Thursday, May 31, 2007

Time Goes By

“Time goes by so slowly…” Madonna sang to me this morning while I was running on the treadmill. Every quarter mile sprinting, I can’t agree more.

But while I walk, and pain is not shooting through my body, time seems to fly. Sprint, walk, sprint, walk… I look up and it’s time to run again but those little dots seem to be stuck in one place while I’m running.

It how I feel today about time. I have no idea where the last ten years went, let alone the last twenty. But there have been times, like before Jake learned how to sleep through the night, I thought every day was stuck on 5AM.

Today is my birthday. I’m forty-four. How did that happen?

My friend Margaret, the Martha Stewart of parenting, once shared a sweet quote with me by a woman of young children, that went something along the lines of “every day can last forever but the years pass in an instant.”

I don’t remember whom the quote is by and neither does she because…well… we’re both old and our minds are slipping.

It’s a number, and a day, not necessarily all that special. I’m not a big birthday person, unless it’s a milestone like 40. Or 50. Other than the birthday cake to please my kids, I’m just as happy to let it pass quietly. No need to draw attention to the ever-climbing number.

I made my mother promise, when I turned forty, to say I was thirty-two. If anyone asks, just say I’m thirty-two. She laughed and said age doesn’t matter to me at all. Why does it bother you?

I didn’t know then but I do now. I don’t feel like I’m forty-four. I’m shocked when I look in the mirror and see lines on my face. Or when I look down at my hands and see how weathered and aged they are. I step on the scale and have no idea how that happened and why it won’t go away, even with all the running I do.

I know it’s because I’m not thirty-two. I’m forty-four. I have three children, one of whom is going to middle school next year. I’m perimenopausal. My body has shifted into another gear- a very slow, cranky one. My mind is still full of ridiculous trivia information but I don’t remember which field which son has a baseball game at without consulting the master schedule.

Or where a great quote came from or where the email that the great quote was in ended up being filed.

To be honest, I am better than I was at thirty-two. I have deeper relationships with my friends. I’m more honest about who I am and what I believe. I was able to take an incredibly difficult stand in my marriage last year and now have a far more solid relationship. I had the strength to tear apart every piece of an old fabric grown so out of place it cut into my skin. I crumbled my very foundation and rebuilt, piece-by-piece, a stronger, more honest self that included not just the good, but also the small, frightened pieces long disowned.

It took a long time to develop that kind of confidence and strength. I could not have done that when I was thirty-two or even forty-two. I had many things handed to me on a sliver platter, but self-esteem was not one of them. It took time, like great wine, to mellow the edges and develop complexity.

Okay, I’m not mellow by any standards. I am high strung.

Neurotic, a friend said to me the other morning, is another way of putting it.

Time, as Madonna was sings, does not really go by all that slowly. My mother has been dead seven months. It feels like yesterday she was laughing at my ageism. Even when we were fighting, she faithfully called me every birthday to remind me I was thirty-two. Again. I miss the sound of her voice.

In the last year, I’ve become a much stronger woman. I’m sorry she only saw the blown apart pieces instead of the end product. I know she would have been very proud of me. Annoyed, too, but proud nonetheless.

I’ll keep running, until my joints force me to stop. I love the feeling of accomplishment, not to mention the rush of endorphins. I’ll keep pushing the edge of who I am and what I can accomplish. The more honest and open I can be about my life, the more understanding I can help people have about a lesbian living in suburbia, the further I push the world, the better off my kids will be.

Zachary came home the other day and told me they had gone through a list of famous women in his class that day.

You know what? I was the only one in my class who knew who Madonna was.

Really? I asked. No one else knew?

Nope. [My teacher] asked if my moms listened to her. I said yes. All the time.

I should be pleased his teacher, as all the teachers in the school, acknowledge- without a permission slip being signed- Zachary’s family.

The narcissist in me just feels old.

So old.

Time goes by. Just not slowly.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Baseball Pants and Global Warming

I know why global warming is escalating. I know why the temperature on this earth is rising exponentially everyday.

And it’s not ExxonMobil’s fault. Rex Tillerson can take the day off and relax.

It’s the white pants baseball players’ wear.

Do you have any idea how many times I have to wash the boys’ white pants covered dirt, mud and, at times, ketchup, to get them clean? Water, Shout, laundry detergent, and a gas dryer, going going going, three, four times before the pants come out a dingy white still with ghost grass stains at the knees.

Take pride in your uniform, the coach says. And I agree but I also know before they leave the house, they are covered with dirt again. What’s the point?

Peer pressure. I had another mom once say to me she never lets her kids out of the house with a stain on their clothes. My kids would never leave the house if I kept up that rule. I used to draw the line with obnoxious characters or blatant advertising on their clothes but my wonderful sister sent so many over the years, I gave up. At least they weren’t stained when they first came out of the package. For some reason, the neon colored Yu-Gi-Oh shirts seem to stay in great shape, too.

Forget about hybrids, solar panels and wind turbines. Change all baseball pants to black and watch the energy use per suburban household drop precipitously. Why do they have to be white anyway?

My friend said to show they slid into home plate.

Well, they’re not sliding into home plate. They are seven and nine years old. They’re sliding down the hill in the backyard. They’re sliding into each other before the game even starts. I’m their mother. I promise to take a picture when they slide into home plate.

They were all sparkling clean on opening day. I think.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to wash once and look away. My kids may have stains but I can take pride in saving the planet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Multiplying Toothbrushes

Can someone please explain to me why there are nine toothbrushes lining my sink?

There are only five of us living here. The cat and dog do not brush their teeth. At least not willingly.

Recently, I saw the cat running through the living room streaked with blue.

I saw Zachary running after the cat.

It only took a minute to figure out where the blue could have come from- the minty fresh smell one never finds coming from a cat gave it away.


Innocent look pops up.

Why is there toothpaste on the cat?

I tried to brush her teeth, he confided. She didn’t like it very much.


Of course, getting him to brush his own teeth takes an act of god. In fact, all of them need reminding not once, not twice, but over and over again to brush their teeth every morning and every night. And yet the toothbrushes around here seem to multiply like rabbits.

I’m not sure I want to know. But from now on? I’m putting mine in the medicine cabinet.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Beach or Beaten in Moscow

I sat at the beach today, and wondered how many people thought Allan and I, with Zachary in tow, thought we were heterosexual. Okay, Allan in his tiny Speedo and me in my giant one piece Speedo and, of course, gym shorts, were not exactly looking incredibly straight but the image was enough to bother me.

I had read this morning that over thirty gay activists had been arrested in Moscow. Nikolai Alekseev, who is currently under arrest and held in a central Moscow police station. ( At this point, foreign activists have been set free. Others have not. None of the people throwing rocks, eggs and threatening violence to the activists have been arrested.

Only the queers.

I sat on the beach today with an uneasy feeling of safety. While we in America debate civil unions versus marriage rights, job protections and insurance coverage, people in Russia who found the courage to take to the streets in an incredibly homophobic society are sitting in jail.

At Gay Pride, we debate how to be family friendly and still true to our roots as outlandish and spectacular. How to dance on floats in leather but be sure not to pass out condoms to kids (at Boston Pride, the effort to avoid kids is visible and appreciated).

In Moscow, politicians openly disparage gays and lesbians. Rudy Giuliani has gone on TV in a dress and openly hateful comments come from the extreme few. The reason why is the years of effort by gays and lesbians to be visible. The drag queens and bull dykes of the Stonewall riots could not hide and would not take the abuse from the police anymore.

They took the streets. They said no more.

Today, as I sat in privilege and comfort, not to mention the warm sun, I wanted to paint a big, pink triangle on my forehead. Allan and I talked about our discomfort and Zachary heard us.

Why do you care? He asked.

Because it’s not who I am, I said. I need to be who I am so you can be whoever you want to be. No, whoever you need to be.

The people of Stonewall did not have a choice. The people in Moscow today did not have a choice either.

