Tag: family life

Family Fun With Fire

out of control

I am listening to Yo Yo Ma play Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major and I set moonshine on fire with  my people tonight and I have that feeling like my life couldn’t possibly be better.  I know that if I don’t get a job soon and if our house situation doesn’t resolve that life will be incredibly stressful again and not what I want it to be but I’m taking tonight off to feel this loopy happiness that threatens to overextend my lungs.

That’s really all I have to say.

Except that that little experiment really got my adrenaline going.  I think it’s still a little revved up.  I’m not sure how long it will take to settle down.

I think I need to go check my back yard to make 153% sure that it isn’t on fire.  I’m probably going to have fire nightmares.  Even though that was SO MUCH FUN LIGHTING MOONSHINE ON FIRE AND WATCHING PHILIP EXTINGUISH IT WITH THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER!!!!!

I wish my pictures had turned out better.

This has been a good day.

My back yard is not on fire.

I finally know that fire extinguishers really work.

It’s time for bed.

Parenting: Keep the Shovel Close at Hand


I’ve been filling out questionnaires for Max’s school testing that will commence next month.  Questionaires about his behaviors, his medical history, his social interactions, and his health.  It brings up such strange feelings.  My purpose never changes.  I knew the first time he said he would stab himself to death when he was a toddler that I was going to be filling paperwork out and fighting for his well-being and begging others to see what I see and help me help him.

But being firm of purpose doesn’t mean you don’t experience a full range of emotions while doing what you need to do for your kid.  Evaluating your kid, trying to be as completely honest and as objective as possible even though you can never be objective about your own child – it’s a strange banquet of memories you trawl and sift.  It’s a test of your own ability to separate your child from your skin, from your heart, enough to give solid information.

I think the most surreal thing to me is to be evaluating his social interactions and to know that he sees them so differently.  He was Skyping with one of his oldest and few friends the other day and I heard his friend’s friend say “I don’t much like this Max guy” and then they hung up on Max.  I asked Max if he was hurt by that.  He says “What?”  I said “That kid just said he doesn’t like you.  Did that hurt your feelings?”  He says “No.  Why should it?”

That’s everything in a nutshell.  Max doesn’t  care if people don’t like him.  He doesn’t care if they’re rude to him if he perceives that they’re just being honest.  Because that’s how he is himself.  He doesn’t understand why people get ruffled by the things he says or why people get hurt when he’s honest.  But Max loves having friends.  He just doesn’t keep them very easily.  The few he keeps tolerate his seemingly abrasive political and social rants and his blatantly unfiltered thoughts and opinions without much offense.  It takes a special kind of person to love Max in spite of his obsessive interests and narrow topics of conversation.

I was hurt.  Hearing that kid say he didn’t much like my son was bitter and choking.  I know a lot of people feel that way about Max too who never say it out loud.  He doesn’t feel the slights but I feel them all.  Every single one.  He has so little idea of how much he exacerbates and annoys people.  He only notices and cares about the really loud ones and the people in positions of authority who don’t like him because it has a strong impact on his comfort.

So I can’t be objective.  I know it’s unrealistic to expect it of myself.  Still, I need his issues to be taken seriously and so I have to take my role as observer seriously too.  I have to continue to hone my skill of separating the chaff of my motherly emotions from cool observation that might actually get him the help he needs.

The hardest things to evaluate are things like “Acts strangely” – how the hell can parents as strange as Philip and I judge what is strange or not strange behavior?  We’re the WEIRDSLEYS personified!  I was a goddamned suicidal teen!  Philip was an introverted artist and definite odd-ball.  We couldn’t have married each other otherwise.

This week Max and I have talked a lot about sex and sex-ed as presented in school.  He has many complaints to report.  He says the school talked more about the virtues of abstinence than they did about protection.  He also really hates that some kids his age snicker at the word “penis” and “vagina”.  I’m so happy he’s bringing these topics up.  I’m so happy we’re having the opportunity to discuss birth control and sexuality and what real “virtue” is.

Here’s my distilled stance on sexuality in a nutshell as discussed with my 12 1/2 year old:

  • Abstinence is not stupid if you aren’t ready to have sex and/or you feel it’s important to wait and certainly is a valid form of birth control, IF you can really BE abstinent.
  • There is no greater virtue to abstinence than there is to having careful and protected sex.
  • Sexuality isn’t a contest of virtue, it’s a natural human urge and action and there is no shame in being a sexual being.

