Fifty

50Today I am 50.

Yes, I was born on April Fool’s Day.  I double dog dare you to come up with one I haven’t heard.

Anyway, when I awoke this morning I received a text from a ridiculously dear friend that read: “Welcome to the “I’m good with myself and I don’t give a shit what you think” decade!”  I had two thoughts: “Amen, sista!” and “Wait, I can only feel that way for a decade?!”

I then got a call from my mother who asked how I felt on this “momentous day”.  The real question, I told her, was how did she feel?  I am, after all, the baby of the family (not to mention my father’s favorite) so it has to be weird for her that I am, by all accounts, a grown up.  Took me til 50 to feel that way, but now I am solidly in the “bring it on” phase of my life which, in my mind, gives me bragging rights on being an adult.

Anyone who has ever read anything I have ever written (ever) knows that my 40’s were a little shall we say, tumultuous?  I had cancer, deaths, divorce, gender transitions, surgeries, moves and the occasional bout of hysteria so intense that my eyes swelled shut from crying.  I was filled with fear, anxiety, a stunning lack of confidence and, thankfully, a posse of supporters holding my hand, kicking my ass and reminding me of my very own mantra; “I got this.”  Relationships, living situations and the world I had always known changed repeatedly.  The forties were tough.

And then I began the ascent to 50.  I worked hard to obtain a firm grasp on the next set of rules and regulations and, while I would never say I have it all together, I can honestly say that I am facing 50 feeling pretty damn fine.

I am good with myself and I don’t give a shit what others think.*  I am surrounded by people I love who think I am all that.  I am (working on) feeling more confident.  I crack myself up most days and even when I get annoyed, frustrated or disgusted I am not (usually) (or with anywhere near the regularity of days gone by) brought to my knees.

I’ve never been a planner (rather, I was more of a reactor…never a good thing to be) but I am starting to plan.  I’ve never been entirely comfortable in my own skin but I am starting to embrace my body, spirit and soul.  I’ve never been as confident as my parents (or brothers) (or friends) (or teachers) (or partners) thought I should be, but I am beginning to go easier on myself and am respecting others for however the crap that they have had to deal with has made them into the flawed people that we all are.

I am more about the sisterhood than ever before.  We women and moms need to stick together so that every one of us feels the way I am starting to feel now that I am 50.  We all deserve a sense of calm, happiness and joy in our lives and we can, as women, help make it happen for one another.  No need for competition, gossip or criticism.  That’s part of being 50.  You know, the “I’m good with myself and I don’t give a shit what you think” decade!

I plan on eating cake, singing loudly with the sunroof open, facing fears, making things happen, keeping my sense of humor, having compassion for every single person out there who, despite perhaps acting in a manner I deem assaholic, deserves acceptance, laughing loudly and often, loving desperately and reminding myself how far I have come.

Today I am 50.

p.s. I found this just the other day.  Miss and love my dad and so desperately wish he was here to celebrate that 78th…

notefrondad

 

* Well, if we are being totally honest, I don’t entirely give a shit what other people think.  What?  Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

What Was I Scared Of?

scaredof

Well…

I was walking in the night

And I saw nothing scary.

For I have never been afraid

Of anything. Not very.

Then I was deep within the woods

When, suddenly, I spied them.

I saw a pair of pale green pants

With nobody inside them!

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped

What could those pants be there for?

What could a pair of pants at night

Be standing in the air for?

And then they moved? Those empty pants!

They kind of started jumping.

And then my heart, I must admit,

It kind of started thumping.

So I got out. I got out fast

As fast as I could go, sir.

I wasn’t scared. But pants like that

I did not care for. No, sir.

After that a week went by.

Then one dark night in Grin-itch

(I had to do an errand there

And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)……

Well, I had fetched the spinach.

I was starting back through town

When those pants raced around a corner

And they almost knocked me down!

I lost my Grin-itch spinach

But I didn’t even care.

I ran for home! Believe me,

I had really had a scare!

Now, bicycles were never made

For pale green pants to ride ‘em,

Especially spooky pale green pants

With nobody inside ‘em!

And the NEXT night, I was fishing

For Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

And by now I was SO frightened

That, I’ll tell you, but I hate to….

I screamed and rowed away and lost

my hook and line and bait, too!

I ran and found a Brickle bush

I hid myself away.

I got brickles in my britches

But I stayed there anyway.

I stayed all night. The next night, too

I’d be there still, no doubt,

But I had to do an errand

So, the next night, I went out.