Why risk life and limb? Why do I care if anyone thinks I’m straight when they walk by me? Because the shame of hiding is toxic. It eats away at your core, your self-esteem and feeling like you have a right to exist. It’s why gays and lesbians have a high level of alcoholism, substance abuse and suicide- especially young people who have yet to develop enough of a sense of self to take jeers and the threat of physical violence in stride. I don’t know a single gay or lesbian person who cannot convey at least one story of personal shame from public condemnation.

It’s not about the right to hold hands in public; it’s about the right not to be beaten for holding hands in public. I’m not shoving my gayness down anyone’s throat- I’m simply trying to find a small space to breathe in a culture that shoves heterosexuality down my throat every media minute of every day.

My invisibility bothered me today because somewhere halfway across the world, someone just like me took to the streets and fought not for gay marriage or even civil rights but for the basic right to breathe.

I was on the beach while gays and lesbians were being beaten in Moscow.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Faut de Mieux

Another of my favorites, Dorothy Parker. From "Enough Rope"

Faut de Miex

Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme,-
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time.

I'm not sure about the frock, but I do love my trouble...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Serve it Forth"

One of my favorite writers is MFK Fisher. I love her romance with food, cooking and “The Art of Eating.”

This is a quote from her book “Serve it Forth.”

“Talleyrand said that two things are essential in life: to give good dinners and to keep on fair terms with women. As the years pass and fires cool, it can become unimportant to stay always on fair terms either with women or one’s fellows, but a wide and sensitive appreciation of fine flavours can still abide with us, to warm our hearts.”

I’m not ready to give up on fair terms with women and I always hope to give good dinners.

But I hope I am fortunate enough to have fine flavors always warm my heart.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Weekend Alone

I have the weekend to spend with my son Zachary. Jeanine took the other two boys to a family event out in Indianapolis. Zachary and I get to have some special alone time.

I forget sometimes, what a great sense of humor he has. Too often Ben and Jake are fighting with each other, vying for center stage, and Zachary, such a middle child, stands clear.

A very smart middle child.

Last night, after his baseball game, he asked if we could get Burger King for dinner. This is not a meal I ever allow for dinner- ever- but since it was the two of us and 8:30pm, I said okay.

Why not.

When we got back to the house, he asked if he could call his brothers. When he got them on the phone, I heard him say, Yeah, Mom has me doing all these chores and stuff. It’s a big drag.

He paused for a moment and then said,

Yeah, right. We’re watching TV and eating Burger King for dinner.

A big smile crossed his face. I watched him eat up the yells from his brother Ben on the other end of the conversation. Clearly Ben could not believe that I, evil rule enforcer mother, would ever let anyone do that.

I did.

Partly because I knew if I said no, I’ll make something at home, he would have shrugged and said okay. He’s easy going, for the most part although a little stubborn at times, he doesn’t push back unless it’s important to him.

But the transfats feast happened because I know he so often stays quiet when he doesn’t want to. He sacrifices a great deal at times to try and keep peace between his brothers. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him not to give up his voice- because I do, often- it’s his nature. He’s a sweet kid.

When I asked him if he wanted to go to Indianapolis with his brothers or hang out with me, he jumped at the chance to be alone. He loves his family out there- as do I- but the two of us both love our quiet time, too. For me, it’s about over stimulation- big crowds are exhausting whether it’s family or going to the grocery store before a holiday weekend. For Zachary, it’s the chance to be the center of the world without raising his voice.

When the boys all have the ‘where I’m going to live when I grow up’ conversation, Zachary always says, somewhere warm, far away.

The other two have the misguided notion they can live at home forever, minus a brief break to go to college. I smile and think, not a chance.

Can I come visit? I ask Zachary.

Sure, he nods agreeably but adds, you might have to stay in a hotel.

I nod. It’s okay. I might want to stay in a hotel.

We press fists in agreement.

I understand he’s saying he wants his own space, his own world and complete control over it. I appreciate deeply his understanding of himself.

This weekend? Zachary is the center of the world. I’m sure he’ll get me to laugh out loud, go to the ice cream shop, and order unhealthy food for dinner more than once.

I can’t wait.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Other Mothers

I’ve been reading online last night and today different things written about Mary Cheney, her partner Heather Poe and their new baby.

I was most surprised at the vehemence to refer to only Mary as the parent. After all, it was written over and over again, she gave birth. Heather is really… nobody to the baby.


I gave birth to two of our children. After that, the womb was closed, I was done. I could not stand to be pregnant one more time. I love my kids, the ability to carry them was a blessing, yada yada yada, but with both pregnancies I had complications. The hormones fooled me once into thinking it would be different a second time, but they did not fool me twice.

I had the chance, the third time, to be the other mother. It was, at times, annoying to have a pregnant wife who thought she was suffering more than ANY WOMAN IN THE UNIVERSE could have ever suffered, including me. There was the time she decided to bring home a puppy for the kids even though I kept saying, no, we can’t get a dog. The dog came home because you cannot talk to pregnant women. My calm, cool, even keeled wife screamed at me on the top of her lungs from time to time because I did ridiculous things like breathing or sleeping through the night and not having to pee.

How could I? And then she’s cry and cry.

I learned how to say, I am wrong. SO WRONG. Can I go get you a banana split?

It was, at times, for me the most powerful pregnancy of all three of our kids. To watch the baby kick and stretch out my wife’s belly was a beautiful sneak peek of tiny toes. To witness his gyrations on the ultrasound when I could not feel them myself, mesmerizing. I ended up getting in the best shape of my adult life mainly because every time I watched her waddle, hand on hip, seven, eight, nine months pregnant, I was ecstatic my body was free. Free to exercise, free to lie flat on my back, free to drink diet coke. No one stared at me when I had a glass of wine with dinner.

I was just as pregnant, I just wasn’t pregnant.

Which is what the world seems to be having such a hard time grappling with Mary and Heather’s baby. Heather gave birth, too. She doesn’t have stretch marks and she doesn’t think her vagina is broken, broken broken right now like Mary does, but that doesn’t make her less than a parent. The right wing media can take all the pictures of Dick and Lynne with young Sam as they want and try to ignore Heather’s role. People can argue what her place on the family tree should be labeled until the cows come home.

Or Mary’s milk comes in which is a whole other level of experience I was glad to witness and not have to go through with my third child.

I’m no fan of Mary Cheney and Heather Poe. I think the politics they have supported work hard against families like mine, and now like their own. The Republican party viciously serves up gay families as food for the Christian conservatives.

But Heather is the other mother.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ultimate in Cool

Ben walked out of school today, looking like he’d lost his best friend.

What’s up? I asked. Tonight’s the big night!

Yeah, and I’m going to miss it, he sighed.

Ben is going to a concert tonight- Gwen Stefani, Akon and Lady Sovereign with a good pal of his. They’ve been talking about it for months. At times, shrieking loudly about it.

Miss what?? I asked.

The American Idol party. Heavy sigh. [Girl] invited me. All the popular kids will be there. Heavier sigh.

He almost got me. I remember wanting to be invited to the popular kids parties. How important it was to feel like you were good enough. You weren’t a geek. You were cool.

Almost but… he’s eleven and he’s going to an adult concert. Hello? Does that not define cool?

Ben, I said, did you tell her why you can’t go?


You didn’t tell her you scored tickets to see Gwen Stefani?


Okay, I’ll call her.


Seriously, I’ve known her since she was two. I’m gonna tell her why you’re not coming.


Okay, I won’t but Ben? Concert compared to a television show?

He walked ahead, head hung low.

Tonight? Gwen performed a song for American Idol, live. Ben was there at the Tweeter Center.

Maybe I’m just old but if that’s not the ultimate in cool… I don’t know what cool is.

Never mind. I am too old. I hope he had a great time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hats at the Table

Tonight, we went about our business of crumbling the fabric of society. We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant- Taqueria Mexico. It’s located in Waltham, Massachusetts. The food is made by- gasp- real Mexican immigrants who have a made a life for themselves in the city.