It is irrelevant how many sexual partners you have or don’t have.  The most important thing is this:

  • Honesty.  Be honest in all your sexual relationships.  Be honest about what you want, what you’re about, whether you’re just wanting sex or you’re open to more.  Don’t cheat on a partner.  Don’t make promises you can’t deliver.
  • Safety.  Unless you are in a long-term serious relationship – always protect yourself with a condom.  STD’s are real.  Some are just uncomfortable nuisances while others can kill you.  Unwanted pregnancies present young people with impossible choices no matter what your politics are.  Always take precautions.
  • Consensual actions.  Never ever force another person to do things they’re uncomfortable with doing no matter how much you want them to do those things.  When someone says “no”, even after having said “yes”, it’s time to STOP.  Likewise – never let anyone pressure or force you to do anything intimate you aren’t completely comfortable with.  You always have the power to say “no”.
  • I am always here to talk to and I will not judge, I will only try to help and protect and heal my child/teen/adult.

We have discussed so much this week.  I used to dread the time we would have to have these talks.  Now that the time has truly arrived I feel up to the task.  We have fleetingly discussed masturbation (how it’s healthy and normal which he already knew) and how even if you believe in a woman’s freedom to have an abortion it is still, for most women, a dreadful and emotional choice to have to make, and the difference between a healthy libido and a slut.

We discussed how “slut” is a pretty charged and judgmental word to use.

We discussed how it’s okay to have a strong libido if you:

  • Protect yourself.
  • Respect yourself.
  • Respect your partners.
  • Remain honest at all times.

We discussed douchebaggery.

There’s not a lot more I can do and yet there’s so much ahead of us.  I’m haunted by my need to protect him and to simultaneously set him free.

I know what I know in my gut.  My gut has yet to steer me wrong.

Stay the course, keep the shovel close at hand.

Itching to Get Back to Fiction

hospital pomegranates

Already it’s been days since my last post.  It’s obviously difficult for me to get back to my daily meditative thinking (AKA – sloppy brain spill).

I am pretty depressed right now.  My anxiety is under control because I upped my meds and it’s working but I need to up my depression meds too so I have to make an appointment to see my psychiatrist, which I’ll do, but which just sounds like so much work (definite sign of depression – total inertia)

I’ve been having some bad nightmares with some good bits in them.  cinematic tangled stories with interesting characters and predicaments.  But violent and unsettling and brain-sticky.  The thing that makes me not mind right now is that I’ve been waking up with the urge to dig myself back into fiction.  I haven’t really had the chance between my inertia and all the little things I have to do every day.  But that’s such a lousy cop-out because I know if I could drag my sorry ass out of bed at six in the morning I could get some writing in.  In the evenings I am most likely to get maudlin and writing in that state is generally valueless.  It may have worked for eighteenth century poets but all it does for me is make me unattractively melodramatic.

Last night’s nightmare was about one thing and then turned into preparing for dirty guerrilla warfare.  Getting hideouts ready and my job was to find as many kitchen knives as I could to give to everyone for defense and knowing that it would be dreadfully inadequate.  I’ve already forgotten most of the nightmare/dream.  What sticks is not describable.  It’s amorphous but wanting expression.  I hate that.

The biggest news on the home front is that my mom is now off of her wound-vac and off of her antibiotics!  She’s making fantastic progress and getting stronger every day.

School starts for Max in three weeks.  Poor kid.  Poor me.  The stress of dealing with him in PE will resume and that of too much homework as well.  Boooo!

Biggest news on the Max front is that he tried sushi and loved it!  His favorite things he tried were some kind of raw fish in a sauce and the cucumber salad but he also tried and liked a tuna roll.  So he ate rice for the first time since I tried to make him eat it as a baby.  He REFUSED, categorically, to ever put that shit in his mouth.  So – that’s kind of huge.  Plus he’s now a big fan of sourdough  bread with butter.  I count this as a little victory because in the past he’s not liked sourdough – it’s an indication that his tastes are broadening even though he still doesn’t like most produce.  Sigh.  I guess I’m going to have to learn to prepare sushi at home because I know I can’t afford for us to have a big sushi habit as a family.  (I hate sushi – but love tempura.)

It’s time to crawl through the meager job listings of jobs I would actually like to have.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that I find something good soon or I will be forced to apply to Joanne’s Fabrics.


Menopause is Punk

the beautiful eggsWomen make eggs from puberty until middle age, like hens, except our expelled eggs don’t make for good eating.  For years we are in the human-production zone.  Sex has a biological purpose whether we let it express itself or not.

My human-production facilities are packing it in, a moment I have been waiting for for years and I want to CELEBRATE!

So the first thing I wanted to do was announce the news that I’m perimenopausal through the gramophone of social media so that everyone would know.  I’m not embarrassed to discuss life stages.  Why should I be?  People announce their pregnancies constantly expecting everyone to be EXCITED and JOYFUL and CONGRATULATORY because it’s such a great moment (if it’s a moment you actually want in your life.)  Everyone is so happy for you (unless they are crusty old baby-hating Angelinas*).  Everyone cuts ribbons and pastes puffy hearts to your name.  I can count the number of times I’ve heard people announce that they are beginning to go through menopause.

Big fat fucking ZERO times.

