Who Cares?

Want to know what is great about kids?  They aren’t adults.  It is true that they can most definitely be little shits, but all in all, they are usually kinder, less judgmental and way, way, way more accepting than the older (particularly post-pubescent) versions of themselves.

When George transitioned to Jess in the middle of the week in the middle of 4th grade, how many kids cared?  Hmmm, let me think.  Still thinking.  Oh, right…not a one.  In fact, during one of my many, many, many conversations with the school principal (who, by the way, could not possibly have handled it better) I vividly recall her telling me that it wasn’t the kids she was worried about it was, yep, their parents.   And, truth be told; only one parent expressed concern.  Of note is that that parent is the same parent who sent her kid to my child’s 6th birthday party and told her that she could “watch the other kids” swim and have a blast, but they had plans afterward so she didn’t want her hair messed up…so, um, there you have it.

Perhaps you have caught wind of the national conversation regarding transgenders’ use of bathrooms in public places. Or, if you have not, perhaps you have been in a coma or had exactly zero access to tv, radio, internet or another human being.  And, it is possible that you think that the ban is appropriate, although given the fact that you read this blog, I suspect otherwise.  Either way, I view this as a great time for us judgie, fearful, mis- and uninformed grown-ups to take a page from kiddos’ playbooks and ask ourselves: who cares?

In all my bathroom experiences (of which there have beenmany: I am, after all, a woman of a certain age) I have never:

  • Been in one that did not have stalls. In “female” restrooms, trough peeing is generally frowned upon and, from my admittedly unscientific research, even men’s rooms with urinals have stalls for the urgent poop or the pee-er with stage fright.
  • Seen one single solitary vagina other than my own, and even that I don’t really see. I mean, really.
  • Felt uncomfortable for any reason other than having the bad luck of being the next visitor after a poor soul had their bowels explode. And trust me; it was no better for her having to make eye contact with me on her way out.
  • Lingered one moment longer than was necessary to empty my bladder, wash my hands and fiddle with my hair. Okay, there’s been the occasional lipstick application and chat with other bathroom goers, but it is generally a wham bam thank you ma’am experience.

toiletpaper

I have, however:

  • Emptied my bladder. And, in situations under which I had no control (Chipotle, anyone?) had to go #2.
  • Waited on line, often with adults who have children doing the I’m-going-to-cross-my-legs-and-jump-up-and-down-and-hold-my-crotch-while-whining-so-I-don’t-pee-in-my-pants dance, during which I have always given up my spot on the queue because, well, voiding and evacuating are done in private. Duh.
  • Waited until midstream to check for toilet paper only to discover none. One would think that would only happen once, but, well, whatever.

As for the rampant issue with molestation in the bathroom and everyone’s fear of such?  Well, here are my thoughts on that:

  • Implement a hard and fast rule: no one ever goes in the bathroom alone, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, no exceptions, Problem solved.

Listen, I am not so naïve as to not understand the trepidation.  I am not insensitive to anyone’s fear of the unknown.  In fact, I personally have so many fears of so many unknowns that one could, and maybe has, called it a full blown neurosis, but, but, but please consider focusing on something more important that could ever possibly effect you or your children.  I, for one, would be much more concerned about the person next to me with a handgun in her purse, or the drug addicted fellow who is so desperate for his next high that he will attack you for your wallet or the registered sex offender who is hanging out at the town playground.  Could any of them be transgender?  Sure.  But, and of this I can assure you, they are not packing heat, looking for their next hit or eyeing your little cherub because they are transgender.  No way. No how.

Kids don’t care if you have a penis or a vagina.  I am pretty confident they wouldn’t care if you peed out your nose.  They do care, however, if you are an asshole and, might I point out, their asshole radar is spectacular.

So, next time you have to pee in public, go in, do your business and stop worrying about other people and their parts.  Or, hold your bladder and bowel until you explode all over Home Depot which, for me, anyway, would be way worse than sharing a bathroom with someone who is transgender.

 

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#Truth

I love my kids.  It has (often) been (anything but) a pleasure to be their mother.  They have (when not embarrassing me) made me proud.  They have (when not infuriating me) cracked me up.  They have (when not being impossible) touched my heart with their warmth.  They have regularly made parenting  (not at all) easy.  I have learned from them (how to not lose my shit) every day.  I’ve grown (fatter and more chronically tired) as a person.  And I truly (most of the time) feel blessed to have them in my life.