And it is so good. The beef for tacos is made with potatoes- no skillet fried beef but long simmered, flavorful and not greasy. The two kinds of salsa brought to the table are homemade as are the chips- still hot from the fryer. I hate faux Mexican food served at fast food chains or even larger, well-known chains where there are tablecloths and “authentic” music blared over the speakers.

I can’t help it. My wife is second generation Mexican American and after one taste of real enchiladas, I was never the same.

We sat outside and… Jeanine allowed Zachary to keep his hat on at the table.

The first thing that goes is manners. Shameful.

I caught Ben mid-major-eye roll. He rolled his eyes so far up and down his entire body went along with them.

Jake, after his lunch of sushi (you think I’m kidding? The kid has sushi for lunch three times a week), plowed through his burrito, half of Jeanine’s tamales, and shared a few of Ben’s nachos.

I see his size seven pants an inch shorter on him by morning.

All in all, another quiet evening of ruining America and American values as we know it. Pushing hard against the boundaries of society, we continue to flaunt our queer family out in public.

With hats on at the table.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pop a Vein

I swear, my kids sit in the backyard, kick back and discuss, What can we can we do to make the veins in mom’s neck pop out?

Well, the time mom had to move my bed from the wall and found all the boogers I wiped on it was pretty good.

Yeah, remember? Tissues! There are tissues right here! She kept shaking the tissue box. Like anyone is going to get up in the middle of the night over a booger. Please.

I know, I know, leaving your clothes in the middle of the upstairs hallway, you know, when you're going to the bath...

That is a good one. I love it when she tries to stay calm but you know she’s about to blow. "The hallway is not a hamper..."

But you know the one that always works- stuffing the toilet with toilet paper. No matter what, she loses her mind.

Today? They stuffed the toilet with toilet paper. I cannot explain why they need to use more toilet paper in a single moment than an average adult uses in a week, but they do.

I also cannot explain why it’s always tightly wound into a wad that could not be cleared with the force of Niagara Falls.

This afternoon, as I sat in my office, happily writing a post for Huffington about the evil empire- ExxonMobil- I heard water running.

A lot of water running.

BOYS? I called out. Did someone leave the sink running?

Nah, Zachary replied calmly. It’s the toilet.


I ran into the bathroom on the first floor and found over an inch of water on the floor, with more pouring out.

GET SOME TOWELS, I shouted, like a captain on a ship about to go under, I pulled off the top and stopped the water flow. Okay, I tried to stop it. After about 100 floodings, you would think I knew the toilet tank by heart. I don’t. I had to turn the flow of water off to the toilet by the valve instead, adding another three gallons of water to the floor.

Zachary is standing outside the door with a pile of towels. White towels. Our good towels, not the rags usually used for such an occasion.

I used them anyway because the water was seeping through to the basement.

Directly underneath the bathroom in the basement? Are the washer and dryer. I had three days worth of clean laundry stacked up, in baskets in front of them- now all covered with toilet water.

Used toilet water.

Mission accomplished.

Veins fully popped.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Night

Where are Jake's shoes?

MOM, WHERE ARE MY SHOES? he yells at me. I'm in the living room, reading. I know where the shoes are and I don't even need to move an inch.

Back porch, by the stairs, next to the pot.

Why do I know where Jake's shoes are? Why do I know where Jeanine's glasses are? Ben's folder and Zachary's baseball glove?

Is there always a designated person in the house who can find everything and anything?

It's Sunday night, the shoes have been found and it's time to cook dinner.

I seem to be the only one who can find the chicken, pasta and salad, too.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Food for Thought

A friend sent this to me. She said it applies to both of us.

She is a wise woman.

The 13th Century Sufi Poet Rumi:

"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it's furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Quarter Life Crisis

My wife just told me about meeting with some other staff and faculty members (she teaches at Berklee College of Music where you can be hip, young and have a full time job) who were talking about their “quarter life crisis.”

Seems Abby Wilner coined the phrase in 1997 and, with Alexandra Robbins, co-authored the first book to identify this phenomenon: 'Quarterlife Crisis, the Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties'(Tarcher, 2001).

Quarter life crisis? Get a life. You’re a baby.

I do remember, however, being earnest at 27 thinking deep thoughts about my future. How would I make significant impact in my world? Turns out I had three children and dumped about three thousand dirty diapers into landfills, burned thousands of gallons of gas going to and from soccer/baseball/playdates. I’m right there with Al Gore and the shame with over consumption. Try to get an eleven year old to shut off his light while reading the latest Harry Potter book. And Tipper thought "Darling Nikki" by Prince was a problem.

I have had impact. No question.

I remember wondering, would I have thoughtful employment helping to create social change? At the time I was working in a fish market. I made great chowder, could filet a whole salmon in ten minutes (scales and all) and I took my stand anytime anyone asked me to cut open a live lobster. It may not have been changing the world but… I could not be bought for 7 bucks an hour.

And my bluefish pate recipe is still a guarded family secret.

Okay, eventually I did work for a socially responsible investment firm and had the opportunity to challenge the CEO of ExxonMobil to a game of golf. At the annual meeting, I opposed Exxon’s sponsorship of Augusta National, where men play golf and women are purdy little thangs serving cocktails at the nineteenth hole.

I’m still waiting for the tee time, though. Hey, I like purdy little thangs, too.

I wondered if I was a good person. I wondered if I was ever going to fall in love. I wondered if I’d ever make my mother proud. I wanted to change the world. I believed, walking around the Massachusetts State house in 1988 with the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights bill in my hands, getting co-signers of the bill Representative by Representative, I was making a difference.

And I wanted more.

I looked up this “quarter life crisis” online and found the following:

“Characteristics of this crisis are:

* feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at his/her academic/intellectual level
* frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
* confusion of identity
* insecurity regarding the near future
* insecurity regarding present accomplishments
* re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
* disappointment with one's job
* nostalgia for university or college life
* tendency to hold stronger opinions
* boredom with social interactions
* financially-rooted stress
* loneliness
* desire to have children
* a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you” Wikipedia

Uh… I guess I was right on target.

I look at the list, at my own angst as a twenty some year old and I don’t see that I'm much different. Except I have no desire for any more children. I can cross that one off. I’m not lonely, either. I seek loneliness at times. It’s why I lock the bathroom door. And I’m much quicker to listen to other people- this afternoon, I had someone tell me to let go of an entrenched position because there was a far more effective way to create change.

I let go. I want to create change, get home to make dinner and have a chance to do the New York Times Crossword puzzle.

I no longer worry that everyone else is doing a better job. Everyone else is doing a better job. I’m doing the job I can.

I spent all last year re-evaluating my closest interpersonal relationship. Deeply. I realized the depth of 16 years together was worth digging in and trying my very best. If the sex goes? Forget it. I’m out the door.

It’s hard not to laugh at twenty year old’s drama. As much as I can relate to the questions I asked myself then, I feel the wrinkles around my eyes while I smile and answer them now.

That’s the difference, I realize. Then, I had furrowed brow, desperate heart and deep resolve.

Now? I’m smiling. And downloading my crossword puzzle.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thank You

On May 17th 2004, thousands of people were finally allowed full citizenship in the state of Massachusetts. The amazing efforts by GLAD, willing persistence of seven plaintiff couples, and thousands of supporters came to fruition that day.

Thousands of gay and lesbian couples got married.

I was legally married on November 13th, 2004.

It was a great party.

I want to thank GLAD, Mary Bonauto, Hillary and Julie Goodridge, David Wilson and Robert Compton, Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies, Gary Chalmers and Rich Linnell, Heidi and Gina Nortonsmith, Maureen Brodoff and Ellen Wade, and Mike Horgan and Ed Balmelli for being more courageous and dedicated than I was at the time.

I never believed it could happen in my lifetime.