Why?  Are women embarrassed to tell others that their womb is shutting its doors to make room for other possibilities in their lives?  Do they think it’s too private an event?  As though announcing that you had sexual intercourse that resulted in the creation of a fetus in your womb isn’t super private?  I guess if you can’t hide your pregnant state you may as well announce it to everyone but since menopause doesn’t give itself away we should be silent when it comes?

A friend of mine pointed out that many women don’t make their menopausal state public because they’re up against agism when seeking employment.  She makes a good point that deserves validation.  I can respect a woman protecting her ovarian status if it might hurt her opportunities.  There are few enough of those for us as it is.

But I say that being at this stage of life makes us more valuable assets to practically everyone and to hide ourselves under a shimmering ambiguity of age is a crime.


Menopause is PUNK

I want to throw a menopause party.

I guess there is this idea that when a woman goes through menopause she loses an essential part of her womanly power – the power to make babies.  I find this perplexing.  My power isn’t really anchored in my ability to make babies.  I made one single baby and I’m happy that I did because I love him best of all people but he is not the thing that defines who I am.  He is an important part of my life but isn’t what makes me purposeful, full, or complete.

I make myself complete.  Period.

Period.  Haha!

I have resented and hated having periods since the very first one on my 14th birthday discovered by some girl in the Junior High locker room while I was changing into my gym clothes and later amplified by my parents who may as well have announced the arrival of my menses on the local Ashland radio station.

I have referred to my “MEN – STRU – A – TION” as being “on the rag” for as long as I can remember and someone was recently shocked when I used that expression.  What?

Oh.  I’m SORRY I don’t like leaking blood.  Rags is what women have used to soak up the flow for a couple thousand years until we got industrial.  Most mammals don’t drip blood during their reproductive cycles anyway.  How have humans not evolved to do this thing better?

I have been looking forward to the end of my cycles for exactly 29 years, 5 months, and 28 minutes.

Menopause is PUNK

I’m only at the very beginning of it all.  When I was 15 I planned to kill myself.  The thought of turning 30 seemed mystical and improbable because I mapped my death as carefully as a cartographer measures mountains and valleys.  I wasn’t even going to see the windy side of 20.  I think suicidal ideation can be a gift.  It teaches you things if you live through it.  If you live through it again and again.  It teaches you the impossible.  It teaches you the power of hanging on.  It teaches you detachment from outcome when the chips are melting into one heap of toxic plastic in the devil’s barbeque.  Every day you don’t kill yourself has the potential to be a blessing.

To have been a suicidal 15 year old and become a 43 year old peri-menopausal woman is something to celebrate.  To have experienced suicidal ideation at the age of 41 and 42 and once again manage to wait out the darkness long enough to still be alive is something to celebrate.  Having to grapple periodically with suicidal fixation gives me a detachment from living that is sometimes uncomfortable but has the side effect of giving me an appreciation for very small details.  I don’t live for large concepts, I live for the sound of mourning doves on warm mornings.

Once you’ve skirted suicide for several rounds it’s hard to believe menopause has real teeth.

I’m the one with the real teeth.

Young girls have nothing on me.

Menopause is PUNK!

*This Angelina loves babies as long as they aren’t hers and though she understands you continue to be excited every single time you give birth, she just can’t get worked up over any baby but your first because she is pretty  much PURE EVIL.

ADHD Test Results – and how it leads us nowhere

Max with onion ring

This week Max finally got tested for ADHD.  We brought with us the teacher evaluation sheets as well as the one I filled out and he took the test which I thought was going to be this big difficult long test – from the way everyone talks about it and the way no one wants to pay for it and the years it’s taken me to get him to this point…it turns out to be a 15 minute test.  I’m choking back my angry feelings that everyone – health insurance, doctors, teachers, etc – making this seem so complicated when it is very very simple.

Max does not have ADHD.  It is conclusive when all the data is compiled.  Just looking at the data from the computer stimulus test it is easy to see why everyone all along the way has thought it likely that he had ADHD.  But he doesn’t.  The test revealed some indication that Max has some auditory processing issues but to explore that further would require an occupational therapist qualified to do sensory processing assessments.  This would either cost us thousands of dollars out of pocket or that the school use their resources to perform such tests.

I almost started crying in the office.  I think the doctor thought I was disappointed that Max didn’t test positive for ADHD.  That’s not it at all – given my choice I would choose that Max not have any brain or neurological disorders.  I almost started crying because I have been pushing and pushing for this testing for years so I could rule it out and move on.  I was crying because other than the awful homework nights and PE failing – Max has been doing very well this year.  So well that all of his teachers and the school counselor can’t see what the problem is that I keep talking about.  I feel fraudulent.  I feel like the hypochondriac who feels cancer spreading in her body but no one else sees it until it’s suddenly an urgent problem requiring surgeries and treatments I can’t afford.  I feel like the mentally ill person no one believes because I’m, you know, mentally ill and us people have a tendency to see things distorted and enlarged.