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With (more than a) little exception, I have (almost) always  acknowledged (‘fessed up) when my kids have been too energetic (obnoxious), outspoken (rude), or inquisitive (disrespectful) . I have (happily) allowed them to watch (a ridiculously inappropriate number of) hours of television for the (entirely not) educational  value.  (I convinced myself that) I did it to (keep from killing them) afford them hours of (mindless) entertainment (that didn’t require me to do anything).

When they were younger, school vacations were (as) relaxing (as Chinese water torture). Weekends were often (Satan’s idea of) fun for everyone.  I looked forward (like I would to, say a root canal) to the two weeks at the end of the summer between when camp (sadly) ended and school (be still my heart) began.  My kids were (not) easy.  And I (really don’t) look back at those days with feelings of (entire) joy.

As I (miraculously) grew into my life as a parent, I (finally) realized that (not) being honest about (how difficult) my kids and their (endless) needs was (not) the way to go.  I needed (a crap ton of) support and, if I allowed myself (to be woman enough) to acknowledge that …then I would be (off the charts) better off.  It took (way too much) time, but eventually  I realized (admitted to myself) that I was (ridiculously) overwhelmed and that my feelings (of anger, exhaustion and resentment) didn’t mean I was a (shamefully) bad mother.  They meant I was being (brutally) honest with myself.

So, (with the ferocity of a mama bear) I began to (aggressively and somewhat desperately) reach out to other moms who were (over the top) relieved to hear that they were not alone.  We shared with (admitted to) one another that being with the kids could be (not at all) enjoyable and that we (often) felt that we got (stiffed with) the (least) easy parts of these little creatures.  But we never (ever ever) stopped truly, deeply loving them.

I am (beyond) elated (and a little bit surprised) to report that my children are now (way more often than not) a pleasure to be with.  They have (with lots of personal work) turned into lovely young people.  We’ve all needed (lots and lots of) help, support and love to bring us here.  And there is no shame in that.  None at all.

#Truth

Embrace the Vomit

I need only to hear the word to become entirely skeeved out. Even if from afar, I (am not proud to say) I have a physical reaction which usually looks a little like this: all the blood drains from my face, I break out in unfettered sweating and, most certainly, a veritable near-tidal-wave of panic. Just the descriptor alone can bring me to my knees. Call it whatever you like: barf, puke, gooch, yoke, upchuck, hurl, retch, spew, vomit… in any verbiage I fucking hate it.

vomiting

No seriously, my vomitphobia is so problematic, that I have wasted time, explored its deeper meaning with more than one therapist.  (Usually this has been in a clinical setting, but friends who happen to have degrees have been subjected to my neuroses, as well.) A few years ago, during one such conversation, my therapist told me to “embrace the vomit”. Or maybe it was “appreciate” or “enjoy” or “admire” or even ❤ it…I truthfully don’t recall. Had I not had years of successful and fulfilling interactions with her, I most likely would have walked out, announcing her quackery upon exit. In fact, I am relatively sure I looked at her and asked if she was smoking dope. But, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I sort of, kind of, in a way, knew what she was getting at.

Enter three o’clock yesterday morning. Jess, for the first time in probably 12 years that she’s awoken me in the middle of the night for any reason suggested she might throw up. I dutifully dragged my ass from bed, accompanied her to the bathroom, assumed the position alongside her (wait, who am I?  I actually went in!) on the floor and assumed (prayed) it was nothing. All was quiet and calm…and then Linda Blair showed up.  Despite the sheer volume and ferocity, she (Jess, not Linda) was calm, impressively quiet and what could only be described as matter-of-fact. Three tremendous boots, a few follow-up spits then she turned to me, smiled and said, in her best Miranda voice “I feel better now”. Once we were as sure as we could be that (what would turn out to be) this wave was over, she stood up, put her palm on her belly, turned size ways toward the mirror and announced that she looked thinner.

