Every day is Mother’s Day

A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.” Victoria Secunda

Ms. Secunda apparently understands these things. She wrote a book called When You and Your Mother Can’t be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life . I know women that the worst thing you can say to them is, “You’re just like your mother.” I’m not one of them.

Though my mother raised me till I was 8 or 9, most of the rest of my life she was absent. Because of some choices she made in her personal life, this gifted musician and artist gave up her daughters to their respective fathers and remained a loner most of her life. She and I stayed in distant touch over the years; for me she was the side of the fence where the grass was greener. I visited her for a couple of extended periods in my high school and college days, but after I gave birth to my second daughter she disappeared for a number of years. We finally found her in Phoenix in the late 1980s, dying of an ailment they only knew then as hepatitis non-A, non-B. Now of course they’d call it hepatitis C; she got it from a bad blood transfusion back before they knew about that kind of stuff.

I envy women who enjoy a close relationship with their mothers, who visit and share recipes and child rearing secrets and more. My mother was bright, educated and creative–if she’d been a little less neurotic, we might well have been best friends. As it is, my grandmother (her mother) always said that while my youngest sister looked most like my mother, I was the one who spoke and acted like her. I cherished those words.

As starved as I was for my own mother’s attention, I’d always expected that as my daughters grew into women, that I’d be close to them as well. Life hasn’t turned out that way, not because we dislike each other, but because unlike so many other families in this small town, we don’t all intend to live here and die here.

One daughter left after high school to join the Navy–she’s seen a thousand places I’ll never go, lived on an aircraft carrier, in foreign countries and now is 3,000 miles away. Another teaches at Lake Tahoe, 2,500 miles away, involved in instruction of the next generation of green students. Even K decided to go away to school, though she’s within a few hours. Now that she has her own apartment with her partner, they have a life. They don’t come home often. We don’t do much in common any more, and from time to time I know they resent that I took on another family, especially one that’s so… complicated. I think they feel left out.

I understand that. I feel left out of their lives too. Not intentionally, or hurtfully, but still, almost like we’re strangers. How are you supposed to maintain that close bond over so many miles? We talk on the phone, visit every couple of years in person for a few days. But I don’t know the details of their daily lives, and they don’t know mine. None of us have time to learn, occupied with our own path. Even my daughter here in town has three children with diagnoses– we meet for lunch about once a month and commiserate the hell out of each other, but day to day we don’t have the kind of time I’d envisioned a mother and daughter would share, once I got to midlife.

So what kind of relationship are mothers and adult daughters supposed to have? We spend their whole childhoods preparing them for an independent life of their own, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when that happens. My girls have succeeded a million percent. I’m very proud of them. I have no need to micromanage their lives; I figure when they need to talk, they’ll call. They do.

All the same, sometimes, I miss my little girls and wish we could be closer. Mother’s Day may be celebrated once a year, but when you bring these little people into the world, they are part of your blood every day, whether you talk about it or not. I hope they realize that. I surely do.

Inching toward normalcy

We’ve had a remarkably non-autistic week.

The children have squabbled with each other and bossed each other just like everyone else’s kids. They’ve told endless jokes at the dinner table. It’s been maddening. But again, this must be progress.

Captain Oblivious is recovering well and has discovered that he can, in fact, walk on his cast just like they promised. (Much safer for everyone in the room than the crutches deal, believe me. I know it takes practice to use them well, but his coordination is just not geared toward using tools. If he felt wobbly, instead of holding onto the crutches for support, he’d just wail and let go. BAM. Hit whatever was on the way down. *Sigh*.)

Little Miss has had the joy of rediscovering the outdoors. She’ll stay outside nearly all day, communing with nature. I watched her from the window as she simply sat in the grass, rubbing her hands through the leaves, examining things. Her dad helped her build a tent between two trees, and she carried out these foldable cubes made of parachute material to complete her little haven. So she just sits alone and listens to the birds and the wind and observes.

I suppose that may be considered autistic behavior. But when I think of “autism” the way the media portrays it, I think of the negative behaviors. What she’s doing is just being comfortable with herself and causing no one trouble. Is that autism? Maybe it is. Could we all use a little more of that perfectly calm, self-fulfilling behavior? I sure could.

