrigerator viewing helps stir creativity.

Or the fact that just beyond the beautiful Japanese maple branches is a classic white trash backyard. Broken toys, a few shirts, some empty juice boxes, and stacks of wood for the tree house Jeanine has promised the boys since we moved in- I’m thinking the grandchildren might see one. Maybe.

My office is like a bomb went off- I have pictures on the floor, piles of paper on the broken fax machine I haven’t replaced yet. Like unused exercise equipment, it seems to be a holder of things. Boxes of photographs, a pile of unopened mail, unread magazines are scattered throughout the room.

Pull the covers up a little higher.

Part of being a housewife is the house. Taking care of it. Cleaning it. Keeping up with repairs. I finally got a leaking valve fixed the other day when I thought Walter was going to blow his own gasket over my inefficiency. The poor guy works like a dog and I’m here… uh… napping and can’t seem to call the plumber.

I was more efficient when I was working outside the house- I think. I still had a trash-strewn backyard. The wood was still waiting for Jeanine. I didn’t even have an office, only the moving boxes of files in a closet and a small table and chair. The house was clean but I was like a maniac running through it when I got home, swearing at everyone for being a pig and stuffing things in random places. Okay, I was more efficient at running someone else’s business. I still sucked at running my own.

But I was gauged by my success in running that business, by the paycheck and kudos from my boss. Now it’s up to me to set my measures of being good enough.

Write in blog. Check.

Everything else… oh… soon. I’ll get to it soon.

Truth is, I always get the bills paid on time. My desk is clean on occasion. The uniforms will all be clean by the morning, along with the rest of the laundry. There is a huge pile of fruit salad on the table for the five boys running around right now. I got out from under the warm covers and bought the eggs, bread and cheese for the sandwiches in the morning.

I couldn’t, yet again, run to the store first thing in the morning in a sweatshirt, some running shorts and a – gasp- pony tail. It sends Ben into a long lecture about fashion, how old I look and the inevitable question,

Are you trying to ruin my life?

Nope. Just trying to figure out mine. I never thought I was going to be a suburban housewife.

But then, I always knew I’d be queen in charge.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Picked Clean

I’m a little overwhelmed by all the requests for my time, my input, and my support right now.

I’d like to think it’s because I’m so smart but I know better. I’m arrogant but not that arrogant.

Everything sounds good. I get excited by each new option but when I sit with it for a while- if I manage to sit with it for a while before promising my soul in return for a couple of pats on the head- I start to sort through what fits and what does not.

I don’t want to be a fundraiser. I have no patience for it. I grew up a WASP and WASP’s don’t talk about money. Ever. It’s rude. I put myself in the position of asking for money and I get nervous, edgy and uncomfortable. I can hold court about a candidate I believe in at my son’s baseball game. I did tonight. But arrange a party to have people come to hear the same candidate speak for himself? Couldn’t handle the pressure.

I felt like I was waiting for a date to the senior prom in high school. Will anyone call? I don’t even like boys but… will anyone call?

Yes, I did go to the prom. Wore a dusty rose, full-length gown. Never even gave the poor guy a kiss- ended up making out with the girl from our double date. Like I said, I didn’t like boys. But the girl was very cute.

I tried fundraiser extraordinaire role on and it felt awful.

I have a couple people circling, trying to get me to sit on the boards of their not for profit’s. I’m honored. Everything sounds like a great cause.

I am, however, one person. And my first priority is my family. Second? My writing.

Truthfully? Every time I spent too much time away from my writing, if it was for a job commitment or giving birth- a fairly noble cause even in my mind- I became miserable.

Writing is all I have ever wanted to do.

A friend, someone who is a writer I admire- I’d say I admire greatly but I know he reads the blog and I don’t want him to get a big head because then he may change his mind- acknowledged me as a writer tonight.

I mumbled something about not much of an audience and sometimes missing the mark completely.

He smiled and said, but are you having fun?

Yes. I am having fun. Amazing fun. I love it.

The rest? The rest gives me an interesting, if not a little warped, perspective on the world. I often feel like giving my time and effort is not enough, that I have done little. Yet ultimately? I end up exhausted.

Every day I spend writing something, taking time to re-write, think about it, find a funny story in the newspaper or follow up with an idea with research? I’m in heaven.

My friend Margaret said to me, You are not a fundraiser, Sara, you are a hell raiser.


I know there will be other offers coming my way. I have to be very careful. I have many things to offer many different people.

I guess I am that arrogant after all.

If I become charmed by their charm, their belief in me, their gentle cooing that I am the one to make a difference, I’m in serious trouble.

I can never believe my press.

In the long run? It leaves me feeling empty.

Picked clean.

I’ve talked about all the doors open to me. In the last few weeks? I’ve started to shut a few. There is only one I care about, one I dream about, one I have done since I was nine and will do until the day I die.

My kids no longer ask me what I do for work, as they did over and over when they were little. Momma Jeani is a composer… but what do you do?

I’m a mom, I’d retort. No pay and plenty of poop.

Now they know I’m a writer. You write your blog everyday and that’s your job, right?


I know where my heart lies.

Even without the press.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fresh Paint, Fresh Start, Take Two

I’m coated with enamel paint right now. Some day, I’ll learn to paint and not paint myself. Maybe.

Yes, I have started another painting task, thus long hours holding a brush and … thinking.


As I put the first coat on the Adirondack chairs, I thought about why I’m so pessimistic about… everything.

My first reaction- except to what my kids present to me- is to be negative. No, it won’t work. No, it’s not right. No No No. Don’t ask my why the kids don’t get rained on the same way- their youthful exuberance must take over my cynicism.

I eye everything with mistrust. And I think about it- a lot. Even when I’m not painting.

Walter told me the other day I needed grounding.

You spend too much time in your head, he said. Get a job.

It’s true, I do. But I have a job. I write. It means… well… staying in my head most of the day. Sometimes on fantastic journeys, sometimes… not so much fun.

I pulled another chair out. More paint. More brooding.

Jeanine and I went to couples therapy last night. The therapist was stunned at our ability to make joint parenting decisions with relative ease but when it came to our individual needs? Watch out. We didn’t trust each other at all.

You don’t have my back, Jeanine said.

You don’t have mine, I replied.

The therapist became agitated. We can go from kind and open to closed doors in a second. Must be frustrating to be around because we show we can do it and then… slam. Not a chance.