I had to do an errand,

Had to pick a peck of Snide

In a dark and gloomy Snide-field

That was almost nine miles wide.

I said, “I do not fear those pants

With nobody inside them.”

I said, and said, and said those words.

I said them. But I lied them.

Then I reached inside a Snide bush

And the next thing that I knew,

I felt my hand touch someone!

And I’ll bet that you know who.

And there I was! Caught in the Snide!

And in that dreadful place

Those spooky, empty pants and I

were standing face to face!

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“OH, SAVE ME FROM THESE PALE

GREEN PANTS WITH NOBODY INSIDE!”

But then a strange thing happened.

Why, those pants began to cry!

Those pants began to tremble.

They were just as scared as I!

I never heard such whimpering

And I began to see

That I was just as strange to them

As they were strange to me!

So…

I put my arm around their waist

And sat right down beside them.

I calmed them down.

Poor empty pants

With nobody inside them.

And now, we meet quite often,

Those empty pants and I,

And we never shake or tremble,

We both smile and we say…”Hi!”

So goes my very favorite (and seemingly little known since anytime I quote it I am met with blank stares) Dr. Seuss story, “What Was I Scared Of”.  I used to read it to my kids when they were little, particularly enjoying the singsong verse and fantastic message that I wanted to teach them, despite my inability to necessarily abide by it.  The opening line frequently pops into my head as I, admittedly, am a person who has struggled with what I know (intellectually, anyway) are silly fears.

I have just returned from ten days in Chile – a gloriously beautiful country with breathtaking views, delicious food, incredible wine and wonderfully warm people.  But perhaps more important than the scenery, food and companionship was the number of fears that I faced and, damn!,  conquered.

Admittedly, many of said fears will seem ridiculous, silly and even slightly pathetic but, as I often remind you, I am nothing if not honest.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. The plane ride. The thought of being on a plane for any amount of time, let alone nearly ten hours used to bring me to my knees and, truthfully, kept me home.  My plane would never crash…it is the knowledge that I cannot get off if I find myself in a situation in which I want/need/absolutely have to or I will die in a flame of hysteria.  While I long ago learned that taking a Xanax would ease those fears, over the past decade I have moved from taking a Xanax, to just having it in my handbag (only occasionally clutching it) to not even filling the prescription. Check.
  2. Illness or Malady. Every single time I ever go anywhere I spend an inordinate amount of time prior to departure worrying about getting sick while there.  (Of note: I hardly ever get sick when I am home, so why I would worry about it when I am away is a sign of bat-shit craziness. That being said, I did get quite a nasty upper respiratory infection last year while in Las Vegas…but I also lived to talk about it.)  Interestingly enough, during my trip to Chile not one, not two, but three of my travel companions came down with an antibiotic-requiring ailment.  I did not.  Check.
  3. Climbing a mountain. Okay, I have never had a fear of climbing a mountain, per say, but the symbolism of finding myself somewhere inconvenient to medical (or emotional) intervention should the need arise not only left me on the sidelines but made me a prime candidate for a shrink’s field day.  The “what ifs” were bigger than me: “what if I trip and break my ankle?” “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if I freak out for some ridiculous reason?”.  Nope, nope and nope. Check.chilemountain
  4. Sticking my head in a sink to cool off. While I never put any thought to the pros and cons of submerging my head in a sink, it was nothing I have ever nor thought I would ever have even contemplated, let alone done.  My hair, the origins of the water, all that wetness…yeah, no.  Well, I learned that once you are halfway to the top of the mountain and it is 90 degrees and you are offended by your own smell, dunking your head in a sink is awesome.  Obvious Freudian explanation notwithstanding: Check.sink
  5. Eating empanadas on the side of the road, a steak and avocado sandwich from the bottom of a backpack or strange looking soup with filled with stranger looking fish. I firmly believe that milk should be taken from the fridge, poured into the glass and then promptly returned to the cold, lest bacteria begin to grow and cause a violent case of vomiting, cramps and/or the trots.  Lesson learned: if you work hard and climb a mountain you become infinitely less insanely neurotic about food borne illnesses.  Metaphors abounding and: CheckIMG_0163
  6. Sharing a bathroom with your boyfriend’s parents. Well, this one did not come to fruition and the discovery of a second full bathroom in the cabin (which happened to be situated in perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world) was an emotional deal changer, but I am confident I would have lived through it had it actually happened.[1] Pre-worried (extensively) over that one for nothin’. Check.

