Not So Sweet Valentine’s Day

It started with pillows – lots and lots of pillows – configured much more precisely than I would have guessed, aimed to support your body in such a way as to allow your mind to open up.  As the newbies in the room, we observed how the others had situated their pillows but despite our best attempts to clone their structures, we were unsuccessful. In the spirit of the event, assistance was graciously offered and gratefully, albeit a bit ashamedly, accepted. We now had our well-built little havens and were absorbing the indisputable Zen of and in the room, yet I felt a little anxious already: if I couldn’t manage to set up a stupid pile of pillows and felt too self conscious to ask for help, perhaps I had bigger issues than would be addressed in the next hour and a half.  Gee.

Colorful Meditation Pillow

That exercise, I now realize, was actually the beginning of the “letting go” phase of our morning.

Once we had achieved the appropriate positioning, the fact remained that neither Barry nor I had a clue as to what to expect. We were equal parts excited, anxious and hopeful…although Barry less so on all counts.  Yet here we were about to experience my Valentine’s Day gift to Barry: getting hypnotized to get off of sugar.  Romantic, huh?  (I know, I know…leave it to me to give a gift of getting off sugar…particularly in recognition of a holiday based on, um, sugar?)

The first 45 minutes were spent discussing just how much sugar sucks (duh)(but a buzz kill nonetheless) followed by what was going to happen to and for us, what hypnosis is and is not and, finally, what it seeks to accomplish.  It was during this portion of the introduction that my vision of a swinging watch and a, “you’re getting sleepy” intoning were dashed, yet my anxiety over “losing control” were quelled.  Barry and I exchanged a few glances of shared skepticism, but now that we had our killer pillow set-up there was no turning back.

So there I laid upon a pile of cozy blankets, ensconced in pillows, my great sport of a husband within arms-reach, ready to succumb to a power bigger than I who, if I am lucky, was going to get me to forgo the sweets and, as a result, lose the paunch I’ve managed to acquire.

Let’s do this!

The instructor, um, hypnotist, explained that the outcome of our session would be less a fireworks “aha moment”, rather it will be more like you flipped a switch (in your subconscious) and would notice at some point over the next several days and weeks that, hey, look at that: I don’t have any desire to gorge on ice cream, Snickers Bars, coffee drinks that are more mocha than java, cookies, pie…you know, all the good stuff.   As someone who is famous for taking a long time to flip a switch[1], this quick version was very appealing.  Just lying there, in anticipation of having the recesses of my subconscious poked and prodded, I already felt thinner, less bloated and empowered.  C’mon, sub conscious, show me what ya got!

on-off_switch

During the actual hypnosis part of the program – it lasted 32 minutes, but felt more like 10 – I was aware of my arms and legs feeling so weighted down that they were rendered immobile.  I squirmed some as I tried to adjust my back to the floor[2]  and was thisclose to falling asleep (which actually made me a little anxious as I did not want to lose out on being hypnotized because I was snoozing), but all in all I would describe the experience as peaceful, gentle,  liberating.  However, as we all “came to” I felt simultaneously enervated and energized, disbelieving and unhesitatingly assured of the power of hypnosis and somehow “different.”  I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I did put hand to belly to see if the pounds I’d gained from sugar had melted away whilst I was under and, I swear, was actually more surprised than disappointed that they hadn’t.  Weird, right?

As we collected ourselves and began the process of rising, deconstructing our pillow sanctuary and re-entering the world, I turned to Barry and, because I know him so well, gathered from his expression and body language that he’d not experienced things quite the same way I had.  Of note, and germane to the conversation, Barry has two states of being: 1. running around accomplishing and, 2. sleeping.  He is a living breathing Energizer Bunny who has never done yoga[3] or meditated or really even relaxed (it is truly part of his charm) so add that to the discomfort in his just two month post-op back[4], and I’d argue that his hypnotizability is harder to accomplish, but time will tell.[5]

energizer

We are now 48 hours PH[6] and I’ve not eaten, or perhaps more to the point, wanted to eat anything sweet.  As in anything.  No ice cream, no sugar (or mocha) in my coffee, no cinnamon sugar on toast, no hard candies, no Diet Coke (fake sugar…just as bad).  I am feeling, in the words of my friend Kim who, not for nothing, turned me onto this whole hypnosis thing, BADASS.

we-can-do-it-poster-1393770492mjo

I spent most of yesterday in the house as we entertained yet another snowstorm/school snow day.   In my PH[7] days, I’d have baked something, made mocha-y coffees, enjoyed ice cream (but right from the carton and standing up in front of the freezer, so it didn’t count) and probably have popped a few M&Ms (perhaps more than a few and perhaps several times throughout the day).  Instead, and with not as much as a consideration of any of the above, I enjoyed (no, really, I enjoyed them) fresh snap peas and carrots, several bowls of berries and unsweetened tea and actually surpassed the recommended eight glasses of water per day we are all supposed to drink.  What the even?!!?  Most notable: these things tasted better, I felt better and I did not feel deprived or, perhaps most wonderful, pissed off!

