The Unraveling of an Obsessive Housewife!

magnifyingWhen I was in fifth grade I failed the eye test at school and had to get glasses. My mother attributed it to “ruining my eyes” from reading at night by the hallway light when I was supposed to be sleeping. I remember the book I was reading,  it was A Wrinkle in Time! I thought that having glasses was kind of cool, and even wore my glasses in my school picture that year, although now I wish that I hadn’t. It was the same year that full length “maxi dresses” were in style too; some trends were just not meant to be!  Soon after that, I stopped wearing the glasses only to have to start again when I was in my 40’s, this time for good. My wife has glasses now too, but for whatever reason doesn’t like the heavy prescription ones that cost her a pretty penny so she wears cheaters that accumulate all in one location and are NEVER where she thinks they are when she needs them. I tell her, constantly, that she is missing out on a lot. I know. She doesn’t see half of what I see, especially what’s wrong.

My kids have been home all week during this cold February school vacation. One has been on crutches for a month awaiting results of an MRI which may possibly require surgery, while our son just broke his wrist playing indoor soccer  this past Monday. That night, after a trip to the ER, we “family-hobbled” into our older daughter’s basketball game and all I could think of was “please, if there is a spirit protecting us, don’t let her get hurt too!”

The kids could use some fresh air, but they can’t play outside with those injuries and it’s biting cold anyway, so as much as I’d like to shove them out just for the peace and quiet and lock the door, that’s kind of not a real option!

During this vacation it’s been impossible to have a moment of quiet with 3, and sometimes 4 kids (counting the neighbor friend as well), playing, singing, and generally horsing around! Don’t get me wrong, I love the house filled with laughter and music, but when I’ve just cleaned up from 2 different rounds of breakfast to have to start the lunch routine, I get a bit tired of it being ALL ABOUT THEM!

What I’ve learned about myself in the 13 months since I had a “real” job is that I’ve become a nightmare obsessive mother. I do the breakfast routines, pack their lunches and clean up from all of it before I start my day. I clean the grease off the stove, drips off of the drawers and cupboards and I’m the ONLY one who ever cleans the counters and the floors. Sometimes, when the sunlight is coming in perfectly through my dining room, it hits off of the stainless steel fridge and stove and I can’t help myself- I need to clean that too! It sounds perfectly dreadful when I write it, but it’s true…I’ve become an obsessive housewife!

It all started when I was a kid and watched Gilligan’s Island every day. I was a huge fan, and when a crate of radioactive vegetable seeds washed ashore which had some sort of magic powers, Mrs. Howell started moving around in super-fast motion. My sister, Rachael and I used to make plans and get up out of bed after our parents thought we were sleeping and clean our room  just as “super-fast”. We’d say “OK, let’s do Mrs. Howell!” and go at it. I became obsessed with my room being organized and clean and then we’d celebrate the next day with a trip to the store and buy a bag of dinner mints and eat them all! It is still on of my favorite memories with her.

The counters in our home are made of a mottled mixture of browns, grays, and black spotted granite. After my last job working at a granite/marble counter top company, I could have told you the name of it, but I no longer care. Where I sit working on my computer from my dining room table most days, I have a view of our counters that allows me to see every crumb and smear of food that one can’t see even if standing next to the counter. It’s impossible to see anything on it unless you get eye-level to it and look at the reflection across the surface. My wife gets very irritated when I’ll ask her from my perch at my computer to please wipe up the crumbs on the counter in front of the toaster oven, because I just know they’re going to get swiped on the floor any minute and, well, I’m even more of a bear about “my floors!” It’s the crunching of crumbs that drive me nuts and the spills of juice that no one ever sees or admits to, never mind wipes up! But don’t get me started…

Again back to my childhood…my mother used to say that I always knew where everything was. It was true-I did! She’d call me up at college and ask me where things were. I always knew where things were because I saw things and stored that information even if I didn’t need it. I also was a very curious child which got me into some trouble and probably will continue to until I die, but I’d rather be a curious sort than complacent, any day!

So, here I was last night, sitting next to my wife enjoying a TV show together, when she moves her hand across my face and then backtracks to my chin again, flipping her finger over a spot where a chin-hair is obviously poking out. Well, that got me started on having to find and remove that damn hair. If you’re a woman under 35, you probably have no idea what’s in store for you as you age. No, no one ever tells you that you have these whiskers, and if you have impaired eyesight already, it’s unlikely that you would ever notice them on others. Hence, my own wife, (who is my first defense(after me) against publicly humiliating myself as one of those old women with chin hairs) can’t see anything!

Staring at the elusive “hair on my chin”  in the mirror…I realized that the light on “my side” of the bathroom where my sink is only illuminates the left side of my face. For about 6 years, since we’ve been in this particular house, I’ve been at a disadvantage! No wonder I have chin hairs that are growing on the right side of my face! So, now that I can see them, they do exist, but before, they didn’t bother me at all nor did anyone ever let me know!

As I viewed my face in the mirror, tweezers at the ready, I pondered many aspects of obsession. If I was blind, and I couldn’t be so bothered by the drips of ice cream on the cupboards and the floor, or the food splattered in the microwave, or the multitude of other dirty things that bother me, would I actually be a less stressed-out person? I’m sure I’d complain less, which brings me back to my last blog entry, my experiment with trying to go a week without complaining. I failed. I can’t do it. I admit that it is near-impossible for me to not have issues with something everyday. And, the other thing I realized is that even though I’ve asked for my family to help gently point out  my complaining to me, they don’t notice, which says something else which I’m not planning to delve into at this time. I’ve concluded that if I can’t even recognize that I’m doing it, I can’t really improve on something that I don’t know that I’m doing.

What I have tried to do instead is just try to be more positive. Thinking more positive thoughts daily is an improvement and what I can commit to. Taking time to be still and quiet and clear my mind… yes, I can commit to that. I’m trying to let things go more…to see but to not obsess as much. Hopefully soon, I can work on not looking so deeply at things and so much that I only see what I need to see. It’s extremely hard to unlearn something that has served me well as a multi-tasking, over-achieving business person and a mom. These days, everything seems hard.