This trip was a big deal for me.  Despite being wrapped up in a beautiful package with incredible scenery, food and companionship it challenged me.  It forced me, in a very four star environment, to step out of my comfort zone, kick some ass and allow myself to just relax…because really, what was I scared of?

boots

And a special shout out and thanks to this guy…for holding my hand literally and figuratively…

bts

[1] I love his parents, but certain things need to remain sacred.  Love to FS who, sensing my apprehension lovingly told me, “Mi bano es tu bano”…

Safe. Secure. Free.

I just never know what it going to send me reeling.  It could have been the fact that Jess had one side of her head shaved[1] and then, just to shake things up, dyed the fuzzy spot bright pink.  Or perhaps it might have been the conditions of the Frat house that I helped Harrison move into last month which no self-respecting mother would ever have agreed to had she seen it prior to the signing of the lease.  It might even have been the accumulating snow and resulting days of cancelled classes which will likely propel us into the depths of July before school lets out for the summer.  Nah, it was none of those things.  Instead, it was a parking spot.  Well, sort of.

This is not the first time I have bitched, moaned, complained and, yes, cried, over such a predicament.  Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.  With the disclaimer of fully acknowledging that it is a first world problem and one that I should be a little bit ashamed of fixating on, I will share.  And, yes, I know, again, that it isn’t about the parking spot.

For twenty years I lived in a single family home not three minutes from where I am living now.  While there, I had three housemates: my husband (now my ex), my son (now at college) and my daughter (who sleeps til noon on those blasted snow days).  Between the husband and eldest son, the driveway plowing was taken care of while I was in the house lovingly baking cookies and preparing hot cocoa for when they were done. [2] It was often a long, protracted event for them but once it was done it was done, save for whatever “plow pile” might crop up throughout the storm.  We were dug out, free to move about the world and armed with the comforting knowledge that the driveway would be open and available when we arrived home.  Man, I miss that.

Now, despite the fact that I have engaged in the solitary (and thankless) exercise[3] of  digging out my car not once, not twice, but three times from this past storm alone I am literally fearful of ever relinquishing the spot.  While I was painstakingly removing the snow and carting it by the (crazy heavy) shovelful three spaces down to respectfully deposit it onto a pile[4] away from neighboring cars, no one else seemed to be doing the same.  On either side of my humble little Honda are two cars which have, by all accounts, been abandoned.  That is not even taking into account the countless other spaces which are going to be occupied til May.  So….when I have to leave to, oh, I don’t know…go to work…I will, in all likelihood, arrive home to find that some asshole has taken over MY spot.  And today, that was enough to make me cry.

What surrounds me. And, makes me cry.

What surrounds me. And, makes me cry.

car3

Exemplary shoveling job, am I right?

Exemplary shoveling job, am I right?

I tried to be logical and pragmatic.  Really, I did.  I tried to be optimistic.  That didn’t work, either.  I tried to be open-minded.  Yeah, no go.  So, I cried.

I’ve thought a lot about this.  Yes, I get that there is a practical side to this; a “move your meat lose your seat” kind of thing.  But, more to the point, it is a matter of feeling safe, feeling secure and feeling free.  I don’t feel safe: I am going to take my life in my hands maneuvering out of my perfectly shoveled spot to hit the open road.  I don’t feel secure: Someone is, most definitely, going to snag that spot that very second I leave it. [5] I don’t feel free: See all of the above.  And, at the end (and frankly, the beginning) of the day, that is really all anyone really wants…to feel safe, secure and free.

And, yes, I will bring this back to my last blog post which took a lot of (expected and appropriate) criticism.  I do not care what Bruce, Maura, Jess or Harrison’s Frat house look like.  I care that they that they feel safe, secure and free, because, in whatever iteration and for whatever reason one does not feel those three things it sucks. Trust me, I know.

Today I don’t feel safe, secure and free because of a parking spot.  On any given day, Bruce, Maura or Jess my not feel  SSF[6] because they are not accepted, or understood.  In fact, any one of us is at risk of finding themselves in that situation, and, perhaps this is my momma bear coming through: I don’t like that.  Not one little bit.

I know that the snow will (eventually) melt.  I know that I will, someday soon, be able to find safety, security and freedom not encumbered by a parking spot.  But today I ain’t feelin’ it.  So I cried.

[1] With not quite my blessing, but my approval

[2] Okay, I didn’t do that.

[3] You bet your ass I am considering it exercise.

[4] Which had a good six inches on me..and I am 5’6”

[5] I would.  It is prime real estate, beautifully cleared, nary a sign of snow.

