This isn’t a book review–it’s a book connection. I don’t know how to review a book. I either connect to a book or I don’t. So far I’ve devoured all of Jeanette Winterson’s novels: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body, The Passion–the list goes on. Why be Happy of you Could Be Normal is an autobiography so I didn’t quite know what to expect. In fact it has a lot of what I think of as Jeanette Winterson elements such as references to a vast variety of literature and poetry. It is an adoption story which is probably why I’m drawn to her in the first place–being adopted myself. “Adopted children are self-invented because we have to be; there is an absence, a void, a question mark at the beginning of our lives.” I was adopted because my birth mother gave me away–left me in the care of someone else. In my case it was a far better situation to have been adopted. Not so for Jeanette. I write about how I found my birth family here. Do all adopted children have abandonment issues? It’s likely that we do. Jeanette also confronts her desire to love and be loved even though her adoptive family was a far cry from a role model. She understands her desire to be for other women. Certainly in all her novels Jeanette plays with sexuality and gender roles–another thing that I love about her. She’s like Virginia Wolf on steroids.
What’s worst than running out of gas in the middle of nowhere? Car breaking down while husband is away. Last time I was home alone I wrote about it here. This time I planned to host a Toso (long chanting meditation) and then have a margarita girls night afterwards. I have to do something besides sit at home and miss my family. The only reason I’m not off on spring break vacation with everyone is because I have to work–not everyone gets all school holidays off like DH does. Yes rub it in! So I go out to get a bag of chips for the evening fun when my car temperature goes up and there’s steam coming out of the front hood. We originally bought this car because I was taking the bus into the city to work everyday and it just seemed simpler to get a second car. Because it was a park-in-the-tenderloin car we decided to get a reliable but not a break-into-me car. I paid cash to a kid one day on my lunch break and came home with an old mazda. It was that easy. Upon my arrival, the van immediately got nicknamed the Big Car and the mazda was deemed the little car. She was zippy and took me over the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge everyday. We were giving her a second life–complete with 2 kids and a Wado Dog. She seemed happy. Didn’t really have much trouble for years until one day the check engine light came on because of a problem with her catalytic converter. Then she started collecting water in the front seat after every rain. Someone hit the passenger side mirror with a garbage can (uhck um) and it’s hanging loose. And finally while my husband is out of town the radiator all but exploded. The cost of all the repairs would exceed her blue book value. So we’re saying goodbye to the little car! I have fond memories of strapping down car seats and Wado Dog hanging out of the window. May your next life bring few bumps in the road. You will be missed!
May you always have flowers in your rear!
I was asked to do a guest blog post! Totally honored! Check it out here.
I haven’t quite gotten past using words from when the kids were little. Ouchy just has a certain quality to it that abrasion seems to be lacking. It’s as if an ouchy will heal faster and just saying the word will decrease the pain. The Boy got series of ouchies this week. The first was an infection on his pinky finger which he can barely feel because of his brachial plexus birth injury affecting his entire right arm and hand. Infections in his hand are not infrequent unfortunately. Here is a pic.
That's a mean infection!
Then he got a second ouchy that tore the skin off his finger, aggravating the infection and gave him a smart abrasion on his face. He’s been explaining to everyone at school what has happened to him. I wasn’t actually there at the time of the incident but Dearest Husband saw it go down and said he was afraid for a minute The Boy was concussed or worst. In The Boy’s words here is what happened: “At the top of the stairs outside I was going down the metal railing and at the end I couldn’t touch my feet to the stairs anymore and there was a railing that I couldn’t get over so I flipped over facedown onto the ground.” Yea. Ouch. Here is a pic.
Face Plant Injury
I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more serious. If sliding down railings of an outside staircase sound good to you–think again. But seriously the question has to be asked: How much should we encourage our kids to take risks? One of The Boy’s first Occupational Therapists said when he was just learning how to scoot (crawling requires the use of both arms), “Let him fall and figure out how to do things himself.” Letting The Boy fall was hard–the monkey bars where especially hard. But The Boy figured out his own way of doing things. He’s older now and still trying to live in a two handed world with one working hand. Sliding down a railing isn’t the best idea granted, but we let him experiment and this was certainly an epic fail. But I think if we were the kinds of parents that talked about how dangerous everything is and didn’t expect him to push his limits he wouldn’t have figured out half of his accommodations. I hope next time he tries sliding down the railing he learns to slow down before he gets to the end.
