Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One for Me, One for You...

Standing on the brink of my marriage left me with one question:

How do I live my life without my kids?

I sat at my desk, going through bills and thinking about how the hell do you rip apart a life that has been built together for 16 years? It’s like pulling apart fiberglass. I’d open a drawer and realize I had birthday cards sent to her because I’m the one who goes through the mail everyday.

Do we have to go through every box of photos and decide who gets what?

What about Ben’s outfit he came home from the hospital in after he was born? Or Zachary’s? Or Jake’s?

Or the three tiny sleepers I kept because they were so cute and all three wore- miraculously never puked or pooped on. One for you, one for me…

I’ve been a stay at home mom with my kids for years. I did go back to work a couple years ago, but for the most part, I’ve been at home. When my job took too much out of me, I left. (That is the WAY simple version of a very complicated situation.) I love being home when my kids get home. I love picking them up at school. It is my world.

I don’t like doing the homework, though. The math is over my head.

Suddenly, I’m looking at a divided household. If they have math homework they have to go to Jeanine’s house? And who will cook them dinner and do their laundry? How many houses will these kids end up with because, after all, there is Walter and Allan’s house, too?

I was down the road, around the bend and already trying to figure out seating arrangements at each of the kids’ weddings- four moms? Two dads? Would we even talk to each other?

I was alone in my house- a time that is usually precious to me and all I could think about was my family was over?


At the peak of her anger, Jeanine said to me, You know I will have the kids half the time.

I said, Yes. I know. You are their mother.

I didn’t know how it would look or what arrangements we would make but I did know they would be with her half the time. And Walter and Allan would have their time. My family shattered into tiny slivers of time here, there. We would not be whole anymore.

No more family dinners on Sunday nights to go through the sign language book and learn a couple new signs. Or decide where the swearing jar money would be donated. What would holidays look like?

I thought about a friend of Ben’s whose parents got divorced. He never sees her anymore because there is no time. I never understood until that moment why the parents clung so tightly to their moments with her.

I do now.

It was more than having my heart ripped out. It was losing the only stability I have ever had in my life.

So I begged.

Didn’t work. To be honest? The begging was kind of passive aggressive. I’m not good at begging.

I thought about something a friend wrote me earlier-

"Sometimes when it hurts so much I trace the feeling back through its own genealogy so I can understand it may not all be about the present. Old nerves re-exposed, like the crown fell off."

I was angry, hurt and abandoned. My root? I am three weeks old and given up for adoption. It runs deep.

Where was Jeanine? What was the path, the root? I didn’t know.

I stopped thinking about how it would be to tear my family apart. Against every bone in my body, I sat still.

And waited.

We had dinner for Ben- his farewell dinner before going to farm camp had to be at a restaurant in a mall- with just Walter, Jeanine and myself. Jake was off with Allan on a special trip and Zachary still off at his camp.

Cease fire called. Ben comes first. The mall picked, the restaurant chosen, we went out.

We snipped a little, here and there, but for the most part, Ben was the focus.

I kept looking around the table and thinking, this is my family. I don’t want it to end. I can’t let it end.

I think Jeanine was feeling the same thing. When we got home, she did not retire to her office to work. We all played video games.

(Yes, we both love playing video games as much, if not more, than the kids.)

It was our home, our kid, and our world.

I could rebuild my life. I could start over again. I have shouldered so much, this would not kill me. I would be able to figure out the place settings at the weddings and I would make it work for my kids.

I knew I could.

I didn’t want to. Our lives are woven together for a reason. We are a family.

I can’t promise this is going to work or that all of what is on the table can be resolved.

On Sunday night? We both knew we needed to try again. We had to retrace our old wounds and stop pointing fingers. We were both hurt and angry but it was no place to decide about the rest of our lives.

I don’t want to learn how to live without my kids. Neither does she. Some where deep inside? We don’t want to learn how to live without each other, either.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Marriage Sucks

Marriage sucks.

Not a little, but a lot.

There are times I hate being married. This is one. The struggle to have two people work together and still love each other after 16 years is almost impossible.

Two weeks ago, I woke up one morning and my wife asked me for a separation. No, not asked, demanded. She was furious with me. Done. Over.

I thought we were stable, good. Not great, but good. I was shocked.

After a little while, I sat with her and said, C’mon. We can do this. We can figure it out. I know you’re upset but… we’ve done harder things together.

For a moment, she relented but after a day? She was back to demanding a separation. Done. Over. Finished. So over done and finished? She was house hunting.

I felt like someone had reached down my throat and ripped my heart out. Over? We have three kids, sixteen years together… we’ve worked so hard to create a life together. Two nights before, she had woken me up to make love with her.

We were done?

I immediately went into a narcissistic tailspin. How could she do this to me? What? I’m not good enough? I haven’t tried hard enough? Sure, I can be a jerk but I have been trying to learn new ways of connecting…

Just a little self-absorbed.

On top of it? The rug had been pulled out from under me- again. It made me tired. No, it was so exhausting; I finally shrugged and said, Ok. It’s over. What do we do next?

I’ve spent my whole life on a rollercoaster. My mother and I went back and forth so many times in our relationship between love and hate and fury and tenderness I had no concept of what a life without chaos looked like. I had a job that I loved but also made me crazy, dealing with a boss whose daily cycles of drama and despair kept an open ticket for me to take as many rides as I could stomach.

I took many.

Last fall, I left the job and my mother died. Something inside me stopped. The constant churning finally ended. I learned how to say no. I learned why I was so drawn to the rollercoaster.

It was the only thing I knew.

When my wife pulled up a new ride? I couldn’t do it. I looked inside and there was not one little piece of me that could possibly imagine getting back on. I knew I loved her but I also knew I couldn’t do it.

That I wouldn’t do it. The pull towards chaos left me sick to my stomach. I would rather lose everything.

My wife was spinning, hurt, angry, and swinging at everything in her path.

What I realized, when I finally sat still and pulled my head out of my ass, was that it wasn’t about me. My calm, even, patient wife needed me, the high-strung maniac, to take it in and listen.

I saw the rollercoaster. She had no idea that’s where she was. By agreeing to the separation? I was stepping on when all I wanted was for things to stop.

We have raised three children together. We have disagreed about different parenting issues and always have been able to come to a joint decision. Always. We’re objective, thoughtful and can listen to each other’s views. We can reflect back what we think we’ve heard and correct what has been misunderstood.

A good friend of ours told us each, individually, if you can come together around parenting like that? You can do it in other parts of your life.

Sixteen years is a long time. So many bad habits have built up it’s hard to remember the good ones.

I wrote her a long letter. “What feels like boulders are only rocks. Heavy, hard, to be sure, but not impossible. We can do this.”

Because it’s not about me. It’s about us. And what we can do.

So marriage sucks. You have to work at it and work at it and work at it some more. Even then? You might wake up one day and have your spouse halfway out the door.

And then you have to work on it harder than you ever have before.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Who are We?

I saw the movie “Sicko” yesterday. It made me want to move. Give up on this country and move to Canada. France. England.

I know, there are those out there who say, Then go! Shoo! We don’t want you.

America- love it or leave it. Is that what we’ve boiled down to?

An American woman in this country had her daughter die because she was not at the right hospital for her insurance. Her daughter had a high fever. She went to the hospital. The doctors would not care for her and sent her to another hospital. Precious time ticked away. The girl had a seizure and died.

Ben was hospitalized for the first ten days of his life with a fever of 103. There was a moment, three days into it and all the tests were coming back negative, the fever stayed so high, the medicine having no effect that I thought he was going to die. To this day, I find it difficult to talk about the level of despair I felt, the helplessness.

He was in the NICU and getting the very best care available.

I don’t know what I would have done if he had been denied care. Because of insurance. Insurance always seemed like simply paperwork to me. You fill out the forms, you pay your money, all set.

Not so.

The story had a happy ending for me. I currently deal with the sassy mouth that accompanies the rites of eleven turning twelve year old, along with all the scented products that seem to suddenly be required in heavy doses.

The woman in the film only has only pictures of a smiling, 18 month old baby. A nightmare that will never end, her daughter is dead.

In one moment, Moore asks, as we watch a woman who has been dumped on the street by a cab driver, sent from a hospital where she was seeking care, What have we become?

Who are we?

When did we stop caring?

I don’t know a lot of doctors but the few I do, hate the system of health care in this country. They want to be doctors, not experts at working in a bureaucratic care system. They want to treat patients. They love understanding the complexities of how the body works and the ability to heal with that knowledge.

None of them chose to be a doctor to get rich. In reality? None of them are particularly rich. They don’t play the game of managed care. Doctors in our country get rewarded for less care, not more.

Which makes me wonder, to add to Mr. Moore’s questions, when did we lose our voice?

We used to protest and march and organize in a way that frightened politicians. Politicians are no longer frightened. Their pockets are stuffed with money from the health care industry. Less than half of the registered voters in this country vote anymore. Business profit rules all levels of policy.