[6] Safe, secure and free

Maura, Bruce and Me

Transgender-related stuff seems to be everywhere these days.  I used to think that I was just more in tune to it, but am beginning to realize that is not the case.  The campaign to increase the general public’s knowledge and understanding truly is everywhere.

As such, and a little late to the game, I finally binge-watched “Transparent” as the first of two blizzards in one week pummeled my house.  For those unfamiliar, it is a new series on Amazon which shares the story of a neurotic Jewish family[1] who are so self-involved as to be oblivious to the fact that their father is not who they thought he was. Mort, the family patriarch, after years of squelching his desire and need, is transitioning to a life as her true self – a woman named Maura.  As much as I love Jeffrey Tambor and his portrayal of Maura, I, the mother of a transgender child on an admittedly very primal and superficial level, felt broken-hearted watching this attractive-enough [2] man morph into a true meiskeit[3].  I wish it didn’t matter, but it does.

maura

Despite the make-up, hair extensions and dress, Maura’s masculine features, from face to feet, make it impossible for her to blend in.  I don’t care that this woman has a penis.  Nor do I care that she has an Adam’s Apple and a face that needs to be shaven every day.  I do, however, care deeply about the very real challenges, as a physically unappealing, homely woman, that she will face in her quest to conquer the world, incredible fortitude on board notwithstanding.

And then we have Bruce Jenner.  While his transition has been widely speculated for years, it is now in both People and US Magazine: therefore it must be real.  Bruce, a man-made famous by his incredible athletic abilities and then his almost more incredible (with its most literal definition) role of Dad to the Kardashian brood is not content to officially embark on his journey with any semblance of privacy, rather he is (allegedly), wait for it…going to be the title character in a reality show tagging along for all to see.  It will create a circus setting him and his family up for ridicule and (harsh) judgment.  I don’t like it.  Not one little bit.

Back when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, gay was something we all knew about but it was never discussed.  What was there to talk about really?  File under: who gives a damn that he is sleeping with him or she with her?  Now we, as a society, having somewhat mastered the whole gay thing, are learning more and trying to navigate[4] the transgender paradigm.  And, while I have a (not necessarily equal) admiration for and great anxiety over Maura, Bruce and the scope of their reach, I fear that they are both[5]  in danger of becoming caricatures of themselves. By dint of their fame and notoriety, they are both so powerful in their ability to potentially sway the masses’ perception of the transgender path as to be dangerous.  In fact, for me, the Golden Globe wins (Jeffrey Tambor – Best Lead actor in a Comedy and Transparent – Best Comedy) are, themselves, teetering on a slippery slope having been nominated in the Comedy category.  Their voice is loud, but what is it saying?

It may be unkind of me, but I am just going to say it: neither Maura nor Bruce[6] present as attractive woman.  I would like to think that their physical appearance doesn’t matter.  But it does.  I would like to think that we are evolved enough in our society to overlook their unconventional look.  But we aren’t.  I would like to think that they will not be subjected to loud whispers, quiet harassment and general discomfort.  But they will be.  That frightens me and, if I am being honest, makes me uncomfortable.  And if I am uncomfortable, I can only imagine…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Really, is there any other kind?

[2] …and that is a charitable and generous assessment

[3]  That’s Yiddish for: an unattractive woman

[4]  Some of us more out of necessity than others

[5] Yes, I am aware that Maura is a fictional character.  She is also a powerful one and her story is one that has legs, particularly on the heels of the show having won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical and Jeffrey Tambor for Comedy Lead Actor.

[6] I’ve not been made privy to a name change

Angelina: My Hero

I will unashamedly confess that I have a girl crush on Angelina.  She is, brave, talented, driven, accomplished, insanely cool, wildly accepting and, of course breathtakingly gorgeous (Aside:  In the picture here she had the chicken pox.  Seriously, who looks like that when they have the chicken pox?  Angelina, that’s who.)  And I thank her for making so little of something that so many find so huge and so scary.

f_fh_joliechickenpox_141213.vembedmed

When she and Brad realized the sincerity with which Shiloh insisted she is John they had a choice: go underground or give their child a voice that many (no, most) others in his shoes do not have.  They could easily have quelled the story.  So, too, could they have told him that their celebrity and fame stood to be tarnished by such an announcement.  And they could have used their myriad “people” to keep it out of the press.  They did none of those things.  In fact, they let loose and sent a very clear message: who the fuck cares?

They are, without competition, the coolest people alive.

