Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Struggle and Progress



"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation… want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters… Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sticks and Stones

This letter is from TransActive Education & Advocacy, a group supporting youth of all genders in Portland, Oregon.

As a parent of a son who struggles with gender roles and the constraints of society, I needed to share it.

The next time you hear someone called he-she or tranny or freak, remember words can hurt a lot more than sticks and stones.

They can kill you.



“Dear Friends & Family,

Late Monday evening I received the news that I have dreaded since beginning my advocacy work on behalf of transgender children, youth and their families. I knew this day might, indeed would have to come, but I hoped with all my heart that somehow it would not happen.

Ian, a 16-year old transgender boy committed suicide yesterday.

As sad as the death of any child can be at any time, in any way, the loss of this child, in this way at this time is particularly painful for many of us.

It's painful because I knew Ian, his mother, father and younger brother personally. At one time, I considered myself part of their extended family.

Ian's death is particularly painful because he was one of the lucky ones. He was loved and cherished for who he was by his family. His mother and I, along with others, co-founded TransYouth Family Advocates in the hopes of providing help to Ian and so many other transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth. He had every good chance of overcoming the 50% suicidal ideation rate that is reported for transgender children and youth. And yet, with the most loving and supportive family imaginable, the sun rises today on a world missing another treasured child.

I liked Ian very, very much. He was a sensitive, thoughtful, incandescently intelligent young man. His mind was swift, taking in everything around him, though he rarely commented aloud about what he observed. When he did though, it was always worth hearing. Ian was painfully shy in many ways, and for that reason I took pleasure in making him squirm with the occasional non-sequitur, which he enjoyed and he would often toss one back at me with a sideways smile. I will always remember him with that sideways smile...

I loved making him laugh, and I loved his dry wit...it was an honor to know him and his life enriched mine.

As someone who once considered myself part of the extended (...) family, I send them my deepest condolences. I send an embrace from the deepest part of my soul not only to the (...) family, but to Kim Pearson, Shannon Garcia, "Just Evelyn" and their families as well.

From all of us at TransActive Education & Advocacy, I pledge our ongoing committment to work on behalf of the thousands of children and youth who, like Ian, struggle to fit into a world that far too often sees only their difference and ignores their gifts.

Please join us in sending your prayers, positive thoughts and support to Ian's family, extended family, friends and classmates. Join us and others who are working to create a more loving and nurturing world for transgender and gender non-conforming children, youth and their families. Hug your children and let them know that they are loved for exactly who they are...not in spite of who they are.

I wish Ian the peace he was unable to find in this life. And I believe that wherever his spirit, soul, energy force or consciousness is now, he is free of such insignificant limitations as gender and any other pain he may have experienced in his life. You were loved, Ian...and you still are.



Your friend,


Jenn Burleton


Executive Director
TransActive Education & Advocacy
Co-founder & Past President
TransYouth Family Advocates
West Region Coordinator & Board Member
PFLAG-Transgender Network

Hayley Klug
Associate Advocate
TransActive Education & Advocacy

Kaig Lightner
Associate Advocate/Technology Coordinator
TransActive Education & Advocacy

Cathy Zellmer-Jackson
Associate Advocate

Brooke Haight Turpen
Youth Advocate

Tracie Stratton
Family Coodinator"

Quote Alert...

I just made a salami on white with mayo. You don't have to be Jewish to know that is wrong...

I have been alerted that the quote from yesterday may be a re-quote of Nelson Mandela. I promise to do some investigating today. As a writer, there is no greater evil than to plagiarize or misquote.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Take a Stand

My front door blew open five times today. It’s not particularly windy.

On the third time I said, Hi, Mom.

No, I did not feel an ominous presence or have the hair on the back of my neck stick up. Just had a feeling that today, as I moved forward in some difficult but necessary ways, she was wandering around.

I know I stirred her dust in the last few days. She would have HAD AN OPINION, to say the least. Since she’s dead I can pretend she would have recognized my leadership and willingness to say out loud the hard things.

To tell the truth. To take a stand. To believe in myself.

Last night I thought about a comment Cathy, on “Who Am I“ (9/16/07) wrote to me:

“Marianne Williamson wrote these words, and they reminded me of you when I first read them.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Your playing small, doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't fee insecure around you.

It's not just in some of us: it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Today? I didn’t play it small. Sure, my mother would have been mad about the content. But I also know, deep down? She was always proud of me, and maybe a little afraid, when I stood up, liberated.

It was something she could not do. Maybe today she was taking notes for her next life.

I let it shine today.

And I have to agree with Ms. Williamson, it’s pretty damn scary.

Red Sox Champions!!!

Mostly, at this moment a few ticks past midnight?

I am so glad I get to sleep tomorrow night.

And stay tuned for a furious rip into Tim Carver and Joe Buck's obsession with Manny's helmet.

One more word, as I say to the kids... and I'm going to blow a gasket.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jake's War Statement

I told Jake there are some things not worth arguing about, like whether or not a ninja needs to have a sword case on his back or not.

What is worth arguing about?

Politics, Religion, Morality...

What's that?

Well, like whether or not there is a God...

Oh, and the War?

Yes, the War is definitely worth arguing about.

You know what I think?

What?

I think George Bush wants to have a war so that everyone dies but him and his sons. And then he'll have the whole world to himself. Until there are more people getting alive then he'll have to have another war 'cuz he won't have it all to himself anymore.

I nodded. I like the way you think, Jake. Can't argue with you.

It'd be pretty boring, He shrugged.

Yes, I believe it would. I like having a lot of diferent kinds of people.

Yeah, me too.

I think I just found my twelve year old presidential candidate a running mate.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Standing Ovation, Please...

I am feeling fairly proud of myself.

I have linked other blogs to mine- without any technical assistance. Sure, some of you are snickering because it's so easy. For me? Huge.

I also figured out how to imbed a video, thus last night's Bonnie Raitt video. Watch out. This means endless YouTube watching.

And perhaps a video or two produced by JMC Music, Inc. Nothing nearly as serious as nuclear power, though.

Or as racy as the website someone listed in one of the comments yesterday. Yikes! This is an R rated blog, not NC 17.

Today, though, I have to link to two of my favorite Larry Craig YouTube videos. Rather than annoy all my friends by emailing links to videos, I can annoy everyone on my blog!




And of course, the one with the actual arrest tape...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stop The Nuclear Bailout

Bonnie Raitt has to be one of my favorite artists of all time. Please watch...

REDEEMED

Jeanine just admitted to me that she whacked the video camera to fix it.

As in, smacked, hit, slammed.

I, of little technical experience or knowledge always say… um… smack it.

And she, of vast technical experience says, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?

I shrug.

She consults vast amounts of online dialog to see what to do. In this particular case? She had to admit it.

Uh… they all said to… smack it.

REALLY?

She nodded.

Did you?

She nodded.

Did it work?

She nodded.

Not since Pedroia’s home run in the bottom of the first have I felt such joy.

Red Sox (tired) Nation

Okay, it feels like day 100 of the Red Sox road to glory. I’m not a person to stay up late and I’ve been up late almost every night for weeks.

This is why I like football. One game, sixty minutes. That’s it.

I’m cranky. The kids are cranky. Jeanine and I decided we’d let them stay up as late as they wanted as long as they were watching the game.

This morning, Jake was jumping up and down in front of me.

I don’t know why I’m so hyper, He said.

Might be you’re really tired, I said.

Maybe, He said as he continued to bounce his way over to have some breakfast.

My brain isn’t functioning today. Up until past midnight watching the final strikeout- god, I love watching Papelbon pitch- I’ve spent the day gathering supplies for the next two game nights. Chips, salsa and beer.

I don't even like beer but something about baseball requires beer.

There is a stack of things to do but I don’t trust my judgment. I don’t even have it in me to throw a party. I can’t be thoughtful and read anything more intense than the box scores. I have a Superbowl extravaganza every year but I can’t possibly hold out for what may be three different “final” games.

The kids keep begging for hot dogs, fries, pizza- you know, special game watching food. I’ve gained at least five pounds. Enough. Salad tonight.

The good part is that everyone around me is in exactly the same shape. There is not a single person I know who does not open a conversation with, I am SO tired…

Boston is watching. And Boston is yawning. Even the non-fan is being dragged into the event. My friend who prefers to read or knit sat dutifully in front of the game the other night with her wife. She’s even learned a couple of the player’s names. The spitting, she confessed, is a little too much but it is fun to watch them win.

Another friend asked me if my kids got to stay up. I admitted yes, they did. As long as they could keep their eyes open.

None of them has made it past the 5th inning so far.

She said, Good. It’s a sense of community that rarely happens today. She described being in the Washington Heights neighborhood on the night of the ALCS game seven. It was warm out and through her open window she heard the roar go through the neighborhood, cheering the win.

Yes, it was New York City, but in the predominately Dominican neighborhood, they were cheering for Manny and Big Papi.

It’s a special time in my city. I’m excited to be a part of it even if it means not getting any work done.