You two have so much going for you… do you know that? She asked.

We continued to eye each other.

Drop your drawers, the therapist finally said.

She was being figurative. Time to let the defenses fall. I drop my drawers in a second when Jeanine asks literally. Please. Never more than one request is needed.

You might as well give it a try, she said. What do you have to lose?

The thought that raced through my head was…my pride.

It isn’t a small thing to lose.

By the third chair, I realized pride is a funny thing for me. It’s tied up with past humiliations. I have a hard time separating being open and the vulnerability I experienced- and continue to experience in some situations. It coats everything.

Fair enough but… I can’t paint my current world with my past.

Bad metaphors but the fumes were getting to me.

I need to let go. Walter is right and the therapist is right. I need to get out of my head and into my life. I need to open up.

Because dwelling- brooding- on the past and the past hurts isn’t going to get me what I want. Besides, therapy is expensive. Enough already. As I said to Ben last night as he dumped a bottle of paid-for water on the ground, there are people in India without uncontaminated water!

I thought I’d update the version I heard as a kid.

The chairs are all done. What was once splintering and faded is now glossy white. I’m going to put them in the front yard. An invitation to sit out and be visible, to invite conversation with neighbors. Walter swears air conditioning and backyards ruined neighborhoods. At every house he has the opportunity to design the front yard? He puts in a sitting area.

He thinks talking to people, opening up is a good thing. Crazy man.

Jeanine? I don’t know if I can trust her but to date, she’s done little to earn that reputation. It comes from my past. Okay, she has done one or two things along the line.

Me on the other hand? Oy. I wouldn’t even date me let alone marry me. What a mess.

I can’t stop being in my head for my job. I love it. I love to write. I love to consider, chew on concepts, twist images into powerful statements. Nothing gives me joy the way writing does.

Nothing makes me as crazy, either.

But with Jeanine? I have little to lose and a lot to gain. I love her. Sure, she’s a jerk a lot but god, so am I. And she doesn’t chew on toenails, fart or hog covers. She’s struggling with different demons but she’s chosen to take them on.

Well… she does hog covers sometimes. But with all the hot flashes I’m having lately? It’s a bonus.

I’m going to put my chairs out in the front yard. Walter is right. People need to have a space to stop by and say hello. To get to know the people next door, the ones three doors down or, if nothing else, to be open to the idea.

I will open my doors.

Drop my drawers.

Fresh paint. Fresh start.

I think I've said this before.

Take two...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Two Catchers in the Family

The former Division One catcher is beside herself- both of her sons are playing catcher.

Zachary, at the first practice, told his coach he wanted to be a catcher. It was his favorite position. On opening day? He caught most of the game.

Watching them play baseball reminds me of sitting on the floor and rolling a ball back and forth with each of them, when they were gurgling babies. Their delight in the simplicity of stopping a rolling object and pushing it back.

Not babies anymore, they no longer gurgle- if they do it's usually with some form of soda that ends up all over the place- but still have the sheer delight in the game.

It may not last- Zachary is intent on playing football, as is Jake. Or hockey. Or both. Baseball is a game of being alert in the face of boredom. Ben played until last year and decided baseball wasn't for him, he'd rather play soccer. As they grow older, the game becomes more of a strategy requiring a certain amount of patience I'm not sure they have.

But for now? We have two catchers in the family.

Play ball!

Monday, April 23, 2007


My kids are obsessed with Webkinz.

All I can think of is how lucky my mother was I never had any interest in cabbage patch dolls.

My oldest son, who often has a hard time looking someone in the eye? Is on the phone, calling everywhere- Salem, Provincetown- in Massachusetts looking for a Webkinz.

There is a railroad strike in Canada, he informs me. No one can get them.

I’m amazed by his research.

When we arrived in Florida early last week, the first thing he did- before swimming in the pool- was to call stores about Webkinz. He commandeered Jeanine’s computer and did a Google search on stores with Webkinz in the area.

And proceeded to call them all.

Webkinz are small, stuffed animals. There are Webkinz and Lil’kinz, a smaller version of Webkinz. There are 46 different kinds of Webkinz, from cute kitties to silly frogs, tigers and puppies. Lil’kinz are the same things, only a smaller- and less expensive- option. A Webkinz will cost about 12 dollars and a Lil’kinz, about 8.

The catch? You get a special code with your Webkinz or Lil’kinz and then… you go online.

A whole world is waiting for you online. You can meet friends, chat and interact like adults do in MySpace- just a kiddie version. You can invite people over to your Webkinz ‘house’ and have parties. You play silly games to get ‘kinzcash’ to buy stuff. And there is a lot of stuff to buy- food, candy, toys, furniture, TV’s, treadmills- anything you find in a real house? You can buy in Webkinz land.

It’s a little frightening. For one, it’s a pedophile’s dream come true. But the way in which kids are being programmed to be consumers? That’s what frightens me the most.

I listen to my boys when they are ‘playing’ and all I hear them talk about is what else to buy, what else to get for the special little pet.

The positive? Ben actually thought long and hard about what to give his friend from his class who was having a ‘birthday party’ for her ‘Webkinz.’ Should I get her a hot tub? Some candy?

I’m working so hard to try and teach balance, and to understand extremes and… I‘m fighting against Webkinz.

I keep asking myself why? Why did I let them buy them in the first place? To be honest, it was a lack of research on my part. Cute little stuffed animals, I assumed would be like a beanie baby- eventually offered by McDonalds thus losing all allure.

It may still happen but for now? They are still the hottest thing in town. A lot of towns. While in Florida, buying Zachary one (the last store only had two left and he graciously let his brother’s have them), the storeowner told me about her sister calling from Dallas. YOU HAVE WEBKINZ? Her sister was aghast at the holdout. The owner had no idea. She said her sister passed the phone around a group of women- grown women, I might add- to answer their questions and take their orders. You see, Webkinz are now being ‘retired.’ A great company ploy to increase excitement, demand and hysteria in small children.

Or somewhat older children, like my sons. Or, it seems, even adults.

Ben? It makes sense to me. Jake? Sure, he’s only seven. But Zachary? He and his friends, after a day of wrestling in the dirt and mud, come in to coo over their “cute” Webkinz and feed them online. Take them for a “walk.” Or buy them a big screen TV.

The women in Dallas? Well… they live in Dallas. Enough said.

And to answer the reality of why? It’s their own money they are spending… not mine. I can’t control everything they do, everything they eat or every time they burp.

