xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: August 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

December 1, 2012: A day that will go down in... panic

School started today, YAY! Child 1 has The Greatest Teacher Who Ever Lived. Seriously. We went to meet with him a few days ago and he had a fucking written schedule for the 15 minutes we would be there. Then he sat down with Child 1 and they checked the things off. OH MY GOD, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME????? Child 1 noticed the lack of a calendar in his room, so I went out and bought one of those dry erase blank ones, which Child 1 will be in charge of. Something to look forward to at school!!! I think I'm in love. (Oh, Child 2 is totally cool, by the way. This kid will apparently just roll with whatever happens and as long as he has a friend to roll with, nothing can go wrong.)

So, since 5th grade is now under way, I was wondering when I should officially start to freak out about Middle School? I mean, they're already talking about how 5th grade is preparation for MS (that's what I'll call it. It sounds like a disease, which it is) but today was just the first day, so it still seems a little early. Then again, you know, it's never too early for a debilitating panic attack about the inevitable, so maybe I should get started right away?

I asked on Facebook and the general consensus seemed to be that I should wait to flip my shit until after the Holidays. January should be the right time. But, I need to schedule an IEP for right when we come back from break, which means I need to do my scheduling before we go on break, and that seems like the appropriate time to be in a hysterical froth, don't you think?

So, I've decided that December 1st will be The Day I Start to Fucking Freak Out About Middle School. It's after Thanksgiving, at least, but has to be before the holidays; I just don't see any way around that. Besides, the holidays will probably be filled with well meaning relatives saying things like "So.... CHILD 1... you'll be in middle school next year, right?" and there's no avoiding me fucking losing it when that shit's going on around me.

So! December 1st. Care to join me????????

Monday, August 27, 2012

Getting your GenEd teachers ready for your autistic kid

School is starting! School is starting! SCHOOL IS STARTING!!!! For us, it starts on Wednesday, I think it's probably already started for a bunch of you. LUCKY.

First, I guess, some background: Child 1 is what they call "fully included," which means he is in a General Education (GenEd) classroom with supports that are specified in his IEP ("supports" include a 1:1 aide, being pulled out for individual instruction, as well as various therapies, etc.). And school districts being what they are (read: tight asses), General Education teachers are rarely given appropriate training on how to have a Special Education kid in their class. Unless they have personal experience or have had a kid in their class before, oftentimes your IEP kid will be the first IEP kid they've ever taught. This has been the case for 3 of the last 5 teachers we've had, and I actually don't know if our teacher this year has any experience. As Child 1 gets older, it's becoming less and less important. Then again we haven't hit middle school yet. *gulp*

I heard from the school last week about who Child 1's teacher is going to be (we got the good one! Then again, we get the teacher I ask for every year, because... do you really want to mess with me if you don't give my kid the best possible option? No, you do not want me to be upset with you about the choices you have made for my child, if they are different from what I have requested. I know, I sound like an obnoxious bitch, but I promise you I only do this for my autistic kid; with the other one we just roll the dice like everybody else). Anyway, as part of my preparation for having a new teacher, I asked around on Facebook if anybody had any suggestions for some articles I could send him. In asking around, I found some great resources (links below) but also the advice (thank you Rhonda) that no one article is going to encompass all the information about my child that his teacher will need to know, and if I really want to help my teacher understand how to work with my child, what I send should be written by me.

This is really good advice, and I completely agree, but the crux of my advice to you, my reader who has a child with autism or an IEP or a 504, is that you are the one in charge here. You can't ever assume that anybody who is employed by your school district will 1. know your child well enough to know what is in their best interest, 2. have the necessary skills and training to carry that out and 3. have the motivation to even make it happen. You have to be on top of the IEP team, making sure it is being carried out correctly, and if there's something wrong, it is you who are responsible for finding that out and starting the process to fix it. I know... that kind of sucks. I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I'm no teacher; I've got no fucking clue how to teach anybody, much less a class full of kids, but I do know my kid; I know how to speak up and I know my rights. I also know that if I don't keep on top of things, my kid could very very easily slip through the cracks and it is my responsibility, as my child's best advocate, to make sure that doesn't happen.

So, if the issue is how to prepare your GenEd teacher for your SPED kid, you need to take that on, yourself. Like I said, never assume that they will know anything; in fact, to be on the safe side, you should assume that they know nothing. I've had teachers stop me in the hallway to ask advice on how to handle their autistic student; it's not their fault, they just don't get the needed training, and they likely never will. But it's not because they don't want to know, so it's your job to provide them with the information they need. Again. That kind of sucks that you have to do it; but that's the reality.

Before school starts every year I like to meet with our new teacher in person to discuss the details of my child, but some people like to write something up and give to them. My friend Michelle, who blogs at She's Always Write, and can be found on Twitter here, sent me the "resume" that she uses for her son, and I thought it was so awesome and well written that I asked her if I could share it here (I've removed the personal information about her son). This was written for her son, who is 3, and I decided not to modify it (even after I told her I would. Sorry Michelle! I got lazy) but it should be pretty easy to make this work for a kid any age, I think.


Hi! My name is XX and I’m 3. I love to play cars and trains and to ride my bike and run and jump and climb.

I’m excited about school, but my mommy is worried that some things will be hard for me. I can do everything the same as other kids; there are just times when I might need you to teach me a little differently than you’re used to.


My doctors told my Mommy that I’m really smart and can figure things out like a bigger kid. But, my brain works a little different so sometimes it might look like I don’t understand something. But if you take a second to help me see it my way, you’ll be surprised how fast I learn!

My Mommy and my doctors use these big words when they talk about me.
  • High Functioning Autism
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Speech & Language Processing Disorder
  • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • My brain gets stuck on things and I can’t help it. I do best with verbal reminders a few minutes before the class moves onto the next activity, it helps me get unstuck and transition smoothly.
  • It is really hard for me to understand what other people are thinking and feeling based on their face or tone of voice. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that part of my brain doesn’t work the same as yours. I really like making you happy. If you are happy or frustrated with something I did, I won’t know unless you use words to tell me.
  • I really like to play with other kids, but it is hard for me to know if they like how I am playing. It helps me a lot if you tell me gently how to play nice and be a good friend.
  • I do best with routines. I can handle changes to what I expect (like fire drills) if you talk about it in advance.
  • I take your words literally – sarcasm, jokes that are plays on words and metaphors are very confusing.
  • My eight senses (did you know there are eight?!) don’t work the same as yours. Some days I am more sensitive to everything, and some days I feel like I can’t get enough of everything.
  • Noises that sound normal to you (like a toilet flushing) may be painful for me. If you know there will be a loud noise, it helps if you remind me to cover my ears.
  • Being touched (especially on the head) can really overload my senses and make it hard for me to stay calm. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sit close to other people.
  • A face can give more sensory information than I can process all at once – I can’t always look at you AND understand what you are saying. Sometimes I need to look down so I can hear you.
  • Did you know learning to write is related to your senses? I have to work extra hard to hold a crayon and make it do what I need it to. Sometimes I press too hard, and sometimes I can’t press it hard enough.
  • It can be hard for me to say something even when I know all the words – sometimes I need you to be a little bit patient while I work on getting my brain to make the muscles in my mouth work right.
  • It is very hard for me to answer open-ended questions. I do much better when I can make a choice.
  • I often say things backwards (I ate the ice cream because I am cold).
  • My ears work fine, but sometimes the connection between my ears and brain can be slow (like waiting for a web page to load) or kind of staticky (like a radio station that won’t come in right).
  • There can be a delay between when my ear hears you talk and my brain understands the words that can make it look like I’m not listening. If you touch me on the arm, I will know you need my attention.
  • Sometimes my brain hears a different word than you say. Not very often, but if you notice please tell my Mommy.
  • It can be hard for me to understand when you talk fast and give lots of instructions. I do really well if you show me how to do something after you tell me. My eyes understand faster than my ears.

Some good links (thanks for my FB friends for sending me to these places; I didn't find them on my own!):

Ten Things Your Student With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Nothbohm

Back to School, a post by Diary of a Mom that has links at the bottom.

Tip Sheets for Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Sue Larkey

Questions? I'm happy to tell you more about what I know. jillsmo at gmail.com

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Dive Bar Welcomes: Maude

Yeah, her name is Maude, what's the problem? Okay, no it's not, she's actually anonymous. Or is she? Yes. Yes she is. What?

