Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's Never Easy

It never gets any easier, does it?

I need to be respectful of all parties involved. I cannot go into detail. I will say we've had our own earthquake, except it's been a lot longer than 90 seconds.

And has done deep damage.

I can say that we all went to the Black Eyed Peas concert on Friday night, with friends and had an amazing good time. That fun was in the air, and we danced and laughed and were loud.

It was great.

It's taken a few months but I finally get what is going on for Ben right now. He has been screaming and yelling and storming for months- I understand now.

He has had every right.

I'm not going to kick myself for not getting it sooner, and I'm not going to move far into the future with a story written now, the ending clear. I need to stay in the moment, and work this through carefully.

All that matters to me is my kids. Period. I'm in full on Mamma Bear mode. I'm surprisingly clear on what needs to happen.

I'm sorry to be so vague.

It never gets any easier. We are complex beings, and good people can do bad things. I am not a perfect person, I have made so many mistakes along the line, and know I will continue to.

The biggest mistake was to not trust my instincts. My gut. That will not happen again.

More hard work ahead today- hard things to say, big feelings to hold. But then, that's what I do here, 24/7. I'm not perfect, sometimes really awful, but at least I'm here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

DADT: It's Showtime

Not such a great start to the week yesterday. I hurt my back. I never hurt my back. As my sister said to me, you getting OLD.


Yes, I am.

All that happened was I was horsing around with Ben in the kitchen. He jumped on my back, playfully, and bam. A giant spasm right in the middle, I couldn't move.

I have always wrestled around with the kids. Ben felt terrible and I told him it wasn't his fault- really, it wasn't. I'm getting older and I guess I can't quite do what I used to.

Can I tell you how hard that is for a former athlete to say?

It's better today but I'm sure the 800 loads of laundry I have to do won't help much. I give up. Nothing to be done, except said laundry. Pop some alleve, and get to work.

I don't like this body falling apart thing. The hot flashes are enough, thanks very much. While I was walking the dog yesterday, the wind whipping, I felt like my face was carved granite. Each wrinkle so clearly defined.

I don't mind the lines, I just never expected to feel them as much as I do.

Feel everything, every bone, every joint.

Zachary said, Mom, I'll get the cane from upstairs.


I couldn't help but shout. Raging against the dying of the light, I suppose. The cane is there for when Jeanine hurts her back, which is often. She hates using it too, but does.

No cane for me. Like I said, it's much better today. A dull ache, that's all. Big things happening this week- a bill to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell is being introduced by Senator Lieberman. Not a big fan of his, to say the least, but this is an excellent choice. Every day there is small movement, often undetected by the press, with appointments, and positions being filled with LGBT friendly folks.

Not unlike the aging process, each day creeps along and suddenly, bam! A big leap is taken.

Or back broken.

Time is a funny thing. No way to stop it- at least not yet. It's easy to get frustrated by the pace of social change- I know I do- but important to remember, it is happening.

Hold tight- it's showtime.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

technical difficulties

My computer bit the bucket. Last gasp. Dead.

I'm using Zachary's right now. Hmmm. He has a mighty spiffy little computer.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Camp

Jake and I made it in to Downeast, no problem. We got about a quarter of a mile away from the house. We unpacked (that would be the royal we), started a fire, and got the place pretty toasty.

We ate camp food- freeze dried lasagna with meat sauce. I must say, it was pretty good. A cookie for dessert. We were all set, tired from dragging in the supplies on the sled, and it was only 6:30pm. Too dark to go out.

What to do?

Jake rifled through the books- not many in the dome. But I went over and saw Agatha Christie. Three Blind Mice. I love a good mystery, just as my mother did. He started to read it, but came across many words that were very unfamiliar.

Do you want me to read out loud? I asked.

He beamed and settled in front of the fireplace with the dog.

I have to say, one of the things I most love doing with the kids- really any kid- is to read out loud. After ten pages, I had the voices down, and was quick enough to translate some of the English terms.

And the expressions from the late 1940’s. We stopped and discussed. I gave as many contexts as I could.