We have become a nation of individuals. Me not we. Them not us. We are hunched over our little pots of gold, guarding them fiercely.

I have always been healthy. I've rarely needed much medical care. But when my son Ben did? It never occurred to me that the little plastic card with my name stamped on it with a bunch of numbers following could have been any part of his struggle for life.

I love my country. But when I look into the mirror and see how we are treating the most vulnerable? It’s more than repulsive; it makes me want to leave.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


"Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind."

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Camp Shopping

The difference in my children is sometimes astonishing. When I took Zachary into CVS to buy toiletries for camp, he simply followed along beside me and said, Yeah.





When I asked what preference he had, he shrugged at pointed to a size bottle that he thought would be good.

That’s big enough, Mom.

Clearly, no big need for a jumbo size of shampoo when he’s only planning on two or three showers the whole month. In total, we spent about ten minutes in the store, five of which was waiting in line.

Ben, on the other hand, sat on the floor with three different kinds of acne wash and carefully read each label, sniffed each one to determine how they smelled. With each product, there had to be a compare and contrast. Not only was the style of the label considered, the product itself, the relative expense of it and the coolness factor was weighted.


By the end, he was equipped with tropical fresh, kiwi, mint, and something called chix fragrance.

You know, mom, chix… like Chicks… girls?

You want to smell like girls?

NO, Mom, it attracts chicks.

I just nodded because what I wanted to say was at the end of all these different scented products the only things he was going to attract was bugs. And a lot of them.

He then promptly came home after the hour it took to pick these things out and lined them up on the table. See above. I did not arrange them. He did. He sat and looked them over for another fifteen minutes.

Jake is going away for a week, too. He’s off with Allan to visit a friend up in Down East Maine. It’s beautiful up there, very rural and being only forty minutes from the Canadian boarder, very cold. He wanted to pack his own bag and brought it down to show me the contents.

I was curious to see what he would pick out to take.

Three shirts, three pairs of shorts, a water shirt-

Allan and I are going Kayaking, he said as he held up the shirt for me to see.

And a sarong.

That’s it.

The sarong is really pants, he told me.

Um… what about underwear? Socks? Toothbrush?

He broke out in a big grin, Oh yeah… and ran to get them.

He brought down two pairs of socks and two boxer shorts.

Jake? You’re going for a week.

Allan doesn’t care if I wear the same thing over and over.

Believe me, he cares if you change your underwear. Go get three more.

Ultimately, I had to go get the toothbrush and put it in, along with his bathing suit. I am usually the one to pack for the kids when going on trips- the few times Jeanine has done it I’ve noticed a need a day into the trip to buy not one but several things that are missing like socks, or the one necessary collared shirt for dining out.

Personally, I only let her pack for me once and I ended up with penny loafers and khakis for a weekend in Provincetown. I’m a sneaker and jeans kind of gal. I learned the hard way.

As they are getting older, it’s time to let them pack for themselves. You’ll never remember to put in enough underwear until you don’t put in enough underwear. You learn what’s really important to you- for me, the just right kind of hairbrush is key- and what is not- I refuse to go through the Ziploc bag routine and therefore end up with hotel products when I travel.

For Ben? It was brand new clothes and the proper scent arrangement of toiletries for a farm camp. Yes, a camp that is about working on a farm.

For Zachary? Walter’s baseball cap and Jeanine’s slip on Vans he heisted from both of them.

Jake? His sarong.

Very different, very sweet.

Especially with Chix scented deodorant and kiwi shampoo.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

President Bush Needs to Know: Two Doubles or a King Sized Bed?

In the early days of Caller ID, there was a funny joke posted on the Internet. A guy is calling to order pizza and the person taking the order answers the phone, knows who is he, what his latest cholesterol test was, his genetic make up and tells him he can’t have a double cheese and pepperoni but a boring, healthy alternative. It made you laugh and hopefully realize that there is a huge web of information available today about everyone. It’s powerful and can easily be misused.

We are Americans, though. Land of the Free, Don’t Tread on Me and all that stuff. We invented liberty.


Seems people coming to visit our country- watch a game at Fenway Park, ooo and ahh over the Grand Canyon or take a few snap shots of the Statue of Liberty are going to be subject to an intensive data search before being able to step on a flight to this country.

The Bush Administration needs to know what kind of bed you are selecting for the hotel. And a whole lot more.

No, I’m not kidding.

“Highly sensitive information about the religious beliefs, political opinions and even the sex life of Britons travelling to the United States is to be made available to US authorities when the European Commission agrees to a new system of checking passengers.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/humanrights/story/0,,2132130,00.html)

This information gathered will be on file at the Department of Homeland Security for 15 years.

15 years. Can you imagine why the Department of Homeland Security needs to know if someone in Wales had appendicitis? And to hold that information for 15 years, let alone 15 seconds?

Is anyone else a little horrified?

Or are we so numb to the Patriot Act, the repeated invasions of our privacy, the continued assaults to the constitution by our elected officials we simply shrug and say, well, whatever it takes to save us from terrorism.

No. Not whatever it takes. If we live in fear, then the terrorists win. If we hand our liberties, our rights, in order to feel ‘safe? We don’t have freedom. I don’t think having Homeland Security know the last time some woman in France coming to shop in New York City had a pap smear is going to save us from another attack.

And I’m furious that my government has access to all my records- financial, health and even what books I forgot to return to the library. I’m a big threat sitting here paying my taxes, sending my kids to public schools and participating in the democracy by voting. Somewhere there is a record of my ordering a copy of “The Invincibles” DVD for my kids from Amazon.com with my credit card at Homeland Security.

It’s not funny. It’s true.

Does anyone remember what Watergate was about? Illegal wiretapping. Nowadays, wiretapping seems silly in comparison to the information accessed via the Patriot Act in the name of our own protection. What once chased a President out of office can’t even make the news headlines anymore.

My friend Andy from England sent me the article from The Observer and asked me to spread the news. He was certain that in America, we would be horrified.

Why isn’t this on the front pages of the news? Well, you know, Lindsay Lohan did get caught with drugs again. I mean, we have our priorities.

My fear, Andy? No one will be outraged. We gave up so many rights and privacies along the line, we’re numb to how invasive it is. We strip off our shoes, belts, jewelry, empty our pockets and are subjected to searches by ‘security’ in airports that lack any real training. No offense but you can put on a white shirt with a tin star safety pinned to your chest but that doesn’t mean you have the ability to determine or identify real safety issues, especially when your biggest focus is whether or not all the liquids can fit in a quart sized, Ziploc bag. (Want to follow that profit trail and see where the policy came from?)

Don’t even think about bringing a sippy cup of milk for your baby. Has to be screened. Pretty soon? We’ll have to put the baby in one of those grey bins to be scanned by the x-ray machine.

We are like sheep. No one complains. No one even understands the level of invasive spying going on in this country of it’s own citizens, let alone what they are proposing to do to anyone coming to this country.

The Internet joke was a funny warning but no one listened. They didn’t think that it could ever get that bad- this is America. We assumed our legal system and our elected officials would uphold the Constitution. All that nifty balance of power stuff you learn about in junior high school social studies class was working for us as a country and as individuals.

I mean, we’re the ones who came up with “Give us liberty or give us death!” Right?

I guess we’d only notice if someone took away our double cheese and pepperoni pizza.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Secret Chocolate Stash

I’m at Walter and Allan’s house today writing. I love being near Walter’s garden. Every year, it changes, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little but as you can see, it is always stunning.

I also love being in Jamaica Plain. First on the list was lunch from JP Seafood- Bibimbop. Allan calls it egg in a bucket but it’s a bed of fresh vegetables, with rice, a fried egg and a spicy Korean chili paste. When I was working at an office in Jamaica Plain, I’d make the extra long walk at least once a week for Bibimbop. Stuffing your face with vegetables has limited appeal to me but I love this dish. It is a difficult choice, however, when one has been deprived of JP Seafood for a while. Their Village Dragon Maki - Shrimp Tempura Maki Covered with Eel and Avocado-is enough for me to take a couple laps around the pond to justify two lunches in one day.

But I’m not. I’m here to write, and that’s what I’m doing.

Except for that moment, after lunch, when I just wanted a little tiny bit of something sweet.

A little chocolate.

When Jeanine’s sister was up with all the kids for ‘summer camp,’ she smiled when I walked in the kitchen on the first full day.

I found your chocolate stash.

I eyed her suspiciously- would she keep it a secret?

Of course… NOT. The kids found my box of Hershey’s with almond chocolate bars in the freezer. In a flash, a box that had lasted almost a year was down to two bars.

I’m not against my kids having sweets- I’d rather they have ice cream, or pie, or cake- something with a little more than pure sugar to justify it. Chocolate bars, in my humble opinion are not in any way shape or form healthy.

