A Moth Year in Review

Note: This post is long for me and a bit newletter-y for my tastes, but I really wanted to make note of an amazing time and give credit to those I wish could give more.
You have been warned. 

Let me just say 2013 started out kinda rough

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There was the accident, in which I broke both knees, chipped my knee caps, fractured ribs and lost the use of my left arm (temporarily due to nerve damage).  I spent a month in the hospital, and another two re-learning how to walk and function at home. The worst part of this for me, was the mental aspect. I was really a mess. I was dependent, in pain and horribly depressed. The bulk of responsiblity fell on my wifes’ shoulders and for this I will be forgiving any number of sins for many years to come.

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We had a lot of help, my daughters school mobilized and brought over food. My neighbor built a ramp into my house, so I could not only get in my house but also get out. My mother and sister-in-law took turns staying with us to help with the day-to-day process of dealing with my crankiness and keep my wife sane. My childhood best friend organized a GoFundMe drive and raised money to cover replacing our car and cover living expenses while I was out of commission. It was a rough start but I can not think of anything that has caused me to realize with such cutting clarity, how blessed I am, how blessed my family is.

I got better. My arm worked and I started walking again. I retired my wheelchair.  My wife managed to not kill me..surprisingly, I am a wretched patient. By the time my daughters birthday rolled around (April) things were looking up. The Maine crew came down for the birthday party which is always a good time.

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413522_10151496364875752_123495098_oJen contacted me about a second performance of the adoption story, for June in Portland. ME at the State Theatre.  This was kinda a big deal, I would be performing in Portland, where Henry and his moms resided.  I haven’t mentioned this in the blog but they are well-known people in that city. I have rarely gone out with them without someone, a student or acquaintance or performer, recognizing one or both of Henry’s moms. It feels as if Gretchen has taught at every single school at some point in her history. Although Gretch doesn’t currently teach at the college, she did for many years and Gwynnie still does. They support and have been a part of Portland’s art scene for a long time.  On top of this, the headliner at the show was an ATRONAUT! Rick Hauk has done many things but what I knew off the bat was that he commanded the Discovery shuttle, the first manned shuttle after the Challenger explosion, which is pretty bad ass. Also, did I mention he is a fucking astronaut??

The other storytellers included Jenny Allen, an amazing performer, writer and essayist, who I met at my first show in NYC when she was the MC; Mellissa Coleman (author of This Life is in Your Hands) and Paul Knoll (shamanic healer).  Meg Bowels and Kirsty Bennett produced the show.

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This show was pretty awesome. As soon as I mentioned Gwynnie and Gretch, there was a huge cheer, they are much-loved, as is their somewhat amazing kid. I had a great time, it went well and I got hang out with an astronaut, ’nuff said.

Summer began, we planted our second garden, went to Ren Faire, the beach, and Asha started Summer day camp. Henry turned FIFTEEN!

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473282_10151616325865803_1076699751_o Then I got a call. The Moth was publishing a book, of their favorite 50 stories and my story was going to be included. Out of over 10,000 stories and over 15 years of performances, my story was being picked. What do you say to that? I still haven’t figured it out.

Stage Stage @ Tour De Fat Ft. Collins, CO

While editing on the book was being done, I went with Jen Hixson to do two more shows, with a new story on a very different stage. The show was with Tour De Fat (Beer, Bikes and Bemusement) and they were in Fort Collins, CO and San Francisco, CA. This story was shorter and had to involve bikes, you can read that story here. Tour De Fat is an amazing festival put on by New Belgium Brewery. It raises money for urban bike projects in whatever city they are putting it on and celebrates bikes, beer, art, conservation and fun. The festival is an experience I’m glad I had, filled with costumes, laughter and great performers, from the music of Reggie Watts and Beats Antique to sideshow performers; yo-yo master John Higby, strong woman Mama Lou and the disturbingly brilliant Vanessa Valliere, plus many many more.  All of it was brilliant.

The empresario of the whole event is a guy named Matt Kowal.He gave us a tour of New Belgium Brewery and even though I don’t really dig beer, it was a highlight of the trip. He came out with the The Moth crew most nights and provided great company and really he is one of the people I feel most blessed to have met and spent time with. So in summation..he’s pretty okay.