Three days until school starts! Yea!

Snow is coming? Tomorrow?  Shit! I really need to get a job!

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Seeking Flowers and Rainbows!

Photo Jan 28, 7 00 42 AMI used to make New Year’s resolutions, but now I’m resolved to the fact that they don’t work for me. Since I don’t like failure, it would just be a downer to attempt to stop eating chocolate anyway, and besides, it is good for women (potassium and anti-depressant, and good for your heart too), so I’ve heard!

I recently started a new book called SUPERCOACH: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life, by Michael Neill, a renowned success coach.

I was somehow seduced by Amazon’s description of the book which promised that in a “fun and easy-to-read way,” I would learn:

“secrets of transforming your life and the lives of the people you care about most—your family, friends, colleagues, and clients.

Inside, you will learn:

· How to stop thinking like a victim

· The secret to financial security in any economy

· Proven techniques to produce dramatic changes in yourself and others

· Simple ways to create lasting relationships

· The key to lifelong happiness

· Strategies for increasing productivity, energy, well-being . . . and more!”

I haven’t read that much of the book yet, so I decided that I would chronicle some of my lessons learned here for your amusement, but as my NY’s resolutions have historically gone astray, so may this adventure…

In the first of the 10 Chapters, entitled The Art and Science of Make-Believe, I was introduced to the radical idea that:

“The world is what you think it is!”

One of the exercises that he had us do was to look around our surroundings and make note of everything that is green. After I did that, he wanted us to close our eyes and then make note of everything we remember that was brown in the room. Of course, I wasn’t looking at the brown things.

Translated to my life right now, I see mainly the things that I’m looking for. I see the cold of this harsh winter and the isolation that it makes me feel. I see the difficulty I’ve had landing a job and the wagon-full of bitterness and disappointments that have come from not being chosen each time. I see the accumulation of stress from maintaining three kids and their busy schedules while juggling the responsibilities of our home and my resulting short temper. I see the relationship I have with my wife and the challenges and strains we face with her weekly absence as her ever-increasing responsibilities for an aging parent take their toll. I rarely see the other things because so many negative things fill my screen.

Since my big girls were young, we’ve exposed all of the kids to poetry by Shel Silverstein. One of my favorite poems in his book, Falling Up! is called “Complainin’ Jack”, and it goes like this:

jack2

“This morning my old jack-in-the-box
Popped out– – and wouldn’t get back-in-the-box.
He cried, “Hey, there’s a tack-in-the-box,
And it’s cutting me through and through.“There also is a crack-in-the-box,
And I never find a snack-in-the-box,
And sometimes I hear a quack-in-the-box,
‘Cause a duck lives in here too.”Complain, complain is all he did– –
I finally had to close the lid.”

Last night, around the dinner table, I told my family about the book I’m reading, and about an exercise in it that I was going to start trying to do the next day, today. I let them know that I’d need their help.

“My exercise will be hard, I know, but it is something that I’d like to try to do. I am going to try to stop complaining for a week,” I said.

“If I complain about something and go on and on about it, I want you to just say, ‘complaining!’  I  don’t want to have a discussion about it. I just want you to call it to my attention.”

I explained that every time I became aware that I was complaining, I’d have to start over again.The author of the book said it took him a better part of a year to go a week! I’m guessing it might take me that long, as well, but if I can ever accomplish it for real, I’m thinking that it will help me drastically improve my outlook on life, right?! Because instead of seeing piles of shit everywhere, I should be seeing flowers and rainbows, right?! We’ll see.

My 11-year old daughter asked, “What if you complain when you’re alone?”

“Like what? In my head?” I asked “No, I don’t count that.”

“No, like if you’re alone and you are talking to yourself out loud,” she said.

“Well, luckily, I don’t do that, but if I did, and no one was there to hear it, I wouldn’t count it.”

I’m still stuck on that one, though, because negative thinking is still negative. I just know that I can’t count everything or I’ll never even get to a day without complaining! For crying out loud, I probably complain in my dreams too!

So, ends day one. I have to start over again. I’m in bed typing this and my back is killing me from shoveling and sanding almost my entire 300 yard driveway because my car wouldn’t get up it and the plow guy didn’t come until 5 minutes ago! I’m going to start again tomorrow. One day at a time!

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Snowballs From Heaven!

snow angelI don’t like mysteries. I mean, I absolutely love mysteries in movies and books, but that’s because I like figuring them out, deciphering clues, and out-smarting any author or director that thinks they can trip me up. I take pride in my observational skills, rising to the challenge of any unknown that can be known. I do not, however, enjoy anything that’s left hanging, like an odd noise in the night that can’t be sourced or an item that appears in my home that has no known origin-such things will leave me feeling incomplete.

As I enter the second week of 2013 (13 being my personal number, FYI), I have not mourned 2012 one iota. In fact, I could kick 2012 back into the mid to late 1990’s and stamp it as one of  the most useless, degrading, and unsatisfying years of my life to date.  I have categorized groups of years as such before, but never one lone year, until now!

What makes it so forgettable isn’t really important because it would require remembering it, which I don’t want to give the energy to, but suffice it to say that it was not good. It is time to move on to sunnier days, like the one we had out there today.

I decided to exercise outside today even though it was in the low 30’s and with the windchill, I’m guessing it barely hit 25 degrees in the sun, but the sky was bright blue with only a few clouds in sight. As I basked in the warm sun hitting my face, I entered my “blissful zone” enjoying the beauty of the snow-covered expanse of rolling fields along the almost-deserted road. I was energized by the cold air, mesmerized by the dots of light reflected by the sun on the gurgling stream, and all was good in that moment…

And then “SPLAT!”

A foot ahead of me to my right, was a large plop of snow that had come directly down and smacked the ground with the thud of a well-placed snowball. I was passing a large pine tree, so that would have seemed logical that it fell from there, and once I regained my normal heartbeat, I looked up, as anyone would, to see if more was to come.