We gathered ourselves up from the bathroom floor and, after I checked for errant splashed matter,  we returned to our respective beds to try to sleep.* Jess grabbed her phone which sleeps in my room every night (points for me for good parenting) and began watching something (possibly, no, probably) inappropriate on Netflix. I, on the other hand, lay back down and metaphorically pat myself on the back. I handled that like a real mom. I was right there in the thick of it and did not tentatively rub her back from the threshold of the bathroom door, eyes clenched tight, breathing stopped as I maybe might have with Harrison back in the day. Um, I think I actually embraced the vomit.

I understand and acknowledged that for my fellow vomitphobes out there this was sweat-inducing to even read it. It probably sent you running for the closest vat of Purell. You might even be trying to will away the voices in your head that keep taunting you with, “you’re next”. You can admit it. No judgment.

Three hours later: round two.  Three hours after that: round three.  And then all was quiet. My takeaway:

  • It wasn’t so bad
  • Jess is a champion shot
  • I learn from her everyday
  • I really really really really hope that I don’t get it

We are now a solid 24+ hours since the final episode.  Jess is fine.  Mom is fine.  She’s watching more (inappropriate) Netflix in her room.  I’ve showered. called Wegman’s, blaming the sushi, dumplings and sesame chicken.  They’re sorry.  They are giving me my money back.  But aside from the $35  back in my pocket, I feel way richer: I might just have conquered the vomitphobia.**

*I know many a mother who would have brought ill child into the big bed with them for comfort.  I, with only a little bit of shame, will admit to not being that mother.

**Special thanks and love to KB, HR & BS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stayin’ Alive

I returned to my car, turned the key and jounced a little when the radio came to life with the euphonious “Stayin’ Alive”.  In and of itself, this was unremarkable.  After all, the dial was set to the classic hits station (read:  they play “oldies” which, ouch,  happen to be from the era during which I grew up) and that song is, by all accounts, a classic.  What was remarkable, however, was that it was playing after I had spontaneously (more on that in a moment) visited my father’s grave.  For the uninformed, my father freakin’ loved the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.  In fact, he had been known to listen to it often, always loudly, proudly and while in his car.  It was not unusual for him to pull into the garage with “Night Fever” blasting so loud we could hear it in the house. He would then remain in the car until the very last note, when he would finally kill the engine and come in to join us.  It is not often that I catch The Bee Gees on the radio, but when I do it is as if my dad is right there in the car with me.

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Monday will be ten years since my father died.  Every year since, I’ve viewed January 11th as a day-to-get-through knowing that eleven days later is his birthday…also known as a-day-to get-through.  But this anniversary feels somehow more permanent than have the previous nine.  Ten years is a long time.  So much has happened.  My father knew my two little boys.  Now I have one young man and one teenage daughter.  I’m fifty.  I’ve gotten divorced.  I am gray! How could he have missed all that?

I have been feeling out of sorts, not known how to commemorate it, not known what to do with myself.  So, today, while making a return to a store that happens to be about five minutes from the cemetery, I headed over.  (Of note: the store is a chain.  There are others nearer to home.  So, um, perhaps it wasn’t quite so spontaneous after all…)

I thought I knew where to find him, although I am not sure why I thought that since every.single.time. I go there I get lost in the beautiful winding roads that seems to go on forever.  I was sure I knew which section, but once I got there (and saw that he wasn’t) I knew I’d taken a wrong turn.  (Of note: there are no headstones at this pristine cemetery, rather all identifying plates are on the ground…therefore, frankly, every section looks pretty much the same.)  Finally, as I began to feel my shoulders rise, anxiety and irritation percolating, I followed the signs to the “Welcome Center” (yeah, I thought it was a rather absurd choice of words for a cemetery, too) and approached the gentleman tending the front desk of the bright, yet somehow somber office.

“Are you able to tell me where I can find someone?” I asked.  He hesitated, and I knew that I needed to be a bit clearer.  “Oh, I’m not looking for a welcome center employee (of which there seemed to be many); rather, it is a permanent resident, if you will.”  He smiled. I smiled.  But I hated that I didn’t know where to find my father.  He looked up the name, confirmed his date of death (like I needed to hear that!) and told me where I could find him.  He used a bright pink highlighter to show me the route on a map of the grounds and then proceeded to tell me exactly where to find him at Mt. Nebo, Section 28A.  I flashed a smile, cut him off and assured him that I could handle it from here…mostly because I can read.  And then I left, map in hand, feeling the weight of the welcome center follow me out the door.