12 magazines, four sweatshirts, one DVD and a pair of headphones have mysteriously arrived on the landing of doom. The place my son puts all the items that have been defined as defunct, defiled or just, according to him, plain fucked. I step over it, knowing I will put it in a bag and store it in the attic for a month before I throw it out. His tastes can change. It's midnight and I try and choose my battles. You, however, sigh, loudly, and look deflated. At least this time it's stuff that can go in a bag; the time he put his 5ft bookcase outside his door with all the books in a pile, you were really pissed off.

I’ve been on this road for a good while now. He’s 14. And yes, he still has Asperger’s. I didn't always know that's what he has and in fairness, you took on this role before he was diagnosed. But you are his stepfather now, a stepfather who had never experienced the kaleidoscopic world of autism before, so I completely understand that it can be a scary and confusing world at first. At first. Not six years later.

Yes I know it's crap to hear the man child say ‘fuck off you wanker’, (although, in his defence, he has only actually ever said that twice in six years, which is pretty good.) 'He doesn’t mean it', I say, 'it’s part of it. It's a meltdown.'

Watch him stim so energetically that the walls feels as if they are on fire; 'What is he doing that for?' you say. 'Because it makes him feel really good', I say, 'it's part of it.'
(I love watching him stim, my firefly dancing.)

Hear him talk about his favourite programme again and again and again, oh god it’s four hours and COUNTING… You know you can suggest to him that it's his turn to listen, or give him a time limit. That will help him, he needs that explicit guidance. But you don't.

You say he’s an isolated child who needs too much space, who doesn't look at you when he's talking, who won't eat at the dinner table with the rest of us, who is costing a lot of money as he needs the same t-shirts laundered three times a week, who can be 'wildly' inappropriate…and you tell me our family is fractured and that even though it's not deliberate or intentional, it's my son's fault.

There's probably 5 gazillion books you can read that tell you all about autism. You're a clever guy, you could even read some of the more complex ones. I'm trying to be polite, to quietly simmer, but fuck when will you….READ THE MANUAL??? You'll see that all the attributes you find so irritating are autistic in nature. Most of the time, the boy can't help it.

And permit me to say something definitive, something staring-you-right-in-the-face true. HE IS 14, YOU ARE 43. There's a bit of a discrepancy there, y'know in life experience, gained wisdom, hormones..

I need you to get this. I need you to learn about this. I need you to give him a break.

I love you. But I really love my son. In fact I find him easy to love; even when he is at this worst that is true.

Because there’s no choice in this.

If you ever decide to weigh it all up, to dance around an ultimatum?

I’ll choose him.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pictures from our trip

Okay, I have to admit, I felt kind of bad for my snarky attitude in my last post about how I was going to take pictures but you guys wouldn't get to see them. I mean... that's not very nice. Here you've been loyal readers, putting up with my bullshit for all this time, and I can't even do you the favor of showing you pictures from our recent vacation? What kind of a blogger AM I, anyway?

So, I apologize. Please forgive me, and please enjoy this photographic evidence that my family and I actually left the house.

So, our first stop was in Santa Cruz, at the Beach Boardwalk, which is basically just the Santa Cruz We Will Take All Your Moneywalk. When we first arrived I bought a bottle of water and it was fucking FOUR DOLLARS. So I say "Damn." and the dude says "Yeah." and Child 2 says "How about we just give you a dollar for it?" and I say "I brought my negotiator with me today" and the dude says "Yeah, good luck with that on the Boardwalk."

I won't tell you how much money we spent there. Nobody needs to know that.

Anyway, here are the kids playing some "squirt the water and win a cheap prize that costs less than you paid to play the game" game. Hubs won a shitty little fucking turtle thing.

Here's me looking really surprised as I get smacked in the face with a shitload of water on my way down the Log Ride.

After the Boardwalk, we stayed at a hotel in Monterey for the night, where both of the kids decided to make videos of the experience. Child 2 got a great one of him and Hubs going to get ice. Riveting.

The next day we were off to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was actually really fun. There's so much cool shit to see there!! Fish, for instance:

Child 2 enjoying some fish
Child 1 also enjoying some fish

I took notes on my phone for this trip, because Child 2 busts out with the funniest shit at any given moment. See that little dude standing next to Child 2? That kid is maybe 2, probably 18 months, and doesn't really talk much. But, he's pointing at the window and saying "PIN! PIN!" for penguin. Meanwhile, here's the very helpful Child 2, who for some reason is offended by this toddler's misuse of the English language, and tells him "Hey, you're saying 'penguin' wrong. HEY. You're saying it wrong! Okay, if you want to say 'penguin' right, copy me... pen.......... guin." Sadly, his efforts at teaching preschool weren't very successful.

And let's not forget this beautiful Moment of Love in the Aquarium

.....while Child 2 watches and yells "Hey! It's like one penguin riding another penguin!" and I say "okay... I think we're done here" and I usher him out the door...... but not before taking a picture.... of course.

Another cool thing the aquarium has is these touch screens where you draw a jellyfish:

and then "set it free" in the ocean:

I'll be honest with you guys.... the urge to draw a giant penis here was overwhelming.

Anyway.... all in all, the fish were neat, I guess, but I think we all know the real reason we spent hundreds of dollars to go on this trip:

worth it

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

'kay... BYE!

We're taking a vacation!!

No, I'm serious. We're all getting in the car and we're leaving town.

For a whole day.

I know. You need a moment. That's okay, you can have one. Here's a story while you compose yourself:


This morning, I'm in my car and I'm driving to work, when suddenly I look to my right and there's this.... strange woman .... who I've never in my life ever seen before. And she's giving me the weird kind of eyeball thing, as if to say "Yo. See my eyeball? Nice, right?"  (Which, in her defense, is true. It was a very nice eyeball.) She rolls down her window, and I naturally do the same, because what else am I going to do when some strange eyeball chick pulls up next to me? And she says "You're Jill, right?" And I said "uhhhhhhhhhhhh." No, actually I said "YES!" And she turned out to be my friend XLMIC who blogs here and tweets here. And I said "how did you know??" and then said her real name, because I didn't know how to pronounce XLMIC, and she said "because we have the same car, but yours has an autism sticker on it." I think we've had that conversation before. HEE HEE! That was fun. :) Shit, I forgot to follow her down the street and find out where she lives. SHIT!


So, hubs is on vacation this week, and the kids are out of camp, and I somehow managed to not schedule any clients, so we're all gettin in the car and heading to Monterey to visit the aquarium.

We've been there before, but at the time, Child 2 wasn't even walking yet, and my memory of the trip is pretty much just this:

A toddler Child 2 expressing an opinion
This time, Child 1 doesn't have any sensory issues, really, and Child 2 not only walks, but talks (um. a LOT) and asks questions and knows science 'n shit, so I'm guessing we're going to have some good, wholesome family fun this time!

I'll take pictures. But you don't get to see them. Oh, that's unfortunate for you.

I just made this awkward. I apologize.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll still be tweeting, because I'm pretty sure I'm physically incapable of not doing that, but in the meantime... BYE! :wave:

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dive Bar Welcomes: ProfMomEsq

I usually post these on the weekends but today I'm making an exception for someone who started out as another twitter pal but who has become, in the past months, an actual real life friend. And I just happen to think that she's fucking awesome, both online and not, which is why I'm making this exception for her.

Okay, enough of the ass kissing! (She loves it, though). Today I have Danielle, who blogs at ProfMomEsq, can be found on twitter at @ProfMomEsq and on Facebook here. She can also sometimes be found with me at a bar in some random Bay Area location, but I'm not going to link to that right now....

I wanted to be brave enough to write this on my own blog. I really did. But, I am not. I wrote it down, because if I didn’t get this out of my head and heart, I’m sure the pain would’ve eaten me – quietly but viciously – from the inside out.

Since writing this story, it’s become clear that my mother will not chose help. She will not see either her psychiatrist or her rheumatologist. She will not medicate, and she will not go back to therapy. She is going to wait until her dog dies, go off the Richter, and end up back in the psychiatric unit. The only decision left for me to make is not if but how to extricate myself from her life – especially with a 14-year-old who is quite attached to her. The only thing left for me to do is to try to support my sister in whatever decisions she makes.


