Friday, April 29, 2016

Heaven or Earth.

My twins are receiving their first communion this Sunday.  I invited family.  It is important to the twins.  They had a choice.  We didn't force them to go to "Atrium" classes.  We asked them if they wanted to go.  We asked them if they wanted to get their First Communion and explained what it meant.  They have been to two years worth of classes.  They have not changed their mind.  They asked their teacher tough questions:  Michael wanted to know the science behind everything.  We have taught them both about evolution, and that the Bible stories are parables written by Apostles, maybe told by Jesus, (who was a real man), to explain things that people at the time could not understand.  Illiterate people, but also every person, really.  Don't we all wonder where we come from?  How did all of this come about? Life?  How did it start?  Why? When?  Where?

We were Golden when we got married, and went to Pre-Cana classes.  Sam was attending adult catechism classes, I with him, and he wanted to become Catholic.  The Priest, at the time, Father Peter, was so funny, open-minded... Many people in the Parish didn't like him.  He was too relaxed... too...  I don't know...  He drank wine.  That was the fault I heard.  I never understood.

He asked Sam and I to join a Life Teen group, in which we would help work with the confirmation students.  We went on a retreat at his other house, not the Springfield Rectory, in Rutland, which was on a large piece of land.  We drank wine, ate a wonderful dinner cooked by the teacher of the adult classes, and we talked about religion.  I told him I didn't believe the Catholic Church had any right to focus on homosexuality as a sin when they welcomed couples who were living together, unmarried, obviously having premarital sex, to be role models and teachers to the teenagers of the parish.  He looked at me, and said, that was true, the Church did often focus on some "sins" and not others.  I said it was prejudiced, and we should be shunned and spoken about just as strongly as the church was focusing on Gay Marriage and Homosexuality at the time.  He agreed.  He said, "I just don't want anyone to touch me."  And there was a strange sadness in him which told me that maybe he was an Altar Boy who was abused.  Who knows?  He became a Priest to be better than that.  To be a good one.  One of the good ones.

I know with teaching, "bad" teachers, just made me want to teach more.  I couldn't stand it.  I wanted to save students from a fate that could lead them to hate reading, or hate school, or not succeed in life.

Father Peter was different.  We brought our babies to Church on Sunday evenings with my grandparents, and he knew their names and every time we left Mass, if we apologized for their loud "baby talk," or fussing, he said, "I'd rather hear that, and have young families here, then have you worry about all that and not bring them at all.  We met with him to have them baptized and he asked us why we wanted them to be baptized.  Lord, Sam's face was hilarious as I went into a long description first, of my family history and tradition in Catholicism, and that we believed strongly that it was important for them to grow up Catholic, however, there was also no way I would ever, ever tell my children that homosexuality was a sin, or something shameful or wrong.  I said it's scientifically-based.  I would never teach them to judge anyone else (in regular circumstances... I mean, I'm not talking about murders and rapists for goodness sake... they are evil) for who they were, or even their personal choices.  I told him I grew up in a Catholic family who told me being kind, and generous, and giving, and loving, and faithful, and honest was important.  Sam looked down at the ground, at me, raising his eyebrows to say, "You don't really need to go into this..."

But Father Peter said, "You are right, there is science coming out about homosexuality.  I understand what you are saying.  I hope you want them baptised so Jesus becomes a part of them."  He didn't tell me I was excommunicated, as Sam suspected, I think.  We said, of course that's what we hoped for.  I told him I baptised them with spit on their foreheads the first moment I held them.  He chuckled.  We scheduled a date.

It was beautiful.  There was retired priest filling in for Father Peter that June, and he was a lot like Father Joe.  All my extended family came.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.  I felt so grateful for my family.  The babies were surrounded by love.

In the winter months, Father Peter changed, it seemed.  He had brain surgery.  Nanny and Grampy couldn't drive up there, for service, in the dark because of Grampy's macular degeneration.  They didn't notice it.  Father Peter became more distant for awhile.  Didn't say our names as we left the church or speak to our babies.  And during campaign season, when Barack Obama was for Heaven's sake, hopefully going to replace George W. Bush, he spoke of people voting for someone who approved of abortion as a sin.  Oh my.  The church telling us to vote for a Republican, when the party represented almost everything that Jesus spoke against?!  And his sermons became very dark and condemning.  More about sin than joy and living.