Matt Kowal; empresario

Matt Kowal; empresario

Beats Antique @ SF Tour De Fat

Beats Antique @ SF Tour De Fat

There is a long list of other accomplished, funny, brilliant people I met during this project, not least of which were the storytellers. Shannon Cason and Jim Bennett were there for both shows, with Shannon as the MC.  These guys are fabulous and uber supportive. I met Adam Sussman in SF and if I could have brought him back with me to be my new bestest friend, I would have. He was also a great performer, but really that is just the icing on his utter loveliness.

The Moth @ SF Tour De Fat 2013

The Moth @ SF Tour De Fat 2013

 

September came, Asha started Kindergarten (!) , we learned what the fox says and the book was released!1269338_10201348703792189_207614285_o

Did I mention that I am in a book?? If you have forgotten that tidbit of surrealism, I took a picture. I will resist the urge to make it super big.

I AM IN A BOOK...

I AM IN A BOOK…

I was asked to do one more show, with another new story at the New York Public Library (NYPL) ..you know, the one with the giant iconic lions on the stairs?  I have lived most of my adult life between NYC and North Jersey (suburbs of NYC or what some might say the armpit of NYC) and can not tell you how many hours, days, weeks I have spent in the city but somehow to my chagrin, I never made it into this library. It is one of the most gorgeous buildings and in me,  imparted the sacred awe some people find in churches and cathedrals.  I love libraries.

The NYPL show was in support of the books’ release. There were to be two primary storytellers and one surprise guest. Peter Aguero hosted. Let me say this about Peter and the whole Moth thing in  general. I have often gotten to meet amazing people through this program, so often in fact it is unbelievable and surreal how it has effected my life and my perception of self.

Peter Aguero

Peter Aguero

Peter is one of them, he had a story on the radio that I had not only listened to but shared a few times, I love his voice (both figuratively and literally).  I met him and didn’t know who he was until we started talking and I realized I had been listening to this guy, I knew a tiny snippet of his life and he knew me from my story; isn’t that neat? I was mocking myself for wandering around with my mouth open and camera at the ready like some kind of tourist and he told me never apologize for wonder and joy.  As more and more of my cynicism gets peeled away through the years I have started to feel like I am going in reverse, where most people grow more cynical with age, I started out that way and it is only through conscious effort and consistent support that I remember that it’s okay to be an idiot, to be silly and to take joy in the proceedings.  If I have a New Years wish it is to keep growing less cynical, to be more joyful and to not apologize for it.

Where we performed: Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library

Where we performed: Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library

The NYPL show included George Dawes Green who is both the author of The Juror and the creator of The Moth; Andrew Solomon author of The Noonday Demon and Far From the Tree; Catherine Burns creative director of the Moth, editor of the book and all around beautiful lady. Calvin Trillin was the surprise guest with a very funny story about a tic-tac-toe playing chicken.  The musician tasked with playing us off if we went to long was Mazz Swift, who is such a lovely violinist it wasn’t such a terrifying thought to have her accompany me, even if was to kick me off stage.The whole thing was hosted by the “Live from the NYPL” founder Paul Holdengraber . Paul is another character I am glad to of met and hope to meet again, if time and the universe allow.

The NYPL overwhelmed me like none of the other shows had, I couldn’t hear the audience and didn’t know how different that made the experience. I felt like Jenny from the block on the stage after and before much more illustrious company. I was overwhelmed by the setting. The story before and after me were tales that incited laughter, while mine was much more on the other end of the spectrum. I felt, it was the shakiest I had ever been while telling a story.  I allowed doubt and insecurity to have the day instead of claiming it as my own.

This, of course, means that it was swiftly put online for all to enjoy and me to squirm in front of. This performance is the only one you can easily watch online.  I still haven’t watched myself, I’m working up to it..maybe next year.  Feel free to check it out:

Asha as Misery from Ruby Gloom

Asha as Misery from Ruby Gloom

That was October which means Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas of course. We got some snow, more than we’ve had a for a few years. I went to NYC with Asha to stay with a friend and we started a holiday tradition of seeing the windows, the tree and having lunch at Le Train Bleu at the top of Bloomingdales.

