Z is for Zany

Z

za·ny
zānē/
adjective
1. amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic
noun
2. an erratic or eccentric person


As I mentioned before, I have been a lifelong lover of NPR and a devotee of WNYC, and that means I get my news, entertainment and conversation starters via that medium. One of my weekly listens includes something called The Moth, a storytelling podcast. I had been hearing strangers stories on,  for years and at the beginning and end of every one, there is an entreaty for more. You can call the pitch line, give a short summary of your tale and hope for the best.

Have you ever had a moment when it all seemed to make sense, as if you stood outside of yourself and could see beyond your own internal dialog? At my daughters 4th birthday, that is what happened for me, as I watched everyone enjoying the sunny day and good company.  I was momentarily overcome by seeing the proof of what we had built, this shining thing that was something I never thought I would have.

During this moment of internal jubilant peace, I decided to call and pitch the story of my journey between one child and the next. It had all spiralcome together for me, in one hippy dippy moment, becoming a perfect circle. I called, I pitched and hung up in a panic. I called Robyn and told her I had done this incredibly idiotic thing.

A week or so later, I got a call, they liked my story, they wanted me to put it on stage.

What follows can be read elsewhere in this blog, but I can not articulate strongly enough, how amazing this experience was.  If you read back you can find out more about it here and here. It has put me in the company of people I admire greatly and shifted my perspective yet again. I found a new fight/drug/meditation to make the world shiny.

I didn’t find space to talk about my job in this month, so here’s the short explanation; I run an office that focuses on Transgender health, we provide the counseling and medical care for the transition process. I started working there because another adopted family member Dr. Lisa, asked me to run her office and I have been there for the past 6 years. I tell you this only to provide some background.

I get to help people everyday, through some of their hardest moments, I have a beautiful, weird, safe and healthy family and on top of that, I got to share my story with the world on a show I have been a fan of for years. It’s been a pretty zany, lovely, heart-growing ride.

I told my story in The Boys city, with all of his clan in the audience. I think that moment will be in my personal jewel box until the day I leave this world.thestory

