Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday, Monday, can't trust that day

Let me start by saying that I think that bitching about Mondays, or doing something like responding to a "how are you" with something like, "well, I'm alive, which is all I can ask on a Monday," irritates the crap out of me. It's boring and demonstrates an utter lack of imagination or conversation skills. You will never hear me say anything in the neighborhood of "someone's got a case of the Mondays!"

Image result for someone got a case of the mondays gif

But good lord, today tested that.

My kids had a hard time falling asleep and thus had a hard time getting up and so the morning routine was a lot of "pleeeaaase, Mamaaaaaa ... five more minutes....." while I ran around getting them clothes and breakfast and then herding them out the door. I take great pride in the fact I pulled up to the school exactly as the bell was ringing.

In the meantime, I inadvertently outed myself to Zeke as the tooth fairy. He pulled out a loose tooth last night after I had fallen asleep. He came and showed me and told me about it, but I was half asleep during the conversation and went back to bed and promptly forgot about it. So when he woke up this morning and saw that his tooth was still under his pillow, he was all bummed, and I blurted out, "oh, honey, I'm so sorry, I forgot!"

D'oh!

"Mama, what do you mean? Is the tooth fairy not real? Is it parents?"

"Weeeeellll...." I sighed. "Did you really still believe in her?"

He's almost 10, for God's sake. I don't think I believed in the tooth fairy past the age of 5.

He shrugged, but looked defeated.

I'm an asshole.

Anyway, after dropping the kids off, I parked at home and got ready to catch the bus to work (I didn't have time to walk). But couldn't find the little plastic sleeve that holds my bus pass, my work ID, and my magnetized pass for my office building that lets me into our suite without a key.

I always place it in one of two places when I get home from work. It was in neither of those places. It wasn't in my bedroom, the bathroom, the laundry room, under furniture, on a bookshelf, in the kitchen, in any of my purses, in the pockets of any of my jackets, or in the car. I looked everywhere a million times and couldn't find it.

Meaning that I had to scrounge around to find exact change for the bus. I rarely have cash or exact change for anything. But after going through various baskets and junk drawers and old purses and the bottom of my backpack, I had $2.60 to get to work.

I walked outside, locking the door behind me.

"Shit, I forgot my coffee mug," I thought.

And then realized, as I headed back to the house, that I had locked my keys inside. And I had given the spare key to the cat sitter that I hired yesterday to take care of Scooby while we're in California for spring break.

At least I still had my phone. So I texted the cat sitter and asked her to please leave the key I had given her in the hiding spot so that I could get into the house later.

I went to work and began the process of replacing my various ID badges and my bus pass.

The building was able to issue me a new badge within minutes. But it cost $10 to replace it, so I was going to get some cash at the ATM.

But my wallet wasn't in my purse where I was sure I had put it.  The same wallet I had lost skiing at Vail a few weeks ago, so I had just gone through the hassle of replacing my driver's license and all of my cards.

And in addition to needing cash to get my passes replaced, I had a waxing appointment at noon, and I doubt my waxing lady would have been ok with an IOU.

At this point, I felt like I was losing my fucking mind. The thought of having to cancel and replace my cards again and show up at the DMV at 7 in the morning to replace my driver's license again was almost more than I could bear.

I scrounged around my office and managed to find another $2.60 to take the bus home.  The cat sitter hadn't been by yet, but then I remembered my neighbor has a key, and she happened to be home, so I got into the house. My keys and my wallet were sitting on the table.

I went to ATM at the market up the block to get cash, including money for bus fare.  But the ATM was broken.  So I went back home and went through couch cushions and coat pockets and found another $2.60 and took the bus back to work.

Finally, I got my building pass, went up to the state general services office for a new work ID, and then got the bus pass replaced.

Then I went and got waxed (the first of the spring - bathing suit season is approaching). It hurt.

So really, all is well and everything was fixable. Except the tooth fairy part. But he'll survive, right?

Long story short - holy shit, what a Monday morning.


Friday, March 17, 2017

I'll have what she's having

At first glance, I thought she was drinking out of a wine glass.

I was in the elevator at work at the end of the day, sharing a ride down to the lobby with a woman who looked to be about my age, maybe a few years older.  Turns out she was drinking water our of a clear water bottle, but for whatever reason - the way the light hit the water, who knows? - my eyes had played tricks on me at first.

Making conversation, I told her about my initial confusion. She laughed uproariously, and we had good chuckle as we walked out into the lobby together.

"Now, if it were Friday, you might be on to something!" she exclaimed.

"I hear you," I said. "Keep a flask in your bag to start the weekend early."

"Exactly. If it were Friday I'd be getting drunk."

I am not one to either "start the weekend early" in such a manner, nor do I generally drink on Friday nights, but again, I was making conversation.

"You know who has a great happy hour around here?" she continued. "That Lime place."

"Oh, you mean that Mexican place up by the movie theater? Yeah, I've been there. They have good margaritas," I recalled.

We headed out of the building and down the escalator to the street.

"Their drinks are strong!" she said.

"You know, I've only been there once, but I remember thinking that. You definitely get some bang for your buck."

"Yeah, that's not something I'm going to complain about, but I definitely noticed it."

I nodded in agreement.

She went on, "I was there last weekend with some folks after work. I got totally fucked up. Fell down and hurt my hip."

Why do complete strangers tell me things like this?

"Oh, that's terrible! Sounds paintful!" I responded.

"Yeah, I threw up. Pissed on myself and everything."

At this point I didn't have anything to say but "oooooh..."

"Yeah, but the guy still wanted to go home with me.  Well, bye! Have a good night!"

Indeed.





Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Stabbing monsters and dancing around poles on a perfect Colorado day


"Mama, are you still the 20 year old surfer chick named Tammy?"

Josie grinned up at me, a cheerful little Easter egg in her purple helmet, turquoise jacket, royal blue pants, and bright pink mittens.

We were at the top of the Strawberry Park Express Lift at Beaver Creek, getting ready to take one more run down the mountain before calling it a day.

And it had been an amazing day.

I had the kids for the weekend and the weather in the mountains was forecast to be beautiful, so I decided to take them skiing. They were excited to go, but they wanted me to teach them how to use poles.

I had been reluctant to teach them for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not a ski instructor. Second, I'm their mother. It is a truth universally acknowledged that children learning a new skill should learn from someone other than a parent. They're going to listen better - and have more fun - learning from some 25-year-old stoner named Tristan than from mom or dad.

But they really really really *please mama please* wanted to learn how to use poles, and ski lessons are expensive, and I figured I could give them the basics if they were willing to listen to me and not be all, "OKAY I HEARD YOU I'M DOING IT LEAVE ME ALONE!!" as they careened down the mountain doing the opposite of what I had instructed.

I decided that an alternate persona was in order.

"All right," I told them. "I will get you poles and teach you how to use them."

"YAAAAYYY!!"

"BUT..."

"What?"

"But we are going to treat this like a proper lesson. I am your ski instructor and I'm going to teach you what to do, and you are going to listen to me, do you understand? No arguing with me."

"Yes, Mama."

"And in order for it to be a proper ski lesson, I'm not going to be Mama."

"Who are you going to be?" They were intrigued.

"I'm a 20-year-old surfer chick named Tammy. I'm spending the winter in Colorado as a ski instructor so I can make money to go surfing in Tahiti this summer."

"If you're a surfer, wouldn't it make more sense to be a snowboarding instructor?" Zeke asked.  They were already buying into the concept.