They did. Not only did they believe, they demanded it happen.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night…”

The anxiety building in our house right now is intense. Ben is taking MCAS, a standardized test every kid in Massachusetts has to take to move forward in public schools. Zachary is taking his first round, as a third grader, next week. And Jake, as a mere first grader has been suggesting that he, too, is going to have serious tests in the upcoming weeks.

He’s not, but he so hates being left out.

On top of the testing? It’s Ben’s last year in the elementary school. He’s ‘graduating’ to middle school. Sixth grade.

Ben is a kid who tends towards anxiety- sometimes hysteria- and the calmer transitions can be, the better it is for him. When I left him at preschool, I knew I had to give him a kiss, say goodbye and walk out the room.

No matter what.

The teachers supported and encouraged this kind of parent departure. They would explain to the child, parents leave, they come back, all is well. If you need to check, the teachers advised parents, peek through the window. But don’t get caught.

I peeked in a few times but got over the need fairly quickly. Maybe because I saw my son was perfectly happy with his world, the very mother he insisted on needing to stay with him forever, not even an afterthought.

I cried. He did not. I got over that, too.

I learned an important lesson very early on- if you make transitions quick and short events, kids tend to roll with them. Show a moment of hesitation? The kids with their pure radar for parent ambivalence, whether it is about a toy in the store or an ice cream after dinner, zero in on it like sharks with fresh blood.

Tears flow, deals negotiated, and once in a while, a screaming child would be held by a cheerful teacher suggesting a bye-bye wave to Mommy. Or Daddy.

My son never cried or had to be held. I took the teachers cue- what did I know? Giving birth does not give me a single ounce of common sense about parenting- and it worked out. As Ben grew older, he did not grow out of the need for clear-cut, simple transitions. His brothers have but he has not.

If I were really honest, I’d admit I’ve never grown out of it, either. I hate change. Not all change- move my furniture around and I’m delighted- but make me shift into an entirely new routine or place? Don’t make me think about it until that day.

It reminds me of how my mother dealt with my dentist appointments when I was a kid. She never told me until the morning of so I would not work myself into a frenzy of anxiety. The dentist was a sadist, mind you, never giving Novocain for fillings and zero tolerance for squirming children. If I had a little Novocain, I bet I could have sat still. Regardless, my anticipation of the event became so problematic my mother simply removed it. She would not make the next appointment within my earshot. The day of, she handed me a note to be excused from school and the appointment was always in the early morning. The transition was quick, and while my mouth would ache for hours, I didn’t dream about the pain for days beforehand.

After the state mandated tests? There will be twenty straight days of good bye parties, welcome to middle school parties, this is the final good bye party, the final school play, the final song, the final final good bye party and then after whipping the entire fifth grade class into a frothy frenzy of goodbyes, there will be the last day of school. Arch day. When they walk through the arch of balloons for- you got it- the final time.

It makes me anxious to think about having to sit through all those reminders that he's leaving the school he's been going to for what seems like his whole life so far to venture off into the world of middle school. It reminds me of the song from the Sound of Music, child after child saying goodnight.

All right already, get in bed! Would have been my not so musical answer.

Ben will make it through relatively unscathed, minus the time out or ten for hitting Jake or criticizing Zachary’s art project. I sat on his bed last night explaining how kicking his brother on the stairs was not only unacceptable in our house, it was dangerous. I also tried to remember how miserable I was while driving to the dentist. As an adult, I’ve learned to understand anxiety is a feeling and will pass.

As a kid? It crawled over my skin and felt like a hand clasped over my mouth.

He agreed to try and control his body. There’s so much going on, he confided.

I know, I replied. You still can’t kick your brother.

What I wish I said? There will be changes and changes and changes again, all though your life. You can turn your head one-way and see doom, another and see glory, but if you look somewhere in the middle? You’ll find a place where the anxiety is mixed with excitement. Where your skin tingles and your breath is short, and you can’t wait until it’s over.

And you can’t wait for it to start again.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Mom: M is for Moisturizer

I read a post by a young woman to her mother.

It’s a sweet letter, filled with a clear love for her mother, entitled, “To a Fantastic Mom.” I saw the title and had to read it. I wanted to know what wonder woman was on the other end of that praise. I also wanted to know what kind of kid actually said that about their mother.

She’s twelve. While I’m sure she can give her mother a run for her money? She was truly sweet in the note. I want to hire her to come give my boys some lessons in appreciation.

I love to read what kids write about their parents. Her mother had written a previous post describing beautifully the transition into menopause while watching her own daughter turn into a woman. Her daughter’s response was teenage honesty-I love you, you’re great but I still don’t want to go to the mall with you.

I’m curious because my kids are growing up with a family structure not often seen or talked about anywhere else. I need to gauge their angst against other kids’.

My oldest son, Ben, is eleven. He’s never going to write a letter like that- ever. If he did? I imagine he would start by saying, MOM, I’m sending you a link to a great botox place. Allan is ten years older and he looks five years younger. Why? Can you say moisturizer? Or is that something you won’t do, along with dresses, high heels and a little make up?

On Mother’s Day, we met up with Walter and Allan- the kids’ Dads- and went for a walk in Arnold Arboretum. It was Lilac Sunday. The sun was out, lots of people were walking around and the air was perfumed with the scent of lilacs. All was right with the world- or so I thought.

Ben came up to me.

MOM, he said, hands on hips, eyes rolled up, jaw dropped.


I just saw my friend...

I turned around, expecting to see the friend close by. You did?

Yeah. Ben was annoyed.

Oh, honey, why didn't you go say hi?

Because YOU were walking.

Ben, I didn't see her... you should have simply stopped and talked to her. We would have noticed eventually.

Yeah, right, he angrily stuck his chin high in the air and walked far ahead.

I’ll never get a letter of praise from Ben. If I’m lucky, a long letter filled with grievances and my most horrible mistakes that pretty much ruined his life. Like walking by his friend unknowingly in the Arboretum- really, how could I? The fact that I won’t let him have a cell phone is more than any eleven-year-old boy should have to bear. I can’t even mention the horror of not being allowed to watch television on weeknights.

The good news? For all my son has to complain about, never once does he complain he has two lesbian moms. Nor does he complain about the addition of two gay dads, leaving him with four parents- two moms, two dads, no divorce. He brags about having two homes, something kids of divorce rarely do. In kindergarten, a little girl complained it wasn’t fair that Ben got to have two moms. Ben smiled.

Twice as many reasons to go to therapy, I thought to myself.

He’s still smiling. Well, when we haven’t been too annoying. One of his moms is taking him to see Gwen Stefani in concert- the other would rather have her eyeteeth pulled (that would be me). Both of his Dads lobbied to have the no TV rule waived for American Idol.

And Red Sox games.

After his fury for my missing his friend in the crowd, he looped his arm through mine and walked through the lilacs.

In public, no less. I guess I was dressed appropriately.

Someday, he may write a sweet letter to me, hailing my ability to be a mother. Or a not so sweet letter hailing my ability to be a … mother. Either way, I’m sure he’ll attach a list of wardrobe do’s and don’ts. That’s okay- it seems even the sweet young woman had some issues with her mother’s wardrobe.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Food Ecstasy

I was asked last night at dinner, as I snapped away with my camera, if I was going to do another ‘Food Ecstasy' piece.

She was referring to my blog entry from NYC when I took pictures while eating at Union Square Café. I couldn’t help myself, I said. I love food.

It was beautiful, she said.

Funny, another friend of mine said, who wants to see your half eaten food?

The reality of the NYC photo was mid meal, I made Jeanine stop with her steak and put the silverware down. The cut of the meat, the perfectly medium rare center with the seared outside caught my eye. I thought it was stunning.

I subscribe to Gourmet mainly to drool over the photos. That and to read Ruth Reichl’s editorial essay. The recipes tend to be repeats with small new twists- I’ve been reading the magazine for almost twenty years. There's only so many ways to roast a turkey for the November issue.

The pictures, however, are always new.

