Monday, December 31, 2007

Guest post: Only us humans here in Waltham

by Susan Eaton

Sara so often possesses an eerie sense of what her friends really need. And as it turns out, I really need this blog post. As Sara said in her introduction of me, I am "working" on immigration issues. Really, I am not. Really, I am "feeling" immigration.

I have all these 'ideas' in my head, sure. But on the matter of "immigration" -- on the matter of actual immigrants who are now my friends -- I find my ideas obscured by feelings. These are big feelings. There's love. There's empathy. And where my country is concerned, there is a deep sense of betrayal. A country that uses collected tax dollars to "raid" and to tear children from their mothers and fathers is not a place I recognize. I can see life and, too, the United States, through the eyes of my immigrant friends now. For this, I feel blessed. When I do look out of their eyes, though, I see an ungentle, Gestapo nation. But I am getting ahead of myself, all worked up. That's the thing with feelings, you know. Ideas are safer somehow.

During yoga class, everything seems so calm and clear and I am sure that I will sort out all these feelings. I will write my 4th (and best) book about the 'issue' of 'immigration.' Probably, though, I will be compelled to write a book that is, in part, about the experience (my experience...) of waking up in a global city. Waking up, spiritually, here, in this place; Waltham, Massachusetts; a corner of the earth reshaped by immigration, saving me from certain death in a soulless, white suburbia. But then the yoga instructor whispers: "Namaste," and my certainty and important purpose vanish. They are lost in the mundane mix of picking up milk on the way home, worrying about that e-mail I never answered from work, getting the boys to basketball practice, getting the boys to finish their homework and brush their teeth.

It's true, though, that a little over a year ago, I found myself gloriously wide awake in the world -- in a global city just over the border, just beyond the invisible wall around our affluent corner of suburban Newton. Life has not looked or felt the same since I fell hopelessly in love with the streets, the smells, sounds and most of all, the mass of beautiful, humanity just over the border in Waltham. This gritty little city of brick and work and, most interestingly, immigrants from everywhere, captured my imagination and opened me up. I so desperately wanted to be in and of this world. I felt good here. I decided, then, that I would write another book about the "tribulations of triumphs of modern immigration." I see now that perhaps a 'book' is my vehicle for learning how to live, learn and love – for 'feeling' life, for being 'in' life, connected to humanity. So many people I know measure their success by the degree to which they can isolate themselves from 'humanity' -- from the sometimes chaos and unpredictability and work-in-progress that is Waltham, Massachusetts.

Immigration, to me, is no longer an 'issue.' It is an unstoppable human phenomenon. Human beings uproot. They move not just themselves, but their games, their music, their symbols, their ways of loving and living and eating. They fall in love. They work. They build. They repair. They cook. I’ve heard people say (and I have said it) "They work so damn hard," and generally it is true. But now that "they," or at least several "immigrants," are fully intertwined with my life, as I am intertwined with theirs, I see this isn't about the "hard work" that "they" do or the long hours "they" work. It is not about "them," or "us," but about "we." Immigrants who build, who repair; don't just "work." They shape the landscape. Immigrants who cook in the back kitchen aren't just collecting paychecks. They are feeding their fellow human beings.

Maybe immigration is the force that possesses the power to move each of us to higher places, to open our eyes to things we never saw before, to enrich us beyond our imaginings. It is, perhaps, the stunning human phenomenon that grants us the privilege of understanding that there really is no "they," and there is no "us," even though I framed it that way in the preceding paragraph.

I’d like to share some words from a 30-something immigrant from Mexico. Someday, maybe they'll make it into my book, for which I have a working title: Where The World Moved: Waking Up In The Global City.

Next, I need some of that elusive crystallization required for a proposal. Luckily, I’m going to yoga tonight in Waltham. In the meantime, meditate on what Pedro has to say (Moody Street is the eclectic main drag in Waltham, a traditionally white ethnic enclave, reshaped [artfully] by immigration):

"Moody Street has this outside face, see? You got the Tempo Bistro Restaurant here, where all the white people from the suburbs come and eat? And it's all fancy but if you look in the kitchen, it's all Spanish people cooking. Do Americans -- you know, white people -- do they ever look in the kitchen?

The French-Cambodian place on Main? I know you white people eat there. Well, next time you do, pretend you got lost goin' to the bathroom and walk in the kitchen instead. You better know Spanish if you wanna talk to anyone in there. You better know how to say, "Hola, donde esta el bano?" Because it's all Mexicans in that kitchen.

The Spanish are even making the pizzas now. The Italian place by the river? I know a Jewish guy owns it. But he has a Guatemalan cooking.

. . . Don't you see us on bikes? Like in snow and rain? And it's not because we’re having a nice time riding in that weather. You see white people riding around in little biking outfits, having fun. Well, the Spanish you see on bikes, sometimes you see grown men like me on kids' bikes because that's what they found in the trash. They're goin' to work. On every street in the rich towns, you can see us. In the heat, there's a Mexican or a Guatemalan or a Dominican strapped in one of those huge leaf blowin' machines. And that's the daytime job. They go out and clean offices or whatever other shit job at night. Do you know that about us? A lot of us don't do nothin but work. Like nothin'...

Sometimes I'm just here, hangin' out and I see a white person and there's something about the way they look. It’s not like they look at you and they are saying, 'Go back to where you came from.' It’s like, they look through you, like you aren't there, standing right in front of their face.

I'm different from the others, maybe cuz I'm legal, cuz I got my papers. I'm not afraid a nothin. I'm not hiding in no shadow. I never hid in no shadow. Even when I was illegal, I made myself stand out. So I look at Americans right in the eye and say, 'How ya doin',’ buddy?' Maybe just so they'll look up. And the way they don’t really look at us, it doesn't affect how I feel about myself. But I kinda feel sorry for them, the stupid *$#*s, because when I try to look into their eyes, it seems like they see nothin'. They don't see me, they don't see the guys in the kitchens or blowing the leaves out of their backyard. It's like some white people -- the Americans -- it's like their eyes are dead."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rural Straight Guest Post

by Donald Myer

When Sara asked if I would consider writing a guest blog for her while they are enjoying some wonderful family time in Costa Rica, I was not sure what, if anything, I could offer of interest. I mean, just look at the name of the site, "Suburban Lesbian Housewife." What fits with me?

Suburban? I couldn't live in a more rural setting. A small log cabin on the coast of downeast Maine. The closest store is 12 miles away.

Lesbian? Even though I have several friends that might argue this point, I am not a lesbian.

Housewife? I am neither a housewife nor househusband. My ex of 17 years and I split up about 6 years ago, when we decided we were better suited to be friends than partners.

So, the only thing I can think to write about, is to tell of a few of my experiences with this wonderful family.

I have to start with Allan. We first met 25 years ago this month, when my 2 roommates and I were invited up from New Jersey for a Christmas party at Allan's. My roommates had met Allan that summer in Ogunquit. Allan and I became instant friends, and have been like brothers ever since. We have one of those relationships where we can speak volumes to each other by only saying a few words. There is nothing I wouldn't feel free to tell him.

Walter came into Allan's life a couple years later, and he was the perfect fit. Now here is a man with the "gay gene": He can turn some simple plants into a fabulous garden, a bucket of flowers into an outrageous centerpiece, and I am not even going to tell you what he can do with a bolt of fabric. If you are a regular visitor to Sara's blog, I am sure you have seen many pictures of Walter's work.

I have only known Sara, Jeanine and the boys for about 6 years. We have had many wonderful times together, and now that they all have a house here in downeast Maine, I can only look forward to having them around a lot more often.

Sara has forbidden me to send in any pictures or tell stories about her. So I will not be able to tell you about our ride home from Portland a couple years ago when she, Walter and I had a chef's dinner of 13 courses, with 13 different wines and champagnes, at Hugo's. It wasn’t pretty!! Sara insists she will one day find me a husband, one with all his teeth. Believe me, I am not holding my breath on that one!

3 years ago Allan and Walter asked if they could bring the boys to my house for a week. Thus began "dad’s camp." A week each summer with just the guys. Free from "mom's" rules, but not without rules. No potty mouth, no "shut up" and no running in the house. Everyone had things to do to help out. A chart was set up making sure someone cooked, someone set the table and someone cleaned the kitchen for each meal. The boys shaved after every bath, sans blades of course. They caught their first fish from the dock and put on shows on the deck. It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I believe for the boys as well. No computer games or cell phones. Just playing outdoors, going to the beach, and running and screaming out in the country.

There are those that would ask how kids with 2 moms and 2 dads could have a normal life. I have to say, I can't tell any difference with these boys than any other kids. They are no different than my 20 nieces and nephews, or my straight friends' children. They have their good moments as well as bad. They may be even luckier than most; they have twice as many parents to look up to!