I told my story because it is hard to say these things over the kitchen table during a weekend visit. I told my story so that my children would always have it, which is a pretty big thing for a kid without anyone to remember her childhood story. I told my story for me too, so I never forget my blessings.

~~~~~ 5660_148666960751_609560751_3493031_2062122_n

I did this as part of a larger project, both personally and professionally, but even if some of that doesn’t come to fruition, I really enjoyed the challenge.  I found a lot of new stories while I explored the other people participating in  the A to Z Challenge, which has been awesome. I also learned a lot about the habit of writing and myself.  So, thank you for reading this and thank you for being a part of this process with me!

 

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Y is for Yearn

Y

yearn
yərn/
verb
1. have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from.
2. be filled with compassion or warm feeling.


When I was a kid there were no parties, there were no presents. The first gift I remember getting was a 12 pack of Play-Doh for Christmas, that I shared with my brother, and that was it. Later (from age 9 to 13) I lived with my mother’s parents and they did give gifts, in fact they were the giftsole expression of interest and love. During a therapy session I had told my therapist that my grandparents never told me they loved me or showed affection, she insisted that I tell my grandmother.  I assume she thought it would be helpful. I told her, and her response? “ We provide for you, we buy you gifts at the appropriate times.” That’s it, that was her response, except to add that I did not react properly to said gifts and perhaps I should address THAT with my therapist.  So lets just go forward with the knowledge that I have some issues, big, cringey. pathetic issues when it comes to gifts and celebrations. 

6180_138001065751_6851742_nWhen my daughter turned 1, I made it, a big deal. My kid would always know how precious I thought she was, she would always know how celebrated her life was. Once a year, she would have an awesome party with everyone that loved her. Around 60 people attended her first birthday party, I took out a small park to accommodate it. I know this is more about me, all of my insecurities, and perceived failings, but sometimes self-awareness doesn’t even slow me down. Rented tables, crafted projects, tulle, costumes and full menus are all part of my yearly homage to the life of my daughter and she knows she is the princess of her own little tale.3oncouch

Soon after Asha turned 1, I finally kissed Robyn, who had been one of my best friends for years and secret crush for some time. She (literally) ran away, or as she says “walked briskly”, but she returned and kissed me back. We got married and she legally adopted Asha, bringing her official momma count up to, 2.

AquabatsAfter the first year, that party evolved to be both a celebration of Asha and a greeting of Spring. It’s the one time we have a big party and see everyone, especially the people we rarely get to see during the rest of the year. The Boy and Gretchen came the first year and the third, but Gwynnie was still teaching classes and couldn’t come. When Asha was turning 4, I made sure it would work for Gwynnie and they were all able to drive down. Gwynns sister and partner drove out from Brooklyn too. Asha and her cousins were into The Aquabats, so they were also making an appearance, in the form of one doting mother, and assorted Uncles and Aunt.

We had just moved to a sleepy little town on the Delaware River. The kind of place that is filled with walking and cycling paths. The weekends fill the main drag with antique hunters, bikers in leathers, cyclists in spandex and families strolling with sticky-fingered children. It was the first time since I gave The Boy up, that Gwynnie would be in my house; also the first time I was proud of where I had made a home. It even had a garden and tiny porch!

Everyone came, everyone talked, laughed, and ate well. As Gretchen sat on the porch talking music with my broth-in-law, Gwynnie chatted with her sister in the backyard and The Boy chased his sister around while she squealed, I realized some deep shit.

 I could, maybe, let up on all of the heartfelt yearning, because..here it comes.. I had a family.

It was filled with people who didn’t have any blood connecting them, and there wasn’t a language to easily explain it to outsiders, but it was strong and fierce and mine. More importantly, it was my daughters’ and her brothers’ and they would both be okay, neither of them was ever going to be alone.kisses4yrs

X is for Chemical X

Chemical X
Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an EXTRA INGREDIENT to the concoction…. CHEMICAL X. Thus, the POWERPUFF GIRLS WERE BORN

In April 2008 my daughter was born. She was exactly 8lbs, had all of her fingers and toes, she was perfect. A c-section helped.Asha42508_zps40ff6b64

 

A small note about c-sections, I don’t understand why anyone would get one voluntarily. I’d choose the pain over and over again. My daughter was breach despite every effort to shift her. I was strapped down and I couldn’t hold this baby that I was getting to keep, it broke my heart. Thankfully it was a sad whisper among a joyful noise.

My room was filled with people and gifts and smiles. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome for this new life.  Spring, sprung in during the time I was in the hospital and everything seemed to of flowered to welcome this child destined for sunshine and warmth. It was  a stark difference from how alone I was the first time, or how very sad I was then. Instead of loss and heartbreak, this was all about love and life.

5660_148663340751_3041154_nI named her Asha which means “Hope” in Sanskrit and “Life” in Swahili. It seemed apt. I think names are important, they are one of a mothers’ first gifts afetr life and I hope hers’ shapes her well.

When I spoke with The Boy after she was born, he asked how much she weighed (he was 8.6) and he was quick to point out he was bigger. I brought her up to see them when she was 4 months old. It was probably one of the easiest visits I had ever had, as the dynamic began to shift.

I was only a few years older than their oldest niece and nephew, yet I was not a peer for those kids or for the adults, it had always been an 1113_51130610751_8253_nunsettled place to find footing, along with all of the rest. Now, a decade later,  I was a mother in the true sense, and it was new unblemished ground.