We stopped going to Church for a few years.

It didn't feel good.  But I didn't want my children, no matter how young they were, hearing all of that.  It pained me to hear it.  We did go on Christmas, and as a tradition in the church, they have a man dressed as Santa Claus walk down the aisle and kneel before the baby Jesus at before the Children's Service began, and when Michael was 3 1.2 he said, loud enough for the rows around us to hear, "I want to put dynamite down Santa Claus's pants."  What?!  He meant that Santa, I know.  They have always believed Santa is a Saint, a spirit, and not every guy dressed up with a fake beard and crazy looking cheap red polyester fake fur suit.  But saying that in Church was obviously not the greatest thing, and saying at all was kind of crazy.  I blushed profusely.  I sat and spoke to him.  Even then, he said, "Joke mommy.  I'm funny."

We hadn't been to Church in a awhile, so proper etiquette wasn't clear.
Oh goodness.
It was funny, though.  Everyone around us snickered, giggled, or covered their mouths in tear inducing laughter.
Only Michael.
Only my son.
Stella stood as proper as can be in her Christmas, wool, Rothchild coat, Blue with red piping, and hat Marguerite had altered and sewn to a style more fitting for a girl her age:  no tie under the chin, and looked at him with a bit of sisterly disapprovement of his impropriety.

And now they are 9.  They are very reverent and spiritual.  They respect the Church, and pray for their Grampy John in Heaven and for their Nanny Tops still here, 91.  They pray their Nanny Barbie will be healthy...  They pray for mommy.  They pray that I will get better.  I don't want everyone to be Catholic.  I don't even think about it. I don't think about or worry about what other people believe.  I think about what my children believe, and truly, since they were old enough to ask big questions about life, and death, and God, and Heave, or Hell, I've always said, "Well, what mommy believes is..." or, "What my mommy always told me was..."  Or, "I learned..."  And then I would say, "What do you think?"
And they would say, "Grampy is in Heaven."

They'd tell me whatever they thought.  And I have never once told them, "That's what you should think."  Or,  "That's wrong."

My older sister stopped going to Church as soon as she "could."  I don't remember being forced to do anything.  We did wake up to go to Church.  Certainly young children wouldn't be left at home.  When she was a teenager, she didn't go with us.  My mother never told us what to think.  She told us to be kind.  She told us Grampy Jim was in Heaven.  My sister believes it was forced upon her and she says she will never participate in anything Catholic ever again.  She said she wouldn't attend a First Communion.  She was insulted I even asked.

It's a special day for the twins, this Sunday.  I don't know if my family will be there.  I hope they come, simply because it's a special day for the kids.  I hope they come because I've struggled through a lot of things these past 5 years, and being a mother has always been the most important part of getting through all of it... Being a good mother...   And sometimes I need help.  Like now.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fuck You.


I said it.

Fuck you.

And you know who you are.  The boys who grabbed my ass in high school, or randomly leaned over in class, when I was trying to learn Algebra 2, to say, "I sit here so I can look at your legs."
Those guys who went out of their way to say, "Nice tits," when I was 15, 16, 17, in the high school hallways.  You who sang, "I like Joanna's butt and I cannot lie," while you're walking up the stairs behind me when I was just trying to get to class after lunch.
I didn't know what to say to you at that time.

Now I do:
You are pigs.  Jerks.  Assholes.  Gross.
You treated me like I was a sex object.  And you acted like I was privileged by your attention.
Fuck you.
You made my stomach churn.
I didn't know what to say, because I was a kid.  I was still a kid.  And naive. And I had been awkward and ugly in middle school.  Enough, so my mother made sure I had blond hair by the time I was 13.
Yes, I was taught, through society and social experiences, I should feel like your sexual harassment was a form of compliment.  Thanks.  Fucking, thanks.

And now... Sometimes I regret making my body feel more like it did before I had babies...  Because perfect tits, and a flat stomach mean...  What?  I'm asking for attention?  Even if I'm married?  Even if I'm a mother?  I'm asking for men to comment on my body?  I'm asking for sexual innuendos?  From colleagues?  Students?  Former students?  Male friends? People who remember me from high school?