Le Train Bleu @ Bloomingdales

Le Train Bleu @ Bloomingdales

Two of my best friends got engaged and will be getting married in June and October of 2014 respectively. I get to be  a part of those events, which is pretty neat, I love them dearly.

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Robyn and Henry Christmas ’13

To end the year we made a trip to Portland, ME the day after Christmas. We have never gone up for the holidays. Hopefully, in another post I will get around to writing about how much our relationship has shifted and taken great leaps since another sibling has been added to the mix and how we have adapted to these changes, but for now I will say that I love my family in all of its various forms.

This year has been pretty amazing, irrelevant of its start. I’m not sure how I’m gonna follow it up but I’m looking forward to the effort.

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Morality (Radiolab)

Welcome to the first installment of my attempt at thoughtful exploration, or at least to think. I decided to try the Radiolab episode on Morality first, you know, start small.

This episode starts off with a two part thought experiment. You will have to make a choice at the end of each one.

Part One
You are near some train tracks, there are five workers on the track. They’ve got their backs turn to the trolley, which is coming in the distance. They do not see, hear or feel it coming. You can’t shout to them, and if you do nothing, they will all die.
You have two choices

  1. You can do nothing
  2. There is a lever next to you, which you can pull, causing the trolley to jump on to some side tracks where there is only one worker.

So, do you kill  1 man by pulling a lever or kill 5 by doing nothing?

My answer is pull the damn lever, and I am not alone. They claim 9 out of 10 people choose to pull the lever. What’s your answer?

Part Two
You are standing above some train tracks, on a foot bridge. There are five guys below, just as in the first question. The trolley is coming, again, they can not hear, see or feel its approach. You can not yell, signal or in anyway tell them of the impending doom. Next to you is a large man, and you realize if you pushed him, he would divert the train and the train would only kill the fat man, saving the five workers.
*For the sake of this experiment, let us assume you can not sacrifice yourself

  1. Do you do nothing, allowing all 5 to die
  2. Do you push the fat man and save the 4 workers?

There have been hundreds of people asked this question, and though most say “yes” to the first, the same amount say “NO” to the second part. Resoundingly so. When asked “why?”, most people can not explain why murder by lever is okay while murder by pushing is wrong.

They follow the path of science and look at how the brain reacts when deciding these questions of calculation and morality. Different parts of the brain light up with each question, on the first it’s a question of logic, while on the second it’s a more instinctual guttural reaction.  They ask the question, is morality part of our evolution or an aspect that sets us apart as creatures of reason?

For my two cents, I think I’d pull the lever and push the guy. Unless of course they were related to me, then fuck the bastards on the ground. Logic vs ingrained instinctual evolved reactions?

This episode goes in many directions and I don’t think I can cover it all here, but I wanted to focus on these questions and one or two other points. They bring into question how we think and why. Why we feel the way we do and how it informs our moral make-up.

I have one more layer to add. The M.A.S.H> question.

You are in a basement, in a war torn region, with all of your village; family and friends you have known everyday of your life. You are holding your baby, who has as stuffy nose. Enemy forces are scouring the village, and they will torture and kill anyone they find. Your baby has been coughing. If you cover the baby’s mouth they won’t hear, and your village will escape, but you will smother the baby and she/he will die. Do you sacrifice everyone’s life, including your own and the baby’s OR do you kill your own child, saving everyone else?

My wife said “I would risk it, I wouldn’t kill my child. That’s a cowards way out”, which I understand, but I have to ask a question. Couldn’t it also be perceived as the cowards way out to NOT kill the baby?. Perhaps not being able to make this sacrifice for the better of the many over the one is the ultimate cowardice? This goes against something so base within us, our children, the reason to continue on and be better. Even if you aren’t a parent, the whole argument of  “you have to think of the future” posed against any short sighted effort, whether it be pollution or choosing a job that helps others..it’s all for the future of what? The continuation of our species, right? Even the only mildly adjusted among us, don’t like to see children hurt, it just goes against how we’re made.