I’d like to but I know I can’t.

While Ben is calling stores, I’m emailing parents. Do your kids know what Webkinz are?

Out of a group of parents I asked, only one did not know what they were. No, let me take that back. She knew what they were- her daughter wasn't interested in them. She signed, "In Sympathy..."

I didn’t ask the Martha Stewart of parenting because I know she’d give me a lecture about consumerism, appropriately monitoring children’s purchases and her own children’s love and affection for all non-consumer products.

I know, I know.

It’s a sickness. Webkinz madness.

I am not driving to Salem, I told Ben as he rushed in to inform me about his last call.

They don’t have any either! It’s a worldwide shortage!

A few minutes later, there are two in Provincetown- RIGHT NOW.

I looked at him and said nothing.

But you love Provincetown… he dangles a favorite gay community in front of me.

No, it’s a two-hour boat ride or a three-hour drive. NO.

He returns to the telephone.

Mom, Ben and Zachary came running in a few moments later. That place in Florida? They only have a couple Webkinz left.

You called Florida?

Yes, she has one pig, two frogs.

BEN! No more calls.

I know if I was a better parent? I’d turn this into a research project.

Right now, though? I’m going to hold my breath and wait for McDonald’s to offer them with their Happy Meals. It killed Beanie Babies and I’m pretty sure it’ll kill Webkinz.

Well… I hope.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thoughts on Writing

Does it make me feel good to write about my mother?

Is it all about power and control?

Does writing about my mother mean I do not love or respect her?

Should I stop now, never another word? Keep my thoughts to myself, never publish any unflattering portrait?

The first person who comes to mind when I ask these questions is Jeanine. She has been furious with me for what I’ve written at times- and has deeply supported my work. It would be great if our lives were singsong perfect all the time. It would be a disservice to everyone who is married.

It’s not the truth.

I recently read a book by Lynn Freed about writing. She notes the problem with false voice and the writer. Being safe leaves us with terrible art.

From Lynn Freed’s, Reading, Writing and Leaving Home:

“The danger for all art in all this lies in what one might call the Forrest Gump school of literary endeavor- a cheery little rainbow lens that deems the good “safe” and the bad “dysfunctional,” all in a world in which we are surrounded by “choices” if we could open our eyes and see them…

In the face of all this, I would plead loudly for sticking to the trouble of life- or, rather, to the truth of the trouble of life. What other duty can a writer have? In a culture rendered terrifyingly glib by the rhetoric of lying, one must grasp on to the truth with both hands- embracing what cannot be solved, asking questions to which there can be no answers.”

I am heartbroken and hurt by people’s criticism. I want to be loved and accepted. I wrote such drivel for years trying to find the middle road. My first novel was an attempt at creating a perfect vision of what I wished my life was like. It lacked edge, but more? It lacked a true voice.

This past year, I have written in a true voice. The blog has forced me to write daily. I stopped writing for an audience. No, I stopped writing for my mother.

Lynn Freed, again, speaks to this:

“Writers seem to suffer more than most in wanting to be loved, or, perhaps, in wanting to be admired (which I suppose, amounts to the same thing). At least they want this until they discover that the only way truly to be loved and/or admired is to find their own way, forgetting the audience. Longing for an audience and therefore guaranteeing none is, perhaps, the greatest curse of the writer.”

Do I feel good about what I write about my mother? Sometimes. When I write about our playful banter, and remember her love of my kids, it feels good. The painful, less pretty pictures? I lived those moments. It does not feel good. I feel raw and exposed.

Is it about power and control? It is about my truth, my voice. Life is messy. I will not close my doors and shutter my windows so no one can see. I am not ashamed. I grew up with the outer face, inner reality. It made me crazy and suicidal.

Do I not love and respect my mother? I loved my mother deeply. She knew it. She loved me deeply, too. I know it. That’s all that matters. I was the only one who could cut so deeply a wound in her; she was the only one who could cut so deeply a wound in me.

Will I stop writing about it? No.

Lynn Freed, again:

“Is it any surprise then, particularly at the outset, that the interested public will rail against a writer who holds up too bruising a mirror? Burn her books on the village green? Shun her in public places? Punish her family for having nurtured such a viper in the first place? And yet, still, still there is a strong case to be made for taking on the living. Apart from the fact that it is braver to do so, it is also better for the art.”

And even as I write this? I realize I have hidden behind Ms. Freed. I have used her words, not my own, to justify my work.

See? See? She says I’m doing the right thing. And she’s SOMEBODY.

I know writing this will drive a deep wedge. I don’t respect anyone, I don’t care about anyone but myself, I am selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed.

I am finding my own way, my own voice. I no longer crave an audience or acceptance. It will never come. I speak my messy truth because it is my messy truth- no one else can claim it. Is that about power and control? Perhaps. I am not afraid anymore. That is a powerful feeling. I am in control- no secrets hide in dark corners of my mind. I remember the beautiful and the unthinkable. Nothing holds me against the floor anymore.

I know not writing this will eat at me, tear at my insides. Bullied again. Again, I let the family secrets win. Shhh. Stay quiet. Sit up straight. Smile.

Don’t tell, my father would whisper to me. Your mother will get mad.

So be it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Opening Day

Baseball season for the kids, started today. We start with a parade.

Jake's team played today.

He made his former Division One softball catcher mother proud with his form behind the plate.

Go Jake!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blog Announcement

Okay, I’m all over Jeanine not too work so much and… here I sit, 7 days a week working on my blog.

Time to walk the talk.

Or at least be accountable.

I will no longer be posting on weekends. I may post photos, with very brief text, but my goal of posting every day has come to an end.

Instead, I promise to spend the time to get ahead so my weekly postings are more in-depth and more thoughtful.

Now when Jeanine says, well… you’re working, too?

I can say, no, I’m not.

Because the other day? Jake cried to me, MOM, you are as bad as Momma Jeani. You are always working on your computer.

I closed it and went out to build a sandcastle. I heard him, though. And he's right.

So when it comes to my expectations about her work behavior?

I need to be more positive. I remember an article in the New York Times about how animal training and spouse training were the same.

Praise the good, ignore the bad.

I’m praising the good.

Jeanine came to bed with me last night and read a book-

out of the gutter people-

And it was so nice. She so rarely does that anymore. Spends the time being quiet before going to sleep. Either she stays up and works or we’re… okay, now you can go to the gutter.

