Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mormon Pod Person

My son has been replaced with a Mormon pod person.

Instead of screaming, fighting, and being difficult, he is helpful, thoughtful and kind.

Yesterday, we went shopping.

For four hours.

I hate shopping. The shirt I’m wearing right now came from a store that’s been out of business for ten years. Still fits, still looks good, why shop?

Ben, on the other hand, loves shopping. Window-shopping, internet shopping, grocery shopping- doesn’t matter as long as there is something to look at and something to buy.

Since this is his special time with me, he made the call. Zachary called it “Free Will Time” the other day before he left.

We’ll get to Nova Scotia and then… free will. Maybe we’ll turn left. Or maybe we’ll turn right. Doesn’t matter. We can do what we want, Zachary said and put his hands behind his head.

Ben looked at me yesterday morning and said, Free will, Mom…

Yes. So… what should we do today?

Shop. Let’s go to Kittery.

Kittery is a mecca of outlet stores in the southern most tip of Maine. Ben and I went to the Gap, the almost gap, the kinda gap, the mostly like the gap, the so close you can’t imagine it’s not the gap… I thought I was going to die.

Finally, we went to the Kittery Trading Post. At last… flannel.

Hey, I am a lesbian. I’m required to wear flannel.

We did pass on the gun section.

I don’t think we need any guns… do you? I asked Ben.

No, Ben laughed. Do they have shin guards?

Guns… shin guards… this is Maine. Only in Maine will you find both in a single store. And flannel for you favorite lesbian.

When we got home, after four straight hours of shopping, I collapsed on the couch. Two aspirin and a nap later, I was refreshed. Alive and ready for the world.

While I napped, Ben emptied the dishwasher. Mopped the kitchen floor. Took the tags off all the new clothes- mine included.

When I woke up, he came out and did yard work with me. We trimmed bushes, took a scythe to long grass.

He helped in a cheerful manner.

Mormon pod person, I’m telling you.

I grew up the next town over from Palmyra, New York where Mormonism was invented by Joe Smith. I have a lot of experience with the surreal cheerfulness of missionaries. For the opportunity to try and spread the word of God- or Joe Smith depending on what you believe- they’ll do just about anything. My friend who lives in a rural part of central New York gets them to paint her barn every couple years.

I don’t think Ben was trying to get me to believe anything but… it was strange coming from a kid who whines daily about having to clean up his own breakfast dishes.

My friend Margaret, the Martha Stewart of parenting, wrote to me, “Ahhh, it's the one-on-one time. No competition with his brothers. And, he's growing up.”

I want to wrap my arms around him and not let him get any older. Hold him right here.

Later, we went to a nice restaurant. He ate the anchovies on his Caesar salad.

These are … good. They taste like salt and… vinegar. I like them.

It was a nice enough restaurant I said, Uh… don’t trust any other anchovies. These are special. And I love that you tried them.

The owner/chef came out and I know him a little. Ben gleamed when he came to the table.

I liked the mac and cheese with lobster, Ben reported proudly.

That’s my favorite, Clark nodded. Good choice.

Ben sipped his cherry coke. Took the butter from the dish and placed it on his butter plate instead of right on the bread. He said please and thank you at all the appropriate times.

He ate the freaking anchovies.

Mormon pod person. A missionary has come in and replaced my difficult pre-teen.

Or… Ben has this in him.

My baby is growing up.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mango Loafers

Yesterday, Ben, Zachary and I went to pick up my car. It was in Wellesley.

Wellesley, to someone who isn’t from Boston, is a place where a great deal of the people look frozen in the Preppie Handbook. Not the yuppie one, but the preppie one. A lot of shoes without socks and pants with whales on them. It’s a very wealthy, very white community.

Thus the Volvo dealership.

As we waited to pull our car into the tunnel for service, a woman in the car ahead of us stepped out. While I do not believe it is fair or right to make fun of the clothes people are wearing, this particular outfit stuck out to me because the color of her shoes.

Mango. She had on mango loafers.

In a fit of madness last summer, my friend Louise- yes, Louise, I am using your first name- bought a pair of mango loafers. I have not let her live this down since.

I saw the loafers and matching cardigan tied over her shoulder the way one would tie a sweater over your shoulder if you were in fact wearing mango loafers. I had to call Louise.

I described the outfit to her and suggested that she, too, needed a matching sweater in order to pull the shoes off.

I tried to be quiet but of course the boys heard me in the back seat, although they were poking each other.

Ben looked out and said, I think she’s straight…

Oh, yeah, Zachary added.

I realized, after I got off the phone with a hysterically laughing Louise, that it was the first time I heard my kids identify someone as “straight.”

And clearly by what they were wearing.

But that’s Ben. He is very keyed into fashion.

I know I have identified people at different times by their sexual orientation. If we are going to a party for the gay and lesbian parents group, I tell them that. They often asked before going to an event if it’s a gay one or not.

I remember seeing an interview with a teenage kid of lesbian parents and when asked what the hardest part of growing up was, he said, “Meetings. All the meetings we go to.” I often imagine my kids will say, “Processing. If I have to process one more feeling I’m gonna scream.”

It was curious to me, though, why Ben identified her by her orientation. Is it his own growing awareness? Is he trying to be more ‘adult’ and talk like his parents do? Does he have a sense of ‘gaydar’ already?

Or maybe just a random shout from the backseat because it’s language he’s familiar with.

I don’t know and the moment to … uh… process it was lost.

Unfortunately for Ben, he’s stuck with me all weekend. Jeanine is off with Jake, Walter with Zachary, and Ben and I are together.

Like it or not, he’s going to get a chance to talk about it with me. My guess is that it’s a little of everything.

Maybe I should borrow Louise’s mango loafers…

Thursday, June 28, 2007


My mother’s photo is home.

Thank you.

Not that the person who had it will ever read this, because I know she won’t.

I was emailing with a friend this morning, and we were describing the “crazy” people in our lives. Well, for each of us, it was about one really crazy person. Someone who dug in, took hold and pulled us under.

Sirens, I wrote.

According to Greek mythology, Sirens were part human, part bird and lived on a rocky island. They sang songs so beautiful that sailors passing by couldn't resist getting closer to them. Following the sound of music, the sailors jumped in the water or crashed their boats on the rocks trying to get closer.

It always ended in disaster.

Perfect image.

It’s unfair to call my siren “crazy.” It is simply all she knows how to do. A mesmerizing tale of woe, sadness and tragedy doesn’t pull at everyone. Some people stuff wax in their ears, like Odysseus’s sailors.

I did not. I dove in to get closer.

It is my fault. I knew better. I knew from past experience and went back to the same rocky shore to listen again. I believed it would be different.

My friend and I went back and forth about what it would take to keep from going back. In the end, she wrote, you have to surround yourself with healthy people. Otherwise, you’ll just get lost again.

I have a group of great friends. All of them warned me about the siren. They all took me aside and said, Be careful.

Then, en mass, a group of them gathered around me one weekend last summer and slapped me silly. Actually, they cooked, cleaned, stroked, talked, listened and lined me up, sans Jeanine one afternoon and said, Enough. They called me on what was bordering on seriously abusive all the way around. I was doing serious harm to my wife and to my family.

My siren had already moved on to the next ship on the horizon. I was drowning.

I learned some powerful lessons from the experience. I know I cannot go near that rocky island ever again. Not in a week, not in a year, not ever. I know the songs that tug at me and when I first start to hear them, I must run away.

Sometimes, I wrote my friend, you don’t know they’re crazy until you get close.

And once you’re that close you get burned, she wrote back.

That’s where that healthy circle of friends comes back into the picture. I learned my friends who love me don’t engulf me. They hold me sometimes, and sometimes I hold them.

Well, Walter and I do manage to talk every five minutes but that doesn’t count. He never draws me to the rocks. He is my rock.

