One Week Ago Today

One week ago today I was, along with the rest of Boston, on lockdown.  Told to stay indoors by the Governor, we obliged feeling not entirely unsafe.  Close, yet far enough away from the commotion in Watertown, there was a certain “calm excitement”.  It was, however, (and if one chose to think about it) nearly unfathomable that the scene being played over and over (and over) on live, commercial-free television was taking place on the very street that houses “my” Target.  I saw my car dealership repeatedly in camera shots.  Yet here, in the house, it almost felt like a snow day…minus, of course, the snow.  There was some baking, some wine drinking, some cleaning and some (okay, a lot of) television watching.  But for the robo-calls and repeated television announcements imploring (although stopping short of requiring) everyone to stay indoors, it was a fairly regular day.  Until, that is, our collective family rooms were filled with the unforgettable sound of helicopters overhead and rapid gunfire being aired on a repeat loop on every television station.  It was no longer a hang around, chill out kinda snow day.  This shit was getting real.

It wasn’t until the next morning, however, after it was all said and done and the second suspect had been captured, that my anxiety and testiness (my mother’s word) began to rear its head.  I felt physically shaky: as though I could feel every drop of blood in my body swooshing around desperately seeking a reservoir in which to pool and relax.  I was shorter tempered than normal (although not short-tempered per say) and felt betrayed by the (now seemingly false) sense of security that had oozed its way back into our everyday lives after the attacks of September 11.  The World Trade Center was one thing, real but not in my backyard…but the streets of Boston during our most heralded tradition first and then Watertown, the quintessential working class Boston neighborhood next?  Nearly impossible to reconcile.

In the week that has passed since Friday, I have been acutely aware of anxiety and fear showing in many forms: most not immediately obvious as such.  For one, Jessie’s bedtime ritual has been riddled with stalling and leaving lights on the likes of which I had not seen in some time. A (very grounded, centered and psychologically aware) friend called me this morning while weeping outside of the yoga studio where she had just gotten in touch (theoretically, anyway) with her inner Namaste.  Interpersonal exchanges seem to fall squarely into one of two camps: warm, loving and wonderful or aggressive and belligerent with no middle ground.  People are either extending or closing themselves off from life as we knew it BAF (before April 15th).  Things simply are not the same.

I know all about life changing without warning.  Everyone does, just some more than others.  Living with the knowledge that there is little (if anything) that we can truly rely on in our everyday lives makes us live differently.  For some, the choice is to go bigger and broader, for others, the opposite.  It doesn’t much matter, actually.  What matters is being aware of it and attempting (hopefully not in vain) to manage the anxiety, the fear and muster the strength needed to power through.

There are days that I have that all wrapped up.  I can power with the best of ‘em and embrace whatever lands in my path, no matter how nebulous its ramifications.  There are other days, however, that I can literally feel my blood coursing through my body and the tears erupting without warning.  This time it  was a bomb in Boston, but it could have (and has) been a bad diagnosis, a struggling child, an ailing parent, a falling x-ray machine or a wooden toy falling on top of one’s foot all arriving uninvited and without warning.

None of us knows what lies around the next bend or how we will respond to it, but we are all better served to be aware of our own M.O. and to appreciate the experience and what it teaches us.  If nothing else, I have learned that I am only in trouble when I show signs of having lost my sense of humor.  I have come dangerously close to crossing that threshold (more than once) over the past few years.  Knowing that it would signal the beginning of the end, I have managed (with shit tons of support) to not go there.  If I can do it…so can you.

One week ago today I was, along with the rest of Boston, on lockdown.  The seven days since have not been great.  But the seven days ahead might just be.

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Penis. (Yep, you read it right. I just titled a blog entry “Penis”)

How often do you utter the word penis?  What’s that? Never?  Yeah, well, that is about right for most average adults (urologists and Mohels aside).  For the first seventeen years of my parenting life, I am unsure I ever said it, actually.  Each of my children had one, but aside from the ceremonial Bris on each of their eighth days of life, along with the quickly learned skill of “pointing it down” in the diaper, I cannot say I gave them (the penises, that is) much thought.  I can say, however, that hardly a day goes by now that it doesn’t come up (if you will excuse the pun) in conversation.  Yes, in everyday conversation.