One night a couple years ago I was having dinner at Allan and Walter's house, and the boys were there. At the end of the dinner, 5-year-old Jake looked over at me, and with those big blue eyes, asked very innocently "Donald, do you have a husband?" How wonderful that a child of that age would think nothing of asking that question.

So during this season of family celebrations, I feel so very blessed to be a small part of this wonderful family. I love watching them grow and work out all the things in life that families goes through, even the more traditional ones. They are doing a wonderful job, as I am sure you regular readers know.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Guest post: The 'firsts' of 2007

by Kristen Bjork

This year, I spent the first Christmas of my life without my mother. Christmas was her favorite holiday -- my parents built their house specifically to accommodate an enormous 12-14 foot Christmas tree. Every year, we'd haul the gargantuan tree in, struggle (sweating and cursing) to get it upright, and tie it to a beam. Every year, my mother would watch us and intone a chorus of, "Al, be careful! Al, don't fall! Al, are you sure that is tied on tightly?" (Al, of course, is my father's name.) And, every year, after it was securely tied, she would proclaim this tree the best one ever in the history of Christmas trees, bar none. (My mother was a bit like the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog—everything that our family had was the best.) Of course, we would all nod our heads in agreement.

Putting up the tree was a very different experience this year. There was no one to constantly chide us for being unsafe (well, Margaret, my partner and a doctor, did mention that fractures in 77-year-old men weren't a good thing) and no one to declare the tree superlative. It was a strange moment when the three of us looked at the tree (which was securely tied to the beam) and didn't hear her voice. I know we all felt it. Another first in a year of horrible firsts.

Strangely, the hideousness of 2007 has really done only one thing: it has reminded me of how precious life really is. Sounds kind of pat, doesn't it? I suppose it is and yet it is true. As we drove home from my father's house after our Christmas celebration, we talked about how special it is to be alive; to breathe the clean air, marvel at the stars, and bathe in the glow of a perfect sunset. And, I began to think about how special it was that I had so much time with my mother. We made it through my rocky and hardheaded childhood, my prolonged young adulthood, and my coming out to her. Then, suddenly, when I was 22 years old, my mother got a job at the company where I worked. People told me that it was crazy and that it would be impossible for us to work together, but I found the opposite was true. It was at work that we gained the respect and admiration for each other that we felt until the end. We worked together from 1987 until her retirement in 2005. We were colleagues and friends. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad to have had it.

I will remember the Christmas of 2007 as a good one. It might even qualify as a great one -- we made it through! Without my mother singing every word of every Christmas carol ever written. Without my mother's delicious cooking. Without her obsessive love of presents. Without her.

My mother is gone, but her love of Christmas lives on in me. I've read Sara's blogs on her Christmases past and am grateful that my holidays were different than hers. Her memories of Christmas are tangled up in the awful experiences her family put her through, my bad memories cleared by the good -- wiped clean, thank goodness. My family did have its tough times, but nothing like hers. I feel incredibly and profoundly lucky. And, now I have my own family to pass this love of Christmas down to, my two boys to impart my family's Christmas traditions on. We will put up that gigantic tree and curse. We will listen to the Messiah. We will open presents, drink eggnog, and eat ourselves into comas. I will keep every one of the traditions she loved alive.

Every year, I will take a moment to remember my mother. I will remind my boys of their grandmother and how much she loved them. And, I will cherish my life and the family and friends I have. And, I will hope for a future in which everyone can cherish the life they have and the lives of others.

That's how it should be.

Friday, December 28, 2007

My Blog Day, Part II

by Cathy Whitman

So! As soon as I have the big picture epiphany, and really start to take a hard look at my life and stop controlling everyone else's, the stress of all that I had created in my little kingdom made me really ill. Like, so sick I can't get out of bed, and probably need surgery, ill. It is amazing what stress can do to one's body. It is amazing what one's body can do to itself. More amazing is what we can do to ourselves without even a fleeting thought.

Once I fine-tuned in the big picture I was horrified at where I really was in my life, especially since I had so totally convinced myself that my life couldn't get much better--couldn't be much more perfect. Ahhhhh, the power of denial, almost as strong a force as that warm, soft, gooey, fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. You can focus on the flavor and textures on your tongue and not even think about the 2 pounds of lard it will add to your ass. (We'll deal with it later because nothing is as sweet as this.)

It's funny what happens when you are forced to stay in bed for days at a time. First off, I was absolutely amazed to find that the world, and everyone around me, could carry on without me. This seemed completely strange, because when I wasn't sick, everyone sure needed a whole lot of stuff.

Also, you have a real lot of time to think. Of course you start with obsessing because you can't control everything, and there is so much to control out there, and the whole world is just falling apart. Then you find out it's not.

In my case, I read. I have a grossly oversized collection of books that I have hauled around for years, because you know, I’m going to read them some day (mostly self help, because I need that so badly). Not like I would have ever listened to a zillion years of expensive therapy I had, that pretty much could have fixed everything.

Nope, that would have been too easy.

Except, I decided that I wasn't going to read any of those, and picked a book that is the rage right now: a novel; and yes, my idol, Oprah, has it on her list; and for 3 days of incredible pain I was lost in it. I love how you can get lost in someone's words--I am so grateful for it. Literally this book was my life, right down to the writer's sister having my name and her love of her life is the same as my love and every feeling and thought seemed to be coming out of my head.

What I discovered has changed me, and will eventually change my life. As the saying goes, you can only be sure of 2 things, death and taxes--very true. But, there is one more: You can only control you. You can only control your very own thoughts and they will control your whole life. They have the power to ruin you and actually make you so sick you could die. But the most beautiful part is that your thoughts can also allow you the power to have the freedom you have always searched for.

I think everyone knows this. It is just the "actually doing it" part that is almost impossible for so many, because it really is so easy that it seems too easy. The first thing I had to do was realize that all that stuff I was holding on to was killing me. Literally. Why was I holding on to it anyways? What good was it doing me? Oh, wow! Check out these negative thoughts and bad memories that are making me sick and controlling my life! Yes, let's keep doing this because I sure LOVE being sick and miserable all the time! And then I thought about how the people around me saw me, and had to live with these thoughts, and how I lived my life because of it--actually, how I didn’t live my life because of it--and it was pretty easy to let it all go.

And then I did the most freeing thing I have ever done for myself, and that is to forgive myself.

I have spent years wanting some type of recognition for being the good daughter, or the talented artist, or the softest heart, whatever, anything, just throw me a bone--and never got it. I shaped my whole life around that. I let everyone else's crap define the person that I was, and the thoughts I was going to have, and you know what--they were completely wrong! I have forgiven them, and I have forgiven myself and I have let it all go, because I am the only one who knows me, and I am a good me, who wants good happy thoughts and I deserve this!

Now, I'm not that simple to think that bad thoughts or feelings aren’t going to creep in again--they will. But just now I chose the word "simple" instead of "stupid" in that last sentence, because I am not stupid and who is going to be gentle with me if I can't be with myself. So when the bad thoughts seep in, I feel them, know them, because they are so familiar, but then I remind myself that that was the old me and let them go. Not push them away, not try to bury them, but let them go, till they visit again. I am "new me," with strong, positive thoughts; happy thoughts, like how very much I love my Seester and am grateful she is in my life. I would be less of a person without her.

Thoughts like how blessed I am by all the gifts God has given me. How wonderful all my friends and family are, and how beautiful a rainbow is! And let's not forget that wonderful warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie. I love chocolate chip cookies! I have a list a thousand pages long of great thoughts and things I am grateful for and I refuse to let old bad feelings or memories cloud them any longer.

How your day goes and how your life develops is all up to you. Let go of anything, any thought, and any person who is destructive in your pursuit of happiness. It really is as simple as saying that I refuse to let that thought ruin my day, and replace it with something good.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Guest post: HO HO, OH NO!

by Donald Myer

I thought it would be nice to send a photo of my Christmas tree with Christmas greeting from downeast Maine to be used while Sara and the family are enjoying some time away over the holidays.

I went out in the woods on Saturday and cut down a tree. It was covered in snow and ice, so I brought it into the house and set it up over an old shower curtain so that it could dry. It was 8’ tall and nicely shaped. They were calling for a blizzard on Sunday, so it would be a perfect day to decorate the tree.

Sunday the snow and wind arrived as scheduled. I put in my favorite Christmas CDs, moved the tree in front of my picture window and got ready to decorate. I like lots of lights, so I strung 3 strands of blue and 7 strands of white lights. I then started with the decorations. I have 3 big boxes of things that I have collected or have been given over the years. As I go through them I think of my friends. The many that I have, and the many that I have lost. I know the holiday season can make people sad, but I always try to remember how blessed I am, and think of only the good times I have had with them.