It’s early. I was the first one awake in the house, which is unusual. My five-year-old, who is autistic, ambled downstairs just as I sat down at the computer with my coffee.

“Good morning, Mama,” she said in her sleepy voice. She walked up and pressed her body against mine – her version of a hug. I kissed the top of her head and caught a whiff of her hair, fresh from last night’s bath. Her long hair is down – something she rarely tolerates – and she let me tuck it behind her ears.

“Do you want breakfast?” I asked.


“Nummies?” This is what we call pureed fruit mixed with Gerber oatmeal – because it is nice and yummy; thus, “nummies.”


She ran to the sofa with her blanket, patiently waiting for me to mix her breakfast. I handed it to her and asked, “Watch some TV?”

“Okay,” she said. I flipped to Nick Jr. and watched her lift an over-full spoon of oatmeal into her mouth. “Ank-you, baba,” she said with her mouth full. I kissed her forehead and told her she was welcome.

If you parent a child on the spectrum, you know what went into this moment - the hours of struggle, patience, speech therapy, occupational therapy, practice, love. You know the gross motor skills involved in descending the stairs. You know the social importance of a greeting with both language and physical touch. You know the fine motor skills that go into self-feeding. You know the textural issues involved in a preference for baby food (or a preference for any food). You know the miracle of spontaneous, question-answer conversation free of echolalia, no matter how many or how few words involved.

You also know that we do everything in our power – fighting exhaustion, disappointment, anger, limited resources, obstacles (necessary and bureaucratic), pain (physical and mental), anxiety, confusion – to raise our children in a way that opens to them as many of the possibilities the world has to offer. Frankly, this is true whether our kids are off or on the spectrum, though the obstacles may be fewer or different.

We don’t do this because we’re saints or martyrs. We do this because we are parents. We do this because this is what we signed on for when we chose to have children. We do this not so someone pats us on the back and congratulates us for hard work, sacrifice or commitment. We do this for the ultimate reward – the love of another human being. I confidently say that nothing feels as good to me – no material thing, no massage, no vacation, no medicine, no food (even bacon!) – than the words “I love you” uttered from my son or daughter’s mouth. As those words wash over me and energize my heart, I truly believe there is nothing I cannot do or accomplish. There is nothing within my power that I would not do to always hear those words; not as a rote response to my “I love you,” but as a genuine expression of affection for the bond we share, as an affirmation that they can count on me, because I keep my word, I keep them safe, and I participate with vigor in their lives.

I’ve come to believe that the truest words – in any language – are these: “Someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand.”

When my son was born, I began the process of forgiving my own mother for what I perceived as unjust treatment in my youth. Being a parent is difficult and fraught with pitfalls and dangers lurking in shadows. You are bound to make mistakes, but you do your best to learn from them. There are events among my childhood memories that I can identify clearly as parenting-fails that any parent could’ve made. I know, because I certainly committed a few head --> desk moments myself. Yet, the process of forgiveness also brought new and renewed anger and disappointment for the things I know were not mistakes but acts of selfishness, spite or just plain laziness. This anger I let burn inside of me, unspoken, until the most inopportune moments – the moments where some small slight would be the Jenga block that felled the tower of my rage, blocks of angry words flying carelessly about the room, leaving behind a heap of rubble.

Eventually, I tried very hard to let go of this anger, because just before Nate was born, my mother was committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. How could I not forgive her for her shortcomings as a parent – particularly in the emotional department? She did not know she was bipolar until that moment, nor did I. As I spoke with her doctors and therapists during my mother’s hospitalization, my anger was replaced by guilt – here I had been so hard on her when all the while she was battling enemies rattling around in her own brain. And, why shouldn’t I feel guilty? After all, I grew up to be a wife, a mother, a lawyer – by all accounts a productive member of society and fairly decent company. There were definitely worse ways I could’ve gone (lawyer jokes aside), so how bad was she really, given the circumstances?

I tried to do more forgiving but there would be no forgetting. It’s not that I wanted to create a mental notebook of her parental shortcomings so that I could throw them back at her. On the contrary, I wanted that mental notebook so I could avoid history repeating itself. I wanted to make a conscious decision and concerted effort to be a better parent, to learn the wisdom to be found in the lessons of my parents’ mistakes – particularly my mother’s – so that I did not repeat them with my children. It is a better description of that mental notebook to say it was a collection of how some of my parents’ actions made me feel. When the feeling was bad, I chose not to repeat the action on or with my children.

For example, whenever I apologized to my mother for something that called for an apology, her response was always, “I’m sorry, too.” My “sorry” meant I was contrite and repentant. It meant I genuinely felt regret about what I’d done or how I’d made her feel, and I wanted her to forgive me. Her “sorry” meant she was disappointed she even had to deal with me or with whatever had brought on the need for apology. Eventually, I heard “I’m sorry, too,” as “I’m sorry you even exist.” I don’t recall a time my mother said “thank you” or otherwise accepted any apology with what might be called grace. I don’t recall ever feeling I’d been forgiven; rather, the injustice was stored away in the bank of ill-gotten gains, to be spent on the purchase of a shield against any attempt at attack upon my mother for her own wrongs. Consequently, when my children apologize to me, I say “thank you,” whether I am ready to forgive the hurt. If needed, I say, “thank you, but I am still upset, so let’s talk about it again in a little while. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” Then, I follow through. I hope that, as a result of this, my children understand both how to give and receive a meaningful apology. I hope they also understand that accepting an apology means putting the issue to rest – for good. It took me two years of therapy to learn this.

My mother and I never had what I would describe as a “close” relationship. (How’s that for a segue?) My family says I’ve been an independent person since birth. More than once over the years I’ve been told my favorite phrase was “I’ll do it myself.” I’m in no position to dispute this, because I have no memory of it at all and also because it’s pretty much true of me today. This caused tension – unbeknownst to me until much later – between my mother and me. My perspective on this now is that my mother hoped, in having children, that she would produce people who needed her – a feeling she did not experience with her own parents or any of her adult relationships (especially with my father). (Also, I think she has a lot of confusion about the meanings of “need” and “want,” but that’s another topic for another day.) When I speak here of “need,” I’m not talking about the practical things. Of course, I needed her to feed me, clothe me, bathe me. Frankly, I think she could have done quite without that, thankyouverymuch. I think the work and messiness of parenthood bothered her a great deal. Rather, I mean “need” in the emotional sense – as in needing her approval, her love, her pride and her acceptance. This did not happen. My mother does not understand the reciprocity of effort required to nurture and sustain a relationship. I started building walls around my heart by about 9 years old to stave off her sporadic attempts at invasion, because it became clear to me then the frequency with which she would disappoint me. To this day, I still feel (quite freshly) the pain and embarrassment of being the only kid in the orchestra without a parent in the audience; the only kid still sitting on the curb after band practice, waiting for a ride home; the only kid who didn’t bring anything to share for the classroom party.

Instead, the person whose love and acceptance I actively sought was my father’s, who withheld such things as a commodity to be traded for compliance and obedience or showered upon you in the brief period of euphoria that lit him up until he hit the one-martini-too-many wall. That I learned at my mother’s knee how to “work” at getting my father to love me is completely lost on her. Oh, the irony. (And I ain’t talkin’ about a black fly in your chardonnay, yo.) (From Jill: HA HA!)

What’s more, my father’s parents and his sister lived right below our house. I escaped downstairs to their apartment every chance I got. Why? No three people on earth loved me more and without condition than the occupants of that house. When people who know the story of my life wonder how I turned out “okay,” there is no need to look beyond my grandmother, grandfather and aunt. While I know my mother appreciated the utility of this – I was out of her hair for hours – she was not thrilled about the social aspects. In loving my grandparents and aunt, I talked freely -- sometimes about things that were not meant for public consumption. The more I expressed my love for them, the more my mother’s mind convinced her that I loved people instead of her rather than in addition to her.

The consequence of all this (and many other things in between that are not worth rehashing) is that I moved away from home at 17 to the great escape called “college.” One of the most joyous days of my life was the day I unloaded my belongings into my dorm room and watched my stepfather drive away. (My mother did not understand there to be any function in seeing her oldest daughter off to college.) The delicious taste of freedom was so satiating it was as though I ate an entire red velvet cake and had yet room for more. The profound euphoria made me wonder if I had a small inkling of what it was like to be released from prison after finishing a 17-year-sentence. The possibility of a life with only natural consequences was so vast in its possibilities it was nearly terrifying, like the anticipatory chug of a rollercoaster ascending the tracks toward the first plunging drop.