Perhaps it arises in a chat with a well-meaning acquaintance who thinks that along with Jessie’s transition eighteen months ago came a penisectomy.  (Truth: someone asked me if we had had it “removed”.  Um, no.)  It could be with a closer acquaintance inquiring as to what we are going to do about it.  (Wish I knew.) Or it could be the voices in my head fretting over bathing suits, ill-fitting shorts or, truthfully, erections.

Much to my mother’s horror, I have been known to refer to Jessie as “my daughter with a penis”.  Much to my horror I have had to phone the on-call pediatrician to inquire about an issue with said penis all while using the female pronoun.  (Of course the doc on call happened to be the one in our practice’s rotation whom I have never met.  I am sure she figured it out, but awkward…)

Harrison (who might just disown me after this blog post) entered and completed puberty without fanfare.  He got taller, his voice got deeper and he sprouted hair under his arms and on his legs (which, when it first erupts, is gross.  What?  It is.) and, voila, he was done.  In fact, it was completely unremarkable.  Not once did the need to use the word penis arise.  Everything that was supposed to happen happened.  End of story.  Not so with Jessie.  In fact, there has been discussion of all things pubertal: height, hair, Adam’s Apple, hormones, foot and hand size and, oh, yeah, her penis.  Lots and lots of talk about her penis.

A question to all you parents of boys: have you spent a fraction of the time I have thinking (in the least creepy way possible), worrying or talking about your child’s penis?  I am guessing you have not.  I will further surmise that you are grateful that you haven’t had to.  You might even be blushing at the fact that I have used the word “penis” ten times in these five paragraphs.  I can honestly report that a day does not go by without the word penis (that’s eleven) entering into the equation somehow.  It is part of the new normal.  It is not even strange to me anymore.  It is all part of the process…one which, thus far, has not included the word vagina.  Not once.

NOTE: As you know, I often include pictures with my posts, although sometimes I am unable to find anything appropriate.  Rest assured: for this one, I did not even look…

A Taste of Northern Comfort

My personal world had been a little crazy for years now.  The day-to-day has brought, along with the same challenges we all face, a host of particularly unique issues, many of which I have shared.  Throughout each ordeal I have sought out varying avenues by which to cope: shopping, eating, not eating (that one didn’t last longer than an hour or so) exercising, writing, shutting down.  You name it, I’ve tried it.  I’ve sought comfort from wherever it might be hiding, hoping against hope, to find the elusive solace we all crave.

This week, I was one of those folks in lockdown as two angry, misguided, dangerous, disgraceful, clearly unstable assholes er, young men, started their day by detonating two bombs at The Boston Marathon. Then, in an apparent need for more (more what: carnage? death? fame?) took their show on the road shooting and killing an officer at MIT, maiming a transit officer and doing everything in their power to terrorize not just the City of Watertown, but the entire Boston area.  I know no one personally who was hurt…physically, that is.  As for the psychological hit?  Everyone got that one.

I work at The Container Store.  For the uninformed (read: those not fortunate enough to have one in their area), we carry everything one could possibly imagine (and an equal amount of items you could not even imagine, but do so need) to organize your home. No, make that your life.  When I arrived for my shift mid afternoon on Saturday (along with everything else in Boston, it was closed for the duration of the lockdown) the store was crazy busy.  At first blush it struck me odd: why were all these people, on the heels of the insanity of the week we’d just endured, filling their carts to the brim with containers and solutions and boxes and shelving?  What was wrong with us all: had we already forgotten what had happened?  But as I tossed that idea around in my head, it immediately struck me: everyone was simply trying to feel some control…even if only over their spice rack.  And I cannot say I blame them.

All day long during the lockdown I was trolling Facebook.  If I wasn’t following the newsfeed on my laptop, I was checking it on my Kindle.  Or my phone.  I had the news on, too: flipping between the three local stations and CNN.  I hopped over to boston.com and aol.com, but was more interested in what my friends were saying and sharing than listening to the media.  In whatever form, I simply couldn’t step away from the onslaught of, if we are being truthful, no new information.  About halfway through the afternoon I noticed on the sidebar of (the now public, read: ad-ridden) Facebook, a suggestion for a shoe I might like based, I am assuming, on my (many) previous searches on Zappos.  In the matter of about fifteen seconds, I clicked on the image, scrolled down to my size, added it to my cart and checked out.  I needed comfort, dammit, and I was gonna get it.