The matter-of-fact attitude of the Pitts is utterly fantastic.  Their willingness to allow a person who they chose to bring into the world to live authentically and not according to script should be a lesson to every parent, no, every person, who ever happens to comes into contact with someone different from themselves.

The Pitts are not worried about John’s happiness or whether this is a “phase”.  They are worried about the very real fact that not everyone in the world sees things the way they do and that John definitely faces different challenges than Shiloh would.  They worry about the assholes that will pop up and create problems for their kid just because he doesn’t have a penis.  Why on earth it matters to anyone else is a mystery that will likely not be solved in our lifetime, but perhaps Angie and Brad’s unbridled acceptance will put a dent in things.

I love that the arguably coolest people alive used their power the way that they did.  They were not defensive, did not feel a need to further explain the decision of their family and are doing what good parents do: walking alongside their child, helping him to find his way in the world.

Your kid might not be transgender, but I am willing to bet that they have something that makes them unique and presents them with challenges: maybe they are autistic or ADHD, or have huge ears or just happen to have an obnoxious personality (what? it happens)…do yourself a favor and take a page from Angie and Brad’s playbook and support the hell out of them.  Teach them to accept rather than reject.  Remind them to be kind and empathetic.  And then follow their lead.

The Pitts are my heroes.  Make them yours, too.

Keep Calm, It’s Not Contagious

Recently someone expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess.  Let that sink it.

notcontagious

I don’t know about you, but when I consider exposure and concern in the same sentence here’s what comes to my mind:

  1. The flu
  2. The chicken pox
  3. Ebola
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Yellow Fever
  6. AIDS
  7. Stomach bugs
  8. Pertussis
  9. Syphilis
  10. Pink eye
  11. Legionnaires Disease
  12. Strep throat
  13. Meningitis
  14. A cold
  15. Rabies
  16. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
  17. MRSA
  18. Bubonic Plague
  19. Chlamydia
  20. Diptheria
  21. Malaria
  22. SARS
  23. Athlete’s Foot
  24. Typhoid Fever
  25. Herpes

Here’s what doesn’t:

  1. Anything, anything related to LGBTQ

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

There is a Christmas tree in my living room.  It is understated, with glowing white lights (which do me the favor of not blinking) and simple silver ornaments.  It is situated perfectly in the middle of the window, shining out in the darkness of night for everyone to enjoy.  I actually love that Christmas tree.  Only it is not my tree, nor is it my living room.

xmastree

I spent twenty years in that house.  I raised both of my sons, and then, three years ago, a daughter there.  During my tenure I lived through construction of a big addition,  various paint jobs,  rearranged furniture, new carpets, replacement of appliances that all decided to die at the same time, play structures being constructed and ultimately, outgrown, great times and, frankly, some pretty dark ones.  My children, in all their incarnations and phases (some more pleasant than others) spent the entirety of their lives there.  And now, there is a Christmas tree not far from where the Menorah was illuminated for all those twenty years.

The end of this year rests in stark contrast to the end of last.  Everything, it seems, feels different.  And, for the first time in longer than I feel ashamed to admit, I feel blessed.

My children are doing fine.  Better than fine, in fact.  They have their moments (oh, who am I kidding…it is never just a moment) but all in all, they are good.  Harrison, (begrudgingly) home for semester break continues to make me proud.  (Well, makes me proud when he isn’t forcing me to use words to describe him that are unbecoming of a mother.)  He, as a sophomore (warning: brag ahead) was elected president of his fraternity.  He’s always been a leader and despite the fact that I really do not quite get the whole frat thing, is (when not home) wildly happy at school having surrounded himself with a great group of friends. For that I feel blessed.

Jess continues to be work in progress, but, despite her “significant” learning disability, rocked this semester with all As and Bs.  She is finding her way and is content.  (Full disclosure: I still worry about her.  Always will, I suppose.) She is an artist to the core and I fully expect to see her one woman show at The Whitney some day.

I’ve established two wonderful relationships; one being with my former husband, Rich.  The process of the dissolution of our marriage was unpleasant, no fun, felt interminable and nearly crushed my spirit, but we’ve both moved on and twice (yes, twice) in the past week have broken bread with our children in celebration of Jess’s birthday and then Hannukah.  No tension, no anger, no animosity and a bill split down the middle.  That’s how it should be.  The other is with my guy Barry.  His support of every single one of the complications that come along with me has been unfailing.  He loves me, my children (and I, his) and, with his ringside seat to the changes of the past year, has kept me laughing.  That is a gift.