And I am his.

I learned it is my responsibility to create balanced relationships. I cannot promise the world to someone who desperately needs the world.

I learned I couldn’t save someone who does not want to save herself.

I learned other people have the choice to give- or to not give. No amount of pleading will make any difference.

I learned I have the right to say no. And if someone threatens to leave because I say no? I am being drawn to the rocks.

Mostly? I learned how amazing my friends are.

The picture is going to go near the scary clown. It will remind me of what I’ve learned.

It will remind me of a beautiful siren.

And the need to say far away.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

No More Dead Kitty Blogs

I've promised more than one person today to be back to my snappy, sarcastic self tomorrow. No more dead kitty blogs.

It's the heat. It's oppressive. I have a little a/c unit in my office but between the dog walking in and out, the kids coming in and out, it doesn't stay very cool. I thought about packing up to go to a not to be named coffee shop with internet access but... alas, I had no car today.

A piece of my prized Volvo wagon came off yesterday. A very loud noise ensued. It is, needless to say, in the shop.

I'd still buy another in a heartbeat- I'll always be a fan after being rear-ended by a car going 30 miles per hour while sitting at a stop light, my two youngest children in the third row seat facing the back completely uninjured and somewhat amused by the event. The car was a wreck. I was a wreck. Everyone was fine.

There's my plug, David. Do I get a free Volvo now?

How about if I promise NOT to tattoo the logo on my butt?

Tomorrow, Ben and I head to Maine. Just the two of us. His plans are beach, lobster, beach, more lobster, more beach... Even as a toddler, he would run run run on the beach and suddenly decide it was time to lay out on a towel. His instinct to "chill" is innate.

We will chill.

And no more dead kitties. Promise.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Angels, No Wings

Okay, my mother dying was easier than this.

Jake, as I expected, has a lot of questions.

So, she has nine lives...

No, honey. That's just a story. Cats do not have nine lives. Only one.

So God picked her up and took all her lives...

No, honey, if there is a God, I don't they would do such a thing.

So the coyote ate her.

Um... I don't know honey. Someone may have her in their house. I only know if she could come home, she would.

So are you sure we aren't going to see her again? Won't we see her in heaven?

Okay, I need to pause here. An atheist raised me. I believe in spirituality but not god. The only church my kids have been to is the Unitarian Universalist church and believe me, no one is talking God there. The bible thumpers are worried my kids are infecting theirs with images of homosexuality by having two moms? Please. There are enough religious symbols in our society to make an atheists grandson talk about... angels.

I asked Jake to draw a picture of Sophia. He drew one with a halo on her head and tears coming out of her eyes.

What's that? I asked.

You know, she's an angel.

What's an angel?

Have you seen any movies mom?

Yes, but you tell me...

An angel is something that's dead. They have a golden thing around their head, wings, and a little harp in their hands.

A harp?

Yes, just a little one.

Why is Sophia sad?

Because she can't come home.

Yeah, I think she is sad.

And she's an angel, he said confidently.


But if God puts her back because she has more lives...

Honey, that's a folk tale. A story. No one has more than one life.

He went back to his drawing. He added a heart with a line through it- one side a little boy crying, one side the cat crying.

I miss her, too, I said.

You found my weakness, he said, bowing his head, pretending to be a superhero cast in the shadow of kryptonite.

No, I just know you loved your kitty.

I have no idea if I've done this well or not. The damn cat may come strolling back tomorrow. Or never again. I'm shocked that when my mother died, the boys all took it in stride, as if that's what happens every day. Grandma was sick, very sick, very old and died.

No talk of angels ever happened.

She was dead. They joke about her often, laughing about her letting Zachary wear her fur coat or the extension fork we bought her for Christmas to steal French fries from their plates more easily. Even right after she died, there was no real sadness.

They knew it was time.

After the picture drawing, Jeanine read a book to Jake. He closed his eyes and leaned against her shoulder, listening to the words. Finally asleep, I carried him up to his bed. Zachary, in the lower bunk, was still awake.

Mom? Is Sophia really not coming back?

I don’t know, honey. I don’t think so.

He curled up into a ball. The lights were off but I’m pretty sure he was crying.

You miss having her curl up with you?

He nodded his head.

She was a great cat to sleep with.

He nodded again.

I rubbed his back for a while before going downstairs.

I took the dog out to the back yard, her last trip of the night. We both stood on the porch a while and looked around.

No angels, no wings.

And definitely not the right time.

Even Harder

Even harder than writing the missing kitty poster is going around the neighborhood putting it up.

Everyone knows there is a fox in the area. A few parents stopped as we were taping signs to telephone poles.

Oh, sorry. Lost kitty? Oh. so sorry. We'll look around, okay?

To me they look pained, as I looked pained, knowing without saying anything in front of Ben that the cat is most likely dead.

Their sincere attempts to cheer him up breaks my heart.

And makes me love my neighborhood even more.

I tried not to cry outside the Dunkin Donuts where we posted a sign. A few people walk by and respond with small sounds of condolences, a 'oooh, poor kitty' and 'good luck finding her.'

When we got home, Ben stood on the back porch and called her again.

I went out and stood with him while he looked over the yard for any signs of movement.

She's probably not coming home, I said.

Is she dead? He quickly asked.

I think so. We've done all we can. If she could get home, she would be here. She loved you guys so much.


We both stood and looked. I went inside and he eventually followed.

Twenty minutes later, he went back out on the porch to call her again.

Even harder still.

Still Missing

Still no cat.

Coming up with what to say isn’t easy. Ben kept saying, She’s dead, last night and then going to the door to call her.

Over and over.

I called the Animal Control office yesterday. I’ll call again today. We’ll make copies of Jake’s poster.

Zachary was at a sleepover last night. He’s going to be heartbroken when he gets home. He loved that cat.

Jake was at Walter and Allan’s house. He will have the most questions.

Chances are someone found her and have her indoors.

It’s doubtful a car hit her.

Or a fox or coyote got her- she was quick and a good hunter herself.

There are miracle stories- animals found weeks later after being caught in a garage or wandering too far from home. But I know better.

I’ll keep calling. Keep looking.

And come up with something to say.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Or should I say, clarification. The picture missing is not “missing.” It is in the hands of someone I gave it to. I never thought at the time I would never see it again. It was a deeply felt gift to a friend who I thought was like a sister to me.

Thus, “Sisters.”

We’re not sisters anymore. Honestly? We never were. It was a hope. A wish. My wish. My hope.

We don’t even talk anymore.

It was a heartfelt gift. I meant it deeply.

Now… I just want it back.

My fault, to be sure. All my fault.

I’ll probably never see it again.

Like my cat.

But I can try…

Missing Kitty

The cat is missing.

She’s an outdoor cat. I told the boys from the beginning that letting a cat go outdoors meant taking a risk. Her howling and constant running for the door made it an easy choice.

She loves being outside. My last cat was an indoor cat, lived 18 years and was mean. She never tried to go outdoors, rather seemed happy being mean and hissing at anyone and everyone.

Sophia is not mean. Cocky, she takes down squirrels larger than her. I’m pretty sure she’s just out on the town and will be back but the boys are asking every five minutes.

Where’s Sophia?

When is she coming home?

Is she dead?

Jake drew a poster for her and put it on the post out front.

The neighbor called. Is Sophia okay? We love that cat.

I hope so. I don’t know. We have a fox living in the neighborhood but the fox isn’t much bigger than her and with her track record, I think I’d see her dragging it home first.

I feel like a terrible mother. I shouldn’t have let the cat out. I shouldn’t have let the kids decide to have her an outdoor cat- they were too young to know. I drove around earlier looking for road kill and found none.

I’ve had enough death and loss. No more.