I got through box #1, the wooden and home made decorations. Lobsters and bears and the many snow flakes my mother crocheted for my partner and I many years ago. The tree was starting to take shape. As I opened box #2, the crystal and real sentimental ones, my back to the tree, I hear a big crash! I turn and see the tree on the floor, water pouring out all over my living room rug. I had jiggled the tree, yanked on it and it seemed totally secure. But, something brought it down. I stood it back up, nothing had broken and I had not electrocuted myself by standing in the water with the light plugs at my feet.

What to do? I couldn’t leave the wet rug down for 2 weeks and there was no place to put the tree while I got the rug up. As sad as it made me, the tree had to go. So off came the decorations, off came the lights. I still wanted the smell of the tree in the house, so out came the loppers and off came the tree branches. I took the limbless trunk outside and threw it off my porch and down over the hill as far as I could heave it. Up came the rug and out came the fan.

I sat down by the roaring fire in my fireplace, feeling a bit sad that the tree was gone. Then I realized how lucky I was that it happened when it did. A half hour later it would have be covered in balls and breakable ornaments that I would never be able to replace. They are safe for another tree, another year.

To top things off, 5 minutes before the end of the football game, the winds picked up and the power went off. I have a rule: I don't drink when I am here alone, which is most of the time. Considering how the day went, I broke the rule. I sat down in front of the fire with a big shot of Stoli on ice!! I realize it was just one of those days we all have. Bad biorhythms or something. Nothing to get worked up over.

A couple hours later the power came back on, I find out the Pats had won, I didn’t have to heat up the yankee pot roast in the fireplace and I wouldn't have to sleep on the couch in front of the fire. Life is good again!! I am blessed.

So the greens have been put in vases and the house smells of Christmas. I have placed some of my favorite ornaments around the house and the place looks just fine.

Of course, I have no photo of the tree to add, so I am adding a photo of last years tree. It will have to do!



HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM DOWNEAST MAINE

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Guest post: My Blog Day, Part I

by Cathy Whitman

My most wonderful Seester asked me this morning to be a guest blogger! Truthfully, that was several days ago, but I was so excited that I had to get right to putting stuff on paper because, of course, being the big Sister, it is extremely important that my piece is awesome and life changing. Also, it will be nice to have it all ready to go the morning of my assigned day.

Yeah, right! If anybody knows me they know it will be newsworthy only if I accomplish this.

I function best on nearly missed deadlines and total chaos, so I will wait till the last minute to do this, and that is always the time that everyone else in the world will need me to fix stuff for them. That is the way it works. I am one of those people who is incapable of prioritizing, organizing, compartmentalizing... anything with an "-ing" on it I suck at.

Unless it's your life -- then I can fix it, organize it, and save it... in record time.

I have been discovering lately many new things about this "living in chaos" business. I have a very dear friend that it really drives crazy, mostly because he doesn't understand it, but also because he sees the pain I live in, and that hurts him. He doesn't understand that if I don't live in it, I hurt, because then I have to deal with my stuff.

Ouch, that hurts even worse.

But due to the fact that I respect this man deeply I have tried over the last several months to take his advice and see what could change in my life. I would never admit it to him, but he really seems to be onto something here.

I decided to start with just one thing at a time. I chose the word he spits out most often: "Simplify." He is constantly on me about having "too many minds." Slow down! Simplify! Stop taking care of everybody; try to take care of yourself for a change. And I said, "Well, that’s your job!" He responded with, "I can’t take care of a cyclone, and you won't let me anyways."

He's right -- always is, of course -- again, I would never tell him that.

I started with my mind, which never shuts up; even wakes me at night; and tried to quiet it. That was really hard, and even though I have made some headway, it is a constant struggle. I have found that whenever I try to deny myself something, it hits me even stronger. Simplify, sell your 3 businesses and don't open any more. You're almost 50, it's time to relax, you don't need to work so why would you? That didn't work too well; I have since written at least 5 business plans.

Next, I tried to stop taking care of everybody, fixing everything, etc. You know that is really impossible. How do you walk into something broken and not fix it?

And it just got worse from there. The harder I tried to do all this, the worse my compulsions got, the louder my mind got, and the more chaos I saw coming my way.

So, here is the life changing part for me, for all of you that have read this far, -- and yes, my Seester Sara, here comes the part about God.

I finally managed, through prayer, to get really quiet one evening. I was praying for calm or a way to calm to down (which didn't require alcohol or illegal drugs) and quiet my mind. Because when you're loud, you can't hear God. I got quiet.

I realized that all my fixing isn't fixing at all. Whether or not you believe in God, he has a plan for you. He made this plan long before you where born and where did I get off thinking I knew that plan or how to fix it? Furthermore, just because I thought I was fixing things for you and making things better, it doesn't necessarily mean that I was. Maybe I am interrupting a lesson God is trying to have you learn. By helping you I may be missing a lesson that God is trying to teach me!

My mind is loud because to quiet it means getting real about life. It means being responsible for my thoughts and actions, it means living here on earth as an adult, instead of a dysfunctional child of alcoholism. And that is way more work than fixing everything for everybody else. That is much easier than stopping and seeing the real picture. The real BIG picture, which I will get into in my next blog...which I just found out I am lucky enough to have.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Exorcism, Part II

I'm sick of it. I want it over. I want it gone. I am no longer a little girl. I am a parent. I am the mom. I don't want my kids to be writing this essay in twenty years, "and then my mom, unable to let go of the past..." I want them to have the joy I never did.

Screw joy, I just want them to have some semblance of normal. Of waking up too early, opening gifts, eye rolling at ugly gifts and then, before the sun is up, it's over. A day about them, not about my doom and gloom.

After all these years, that's what Christmas means to me. A single, once a year shot at family love that is destined to fail. I've long since given up trying with my family of origin. My father is still alive, somewhere and can burn in hell as far as I'm concerned. The unmentioned sibling remains unmentioned. My sister and I are close but we've carved out new traditions in an attempt to wash away the past etched on us like tattoos.

I want my family to be happy on June 6th. And February 20th. And a lot of other days in between. The china comes out when a crowd gathers for Sunday night dinner. Or Thursday night dinner. Or not at all and we eat on paper plates watching the Red Sox together.

My mother is dead now. There is no one left to please. No more family to pretend to be, no more forced smiles.

I always felt alone while doing my dance as a child. It was me and me alone that could make everything better. I'm sure each of my siblings thought the same; it’s the nature of being a child of an alcoholic. I never expected, after the final act, I would feel so abandoned.

Enough already. I have a full house, a full heart. The Fates only win if I let them. I need to take off the shawl of misery because it doesn't fit anymore.

It can't fit anymore.

Otherwise, my kids will end up chasing after the same unachievable dream of making their mother happy.

I may not be able to break all the cycles I grew up with, but I will break a few. My children will never be physically or sexually abused by their relatives. They will not feel responsible for my happiness or my sadness.

I will never be drunk in front of them.

And they will always remember me holding them.


Okay, that was REALLY depressing. Please remember? I’m sipping a pina colada in Costa Rica right now.

Really.

Sorry.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Guest "post": Nightmares of Sugarplums

by Louise Kennedy Corrigan

A few years ago, I wrote about a family tradition that I particularly despised -- a breakfast pastry that only my mother considered edible. I still hate it, but because my mother died last year, somehow I can’t stop thinking about it this Christmas. I think this is how holidays work: They drive us crazy for years, and then the things that drove us crazy suddenly become the things we miss. Even though they still drive us crazy.

I'd write more, but I have to attend to another of my least favorite holiday traditions, which I apparently will also never shake. No matter how much I swear every year that this time I’m going to be totally organized and have everything wrapped a week ahead of time, it is now officially Christmas Eve and I have wrapped exactly zero presents. Then again, plain brown boxes are much more eco-friendly. And, with a little red marker and some silver duct tape, I’m sure they’ll be extremely festive.

In an equivalent spirit of "Hey, this counts as a present, doesn't it?" here's what I wrote about stollen:

The other day, I was flipping through a catalog of gourmet gifts when I came across a genuine German stollen, one of my least favorite foods of all time. I'm planning to order three.

For those of you who dwell in blissful ignorance, stollen is a leaden, log-shaped, Teutonic mutant form of breakfast pastry, heavy on the candied fruit and goopy-sweet white icing, not so strong on texture and taste. (The name, the German word for "post," is "in reference to shape," says my dictionary; I have other theories.) It's kind of a cross between a Danish and a fruitcake, only without the brandy to help you choke it down. It's also what my mother grew up eating on Christmas morning, so naturally it is what I and her other three children grew up eating on Christmas morning.

Or, more accurately, what we tried desperately to avoid eating. We sneaked it to the dogs. We crumbled it into bits and scattered them around our plates. We offered, lovingly, to share our portions with Mom. None of this worked, so as we grew older we resorted to reasoning with her.

The argument would usually kick off right after Halloween, when Mom would start figuring out the Christmas guest list and wondering aloud how many stollen to order from the Oakwood bakery, the only one in Dayton that prepared stollen to her exacting specifications. (I always wondered why she didn't just make it herself, but no doubt she, like the other bakers in town, couldn't precisely replicate the taste and feel of frosted cotton swabs.)