"Perhaps," I responded. "But I happen to ski as well as snowboard, so this winter I decided to teach skiing."

He shrugged agreeably.

We went to a ski rental place and got some poles for them. Places like that order cheap poles in bulk and include them in a ski rental package, so if you're going in just needing some poles, they will often give them to you for free or for a nominal charge.

The guy said, "sure, 'rent' the poles for the weekend. No problem."

"How much is it?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing, don't worry about it."

"Wow, that's great. Thank you! Do you need my name or contact info?"

"No."

"When do you need them back?"

"Whenever."

See what I mean?

It turned out the hardest part about skiing with poles was not losing them.

We parked and caught the shuttle bus to the lift. After we got off the bus and were buckling our boots and putting on mittens and such, Zeke said, "OH NO!!"

"What happened?"

"I left my poles on the bus."

"Oh for God's sake, Zeke."

"There's a rental place right there. Let's go get some more."

So we got some more. The guy charged me $5.

Later, Josie dropped one of her poles getting on the lift.  The liftie gave it to a guy on the chair behind us so he could give to us at the top. After having lunch, when we went outside to retrieve our gear, Zeke got confused about which poles were his and almost took the wrong ones.

Chair lift selfie. Miraculously, we all have our poles.
But the lesson itself went swimmingly. Skiingly?

"What's my name?"

"Tammy!"

"OK, kiddos. Here's what you do..."

And I showed them how to hold their arms out and to use the poles to guide their turns.

"Just kiss the tip of the pole to the snow..."

They followed my line down the hill, giggling and kissing.

"Mwah! Mwah!"

They thought it was hysterical. But they learned to do it properly,

Borrowing a trick from my friend Christin, I explained how to use poles on moguls.

"Pretend the top of the bump is the eye of an evil monster. You need to get around the monster, and in order to kill it, you need to stab it in the eye. So as you're going down, reach forward, stab your pole into the monster's eye, and then ski around it."

Zeke practiced a few times and proceeded to bomb down a black mogul run, woohoo-ing all the way.

"I think I nailed that one," he told me afterwards.

We used a different idea on steep groomers. Josie and I were at the top of a run with a pretty intense pitch, and she was nervous.

"Mamaaaaa..." 

Her voice wavered.

"I'm not Mama. I'm Tammy, remember?"

That made her laugh.

"You're going to do fine. Touch the pole to the snow and turn around it. Just dance around the pole. I'll be next to you the whole time, doing the same thing."

She took a deep breath, pointed her skis down the hill, and did exactly what I told her.

By the end of the day, she and Zeke were zipping through the trees, doing little jumps, and shaking their butts with glee as we explored the different parts of the mountain. Zeke even tried some tricks in the terrain park.

Blue skies, perfect temperatures, and beautiful vistas. And for some reason, Josie insisted on holding her poles up over her head like that every time I took her picture.
Finally, they were ready to go home.

"Mama, are you still the 20-year-old surfer chick named Tammy?"

"Yep, for a few more minutes," I answered.

"Well, Tammy, you're a good teacher."

"Thanks, chicklet. Let's head on down and you can show me your stuff."

We drove home, tired and happy, ready to call me "Mama" again.


Friday, March 03, 2017

A Jewish kid with a rosary walks into a bar...

I get a lot of phone calls from my mother while she's in various business class lounges in airports around the world. The other day it was from Melbourne, as she was getting ready to board a plane that would finally bring her back stateside after a two-week jaunt confabbing about international adoption through various countries in southeast Asia and Oceania.

I was relaying to her the email I got from Zeke's teacher about the difficulties he's having in school. Not with the content or curriculum, but with behaving. He's been defiant, argumentative, occasionally destructive (not majorly, but doing stupid shit like breaking pencils and ripping up assignments when he's pissed off), doesn't always focus on his work and is lazy about finishing it, and it's affecting his grades.

It's obviously very upsetting to me on a number of levels - I hate that he's having a hard time, I hate that he's being a dick to his teacher, who is really good with him. I also find it utterly bewildering. As a child (and throughout my entire educational career, actually), my self-worth and self-identification were very much immersed in living up to the expectations that my parents and my teachers had for me. I was lauded for being smart and good, for the teacher's plaudits during parent-teacher conferences that "she's such a pleasure to have in class," and I basked in that praise like a flower rotating to catch the rays of the sun. The notion of angrily rejecting a teacher's demands, or of not working hard enough to get good grades, was anathema to me. I would have sooner drunk a bottle of Windex than disappoint anyone.

But my son. My dear sweet, bright, exuberant, difficult son. My son who is so much more emotionally fragile than his sister or I are, with his mood swings and overdeveloped sense of righteousness. Lately he seems immune to such concerns.

The latest incident involved a rosary that he was wearing around his neck. He would get fidgety in class and take it off and start swinging it around, annoying the shit out of everyone in the vicinity and disrupting the teacher's ability to maintain order and keep everyone focused on their work.

He was repeatedly asked to stop. He didn't stop. He was told that if he didn't stop, the rosary would be taken away. He refused to hand it over. He was told to either hand it over or miss recess. He opted to miss recess. He yelled at his classmates and broke pencils and ripped papers and at one point when they were outside, took off his shoes and threw them at the wall.

The teacher gave him space to cool off, and he did. She then told him that he needed to write a letter of apology reflecting on his behavior, identifying different choices he could have made, and expressing contrition. He refused to do it in school, so he was told he could do it at home.

That's what prompted the email to me - she wanted to tell me what happened, but also ask for my support in making sure the letter was written. I told her that of course I would make sure it got done.

"Another thing I couldn't figure out is why the hell he was wearing a rosary, given that he's Jewish," I told my mom.

"Where would he have gotten it?" she asked.

"No idea."

"So what are you going to do?"

I sighed. "Make sure he writes the letter. Talk to him about what's going on with him, figure out if there's something bigger that's upsetting him."

"Oh, my poor Zekey," she said. "I hate that he's going through this."

"Me too. But I'll tell you what, that behavior is absolutely unacceptable. Whatever he may be dealing with emotionally, he can't act that way in school. He and I are going to sit down and have a real 'come-to-Jesus.'"

"Absolutely. Particularly if he's wearing a rosary."


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

It's all Greek to me

Growing up the way I did, my family and I were immersed in other cultures. We experienced non-American holidays. We traveled to far away places. We had friends from all over.  We learned languages.

My first language was Greek, though I don't remember any of it anymore. I still speak Spanish and though I was conversational in Hebrew when we lived in Israel during my early teens, I haven't retained it at all except for a few words (but I can still read it, oddly enough). 

My dad is also pretty good at languages, and he still speaks some Greek and Spanish. 

My dad is, shall we say, not a shy, retiring type. He is gregarious and talkative and likes to connect with people. He is a congregant in the church of finding common ground - you know that guy? He's a friend of mine! You're from that place? Hey, I've been there! You're Salvadoran? Let me speak to you in your language!

It's a wonderful quality. I am a sociable person, but it's not in my nature to strike up a conversation with strangers wherever I go. It makes me feel intrusive. My father, on the other hand, is more of a hail-fellow-well-met, unencumbered by an overdeveloped sense of embarrassment.

We like to go to Greek diners. There's one near my parents' house in Virginia that we go to for breakfast every Thanksgiving after the SOME Trot for Hunger. There are many near where I live, owned by a Greek guy who has a bunch of local diners and restaurants. We hit them up when we are all in New York City together.