Mom, Ben said to me, Walter said its antioxidants.

That’s dark chocolate, not this kind.

It has almonds, those are good for you, he tried again.

It has three almonds. Sometimes four. No, I’d really rather you have some ice cream.

So I was wandering around the house, wondering, where is Allan’s chocolate stash? I know Walter has a jar full of chocolate chips he eats with peanut butter. They would do if I couldn’t find anything else but… I know Allan has chocolate in this house somewhere.

He did. I found his stash of mini Baby Ruth’s. And it was perfect- I only wanted one. Just that tiny taste of chocolate to end a delicious lunch.

His was high on a shelf- out of the boys’ view- in the kitchen. Mine was in the freezer. My mother always had small bits of chocolate candy on top of her refrigerator. Mints from hotels, old Halloween candy not handed out, party favors. It was an odd, and often old, collection. She would shuffle over, late at night, and pull out a piece, like a little kid.

Want one?

I was always too suspicious of the age of the food in her house. There were things in her cabinets from stores that had gone out of business ten years before.

I’m curious… do other people have chocolate stashes? Where? And what kind? Mine is an old favorite from childhood. I realize I had found my Grandmother’s chocolate stash- she always had Hershey’s with Almonds in the freezer. Allan’s is in the kitchen but I do remember him having a pot on a table behind the couch once with Halloween candy- basically, wherever the kids can’t find it.

I do realize, however, that my stash has been found. Do I keep putting it in the same place so my kids grow up with the same memory of a single, beloved candy bar?

I think so… but I’m going to start counting. Because the most important part to realize about a chocolate stash? Is it’s about a little treat, every once in a while.

Something to sneak, not gobble.

Because ultimately, the beauty of the stash is its constant, secret place. Never full, never empty. Just there.

For that one little taste.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Speak Up!

Did you see the YouTube debates last night?


Okay, I am officially done with journalists and televised debates. Let the people talk!

I went through the pages and pages of video questions people submitted. There were the weird, the strange, the funny, the well done, the painfully awkward, and the painfully real… I loved it.

There is no question that in my mind, we lost the ability to have a democracy along the line. People don’t gather around the country store and talk about issues. Candidates don’t sit down and talk to anyone real without the media around. At least not on a Presidential level.

Sure, there have been smaller debates with hand picked “real people” to ask questions, but this was completely out there.

I love the Mighty Thor in Central Florida. Looks like a redneck but asks a great question about spending on education – and still mentioned his name twice in a mere twenty six seconds. There was a guy with the American flag in the background that I thought for sure would spew rah rah war rhetoric but he did not.

He was a little weird, though.

And that’s why I love this form of debate. Americans come in every shape, color and size. We are weird. We ask stupid questions and great questions.

We hem and haw… we look ridiculous in slow motion. No one powders our noses. Only our friends edit our work.

I love it.

It’s real.

And.. It’s what being in a democracy is all about. Participation.

Without participation? We’re going to end up with the likes of George Bush, yet again.

C’mon folks, let’s keep speaking up!

Monday, July 23, 2007


I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot lately.

The other day, when HRC invited Mike Gravel and I was singled out as one of the bloggers who made a difference? I wanted to call and tell her. She would have been so proud. Laugh at her own inability to even turn a computer on and praise my using one to connect with the world.

I still reach for the phone before realizing she’s dead.

When we got in the car to drive Zachary to camp, I remembered last year. She and I were not speaking to each other. But I pulled out my cell phone, dialed the number and had Zachary tell her all about his trip to his first, big overnight camp.

She later told someone she thought my wife Jeanine had taken pity on her. It was me. We could fight, really fight, but I always loved her. She always loved me.

I wanted to call her and tell her about the beautiful trees that were planted today. Silly how a bunch of trees can make me all giddy. It’s been hard to find something to be happy about in the last week and the trees were just the thing.

They are beautiful. Two Dougless Firs, a White spruce, and two Blue Spruces. Ben walked up and said, Mom, we have a forest!

We have five new trees. A forest for a suburban boy.

I miss my mom. I wanted to have a silly conversation with her about trees. About Ben’s excitement. I could see the huge picture windows in her house and their magnificent view of hundreds of trees. How she loved to be surrounded by nature.

Of course, she’d be all over me about the rest of the mess my life is in. I would feel like such a failure in her eyes.

It’s one of those times she’s either come down really hard on me or surprise me and be completely supportive.

No… I’d hope for support and she’s come down hard on me.

Still, I look at those trees and think about her.

A good friend reminded me it’s been less than a year since she died. It’s funny… sometimes it feels like forever, sometimes it feels like yesterday. Her death was the biggest loss of my life. I remember all the pain and frustration, how hard our relationship was- I have no illusions.

My life changed not a little but drastically after her death. It keeps changing. Maybe I miss the reliability of her instability. I don’t know. It is ironic that this time, this difficult time, I find myself looking for her again.

I can pick a tape from my head.

Oh Sara, I can’t believe you are so selfish…

Oh Sara, what have you done now? Do you ever think of anyone but yourself?

Oh Sara, the babies. How can you do this to my babies?

There are other tapes, only a few, that say things like,

Sara, you will be okay. You are doing the right thing.

Sara, you are a strong woman and a good mother. Don’t forget to trust your instincts.

I can pick whatever tape I want. I can miss her terribly. The reality is, she’s gone and I’m alone in the decisions that lie ahead. And even if she were alive? I’d be too afraid to risk her response.

I’d only be talking about the trees.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another Mountain

All the company is gone, we dropped off Zachary at camp and the house is quiet.

Well, Ben is practicing the clarinet. Mostly quiet.

I’m exhausted. I feel tired to my bones right now. I remember being this tired right after my mother died. It was like someone had pulled the plug and there was no more juice to run the show.

There has been another huge shift in my world. I finally finished climbing a mountain, and was enjoying the beautiful valley. I found out I have another mountain to climb.

Today, however, I am sitting in the quiet. Thinking about how Zachary walked into his cabin, picked a bed and proceeded to let us put the sheets on, blanket, before encouraging us to leave. Go.

For a moment, when we were walking down the road to the cabin, I saw his face blanch. The moment had finally arrived. Camp was starting. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, Hey, it’s okay. Look, remember that building?

And Jeanine pointed out another- Isn’t that where the counselors hang out?

Color returned to his face. He walked a little quicker.

It was an older cabin and his trunk did not fit under the bed. I wanted to fix it, figure it out, and set up his space. He wanted us to leave.

We left. I managed a hug and kiss first.

I did not cry. I wanted to but I did not.

The whole drive home, I thought about the mountain looming in front of me. I can’t… I can’t do it. over and over, I tried to imagine coming up with the energy.

Over and over.

It made me realize how emotionally empty I am right now. I was so looking forward to a summer to replenish me, recharge, renew. It’s been a long, long year.

It’s not going to happen.

The breeze coming through the window is just cool enough. Someone is mowing their lawn. Ben came in and played “Hot Cross Buns” for me. Jake is reading. Zachary is at his camp at his first meal.

I bet it will be Chicken Parmesan, he said to us on the way. That’s what we had last year.

All my kids are settled and calm. They have the ground firmly underneath them. I look ahead at this mountain and I know it will rock their worlds. The thought is devastating to me. I can’t do this to them.

I can’t stop it either.

I have another mountain to climb. I don’t think I can do it.

All I want is to stand in the valley.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Six towels, new crocs, a lantern, flashlight, a few books and a lot of underwear. I’m looking at the pile of things for Zachary, going over the list.

A month is a long time. Is that enough bug stuff? How about sunscreen? I tell Zachary to grab another bottle, just in case.

Do you have a shower caddy?



He pulls it out.


Stationary- not that he’ll use it- pens, batteries… I don’t know what I’d do without the list from the camp. I think six towels are a bit much, though. Like 14 pairs of socks, they won’t all be used.

I’ve written his name in sharpie all over everything. My fingers are black.

I’ll miss your stinky butt, I told him.

He nodded. I’ll miss your stinky butt, too.

We bumped fists.

Tomorrow morning, one more check through the list. I know he’s ready. Stuff doesn’t matter. He’ll not only be fine, he’ll flourish.

Raincoat, muck boots, and two bathing suits.


I want to tuck a hug and kiss in there. No room. He can’t wait.

I’m going to write his first letter to leave on his bunk.

Seven shorts, 10 tee shirts and three sweatshirts.

I’m so proud of him.

I don’t want to let him go.

Gold bond powder, toothpaste and shampoo.

Tomorrow is drop off for summer camp.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.

Sylvia Plath (1932 - 1963)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dear Senator Clinton:

Hey, if it worked once, it might work again.

Dear Senator Clinton:

I want to like you. I really do. You are the first woman who has a shot at winning the presidency. For me, feminist liberal from when the term was coined, the idea that a woman is a serious contender for President makes my heart full.