"Don't get the stollen this year, Mom," I'd argue. "Nobody really likes it. Why don't I make a coffee cake? Or we could just have some nice fresh fruit. Everybody likes fruit."

"You can have fruit any day," she'd say, reaching for the phone. "It wouldn't be Christmas without stollen."

"Ha," I'd say, which would not be a persuasive enough argument to keep yet another stollen from landing on our breakfast table, being sliced into alarmingly thick slabs, and falling in furtive crumbs toward the unenthusiastic dogs below.

Eventually, though, my parents moved from Dayton to Florida. Our first Christmas there, Mom searched in vain for an authentic stollen. Finally, she gave up. And as I sat at her table on Christmas morning, staring at my long-dreamed-of fresh fruit, I realized with a pang that she was right. It just wasn't Christmas without stollen. We all knew it. We hated it, but we had to have it.

I don't want to put too much metaphoric weight on a breakfast food, but it occurs to me that this kind of affectionate loathing lies at the heart of most traditions. Come on: Nobody eats candy corn or valentine hearts because they taste good. We eat them this year because we ate them last year. We will eat them next year because we are eating them now.

Same with stollen. It's nasty, but it's the same kind of nasty every Christmas. And, unlike fruitcake - whose peculiar place in the popular culture derives from this same weird formula - stollen is just obscure enough to render its devotees into a kind of extended family, a reluctant cult. By their candied fruits shall ye know them - and shall we know each other. At the tensest holiday moments, I can still make my sister laugh with just one word: "stollen."

Which is why I'm ordering three of them. One for each of my two far-flung brothers and one for the gang I'll be joining in New Hampshire: Mom, Dad, my sister and brother-in-law, and, most important, two young nieces who think the family's traditional Christmas breakfast is the worst idea since kippers. Already, they're begging their mother to skip the stollen.

How little they know.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Exorcism, Part I

Christmas was always about my mother. I’m furious that it still is- she's been dead over a year.

I'm chasing a ghost's love. My mother is dead. And still, when the image of a mother holding a child is shown, about 8 million times a second this holiday season, all I think of is my mother holding me.

Or, in reality, not holding me.

I find it amazing that even after twenty years, twenty years spent in healthy, positive celebrations, I hate Christmas. I hate it more than any other time of the year. It brings me back to being a little girl pulling out the china, and polishing the silver. How I would set an elegant table, arranging the greens with ancient holiday decorations pulled from an old chest in the basement. The napkins would be folded carefully, my small hands pressing out any lumps or creases.

When will I ever get this monkey off my back? All the dreams, hopes and memories of Christmas, that mock me every year, taunt me into a stupor when now I have my own family, my own children to celebrate?

I want someone to shake holy water on me or chant Gaelic phrases until my brain is finally clear of old longings. I want to sit with my family- my children, my wife, my kids dads, my friends- around a beautifully decorated table, laugh, and tell stories. I want love to fill my home without the old shadows. I am loved and celebrated in my family. My kids are fairly normal and healthy. I have good friends who know me and still love me even though I send too many emails, whine too often about my wife's work schedule.

I look at my family of origin and it's not exactly a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s not even a Budweiser commercial: my father a paranoid schizophrenic, my mother an alcoholic of prolific proportions. My father sexually abused my sister and me and there is another sibling who will sue my ass off if I mention anything specific about them.

Family love. I have had it hurt so deeply I wanted to die. My father's creepy insistence I get into the bathtub at his apartment while he watched etched noises he made into my mind that cannot be scrubbed away. Being held face down to carpets long enough to have imprints on my face and smells of feet, dog pee and mold forever in my nose until I cried out in humiliation are gifts I received from my family.

Thanks.

But there is my family love. My kids. My beautiful boys who believe they can be rock stars, or inventors, or scientists. My wife who drives me nuts on a daily basis and still makes me smile when she puts her icy feet on me in the middle of the night. Walter and Allan, who eagerly signed on to be the kids dads even though there would be no legal recognition and every single person they meet would feel free to ask, "But are they really yours?"

That's my family. Not the past ghosts. Not my mother. Out, out! I want to scream. Leave me alone!

I wanted something beautiful. I wanted my family to love each other. Mostly, I wanted my mother to be happy. And to hold me. Not because of what I saw on advertisements or television shows but because my very core depended on it. Abandoned by my birthmother, I could not risk being anything less than loveable.

My mother adopted three children from three different birthmothers, all disgraced by society for being pregnant without rings of at least promise and handing over their newborn infants to complete strangers. Three children with empty holes for early memories, filled with fear. If we could be given up once, we could be given up again.

The table would be set, the gold leaf bone china an elegant off white, sparking in the candlelight. Every year I would set it on Christmas Eve, ready for the next day. Every year, from the time I was very small to the time I finally left home.

In perfect synch, my mother would get drunk on Christmas Eve. As my table would wait for the promise of laughter, celebration and cheers, my mother would pour another bourbon and water. She would cry and tell us with slurred, elegant words about how much she loved us, what a failure as a parent she was. We would all sit, terrified she'd turn, never knowing what we could do to make it all right. To have her feel loved so she would not be so sad.

It was the only time of the year she ever said anything kind about my father. She would acknowledge, only for a brief moment, there was a time he was a kind and gentle person. Before he was sick. Before the voices in his head took over and instructed him to do horrible things. She needed us to know she would not have married such a broken, twisted man.

We would go off to bed, finally, when she had enough liquor, when her tears were dried. She would playfully remind us no presents until the first cup of coffee was made, and we would all run to bed, giggling, as if we believed in Santa Claus.

I fell asleep every Christmas Eve filled with hope. I hoped when my father showed up in the morning, he would not fight with my mother. I hoped my mother would not find reason to hate him again until the end of the day. I hoped we would all sit around the table and love each other. At least for the day.

We never did. By morning, my mother would be spitting fire before my father even walked in the door. He was always late, always brought snow in the house on his shoes, always had something disgusting stuck in his moustache.

It was clear no family love was going to happen before the first cup of coffee was finished. But I still had my mother to please.

I would plaster a smile on my face and be the master of ceremonies, crawling under the tree, handing out gifts to everyone. I would refill coffee cups for both my parents, I would ooo and ahh over even the most ridiculous gifts. I smiled even when my father would buy little girl gifts for me that made my skin crawl.

And then my moment would finally come. We would sit around the table, my father would say a blessing as was required when he was at the head. For a brief moment, I would squeeze my eyes shut and pray.

Please. Please let Mom be happy.

Every year.

She never was.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Guest post: Having a gay sister - A look from a Hetero sister’s point of view

by Toni Espey

I was pretty surprised when Sara asked me to write a blog for her while she and the family are in Costa Rica. You see, Sara is my sister-in-law and I am on the opposite side of almost any issue we can discuss. So, what does a conservative married mother of three write in a lesbian blog? How about what it looks like from my side of the road.

I can’t tell if someone is or isn’t gay. I have no internal gaydar. I found out that my sister was gay from my husband. He told me she was gay and I didn’t believe him. Finding out about my sister’s lifestyle didn’t change what I thought of my sister, it was just another part of her to add to the rest of her. I see her as a fantastic musician. She is going to change the world someday and it will be through her music.

We grew up in a house where differences in people were just another part of that person. That is a lesson our parents taught us. Our father was an intelligent man who told his three daughters that they can be anything they want to be. I remember when Jeani (we call her Jeani, not Jeanine like the rest of her friends!) flew down to tell dad that she was gay. Sara was pregnant with their first child Ben, and she gave Jeani orders not to come home until her father knew that they were having a baby.

I told dad that Jeani was coming down to tell him something. He told me that he knew what she wanted to tell him and he had known for a long time. He was just waiting for her to feel comfortable enough to tell him in her own time. His only concern was the possibility that others would not be as understanding. He wanted to protect her from getting hurt.

There were a lot of things I had to learn once Jeani came out..... I had no idea what an upside down pink triangle was or what other meaning a rainbow had. I found out about the rainbow when Sara was visiting and we were out on a boat. She said,” There are some “sisters” on that boat over there.” I thought she was talking about real blood sisters. I didn’t realize that the rainbow sticker on their boat meant anything special. I was so proud of myself this summer when I found out what a “lipstick lesbian” was. Jeani & Sara just laughed at me and told me that I was about 10 years behind the times with that one.

I must admit, Sara’s wedding to our sister was by far the fanciest and most memorable wedding our family has ever been a part of. It started with the rehearsal dinner. We had a very diverse group of people in one house. The Midwest Mexican contingency, the more quiet and refined family from New York & the friends in the gay & lesbian community were there...we were all walking around a very crowded home smiling and making small talk with each other. There was a little tension in the air at the beginning......Leave it to my brother-in-law to break the ice for everyone! He loaded his CD on the player & belted out his famous song, “I’m the Highway Patrol!” Well, everyone started laughing and talking, and one of the gay friends said, “Well, if he can do his song, so can we!” That’s the first time I’ve heard and seen the, “Must Be Santa!” routine. Such an impromptu dance that was executed with no mistakes! I had no idea that gay men could dance so well! They put us all to shame at the reception too!