Drunk with this freedom, I amplified the emotional distance between my mother and me by moving to Georgia to live with my father. In her eyes, it was the ultimate betrayal. From my perspective, I yearned only for two things, neither of them to piss off my mother. The first was to know whether all the horrible things my mother said about my father over the years were really true. We moved away from him when I was 8. And while I had my own less-than-pleasant memories, some accumulated during post-divorce visits, I was unsure how much of that was warped or distorted by my mother’s constant harping on about my father and how much was truly a product of my own experience or perspective. I didn’t want to prove her wrong so much as to clear my own conscience. Second, I naively hoped that – even if history was as my mother wrote it – the future could be different. My father could love me and be proud of me and be full of fatherly advice, guidance and support before I reached true adulthood. It is only now, with the more-than-perfect vision of hindsight, that I see how very much like my mother I had become at that point.

When I arrived in Georgia, any illusions I had of a joyous, movie-scripted father-daughter reunion were shattered like a mirror dropped from a second-story balcony. I spent my time there trying to put the shards back together with a surgical precision, hoping, hoping, hoping that the glue of my persistence and wishing would make that mirror reflect my mind’s eye. But, on Christmas Eve, the glue failed. I was mugged on my way home from work, my purse with all my money and identification stolen. I arrived home despondent and only to find my father well into I don’t know how many martinis.

We were to go to midnight mass. As I sat patiently waiting downstairs for him, car keys already securely in my hand, story about why I needed to drive at the ready, watching the minutes tick by on the clock, I felt the weight of my mother’s I-told-you-so dragging my heart down into an abyss from which it might never return. Trying to convince myself my shoes hadn’t turned to cement, I trudged up the stairs to my father’s room. As I stared at him, passed out half-dressed on the bedroom floor, I knew I had to leave. Without a dime to my name, I made the only phone call that made sense in that moment. In exchange for a train ticket from Atlanta to Providence, Rhode Island, I let my mother rub her bitter salt into my broken heart, her voice ripping me apart with the shards of all that glass.

Why Providence, Rhode Island? I went there because I could not tell my mother of my intent to move to my grandparents’ house in Connecticut instead of returning to California. I had friends in Massachusetts, and I used a visit to “clear my head” as a pretense. What I needed was time to plot. What I needed was the safety of my grandparents’ dining room table. What I needed was the letter confirming my acceptance to Western Connecticut State University.

I had all that for a while, but the harsh Connecticut winters were too much for my aging grandparents, and they moved away to Florida. My father followed them, so I could not. Still, it would be another three years before I would relent and return to California, broken with sadness and financially destitute following a series of unfortunate mistakes that were the predictable result of growing up without any good role models, especially a male one.

My mother convinced me to come “home” by promising that she would help me get back on my feet. She did let me move back into her house, rent-free. And, she helped me get a job. I re-enrolled myself in college, and I graduated with honors. But, I then made the fatal mistake of applying to law school at Syracuse. When I came bounding in with the mail that bore my acceptance letter like a child wielding the balloon bouquet of her wildest dreams, my mother matter-of-factly stuck a venomous pin in every last one.

“Well, I hope you can find a way to pay for that, because I am not paying to move you back there.”

As I always had done, I took her “no” and let it fuel my motivation to find another way. My “way” didn’t travel via New York, but I got through law school somewhere else with a Samuel L. Jackson-like vengeance.

I spoke to my mother as little as possible between 1995 and 1996, when she was committed to the psychiatric hospital for the first time. Our relationship has gone in waves in the years since then. There have been periods – when I allow myself to be sucked into her swirling vortex – during which she’s been a good companion, and I have enjoyed her company. She was – in no small measure – an indispensible ingredient in my ability to finish law school and pass the Bar exam despite being a new, first-time parent – and a newly single one at that.

When I think about these times – the times when she and I were on good terms – the commonality is that she was medicated. She was in therapy. She was properly (or at least more properly than not) managing her health. Every time it fell apart, the reverse was true.

Now, my mother is 63 years old. She will be 64 in October. She has let her hair go entirely gray. Her body is covered with huge red patches of scaly, painful skin, which are caused by psoriasis. The psoriasis spread internally onto her joints. Eventually, it will spread to her organs. She is overweight to the point of being clinically “obese” but not morbidly so. Achieving a healthy BMI would mean losing about 30-40 pounds. She smokes (and has since she was a teenager) somewhere between half to a whole pack a day. She does not exercise and spends most of her day in front of a computer or television. She leaves the house only when absolutely necessary – her part-time job, the grocery store, the occasional visit to my sister’s home and the even less frequent visits to my home. She has no friends. Her closest living sibling lives a few hours away. She has not had a romantic relationship in at least 15 years. She was married three times, each time to a man who was physically abusive, emotionally abusive, or both. She has twice been hospitalized during depressive cycles. She has narcissistic and agoraphobic tendencies. She had a heart attack on New Year’s Day two years ago and required angioplasty of an artery that was 85% blocked. I heard the cardiologist tell her that if she didn’t make drastic life changes – exercise, diet, quit smoking – she would likely be dead in 12 months from a massive heart attack. She has done none of these things. That she has lived beyond the predicted 12 months in spite of her doctor’s dire warning only emboldens her choices. Indeed, she told me a few months ago that dying would be easier than quitting smoking. She once threw an actual temper tantrum – complete with fist pounding, screaming and crying – because the morning after she got home from the hospital, I made her a bowl of fresh oatmeal with organic blueberries, honey and ground flax meal instead of instant cinnamon/sugar oatmeal. She also hollered at me for cleaning out her refrigerator of – I shit you not – six opened jars of pickles (some with expirations dates in the early ‘00s), rotted vegetables, expired condiments and the like, then replaced all that with fresh, washed, cut and ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables. I would seriously give my right boob for someone to do that for me, so you can imagine my mouth-agape expression of puzzlement that slowly morphed into my bezerker-ninja-no-you-didn’t face during this little doozy of an encounter.

In the past four years, my mother experienced the death of her mother (who lived with my mother for about 10 years), her oldest sister (to whom she was probably closest – at least in adulthood), two dogs and a cat. She spent every dime of the considerable inheritance my grandmother left her, and she’s blown through most of her retirement savings. On what, I couldn’t say.

Her way of “coping” with these triggers has been to stop taking any and all medications (whether for psoriasis or bipolar disorder) and to adopt a huge Alaskan Husky. (More on this later.) No therapy, no exercise, no natural remedies. She has been on an unrelenting downward spiral and refuses to acknowledge any evidence of it, whether delivered with honey or a sledgehammer.

I have a younger biological sister and an older brother by adoption. These details of the relationships are important, because my adopted brother was adopted only a couple years ago. He is the eldest of my former stepfather’s two biological sons. The boys’ mother abandoned them when they were young. After my mother and stepfather divorced, my brother and mother continued their relationship, and she legally adopted him shortly after my grandmother died. At the time, I was very supportive of this, because – even with my challenging childhood (or perhaps because of it) – I couldn’t fathom the pain of being abandoned by your own mother, and I thought this would somehow right that wrong. What I didn’t anticipate, but should have, was that my mother’s motivation in adopting my brother was to right the injustice she perceived in her life being a constant 2-against-1 battle: my sister and me versus her. Now, my mother would always have someone “on her side,” because my adopted brother’s fear of disappointing a parental figure and being abandoned yet again absolutely forbids him from going against my mother’s wishes, even when he knows it would be the right thing to do. I learned this lesson when, on Christmas Eve day, my mother went to the hospital with chest pain. The doctor wanted to keep her overnight, because she needed an EKG, but it couldn’t be done until about 5:30 the following morning. My mother, on the pretense that she wanted to be home for Christmas Day, but really because she hadn’t had a cigarette in hours, convinced my brother – who I had very specifically instructed not to retrieve my mother from the hospital until after the EKG – to go and get her at 2:30 a.m. Unsurprisingly, my mother didn’t go back for the EKG until she had a fucking heart attack.