We’d stop from time to time and thought about who was the killer. Do you remember, Jake kept asking me. Sadly, I should have, but I didn’t. I must have read this…. 30 years ago?

I think it’s the wife, I said. No, it’s the weird guy, Jake said. He’s too happy.

I also paused every time a clue was placed out by Ms. Christie- with dramatic effect.

What does that mean? We pondered. I was surprised how much he got from my reading aloud. I’ve never been good at hearing books- but he is.

The last few days have been filled with shouts and fighting and angry words. I am not sure how much more I can deal with my oldest son. I’m not sure how productive or thoughtful I can be. I let loose with an angry rage the other night. It scared him. It scared me.

Okay, it didn’t’ scare him that much. But it did me.

Last night? I read a great story to my son. Maybe that’s all I can do well.

Maybe… right now? That has to be enough.

Tonight we're at Donald's. Four to eight inches of snow might come in. Four we'd be fine... eight is a problem. We decided (again the royal we) that it would be safer here. Go back tomorrow.

Because winter camping is a lot easier than being at home right now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Something Has to Give

I'm calmer today. Not a lot calmer, but no one was yelling or fighting this morning during my cup of coffee.

That's all I ask, you know. One cup. No fighting. Please.

Sunday morning, as Ben was heading up the stairs, angry, he blasted me- as he often does- with a little personal nastiness. He said, "And you know what? Your boobs are saggy."

Um... I'm almost 50. I've nursed two children. You better bet your life they are saggy.

I looked at Jeanine. She said, I still love them.

Are they saggy?

In an age appropriate way.

Fine, I just lie on my back for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, I took my sister to a doctor's appointment. She was very nervous and was chattering on the way there. She was talking about how stress is a huge factor in cancer.

Great, I'm so stressed, I should be hit with something big, soon.

Yesterday, the entire city of Boston shut down because there was going to be a big, giant snowstorm. The kids were home from school because the storm was going to be THAT BAD.

Um, we got a dusting.

So I have saggy boobs, cancer in the wings and kids home all day, the oldest in my face, yelling at me.

Isn't there a pill for this? A few pills?

Jeanine threw out her back. Never good and always from stress. She doesn't have saggy boobs, though.

Through the whole train wreck of a week, I came up with Outward Bound. My gut tells me this is the right thing. My gut is rarely wrong. My gut told me Martha Coakley was going to lose but I refused to acknowledge it.

Ben spent the later part of the day yesterday being helpful, sweet and kind. After he cleaned up the dishes from dinner, I looked at him and said, that's a great start. Keep it up for a week. At least.

Of course, I was the instigator, the evil one once again. I was too tough, I never listen, I don't know how hard his life is...

Three hours do not make up for three days. No. Great start, though. Keep it up.

My mantra. Me and my saggy boobs.

In the meantime, I've decided to do my own little Outward Bound with Jake. He's been begging to do winter camping for a while. Next week is school vacation so... we are going to head up to Downeast. We can park the car about a mile away from the dome. We'll walk our way in, with a sled in tow filled with supplies. Bring the dog to protect us from the bears and moose.

Yup, we'll freeze our butts off.

Maybe I just need to see the ocean. Maybe I want to be challenged in a fun but hard way. Maybe it's just Jake's enthusiasm that is infectious.

Maybe I just don't want to be yelled at for a few days.

We'll pack up some canvass and paints. Jake loves to paint and while I'm terrible, I do love to pick up a brush, too. Once, a long time ago when I was a kid, I could identify different animal tracks. It'll be much easier in the snow.

All I know is something has got to give.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Boot Camp Begins

That's it.

I can take no more. I have no more patience, no more kindness, no more generosity. Ben is going to a 28 day outward bound program this summer. As in, the day after school gets out.

I signed him up today.

Every day he yells. Every day he has attitude. Every day is a struggle. Enough.

I love my son. I love him very much. He will be furious the day we drop him off. Something, though, big has to happen. Something has to rock his world in a constructive, positive way. We are clearly not able to provide that.

