Baby Chickens and Muffins

At around 11pm last night I was awoken by the motherly sixth sense, as I often am when someone creeps along to the bathroom in the wee hours, only this time nobody peed. I realized it was Seth, when I heard him go back to his room. What on earth? I asked if he was ok, and when there was no answer, got up. Imagine my surprise to find him fully dressed, holding his phone, looking out the open window in his room!

“Are you trying to sneak out?” I exclaimed in amazement. He said no, but then it turned out that he was, and then a whole thing ensued. Far from hilarity. But at the end of it, we more or less came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t sneak out and I wouldn’t let him go out, despite the fact that I don’t let him do anything and I completely and utterly cramp his style and don’t trust him and oh, did he mention (only 8 million times) that he hates me? So ok, I ended up staying awake for at least another hour doing Sudoku on the couch (I was pretty sharp at it, too, let me tell you!) and then reading in bed. I finally fell asleep after I heard him drop his book – usually a pretty sure sign that he’s fallen asleep himself.

So I’m exhausted today, and I don’t even want to get into it with Tex, who is away at grad school for her last intensive weekend of the year because, heck, she’s got enough on her plate what with year-end presentations, etc.  (Of course I’ll tell her about it when she gets back.) But I did end up spilling my guts to my neighbor whose pseudonym I have forgotten, let’s just call her Amanda. She had called me this morning before anyone else was up to get the name of my piano tuner, tell me she needed the boys help later to move rocks in her garden, and oh yeah, could she borrow a banana for breakfast? We met at the fence and I told her the whole thing in whispers and she couldn’t have been more kind. Because she’s known Seth his whole life, she has a pretty good bead on him and we both agree that he is a good kid with a big heart and, as she said in her Tennessee way, “This too shall pass.” I felt so much better after talking with her and connecting in that very parent-y way (we also talked about the 16-year old girl, Seth’s contemporary, who recently committed suicide, such a horrible, horrible tragedy).

A good neighbor is a jewel of untold worth. Amanda and I have seen each other through divorce (mine), illnesses, operations, job trouble, school trouble, and many many more. Together we have celebrated graduations, accomplishments, honors, birthdays and many many more. One of Amanda’s many endearments for kids, hers and others, is “muffin”. One of my endearments for kids, mine and others, is “baby chicken”. Together we are holding our kids and others as close as we can in this crazy world. We are holding each other and our families close. How did I get so damn lucky??

Published in: on April 21, 2012 at 1:52 PM  Comments (2)  
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Yesterday at church, I spent some time at coffee hour talking with Mattilda, a transwoman, something that caused at least one straight person I know of to say to her earnestly, “I think you’re one of the bravest people I know!” Brave or not, when I saw Mattilda a week ago (also at coffee hour), she told me she was sinking.

Ack, sinking! When a person tells you she’s sinking at coffee hour, I think you could definitely say that she’s reaching out to you, since at coffee hour, usually, people just have a sip and an inconsequential natter and/or a quick networking convo and then go their merry way. One reason Mattilda may have been reaching out to me is that I’m kind of the Gay Church Lady, in that I’m openly and as aggressively as possible organizing the LGBTQA* folks so that there is even more support, visibility and understanding than there already is. Also I am usually pretty friendly, and I have to say that my instinct when she told me she was sinking was to ask what I could do. Except that I didn’t. I listened, but I excused myself pretty quickly and rushed off. Why? Partly because I felt put on the spot and wasn’t sure what to say. Mostly because I’m a householder.

I got that lovely term from a book I’m reading, Rebel Buddha: A Guide to a Revolution of Mind by Dzogchen Ponlop , and by it he means someone who isn’t able to give up all worldly pursuits and retire to a monastery, someone who has family responsibilities involving spouse, children, job. All of whom and which I was rushing off to that day. And when I found Mattilda yesterday at coffee hour, after spying her across the sanctuary crying during the service, I still had all of whom and which, two of them hulking beside me and grumping at me to “let’s go, Mom, let’s go!”, and I once again had to go against my instinct, which was urging me to figure out what Mattilda needs and just do it, even if it entailed setting aside my own concerns and plans.

I can’t, though. I can’t drop out of my own responsibilities when Seth is flunking math and I have to help keep his nose to the grindstone, when Owen is about to turn 13 and there are all kinds of family obligations for that very important birthday (like preparing for our ersatz/pagan Bar Mitzvah-kind of celebration), I always have to manage and deal with Janis**, my spouse is in grad school so I am the parent-on-the ground, not to mention main cook and cleaning person, and that’s just on the family side. Just a few of the things on the family side.

At any rate, I again listened, and I again skived off. And felt terrible about it in the car going home! I told my family that I wished I could have invited her over, if things were different, I would have invited her over, but, but, but! It’s our every-other-year Easter together, I hadn’t even started cooking, Seth had a lot of homework, both Tex and I were already completely exhausted  etc., etc., etc.!

In the movie “Chicken Run”, the radical Ginger, urging the gals to revolt, declares, “We either die free chickens or we die trying!” and one of the other chickens, Babs asks, quite sensibly, “Are those the only choices?” (A tip o’ the cursor to Jack Halberstam for writing about this scene in her book The Queer Art of Failure.)