I woke up this morning feeling pretty pleased with myself, more specifically my subconscious, for doing its damn job and beginning to get me off sugar.  And, because I am an idiot who wants instant gratification, I thought it would be a good idea to weigh myself.  Here is some video of how that went:

Me and the scale

If you were to ask me today if I would do it again: Hell to the yes.

Got something you want to get hypnotized for?  Let me know…I’m kinda dying to do it again.

[1] Yes, I do take an embarrassingly long time to flip (mostly emotional) switches; however, once I do…I never look back.

[2] Note to self: next time, and there will definitely be a next time…no more holding onto shit way longer than necessary, anyone?…I will add one more pillow under the small of my back.

[3] I’d actually pay good money to see that. I love you, Barry.

[4] Poor guy hurt his back – opening a drawer of his dresser – on Memorial Day weekend and suffered with it until it was surgically repaired just before Christmas. 

[5] Not throwing him under the bus, but he did kinda eat a cookie when we got home.  No judgment.

[6] Post hypnosis

[7] Pre hypnosis

Eddie

It was toward the end of one of our infamous date nights.  We’d enjoyed a ton of food for very little money at one of the few Chinatown restaurants we had not yet tried.  Barry was particularly jubilant at having found a $20 bill on the floor with no one around to claim it.  He stuck it in his pocket with a solid plan for after dinner to completely  overindulge ourselves with goodies from the bakeries lining the street.

twenty

We dodged the snow and slush, darting in and out of the various bake shops, trying to remember which had the best red bean paste buns and who killed it with their sesame balls, Barry sampling everything with his signature excitement over all things edible.

As we headed to the subway to make the trip home (we’d met at Barry’s office to which I had taken the train…so not my thing) we stayed in step with the foot traffic through downtown, holding hands both as a show of affection and protection from wiping out.  As we scooted past a doorman escorting a guest into an upscale hotel, a man on the street joked with Barry, “Hey, man, whatchya doing with my girl?”  Always affable Barry, stealing a page from my playbook responded, “Want her?”  Laughter ensued.

As we engaged in friendly banter, the stranger shooed us past the hotel doors, mumbling something about “the rich folks at the hotel getting mad if he loiters around.”  We stopped a few feet away and got to know Eddie.  His first remark, “Please don’t judge me.”

He sleeps under a bridge.  He has a son in college.  His wife overdosed, although he did not specify on what.  On at least a half-dozen occasions he looked to the sky and thanked Jesus for what he still had left.

“We are no different” he said and we agreed.

I asked him what happened.

Eddie, it turns out, lost his temper and hit someone with a shovel.  We didn’t pry, but gathered that his victim did not fair well from the attack. Upon telling us, he dropped his gaze, waiting for us to judge. We felt empathy rather than judgement.

He had an easy smile, and, if we are being honest, the not so faint smell of alcohol on his breath.  I asked him if he was hungry.  He responded silently but clearly and Barry, without fanfare or discussion, slid him the $20 bill he’d found earlier in the evening. So, too, did he give him a warm hat that he had in his pocket. Eddie’s eyes shifted, dropped and glistened as he graciously accepted the offer.

Much to my pleasure and amusement, he’d been good-naturedly ribbing Barry about my fantasticness and his (Barry’s) incredible good fortune in landing me.  Silently noting my arrogance at the banter, he did the dude thing and tossed Barry a (well deserved) bone: “You know something, Julie, if I were to put on a dress, I would look better than you.”  (Well that stung, but I have to give him props for having impeccable timing.)  Again, we all burst out laughing, strangers in the street.

As I always do, I asked if we could take a picture.  He happily obliged, thanking us for treating him like a human and for bringing joy to his life.  As I was about to snap the photo he joyfully announced, “Just remember, Julie, once you go black you never go back.”

eddie1

He said we made his day.  He actually made ours.

Keeping Our Nasty In Check

I long ago gave up engaging in negative discourse over social media.  While it was never something that I did with any particular regularity, a few month ago I managed to find myself inordinately caught-up, worked-up and fed-up by an hours-long Facebook thread in which I repeatedly attempted (and, I might add, failed) to dissuade a high school acquaintance (and, not for nothin’, her own private posse of like-minded people) that not only is a person who identifies as transgender not a lower form of life but, as it turns out, neither are her parents who “allow” her to be herself.  Not surprisingly, I have a lot of feelings around this subject and I will even cop to the fact that, at the beginning, when I mistakenly thought we were engaging in respectful banter, I enjoyed the energy of the exchange.  It was when the vicious personal attacks began that I was outta there.