Except that I know I’m not imagining the problems Max has had since he was a kid.  I know I didn’t imagine the self harm.  I know I didn’t imagine him talking about stabbing himself to death when he was two because he got in trouble for something and felt really bad.  I know I’m not imagining the difficulty he’s had fitting in socially.  I know I’m not imagining the teachers and principal at Ballston Community school calling me three times a week to tell me about Max’s disruption of their classrooms, his disrespect of this teacher or that, his refusal to cooperate, his altercations with the older kids, and them all looking to me for a solution.  Them looking to me to get him tested, or medicated, or give him consequences that would make his behaviors STOP.

Everyone looking at me to DO SOMETHING ABOUT MY KID.

I know I didn’t imagine how his fifth grade teacher gave up on him and had to send him to the principal’s office several times a week just to get him out of her classroom where he was making it impossible for her to teach the other kids.  I did not imagine that awful meeting I had with his teacher, the principal, and another teacher who wanted to be in on the meeting to tell me how disruptive and obnoxious my kid is in assemblies – the only time she had to deal with him.  I did not fucking imagine all these people telling me the school couldn’t do anything else for my kid.  They were done.

They looked at me and asked me WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT YOUR CHILD?

So I almost started crying because everyone keeps telling me I need to do something about my child and now everyone’s looking at me and asking why I’m making such a big fuss because my kid is obviously JUST FINE.  It makes me want to tear my hair out.

The tests have conclusively ruled out ADHD and the current psychologist and the previous one that I didn’t like both think he doesn’t have OCD either.  What looks like OCD is apparently sensory processing issues.  But right now there is no official explanation for his intense need for rituals.  The bed-time ritual whose order is very important and without which he will not sleep – there’s no official explanation for it.  But other people’s kids don’t stay up until 3am waiting for their bedtime routine to begin because their parents accidentally fell asleep before getting him into bed.  yeah, that happened.  Max stayed up waiting and waiting for me to tuck him in and put the fan on and give him his melatonin and his book and put the frogs on – he got so tired trying to stay awake and finally came down to wake me up and angrily ask me why I never came up to tuck him in.

I asked him why he didn’t come to get me earlier.  He didn’t know.  It didn’t occur to him.  He was waiting for things to happen the way they’re supposed to happen.

What now?  Nothing.  I worked hard all this year to avoid suddenly finding ourselves back in that bad place with no support in place to deal with it.  I wanted to set things up for Max to avoid having to wait until things get BAD to get him help.  I worked and stressed tirelessly for nothing.

Philip reminds me that it wasn’t for nothing.  After four years of not  being able to get him tested to find out if he does, in fact, have ADHD – we finally know for sure.  I wish it didn’t leave more questions and uncertainty, but it’s true that having at least this one thing crossed off the list of possibilities is important.  It’s off the table.  My kid isn’t “normal” or “typical” but we know at least one thing he’s not.  That’s something even if it doesn’t help me prepare for the bad times I know will come.

The psychologist thinks Max most likely has NVLD and describes it as a personality disorder rather than a brain disorder.  He thinks the reason Max is doing so well this year is because he’s in an environment that’s working for him and has teachers that he likes and respects – except for the PE teacher – and that as long as he has an environment that works for him and as long as he likes his teachers then he’s going to seem pretty normal and the school isn’t going to see his behavioral problems.  He says that when that changes, and he predicts that if it doesn’t in 8th grade then it likely will in High School, Max will likely act-out and become problematic as he was before.  So if it gets bad – and the behavioral issues return – then I push the school to test him for learning disorders.

In the meantime I can’t ask for any accommodations from the school.  Teachers can make them as they individually see fit and most of them already are to some degree.  The biggest issue this year has been the homework and his PE teacher.  He is trying harder with his new PE teacher and isn’t flunking his class now (the better shoes that correct his pronation are helping too).  As for the homework – it hasn’t been an issue during testing because he’s had light to no homework and it’s been AWESOME.  As the teachers return to the normal level of homework I will instigate my plan to help Max with or without their cooperation.

It is ridiculous for my kid to do more than one and a half hours of homework a night.  He often takes two to two and a half hours to do a full night of homework.  Sometimes it  becomes three hours.  This is unacceptable to me.  I have told the counselor and I will be telling the teachers that I will time his homework on any night that he has a full load so that he doesn’t do more than 1/2 hour of homework per class.  It’s what I have to do for my kid and it may affect his grades.  That’s possible.  My kid is smart enough to get straight A’s but if achieving that means going through the stressful struggle to get his assignments done and me having to spend my entire evening trying to change his dark mood and his frustration and tears back to a good mental place – it’s not worth it.  I care more about Max’s emotional state than I do about him getting top grades.