And we're about an inch away from moving him up to Maine with me, and signing him into the Maine schools for the rest of this year. Big. Dramatic. Call it what you want, but something has to give.

Of course, this will blow my plans to run for office, as I'll have to become a resident of Maine. That's ok. Whatever. I'm not going to move Zachary and Jake- they suffer with this craziness enough.

That will only happen if the loss of phone, computer and being grounded doesn't seem to have any impact.

Why now? Grades came out yesterday. Actually, grades came out on Monday, but I didn't get them until yesterday when I demanded them. A bright, capable kid is getting C's and D's. The yelling started- all his excuses, all his insecurity, all his projection. He yelled that it was our fault. We made him this way.

It is our fault. We've let it get this bad. We worried about everything. Every step. We haven't been true to our gut feeling about what needs to be done. Is it right? What will people think? Will this screw him up for the rest of his life?

No more.

If I am going to go through the grinder every day, age 15 years in a month, then you better believe we are going to go down a hard, incredibly strict line.

Ben has no idea what's going to hit him. He doesn't want to participate in school activities? Fine. He's going to Jeanine's office every day after school for two hours of extra homework she will design. He doesn't think his tutor is good enough? Fine, I'll be his tutor. He wants to rant and rave about it every day? He'll be moved to Ogunquit where he does not disrupt the entire family.

He is going to learn what hard work is.

I, personally, have let him slide because I knew he was different. I knew he had stuff going on that most kids don't deal with. I didn't push. I waited.

I think I did him a great disservice.

Like I said, no more.

For Ben? Boot camp has begun.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

May I Please Beam for a Moment?

My Big Fat Gay Family with President Obama.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Post Superbowl Crash

Ah, another superbowl has come and gone. They really should give the nation the day off on Monday. No one does much after the Superbowl. My trash pick up is on Mondays and I'm lucky if they get to it before dark after the Superbowl.

The much anticipated anti-abortion commercial came on and we booed. It tried to be silly about something that is not silly. Listen, I'm adopted. I have personally thanked by birth mother for choosing to have me. She could have, because she came from an upper middle class family, had a safe abortion.

Choosing life is not for everyone, and not everyone can have a child and then give it up for adoption or make due somehow. We've forgotten how many poor women ended up dead due to back room abortions by anyone who could hold a knife. We have forgotten the coat hangers and dead teenagers.

Choose life, you'll get a Heisman winning football player.

Yuh. Right.

I refused to let it bother my Superbowl experience. We had about fifty here, friends, dogs, babies, sullen teenagers. More food than you can shake a stick at.

I love that expression. Why would you shake a stick at anything?

Our resident MIT grad Dr. B had to crank The Who at volumes I found insane. First, they were pre-recorded. Second, I have hearing loss in one ear. I don't want to lose any more of my hearing, thank you very much. I could feel my lungs vibrate.

I don't want to. Ever.

Allan makes us all stay quiet during the commericals- a rule that lasts for about the first quarter and then everyone is gabbing, eating, drinking, they don't pay him any attention.

But we are quiet during the first quarter.

I love having everyone here. Even after such a crappy start to the day, I ended it with a giant smile on my face.

Oh, and I did love dem Saints marching in... it was great to watch a team win that has never been to the Superbowl. I remember the years when Saints fans wore bags over their heads. Since my beloved Pats were not in the game, I had to pick and I couldn't help but pick who I thought were the underdogs.

Oh and there is that mortal enemy thing with the Colts but... Morgan I'm sure will comment on that.

The trash is still out front. The kids are quiet in the other room, tired from their late night sugar crashes. No fighting today. Mardi gras beads- our party theme was just that, Mardi Gras in all it's glory- are all picked up. I think. Walter's beautiful flowers are still on the table- it's going to take a while for me to take them down.

Enough leftovers for a couple days. It's like a mid winter Thanksgiving dinner- so much food tucked in Tupperware, a treat until a week passes then... scary.