No!  Look at me.  I'm not so pretty.  I rarely bother with makeup.  There is nothing special about this face I have.  Isn't my nose weird?  Aren't my lips too thin?  Look at me.  Why do I have to point out my flaws?

Guess what?  I have a huge scar under my abdomen... That's where my twins came out.

I'd take my implants out, if that's all that makes me special now.  I don't care about perfect, round tits. I used to mourn the loss of my breast tissue, after nursing twin babies.  But these beautiful silicone mounds aren't worth being treated like I'm not... Human...  Not a mother...  Not a wife...  Or that I'm asking for attention.

I got small ones, anyway, you bastards.  I got ones just about the biggest size I ever was naturally.  I didn't get them for your attention.  I got them so I could feel whole.  And now that seems shameful.

I don't know how or why I ask for this strange, unwanted attention from men...  Hmmmm...  Maybe I chose my Halloween costume that year because I wanted to look sexy... No, I threw it together in 10 minutes because I couldn't think of anything else, and it was easy.  I won $100 for "best costume" chosen by the band, at a bar I had just walked into 30 minutes before, with my sister-in-law and a friend, and we had danced to a few songs, remembering the college concert days, because the music was kind of undanceable, and kind of Phish/Pink Floyd-sounding.  Haha, Teresa, younger than me, said you just move like this, swaying to the song in a silly way.  And that's what we did.  We were silly.  I took the $100, though.  I should have given it to my sister's boyfriend.  They had been there all night in elaborate Red Riding Hood and Wolf costumes.  "He would have won, if you hadn't shown up.  You know why you won."

Should I be confused by the attention I receive from males whom I knew long ago, or strangers at a bar.  Boys who are almost half my age, former students (ack!)?  Former schoolmates?  Oh goodness:  Former boyfriends?!  Should I want them to tell me how I was their fantasy, always have been, that I'm so hot?

SHUT UP!  No.  No.

Leave me alone.  Please.  I'm not "asking for it." You don't need to know if I'm happy.  You don't need to know about my life.  You really hope you can see my tits?  That I'll tell you sexual things...  Because I'm a good writer and I know what to say.  Yeah?  But I won't do that.

Find all the other girls in the world:  So many perfect tits, clever minds, highly sexualized appetites.  A world of women.  Beautiful women.  Perfect for you, or to you.  They are not suffering from PMDD.  Not already messed up.  Prettier than me.  Not married.  Not a mother.  Not me.

I'm not yours.  I belong to myself, and I belong to a family.  And you just hurt me with your attentions.

But wait...  I'm old, and had babies.  Should I want someone other than Sam to think I'm beautiful? Attractive?  See, I can know so strongly how horrible it made me feel when I was a teenager.

How horrible it really felt to be groped by a stranger, when I was dancing with my friends in college.

I'm not so young now.  Should I mind when men catcall me when I'm mowing the lawn?  How about having the stepfather of the groom at a friend's wedding I'm filming, start talking closely near my ear, after I had slowly backed up near him with the camera slowly to get a full shot of the dance floor, and tell me how he likes watching me dance.  "It's a shame you have to work so hard, you should be dancing.  I like watching you dance.  You are beautiful.  That dress fits your body perfectly."  Ooops, I was filming still, sir.   (That happened!  And it was so shocking to me...  Nope.  Not a bit.  I was used to it.  Used to it.  I had to erase the sound, from that part of the film before handing over the raw footage to the happy couple.  I'm sure your wife, your stepson, and oh, just about everyone in your family would prefer not to hear you hitting on, or should I say, sexually harassing, the videographer.  Asshole).

God, but I part of my brain goes back to the 15 year old confusion again, wondering if I should be grateful someone thinks I'm pretty or sexy...  That they even noticed me at all.

Are they complimenting me?  Are you?  Do I want you to write just to tell me I look amazing?  Do I?

Ha.  Let's not fuck around with that question.  Don't even think about it.  I'm not anymore. Just leave me alone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Every child needs a pet.