And every damned time, my dad walks in and starts speaking Greek with the waiter, or the hostess, or the busboy, or whomever we happen to encounter. And almost every damned time, the person is from Guatemala or Minnesota or Long Island, and they have no fucking idea what he's talking about. 

My dad shrugs it off. It makes my brothers and me cringe. 

This past weekend I went to a play with my friend Christen, and we had dinner at a Mexican place beforehand. 

Our waiter was a young black-haired, olive-skinned guy who spoke with what sounded like a Hispanic accent. Denver has a large Hispanic community. We were in a Mexican restaurant. I felt like it wasn't a stretch to assume that he spoke Spanish.

When Christen ordered the chile relleno, the waiter asked if she wanted it crispy.

Bouncing with certainty and confidence, I asked, "como se dice "crispy" en espaƱol?"

He scowled at me and barked, "I have no idea."  I recoiled like a toddler who reaches for that second cookie, only to have her hand unceremoniously slapped away.

This is why I don't talk to strangers.

And apparently, I have become my father. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

There's no time to cry, happy happy

Inevitably, I had another birthday last week.

Though I am long past the age when I get excited about birthdays, it was a lovely day, full of birthday wishes from family and friends near and far. My mother called me from the airport lounge in Abu Dhabi to tell me the story of the day I was born, and even though I have heard the story a million times (or more accurately, about 42 times - I doubt she was telling me the story before the age of 5 or so, but who knows?). I actually learned something new - apparently, even as late as one day before I was born, and when my mother was already in active labor, she and my dad hadn't discussed names for me. If I was a boy, my dad was a big fan of Irish names - Kevin, Seamus, that sort of thing. But they didn't have any names picked out for a girl.

"What about Irish girl names, like Siobhan or something like that?" I asked.

"We wouldn't have known how to spell them," she responded.

They ultimately settled on Wendy, because - and this part I did know - my mom liked Peter Pan (the show) and thought it would be nice to have a "Wendy Darling" of her own.

What was cool about my birthday this year was the gift from my parents - a trip to New York to see Hamilton on Broadway.

I remember hearing a couple of years ago that there was a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton. It struck me as odd, and an implausible story for a good musical. But it kept gaining traction in the cultural conversation. Friends kept saying, "you've GOT to listen to the soundtrack. It's so, so good."

I pulled up the album on Spotify and started listening to it as I drove from DC to Charlottesville for my reunion last summer. And I didn't stop listening to it for about four months. And continued to listening to it periodically after that. I still do. I love it that much. I know all the lyrics and, except for not being able to rap as fast as Daveed Diggs, I can sing along with the entire soundtrack. It really is that good.

So it was amazing to see it on Broadway, and to spend time with my family. I love New York.

And now I'm home and dealing with being 47. Generally, I feel good. I'm healthy and strong, both mentally and physically. Except for a few more lines around my eyes, I don't look or feel much different than I did when I was in my 30s. But it feels weird to be officially in my late 40s. As my brother Sam said, "fuck, you're old."

Dude, tell me about it.

The only thing that really bothers me about it is in the dating world. Men, including men in their 50s who have no business being too choosy, tend to use the age of 45 as an arbitrary cut-off in the women they are looking for. Like I'm a carton of milk that's been left sitting in the fridge, well past the sell-by date.  It annoys the shit out of me - it's not like these guys are George fucking Clooney.

But there's nothing I can do except continue to be optimistic. So I am.


Thursday, February 02, 2017

What's new, pussycat?

Occasionally, it gets really cold in Colorado.

This may seem like a statement by Captain Obvious, but the weather in Denver is actually pretty mild, even in the winter. We get occasional patches of insanely cold temperatures, when the high is in the single digits (Fahrenheit, that is, so well below freezing), but most days in the winter the highs are in the 40s.

Anyway, when we get these superduper cold stretches, cute little mice make their way into my ancient house to keep warm. They are small and unobtrusive. We only see one or two. They seem harmless.

But still, they're mice, and I don't want them in my house.

So last week when it was freezing and the kids and I saw a mouse running under the couch in the living room, I said that I was going to get some traps or poison and get rid of them.

Josie immediately burst into tears. She loves the mice, thinks they're adorable, and wants to give them names. If she thinks there are mice downstairs, she'll descend from upstairs slowly so as not to startle them.

To memorialize the extent of her determined opposition, she went to my desk and started writing me notes.


I asked, "what about traps that don't kill the mice, but just enclose them so we can release them outside?"

"NO! I don't want them to be cold."

Sigh.

I posted about this exchange on Facebook, and after many suggestions from friends, I decided that the thing to do would be to get a cat.

I have never been a cat person. I don't hate them or anything, but I grew up with dogs and I love them and I understand them. I like my pets to be demonstrative and loving - big, dumb, slobbery and affectionate (like my men, right ladies?).

But the kids have been clamoring for a pet, and while I love dogs, I don't have the energy to take care of one right now. So a cat seemed to satisfy multiple needs - the kids' desire for an animal in the house, and my desire to deter mice from coming into the house, in a way that won't incur the wrath and disapproval of my daughter.

I don't know where to start, though. How does one pick out a cat? They're notoriously aloof, so how do you know which one to get?

I contacted a cat-owning friend of mine with these questions. He laughed at me.

"Are you picking out a cat or a Bengal tiger? The truth is, you don't really know what you're going to get. Go to the shelter, interact with a few of them, get the one you like, and hope for the best." He gave me pointers on litter and litter boxes, and the importance of having a bottle to spray water on the cat if it does something it shouldn't.

Friday night I went to Pet Smart and bought all the supplies. Saturday morning I went to the Dumb Friends League to pick out a cat. The nice lady sent me back to one of their big rooms where, she said, some of their friendlier, more mellow cats hang out. I walked in and was immediately drawn to this one:


I thought he was beautiful, and he was hanging out, purring and letting me scratch his head, leaning into my hand as I did so. I asked some of the volunteers about him, and they raved about how sweet and affectionate he is.

So I decided, "yep, he's the one." His name is Scooby (which is kind of a dumb name, so the kids and I are thinking of a new one - I don't get the sense that he gives a shit one way or the other). He's a year old. He was adopted and then returned to the shelter because the lady didn't like the fact that he's so affectionate.

After taking a day to wander around the house and get a sense of his surroundings, he has settled right in. He's lovely and likes to lie with his head in my hand. Occasionally he'll do something very cat-ish, like I'll move my arm an inch and he'll jump up and bolt out of the room, but I find it hilarious and charming.


He uses the litter box and behaves himself. I can leave the house and go skiing for a day, and I don't have to worry about him. As a former dog owner, this blows my mind.

And holy shit, the kids ADORE him. Like, Zeke couldn't go to sleep until after midnight last night because he was so pumped about the cat. We were late for school this morning because I couldn't get them to focus on getting dressed rather than on the cat.

"Mama, I can't focus on my clothes! I'm focusing on Scooby! He's so cute!" Josie gushed.

Plus I haven't seen a mouse since he arrived on the scene.

I kind of love him.


Monday, January 23, 2017

How many people can you cram into an SUV, and other lessons I try to teach my children

Being a parent, especially a single parent, is hard.

And I don't really mean the day-to-day part of it. That can be hectic, and often I feel like I'm lurching from task to task in my efforts to keep my children's world (and my own) spinning, and not doing any of it particularly well. But complaining about stuff like that is boring, and for the most part I've got it down. I have a steady job and a roof over my head and I don't worry about keeping the kids fed or clothed or safe - in the grand scheme of things, my life is easy.

