Tag Archives: kids

How I decided to not be a Grinch this year

“Let’s not get a Christmas tree this year,” I say to W. “We’re too busy to get one and set it up. The kids won’t enjoy it, because they never come out of their rooms. Plus, we can save the $100.”

“Oh,” she says in a quiet voice. “This might be the last Christmas we have in our house with the kids.”

But her voice is soft so I know I’ve won. No traveling to the Christmas tree farm, overpaying for a tree, lugging it home and into the house. No making sure it’s perfectly straight, stringing the lights, placing the ornaments just so and yelling at the cats to get the hell out of the goddamn tree. No boxing up the decorations and dragging the tree to the curb some weekend in January when the branches have started to droop and vacuuming pine needles for weeks and weeks and weeks, even though the tree has been long gone and is now barely a memory of Christmas past.

downloadI rub my hands together and smile a big smile.

I feel a little bit bad. But I’m busy. So busy. With work. And other things. My manuscript is due in January and I’m freaking out. I haven’t written a blog post in for-ev-er.

Three days before Christmas, I start feeling a tad more bad.

Because W deserves better. She deserves a Christmas tree.

So when she is out for the evening, my son and I drive to a nursery and get a tree like we used to do in the old days, pre-W.

All of the trees are $45. My son wants a Charlie Brown tree, but I’m paying so I pick out a not too big, not too small tree with a straight spine.

imagesShe’s tall and slim with excellent posture like Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.

“It’s not going to fit in our car,” my son says.

“It’ll fit in the trunk,” I say. “Don’t you remember how we used to carry our trees in the trunk of our car.”

He says he doesn’t. He always says he doesn’t remember.

The kid at the nursery binds the tree and starts jamming it in the trunk of my Nissan Altima. He looks a little like the Grinch shoving Cindy Lou Who’s tree up the chimney for repair.

Hela barely fits in the trunk of my car. My son and I smile big goofy smiles at each other as the kid struggles with the tree. His smile saying see I told you. My smile saying see I told you, too.

On the way home, my son says we should have saved the $45.

“It’s a waste of time and money,” he says. “It’s going to take you two or three hours to get it set up.”

“One or one and a half,” I correct him. “But that’s not the point. It will make W happy,” I say.

I don’t tell him my secret wish for him. That I hope someday he has someone in his life who is worth such expense and bother.

He shrugs his shoulders.

“Plus, I got to pick out a tree with you,” I add.

At home, he helps me put the tree in the stand.

He doesn’t want to cut the plastic netting and watch the tree spread its arms or help string the lights or put on the star like he used to. He’s 18 not 8, and I ache for those 10 years.

IMG_2164I take my time and wind three strands of lights around Hela. When I’m done, I pull the lights to the front of the branches, the way W likes them.

Next, I put on the string of purple beads that W always had on her tiny tree in her Philadelphia apartment. Back then, I thought it was a strange—purple beads on a Christmas tree. Now, our tree doesn’t seem complete without them.

I place the silver star on the highest branch. A gold star below it.

The silver star was the one W always placed on her tree. The gold star was the one my son and used to decorate our tree.

When the kids were young, they would fight over which star we should use. We always used both to keep the peace. Now, it’s tradition.

I wait up for W, admiring my handiwork: a skinny tree with lights and purple beads and a silver star and a gold star.

“Oh,” she says when she comes home.

“I was going to ask you if we could get a tree,” she says.

“I’m sorry I’m such a Grinch,” I say. “I don’t mean to be.”

I kiss her.

“I know,” she says. “But you usually come around.”

She cries a tiny bit.

download (1).jpgAnd I feel good. Like my heart has grown three sizes today.

* * *

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

(Especially you Grinches out there! You know who you are!)

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The power of story

images.jpgWhile I was grocery shopping last week, a woman approached me.

“I know you,” she said. “You spoke at my church last year.”

“I remember you,” I said.

She asked if I remembered her son. I did.

Big kid. Transguy with a great sense of humor. When I asked who had a purse story, he was the first to share. Turns out he had two purse stories.

She told me he was doing well. Graduating from high school next month. Just got a new job. Forming a support group for older trans teens and young adults.

“He still talks about you,” she said.

And I was reminded about how important it is that we keep telling our stories.

No matter how much the world has changed.

Or how busy we are.