I’m his parent.  I know my kid.  I know his strengths (he has a lot of them) and I know his struggles.  My relationship with my son is important and finding the delicate balance between preparing him for reality and protecting him from it isn’t easy but it’s something I take seriously.  I’m trying to make him take responsibility for his experiences outside our home but I also know he’s generally behind his peers in practical ways and pushing him when he’s not ready is both ineffective and destructive.

When Philip came home after the testing and commented to Max about his test results Max said “Yeah, I guess I’m just your problem child.”

And that about sums it up. There’s no diagnosis to explain his otherly-ness.  I know he has anxiety and that his anxiety medication has helped him quite a bit.  But he doesn’t even have an official diagnosis of anxiety.  There’s no official explanation for why Max is so different.  Why he poses such parenting challenges.  It’s fucking hard just feeding the kid.  It’s practically a full time job trying to get him to try new foods and find ones that are healthy or healthy-ish that he’ll eat.   Being able to explain to people that his food issues are related to his OCD was the closest we ever came to shutting people up – shutting down their criticisms and interference and rudeness and unwanted advice.  Now we don’t have anything.  We have no official defense against everyone’s criticism.  And yes – I get criticism all the time – both outright and implied.

So I’m IT.  I’m our only defense.  I’m wearing mental boxing gloves and I will fight anyone who tries to put my kid in their own boxes and then find him (or me) wanting.  We have our own yardsticks for success and normalcy.  I will do battle with anyone who suggests or implies that my kid is the way he is because he’s just a bad seed, a willful shit, or that he’s “normal” and that it’s just my parenting that’s made him into a spoiled kid who won’t eat vegetables.

Max is my problem child.  Parenting him is like parenting three kids at once.  I wanted protection for us.  I wanted help.  I wanted support.  I didn’t just want those things – I’ve been desperately in need of them.  But what I keep coming back to is that it’s just us.  We are on our own as usual.  Doctors can’t help.  Teachers can’t help.  There are no resources for us.  There is no help.  We’re on our own.

But you know what?  The fact that Max is as confident and well adjusted as he is today is because of mine and Philip’s determination to parent the child we actually have and to adjust our parenting to meet our child’s needs and challenges.  We aren’t following anyone’s parenting rules and we keep making it up as we go along.  We change as our child changes and the most important thing we’ve ever done is to choose our battles carefully.  Max trusts us.  He talks to us.  He turns to us and he knows he is loved no matter how weird he is and that, in fact, we love his weirdness and he loves that his parents are really weird too.  He takes pride in it.  So I think the three of us, with my mom in a supporting role (and who’s also wonderfully weird), will protect each other and support each other even when no one else does.

Max is an amazing kid.  Parenting him is going to be the death of me but it is also an incredible privilege.  This kid of mine has a whole lot of shining to do and it’s my job to make sure he has the opportunity to do so.

Before you try to fit any of us into your preconceived notions of how parents and kids should be or act – I suggest you look up!

Before you judge any of us against your own yardsticks – I suggest you LOOK UP!

My boxing gloves are on and my fists are ready.

You should know that I have a wicked right hook.

The Starry Starry Night: Goodbye Nadia!

Nadia full of love

This is LOVE.  Nadia died today (RIP 3/29/2013)  The best companion, the most loving girl, weirdly unmotivated by food but completely motivated by a desire for strokes and attention.  She lived to please.  She lived to serve.  She was a licensed therapy dog and such a forgiving family member.  She was absolute LOVE.  

We could not have asked for a more peaceful ending for Nadia.  As the vet said, she already had three feet in the grave.  We knew she was done.  My mom gave Nadia little bits of cookies and we Kissed her head and told her how valued and loved she was at that moment, at all the moments.  She just looked so tired, like she was expecting this and was tapping on her watch, asking when the scheduled oblivion was going to relieve her.  Cancer is exhausting.  My mums did everything she could for her faithful companion.

No matter how expected death is, no matter how much those we love are ready for it, it’s still such a sickening goodbye.

Goodbye Nadia!  We hope you enjoy all the stars and that they are swarming with slow squirrels.

I Fired My Biological Father

I don’t hate Jews.

I don’t hate Muslims.

I don’t hate Christians.

I felt I should make that clear in case anyone was confused about it.

I had to fire my biological father today.

He and I don’t agree with each other about politics or religion or world events.  He thinks I’m always wrong because I don’t agree with him.  He thinks I never read about or research world events (particularly the events that take place in the Middle East where he lives).  He only comments on my blog to tell me in a condescending way how many ways I’m misguided.  He does compliment me once in a while on my writing but it is always delivered with a little chastisement or a barb.

He thinks I hate Jews because I have said that the Jews are oppressing the Palestinians in Israel and I have pointed out the irony of a people who went through one of the world’s worst ethnic cleansings only to turn around and take over Palestine and eventually  manage to push huge numbers of Palestinians out of homes they owned into segregated portions of the city.  I think that’s wrong and I would expect better of a people who just went through the holocaust.  It has always struck me as an example of how humans don’t really learn anything from their trials by fire.