Well, I can read,  but, unlike my father, I am literally incapable of following a map.  It is source of embarassment, but one I can live with given the fact that I am never far from a navigation system. As such, once in the car I managed to get lost.  Again. This time was different though: this time I knew where I was ultimately headed and that whole ability to read thing was going to work in my favor.  I drove around in just a few circles before I spotted the austere sign telling me I was in the right place.  I got out of the car, pulled my sweater more tightly around me, found a rock that felt strong, meaningful and appropriate, and headed across the lawn, taking care to not step on any of the nameplates in the ground.  There was one new one, from just last year, while the rest had been there long before my father.  I placed the rock on his stone, told him the highlights of the year (“I’m engaged”, “Harrison got his EMT license!” “Jess is holding steady and still making me laugh every day!”),told him I love him and asked him to keep on showing up when I least expect it.  I was there for less than ten minutes.  The air got colder, the sky grew darker and my heart became fuller.

I seldom go to the cemetery.  The last time I went it was a stunningly beautiful day.  I took a long walk around the grounds, trying to ignore the fact that there was a burial happening several hundred yards away.  I cried like a baby.  I may have even lain down on the ground next to him begging him to help me through the day.  And I definitely stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home.

Today felt different.  I am strong. My kids are strong.  My mother is strong. My brothers are strong.  None of us has lost our sense of humor which we were taught was more important than just about anything.  My father’s legacy is apparent – like his father before him, all seven of his grandchildren will vehemently support the assertion that they were his favorite.   I have a wonderful partner whom my father would most definitely approve of.  My brothers and I remain the best of friends…just how my dad wanted it.  But we all still miss him every single day.

Ten years.

Now turn up the volume and go: Stayin’ Alive

Let’s Hear It For The Girls

We had logged a few hours of intense outlet shopping and already consumed a reasonably healthy lunch when we popped into the nearby McDonald’s for further sustenance and caffeine. I was beginning to fade and, for no good reason (particularly after the shopping scores I had made) was feeling a little down. When we walked in there was a table of women, mostly blonde, all notably attractive, with their Diet Cokes, McWraps and cell phones in hand, oozing of a connection to one another which was, somehow, ridiculously powerful. I made note and kept walking. Barry, my gregarious, never-shy fiancé, however, commented aloud about what a great photo it would make. All seven women laughed as one…not at him, but with him.

I chimed in that I, too, had noticed the beauty of the moment and we began to banter back and forth for a few moments, my need for caffeine still firmly in place. We said a tentative goodbye and headed for the counter to order with a promise (threat?) to return. I requested an iced coffee and hot fudge sundae and Barry (strongly, unrelentingly, vigorously) encouraged me to go back and chat. I resisted. I sometimes do that. I wondered if the moment had passed, if they had actually just given us a courtesy laugh and were now chatting about the crazy couple that just intruded on their otherwise lovely lunch of Mc-things. My confidence faltered. Reluctantly I returned to the table and was greeted by lovely, warm, funny women. Women I could sense had a story….and everyone knows how much I love a story.

Ramona, with the bright smile and quick wit commented that Barry and I were such a cute couple and asked what our status was. I told her we are engaged and she, like I would have, grabbed (in the best way possible) my left hand to inspect the goods. She held my hand, in a way that did not make me feel the least bit uncomfortable and kvelled about the design of the ring. Noticing the two young women (later to be known as Paige and Brynn) as well as the early teen (Amelia), I implored them to “marry a man who cherishes you” and Ramona, with a subtle sadness said, “I did”. I knew she had a story.

They enthusiastically inquired as to the when and where of our wedding plans. We don’t have any yet, but told them of the kids’ suggestion that we do it at Water Country . “That would be awesome!” they gushed but went on to joyously encourage us to do it right then and there, on the beach at nearby Kennebunkport and they would be our witnesses, bridesmaids and flower girls. We would then, they implored, post a picture on Facebook to tell the world. And, I might note, they were only half joking.