My sister and I are both in therapy for various reasons. (I know. Shocking that we are both in therapy, right?) If I told all the stories of terror, frustration, sadness, loneliness and confusion growing up with my mother and father (with a nightmare step-father thrown in just for fun), it would fill a book. So we will simply skip closer to present day.

My daughter was diagnosed as autistic in 2010. All I can say about my mother and this without needing Valium is that she acts like it didn’t even happened. My mother has not read one book about autism. She’s done no research. She doesn’t talk to me about it. She had the audacity once to say to me that the reason she doesn’t talk to me about it is because I act like it isn’t a problem. How I fought down the urge to physically assault her by ripping her heart out of her chest via her throat I will never, ever know. My fury was driven not by how insulting she was to me but by what a verbal slap in the face it was to my daughter. Against all odds and despite the infrequency of their contact, my daughter acknowledges her grandmother and shows affection to her. My mother has not one ounce of appreciation for the significance of this. Not one.

Case in point: my daughter struggles with anxiety. She is particularly fearful of certain animals, including birds and dogs. Yet, without any thought of that, my mother adopted a dog – a huge, constantly shedding, slobbery, tail-wagging, jumpy, hyper, one-year-old Husky. It would be comical if it wasn’t so fucking sad. Of course, my brother – who lives on the other side of the country and so can’t really meddle too much usually – was her accomplice in this, because he happened to be here when she got this wild hair up her ass. He giddily went along with this in his childless-naivety, because anything that makes my mother happy makes him happy. And, of course, no one called me.

Theoretically, the dog was to provide companionship; someone to keep my mother company in the ridiculously too-big-for-just-her house she refuses to sell and as motivation for her to exercise. The dog has since become a replacement for my deceased grandmother – a cover for my mother’s agoraphobic tendencies. And, given that the dog looks like a giant, fuzzy marshmallow about to explode under its own weight, I think we can safely rule out exercise, no? (I felt so bad for the dog, I once took him for a run with me – at least until he sat down while I was mid-stride. How I didn’t break my neck tripping over him I will never know. And, I’m pretty sure he told me to fuck off with his eyes as I dragged him back to the car.)

Anyway … I don’t take my daughter over to my mother’s house anymore unless it is absolutely unavoidable, because the dog freaks her out and makes a huge mess of my mother’s house. There’s nothing fun about dealing with a stressed-out kid who then has to get into your car wearing a furry blanket of dirty fur that smells vaguely of pee. Especially when said daughter is not what you’d describe as “cooperative” when it comes to bathing.

Yes, the dog is put outside while my daughter visits. But, as it turns out, the dog has seizures. The last thing I want is for my daughter to see a dog having a seizure. If she’s terrified of dogs as it is, can you imagine? There is also no way I’m ever leaving my mother alone with my daughter and an epileptic dog. That such a situation is not good is pretty damn obvious, I think. [Pointing to elephant sitting in corner…]

All this is the backstory necessary to give context to what happened a few days ago. At the completely independent suggestions of both my therapist and my sister’s therapist, my sister and I had an intervention with my mother. The purpose of the intervention was to ask my mother to make a choice: either see her psychiatrist and start managing her bipolar disorder, narcissism and agoraphobia again – in which case we will support her to the best of our abilities – or don’t do anything – in which case, we will choose not to have a relationship with her, because neither my sister nor I are compelled to watch her slowly kill herself. To the contrary, we have a right to extricate ourselves from such a thing, both for our own benefit as well as the benefit of our families. As my therapist said to me, no one has a moral obligation to support a loved one – even a parent – in his or her poor choices. If my mother is not willing to choose life, she is in fact choosing not to have a relationship with us.

Sounds reasonable, right? Sounds logical? You have no idea how impossible it is to believe this when you are talking about your parent. Or maybe you do have an idea, in which case, you know it is unbelievably, gut-wrenchingly hard. You know what’s harder? Sitting across from your mother in the living room of her foul-smelling, filthy house and saying these things to her face. Listening to her make excuse after excuse about how none of her behavior is her own fault. Hearing her “justify” her reasonless and haphazard spending as an adult with a potential life span of another 20-30 years but a working life-span of maybe another five, by saying that my sister and I spent money with abandon when we were in college, and she didn’t get on our cases about it. (Never mind that she should have, FFS). Trying to stop yourself from violently shaking common sense into her as she points out every injustice committed against her – real or perceived – as a “reason” for why we are in no position to ask or tell her to do anything now. Feeling the crushing pain of hearing her say that you are an adult, so she doesn’t “have to be your mother anymore.” Hearing her say she “needs” to keep the behemoth, dilapidated house with a yard she can’t manage and that creates bills she can’t afford because our brother will not have a place to stay when he comes “home,” as if he wouldn’t rather stay in a dog-hair, poop-stain free hotel. Containing the sheer frustration of her refusal to take any medication because it makes her sick to her stomach – as if the alternative isn’t worse?

The final blow for me – the one from which I probably can never recover, from which I will never find peace, for which I can never, ever forgive her – all of her “isms” and “phobias” aside – came from this exchange:

Me: I want to be clear about why I don’t bring [redacted] here anymore. It is because of the dog. I wish you had consulted me before you got a dog, but …

Mom: [Interrupting] Did you consult me before you got a cat? I shouldn’t have to consult you. It’s my life.

Me: Well, Mom, you’re not autistic, are you? You aren’t afraid of cats, are you? And, we got the cat, which is now dead, before [redacted] was even born. But, I’m pretty sure that if you had a fear of cats, I wouldn’t have gotten one if it prevented you from enjoying yourself at my house.

Mom: [crying] I miss my granddaughter! (I should pause here for a minute to say that my mother has gotten her way a lot in her life by crying. That shit does not work on me. I was a bit of a crier myself when I was a hormonal teenager, but since then, my sister’s nickname for me has become “Tink-tink,” which she says while pointing to her heart. The more emotionally charged a situation gets, the more objective and cold I get. [Unless there’s straight anger involved, in which case, I am afflicted with the unfortunate anger-cry disease, often misconstrued as weakness, much to the regret of those who misconstrue it.] So, this calculated emotional performance is about to have the opposite of my mother’s desired effect…)

Me: [Inside my head: Then you shouldn’t have adopted the mother fucking dog!] [Speaking] We live four miles away. Does it ever occur to you to come to our house? Do you have any idea what a project it is to take [redacted] anywhere – how upsetting that is to her routine? I can’t just “swing by” for a cup of coffee when she’s with me, which is all of the time.

Mom: Well, I’m sure she sees [her other grandparents] at their house.

Me: Yes, about once a month. And, they don’t have a dog.

Mom: Well that’s twelve more times than I see her!

Me: Actually, that’s about 36 times more, because – you know what? - they come to our house the other three weekends per month!

Mom: Not without calling first, they don’t!

Me: [Dumbfounded at this left turn.] Uh, you’re right. They call first. What’s your point? Your phone doesn’t work? You can’t call me and say, “Hey, feel like a cup of coffee?” or “I don’t care what you’re doing, I’m coming to play with my granddaughter”?

Mom: Well, you guys are always busy, and you’re so short with me on the phone …

Me: Seriously? Have you ever even read a book about autism, Mom? Have you done any Internet research, read a blog, talked to someone in special education, a doctor? Anything? Anything to try to understand what goes on in our lives?

Mom: [silence]

Me: [My in-laws] have. And even though they sometimes annoy me, at least [my father-in-law] has read enough to know that if he calls [redacted] every night and has her talk to him on the phone, it helps her build her social communication skills. So, he does it. Every night. Like clockwork. Do I love having to talk to him every night? Not really. But, do I love that he loves his granddaughter so much that he does that for her? Absolutely.

Mom: I’ve offered to help!

Me: You offer to help, but then you expect me to help you help. I can’t do it, Mom. I give all my energy to my kids, and everyone else around me – you, you [pointing to my sister], [my husband] and my in-laws – all have to take responsibility for your relationships with the kids. Educate yourselves. Find you own way. If you want to “help,” have a relationship with your granddaughter on her terms.

Mom: [crying] I would do any … [looks at dog lying on floor] … practically anything to have her here.

I have reflected now for two days on this conversation. My heart is growing blacker and blacker. This isn’t about whether my mother should keep or euthanize the dog. I have my own feelings about that, which are completely independent of my mother’s mental health, except that the dog is going to die – relatively soon – and I have no doubt that my mother will need to be committed shortly after.