What I saw, and what I should have known, was that after the last day of 40-something degree weather, there was not one single tree with one ounce of snow on it as far as I could see. Now, I know what you’re thinking because I was thinking the same thing…I must have been wrong. There must have been an icy spot between some limbs, or a nest, or something that could have held a hunk of snow. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find any proof of that. When I say the trees were bare of snow, I mean that EVERY tree was clear of snow! There was no way in hell that the snow came from that tree or any tree around me and that’s what I believe!

The next logical option was that someone threw it at me, except for the fact that there was no one out there and unless they could throw it straight up, navigate between the limbs of the tree, it would be unlikely, almost impossible, to land it where it did. I walked on, as there was nothing else to do, and pondered how I’d explain this weird happening to myself.  I knew that for whatever reason, this was a sign, but for what, I didn’t know.

Taking a quick trip back in time about 10 years or so, I am reminded of another event in my life that caught my attention, literally. I was driving along a busy 2-lane highway in a neighboring town, deep in thought on auto-pilot when my “check engine” light suddenly caught my eye. I looked down at it quickly and then looked back at the road, only to see a deer quickly darting in my path. I believe that the light, which then turned immediately off, saved my car and possibly my life. I could have easily hit that deer had I still been locked in thought.

I believe in angels. For me, they don’t fall into a mysterious category at all because I know that energy can not be created or destroyed, but it can be changed. I believe that the energy surrounding me daily is made up of whispers of loving and protective souls who have passed, other incarnations of myself, and reflections of my future self. These molecules of energy are always surrounding me but I know that I need to be in an “open” space/place in my life to be able to hear them. Some people call it intuition but I believe it’s more than that. It’s the “knowing” that guides me to seek out places or people or experiences and choices in my life, and when I feel it strongly, I know that I’m listening and following the right path.

I know that many people may think that social media is a waste of time and that too often people can let themselves be sucked into a time-devouring hole of uselessness, which is very often possible if we succumb to that on a daily basis, but I like to think that some good can also come from my time, especially on Facebook.  I don’t really care what people are eating and where they go for dinner or vacations, but I do care about the causes that they invest their time and energy promoting. I have learned about exciting technologies, been inspired by amazing work that people are doing all over the world, been encouraged by the humanitarian organizations and the energy that people have to spread good deeds daily. It is truly inspiring to be tapped into such a wealth of amazing and caring networks of people and it adds value to my life.

On  December 20th, the day before the supposed “end-of- the-world-as-we-know-it”,  a good friend of mine forwarded me a friend of hers’ “explanation of what it all meant.” If you take the time to read this explanation, you may come away with much more hope, as I did, that good things are to come. I do believe that we have the power to shape our future and our lives and that we need to keep reminding each other of ways we can be those better selves. I am choosing to surround myself with more positive energy in 2013 and not wallow in the deficits of 2012!

Many of my Fb friends have  posted this guide that I have made my credo as well. It’s easy to remember, is concise, and its wisdom and clarity will endure for all ages:

credo2

Happy 2013! May your year be as fine or better than mine!

Three Kids and the Wife in a Hotel Room with a Lone Wolf…

I’m at Cape Cod now, and have been for the last 2 days enjoying a hastily planned 3-night “beach” vacation with my wife and 3 youngest children. The trip came about after repeated protesting from the youngins’ about why we never take them with us when we go to Provincetown. So, here we are, (in S. Yarmouth, not P-Town), all camped out in a hotel room with raindrops and temps in the 70’s. It hasn’t been bad, nor chilly the whole time, but we thought we’d have a last day to spend at the beach today since we elected to hang at the hotel pool yesterday on our first full day. That was not a reality after all, so instead we proceeded to spend a fortune on mini-golf, batting cages, go-carts, and ice cream!

One thing that I have learned about myself since early in this relationship that I began more than 17 years ago, is that I need my alone time. I need time that no one is calling my name, asking anything of me, and needing me to do something for them. I need time to read things that interest me, write emails, catch up on news, exercise, write down my thoughts as they come to me, return phone calls, and be able to think about things without interruption.  The fact that I’m writing this now is an almost impossibility, and as I write, I’m listening to the news of the Denver theater massacre while my kids are huddled in the adjacent bed watching “The Suite Life on Deck,” on a laptop, and my wife is reading next to me. An air mattress for the boy is on the floor at the end of the girls’ bed narrowing that passageway, and clothes are everywhere in various drawers and bags surrounded by ice chests and beach towels.

It’s a slim half-hour break time between the pool swim and dinner. I’m lucky I even get this time, and I’m grateful for any scraps I can get. Can I survive more than three nights in a single room with four other people? I don’t know, but I’d rather not find out. Would I rather not go on vacation than do this again? No, but I desperately hope that next year, if we consider such a plan, that I finally have a job and we can afford two rooms so that all of us are more comfortable!

One of the perks of vacation is getting some reading time in. My read on this trip has been Jodi Picoults new book “Lone Wolf”. I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first since it is predominantly filled with the life of wolves interspersed with a personal family drama. I’ve learned quite a bit about the pecking order of wolves and their pack system, which in many ways has similarities among members of large families without all of the growling and non-verbal communications. Wolves have an amazing sense of smell that can detect the minutest changes in their surroundings and is vital for their survival. As I got deeper into the novel, I felt like I could identify with the different roles that wolves play in their system, yet as a parent, I think that I have to juggle these roles daily depending on the situation.

Today, I feel like a lone wolf. I’m at the end of my tolerance for doing things “together” and I need some space. I don’t mean to harp on the age thing, since it’s a running theme in my posts, but I need to just say that the parallels of getting older and being more set in my ways is a reality that I’ve come to accept. The only problem with that, is that my wife is the opposite- she likes constant company, and my company is often not pleasant if I don’t get my alone time!

I guess that I had hoped that my kids would enjoy playing with each other more like I did with my sisters when I was a kid. I don’t remember begging my parents as constantly as they beg me to play with them. Maybe my parents gave me the message early on in my childhood that we needed to find things to do with each other and we accepted that more readily than my kids do. I remember playing outside all day long on weekends and in the summer, building forts, climbing trees, playing softball, riding on our space trolley, playing in our tree house, and when it was bad weather, acting out theater productions, dances, playing cards, building card houses, playing instruments, recording tracks on our reel-to-reel tape player, and playing records on our record player until being called for dinner. I never remember feeling bored, and if I ever did hang around looking for something to do, all my mother ever had to do was find me a new ball. I don’t know if she kept a supply of them or what, but I always had to have a ball or a pair of drumsticks handy!