And with no game tonight? I’m going to bed at 8PM.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fine Line of Entitlement

Jake was in a mood this morning, not unlike most mornings. For a child who insists on waking up at 6:30AM and poking his very cute face into yours and asking, “Are you awake?” when clearly you’ve been mid-snore a second before, I often wonder why he’s usually in such a bad mood. I’m a morning person. I wake up early. I love the morning. I hum or sing while making lunches.

Of course, not until I’ve had a cup of coffee.

This morning he was upset because I was requiring a sweatshirt to be worn. It’s below 50 degrees and if you’re going to wear shorts at that temperature, I am going to insist on a sweatshirt. It’s not about being cold, it’s about the glare I get from the teachers- your child is not properly dressed for recess.

Actually, he is and would be happy naked at 30 degrees.

When I asked him, sweetly, after a firm, GET YOUR SWEATSHIRT NOW, what he wanted for lunch, he began his loud response I DON’T KNOW I DON’T KNOW I DON’T KNOW.

After staying up to watch the Red Sox last night, my morning humor was going to take two cups of coffee to get flowing.

Fine. I’ll make you what I’ll make you.

FINE, he yelled back as he stomped up the stairs to get the dreaded sweatshirt.

I read a piece yesterday, by Harlyn Aizley, “You Get What You Get and You DO Get Upset” that echoed through my head immediately.

At a birthday party with her five-year-old daughter, Aizley leans over to a young girl left with a bum cupcake, and acknowledges the girl’s dismay. After one parent admonished her child, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset,” Aizley notes, well, actually, you do get upset.

But you still eat the cupcake.

When Jake returned wearing one of Ben’s sweatshirts dangling to his knees- a fight just waiting to happen- he asked me what I had made him, with the tone of certain disappointment.

Turkey.

For a moment I froze- I realized my gut reaction is to be ready to snarl, tough luck buddy, give me a sassy answer and you’ll get what you get.

I know as a kid, my mother did not pamper me around stuff like this. I got what I got and not a peep was expected out of me.

Of course I did more than peep at times. I was a kid, the youngest of three and always thought I got the short end of the stick. My wailing earned me the title of selfish and self-centered.

It has never served me well.

It haunts me, dancing on the edge of my consciousness, the words ready to shoot out at my own children. Jake does not need to be pampered at a moment of sullen indifference but can I find a way to help him create a bridge?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting the world. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It also doesn’t mean you’ll always get it. How do I say no, and it’s okay to be upset at a time when my brain is firing straight to the tip of my tongue my mother’s cutting words?

Oh, he said without conviction and went to find his oldest brother to show him not only had he gone INTO HIS ROOM, he also took his favorite hoodie. The confrontation with his brother was far more rich an experience than taking on me over lunch.

Maybe Jake needs some coffee in the morning, too.

I escaped today but it’s on my radar. There is no shame in wanting something. It’s time to go through with a fine toothcomb and pull out the negative messages deeply rooted in my own brain. I need to find a way to respond to my kids in a non-judgmental way that spares them the hundred pound tags I’ve carried around my whole life.

All without creating entitlement because I am, after all, raising three white boys. It's a fine line. It will require impulse control, patience and new words I'm not sure I have in my brain anywhere.

And at least one more cup of coffee.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Brilliance in the Face of Too Much Water

I just read the funniest admission in the New Yorker by George Meyer- “My Undoing." He talked about his deep love of conferences and his shameless chase of their hedonistic pleasure.

He admits, "Speedboats have been a lifelong diversion. Scotch, a serious problem. Yet no vice bedevils me like my one desperate fixation, my shameful ravening itch: I simply must attend conferences." For me? Kayaks, wine and board meetings.

I spent all day yesterday in a board meeting. I have to admit, I too, love a good meeting. I love the ideas, the vision, the ability to talk and have everyone listen. My kids never listen. And after Ben turned eleven, I became the stupidest human being on the earth.

In board meetings? I am heard.

I watched myself yesterday and took some notes. As much as I love listening, and participating, I realize there are some drawbacks to the all day board meeting that Meyer does not cover.

When meeting is called to begin at 8:30AM for breakfast and is the first speaker at 9 AM, you can be sure no one is going to arrive before 9:10AM and then they’re all going to grab, “quietly” something to eat.

And kiss everyone hello, shake hands… not at all distracting.

Allan, my kids dad and hero of organization, calls meetings at 9:03AM. Not 9:00, not 9:05 but 9:03. He’s a teacher and informs his students class will begin at that moment. He explained to me the “hour” is an approximation. 9:03 is not. Having been to,over 15 years, well over a 100 board meetings, I tend to agree.

A successful meting requires a few musts- a great leader, a strong but flexible agenda and protein. With no protein early in the morning, all good ideas are destined to crash. Carbs, sugar and caffeine alone all combine to leave every eyelid- even the speakers- at 10:15am to uncontrollably drop. No amount of water is going to help. You need protein. Period.

And no amount of protein is going to stop your need for the bathroom a full 45 minutes before there is a break. Doesn’t matter if the fate of the free world is being decided, if Condi Rice has to pee? I’m guessing she gets up and goes, regardless of the evil looks from her pal George.

Of course, being able to do that means you’ve come of age in the meeting world. Young, eager meeting goers wait till the facilitator says it’s time. Seasoned members simply get up and go. The only person who kept me in the room regardless of my need? Very famous lesbian activist.

What she had to say was worth crossing my legs. That she was newly single and took interest afterwards of my lunch selection in the buffet line? I wasn’t going anywhere except in the seat next to her, lest she need her water glass filled.

But I digress.

While there are musts for a meeting to be successful, there also things that need to be carefully monitored. No one can hog the floor for too long, the agenda timing must be kept, and no one should consume too much water. I found myself, a mere forty minutes into the meeting having consumed two cups of coffee, and three glasses of water. Why? Because it’s there. After leaving the abundance, I was shocked when boarding the train home to be offered a measly 4-ounce bottle of water. Good god, did they understand I had three hours to go? I need at least a half-gallon and a small rock to suck on to make it through.

During the meeting, I was surprised to find myself cracking my knuckles. I am 44 years old and I have never, ever in my life cracked my knuckles.

Who knew what joy it would bring.

In order to avoid the eyelid dropping at 10:15, I sent my wife a racy text message. There is nothing better, in my humble opinion, than getting an “I want to fuck you” message in the middle of a very serious debate about public policy.

Puts it all in perspective.

Between 10:30 and noon? The most productive conversation of the day occurs. Everyone is on, awake, and if the break was timed for 10:15am, relieved. It’s amazing. Ideas turn into program, consensus is reached and positive direction is not only believed in, it’s pursued with zeal.

After lunch, the mood shifts.

That’s where I disagree with Meyer. It’s not all joy. Sitting still makes my backache. By 3PM, I’m ready to for short, ten-minute conversations and am no longer capable of listening to lawyers or accountants. I eye the clock and start to drink lukewarm, old coffee from lunch in a desperate effort to rekindle the joy of the morning.

It never works. I only get impatient and start to fidget uncontrollably. My notes are unreadable. If the meeting chair decides to seriously consider parking lot items with fifteen minutes left in the day rather than let the group free early? I feign the need for the bathroom so I won't say anything that I will regret.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

There is something beautiful about finding brilliance even in the face of too much water.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Passing On Dying Arts



Yesterday I was on a train heading for NYC … it’s was a beautiful day and I spent the ride with my good friend next to me.

As we flew along the tracks, I was amazed to watch her sew. Pants, for a reception we have to go to later in the evening, needed hemming. She pulled out a needle and thread.

I have read that cooking and sewing are dying arts. Kids don’t learn how to sew anymore, and in a couple more generations, the ability to do basic sewing will be lost. The same with cooking. It reminded me of my junior high school home economics class.

I never put a neck hole in the shirt I made. Oops. I failed sewing and I was basically a straight A student. Luckily, the second half of the year was cooking and I did very well.

My mother taught me to cook. How to crack an egg, whisk with a stiff wrist and measure flour- never pack it in, just scoop and level with a knife. Always clean as you go and figure out what sized bowl to start with so you wouldn’t go through everyone in the kitchen. The woman could cook Thanksgiving dinner and have the place almost completely clean by the time dinner was served.

It was an art. Not to mention her fried chicken was something dreams are made of.

I asked my friend about her sewing. It seems she made her own clothes in high school, learned to do amazing things with the sewing machine but now mostly focuses on quilts and hemming pants.

Do your kids know you sew?

She paused and said, I think so…

Show them, I said.

I may not be able to sew, but I can cook. I love to cook. It’s an art I learned from my mother and went on to become great at myself. I still clean as I go and I can cook anything from foie gras (high heat and don’t let it melt away!), to fabulous omelets.

Still can’t do my mother’s fried chicken, though.

I can’t pass down the ability to sew. Yes, my mother did sew, and I’m sure she was lovely at it, but it never interested me. I can remember playing with her sewing machine- pressing the pedal a little, then a lot, briefly amused by the roar and how the bobbin slowed down but … it didn’t have wheels, it couldn’t go outside and I hated shots at the doctor’s office- needles were not something I cared to be around anymore than I had to.

I am deeply in awe of my friend’s ability.