But I worry about making sure they grow up to be good people.

Different parents have different approaches to this. The kids' dad is more of a disciplinarian than I am - the rules at his house are very strict. There are bright lines drawn and time-outs meted out for crossing them. And I don't have a problem with that. The kids bristle at it sometimes, but there are worse things in the world than learning how to follow certain rules.

But that kind of regimentation has never been my style. It's not how I was raised, and as a result, trying to set up a system of tokens or rewards and sticker charts and the like - in addition to being a pain in the ass - feels foreign to me.

Instead, I do what my parents did - I shower them with love and affection and hugs and kisses and snuggles, while maintaining certain baseline expectations for behavior and rules pertaining to safety and manners and decency. Some of it is practical in nature - brush your teeth, wash your body, flush the toilet, put your clothes in the laundry hamper, put your shoes in the shoe basket, put your dishes in the dishwasher, wear your seatbelt, don't juggle knives - but most of it is big-picture stuff that boils down to "don't be an asshole."

I firmly believe that if everyone adopted that as their mantra, the world would be a great place.

I talk to the kids a great deal about kindness. I tell them all the time that I want them to be smart and accomplished and to get good grades and be good at sports and all of that, but what I want more than anything for them is to be kind. To have benevolent, generous instincts towards other people. They have it drilled into their heads that there is nothing they could do to upset me more than to be a bully. I talk to them about the importance of sticking up for kids who are being picked on, or who might not be able to defend themselves.  I've even done role-playing exercises with them, practicing how to respond to people who are picking on them or someone else.

And when they are bickering, my admonishment is two parts "quit fighting over dumb stuff" and one part "be kind to each other." In the moment, they usually keep fighting over stupid shit, like whose head is taking up too much room on the center armrest/cupholder in the back seat of the car when they're trying to grab some extra sleep as we drive to the mountains at the crack of dawn.

"Josie, quit moving your head so it bumps against mine!"

"I'M NOT DOING ANYTHING!"

"CUT IT OUT! YOU'RE DOING IT ON PURPOSE!"

"NO I'M NOT I'M NOT I'M NOT! MAMAAAAAAA!"

"Guys, why are you fighting about this? Switch positions so your heads aren't touching! And be kind to each other - you're both tired, try to recognize that and be gentle with each other!"

Eventually they settle down. And it doesn't feel like it right then, but my hope is that some of the "be kind" message sinks in, bit by bit.

And I think it does. I was talking to Zeke's teacher last week, and she was telling me that there is a child with a disability in their class and that Zeke is incredibly sweet to him - he always offers to help the boy out and makes an effort to include him in class discussions and activities. Similarly, Josie is jokingly referred to as "Mama Jo" by her teacher, because of her maternal way of trying to take care of her friends.

Hearing this makes me proud, and gratified that maybe I'm doing an OK job.

We've had lots of conversations about kindness and respect and tolerance in the aftermath of the election. And Zeke's class is learning about the civil rights movement, so we've talked about racism and equality and the politics of both. When I told them that we were going to participate in the women's march in Denver, they were excited but unsure of what it was all about.

"What does Trump do that's bad against women?" Zeke asked.

"Well, he has a history of not respecting women, and many of the things that he wants to do as president aren't good for women."

He burst into tears.

"Honey, why are you crying?!"

"I don't want bad things to happen to you because you're a woman!" he wailed.

He really is a big marshmallow.

I assured him that I would be fine, but that we needed to speak out to protect not only the rights of women, but the rights of everyone to be themselves, no matter what color or religion or ethnicity or sexual orientation. He and Josie were on board.

We made our signs. I knitted pussy hats for everyone. We met up with some other families from the neighborhood and headed to the march, along with nearly 200,000 other like-minded folks. When the buses were so packed that they wouldn't even stop to pick us up, and the Uber rates were through the roof because of the demand, we loaded everyone into an SUV and drove downtown, taking care to keep the windows up so as not to attract attention from the police.



All the kids were adorable with their signs. We explained to them that in marching for equality and freedom, we were participating in a sacred American tradition - that we are fortunate to say what we believe, even if it means criticizing the president. My kids were a little bit cold, which made them grumpy, but I think they appreciated the experience.

When, after marching for about an hour, we went to the library to get out of the chill, Josie said she wanted to check out books about American history. I considered it a win.

Cold, grumpy Josie


My hope is that if I'm doing anything right as a parent, it's teaching them about kindness and decency and tolerance and sticking up for what's right.

And also that if you're in a jam, need to get a group of people downtown, and have a big SUV with a third row in the back, you can fit 13 people in there, no problem.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My version of eating my feelings

For the second year in a row, the feast-or-famine nature of my holiday custody arrangement - having the kids for a week over Thanksgiving but then not seeing them for 8 days from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day - has hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know why I didn't remember how hard it was to spend over a week without the kids, without close family at hand, at a time when everyone I know is well ensconced in their own holiday traditions, whether here or out of town.

I don't have difficulty being alone, but under these circumstances, it feels lonely.

I do my best to fill the time.

I took a ski lesson on Christmas day that was really transformative. In the seven years since Josie was born, I've skied with enough regularity and determination that I have gotten relatively decent, but felt like I had hit a wall when it came to being comfortable and proficient on more difficult terrain. With a few pointers from my instructor - and lots of falling down as I tried to retrain my body and brain and shed years of muscle memory - I made a breakthrough that was exhilarating and empowering. By the end of the day, I was skiing terrain that previously would have left me frustrated and in tears.

The rest of the time, I did laundry and cleaned and binge-watched shows that were buzzy. I lit the Hannukah candles. I read a book. I cooked.

I tend to be lazy about cooking and eating. I can cook like a champ when I want to, but when I'm just cooking for myself, it's hard to get worked up about doing anything interesting. But I found myself watching TV and movies that centered on cooking and food - Top Chef, The Hundred Foot Journey, Waitress, and one of my favorites, Jon Favreau's Chef - and felt inspired.

This is not unusual for me. After watching Big Night years ago, I got a wild hair and, along with my friend Karen, hosted a dinner party that featured dishes from the movie - we spent 10 hours cooking, including making tri-colored risotto in the colors of the Italian flag, and this amazing dish called timpano, which is a giant pastry filled with layers and layers of pasta and eggs and meatballs and sausage.

My efforts this past weekend were more modest. I was tired and hungry after a day of hard skiing in the cold and wind, and I wanted some comfort food. So I made pasta aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) inspired by this scene from Chef.

 

It was delicious and comforting. But I wasn't eating it while being seduced by anyone, or while seducing anyone myself. I wasn't cooking for friends or family.

I was by myself. And it's just not the same.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

If you can't have perfect recall, this is a good substitute

A few weeks ago, I went out on a date with a guy who has a form of Superior Autobiographical Memory. He has the ability to remember everything that has ever happened to him in vivid visual detail, to the point that he was the subject of psychological studies when he was younger. The way he described it, he can't get the recall from simply naming a date, but if he is talking about an event he can see it in perfect detail, as if he were reliving it.

I found it interesting, but it also made him almost impossible to have a normal conversation with. I spent an hour and a half talking to him and never got the answer to the simple question, "so what brought you to Denver from Tennessee" because the answer started with, "well, it started 26 years ago when I was cut by the Dallas Cowboys"  - wait, what?? - and meandered and meandered until I finally got so confused that I just gave up.