I don’t hate Jews.  I hate oppression wherever I see it exists.  I have done my research and I’m not stupid.  Every group of people on earth has taken turns being oppressed and being the oppressor.  No country is clean of this.  The majority of religions have a hell of a lot of blood on their hands.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus alike.  None of them can claim to be superior to the others based on their track record of violence.

My father is a racist.  He hates Muslims.  Perhaps he means to only hate the extremists in the Taliban but his hand is sweeping when he points out their widespread evil.  I think that living in Israel for over 30 years has not been good for him.  It has made his views and his mind brittle with hateful beliefs.

When I visited him the most shocking thing that happened – that seared itself in my mind forevermore – was listening to a Jewish lady originally from Chicago say “All Palestinians should be shot.”

A Jew.  A Jew talking race extermination.  You see how the holocaust image came to mind?  The sheer mind-fuck of someone who doesn’t see that they have become the very evil that tried to snuff them out?  How does any Jew live with themselves thinking such thoughts?  I couldn’t talk to her.  I couldn’t look at her.  I could barely stand to be in the same room with her.  I went and smoked ten cigarettes and tried to un-hear those hateful words from someone who used to be a citizen of the United States.

When I told my mother about cutting ties with my father because he’s always such an asshole to me and mentioned his bigoted comments that only get more bigoted over the years she gave me a surprising piece of information.  She said that when she was married to him him he was anti-Semitic.  He believed in the conspiracy theory that Jews own all the banks and are trying to rule the world through them.  I think if he’s reading this he’ll become apoplectic with rage that she could be so wrong (like she always is, like I always am) and would itch to deny it and say more mean shit.*

My biological father is not Jewish.  In case you didn’t know.  His biological father was a Polish Jewish soldier but he was raised by his Norwegian mother and his Christian Canadian step-father.  All his in-laws are Jewish now and his last name is Jewish but he’s never in his life been a practicing Jew.  My step dad on the other hand is Jewish and though I was raised more Hippie than anything else – I grew up celebrating both major Christian and major Jewish holidays.

I am going to share with you this passage, this last communication he has made to me (you can read it in the comments on the post “Newtown Massacre” – this isn’t something he said privately to me – this is the comment he left on my blog publicly):

You brought up the Mid East by throwing Iraqi civilians and Muslims into your soup! But is it any wonder that Americans treat their Muslims like “potential terrorists?” when 95% of these acts have been commited by Islamists (Muslim extremeists)? And it would’nt surprise me that your home grown variety were inspired by these jihadists as well!
As to INSULTS…probably your biggest barb was comparing the holocaust to the Palestinians. Haven’t you figured out yet that the last thing the Muslim world wants is peace between Israel and her neighbors?…It’s their trump card for our final eradication–and you fell for it! So who’s the bigot now?
And since you refuse to study your history, or even read the tiny list of books I recommended–which aren’t from a Jewish perspective unless you include the Koran as Mohamed’s take on the Torah–my only solution for you is to drop you and your dog into a Taliban village, where women and dogs aren’t even 2nd class citizens…but no class citizens! It will lend perspective to your endless tirade against America–and also Israel, which is, in fact, the only “rose up the ASSHOLE OF THE WORLD” (the Middle East).
Be well! and after your sojourn with the Islamists,I’ll be expecting a contrite appology to your fellow Americans as well as all the Jewish people…Till then, GOODBYE!

I don’t hate my fellow citizens.  In case anyone mistook my criticism of my country for hate.  I am anti-war.  I am anti-ALL-wars.  There is no justifiable reason on earth to start a war.  I can just barely allow it to be justifiable to join a war to help an ally.  It’s not that I don’t want to fight oppression or genocide – it’s just that my conscience says that bombing people and shooting people is always wrong and Mahatma already showed us how to fight oppression without violence.  There’s precedence.

So I’m anti war and I hate the political views of the Christian conservative right in my country.   But I work daily not to hate the people who have those views.

I have never had a comfortable relationship with my father.  He left my life when I was two.  He divorced my mom and married and Israeli woman and moved to Israel and left me to live my life as I may without his presence.  He also refused to acknowledge that my brother is his son even though my brother looks more like him than I do.  I took that harder than I took his abandonment of me.  It mattered more to my brother to be acknowledged by our father than it was to me and I love my brother and one of my deepest regrets was my inability to protect him when he was small because I was small too.  We are not the only children our father left in the dust.  He had a son with the first Israeli woman he married.  They divorced and he and his son became disconnected.  He married another (lovely) Israeli woman and had another son.  My youngest half brother is the only child my father has raised out of four of us.  I have been trying to be okay with this for much too long.