I hope she shows her kids. I know I need to show mine the art of cooking. As I stood in the kitchen Sunday morning and showed Ben and Zachary how to crack an egg- one, quick forceful stroke, don’t be afraid, you’re trying to break it- I realized I’m often in too much of a hurry to let them pull up a chair and help stir.

The extra time may install a deep love of a dying art.

And let me pass down a gift I treasure deeply from my own mother.

Monday, October 22, 2007

ENDA Debate continues to rage

Please, take a minute to click on this site and fill out the forms so the congress can hear loud and clear, we want the T in LGBT rights!


http://tinyurl.com/27d6d8

What a Feeling...

So THIS is what it's like to be a Yankee fan... you actually win.

Go Red Sox!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wake Up Boy Scouts- Hate Costs Money

In Philadelphia, the city got serious about what they will and will not support. The Boy Scouts of America, always getting a free ride for their program, will now have to pay going rates for the space.

“The organization's Cradle of Liberty Council, which currently pays $1 a year in rent, must pay the increased amount to remain in its downtown building past May 31, Fairmount Park Commission president Robert N.C. Nix said Wednesday.

City officials say they cannot legally rent taxpayer-owned property for a nominal sum to a private organization that discriminates.

Mark that increase from $1 to $200,000.

On one hand, it’s almost archaic to think of an organization that bans certain members of our society. Makes you think of fat necked relics like Hootie Johnson of August National Golf Club, boasting his right to exclude Blacks, Jews and Women.

And of course, the queers. In fact, I don’t think that’s even on the charter. Why bother saying what goes without question?

You can’t do that in Philadelphia anymore. No a free rides from the city and have a written, directed policy to ban gays.

And while the organization can cry the children will suffer, claiming the additional dollars "would have to come from programs. That's 30 new Cub Scout packs, or 800 needy kids going to our summer camp," it seems to me there is a very quick way to deal with the situation that won’t cost a penny.

Change the policy of banning gay scouts.

It’s time to take on the National Organization’s decision to ban gays. Here in Massachusetts, I’ve been approached about having my sons join the scouts. With a wink and a promise, I’m told that no one around here would ever entertain banning a gay scout.

Yet, technically, as a lesbian mom, I would not be allowed to participate in any of the activities. Sorry, the boys’ dads are gay, too. And none of us are too keen on having our kids join a group that has fought legally for the right to exclude their parents.

Not to mention I find the oath a little creepy- obey the Scout Law? On my honor? Duty to country? Sounds like a military recruitment poster. I do like the part of the Scout law that requires being clean. After cutting my son Jake’s nails last night, I think clean is a good thing to have emphasized from every direction.

A word of advice to the Boy Scouts of America- laws are changing. Your history is of a group grown from the roots of a progressive movement of the early 1900’s, concerned with the social welfare of boys.

Pointing to the poor children who will be denied services is a poorly thought out choice. Instead of welcoming all boys, you will punish needy members. The irony is you have thousands of gay scouts participating right now. Local groups ignore the policy left and right, not just in Massachusetts but also all over the country.

Wake up, Boy Scouts- Hate Costs Money.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Calm Preparation


The kids are all practicing their instruments. Jake just had a bath. I have a lovely shiraz poured- meaty yet spicy. Still very tannic- it's young. This bottle isn't going to make it to adulthood.

The Red Sox are playing.

Last night, I went to bed early in preparation for the game tonight and hopefully, tomorrow.

I asked a friend who is a Yankee fan if she can be happy when the Sox win. I know I'm happy when anyone beats the Yankees.

She hasn't responded. Probably best.

I'm ready for a bloody sock to be pulled out. I'm ready for Shilling to prove the world we old folks have a place in professional sports. I want to see Lofton whiff, I want to see Ellsbury hit a ball out of the park, and I want Ortiz to win the game.

But in the bottom of the seventh, please? It makes "Sweet Caroline" so much more fun to sing.

Third Born Reality




I need to start by saying I love all my children. I have a different connection with each of them. With Jake? It’s the first born, third child syndrome.

I was a first-born of my birthmother but was adopted into a family as a third child. Jake, first born of Jeanine, is the third child. It provides some interesting moments.

I believe birth order behavior is a combination of innate and learned. I have been asked so many times in my life if I was the oldest.

To which I respond, No, just the smartest.

“Firstborns are typically and believed to be serious, conscientious, directive, goal-oriented, aggressive, rule-conscious, exacting, conservative, organized, responsible, jealous, fearful, high achieving, competitive, high in self-esteem, and anxious.”

Uh… Yup, that’s me.

“The youngest child of the family is viewed as the party animal, the entertainer who is unafraid to test his or her luck. They are also thought of as the baby of the family and an outgoing charmer. While this is certainly not true of all youngest siblings, proponents of this theory state that the youngest of the family is an endearing, and delightful friend.”

If that weren’t enough, “Youngest children may become manipulative and control-seeking if their sibling(s), parents, or other peers are overbearing or bossy.”

The only non-bossy, have to be right no matter what person in this family is Zachary.

And the dog.

Right on again. I am, I hope, a good friend. I am also willing to put on wig, heels and lip synch a routine in front of a crowd. Sure, I’m fearful of it, but I still do it. I flirt endlessly, and will fight for blood when it comes to, golf, football or scrabble. And I am, as a friend once said she was described as, “often wrong but never in doubt.”

I live somewhere in the middle of both descriptions. Serious, aggressive, party animal, entertainer, responsible, fearful, a charmer, and very anxious.

So does Jake. He and I are like two peas in a pod. It’s a little scary sometimes.

This morning, Jake screamed at me because I told him to turn the TV off. For one, Ben at seven would have spent half his life in his room for such a behavior. Jake, as third child, gets away with a timeout on the couch next to me.

No rule following for him.

He says to me, even though he has been told to be silent, This family stinks.

He’s going for the buttons. Manipulative is one very good description of him.

But I’ve got that covered, because I am, too.

I hate all of you.

I nod. Keep reading.

I want to run away forever.

Jake? You are to be QUIET. Not a peep. Timeout starts over again, back to minute one.

Because I am bossy and controlling.

OKAY OKAY OKAY! He shouted.

This is what got him here in the first place. Again, Ben’s consequences would have been over the top. I took a deep breath and ignored him.

He eyed me for a more direct hit...

You are EVIL. Then he added, I wish I was homeless.

I have to be honest. I wanted to burst out laughing at that point. Because he’s looking at me, peeking through a hole in a blanket he has covering his head, completely looking to gauge my reaction.

I want to kill myself, He added because now he’s going for the gusto.

I look over at Jeanine to be sure she stays quiet. She leaves to take a shower giving me the silent point, which means take care of this...

When Jake was four, and we were living in Rochester, he once said he wanted to die while having a fit. Jeanine bought into it hook line and sinker and was ready to kill herself over the agony of what she felt was our horrible parenting that would lead to this.

Personally, I thought he was looking for the way to yank our chain the best.

Being directive, smart and manipulative, he found it.

As Jeanine called the school to find out a therapist's name...

I wedged in next to him far back in his closet where he had retreated and asked him what would happen if he died.

I'd get to watch TV by myself and no one would change the channel.

I nodded. I can see why that sounds good.

I love my boy. He’s just like me. Once when I was a kid I told my mother I was running away. She said fine, but you have to clean your room first.

Well… I wasn’t ABOUT to do that, so I folded my arms across my chest and sat on the edge of my bed, not moving for no one, no how.

Controlling and charming all at once.

Just like Jake who continued to peek from his blanket. I finally turned to him, pulled the blanket down and said, Listen. I want this over, too. Sit here, not a peep, five minutes. Then we can be done.

He scowled and I pulled the blanket back down on his face.

He made it three minutes and I gave up.

“The youngest child is often babied or "pampered" more than the other siblings. This "pampering," according to Adler, is one of the worst behaviors a parent can bestow on a child. "Pampering" can lead to dependence, and selfishness as well as irresponsibility when the youngest enters adulthood.”

Listen… I wasn’t pampering him, I was tired, in need of a second cup of coffee and a five-minute punishment was into its second half hour.

And there you have it. The reality of the third born.



Friday, October 19, 2007

Good Question


Jake asked me last night what a territory was, and could he see a picture.

I pulled up the Wikipedia site and showed him the US territories. I said, back in the old days, countries took over smaller countries for their resources and called them their own.

Is Iraq our territory, too? He asked.

They have lots of oil, he added.

Good question, I answered.

I have, for the last six years, reminded my kids once a week that we are at war. Some people think I'm over the top.

3832 dead.

over 28,000 wounded.

Maybe I am over the top but when my children are adults, they will not be surprised to find out we were at war even though they had food every night, clothes to wear and a beautiful home. It's my way to support our troops.

By reminding everyone where they are.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Top of the Seventh



I hate baseball.

I want to go kayaking.

I want to be in Maine where there is no television.

Date Request

So while the Red Sox work on breaking my heart, I thought I'd report on my latest date request.

I know, I'm married but it seems I'm irresistible.

Ben was invited to a Bats Mitzvah.

Mom? Will you go with me? He asked.

Um...no? But you can go.

Okay, maybe I'm just convenient.

Glove Talking

Do baseball players talk into their gloves for secrecy or because their breath is so bad?