I recall feeling disgusted not only that there were people that I personally know who were, in addition to being violently misinformed, entirely unwilling to accept the fact that there existed an ideology other than their own.  The complete absence of empathy, compassion and kindness was appalling not because they did not see my point of view; rather, they did not respect the fact that the point of view I have is different from their own.

Of late, there is an abundance of fractured friendships, name calling, accusation hurling, highly aggressive support for your person but even more highly aggressive sentiment against theirs.  The hostility, and its intensity, comes from both sides resulting not in change necessarily rather an interpersonal breakdown: complete and total disrespect for one another.

argue

This week, there are those who have taken to social media to rally against the millions of women who participated in the marches held all over the world over this weekend.  Yeah, I straight up do not understand that.  In my mind, the marches were not against their guy…they were for every mother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend who fears losing the long held right to decide for themselves what they can and cannot do to their bodies, who they can or cannot marry, how they are able to protect themselves, in every sense of the word, from this increasingly cruel and scary world.  How can anyone, with or without a vagina, protest that?!  Yet they have.

Today a friend posted a video on Facebook of a woman named Peggy Hubbard who, I have learned, frequently posts videos sharing her feelings and opinions on happenings in the world[1]. With abject disgust and anger in her voice, countenance and presentation, she spent nearly ten minutes dispensing a lecture on how disgraceful the marches were, how women should be ashamed of themselves and, rather inexplicably, had a running diatribe about the abundance of nudity at the marches.  (Huh?  There was nudity?  I normally don’t miss something like that…) She lashed out at Bill Clinton’s ogling of FLOTUS, was deeply offended by the sea of Pussyhats, aggressively refusing to use the “p” word opting, instead, to utter “vagina” as often as possible. She claimed, no, certified is more like it, that the women who marched had set us back 100 years.  And it pissed me off.

I briefly considered just scrolling on by, but her outright lack of respect for other women was more than I could take.  So I posted this:

XXXXX, nothing personal, but this woman is a disgrace to women everywhere. The women on the march did not set things back 100 years….your boy XXXXX is doing his level best to take care of that on his own. What’s all this talk about nudity? And for a woman to think that XXXXX propensity for grabbing pussies is ok…well, yuk. Bill Clinton “undressed FLOTUS with his eyes”…gimme a break.

I briefly deliberated not posting my knee jerk response, yet I allowed my impulsivity and underlying anger at the way the world seems to be functioning now and hit enter.  And then I waited for a flurry of nastiness, retribution and criticism to be hurled my way.  A part of me might even have been gunning for some spirited discourse. But the anticipated flood of vitriol never came.  In fact, the original poster and his supporters were far more respectful of me than I was of them.  I, in fact, had gone after them for having an ideology different from my own…and did so in a not particularly gracious or articulate way.

I have since deleted the comment, acutely aware that my incendiary remarks recast me into exactly the kind of person I have such disdain for.  Ouch. I fear, however, that we are all falling prey to a new normal which includes disrespect, unkindness and lack of acceptance.  I do not want that in my life…and suspect you don’t want it in yours, either.

talking

Our feelings are never wrong.  We are fully entitled to our opinions, fears and concerns.  We are not, however, entitled to shame, curse or diminish someone else if their feelings (which are still never wrong) differ from our own.  As I see it, either we are all going to work a little harder at respecting one another or all hell is going to break loose.

[1]  I tried to share the Facebook Live link here, but was unable to…however, a Google search brought up tons of videos of her, just not the one I was hoping to share.

80 Words

Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday.  He was never one for fanfare or special attention under any circumstance, let alone his birthday.  Were he here, we would have celebrated as a nuclear family and not bothered with gifts since he truly considered his family to be the only gift he wanted or needed.

80

To commemorate this day, however, I asked the family to share, in 80 words[1], some thoughts.  Everyone is busy, the world is crazy[2] and not everyone in my family wears their heart on their sleeve as much as I do (most people don’t).  I completely respect them for that.  In fact, I could learn a thing or two from them.  Regardless of who did or did not write something, everyone in his family cherishes, adore and miss him.

Robbie:

The thing I miss most about my dad is his toothy smile and big laugh. 

 In fact, since childhood, my greatest joy was those times I could really make him crack up.

 There were a few subjects that would do the trick so I naturally returned to them time and time again.

 With him, it seems I never went too far.  I appreciated that in him.