The conversation became funnier and even more animated every moment. At this point, I was seated next to Paige, a beautiful young lady with gorgeous thick hair in a (fantastic) mess on top of her head. At the table were her mother, her grandmother, her sister, her cousin, her aunt and a dear friend who, while not a part of the blood line, was clearly one of the girls. Earlier in the day, I had (lovingly) (and repeatedly) called Barry an asshat, an expression I see all over Facebook but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but just saying asshat is funny, so I did. Paige, being of a certain demographic, seemed like someone who might actually know what it meant, so I asked her and she did not know, which, in a way, made me happy. We asked Siri (who did know) and she told me it is “a dumb person”. “Ohhhh” we said collectively. “Better than calling someone a ball sack”, said Ramona. A nanosecond pause and we all busted out laughing: from Grandma down to 12 year old Amelia. And it felt great.

A good half an hour passed as Barry and I melted into the family, side bar conversations between us. We learned about one another, if only a little. Ramona, who is someone I would most definitely want to call my friend, touched my heart with her quick wit, irreverence (she said ball sack in from of the kids…and her mother!) and honesty when she elaborated on having been cherished by her husband. The same husband (and father, and uncle, and son- and brother-in-law) who had, just in June, lost what I am sure was a hard fought and vicious fight with brain cancer. We instinctively and tightly hugged at her saying the words. She’s a strong, beautiful woman who is wise, lucky and blessed to be surrounded by the same.

It was fun. It felt natural. I wanted to know these women. These women I had not wanted to bother while they were “dining”. The ones that Barry forced me to go back to, coffee and sundae in hand, and integrate myself into their conclave. I used to be better at that. Before I felt broken and worried for my children. Before I felt challenged beyond what I thought I could handle. Before I began to lose confidence in my ability to connect. Barry made me do it (he makes me do a lot of things I never thought I would do…and I love him for it.)

I’ve always been all about the sisterhood. I love women who support, love, laugh and encourage one another. This table of women define how women should interact and simpy be with the women in their lives. I detest bitches that make everything a competition, who are not willing to protect, support and share and, perhaps most egregiously, who reject the strangers who approach them at McDonalds.

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Brynn, Paige and Amelia: While you are most definitely blessed with strong, fabulous women in your lives, allow me to chime in: Marry a (Jewish)* man who cherishes you, who encourages you to be the best version of you and who jostles you out of your comfort zone enough that you plop yourself down at a table of strangers and walk away with a new set of friends.

*These lovelies are not Jewish, but Ramona and I agree: they make the best husbands.  I trace it back to a (healthy, not at all creepy) fear, er, adoration of their mothers.

M&Ms

I have a (large) jar of M&Ms hidden away. Not just plain ones, either. Rather, I have a perfect combination of plain, peanut and pretzel. No mint. No peanut butter. No minis. No mega. Despite full knowledge of said stash, my jar has either not been discovered by the others who reside in the house or, and perhaps more likely, it has been, but all are wise enough to abstain from touching.

m&ms

I am very disciplined when it comes to their consumption; never taking more than one palm full per visit, never more than one visit per day. When the jar is one quarter full I dutifully replenish. No sooner. No later.

I never make an impulse purchase of a single serving bag of M&Ms at the market/Target/Walmart/Staples checkout counter. When Halloween bags are dumped on the kitchen floor, I do not ever grab a bag, opting, instead, for the Sugar Babies, which are, I might add (with sadness), few and far between.

If someone I live with were to sneak a few, I would know from the distinct aroma they leave on the breath. No one has dared.

My jar of M&Ms, which I often go weeks (okay, days) without visiting, makes me feel safe. Like a good friend, they are there when I need them, bring me cheer (plain? peanut? pretzel?) and always buoy my mood. Yep, M&Ms have that power.

One of the joys of being an adult is having an M&M jar. It is up there with staying up late, not making the bed and declining an invitation simply because you just don’t want to attend, no excuses concocted in an effort to explain yourself. To me, it is akin to money in the bank, clean sheets on the bed and fresh milk in the fridge.