Or how tired of our own story we might be.

Never underestimate the power of your story.

Mom stuff

My son turned 18 yesterday.

IMG_1178

Middle-age Butch and son back in the day

It was around 11:30 p.m. that the doctor said we would be celebrating his birthday on May 16.

I wasn’t have any of that next day stuff. After a few pushes, he entered the world on May 15, a few minutes before midnight. A month and a half before his due date.

He is stubborn like his mother.

From the beginning, he was setting his own schedule and interrupting any plans I had for a normal pregnancy and delivery.

When he finally came home from the hospital, he weighed a little over 5 pounds. I kept him tucked in the crook of my arm like a football.

download (1).jpg

Do you speak sports?

I  assumed he would speak the same language that my dad, my brother and I speak: sports. He doesn’t.

He doesn’t speak books or movies or superheroes or any of my other languages.

He speaks his own, a mix of technology and disdain for everything I like.

He has always been a difficult child. Insisting on paving his own path and refusing to conform to the most basic of rules. He wears shorts in the winter. Says the sky is green. Eats soup from a plate.

I get frustrated. I use the word “normal” more than I want to and then hate myself for doing so. I often worry about what other people will think. When I step back, I can see I am recreating my own childhood.

W always tells me we are supposed to learn from our children. That we can find healing in the parent-child relationship.

I never really understood this.

IMG_1177I have a quote taped to the front of my printer. “Be who you needed when you were younger,” it says.

It reminds me to keep reaching out to young people to tell my story so they can be comfortable with their own.

I wonder if the answer has been there all along.

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

Maybe I’m supposed to parent my son the way I needed to be parented. Accepting him as he is.

Maybe that’s what finally sets me free.

The Flannel Underground

images

This could be my closet

At dinner last week, one of the kids asks me if I have more flannel shirts like the one I had given him to wear in his school’s production of Annie Get Your Gun last year.

“I don’t know. Why?” I ask.

“It’s for a friend,” he says, “whose parents think flannel shirts are too masculine.”

“Is she a lesbian?” I ask.

“Trans,” he says.

“A transguy?”

“Yes.”

I pause.

“I don’t know,” I say. “If his parents don’t want him wearing flannel shirts …”

I pause again.

“Look, I don’t agree with it, but he’s not my kid,” I say. “I can’t be some underground supplier of flannel for your friends.”

He nods his head.

Underground supplier of flannel, I say to myself. I sit a little taller in my chair.

“I’ll take a look at my flannel shirts in the next week or so,” I say. “I probably have some I don’t want. I’ll give them to you. They’ll be your flannel shirts. Whatever you do with them, that’s your business. I certainly can’t be responsible for what you do with your clothing.”

“Got it?” I ask.

“Got it,” he says.

I feel a little bit like a hero. Passing on my used flannel shirts to kids who need them the most.

For armor.

Or camouflage.

Comfort.

A second skin.

The intersecting horizontal and vertical stripes forming hundreds of tiny crosses as they cover a new body.

 

Rich

imageslp1bxi04Rich.

That’s the word that’s been in my head and in my heart for the past few weeks. Jingling around like gold coins in a drawstring pouch.

I’ve felt rich in life. Rich in love. Rich in friends. Rich in my writing life. Rich in everything I need.

I have a weekly routine and friends and my writing and enough special days and events to keep everything interesting.

It’s a rich life.

I think about love and how that makes everything richer. How things seem more special when W’s there. The way I can’t wait for her to get home at night so I can tell her about my day and experience it all over again through her eyes.

Of course, my life isn’t perfect. The house is usually a mess and the cat puked under the dining room table and shouldn’t I be due for a pay increase and when will those damn kids get jobs.

But my life is rich. It’s cheesecake and a hot fudge sundae with extra whipped cream and a $20 bill that I found in an old pair of jeans.

And then last night happens, and I am sad and hurt and broken inside. If you read this blog, you are probably feeling the same way.

imageszgi58iwpStill, I remind myself of the richness of my life. Of love and friends and the way they swirl around me like stardust.

This morning, W tells me everything will be okay and that she loves me.

A friend invites me to a drum circle. Other friends share kind words and blog posts they have found to be soothing and encouraging. A friend who runs a local LGBT group sends an e-mail about working together to protect the rights of those in our community. I will attend the steering committee meeting they are holding on Monday to find out what I can do to help.