She’ll come strolling in at about 5pm, when I’m beside myself, eat half a bowl of food and crash in the chair in my office.

I hope.

In the meantime, I have to come up with some way to talk about missing doesn’t necessarily mean dead. She was a happier cat going outside. Try not to worry.

While I worry.

And be grateful we have a dog that doesn’t need a fence because she’s always about three inches from my back heel.


It is almost 8AM.

My kids are still asleep.

I love summer.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

To Boot

From the Word Dectective:

“To boot, perchance to glean.

Dear Word Detective: For as long as I can remember, using the two word phrase "to boot" has meant "something additional," e.g., "He'll not only laugh at you, he'll throw you out to boot!" Where does "to boot" come from? -- Stephen Murphy, via the internet.

Good question. "To boot" is one of those phrases we use constantly (I do, anyway) but rarely think about. And we're certainly living in a "to boot" culture. Rent a car and they throw in airline tickets to boot. Buy home siding and they give you a television to boot. File a tax return and they give you a free ride to the cleaners to boot. That last one may not count, but you know what I mean.

One might assume that "to boot" must have something to do with our normal, pedestrian sort of boot. One would, however, be wrong. The boot you wear on your foot (one of a pair, under optimal conditions) comes from the Old French "bote." The verb "to boot" also comes from this footwear sense, meaning "to kick" or "to kick out." The use of "to boot" meaning "to start the process by which a computer gets itself up and running" harks back to the phrase "to pick oneself up by one's bootstraps," meaning to be self-sufficient and enterprising.

"To boot" meaning "in addition" comes, however, from an entirely different source. The Old English "bot" meant "advantage or good," and came in turn from the root Germanic "bat," meaning "good or useful," which was also the source of our modern "better" and "best." This sense of "boot" as "something good" led to its use, at various points, to mean "a remedy," "a mending" "compensation for wrongs," and even "expiation of sins." There was even a right of "boot," meaning the custom of permitting a tenant to repair his house with lumber from his landlord's forest. And "to do boot" was to do a good deed or render a favor to someone.

Of all these senses, however, only our modern sense of "to boot" as meaning "in addition," which first appeared way back around A.D. 1000, still survives in common usage today.”

Thanks, Debbie. Now I can sleep at night. I was stuck because my trivia goddess is out of town. Who to ask? Where to check?

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The boys are outside playing 4 square.

The breeze is cool.

When the plane took off this morning, I knew, that's it.

Door shut.

My mother's condo is a beautiful place. And it was hers. Totally and completely. Any dreams I had of keeping it was like holding the scarf to my face the other night- a fleeting attempt to keep what is gone.

Time to move forward. We're having game night with the kids and ordering Chinese food. I read an article in the New York Times today- some bullshit about a liberal being against gay marriage that got the blood surging again. Stay tuned- I'll write about it tomorrow.

I'm almost done.

Almost. There is one piece missing- I may never get it back but I'm going to try. It is an actual photograph but it symbolizes something deeper for me. It's about closure. I feel obligated to my mother to be certain everything is where it should be, where she intended it to be. There are things she wanted from me I could never do.

This is something I can.

Then I can to move forward, take my lessons, my scary clown, and the best of what my mother had to offer me.

And shine the way she couldn't quite dream for me but the way I know I can.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lesson Learned

One of the pictures I packed, a lithograph, actually, and sent home today is a beautiful, eerie piece done by a famous artist. It is a piece that my kids associate with Grandma. All the other art I've brought home, they hardly recognize. This one? They know by heart.

They called it Grandma’s scary clown.

It’s abstract but has enough detail to be described, loosely, as a clown.

Grandma, why do you have a scary clown picture? They would ask, over and over.

And she would laugh, over and over and say, with a little sniff, because I like it.

For me, it’s the story behind it that pulls at me. It was one of her first purchases of “fine art” and she was, admittedly, out of her league when she got it. Bought in a gallery at a Florida Mall, she paid what felt like an exorbitant amount of money- almost a thousand dollars- for the lithograph that was, she was told, signed by the artist himself.

When she told me this story, years later, she admitted her naïveté and, most importantly, her lack of knowledge and experience led her to buy what she believed then was a forgery. She wanted to believe she knew what she was doing, she confided, but ultimately did not.

It was one of her “don’t rush, be certain and well informed” lectures.

The picture reminds me of how human she was. Not perfect, as she tried so hard to be, not infallible, but prone to be drawn in by something beautiful and a whisper of greatness and fame.

Just like me.

She still loved it and ultimately, she said, that’s all that really mattered. And she learned something “to boot.”

She always said, “to boot.” I have no idea what that really means. It sounds like being kicked in the ass by something obvious.

When I get home, I’m going to hang it in my office to remind me to be humble about what I know and acknowledge what I don’t. How drawn to a famous name or a piece of beauty I am and to be mindful of the consequences of such adoration.

I will remember her laugh when the boys asked her about the picture.

Maybe it’s a forgery and maybe it’s not. I don’t really want to know because I love the story. I love the lesson.

And, in the end, love it's eerie beauty most of all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Let it Go

Some of you reading this are relatively new readers. I have had a couple people ask, Who is Walter? Who is Allan?

And I point them to the essay in August 2006 “The Dads.”

Today, I’m in Florida at my mother’s condo. She died last October. I wish I could say I had a perfect relationship with her. I can’t. I wish I could say we were close at the end of her life. I can’t. While posts in the fall and over the winter chronicle my movement through grief, anger, sadness, and at times, relief, it is something that comes up and bites me from time to time.

It has been less than a year.

Even through all my anger, I loved my mother very much. For all her anger at me, she loved me, too.

Yesterday, I walked into the condo and one of the first things I did was to go to her closet to open her container of scarves. Sealed in plastic to avoid Florida moisture, it keeps her smell safe.

White diamond perfume and cigarette smoke.

I can put my face in the container and breathe her in, for a moment.

I know she would hate this kind of sentimentality. Get on with it, she’d say. So much to do, don’t forget your own babies.

They need you, she would reprimand me.

She needed me, too, I know.

I realized I couldn’t come back here again. It is her place. And I need to let it go.

My mother is dead.

Allan is with me, to pack a few things. He is an amazing packer. He is also a very calm, quiet presence with whom I can share this place. It makes me sad. It makes me wistful. I emotionally disappear for a while and it’s okay.

I miss my mother.

I want to pack every book from her shelf so I can read them all. I want to know what she read. Some, however, are from me. We passed books back and forth. I guess I can leave those behind.

She loved to read.

I pulled one off the shelf last night and a scarf from her container.

I remembered the night before one of her surgeries a few years ago when I curled up next to her on the bed and rubbed her back. She told me who to call if something happened. I remember how small her shoulders were compared to mine.

I tried to read the book but could only cry.

I could hear the ocean but not her deep laugh.

I have to let go.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Food and Beauty

Chicago is beautiful. Did I mention that before?

Last week while there, we celebrated a ten-year anniversary of employment.

God knows I’ve never made it ten years working for a single organization unless you count taking care of my kids.


We went to Charlie Trotter's.

That was Arkansas Rabbit Loin & Leg with Turnips, Fingerling Potatoes & Mustard Greens.

Four Story Hill Lamb Shoulder with Garlic, Aged Manchego & Parsley.

It was amazing. Seven courses, eight wines, beautiful presentations. I believe a plate of food is a piece of art. Not just how it is presented but the thought behind each flavor.

I spent so many years eating mac and cheese and goldfish crackers. Cut up grapes and sipping on juice boxes.

I don't even like juice.

The Alaskan Black Cod with Picholine Olives, Artichokes & Stinging Nettles.

Did I mention I really liked Chicago?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Some Sold Out!"

Okay, this is it. I’ve now seen it all.

While leafing through a magazine today in the 90-degree heat, I found an ad for a cruise to Alaska. Nice and cool, Alaska is. Hmmm.