I know I’m not a spring chicken for a parent. I’m aware that when my youngest kids graduate from high school, I’ll be 59 years old. I don’t think, though, that that’s the issue. I’m still pretty agile and energetic, and I am always willing to get out and ride my bike with them, throw a ball around, or shoot hoops if they want, but I also want them to be able to entertain themselves. I won’t always be there to motivate them. I want them to be self-motivated like I was as a kid. My mother encouraged me to play an instrument, which I did for many years, but she didn’t have to hound me to practice it. I wanted to be good at it so I was motivated to follow-through on my lessons. No one watched the Celtics games with me when I was a kid, cheering on Larry Bird and John Havlecek to win 2 NBA championships when I was in high school. I taught myself how to play basketball by watching their moves, and practiced in my driveway every day I could, honing my shots. I guess it’s a passion that my kids seem to be missing, and I don’t know what to do about it. I believe that we can only hold our kids hands for so long before they need to either learn to fly or learn to fall gracefully.

We’re all home now, having survived the 6 hour drive, 3 hours in bumper to bumper traffic trying to get off the Cape on a  Saturday. We do know better than to leave when everyone else is leaving, but we were eager to get home.

The summer has flown by so fast, and while there’s a good number of days left of it, I find myself vacillating between wanting school to start NOW, and wanting more days to create special memories with my kids. On the one hand, their being home is driving me crazy. They have little desire to be outside when it’s sweltering heat, they get on each other’s nerves and fight a lot, and getting them to want to do anything besides watch TV and play computer games is exhausting! I don’t remember it being so hot when I was a kid, and if it was, we had a pool to cool off in. I dream of having a pool again and hope that I can make that a reality for my kids so that they will go outside again.

Soon, we’re leaving for New Hampshire, where we rent a week at a lake that was my wife’s family vacation spot as a child. We have gone there since 1999 and enjoyed many wonderful times. What was once our family vacation plus special friends, with occasional visits from her relatives, has turned into their family vacation with 3 surrounding rental houses converging on a shared beach. It’s fun, but also overwhelming for me. Luckily, I have “lone wolf” rights now that I’ve got to share my space with so many others, and my absence is tolerated when I need a break, and also it’s less than an hour from home so I can elect to spend a night recuperating with clean water showers as well if I want!

I’ll leave you with this slice of lightness from my Cape visit:

Watermelon. It’s my new favorite food. It’s sweet, and juicy, and when eaten at the perfect time of day, when you’re hot, and thirsty, and craving something sweet, it’s the most wonderful burst of nectar and juiciness that it’s heaven on earth- the most delicious experience that your taste buds could ever imagine! I just had to throw that in because I toted a whole giant watermelon all the way to the Cape with us and I’m enjoying it fully right now!

A Child’s Worst Nightmare

You’ve heard the expression, “a parent’s worst nightmare.” If you’re a parent, you’ve surely had your share of them. The news reports of a family with seven kids whose van gets slammed by an errant vehicle, causing a fiery blaze that kills all of the children yet the parents are left alive. And the child who is abducted, like the last Grey’s Anatomy, who 10 years later as a  teenager breaks free from her captor, only to be scarred by the years of sexual and physical abuse, and who barely recognizes, nor acknowledges her parents. I could go on, but why?

Recently, a woman who I knew, not well, but well enough to consider a friend, hung herself. I don’t know the intimate details of why she felt that life held absolutely no hope for her, but I knew that she must have had reason enough, or she wouldn’t have done it, especially when her children were the ones to have found her. The fact that a beautiful, once vibrant soul, would feel the helplessness and futility to do such a seemingly rash act without the forethought to protect her children, is mind-boggling to me and haunts me daily.

No, it’s not the dead that suffer, it’s the living.

I knew this woman through our children. She coached my daughter in soccer, and I coached hers in basketball. Two similarly built strong, towhead daughters with active athletic moms. We shared stories about our kids and often compared their zest for sports. How would I have known that she was suffering…

She had Lyme Disease, untreated for a long-enough time to have caused irreparable damage. Some days, apparently, she was so debilitated that she couldn’t get out of bed-but that was all here-say. I did not speak to her about her illness. I hardly knew about it personally, but I do know that there were many people who knew her and loved her, as was obvious by the 700+ people who attended her memorial service. I did not attend, having already planned to be out-of-town, as it was school vacation. Who knows how many people would have been there if they could have, or wanted to. It was unfortunate that I had to miss it, but I know that I’d have been a complete mess if I’d attended. I get teary even now every time I think of it – the sadness, the kids, the life that could have been.

I don’t know Lyme disease. I do know that it’s primarily caused by ticks that carry the disease. I don’t know if she even knew that she’d been bitten, but I still imagine the scenario and the randomness of it is unacceptable to me. A once-vibrant woman, beautiful, athletic, energetic, probably out on an activity with her family, gets bitten by a tick, and all life changes thereafter. Is this the definition of what is “meant to be?”

My great-grandfather hung himself. I remember hearing the story as I was growing up, but I know no more than that my own grandfather, the youngest of 13 kids, was the one that found him. What is the impact on a child who finds a parent hanging from a rope, having taken his/her own life-choosing death over those who remain living? How does that define the children who must remember that memory every day?

This is still raw in all of our lives, and I know that my personal feelings are no matter compared to those who were intimately involved with her, yet my life is affected still. My heart goes out to this family, the remaining husband and children, parents, in-laws and friends. I also hope that it can serve as a stark reminder to anyone who knew her who also feels like their life has become hopeless, to get some professional help and work through the pain to get to the other side. Killing oneself may relieve one from immediate pain, but the pain that is left in the wake may be worse than the original pain for those who remain. I am not sitting in judgement, and I wouldn’t deign to imagine her pain – I just can’t imagine doing that to my children.