I still like making people laugh.  But he was my best and favorite audience.

mjl70s

Me:

I think about my dad every single day. I wish he were here.  To enjoy my children, little kids when he died, now young adults.  To meet my wonderful husband and his family whom he’d have loved.  To remind me that things always work out, to keep my sense of humor and to not take things too seriously.   Or to share a donut, a York Peppermint Patty , a Klondike Bar or Celtics’Game. But mostly for his magical hug.

 

Aunt Barbara (sister):

About my brother…..a tease with a twinkle…did you know of the mysterious hole in the closet between our bedrooms, the toneless phone at of the 1940s, galoshes, hats and gloves stowed under the steps on the way to school and retrieved on the way home, the blare of the Long Ranger and Tom Mix every evening, stickball in the street and “meat du jour”?

Camp Lenox, the proud but short life of his first car, the not short jacket sleeves, fifty cents a football lesson…these are a few of the precious memories of the brother I loved and continue to love.

Jack (grandson):

I smile to think of my grandfather on this week especially, because his values were so completely and refreshingly the opposite of those that have overtaken our country’s most prominent leaders. He was a person whose decency ordered his life, and that was a principle he and my grandmother instilled in the rest of us. Kindness, generosity, and patience were not aspirations for him; they were simply his nature. How lucky I am to have had such a role model.

generous

Harrison (grandson):

It’s wrong to be selfish; Poppy never told me this, his actions did. If you ask anyone who knew him, they would tell of his selflessness. Through the years I have found myself being selfish in wanting him back. He was such a wonderful man, friend, husband, grandfather – the list goes on. I want him back, we all do. Yet, I have no doubt he is helping someone, somewhere with something they need him more for. We all love you.

heart

 

Thinking of you, MJL, and all those candles that we’d have lit in your honor…

candles

June, David, Ellie, Robbie, Julie, Barry, Becca, Jack, Izzie, Rachel, Sara, Harrison and Jessie.

[1] My Aunt exceeded 80 words…but since she knew him the longest, I gave her a pass. 😉

[2] Anyone who knew him knew that my father was the consummate gentleman.  He would have been so utterly disgusted by the behavior of the man in office that I am almost glad he wasn’t here to witness it.

Mama Bear

I have never, ever, ever been the “not my kid” mom.  You know the type: their little ones are perfectly behaved, never at fault and always a victim.  No, actually I usually assumed, and was exquisitely accurate, that it was my kid.  Once, when Jess was two, we were at the playroom at our local JCC, a place we logged thousands of hours in the winter months.  I saw a parent angrily perusing the room, clearly looking for the parent of the little hooligan at their feet.  I was pretty certain that it was my little hooligan (which it was) so I slowly, calmly headed in their direction, hoping that, if I walked slowly enough, the situation would diffuse before I arrived and angry other parent would never make the connection between me and Jess.  Alas, that is not how it played out.

Other parent: (pissily) ” Is this your kid?”

Me: (with a calm, sweet, hopefully disarming smile) “Maybe.  Depends what she did.”

OP: (still pissily) “She just bit my kid for no reason!”

Me: (still with a kind a smile) “Oh, she had a reason…she’s two.”

OP: Proceeds to rip me a new one.  At which point, her little darling shoved Jess to the ground. Crying ensued.  Other parent forced to eat their words.  I did not gloat.

Game. Set. Match.

From the beginning, my kids were taught and knew:

  • Tussle on the playground? You can never throw the first punch, but if someone hits you, hit ‘em back.  You cannot, however, ever hit a girl.
  • Someone giving you a hard time about being a swimmer and not a baseball player? Work it out. And, see bullet above.
  • A teacher being mean to you?  Talk to the teacher…you’re probably doing something to piss them off.
  • Not feeling 100% this morning? To “ill” to go to school? Get up, take a shower and see how you feel.  (That, in fairness, was a page directly from my father’s playbook.  And, guess what?  Nine times out of ten, the shower did the trick.)
  • You’re a teenager? Time to learn and then do, for the rest of your life, your own laundry.
  • You can be a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian. You cannot, however, be an asshole.

However.

That kid who elevated the playground tussle to pushing you down to the ground and then punching you?  The classmate giving you a hard time to the point of making you not want to go to school?  The teacher who legit seems to have it out for you?  Spike a fever and throw up on my feet?  Well, that’s a different story…and this Mama Bear is going to come out, claws ready, teeth bared and ears back, ready to rumble.  Mess with me.  Do no, I repeat do not, mess with my kids.