This is about how terribly, terribly selfish she is. She never considered her granddaughter before getting a dog. She won’t accommodate her granddaughter’s autism by driving the four fucking miles to our house to see her granddaughter. She has no concept of why it’s not a good idea to expose her granddaughter to a dog prone to violent seizures. My mother doesn’t even understand why it isn’t a good idea to expose herself to a seizure-prone dog.

But what hurts me, saddens me, frightens me, and angers me the most is my mother’s complete inability to see outside her own little world. I have two children who need and deserve my emotional and financial support. My daughter may need me to care for her – physically and emotionally – for the rest of my life (and to ensure she has those needs as close to met as possible when her father and I are gone). I have a deep moral, ethical and philosophical responsibility to ensure that my son is never burdened – financially or otherwise – with his sister’s care, whether that means ensuring he has every opportunity for higher education or ensuring his peace of mind that his sister is cared for in our absence. Loving my son and my daughter means (among other things) that they always get to choose their relationship – whatever it may be when they are grown – not that they need it because of dependence.

My mother has known – for many, many years – that she’s not been blessed with an ability to age gracefully. Even with proper medical care, there is a strong likelihood that she will live her senior years with emotional and physical pain. It is inevitable that she will require some type of skilled-nursing/assisted living environment. Yet, she’s done NOTHING to prepare for this, leaving the burden of planning, funding and supervising to her children. In fact, my mother has done this even after living through the burden of caring for her mother for the last twelve years of her life and witnessing first-hand the financial and emotional toll of her health care and death.

Indeed, despite that my mother will leave me the Hobson’s choice of caring for her or caring for my children; of leaving my sister to shoulder the financial and temporal burden of my mother alone (or Heaven help her – with my brother) or leaving my husband the financial and temporal responsibility of caring for our children alone so I can help my sister. These aren’t choices if choice implies any freedom of selection. But, these especially are not choices that any parent should ask, expect or leave a son or daughter to make.

Interestingly, in my last session with my therapist, I left agitated because my therapist suggested that I hadn’t considered the possibility that my father loves me in spite of his bad behavior and poor choices. As I’ve thought more about my mother, though, I have acknowledged the possibility that my therapist is right. Perhaps his decision to extricate himself from my life was an act of love – perverted though it may be – because he chose not to impose on me the burden of his care or his inability to be even a fraction of what his father was to me for my children. My heart – having long since repaired the fracture of his absence – cares not. But, it is possible to make my mind believe this. And that, my dear Alanis, is ironic.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who are the Grateful Dead and why do they keep following me?

I used to have this bumpersticker, way back when, that said this, and for some reason I've decided that I want to get another one. I can't find one anywhere, though. I've been googling for days now with no luck; I can't even find the design anywhere.  So, I went into my old photos (man, I used to be so thin) because I knew I had a pic of hubs sitting on the back of my old Honda, and here we are!

This was taken in March of 1993. That's hubs, sitting on the back of my car, in the parking lot of my old house in Santa Barbara. That white arrow points to the sticker I'm talking about.

Does anybody know this design? I want another one and I can't find it anywhere. Can you help? Spread the word? Ask your old hippie friends? HELP!

(Look at hubs, though! RAWWRRRRR!!!!!)

While I was looking through old pics, I found this one of me that I thought you guys might enjoy:

This is Halloween 1991 at the Oakland Coliseum. I'm dressed as Jerry Garcia, by the way, since most of you probably won't know that. There's a pillow stuffed under my shirt there. Seriously, I used to be really thin. *sigh*


My non-German German friend Patrick found it for me at a store in Oregon!!!!! Please follow him on Twitter and say thank you!!!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Dive Bar Welcomes: Anonymous Wife & Mom

Today's contributor wishes to remain anonymous, which is kind of too bad because this is some damn fine writing and I can't tell you where you can go to read her other stuff. I know, though. HA HA!

I have just come home and it’s already started.

I was gone for a long time. Long enough that an empty space when I left now has an apartment building standing on it looking surprisingly sturdy for how hastily it was assembled.

I didn’t choose to go exactly. He wanted to go, but couldn’t. There seemed to be no other choice but to separate--temporarily, he said--to give him space. So I went instead. Me and the kids, off to my mother’s.

It was not all sunshine and roses staying with my mother. But now I’m longing for those minor annoyances.

You see, I opened up a box. Something new I’d just gotten, something I wanted to use. It’s a little bit of an expensive thing, so I didn’t just throw the box in the trash. If something was wrong, if it didn’t work, I wanted to have all my packaging if I needed to return or exchange it.

When I opened the box and left the box and the instruction manual on the counter, I already knew this would be a problem. The counters were empty before. Now they were not. And they were inhabited by a box. An empty box. A thing that didn’t belong there. A thing that did not have its place there. A thing that needed to go somewhere else, definitely not here.

I’m not sure where else I could’ve or should’ve put it. The counter, right next to the trash can so I could easily dispose of it when I was done, was simple and vacant. After all, why does a counter exist but as a place for one to set things down? So I put the box there, knowing it would be a problem, hoping I’d get lucky in the few minutes I’d need to check everything out.

Sure enough, he is there moments later with a trash bag and a frown and he raises his voice when he complains about the box being on the counter as he throws it in the bag. I try to explain to him my thought process, but he doesn’t care. It needs to go in its place. Its place is not here. He cannot tell me where its place is, though I suspect he sees it as the trash. (The fact that he’s already put it there is a pretty good hint.)

I have been gone for a long time. I was happy to come home. Happy to see him. Happy that he was happy to see me. But now I am realizing that it is about more than that. I come with baggage. I come with children. I come with stuff. I come with a finite amount of energy and work that I can do. And I can see that while we’ve been gone, this entire apartment has morphed into his space where our things will be intruders.

I was feeling confident before, like things were going to be okay.

Now I am wondering again. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would have to put my head down for the next few weeks, do as much as I could, get by with the kids and the house and the stuff all by myself while he worked long hours and was rarely home. I forgot about this, though. I forgot that I have to find a way to make the chaos of our house of young children palatable to my spouse. And now I am wondering.

I am wondering about his mental health. Not just his stress level or his energy level or his endurance or his emotional well-being. I am wondering if this is not just a stress-induced mania but a real legitimate issue. I am wondering if it’s OCD and, if it is, how on earth we will fit that in our lives. There is already the depression (mine), the depression and anxiety (his), and of course the autism (our son’s). Can we handle yet another diagnosis? Can I handle another diagnosis? Can I handle the additional stabilizing and caregiving and energy and work that will involve to keep things just so? Can I handle being the glue that holds this tiny group together?

Being the glue for 4 should be easy, right? Especially when one of the 4 can’t yet speak or walk. But I find I’m having more and more trouble being the glue when I have a spouse separating himself from us. He’s pulling away and even though I try to pull him back, it’s hard when I feel that he doesn’t want to. And when our connection is so weak, I don’t know how to make us a group. Instead it feels like I have kid-time and spouse-time. And the kids, as the ones who are here and needing and wanting all the time pull in a different way and a different direction.

An hour or two later I have another box to open, another item to test. I get it set up and throw the box away. And the bag it came in. Only to realize a moment later that I need the receipt. I open the trash, get it out and then have another problem: where to put the receipt. It does not have a place.

There is only so much I can do. I set it out on the coffee table. And leave it there.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The funniest thing I've seen all week AND more about how dumb I am because you guys like that kind of thing

First things first:



Apparently there was a study about Triclosan, the active ingredient in things that are anti-bacterial, which said something like it gets into your muscles and makes those muscles not work anymore. I don't know, I'm hazy on the specifics. So, hubs sent me to the store to get new soap that would replace everything in our house that is anti-bacterial. (Hey, wouldn't it be great if there was some kind of... oh I don't know... regulation? Which made it so the products we purchase were safe to use and wouldn't cause our muscles to totally degenerate until we're dead and we wouldn't have to throw out everything we had already purchased and go buy brand new stuff? Wouldn't that be awesome? [Oh my god, she used the word "regulation" !!! BUUUUUUURN HER!!!])

So, I'm at Target (of course) and I'm browsing their soap products, and I pick up one and start to read the ingredients to see if there's any triclosan in it. Now... I have really bad eyes; my vision is just complete shit, so I'm standing there in the aisle, squinting my ass off, and I shit you not, I spent at least FIVE MINUTES reading all the ingredients in this product, looking for triclosan. See those small capital lettered words there right above the bar code and after the word "ingredients"? Those are the ones I read. Squinting. In the aisle. Took me five minutes to get through them.....