I can’t vote for you.

I met you in person, several years ago at a fundraiser in Upstate New York. I paid a ton of money and was able to shake your hand and have the chance to ask questions. You were articulate, smart and were able to discuss a wide range of topics as if each one was something you did your dissertation on. You impressed me as one of the smartest people I have ever had the chance to hear.

I’ve heard your husband speak, too. You were smarter.

I think your approach to health care, back in the day, would have solved a crisis at a time when we could afford to do it. We can no longer afford it and the crisis is deeper and more troubling than ever.

I believe you had a co-pilot seat through President Clinton’s two terms that provided more than insight in how to make the job work, what it entails and how much gray hair you end up with. You still want to do it- it says a lot. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine there is a bit of culture shock for even the most seasoned politician when they walk in the Oval Office for the first time. You’ve been there for years.

I agree with most of your current positions, especially now that you are actually against the war. I find your initial support herd mentality and will always believe Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D, CA) was the only person in that city who had the guts to stand up and say, Wait. Hold on. What are we doing? But since your change of mind, you have been key in working to hold the administration accountable, even if you’ve mugged for the cameras every step of the way.

I know. It goes with the territory. Politicians need photo-ops and poll numbers or else they are toast. Then the bad guys win. And after eight years of the bad guy winning and ripping apart the very essence of a federal government by systematically defunding it, all of it, we need the good guys in the worst kind of way.

Which makes me want to vote for you. But I can’t. I won’t.

Why? Because you’re pandering to the gay community is beyond reprehensible to me. I know you like gay people, I know you think gay people are okay and wonderful and deserve rights… some rights.

When asked about a recent misunderstanding about an event planned that had to be changed, your people released the following statement:

"Hillary Clinton's long record as a friend and ally to the LGBT
Community speaks for itself. As President, she will work hard to move our nation closer to the promise of fairness and equality that all Americans deserve. She looks forward to addressing the issues important to the LGBT community at the Human Rights Campaign/LOGO presidential forum next month."

Senator Clinton? Fairness and equality for the gay and lesbian community isn’t something that will do well in the polls. It’s not some separate institution of civil unions. Please, as a person who knows about civil rights, you can’t even talk separate but equal and not twitch. We must have federally recognized gay marriage. We must repeal the ridiculous Defense of Marriage Act President Clinton signed when backed into a corner in his first term. It’s about taking leadership that will not poll well, will not look good and is unpopular.

I don’t think you have it. I don’t hear it in your speeches. I didn’t see it with your stand on the Iraq war.

I want you to get it. I want you to read this letter and say, gosh, Sara, you are right. Winning the race doesn’t mean much if I can’t make some real changes. And more than that? I want to stand for something. I want to make people believe in leadership again. That means tackling popular issues like getting the hell out of Iraq and finding a way to use diplomacy to stabilize the Middle East; Funding public education and maybe taking the bold initiative to add an amendment to the Constitution that says all children in this country deserve a sound, basic education, one with books and resources and well trained teachers. There are so many more, it’s hard to begin to list them all. Things the public is hungry for because we’ve been slowly starved by the current administration.

And then there are the hard things, like real equality for gays and lesbians. It’s not simply about marriage, although marriage is an essential step. It’s about Hate Crimes legislation and taking on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act’s opponents with passion and confidence. To build bridges with the religious communities whipped into a frenzy that they would no longer be allowed freedom of speech that none of these bills would ever do such a thing.

I don’t have any room for compromises on this. Violence against the GLBT community has been documented over and over and over again. We are not very far from the violence against pride marchers in Moscow in May or at the Budapest Gay Pride March on July 7th, where people were “violently attacked by hundreds of counter-demonstrators armed with Molotov cocktails, bottles, eggs, and nylon-stocking coshes filled with sand -- as
Police stood passively by during the anti-gay violence.” (http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2007/07/fascists-attack.html).

I cannot compromise because I have been spoon-fed too many promises by politicians and end up with nightmarish policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, The Defense of Marriage Act. It hurts too many people. It feeds hate.

Please, Senator Clinton. Take a stand. Be a leader.

In my opinion? At this moment? You are not.

And I really, really want you to be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I’m in complete denial.

My baby is going to camp on Sunday. For a month.

Of course, Zachary is not a baby, rather a fabulous boy almost ten years old. He’s a strong, brave and thoughtful kid. He signed up for the camp last year, for two weeks, and never looked back. When we picked him up, he jumped into my arms and asked to go for the whole summer next time.

I love his spirit.

It’s an all boys’ camp with an all girls’ camp over the hill from them. Complete with the lake, and buddy tag board, it’s a site out of the 1950’s. Actually, I doubt it’s been updated much since the 1950’s. It’s a YMCA camp and a cookie cutter copy of the YWCA camp I went to as a child. Same mess hall, same archery, same talent show, arts and crafts. Stepping on the grounds is like taking a time warp- a good one- back into a favorite moment in my childhood.

I was on my own. The freedom was intoxicating.

Zachary loves to be on his own, too. His letter to his counselor reflected a desire to “hang out, be silly and do nothing,” along with a top bunk. The main reason for going to camp? In his wry humor, he wrote, “to not be home.” I think it’s true, for a few weeks he gets to be Zachary, not Ben’s brother or Jake’s brother or anyone’s brother. Just Zachary. He’ll still negotiate like a true middle child. There is no amount of time in the woods that will take that ingrained behavior away from him- but it will be about leadership and mediation with friends instead of keeping his brothers from a screaming fight at 7AM in the morning.

Zachary is not much of a morning guy. He likes to sleep in and wake up slowly. Cook himself some eggs. Avoid the toothbrush if at all possible.

I am going to miss him. I agreed to this month long camp knowing it was the best thing for him, knowing how much he loved it. As the date approaches, I’m getting weepy and full of doubt.

Not about him, mind you, about me.

My baby is going off and will come back a different person. Not just the sunburn or the longer hair or the layers of dirt baked into his feet, but he will have had a month of experience getting to know himself, other new friends and building a community. He’ll refresh his bow skills and take overnight hikes and learn the J stroke in a canoe.

He’ll just be Zachary for a while and in that time, amazing things will grow. He’ll gain confidence, and probably grow out of all the clothes we’re sending.

I keep looking at the rest of the week and going over all the tasks that have to be done- a doctor’s appointment, laundry, pull out Zachary’s trunk, get toiletries together, find the sleeping bag, buy a new blanket for him to take… check lists and sharpies to write his name in all the clothes.

It’s busy work. It keeps me in denial.

My baby is going away for a month.

I am going to miss him so much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Homemade Summer Camp

We have seven children at our house this week.

Two thirteen year olds, one eleven year old, one ten year old, one nine year old, one seven year old and one five year old.

You see, we have the kids all hang with their cousins- not all but some- for a week every summer. It takes place in Florida or here, depending on the year. None of us are professional camp counselors, just moms with relatively high pain thresholds.

Unlike camp counselors who tend to be cheerful and young, we are neither. Instead, we are equipped with a lot of sunscreen, bug stuff and demands to have dishes picked up.

I have heard, just today, my counterpart, and myself say things such as, the common:

Don’t touch your brother.

Don’t put your feet on the couch.

Don’t eat in the living room.

No hats at the table

Don’t spit straw wrappers across the table.

No, you may not have Mountain Dew in a refillable 32oz. cup

The little less than ordinary but still familiar to most parents of more than two children:

Let go of your brother’s neck

If you are old enough to use a knife, you should not have to have it removed from your reach.

He’s getting a large dish because he is seven years older and taller than me. You are not.

When I tell you not to hit your brother, do you think that means you can hit the other brother?

And then there are the camp specific ones:

Everyone, eat your cereal at the table. Use milk, not juice. You may not pour the milk into the small box. You must use a bowl. You must use a spoon.

You may not play volleyball in the house. Don’t even think about asking me about football.

Water is a beverage. I swear, you can drink it and you will not die.

I don’t care if you showered yesterday or last week or last year. You are all showering today.

It’s been exhausting to simply watch. I can remember my mother watching my three boys run around and simply the vision of their energy was enough to send her for a three-hour nap. I didn’t understand. I do now.

Jake walked in and said, Zachary hit me and I didn’t even ask him to do it.

You didn’t ask?

No, he just hit me.

Because, clearly, if he had asked to be hit it would be okay.

It’s the third day and the heat has been relentless. We’ve had one broken leg day. One day at the arcade- air-conditioned and thank you, my team won 7000 to 300 at laser tag- even though I had a bright white shirt on. Tomorrow will be a trek on the freedom trail, with one stroller to wheel the now highly honored guest with a beautiful purple cast.

What I find the most amusing is that all the ideas I had prior to the visit all shifted with a broken bone and searing heat. I have not been very good at adjusting. The kids, however, are having a blast. Ice cream and pizza and games and movies… late nights and blow up baseball bats to hit each other with.