Big praise this morning.

I do love her. Some of her work behaviors are very bad. Some of mine are, too.

I think she’s trainable.

And for me? I’m going to be positive, creative and walk the talk myself. I’m going to imprint good working behavior instead of sliding into bad routines myself.

Like working every weekend.

I will post five days a week, Monday through Friday. Fresh, longer, maybe even edited pieces.

More thoughtful photographs.

I will be walking my own talk.

On weekends? I'm going to build more sand castles with my kids.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


My kids were yelling around the pool yesterday, playing a game they call the “Weiner man.”

With a long, Styrofoam noodle, they slapped the water, attacked each other and laugh in delight.

My stomach turned.

I remember being a small child and eating around a hot dog, at the top to make it look like a circumcised penis. I held it to my crotch and said to my mother, look!

She yelled at me to stop playing with my food.

Big, red flag waving. She saw me playing with my food.

Anyone read the plays written by the shooter?

Many people saw the red flags waving. I immediately assumed he had been sexually abused.

I am reminded of what a friend said to me as I recovered my memories. I wanted to hunt down a family friend who said my father had abused her. I wanted her to verify my truth.

She has multiple personalities. Something fractured inside.

My friend said, trust what you know. And remember, so many people don’t make it to the other side. So many people end up broken, in mental hospitals forever. You made it. Be grateful.

I am. My own angry impulses are turned inward. I want to hurt myself, never others. Even so, I have managed a fairly normal life.

Fairly normal.

My boys are playing a game and I cannot bear to listen to one more word. I can’t bear the images it brings up for me. I am a small child uncertain as to why my behavior is wrong to my mother, but encouraged by my father. My world is small and my parents define it.

The definitions are completely out of whack. I am permanently off balance.

Let’s go get some ice cream, I finally say to my kids. It’s eleven AM. I never say that at eleven AM.

At lunch, post ice cream cones, they eat hot dogs. My kids are laughing. They are eating lunch outdoors, had an impossible morning snack. Life is good.

I find it hard to sit in my seat. The chewed middles make me ill. I can’t stand looking at them.

Some of us make it, some of us don’t, my friend said. She added, Most of us don’t.

Cho Seung-Hui, in my opinion? Did not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shadow People

How do I explain someone killing 32 people, then himself to my children?

During American Idol, the killings were mentioned. There were ads for the following show that would be discussing it. Close your eyes, I said and muted the TV. Too late.

Why did he do that? Zachary asked.

He was mentally ill, I said. No one does that who is sane. He was crazy.

Why did someone give him a gun?

Why would someone sell him bullets?

Do I explain that the storeowner thought he looked like a “clean cut kid?”

Not every state has the same rules about guns, I explained.

Did he kill everyone at the college? Jake asked.

No, honey, he did not. He killed a lot of people, though. A lot of people who should not have died.

Why, Mom? Jake asked again.

I don’t know, I said.

The most frightening response- when Mom doesn’t know why something so terrible can happen. When Mom cannot make it safe.

After the show, Jake would not go to sleep.

I see evil, he cried to me. Shadow people with guns when I close my eyes.

I held him close. Still, he kept crying. I’m right here, I kept saying, rocking him.

No amount of American Idol will wash away the news report.

33 people dead on a college campus.

My baby cried all night and clung to me.

Shadow people with guns were everywhere.

And no amount of rocking and soothing will ever make it go away.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Folded Laundry

I heard my mother come out of my mouth yesterday.

Ben was folding laundry. He did… a terrible job. Sure, he’s only eleven but it was bad. Each piece of laundry was taken out of the dryer and then simply piled on top. In clumps.

Ben, this is awful, I said. You have to fold the clothes, here, like this, and I proceeded to show him how, repeating over and over how badly he had done the job the first time. How the clothes would be wrinkled, need to be ironed. How much more effort would need to be put into it by not doing it right the first time.

I heard my mother’s voice. Sara, you have to fold the clothes. And yes, I want my underwear folded, too.

I thought she was nuts. Who folds underwear?

I’m sure Ben thinks I’m nuts. Who cares if a tee shirt is folded?

I do.

What bothered me wasn’t so much that I had to show him how to fold clothes again- for about the tenth time- but that my mother’s voice came out of my mouth.

His response, along with eye rolling, was to claim, I didn’t know!

Geeze, Mom.

I find myself trying to be fair about this. Trying to find a frame to say my mother was kind in heart and doing the best she could. Deep down? I’m still hurt. Hurt by the constant reminders of how imperfect I was. How many times I failed to be good enough. A stupid comment about laundry still surfaces thirty-five years later.

And comes back at my son. Full force. Loaded with venom.

Over laundry.

Stupid, folded laundry.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Priorities and Limitations

I can’t help but think about Jeanine’s priority list. I’m after the kids- fine- and after work.

Not fine.

And that’s the way it will always be, she said. It’s not realistic to think otherwise.

Hanging out with the kids the last couple days has been fun- at least when they are not whining or fighting, which has been most the time. When they are gone, though, how will I feel about being the priority after work? I won’t have anything to fill my days the way the kids do. Sure, I love to write, and have a lot of work, too.


I don’t want work to come before me. I want to be thought of first. I want to be negotiated with before a promise is made to some employer. I understand how passionate she is about work but I want to come first.

Being the giant narcissist that I am, I have limitations.

Honestly, I do not want her to follow me around like a puppy all day- I have an intense need to be alone, to have private time. I want to be considered first, that’s all. I don’t want to be told, over and over again, here are the limits to what I can do because of work.

Jeanine wants me to accept that work is her mistress. It is. With promises of acceptance, accolades and financial rewards, her mistress is a voice with which I cannot compete.

I’m the wife, the mother of her children, frumpy, aging, bitch at home that complains when she’s late, complains when she’s gone and is always asking for more than she can give.

Which would you choose?

Jeanine’s mom has said to me, over and over, it’s the way she’s always been. As a little girl, she never had one project going on, but many. She would take over large parts of the house with her things. It’s Jeani, she says to me with a shrug.

I know it is. It’s part of why I love her. Well, I don’t love the behavior but the passion from which it comes. But I want to be more important than work. I want to be the top priority, after the kids. Doesn’t mean there won’t be many projects strewn about the house. Doesn’t mean she won’t have just as much going on.

It means work will not be her mistress. It will only be a friend.