2014 is ending high.  On paper, I have always had so much to be thankful for: a wonderful family, amazing friends, a nice home and good food, but, if I am being honest (which you all know I always am): I was having a hard time feeling blessed.  I truly do now.

Other than my, gulp, 50th birthday and a trip to Chile, I haven’t a clue what 2015 will bring.  In contrast to years past, I enter it not with trepidation, but with happy anticipation.  My ducks are in a row straighter than they have been for, well, a decade or so and I intend to keep them that way.

There is a Christmas tree in my living room, shining on me.  May it shine on you and yours, too.

Try Not to Judge, Would Ya?

Have you ever encountered the “not my kid” parent?  You know the one: perfect child, impeccable parenting, never an embarrassing interaction, moment or, gasp, event?  The one who will rip a kid to shreds over an infraction against their darling?  And then do their level best to smear the kid (and her parents) throughout the community?  I have.

Since the beginning of time (my parenting time, that is) I have adhered to not the “not my kid” paradigm, rather the assumption that it was my kid.  (Okay, in fairness, when Harrison was just a little tiny fella I might not have been quite so ready to take the hit for his behavior, but , rest assured, by the time he had entered early toddlerhood I was a card-carrying member of the “it was my kid” club.)  I have found it to be the more pleasant, diplomatic and appropriate method by which to interact with other parents when kids do what they do: get into it with other kids.

Perhaps my “mom of boys” methodology is showing.  I did spent ten years, after all, being just that.  The rough and tumble so widely experienced and, frankly tolerated was a part of the very core of their being and helped to formulate my particular flavor of parenting.  It has always served me well.

When Georgie[i] was not quite two, I got a call from his preschool informing me of an infraction.  Georgie had bitten Katie.  Ugh.  Seriously?  I absorbed the hit and then did what I considered the appropriate thing: I called Katie’s mom who, at the time, I had only seen in passing during drop off and pick up.  I took a deep breath (and perhaps a swig of wine), found her number in the class list and settled in fully prepared to apologize for the transgression of my toddler.  The conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, this is Julie Ross calling…Georgie’s mother? 

Other Mother: Hi!  How are you?

(Crappy, I thought.  I have to take the hit for my kid’s overactive chompers)

Me: I’m good, thanks.  Um, I am calling because apparently today at school, Georgie bit Katie.

Other Mother: Oh, don’t worry about it…she probably deserved it.

We have been friends ever since.

And that, my friend, is how it should go, what the attitude should be (assuming there is no bodily injury, of course)and how we, as the parents, the adults, should teach our children to treat one another.

walkintheirshoes

I can assure you that I never once sent either of my children out the door with the directive to push, bite, shove, poke or in any way “assault” another child.  But, guess what?  At one time or another, they both did.  I am not proud, but I am a realist.  This.Is.What.Kids.Do.

Why the rant, you ask?  Fair question.  Jess (who admittedly is far beyond the age when biting and pushing are considered even remotely appropriate) got into a scuffle with another girl where Jess was the (physical) aggressor.  She was provoked and she reacted inappropriately by pushing the other girl out-of-the-way, inciting screams and cries from the “victim”.  Her reaction, in turn, resulted in one hysterical, infuriated, screaming parent.  And then it got ugly.

The incident itself was, in actuality, fairly vanilla.  Jess was provoked, made a bad choice and all hell broke loose.  The girl was fine, albeit it angry and startled.  The father, however, chose to escalate and escalate and then escalate a little bit more, going so far as to tell Jess that he was going to call the police and have her arrested on assault charges.  Yes, this happened.

By the time I arrived, the other child was off to the side, giggling with her friends all of whom had congregated, along with some of their parents, to watch the scene that was unfolding.  I, in my best you-want-me-around-in-an-emergency calm, quietly implored dear old Dad to take it down a notch.  This, as you may have guessed, pissed him off further, prompting him to tell me that he “was done with me” (which was fine)…”and where was my husband?” (which wasn’t.)

I walked away, ripped Jess a new one for being the aggressor and (foolishly) thought that was the beginning, the middle and the end of that.  But wait, there’s more.

At the very moment that I was sitting with Jess, both of us eventually in tears, trying to determine what she was thinking, why was she so aggressive and how would she somehow apologize for her role, the other family was doing everything in their power to make sure this incident was not forgotten, seeking in fact, further shaming of my kid.  Ouch.