As long as you ask, that is.

Sure, there have been a few neck holds, and a bit of teasing from time to time but overall, a lot of laughter and playing hard. At the end of the day, collapsed in a heap around the TV, they all look very happy. And sweaty. With large feet.

And suddenly I think Febreze might not be such a bad product after all.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Growing Up and Broken Bones

My son grew six inches today.

I told him so.

He admitted to doing something wrong. He admitted to causing an accident that ended up breaking someone’s leg.

And I didn’t have to make him see, he just saw. I didn't have to explain, over and over, why what he did caused this broken bone. He knew. Deeply.

I was wrong, he said to me through tears. I shouldn’t have done that. I was wrong.

This is a boy who goes out in the ocean with his brothers and always watches the other two, to be sure they are safe in the waves. He is also the weakest swimmer, but he doesn’t know that. He just watches over his brothers because it is his nature.

But when he's in a room of peers and someone says, Hey, let's go- you fill in the blank. Doesn't matter what it is, Ben is all over it. Part of it is simply because he wants to fit in. Part of it is because he loves the thrill of getting away with something. No matter what, it ends up in trouble.

Today, it was an accident goofing around on adult exercise equipment he’s long been forbidden to get on ending in a broken leg.

He wasn’t the only one responsible but he’s the only one who stood up and admitted it was his fault. The terror of actually having had caused a serious injury blanched him pure white.

In fact, he said it was all his fault. His house, his things, he knew better. In many ways, he’s right.

I put my arms around him and told him I knew he was not someone who would ever hurt anyone else, ever.

Uh… that’s after I yelled at him that he had broken her leg. I did not start off in a calm place. But his admission got me to that calm place in an instant. I saw that sweetness in him, the sensitive boy who is running afraid of everyone else’s judgments about what a boy should be, how a boy should act. The look in his eyes that one friend of mine said to me made her think he’d be a minister someday.

I still think corporate tax attorney with a penthouse condo in Manhattan but what do I know.

After a little while, I asked him to think about what makes him do things that are so against his nature. Was it showing off? Was he doing something someone else put him up to even though he knew it was wrong? Because he was going to get a lot more of that in the next few years. There would be a lot of people asking him to do things that don’t feel right. He needs to learn how to say no.

Firmly. And with confidence. It’s not about tattling, I explained. It’s about saying no, not cool. No thanks.

Because when he didn’t today? A little girl got a broken leg. Hairline, and it will heal quickly but… a broken leg is a lot more painful than a friend’s disapproval. Not just for her, but for him.

He kept crying and saying, I’m so sorry… it’s my fault… I’m so sorry…

And I rocked him and said, Grown-ups can’t always say they’re wrong. You’ve grown six inches today.

I am so proud of you, Ben.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Man of Action

At least he's not running with the bulls...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dare and Double Dare

I read an article this morning that made me nod my head knowingly.

“MADRID, Spain (July 14) - A bull that broke from the pack seriously gored two American brothers, catching one on each of its horns during the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona, where both were recovering Friday in the hospital.”

As a parent, I can see this happening.

Hey, wanna go run with the bulls?

No, you stupid jerk, are you crazy?


I’m not chicken, it’s stupid.

I dare you or are you too afraid...

And thus, the young men end up gored in the … uh… “buttocks,” although the picture looked like the bull was a little more specific than that. Don’t go saying it's a “cultural” event because they were American. Not Spanish. Not their country, not their culture. It was a thrill seeking adventure.

I look at my boys and think… yup.

I’ve listened to grown men talk about doing things like riding bikes off a roof into a pool- that was some Jason Giambi pre-steroid press- or daring a little brother to jump with a cape off the roof to “fly” or the little brother who was dared and had the accompanying story of going to the hospital to repair a broken leg.

I don’t think it’s entirely gender specific because my wife’s oldest sister encouraged her middle sister to fly, too, but were caught trying to get on the roof by their mother.

I think it’s about siblings, dares and natural selection.

I don’t think it’s about competition. I am very competitive. I’ll race you up the stairs, beat you to the car and hold on long enough in arm wrestling to make you use two hands instead of one.

I love to win but more than that? I love the competition of the game.

This isn’t about winning. It’s some deep-rooted reflex to cull the herd. Why else would siblings continually, for generations, behave in such a manner?

I can only imagine the brother’s mother, back in America, getting them on the phone and saying, ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL EACH OTHER?

For about the nine millionth time.

I think the answer is… yes. Actually, we are.

Friday, July 13, 2007

SuburbLezMom Kicks Butt


HRC listened.

Gravel is being invited.

Seems the “enthusiastic response of the community” made them change their mind.

I witnessed, from within as a lesbian blogger, that the blogs had serious impact. Mind you, I am an old, old person and never in a million years did I think I would be a blogger. When I finally became one, I never in a million years thought it would have much impact, if any.

HRC has invited Gravel. The news of his snub went from Gravel’s blog on Huffington Post to every GLBT blog list I have ever read and the pressure was on.

HRC is a powerful, important group with a strong voice on Capital Hill. When I think of them, I think of something a very powerful Massachusetts political activist said to me long ago about groups like ACT UP.

When I walk into a senator or rep’s office, and I’m in a business suit and there are activists throwing blood in the state house chamber… I look completely normal. You have to push hard on the edges to make the middle be… me. Lesbian in straight drag.

While the two of us don’t always agree on strategy- I’m more of the throwing blood kinda gal- I know every voice in essential in a democracy.

Especially a democracy as fucked up as ours where special interest dollars have completely hijacked the system.

I know HRC is important. I know fighting within our own community is not helpful. But the HRC is the "Gap" and the blogger community is... well... ACT UP.

But you know, I’m sitting here and realizing the hundreds of thousands- yes, hundreds of thousands- of people who read Huffington Post everyday actually makes an impact by simply pointing and clicking.

I’m a little stunned today. Honored PageOneQ quoted me- http://pageoneq.com/news/2007/gravel0713.html

And I’ll say it again on my own blog… Clinton, Obama and all the frontrunners, be clear, there is a new voice in town. A blogger’s voice. We want to kick the Republican’s butts, we want to take back our government and we are not willing to accept crumbs. We are going to push you hard for real answers to our issues. We want gay marriage, we want abortion rights, we want to get out of Iraq and… and… and…

There are a lot of things we want. We are not one-dimensional. We come in every color, shape and size. We’ve been denied a voice for so long and this beautiful thing coming of age, the blog, is giving us a new form of political access.

Even a suburban lesbian housewife…

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Open Letter to HRC: Let Mike Gravel Speak

Mr. Solomonese, this is ridiculous and embarrassing. Let Mike Gravel have his two minutes on stage with the rest of the candidates. As a lesbian, an activist and most importantly to you, someone who donates money, I have to say there is not a single reason to keep Gravel from the debate.

Not one. He raised his 100K and you said, well, not in time. Stop it. That’s like listening to my kids say, you wanted me to take my laundry upstairs and put it away? If you are only going for electability, then best scratch Richardson, Biden, Dodd, and Kucinich.

Let’s take it one step further. You are having a forum, not debate, with all the heavy weight political seriousness MTV and Melissa Etheridge bring.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Melissa. I want to be Melissa, sing growly songs with my guitar slung over my bare back. But asking Melissa Etheridge to moderate a serious political discussion is like asking me to sing “Yes I am” in concert.

Unless she is willing to grill each and every candidate about gay marriage. She survived cancer and probably went through amazing legal hoops to guarantee her partner’s rights. I hope she isn’t so far removed from everyday life to realize the privilege her partner had to sleep on the chair next to her hospital bed isn’t granted to everyone.

Mr. Solomonese, Joe, let’s not take this too seriously as groundbreaking political discussion in the gay and lesbian community. Especially if you are going to exclude the one uncluttered voice of support for our community. I don’t know about you but all the pandering about civil unions maybe someday but I’m for exclusive heterosexual marriage crap coming from Clinton, Obama and Edwards makes me ill. Maybe, for once, the gay and lesbian community can hear someone roar about his support of gay marriage.

Gosh, I can imagine onstage Gravel will make Clinton and Obama look downright Republican. Or is that what you’re afraid of?

It strikes me the wrong way that a community of people so excluded from so many basic rights in this country would exclude a supportive voice. It’s unfair and it stinks of… well… politics.

If you want to have a real groundbreaking event, change the format and have a real debate. If deals have been made, hands shaked, and no format changes are possible, at least be respectful of the community you represent and let the man speak.

Because otherwise, we look just a little bit ridiculous.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chicken Thigh/Cod Combo, Coming Right Up!

The heat makes it hard for me eat, let alone cook.

All I want is a salad in an air-conditioned restaurant. Maybe just the air-conditioned restaurant. I’ll think about the salad.