I looked much like this, I would assume:

The good news is that I found out later there's no triclosan in this particular product.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: HA HA I'm Dumb

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nobody will be safe from my troll brain

This is something that happens to me every single day. I'll be sitting at my computer, reading the Wall Street Journal like a boss (yeah, nobody would ever believe that, but I promise you I'm not watching German monkey porn) or, more likely reddit or Facebook or twitter... when suddenly, a seed is planted.....
It will be very subtle at first; so subtle that I won't even notice it. I probably saw one word, in passing... in this case, probably the word "chills," which triggered my subconscious memory of a song that contained the word. I don't actually remember seeing the word, because that's part of the insidious nature of this particular beast. I won't know where it came from. It will, suddenly, just be.
My brain begins to release a toxic mixture of melody and lyric that had, until now, been safely penned up in the back of my subconscious. Just a quick sideways glance at one word will unlock the memory from its brain prison and be set free to rampage....  unfettered, unrestrained.... through my brain.
It's not until the song has done irreparable damage to the inside of my cranium that I even become aware of its presence. By this time, of course, it's too late. The song has taken hold of my head. I am no longer in control of my thoughts; the song is now in control. All I can do is try to drown it out with something better, or stab myself in the ear with an icepick.
Since I rarely actually have an icepick on hand, however, this is usually when I tweet some lyrics and infect at least 10 of you, too. HA HA, suckers! Why should I suffer alone????

Sunday, August 12, 2012

That awkward moment when Alanis Morissette wrote a song that one time

You people on the internet are making me crazy with the constant "that awkward moment when...."  It reminds me of Alanis' song Ironic, where she gives all these examples of things that are supposed to be ironic but aren't actually ironic. A black fly in your Chardonnay? Not ironic. A black fly in your Chardonnay and you're a fly catcher for a living? (IT'S A THING!) Possibly ironic. A black fly in your Chardonnay and you're an exterminator, employed at a winery? Definitely ironic. 

Should I go on? Okay, I'll go on.

Rain on your wedding day? Not ironic. Rain on your wedding day and you're a meterologist and you didn't predict rain on your wedding day? Ironic.

Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife? This is only ironic if you have a Guinness-worthy collection of antique knives in your house and you're famous for it.

Good advice that just didn't take? You're just a fucking idiot, is what you are.

These things are unfortunate, but they are not ironic. Much like these things that are presented as awkward moments but aren't:

"That awkward moment when the USA leads the rest of the world in Olympic gold medals AND obesity."


"That awkward moment when girls today think it's cool to be 16 and pregnant."


"That awkward moment when people think it's cool to post pictures of their food on Instagram."

No. NO. NONE of these examples are actual awkward moments. They may be awkward, weird or might make you uncomfortable as concepts, but they are not moments. Alternatively, they are moments, but they are not awkward. Instead, they are dangerous or life changing or unfortunate.... but not awkward.

Here are some actual awkward moments:

That awkward moment when you get caught staring at the boobs of the girl sitting across from you in study hall.

That awkward moment when the cashier hands back your credit card and says "I'm sorry, but...."

That awkward moment when you're introducing people and you forget somebody's name.

Those are awkward moments. Get it right, Internet!!!

PHEW! Glad I could get that off my chest. :) Well.... I feel better!

(By the way: Yes, I know I'm not the first person in the world to have discussed the flaws in Alanis' song. But thanks for pointing it out, nonetheless!)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Dive Bar Welcomes: Handflapper

Handflapper, or as I call her Flappy McFlapsALot. I call her that now. I will start calling her that now. She is my formerly conjoined twin. We had an operation to separate us and I ended up with all the boobs, but in my defense, I really had nothing to do with that. I'm not a surgeon or anything. This post hurts my heart. I love you, Flappy.

This is not my usual comic ranting. I’m so lucky to have a friend like Jillsmo who lets me spew all over her blog. I would spew all over her blog, but my family, which is to say my husband’s family, reads my blog. Sometimes. And while none of this is anything I haven’t said in their presence and to their faces, I don’t think they need any reminders of sad facts right now. “Too soon?” as they say. Yes, too soon. Probably it will always be too soon to ever have this story told in a public setting, but while I’m considerate enough of their feelings not to post this on my own blog where they or people they know might see it, I still think it’s worthwhile to get it out here. Maybe it will help someone, somewhere, who is or who has experienced something similar. Maybe it will encourage someone to get help. At the very least I know it will help me, because sharing pain always results in a fabulous outpouring of support from my interweb friends. You guys are the best, and Jillsmo is the bestest of the best.

Urgent message received from my 13-year-old nephew:


Little Mig Joe is what he and his brother call me. That’s kind of a long story and not relevant right now.

I figured it had to be IMPORTANTTTTT. I also had two missed calls from him and in fact, had my phone in my hand to call him back when I got that text. He never calls me, unless he wants something. Because he’s thirteen, and that’s how thirteen-year-olds are, mostly too busy for their Little Mig Jo.

Nephew:  Is Big Joe there? [That’s what he and his brother call my husband, part of that same not relevant story.]

Me:  Yeah, what’s up?

Nephew:  Okay, can you put me on speaker? Are you sitting down? Y’all need to be sitting down.

I could tell from his voice that this was not bad news he was preparing me for. I have not heard that child so jubilantly excited in—well, it makes me sad to think how long it’s been.

He won the golf tournament. Actually it was more of a skills contest than an actual tournament. He’s been going to a clinic at the country club where all the men in my husband’s family play golf. Big golfers, my husband’s brother and daddy are. My husband, too, although he doesn’t get to play nearly as much as they do. He’s the one who got nephew interested in golf and we bought him his first set of real clubs a couple of Christmases ago. That may have been the last time I saw the kid so excited.
Anyway, nephew won over all, out of I don’t know how many kids. Usually there’s thirty or forty participating in the program. He got a trophy and a medal and I don’t know what all else. He is very proud of himself, and deservedly so. He shows some real promise, we think.

I’ve been awake all night thinking about him, and his brother. And their mother. My husband’s sister. My once upon a time best friend. She died in February. Died on her 43rd birthday, in fact. I’ve been thinking it should have been her he was so thrilled to be telling about his victory. Ideally, she should have been there to witness it. That, however, would be quite unlikely to happen even if she were still alive.

And I’m just more pissed at her than ever. Pissed at the way she threw her fucking life away with both hands, traded her children for her habit, lost everything but her insatiable need for drugs and attention.

Her death wasn’t a surprise to anybody, but at the same time it wasn’t really expected. I mean, who expects a 43-year-old woman who doesn’t have cancer to die? We had been telling each other for years that we would not be surprised when we got the call that she had been found in a ditch somewhere. At least it didn’t happen like that, for the boys’ sake. Well, maybe for the rest of the family’s sake, too. She died in a hospital. She didn’t go into the hospital to die. It seemed to be just another of her many, many routine check-ins. I’ve never been able to decide if she had Munchausen’s or if being sick was just one more way to get drugs. Maybe it was a combination of the two. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV. To my knowledge, Munchausen’s was never one of her diagnoses or even addressed by any of the various MDs, shrinks, therapists, etc. she encountered over the years. In the beginning she wasn’t even sick. She admitted once in rehab (I was there, participating in “family counseling”) that she had begun faking headaches at age sixteen to get Demerol shots.

Rehab didn’t take, obviously. None of them. Neither did NA, which I dragged her to. Literally. Like, I shoved her in my car and drove her to the church where the meetings were held, marched her into the room and grabbed her when she tried to run right back out. I sat beside her and held her hand while she stammered out, “I’m Claire, and I’m an addict,” for the first time, just as I had sat and held her hand during the births of those two boys. She grew to like NA quite a lot, and the men who attended the meetings even more. She was easily the most attractive woman there and she enjoyed the attention and where better to find new drug sources? Most of the people there were court ordered and not truly committed to “recovery” any more than she was.