Anyway, I wasn't interested in going out with him again, but I was fascinated by his description of how his memory works. He said, "even if I never see you again, I will always be able to remember, in perfect detail, the expression on your face, the earrings you are wearing, the shape of your eyes, the color of your jacket, the music that is playing right now."  Everything that happens to him, he carries with him, intact and presumably, forever.

That kind of recall may be a double-edged sword - for this guy, it makes it impossible for him to have any kind of normal conversation that proceeds in anything resembling a linear fashion, because everything he says triggers another memory that he gets caught up in. But it could also be really useful and rewarding.

I hate forgetting things. It's like a small death, losing a part of yourself.

I bring this up because I was talking to my New York reunion friends about singing in the cabaret bar (specifically, I was recounting that Zeke watched the video and his first question was, "were you drunk?"), and they remarked that they were surprised that in writing about it, I had only posted a screen shot of me singing by the piano, rather than the video itself.

My thinking was that I use this blog to write about things that happen to me, but I don't tend to use it as just a diary. I want the writing to be good, and when I write about something, I want it to resonate beyond, "oh, this happened." So I explained that when I wrote the last post, I didn't post the video because it felt self-indulgent -- I didn't want the post to be all about me, but rather about all of us and that feeling of reconnecting with people who have known you forever and with whom you feel like you're home.

Y'all know how much I like reunions.

Anyway, they were all, yeah yeah that's so thoughtful whatever who cares, just post all the rest of the shit that happened, including the video, because it was awesome and because if we record it for posterity, we hold on to it more easily. As Marney put it, "I am hoping [you] will document all of the silliness that I wish to remember."

So in the absence of actually possessing Superior Autobiographical Memory, I will use this blog as a substitute. And I will also adopt Laura's suggestion, when I said that I needed to figure out a way to write it well, to recount our adventures as "New York by the Numbers..."  

So here goes:
  • At least 80% - Chance, by Marney's estimation, that the AirBnb was bullshit and we would have no place to stay 
The weekend took shape very quickly. We made the decision back in September to plan an NYC girls' trip, and within two days we had picked a weekend, I had made a reservation for a place on AirBnb, and I had bought my plane ticket.  

The week before we were going, we saw an article in the New York Times about how it was illegal in New York City to do short-term apartment rentals via AirBnb. So I emailed the owner, a "person" named "Cam," to make sure we were still on. "She" didn't respond to my questions about whether the entire endeavor was illegal, but assured me that all was well and gave me the instructions for getting into the apartment: go to the deli around the corner, ask for "Maria," who has the key to the front door, and then once inside, use the combination on the keypad to get into the apartment.

Marney, who had a strong feeling that we were the victims of a big scam, arrived in the city first, so she was in charge of getting the key and getting into the apartment. But when she went to the deli and asked for "Maria," she was told that there was no "Maria" and nobody had a key or could help us. 

FUUUUUCCKKK.

Ever resourceful, she went back to the building, followed in someone who either had a key or who had buzzed in, and went up to the apartment. The cleaning people were there, and they gave her a key. So in the end, it worked out.

But still, super shady. She could have been anyone - the cleaning people didn't ask for ID or anything like that; they just handed over the key. And there were signs all over the apartment to the effect of, "if you run into any neighbors, just act like you're friends with the owner and are visiting them or borrowing the apartment." By the end of the weekend, we were convinced that "Cam" and "Maria" didn't exist, and that Cam's name and picture on the website were just a front for a group of mobsters who owned a bunch of New York apartments and illegally rented them out.

  • 130 - The number of U.S. dollars each of us paid to stay for a weekend in the New York City Shangri-La
I chose the apartment because it seemed clean, was in a fun location, had enough bed space of all of us, and was inexpensive. (In my defense, I was trying to not spend a fortune on a place I knew we weren't going to spend much time in except for sleeping, but I wasn't trying to be that cheap - when I made the reservation, I thought there would only be 3 or 4 of us instead of 6.) 

While I was flying in and still in the air, I discovered that while I was connected to United's inflight wifi service, iMessage worked on my phone so I was able to send and receive text messages.  Which kind of weirded me out, but it was fun to communicate with everyone from 35,000 feet.
"How's the place?"
"Not the ritz"
"Slightly reminiscent of a place we might've rented in Myrtle [Beach]..."
In other words, the Shangri La. Where, undoubtedly, 10 people were crammed into a motel room that probably slept 4 comfortably, during the week between finals and graduation.

It was basically a windowless box that felt dark and kind of depressing, but it was clean and had room for all of us if we bunked up together like we were at camp. The big downer was that there was no blender, so we drank our margs on the rocks rather than blended.

The primitive accommodations made it all the more awesome. Yes, we're in our 40s and can certainly afford something slightly more upscale, but it was clean and functional and the Shangri-La-ness added to the overall color of the weekend. And shit, you couldn't beat the price.

  • 6 - number of grown-ass women who stuck their hands inside the toilet tank at the Shangri-La to flush it, because the flusher/handle was broken when they arrived.  But shit, you couldn't beat the price.

  • 24 - number of hours it took "Cam" to send someone to fix the fucking toilet flusher. But shit, you couldn't beat the price.
The guy who showed up was carrying a huge delivery box (the type you might hold food in to keep it warm) that said "CAVIAR" on the side. He didn't give us any caviar, but he did fix the handle on the toilet. So that was good.
  • 2 - number of people who, after getting their freak on, tried to fight with Marney 
We went out for dinner at an Italian place on Friday night before heading to the cabaret bar. Marney got up to go use the restroom, but was waiting and waiting and waiting for the person using it to come out. Finally she used her key or some other implement to pick the lock to open the door and walked in on a couple who had obviously just finished having sex. They were more than a little startled and annoyed by her entrance and reacted accordingly.

She felt a bit threatened, but nothing happened. And it made for an entertaining - and conveniently timed - story that distracted a couple of us from a heated political discussion. *cough Klein Laura cough*

  • 1 - number of us whose hair caught a little bit on fire at the Mexican restaurant.
Word to the wise: if you're setting up a restaurant, don't place little votive candles on the shoulder-blade-high back of the bench seat. Your patrons with long hair, such as Susan, will thank you for it.

  •  5 - the number of drinks I had had - 2 shots of tequila at the Shangri-La, 2 glasses of wine at the Italian place, and 1 beer at the Duplex - before I got up and sang a song
By popular request, here's the proof. I forgot some of the lyrics in the middle and was a little pitchy before the final verse, but it's not terrible. 

video

  • 6 - Number of women who left New York tired but rejuvenated after a great weekend with great friends

Here is our time capsule, ladies. I hope I wrote it well.





Monday, December 05, 2016

Have fun, will travel

Even though Jane left Charlottesville before I left Colorado, we ended up meeting at Penn Station at the same time. Her train kept getting delayed because - and I am not making this up - it was "a little bit on fire."  We found each other across from the Duane Reade at 6 p.m. on Friday afternoon and rather than deal with cabs or Uber (one dude tried to convince us to do an off the books Uber ride to the apartment for $45, which was more than twice what an actual Uber would have been, so we told him to stuff it), we hopped on the subway and were at the AirBnb in no time.
.
We were the last to arrive - the others were already drinking and engaging in shenanigans, per the text thread.


Wendy you missed the boob contest these people are having. You would have won.

                     She can still join when she arrives!!