I have not written a blog entry since February, mostly because my prevailing themes seem either repetitive or depressing. I’m sorry that I can’t be more uplifting, but this is just one of the things that rules my life right now. Life is tough. The future seems bleak a lot of the time as the economy plummets, joblessness is on the rise and the Republicans persist in their war on the middle class. I will work hard on trying to see the positive in life and to try to share more upbeat and inspiring topics in the future.

Thank you Alec Baldwin!

I haven’t met Alec Baldwin or talked to him or even seen him on the street, but he’s been a big part of my life’s “work” or should I say “play,” in the last month. Since I was laid off from my job on December 13th, the behavior for which he got thrown off an airplane has now transformed most hours of my waking life into a less-boring non-job, playing “Words with Friends!”

I’ve always been a competitive scrabble player, but this really brings the game into my everyday life instead of a “friendly” game now or then with certain friends. I now know that there are 16 two-letter words that start with “A,” and was surprised to discover there are no 2-letter words at all with a “C,” “V,” or “Z” in them. There are also many more words with a “Q” and no “U” than I ever imagined, and I don’t pretend to know or use more than a few of them. Exciting life, right?

Mainly, what I’ve learned from becoming unemployed again, is that unless I have something to do, a job or a daily to-do list (that I’m getting compensated for), I get little to nothing done with my day besides a bit of brain stimulation!

Yesterday, I got outside to exercise after being cooped up for at least 3 weeks (only by my own lack of motivation to be out in the cold). I scuffed along and slipped over the black ice on the sidewalks, alternating between the crusty snow, the sides of the road near traffic, just to “enjoy” the frigid yet invigorating fresh air. I had managed to survive more than half of my trek without falling, even playing a few rounds of WWF, until “boom!” I went down with barely a nanosecond to recover, landing me on my butt and slightly injuring my wrist. For years I’ve been saying, to no one in particular, that “after 50, we’re just a fall and a hip-break away from losing all independence.”

My wife doesn’t want me to talk about our house because we hope to move someday soon, and having been a Realtor, she knows that any (even imagined) negative review of a property will hinder its sale. I trust that y’all either aren’t in the market for my house nor will you squeal. The problem is, we live on a hill. It’s not the worst hill ever, and since we have a neighbor uphill from us, we know he has it worse, but it’s steep enough that a thin layer of ice will prohibit our vehicles from reaching the top of the drive, causing us to have to slide back down, as we pray that we can move the car out of the way enough to not block other vehicles from reaching the neighbor’s house. We then must cautiously attempt to walk up the dangerous terrain!

Why did we ever buy such a property, you ask? Because, in our excitement to have the many other “good” qualities of this property, we erroneously(or stupidly) believed that owning a snowplow already for our then business would uniquely qualify us to be able to care for our own plowing needs. Five winters, (the first one In which I quickly abandoned all hope in the truck we owned), and four snow plowers later, we’re no better off. We’re either waiting for the plow guy, waiting for a thaw, or throwing caution to the wind and sliding sideways down our drive in an attempt to get our kids to school on time. Yes, and winter has barely even arrived yet!

So back to Alec Baldwin, (who I also love in his character on 30 ROCK), and my love for Words with Friends… I truly am thankful. I may be an addict, and I may be a bit over the top when I try to maintain 7 or 8 games with various people simultaneously, but I’m keeping my mind active, warding off Alzheimer’s, even if it’s only imaginary, and I’ve got virtual company to pass my boring days while I search for a job. It could be worse, I could be addicted to something stupid like The Sims! Please, I have enough drama around me in real life!

So, with a month between my last post and this, I can tell you that I’ve learned that in the Yuan Dynasty, surrounded by my cortege, I might savor tea from quays but probably not from a padouk while I ponder the grok of life and may measure it in okas and pay for it in jias to a yenta while I learn to skate a triple lutz! What have you learned this month?


	

Changing Tides and Good Tidings!

My youngest children, my twins, turned 10 last week. I don’t believe that I’d thoroughly prepared for that milestone as it had gotten shuffled between the craziness of life, sports, school schedules and the harried holiday season. Sure, I’d remembered presents but it has always been a flurry of gift-buying at this time anyway for the large family and extended family, so it wasn’t like I was totally unprepared. It was more an emotional wake-up to no longer having kids under 10, which put me in a different parent category. It may just be in my paranoid mind, but there seems to be less sympathy for parents who have older kids vs. younger. It’s as if other parents think that we somehow lose our memory of how hard those years were and that we can’t possibly “really know” what parents of toddlers are going through. Again, maybe just my imagination,but as a parent of twins, let me tell you that those young years are indelibly etched in my mind!

At ten years old, the gifts have moved quite a ways from crafts and toys, to clothes  and whatever’s new in electronics. When we had the family birthday party, minus both of the older sisters for the first time in their lives, it was different, for sure. There were 4 minor things for them to each open, one after another of mostly clothes that they had picked out themselves. Before they had received their main present, my wife decided to play a bit of what seemed like emotional torture on them as she asked our daughter if she had a nice birthday. “Yes,” she beamed, which made me even more uncomfortable for her. What if she was secretly hoping for something she hadn’t gotten but was afraid to seem disappointed? I could wait no longer and instructed their 12 yr. old sister to fetch their surprises. I had worked hard to find them both gently used iPod touches on eBay, outfitted them with new cases, and wrapped them up tightly and repeatedly so that the suspense would be prolonged. The excitement and surprise were beyond my imagination and their thankfulness made me proud. Of course they were from both my wife and I, but I also knew that electronics aren’t her thing, so the blissful time then (in my mind) would probably not last long(in hers)!

Several days later and we’ve got app addicts. After we give them a week to work out their excitement, they will need them confiscated every day before school, before meals, and before bed. They may even go to a reward system sign-out sheet if after a week this drug-like desire does not wane. “No, I do not want to FaceTime with you while I’m making dinner.” “Yes, I’m an adult, when you get to be an adult you can take your itouch into the bathroom with you too, but right now, it stays out here!” And, “yes, I’m coming up to put you to bed soon but just let me finish down here before you text me again!!” We’ve created monsters. A new generation of soon-to-be adults who will no longer be able to communicate without abbreviating!