What would you do? Some days I would sacrifice my child. I would probably kill myself right after and follow them along that path, but I think I would do it. On other days when I hold my daughter, when she’s tired and her body is heavy and limp, trusting me to hold her? I realize I have walked away from logic and any life would be worth one more breath from her little body.  I’m not sure which path is stronger, weaker or morally bereft.This also calls in to question, the sanctity of life. My wife would argue that all life is sacred, hence the ban on swatting bugs in my house. I on the other hand, don’t see life that way.

When I was 13, my psychiatrist made an observation that has followed me my whole life. She said I displayed “sociopathic tendencies” , that I lacked a certain level of empathy, my sense of “guilt” was underdeveloped (or barely recognizable..whatever). The morality conversation, invariably smacks into the idea of empathy. Does it separate us from other creatures? Are we born with empathy in place? The Radiolab episode touches on children, exploring when empathy develops and how. Anecdotally, it seems like it’s both part of us as a species and something fine tuned by societal expectations. How then, does that effect those of us without the same societal expectations?

We teach our kids about hitting, fairness, being kind etc, many ideals we ourselves have bent and broken given the right circumstance (or person).  Yet what they are saying is that the core values, of right and wrong (“Do you kill your baby?”) strikes us in the reptile brain, a knee jerk denial taking hold. The finer points are harder to parse out.

Radiolab ponders if shame/guilt are the emotions that divide us from our primate cousins. I wonder about this a lot. I was never a guilty person, I felt and still do, that is a mostly wasteful emotion. It tears people apart, and I have rarely if ever seen any good come of it. I will add shame to this pile too. Regret, yes, I get that. Being aware you made a mistake, or hurt someone, and confronting that while trying to alter that behavior in the future, that I understand. Shame? Guilt? I would much rather have someones changed behavior over their heartfelt sorrow at a slight. Alternately, anxiety over guilt and shame from a past action seems to fell the strongest, brightest people I have known. Instead of these emotions being the things that makes us special, I wonder if they are the Achilles heel that foils the brightest among us?

Our daughter is testing and pushing, trying out things she knows will get a reaction. She will kill the bug her cousin wants to save, just to see what will happen. If she was at home, she would of saved the bug. She says hurtful things to her mommas like “I don’t like you, I want you to leave this family!”. She is aware of curse words but is not so interested in those, she is going after the ones she sees dividing adulthood from childhood, those that are not allowed to her, “stupid” being top on the banned list. My wife worries that she will become a “mean girl”, but I am fascinated by this emotional growth, this mental drawing of lines in the sand.

What is “good” and what is “bad”? How do we figure it out? What IS morality? She is making observations along the lines of empathy, trying them on, seeing if they fit her quickly growing sense of self. Watching her makes me realize that if any of us is still growing, still discovering our world (which I hope to be doing until my body ends), we are still doing this. I am still learning what is right and wrong, as I get older and the lines blur and reform. I have had high ideals over the years, things I believed to be absolute and almost all of them have been, if not broken, remade into different less black and white versions of themselves.

I am still defining morality for myself and trying to help my daughter figure her’s out as well, with differing levels of success. I would like to hear other stories and ideas on the subject, so please share them with me if you are so inclined.  One way conversations are rather boring, I hope you will join in.

The Moth (plus everything else)

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On Wednesday I performed at The Moth, in a main stage production. If you don’t know what The Moth is, you are missing out and I recommend you go check it out. In short it is a storytelling program, where all the stories are true and told without notes. There are story slams where you can show-up, put your name in a hat and if picked, tell a short story and compete with everyone else chosen. If you’re lucky you win and go to a Grand Slam to compete against other stories. These are held all over the country. You can call their pitch line and give a 2 minute story pitch, and if it’s good enough you get on stage, maybe even do a Main Stage show. The other way is being asked to participate, as many noteworthy people have been. If you go to the big main stage show you get a producer assigned to you and they help curate your tale and get it ready for the show, a 300 person audience in an amazing venue, where people pay to hear you!