           Alcohol flowing heavily. One bottle of wine down.

Boob contest? Amateur hour until I get there.

M and I are competing on a different level. #ittybitty

People were grabbing my bra padding. this place is out of control.


We got to the place, put our bags down, and put on clothes to go out in. I did two tequila shots.

The benefit of us being in our mid-40s is that we can afford really good tequila.

We were so excited to be together that we were talking too loud and laughing too loud and being ridiculous. Boobs were compared and felt up, like the way you would test out a cantaloupe (or a little mango) to see if it's ripe. If I had been an outsider looking in on the scene it would have prompted major eye rolls, but as a participant it was hilarious.

The plan for the weekend was hatched in June at Reunions. Every five years isn't anywhere near enough. That time with old friends is too rejuvenating. It's too important to break up the regular patterns of life with a shot of nostalgia and craziness fueled by both alcohol and coffee.  The timing meant that I spent the last month flying back and forth across the country - to Ann Arbor for football, to Virginia for Thanksgiving, to New York for a girls' weekend with close college friends.  Fuck it, I'll sleep when I'm dead.

How is it possible that we have known each other for almost 30 years?  I don't feel old enough. None of us feels old enough. I don't think any of us looks old enough, either. As my brother Sam remarked when he met us out for a drink the next night, we're a "well preserved" group. 


The first night we went out for Italian food and then headed to a gay cabaret bar. My friends nominated me when the piano player asked who wanted to come up and sing.  The woman who was up before me was kind of awful, bless her heart. 

A youngish English woman named Emma was skeptical as I headed up to the piano.

"Can your mate sing?" she asked Christi.

"I sure hope so," Christi answered.

I did Etta James's At Last, and didn't humiliate myself.


"WEENNDYYYY!  OH MY GOOOOWD! I LOVE YOU!"

Emma became my number one fan.  All night long she would come up to our group, 

"WHERE'S MY WENDY? WENDY I LOVE YOU YOU DIRTY BITCH! AND YOUR BOOBS ARE FANTASTIC!"

It always comes back to the boobs. And Emma can only speak in all caps.

"GO SING ANOTHER ONE!!" 

So I did Aretha's Natural Woman. 

We drank lots of beer and couldn't stop laughing and smiling and we made friends with everyone at the bar. We finally made it back to the apartment, gabbed until 2 a.m., and went to bed. 

I didn't sleep enough but woke up happy. We had a little bit to eat and then decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a gorgeous day and meandering through the city in the crisp air was a great way to wake up. We walked through the Lower East Side and through Chinatown and past City Hall and across the bridge, along with every other tourist in town. I bought some souvenir magnets but resisted the siren song of the selfie stick.








We walked and walked and had some lunch. Then we wandered around Union Square and walked back to the apartment to rest and chill out and shower before going out for the night. 

We dozed and had a snack and checked our phones and shared pictures of our kids. We talked about people we had gone to school with - who had done what, which catty bitches who had been mean girls had been left by their husbands, which former hotties were no longer so hot, which people had shown up at Reunions looking surprisingly dashing.  We enjoyed the fact that all we had done all day was hang out, and looked back wistfully at all the time we had had in college to just hang out. We had so much time. It's hard now to find time to just hang out with friends anymore. 

We wondered about our ability to rally.  

In the end, we did fine. We rallied.

The evening's fuel was margaritas and chips with really good guac and little mini tacos. Then we went to a bar than played 80s music and served $4 PBRs and $3 Coors Light drafts. I drank copious amounts of both, but it's basically beer-flavored water. We spent a lot of time waiting for the DJ to understand that just because a song was released in the 80s (and he actually fudged a bit on that point) it doesn't make it a decent dance song. There were bursts of dance greatness followed by frustrating song choices that didn't inspire us. But even complaining about that was fun. It became a running joke. 



It was another night of walking back to the apartment to hang out some more. We stopped at a bodega for popcorn and chips and a chocolate covered coconut Luna bar. We washed it down with the last of the tequila and margarita mix. 

Jane and I climbed into the bed we were sharing and talked as we fell asleep. We've been close friends for so long, and were roommates for a while in Atlanta, after I graduated from law school. We can talk to each other, and we did, about life and relationships and frustrations and joys and getting older. I felt happy and relaxed and loved.

And also tired and like I needed the balls of my feet replaced. But content overall.

I'm not sure where the energy came from, but before heading to the train the next day, Laura and Jane and I found the will to head over to the West Village and wander around some more. We walked down the High Line and down to Jane Street - a pilgrimage of sorts - and had some coffee and then walked back across the island to pick up our bags. Our final bit of weekend sustenance came in the form of an egg nog soft-serve cone, courtesy of the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. If you need big gay instructions on how to do the Heimlich maneuver, here you go:

You're welcome.
Today is another post-reunion Monday. I'm tired and my feet still hurt. But I've got that familiar love hangover and my emotional batteries are full, and we're already planning the next one.

Friday, November 18, 2016

It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

The past week and a half - and really, the months leading up to this past week and a half - have been exhausting. I grew up in a household in which history and current events and politics were CONSTANTLY the topic of discussion - well, that and football. And even with that frame of reference, I don't remember ever being so consumed with an election - with fear of what the wrong outcome would bring.

And now here we are, and it's shaping up to be as awful as everyone thought, if not more so. There are white supremacists and overt racists and misogynists heading into major positions of power. People who would have members of a particular minority forced to "register" - whatever the fuck that entails - so that their movements can presumably be tracked and they could be singled out for harassment and discrimination. Instances of bullying and bigotry and harassment on the rise, with the perpetrators emboldened.

I've been reading about the rise of fascism in the 20th century. And what's going on has me legitimately terrified. I don't want to be hyperbolic, but that instinct of, "oh, let's not hyperbolic, it won't be that bad" is what led to World War II.  I'm scared.

So I've been participating in advocacy groups and calling my representatives and writing letters and joining the Colorado Democratic Women's Caucus.  I feel like my days have been consumed with worrying about all these things that are bigger than I am - with feelings of, "what more can I do? how else can I help?"

It's overwhelming.

Tonight is the start of a weekend when I don't have the kids. And we'll be in Virginia next week, so it was my last day at work for a week. And I'm tired and I needed a break from worrying that the world is about to end and wondering what I can do to stop it.

So I went and bought some earrings for Josie.

She got her ears pierced at the beginning of October. And then had to wait for a month, keeping the same earrings in place, cleaning them and turning them every day, while the holes healed.

Anyone who knows her, or who reads this blog, knows that patience isn't her strong suit.  I've gotten quite a bit of, "AAUUUUGGGHHHH! WHY DO I HAVE TO KEEP THESE SAME EARRINGS IN FOR SO LONG? IT'S SO STUPID! IT'S SO BORING!"

And I'll roll my eyes and say, as calmly as I can, "I know, honey. Just a few more weeks, and then you can wear all the different earrings you want."

"Uuuuuugggghhhhh..."  This is accompanied by exaggerated huffing and puffing and flailing of arms.

"Oh, for god's sake, Josie, stop growling at me!"

But eventually the holes did heal and she has been able to swap out different pairs of earrings.

"Mama, can I wear your pearls?"

"Yes, but not to school. I don't want them to get lost."

"Can I wear these dangly ones?"

She pointed to a pair of cheap pearl drops that I've had forever but never wear.

"Yes. You can have them. Wear to school if you want. Just don't sleep in them - they could get pulled if you roll over and it will hurt."