Ten years ago, on the day that my wife gave birth to our twins, the most vivid memory that I have was in the pre-dawn hours when she woke me to say that her water had broken and she was in labor. We were ready with a bag packed and contingency plans in place for our then 2.5 yr-old who was asleep upstairs, but we had not planned on a snowstorm that night. I got up like a flash, ascertained that my wife was capable of getting ready to leave by herself, and dressed to go out and get the car warmed up. At no time the previous day were there warnings of an impending snowfall, so imagine my surprise when I opened the garage door to see at least 8 inches of white stuff blocking our exit. I quickly ran back into the house to tell my wife, call the neighbors for help, and to quiet my panic. No answer across the street. No other friends would be able to get to the house to assist unless they had a plow. Did we have a plow company to call? I didn’t handle that job, my wife did. I didn’t want to panic her… “Honey, I’m just going to go back out and shovel us out a bit.” “No, it’s not bad. I’ll be done lickedy split!”

I returned to the task, which seemed insurmountable at the time, but resigned myself to making quick work and getting to the hospital safely. I surely didn’t want to deliver them at home and knowing that a C-section was pending gave even more fury to my shoveling!

As I looked down the street, my eyes seemed to be playing tricks on me. I saw one golden light haloed by the falling snow. It was moving towards me ever so slowly, quietly, but coming nearer until I could see the outline of some sort of tractor. It was our new plow person, a farmer, apparently, who my wife had just the day before arranged to plow us that winter! I didn’t know him then, but he will be forever known as our angel who guided us by plowing the entire 2 miles to the main road. We still don’t know how and why he was there at that time with that singular purpose, but we are grateful that our treasured spirits were watching out for us and got the message to him!

We attended the annual family Christmas at my in-laws the other night. It has been a zoo every year for 16 of the years I’ve attended as the 8 children, 24 grandchildren(probably more…) and increasing numbers of grand kids and great nieces/nephews under 3 were underfoot in the small house. It seems that every year at this festivity, we mark the day with the memory of one who is no longer with us. It is a reminder to me of my own pending mortality as I imagine the day when these new parents will be seasoned parents and maybe even grandparents, mourning the passing of us middle-agers.

New babies arrive, older relatives die, and the cycle goes on. At the other end of the spectrum, my wife’s dad, who in his mid-eighties is the oldest and the patriarch of the family. He has been spiralling downhill in the last year and will likely be the next to go. The loss of a friend or relative near a special holiday or occasion seems to leave a permanent damper on one’s soul. I/we could use to get through this season with no more sorrow to add to an already emotion-filled time.

As the Christian holiday approaches, and those who are religious as well as those of us who either practice another religion or cling to the residual effects of an upbringing laden with spiritual overtones, I hope that we can all remember the joy as well as the memory of those who have passed and who will forever be in our hearts!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Mele Kalikimaka!

My daughter “came out” as a heterosexual.

I have tried to be a good lesbian parent. I’ve exposed all of my kids to Pride marches and gay festivities since they were babies, have always dressed them in gender-crossover colors, never sex-stereotyped roles in the family, and have read them “Heather has Two Mommies” since they were old enough to understand. We belong to a church that has a Welcoming Congregation, have had a lesbian Mayor for most of their lives, live in  “Lesbianville, USA” (Northampton, MA ) according to Esquire Magazine, yet somehow we’ve raised a straight child.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against straight people. Many of my friends are straight.  I know lots of kids who are heterosexual, but I haven’t had to deal with it so personally before. My big girls went to an all-girls school, so they were barely even exposed to guys after middle school.  They never talked about boys and if they wore make-up, I didn’t notice it until they were almost graduated from high school. If there was any co-mingling with the opposite sex, it was kept secret from me and certainly not exposed to the rest of the kids. I never worried about my kids getting pregnant, but I guess I was just naive.  Now, I’ve got three more kids who are all in public schools and they are constantly associating with the opposite sex. I’m not sure I’m able to handle this- movies, boys, stylish clothes, crushes, make-up- it’s all just too much for this lesbian mom!

How did I find out? Well, plans were made with a friend to go to the movies…turns out only 2 other boys besides the two girls were going. “Is it a date?” I stupidly and slow-to-grasp this new concept asked? I got a shrug and some sort of mumble in reply.

I’m still in shock that my 12-year old daughter is a heterosexual. Although I’m sure it’s a phase.  I grew out of it.

In 7th grade, I had a crush on “Doug” who I can’t even remember his last name. It was the thing at that age to want to “go out” with a boy. I wanted to be in the cool crowd, so I set out to find one. Somehow he found out I was interested in him and we probably exchanged notes with silly sentences proclaiming our “like” to each other. Maybe I even had him circle a “yes” or “no,” to the question, “Do you want to be my boyfriend?” I don’t remember. What I do remember, vividly, and with much embarrassment, is buying some 4″ tall, white iron-on letters and putting his name “D, O, U, G” down the side of my left leg on my new jeans. How ridiculous and revealing! That romance lasted for much less time than my jeans did, and luckily the letters peeled off, but the memory still lingers.

How am I going to get through this? Are there parent support groups? Books to read? Maybe I should have her see a psychiatrist like my mother wanted me to do when she found out I was a lesbian. Or, maybe I’ll just leave her alone and let her figure it out. Luckily, she knows that we’ll love her no matter what!

Juggling Soccer Balls


When I was in my 20’s, I lived in Ithaca, NY, after graduating from college. I used to see an astrologer routinely to seek guidance during some unsettled times. He was an odd sort, this guru of the stars, and he had an uncanny way about him that was always right, no matter how hard I fought his ideas.

I remember it like yesterday, sitting at a routine “reading” of my birth chart, while he summarized where my planets were at that time in my life and what the significance was to the present as well as the ramifications for my future months and years.

“You like routine,” he said.
“Um…No. That’s kind of the opposite of me. I like spontaneity I’m a free spirit!”
“Well, that may be, but routines work for you,” he said.
I don’t remember how long I persisted in denying that fact, but the inevitability has become quite evident in the years since then.