I don’t want to cook, I whined the other day. Instead of making a plan not to cook dinner, I pulled out some frozen chicken thighs from last year, and a package of frozen cod fillets and left them in the sink to defrost.

My wife Jeanine walked in and saw it and said, I don’t want to eat.

I got mad. Never said a word but in my head goes the long rant, Why do I always have to cook, why don’t you ever cook, why don’t you say let’s go out to eat, why is it my responsibility to make sure there is food in the house, why can’t you grocery shop once in a while- it got longer, and longer, all in my head.

Why didn’t I simply say, I want to go out to dinner or you can cook.

Because I thought the chicken thigh/cod fillet combo would be a clear enough sign. It wasn’t. My wife is brilliant, she can master technology and concepts of engineering I cannot even begin to wrap my small brain around. But she cannot take a hint.

Which brings me to the ever-present struggle of asking for what you want, clearly, without any whining. Set out every expectation, step by step or you can forget about it ever being met.

I’m not sure I can do it.

I’m not a whiny person by nature – stop rolling your eyes, Walter- rather a more curt and cut to the chase kinda gal.

Which gets me in plenty of trouble, too.

I always told the kids, when they were toddlers, to use their very best asking voice. Even now, at times, they soften up their little eyes, look up hopefully and say, Please? Pretty Please?

I don’t think that’s going to work on the wife. It rarely works on me and the kids are very cute.

I know it’s not always about the best asking voice, although yelling with my hands on my hips is probably never going to get me what I want – at least not from her. The kids seem to understand it is NOW time to pick up their shoes/bags/socks from the floor.

But with the wife? Ah… I want her to read my mind. I want her to know me so well, she will always do the right thing, and the thing I need, without me having to ask.

I want telepathy.

I know a lot of people who wish their spouse- male or female- would just “get it.”

Do I really have to tell him over and over, after 20 years, I would like him to pick up his socks? When I put them on his pillow, did he not get the message?

Doesn’t she know by now that when I sigh like THAT I am in desperate need of a hug? Do I have to ask?

It’s little things - because little things become big things (see Huffington Post “The Clutter of Married Life”)- that get to you, over and over.

I once read an article in the New York times – “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage” By Amy Sutherland, published: June 25, 2006- about exotic animal training being useful on your spouse. I tried it but I’m not good at ignoring bad behavior. I end up getting frustrated and throwing out a whole pile of her stuff.

Which is my bad behavior my wife is suppose to ignore but never does.

It’s hot again tonight.

Maybe if I try my very best asking voice… I’ll get my air-conditioned restaurant.

Otherwise, everyone’s getting the cod/thigh combo.

Which means tomorrow, I need to think about what being passive aggressive gets me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sex in the Dunes

I was asked recently to do a list of favorite things about Provincetown. It reminded me of a moment in the dunes, long ago, that I remember fondly.

And it got me in big trouble.

Ever sit around with a bunch of friends and talk about the strangest places you had sex or the funniest moments mid-orgasm that happened to you? Ever have your wife in the group?

I have.

It’s a bad idea.

I’m old now, and can’t always remember exactly who I was with doing what- or, worse, I think I do and of course I think it was my lovely wife of 16 years.

But it wasn’t.

Recently, I started telling a great story…

I remember being in the dunes after crossing the breakwater… and it seemed like no one was around for miles. One thing led to another, as it so often does in Provincetown with the freedom and openness in the air, not to mention the nude men lining the beach, and before you know it, we’re going at it and… a sightseeing plane flies overhead.

Very low overhead.

You can just imagine the pilot- “and down below is some of the local wildlife, lesbians in this case, performing a commonly know mating ritual called…”

And you have the crowd laughing because it’s a good story, and let’s face it, we’ve all been in those dunes at one time or another…

Except my wife.

Who has not.


She looks at me and says, You did WHAT?

You know, honey, remember? I say because in the moment, I think it was her.

NO, I do not. It was SOMEONE ELSE.

The look in her eyes means I am not having sex again for at least a week, maybe two.

So as I have learned, the hard way, when you reminisce about past sexual escapades, please be sure your current spouse is not in the room. If they are, stick to something current, even if it isn’t as good a story. You have to be sure it was them.

In closing, I’d just like to add, I have NEVER had sex in the dunes in Provincetown. It’s illegal and I would never, ever do such a thing.

(I can only hope there were no cameras on the plane that day.)

Monday, July 09, 2007


Ben went to soccer camp today. He is a very athletic kid but tends to shriek when the ball his hit his way and does a lot of posing in the uniform before playing, while playing and after playing.

Posing rarely amuses your teammates when you’re twelve.

He came home from buying new cleats last night, along with shin guards and of course, the right length black soccer socks and black soccer shorts. You can’t just wear any old pair of shorts.

Who knew?

He pulled out his cleats and was so proud of the stylish nature. Jake, going to the same soccer camp, bought basic black cleats with a little red swoosh. Not Ben. They look like he’s wearing spats.

I wonder how he’s doing today in a group of kids who haven’t taken two years off playing soccer, like he has. Kids in this area start when they’re three and by the time they are twelve, they have some serious skills. And serious attitudes.

Not bad ones, although a few of the parents certainly need muzzles, but growing into intense competition mode. I saw it on Zachary’s baseball team this past season- it’ll be the last time everyone gets to play regardless of skill level. The kids want to win.

The last time Ben played soccer, I think he tried his hardest to move away from the play. He never waved his hands over his head begging for the ball and always seemed to be slightly behind the line of play.

I tried to find a good creative writing camp for him this summer but I blew it. I offered him two different arts camps he had friends at and he refused both. I want to go to soccer camp, he insisted. He has asked to be signed up for the travel soccer team this fall, too.

When Zachary picks up a baseball, he can play catch for hours- pop flies, grounders, fast balls- and be perfectly content. Jake’s skill on the soccer field is so intense he (as a first grader) can play with 5th graders with ease.

I don’t see a lot of love in Ben’s face when he plays the game. Stress, pressure, trying hard to not be noticed fills his every step.

The shrieking doesn’t help.

I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I cannot imagine not playing a sport of some sort, until the day I die. It may only be scrabble but… something. (Yes, I consider scrabble a sport. My heart gets pumping when I’m losing to my wife who is using yet another word I taught her she doesn’t actually know.) I will because I love it. I love competition, pushing myself hard, and being on a team.

I don’t see it in Ben. I see a sweet kid who’d rather sing along to the top forty on iTunes. A kid who loves the water and jumping in waves without any structure at all except the repetition of the rolling waves. He likes to climb and swing and any sport he can play in flip-flops.

I read an article today (http://bloggernista.com/2007/07/09/dude-youre-a-fag/) referring to a book by sociologist C.J. Pacoe. Boys are more often called “fag” when they lack “masculine” affect and are seen as more feminine, not necessarily because they are identified as having same sex desires. Fag, she said, “invoked a very specific gendered slur, directed at other boys. For these boys a fag was a failed, feminine man.” (http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2007/06/28/pascoe)

I don’t know if Ben is gay. He may simply be a kid who doesn’t fit in the narrow definition of “boy.” Articles like this make my heart break- as he moves through middle school will he be targeted for this kind of taunting? Does he know that already and is that why he’s trying so hard to fit in by playing a sport he has only mild interest in?

How do I help him? What is the right role for a parent to play? When he was four and wanted to wear a Powerpuff girl costume for Halloween, I knew what to say, what to do. He was cute and little. No one was going to call him a fag. People looked at me funny and I smiled.

Blossom kicks butt, I said.

But now he’s going into middle school. Slurs and taunts fill the hallways. Boys have little room to make mistakes.

Ben is a kid who likes to shop for clothes and try to put together new fashion statements. He's treading a very fine line.

I'll sign him up for fall soccer. I'll ooo and ahh over the great choice in cleats.

And be ready first time he comes home and someone has called him a fag.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


You can’t see yourself growing, I heard a four year old tell her mother this morning.


I can’t see myself growing and yet I know I am. I know somewhere, deep down, I am shifting, changing, and like a small child, clinging to old behavior. I am disappearing, hiding and being elusive with my wife. I feel myself creating turmoil where there is none.

It doesn’t do me any good. It doesn’t feel right. But still I’m doing it.

I see it in my kids as they shift through different developmental tasks. They grow with one foot, and step back into the previous stage with the other.

Jake spends the day skim boarding and then needs help getting dressed.

Zachary cooks his own eggs at the stove and then reverts to his “Calvin” stage, being difficult like the cartoon character for no reason except to be difficult.

Ben ends his school year with praise from his teachers for his attention to detail and work ethic and then refuses to put his dishes in the dishwasher without a fight.

I can see my kids growing, every day.

I can’t see myself growing.

I feel it, like childhood growing pains in your legs when they seemed to stretch an extra inch overnight. It’s an unsettled restlessness. I can’t quite focus on what is in front of me. I keep looking back.

Back to the person I was before last year.