Badass Bear

I am fiercely loyal, protective and supportive of my children.  Have they always made it easy?  Hell to the no.  Has It always been fun? Nope.  Have there been times that sitting in the corner, rocking, sucking my thumb and pouring wine down my throat feels like the only best solution? Yep.  Has even the fantasy of clocking a kid or, even more so, their parent, seemed pretty much the most awesome and perfect way to solve an issue? Oh, yeah.

However.

I am a mature, in-control, compassionate and kind (all of these, of course, most of the time) woman and, to date, have behaved appropriately, even whilst biting my tongue, sitting on my hands and gritting and grinding my teeth down to powder.

However.

The depth of my anger and disappointment, both for my children and, frankly me, at someone’s behavior this week is epic.  I am not a violent person.  I try to let bugs out as opposed to kill them.  I eschew gratuitous slashing and killing in books, movies and television[1] opting, instead, for the feel good shit.  Yet, right now, I truly want to rip into, call out, scream at, swing at and drive a car into and then over (and back again) a particular person (an adult, I might add) who has outrageously wronged my kids.  And, not for nothing, this is not the first nor, I assume and dread, the last time.

However.

I know, from repeated experience, that nothing that I say, do, plead, beg or pray for will change this person.  I can neither embarrass nor shame.  Talking calmly, yelling maniacally, remaining silent or enlisting others to intervene: all for naught.  And, for this mama bear, that is perhaps the hardest part.  I have always tried hard to let my kids, with my support and encouragement, figure things out.  If I fix everything, what will they do when I am not around?   I do, however, share their hurt, disappointment and fury.  I also, want like hell to fix this one…but I know I cannot.

Do I want to swoop in and save them?   Of course I do.

Do I want to erase what has happened? Duh, more than anything, ever.

Do I know that they are strong, independent and smart kids who will, like everything else, figure it out? Yep.

But, if I am being honest, it is taking every shred of self control for this Mama Bear to not go on the attack.  And it sucks.

[1] Notable exception: “Shameless”.  Oh. My. God

Delightful

Even on the most frigid days, he seldom wore a coat.  Every night, all year round, he would come home from work, change out of his suit and into a pair of shorts (the same shorts for the entirety of my life) and an old shirt, his feet bare.  His favorite temperature was fifty degrees or below and his love of air conditioning was unparalleled.  On warm days, his already measured (read: very leisurely) gait would moderate in the (often vain) attempt at avoiding (his habit of easily) breaking into a sweat.  He described the crisp, blustery days of fall as “delightful” and took the heat and humidity of the summer as a personal affront.  As much as my father loved a cold day, he loathed a hot one.  In fact, my mother kept a blanket in the car which she would wrap around herself to keep warm, no matter the time of year; the heat was always too low and the air conditioning set to arctic.

Every  morning in the winter he would gracefully lay his winter coat in the trunk of his car, suggesting he might actually wear it.    I am not even sure why he owned one, let alone bothered to take it in and out of the house each day, since I am one hundred percent certain he never put it on.  Also in his trunk: a pair of galoshes which, by the way, he insisted on calling rubbers.  Calling them by their less formal name was his way of gently teasing me, an easily provoked teenager, and it worked.  I was utterly horrified that he even knew the word, let alone that he chose to use it in my presence whenever humanly possible.  It was pretty classic MJL.

galoshes

When the weatherman used words like “blustery”, “crisp” and even “frigid” my father’s interpretation was that it was going to be delightful.  On the flip side, the descriptors “hazy”, “hot” and the most offensive, “humid”, would actually piss him off a little.

When everyone was cold, he was hot.  When everyone was comfortable, he was hot.  When everyone was hot, he was miserable.  It was so much a part of him.

All that changed once he started the chemo that would briefly extend his life.   Suddenly he was always cold, dressed in layers and raising the heat.  His queries as to whether anyone else thought it was hot in the room, abruptly morphed into his request for consonance that it was, indeed cold…even when it wasn’t.  I happen to share his affinity for cooler weather and distinctly remember thinking that the drugs that were supposed to be attacking the cancer were actually killing a central part of who my father was.  Our long tradition of commiserating about the stickiness on the back of our necks or the absurdity of everyone else bundling up in sweaters on what we considered to be a delightfully crisp day was no more.