Go Red Sox!

Impulse Control

I almost did something really stupid today.

But I didn’t.

I’m so proud of myself.

I had one of those insane, thinking the best of people even when there is no reason to think the best of them moment.

Didn’t do it.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about what I wanted out of the imagined exchange. Goes something like this:

I write a heartfelt note, explaining how much I appreciate the help given with my son, Ben, last year. There are moments in your life that are turning points- last summer and going to Camp OUT was one of them for Ben. The person in question was pretty much responsible for pushing me to send him.

I pretend to think I don’t want anything in return.

But in return? I would have been acknowledged as a good person, a good mother. I would be thoughtful and kind.

Red flags start waving.

I call a good friend. I’m hopeless, aren’t I?

Why do you want to sabotage the good feeling you have about Ben’s success? She asks.

I’m not…

Funny thing, though, is I dreamt about my mother all night last night. Oh, she was mad at me. Kicked my ass back and forth through three different dreams. I kept waking up and she kept coming back each time my eyes shut again.

Hmmm. Suspicious. The note in question would be going to the stand in for my mother. Just as judgmental and just as full of glorious golden light. And thinks very, very little of me.

Just like my mother.

I can’t seem to let that go. I hate the thought that someone is going through life thinking I am a horrible person. I want to spread joy and goodwill. I want to be a good person.

Or is it that I can’t give up the wound? My wound of being declared a bad person and not being able to dance well enough sing sweetly enough to get the black mark on my name erased.

Yeah, I know. It’s not very clean anymore, is it? Suddenly, my desire to acknowledge something kind once done is full of more than one red flag. It’s a field of them.

I deleted the note. I’m never going to be a good person to her, no matter how hard I try.

And my mother is going to continue to haunt me in my dreams, chasing after me, telling me how wrong I’ve done everything. In one dream last night, my mother was furious she had to wait in line for a seat in a restaurant I picked. The response was over the top- she was screaming and slashing at me. How could I be so wrong and disappoint her all the time?

I kept crying to her, I’m trying… I’m trying… only to wake up with a dry, sore throat.

So… to she who will not be named, ever, Thank you. Ben is doing so well. Your push to have me to send him to camp, to acknowledge his growing independence was perfect timing. I am so grateful. At his birthday party, with as many new friends as old friends, he was himself. In full glory and completely accepted. I was so proud. More than that? I kept thinking about all the hands that helped him get to the place he is now. Thank you for being one of those hands.

I’ve paid my due, minus the red flags.

My god, if I get any more impulse control, I’m going to have to try yoga after all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Still Pounding...

Maybe I've gone insane.

Maybe my brains are actually going to explode.

I took more allergy medicine and for a moment, it seemed to help. Then life started happening again.

Today was on fast forward- and not nearly done yet. I'm off to coach Jake's practice. Defense? Offense? Or should we stick to the run run run and wear 'em out drills. Those are the ones the parents love.

I found half of the bills needing to be paid. Good thing. Some were past due.

My head is still pounding. I don't think it's ever going to stop.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Housewife Moment



I’m having a housewife moment today.

You know, one of those days where you feel like nothing you do is very important and everyone around you seems to be acting like you eat bon bons all day and watch soap operas?

I am not the most efficient at my housewife job. I leave dishes in the dish rack, sometimes for a whole day. Hard to tell, of course, because there is yet another meal being cooked, more dishes washed… I don’t always find all the socks on the floor. I don’t actually think I see them anymore until they’ve reached a critical mass. The pile of shoes in the back room is a continual effort- I tell the boys to straighten the mess up and three seconds later, boom. Big mess again.

At least they take their shoes off when they come in the house. That is a BIG deal during mud season.

I have construction going on in my house. Nothing like a friend of mine is going through, so I feel like a baby. She won’t have a kitchen for two months. Only my office is torn apart.

Not that I do anything in that office except chow those bon bons.

My office historically has been the one clean zone in the house. It is my haven. I love Jeanine but she is a messy person. She simply does not see clutter. Or sees it and doesn’t care. She felt bad for me this morning, as I sat in tears explaining I had no idea where half the bills in the house are and if I’ve paid them or not. The stupid survey still isn’t done and I don’t know what to do about it and without it my office is at a stand still; walls ripped open waiting for some idiot’s signature on a permit that says, yup, they ripped the walls open. I have a budget to review for tomorrow, a meeting to chair, and I’ve had a headache since last Thursday.

I don’t do well in chaos. Well, I seem to do very well in emotional chaos, but not physical chaos.

In her attempt to be helpful, Jeanine put away the laundry that was sorted and folded on our bed. Problem is, she left her clothes from last night on the floor, stepping over them several times in putting away the clean clothes.

It was a sweet attempt.

Last night, Walter made a joking comment about the lovely trash can decoration- it had been brought in for the party Saturday night, emptied yesterday for trash day and was still sitting by the stairs, waiting to be returned to the basement.

I’d been carrying too much laundry up and down the stairs to grab it, too. I know. Lazy. I should have made that 121st trek without complaint.

I could have smacked him. It was like asking me about sconces for the living room an hour before Ben’s birthday party on Saturday. I had a few other things on my mind.

Like… how will Ben do with his friends? Will he be okay? Is he being himself? Will Jake get miserable and need to cause trouble during the party? How can I keep him occupied? What about Zachary? He’s felt sooo kicked to the curb with Ben’s new life in middle school, will he just quietly sit in the corner and be sad? Did I ask Ben to tell the kids we have a dog? Will there be any allergies? Shit, we have peanut butter candy… do I worry about that or not? Will parents come in or just drop their kids off outside? Can I calmly accept a giant beverage being spilled on my leather couch? Wait… the rug in the back room really needs cleaning. Where do I take that? Shit, I haven’t called anyone about doing the windows and gutters… did anyone walk the dog today or is she going to be jumping on people?

All in about thirty seconds. Sconces? You gotta be kidding me.

I want my house in order, the work to be done and my head to stop pounding. I want the laundry to magically disappear, the boys rooms be clean, and someone to cook me dinner.

I don’t want sconces.

I know. It’s just a housewife moment. It’ll pass. In the meantime, I have to get the air conditioners out of the windows, go to the grocery store and stop at the dry cleaners, bank, and post office.

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Lao Tzu



I’m guessing he had a wife…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Drums, Sax and Clarinet

I wonder why I have a headache.

Jake is practicing the snare drum. He cannot practice in the back room. He needs to practice three feet away from me. I wince with each, well timed beat. He's getting very good but I wish he was still playing the harp.

Zachary has just started the saxophone. I am reminded of small animals crying out in pain.

Ben, on clarinet, goes back and forth between a good tone and a squeak- not unlike his soon to be changing voice.

Tonight is Ben's family birthday dinner. He's called for take out chinese but wants it in the dining room. Cloth napkins, chopsticks and china. He's so my son.

I am the only parent here. Funny how that works out. Most nights, I am the only parent here during practice time. I know, in years to come, when the kids can all jam together I'll hug Jeanine and thank her for insisting they play.

Right now? I want to know where the earplugs are.

If I had a hammer, I’d a hammer out a warning…

The old song keeps going through my head today. The reality is if I had a hammer, I’d probably build a triangle.

I don’t mean a useful one, rather one along the lines of a triangle between people. One where I’m the focal point. Or end up the focal point. No matter how you look at it, it’s not good.

My mother triangulated her children. Divide and conquer. By telling one of us about the other, and then something else to another, all in deep secrecy, she kept us in line. Made us feel special. It also has left a deep scar on open and honest communication between us.

We are supposed to keep the secrets. It always surprises me when I get in trouble for writing about some of the unthinkable things that happened in my childhood- hello? Did I do them? Excuse me, but I think the drinking my mother did was her own choice. The message was clear- don’t ever say a word about what happened. Play by the rules and you will be kept in the favorite circle.

Challenge the rules? You are out. Done. Gone. Disowned.

I had a boss like that once. I didn’t understand until I’d been gone for a while how I’d been played like a cheap violin. So familiar was the call to play secrets and triangles, avoiding it was like trying to diet working in a bakery. Not going to happen.

Problem is, it’s a terrible way to live. Always holding someone’s secrets, always vying to be the special one… for me? It’s translated into many of my adult relationships. I don’t mean to do it. I don’t want to get involved in them.

But I do. Often without even realizing what I’ve done.

It’s not about keeping a secret. I can do that. I’ve kept secrets for people who I don’t even like anymore. It’s not about being trustworthy. It’s about having someone leverage you, to work in his or her favor. Or you doing the same to someone else.

Case in point: I do something today I feel terrible about- I’ve caused an unintentional injury. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I got my hammer out and start building a triangle to someone else, who also knows the injured party.

Why? Because I don’t want to be a bad person. I don’t want to be viewed in any kind of negative way. So quick… I rushed to defend myself with…someone else?

After getting an “I’m not getting involved” response I realized what I did.

Duh. I went for the hammer instinctively. Imagine my surprise when I dealt directly with the injured and actually- gasp- created good will. Connection. Understanding.

Go figure.