A place where I was vulnerable to other people’s wailing, insistent needs. Sirens, as I wrote the other day. I know it wasn’t a good place to be- obligated to care of everyone but myself at the risk of my own self-destruction.

It was all I knew.

Now I know better. I know I have great friends who love me and I love back. I know I have people who will set good boundaries for me when I need them. I know how to ask for those boundaries now for the first time.

I heard the song the other day, the song of need, and woe and sadness… I asked for help last night with it. Don’t let me get sucked in. It’s tugging at me…

I know when I’m setting up a triangle and am learning to walk away. Why do I need to make myself more important than I am? What am I trying to get? How can I ask more clearly without causing any struggle?

I hear myself, over and over, doing the right thing, saying the right thing.

I feel my other foot dragging back into the past, causing turmoil where there is none, drawn to someone else’s need.

I can’t see myself growing.

But I know that I am.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


In photography, there is over exposure, under exposure, the right exposure. All subtle adjustments to the light coming into the camera when capturing the image.

I’m feeling a little over exposed right now. Too much light into dark corners and it makes me afraid.

I don’t know of what- no one can hurt me anymore. Some people may find what I write offensive or overwhelming- that’s okay. It’s not about other people.

It’s about the light in dark corners.

It’s pulling out a small girl out of her hiding space in the back of the closet, next to the boots and wool coats.

The adult in me did it with my usual passionate, driven belief that under exposure ruins lives.

The glaring light shocks the little girl.

Good friends surround me this weekend. There will be a big dinner tonight and lots of laughter and talking. I’m not sure what the right light will be, how to adjust the shutter speed to capture enough but not too much.

How to resist the urge to say me, me, me, everyone come take care of me. They’ve all done enough of that in the last year. It’s time to give.

And to put the narcissist in me to rest, at least for a while.

To take pictures of others.

To give the little girl inside of me a break from her press releases.

I know I did the right thing the other day and would do it again in an instant- I am driven to be a voice. The fear I feel right now is old. It grabs my hip and sears to the bone.

But for now, there is a bonfire to build. I have marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers. All the kids here love to hear stories about when they were little, and I love to be the storyteller. I am an adult, I have an amazing life.

There is nothing to fear anymore, I keep saying to myself. You don’t need to run.

Tonight, I hope I can find just the right amount of light.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Zachary showed me this morning how he learned to cook scrambled eggs while camping with Walter. He pulled out the eggs, butter, and then grabbed a sauce pan- Can I use this?

Uh… no. Get the non-stick skillet, I said.

I watched him crack the eggs and gently stir them.

I told Walter you put milk in them, too.

Yup. Just a little.

He poured a little in with some salt and pepper.

After they were done, he went and got the final touch.

Ketchup, he said. Aunt Cathy taught me to use ketchup on everything.


Well, not asparagus or ice cream. That’s nasty.

Zachary loves camping. He loves the dirt, the smells and the stars. He wants me to go camping in the worst way. I hate camping.

I found the kind of camping you’d like, Mom. I saw it on the news. It’s called glamping.


Yeah, it’s like a tent but you walk in and it’s a whole room. There’s a queen-sized bed, dressers- it’s like a regular hotel room.


And there’s a four star restaurant- you’d love that, mom. French pressed coffee delivered to you in bed.

Yes, I would like that.

They even have a spa.

It’s clear my kids know me and know me well. Even with the butch exterior, they know I need Egyptian cotton sheets and a real bed. A four star restaurant complete with French pressed coffee.

Glamping. I think we found a perfect compromise.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Prayin' Guy

One more reason why I love living in Massachusetts, even though we have two extra seasons dedicated to mud…

In the southern most tip of California, Jeanine and Jake went to a Dairy Queen. Jake saw a small toy dispenser, with prizes locked up in little plastic containers and begged for two quarters.

He put in the quarters, and out came … this.

It’s a prayin’ guy, Mom, he showed me when he got home.

So it is… what an interesting toy. Not really an action figure, now is it?

He is wearing a muscle tee shirt, though. Ready to pray no matter what.

Maybe we’re godless heathens in Massachusetts but when you put your two quarters in you get a super bouncing ball or a fake tattoo or maybe a cheap tin ring. I have never seen a praying guy come out.

I give thanks to targeted marketing programs.

Maybe I should put on my muscle tee shirt...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Kind of Freedom Worth Fighting For

What are we celebrating today?

Hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

Independence day. America’s freedom.

Freedom for David Ritcheson came the other night. After enduring a horrific attack- because he was Latino- having been raped, tortured, and beaten by men who shouted “White Power,” he committed suicide July 1st. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/03/national/main3011452.shtml)

15 months and 30 surgeries after the attack, he jumped to his death. He was 18 years old. Six years older than my oldest son. Six years is a blink in parenting.

He was sixteen when the attack occurred.

David testified during the congressional hearings for hate crimes.

“The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1592) would expand the federal definition of hate crimes to include violence against a person because of his or her "actual or perceived" sexual orientation or "gender identity."

Under the bill, people who attack others out of "hatred" for their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability would be committing a federal offense.”

David was savagely sodomized with an umbrella pole after making a drunken pass at a 13-year-old sister of one of the attackers. They stomped on him and burned him with cigarettes, and poured bleach on him before leaving.

I can only imagine the stigma of the rape was too much to live with. Everyone knew what happened to him even though he could not remember the four-hour attack himself. He refused counseling, over and over.

The rage turned inside.

I understand.

I was a victim of violence. I was repeatedly raped as a child. I was young enough to completely shut it out of my mind. Disown it. Float away and pretend it wasn’t me, eventually dismissing it as a bad dream, not reality.

Until last year.

I was 43 years old when I started to remember the hazy images were not nightmares but real events. I was barely able to keep it together. I felt so violated I could not eat, I could not sleep. I would look at my children, knowing I was younger than them when I was abused and cry uncontrollably for hours.

I cannot imagine being 18 years old, a child, and having to deal publicly, over and over again with such a horrific crime as David did.

In my own blog, in my own writing, I have written about my experience. I have friends tell me they cannot bear to read it. I have been asked why? Why do I do it? Why expose something so private?

I do it because I understand. I write it for kids like David. While the crimes against us were different, I understand the draw of the edge of the rail on the boat that night.

I understand what it is to stuff the rage and live with it until it rots all sense of self-esteem away. To live with the nightmares, the fear, the sense of impending doom around every corner.

And because I can hold it, I continue to write. The more I learn to express the rage, to put it where it belongs, the farther away from the edge I am. It is not my wife’s fault, or my children’s, or my friends’.

Or mine.

I know he believed testifying to congress was a way to make a difference. “…he wanted to help prevent attacks like the one he had endured.” (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/03/national/main3011452.shtml)

I know I’ll never be able to stop the kind of attacks that happened to me. I also know sharing my story, my recovery, my ability to live with it, is essential.

No one can do it alone.

I know he believed his freedom would finally begin. The unbearable pain would finally end.

I also know he could have found another way, to spit the rage out and live his life fully. Always with a scar- I don’t think you can ever be completely whole again. But you can heal.

You end up with a different kind of freedom. One where edges don’t pull at you. Where the rage still burns but is no longer an inferno searing you and everyone around you. When hope doesn’t seem like a ridiculous fantasy.

Today, while we celebrate this country’s independence and freedom, I can only think of David.

And the kind of freedom worth fighting for.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Birds and Bees

Uh oh.

Big facts of life discussion on the beach today. I wasn't there.


The older two boys, Ben and Zachary, cornered Walter and asked a lot of questions.

A lot.

I love his answers, he did very well. I have always stuck to the easier, more routine answers. They pushed for more from him and he handled it beautifully.

These boys, going on twelve and ten, are curious. They now have real information, not playground references.

Yesterday, Ben wanted to get a new Webkinz. Today, he wanted to know what masturbation was, why someone would do it and what it meant.

I’d rather do the Webkinz.

It’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed by the conversation… nope. That’s a lie. I am. I have no idea how to answer a boy. If a girl asked me, I could deal. I am completely clueless about boys and their anatomy except for what I’ve read in books.

I am so grateful they have someone safe to ask. Walter stressed over and over again, everyone changes at different speeds and no one should ever feel like they have to do anything, ever.

I like that answer, I told him. Never is good.

I don’t mean that, either. Of course I want them to have full lives. I just don’t want to know about some parts of those full lives.


Margaret was right the other day. My boys are getting older Ben is going into middle school. Zachary is confident enough to ask to go to overnight camp- for a month.

At least Jake still plays with legos and snuggles up to have a book read to him. I know it’s not for long. I no longer call him “Jakey” or refer to him as my baby. It’s not easy but I know it’s time for that change, too.

I’m not ready for this.

I’m completely ready for this.

And I’m so glad it was Walter, not me, today getting grilled.

Because otherwise, we’d have about ten new Webkinz in the house.