Joking aside, I believe that most people are like me, they spend most of their time living their own lives. They are not out there to make others feel inferior about their sexual orientation. We are sensitive to gay issues; it’s just not part of our everyday life. So, if you feel like I don’t care or you think I’m treating you unfair, look again. Maybe I’m not thinking of your being gay at all. I may be thinking of my latest work problem or I may be mad at my kids for not cleaning their rooms. Life is complicated with or without a gay sister....

Having a lesbian sister has brought gay issues closer to home, but she is still just my sister. Her boys are my nephews and my children’s cousins. I treat my sister’s family the same as the rest of the family. I tease them as much as possible. There is no difference. I love them just the same. Sara is my sister-in-law; she’s part of our family and will get no special treatment from me on the tennis court! She is still our “ferocious otter” and if any of you had seen her play you would agree with me!

There are a lot of things you can pick in your life, but family is picked for you. My sister is a musician. My sister is a computer geek. My sister is a giving person. My sister is gay. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

On My Way

I saw this the other day and I swear, it made me feel like my milk was coming in.

I love it.

It also reminded me of a time when Ben was a baby, and Jeanine was working on a film. She needed the sound of a baby crying. When Ben started to cry- he was only three months old- she was there, sticking the microphone in the room.

It made me furious.

Later, when I saw the film- it was an animation- when the baby started to cry? my milk would come down because it was Ben crying.

This is not crying. But fabulous laughing. Remember when you could make your baby laugh and laugh and laugh?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Funniest Thing?

Is watching Jeanine leave all her computer gear at home.

I don't need my GSP or Trio?

Nope.

Okay.

She stood and clutched them for a while.

Are you sure you don't want to bring a small computer?

Yes.

She looked at me.

YES. We are NOT bring a computer.

Amy asked that you send her pictures DURING the trip, Jeanine said.

Amy will have to wait. I'm not bringing a computer. I really need the break. No posts. No Internet. No.

Two weeks ago, she was all No No No, we are NOT bringing any computers, technology- no how no way.

The night before? A little bit of anxiety about that cord being cut.

Packing and Posting List

Let's see... deet, 4 tubes. 6 bottles of sunscreen, extra large lotion. eye cream, various hauschka products, celexa, claritin, probiotics, Imodium, Dramamine, Advil, neosporin, band aids, various tampon sizes but enough just in case...

WHERES THE VALIUM??

and about thirty hair ties. I can never be without a hair tie.

WHAT HAVE I MISSED???

I let the boys pick out their clothes. I have to be honest- I really want to go and make sure everything matches. I don't know why... they get dressed every day and I never say a word. why do I care if they have on a bright orange shirt and olive colored shorts?

Breathing...

I'm not allowed to put clothes into suitcases. I'm not a very good spacial relations person. Jeanine does that. But if we get there and are missing something important, like... bras, it's my fault. Or underwear. Or bathing suits.

I'm going to be fine. As soon as I hit the airport tomorrow morning? I'll be fine.

I had to shovel today. Run the snow blower. It better stop by 3AM tomorrow.

Upcoming schedule of posts...

Dec. 22- Toni's - my sister in law- piece
Dec. 23- my piece, part one. oh yes, it is depressing.
Dec. 24- Louise Kennedy's piece- I HOPE.
Dec. 25 my piece part two- please remember I'm in the warm sun.
Dec. 26- My sister's piece 1
Dec. 27- Donald's piece 1
Dec. 28- My sister, who has a name, Cathy- piece 2
Dec. 29- Kristen's piece
Dec. 30- Donald's piece 2
Dec. 31- Susan's piece

And then I'll be home.

PASSPORTS. Where the hell are the passports???

and that means I'm posting tomorrow. Catch me at 3am, live and ready to roll...

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bikini Free Zone

It’s been quite a day, full of packing, sorting, laundry and digestive remedies.

Two of my friends, lesbians of course, going on the trip suggested taking a “probiotic” to avoid the most uncomfortable effects of travelers diarrhea. I’m game because I have no idea what a probiotic is and they give me a name of one so I’m all set.

I check with the pediatrician, of course, not because I doubt their wisdom but because I was there for Zachary’s 10th check up, a mere four months late.

Clearly, I’m not a panicked sort.

Excellent idea, he says, but he also adds, there are worse things and it usually runs its course in a day or so. Don’t worry too much.

Along with buying my non-Costco sized shampoo and a just in case extra large box of tampons, I browse CVS for this probiotic.

Nothing.

So I ask the pharmacist who directs me to the Imodium, which I do get some of, but I really want the probiotic so off to Whole Foods because it’s clear to me this is up there with fish oil, flax, and red raspberry tea. Therapeutic but … odd.

I proceed to have a very long, very descriptive conversation with a lovely young man who tends to the herbal remedy aisle. I learn what a probiotic really is.

Bacteria.

A lot of it.

That you take on purpose!

Good to start it before you leave, he says.

Yeah, I think so.

Now I’m wishing that I stopped and picked up some of those preparation H travel wipes, too.

But I took my pills and I gave Ben his, that he eyed carefully.

Do I chew it?

No. At least he didn’t ask to take it with peanut butter like he did yesterday with the Advil I gave him for tooth pain.

And as if this wasn’t enough, I had a friend tell me this morning to drop the bikini idea.

Have you worn one before? She asked.

No, well, not since I was 8. And then I wore it topless because… well… I was 8 and desperately wanted to be a boy. A boy with pink flowered bikini bottom on but it was the seventies…

Don’t’ do it.

Why?

Think of the boys.

What about the boys?

Then she told me a story about a progressive camp she took her kids to- in the same freaky seventies- and how the parents were encouraged to go swimming with the kid’s au natural.

You did?

She nodded. My boys are 42 and 45? They still tell me, we REALLY didn’t need to see that.

So, the bikini is on hold. I might save it for when they all go to the chocolate factory tour. I think I look fine in my bikini- it’s not some little thong, it’s really a sports bra top, and board shorts because at heart, I’m still that little girl wanting to at least look like a boy- but I will stick to my one-piece Speedo.

I’ll wear the board shorts with it.

And hopefully will not need to run to the bathroom twenty times because I’m on my nifty probiotic.

Friday morning cannot come soon enough…

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Homo Sent Home for the Holidays

What a surprise. After a quick six-month stint, the only lesbian blogger at parents.com has been cancelled.

Merry Christmas from the Meredith Corporation, as they officially gave Harlyn Aizley, the sole lesbian mom blogging for their new site parents.com, the pink slip.

It seems Ms. Aizley, the author of “Buying Dad” and the editor of “Confessions of the Other Mother” did not get enough “hits” on her blog to continue being a valued member of the payroll.

I’m not a fan of Meredith Corporation’s corral of magazines. Parents, Baby, Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle are all rags that tend to make middle class white women feel good about themselves as decorators, housewives and mommies. Sure, I’m white and I’m a mom but nothing said in those magazines even remotely speak to me.

Until Aizley started posting. Then I started reading. Her blog, Are You My Mothers? made me willing to fill out all the forms to read her work on a regular basis. Finally, mainstream press found my lifestyle and decided to celebrate it.

Not.

“Each of our brands attracts an enthusiastic audience based on life stage, lifestyle and affinity.” Meredith proudly proclaims, under a banner of images of women, their body parts and plenty of smiles. Unless you are a lesbian. No room for our lifestyle, life stages, or affinity.

The top bloggers at parents.com, in October, received about 11,000 unique hits per month while writing about their lives as parents. Straight, mostly white, parents. Aizley, a lesbian, single, and raising her daughter received 6,000 unique hits a month. She had plenty of straight women reading her blog not because they were cruising to find a lesbian experience but because Aizley is a good writer.

I don’t want to get too picky but… let’s look at the numbers. Aizley got more than 50% of the traffic of the straight writers that means she outperforming the demographics 10x. And how many are queer parents are out there? 5 million lesbian/gay parents raising 9-10 million children and spending $22 billion on them?

Ah, but that’s the businesswoman in me speaking. All those silly little numbers make me wonder who is running the place and if they need to borrow my calculator.

Aizley expresses the world in which she’s navigating with her five year old daughter with humor, honesty and an edge only a lesbian mom can give- the reality of what it is to be just outside of the mainstream, trying to be a good parent, and maintaining her dignity. What it feels like when a play date request is denied- all the normal stuff moms go through and then added fear- is it because I’m gay?