It turns out there are other choices for me in the situation with Mattilda, as well. After I had calmed down a little bit, started cooking, boys batting about, Tex making a fire in the living room, I realized that I actually am doing something to help Mattilda, even if I can’t welcome her into my home just at the moment. I’m organizing at church, as I mentioned, and hopefully queer folks will soon have more opportunity to connect there socially – potlucks and the like. Also just ramping up the queer presence through our new chapter of Interweave is changing the atmosphere (Interweave is kind of a UU Gay/Straight Alliance). The more Mattilda feels at home at church, the more likely she is to seek help from other folks, like the minister and lay ministry, who actually can extend more practical help like rides or meals or whatever it is she might need.

I still feel squidgy about the way I handled my two coffee hour scenes with Mattilda – like I failed in a human duty — but it would do neither her nor me and my family any good if I rashly promised her something I couldn’t deliver or couldn’t sustain. As a householder, I have to consider my householder responsibilities first, but that doesn’t mean that I completely cut myself off from others in need. Now that I have that all a little straighter in my head, I hope that I’ll be able to listen and respond a bit more from my heart next time I see Mattilda, rather than feeling so conflicted and squirrely. It’s definitely a tricky balance, though, emotionally and otherwise.

Mattilda, I’m thinking about you, and sending you love.

Seth, you little rat, sit down and finish your math homework! I have to make dinner now.

*Lesbain, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer and Allies

**my ex and the boys’ other mom with whom I share custody; she gets a different nom d’ex in every post

Published in: on April 9, 2012 at 12:37 PM  Leave a Comment  
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I Enjoy!

Tex and I both frequent the same acupuncturist, a wonderful woman called Huang Yu (her real name!). She puts needles in us and gives us Chinese herbs in a valiant attempt to cure what ails us, or at least to make us a little healthier. She learned her medical arts in China but has been in the US long enough to know that Americans are a special breed, sometimes needing to be treated with kid gloves and a good sense of humor.

Tex has always been plagued with restless legs at night, and as she ages, it’s been getting worse. Huang Yu is determined to help her with this extremely unpleasant and disruptive syndrome, and has been needling her and giving her Chinese herbs like there’s no tomorrow. After a visit with her mentor, a Taoist master who lives in New York City, Huang Yu recently let Tex know his advice for an extra added ingredient to her herb mixture: silk worm poop.

“Don’t tell your wife!” she giggled.

“Are you kidding me?” Tex replied. “That won’t phase her!”

It doesn’t. Hey, lots of people eat insects, and if a little worm poop can cure my sleepless hubby, then so be it!

“Doesn’t taste like anything,” Huang Yu assured us.

Goose poop, on the other hand, must taste ambrosial, given the way Thatcher our dog gobbles it up at every opportunity. The problem for everyone is that when he needs to poop, there can be a situation, as goose poop just doesn’t do anything good for his digestion. Witness the events this morning: I was, of course, in a rush, after having gotten everybody out the door, fed, equipped with lunch and homework, some of them even kissed (not Seth “I don’t need you for anything, mom” god, no), and I was just going to merrily run Thatcher around the block so he could pee and poop, then hie me to my therapist appointment (oh, my sainted therapist, I do love her so!).

I will spare you the details, but they included cancelling therapy and lots of bleach.

Although this little incident completely disrupted my morning plans, and although I hate to miss seeing my wise and loving therapist, I actually found myself in a rather jolly mood about it all. The dog really needed me. Then I really needed to clean up. Then I really needed to have a bowl of soup to sustain me. I was really being there now! Here. Whatever. And it felt pretty good.

I’m back on the go, now, and getting ready to head out again for more errands, more meetings. But I’ve had a bit of a rest, oddly, as the past hour has actually been quite rigorous physically. A rest in my head and spirit.

So, dear reader, off I go, and I will keep in mind the rousing words Huang Yu wrote on Tex’s herb container after she received the special ingredients she had to send away to China for:


Published in: on April 3, 2012 at 10:24 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Tiny Creatures Will Nom Me When I’m Dead

This is the extremely comforting thought I had today after I’d taken my poor troubled self out for a walk in the spring air. I had stopped by the vernal puddle* and spied my first wee aquatic creature of the season and that phrase popped into my head. I’m not being sarcastic, I really am comforted by this thought. It puts my worries in perspective and reconnects me to the Bigger.

I had forgotten how much walking is an invitation to a meditative state. It may take an hour, but by the time I’ve walked that long, I’m less twisted up inside my head. If I remember to take my pen and notebook, I’ve had occasion to jot down all kinds of ideas and solutions that have jolted loose.

I will speak of the tyranny of baseball, the difficulties of being the mom of a surly-yet-needy teenage boy, the ups and downs of being a queer activist in the burbs, and the immensity of having a spouse in grad school another time. Right now, I just want to remind you to get outside and have an amble. It will absolutely do you a world of good.

*a very tenacious bit of wetland that has persisted in an abandoned parking lot, despite having been asphalted over. I watch in joy each spring when the indentation slowly fills with water, creatures appear, and cat tails.

Published in: on April 2, 2012 at 2:43 PM  Comments (1)  
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