When we wake in the morning, we never know what lies ahead. The day could start strong and stay that way. It could, for that matter, morph into a shitstorm. Likewise, a rough morning is not always an indicator of twelve lousy hours. This morning I was laughing in my sleep so loudly, and, according to Barry, slightly hysterically, that I woke him. (Damn, I wish I could remember what was so funny!) I went on to have a great workout – complete with making a new friend – only to have things take a turn as the day progressed. I arrived home a bit worse for the wear and considered (but did not act) delving into my jar. I will admit, I went as far at to venture to the hiding spot to check my stash. I have not filled my palm, but the day is not over yet.

If you ask me, everyone should have his or her own M&M jar. What’s yours?

Love/Hate

Earlier this week, PBS’s Frontline aired  a program entitled, “Growing Up Trans”.  You can see it here:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365520005/

A part of me loved it.  And, a part of me hated it.  Here’s why:

I loved the title.  The fact that in the title they used “trans” which is so casual and matter of fact reiterated a heightened national awareness and, arguably, acceptance.  To my mind, “trans” is way more cool and way less clinical than transgender.  As someone living in this world, the absence of the word gender can go a long way.

I loved the honesty of the parents.  This is not easy stuff and any parent who tells you that each day is anything other than overwhelming, scary and uncertain is a liar.  I don’t care how effeminate or butch your son or daughter may be, there is nothing, not one damn thing, that prepares a parent for this transition.  Your little boy loves dolls and dresses and mermaids?  Your daughter is only interested in trucks, contact sports and super heroes?  Big deal…who cares?  In fact, when my entirely cis-gender son was little he loved to go with me to the Chanel counter at Bloomingdale’s and paint each of his fingernails a different vibrant color.  Weekly.  Never ever once did I wonder if he would come to me one day and tell me he felt that as though he was a girl.  For that matter, I didn’t even really expect it from George who so resolutely favored dolls, wigs, dresses and mermaid costumes but also acted, in many ways, “all boy”.  Yet one day he told me just that.  And, like the parents profiled on the program, I was totally, completely and utterly knocked off my axis.  Apparently I put on a brave face and had everyone convinced that it was an easy adjustment but, newsflash, it wasn’t. Still isn’t, actually.  It is, however, a whole hell of a lot easier. I love those parents for admitting their fears, anxieties, and trepidations with no apology. Bravo.

I loved the kids, each one of them, with all their individual quirkiness, for having the courage of their convictions and for sharing with the world what this feels like.  I loved how each one of them owned their behavior: the good, the bad and the ugly.  No matter your age, environment or gender…that takes balls.

I loved the lack of discussion about bathrooms.  Seriously, loved that.

I hated a few things, too.  A friend messaged me about the program:

“…Wanted to punch a few of the Dads. I am sure their reactions are pretty typical but still…”

Now, what I hated about this is not what you might think.  My friend is right.  Some of the dads’ reactions were painful to watch.  The perfect parent in me wants to chide them for their selfish candor.  And, that said, I can fully understand wanting to punch them…I mean, really, who talks smack like that about their kids, in front of their kids and, oh, yeah, on national television?  The honest parents do.  I entirely understand how they felt/feel and applaud their putting it out there.  To be clear, these parents, despite verbalizing their misgivings and concerns, are not to be confused with the parents who kick their kids out of the house, disown, humiliate and, essentially torture their children for doing nothing other than being honest.  But I hate that the perception, from folks who have not walked in these shoes, that these parents were behaving badly.  They were being human.

I hated that it forced me to have many (many, many, many) conversations that, frankly, I didn’t really feel like having.  And I hate that I have to admit that.  The subject is rife with opinions, facts, speculations and, well, scary stuff.  Every well-intentioned and well-meaning exchange left me feeling equal parts soaring with confidence and paralyzed by insecurity.  Confession: It is way easier to coast than to make this part of the daily discussion.  While I know that I always have Jess’s back, there are differing opinions of what that means.  File under: scary crap parents have to deal with while pretty much punting.