I felt better, if only for a moment.  I anticipate feeling better again when the shoes arrive in the familiar black and white box, although I do wonder if I will forever associate the neutral toned wedges with a day that will be etched in my memory just as 9/11 is.  Who knew a pair of (totally cute) shoes could hold so much weight?  Who knew that the desperate need for comfort would run so deep?

I updated my Facebook status at around 4:00 that day:

I am not a religious person. In fact, I am a strictly High Holiday gal. That said, I want to go to services tomorrow morning – just for the calm and community. This is so surreal, insane and alienating. 

Moments later, I began getting texts, phone calls and emails offering to attend with me (some of those offering aren’t even Jewish!) We were all in need of something other than the news which was unfolding down the street.  We all needed comfort.  As I climbed into bed later that night, having just learned that asshole suspect #2 was apprehended I couldn’t bear the silence in my room.  I clicked the television on and aggressively searched for a station that was oblivious to the unraveling of the world, ultimately landing on an episode of “The Nanny”.  It was all I could handle. (Aside: The following morning I did not wind up going to services.  I did, however, go to my gym, which happens to be a JCC (so it was kinda like going to services, just different attire) only to discover that it was so crowded that I had to park in Siberia.  Methinks I was surrounded by others seeking solace.)

Today, nearly two days after the nightmare ended, I still see unending signs of comfort-seeking.  In the early afternoon I pulled into the parking lot of the supermarket to purchase ingredients for what I consider one of the ultimate comfort foods (chili) to find the place mobbed.  It was a beautiful afternoon, one which would normally find the Boston faithful running around one of the many reservoirs or the Charles relishing the sun (that we haven’t seen all winter) and the warmer temperatures, saving their marketing for later in the day.  Instead, seemingly every single person on the planet was at the grocery store, filling their carts the way they do in anticipation of the next snow storm…not for fear of being locked down again, but, in my estimation, as a means to gain the elusive control we all want to sorta kinda feel like we have.  Having sustenance would make everyone feel better, in control of, if nothing else, their ability to pig out.  People were happily bumping into friends and acquaintances, stopping to talk.  Really talk.  To connect and laugh.  (Oh, that was me.  It took me three times longer to do my shopping than it should have having been fortunate enough to run into several people I know, not wanting to end the chatter and the connection.)

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I personally have not heard a lot of discussion about the specifics of Marathon week.  That could be a reflection of the people I surround myself with.  Or it could be indicative of the exhaustion we are all attempting to conquer.  “My” people seem to be less interested in talking about it and more interested in connecting.  They are exercising, they are shopping and they are eating (or not eating, which, frankly, I still cannot understand.)  Some, I suspect, are doing as I have done and are writing while others are shutting down.  All acceptable as far as I am concerned as long as it is brings them (us, you, me) closer to peace.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.

–          Lao Tzu

Marathon

I had been awake since 3 a.m. and was exhausted.  I told Jessie to not let me sleep any longer than two hours this afternoon for fear that I would foul up yet another night’s slumber.  As I lay on the couch crashed out, I vaguely heard the phone ringing.  Then the doorbell.  Soon the familiar, yet somehow frantic, sound of text messages invading my phone knocked me out of my desperately needed nap.

Blissfully unaware of the insanity that was unfolding a mere five miles from my house, I quickly realized that something was going on and it was not anything good.  I reached for my cell phone to find text after text making sure that I was okay and that the kids were home.  Still not knowing what had happened, I booted up my sleeping computer and went to www.boston.com.    Another day we will never forget.

For those who don’t know, The Boston Marathon is in the blood of anyone who has ever called Boston home.  Stretching the 26+ miles from Hopkinton into Boston, it is a thrilling event to watch.  It is impossible to be among the throngs of people watching the runners and not be covered in goosebumps and filled with awe.  The runners are our friends, our neighbors and our family.  They have trained incessantly for this day and are so wildly supported by the cheering fans all along the route that finishing is just what they do.  (No, I have never run a marathon, but both of my brothers and two of my sisters in law have.  I leave the running to others.)