W will be home soon. We will have dinner together and watch Luke Cage on Netflix. She’ll fall asleep first. I’ll write and read and then turn in for the night. If I can’t sleep, I’ll settle in close to W and the cats piled up at my feet.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to get out of the house and write in the little coffee shop in town. Maybe I’ll see some of my friends there. I’ll be kind to myself. I’ll be kind to others.

And when things seem hopeless or scary or pointless, I’ll take refuge in my rich life.

* * *

What makes your life rich?

Silent partners

One of our kids was in a serious bicycle crash almost two weeks ago. He spent a week in the hospital. W stayed with him around the clock.

“You make him feel safe,” I told her.

I visited each day.

He was home for a few days but had a setback and is back in the hospital for at least another week. W is by his side.

Once again, I am making a daily trek to the hospital.

W sends me a list of what to bring that day: nail clippers, a travel-size bottle of shampoo from the top of her dresser, Advil.

I usually visit late afternoon and stay until it starts to get dark outside. I run out for whatever the kid wants. It is always sweet tea and something else. Today it was a single glazed donut. I tell him I am going to buy him a Smashburger with cheese and bacon and a Nutter Butter milkshake when he feels better.

W and I sit on the couch in his room.

“What’s new?” I ask.

She gives me the update.

“What’s new with you?” she asks.

I tell her what’s happening at home.

We eat take-out for dinner.

We watch silly videos about Prince beating Jimmy Fallon at ping pong and cats doing silly cat things.

We stare at our phones.

Sometimes I bring the newspaper or a magazine to read.

But mostly we sit without speaking. I might squeeze her hand or rub her back to remind her I am here. That I will always be here, especially in times like these.

I think of our cats at home. The two brothers who silently sit on the pink blanket on top of the washer to watch the birds or on the bed to take a nap or in the window to warm in the sun …

And I remember how lucky I am to have W by my side as life storms by.

 

On flannel and gratitude and Annie Oakley

images[2]Our youngest has a role in this year’s high school musical. They are performing “Annie Get Your Gun” this spring.

Yesterday afternoon, I took him to a couple of local thrift stores to look for a pair of cowboy boots. We found a pair that fit on sale for $14. Yeehaw!

I am letting him borrow a western-styled flannel shirt to wear in the play.

“Do you have a shirt my friend Sandy can borrow?” he asks.

As I am sorting through a pile of flannel looking for a shirt for his friend, I am struck by the volume of my collection.

Sometimes we take for granted all that we have. The roof over our heads, our overstocked pantry and freezer. The ability to buy a new shirt whenever and just because and flannel!

Even though we ended up going the thrift store route for the cowboy boots, we have the means to buy our kids new boots for a play, a suit jacket for chorus, tools for vo-tech.

Not everyone is so lucky.

“If any other kids need flannel shirts, let me know,” I tell him.

“Ok, I’ll tell the play director to let everyone know,” he says.

When W comes home that night we laugh.

We can’t wait to hear what he told the director of the play.

“My butch mother has flannel shirts for everyone!”

So stereotypical but so true.

Flannel, it’s for butches. It’s for young thespians and gunslingers and lumberjacks. Everyone, really.

So, yeah, it’s good to be butch. It’s good to share. And it’s good to remember to be grateful for all that we have.

* * *

What are you grateful for today?

What I learned from some blue jays

imagesYVV4JR9TA few weeks before Christmas, I saw three blue jays in our backyard. Three blue jays lined up on a white picket fence, their painted crowns poking into the morning sky.

I knew there was some meaning in my sighting. I went to my computer and looked up the blue jay as an animal totem.

“If you have a Blue Jay totem, you must learn to use your personal power properly. Be careful not to become a bully. The word ‘jay’ comes from the Latin word ‘Gaea’ which is Mother Earth. A Blue Jay totem links you directly with the power of the Earth itself. It can link the heavens and the Earth and give you access to universal energies and power.”

I try to remember to be a partner and a parent and not a bully. Sometimes the line is blurred, especially because I am a person who admires strength as both a physical and mental quality.

I watched the oldest child do his second load of laundry. Ever. I wanted to yell at him to go through his pockets first.

This is the kid who carries around lighters and pocket knives, paperclips and disassembled pen parts, and other shiny detritus he finds on the ground.