I can’t sit back quietly and accept being third. Like I said, I have my limitations.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Not Snowing Here

Bad Blogger

I forgot to post yesterday.

I think that's a sign of a good vacation.

The kids and I went running in the morning on the beach. It was fun to have them join me. Then we swam in the pool or in the ocean the rest of the day.

We went out and had a great dinner, everyone enjoyed themselves. We took a car ferry, which the boys were certain was going to sink until they got to the other side.

Then they wanted to do it over and over and over again.

When we got home, I remember thinking, well, after they go to bed, I'll post about the day. It was such a nice day.

But we pulled out the Risk game and started to play. By the time we were done, or should I say, by the time Jeanine had dominated the world and made us beg for mercy, it was 10PM.

I was tired, sunburned and the sound of the ocean lulled me to my bed.

I forgot I had to post.

Bad Blogger.

Three hundred posts. I guess I'm allowed to miss one day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Can't Win for Losing

I always wondered about that expression. You can’t win for losing. I find myself with my hands held up, trying to say I give, okay, I’m bad, okay, I’m the problem.

It’s never enough.

There are people in my family of origin who think I killed my mother. My hurtful letter, my distance, my accusations killed her.

Okay, I have said. I don’t agree but they can hold that opinion.

It’s not enough.

Because I don’t believe I killed her. I believe years of alcohol abuse killed her. If she hadn’t started drinking heavily because of me? It would have been for another reason.

I hurt her, I have been told. I have no idea how much I hurt her.

Actually, I do. It wasn’t the first time down that road between my mother and I. In many ways, it was a circle. The anger hurt/ furious/ despair/ forgiveness/ happiness back to anger circle. It was about the tenth time. Starting when I was in college and she disowned me for the first time. I had hurt her so deeply because I was a lesbian.

No one remembers that. No one talks about it because she didn’t die right afterwards.

But according to my mother? It was the single most horrible thing I ever did to her.

Until the next time. When I was twenty-four years old and needed to have separation from her in order to have any idea about who I was. I told her no contact. Don’t call, don’t write, I will be in touch when I am ready. It was six months. At the end, she came into therapy with me and we figured things out.

Those six months? It was the worst thing I had ever done to her. The most hurtful. The most horrible.

And then I told her I was going to have a baby. I was trying to get pregnant. She told me she was going to move to Australia. It would be impossible for her to continue living in Rochester. The shame was too great. I was so selfish. Only I would bring a child into the world as a lesbian, only I was that self-absorbed.

No one remembers because she didn’t die at the end of it. She didn’t even move. She grew to be a wonderful grandmother to my sons.

And then there was my move to Rochester and quick move back to Boston. That was the most hurtful thing I had ever done until my wedding that I didn’t include her in a way she wanted to be included and then THAT was the most hurtful thing I had ever done.

Sensing a pattern here? I have always disappointed my mother. I always hurt her. Over and over and over again.

Deeply. She let me know. She never forgave me. Not for being a lesbian, not for cutting her out for six months not for anything. Not even for having babies. Yes, she loved them with all her heart. And she thought I was so wrong to have done that to children.

This time? As we walked through a similar pattern, time ran out. Her body gave out.

I have been told I have no idea what I did.

I find that … a statement that comes from a lack of acknowledging my history with my mother.. Where were they during all the other times? Nowhere, is the answer. Nowhere.

Or maybe everyone got used to me coming back and making it all okay.

Because I always did. I took care of my mother. Until the end. I ran back looking for forgiveness. I could not stand hurting my mother. I could not stand her pain. I wanted desperately to make it better. It wasn’t just her circle- it was mine, too.

I didn’t fix it.

Did that kill her? No.

It was only another circle. It didn’t get finished.

At least not face to face. She speaks to me over and over again. I hear her acceptance some days her anger others. She and I will never be done with our circles. Because I loved her.

She loved me.

Flawed, painful, hurtful- absolutely. Both ways.

I’m never going to finish my circle with her. She’s dead. I’m still here. I hold my hands up trying to catch a break.

But you know? I can’t win for losing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

First Shoe Tied!

There are few moments in life that are as wonderful and sweet as when your children accomplish something big.

Jake tied his own shoes this morning.

This is big.

It’s big for him because he was sure he would not learn how to do it. He begged for slip on or velcro shoes.

I said to him, in confidence, I did not learn how to tie my shoes until I was in first grade. Don’t worry. You'll get it.

Today? He got it.

I’m so proud of him.

It’s a huge moment for him. Certain he would always fail, he pulled the bunny ears around, slipped them into a knot without thinking about it. His hands mastered it even with all his doubt and now his confidence is booming.

It's a huge moment for me. I’m done with diapers. I’m done putting on clothes with snaps and zippers. I no longer have to cut up hot dogs into small pieces. I’m not needed for help in any bathroom activity- except hair washing. Yes, they can but no they don’t do it very well.

And I don’t have to tie shoes anymore.

Independence is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ketchup and French Polish

Dinner at our house isn’t always fancy.

Tonight, burgers, dogs, fries and iceberg wedges with blue cheese and bacon.

Good friends called and said, you’re going away. We miss you. Let’s get together.

So we had dinner.

With the ketchup bottle on the table- my mother, if she were more than dust in a jar, would roll in her grave.

Of course, she would have loved watching the kids all clear, put dishes away and start the dishwasher.

I love my dining room. I love the space, the art, the table and how comfortable the chairs are to sit in for long periods of time. It is the one room in my house that is all of my mother's things. Now all of my things. It is a comfortable intersection. It is one of the few areas my mother acknowledged my ability in- being able to set beautiful tables, serve amazing food.

My friends who were here tonight are my family. It doesn't have to be an elegant meal. Or prime steaks. Burgers, dogs, fries, and stories of the day make a night to remember.

The familiarity to be able to call last minute is one piece of what makes our friendship beyond friendship. I can open my doors because I don't have to be on, I don't have to be great, I simply have to be myself.

No pressure.

And I can put the bottles of ketchup on the table, French polish and all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


When are your expectations too high?

When are they too low?

We’re going to Florida over the weekend. I was expecting Jeanine to be able to hang out while she was there- “hang out” is code word for no work.

She is not going to be able to do that.

That’s not necessarily bad- it’s more about my expectations.

Do I expect too much?

She told me tonight, I will never work the way you want me to. I will always work a lot; I will always have a schedule that fits me, not you.