Today, much like September 11th, was picture perfect.  The temperature was ideal for both the runners and the spectators. There was not a cloud in the sky.  Set against the iconic background of Back Bay, the runners were nearing the finish line: checking their times, relishing their accomplishment and suddenly jarred by an explosion.  The world has changed, yet again.

Soon after word spread in my neighborhood, four of my girlfriends came to my house.  We hugged.  We opened (and killed) a bottle of wine.  We watched, as much as we were able, the live news feed.  And we reminded one another, without saying a word, that we would get through this together.

Life is precious and increasingly unpredictable and frightening.  Think long and hard about what matters.  And pray for the families who will forever remember the 2013 Boston Marathon for all the wrong reasons.

Mom of Boys?

For ten years, I was the mom of two boys.  I had it all sewn up: with birthdays just two weeks apart (oh, and seven years) I had the whole Bris thing down pat.  I knew how to change a diaper without being sprayed with a fountain of pee.  And the money I saved by having George (boy 2)  wear all of Harrison’s (boy 1) clothing which I had painstakingly packed away was nothing if not impressive.  Harrison’s toddlerhood (and, if we are being honest, early school-hood) was legendary in its wildness, it’s complete and utter boyness.  He was frenetic and inexhaustible.  He would commence being in motion no later than 6 a.m. and literally not stop until he eventually passed out after several hours of my (vainly) attempting to get him to bed.  My father used to laugh and tell me that he was “all boy”.

When George came along, he followed in his older brother’s footsteps: wild, exhausting and with unending energy, he, too, was an impossible toddler.  I was, ironically, far less concerned with George’s behavior, though.  By this time, Harrison had miraculously turned into a human being and chilled out to the point of actually being referred to as “a day at the beach” by one of his teachers.  So, too, I assumed (okay, prayed) would George.

As the mom of boys, I had a unique kinship with my friends who also gave birth to two penised children: we are (were?) a sisterhood whose daily life differed so vastly from our friends who were (are?) moms-of-girls and moms-of-one-of-each that we stuck together like glue.  We have (had?) an understanding of one another that often (okay, daily) allowed us the strength to get through it…even if only physically.  I recall my sister-in-law telling me that her singular goal during the toddler years of her one son (as opposed to his two sisters) was just to keep him alive:  his exuberant energy level had him regularly flying across the room to wreak havoc on something or another.  I dared to take it one step further and argue that my goal for my boys was to keep them alive, or, more precisely, to keep from killing them.

Despite their exhausting and unrelenting energy, I loved being the mom of boys.  Oh, sure, I was afraid of them much of the time, but not nearly as afraid as I would have been had they been girls.  I remembered all too well what it was like to be a girl growing up and had very little interest in living through it again.  No…I could do this boy thing.  For sure.

So what if my second son shunned the toy cars, transformers and the forty five million Legos I had stocked away?  Who cared if his costumes of choice required wigs and dresses as opposed to the ab-enhanced Superman costume?  And his drawing girls all the time?  Whatever.  I was a mom of boys, dammit, and had the penises to prove it.

I’ve always known that boys love their mommies.  (Much the way girls love their daddies.)  Explained by an amorphous blob that hovers somewhere between adoration and fear, boys just want to be with mom, be adored by mom and, yeah, probably want to sleep with mom.  (Crap, how did Freud invade this conversation?)  Not gonna lie: I liked our dynamic, and I loved being their Number One.

And then, in what seemed like an instant, I was no longer the mom of boys.  Just like that, everything I had lived through and, frankly, been preparing myself for was suddenly divided.  I was now supposed to switch gears and be a mom of a boy and a girl; a transition for which, I can assure you, there is no guide-book.  What the fuck?

It has been nearly a year and a half since George tearfully and bravely told me that “his whole life he had wanted to be a girl”, yet I still think of myself as the mom of boys.  I see a child who, in many ways,  looks so vastly different from sixteen months ago, yet so much the same: she is taller and has longer hair, but much of her personality is decidedly George.  I usually think of her as Jessie, but still sometimes slip and call her George. I get tripped up every single time someone asks me about my kids’ gender and never know how to refer to my second born when recalling stories from her first ten years.  I don’t consider her my son, or my daughter, really.  Neither feels right.  She is my child and I love her and he is my child and I love him.   It is more than semantics, for sure.  It is more than long hair and shopping in the girl’s department.  She has transitioned with little trepidation.  This mom of boys, however, is still trying to figure it all out.