Allan made dinner last night. Lemon chicken, pureed peas and couscous. I told the kids it was rice. If I said couscous, Ben and Zachary would not have even attempted it. Rice? Well, rice is rice, food for those who won’t eat food.

Jake, on the other hand, happily tried the peas. Fresh peas pureed with mint and cream, they were unexpectedly delicious. Allan was certain the recipe was a failure. They look very… mushy, he said.

I like mushy peas, Jeanine said.

Me too, Walter chimed in. Canned vegetables as comfort food- always mushy with nary a single vitamin left in them.

I hate peas. I’ve always hated peas. I will eat them if they are fresh and have a point- nutrition- but I hate peas. Allan’s peas were fabulous. The cream and butter made the dish creamy, not mushy, and the mint gave it a bright accent.

I liked my peas. Thank you, Allan.

For dessert, he made chocolate mousse. Huge bowls full of chocolate mousse. The boys couldn’t even finish theirs it was so rich. Ben sneered at the whipped cream.

What is this?

Fresh whipped cream, Walter said. Try it. It’s the real thing.

Ben tried it and frowned. No sugar. Tastes nasty.

BEN, I said firmly. I didn’t have to say anything else because the family rule is, when someone has cooked, you smile and say no thank you. You never call anything nasty.

Whatever, he said, scraping the whipped cream to the side.

It was a family night. The kids complained about and then finally did clear the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. We discussed MCAS, homemade rolls and the excitement building about the end of the school year. Ben and I continued to push at each other and Jake, after describing how he liked the peas, too, rolled around in his chair. Zachary put his napkin over his face like a bank robber from the old west. Allan threatened to not take them to another nice restaurant, which was loudly cheered by the children.

He meant we’d ONLY take you to nice restaurants, I said.

The butter was passed when requested and not a single roll was leftover.

It wasn't a food ecstasy night. Too many children, no Chateau D’Yquem.

Not that I would ever pair D’Yquem with peas.

But it was a beautiful Mother’s Day dinner.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

The sun is out.

It's my first Mother's Day without my mother alive. No calls, no flowers, no sharing with her how the boys let us sleep in till 8AM. How they brought us cards, hugs and a promise not to fight for the day.

It is bittersweet.

Last night, I watched a parent show her son how to squeeze a snap dragon flower, to make the 'jaw' open. I remembered my mother teaching me the same. She planted them in the garden for me. She loved bearded iris. I loved snap dragons.

I also remember four years ago in Rochester, her fury with me unleashed on Mother's Day. At the end of the night, so close to an edge I could come back from, I told Jeanine, we have to leave. I cannot live this way. It hurts too much.

I miss my mother's kindness.

I miss the end of the cycle of our relationship- the roses, after her anger, when I was good enough to warrant her pride. The golden light shined and she loved me the most.

I'll never miss her disappointment. The tension as the cycle started to turn- again, always again- to the next confrontation.

Today, I am the end of the line. No Grandmothers, Mothers or Aunts to pay respect to as the generation who gave birth to my generation. It is a role I've never considered.

I am not the end of the line. I am the head of the table. It is my turn to shine, to be the best I can be. To redefine what it is to be a mother, honoring the great parts passed to me, throwing out the rest.

The boys are teetering on the edge of a fight and yet are determined to avoid it. I need to remind Jeanine to call her mother before I take the Sunday paper and a cup of coffee to the back porch.

It is a day that holds sadness and great promise.

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tell Me Again Why Letting Go is a Good Thing?

The back door was left wide open this morning by the boys. Big excitement, we’re having a party tonight. The fundraiser was a bust- too many people had too many excuses. Asking New Englanders for money is not easy and I’m not good at it. I gave up.

Still, there were the few who were willing to part with their precious dollars and I thought, what the heck. Let’s hang out anyway.

I’ve tried to be very laid back about the party. Not assign dishes for people to bring, no checking ten times to see who was actually going to come, who was not. I let go.

It’s enough to give me a heart attack. I am not one who lets go. Ever.

While the kids were outside screaming at 8am this morning- making my neighbors once again the greatest people on earth- the cat returned from her early morning hunt.

With a baby rabbit in her mouth.

A still very much alive baby rabbit.

In my kitchen- at least for a moment.

I have ribs in the oven, I’m making hamburger patties for this afternoon and I have no idea who is coming. I have no idea how many people will bring other food and if I need two bottles of wine or ten… and I have a cat playing with a wild rabbit in my kitchen.

The cat then took the rabbit upstairs to my bedroom. Why? Perhaps because I shrieked at her.

The baby rabbit ran around my bedroom. I followed it. The cat followed it. It ran into the closet. The closet that Allan once had sparkling clean and neat which is now… uh… not sparkling clean and neat.

So many places for a baby rabbit to hide.

I caught the rabbit before the cat did and scooped it into a box. The cat was not happy. She meowed at me as if to say, HEY LADY THAT’S MY BREAKFAST!

The rabbit appeared to be blood free so I let it outside and left the cat inside.

You told everyone to bring food to the party, Zachary laughed. Sofia was just doing her part.

Very funny.

In a few hours I’ll have ten or thirty people here. I’m trying to stay calm. I made a mental note this morning to never have this kind of party again. I need structure. I like structure. There are places in my life I need to stretch and grow but this is not one of them. I like to set a beautiful table, I like to make sure everything is prepared, the kitchen clean before anyone walks in the door.

I like to have control.

Because there are some things in life, you can never control.

Like a cat. And a baby rabbit.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Peanut Butter and Baloney

Zachary actually tried one of my favorite foods as a child today.

My own invention. Boloney with peanut butter spread on it and rolled up like a cannoli. No bread. Just peanut butter and boloney.

Okay, I have to be honest, it was tofu baloney. He doesn’t know it is tofu baloney. I take it out of the packaging and stuff it in a plain plastic bag.

Do you know what’s in real baloney? Ew.

It was one of those moments of sheer joy for me. When my kids eat a new food I’ve introduced them to, and like it? It makes my heart full.

One of the things I loved to do with my mother as a child was cook. She taught me how to scramble eggs when I was old enough to reach the counter. There was a cast iron fry pan that was a must use for scrambled eggs. It gave the eggs a better flavor, she said. A liberal pat of butter, swirled until bubbling and the whole pan was coated.

She showed me how to be firm but not wild while cracking eggs. It’s too hard to fish out the pieces, she advised. But if you tap without certainty on the counters edge, you’ll end up with more small pieces floating than if you gave it one, fast hit. Always go for the middle of the egg and pull the sides away.

She wrapped her hand around my smaller one holding the fork and taught me the difference between whisking and stirring. Slowly at first, she helped me make the small circles using my wrist.

Eggs cook quickly, she explained. Once the butter is foaming, you must put the eggs in and be ready to stir. Keep them in motion the whole time so no one part gets brown, and again, she held my hand, steering it with the spatula through the eggs.

My mother was a southerner. And no self-respecting southerner would ever serve dry eggs. Soft and barely cooked, they tasted like runny, warm yolks. The toast was made, with a careful eye on the melting butter, so it was hot the same minute the eggs came off.

We had to make due- there were never any grits available in Upstate New York in those days.

The eggs continue to cook a little, so take them off early, she explained and before you do anything else, run cold water over the pan. The heat in the iron pan continues to cook the eggs making an impossible mess to clean.

Today, Zachary wanted a snack but it was close to dinnertime. He opened the refridgerator and stared at it, looking for inspiration. When he pulled out the baloney, I remembered one of my first original recipes.

I showed him the roll technique- don’t try to fold like a burrito- it’s too small and will never work. Go for cannoli style.

I remembered putting a slice of baloney on the butcher-block wood while my mother watched. Her raised eyebrow as I pulled out the peanut butter.

You have to eat it, she said to me.

I know, I said as I spread the peanut butter evenly across the slice.

Just like I watched Zachary do. I didn’t tell him he’d have to eat it. Different time, different rules. Starving people in the world are important but American obesity is important, too.