I called the pitch line and got to be in a Main Stage show at The Players club in NYC. IT WAS FUCKING AWESOME! I was assigned a producer, Jenifer Hixson and she partnered with me over the last couple weeks getting my tale ready for the show. Jen was/is amazing. I feel so blessed to have worked with her. She has the ability to turn the lowbrow to refined genius. She is brilliant and so funny. I kinda have a gigantic (platonic) crush on her, but that’s how I make friends, I fall in love with them.

I got an email that they were interested in my tale, and then a call to see what the story was in full. I was told it might be a few months, up to a year before they found a show that would work with my story but they liked it and wanted to use it. Within two weeks they contacted me again, would I like to do the July 11th show they were putting together? YES YES YES, of course I would do the July 11th show (that was, three weeks away at the time)! I thought I had months to be anxious about this whole idea but luckily I could compress all my anxiety and self-doubt into a much shorter amount of time.

I was afraid to tell everyone , since it all seemed surreal, like it would just be some elaborate hoax or they would simply realize I was a nobody and/or find someone who would fill more seats. It wasn’t a hoax and that meant I had to call The Hive in Maine, my sons family, because the story was about them and I needed to get permission. I think some small part of me was waiting for them to say “No, we’d rather not have our story put out in front of the world” , but that was a delusional thought. This was a whole family of performers and storytellers, whether it be through dance, theater or art. OF COURSE they knew what The MOTH was and they were so excited and supportive of me! Bleh….that out was quickly smashed.

I had pitched the story all about my journey between my first-born child and my second. I gave my first child up in an open adoption and the tale of how I got there and back was what gave me this opportunity. During my daughters 4th birthday I had, had one of those moments where you experience a paradigm shift, my whole perspective changed and I saw what was going on at a new angle, yet again.  On one hand I drive my whole life towards those moments when just a little turn this way or that makes you reevaluate everything you have thought or felt on the subject at hand. Moments like these mark growth, they are what makes life worth living, at least for me. On the other side, these moments mark how everything I thought might have been completely wrong. Sometimes this requires some apologies…..

I watched my 13 yr old son holding my 4 yr old daughter and realized, the whole thing had made a full circle. There was nothing to forgive, I had made the right choice despite all of my self-recriminations to the contrary over the last 14 years. My son by birth was a brilliant smart-ass kid (genetics, apologies to his moms) and he was going to help provide what I didn’t have for him, an amazing support system and family for his sister. On top of all of that super squishy goodness, his family was part of my family to, they taught me the only lessons I had to build from and they did a pretty damn good job across the board, which is why I picked them. In the middle of this goofy smile realization, I decided I finally had a story worth telling, so I pitched it. More accurately I blurted it in a panic and then hung-up..shockingly they called me anyway.

The story started at 25 minutes, it had to get down to 10. Many “darlings” were killed, and it was so much fun! I got to work with this amazing woman, Jenifer Hixson, who created The Moth Story Slam.

I realize not everyone may be as excited as me, but I am a super NPR geek, I’ve been listening to since I was 16 and I have the members tote bag to prove it. I would not want to be on a screen, but the thought of being on NPR, on WNYC? That is fucking awesome. It’s a nerdgasm.

Three weeks, a trip to Asbury Park and many many calls later, my time on the Sunday before the show was at 9min 31 sec. Monday was rehearsal In NYC with the other story tellers minus one who had to be elsewhere. My time bloated to 14 minutes, damn it.  Everyone got one more simultaneous ego boost/critique, and doors opened at 6:30 Wednesday July 11th.

The venue made me dearly wish I had hours of time to research and wander around inspecting plaques and the huge oil paintings that decorated the walls. Just the building itself was worth extensive inspection.

We did a sound check where we confirmed I might be part dwarf. I had to bring the mike down about a foot to adjust it and we would have to do it ourselves when it was our turn.

I had heard everyone’s story minus one at rehearsal, but we were all still a little rough, still missing beats. On Wednesday, we all seemed to pull it together. It was amazing. All the other storytellers are authors and storytellers, except me. I felt so honored to share this stage with these people.