Sam and I found two kittens for our twins last April.  I think it was April.  They were born in February.  One of my former students had posted about them on FB, and there was a picture of a little black ball of fur, and two calico kittens.  I knew we wanted the little black one, a male kitten, and one calico.  My student told me that there was one particular calico that seemed to be best friends with the black one, so I of course said she was the one we would take.

Sam picked them up and we surprised our kids.  They couldn't believe they actually were going to keep them... that they were our kitties.  Michael came up with the names Luke and Leia, and those names because perfectly suited to their personalities.

Leia was much more timid at first, but became very tolerant of being handled by the children.  She was "Stella's cat," and Stella really had a hard time not picking her up, even if she was sleeping or eating...  Gosh, it was stressful trying to help Stella understand that's not how you get a cat to want to spend time with you.  Michael was also wanting to handle Luke all the time, when truly, both kittens were so adventurous and played together, racing around the house, skidding around corners, crash stopping into walls.  They were so entertained by each other.  They slept snuggled together.

Luke because more weary of the kids, while Leia seemed to relent, and allow them to harass her a bit more. Poor thing.  Luke would scratch, if he wanted to be put down.  I was worried at first, but I realized, he just wanted to be moving around and didn't want to be picked up in the middle of his "missions" and adventures. As he grew, his body became very muscular, especially his shoulders.  He loved to climb the curtains, so Sam built them an indoor "tree" covered in sisal rope, with little platforms for them to lay upon.

You see, they were going to be indoor cats.  We weren't going to let them outside.  The road, even though it's down the long driveway, is so busy, and cars go faster than they should.  Yet, we realized that it was almost cruel, to keep them inside, when they were so fascinated by the outdoors.  They sat in the windows, listening to birds.  They stood in front of our french doors, or the big windows at the front of our house and watched squirrels and chipmunks running and hopping and climbing.  They would bat into the air, become rigid, as if they were acting out the entire scenario of chasing the rodents around the yard.

We bought harnesses with leashes, and they loved exploring with the kids, but Luke was always ready to run around, and Michael would be out of breath running with him.  We eventually let them out, and we would sit on the grass and watch them.  They would stay right within our sight, but they were in kitty Heaven... running, catching those rodents (gross), and climbing trees...  Eventually, they would sit at the door and meow, wanting to go out.  We all talked about it, and decided that we had to let them be outdoor cats.  We kept them in at night.

We also discovered that Luke had a true love and connection to Sam.  He was kind of weirdly obsessed with Sam, actually.  He would try to suckle the inside of Sam's elbow, and slept with Sam every night.  Sam could pick him up and carry him around and he loved it.  He would let Sam do anything.  He would freak out if anyone else picked him up that way.  He was Sam's buddy, for sure.  I think Michael kind of understood that Luke was more like daddy's cat, but that was okay.  Michael was happy to have Leia sleep on his bed, and at school he saved up all his "compliment points", 140 points, to have the opportunity to bring his "pet" to school.  He was so excited to bring Luke to school.  Sam and I were like, "Oh goodness, this will be crazy," but we were going to bring both cats, and go together, to keep them under control.  Luke would be a good boy for Sam.

I was laying in bed, it was the afternoon, and it's been bad... my pmdd... or Thyroid... whatever it is, I have not been doing well.  And my ferritin levels are so low it's crazy, right now.  I am so tired.  I am so dark.  I am so empty, and depressed.  Apathetic.  Sam came home at lunch last Friday, and I said, "I can't get up, please, I can't even function."  He told me he needed me to, today.  He said, "I need you to get up and help me.  I have some really sad news to tell the kids."  They had a half day.  He would be getting them in a half hour.  I knew.  Sam started to tear up, and I knew it was Luke.  I knew Luke was dead.  Sam told me he saw him in the road, and he buried him with Meghan.  He said it was horrible.  I was already feeling ridiculously terrible, so I didn't help things by crying and saying it was impossible that Luke was dead.  It had to be another cat.  And I said he have to find Luke.  He must be somewhere.  Sam reminded me Luke hadn't been on our bed the night before.  He's on our bed every night.  I opened the door and called to him.  He didn't come.  Sam said he couldn't really identify if it was Luke for sure, but he knew.  He just knew.  How horrible is that?  That Sam had to go and get him off the road, like that?  I cried for Sam.  I cried for Sam, really.