I’m not an advocate for theft. In fact I’m a pretty good rule follower. But I do have an experience where I stole something and what I gained changed my life. I have been told I was adopted for as long as I can remember. When I got old enough to ask questions about my birth family, my mother would say that when I turned 18 I could find out more information. So right around my 18th birthday I requested that the court send me all information regarding my birth mother and the adoption. It turns out the adoption was closed and very little information was released–none of it identifying. But I had a few details like what hospital my birth mother was in and what drug I was born addicted to. It turns out heroin doesn’t cause brain damage and I’m just fine, but I was a very sick newborn. After reading through the packet of information I decided I didn’t really want to find a woman who took drugs right before giving birth so I put the papers in the bottom of a box and forgot about them. A year later I happened to run into my foster brother who reintroduced me to our foster parents. I was only in a foster home as an infant for a few months while my adoption was being finalized. My foster mother remembered a few details about my case. She said that my birth grandmother originally wanted to adopt me but for various reasons couldn’t. The fact that someone wanted me was huge. Now I have always been told that I was so special and that my parents were so happy to have me as their daughter. But being adopted also means that my birth mother rejected me and I’ve always felt the weight of that while also feeling the love of my parents who adopted me. Fast forward to just after I graduated from college. I ended up moving to the town where I was born. Occasionally while walking down the main drag I would wonder if my birth mother walked down the same sidewalk. Where did she live? What was her life like? What did she look like and did I look like her? I would have moments where I was overwhelmed with curiosity. Finally I decided to steal my birth mother’s records from the hospital. I didn’t have her name but I had the dates in which she was a patient and I knew that she delivered a baby girl. Within a month of having the idea I had in my hands my birth mother’s file which included her name, an old address and the name of my birth grandmother who I knew at one point wanted me. Once I got up the nerve, I rang my grandmother. She remembered the month of my birth. She said she knew one day I would find her. She also said I had a sister. Soon I was introducing myself to my sister and meeting her for the first time. I couldn’t have found a better sister! Also, it turns out I look like my birth mother. At one point I was worried about my parents having hurt feelings about me finding my birth family. I’ll never forget my mother’s response, “In times like this your heart can only get bigger.” My heart and my life are bigger now. Like I said, I’m not an advocate for theft. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
In a perfect world my son wouldn’t have been injured during birth. He would have 2 symmetrical perfectly functioning arms and hands. But we all have to figure out what to do with what we’ve got–and let’s face it, everyone has issues. It’s amazing the accommodations he comes up with to do 2 handed tasks with one hand. He amazes me. Since he’s had to deal with this since birth, finding ways to do things comes natural to him. It would be harder to lose the ability to use a hand later in life. Still sometimes he needs a little extra help. So I was shocked to find out that The Boy has been dropping his lunch tray in the cafeteria every week at school for the last year and 1/2. No-one-told-us-this-was-happening! Of course his teachers are claiming that there was no stigma attached to being the child who always drops his tray. Seriously? We took home a tray and practiced different techniques. Within a few days the problem was resolved. What really upsets me about this is that the problem went on for so long. How was it acceptable to just assume that because of his difference he can’t carry his tray and so you just keep letting the child embarrass himself for-a-year-and-a-half. Parenting a child with a sever brachial plexus injury has been challenging. He’s had 3 surgeries and as he gets older figuring out night time splinting and range of motion exercises get’s harder. But this is the first time in almost 8 years that I feel like because of his hand he was made to feel different. I’m so incredibly disappointed.
Last night I had a very vivid dream of dying with my husband in a car accident. I awoke with a terrible raw feeling inside. Maybe it was because DH and I recently starting watching the TV Show Awake, or maybe it’s a throw back from a time when I was prone to nightmares. In the dream, I was driving and as the collision occurred everything slowed down. Just like in a movie I saw broken glass floating past DH’s shocked face. We were on a date night and the thought crossed my mind as we were hurtling through the air that no one would love our kids like we do. And this is a haunting thought. It just so happens that DH and I just recently hired a lawyer to do our living will/trust and will finally have a plan in place for just in case. Actually it’s a little embarrassing that it’s taken us so long. If it happens I know friends and family will step up and do their best, but I can’t imagine how devastating this would be for the kids. We even found a home for our lovable but very bad Wado Dog. I have to believe that in the end everything would be fine. The kids would somehow manage to get through. It’s also important to have in writing what you would like in terms of life prolonging medical treatments. Let’s face it–we’re all walking toward our death someday. We can’t escape the cycle of life and we might as well plan for it. I’m not suggesting that we dwell on this inevitability. But we can at least be prepared. Maybe everyone reading this already has a living will/trust–awesome! But for those of you who keep meaning to do it but don’t quite find the time–please take action. There are even some online forms which are free to download.
Some days I need a little inspiration to get up from my desk and take a break from work. Wado Dog offers just the thing I need–especially on blue sky days with everything in blossom. So today he came running with tail and tongue wagging with my announcement Wado Walk! We started down the street towards town (we usually go up the hill). I thought we might stop by the new organic market and grab some soup. We pass a couple houses with dogs that try to attack Wado Dog through the fence. He doesn’t pay them much mind. What a good dog! All his past sins are forgiven. (read about them here) We make it down to the light and I push the cross walk button. Suddenly Wado Dog spots a cat on the other side. He lurches into the traffic catching me off guard and I fall in front of a now swerving and honking car. Somehow I still have a hold of the leash and pull him back onto the sidewalk. Blood soaks through my pants leg and I pull it up to find a giant scrape. I think about turning back. I think about cauliflower soup and decide to continue. I’ve seen dogs tied just outside the market sitting patiently. Maybe Wado Dog won’t bark too much while I’m inside? Maybe he’ll be good? But before we get to the store there’s business to be had and I find a nice little grassy area. I pull out my plastic bag…wait for it…and reach down to clean up the mess when suddenly Wado Dog lunges at I don’t even know what. I loose my balance and fall right–into–the–poop. It’s all over both hands. Still somehow I managed to keep the leash. Oh crap Wado Dog! No! The leash knocks into my leg and it’s all over my pants too. So what am I to do? I walk home in a stink. I use the hose on my hands and leash. Take a shower. Peroxide my knee. Wash my clothes. Then back to work. Really it’s not his fault, right?