This morning with the temperature in the teens, the wind strong enough to sway the large trees in my backyard and warnings that the current 27 degree reading represented the high for the day, I opted out of my regular morning beach walk.  Instead, I drove to the gym and spent 45 minutes climbing to nowhere on the elliptical, bored out of my skull and trying desperately to avoid checking how long remained on the countdown clock.  By the end of my workout I was, not surprisingly, dripping with sweat, red in the face, my hair fuzzing up.  I left, met my girlfriends for a cup of coffee and planned to head home, shower and get on with my day.  As I walked to my car, I thought how refreshing, crisp and, yes, delightful, the air felt against my face.  I drove out of the lot and took a left, even though home is to the right.  A few moments later, I parked at the ocean, pulled on my hat and gloves and walked down to the sand.  The wind was whipping, the waves were crashing, the sun was full and, most people would agree, it was freezing.

weather

sneakers

The tide was coming in, so my time was limited.  I spent about twenty minutes pacing the shrinking parcel of sand that the tide had not yet reached, collecting piece after piece after piece of sea glass.  As the water began to get closer to my feet and I contemplated just how long I had before I was soaked by the sea, I found what I didn’t even know I was looking for.

heartglass

I find things like this often and know that it is my father, checking in (he loved the ocean, too).  (Remind me to tell you about the time he was fooling around with us in the waves and it was all fun and games until he got knocked on his ass and his prescription glasses went out to sea…)

Yes, it was a delightful day.

Keepin’ It Real, Sort Of

If you are an adult, you’ve done it.  If you are a parent, not only have you done it, but you’ve done it at least twice today.  With age comes wisdom…or so they say.  I would argue that even, or perhaps in spite of, advancing years, it may seem that you are doing it less, but, yeah, you probably aren’t.  There is no shame in admitting it: much of the time… You.Are.Faking.It. We are all guilty, admittedly in varying degrees, but, (and this is only if we are being honest) none of us really knows what we are doing most of the time.

faker

Of course, there are some exceptions – like, if you are a doctor, I would like to assume you know what you are doing.  So too, lawyers, dentists, builders, engineers, accountants, nurses, teachers (oh, please lord), farmers, electricians, plumbers, cops.  You’ve got that.  I’m talking about the tough stuff, the emotional stuff, the how-did-I-get-here stuff that keeps you up at night or, if it doesn’t; your self-medicating practices are better than mine.

Take me, for example.  For nearly five years I have been complimented, consulted and celebrated for the way I have parented Jess during her transition from male to female.  I’ve spoken with countless other parents who are a few days, weeks, months or years behind me all of whom have hung on every word and gratefully thanked me for my thoughts/opinions/guidance…all of which are nothing more than my version of faking it.  I only know what I have experienced, observed and been subjected to which, for better or worse, is my reality.  The fact that it works out okay a reasonable enough amount of the time is sheer luck.

Growing up, I was 100% confident that my parents knew exactly what they were doing.  It never occurred to me that they might be making shit up as they went along.  Further, I never even considered that they might not have a clue how to solve, guide or direct me with any given challenge. My generation is as insanely different from my parents’ as mine is from my kids’.  Even I, a self-described “cool mom” who prides herself on positively relating to and understanding her kids, will cop to not really knowing how to handle/manage/negotiate/regulate/govern (pick your verb…) a full third of the “stuff” my kids have gone up against.  The world which they must navigate bears only a slight resemblance to the one I grew up in.  So, in the interest of maintaining a safety net for my kids (and now step kids) I continue to fake it as best I can.

That’s not to say that I haven’t learned a few things over the past twenty-two years of parenting.  Actually, it wasn’t until I became a stepmother that I realized just how much I had learned…mostly by trial, error and some common sense.  One of my greatest accomplishments might just be not letting onto my children that I was, indeed, flying by the seat of my pants much of the time, full of self-doubt some of the time and simply hoping for the best all of the time.

Back to Jess.  When her transition happened (at warp speed, I might add) and our entire family was thrust into a new reality, I naturally looked to my mother for guidance. Even at the tender age of 46, I was still fairly certain that she knew way more than I did and would lay out instructions, lend suggestions and know exactly what to do.  At that point, my father had already been gone for several years, so my poor mom not only had to fake it as best she could, but she had to fly solo with whatever advise, direction or support she was going to offer.  So, too, did I expect that my brothers (who, between them had five children all of whom were older than Jess and, not for nothing, all comfortably living in their assigned genders) would be able to tell, show or explain to me what to do.  And despite the fact that they were forced to be complete fakers,  I took every single word they said as gospel.  This was a tough one to fake, yet somehow we all  managed to successfully fool even the wisest among us these past five years.

Not long after I became a parent, my father shared with me that he and my mother’s parenting plan was simple: wing it and hope for the best.  They parented on instinct (me, too), punished only when the offense was so egregious that they were left speechless (me, too) and praised when it was due, not when we did something that we already knew was expected of us (me, too again).  For whatever it is worth: we all turned out pretty well.  So, naturally, I assume (and by assume I mean pray) that my faking it will sufficiently support my own children (and now step-children) as they launch into adulthood where they, too, will learn the art of faking it.