Mind you, I am a very scheduled person. When the kids were little, I was the Sleep Nazi. My kids slept. They took naps when it was naptime and they went to bed when it was bedtime and nothing got in the way.

Everything ran on a schedule and I was not flexible. Not even a little. I believed, and still do, that kids need structure. As they grow older? Sure, there is room for late nights for special occasions. No one needs to nap anymore so the daily activities do not need to grind to a halt.

But they did before.

And I hear that Jeanine is telling me, I will not work on your schedule.

I know she loves her work. I know she is passionate about her art. I would not ask her to give that up for one minute.

Well, unless it was a minute that I wanted her attention. Then I expect her to give it up.

Is that asking too much?

I said, I want to be second on your list of priorities. The kids can be first.

It’s never going to happen, she said.

My brilliant idea from the other day? To get a workspace for Jeanine that was out of the house, close to the city. So we all could have a little bit of city life, and still live in Newton.

It was brilliant.

It’s not going to work.

Why? Because my ultimate goal was to get Jeanine to leave work at work.

And be home when she was home.

I understand that will never happen.

Maybe my expectations are too high.

I don’t think so. I think they need to be negotiated.

Because historically? My expectations have been way too low. I never felt like I deserved very much. I was not a worthy person; I was someone who was there to serve someone else’s needs. Never my own.

And I didn’t do that very well, either.

But you know? I think we can figure this out. Because we love each other. Sure, we drive each other crazy but I think we’re finding ways to be gentle, thoughtful and open. Jeanine has worked hard to be present. I have worked hard at being kind with my words, to not respond from the corner I feel backed into.

Let’s keep thinking creatively, I said at the end. Who knows how we will figure this out.

Deep down? Screw expectations.

I want her to come to Florida and not work.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Puking Parent

How hard is it to reach the bathroom when you’re puking?

Why is it that my seven year old can, my nine-year-old can but my eleven year old? Not a chance.

Please, I said to him twenty minutes before he threw up all over the landing at the top of the stairs, try to get to the bathroom before you feel like you’re going to lose it.

Jake’s birthday barfing has now gone through Zachary- he was home sleeping all day after an early morning bout. And I mean, early- 4AM. Now it's Ben's turn.

Why is it my job? Jeanine boots me out of bed and I go but … why? Why am I the puke mom?

Maybe kids don’t learn to reach the toilet until when they live on their own and have to clean it up.

Jeanine had just come home when the puke hit the floor.

She smiled. Thank you, she said.

I told her, that’s it. You’re making dinner.

Why? Because I knew I was going to have to clean it up. I always clean it up. Once, when everyone in the family was sick- me, too- Ben had puked all over the floor. Jeanine moaned in bed, no, I can't do it. I'm dying. No, really, I'm dying.

I think I threw up three times while cleaning up that time. Not because of the smell but because I was just as sick as the kids.

When I was a kid, I cleaned up the puke, poop and any bloody injuries our pets had. I, not my mother, would wrap the hurt paw after pulling out the thorn or piece of glass. I would attend to the stitches, the pills and the burrs stuck in delicate places.

I could never stand to see something in pain. For a long time, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Never a doctor- people sucked. But animals? They seemed so helpless. How could I not be calm and wash the wound?

Now I’m the puking parent. I always will be. I’m there to put a cool hand on the back of their necks- okay, my friend Margaret, aka Martha Stewart of parenting told me to do that. But I do. I clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up. I sit on the bathroom floor with them in my lap. Anytime of the day or night.

Zachary is lying on the couch across from me as I write this.

Who’s the puking mom? I asked.

He smiled and pointed to me.

At least I made it to the toilet, he added.

Yes, you did. Good job. But you know… when you’re sick? You’re sick.

Deep down? I love being the one they want to sit with them in the middle of the night. I love being able to take care of them, to ease their misery, if but for a second with the washcloth to wipe their mouth or wrapping my arms around them on the bathroom floor.

I may not be a veterinarian but I am the puking mom.

And someday? When Ben is on his own? He’ll learn how to hit the toilet.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Poor Jake threw up all day yesterday- his birthday, but has rebounded for early morning candy and peeps.

We spend Easter at Walter and Allan’s house. Everyone sleeps over. In the morning, there is an egg hunt, egg races (a fresh egg balanced on a spoon, running back and forth) and of course, the favorite parade in Allan’s car, all the kids piled out of the sunroof, shouting, honking the horn.

The old neighbors still come back with their two kids.

Last night, as Walter tucked in Ben and Zachary, sleeping on the pull out couch in the living room. With an ominous tone, he warned, watch out for the Easter bunny peeking in the window.

The older boys do not believe in the Easter bunny anymore.

That’s kind of creepy, Zachary said.

Yeah, Walter said.

He told me this morning and shrugged. If they don’t believe in the sweet Easter bunny, let’s crank it up a notch.

Chucky the Easter bunny.


And they made me watch the Ten Commandments last night. I admitted to never having watched it.

I was raised by an atheist, I said. I saw the Wizard of Oz about a hundred times.

You have to see the red sea part. How can you have not seen this movie? They kept me up half the night to see the stupid red sea part.

Not impressed.

I’m a non-believer of the whole Jesus story. Nice story, don’t believe for one second it happened. Love the pagan part, the eggs, the celebration of renewal. Jeanine has always insisted we celebrate Easter. I think it’s because she loves to eat peeps for breakfast one day a year.

Yikes again.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I think I have come up with a brilliant idea.

No, really. I think I have.

I’m not saying a word about it. I’m going to sit with it.

Okay, I did tell Jeanine, Walter, Allan and my friend Margaret. But that’s it.

Shhhhhhhh. I’m trying to learn a new skill.

Truly, though I believe I have the answer to how to keep my kids in the house they are in now, the same schools, the same community of friends, AND get the diversity and urban environment I want AND participate in my community, the gay community at a deeper level, AND get Jeanine the space she needs AND be able to have Walter and Allan closer.

No. I’m not saying it.

But I believe I have come up with a brilliant idea.

For now? I want to see how long I can keep it to myself. To think about it. Discuss with only my close family.

A friend emailed me a saying by Dr. Seuss this morning.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

For now? Keeping my brilliance to myself.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Mutual Understanding.

I was yelled at in couple’s therapy for making Jeanine mad on her birthday. Not by the therapist- by Jeanine. Again.