Do you need bread? My mother asked.


No bread? Zachary asked.


I remember taking the roll outside and running to my favorite tree to climb- a silver maple in the neighbors yard. It was a warm summer day, the kind I spent entirely outdoors unless I was made to do otherwise. I scaled the tree and high off the floor, I took my first bite. I remember the peanut butter’s creamy texture and the rubbery baloney, the flavor overpowered by the sweet peanut butter. It was a little disgusting but I was proud of my invention. My mother learned to make the cannoli style creation and pack it in my lunch box, always shaking her head.

But then, she loved pimento cheese sandwiches, something I tried but never understood either.

Zachary nodded his head with the first bite. It’s good, Mom. Thanks.

He smiled and roll up in hand, ran outside.

He didn’t climb a tree- we lack a good climbing tree in our tight, suburban yard. But it was warm and the sun was shining, just like so many years before when I tried my first bite.

I love sharing food with my kids. It brings me full circle, back to a place in my childhood full of light, not pain. I can’t share so many of my memories but food, making food, teaching how to whisk an egg, how their grandmother held my hand- I can tell those stories.

My mother is standing behind me, her hand on mine, around the fork.

My son is smiling with a dab of peanut butter on his cheek.

My heart is full.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cracked Under Pressure

What is happening to my culture?

Lesbians wear keens, one-piece Speedos and gym shorts in the summer. We don flannel in the spring and fall and winter and… summer, too. Lighter weight flannel.

When we get dressed up? It's generally in ill-fitting women’s suits with men’s button down shirts. And the same keen sandals. If it’s a black tie event? We pull out the Doc Marten’s.

Come on, you've all seen the wedding pictures. There's always one woman hiding in the back, attempting to look relaxed. It's one of the reasons I hated going to straight weddings. I'll just look like the big dyke in the back row who hasn't owned a dress since she was seven. Not only do I have to go to an event I can't legally have myself, I have to stuff myself into some ill fitting attempt to look feminine which will only make me look like... the big dyke in the back row trying to avoid being photographed.

I just got off the phone with a friend. A lesbian mom with two small children, she’s always struck me as someone who will go the extra mile and make sure the suit actually fits and may even own a pair of women’s shoes.

I explained I spent the day with Walter on the truck. I was hot, tired and covered with manure. I wanted to take a shower and put on my pajamas. I was not going to meet her at the event after all.

But I have on a skirt, she said.

I’ve seen you in a skirt before.

You have? I never wear skirts.

Yes I have... I think... you seem like you'd wear a loose, summery kind of skirt. Not a straight, business suit kind of skirt.

This is a business suit kind of skirt.


Yes. And I have on heels.


Red heels.

Are you okay?

And I’m driving in a new mommievan.

Let me get this picture- you’re in heels…

Red ones

Red heels, and a skirt…


A black business skirt and you are driving a mini van.


She’s cracked under the pressure of suburbia. She’s spent too many hours around people dressed in Laura Ashley and Brooks Brothers. I can't even bear to ask if pearls are involved.

I’m afraid for my friend. The pressures of motherhood in the suburbs has turned her into someone who might someday show up at a little league baseball game with a pink sweater set and matching scarf tied around her neck.

Please, I said, have a martini.

She assured me she would.

If I ever get caught wearing a skirt, in heels, in a minivan and it’s not part of a drag routine? Cut my hair into a mullet and remove anything that isn’t flannel from my closet. Rush me to Provincetown for an infusion of gay culture.

Drastic measures for drastic times.

As for my friend… I have an intervention planned for Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned…

The Blog Travels

I seem to have made the rounds on blog sites all over the country with my essay, “A Separate Fountain,” posted Monday on Huffington Post.

I even made it on the End Times News, in a list of links:

1. The Rapture performs on Wednesday, May 16, at Warehouse Live,...
2. Election 2007: But there is God in Heaven

3. Me In A Nutshell

4. Sara Whitman: A Separate Fountain

5. FUSE's 'Rad Girls': Horsewomen Of Apocalypse

6. Spirituality: Is the gift of prophecy still evident?

7. The Rapture, Star Seeds and the Anunnaki
8. Getting Shot Hurts
9. Being president isn't everybody's cup of tea

10. Private thoughts of Reagan revealed

I can’t even make this stuff up. I am glad I made it over Getting Shot Hurts.

I found a site in Iowa where I’ve been hailed. I like Iowa. It’s where Jeanine is from and still has a ton of family. The state slogan is "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain."

Good slogan. Massachusetts is “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

Maybe we should update that a little. I like Iowa’s better. I’d like to maintain our rights here in Massachusetts. Sans swords, if possible. I’m more of a cell phone toting, email writing kind of warrior.

Jake called me out to see his new outfit yesterday.

He’s ready for battle.

Or a baseball game.

Or… something. I’m not sure.

The Constitutional Convention date was announced yesterday. June 14th.

This is how it works: only fifty votes are needed to pass the question- a specific ballot question that will appear in 2008 that asks to ban gay marriage- to a popular vote.

A vote on my family and our right to legally exist.

I’m ready for battle, too.

Right after I read the private thoughts of Ronald Regan.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Exceptional Queers

So we have to be perfect to get rights?

Seems there is a naval officer who gets to be gay and out because… well… he’s exceptional at his job.

Every day average Joes? Forget it. Stuff it in or get discharged.

I’m reminded of the media campaign for gay marriage in Massachusetts three years ago. Attractive, intelligent middle class spokespeople were paraded out in front of the cameras with their children- see? Look? We’re just like you. And we’ve been together years and years and years…

If we’re really, really good, can we have rights, too?

But you know, the gay and lesbian community consists of more than middle class and attractive. We’re fat, old and downright homely. I’m afraid too many photo-ops of lesbians with mullets could cost us the ballot vote.

We could always say it’s a contingent of straight women from Vermont and no one would be the wiser.

Heterosexuals can have menopausal moustaches, beer bellies and make mistakes. They can get married for 24 hours, recover from their hangover, get divorced and no one blinks.

No such luck in the gay community- we have to be perfect to get rights.

And attractive.

Even then it’s by someone else’s standards- not our own.

I’m in deep trouble.

I’m not an exceptional queer. I tend to be loud, pushy and too aggressive with my commentary. My son Ben is constantly suggesting a little make up might help- might, he stresses and I need to drop twenty pounds.

I won’t even start with the wardrobe suggestions he has for me.

The Constitutional Convention will convene today. The president of the senate has promised it will be without a vote- a quick adjournment until June. I am wary of any promise made by a politician.

They are voting on my family. It effects my children.

Jake is currently standing on his chair at the kitchen table, yelling at Ben that he was NOT afraid of the flying monkeys in “Wicked.”

JAKE, sit down.

Ben is ignoring him and singing- loudly- the chorus of one of the songs from the show.

Jake joins in, right back on his feet.


Zachary is rolling on the floor, playing with the dog.

Have you had breakfast yet?


Can you go get breakfast, please?


He continues to pet the dog, not a muscle moving toward a bowl of cereal. If I were an exceptional parent, I would have cooked a hot breakfast for him instead of barking orders from my seat in the morning sun with my computer on my lap.

It will only take fifty- fifty- out of two hundred votes to move the question to ban gay marriage to a popular vote. My son is standing on the chair. Ben has moved on to singing songs from “Suessical the Musical,” his school play.

We’re eight legislators short. 57 will vote to send it to ballot, as of today. A minority sends minorities right to a popular vote.

We will have to be exceptional queers again- all of us. No divorce, no mistakes, no mullets.

Like I said, I’m in deep trouble.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Playing Telephone

Were you really hacked by a porn site? Several people have asked me this morning.

Or a Christian extremist site?

I wish. That would have been fun. Truth is far more dull- no hacking, no Christians, no free porn. Sorry.