I’ve had a lot of straight suburban moms over the years, who have wanted to be friends, who wanted to be hip, and cool, and come over with their kids for play dates. Nervously, the initial conversations always involved a proud proclamation their near brushes with lesbianism.

I once had a roommate who had a friend who was a lesbian. Really.

To which I would smile, nod and try not to let my eyes roll. They were proud of themselves for being so progressive, and open to the idea that two moms were raising kids in their neighborhood.

Some would even start to flirt, as if I were the ultimate safety net- another woman who kind of looked like a man but wasn’t really one.

They would ask questions about how we got pregnant, was it really true about turkey basters? They were tickled by the idea you could shop for the kind of sperm you wanted- no being stuck with your husband’s family history of manic depression. They were honestly curious.

It created bridges. I knew the next time they met a two-mom family? They would get past some of the silly questions and get to know them. It made life for my kids easier. It made their kids more accepting not only of gay families, but any structure that was different from their own.

Aizley’s blog was doing that, online, every day, across the country. The people who wrote in and pleaded for parents.com to keep her? Mostly straight women.

It is not Meredith Corporation’s job to be progressive. It’s not their job to do anything but sell magazines. They proclaim: “In distinct editorial voices, they address the core categories of home, family and personal development. Across the spectrum, we support and inspire the reader, serving her needs and celebrating her joys.”

Just not lesbian inspiration, needs or joys.

Aizley will be finished at the end of the month. I know she will be posting at familyequality.org’s blog, a LGBT family resource site. “It’s like moving back to my small hometown in the mid-west after fun and games in the big city,” she said. “Thank goodness for our people.”

Yes, I agree. I am thankful.

But it should not be a choice between preaching to the choir and having the richness of new and different experiences to read about, learn from, acknowledge. I am grateful to write for Huffington Post where I can create some bridges.

Meredith Corporation took a bold step when they invited Aizley to blog, including a lesbian mom in the spectrum.

Shame on them for canceling her.

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Mitt Romney Vs. Gay Rats

I was asked the other day if I just go after Democrats or if I take swipes at the Republicans, too.

Such easy fodder, but the answer is, yes. Without question.

Especially Mitt Romney. Not because of his religion, but because of what a terrible governor he was.

You have to see this- thanks Bil at bilerico.com. This made my morning.



I'm going to go hunt one of those rats down now...

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Exciting!! New!!

I've said before, I am going away for ten days, starting on Friday this week.

I have an interesting line up of guest bloggers.

My sister, Cathy, who goes by Casey but I'm her sister and I'll always call her Cathy. I'm sure she will write something from her heart because she tends to be one of the most trusting people I know. I can't do a serious introduction because she is my "seester" and while I will always argue with her about religion, worry horribly about the latest man in her life, we are each other's fiercest allies.

Jeanine's sister Toni, who is a Republican nightmare but yes, I still love her. Toni is a self made successful business woman who has had the guts to hire her own family and be her mother's boss. Recently, Toni and I found an amazing common political ground- we both dislike Hillary Clinton. It was a fabulous, if not incredibly rare moment.

My friend Susan Eaton, who is nationally known for her work on public education, having written several books on the subject, The Other Boston Busing Story: What`s Won and Lost Across the Boundary Line, and The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial and Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown V. Board of Education a book she co-wrote with Gary Orfield. She is currently working on immigration issues and I'm sure will post on that. Susan's biggest claim to fame, however, is being a Naughty Mom, a group of women who rage against the proper suburban rules and meet at my house for too many cocktails and lots of gossip.

My friend Louise Kennedy, who is one of the most proper suburban mothers I know- NOT- whose son is my middle son's best buddy. Her humor and sharp wit makes her a leading member of the naughty mom's group, although I doubt that's on her resume. Louise is the Theater Critic for the Boston Globe but her writing career is long and varied.

My best pal I've known forever, Kristen Bjork, will write a piece. I've known Kristen as long as I've lived in Boston, over twenty years, and she's been through my previous girlfriend, the Gay Games in 1990, my life as a volleyball player, our arguements on the sidelines of our girlfriends soccer games about having children and the environmental impact, and ultimately, both of our mothers death last year.

My friend Donald, Myer who lives up in DownEast Maine, and always has a comment or two or three to add to the blog. Donald has watched, through Walter and Allan's eyes, the evolution of our family. Donald has also provided the home for many years of "Dads Camp," calmly entertaining three wild boys on too much sugar. He's a good friend with a lot of common sense and, as he will I'm sure point out, all of his teeth still.

I'm hoping my friend Marie Tibbets will find time to post a little something. Marie is my trivia expert and whenever I'm stuck for a blog idea, she manages to email me something that either makes me laugh out loud or makes me mad. I can't even begin to mention all the blogs she was responsible for putting in my head to write.

I have lined up a couple posts I've already written, to be published in my absence- depressing, sad stuff. You know, I just love the holiday season...

And when I return, I hope to be refreshed, and have a ton of amazing photos to share. Not to mention new energy to take on the candidates running for President.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

For The Bible Tells Me So

While I'm away, I have some guests posting for me.

My sister, who has become very Christian, is posting.

I just need to put this out there- the bible has been used as a tool of hate for too long.

I hope she watches this film, "For The Bible Tells Me So." Reading homosexuality as an "abomination" is, in fact, and abomination.

I'm not responsible for anything she writes... but I do love her! I just vehemently disagree.

The Macarena

Ben scolded Zachary who brushed his teeth in less than five seconds.

You have to brush your teeth for a whole minute!

Zachary was unimpressed.

Sing the Macarena five times and then you're done.

They are up in the bathroom humming now...

Privilege, Entitlement and the Holiday Season

Friday night, before I went to sleep, I promised myself I was not going to yell at Ben. It was going to be "Christmas" and however he felt about the gifts he received, however he expressed himself was going to be met with my silence.

I lasted about an hour.

What is it about privilege, entitlement and the holiday season? They seem to go together hand in hand.

Have I done a lousy job with Ben or is it all kids at this age? I swear, you could give Zachary a lump of coal and he'd think it was cool. Jake is easy, too, but he's still in the toy stage. Ben, however, was unhappy with everything except one gift.

And they were all gifts he asked for. Can someone explain this to me?

He opened the Souljah Boy tee shirt, hat and glasses.

I wanted the hoodie, too, he said, annoyed.

I could have killed him but I stayed quiet and simply shrugged.

He opened a 50 cent style baseball cap, with plaid on the front but a Boston Red Sox logo.

Whatever.

Tongue bleeding, I nudge Walter next to me. I'm not going to say a word.

I can see that, Walter said.

Finally, when he told Jeanine to shut up, I lost it.

Can someone give me some insight? Should I put the boy on bread and water and remove all the Abercrombie shirts? I feel like I'm constantly harping on him and it's not doing any good at all.

A friend reminded me yesterday, that until we have compassion for where they are, their experience, we cannot be helpful.

That's where I get stuck and channel my mother. Not only because they have so much in comparison to the rest of the world but also because they have so much in comparison to what I had.

It's not fair for me to go there. I'm not talking about walking uphill in the snow both ways, or the starving children in India, but alcoholism and abuse. I have to shut the hell up when I want to say, DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?

See? My mother, coming out in spades.

I know he's a good kid. I know he has compassion and is kind. I want to help him shine and want to bring out those pieces of himself.

How do I find the compassion for his reality?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Day

No, really. It is. For us.

Last night, we had Coq Au Vin, mixed greens with endive, blue cheese, cranberries and pistachios.



Yes, Walter created a gorgeous centerpiece. I was going to sneak and order something, so he wouldn't have to work but... I'm glad I didn't.



I'm glad he did.

Watching him put together the centerpiece and the flowers on the mantle, the friends over said, it's like watching an artist paint.



It is. The people who recognize this, some of his clients, covet him and refuse to share his name. He is amazingly talented. If I have my way, he'll be charging three times as much for his design time.

He gives too much away without recognizing the value.



He did get to rest eventually.

This morning was exciting, if not a little strange. Christmas, not Christmas, plenty of snow... up at 5:30AM...


Santa did show up- you know, technology today is quite amazing- and Jake is still wearing his Airman outfit he's been dreaming about for months.



Breakfast of biscuits, cinnamon buns (the old family recipe), country ham, sausage, eggs, ambrosia and red eye gravy.

Dinner tonight at the Castle- the boys choice due to Smith and Wollensky's foot high chocolate cake, even though ties and suit jackets are required.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jake's Fine

Jake's just being Jake.

Labs back and all is well...

Thank you for all the good wishes.

Now let's see if he makes it through today because I almost killed him and his brothers this morning.

Two-Hour Delay and Christmas Eve

I appreciate we had a doozy of a snowstorm last night but… tonight is our Christmas Eve. I have a LOT to do today before we’re ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow morning.

Big stuff, like wrapping every gift there is, and little stuff like finding the stockings.

This year, we’re headed to Costa Rica for the real Christmas day. Sun. Warm. No snow delays.