It’s not about my mother or an old boss, or anyone else anymore. It’s about recognizing the draw, feeling my head start to turn in another direction and stopping it. Or seeing any dangling promise of intimacy at the cost of others as a useless triangle that only hurts people in the long run. I have to stop it. Take my lumps, directly, good or bad. Stop being so… wounded.

And put the damn hammer down.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blood Relatives

Jeanine and I snuck off this morning for a little snuggle in bed. The beauty of your kids getting older is that they don’t notice when you take off for a while so you can have a some horizontal alone time.

Not that their little radars don’t go off the minute anything interesting starts to happen and either start to fight with each other or suddenly need our help pouring the same bowl of cereal they insist on getting by themselves during the week.

Jeanine reminded me that 12 years ago today, we went to the OB’s office for a regular appointment and ended up the next morning with a new baby boy. My blood pressure had spiked and Dr. smiled and calmly said, Today’s the day.

And even without the bag packed, everything came out fine, she said to me this morning. Yes, I’m still pissed she hadn’t packed the damn bag like I asked her to.

In hindsight, it did all turn out all right. Ben, although in the NICU for ten days with a high fever, is a healthy, beautiful 12 year old. I can remember squeezing my eyes shut during those first few days when he was listless, being fed through a tube down his nose and throat, imagining a day like today. When he would be tall, strong and full of life. I even prayed, although I do not believe in prayer because there was nothing else I could do, aside from making copious amounts of breast milk.

But what I remember most about that time, those days lost in a sea of hospital green and florescent lights, was how it felt to hold my own child, my own blood for the first time in my life. I could only imagine how my birthmother, having left the hospital, never once touching me with her hands, must have felt. I could not leave Ben’s side. I held him while they tried to insert a needle for a spinal tap, tears pouring down my face, not willing to let him be held by anyone else. Not even Jeanine.

I had lived 32 years and never knew a blood relative. Adopted at three weeks old, I spent my first days in a nursery, not unlike Ben, waiting for paperwork to be finished. The image still feels like a black hole of emptiness to me. Who held me when I cried?

When Ben came out, after many long hours of pushing, he was covered in white goop and had one eye shut and one eye open. I thought he looked like a pirate. I was exhausted and crying and completely in love with this being. Skin on skin, I held him up to my breast and felt something I cannot explain in words. It was a connection on a fiber level, so deep, so intense; it overwhelms me even now to think about it.

In his first few days, so sick, I was terrified I was going to lose him.

And I could not stop staring at him, measuring the length of my hand against his small arm.

Something inside me shifted the day he was born. It’s not that I stopped struggling with abandonment issues, because I do still, and probably always will. It is part of my fabric, part of my life that is imbedded in a way that makes me who I am, in good ways and in not so good ways. For the first time, though, I felt a connection with the woman who gave birth to me on one side and my own flesh and blood on the other.

I didn’t feel alone in the world anymore.

I wasn’t emotionally alone, because I had a wife who loved me- and still usually does- and friends in my life. I am and was someone who likes to connect deeply with people. But for me, being adopted always meant never having someone’s eyes, or their smile, or the same desire to polish off an entire jar of olives. I was never “just like” someone.

I held Ben and wondered how he would be like me and how he would be different. I wondered if he would have feet like mine or big hands like I do. I have read many different adoptees stories over the years and the one universal feeling is of wanting to know their roots, wanting to know their physical history. People with blood relatives are not faced with putting question marks on every medical history form you encounter, or the loneliness of a grade school project on genealogy. In fourth grade I pretended to be part Native American. My teacher found out and told me to fill out my adopted parents backgrounds- that would be good enough.

It wasn’t. I wanted my history.

It’s a confusing road I travel now- I found my birthmother and know that I am part English, German and that my biological father was pure Irish. I still consider myself part southern, from my adopted mother because culturally I identify so deeply with it. My adopted mother was also remotely related to George Washington- that’s cool, so I’ll keep it.

I’ve dropped any connection to my adopted father. I am grateful I’m not his blood.

My kids identify with everything and everyone. Zachary, my biological son with blue blue eyes and pale white skin, describes himself as part Mexican. Jake, Jeanine’s biological son, dark, with her thick eyelashes, describe himself as part Irish. I hope I’ve done the right thing. I’ve always explained the difference between my bloodline and my adopted line- and how I feel both are me.

Ben, though, is suspiciously quiet on the subject. He has always identified as being of me, and only me. We share the same temperament, which leaves me often in the position of being the only one patient enough to deal with his anxiety. It’s funny that he looks a lot like Walter, even though they are not biologically related.

He also looks like me.

Something happened 12 years ago when I held my first-born son. His fever broke on day five- just a virus after all. He started nursing, pooping, peeing and looking around. I finally allowed my mother to come, having kept her away while we waited to see if there was something terribly wrong with Ben. She walked in and swooped up her grandbaby, just as in love as I was. Blood didn’t matter. He was hers.

And blood does matter. At 7:46AM in the morning on October 15th 1995, I finally had roots.

Even without Jeanine packing the bag.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

19 Kids... House Still Standing


I am not tired.

I am exhausted.

The kids were great. A little too wild, but a lot of fun.

Ben just gave me a kiss and said Thank you for the best birthday party ever.



They all were sophisticated and still kids. They ate too much sugar and laughed at the jokes in the movie "Clue." Almost all were armed with cell phones and sent text messages while sitting next to each other.




The kids I've known forever knew to be afraid of me when I growled. The others didn't- a first. they learned. I don't care about much but you don't throw paper plates of pizza at each other and you don't run through my house.

I'm proud of Ben. He's made new friends. Honestly, truly, nice kids. Big smiles and a lot of silliness, they all still sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

But now... it's time to lay our heads down on a pillow. Beanie is already there.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Ben's Turning 12... Pass the Advil

I have an enormous headache right now. Pounding from the top of my head all the way down my neck. I have an untold number of 12 to 14 year olds coming to my house tomorrow for Ben’s birthday party.

Oh my.

Some of the kids he’s invited, I know. Some I’ve known since they were two. Some I’ve never met before, new kids he’s met at middle school. Some boys but mostly girls are coming. He keeps adding people to the list every day.

Thank god it’ll be over soon.

There are eight 2-liter bottles of pop on the counter. (Yes, I call it pop. I am from Upstate New York. Soda just doesn’t sound right.) Bags of chips, funions, cheetos line the counter. There are boxes of popcorn to pop. We have to get a cake, still.

And start taking Advil now.

Ben loves a party. He helps me set up the room, put out the food, arrange the drinks. I have goofy napkins from Mik-Wright and he picks out which one we’ll use. He knows how to put a glass on a pile of cocktail napkins and twirl them in order to fan the pile neatly. I’m sure set up for the 5pm party will start at about noon.

Might want to do a back up of Excedrin.

I remember once when Ben was in preschool, a party he had with his entire class at our house. Jeanine, the birthday party/camp counselor / social director has crafts, games, music, prizes and of course, the piñata dangling from the ceiling. There was a disco ball twirling, even though it was still daytime.

I ran around trying to keep gummy pieces of candy from sticking permanently to the floor. I’m not made for parties of many small children. Tomorrow won’t be small children though. These kids are grown. Tall. Some of the girls have breasts and wear make up.

You hang out with 8th graders? I asked Ben.

Yes, He said with an air of worldly confidence. I am very mature, He added.

Huh.

I remember the difference in what I was doing in sixth grade versus eighth grade. Spin the bottle and post office in sixth grade. Two girls I knew got pregnant in eight. And that was a million years ago.

A friend shared a story about having a 12th birthday party and trying to sneak liquor to the event. I don’t remember having a birthday party after my friend stepped on the eight-layer cake my mother had made from scratch, having put it on the car floor to take to a public pool. I did have an 18th birthday party, though. My mother cooked broiled lobster tails for six of my friends- who all hated the lobster- and let me buy one six pack of beer.

It was a wild time. Actually, it did end up being one but not at home.

One of the other mothers at the school told me she said no more parties after her son turned 10- years old. I think that’s a good rule.

Jeanine told me to stop being such a party pooper.

Only 12 kids invited, I growled.

She smiled. I was in Maine when the invitations went out. I think 20 were delivered.

I’ve been given the job of snack bar coordinator.

You used to cater, right? Ben asked. Did I need a resume to get the gig?

Yeah.

Make sure you get the right kind of cups for the drinks…

My eyes start to glaze. My headache grows.

Maybe I should skip the Advil and Excedrin and go straight for the gin…

Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out day. It’s a day when people who have been living in shame and confusion about who they are encouraged to take a bold step and say, I’m gay.

Hi, Mom. I’m gay.

Sounds great and it’s never easy. Coming out stories are told like recalling war wounds, or having a house burn down. As years go on, you are calmer about what happened, and even can find the humor in it but not when it first happens.

I am a firm believer that coming out stories should be told by those closest to the experience. The very real pain and terror of losing your family, your friends, or your job is on your breath like a night’s sleep. I am so far removed from coming out, I can’t tell my story without cracking few jokes and poking fun at the situation.