Reminds me of the game ‘telephone’ the kids love to play at the dinner table when we have company over. Get twelve, fourteen people sitting in a circle passing a single phrase whispered from one ear to the next- the results are often hilarious.

Of course, Ben likes to change it on purpose.

That’s cheating! I claim.

No it’s not… it’s what I think I heard… he responds coyly.

The boy is going to be an attorney some day. Or a politician.

In fact, he has a point. It happens all the time in the media. Fox media is the best at reporting kind of truths, not really sure but gosh it sounds sensational reporting.

Like all the reporting done around the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Honestly, there was this guy, and he said he heard from this other guy…

Throw in a couple unfamiliar- at least to the American people- photos of trucks rumbling through the desert in a line and- poof- we’re at war.

For the first time since Bush stole the election from Al Gore in 2000, I believe serious accountability is a possibility. The American people are too familiar with the images of trucks rumbling through the desert. Day after day, the same excuses and lies are paraded out in newspapers, on television...

Be patient. This will take time. We know what we're doing.

I, for one, am tired of the Republicans playing telephone and changing the message on purpose.

It is cheating when a child does it.

It is criminal when our elected leaders do it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Big Day

I wrote my first blog for Huffington Post.

I loved the responses. A lesbian Erma Bombeck? I believe I wrote at length earlier in the blog about how much I loved Erma’s style. I read her columns as a kid and wanted to be a writer like her some day. She was so funny and in 700 words or less could cut right to the core.

My favorite response so far has been the one informing me that I am responsible for the entire state going to hell and burning forever. The whole state. All the government officials who voted for gay marriage- everyone was going to hell just so I could get married. If I have so much power, why can’t I get my kids to make their beds in the morning? I pretty much have hellfire coming out my ears when I find the beds, yet again, left in piles of blankets, stuffed animals and pillows after each boy has raced out the door saying, yeah yeah yeah, I’m pretty sure I did...

Pretty sure is never really sure and ranks right up there with the innocent look insisting they brushed their teeth, too.

The writer then admonished me for being so selfish.

I smiled because I felt my mother walk in the room and sit down.

Well, you are, she would have said. But not for that reason. That’s crazy.

I can almost hear her deep laugh.

My mother never accepted Christ as her savior- in fact, when asked by the hospice nurse if she wanted a priest or minister, my mother shouted NO with at least two days worth of life energy to get the point across.

My sister wrote me and told me my mother would have been proud of me today.

I laughed. All I could think of was the reality of my relationship with my mom- the push and pull, back and forth. She would have been furious for months about what I was writing. Furious. How dare I tell the family secrets. And she would have been so proud of my accomplishment. It was how we were with each other. A lot of love, a lot of anger, all stirred into a single glass.

A highball glass.

She would admonish me for putting my kids in what she would have perceived as harms way.

To hell with you, she would snort, but you have to take care of the babies.

They were always her ‘babies.’

I’m not afraid, I would counter. Someone has to stand up. Others have.

Six to eight months later? She would have written a note- in that impossible scribble of hers- and told me how proud she was of me.

It was a big day for the blog today. I find myself sitting with my mother, our full glass.

Laughing about damnation, unmade beds, with an undercurrent of fury pulling us close, and tearing us apart.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Few Random Sunday Morning Thoughts...

Jake came in the other day with a handful of tulips, daffodils and hyacinth.

Here, Mom.

I oooed and ahhhed over them. Put them in a cup. (He had snapped them off fairly close to the top.)

I put the flowers on my desk. He is so sweet, I thought to myself.

Then I realized I don't have any tulips coming up in my yard. Or daffodils.

Uh oh.


Walter learned something about women last night. Don’t ever- EVER- talk about women’s weight.

After a brief back and forth about the leftovers from the Chinese restaurant last night, he made a joking comment about my weight.

He was lectured- loudly- by three hysterical women about American culture, women, and body images. He learned an important lesson. No matter how thin, how fit, how perfect an American woman might look- never say a word about their weight.



I sat at a baseball game yesterday and realized I was woefully underdressed. Clad in shorts, golf shirt and a fleece jacket, I did not match up to my suburban housewife peers. One woman had a lovely pink sweater set with a matching silk scarf tied around her neck, circa 1950.

Allan turned to me and asked where my matching scarf was.

In your closet, I replied.

Between games, we stopped home to have lunch. I had an overwhelming urge to put on my pearls. I resisted.

Only because I could not answer an important question.

Do pearls count as white before Memorial day?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Kentucky Derby

I won.

We always choose a horse, based on the silks the jockey's are wearing, the beauty of the horse because until 5pm on the day of the derby? We've not followed racing for one minute.

The Queen of England was in good company.

We watched the Derby, minus hats and mint juleps.

It was, after all, Cinco de Mayo.

So we had to have Chinese food.

Uh… no, can’t explain.

Except that dinner is always a political event in our house.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I received a book the other day as a gift, “Courting Equality,” text by Patricia Gozemba and Karen Kahn, Photographs by Marilyn Humphries. It’s chronicles the events leading to May 17th, 2004, when gay marriage finally became legal in Massachusetts. I placed it on my coffee table and it’s been in the hands of my kids every day since.

They like looking at the photos- there are a few people in the book the kids know and it’s a treat to see them splashed on a glossy page. Jake, however, goes through each photo and asks me, is this a good guy or bad guy?

And minus two pictures of people from an anti-gay marriage rally, all the photos are of ‘good guys.’

Last night, Jake was flipping through the pictures again.

Good guy, good guy…

Men, women- doesn’t matter to him. Everyone is a ‘guy.’



Am I gay?

I don’t know honey, but I am. Your moms are gay. So are your dads. But for you? That’s something you’ll figure out later in life.




Why is it called gay marriage?

Well, because when two men or two women get married, it’s called gay marriage. When a man and a woman get married, it’s just called marriage.

That’s dumb, he said.

Out of the mouths of babes…

Thursday, May 03, 2007

King Arthur

I read a piece in the New York Times today, called “Young, Gifted and Not Getting into Harvard,” by Michael Winerip. I read the descriptions of young students he has interviewed, ones he knows will not make it into the prestigious school and I shuddered.

One of the descriptions, from Mr. Winerip’s article, of kids who did not get into Harvard:

"…the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake.”

I can’t even tell a joke about how I wished my kids would boil a hot dog from time to time. I can’t. It makes me sad to think at the age of 17 or 18, kids have crammed so much into their lives. When do they get to be kids?

I watched Jake this morning in the back yard. He was playing before it was time to walk to school. I had just finished reading an email from another parent at the school who is helping create a calendar of exception student art to be sold at the art show later in May at the school.

Jake’s picture of sunflowers had been chosen. I responded to the email, promised to sign the release paperwork and added a quick line about how proud I was of him.

As he walked across the backyard, he was carrying a toy shield, a long plastic sled and a hockey stick. He was on a mission, it was clear.

He stopped at the small hill of dirt left over from several holes dug for trees last fall. I noticed at the site was the wheel barrel and several baseball bats. One bat was sticking up in the middle of the dirt mound.

I went out with my camera and asked him what he was doing.

I’m building the sword like King Arthur had.

From a distance, I could not see the ring of smaller stones around the base of the bat holding it still.

The sled and shield were more knight accoutrements. He was working on his own version of the round table.

Very cool, I said to him.

Why are you out here in your pajamas? He asked.

Because I’m crazy.

He nodded and went back to building his creation. After a couple more photos, I returned to the house.

No formal art program for a seven year old would ever teach him to drag out sleds and bats from the garage. He didn’t have to finish practicing two instruments this morning. He ate cheerios, and then proceeded to bug his brothers enough to warrant a small time out before going outside.