"I can keep them??!!??"

I smiled. "Yes. They're a present from me to you."

"Squeeeeeee!!"  Her whole body shook with happiness and her grin consumed her whole face.

I have a million little purses and cloth bags and jewelry boxes that my mother has brought back from her travels around the world, so I gave Josie a heart-shaped jewelry box that my mom got in Korea.

"This is for you. Mimi gave it to me and I want you to have it to keep your earrings in."

"Can I get some new earrings? Some little dangly snowflakes?"

So today after work - after helping one of our lawyers get a decision out, after interviewing witnesses in a case I'm investigating, after answering a million questions from a million different places - I went over to the Claire's near my office to buy my daughter some earrings.

I bought dangly snowflakes and dangly penguins and little ladybugs and bumblebees and turtles and flowers and sparkly hearts and cute little faux-diamond studs.

I wasn't worrying about Jeff Sessions or Steve Bannon or calling my congresswoman about conflict of interest investigations. I was having fun buying frivolous baubles for my sweet, impish daughter, and enjoying the thought of how delighted she will be when I give them to her on Monday when I pick her up to go to the airport to fly to Virginia for Thanksgiving. I was thinking about how, when we go to the hockey game this year, Zeke will be coming with us for the first time, and how excited he is about it. I was thinking about how he asked me the other night if we were going to do the Turkey Trot this year, and when I said we were, he said, "yaaaayyy!! That's my favorite thing about Thanksgiving." I was thinking about that moment when, after walking through the endless corridors of Dulles Airport from the jetway, we go through the doors to baggage claim and the kids see my mom waiting for us and completely lose their minds with happiness as they run to her and jump into her arms.

I came home tonight to an empty house. And I continued to set aside thoughts of the world coming to an end. Instead I ate some cold pizza and watched The Crown, alternately entertained by the pomp and then irritated by how utterly useless the royal family really is. Over the weekends I have errands to run and plans with friends both nights, and I'm looking forward to it.

The world is scary right now. But it will not end this weekend, so I'm going to get a pedicure and go out and have some fun, because if I don't, I'll collapse under the weight of it all.





Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.

So that happened.

And it sucks on so many levels. The uptick in racist/misogynistic/xenophobic attacks made in the president-elect's name. The appointment of an anti-semitic, misogynistic, wife-beating white supremacist to a leading White House policy position. The threats to women's rights, particularly in the area of reproductive health.

For the past week, every night I have woken up at 3:30 in the morning with flushes of panic and anxiety coursing through me.

But I am not, by nature, a gnasher of teeth and render of garments. I cannot wallow endlessly. If I'm miserable about something, I've learned to let the misery wash over and through me, and then I move on. My approach to unpleasantness is to either suck it up if I have to, or do something about it.

I am taking steps to get more politically active. I am becoming involved in women's groups, determined to support causes that are important, either by giving money or volunteering. I am in contact with my government representatives at both the state and national levels. I am signing up to do training to help immigrants who are resettling in Colorado so that I can work with families and help them apply for jobs, or find apartments, or get their kids enrolled in school.

I am fortunate to come from a family that shares my sensibilities. I've talked to and heard from so many people whose political views are diametrically opposed to those of their parents or siblings, and they feel under attack and alienated, and worried about what will happen at family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I don't have that problem. I come from a long line of hard-core Democrats. As the descendants of Jews who came to this country in the early 20th century to escape the Russian pogroms, we are hard-wired to oppose discrimination in all forms. Over 20 years ago, and well before homosexuality became far less stigmatized or normalized than it is now, my dad participated in a march on Washington for gay rights because, as he told me, "I can't stand bigotry or discrimination."

So my Thanksgiving will be a good one. i will see my brothers and my nieces and my DC-based friends. We will watch hockey and go for a hike at Great Falls or Scott's Run. We'll do the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Copious amounts of cranberry jello mold will be consumed. We will feel the love.

That's what I can always do - let my friends and family know that I love them and will always be there for them. I can stand up to bigotry and refuse to remain silent if I witness bullying or harassment. I can work to advance equality. It's what we all need to do.

So get more active in your community. Volunteer. Run for office. Don't let hate and ignorance win.



Tuesday, November 08, 2016

My persuasion can build a nation

Last night I was lying in bed watching President Obama's speech in Philadelphia - his last campaign speech of the election cycle. As ever, he was eloquent and inspiring. And as he spoke, I felt this well of emotion and I started to cry.

First I thought back to his final campaign speech of the 2008 election, which was delivered the day his grandmother died on the day before the election. I remember crying then at the enormity of what was about to happen but also with sadness at the fact that the woman who raised him, who was smart and capable but whose career bumped up against a glass ceiling, would never get to see her grandson elected as the first black president of this country.

I thought with wonder about the world my children were born into - during the administration of the first black president, and now about to witness the election of the first female president. I was talking with Zeke on the phone this morning as I walked to work and remarked on how incredible it was that he and Josie were born in a time when barriers to success are increasingly falling. That you can achieve what you are willing and able to work for, no matter what color you are, no matter whether you're a man or a woman.

"It's like in the movie Zootopia!" he said.

Yes, like Zootopia.

I thought about how when my dad went to the University of Virginia, women weren't allowed to attend, except in the nursing school. How when my mom was in law school in the mid-60s, the few women in the class were criticized because they were taking up spots that should have gone to men.

I thought about the number of times men who didn't know me have defined and reduced me because I am a woman, whether in the form of a "nice tits" comment muttered under their breath as they passed me on the street, or in the form of an assumption when they walked into the law firm conference room that I was a secretary rather than a lawyer.

I thought about women throughout history - and still today - who live their lives waiting to be noticed by men, their validation and self-worth intrinsically wrapped up in the male attention they receive rather than in their own strengths and accomplishments. Believing, like the proverbial tree in the forest, that if they aren't coupled up, if they aren't singled out by a man, they don't really exist.

All of those thoughts flooded over me and I bawled.

My friend Ali added me to the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group last week, and it has been moving and inspiring and wonderful to read the posts of men and women from all over the country - straight, gay, transgender, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, immigrants, blue dog Democrats and registered Republican - giving their heartfelt testimonials about what it means to them to vote for Hillary Clinton in this election. Men who are proud feminists. Women voting for her in secret because their husbands wouldn't approve. People who were bullied at the polls, or who stood in line for 4 hours to cast their votes. Women who were born before women had the right to vote, and who now rejoice at being able to cast their ballot for a woman. In a political season characterized by hate and intolerance and polarization and negativity, the Pantsuit Nation page is a bastion of encouragement and love and inclusiveness. It represents the best of America.

I'm watching the news footage of long lines of women waiting to put their "I voted" sticker on the grave of Susan B. Anthony, and it makes me choke up all over again.

I am an intensely patriotic person. This country is flawed and messy, but I believe so strongly in the ideals and principles on which it was founded. And yes, our political system is frustrating and this election season has been exhausting, but today I could barely contain my excitement as I put on my Notorious RBG t-shirt (I don't have a Hillary shirt, but RBG is a badass woman, so it felt appropriate) under my pantsuit, which I will wear as I do some final election day canvassing later this afternoon.


Today is a great day.




Monday, October 24, 2016

Now you've grown so fine and come so far

My dear sweet Ezekiel,

I realized today, when thinking about you turning nine years old, that we have essentially reached the halfway point in the time that I get to claim you as fully mine, before you spread your wings and fly out into the world as a quasi-adult.