Wado Dog looking innocent
Last Mother’s Day I wrote about having 3 mothers here. No, sadly there are no lesbians involved. I’m adopted and have known this fact for as long as I can remember. My brother is also adopted. I was born Jewish and he was born Muslim—together we were raised Christian. Aside from taking my brother to a Middle Eastern restaurant once a year, I didn’t have much exposure to anything outside the realm of an educated middle class white protestant environment. I loved going to church every Sunday! Eventually I started reading the bible and asking questions and investigating church doctrine–predestination was a fascination for a while. Slowly I started taking leadership roles, teaching Sunday school and actually gave a sermon. I felt a strong calling to the ministry and enrolled in College in hopes of then going onto Seminary.
The summer before college I got a job as a camp counselor at a Christian camp. I was thrilled! I loved working with kids and I loved talking about God so what could be a better summer job right? Wrong. Now I had a year of rebellion where I went to church and youth group activities at another denomination, but for the most part I had attended just one small church my whole life. I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter at the camp. At first it was like any other church camp. I had attended plenty growing up. But then one week I got a girl in my cabin with bruises all over her back—she was 8 years old. I immediately went to the camp director. Her response was that the devil had entered our camp. I calmly explained that I didn’t believe in the devil but I did believe in child protection services. She said that I was the reason the devil was here—that the devil enters the hearts of those who do not believe. She said I was endangering the campers because I couldn’t protect them from the devil if I didn’t believe. I was shocked and wanted to quit immediately and wrote a letter to my minister back home–he had helped me secure the job in the first place. Before I got his response (after a lot of prayer) I knew what I was going to do. I was going to stay for the kids—they needed my perspective. I started to notice how the other counselors talked about God and being saved and witnessing. They also talked openly to the children about burning in hell and doing the devil’s work. One week a little boy probably around 8 years old said he was gay. The other counselors where freaking out—saying that he needed an exorcism. My perspective was that he was so young he didn’t really know yet. But I was interested in why he thought he might be gay and I wanted to assure him that it was ok. This became a very big issue that the camp director got involved in. I was moved to a different cabin with older kids and told if I couldn’t talk about homosexuality in the context of it being a sin I couldn’t work with the young kids. Odd logic, but hey at least they didn’t fire me. I was enjoying at that point being the liberal counselor who prayed to God our Father and our Mother (this really upset people). When that summer ended, I had some serious doubts about Christianity—at least the type that I saw practiced at the camp. So by the time I got to college was open to a world outside Christianity.
One of my favorite teachers in high school had talked with me about Buddhism and what kind of karma I was creating when she caught me bingeing in the bathroom. I didn’t really understand at the time, but she planted a very important seed. My 1st semester in college proved to be quite a wild ride and after connecting with a professor I was told once again that I had better think carefully about the karma I was creating for myself. This time I was more curious and I asked a lot of questions and began to learn about Buddhism. Out of all the different types of Buddhism out there it just so happened that both teachers chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Soon I began to practice and try it out for myself. Buddhism offers me the tools I need to overcome challenges. I’ve found that I still have a spiritual calling as I did in high school—a calling to be share this Buddhism. I honestly can’t imagine my life without this practice. No doubt I wouldn’t be the same person writing this blog today. For that I am grateful.
We’re on Southern Cal vacation. Woke up at 3am and started the long drive to Venice Beach. The Boy couldn’t fall back asleep when we got in the car so he was already set to have a rough day. Santa Monica and Venice Beach rocked! Complete with endless chasing of birds and a proposal we just missed. But then The Boy got cold. At first we thought it was because he splashed in the water and there was a little chill in the wind. But his cheeks were flushed and…yep you guessed it…he had a fever. DH carried him nearly the entire stretch to the car. The next day we planned Disney. We would have to see. And then this morning we woke up to find The Boy fever free. So….we went to Disney! The Boy has always been terrified of rides. Since I also share that fear (see my post about wanting to become someone who loves roller coasters) we hang out while DH and The Girl do all the crazy stuff. But The Boy is getting older so we encouraged him to go on a ride. It was within the acceptable ride zone for me so we went together as a family. The Boy loved it! Next stop was a ride with a 50ft drop and a giant splash. I was terrified but I told myself that sometimes as a parent you do things you don’t want to do. The feeling going up knowing what was to come next was intense and nauseating. I let go of a torrential scream on the way down (The Girl remarked afterwards about it.) I swore immediately that it was the absolutely last time I would ride that ride. Once was enough. But then, this amazing feeling overwhelmed me. Endorphins? It was just like after a tattoo–thrilling. So do I now love roller coaters? No, but I’ll go on that ride again and that’s a start. Later The Boy’s fever returned and we’re back at the hotel room. The rest we’ll have to see about.