The sky is pink. I think I hear the garbage truck. I have a fire roaring... Time to go reheat dinner.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Deep, Deep Lines

Do you ever feel old? I mean, old old. Like the lines in your face have deepened overnight, and you resembled carved sandstone.

Crumbling, easily etched.

I am feeling very old today. Before one cup of coffee, there was a big fight. Chairs toppled, doors slammed, holes punched into doors.

You know, I grew up with this shit. I don't like it. It sends me off into a dark place of feeling overwhelmed, and as if nothing will ever change. Unless I take off, run far far away.

I can't run away. There are no woods behind my house to take refuge in either. Now I am the grown up and I have to make it stop.

I'm tired. We have 40 people coming for the superbowl today. I was told the party would be ruined by the exact kind of behavior that I've been dealing with since 8:30AM. Part of me wants to cancel it all. But if I said the reason why, everyone would come anyway, to hold me. Hold my family.

I simply want to go back to sleep. Not that it's much relief- I kept waking up last night with body aches that made me cry out. It felt like a train had hit me.

Teenage train. A boy I have to constantly try to remember is my son, not my tormentor of years past. It's not easy to do. Not in the moment. Over and over, I tell myself, I am the grown up. I am not 12 and powerless.

The edge is on fire today in the house.

Deep, deep lines.

I want to cry out, I can't take anymore! You have to stop now! But I can't. I cannot be fragile. I need to be strong and withstand the storm because it is my job. It is my role. I will not be out of control. I will not shout back. I will stay calm.

And I will age ten years before the night comes.

I already have.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Dodging Raging Hormones

Last night, Jake and Zachary were at Walter and Allan's house. Went to see the Celtics. Nice night for them, topped off, I'm sure, by peanut butter straight out of the jar and chocolate chips.

Ben boy stayed home with us. He had a friend over, they watched some slasher film in the back room while Jeanine and I were in the living room with a fire. She was doing homework, I was playing scrabble online. Overall, a pretty quiet night.



A little after ten, I was done with scrabble and turned on the TV. Ben's friend had gone home and he came in and watched with us. Jeanine told him at 11pm, it was almost time to shut off his phone for the night, and go to bed. 11:30pm, comes, the show is over, and it's time.

Ben lost his mind.

I felt like I was watching a toddler explode. Yelling stuff like, I hate you! and You are so mean! and my favorite, GO AWAY! over and over again. Oh, sure, there were a few more sophisticated ones, but for the most part, it stayed right at that 4 year old level.

Why did I have children again? Can someone remind me? Because I'm pretty sure I could be on some beach somewhere, with my lovely wife, listening to the waves instead of dodging raging hormones.

I looked at Jeanine and said, you know, we have two more that will be like this.

Eventually, after a half hour of stomping, screaming, door slamming, everyone was in bed. Jeanine and I have learned how to laugh about this instead of cry. Or get mad.

The other night, about a week ago, I woke up to Jeanine saying, Not a chance, Ben. Get back in bed. He started to mumble... Jeanine said to me, He's pretending to sleep walk.

I burst out laughing. Not since you were 3, buddy! I called out.

See, he was trying to go downstairs and get his phone. He thought we were asleep. We were but Jeanine heard him. Mind you, she never heard the babies crying when they were little, but the squeak of the stairs en route to the telephone... she's all over it.

She got up, grabbed the phone and put it under her pillow.

Find that, she snickered as she got back into bed.

Maybe I am too strict, maybe it's unrealistic to think a kid who is 14 doesn't need to be up all night tap tap tapping text messages all night. Sometimes, I really just want to give up and say, fine. Do what you want.

I know I can't. But man oh man, is it tempting.

Today is one of those days where I'll have the option to do all the work around the house myself, or have the kids help. It's so much easier to do it myself.

I know. Not the point. The point is to teach them responsibility, working in a community, and the very basics of how to keep a house clean. I anticipate getting yelled at more than once today.

Wish me luck dodging hormones.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Where or Where is My Lovely Friend the Sun?