It’s a Seminar cruise. Hurry because "Some Categories Already Sold Out!"

Dinner with Richard Dreyfuss. Q and A with Ralph Nader. Cocktails with Katrina vanden Heuvel (Nation’s editor and publisher).



I don’t want cocktails with someone smarter than me telling me how to think. I sit with my kids daily at the dinner table and am informed constantly about how little I know. I don’t want to ask Ralph Nader anything. It may come as a surprise but I find his running mate, Winona La Duke far more interesting and articulate. And don’t even get me started about one more long-winded, Hollywood political wannabe. Just give money to the right causes and be quiet. Starring in a movie does not make you an expert.

I want a cruise offered where they take care of my children and I don’t have to pay extra. Where they match up kids with adults who are normal, interesting people who have the same interests. Someone like Ralph Lauren for Ben- they can talk fashion while sitting by the pool looking fabulous- Bronson Arroyo for Zachary- he wants to play guitar and baseball, too- and Jo Frost, aka “Super Nanny” for Jake- because then I could set up a betting pool on which one would win.

I’d put my money on Jake in a heartbeat. Have you seen the eyes on that kid? Please.

I’m more interested in an all-star line up of chefs than dinner companions. I’ll take Jody Adams of Rialto for a dinner and brunch- her now closed restaurant Red Clay’s brunch still lives large in my mind. Daniel Boulud can come cook some of those foie gras stuffed burgers for lunch one day. We might skip dinner that night. Charlie Trotter, Alice Waters, and Michael Leviton- a fabulous chef who for some strange reason is hidden away in a small restaurant in West Newton called Lumiere- he can cook all the fish dishes and provide the best crème brulee anyone has ever tasted.

The spa should be provided by Canyon Ranch. No one should be allowed to have a single day pass without some form of calming, soothing treatment. I don’t need a gay only cruise, I just want happy people only cruise. Calm people. Preferably all parents of children because I hate having to sit next to someone who looks at me as if I’m mad for having three kids and am intentionally setting out to ruin their moment in time.

I want dancing at night and my children to dance with me like they did when they were two, three years old, minus any insecurity about how stupid their mother looks.

It would help is the boat was stationary. Jeanine and Jake suffer from motion sickness.

I know, too much to ask for.

But please, don’t ever send me on a cruise with a bunch of policy wonks and advertise,

“What’s going on here?
Did you die and go to heaven?
You’re on the Nation’s Alaska Cruise!”

I just described heaven above. That isn’t it.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Jeanine made me promise not to write about the horrible haircuts she gave the boys.

I won't.

Nor will I write about Zachary screeching on the top of his lungs as she tried to even out the mess she made.


Or how, with the sheers out, she asked Ben if he wanted a trim and he went running in the other direction.


I'll just mention that yesterday, Walter came to the rescue. Even Ben let him cut his hair.

I love the simplicity of a boy's hair cut. No blow dryers, no combs and precise scissors. Just a set of sheers and a sheet wrapped around them.

And, of course, a good eye. But I'm not writing about that.

Zachary finished first, and in true Zachary fashion, was supportive of his brothers.

In the end, all three boys have great cuts for the summer. I have to be honest. I eyed those sheers and thought very seriously about shaving mine down to a four. maybe a three. I grabbed a tie and pulled my hair back as tight and as high as I could. I'll never grow it out again, I reminded myself.

The kids have been very clear about how much they like my hair long. I know why. No one calls me "Sir." As a parent trying to move through the suburban world, I have made some compromises about how I look. My butch fantasy of a crew cut, muscle tee, jeep wrangler, black Labrador leaning out the window doesn't fit their image of what "Mom" should look like.

Maybe it's a cop out- a desire to fit in and not have to, once again, explain myself. Part of what I love about the kids elementary school is not having to explain, again, who I am, who Jeanine is, who Walter and Allan are. Everyone knows.

Maybe, deep down, I got sick of being called "Sir," too. Once, when I was nine months pregnant with Ben, Jeanine and I went to the Home Depot. At the checkout, the young clerk handed me back my credit card and said, Here you go, Sir...

I went ballistic. Nine months pregnant and he called me Sir?

Jeanine grabbed my arm. No, honey, he said your name. He said, Here you go, Sara.

How do I balance being true to myself, teaching the boys it's okay to be different, and being respectful that I've already put them out on the edge. Two Moms, two Dads, no divorce. Haven't I made their lives hard enough?

I remember a friend growling "No mullets... no more goddamn lesbians with mullets in the newspapers..." She felt it was important, in any mainstream media campaign, to blend in and not call attention to ourselves. She's no lipstick lesbian but certainly not afraid to pull on a skirt every once in a while. Finding middle ground isn't painful for her.

It is for me. I'd rather have my teeth pulled than wear a dress. Unless it's for a drag routine. Then I'll pull on heels, too.

Like it or not, every time I walk into the school, or the dry cleaner, or the grocery store, I am a role model. I am the lesbian with three boys. I'll never blend in- I'm 5'10" tall and not exactly a shrinking violet. But I don't have a mullet, crew cut or muscle tee. My dog is a golden retriever mix and is more likely to curl up on the floor rather than hang her head out the window. I drive a station wagon.

Oh my god, hand me the sheers!

Seriously, I don't know what I'll do about my hair. The weather is getting warmer. Days at the ocean are meant for swimming and playing- not combing and pulling hair back into a neat knot. I'm not sure how much of my longing for a butch haircut is about being stuck in a suburban life that at times, is less than exciting. My desire to shake things up has been well documented over time.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy watching my boys get their haircuts.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Fathers' Day

The menu:

Assorted cheeses, olives, served with Stoli Doli’s or Boddingtons Pub Ale.

Smokey Corn and Tomato Brushetta

Lobster Risotto

Spinach Salad with Fresh Strawberries, Sweet Granola and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

And a beautiful 1999 Puligny-Montrachet I’ve been saving for just such an occasion.

For dessert?

Carmel Chocolate Truffle Cake.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Walter and Allan.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bread and Water

I hate it when Jeanine walks into the room and says, You gotta back me up on this…

It means she has doled out an unreasonable punishment- she knows it unreasonable but sometimes, once it’s said, it’s said. You have to follow through.

She sent Ben to his room until dinner. It was 2pm.

It’s about 90 degrees out, a beautiful sunny day.

Jeanine’s pretty calm. The shouting didn’t get to her- she handles that very quietly. It was the butt stuck out and slap in her direction, a “kiss my ass” move from our eleven-year-old son that sent her over the edge.

I’m glad she gets sent over the edge occasionally, otherwise it would always just be me.

Like it or not, I’m backing her up.

I feel terrible about his situation but… no one asked him to slap his ass. Boundary testing, as we enter the pre-teen years, is interesting, to say the least.

He does have an air conditioner in the room. He said he was not going to turn it on and “die up here and no one will care…”

A few minutes ago, I took up a glass of ice water and some fresh strawberries. I almost got a slice of dry bread but I knew the humor would be lost on him. He is up there dying, after all.

I opened the door to a icy breeze- not only does he have the air conditioner on, it’s cranked as high as it can go- something that is, big surprise, not allowed. I didn’t say a word, put down his water and strawberries, turned down the a/c and looked at him with raised eyebrows.

A barely audible “thanks mom” was said.

I’ll go up and talk to him in a little while. We’ll talk about choices and how to best express displeasure in a way that will end up with a positive result instead of being sent to his room for four hours. I’ll be clear that I will not change Jeanine’s punishment.

It doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree. You can’t play one of us off the other. Out of earshot, we often disagree about the other’s approach, but never, ever in front of the kids. It’s not about being right. What matters the most are the arms that hold him, keep him safe, stay joined together, no matter how hard he pushes at them.