Fast forward to this morning.   I was getting dressed for the day and had the local news on in the background.  There was a story about a young man from a town I am familiar with who has been accused of beating his girlfriend senseless because she rebuffed his sexual advances.  By all accounts a horrible, disgusting and judge-worthy incident.  This kid allegedly behaved in a gruesome manner and after a moment in which I began to judge I quickly regrouped at which time my heart broke for his parents.  We teach our children to make good choices, do the right thing and to remove themselves from situations which could turn ugly and what do they all do (to varying degrees)…they make bad choices. So, to, do some of their parents.

The news piece reminded me of a story in my neighborhood about ten years ago.  A kid I had known since he was a little boy was newly licensed, “stole” his father’s car, had a few drinks and hit a young woman crossing the street.  I readily admit that I initially judged, until I bumped into a neighbor who said, “there but for the grace of G-d go I” and it shut me right down.  I am 100% sure that his parents were already facing enough pain, fear and horror and certainly did not need others who had not walked in their shoes passing judgment.

I am all about the sisterhood: moms sticking together, parents supporting one another, empathy before judgment, support over disapproval.  My children have at varying times and to varying degrees, behaved in a manner that has embarrassed me.   Truth be told, I’ve let loose on each of them as a result.  But I have never, ever gone after another kid or their parents.  Ever.

We are all doing our best.  We each have battles we are fighting, fears we are facing and pressures we are under.  Be kind, boys and girls.  Have empathy.  Feel for, don’t judge, the parents of the kid on the news.

Put yourself in their shoes…because someday, somehow, somewhere when you least expect it, your kid is going to have a misstep.

[i] Name choice intended

November 18

The alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m.  but I need not have set it at all as I had been wide awake praying for sleep since ten o’clock the night before when I crawled into bed, Ambien on board.  It was the pre-Facebook, pre-Words With Friends, pre-iPhone era, so my options were limited.  I knew I needed to rest, to prepare, to go in strong, but there was just no damn way I was going to sleep.

I was due to arrive at 6:30 a.m., thirty minutes prior to my procedure.  I took a shower, washed and pulled through the curls of my hair, styling it to within an inch of its life, but (and this is notable) stopped short of applying any makeup…even my beloved mascara.  There would be no need for it where I was going, and, in fact, it would only become a smeared mess which could well have been the thing that put me over the edge.

My mother arrived promptly at 6:15 a.m.[i] to get the boys off to their respective schools – Georgie[ii]  to daycare, Harrison to his first grade classroom.   It felt sneaky leaving before they were awake, but I couldn’t bear to say goodbye, so we split as they were just starting to stir awake.  It was better for everyone.  Well, for me, anyway.

As we got in the car, I noted to myself that the fact that I had not slept for weeks did not seem to be impacting my energy level.  In fact, I felt as though jumping directly out of my skin was a very real possibility.  I popped a Xanax, took a deep breath and settled in for the ten minute drive to the hospital.  It was time for me to actually have the bi-lateral mastectomies that we had been discussing for weeks.

There are parts of the day and following weeks that are so vividly etched in my mind that they could have happened this morning: walking into the pre-op area, not nearly as looped from the Xanax as I would have like to be and being warmly welcomed by the team of nurses that were going to take care of me; my surgeon, marking my breasts and commenting that I had great tissue..but I was quite sure, positive in fact, that I heard him say “great tits”; and chatting with the orderlies about how my surgeon just told me I had great tits.  And then, not a single memory until nine hours later when I woke up, thrashing not from pain or anxiety, but from the cuffs around my ankles which were keeping my circulation going and, of note, driving me out of my fucking mind; sweating and not being able to lift my arms to secure a ponytail; wanting my glasses so I could see, but learning that they were already in the room that I would occupy once I was deemed stable enough to be transported from recovery.  And the little mounds that my doctor (yeah, the one who liked my tits[iii]) made sure to create so that when I awoke there would be something, anything where my breasts used to be.

The two days I spent in the hospital are a blur.  My one recollection is the walk I took around the hall with my father who was, at the time, dying of lung cancer.  It was the first time ever that I was actually walking more slowly than he.  We were shaky, tentative and scared.