Feel better now that I have confirmed that you are not the only one who holds a Masters in faking it?   Relish the relief you are feeling right this second since it won’t be long before you find yourself artfully faking something or other to someone or other.  And ya want to know something?  He who seeks you out for your sage wisdom has confidence in you, even if you don’t have it in yourself and, more often than not, your faking translates to someone else feeling safer, stronger and less alone. Really.

There is no shame in the fake…I mean we can’t all be good at everything, can we?

The Beach, A Bird and Thanksgiving Dinner

It has been well documented that I spend a lot of time walking the beach.  I do it nearly every day, all year round.  While the warm summer days are great, I actually prefer it when it’s in the 50s or 60s and I can wear boots, a down vest, a hat and gloves.  The sunny days are awesome, but so, too, are the cloudy, dark ones.  My ideal time is early morning when the tide has gone out and sea glass discovery is at its prime.  No matter my mood when I start, it is always, without exception (more on that in a bit) better when I am done.  Even when the surf is rough or the winds are whipping or the sky is covered in clouds, the rhythm of the ocean delivers a serenity that I can always (yeah, more on that to come) count on, no matter the time of year.  I love my ocean walks.

As a result of all this time logged at the beach, my already vast collection of sea glass continues to grow.  Getting lost in the beauty of the sea, my 10,000 steps are easily reached and often exceeded.  The various items that have been washed ashore or left behind or dropped from the sky are invariably (more on that to come) awesome.  Beyond the sea glass, I’ve happened upon bottles of booze – some full, most empty.  Lego pieces, toddler sandals, small toys, the occasional t-shirt, and of course rocks, shells and seaweed.  Here’s a little scene I happened upon late last week.  Sad little (plastic) birdie.

toyinsand

 

I am hardly alone one my beach walks.  Both the sand and paved walkway overlooking the beach are always teeming with people, many of whom I have come to recognize just from their gait.  The exchange of “hellos”, “good mornings” and “what a great day” are not only perpetual but a truly lovely way to start the day.   And, perhaps most wonderful, the beach always (more on that to come) feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe.

This morning, however, was a little bit different.

deadbird

 

I nearly tripped over it.  It freaked me out.  Still does, actually.  And the symbolism, the metaphor, the gruesome imagery…yeah, colossal yuck.  At first, I thought perhaps he  was digging for something in the sand and actually marveled a little bit at the beauty of this animal in its natural habitat at which I was a mere interloper.  But then, when the feathers started blowing wildly from the ocean breeze and the body wasn’t attempting to resist the gusts, I realized I was looking at a dead bird.  A very dead bird, in fact.  As in: couldn’t be deader.

With its head buried in the sand.  The week of Thanksgiving.  Still intact, free, for now, of the scavenging animals which are sure to enjoy tearing him apart for breakfast.

I walked away; feeling agitated, slightly nauseated and entirely grossed out.  Yet, I kept finding myself going back to check on him. I considered jostling him with a gentle kick with my booted foot, but, on the off-chance that he hadn’t actually gone to meet his maker, I thought better of it.   How’d he croak?  Did he get his beak stuck in the sand while innocently reaching for a snack?  Would just a little tug free him from, um, death?  How long had he been there?  And what would he look like tomorrow or the next day?

And, if we are being honest…seriously?  Is nothing sacred?  Can I not have the damn beach stay serene and calm and relaxing?  Does there really have to be a dead fucking bird at my feet?  And, if he had to be dead, did he have to do it right in my path?  I mean, really.  So much for physical, emotional and spiritual safety.  Geez.

Discombobulated, I took a shorter than usual walk, but not before going back to visit him, maybe more than once, checking, I suppose, to see if he was still and truly lifeless.  Oh, and to take his picture.  For posterity?  For confirmation? Yeah, pretty much no good reason to memorialize his passing other than to be able to include in my blog.  (That being said: the visual is a “good” one, right?)

Feeling on edge, nearly (and inexplicably) lachrymose, I returned to my car and called the local police.  I admit that I felt a little silly reporting a dead bird on the beach, but the officer who took my call, which included a very specific explanation of his precise location, told me he would call the state and have them collect him.  I did not inquire as to what they would do once they found him.  I imagine it will not include a proper burial or reflection on his life, but, more likely, a shovel and a hole which seemed somehow unfitting for his splendor.  Even in death, his strength and stature were almost grand.

I obsessed over considered, but decided against, going back to check on him this afternoon, primarily to ensure that he’d been brought to his final resting place and not torn apart by his fellow bird-folk.  Tomorrow morning, as I descend upon the sand for my ritual walk, I hope to hell he is gone.  And, with his absence, perhaps my peace can be restored, my calm reinstated and my joy in the discovery of each piece of sea glass revived.