But when I thought about it today, I realized you come out over and over again. In many different ways, and sometimes choose the closet in odd situations. I sat yesterday on a piece of driftwood that was lying in a small cove in Down East Maine. One gentleman with a thick southern accent came up and then two others, and suddenly I had more company than I’d seen in days. The first gentleman was coming to get some seawater to boil some lobsters in and the other two saw him trying to traverse the rocky shore and came to help.

A conversation was struck. I noted that I did not have the proper boots to help but did have a cell phone I was willing to use if calamity happened. We then all discussed the proper way to cook a lobster- steamed, never boiled, and only in seawater. Cook till they turn red, give ‘em two more minutes then pull them. Take a good rock to keep the lid on and don’t mind the scratching on the side of the pot.

I was thoroughly enjoying talking lobsters- the two rescuers were in fact lobstermen on a trip to hunt birds on the point. I asked about migration patterns and the other gentlemen asked about trap allotments.

Suddenly, the talk turned to jobs. And from jobs it went to racism so thick I thought I was going to choke. The southern gentleman no longer sounded like a gentleman. He sounded like a bigot. He referred to Mexican Americans as “Mex’s” and the trouble they cause and how they import poverty and make everyone’s lives miserable.

While he talked, and the other two agreed with hearty nods, I was starting to feel very uncomfortable. My wife is Mexican. I only know hard working people who have gone from migrant workers to a generation of lawyers and professionals. On that log, in that cove, so far away from everything I know? I sat quietly and said nothing.

I chose not to come out.

I don’t think I was in any danger but I was afraid. I went back to talking about lobsters, the over fishing of sea urchins and would the new kelp industry help.

But then it was the Chinese who eat the urchins- not true; it’s the Japanese- and import drugs into our country.

Drugs? I stop being afraid and challenge the notion that the Chinese are importing drugs into our country in order to turn us into their slaves. Drugs and an issue when the economy is bad, don’t ya think? I say.

It felt like standing on the edge of the shore and shouting, I’M A LIBERAL! Which would be even more frightening than saying I was a lesbian.

I think.

The conversation eventually dies down after a lively discussion about housing costs and how working people can no longer live where they have for generations. No one argued that point. We all hung our heads, shaking them.

As I walked away, I felt like I wasn’t really true to who I am and knew it was because I didn’t feel safe. I would not have approached the situation any differently. There are times you simply do not come out.

A friend emailed me after I told my story about the lobstermen and neighbor. She told me about a time she and her partner and their daughter pulled into a gas station, riding on empty, in a small town in Western Massachusetts. There was no other choice, no shining 24-hour pay at the pump station, only a one-pump store with two men working the place. Poverty doesn’t mean to be frightening but when you are two lesbians with your child in a car and the people at the pump have no teeth and invoke the “Deliverance” theme, you are, in fact, frightened.

Not to mention you are sporting the “We’d rather have a marriage license” bumper sticker, a banner for the gay marriage equality movement in Massachusetts.

And when one of the guys leans over and reads the sticker and calls to his friend, HEY! Come here and read this…

You start to sweat. You panic. Your kid is in the car. Your spouse, not yet legally defined but still … and two men much stronger than you in remote area are looking at your GAY bumper sticker, you think, she told me, you are going to die.

Finally, the other one who has slowly inspected the slogan smiles and says, “Well girls that's a great way to advertise for a husband!”

So today, on National coming Out Day, I want to hear the stories from the people most recently involved in the struggle with their loved ones.

And remember that every day we decide to come out… or not, often depending on the soundtrack of the situation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Barney Frank: Stop the Scapegoating!

Last night, Congressman Barney Frank made a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. It seems he got my previous letter . In an eloquent flurry, he blamed the 300 plus LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) groups who have signed on to leave ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) inclusive of Transgender people.

Seems we’ve touched a nerve.


“What I am sure about this place is this: if we listen to the most dedicated, most zealous believers in purity and kill this bill that would be such a great advance in civil rights, we will be a long time in getting back to anything. People who think that if they are successful in killing this one and in attacking people and demonizing people who want to deliver, as part of a movement, this big advance that they will then be able to get more than that live in Oz, in not only a fantasy world but a nonexistent fantasy world and a dream. It simply will not happen.” Barney Frank, last night on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Frank? I am not a zealot or a fanatic. I’m a suburban lesbian housewife. I have three kids. I drive a Volvo station wagon with about 100,000 miles on it from my treks to and from grocery stores, soccer games and my kid’s schools. I don’t demonize people but I do have high standards of those who are suppose to be my representatives in the political process.

I have six loads of dirty laundry waiting for me in the basement. I definitely don’t live in Oz.

You, however, are right about one thing. The more time you spend on Capitol Hill, the further out of touch with the community you have become. That’s not an attack, Congressman, but an observation. Would it be a great advance for civil rights if only gay men were covered? Or just lesbians? Why not cut out Bisexuals because half the time they are invisible, so why bother with language that might make people nervous?

Congressman Frank, I don’t want to be accused of “killing” or “attacking” anyone, especially not you. You have represented me well for the last 22 years (I am aware you’ve served for 27, I did not live in your district then), and I am proud to pull the lever every election for you. It is hard, however, to remain civil in a discussion about leaving people behind. Who gets to choose?

“Now, the notion that you do not pass an anti discrimination bill protecting large numbers of people until you can protect everybody, in my judgment, is flawed, morally and politically. It is flawed morally because I am here to help people in need. That's why I serve in this job. “ Barney Frank.

It seems you get to choose who gets left behind. Someone commented recently that in Congress, you have to make “Sophie’s Choice” every day. Whether it’s immigrant children for the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) plan or Transgender people for ENDA. I hear your outrage at being challenged on this particular choice. But the reality for me is, I won’t make that choice. That you will is a political decision, no question but I’m going to push hard on the morality of it.

In the movie, Sophie’s Choice, the main character has to choose between one of her children, forced by a Nazi guard. She must choose or they both will die. Is that the choice we are facing today, Congressman? Are we facing a signed bill, passed by the Senate with President Bush’s signature or nothing at all? Is that the truth?

I don’t think so. In fact, you said last night that we are going to lose.

“Now, I said we're going to lose. I hope I'm wrong. After we did our count and found that we didn't have the votes, all of a sudden, the cavalry mounted up. But they're coming from a long distance. I have been pleading with people in the gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender communities to lobby for us.” Barney Frank.

I’m here. I’m ready. Others are here and ready too. But I cannot lobby for a bill that doesn’t include everyone. I won’t. You can call me whatever names you want to call me. You can challenge the morality of my position and tell me I live in a fantasy land. The infighting is a publicity nightmare for our community and I wish it would stop as much as you do.


But not at the cost of others. Especially when there isn’t a real choice being made- millions of people aren’t being denied protections, rather thousands being blamed for being too difficult to discuss.

Can we stop the scapegoating and work together? Please? Tell me what to do. Tell me the people I need to talk to. Tell me if we need a fifty state delegation of Transgender folks to come talk to representatives. Tell me positives steps I can make. I want to work with you.

I don’t want to choose between you and the Transgender community. That really would be a “Sophie’s Choice.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Enough Time

While I was taking a break from my hectic day, lying down on a down comforter with the ocean breeze coming in through the cracked window, I heard Walter ruefully say to Donald, There is never enough time. I can’t get everything done.

I feel the opposite while I’m here. I feel like there is enough time. Time seems to stop for me. Maybe I should stop spending the day cooking, napping and kayaking.

Nah.

I did take time while driving yet another truck today (this one was stick shift… I’m going to be unbearable when I get home) to take a picture of the bright red blueberry fields. I went in and bought things for dinner at the local market after a morning of kayaking. I stayed out as long as I could, until my arms ached, going in and out of small inlets, seeing where it might be fun to take the kids for a quick swim next summer. I saw only one baby loon today, after seeing eight yesterday. Or six. It was hard to tell, they kept dropping down in the water.

I love being on the kayak. Push hard upwind as far as you can go, then turn around and float back, like a sailboat. It’s almost a new moon and the tides are rushing in and out much farther than normal, which meant being able to stay out for over two hours without having to worry about dragging the boat up over a bunch of rocks.

I know I’m a slacker. I did, however, clean the oven that hasn’t been cleaned since its instillation in 1960. I boiled water, baking soda and put a piece of tin foil in to clean an old silver-plated pot. Didn’t work- the baking soda was probably from the same time the stove was put in.

I’m also cooking coq au vin for Walter and Donald who did work all day today on the Dome, sealing the windows, preparing for winter. Big salad, country bread and a great cabernet wine- Villa Mt. Eden, chocolately and spicy at once. Hmm. Too smooth for butch heaven. I’ll have to use jelly jars instead of glasses.

In a moment, because I see a Blue Heron standing in a tidal pool and the light is amazing. I’ve yet to buy a telephoto lens, so I’m left to sneaking up and trying to get a shot without the bird moving.

Fat chance.

I feel a little guilty for not working hard. My excuse is that I spend too much of my life moving at high octane speeds, starting most days at 7AM and going until 10PM at night. Between writing, and kids, and food, and cleaning, and errands, and appointments, I don’t have a lot of downtime.