Obviously, you will always be my baby, my first born, my best boy.  But then you will go to college or off to fulfill some dream of adventure and start your own journey. Maybe, as my brothers and I have done, you will settle somewhere away from your parents. Thinking about that possibility - of not being able to see you whenever I want - makes my heart ache and my eyes fill with tears.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I know. But it goes so fast. It's such a cliche to say it, but it goes so, so fast.

I look back on pictures of you as a baby. You were so beautiful, with your dimples and your twinkly blue eyes and your wonky right ear that sticks out a little bit at the top - your dad dubbed it the "wingnut," which always made us giggle.


You have lost all of your babyish qualities. You are lean and strong. Your feet keep growing and stick out from the ends of your legs like paddles. You work on your six-pack abs.  There are no soft, baby-fat-ish curves in your face. You still have the outrageous dimples and the strikingly blue eyes, the freckles on your straight nose, the open grin. Setting aside any bias I have as your mother, objectively you an incredibly handsome kid.



From the beginning, you were strong and agile and coordinated and fearless.  You love hearing the story about the doctor was checking you out when you were first born, and marveling at how powerfully you kicked back when he pushed on the bottom of your foot. That strength and agility and athleticism has never abated.

This year, your interest in soccer has become particularly pronounced. On my weekends with you, one of our favorite activities is to go to the park and play soccer. Usually it involves me being permanent goalie while you try to score, or we'll run up and down the field doing passing drills.

You keep me young and healthy.

You have always been smart and interesting to talk to, but I'm seeing that intelligence and curiosity intensify. You're at the age I was when I was tested to be placed in a gifted program, and you're exhibiting some of the frustrations that I had at that age - being a bit bored in school, feeling like everything is a little too easy. Wanting to absorb as much knowledge as you can. You're doing gifted testing next month - I'll be curious to see how it goes.

Sometimes when you're lying in bed and we're talking, you'll ask me about history. Who fought in World War II? What were they fighting about? What's an ally? What's this song from the Hamilton soundtrack about? Who's singing? Who was that? Who are they talking about on the news? Who's the guy that has the disease but knows everything about black holes?

One day we were thinking about what to do on a beautiful Saturday.  "What do you guys want to do?" I asked. "Let's go for a hike in Boulder and then go to the science museum," you responded.

I love that.

We read together. We watch football together. We talk about life together. We have conversations about Greek mythology and poetry.  You're interested in everything.

Recently you and Josie and I were watching Project Runway together. Josie was looking at one of the designs and said, "that looks like a Valentino."

I gave her a skeptical look. "What you you know about Valentino?"

You said, "is he Italian?"

"Yes," I responded. "He's a famous Italian designer."

"How come so many great artists and designers are Italian?" you asked.

"Who else are you thinking of?"

"Leonardo..."

"Yes, he was a great Italian artist and inventor."

"And Michelangelo...."

"Yep," I said.

"And who's that other guy? Starts with a "d".... Dona-something?"

"Donatello. How do you know Donatello and these other guys?"

"Ninja turtles!" you responded.

I cracked up. And then you cracked up. We both started to laugh and laugh.

"You goofball," I giggled.

We laughed some more.

It's been an incredible nine years. I don't ever want to let you go, even thought I know someday I'll have to.

You fill my heart and make it sing.  Happy birthday, sweet gorgeous boy.

All my love,

Mama



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Crossroads

Nine years ago tonight, I was walking the halls of Kapi'olani Medical Center, trying to power my way through what would end up a 25 hour effort to get my cervix dilated to 10 centimeters so that I could meet my son - a big, strong, healthy boy who just about broke me in two.

I was living in a strange place where I didn't really know many people at all. My family and friends were halfway around the world and I felt very isolated and alone. I worked from home and didn't have a chance to interact with other people much, outside of some of the neighbors, none of whom I felt any particular kinship with.  Hawaii is a beautiful place, but without any family or real friends or sense of community, I found it to be very provincial and an unpleasant place to live. I honestly don't have any desire to ever go back.

Now I am in Denver, on the eve of my wonderful son's 9th birthday. And as much I truly enjoy living here - as much as Denver, as a place, is the best place I've ever lived - I'm once again finding myself feeling very isolated and alone.

I've mentioned in the past how extremely compartmentalized my life feels. Half the time, I am a single mother, with everything that that entails. My children are vibrant and beautiful and energetic and busy and difficult and all-consuming. We fill our days. I try to establish routines but also to infuse them with as much of my essence and love as I can before they have to leave and be without me again. I often feel like I am failing and flailing. I do the best that I can, but deep down, I don't believe that it's enough.

I see them struggle emotionally sometimes, especially Zeke. I wonder if it's just them being them, dealing with the trials of growing up as they normally would. Or maybe the divorce messed them up - maybe I messed them up. I feel guilty, like I have failed them. Like I am unworthy of them and of no good to them. (Add to this all the other reasons I regularly feel like I'm an abject failure at life, and you've got a real recipe for me in a laugh-a-minute mood).

And then they're gone for a time, and my life utterly changes. I don't have lunches to make in the morning, I don't have to get them up and out the door and to school. I can leave work late and go get a massage or meet friends out.

But mostly I'm alone.

I have friends and a little bit of family here.  But people are busy with their own lives and families, and trying to coordinate everyone's schedules to get together means we're having to plan weeks or even months out. My mom and I talk and lament that if we were closer, we'd see each other all the time. But we don't, and we can't.

Thought it doesn't often seem like it, I am self-conscious and naturally a bit introverted, so I feel awkward and unwelcome trying to include myself into other peoples' lives and events. It's easier to be alone because the emotional effort it takes to not be alone is so exhausting.

And sometimes I don't mind being alone. But lately, I've felt crushingly lonely.

The birthday month - the month including and in between the kids' birthdays (which fall exactly a month apart) - has been hard.  Both weekends, the kids have been with their dad and had birthday parties there that I have not been allowed to attend.

It has been overwhelmingly hurtful to me, far more than I could have anticipated. Partly because it's so hurtful to them - they repeatedly told me they wanted me there and asked why I wouldn't be, and all I could say was, "because I'm not invited." But it's also hurtful to me. And it's bewildering, because it's a course of action that I would never take in a million years.

It's just two days out of the year. People try to comfort me and tell me that I have to let it go. That I shouldn't let it bother me. That there's nothing I can do about it, so I need to get over it.

I know that they are right. That everything they are saying is true. That if I let it get to me, I will be allowing myself to be consumed by something that I can't control.

But the pain has been intense. I thought that as time went on and the reality of the divorce and the split custody situation became the norm, that I would get more used to it. But rather than getting easier to deal with, it has gotten harder, particularly on their birthdays. My birth days.

I try to think and reason and write my way out of it. Or go on long, grueling hikes like the one I did yesterday (I got lost and ended up tacking on an extra mile and a half, so by the time I got home I was toast).  The exertion pushes the bad feeling away, if only for a little while.

But then the feeling comes back. And I realize that the advice people try to give - don't let it get to you, don't take it personally - isn't what I need. I don't need to be told to let it go, at least not initially. I need to allow myself to feel shitty until I don't feel so shitty anymore.  I need someone I trust to envelop me in a hug or just hold my hand and say, "I know you feel awful, and I'm so sorry that you do. It sucks."

I will write Zeke his birthday post tomorrow, celebrating all of the reasons he continues to delight me and fill me with love and pride. For now, I will allow myself to feel hurt, because I am.