Maybe I’ll bring him a tin cup and teach him a new song…

Louis Armstrong’s, Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah

Sometimes I'm up and sometimes I'm down
Yes lord, you know sometimes I'm almost to the ground
O yes, Lord, still
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah

You got here before I do
O yes Lord, don't forget to tell all my friends I'm coming too

O yes Lord, still
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Grass is a Little Greener...

*please note, I don't usually do this, but this piece is also on, a little longer but basically the same thing. The title changed to be a little more interesting on the national board.

Today the grass is a little greener. The sun a little warmer. I’m reading the headlines of the newspapers with relief and joy.

We won.

I know there will be more petitions filed. There will be more attacks, more attempts to remove the right for everyone to be married. It will take years, however. And as every year goes by, it is clear that no evil has come from treating everyone with dignity and respect, it will be a harder case to make.

It’s like the guy on the street corner who says the world will end Friday. Friday comes and we’re still here. Then what? Some Friday? A Friday in the future to be determined? The impact of doom and gloom predictions wear thin.

The same number of children will grow up to be homosexual. Being treated fairly under the law does not make someone a homosexual. Maybe? A few more won’t kill themselves.

After the vote, and before the rally, I had to leave.

Gotta get the kids, I laughed.

What a reason to have to leave a historic moment. Kids at school. I felt a huge burden come off my shoulders. I don’t have to write about this ANYMORE, I thought. I can be focused on important things like a crumbling public education system. Voter mobilization so that all voices are heard in our political system. Economic Justice, Health Care access, Global Warming, Women’s rights, girl’s self esteem, literacy- not much point to writing if people can't read.

And Zachary’s playoff baseball game. They took on a team that had beaten them bad twice. If they won? They would be in the championship game on the big boys baseball field, beautifully groomed, with real dugouts and a hot dog stand.

Okay, I like the hot dog stand.

When I went to the game, I walked in, floating about three feet off the ground.

We won.

Jeanine, Walter and I were all at the game. All of the parents, including a few from the other team, came up and said, congratulations. What a great victory.

One mother said to me, I love living in this state. The vote today just made me proud to live here.

She paused, and being a true New Englander added, it just common sense, after all.

I joke about my suburban counterparts often but last night? I deeply appreciated each and every one of them taking the time to acknowledge a historic day for us. Some were a little uncomfortable- saying the word “gay” somehow leads to a sex act in their minds- but they fought through their embarrassment and said something.

Today? I’m proud to live in Massachussets. I’m proud that three quarters- a supermajority- of legislators voted with respect, understanding that equality cannot be based on a populatiry vote. I’m proud to have the first African-American Governor of this state be a man of conviction AND have the guts to follow through (wake up you chicken shit presidential candidates!).

Maybe we live in our own little world here. We like to think we’re years ahead of the rest of the country. Our taxes are reasonable, we have universal health care options and usually a fair dose of common sense.

I’m telling you… the grass is a little greener… the sun a little warmer…

And to top if off? Zachary’s team won a nail biter to go to the championship game.

It doesn't get much better.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


It's unbelieveable. We not only won, but we won big.

For a moment, in the gallery, everyone looked at the House roll call vote. The Senate had done a verbal vote. The House was an electronic vote.

The number 40 came up for the Yea's.

Quick math.

A lot of disbelief... then tears and shouts and people hugging.

It's over.

It's really over.

One down, 49 to go...

More Pictures of the Day

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Baseball or Civil Rights?

The boys are upstairs giggling wildly. Ben is reading the Cat in the Hat to the other two, adding a potty word or two.

Five more days of school. There is no controlling them.

Kevin Youkilis just scored a run on Manny’s base hit. The Sox are catching up.

We went out for dinner tonight. The boys talked about school- such a rare occurrence Jeanine and I sat quietly absorbing it all.

And tomorrow is the vote.

Will I have to fight for my right, again?

Will my right to marry go to a popular vote or will it be done forever.

A friend wrote me, “I’ll be crying if they finally put this puppy to bed.”

More than tears. I cannot even let myself imagine the relief.

Tomorrow, Zachary has a playoff baseball game. Jake, his final game. Ben, progress folio sharing.

I could be knee deep in an intense battle for civil rights by tomorrow afternoon.

Right now? I have to go tuck the kids in before the giggles get too rambunctious.

And hold my breath until tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Two More Days

While Jake played the lead character in “John Henry” today in the first grade play- he pulled off a moving and dramatic death scene with a convincing drop to the floor- I couldn’t help but think about what was going to happen.

In two days, there will be a vote. There is a slight chance of another postponement but in all probability, a vote to send the issue of gay marriage to the ballot in Massachusetts in 2008 will be held.

All it takes is 50 out of 200 votes to send it.


The four of us- Walter, Allan, Jeanine and I- sat in the hallway after the play and went through Jake’s progress folio- a binder filled with his accomplishments from the year.

Jake beamed when the principal walked by and said, My goodness! Aren’t you a lucky boy!

I thought about how Jake had jumped down from the raised pulpit at the wedding ceremony. We had asked Walter and Allan to share in the joy and responsibility of being parents. They accepted. All five of us went to light a candle, showing our new, single family.

The minister then offered the new family to the guests. Everyone clapped. The boys went to sit back down.

Jake was 4 ½ years old and dutifully carried our rings down the aisle. He stood stone serious when the minister was talking and when the four adults read their pledges to the kids. But in the end? He leapt off the stage, to the delight of the crowd.

It was not part of the rehearsal. I don't think the drop to the floor today was part of the rehearsal either.

I never thought I would ever be treated fairly in this society. I never thought marriage was ever going to be a possibility. But it is. I was able to get married.

And by the powers invested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the minister said, while everyone applauded wildly, I now pronounce you legally married.

Now a mere 50 people can take that all away.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Good News, Bad News

I’ve been faced with one of those, good news, and bad news kind of days.

The good news? I’m home and the kids have not fought once since I walked in the door yesterday.

The bad news? I counted up the days on the calendar today and realized I’ve been bleeding, heavily mostly, for 22 days.

The good news? If I were a man, I’d be dead.

The bad news? I’m not, so I’m exhausted.

The good news? My doctor saw me today, and she’s not afraid of the health insurance rules. She will do what is right, not what is recommended by accountants.

The bad news? She put me on heavy doses of birth control to try and stop the bleeding. Please understand, I am a lesbian. Always have been. I’ve never needed birth control. I’ve never taken it. Not only do I get to try it for the first time? I have to take it in huge quantities.

So… what’s that going to do to me? I asked.

She smiled. Well… it’s going to make you feel like you’re pregnant again. It’s all the same hormones but in huge amounts.


The good news? I get to take all the anti-nausea drugs I want because I am not pregnant. And I don’t remember feeling that ill when I was pregnant… I remember feeling weepy. It’s been reported I was somewhat “irrational.”

That will happen, too, my doctor said and shrugged.

Easy for her to shrug, she doesn’t have to live with me.

The bad news? After I finally stop bleeding, I have to do a series of tests to eliminate all possibilities other than perimenopause.

The good news? My doctor said is, it’s probably just that. A little early but… you’re old enough.

The bad news? I have to take all those tests pumped up on enough estrogen to warrant a not guilty by reason of insanity plea to pretty much anything I do. I’ve described myself as high strung but… I’m being gentle.

So I feel the need to issue a blog warning. I am not going to be normal for the next few weeks. I have already asked my good friend to be sure I DO NOT MAKE ANY DECISIONS in this time period.

I can see me blubbering away, thinking having another baby would be a good idea. Trust me, it’s not.

I may need to use old posts from last summer to fill some days. Not only will I be hysterical, weepy and throwing up, I’m going to be bleeding even more.

I’ll try to stay current. I’ll try to be present and describe what it’s like. How my world changes, knowing it’s due to the hormones.