I can’t wait.

But today? I’m out of my mind.

Presents wrapped, house cleaned, stockings found, table set, coq au vin finished, sidewalk shoveled- just a couple things.

Wish me luck.

And more later about the departure- I have a roster of guest bloggers lined up to entertain while I’m away…

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Okay, some real holiday humor

Focused




It stops you in your tracks. All the whining, all the bullshit, all the drama suddenly seems so ridiculous when you’re in the car driving to a blood test for your kid.

I know he’s going to be fine. Jake has never done a single thing in a “normal” fashion- why should bruising be any different?

When he was born, c-section, he came out wide-awake. He never really cried, just looked around. I followed him into the nic-u- because I had not given birth this time and could actually move after my child was born- and was amazed by how alert he was the whole time.

When I brought him down to Jeanine, who had been moved to a room and getting high as a kite on whatever painkiller they gave her while sewing her up, he latched on and started nursing right away.

And then he stayed awake.

I knew I was screwed. This was not a typical baby. Food wasn’t going to put him to sleep and he was going to be interested in everything.

He is. To this day. He never needed much sleep and still doesn’t. He’s the only kid I know who will try anything once- food, amusement park rides or a board game. He shrugs and always says, Sure.

Which comes out more as “Shore.”

He was a developmental puzzle every step of the way, as if to say, Hey, I know I’m your third but you better be paying attention. He crawled late and walked early. His first word wasn’t Mama or Dada, it was Brother. He had back to back, or more realistically, one yearlong ear infection where he never spiked a fever or lost his balance. I’d catch him tugging on his ears a little and drag him to the doctor.

It was always at least a single, if not a double, fluid filled mess.

He’d be sitting there, smiling.

He’d race up to the number of words he should have by a certain age then stop. Completely. Just when I’d start to get concerned, he’d pull few more out of nowhere.

He can play alone for hours, and can make a friend on the playground in thirty seconds. He is so charming with adults- and the camera- no one can even begin to imagine how naughty he can be- except his parents.

Even then, he charms us, too.

He was nervous this morning and had come down to sit with me while it was still dark. He didn’t say a word, just crawled into my lap and put his head on my shoulder. He’s not my little baby anymore. Finally, he asked me when we were going to the hospital.

I told him I thought I’d just get a sharp stick and poke him, get some blood myself.

He thought that was very funny.

After I picked him up from school- early, so it was a treat along with the promised chocolate chip cookies we'd make together- I watched him in the rearview mirror. He always sits, face pressed against the glass. This kid, who can laugh and run and fly with the best of them, can be so quiet sometimes. Watching. Taking it in.

I thought about all the things I’d been struggling with lately, the images in my head from years past, the rage from being hurt so young so often, and it all seemed pointless. It didn’t matter.

None of it. Not really.

It was like peeling protective plastic off a new windowpane. Suddenly, the images had sharp edges and real light. It felt… calm.

Focused.

Jake will be fine. I’m sure it will be one more way in which he is just a little bit different from the norm, and completely normal for him.

And so will I.

Hate, A Christmas Carol

Ah, you have to love the image of people using Jesus's birthday to celebrate their intolerance and hate.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Update

Yes, I took Jake to the doctor.

Yes, we are having blood drawn tomorrow.

Yes, it's probably nothing.

And no, they did not call me crazy.

Holiday Picture

My mother in-law asked for a picture of the boys for her holiday card.

I sent one.

She wrote back, No no, I don't want one where they look like themselves... I want one where they look nice.



I went through the photos from this year.

This IS them looking nice.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Good, The Bad and The Anxiety In Between

There are few things, as a parent, I enjoy more than asking the obvious question and waiting to hear the response.

Jake? Is the table set?

Now, I know the table isn’t set. I know he’s still drawing tanks and bombs and guns. I know there are flamethrowers and parachute guys dotting the horizon.

Um…

Before he answers, I hear the scramble to clear off the drawing materials- often being thrown right on the ground- and the clink of the plates I left out on the counter for him.

Uh…

He still hasn’t answered because he still isn’t done. He doesn’t want to lie, but he doesn’t want to admit I asked him twenty minutes ago, fifteen minutes ago and ten minutes ago to set the table.

Five minutes later, he says, Yeah, Mom. The table is set.

My other obvious question is, Have you brushed your teeth?

Which I know the answer is always no but I have to ask.

And there are few things, I hate more as a parent. Like seeing Jake’s legs covered with bruises- still- even after the fall football, outdoor wrestling season.

I know, I know. Lots of ice lately, lots of reasons to fall and bump. But they all look like the same ones he’s had for a while.

Twenty childhood leukemia websites later, I’m convinced I’m just being paranoid.

Almost convinced. I've looked at a lot of little boy bruised legs over the last 12 years. My gut tells me there is something wrong. Diabetes, anemia or maybe an undetected ear infection throwing off his balance.

Something. Maybe.

Which is why I hate this part of parenting. Am I overreacting? Do I take him to the doctor? Old voices tell me you don’t bother the doctor, new voices tell me I know enough doctors to know they would rather see you too many times than too few.

The good, the bad and the anxiety in between.

I’m calling the doctor tomorrow. If nothing else, maybe he can get Jake to listen when I tell him to set the table.

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What is Going On?

Churches with armed guards and waterboard torture "approved at the top levels of the U.S. government."

Does anyone else think there is something deeply, deeply wrong with our country?

Why does a church need an armed guard? Although, in hindsight, it did keep a killer from harming any others. I know we don't have one at the First Unitarian Society of Newton. I cannot fathom what would be going on at the 'megachurch' to require such security.

When five girls were killed in the West Nickel Mines School, The Amish responded with forgiveness. In fact, "the fathers of the Amish girls who had been shot went to the killer's parents and asked what they could do to help them."

They never hired an armed guard.

Children still go to the school.

In "less than 35 seconds" a "suspect" started talking after being waterboarded. Call me crazy, but the last time I checked the American legal system, a "suspect" was someone "suspected" of a crime but not found guilty of a crime. A "suspect" is allowed a lawyer, due process and since 1966 is required to be read the Miranda Warning.

You know it. It's on all the cops shows. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney.

Unless you are Arab, or thought to be Arab, and the government has decided you know something they want to know. Then, forget everything written in the Constitution, The fifth Amendment, not to mention basic human dignity, torture away!

Can you imagine the outrage if say, a white, middle class suburban housewife was taken into custody on suspicion of terrorism and was held for 6 years without a lawyer and tortured ...

in another country?

We'd go nuke 'em!

Maybe CIA Director Michael Hayden should take a cue from the Amish.

Maybe we should all take a cue from the Amish.

What is going on? Where is our compassion? Our common sense? When did churches need to be armed and torture became acceptable?

The Sun HAS Come Out

Better day. Going to tackle the NYTimes piece. Going to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Going to bring out my inner ferocious otter.



Hey, these bad boys get to be six feet long and clearly aren't afraid of anything.

Arm one with a tennis racquet and who knows what could happen.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Right Now...

My favorite writer... well, I have a few, but the one who sits at the top of my head, always, is Dorothy Parker.

I found a picture of her tonight and it was exactly how I feel. I cannot read the language of the site, but I can read her face.


Legos or Make Up

I'm sitting downstairs, working on a relationship piece for the New York Times, which is making me nuts. Too corny. Too honest. Not honest enough. More bite, less bite, oh, why the hell am I trying to write something for the New York Times???

Then I get to go through all the critic voices in my head- you suck, you can't write, you only get posted on your own blog because it's your own blog...

On and On. I feel like there are enough to have a small cocktail party. Serve some self-pity hors dourves- you know, something high fat, high calorie that tastes good for a minute then is too heavy and too rich.

And I hear Ben and Jake upstairs. Now, I should have noticed I had NOT been hearing Ben and Jake upstairs for a while but I was too busy beating myself into a pulp. I hear Jake say, Mom is going to KILL us.

Like a good hostess, I excuse myself from my pity party and say, WHY AM I GOING TO KILL YOU?

Giggles break out.

WHAT is IT?

Well, Ben says as they start down the stairs, We put on some mascara.

They both pause mid staircase.

And eyeliner.

They both jumped the rest of the way to the landing.

Indeed, they got into the eyeliner and mascara.

Go wash it off, I said. And please put it away, it's not a toy.

Mind you, the only reason why I have eyeliner and mascara is for my once a year drag dress up party at Walter and Allan's house. Playing girl for a night.



I know. I'm pretty heavy handed with the eyeshadow.

They ran back up and laughed as they tried to wash the grease off their faces. I have to admit, Ben and Jake get along so seldom, I almost wanted to show them where the eyeshadow was kept.

After they were done, I heard Ben say to Jake, You know, we should probably stick to Legos instead of Makeup.

Yeah, Jake agreed, probably as easily and quickly as he did to the original suggestion to put the makeup on.