I love that PBS produced this program.  I love that discussion and acknowledgment of the realities of the transgender community has become so, well, mainstream.  I love that I have so many people in my life who love me and feel comfortable enough with me to offer their always, always, always well-meaning, well-composed opinions.  And I hate that it has to be so complicated, so emotionally charged and so overwhelmingly overwhelming.

special shout out and lots of love to PS, BTS, and GS ❤

Explain This

When George was two, my parents went to an afternoon movie after which they were going to come to my house to babysit. Around 6 that evening, my mother called to tell me that they were not “coming over” after all. “Um, you weren’t coming over, you were babysitting…” I said in a perhaps less charitable tone than I should have. It was then that she explained that my father had fallen asleep during the movie and she was unable to wake him. Huh? What does that even mean? Since he was a Type 2 Diabetic, she had tried, in vain, to feed him some of the Jr. Mints left over in his lap. (He must have “fallen asleep” early on…there was little that would keep my father from emptying a box of those little gems). Suddenly aware that something was quite wrong, I told her to meet me at the hospital.
When she arrived there with him he was, apparently, in such a frightening state (important visual: my father was 6’1”, my mother 5’1”…imagine her trying to “carry” him in) that they immediately bedded him and started to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a long night. By the end, we knew that he had had a stroke. That was the good news. The answer to the question following the routine chest x-ray of, “are you aware there is a large mass in your chest?” was “um, no”. That was the bad news.
At the time, I was a (mostly) happy stay at home mom. I had stopped working not too long before, in part because George was so wild and busily beating his own drum that the family day care sort of, kind of, might have thrown her hands in the air and cried uncle. So, the only help I had was for the one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day I would drop him off in the babysitting room at the JCC and (usually) work out. There was a lovely older woman named Alla there who was solidly unafraid of George. Perhaps it was the fact that she was Israeli and, as such, able to withstand more than most, but it doesn’t much matter. Not only could she handle him, she freakin’ adored him. The admiration was reciprocated and all was right, if only for one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day.
I was a no-show for several days following my father’s diagnosis. When I finally returned and told Alla what was going on she asked how she could help. She knew I had no other coverage and that the babysitting was only for when I was in the building (theoretically) working out. Without hesitation she offered to watch George at her home for as much time as I needed, for as long as I needed. At the moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for help and after asking her about a hundred times if she was sure, accepted her offer.
George and Alla hung out together for the next several weeks. I would deliver George to her and know that he was safe and happy, even though it was evident that the world around me was crashing in. I still feel indebted to her and never will forget the kindness she showed me and George.
I’ve seen Alla many times over the years. I am even relatively certain that I have told her that George is now Jess. But, either I didn’t or she does not recall…because each and every time I bump into her, she asks for her “boy George”. Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday, I ran into Alla. Literally. I was coming around the corner at the market and our carts collided. We embraced. I told her, as I always do (because it is true) that she simply doesn’t age. She caught me up on her kids, two docs and one who is set to graduate next week from Harvard Law. And, as always, she asked about her “boy George”. I told her that “everyone” is great, getting older, keeping me on my toes. I mastered the ol’ sin of omission by not engaging in one single pronoun. She asked if I had any recent pictures and I, um, lied, and told her that my phone was in the car, hoping against hope that it didn’t ding, ping or ring right then and there. I was secretly relieved that Jess was not with me. Not because I am ashamed, but because it simply feels like it is too late/too exhausting/too old news/too overwhelming/too much a part of everyday life that I sometimes forget to have to explain it again.
This is not the first time I have skirted the issue of “explaining.” I have omitted the details to my elderly neighbor who moved away years ago, but with whom I still keep in touch – primarily by phone. I once skimmed over the details of the facts with two little kids who were too young and new to our family to tell. I was later accused of lying to them which stung a little, but I know I did the right thing by “explaining” only what they would understand. Things like this come up all the time. No, really: all.the.time. And, if I am being honest, I am getting tired of having to explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry that my daughter started off as my son.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, just hours after my encounter with Alla , “explanation time” came up again when I took Jess to Urgent Care for an ear infection. I checked her in, ponytail and pink-checked lounge pant-clad Jess who happens to have an insurance card that says George. I leaned in and asked the receptionist to please call her Jess and use female pronouns which, not surprisingly, caught her off guard. To her credit, she had a quick recovery, wrote it on the intake form and moments later, Jess was called. And then! Then, the doctor came back in with the prescription which was written for Jess, forcing me to tell her (kind of again) that the script had to say George. So many Ts to cross, so many Is to dot.
Jess is used to it. She heard me tell the folks at the new allergist’s office. And the blue-haired gal taking names at Super Cuts, and the on-call pediatrician, and the camp directors, and the gymnastics teacher… She’s corrected people who slip up and others who should know better than to, um, slip up. It happens.
Anyone who has ever read a word of this blog knows how I adored my father. What you might not know, however, is that I felt the same way about his father, my grandpa, who was named…yep, George. In 2001, most people were not naming little boys George. I even hesitated a little, worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But he could and did better than pull it off – he killed it. He was the man. He was Georgie, Georgieporgiepoopoo and “boy George”. On paper, she still is. Every so often, Jess will ask that we change her name legally, but never with an intense and desperate need. If and when that happens, it happens…but for now, it’s all cool.
So, I will continue to forewarn, correct, whisper, lean in and remind folks that the name George on the form is only the name on the form. I will share as necessary. I will keep my mouth shut when there is no purpose in telling our story. She is just my kid who doesn’t always need to be explained, but if she does, knows I’ve always got her back…just like my dad and Alla did.