The good news? It’s like going down pregnancy memory lane, if ever so briefly, once again. I remember the intense rush of knowing my body was trying to create a new life. I remember being excited and terrified. I was going to be a mother.

The bad news? I’m not pregnant. There could be something wrong. (Oy. I’m hysterical without the drugs!)

And I am a mother. Of three young boys.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I Miss My Kids

I’ve been away since Wednesday and I miss them so much.

I told Zachary on the phone yesterday I was going to hug him and kiss him and hug him again…

I don’t think so, he said.

I really miss you, I said.

Uh huh… here, talk to Ben.

Ben liked the idea that I missed him. He settled into wiser, older role.

It’s okay, Mom. You’ll be home tomorrow.

And I’m going to hug you and kiss you and hug you again…

I don’t think so, he said.

Jake wasn’t there. HE would have said he actually missed me, too and would have said, okay to the hugging and kissing. He’s not old enough to know he can say YUCK.

Whatever I’ve planned for this week will be canceled. I can’t wait to sit at the next baseball game and watch Jake or Zachary play. I can’t wait to see Jake’s play this week, Ben’s play, and to go through progress-folios for each one of them.

To hang with them. Have life slow down again, shifting gears to summer speed- slow, easy with lots of Red Sox games to watch.

I miss my kids.

I can’t wait to get home.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Send in the Clowns

Today, Governor Deval Patrick marched in the Gay Pride parade, the first governor EVER to walk in a Boston Gay Pride parade.

On June 14th, a decision will be made about whether or not to let the majority vote on a minority’s right.

A few weeks ago, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts went out on a political limb to say the obvious. A ballot question to ban gay marriage in our state will be counterproductive and in fact, create a “circus atmosphere.” (AP Press, 5/10/07)

The man knows a little bit about circus atmospheres having been elected the first African-American governor of this state; he’s been under fire ever since for searing issues like his office drape choice and a distinct unwillingness to sell himself out for the most promised votes. He has radical ideas like we have to change the funding formula for public education and gay marriage is a said and done deal.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, a group created to save society from crumbling under a homosexual agenda, called Patrick's comments "over the top."

"I can't imagine having a ballot question that would turn the state into a circus and have lawmakers unable to do their job," he said.

Really, Kris?

Massachusetts is the only state in the NATION that recognizes gay marriage. The chance to weigh in on a topic hotter than abortion, easier to pose about than the war, and guaranteed to whip people into a frenzy? A room of fifth graders with a box of donuts would be more respectful.

Last I checked, all the Republican contenders for President made very clear how much they were against gay marriage. It was a debate point they all scored a slam-dunk on the other night in their debate.

If you were running for President and people were a little suspect about your qualifications- hello Rudy Giuliani?- and no relevant experience on a international level except to say he took a cab in New York City- wouldn’t you rather hold up a big sign saying, I’M AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE.

Mr. Giuliani, how would you address North Korea’s continued saber rattling and threats to test a nuclear weapon?

Did I mention I am clearly against gay marriage?

Uh… okay. What about the increasingly high level of US debt held by China? Considering the lack of international cooperation continually shown by China- what would you do if they suddenly decided to change their currency value, sending the dollar into a tailspin?

Marriage should be a man and woman. That’s it. Between the little wife and I? We’ve gone through enough marriages to forget one or two. But here we are, one man, one woman, and a lot of alimony. That’s what keeps the economy strong.

No, Kris Mineau assures us Governor Patrick is wrong. There will be no circus in an all out, no incumbent running presidential election year. Not a single dime of outside money funding a campaign to eliminate what your own site ( calls,

“A publicly proclaimed goal of same-sex marriage activists is to pursue moral and legal legitimacy for homosexuality by having same-sex "marriage" legalized throughout the United States.”

C’mon, Kris? You mean James Dobson and his cronies won’t step a foot on Massachusetts soil to warn how same sex marriage leads to “marriage between daddies and little girls ... between a man and his donkey” (quote from

I worry about someone who thinks in those terms. A man and his donkey? It’s not something that has ever crossed my mind. Ever. Why does it cross his?

During the ballot question debate, Mineau promises no deflection from the business of government. All will be quiet, with legislators focused on budgets, policy and constituents needs. Yeah. Sure. While Presidential candidates stand with the golden dome of the state house in the background proclaiming their opposition to gay marriage, our state reps and senators will be working, working, working.

Have you ever witnessed a politician turning down free airtime?

I can see it now. Democrats proclaiming a poll defined love for all people but society’s need to have only a man and woman allowed to get divorced. It’s a lot easier than explaining past votes supporting the war in Iraq until those very same polls told them they should stop.

The Republicans? We’ve already heard them weigh in on this. Watching them defend themselves from each other’s attacks as “pro-gay” will require popcorn and a strong drink.

Rudi? The appearances in drag you made? Think of Dukakis in the tank. You’re history. Try to claim a little dignity and continue the very progressive policies you had as a Mayor. If nothing else, you’ll be able to look Howard Koeppel and Mark Hsiao in the eye.

Ultimately? Governor Patrick is right. It will be a circus indeed.

With plenty of clowns.

Friday, June 08, 2007


This is a great city.

Too bad I spent the entire day in a meeting room with no windows.

Rules, old family rules, were broken yesterday. Some things changed. Some things stayed the same. It has not settled in yet how it feels, what fits, what does not. I only know it was hard work, filled with tense moments and… and even some humor.

In the meantime, my boys are having a delightful time with their dads. It’s man heaven there. I heard Zachary this morning, in the background while I spoke with Walter, singing loud songs.

He loves his dads.

I don’t let them bellow out loud songs at 7AM. Sure, it’s cute once or twice, but every morning? It gets old fast.

There was a lengthy discussion last night about hygiene. It’s one thing to have your mom yell at you to use soap when you take a shower- what do I know- it’s another to have your dad tell you.

Today? I have another long day in meetings. No windows.

More rules to break.

Funny, it seems my kids are doing the same thing…

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dear Dr. Laura: So What’s a Mother to do?

Dear Dr. Laura:

I wanted to send you a note to offer my condolences. I understand Deryk is in trouble, yet again, posting “cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets. (

Kids these days. They have no appreciation for what we do as parents. I mean he didn’t experience your divorce or the fact that you and Lewis Bishop were having an affair or even the years you shacked up together.

I guess that’s what gave you the idea to tell young women to keep their legs together before marriage. Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?

Even after all you did for him, Deryk turned around and started behaving badly.

But you know all about that, don’t you. “Boys are slobs… One reason is that mothers let them get away with it. Mothers are notorious for spoiling male children.” ( There goes that hindsight thing again.

I know you have been very clear about all the things you have to do to be a good parent. And even after all your efforts, young Deryk got busted in Fayetteville in 2005 for underage drinking. Which was on the heels of his deciding to open up a Hookah Bar ( in 2004. The only reason he did that was to “pick up chicks.”

I also know you won’t be rushing to his defense any time soon. “The worst thing in the world is a defensive my-kid-can’t-do-anything-wrong parent.” ( You have the guts to say it like it is. “If you can't handle the baggage, you'll have to get out of the baggage room,” right? Leave that silly ol’ room and go right back to the radio station to help other less sensible parents, like myself.

I understand how hard it is to raise boys. I’m raising three of them and at times, the smell of their shoes alone is enough to make me weak and prone to inappropriate mothering. Mine aren’t old enough to open a Hookah Bar. I imagine their rebellion will be more along the lines of dating cheerleaders and voting Republican.

But Dr. Laura, you have to remember, at least he’s not gay like Beverly LaHaye’s boy, Lee. How can she stand running the Concerned Women for America with him as CFO checking out all the strapping young male accountants? Or Phyllis Schlafley’s boy. Sure, he works for her, too, makes Roy Cohen look like a liberal but you know he’s never giving her grandchildren. Even though Deryk’s written “godless crazy people like me” have become “a generation of apathetic killers,” he’s straight.