Sam was crying.  But he is so strong.  He said it happened.  There was nothing we could do.  He said he was happy he could get his sweet buddy off the road and bury him, himself.  He said it was a horrific experience, but he needed to do it for his Luke.

My kids call this "Vampire Kitty."
Luke was really like a little dog, in a way.  The way he acted towards Sam.  He followed him everywhere when he was home, and slept on top of Sam, sometimes with his face staring into Sam's sleeping face.  When I would wake in the middle of the night (common with PMDD) with a panicked feeling... scared, Luke would be rouse himself excitedly, like it was finally time to get loved up by Sam, and he would climb all over him, trying to find his hands so Sam would pet him.  He would climb on me too, and liked me to pet him, but really I was consolation, if Sam was awakened.  And even though waking in the night was always an awful feeling, I would giggle, then end up laughing hysterically at Luke's antics.  When I felt close to my worst, Luke could still make me laugh.

Leia has been meowing a lot... She seems to be looking for him.  She will make a full search of the house, meowing the entire time, then want to go back outside.  She stands on the deck stairs looking out at the yard, very alert.  I really feel like she's looking for Luke.  It makes me sad.

And it's sadder, I know, that my nanny is getting older and weaker, even if she is "doing well," yet I haven't seen her since December.  I haven't visited her.  I haven't brought the kids down.  I don't know what is wrong with me.  I can't.  I feel like I can't.  I'm so sad, I start crying (even now), just thinking about it all.  My failures... I know she wants to see me.  She calls me.  She misses the kids.  And what is wrong with me?  What is bloody wrong with me?  It makes me hate myself, a little bit.  And you'd think I would then just get in the G.D. car and go... just fucking drive down there.  And I don't.  I don't.  Crying about not seeing her, and my failure to see her... I'm just crying for myself.  I'm crying selfishly.  I want to be a better person. I want to not be scared of what will happen eventually, and be with her now.  I hide.  I'm hiding.  I want to be strong and healthy like Sam.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Gawd, where was I a year ago?  Where was my mind?  Where was my heart?  Where was my body?

Not here.  I wasn't here.  Or was I?  I don't remember anymore.  I guess I'm getting old.

And tomorrow is my birthday.  I'll be 38, which is so close to 40 I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act or be or feel anymore.  What am I allowed to wear?  When I'm 38, You know... all my "teacher" clothes...  Will all those outfits and shoes that the high school girls would gush over, and tell me were so 'cool...' be inappropriate for my age? I can't wear those anymore, can I?  That's what I have... those clothes...  My closet is filled with them.  And I lost years of my life... when I could still wear those things.  They just hung there on perfect, pink, space saving, velvet-covered hangers.

Silly.  This isn't about clothes.  It's not about something superficial like that.  It just turned 8:38 pm!  Ack, That number is harassing me!  38!  It's sinking its teeth in.  But, no.  No!  I shan't change a single bit until I'm ready.  I mean... I want to change, but back to how I was when I was teaching and life wasn't crazy and I wasn't crazy.  I want to be that woman again, and wear my beautiful shoes and designer dresses.

It's already 8:39, and that's how fast I will be through another year!  And then the next, the next, the next. Ha!  It's 8:40.  See?  Minutes pass like years, don't they?  In the scope of life on Earth, and in the Universe and time, we are here for mere moments:  Just moments, before we're gone.  

But it doesn't even matter that I'm moving through time, like this...  The aging part, I mean.  It's that I'm not moving at all... It's that I've been stuck for a few years, and I can't get that time back.  And my babies have grown up, and altered in these years.  My babies.  My little babies...

Having children, watching them change, that is the rub... That is the bite that draws blood.  Time.  It marches on.  I don't want to lock them into a glass case, like Holden Caulfield wanted life to be held still, (never changing... reliable) in the Natural History Museum, yet...  