Except When…

To the outside world, I exude confidence.  Perhaps it is because I am able to find the humor in just about any possible situation, so it therefore appears that I am in control and can (perhaps) handle all that is thrown at me.  I am outspoken, honest and (perhaps too) open with whatever is happening in my life so the natural assumption is that I am down with it, cool, unfazed, and confident.  And, to be fair to myself, sometimes I am.  Most of the time I really do believe that “I got this” and that the curveballs and bumps in the road are not enough to throw me off my axis.  Except when they are.

That is when I ignore said jolts in the hopes that they will be magically worked out through some sort of divine intervention.  You know…the whole “fall in your lap” kind of thing.  And, if I am being honest, I have been fortunate in that sometimes that has indeed happened.   Except when it hasn’t.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away.  In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away. In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

Case in point: I am a pretty good writer.  I can tell a story.  I can, for example, strike up a conversation with a woman at Uniqlo (she mentioned “the sisterhood”, I was in), talk to her for an hour and then write about it.  This usually garners a supportive laugh or other form of appreciation from someone like you.  (I haven’t had a chance to write about it but it is a great story including our discussion of body image, foreign travel, divorce, transgender and, wait for it…heroin.  All while standing in the middle of the frenzy that is Uniqlo.)  I willingly go up against the hysteria of any given day in my life and relay it to you in a way that you respond to.  I actually love to do that and it isn’t, frankly, too hard for me.  Over the years, folks have told me to do something more with that skill…as in make a living from it somehow.  And that, friends, is the precise moment that I become totally, completely and utterly immobilized.  Wha??  Make a living at it?  You smokin’ dope?  Yep…there it is: the abject fear which stops me in my tracks, resulting in my total inability to do a damn thing.  Despite my propensity to be riddled with self doubt over the little stuff[1], I don’t generally think of myself as a fearful person. Except when I do.

Then there are those women who do a little something on the side (with nary a thought of it becoming a big something) only to find themselves sitting across from Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” [2]couch chatting themselves up.  Man, does that mess with my head, setting in motion a viscous internal battle between over-confidence and crippling insecurity as to any possibility of enjoying my own such trajectory of success.  Of note: most of these gals didn’t necessarily set out to do it, rather it just, well, happened.  (See divine intervention above.) Regrettably, I have this (ridiculous, dangerous and often disappointing) desire for all things[3] to happen organically, without contrivance or strategy. And, truthfully, that has happened in my favor.  More than once, even.  Except when it hasn’t.

I know what I want.  To make more money.  To have more freedom.  To create for people things that they might not be able to, because, while they rock this world with their particular brand of expertise they do not happen to be great writers.  (No judgment: I can give you a list as long as my arm of things I suck at…math comes to mind.  And science, yeah, science does, too.) I know what I am good at and where I thrive.  I am 50, after all, so I have it all figured out.  Except when I don’t.

p.s. If you know someone who wants a scribe…you know where to find me.

[1] It is always the little stuff.  Big stuff I take on fiercely.  If you don’t believe me, ask my mother. Or my brothers.  Or my kids. Or Mary.  Or Barry.  Or Marcia.  Or Janet.  Seriously: I had an easier time with cancer than I did with choosing whether or not to let my gray grow in.

[2] I’m talking to you, Jill Smokler…

[3] Not really all, but many.

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”…