Gotta go, gotta get it done…

I don’t feel that way here. Yes, I know Walter is doing important things- the windows need to be resealed. A seawall needs to be rebuilt. Hoses need to be drained and mesh is needed for the Dome’s chimney so we don’t come in and meet a pissed off squirrel who has been caught indoors.

I have to be honest. I’d look, nod, and hire someone to do it. Or, more likely, know I had to hire someone and think on it for a while. Like two or three years.

I want to hear the water. The Kingfisher’s twirl. Dinner will be done soon enough.

Because I have time enough. At least while I’m here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Butch Paradise

I’ve never really thought of myself as butch. I knew everyone else thinks of me that way, but I don’t. Personally, I feel quite the princess most of the time. I love to cook, take care of my kids, and run a house. I shriek when mice or snakes are present- not that it’s a particularly feminine trait but… it’s certainly not considered butch to be standing on top of a chair when a rouge dust ball happens by (remember, Marg?).

I have even had my now long hair braided. Although afterwards, everyone told me I looked like Ben Franklin.

Ouch.

I would have settled for Johnny Tramaine.

I realize, I can have all the femme I want in my heart but the outside world is always going to see 5’ 10”, broad shouldered, built like a truck Butch.

If I wore heels everyone would ask me when I had my reassignment surgery. I can’t pull girl off. Never have been able to. Maybe that’s why I care so much about keeping the T in the ENDA debate. Gender expression is very important to me. I think I look like a woman but I still get asked all the time if I’m in the right restroom.

Which brings me to yesterday, when I embraced my inner butch. More than embrace, I pretty much had a wild fling with it. There I was, driving Walter’s F150 truck, wearing a flannel shirt, and heading to Home Depot to get an axe.

And a wood splitter. I mean… it was nirvana. With my Levis and baseball cap, I broke out in full swagger. I loved it.

You’re beside yourself, aren’t you? Jeanine asked as we returned to the truck, I with axe slung over my shoulder.

Yup.

Butch Paradise.

I loved it. I have decided to reclaim my inner butch. I am going to feed her with activities such as fishing, kayaking and drinking whiskey.

Well… I hate whiskey. Maybe a chunky Cabernet or rustic Chianti.

Yeah, I know. I have a lot of work to do.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

High Tech Heaven

I am not a technical person. Yes, I did once, long ago, work in the software industry. I wrote user manuals. I tested software. I was tech support.

Long long ago. After three kids? It's all gone. I swear, it leaked out with the breast milk.

Jeanine, however, is beyond a technical person. She is a Geek Goddess. The kids picked out a sweatshirt for her last year that had "I'm not fixing your damn computer" on it. Where ever she goes, computer woes are brought to her in hope of the miracle cure.

Nine times out of ten, she fixes it. Once, while working on Walter's broken, sad machine, he brought her a plate of cheese, fresh tomatoes, bread, olive oil and a glass of wine.

He knows Geek Goddesses need offerings in order to perform at peak levels.

I have to say, I don't ask for a lot from her. I tend to wait until my machine has been breaking down repeatedly before I bring it to her attention. Partly because I'm lazy, reboot and everything will be fine, but partly because of stubborn pride. You see, we worked together at several software companies years ago. We were the same "level" but she always seemed to think she was my boss.

Of course, even then? She knew a hell of a lot more than I did. But, as I liked to point out, we were being paid the same.

She didn't like that.

Today, though, I owe the Geek Goddess an amazing offering. I'm writing this post while whizzing long on the highway, on my way to Down East Maine.

I am officially in high tech heaven. I can be in my remote cabin in Maine and still be able to post my blog.

Of course, I'll have to drive a couple miles first to get reception but that's okay. The car is the only place to plug in and I don't want the kids to see me using the computer.

Not only is it easy to use? She loaded all the required software on my machine without my knowledge. She took care of me without being asked.

Tonight? I'm going to return the favor. Not with technology, mind you. But it might require being on my knees...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Lipstick Lesbians

Why do lipstick lesbians torture all their butch friends and have formal parties?

I love my friend but for her birthday I have to get all dressed up. Semi-formal attire. Ugh. It's about 90 degrees today and the last thing I want to do is to put on pantyhose...

Kidding. I don't love anyone that much. Even when I do drag? I don't wear hose.

Think I can get away with jeans, cowboy boots, tee shirt and a nice jacket? I know. I'll throw on my pearls, too. That'll make it semi-formal.

and semi-not.

HOME RUN!

Love the Red Sox!!!!

Red Sox Drama

Oh my god, the Red Sox are killing me.

I came home after a wonderful dinner party. Tired, ready for bed.

Big Yawn.

Oh wait. Manny's on. Ortiz has been intentionally walked. Two down... what will happen?

Now it's almost one-fucking-o'clock in the morning. Game tied. Bottom of the ninth.

Guys, you're killing me.

I want to go to bed. I wanted to go to bed a long time ago. Extra innings and I give up.

Or get a bowl of cereal.

Oh no. Another intentional walk of Ortiz. Two out. Bottom of the ninth.

Cereal and coffee.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Pink Washed" October

A friend sent me an email the other day from Breast Cancer Action about October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It noted how during this month everything and anything would be covered in pink as a step towards understanding and helping battle this disease.

I have several friends who have had breast cancer. It’s something I take very seriously.

The email when on to implore the three major car makers who are somehow linking their pink cars to help “end the epidemic,” Ford, BMW and Mercedes to hold their horses.

One of the many causes of breast cancer, they point out, is car emissions. Instead of “pink washing” their products, why don’t they make them safer? With fewer emissions?

The website you must visit is www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org.

There are a lot of well-intentioned people out there- myself included- who tend to pick up the product with the pink ribbon on it. Everything helps, right? Not necessarily. And we can’t let companies get away with putting ribbons on their products- like Estee Lauder and Avon- and not “sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, promising to take carcinogens and reproductive toxins out of their products.”

Huh?

Pink ribbons will mean nothing on a dead woman’s coffin.

So before you “Shop for the Cure,” stop at the website listed above and check out other things you can do to help end the disease.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Attack of the Independent Breasts

Okay.

Now I’ve seen it all.

This is a headline for all headlines.

“Heated bra aims to save the world” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4420820.stm)

How can a bra save the world you ask? Filled with an eco-friendly gel that can be heated in the microwave, it will lessen the need to turn on the hea, thus lessen fuel consumption, thus end global warming. It even comes with a furry boa to double as a winter scarf. Heck, why not wrap the bra right around your ears?

And how does this help the shivering men in the room? Well, they can just bury their little faces right in the woman’s bosom to keep Jack Frost away.

There was two more bra related articles… slow news day.

“Jogging your way to saggy breasts” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4607642.stm)

Apparently, someone at the Portsmouth University in England decided to evaluate women’s breasts while they were running.

Do people really get paid for this?

Of course, to validate their “research” very precise measurements were taken. Weights of breasts, and their “independent” movement evaluated by whatever the heck you would use on a breast to see how far it has... gone. I indeed feel better knowing that when I run a mile? My breasts have gone 135m. I’m not quite sure of the math, but it’s good to know they are working- independently it seems- as hard as I am.

Call me a conspiracy freak, but I think the “Wonderbra recall as straps bust” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4092639.stm) might be related. I mean, were those women jogging in their wonder bras? Do they have any idea how much stress they are putting on the fabric if they trot up the stairs?

I’m sure that’s going to be covered on a follow up study at Portsmouth U. Maybe they should get the warming bra and see if the eco-friendly gel helps or hinders sag issues.

Sorry. I know. Back to work. Stop being distracted.

EcoFriendly Meditation

I'm here today. Trying to meditate on the significance of life, death. You know, big stuff.

Sitting still for long periods of time isn't one of my strong points.

I mean, it's okay to get up and do some laundry while mourning your mother's death, right? It has to be done and I'm just sitting here.

Do you have any idea how bad how bad a pile of dirty laundry left in a somewhat damp basement smells like after two days? How can I go "green" with ecofriendly products? Without a little Clorox Two, I'd have to throw 'em to the rag pile.

Zachary's socks alone could warrant installing an incinerator next to the washing machine.

Don't even mess with my Shout. There is no Seventh Generation form of Shout that will actually remove the stains my kids get in their clothes. Ketchup-chocolate-blood-boogers mixtures aren't going to go gently into the good night.

Oh. That's right. Death. Mourning. Quiet time. Meditation.

Is this why they don't serve coffee at Kripalu?

Cinnamon Buns



I came home from the baseball game last night, ready to make a batch of my mother’s cinnamon buns and to light a memorial candle. The Red Sox won. I spent the evening with my favorite men, Walter, Allan and Donald. Life was good.

My mother’s cinnamon buns are a story in themselves. An “old family recipe,” is the folklore but not the truth. The truth is when my mother was working as a radio show host for the electric company in Pulaski, West Virginia, she was told to demonstrate a recipe for rolls.

The producers obviously did not understand my mother did not have a recipe for rolls. Even though she graduated from Hood College with a degree in Home Economics, roll recipes were not part of the final exam. So she promptly went to the secretary pool and asked the ladies if anyone had a favorite recipe.

And so the “old family” tradition was handed down to our family. Fitting, I think, in a family with three adopted kids.