The sun is out today. I'm going to go sit out on my deck, even though it is only 30 degrees, and soak some in. There will be snow and cold this weekend, so it's time to get what I can in this season of SAD.

I often wonder why I live in such a climate. The winter comes, and while I do love a good snow, I miss being outside. Long ago, I used to cross country ski. Around here, though, there is rarely enough snow to go out on, so the skis ended up on the sidewalk for someone to trash dive.

My kids don't know how to ski- I feel particularly guilty about that. Here they are in New England and they can't ski or skate. I don't like being out in the cold. For vacations, we always head south to my inlaws.

They know how to swim, though. Really well. Not to mention boogie boarding, body surfing and my favorite sport- sun tanning.

To say I tend to get depressed in the winter is like saying the sun is kinda warm. I've tried the SAD lights but they don't help much. What I need is sun, real sun, on my face. It's like my battery runs down and that is the only thing that will recharge it.

Why live here? Oh, yeah, that pesky group of friends and community that I have and love so much. Impossible to give up. Not to mention the thought of having to pack everything at this time in my life feels completely overwhelming.

Jeanine won't let me get a dumpster (which is what it would take) to start throwing stuff away. Every time I mention it, she gets that look in her eye, like she's going to cry.

For this period of my life, I know, I'm here. In the snow. And gray skies for 5 months of the year.

Oh my, that just sucks the life out of me. Time to go out on the deck!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Simply Be a Mom

I know. I've been quiet for a while.

Part of me had to go lick my wounds for a while. Naked frat boy, horrible Supreme Court ruling. I didn't want to read or think or do anything. So I didn't.

I'm lucky that way. As a stay at home mom, I can sometimes simply take the day off. I miss working, often, as in a job you put on nice shoes for and drive to. Something about a paycheck and a boss to pat you on the head saying, nice job Whitman, is wonderful.

But then there is the downside, like a boss. And having to do a nice job, not taking a nap.

I don't miss that.

I did get to go out to San Diego this past weekend and talk to a pretty conservative group of people about what it is to be a family foundation. How family isn't always a mom and dad and 1.5 kids.

That .5 has to be messy, don't you think?

I wore a suit and got a lot of praise. It feels good to have people come up after and want to say hello. I had one gentleman who was a very conservative Christian- he told me his daughter was a lesbian and he loved her. I said, I think that's what Jesus would want.

Oh, stop laughing. I think it's great people have a deep belief in God. Well, I think it's great when they are kind people and don't use it for hate. He went on to tell me what a hard time he had at first, how he had to give up a lot of dreams- like walking his daughter down the aisle.

I said, Oh, don't give up on that. Work for it. We will have it one day. Everywhere. I promise you that.

He smiled but didn't really seem to believe me. Sometimes, I don't believe it either. I remember when Julie Goodridge told me that she and her partner were going to be the lead plaintiffs for a case that would make same sex marriage legal in Massachusetts. I smiled politely and thought she was nuts.

She is nuts (in a good way, mind you), and she was right about that. A couple years later, I had to say, Wow, I was really wrong about that.

We've come so far, as a people. When my son was born 14 years ago, I never thought I'd ever get married, legally. I said I didn't care, but I was lying. I cared. My mother cared- she, too, had the dream of a wedding.

I can't imagine she ever thought I'd wear a dress but who knows.

Now I'm married and can say that in front of a group of people who no longer raise their eyebrows. And they want to shake my hand afterwards. It's nice.

It's also a reminder that we have come a long long way, baby. I have three sons now, and they know I'm working hard to make the world a better place for them. A friend told me, when I was depressed by the setbacks, that I needed to re-read some Dr. King, or Gandhi. The road is long, and will always be fraught.

The goal is worth it.

So I'm sorry I was gone for a while. I needed a break. I needed to not think big thoughts, or any thoughts. Just do laundry and go to the grocery store. Go to Jake's harp concert, listen to Ben rant about how unfair it is he can't get a tongue piercing.

And simply be a mom, which is, I know, the most powerful form of activism around.