Monday, July 02, 2007

God Bless America, Please Pass the Borscht

I was sitting on the beach today in Ogunquit, Maine and watched the helicopters go by, again. Four together at a time.

Big, loud ones flying close to the shore to see if anyone suspicious was out getting a tan today. There were, in fact, several people my son Ben pointed out should NOT have been wearing bikinis and more than one who should have been wearing more than a thong.

Much more.

He and I felt it was cause for serious alarm but the ‘copters kept going, no SWAT team dropped down for further investigation.

I’ve had a house in Ogunquit, Maine long enough to have lived through George Sr.’s heavily armed trips to Perkins Cove for a lobster roll at Barnacle Billy’s. It grew quiet for many years after he left office. Sure, there are still security buildings outside his compound- barracks, actually. Clearly not turn of the century New England and only allowed because he was president- everyone else has to ask the historic commission permission to paint their cottages antique white. Surrounded by an attractive chain link fence with cameras every few feet, it’s no big deal anymore when he and Barbara run over to Cape Arundel Inn for dinner.

In fact, I’ve heard more than one local say it’s a pain when Senior drives himself because a secret service detail has to follow and… well… he’s a terrible driver.

When Jr. was elected, and decided to come visit his parents, there would be the flurry of helicopters, coast guard boats patrolling the coast and the hoards of media that had to get a shot of Jr. holding up a fish he caught while cruising around in his dad’s cigarette boat.

Who fishes in Maine in a cigarette boat? Ever?

But nothing comes close to the drama of Putin coming to Kennebunkport yesterday.

When Senior had diplomats come, it was long before we had to take our shoes off or have to stand in large plastic enclosures that sniff our clothes for chemicals before getting on a plane. Sure, there was security in the old days but the press outnumbered them easily. Senior would come rumbling into the Cove with a couple boats behind him. Two helicopters would pass overhead. A lot of photographs were taken.

Now there are Coast Guard boats, helicopters, and as many security personnel as there are press. Maybe more.

And in Ogunquit, two towns down coast, they make a bunch of poor twenty-year-old rent-a-cops trudge up and down the main beach armed with guns in the heat. And rain. It did start to pour at one point. Rumor had it Mother Nature was behind that but you never know. Al-Qaeda can be so tricky.

It might have been Saddam but… he’s dead.

In Kennebunkport, a sleepy little town where I go to buy the kids yellow rain slickers- I can’t help it, they look so cute in them and they are original preppy with the metal buckles- they are “stocking up on Stolichnaya Elite vodka and caviar from the Caspian Sea at Hurricane Restaurant on Dock Square,” (http://www.boston.com/news/local/maine/articles/2007/06/25/not_all_in_kennebunkport_await_summitry_with_glee/) Of course, when I called them to see if they’re serving borscht, they got a little snippy.

Earlier in the week, the secretaries and clerks at the town offices were “signing up for a Putin potluck lunch, featuring such Eastern European favorites as cherry-pear compote, eggs baked in butter and sour cream, and fiery chicken paprikash.” (http://www.boston.com/news/local/maine/articles/2007/06/25/not_all_in_kennebunkport_await_summitry_with_glee/)

I’m guessing the secretaries and clerks were not snippy but delighted to try something exotic.

You know, I always tell my kids, eat local. Don’t order lobster in Florida. Don’t get clam chowder in Iowa. Never, ever get a hot dog with mayo unless it’s at Flo’s and it comes with sauce. You go to Kennebunkport, Maine, you eat lobster. Fried clams. Chowder. You have a gin and tonic on the deck of the Cape Arundel Inn. Not vodka. You wear top siders and shirts with little alligators on them.

I’m betting Putin was eating lobster last night. And steamers, chowder, and some fresh tomatoes shipped in from Mexico.

The tomatoes get amnesty in Bush’s immigration plan. Besides, the local ones picked by illegal immigrants aren’t ready for a few more weeks.

After which Putin probably leaned over to Jr. and said, That Libby is an embarrassment. In Russia, I would have him killed and buried in the backyard. If you are so sentimental, plant some flowers on top.

But you know, Barbara was there. What would you do with your mother in the room? He commuted the sentence instead.

Call me a cynic, but sitting on the beach today, watching the security swirling around us, I couldn’t help but think the biggest thing we have to fear are the people all that security is being paid to protect.

While Jr. played footsies with a man who has run a brutal regime, and releasing a criminal, our vice-president- in an undisclosed location, to be sure- is continuing to try and define the vice presidency as… independent from … uh… everything.

Bloomberg should give him a call.

I’ll stick to lobster, not borscht- unless I’m in Moscow- freedom, not secrecy- no matter where I am, and beaches without the clutter of helicopter noise.

After all, what can you hide in a Speedo?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Stories and Moving Forward

Do I know how to party? Let me tell you, I do.

While Zachary is camping in Nova Scotia, eating green dinosaur ice cream and utterly high on time with his dad and… uh… sugar, and while Jake is driving mini Volvos at Legoland in San Diego (yup, still working on my free one) and dining on In- N-Out Burgers for dinner, Ben is with me.

At a funeral.

Yes, I needed to go to a funeral for my friend’s mom. I brought Ben with me.

Because I know how to part-aaaaayyyy.

Actually, the food was excellent and he did manage three sodas, two pieces of chocolate cake and several pieces of bacon, sans the scallop.

They had great cheese, he said to me on the ride back up to Maine.

My friend… I love her deeply. I’ve known her almost as long as any of my friends and she is my best friend.

Twenty years ago we would sit and watch our then girlfriends play soccer and argue about how many children to have.

None, she’d say. Environmentally unsound.

Fine, then I’ll have four, I’d say, just to be difficult.

I came close with three and she managed two of her own. We’ve changed a lot over the twenty years.

As did our mothers.

That was another huge part of our connection. Our moms. We loved our mothers and fought with them all the time.

My mother was always right and when you contradicted her, she simply wrote you off in a quiet but powerful manner.

Her mother was always right and let you know how right she was, dammit, sit down and listen right now.

Our mothers were similar and yet complete opposites. My mother savored being alone. Her mother gathered friends around her at every opportunity. My mother would follow the rules, never wearing shorts in the city. Her mother wore flip-flops up the Mattterhorn.

My mother insisted on a brief service, some beautiful music played, no long stories.

So many people, all with tears, laughter and at times, song, eulogized her mother.

When I walked out with Ben, I felt ripped off. Cheated. I know my mother’s friends could sit around and tell the same kind of stories. And yet her desperate need for privacy stole the opportunity in the end.

Too many funerals, too many stories, she said. No one wants to hear children go on and on about their parents…

But I wanted to go on and on about her. I wanted to tell the story about her sitting by the dock at my Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill’s cottage on Canandaigua Lake. My friend Carrie and I arrived and immediately dove into the lake, having traveled in miserable heat in a car with no air conditioner and broken vents that funneled heat at us relentlessly. How as Carrie, a gifted swimmer, went out so far her head was a tiny speck on the lake’s horizon, My mother stood, one hand waving her back in, the other holding an ice-cold cocktail.

My mother could not swim. And it wasn’t her first cocktail of the day.

Carrie did finally come back in and my mother was stern, I cannot save you, she said.

I’m a lifeguard, Carrie answered dryly, I’ll save you.

It was one of those moments where you hold your breath because your friend was just sassy with your parent and what would happen… my mother laughed her deep laugh and it kicked off a playful, fun weekend

I wanted to tell the story of the time my mother sent me to Europe for 6 weeks with a school group from another school. I was terrified and called her the night before we were to leave Washington, DC, having finished our training in the student ambassador program.

I cried. Please let me come home. I’m sick..

She calmly talked me down from my panic. Well… if you still feel bad in a week, you can come home.

In a week, I had been to Amsterdam, and rode a bus across Germany to Copenhagen.

I couldn’t imagine anything more fun, more amazing.

I wanted to be able to tell those stories. Everyone was afraid I’d tell the other stories. The ones of drunken rage and humiliation.

Not at her funeral. Those same people tend to forget how much I loved her.

No one questioned my friend’s devotion to her mother. It was beautiful to see people pouring out their love, through stories, today.

That’s what I wanted. It stuck in my gut. I wanted the stories.

Ben and I drove back up to Maine. I was so proud of him. He shook people’s hands, looked them in the eye and had conversations. The rest of the weekend is his to do as he pleases.

The beach, Flo’s hot dogs and a trip to Perkins Cove Candy are his requests. I’m on it.

I keep thinking, as much as our mothers were opposites, they were very similar. They had so many people who loved them. They had a huge impact on the world.

I can’t change the funeral but I can change how I move forward.

I’m going to start writing down all the stories I remember. It may be nine months after her death, but I am going to ask all her friends to send me a story or two. And at the year anniversary, I’m going to have a different kind of celebration.

One like yesterday.