I do like routine. I like knowing that my morning routine of making kids’ breakfasts, packing their and my own lunch box, then sending them out the door with my wife to get to school, leads into my morning workout then shower and off to work.

I like getting to work and having my time alone before customers or other staff come in and break my silence. I enjoy listening to my radio shows as I work. I look forward to the food that I’ve nicely packed, spreading it out over the 7-8 hours so that each item is savored. I also like leaving my work and coming home to my lovely family.

Boring? Maybe, but I’ve interspersed it with the many other more exciting things that I do throughout the day, week, month and year to spice it up, so it doesn’t seem boring to me.

Every once in a while, and some months more often than that, things pop up that disturb that routine. I try to roll with it for the most part, getting my primary needs met differently, but intact enough to reap the same rewards, yet sometimes that’s just not possible. Like a sick kid, perhaps, or a snowstorm, loss of electricity, a dead car battery, one of my kids who’s forgotten something important at home that they need at school, a friend in need, or a dying relative.

Routine for me is the fuel for the system that keeps my family together, so when it’s gone, the whole unit can fall apart and I can start to get grouchy.

I hurt my baby finger on my left hand this week. Why bother you with such an insignificant whiney detail? Because it’s my shift key on my keyboard. It’s the link to the whole system of my hands that keeps things flowing. It’s been out of commission most of the week and still hurts, but I wanted to put this post out, so I’m trying to teach my right hand to do it instead. Easier said than done!

On a larger scale, my wife has been gone since early Sunday morning to sit vigil with her dying sister. I know that it must sound very selfish when I say this, but we miss her here and hope for peace for Patty soon.

I have been a working parent for most of my kids lives, so I know how hard it is to juggle parenting needs with a career. What I am feeling now is probably more akin to the majority of my friends’ lives who all seem to be sharing their kids with an ex-partner and in a relationship with another person who is doing the same thing with their kids. I often point out to them that we have our kids all the time, so “NO we can’t just go out whenever we want because you’ve got nights without kids! Our kids are always here!” I’ve been through that with my two oldest girls, 4 days on, 3 days off, etc., and while that in itself became a routine, it’s not my routine now.

My system now thrives on 2 parents sharing the load. I don’t know how one parent can do all of this day after day. I do know that my kids wouldn’t all be playing on different soccer teams with 6 games a week, taking instrument lessons, playing in the band, singing in the church choir, and one a boy scout. If I were a single parent they would probably have boring afternoons in the after school program so that I could work a full day.

From the outside, my wife and I have very little in common. We share interests with the kids, but overall, we don’t share a lot of interests. I like sports, music, photography, politics, computers and all technology, cars, bikes, and social media sites like facebook. I keep us tethered to the world on a broader plane, while she does it more locally, chatting it up with parents at games, knowing all of the other kids names, and sharing the “us” as a couple and family more personally with strangers & friends. She likes to garden, has more time to cook, likes to take pictures but leaves me with the sharing and transfer of them, hates technology, never watches sports, doesn’t notice when her car is filthy, loves to talk on the phone, and can talk to just about anyone she meets! Somehow, it works, and I’d say that we’re pretty successful in making it work because we’re so different. But what we’re in sync about is our routine.

This week, not so much. While I’ve made every drop-off and pick-up on time without her help, I’ve been lucky to have help from a good friend whose children also play soccer with our kids, so driving has been easier. We are blessed to have many good friends who have been there in spirit, offered meals and help if needed, and are there for support. That is the key to a good support system and it’s the glue that holds the family together from the outside when cracks start to form.

Every person needs that glue, whether it’s family, friends, strangers, or a combination of all of those. Thank you all who have been there for us and who generously give to others in their time of need. Someday it may be you who needs the help and I will be there for you!

Sandy butts and the hands of time…

When my first child was born 22 plus years ago, I was a much “looser” parent. I know that, because I’ve been watching old movies of myself, my kids and family, and my life as it used to be, far enough ago that there are people in my videos who I barely recall. It’s a project that I have had on my “to-do” list for years, converting all of my different video formats to digital files. It’s long, tedious work, but the trip down memory lane has been quite eye-opening, to say the least.

My younger version of myself in 1991 laughed and played with my then 2 year-old daughter, not giving a care for the silty, black sand firmly ensconced on her bare cheeks and squeezed into who knows how many cavities! Naked kids are fine, and by the number of naked kid videos that we have of her, my younger self didn’t care. Watching it now, I scream in my head, “what the hell were you thinking?!”

What was I thinking? I was thinking that kids are pure, kids are clean, and fresh, and should run around naked until they just don’t want to anymore. Imagine that world? I can’t anymore.

When that same daughter was just shy of four years old in January of 1993, we had the opportunity to attend Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration. It was a family affair, and lots of pictures were taken. That was before digital cameras, when the “old-fashioned” cameras required film, which then needed developing. Soon after arriving back home from Washington, I headed to the one-hour photo at the mall to do some shopping before picking up my child up from school. Little did I know that a film technician had alerted police that a certain roll of film that he’d processed had pictures that looked suspiciously like illegal material.

Upon my arrival back at the photo shop to pick up my finished photos, I was immediately flanked by 2 plain-clothed detectives. After identifying themselves, one started flipping through my pictures in front of me, asking repeatedly, “Is this your photo?” “Did you take this photo?” Do you know who this child is in this picture?” “Yes!” “That’s my daughter,” I said.

I was asked to come down the “station.” I was allowed to drive my own car, so I navigated myself to the building. I happened to have a mobile phone, which back then was the size of a breadbox, but nevertheless, was quite handy. I called my partner and frantically explained what was happening and she immediately called our lawyer for help.

I was led into an “interrogation room,” for the first time in my life, and although I was very nervous and probably sweating profusely, I still carried my well-honed butchy swagger. I would answer your questions, I decided, but I’m not holding back any contempt towards you when I answer, I thought to myself.

I was asked whether I had taken the pictures and I said “I don’t know.” “Why don’t I know? Because I’m not the one who ALWAYS takes the pictures!” If I’m not IN the picture, well, it could be me, or it could be my partner.” “Yes, I’m in a relationship with a WOMAN! Do you have a problem with that?”