Ah, I would lock some things away.  I would lock moments in time, and people in time.  As a little girl I dreamed that my nanny and grampy would be protected from time.  I prayed for that.  I wanted it so much, I thought God would absolutely hear me and make an exception for them... for me...  I never imagined I'd have to worry about that with my parents--not when I was a kid.  They were fine.  Vibrant.  Parents, you know?  Just what parents are supposed to be.  And if you asked me how old they are, even today, I have no idea.  I imagine they are 40, still...

But, God, I knew grandparents got older.  I saw my Nanny Stell through her Alzheimer's.  I was the great-grandchild who stayed with her, after school, each day.  I sat with her, when my grandparents would go out and about.  She couldn't be left alone.  And I wanted to be with her.  I didn't know how it would feel to have her slip away, right when I was sitting there with her, watching soap operas and game shows...  We'd still cook lunch together, and I could tell her Grampy Jim was at work, he'd be home later.  She was worried "Jim" would come home and she wouldn't have supper ready.  "We have lots of time, Nanny."  She always remembered who I was, even when I didn't fit into the space and time she was sometimes moving through.  I was Joanna.  And that made her feel content.  

Content... No.  She didn't really.  She'd ask again... about her Jim.  "He'd be hungry when he got home from work."  

It's early, Nanny.  He won't be home for hours.  

See, at first I'd tell her he had passed away, years before.  I'd tell her the truth.  But each time the pain was new to her, and I never wanted her to feel like that...  Not if I could help it.  She'd forget, and ask again.  I couldn't keep telling her he was dead.  I couldn't keep telling her, the love of her life was dead.  "He'll be home after work.  We'll make sure to have supper ready."

Sometimes we'd cook a full dinner for lunch, because she was used to cooking dinner for him, and she couldn't stop thinking about it.  I would help her cut up carrots or potatoes and we would boil them, then butter and salt and pepper them.  While we stood in front of the stove, she would be focused and clear.  She knew what to do with the vegetables.

Yet then she'd ask me what time it was, "Oh goodness, it's only noon?  We have lots of time," she'd say, and we'd eat carrots for lunch.  And as we ate she'd forget she had been cooking for my Grampy Jim, in Heaven.  We'd eat, and she'd settle in front of the television again, even though we'd talk the entire episode. I'd talk first, tell her things about the world, to keep her present, and protect her from the nervous feelign that she had to make sure she had dinner ready for Jim.  I'd tell her how the Quince bushes were blooming. We'd go out on the porch and look at them.  I'd tell her how the weather was getting warmer.  I'd tell her that Topsy and John had gone out for lunch, and would be back later.  It was such a nice day for a drive.  Did she want to sit on the porch for awhile?  Let's watch the birds.  

She would sit quietly, then often say the same things, as if being outside triggered some memories:
"Funny what love is.  You find one person in the whole world, and never give 5 cents about anyone else."  
"Funny what kissing is."

I'd tell her it was wonderful:  Love.  Love was wonderful.  I would ask her to tell me how she met James O'Connor, and about their life together.  I'd ask her about when she was a little girl.  
"My sisters and I, we'd go up the stairs, to the top floor, with just an oil lamp.  Imagine if we'd tripped on our nightgowns.  The whole house would have burned down."  

Ha.  When I was interviewed for stupid Apple Blossom, they asked me why I didn't play sports.  I told them it was because I was with my great-grandmother after school.  I was with my Nanny Stella.  My grandparents needed time alone together... a break... and I would go and sit with her.  No, it wasn't a job.  I was just with my nanny is all.

I made the queen's court.  I didn't care about it much.  I thought it was all very silly.  My grandparents came, and I was embarrassed to dance and sing like a fool in front of all those people.

The judges went straight to my Grampy John, after the show was over.  They all knew him.  "Oh, if they had only known she was your grand-daughter.  We thought she was wonderful.  So lovely.  What a nice young lady."  It makes me smile, now.  How everyone knew my Grampy John.  They didn't just know him, they honored him.  They went right to him.  Everyone did.  They went to shake his hand and talk to him.  I couldn't even go and hug my grandparents until they had moved away.  So many people recognized him, and loved him.  

God, I love him too.  Who is blessed as I was, with grandparents, and great-grandparents, as I was?  Wasn't I lucky.  Aren't I lucky?  One of the luckiest girls in the world.  Funny what love is, you know?