I spent the other day obsessed about what camps to send the kids to this summer. Ben has some talent in volleyball; I needed to find a camp to hone his skill. Zachary really wants to become a pitcher in baseball but the other kids on his team are way ahead. A summer camp for baseball might be the perfect place to practice every day of the week. Jake’s skill in art is so impressive but so is his musical ability- after one time seeing the play Wicked he knew all the songs. All of them. Word for word. I considered which theater camp to send him to- Wheelock’s nationally known but far away. Am I going to be in the car all summer? But it’s a great camp…

Part of me? Part of me simply wanted to take them to the beach everyday. Or the swimming pool. And just hang out. Get bored. I could have the kids help me paint the garage and send them out on the truck once or twice with Walter to learn how to pull a few weeds.

I’m afraid if I do that my kids will miss out. Not only will they not go to Harvard, they will be so far behind their peers. When I went to I college and I was faced with many people who had gone to private high school. Their knowledge and abilities were far beyond mine. The books they had read, the things they had tried- and not just the expensive drugs- blew me away. I was awestruck.

And I felt stupid. I knew my public school education did not measure up.

What’s right for my kids? What’s the right balance? How do I keep them eligible for the things they may want to do- like play in an orchestra or on a sports team? In this town, specifically at Newton North High School, they have to start young. They have to work hard or else they won’t get the chance. Most of the kids here have been trained, practiced and drilled since they were very young. Miss a year of soccer and you’re done unless you have an amazing gift.

I’m frozen trying to decide what is the best camp for each of them this summer. My indecision will end up a decision- these choices are usually made in January- all the slots tend to be full by now. I know Ben has two weeks at one camp, Zachary four at another but Jake has none so far.

I took some comfort in reading Winerip’s article today. Like him, I know I don’t want my kids to go to Harvard. Aside from anything negative people have to say about it, it’s simply too close to home. Period. I know I want my kids to go away. Not because I don’t love them or because I don’t want to do their laundry but because I want them to grow up. I want them to become adults and make their own decisions, their own mistakes.

While they are there? They can study the effects of weightlessness in mice, or how to splice genes or develop new mathematical models for economic theory. Because I think that’s what college is about. Intensive study in different areas of interest helping you form who you might want to be in your early adulthood. Not in high school but when they are in college.

Jake finished his sculpture, looked at it a while, then took it apart. I’m not sure what it will become this afternoon. Probably nothing because I know I’ll tell him to pick up his toys and put them away before dinner.

I don’t know the right balance for this talented little boy. I’m sure of that.

I do know, however, no matter what I do, no matter what kind of camps he goes to or programs he attends? If it’s his passion? He’ll do it no matter what.

He did this morning.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Poker Face

My son Zachary is a puzzle to me. He keeps most of his feelings in, rarely shares them unless pushed and will do anything to avoid conflict.

He is the middle child.

He’s smart, capable and does well in school. He doesn’t complain at home and is rarely involved in a fight of any kind with his brothers. He is polite and says all the right things.

We met with his teacher the other day and we all agreed- the boy hoses everyone. He has a great poker face.

Not really in a bad, malicious way- he really does do all his work, he really is kind to others and he really does do what he's told. Usually. Except the time when he signed my name to forms and unlike most third graders, did not admit that he signed my name. He hosed his teacher and he clearly did not think he was going to get caught.

Luckily, he is a third grader and the sheet he signed had to be signed the next week, and the next… he only filled out one week’s worth.

When I confronted him, he ran to the couch and buried his head.

No, I said, you are going to talk to me about this.

A grunt came from between the cushions.


He did, his face red, brow deeply crossed. He has one huge plus- from a parent's perspective- he feels really guilty about doing the wrong thing.

Why didn’t you ask me to sign this?

You were away.

I remembered I was. I was in New York for a conference with Jeanine. Walter and Allan were taking care of the boys.

You could have had either Walter or Allan sign, I said.

Face went right back to being planted in the cushions.

In the moment, I get it. It was Friday morning, his routine shifted, he was in a rush and no one had signed the sheet all week. In honestly, he probably did not do the work assigned.

But then he went sneaky. He grabbed a pencil and tried- hard- to make the signature match.


This one is going to be out drinking beer and driving cars. Or he’s going to try. With those big blue eyes, he knows where the lines are- and when they can be avoided. Not just pushed, but avoided.It's not the first time he's been caught in an out and out lie.

I paused for a moment trying to decide what to say to him. Do I speak for him or do I push to get him to talk, which usually ends up in a disaster, him not talking and me completely frustrated.

I had to go make dinner so my choice was made for me.

Listen, I know that you waited until Friday morning and then didn’t know who to ask. I also know that you probably didn’t do the work-

His face softens with the first part, and becomes indignant with the second but even with those blue eyes? I know he didn’t do the work. He’s hard to read but not impossible.

In the future, I want to see all sheets the minute they come into the house. And when Walter asks you if there is anything else to do, you better tell him the truth. I understand it’s more fun to go out and play metallica man.

The discussion ended, Zachary saved once again from saying more than two words, and I’m left with the uneasy image of a sports car weaving down the road with 16-year-old Zachary behind the wheel.

The teacher assured us as we left the conference, don’t worry. I’m giving his next year teacher a heads up. There will be no learning curve.

She pointed to the very sweet picture of Zachary on the cover of his progress folio. So sweet, to be sure. And so sneaky, too.

I know I’ll keep working on the puzzle. I have to figure out how to get him to talk when he’s having big feelings. It’s not good to keep so much inside.

Besides, it’ll ruin his poker face.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Middle School

You don’t go to the bathroom in middle school.

I was listening to Ben and Zachary talk about Ben’s upcoming transition to middle school this morning. Zachary seemed fairly certain. Ben giggled in agreement.

I never go unless I absolutely have to anyway, Ben said.

I’m trying to remember my middle school. I know by high school I did not use the bathrooms. Too many smokers. Toilets clogged with cigarette butts. Ick.

But I think I used the facilities without fear in middle school.

My baby is going to middle school.

He asked me to order a class of 2007 shirt from his elementary school. I don’t think I had a class of 1981 shirt from high school, let alone whatever year I ‘graduated’ from elementary school.

He’s excited and nervous, running around the house singing songs from his school play on the top of his lungs and clapping at the same time. In between bursts of song, he yells at Jake for… existing.

Poor Jake only wants to sing, dance and clap, too.

Soon, Ben will have a daylong visit at his new school. A chance to ride a bus- he walks every morning the couple blocks now. New routines, big changes- not something that comes easily to Ben.

He’s his mother’s son, to be sure.

I don’t remember being afraid to go to the bathroom in middle school but I do remember a few choice moments on the school bus. I’m guessing the fact that each kid is now armed with a cell phone when they are shipped off to middle school pretty much eliminates any fistfights.

For me it was a mean boy who threw my favorite Snoopy lunch box out the window. When my mother got home, she drove me to the spot where poor snoopy was tossed and we got out and walked up and down the road looking for it. We never found it.

Ben won’t be packing a snoopy lunch box. Or any lunch box. The cafeteria, I have been told, is the peak of the middle school experience. Right now? Almost all of the kids in his class bring their own lunches. Some order but the school is so small, the food is shipped in from the high school. Imagine how tasty a school lunch, shipped several miles through traffic, tastes. Mmmm.

Now he’ll get to go through a line and choose from many different items. He’ll have an account and the lunch ladies will punch in his name and make the debit.

I remember clutching 35, then 50 cents in my hand. I loved the cafeteria food.

My baby is going to middle school.

Thirty-five more days of elementary school. I’m so proud of how Ben pulled himself together this year and started to become a great student. It did take the threat of private school but in the face of a change he did not want to make, he did something about it. He worked hard.

He is so kind and thoughtful, his teacher gushed at the parent teacher conference.

Ben? We all looked at each other.

Oh yes, he really sets a great tone.

It’s always good to know the message is getting through, we agreed. We’re looking forward to seeing it at home someday.

The order for the tee shirt is in and the play rehearsal is this afternoon. Ben is going to middle school. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s turning into a teenager.

And while there is so much happening in his life?

JAKE! He screamed this morning because a folder was lost, a lunch bag not packed, and it was time to leave for school. YOU IDIOT!

Some things will never change