4503_110684995751_3927311_nI still don’t know if it’s accurate to say that Gretch and Gwynn started speaking to me differently or if I just started listening better. The shift felt massive to me, but again, who knows? I spoke to them about baby stuff and they happily shared their experiences. I didn’t have this anywhere else, there was no mother, Auntie or grandmother to call with questions. I don’t want to give the impression that they were my go-to, because I was never that comfortable (which is on me) but they were a touchstone that I didn’t have anywhere else. I’m sure they would of answered had I been willing to reach out.

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I was the first of my friends to have a child, and they assumed I’d just figure it out, I had always been that type of person. I do not know what parents did before Google.  I was at a loss and in the ER, for diaper rash, more often than I would like to admit. My daughters first year, like the rest of my life was a lot of trial and error.

When I had left the hospital with her, I remember thinking “What is wrong with these people? Why are they letting me leave?? I have no idea how to take care of this tiny person!”.

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Most days, I still feel that way.

W is for Wayward

W

way·ward
ˈwāwərd/
adjective
1. difficult to control or predict because of unusual or perverse behavior.

I told Gwynn and Gretch about being pregnant and the reaction was….cautious. Wondering if I had thought it through, if it was the best decision for me, if I was ready. I was upset and wanted to take deep offense to this caution but after a few minutes (hours, days….whatever) of attempted self-awareness, I realized that they had every right to the questions.

storm coming

From their point of view, I had been flitting about for years, getting into trouble and then seemed to stabilize and commit while I was with Nikki. I started working decent jobs and stayed at one address. Then I just broke-up with her for no discernible reason, got rid of everything I owned and decided to move to China. All of this was within about 4 months of time and then I call and say, “ I’m pregnant! Surprise!…hold-up..why aren’t you excited??”

 

Secretbox (1)They had almost no exposure to my friends, which had shifted and matured over the years; they had no idea that the relationship that seemed to stabilize me was one filled with suffocating abuse and leaving was the best thing I had done for myself in a long time. They didn’t know, because I never told them any of this stuff. Like everything else in my life, if I was keeping this kid, I had to change my modus operandi. So I told them and asked them to trust me and to believe in me, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Despite my own surety that I was having this baby, I was a mess, because really, who knows if they are strong enough before they are tested? I had lived a rather selfishly fearless, wayward life so far and being a parent seemed more terrifying to me than any of the other incredibly risky hitchhiking-in-australiastupid things I had done prior.I had watched loved ones die, been beaten and betrayed,  I had hitchhiked across states, dove into ocean depths, taken candy from strangers, ingested unknown substances,ran with scissors, committed crimes,  fallen wildly and stupidly in love, lost everything, left everything and had often wondered where I might sleep that night; yet this idea of motherhood and being responsible for another’s life caused more fear in me than any of those adventures combined. I didn’t regret any of it, but I wondered if it was a foundation that another life should be dependent on.

belly 197

 

V is for Value

V

val·ue
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
verb
 1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).
2. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.

How do you qualify value? I sat around a lot with that question rolling around and bumping against old wounds. Joseph felt I didn’t have any. My own family felt I had even less. All of that really felt like the faded strains of an old sad song that I really didn’t have time for. I was just sick of that sad, sad tale. What did I have to offer NOW?

core-values-wordcloud1

Joseph had been right about me not having much, but I had people. I have written about some of them, a few that were part of seminal moments or personal realizations; but over the years, those numbers had risen, friends that grew over time through trial, tribulation and celebration.

I was surprised by their reaction to the “Oh fuck! I’m pregnant” news. They seemed to of had caught Jori’s fever, they said “Yay! Baby!”. I had never been good at asking for help, I went hungry or homeless instead of asking for help, but that all had to change now. I asked, and it was like they had just been waiting for that allowance of pride from me.

Jori and her partner Diana headed up the posse. They sent out emails, made up ads on craigslist and called in favors. They took out a much larger storage space, than I had for my pile of books and they started filling it. Diapers, formula, crib, car seats, clothes to cover this new life for the first two years of its life…SO much stuff, we had to upgrade storage space.  Another friend let me have first crack at the estate sale of an interior designer, and my friends filled up another van full of the furniture, I was never in one place long enough, to collect.

My friends didn’t want me to leave and they wanted to be a part of this baby’s life. They talked me through panic and tears. They helped with plans and finding a place to live. I don’t know how to sound anything but trite with this, but these people who chose to be in my life, they made keeping this baby possible, they let me keep my promise to provide support and a net to hold us up when we fell. They thought I had value, that I could be a mother, they believed in me.

What was my value? If it could be measured by the company I kept, it was far greater than I had given any merit to.

Ultrasound 11.02.07 (1)

Of course, they could all be delusional..

U is for Upheaval

U

up·heav·al
əpˈhēvəl/
noun|
1.  a violent or sudden change or disruption to something.
~ an upward displacement of part of the earth’s crust.

This is another moment of upheaval in my life, so much so, that I have a hard time making it coherent enough for this medium; but I will try.

I came back from the meditation seminar and on the ride back, finally broke up with Nikki the Jerkface. I quickly decided that a new direction was needed in my life and set down a plan of action. I like action plans, really anything with bullet points.

BeijingMy friend Kor, had been working and traveling in China, and had settled in Beijing. He had been trying to entice me over for some time and I decided, why not? I sold everything I owned, other than the books I couldn’t part with, which went into a small storage space. I stayed with friends in Bloomfield and started the process of dismantling my life in the states. I applied for teaching positions in China and quickly had some offers.