But then I see him sifting through his blue jean pockets without my nagging.

The middle child always tells me what I want to hear. He has figured out that this is one way to get me off his back.

“Did you bring your dishes downstairs?” I ask.

“Yes,” he tells me.

I find his dirty dishes in his dresser drawer.

“You know that drawer doesn’t actually wash the dishes,” I say.

“Oh, I didn’t know,” he replies.

We laugh.

Laughter is a better sound than yelling.

After all, they are just dishes. Discs made out of clay.

We are made out of clay, too.

We can cut each other with our words.

Or build each other up so that we are so tall our heads poke into the clouds.

* * *

I saw another blue jay on Christmas Eve.

imagesBKLFD6HVOn the day after Christmas, I saw a red fox.

“Since the fox lives ‘between times’ — on the edge of land, visible as dusk and dawn, and can guide the way to the Faerie Realm. A fox can teach you to control your aura so that you can be more in harmony with others and the world.

If you have a fox totem, learning to be invisible is very important in your life. Imagine yourself blending in with your surroundings, becoming part of the background. Be very still and quiet. Through practice you can be unnoticed even at a party or in a crowd.

A fox totem also teaches good eating habits; the fox eats small amounts frequently which medicine is now telling us is better for our health.”

* * *

What about you? What are your animal totems?

The information on each animal totem comes from Lin’s Domain.

A boy and a turtle

One reason that I get sad sometimes is because my son is 14.

Fourteen and too big and grown for a mother, or at least that’s what he tells me these days.

I see him once a week if I’m lucky.

“Mom, can we skip this week? I’m really busy,” he informs me.

I usually say it’s okay because I don’t want to ruffle his feathers anymore than they already are. These days he’s like a peacock having a really bad hair day.

I get him every other weekend, but that too is subject to the whims of a 14-year-old boy.

When he was 13, he went to live with his father. I agreed to this new arrangement, knowing that if I held onto him too hard I would lose him for good.

Turtle crossing roadHe came home this weekend. One of the highlights occurred when we spotted a turtle in the middle of the road.

“Mom, pull over!” he shouted. “I have to save him.”

It had been a long time since I had seen him this excited.

I pulled to the side of the road and put on my hazards.

“Be careful crossing the street,” I said, unable to silence my inner mother.

He was. He was 14 after all. He picked up the turtle by the shell, carried it back to the car and placed it inside an orange bucket.

I have been carrying this just-in-case bucket in the trunk of my car ever since he was a little boy. There have always been frogs and toads and turtles and other creatures that have unexpectantly come into his life. The bucket has come in handy more times than I can enumerate.

I believe in animal totems among other things and tried to explain to my son how the turtle carried a message for him, for us.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

“Mom, we’ve lost you,” he said in a sarcastic voice that only a 14-year-old can master.

I knew not to protest. Not to try to explain the turtle sighting anymore.

But I also knew in my heart that the turtle was my sign to proceed cautiously and slowly and to have faith that in the end both of us would get to where we need to go.

* * *

From my writer’s group session today. Prompt: One reason that I get sad sometimes is because ________________.

Me want woman

This week, I won’t have to shuttle any kids to or from camp.

But, I thought I would share a camp memory from last week.

Kid #3 was enrolled in a film class.  The drop-off instructions said to  enter through the front doors of the school on the first day of camp and meet the instructor in the lobby at 8:45.

So, on the first day of camp, we parked the car, entered the school through the main entrance and looked around for someone to help us.

A man in a suit greeted us.  “Can I help you?” he asked politely.

“We’re looking for the film class,” I said.

“Oh, I’ll escort you to the front office,” he replied.  “I apologize for all of the commotion.  We’re having a principals’ meeting today.”  He made a sweeping gesture with his hand.

As he spoke, I became aware of all of the principals walking through the front lobby and gathering in a large conference room.  The men were wearing collars.  The women, long, starched habits.

AnimalI suddenly became self-conscious of my clothing choice.  After rolling out of bed, I had chosen to wear a pair of camo cargo shorts and a Muppets T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Animal and the words “Want Woman!”  Standard butch attire.  I folded my arms in front of me and tried to look casual and maternal.

I told W about my adventure later that night.

“You owe me big time,” I said.

“Did you not notice the words ‘Pope John Paul II’ in the name of the school?” she asked.