1st storyApril Salazar told a story of her unconventional upbringing and how her nudist mom might of not been a member of the PTA but showed her love in so many other ways.

2nd StoryKemp Powers spoke about the trauma of accidentally shooting his best friend when he was 14 yrs old and the journey from there to the amazing man he has become.

3rd storyDamien Echols shared his story of his murder conviction, years spent in prison and eventual exoneration through the Innocence Project. He was the one person I hadn’t met. He received a standing ovation.

4th Story

I was the 4th story, I went up right after the intermission. It was the clearest I had told the story. I was more at ease in this telling than any prior. It was so much fun.

5th storySebastain Junger was the last story. He told of why he went into war journalism and why he left that behind after the loss of his friend and partner.

All of these people have impressive bios and are worth looking up.  I feel ecstatic and blessed to have met them and to have shared this moment with them.

Afterwards there was a lot of strangers thanking me and all of us I’m sure.  My story elicited many empathetic tales of children lost, found and adopted. Many teary smiles and grateful hugs. I did this for my own children, it’s their story from me, a love letter to the two people who will never stop being a part of me. I hadn’t anticipated this out pouring of gratitude for sharing a part of so many other people’s stories as well. Perhaps I should have, but it’s hard to see outside of our own little boxes of narcissism, self-doubt and internal dialog. I was overwhelmed by this, but to see my words, my little tale touch all of these people, I might never know the names of? It felt like my own personal evolution, my paradigm was shifting. I can not thank the universe enough for this gift.

 

Mothers Day

55′ – 89′

Mothers Day has always been a rough one. At this point I feel like mentioning this kinda just annoys my wife. I don’t mean that in a harsh way, I understand. She just wants to have a great day, she wants to be free to love me, our daughter and our family and her mom and her Nana etc etc. She doesn’t want me to be sad or weird or dodgy, when I am all of these things. I clutter the landscape with my issues like a bank of foreboding dark and threatening skies, waiting to pounce upon anyone that trusted the sunny forecast they read last night.

Mothers day was always the one day I allowed myself to mourn, and to feel sorry for myself. Most of the time I resent my weaknesses, I am angry at my own whining or my bad attitude. Crying won’t help, wishing it would be different won’t do a damn thing and sharing with everyone how sad and heartbroken you are over something they can only uncomfortably try to comfort, what is by its nature, inconsolable? Fucking weak. Plus it’s just putting your sad little issue on someone elses plate, mucking up their day with your pathetic misery. Always seemed like a selfish path to take and never helped me either.

So once a year, I let myself mourn this hole in my life, to voice the secret wish that she was still here. Later I realized, it wasn’t about HER per se, since she was a rather horrible mother after all, but that I wanted A mother. A good one,..maybe that baked and stuff. I wanted a mom to share my good and bad days with and to be proud or ashamed of me. It’s hard to set your own moral code….a baseline is helpful. I wanted a mom that had stories of me. I wanted someone for whom, I was special enough, to remember.  I wanted something other than all the scars to figure it out from.

Gail age 12 (?)

Then I gave up my son, when I was 17. If I had kept him, I would have been like her (a really bad mom) and that just wasn’t an option.  Mothers Day took a new turn downward into the abyss. It began to mark not only the failings of my own mother but my failings as a mother myself.

Let me just say it was a bad day and one of the few I truly allowed myself to grieve it all. I always stayed home except for my annual trip to clean up Gail’s grave. I refused communication with anyone.  I spent that time destroying myself from the inside out. It was my day!

Then when I was 27, I had my daughter.

Me, my daughter and son

Me, my daughter and son 2010

Again all the rules changed, but an about-face was required. Everyone in my life wanted to celebrate her existence, and I’m sure, break the encasement of sorrow I seemed so fond of. I mean, now I would be happy right??! I kept this one, we were doing all right, I had a family now.

Four years have passed and I’m better, better in general, healed in some places, still raw in others. I am better at being happy for the people in my life that love me no matter what, for my brilliant little girl and wonderful wife. I have an amazing mother-in-law and my sister-in-law is an angel. I have Tia’s, Aunties, Uncles and Grandmas that make my existence blessed.