He showed me a picture, of my daughter. She was standing in the doorway of our kitchen. We kept the camera right there on the kitchen counter so that we could snap away, and obviously one of us decided to capture the moment! She was naked, had slipped her little feet into my partner’s boots, and was standing there like a little naked cowgirl. When the shot was snapped, she smiled as big as day, shook her wet curly locks, and grabbed her crotch and pulled up! High. So high that it made you look again to be sure you just saw what you thought you saw!

“Can you explain this?”

“Yes. That’s my daughter. She had just gotten out of the jacuzzi and had decided to try on her mom’s boots. She was  proud of herself and loved smiling for the camera, so obviously one of us grabbed the camera and snapped it! Why? Is there something wrong besides she obviously grabbed her crotch right when the picture was snapped? What other explanation are you posing?”

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“That’s Ann Richards. We went to an event where she was at. You know her? She’s the Governor of Texas?”
(writer’s note: I know that all of my quotations aren’t perfect, but who cares, really…)

He went on, asking me about every photo, trying to trip me up when he asked questions repeatedly. I answered in a “tone,” I’m sure. It’s the same TONE that my wife hates, and I think I finally used it in its proper place as I sneered back at him!

“Why? I mean honestly…Why would I take pictures of the President’s Inauguration, and then add a few pornographic pictures at the end? And WHY, would I come to the mall and have them developed by some technicians? If I really wanted to be into that business, I think I’d be smart enough to either have a photo lab person who I trusted wouldn’t squeal to the cops, or I’d develop them myself!” I continued to answer his stupid questions…

“No, officer, I do not let my child wander the house with her hands in her “vaginal area,” and if we were to be precise, I would call it a “labia” (I did say that in my inside the body voice because I could tell he was pretty uptight) ” We have a policy that if she wants to touch herself, she can do it in her room where we don’t have to see it!” “No, that wasn’t one of those times. This was a spontaneous act!”

He then went on to tell me that he had 10 kids and “None of them did things like that!” To which I said, “I’m sure that they do. All kids touch themselves. If you spent more time with your kids you might actually see that, so don’t tell me my kid is some kind of anomaly!”

I realize I’m using a LOT of exclamation points now, and trust me, it was an exclamatory day!
How dare anyone accuse me of something like that? What? Taking a picture?

The lawyer finally called, told me not to talk to them anymore, and I left. They didn’t have a charge per se, but they were putting the incident in for an “investigation”. The State Police became involved. It was a scary time. We could only think in worst case scenarios. We had a baby then as well, who was just 16 months old. We grabbed them both up and took off to a hotel for the night. Our lawyer updated us daily, and after 2 weeks, several outside investigative visits and a $1000 legal bill, we were cleared. But our case was put on “probation,” meaning that we needed to not come up on the system again for at least a year.

Standard procedure? I don’t know. Am I more cynical now? For sure. I know that from that time on, I have been a changed person. I think that we all have been changed little by little over time. I know that I am more fearful than I used to be and I am less and less trusting. I don’t take naked pictures of my kids anymore. Afterwards, my friend, who wrote for the local newspaper, wrote a feature on our story and I heard parents everywhere talking about it. Most of them were saying that they had “TONS” of pictures of their kids naked! The world we lived in as children is not the same as it is for our children or will be for their children. Time changes things. Years go by and life goes on and we adapt. We change.

I worked at an event last Saturday. It was an event for LGBTQ and the rest of the alphabet if they wanted to join us! We had a great time, good food, entertainment, and the weather held up well, but one surprising point was when a well-known elder in the lesbian community came up to me and introduced herself. It was a woman named Alix Dobkin, one of the revolutionary lesbian-feminist songwriters who debuted in the 1960’s, when I was just born. She wanted me to be sure to know about the “Old Lesbians Organizing for Change” group, and that they would love to have a chapter opened in the Northampton area. I think she must have asked someone about me- my gray hair, my radio headset on (I was working the event), my “take-charge” look – and focused in on me as a new recruit for the group. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to do. I thanked her, smiled, smiled again just to be sure she saw it (because I know I’m pretty limited in the number of them that I’m willing to give out on a daily basis), and I tucked the cards into my back pocket. I tucked the memory into that bin I keep of stories to tell the wife when I got home. Can you believe her calling me an “old lesbian?!” When I googled the group, it was for over age 60 lesbians! I just hit 50 a little over a year ago so don’t rush me! Who thought up that gem of a name for the group, anyway?

I’m not willing to be “old” yet. I will call myself “experienced,” “mature,” I don’t mind “wise,” or “super,” or “cool,” or “super-cool.” I’ve been “awesome” on occasion, and I like “interesting, smart, but “old?” “Old and lesbian” together? Sure, time has passed since that reddish dirty-blonde hair of mine was showing all over, but if I were to start an uprising, it would be more aptly called, “The Raging Hormones” than a name that has the word “old” in it!

Sure, I’ll admit it, the hands of time can be cruel and challenging, and just when you think you’ve got as much as you can handle on your plate, here comes another helping. My life, and all of the lives of friends I know, have gotten more complicated over these years in many ways which I think has created a feeling that often resembles a top spinning out of control. Some people resort to drinking or drugs, or sex, or other forms of addiction. Some folks seek medical help and subscribe to the more acceptable forms of control like anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or other prescription drugs.

I often think about the people in countries like Libya who have spearheaded uprisings in their country. I wonder if they have the availability like we do for the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that impact and if not, if anyone ever will.

I believe my “fiery” energy is here for a reason. It’s here to ignite ideas, creativity, fluidity, movement – life! If I let the anxiety or depression win, then I’m resorting to something that will suppress it. That may work for depression, but sometimes anxiety is telling us something, telling us that we need to channel that energy into something positive!

I heard a line used on the radio last week by Thom Hartman, one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard on talk radio. He asked a guest on his show, “what’s the opposite of love?” His guest answered, “hate.” No, said Thom, a wise person once said, “the opposite of love, is apathy.”

Here’s to love, happiness, and more time for fiery energy!

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