I also decided to try dating. I had been with Nikki for almost 5 years and that adventure had cut me off from a lot of life. I was
tired of hiding and I was tired of women. I was also going to leave the country for at least a year and needed some fun. I put an ad online saying pretty much that and what do you know, plenty of people were willing to take me out to dinner.

 

I had never really dated, lesbians don’t really date, they fall into each other and stick.  I wanted to give it a try. So I did, I went on lots of dates with different people, mostly men, but some women too. I had nice dinners, lunches and drinks with perfect strangers, and I didn’t sleep withlesbianuhaul any of them! As far as I was concerned this was a psychological breakthrough. I had almost nothing of physical value, a contract or two I was debating between, a grand adventure was about to begin and plenty of new conversations. It was really quite pleasant.

Then I met Joseph. We had nice dates too, and then we had some more nice dates. We went back to his place and played Scrabble on his table, which was a slice from a beautiful tree. He was an engineer, in the final process of becoming a professional engineer. He wanted nothing but the short-term company I could offer, we had good conversation. I decided, okay time for some fun.

Remember the old adages about your first time? Or the percentage of safe sex encounters that still go awry? This was the first time I was with a man in a very long time, we were very safe.

Two weeks later, I KNEW. I knew with The Boy and I knew now. I waited, and I peed on the stick, I was pregnant.

preganancy tests

I wanted a second opinion, though I really had no doubt. I went to Planned Parenthood and they confirmed it. I was hysterical. My phone rang on my way out. It was Jori.

“What’s wrong??!!?”

“I am fucking pregnant, I was safe and it was just once, and I am still fucking PREGNANT!”

“YAY! BABY”

“Fuck you Jori! It is NOT YAY BABY time!”

I called Joseph and he said he we’d figure it out and he’d talk to me after work. After work, we talked and he had the abortion scheduled. He said that it would be a sin for me to keep this baby, since I had nothing to offer other than the same poverty he and I had both grown up in, the same instability. He said I would be selfish and no better than my own people if I kept this baby. He said I wasn’t the person he was going to have a baby with, I wasn’t educated or well off enough, this was not part of his plan. I was not appropriate. I had nothing, no home, no stuff, no family. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. I don’t know what happened to the nice, smart man, but I never saw him again. Unfortunately he was right about a few things, but luckily not all. I wasn’t alone anymore.

I called my people, my friends, my chosen ones and we came up with a new plan (there were bullet points). I was keeping this baby.

keep-calm-cause-you-are-not-alone

T is for Transition

T

tran·si·tion
tranˈziSHən,-ˈsiSHən/
noun
 1. the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another
~ a passage in a piece of writing that smoothly connects two topics or sections to each other.
~ a momentary modulation from one key to another
~ a change of an atom, nucleus, electron, etc., from one quantum state to another, with emission or absorption of radiation.
verb
1. undergo or cause to undergo a process or period of transition.

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I realize that until now I have not really spoke of The Boy and there are reasons for that. I have always been liked by children, which is weird because I don’t really like children. I like individual children, much as I like individual dogs or cats, both can spur deep and loving relationships for me, but either way I don’t like them just for the mere fact of their existence. I have never cared if a child liked me, which is why they might like me in the first place… much like a cat. I cared if The Boy liked me, and therefore have had no way to be comfortable around him. I am not comfortable with caring; I don’t know how to talk about him.

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I have worked with foster kids, and I get them, they are a mess in many different kinds of way but, I understand their “crazy”, I recognize it.

400814_2694603999053_1171432951_nThe Boy is not crazy, he is a perfectly well-adjusted child, with nothing but full confidence in his abilities and intelligence. He is smart, and funny. He is sarcastic, sensitive, interesting and is worth having a conversation with. He has played piano, sax, trumpet and drums with OntheFerry_zpsf576ecc5varying degrees of interest and passion. He is gifted in math, science and engineering. He has been on the local radio station learning the ropes of engineering and production since Middle School and recently produced his first solo show. He skis, sails, hikes and has done various other sports over the years. He builds robots and battles them. He is a very tall black kid in a white family that seems totally well-adjusted and can mock the absurdity of himself and life in general, with adult aplomb.  His moms have never been able to get him to do chores, and he is spoiled in his own way. He is smart enough to consciously recognize that an intelligent argument paired with unending persistence will overcome any resistance from his very reasonable pacifist parents. I may be one of the few people who joyfully says, no, to him. He can be quite charming when he chooses. He can also be quite annoying.

5660_148663085751_6685996_nAll of this are just pieces of achievements and small hints at the kid that has been growing up within a world filled with grace. He doesn’t have questions about his story, because he’s always known it. He has never known true loss, or complete failure, and though I hope he never does, I figure he’ll be alright when and if that happens. He had had the chance to try his hand at whatever has crossed his path and many things have and will continue to do so. His world is vast and not narrowed by restraints.

He knows it, he knows how blessed he is. How many of us were aware and appreciative of our family and our blessings as a pre-teen? I haven’t known many. He is no longer a child, but we haven’t quite gotten there in this tale. There are many reasons for my growth as a person but one of the biggest catalysts is wanting to be someone worth knowing, to this boy who is almost a man.  I know from my own tale that the accident of birth isn’t enough.

This whole story is about transitions but the most amazing one I have seen is of this child growing up. He amazes me; as does the family, that has made the life he has been given, possible. I am not really a part of that, but I am lucky enough to play a supporting role.

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I mean, I still don’t always like kids,  but I guess he’s okay.