I told her I was sorry. Not about the content of what I said, because I meant it, but how I said it.

And that it was her birthday. I should have shut up. For the night.

She yelled at me for wanting to move to Jamaica Plain. For talking about it. You seem to think it’s okay to dream whatever you want…

I was being impulsive, I said. I got it. Took me a few hours, but not weeks, not days- just a few hours.

I was wrong to do that. I’m sorry. It’s not fair and I have to shut up.

She shook her head. You don’t understand. I really do want to live there. I always have. YOU were the one who made me come to Newton.

It’s true. I did. I grew up in a rural area. When I moved to Boston 21 years ago, I started in the city. But after being robbed while I was sleeping in my apartment, I ran for the nearest suburb. Newton.

I love my community. The reality? Our house does not work for Jeanine. It was the only one for sale in our old neighborhood when we moved back from Rochester. There was no time to wait- we wanted to have the kids back in school by the beginning of the year.

Three years later and we still don’t like the house. It’s beautiful, in some ways, completely non-functional in others. I feel like I am being very spoiled.

But then, I’m tired of fighting about the same thing, over and over again. Jeanine wants one thing, I want another and we butt heads. I won’t budge and neither will she.

And the irony? The bottom line? Deep down? Jeanine wants what I want.

Had to pay someone the big bucks to help us figure that out because we are so stubborn.

Feel like I'm going to need the therapist to come meet with all my friends to explain, no, really, this is a good decision for the two of them. Because personally? I'm too afraid to say a word to anyone about it.

Not that we've made any firm, final decision. WE HAVE NOT. We stopped fighting about it, though. We came to a mutual understanding.

My sister sent Jeanine and email after she read the blog about how I ruined her birthday. I think it sums it up pretty well.





Um… thanks.

I really do want to grow old with Jeanine.

She really does want to grow old with me.

Even when I'm a jerk on her birthday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Birthday Week

It'll be Jake's birthday on Saturday- Seven years old. My baby will be seven years old.

Not a baby anymore.

Jeanine's birthday was yesterday. She turned... uh... well, she's mad at me right now so I think I won't mention her age except to say she doesn't look a day over thirty.

Yes, after trying to make her birthday special, warm and loving, I blew it with my big mouth.

I'd post a picture but I'm pretty sure she'd be mad about that, too.

I hope I do better for Jake's party.

Next week? Allan's birthday. He's turning thirty-nine. Again.

April is a busy month.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

High Drama

The boys were all fighting last night. Huge accusations were flying across the room-

You told [girl] about what happened in third grade! Ben to Jake.

Did not! You told [another girl] that I liked [girl in class]! Jake back at Ben.

Well you do… Ben, with a sassy attitude.

DO NOT! I don’t like girls! Jake, with great indignity.

You told me that you would give my webkins password away and I would never be able log on again! Zachary shouted at Ben.

But you told [girl] about third grade! AND that I loved her! Ben screamed at Zachary.

All hell was breaking loose. They fight, sure, but this was a first.

WAIT, I cut in. What is going on?

I can’t even begin to write out the words flying across the room.

STOP. Everyone to the living room.

I assigned seats to keep the most pained apart.

Okay, what’s going on?

Words fly. Screaming ensues.


I have never heard Zachary shout such a declaration. My heart breaks. He has been struggling lately with an emotional growth spurt. More like fighting it every step of the way.

TIME OUT. Every one needs to take a break. We can’t scream. We have to calm down and talk.

I send everyone to his own room except Jake (who shares with Zachary). I keep him right next to me.

I time five minutes. I plot how to go through this so everyone is heard.

Quietly, I call everyone together and give the rules. No one can raise his voice or else we have to separate again and start over.

The story comes out. A girl in Ben’s class was taunting Jake about a girl she thought he liked. She also went up to Zachary and said she “knew the whole story about third grade and Ben.”

Ben was expelled from school in third grade. A group of girls were teasing him. One of them was someone he really liked and thought liked him. He was so hurt and angry; he didn’t know what to do. At home that night, he drew an angry picture.

This is what I’ve told him to do with big feelings. Draw it. Write it. Smash a pillow. Get it out.

Problem is? He took it to school. And the kid he shared a locker with found it and handed it to the teacher.

Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. Ben was suspended for having a bad thought and drawing it.

No, I’m not kidding.

It landed him in therapy for a year. Not because of the drawing but because of the response of the school.

It’s painful for him.

The reminder today for Ben was hard.

The reality? The girl had been told by her friend- the one Ben drew the note about. She tore apart the brothers with a single taunt. She was fishing for a response.

I looked at my boys, after they all were able to quietly explain what happened, I said, you stick up for your brother. No matter what. Someone says something about your brother? You tell them to stop. In a few years? You’ll never see that girl again. Your brother? He’s going to be in your life forever.

All my concerns about the school come crashing back. It’s not about the level of education- Newton is one of the best schools in the country- it’s about Ben’s friends. About how he is seen in his class. I can’t believe the third grade incident has been brought up again. Will he always have that tag?

Zachary is struggling with a growing realization that he is, in fact, a leader in his class. He refuses to take the role. His teacher called me over the weekend to talk about how we can help him accept the role. There is a vacuum, she said, and he is the right one to fill it. He knows. It’s bubbling under the surface.
And Jake. My baby. He’s not a baby anymore. His charm has put him in a role of being pursued by older kids. Always has. The problem now is the older kids are Ben’s friends. It is a triangle Jake is learning how to play. I have to keep vigilant and try to help him find ways to get his needs met in ways that grow his relationships with his brothers.

In the end? I was amazed they all came together and were able to speak without shouting. Thrilled Ben was able to apologize to his brothers for accusing them- and actually mean it. Hopeful that Zachary is starting to bring to the surface some of the emotional churning he’s feeling inside. Pleased Jake was able to speak without hitting anyone- and smiled when he had a captive audience.

And amazed I kept my cool and didn’t join into the shouting match.

I love these moments. High drama and calm resolution.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Don't Mind Me

I don’t mean to complain but…

Oh yes I do.

Walter said to me the other night, while a mutual friend and I sat in the kitchen complaining about menopause, Men get menopause, too.

I said, listen, when you bleed a bucket full of blood in twenty minutes? And are still alive? Give me a call. Until then? I don’t think growing hair on your back and in your ears is really the same.