My son is fucking brilliant, really, like a genius and he’s just a good person. . His family is also amazing. Although it took me 9 years to get over it, I finally made peace with that part. I’m not his mom, I mean,  I gave birth to him and that was something that changed me forever, but I’m not his mom. Mourning that lack and all the ways his moms are better that anything I could have been, that makes no sense. It stopped me from reaching out to him, from loving them all as I should and saying things that might be hard, like “I love you”, knowing he didn’t have to say it back. We kind of annoy each other and act more like siblings, or a relatively closely aged niece and nephew. It’s pretty awesome and I hope we become friends as he gets older. I still hurt about it, and I still can be crazy about it all, but thankfully for everyone that deals with me, it’s a lot better.

So..Mothers Day. I still want to hide in a tree with a book and a bagged lunch. I still want to visit my moms grave and I will still be weird, because let face it, I’m weird on normal days. I will still slightly exasperate my wife and dampen her joy. Yet, I can smile on this day now, I can leave the house and get through the whole thing without crying (sometimes). I slightly resent not being able to lick my wounds and lay on the floor in a pool of my own misery, but hey flowers and cake help.

 

Not so easy definitions

Family has a lot of definitions. Many of them just aren’t that easy to incorporate into the language we’ve been given. My history doesn’t allow for many, if any, easy answers that work well in banal situation, but most of the people I know have a few of their own too. “Cousins” , “Aunts” , “Uncles”,  that never shared blood. People that became sisters and brothers, where the word “friend” with best in front or not, just didn’t cut it.

Our daughters recent 4th birthday was a big and obvious example of this. 30-40 people showed up, as they do for her birthdays. About 10 were my wife’s family and mine through marriage. One was my son who came with one of his real mommas (I’m his birth mom). The rest? They were mine, they were Asha’s, but they weren’t blood. They are more, and I don’t have the words to explain that to the new people we’re meeting in this new neighborhood we’ve moved too. My very friendly and kind new neighbor asked who was Robyn’s family and who was mine, and I found myself stuck with ” Well, this is my..Christina..um..”

These people are my friends, but they are a lot more, they are my family, they are my daughters’ Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas etc. They have been with me for years, they were all there the day she was born. These people banded together, rented huge storage space and scoured their own networks to fill it to the brim with furniture and baby gear when I had nothing.  They made sure I knew I could have this child and that I had support this time, I had family to give her. They have stood by us no matter what and never questioned if I asked for help.

This year, one of Robyn’s old friends, that has become a big part of our family, made a two-hour trek with three kids to stay with us for the weekend and prepare for this party. She stayed up until 3-4am designing and making belts for the Aquabats costumes my friends/family were donning for this insanity. She herded children and made last minute shopping trips, she costumed up herself and never missed a beat. She’s totally one of my heroes.

Add on to this amazing group, my sons’ family. I gave him up when I was 17. I picked his amazing mammas, and couldn’t have done better had I made them myself. His family has known me since I was a teenager. They have, been the only template I had for what a family could and should be. They are my family as well as my sons’, as well as my daughters. They are kinda heroes for me too. How do you define such a thing to someone in the course of getting to know you, chit chat?

I work with the Transgendered/Intersexed/Genderqueer community, and by work, I mean live, breathe, cry, rejoice and hug them. They are a large part of my life, the practice is small and intimate, we know each person, each family, each tragedy and triumph.  Some of them are also family and friends.

Should I say “These people?  They are brave, loyal, sincere, honest and giving. These people are who I want to be like when I grow up. “?  That’s the closest I can come to an easy explanation and I’m not sure that’s so easy to understand.

It’s a mixed bag with very little that’s easily explained.  Though it might seem cliché, this last weekend, at my daughters party, when I had no words and couldn’t explain or  make it easier for a stranger to get it or understand? All I could come up with was that I was really really blessed because,  all these people?  They CHOSE me, they CHOSE my daughter and my wife and my family. They made space in their lives to make us family too.  How fucking AWESOME is that?? How fucking amazing are they?