A quick reminder to all my critics sitting at the table- I might not be talented enough for the New York Times? But I have kids smart enough to know, Legos are a better idea than make up.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ho Ho Ho

A little holiday humor...


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Baby Fever Update

Um.. about thirty seconds after our overnight guests left? The house fell into utter chaos. Ben screaming at Jake, Jake screaming at Ben, Zachary fighting with both, tears, pleas, tattling, retorts..

Never mind.

Baby Fever

Last night, Jeanine and I watched our friend’s two kids. The older boy is Jake’s age and they are best of pals. They love each other like brothers.

No, they are actually nicer to each other than brothers. Best friends.

His younger sister is four. When her mom dropped her off, she was very sleepy. Jeanine took her, sat on the couch with the little girl in her lap, in front of the roaring fire.

I almost- ALMOST- wanted to have another baby.

Seeing Jeanine holding that little girl, and then later, after she fell back asleep, she was stretched out on the couch, under a blanket snoring those soft little baby snores.

Oooooh.

So sweet.

So beautiful.

Can we have another? I asked Jeanine.

Sure, she said.

Mind you, Jeanine is not the person who would stay home with the baby. And sleep has never been high on her list of things to do. Not to mention I’m too old, too perimenopausal.

I have to say, I had a bit of baby fever last night. I looked at that little girl on my couch, all dressed in pink, and had my moment of how much I wished I had a girl. How much I missed the little baby period, the chubby legs, and the tired head placed on your shoulder. The sweet baby smell.

Maybe I’ll get a puppy.

Lot easier than babies. You can put them in a crate and it’s a good thing.

Or a kitten. You don’t even need to put them in a crate.

But for all my friends who are reading this? NO, I am not having another baby.

I think.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Marriage Equality, Marriage Reality

Recently, I went to an event to celebrate Marriage Equality in Massachusetts. We are the only state in the nation that allows everyone equal marriage rights. It was a proud, and powerful event. I am married, legally three years, emotionally, seventeen. I often joked, prior to our legal nuptials, that we’d been married long enough to almost be divorced.

Thanks to the efforts and courage of a group of plaintiffs, GLAD, Mass Equality and hundreds of others, the laws in this state were changed in 2004. In June 2007, another effort to remove the law was defeated. It was a moment of celebration.

In November of 2004, everyone was still riding high on the new law. As Jeanine and I prepared to get legally married, we didn’t think about our struggles, the arguments, the near misses we faced in our relationship. Everyone does at some point in his or her marriage, we were no different.

In the last two years, it has not been a joke. We’ve both walked out and said that was it.

Two years ago, I reached the end of a long series of miscommunication and lack of emotional connection. I snapped. I was done. I loved my family, our three kids, our home, our life, but I could not stand being alone one more minute while she finished yet one more piece of work.

Last year, she came downstairs one morning, and demanded a divorce. That was it. She was tired of being bossed around, being denied equal say in our financial life, and done with my complaining about her not being connected enough.

We’ve managed to stay together but it hasn’t been easy. New laws didn’t mean much except that a divorce would cost more money. There was even a moment when I cursed having gone through what felt like a symbolic gesture of getting married. It wasn’t the legal constructs that ended up saving our marriage. It was a friend’s observation.

Our friend is a family therapist and has worked with individuals, kids, couples over the years. When Jeanine was out the door this summer- and I mean house hunting, buying new furniture kind of out the door- she sat each of us down, separately.

Do you agree about parenting? She asked.

We both answered yes, because we do. We work well as a team in our parenting. I respect her, she respects me, we have somewhat different approaches but the same overall goals. Our common ground is firm and we never let the kids divide us in any way when it comes to decisions.

If you can do that, she said, you can work this relationship out. As a therapist, I’m looking for one place it works to build on. You guys have more than one place but your parenting is one of the most important.

We both paused long enough to try and build on that place. The place of agreement, the place of common ground. The place that is also filled with the love we have for not only our children, but also our family. We separated out, for a while, our disappointment with each other as lovers, wives, and focused on what we could do.

At the event the other night, I saw a couple I know is divorced sitting together with their daughter, in a genuine moment of celebration. They are no longer married but still care deeply about the cause. I started to cry. I know they have more than one place of common ground. They are amazing parents, powerful activists and in much of their lives, worked together seamlessly.

Well, as seamlessly as any couple married almost 20 years can work together.

It broke my heart.

I came home and hugged my wife, even though she was working, even though her working drives me nuts. Still.

I’m not sure my wife and I will stay together till death do us part. I’m pretty sure we took that part out of our vows, promising to remain committed not only to each other, but also to our family. It’s not easy and like wine, some years are great, some years are horrible, and every year brings out something different even in years past.

There are some realities of who we are, drifting well into middle age that will never change. My wife will always work too much. It is who she is. She loves me as much and as well as she possibly can. She has a good heart and is kind. She struggles with emotional connection but has pledged to try.

I will always need a sense of control. It is not easy for me to trust, and even after 17 years, I can eye a charge on the credit card statement and have a shiver run through me- a hotel charge? (It was for a parking space rental.) I will also always create chaos. I spent so much of my life dead inside, calm is terrifying.

I wanted to grab the couple as they sat there, and tell them they do work together well. They are individually two of the most amazing, funny, kind women you will ever meet. I know their relationship reflected the same kind of struggle so many others face- and ended up like so many others do.

Marriage equality is wonderful. It does not take away from the marriage reality. I know better. I know there were obstacles they could not get past after years of trying and trying and trying.

Maybe, though, it wasn’t about them. Maybe it was about recognizing the reality of my own future. I have made compromises I never imagined I would make. I am faced with making even more, just as my wife is faced with the same. I wanted to see all the love, the connection and good they had together because I want to see it in my own family mirror.

I want to believe making those compromises are worth it. Somehow, there will be a jackpot at the end of the rainbow. One filled with emotional rewards for staying together, being able to show the scars and still smile.

Marriage is no longer a special privilege but a right shared by everyone. It is a flawed institution, unlike the perfectly carved and poured foundations of so many of the elegant churches they take place in. We struggle and fight and love and hate whether we’re two women, two men or a man and a woman. Nothing about this choice is easy.

May 17th, 2004 was a historic day not only for Massachusetts but for the whole country. On June 17th, 2007, the Massachusetts Legislature reconfirmed its commitment to equality in the Commonwealth. The other night, we celebrated, clapped and danced.

I wanted so much for a happy ending for everyone.

Because I want a happy ending for me.

A Little Humor...

I have to be honest. I sat online last night and went through about forty different Hate Crimes YouTube videos, trying to find one to put on the blog.

I was a mess at the end. Crying, miserable, they all were good, they all were depressing, especially after yesterday's events.

This morning, however, I had the pleasure of viewing a picture of my oldest son taken Wednesday night by the event photographer. Not only does Ben walk around with his pants halfway down his butt, untied Etnes, he loves to flash gang signs in any picture of him taken.

Not that he knows it's a gang sign. He simply thinks it is COOL.

So, in response, my friend Marti sent me this link. I love it. Please enjoy and think of Ben and his homey-homeboy wanna be style.


Best Boston Real Estate Blog

I have a new blog listed on my blogroll. If you are interested in real estate in Boston, this is the place to go.

Even though Arthur does NOT have my blog listed on his blogroll, I will list HIS. Maybe we should all go and post a comment, nice real estate but what about some LESBIANS!?!

I mean, it can't hurt, right?

http://www.backbayblogger.com/

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hate Crimes Bill Killed

The party is over. Today Congress dropped the Hate Crimes Bill. The legislation that would have expanded hate crimes to include LGBT people was killed after "it became clear the measure wouldn't pass the House, aides said Thursday" Pageoneq.com reported today.

I give up. Just come beat the shit out of me, stab me, rape me, tie me to a post and let me die because I’m a lesbian and you don’t like lesbians.

And if you get caught, sure, you’ll go to jail. You’ll get to sit on the stand and say, Well, she was a LESBIAN and I hate lesbians. In fact, the fact that lesbians existed made me so depressed, all day long I ate twinkies. Twinkie after twinkie. By the end of the 20th box I was so depressed I hate eaten so many twinkies I decided to go kill me some lesbians.

Crazy talk, right?

It did happen. Dan White gunned down George Moscone and Harvey Milk, claiming evidence of his depression was shown in such a radical change in his diet.

A more famous example but if you’d like to stroll down memory lane, past the Harvey Milk and Mathew Sheppard Case, past James Byrd, past Brandon Teena, go to visit the Hate Crimes, Wikipedia Project at The Republic of T blogsite.

It’s not about special treatment. It’s not about liking or accepting homosexuality. It’s about a set of consequences for people who target other people simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

It’s about blind hatred and violence.

Take a stand against it.

Go to Terrance’s site, please.

And then please call your US Representative, your US Senator and express your outrage.