Men have no idea. None. Zero. To equate the lack of testosterone, the inevitable drop in erections that follows to hot flashes, irregular sleep and outrageously heavy periods? Please. Some Viagra, a red sports car and you're all better.

When Jeanine brought me yet two more Advil this morning, she said, Oh, poor sweetie. It must be awful.

Mind you, this is the woman who when pregnant was certain no woman in the universe had been as miserable as she was. That meant me, too. Sure, she’s kind today. But when it’s her turn? Watch out.

I keep thinking about my high school volleyball coach. When anyone on the team complained about having cramps and being unable to play? Or more specifically, run wind sprints? She would bark, It’s not that bad ladies. Get out there and run! It’ll make you feel better.

Yuh. I don’t think so.

What I want is a red tent, some moss, and a group of women to wail with.

Or at least plot to overthrow the medical research system that works on cures for men and generally ignores women.

That will make me feel better.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day Appreciation

The weather started to change but now we know it is spring.

The Red Sox are on.

Forget homework.

Forget the no TV rule.

It’s opening day.

Chips, salsa, hot dogs and... well… milk. It’s still a school night.

Life is good.

I remembered a story today… a lesson I learned about eleven years ago taught to me by a woman I knew from Maine.

She was a little older than me and was at the time a girlfriend of a good friend of mine. She was from Kittery- a working class neighborhood. She finished high school and joined the army. There was never an option to go to college- she didn't have great grades and her family was the kind of working poor that have just enough not to qualify for anything. Stationed in Germany, she saw a lot of the world she would never have seen otherwise. She loved it.

And she learned how to shoot heroin.

She came back and after one too many shared needles, she was HIV positive. Her mother dragged her out of flophouses until she finally got clean.

When I knew her, she helped manage a pool distributor/builder business and made... maybe 8 bucks an hour. She was proud. Her voice was deep and corse from way too many cigarettes. And while she learned to respect a higher power? She was a sargent and you never forgot it.

I had just inherited a large chunk of money when my grandmother died. I felt horribly guilty about it. As I talked about my struggle, this woman growled, Give it to me.

That woke me up from my self-abosrbed ramble. Huh?

For god's sake, what a waste of time. Do you know lucky I'd feel if I had it? And while I'd certainly give some to my mom? I wouldn't feel like I had to share it.

You have your health. You have a beautiful baby (Ben had just been born). You have a ton of money. Shut the fuck up and enjoy it. Otherwise? It’s like spitting in my face.

One of my first lessons in social justice. Be respectful. Be grateful.

And shut the fuck up and enjoy it.

I don't know where she is today- they broke up and I didn't see her anymore. I hope she's well.

And as I sit here, with my kids chomping on chips, watching the game...

I really do know how good my life is.

(And as an aside? The same woman explained to my mother what 'poppers' were at my baby shower. She was... a character.)

Sunday, April 01, 2007


It's not authentic.

It's not who I am.

I need to find a way to integrate more fully my values into my day to day life.

But moving to Jamaica Plain is not the answer.

Got it.

All on my own.

See how I drive my friends crazy?

Walk the Talk

Spring is here.

Today is one of those almost warm days, where around your feet you feel the ground’s exhale of the winter frost but the sun heats your face.

I wanted to open windows but when the furnace kicked on, I realized the breeze is still a little too cold.

And as is true in springtime, I have fallen in love…

With a house.

No, an ideal.

I sat in meetings last week talking about racial justice. I had been to a conference the week before listening to people identify and try to address structural racism.

Before that, I listened to my friend Susan Eaton interviewed on NPR, talking about her book, “The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial”. She talks about the loss of all communities when they are isolated from each other. It’s not just the poor kids who lose- it’s all kids.

My kids do not go to a diverse school. I do not live in a diverse neighborhood.

I have a beautiful home. Great neighbors who are welcoming, warm and wonderful people. The neighborhood is the kind where everyone knows each other, there are progressive dinners planned and when the kid’s baseball game goes long into the afternoon, someone sneaks home to grab a bottle of wine, some paper cups and shares with the crowd.

I know most of the kids in the elementary school and their parents. The local barber knows my boys. I cannot go to the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon without running into at least three or four other people I know. It is comfortable and it is a vibrant community.

And I fell in love with another house. Another image of how I could live. One that reflects my values. One in the city where people are Black, Brown, rich and poor, gay, straight. One where I could become a part of the solution.

A place where crime is on the rise. Where kids coming in with a lack of resources overwhelm the schools. Where cars get stolen from in front of the house and every market is not pristine.

You can’t send your kids there, I have been told. They would have to test into the one good public high school- Boston Latin. Or else you have to send your kids to private school.

Public Education is the right of every citizen in this country. Not just the rich, suburban kids.

How do I teach my kids about diversity? Having them volunteer at an organization in the city in some way? Doing some community service in someone else’s community?

It doesn’t feel like anyway to address the racial divisions and structures in place that keep opportunity in far away places.

It feels patronizing. Sure, we’re happy to help but hell no, we wouldn’t live there!

I have an incredibly comfortable life. I will always have one. Wherever I live, that will not change.

I want to be a part of making significant change.

I want my children to understand why it’s not a nice thing to do but an essential thing to do. I want them to understand on a core level I know.

My mother taught me to understand at the core level she knew.

She told me a story, often, when I was growing up about one night while in college in Baltimore; she and her friends went out to dinner. The place was crowded and they had to wait for a table. The first one that opened up, they sat down at.

My mother could not eat.

There had been an African-American family sitting there. My mother was raised to believe Blacks and Whites never, ever should be at the same table.

Her friends did not hesitate for a second. She knew she was different. She vowed, then, to change. And, over time, she truly did.

She told me the story because she wanted me to think.

I am.

How do I teach my kids the lesson of my generation? Years after Brown vs. Board of Education and we are no closer to equity in classrooms. How do I hold my responsibility?

Last week I was asked why I was at the boardroom table, in a role of power. What made me, a white woman of privilege have a right to a seat?

I answered because I know I do not have the right to the seat but do have the power to be there. I am using my power and ensure the right people do get to the table.

Truth is? My kids go to an amazing, well-funded public school where kids ask questions, textbooks are new, and recess is always a part of their day.

I talk the talk but do not walk it.

Maybe it’s like opening the window with the breeze today. Maybe my ideals of living in a racially integrated neighborhood and having my kids go to public schools are wonderful in thought, impossible in reality.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if it’s my table, cleared, ready for me to sit.