That was ten years ago: November 18, 2004.  It was the Thursday before Thanksgiving which has become a holiday which threatens to knock me down every year, but has yet to succeed.  In that time so much has changed that it is nearly impossible to believe.  In 2004 my two sons were approaching respective birthdays: George would be three, Harrison ten.  I now have a nearly 13-year-old named Jessie and a soon-to-be 20 year-old who is far more man than boy.  My father is gone…for close to nine years now.  I am no longer married, no longer live in the home in which I raised my children and no longer have two sons.  Those ten years were my forties.  And now, with my, gulp, choke, egad, 50th birthday on the horizon I feel so many different things, but mostly grateful.

ten

Not only am I alive, but I have cancer in my rear view mirror and the scars to prove it.  I have met so many incredible people along the way – my team of doctors, the oncologist and the plastic surgeon (who I affectionately refer to as the one who took ‘em off and the one who put ‘em back on), my nurse who was considerate enough to go through a divorce at the exact same time as me and has become my friend and the people who have been with me through every single upheaval that has defined my forties.

Today is a big deal for me.  I never quite know how it is going to go down.  I have had November 18th s that have been marked by shopping sprees, crying jags, malaise and euphoria – and sometimes all of the above.  I do not know what today will bring.  I do know it is an anniversary I will never ignore, forget or not appreciate for what it has given me.

[i] If you know my mother, you know this is notable.  The “promptly” part, that is.

[ii] Name choice intended

[iii]  He did NOT say I had great tits (which I did) but to this day, every time I see him I remind him just so I can see him blush.

 

It’s Not About The Parking Spot

Last night I cried over a parking spot.  Well, it wasn’t over a parking spot as much as the lack of one.  I had been out for the evening, arrived home itching to wash my face, brush my teeth, crawl into bed to play Words With Friends and crash for the night.  Only, I couldn’t because there was nowhere to park.  It was just enough to put me over the edge.

parking

For twenty years I lived in a nice (enough) four-bedroom house with a double wide driveway which was always there for me.  Not once in those twenty years did I arrive home unable to park my car.  I never put any thought to it.  I never reconsidered an evening out for fear that it would end with my not being able to park and, well, crying over it.  Now that I have downsized (significantly), the parking void is real.   And last night it was just enough to make me cry.

Only it wasn’t the insanity of not being able to park that made me cry.  It is certainly what set me off, but it was, like the lack of sex in a failing marriage, symptomatic of other things.

Today was my date with the judge.  After two years of rankling, discussing, acquiescing, negotiating and conceding, it was time to get divorced.  I was emotionally ready.  I had the date circled on my calendar* and awaited its arrival with calm and even a little bit of excitement.  It has been a long time coming, I was entirely resolute and ready but the anticipation of it kinda snuck up on me and, as a result, the fact that there was not a space in front of my door laying in wait for my arrival was enough to reduce me to tears. (Okay, full disclosure: it was a little bit of an exaggeration when I said that there was “nowhere” to park.  There were places to park, but they were further away from my front door than was acceptable to me. There, I said it.)

In the past two years I have separated from my husband, sold my house, moved to a two bedroom apartment, held a job, did freelance work on the side, raised two kids, fallen in love and now, gotten divorced.  It’s all good, but it is also a lot and ya wanna know something?  I’m tired and, therefore, parking challenges make me cry.

My mother has often pointed out to me, with more than a hint of frustration, the fact that I consistently crash through big, scary things with aplomb and a decent amount of grace.  I plow through situations that might bring others to their knees with strength and my sense of humor (almost) always intact.  However, throw me a curve ball as ridiculous as not being able to find a parking spot and I am ridiculously, embarrassingly and frustratingly destroyed, albeit it temporarily.  She is right.  Guilty as charged.

To my credit, however, I have a very quick recovery.  As it is happening, I am one million percent sure that my angst and agitation are directly related to whatever little tiny issue sets me off; like the other morning when I nearly (but didn’t) screeched, “what do you mean you are out of salt bagels?!?” at the poor pimply kid behind the counter.   It usually takes me just a few minutes to realize and (eventually) acknowledge that it isn’t about the parking spot at all.  It is then that I muster all my fortitude and remind myself, “I can do this.”  And I do.

Most of you started reading this blog because you wanted to follow Jess’s story.  I realize that for the past several months my entries have been sporadic, seldom about Jess and frequently about me.  Rest assured, she still has plenty of story left in her.  She’s been along for this ride and has (as recently as this afternoon when I nearly lost my mind over her coat and backpack being strewn across the floor) been subjected  to my emotional-episodes-that-aren’t-about-the-parking-spot-or-sold-out-salt-bagels.

Hang tight.  I am getting closer to establishing a new reality that is not built around the next huge thing I have to deal with…at least I hope I am.

*Not really.  I don’t even have a calendar on which I could circle something, even if I wanted to.  It was, however,  noted in my handy iPhone, along with a note to schedule the kids’ annual check-ups.