It is indeed curious to me why I was so unraveled by a dead bird on the beach.  Methinks there is a gigantic metaphor (his head being buried in the sand was not lost on me) which, in turn, holds some sort of message.  I am not really sure what that message is, exactly…so I am choosing , instead,  to focus on the beautiful piece of blue (for the unindoctrinated: blue is the hardest, and thus the most satisfying and, dare I say, exciting to find) and the several heart-shaped pieces of sea glass I managed to find whilst encircling, avoiding and obsessing over a big dead bird.

seaglass

His is an image I will not soon forget which is fairly ridiculous given the fact I will be feasting on one of his brethren on Thanksgiving in a few short days.  Something tells me I am going to pass on the drumstick this year…

It Only Takes One Prick To Burst A Bubble

This is a bubble. It’s pretty and ethereal and inviting.  It is also fragile.

bubble

With even a cursory glance you will spot me, my family, maybe even yourself right smack dad in the middle of that bubble.  That’s us in our beautiful house in a beautiful town surrounded by beautiful family, friends and neighbors.  We are not rich, but want for nothing.  We turn on the faucet and out comes water.  We flip a switch and, voila, there is light.  If we’re cold or warm we need only adjust the heat or air conditioner.  There is never a shortage of food.  In fact, our two fridges and two freezers could keep us fed for months on end.  We have two reliable cars, a solid roof and all the computers, televisions, tablets and cell phones one would ever need to stay informed and in touch with the world, for better or worse.

Our children, each with their own individual idiosyncrasies, walk out the door each day without fear of danger or criminality against them at all, let alone because of who they are, their life process or choice of self-expression.  There exists an undeniable safety in this bubble to the extent that it never even enters any of their minds that they might not be able to live an honest and free life.  To only slightly varying degrees, they are all unabashedly willing to leave the house as they see fit with, in our house, anyway, highly limited but carefully injected parental suggestions.  We are fortunate; it’s always been this way and we’ve never known or even contemplated anything different.

Until, that is, this whole utopian Nirvana started to evaporate.

Our children, cis- and transgender alike, face an entirely different world… even within our once seemingly invulnerable bubble.  An inescapable national discussion about the ugly underbelly of societal thinking has not only surfaced and taken up residency, but has, ironically, bubbled over.  The result: abject fear among our children who are not supposed to, whether comfortably in a bubble or not, even ever consider.

It would be utterly fictitious to say that when Jess transitioned five years ago we were not concerned about the reaction of our community, our school and our friends.  (Aside: we never worried about our families.  That’s being blessed right there.)  True, the inhabitants of our bubble were liberal-leaning, highly educated and largely open-minded folks.   However, despite the favorable demographics, we knew it was going to be complicated at best, alienating at worst.  Indeed, it was complicated then and, if we are being honest, remains complicated, yet wholly manageable, even today.  But neither then, nor now, despite having moved to a new bubble, has it ever been alienating.  My great consternation:  that is about to change.

As of today, beyond the heightened awareness, chatter and vitriol regarding LGBTQ rights (among other things) being spewed by the incoming Presidential regime administration, nothing in our lives has changed.  Our bubble hasn’t burst, nor has anyone taken a shot at puncturing a potentially ruinous hole…but we are certainly aware that the acceptance (oh, the irony) of hate (which is actually, duh, fear) is now being supported, sanctioned and encouraged…even in our own once paradaisic bubble.

The morning after the election, myself unnerved, I did as I do every morning and gently opened Jess’s bedroom door to confirm that she was awake and at least contemplating getting ready for school.  Instead of finding the usual slumbering blob of adolescence , she sat on the edge of her bed, wide awake, phone in hand, news having been received, crying.  For the first time in her life, she was aware, perhaps without even knowing she was aware, of the fragility of our bubble.  My kid, who, almost to a fault, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, suddenly knew that she might now have to.

I’ve never been one to infantilize, shield or be particularly protective of my kids.  Based upon how they have conducted their lives thus far, I have confidence in their maturity, decision-making and lack of impulsivity to trust that they will successfully navigate and positively present themselves to the world, even in tough situations.  That being said, the new dominion in which we all find ourselves has left me feeling untethered and, at an epic level, profoundly concerned for not only my child’s future, but for the necessity of her (and all my kids’) rethinking their basic view of the world.

Inherent in living in a bubble is the constant underlying and often unconscious fear that it will burst. I now find myself unsure, sometimes from moment to moment, if our bubble has a slow leak or if all the air has already escaped.  Either way: it is frightening for all of us, body and soul.