When she was younger, her drug of choice was anything goes. After she had children, she pretty much stuck to prescription pills. Easier to hide an addiction, and in her mind it was a more respectable and excusable type of addiction, I’m sure, except for when she was stealing pills from other people. People like my husband. There was a time she had even half way persuaded me to believe he was eating the shit ton of drugs that was disappearing from his supply at such an alarming rate. He was very, very sick, and I was working all the time and how could I be sure? And when I caught her in the act of stealing, saw her with his drugs in her hand with my own two eyes, she still insisted it wasn’t the way it seemed. Drug addicts are talented liars, and she was one of the best.

She was very convincing when she regaled doctors about her chronic pain. She always had oxycontin, xanax, valium, Percocet, hydrocodon, fentanyl. . . For a while she used her teeth as a way to get pain pills, but then she ran out of teeth. Thirty-two years old and wearing dentures for the sake of getting high. Or low, rather. She spent most of her days passed out. I don’t know what she was so desperately trying to escape from by checking out of her life like that. After one of her rehab stays, she announced that she had discovered “recovered” memories and proceeded to name every male member of the family and as having molested her as a child. Her sister exclaimed indignantly, “Well, what was wrong with me??? No one ever molested me!” We dismissed this as more of her outrageous fantasy. We’re not the kind of people to make light of child molestation, but seriously, there was never a time that it could have happened. She also told everyone my husband hit her. He never did, but he should have.

I might have been able to forgive her all that, even for making me doubt my husband, for the horrendous pain he suffered when he had to be without his medicine between prescriptions because she had stolen vast quantities of it, but I could never forgive her for what she did to her children. She left their father when they were two years old and six weeks old. That was the probably the best thing she ever did for them. We fixed up the cabin on our property and she and the babies moved into it. And then we raised those boys for the next four years as our own while she disappeared for days on end and was unconscious when she was around. I don’t even remember the event the made us force her into rehab the first time. She was dating a loser she met in NA and they were talking about getting married. That and the fact that he had finally finished school and felt like being a father motivated her ex to sue for custody of the kids, after virtually ignoring them for four years. She let them go rather than let him air her dirty laundry in court. I don’t know what she thought we didn’t already know, or suspect. If I could reach into her grave and bring her back to life and choke her to death all over again for that, I would. My babies! It was just like one of those goddamn Lifetime movies, crying all over the place and them clinging to us and screaming and their so-called father wrenching them away. We consulted a lawyer and were advised that as aunt and uncle, we had no standing to get custody ourselves. Our only route would be to get CPS involved,  attempt to have both parents deemed unfit (which they undoubtedly were, but you never know what the idiots in charge of these things are going to decide) and then they would go into the foster system! We decided the devil we knew was better than the devil we didn’t.

She still had regular visitation back then, which meant we had regular visitation, since she could rarely be bothered to care for them when it was her time to have them. They continued to be at our house every weekend for the next couple of years and she still lived at our address, until one night, for some reason, she had Nephew with her for the evening. Older Nephew was spending the night with his cousin, I think. Anyway, around ten that night our dogs started barking and charging at the front door and the next thing we knew Nephew was running naked into our bedroom, sobbing and screaming that he couldn’t find his mama.

He was five at the time. He was terrified of the dark, and he had run NAKED from her house at the far end of our property to our house, through brambles and brush and howling dogs in the pitch dark and he was hysterical. It took everything in me not to be hysterical with rage. I put him in some underwear and a T-shirt while Husband went to investigate.

Husband returned shaking with rage of his own. He found his sister in one of the bedrooms passed out in the floor. I guess I should briefly explain at this time she was living in the trailer house my husband’s parents had moved onto our land and lived in for a while. Anyway, she and Nephew were in the master bedroom watching a movie. She told him she would go to his room to get his pajamas while he got undressed. She went to the other end of the trailer and fell out in the floor. When she didn’t return, he called for her. She didn’t respond, he went looking for her. Because the lights were out and the way the room turns away from the door, he didn’t see her on the floor in front of the closet when he looked in his room. And naturally he lost his shit.

We all lost our shit that night. We kicked her out and I never willingly spoke to her again. She really became dead to me that night. She cried and begged and pleaded and I would not even look at her. I was done. I’m still done. It caused some awkwardness in the family, to be sure. We had to at times be in the same room at family gatherings. She always made a point of speaking to me and I always made a point of not acknowledging it. She never did get it. Her mother would report to me that Claire would say to her she didn’t understand why I was still mad at her. I wasn’t mad. I was just done, done with her lies, done with her thieving, done with her drama, done with her damage.

It was hard on the boys. We talked about it. I never bad mouthed their mother to them. She was their mother, after all. She loved them as best she could, even though she wasn’t capable of much. But I didn’t lie or dismiss their questions, either. It was easier for her to keep her “problem” hidden from them when they were younger and she wasted no opportunity in painting me as the bad guy, but as they got older, they figured it out. I knew they would. In the months before she died, there were a few bad episodes when she was staying with them at their dad’s house while he worked. She hit Older Nephew in the face with a hair dryer. She pulled all their clothes out of the closet and threw them in the bathtub. She didn’t recognize them when they tried to talk to her. She ran around in the yard in her nightgown and bare feet in the snow. That time they called us. We went over and Husband called 911. They got to see her fight two policemen as they wrestled her to a stretcher and strapped her down.

For the last several years her preferred complaint for hospitalization and acquiring drugs was bladder infection. Who the fuck gets hospitalized for a damn bladder infection? I suspect early on she was doing things to make herself get an infection, and because she never took medication as it was prescribed (eat all the pain pills, chase them with a couple of the antibiotic ones), she developed a highly resistant bacteria, and because she was in and out of the hospital so much, she contracted MRSA. This last time she was in the hospital, she had gone in for fluids and IV antibiotics. She was lucid and ambulatory and all that. Someone came in to take her vitals on a routine check in the wee hours of the morning and found her barely breathing on the floor. There were pills scattered all around her. They put her in ICU where they hooked her up to a vent to keep her breathing, but the EEG showed there was no brain activity. Her parents (her dad, mostly. He’s been pretty much in denial about her for years) discussed what to do for a day and agreed it was best to let her go.

That brain damaged, ravaged corpse was once a beautiful, brilliant, hilarious woman. She was once a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother. She was once my best friend.
Drugs are bad, kids. Well, drugs can be okay. But if you feel the desperate need to abuse them the way she did, you’re fucked up and you need to stop that shit. It breaks my heart that she apparently never thought she was worthwhile enough to stop for, but it makes me mad as hell that she didn’t think her kids were.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

And that's how you do it

So, I wrote this post yesterday about how I don't like the word "retard," and in the original version, the very last line said "Watch that video up there and pretend you were one of those parents. How would you feel?"

The post had been up for about three hours when I was doing something in my house and thinking about it, and thinking about the video, when it suddenly struck me: I only mentioned the parents in the video. I didn't mention their son. The boy in that video is 15 years old and has cerebral palsy, he is very much aware that he is the target of bullying, and yet I left him out of the discussion?

I quickly ran to my computer and made the change but then I couldn't stop thinking about it. In a discussion about how the word "retard" is painful, I only mentioned the parents of the disabled boy and not the boy, himself. Surely he feels more pain at being the target of bullying than his parents do, and yet.... I left him out?

That struck me as very profound, that I would do that, and it's very indicative of the theme of the writing that I read from my friends who are autistic, that disabled people are being left out of the discussion about disabled people. How can we talk about the health and well being of disabled people if we're only talking about their parents and not them? I was part of the problem. 

It was kind of an epiphany, actually; it was one of those "a-ha" moments that marks the beginning of a change in my perspective that will stick with me. (It's probably pretty obvious to a lot of you, but I guess I needed a bigger learning curve). And so, I wanted to give a shout out to the people who I credit with changing my perspective, my friends Rachel and chavisory. They are autistic self-advocates and are both my facebook friends. I read what they write, on their blogs and in comments on other people's blogs, and I know that they are patient, kind, smart, wonderful women. I know that they discuss the issues without attacking and without judgment, and I know that they will tell me the truth if it's something I need to hear. And I know that they are right. And it is their experiences as autistic people that will help pave the way for my son; I can't do it without them.

I know that as an autism parent it is my responsibility to not just talk about myself in this experience; to exclude my son from the dialogue is to defeat the whole purpose of everything that I'm doing. And I know this because of them; because of my friends.

So, I just wanted to tell them both: Rachel and chavisory, thank you. You have changed me.