I learned how to make the cinnamon buns when I came home from college on break, once. My mother was long past using a recipe and knew the steps by heart. I wrote down every step, every word. I recently was giving it to a good friend of my mother’s over the phone, and she laughed when I said, “stir 30 strokes with a fork- no more, no less- until the dough forms a perfect ball. Unless it’s sticky, then add a pinch more flour.” I swear, if I had not made them with her, I would not be able to make them today. No measuring the brown sugar, “just a liberal dose, and when you think you’ve put on enough, add some more.”

The buns, like the candle, take about 24 hours to make. There’s stirring and rising and rolling and rising and if you mess up one step, they’re going to come out wrong.

I messed up a step last night. When I walked in the door and started to make them, I had everything rolled out and ready to add the sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon… oops. No cinnamon. I had taken the only bottle to Down East. Stores closed, neighbors asleep.

Shit.

Grind the cinnamon sticks, Jeanine said.

Great idea but I didn’t have a grinder. So there I sat, pounding cinnamon sticks with a basically decorative mortar and pestle.

The boys asked this morning, What are these little brown things?

I had to fess up to my mistake.

They could have cared less. They were having a pure sugar fix on a school morning. A true tribute to their Grandmother who had a bit of a sweet tooth, to say the least.

I asked them to tell me favorite Grandma stories.

Ben chirped in first- I know I know! When I had Grandma try cinnamon toast crunch cereal. It was her favorite after that.

Zachary said, When she let us eat the stale pizza Goldfish we found in the cabana.

Jake said, I don’t really remember Grandma…

This is from the boy who picked out her furniture in a store the other day.

But… I remember playing in the family room with the knights and stuff that were puppets.

The boys then talked some about her house, and how strange it was. They asked who lived it in now, did Grandma know them. (Indeed, they were friends of hers.)

And in short time, they raced off to pack their bags for school.

Grandma’s memorial cinnamon buns. She would like that, I think. Something sweet and forbidden before school, in her honor. She once let Ben have a soda at 9 o’clock in the morning. I remember walking in and looking at her and she just shrugged and smiled. My kids knew a delightful, playful part of her. The French-fry stealer. The ker-plunk lady. The one with puppets of knights and buckets of chalk to draw with on her long driveway.

The buns were a little... crunchy. The candle is still burning.

I miss you, Mom.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Good, The Bad and How to Hold Them Both

I sat with a friend this morning and told stories about my mother. The hardest part are the times she loved me and loved me with such kindness and generosity.

It would be much easier to make her a villain. Someone who was always cruel.

I remember my mother's rage. How deeply her words cut me.

I remember her deep laugh. How easily I could get her to laugh so hard tears would come from her eyes.

She taught me how to tell stories. She knew when to pause, when to draw out an image and when to hurry to the end. She would, if the story had a particularly racy theme, get a twinkle in her eye.

Like the time she told me about my Grandmother- a beyond proper southern belle who still wore white gloves to dinner, golfed at the country club in a proper skirt and never did a single household chore in her life- taught my mother the word "fart."

At the age of 75, my Grandmother had never heard the word before. My grandfather, who was dying of cancer, had just come out of the hospital. There were health aides coming to the house to help her with his care.

My mother went down to visit. as the two of them sat on the leather couch, discussing my Grandfather's care, my Grandmother let one slip.

Anne! she said excitedly, I farted!

My mother, second generation glove toting, proper skirt wearing, southern belle said, Excuse me?

That's what it's called. A fart! My Grandmother explained how one of hte health aides has told her this most useful word. She was so thrilled to have learned this new word, never having heard it before, she could not wait to share it with my mother.

Why, yes, my mother said. Yes it is.

At this point in the story, my mother's straight face would crumble and she would launch into gales of laughter. It was about class, educational background, and socioeconomic status. Not to mention the face that my mother was never a big fan of my Grandmother- who was in fact her step mother. The story was layered. As she got older, she let go of some of the rigid rules she was raised with but not until she managed to teach her children the same ones.

Last year, as I waited by the phone, I wrote stories about her. This is what I wrote on 10/3/06:

Story Time

I find myself, as the time draws nearer, wanting to tell funny stories about my mother. She had a great sense of humor.

Like the time she had the curator of the Georgia O’Keefe museum at her house, along with several other art experts. A huge, 18-wheel truck had been ordered to take my mother’s single picture to the museum in New Mexico, a loan for an exhibit. They carefully took the picture off the wall and laid it on the bed. A hush fell over the room.

And then my mother’s Sheltie, Julie, jumped up on the bed, and walked across the picture.

The art people recoiled in horror.

My mother laughed out loud.

Julie was shooed off the bed.

The picture made it across the country and back, completely unharmed. It was one of my mother’s favorite stories to tell.

Or the time her friend Ned rented a limousine, picked my mother up and went through the drive thru at McDonalds. They spent the afternoon driving around, eating French Fries. My mother never rode in limousines. Ever.

Or of the time when she took me to Toronto to see some shows and buy clothes. I was in college at the time. Toronto was a familiar destination for us but this time, she and I were staying at a very fancy hotel. It was a treat for me, as I grew up with the label of being the most expensive child on earth, needing to order lobster at restaurants and always wanting the shirts with the alligator on the outside.

It is one label I absolutely deserved- and still do.

We got to the hotel and my mother asked if I wanted to order room service. This was unheard of in my family- one, you went to dinner properly dressed and two, you never spent money foolishly on things such as room service.

My eyes lit up. YES.

So we picked our menu. At the time, I had just begun my love of wine and had learned very little but enough to make me dangerous with a wine list. This one, I pointed.

I don’t know how to say that, my mother said.

Uh… I don’t know how to say it either. Just say the number next to it.

Okay.

My mother dials room service and with great dignity orders the food. And then mentions the wine, offhandedly, casually, as number 71.

Oh, the person on the other end said, you mean the Moo-Tan Ca-det? In as chunky and broken French as we would have managed.

We both laughed a long time.

I’m not ordering your wine anymore, she said playfully.

Which reminds me of another story she would tell. Her father gave her a choice of a trip to Europe or a car for her college graduation present. She picked a trip to Europe. Years later, she gave me the same choice, but that’s another story. She went with a few friends from school. One had majored in French. Her skill would be of great use, they all thought.

But she was a southerner. And her French, learned at a college in Maryland came off with such a thick southern accent, no one in France understood a word she was saying.

Moo-tan Ca-det, indeed.

There are so many more stories to tell. Fun stories. I’ve told so many stories about painful moments I feel the need to tell the playful ones. The times when my mother was real and laughed out loud, something I know was never encouraged in her childhood. Like the time she was honored with the title “General,” a title that she lived up to for years to come.

Or the night we all donned Mardi Gras beads and masks at a very expensive restaurant in Boston that shall remain unnamed and one of our party threw a plastic banana over his shoulder into the lower dining room. The owner of the restaurant came out and… served everyone complimentary port in antique glasses.

It wasn’t all horrible. My life with her had some great moments.

She is, after all, the one who taught me how to tell stories.

I hope I tell them well.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Mother I Miss

I keep thinking of my mother. She is my superego on steroids. She’s vicious, and tears into me often for bad decisions. I realize the dream I keep having where she’s mad I’ve changed things is about my own fear of the change I am going through.

Sometimes, now, I hear her voice and it’s clarity. I knew I had worked myself into an impossible situation the other day. I wanted to talk to her about it. I needed her help. Even if she was going to yell at me for getting where I was? She would then give me the best advice.

I trusted her.

I don’t know why. Given the chance, she cut me down every time. She had more than an agenda with me- I didn’t do much of what she wanted me to do, act the way she wanted me to act. I was a terrible reflection. No make-up, nylons or nice accessories. I looked like a man, crossed my legs like a man, and I was the one who could really make a difference. I was the one who cared about social issues the way she did.

I was, at best, frustrating to her.

I want to sit down and talk about best approaches with her. I need to hear her stories of early mistakes she made and how she corrected them. How she moved forward.

I miss her.

She would yell at me but then she’d tell me to trust my instincts. When it comes to this kind of work, she’d say, you could only do so much checking. And always, no matter what, be gracious. If she had been Japanese, she would have, even at six foot tall, always bowed lower than the other person. Whether or not she believed they deserved it was not the point.

The mother I want back is the one who came, wearing her fur coat, to Boston for Christmas. Walking in the door, she promptly took it off and handed it to Ben, then five, and Zachary just two and a half, to play with. It did not matter that their hands were sticky or that they were going to the small table set up with art supplies. She went with them and sat on one of the small chairs herself and started to play. She did not tell me my house was a mess even though it was. She did not yell at me for the casually set dinner table. When it was naptime for the boys, she pulled up a purple and green toy chest and put her feet up, pulled the fur coat over her and took a nap, too.

That’s the mother I miss. That’s who I want back. Her alcoholism made that impossible to ever return to again. I know. By the end, her body was a broken shell covering a sea of bitterness. It hurt to be near her.

The fur coat had been passed on years before and hung unused in my closet.

A year ago, I was sitting, or not, trying to find a way to wait. She was unresponsive but still breathing. Waiting, I believed, for my sister to arrive and say goodbye.