There is always a little ray of sunshine even on the darkest days. He could have grown up to be a peace loving, sandal wearing, hippie. Godless killer isn’t so bad.

The best thing you can do is to ignore the press. After all, just a week ago you touted, “We raised our son to be a warrior.” (( Even if that means kicking a woman in the head at the 2004 Republican convention or doing “nasty things to people that deserve it…. And some that don’t.” (( Clearly, he is a warrior. Maybe not a noble, play by the rules kind of guy, but he’s putting the hurt on someone.

In the meantime, find a minority group to go after or rip into Hillary Clinton. Oh, wait, unlike you, she stayed married. Attack her for bad polyester fashion. Something. It’ll make you feel better.

And don’t worry about that “I am my kid’s mom,” stuff. We all make mistakes from time to time. That whole ‘glass houses’ proverb is way overrated.

Besides, with Deryk’s record so far? I’m sure he’ll be up to something else.


In Sympathy,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mom's Away

I’m getting ready to leave- I’m off to Chicago for the next few days for a family meeting.

I haven’t written about this for a reason. I will when I get back.

This morning, I asked the boys if they will miss me. Silly question, but I couldn’t resist.

Ah… no, was the trio’s response.

Then Ben came downstairs lugging a huge basket of dirty laundry.

Ben? I’m going away. I’m not doing laundry before I go away.

A stunned look came across his face.

What about my uniform? Zachary asked.

I don’t have any socks, Jake complained.

I guess you will miss me after all.


Mom’s away. Off to break some rules.

I can’t wait to hear them snap like knuckles being cracked one by one.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

White Male Privilege vs. Lesbian Mother

My favorite line from my kids. “I didn’t know.”

Ben! Take your shoes off the counter!

GEEZE, MOM, I didn’t know!

Zachary, taking the trash out means all the trash. Not just one bag.

I didn’t know!

Jake, making your bed means… making it. At least pull up the comforter!

I didn’t know!

I’m raising a tribe of Republicans. No accountability and I swear, they secretly high five when they get away with leaving the dishes on the kitchen table instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

This morning, Jeanine found three crumpled soda cans by their computer in the family room. Ever since I found gum stuck to the 100% wool, dry clean only throw blanket that had migrated from the living room to the family room, no food, beverages or gum has been allowed.

Jeanine brought them all to the back room.

She pointed at the cans.

Ben was the first- I didn’t know!

This drives Jeanine nuts. As a very linear thinker, she knows that she has said, no food, beverages or gum in the family room, the next logical step is, no food, beverages or gum in the room. One should not have to repeat the same step over and over. Or take a detour down a path that will not lead anywhere but trouble.

Were you not listening when I told you no?

Yes, I heard you but…

So you did hear me.

But I didn’t know!

Didn’t know what? That I meant it?

The other two stayed very quiet. They’ll let their guide lead them to salvation or big trouble. They trust him. A good friend of mine once asked Ben if he was going to be a lawyer- she’s one- because he was a brash little seven year old negotiating with her to get her son out of time out. Are you his attorney? She asked. Ben kept pleading his case with a young child’s logic.

Now it’s a pre-teen’s logic. No responsibility, no accountability and really, you bought the soda so it’s your fault.

Why should my kids be any different than their President, George Bush who claimed Mission accomplished in 2003. Oops. He has said, well, I didn’t know. I thought it was accomplished. It seemed like the war was almost over and almost does count in horseshoes and hand grenades. Doesn’t really matter all those pesky reports kept coming in saying it wasn’t nearly over, not even close. It’s not my fault I didn’t listen. Besides, I really wanted to wear the flight suit. So cool.

Or Andrew Speaker who felt like it was his right to possibly infect an entire airplane of people with TB because well… he didn’t know. Sure, he was told but he didn’t know know. He had only been told once. Firmly. Absolutely do not get on a plane. Does that mean no or don’t cough?

Maybe they should hire Ben.

Why is it that privileged, white men seem to think they can do whatever they want or see fit to do, regardless of consequences? Whether it’s Bush, or Mr. Speaker or the old guy who insists on waiving you through an intersection even though it goes against every traffic rule written simply because he wants to, I am amazed by the lack of awareness for anyone but themselves.

And when you catch them at it, with soda cans piled on the table, they respond by saying, well… I didn’t know. It’s not my fault.

I’m annoyed when my children dodge and maneuver to clear their good names of any wrongdoing. I would so much rather they say, Yeah, I knew. Did it anyway. Sorry. It was easier, it was faster, and you weren’t looking. While Jeanine engages in a linear argument with them, retracing logical steps, I want something different. I want my privileged white males to accept responsibility.

It’s not my fault you let us have soda, Ben finally retorts, hands on hips, very defiant.

I step in before Jeanine blows. Take the cans to the recycling, I said, NOW. Go.

I knew it was going to end up in the ultimate deflection- it’s our fault for giving birth in the first place.

They, after all, didn’t know they were going to be born.

Maybe we should call Barbara. And Andrew Speaker’s mother.

I did know. It was my fault. Being the radical, lesbian suburban mother I am, I will take responsibility. And desperately try to teach them to do the same. I’m fighting against a societal norm and I find myself frustrated by the lack of proper role models in the media.

White male privilege versus lesbian mom- who do you think will win?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Goodbye to a Mentor and a Friend

I have to say goodbye to a coworker tonight. Someone with whom I have shared the fight to better public education in Massachusetts and New York State for the last six years through policy changes, leadership development and good old fashion grass roots organizing.

An amazing woman who is smart, strategic, and thoughtful. A woman I admire and look up to. Someone who beat a great many odds to be in the place she is today, although she would say it was hard work and God’s blessing.

I don’t have the same faith in God but I do have faith in fate. I do believe things happen for a reason. I’m not sure what she’s taken from meeting a bossy, opinionated lesbian like myself, but I know what I took from her.

She came into my life and saw me as smart and capable.

I saw myself as a mother of three young boys, desperately trying to keep up with the laundry.

She sought out and listened to my opinion. She squeezed out of me all the knowledge I had about the Upstate New York environment; from the years I spent as a funder in the area even though I was quick to shrug my shoulders, completely underestimating myself as just a housewife.

In turn, she shared hysterical stories about her boys and how she managed to get her way in a powerful, yet subtle way. I still use the one about swearing- you can swear anywhere, she told her son who had been caught using the “f” word, just not in front of me. Or your father. Or anyone at church. Or anyone at school, or the neighbors… the list went on and she finished by saying, as long as you do that, you go ahead and say those words all you want.

When my son was in trouble at school, she offered me advice from her experience not only as a former principal but also as a parent who went in and fought for her kids. I defended my son and maintained a positive relationship with the principal. It was good advice.

And then there was the self-improvement time. An hour after dinner, every night, her kids had to do homework. If they had no homework? It was self-improvement time. She stood firm and made her boys work every night. I stopped letting my kids watch TV at night and we now have self-improvement time, too. Unless the Red Sox are on.

She was willing to call out a problem despite the fact that so many people said, you can’t do that. You can’t say it that way.

She did. She said Black Boys in America are suffering in the pubic school systems and something must be done. She didn’t talk about all children of color or African-American boys. She took a stand with powerful words, recognizing the power of those words.

I don’t know what words to say to her tonight to let her know how deeply moved I was personally to watch her stand up and say, no, this is what I believe. I watched her and am doing the same in my own community. Because if I don’t, who will? She followed her passion, the voice inside saying this must be done, this must be said.
I don’t know what words to say to let her know how proud I am to be her friend. Because somewhere along the line over these last six years, we became friends.