The Lady By The Water Bottles

I was doing one final loop of the store, wanting to make the most of the last few minutes of my shift before I left for the day.  There was a woman who looked so vaguely familiar that I did not even quite register a familiarity standing near the water bottles with a quizzical look on her face.  Unsure as to why I recognized her it was equally unclear whether she was trying to find a product or merely deep in thought about something entirely unrelated to the store.  I made eye contact and inquired, with a smile: “are you trying to find something or just deep in thought?”

“I read and love your blog” she nearly gushed.  I shook my head a bit, hoping, perhaps, that it would unearth some clarity, or context, even, to what she had just said.  Who was she?  How did she know about my blog?  And, perhaps more importantly, how did she know I was me?  As each of these queries bounced around in my head, I literally blurted out: “who are you, how do you know my blog and how did you know me?!”  (with, of course, a smile.)

She warmly introduced herself (her name was immediately recognizable, primarily, I think, from having seen her comment on other people’s Facebook threads) and told me of the mutual friends we have, one of which (she could not recall, if I am recalling correctly, which friend it was) had told her about the blog some time ago and she has been a rabid follower ever since.  She praised me for my candor, honesty and humor.  And then she literally (and I am not making this up) welled up.  I then (again, not making this up) welled up, too.  It was a strange, yet ridiculously satisfying, interaction, right there in the middle of the store.

As we continued to speak, I heard pleas in my headset for assistance in another part of the store.  I even heard my name being specifically beckoned, yet I sorta, kinda, in a way ignored the request in favor of listening to my new friend heap praise and admiration upon me as she thanked me for my blog and for sharing my story.

And that got me to thinking.

Often people have thanked me, told me that they appreciate my writing about such a complicated issue or expressed a connection to my writing.  Not gonna lie: it feels good to hear it.  But, the truth is, I need to thank all of you for reading, appreciating, supporting and loving me through this all.  Writing is easy for me.   Being honest and keeping things real is easy for me.  Making people laugh is easy for me.  Asking for help and patting myself on the back: not so easy for me.  Each time someone sends me a kind note or introduces themselves to me as a reader of my blog I feel a little bit safer and, frankly,  a little less alone.

The lady by the water bottles probably doesn’t know that she made my day.  She likely doesn’t realize how important her support is to me (and I don’t even know her!).  We all just want to feel safe and supported, right?  Isn’t that all that Jessie really wants?

My thanks to her for taking a chance at seeming like a stalker (her words, not mine) and letting me know that she knew who I was…it is more appreciated than she knows.

124 Hours

Hey…remember me?  I used to blog fairly regularly.   Until, that is, I blew outta town for five days and forgot all about life back in the big city (such as it is).  Yep, I am just back from five days of heaven on earth.  Five days of worrying about no one other than myself.  Five days of sitting on my ass doing one (and only one at a time) of three things: eating, shopping or sunning.  Five days of living like a Real Housewife, minus the bickering, backstabbing and name calling.  It was fantastic and long overdue.

I knew I needed a break, but had no idea just how desperately.  It wasn’t until I felt the warmth of the Florida sun and watched my hair become shorter, bigger and curlier by the second that I fully embraced just how spent I was.  I slept like a log.  I ate like a pig.  I cried (just once) like a baby.  I sunned like a (stupid) teenager.  I celebrated my birthday like a princess.  It was perfection.

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With the exception of the head in a cloud feeling from the shaky flight home which I just managed to shake about an hour or so ago, I feel like a new girl.  Unfortunately, this new girl has very little to share with regards to her family’s adventure at the moment, but have all confidences that that will change.

Just checking in…more to come as reality sets back in and my tan fades to my normal shade of pale.

p.s. Lots of love and thanks to everyone for remembering my birthday (29 is a big one, ya know) and a special shout out to MLS and LG for making me feel like royalty for 124 hours.  Thanks, too, to Rich and the kids for letting me call them (and not the other way around) for those entirety of those 124 hours and for my one-day-post-birthday celebration.