No one likes being rejected by their biological parents.  There’s something so ugly feeling about having them find you not good enough to stick around for.  Even now when I know I would not have been better off being raised by my biological father – it stings to have not mattered to him enough to remain a part of my life when he and my mom divorced.  He visited me once when I was eleven years old but he insulted both my mom and my step-dad so much and completely ignored my brother that it was a bitter memory.

After visiting him in Israel when I was 26 years old and having a huge blow out fight during which he said hateful things I decided I was going to sever our ties and I believe I wrote him and told him so.  It’s hard to say if I ever sent it or not.  I was also having to send my racist asshole grandfather** a letter to tell him off for his treatment of my mother.  It was a doozy of a time.  A real fucking festival of family fun.  That’s when I knew I could never bring children into the world.

I’m struggling with this tonight.  I’m angry that he has the power to hurt me after all these years.

He crossed a line today that I would never cross with my child.

It was clear when we reconnected when I was twenty one years old that for my father I was not a real person, I was a fantasy daughter.  I was an angel.  I tried to show him that I’m flesh and blood and nothing like he dreamt I’d be.  Planting seed and then leaving your work unfinished is not going to result in a mirror image of yourself.  I carry the imprint of his genetic makeup.  That is all.  Something made me hang onto the connection in spite of his obvious delusions.  In spite of the fact that early on I could see that the reality of me was going to continually rub violently against his fantasy daughter.  Your daughter can be anything you want her to be if you leave when she’s still a baby.  You can give her any attributes, any characteristics, any talents you want her to have and you can imbue her with all of your own opinions.

My biological father doesn’t like me.  My biological father doesn’t love me.

So I’ve fired him.

Growing up with my step-dad was really hard but tonight I want to say out loud that my step dad has been my only dad for 36 years.  He fucked up royally parenting young kids.  That’s the truth.  The divorce between him and my mom was brutal.  But he has stayed in my life.  He’s been there for me so many times when my mom was checked out.  He stayed the course with me even when I was being a shit, even when I was angry with him about the past, he didn’t walk away.  He never walked away from me.  It used to matter to me that he never officially adopted me and  it used to hurt so much that he didn’t want me living with him when my parents divorced and that after the divorce he never once took me on vacation with him and my sister.

But tonight I can let go of all of that because it’s much more important to me that my dad has never wished something horrible would happen to me to teach me a lesson.  More important than anything else to me is to know that my dad LIKES me.  More than that – I know he loves me.  Even when I develop a phone phobia and also get too poor to call him for two years.  He’s still there when I reach out.  He still reaches out to me.

My dad loves me.  It’s not something I ever have to question.  Whatever pain we share from the past we also share so much enjoyment.  He has been there for 36 years, part of my life.  Fucking warts and all.  I’m no fantasy daughter to my dad – I’m the pain in the ass reality sandwich all kids are – but one he still likes to hang out with and one he manages to  be proud of even when I’m stumbling through life barely hanging on.

I love my dad.  I also really LIKE him.  I like spending time with him.  I love his laughter and his candor and his love of music and birds.

So this is where I’m landing tonight – in a place of gratefulness.  I can’t promise there won’t be more posts about this.  It’s a weighty matter I’ve been carrying on my shoulders for over 20 years.

Please be patient with my process of exorcising ghosts.

I’ll find my way.

I always do.

*If he tries I will block him from commenting on this blog.  I haven’t yet because I’d like to believe that he’ll respect my request not to read this blog or comment here anymore as a last favor in our relationship of no favors.
**He really was horribly racist and he really was a horrible asshole much of them time but I did love him.  I saw good things in him and he told great stories and there are memories of him that I will treasure forever.  But I will never be able to scour his words about black people from my brain and I don’t thank him for that.

Some Things I Love About Max

Some things I love about Max:

  • His enthusiastic pantomimes expressing how delicious the food on his plate looks when he knows I’m stressing about his eating and he just wants me to feel better.
  • His love of going out to restaurants and cafes.  He’s a routine guy like Philip and I are.  But he goes on these jags where he wants to try a new place and there are two criteria for whether or not a place succeeds or fails.  1) The presence (or absence) of Grape Italian soda on the menu 2) How good are the fries?
  • He’s a connoisseur of root beer.
  • That he loves fancy glassware with an emphasis on stemware.  He’s been wanting a martini glass because he thinks they’re cool.  I got him one.  Now he drinks his soda in his martini glass.
  • He thinks I’m pretty and not fat.
  • He thinks of The Walking Dead as “our thing”.  (He lets his dad watch with us out of kindness – but since we watched the whole first season just the two of us during our last week in Oregon when it was just him and me – he thinks it’s our special thing.)
  • He wants to be a consultant for the zombie apocalypse section of the Post Apocalyptic Kitchen project I’m working on with my friend Emma.
  • That he said this after our horrible doctor’s appointment last week “I’m a picky eater.  I’m not proud of it, it’s just a fact.”
  • He’s an avid reader.  He mostly reads humorous nonfiction (The Zombie Survival Guide, for example) and graphic novels like Bone and Usagi Yojimbo.  I don’t care what he reads as long as it isn’t porn.  He loves reading and it makes me really happy.
  • How he gets in a mood to hang out alone with Grandma or with me or with his dad.  How he likes to have alone time with the individuals he loves.
  • His parting comment the other morning on his way to school “You wanna know what would be really gross?” (me “always!”) “Vaseline toast”
  • His strong sense of self.  No one tells Max who he is, he tells them.
  • That he engages his Xbox online friends in debates about abortion, religion, politics, and the questionable (to him) ethics of eating meat.
  • That he thinks animals are equal to humans in worth and deserve to be treated that way.  (Yes, I think my influence can be spotted here)
  • That when he builds women characters in his video games he makes them regular sized people with pretty much regular sized boobs.*  (In character creation you can make bodies super skinny or fat and you can make boobs any size you want too.)
  • That he had the guts to tell the girl he liked last year that he liked her.
  • His curiosity.  He wants to dig under the surface of things.  His questions are interesting and make me want to be able to answer them.  This morning’s question is “Why does stevia have an after taste but regular sugar doesn’t?” (He’s eating a new protein bar that is partly sweetened with stevia to keep the sugar content down.  He likes the bar but has to drink something afterwards to wash the after taste out.)  I happened to have a jar of stevia that we grew and dried and my mom crushed into semi-powder.  We smelled it and noticed it leaves a sweet taste in your mouth when you breath it in.  Max had theories.
  • Max always has theories.

No matter what challenges he faces (and us with him) he’s an awesome kid and I love him.

*There is nothing wrong with big boobs but it’s such a stereotype that the women characters in video games have enormous breasts.  It just pleases me that Max is going against the stereotype.  You can also clothe them in next to nothing if you want, he also doesn’t do this.

The Week My Siblings Visited Us (At the same time!)

My brother Ezekiel and my sister Tara rarely visit us at the same time.  This Thanksgiving they both came up and we had the best time.  My siblings are way cooler than me, more fashionable, funnier, and so different from me sometimes that I wonder how we managed to all have the same mom.  I say we’re so different but the truth is that the differences are more remarkable than our sameness only because they’re louder, they certainly aren’t more numerous.  Our perceptions of the world may vary wildly, the things we find comfort in and enjoy may be different, but at the core we are all very similar.

Max only gets to see his aunt once a year and his uncle once every five years.  It makes me sad because our family is so small already.  It did my heart good to see Max bantering with his aunt and uncle on a really long ride home from Portland in the back seat of the car.  It also confirmed what I’ve always suspected – that my son is like a carbon copy of my brother in temperament and tastes.  Tara noticed this too.

We made a stop at Trader Joe’s and it was hilarious to listen to my brother lecturing Max on how to notice that the display of tapenade looked like vomit more quietly so as not to distress other customers.  He was getting all adult on my kid.  A guy who never gives a shit what others think!  Very funny stuff.  He also worked on Max’s language by asserting that “douche bag” is not an appropriate thing to call anyone and suggested instead that Max say “Delta Bravo” to mean the same thing.  My brother who swears all the time… !!

We ate a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner: mushroom pot pies, chili lime roasted tofu with winter squash, and a salad of lettuce, walnuts, dried sour cherries, and feta.  We ate at 7pm like rational people rather than at 4pm like totally crazy people.  We watched episodes of Saturday Night Live and drank lots of wine and beer.

This is the accident that made our car trip home endless.  I wasn’t sorry about it.  It gave Max extra time to chat between his aunt and uncle.

This is my all time favorite picture of my brother and sister.  I doubt it will be theirs.  I love it because this is really how they are at their best moments.  They go out in the world and talk to people and have lively conversations and crack up and are generally so honest and funny that people love them.  How could you not?  They bicker with each other a lot, I think because my sister has this kindness in her that wants to adjust the world to take away hurt and hunger and loneliness while my brother is a curmudgeon who tells things like he sees them and often it’s not the kind view but the stark view.  But at the core they are very similar.  My sister works with stark harsh reality in her job every single day and my brother does truly have a good heart – so even though they bicker they actually aren’t dissimilar.  They come at the world from opposite corners but their spirits come from a similar origin.  I didn’t mean to write a treatise on them but I love them both so much and this picture reveals the light in both of them for me.

I’ve been meaning to write posts nearly every day for the past week but the words wouldn’t come.  I’ve been on a roller coaster ride lately between really good days and truly foul days.  There are so many weighty issues on my mind that I want to write about but the thought of figuring out how to frame them, where to start, how to shape them… it has felt too overwhelming so I close up my dashboard for the day and try again the next day with the same results.  I have parenting things to discuss, politics, food politics, mental health issues, and questions of philosophy that have been consuming my head.

It will all come out eventually in one way or another.