The only consolation is that I know we will continue to work together. I still have much to learn from a woman so passionate about her community. And I know we will remain friends. She can run all the way out to Nebraska and New Orleans but our paths will continue to meet.

Because she knows I’m not just a housewife. And I know, given time, her passion and drive to protect the most vulnerable children, will make her a national leader.

But tonight? Our roles will forever shift. I have to acknowledge that. I don’t know how I’ll say goodbye, but I will.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Heat, Boredom and Collared Shirts, part two

Allan called this morning.

How was the party? he asked Ben.

It was awesome, Ben reported. There were water guns, and hoses and kiddie pools. Very cool.

I stood in the kitchen listening to him in a stunned silence. It was awesome? The boy who hung on my shoulder asking over and over when it was time to go home had a fabulous time.

I can't even being to explain this.

I'm not even going to try.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Heat, Boredom and Collared Shirts

We went to a picnic this afternoon. It was thrown by one of Jeanine’s co-workers out in Acton. Kids dashed in and out of sprinklers trying to keep the unbearable heat at bay.

Maybe it’s always hot in June but today was miserable. Wasn’t it just snowing, early May?

This was important for Jeanine. She loves Berklee College of Music, always has loved Berklee. I’m not saying this because I met her boss tonight and his wife or because people at her work read my blog. The reality is when she had the opportunity to create a program from scratch and be the big wig, she did but…she never left Berklee. When the program was set up, she left, pleased and ready to go back “home.”

A classical musician in a sea of jazzers and rockers. Home, indeed.

She wanted to show off her kids and her wife. She made the boys all put on collared shirts. She’s out of her mind if she wants the boys to be good wearing collared shirts at a PICNIC. I did not do the enormous eye roll in front of the children. But I did do an enormous eye roll.

95 degrees, 100% humidity and… collared shirts?

Yes, I had on mine, too.

Having been to enough parties where they know we are trying to put our best face forward, they took total advantage of the situation. Zachary refused to eat anything but chocolate, Jake ended up soaked and ignoring requests to meet people, and Ben… Ben was bored.

Soooo bored. Bored beyond belief. Bored to the point of death.

We walked in and before we had crossed into the yard, he asked, When are we leaving?

I ignored him.

He clung onto my arm and in the bazillion degree plus weather, I tried to remain calm. Earlier in the day, with my well known parental counterparts at the baseball game, when he tried to sit on me, all the other parents echoed my shriek of NO.

Heat and humidity, said one mom, means an extra foot of personal space.

Two! I shot back.

We laughed and the kids knew they were outnumbered.

But it was Jeanine’s party and I wanted to come across as a calm parent- this is something my baseball pals know better than to believe- and the boys knew it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Aside from drawing blood, they were going to get away with whatever they wanted.

Finally, Ben left my side and wandered- bored- through the party. I was talking to one woman who said, oh, don’t the kids look like they are having so much fun…

And the younger ones did.

I guess there are no teenagers here, she laughed, I don’t see anyone walking around bored.

Oh, my son is right over there.

She was surprised the bored look could start so early, at a mere eleven years old.

As if on cue, he walked over, put his head on my sweating shoulder and said, Mom? When are we leaving?

I ignored him again, merely rubbing his head.

Then, when no one was looking, I poured cold water down the back of his shirt. He eyed me, MOM.

I carved out my boundary- I would pour water on him regardless of who I was talking to at the moment. Stop pushing.

Eventually, the heat became too unbearable and unwilling to grab the hose from one of the kids, I gave Jeanine the okay, I’m a puddle need to go cue.

Which is me saying, okay, I’m a puddle, I need to go.

The boys all said goodbye, politely, and Jeanine thanked me when we got home.

You were perfect. The lovely wife.

Uh… thanks.

It's still unbearable hot.

And the boys are still in their sweaty, wet collared shirts.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lost Opportunity

I’ve become one of those parents.

One that stands in line at the grocery store and dispenses free, unasked for advice.

I couldn’t help myself, either.

Standing in line at Costco this morning, there was an adorable little baby girl, perhaps seven or eight months old. Her mother was wiping away the remnants of a teething cookie off her face.

First, I had to make the baby smile and laugh. It drives my kids nuts when I do this in a restaurant. I can’t help it. I love babies. I can get almost any baby to smile at me. I remember when Ben was a toddler and Zachary was a baby, I brought a Big Bird puppet to a restaurant. Hey, I wanted to eat out, I had no desire to have the entire restaurant pass a petition around to remove the screaming baby, so I brought a Big Bird puppet. Not only did I have my kids quiet with my silly rendition of a made up song about clapping, I had half the adults eating it up, too.

I’d do anything for a restaurant with linen napkins and someone asking if I want fresh ground pepper on my salad. How much Mac and cheese can one eat?

So I stood in line and had the baby squealing in delight. The mother turned around and eyed me suspiciously- who is this big dyke making goo-goo eyes at my baby?

I said, She’s such a beautiful little girl.

She forced a smile.

I have three boys, I added. I can never keep them clean.

And just like the baby, she was all mine. The line was long and we chatted about diaper brands, how to best transport wipes and the mess teething cookies make.

Frozen bagels, I said. Forget about the cookies- they’re expensive and mix them with juice in the hot summer? You haven’t seen a mess yet.

Her eyes grew wide. This was her first child. She had that look I remember having anytime anyone offered advice. Please, oh please, tell me the secrets of parenting!

Cold washcloths are good, too, but a bagel doesn’t seem to get thrown away as quickly.

At this point, I went to one line and she went to another. The little girl still squealed to get my attention and smile back. This, too, bothers my boys because once I get the baby hooked well… the baby is hooked.

MOM, do you HAVE to talk to EVERY baby in the world? Ben asks me, exasperated.

Um… yes. I think I do.

As I pushed my cart out to the car, I realized I’ve crossed some line into a different place as a parent. It’s like I’ve graduated from beginner’s school and am now at the intermediate level- I can give advice to people with really small babies. After three of them, I know what works, I know what doesn’t, and I know what works for one may or may not work for another. I know you can put a baby in a room and watch every adult project their own needs on it- too hot, too cold, hungry, wants to be held but rarely does anyone pick up on the diaper change needed or offer to do it.

I still get the look of awe when a mother describes filling out college essays or sending their baby off on their first prom date. I listen closely for any and all sage advice on how to handle teenage driving. Entering motherhood was like entering a special sorority, where anywhere, at any time, you could meet up and share something as precious as your child with a complete stranger.

I hated sororities when I was in college. There was no place for a big dyke like myself to fit in, although I did get asked to rush one. I think it was only because a few of the sister’s were looking for someone to fool around with on the side while their boyfriends were busy doing some serious fraternity business, like drinking until they passed out.

But becoming a mother did make me part of a larger group of women. And even though, for a moment, that woman turned around and only saw a big dyke, the minute we started talking baby stuff, the minute I identified myself as a parent- and my cart contents of chips, sandwich meats, and juice boxes clearly verified my claim- we chatted away. For a brief moment, it wasn’t about being gay or straight, it was about being moms.

I did not say I was a lesbian. Or that I had a wife. I could have easily told the story about the time Jeanine put the diaper on backwards and what a mess it made. I stayed invisible. It was safe. Easy.

On all days, family pride day, I stayed quiet.

I see, now, what challenges the next level of parenting are for me. Not only to be prepared for the odor that emit from three boys size 12 shoes, but to out myself standing in line at Costco. To find a way, in my sharing of wisdom, to let that woman know I am a mom, I have three boys, I know I know I know what its like to go through teething.

And I am a big dyke, too.

Because for all the babies I can make giggle and smile, it’s a lost opportunity if I don’t take that extra step, and wave the rainbow flag. To make sure I'm seen for who I am. All of who I am.