It’s true when she comes back in she’s got that “other-worldly” flavor to her that she used to have much more as a small child, that feeling that she’s somehow in a parallel place, not quite synched with the rest of us.

And she’s decided she hates meat. *sigh*

But this too, will pass. Thank heaven for spring.

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Today I’ve been selected for a blog carnival at Blog Village, as part of a carnival on family memories. I was also part of sixty great entries in the Blog Carnival of Observations on Life last week. Come by and catch up on some great reading!!

I also created a real electronic song from scratch this weekend to go with my story, Concert of Collaboration: Making Music Together, published at Firefox News One more thing off my list of things I’ve never done before! (Special thanks to the Cabana Boy who helped me through the geek directions…)

Reading the whole book

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine

It’s finally spring. I know this because we have tonight celebrated our annual spring ritual: setting the Christmas tree ablaze.

For years now, we have stashed the Christmas tree to dry out through the winter, and then set it upright in the fire pit to light it, bringing joy to the entire pyromaniac bunch. The carcass burns bright in an incredible heat, illuminating the whole yard. The neighbor’s yard, too. Sometimes, the neighbors threaten to call the fire department. This year we don’t have any, so it was all good.

Sitting around the fire as it burnt down reminded us it was time to plan the summer vacation. Mindful of the 600-mile garage sale, we thought about other trips that might please the group. Little Miss was lying wrapped in a blanket some 20 feet away, under a sheet her father had clothespinned to two trees. “I’m in a tent!” she insisted. We agreed the annual campfest at Cook Forest State Park was de rigueur, though we might prefer a cabin rather than a tent this time.

There are other summer vacations I’ve loved over the years, but I know they can’t be recreated. In 1999, Daughters B, K and I drove across the country in an old gray Ford Tempo on a tour to promote my divorce book. Only the book’s publication was delayed.

It was summer, so we went anyway, planning to meet a number of people I knew from the Internet during the trip; through Kalamazoo, MI, where the gun my ex-husband insisted I take along “for protection” was stolen; on to Chicago; went to beautiful Wall Drug (which I love, tacky as it is!) and the Mitchell Corn Palace. With a quick stop at Devil’s Tower, we continued to the rattlesnake-infested state of Montana (no, really! They have signs at the rest area warning about rattlesnakes!) where we visited my ex-sister-in-law in Missoula and went white water rafting on the Clark Fork River.

Driving through Idaho was some of the prettiest country I’d ever seen–too bad it snows seven months of the year. Seattle was an eye-opener–literally–as there were coffee shops in each block! We spent a day at Pike Place Market and watched the fish-tossing amid the beautiful summer flower bins. South through Oregon we could see Mt. Hood in the distance as we hit the Oregon Coast and its tide pools, fascinating to our young travelers. We spent the night in the redwood forest with its banana worms and evening starfish along the beach.

Farther south was San Francisco and a bridge I’ll never forget, before we met some Internet friends in Monterey and did the 17-mile drive. From Big Sur we turned east, traveling through the high desert at Barstow to the electric view of Las Vegas, where we of course hit The Star Trek Experience. (There’s a picture of me with a Klingon… somewhere.) We crossed Hoover Dam and came south into New Mexico, where I fell in love with Santa Fe, and might have stayed if I didn’t have the girls with me.

Oklahoma and my friend John, the arch at St. Louis, my grandmother’s farm in Indiana, all passed as well. It had been three weeks–but three weeks likely never rivaled in my lifetime. Maybe we’ll top it this year–but I doubt it. That was a trip with great companions and great memories.

As Dave Barry says, “That’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.”

Where have your favorite family vacations taken you?

The dream job

“Do you miss it?”

I was sitting in court next to the legal advocate from our local women’s shelter this afternoon, as we supported a woman who’d been brutalized by her husband. The photos from the hospital showed ugly bruises inflicted by the man’s cane. Yes. Cane. The man had the temerity to beat her till she was black and blue and then came to court, claiming he was too disabled to have managed the feat.

“I do miss it,” I confessed. From 2001-2004, it would have been me advocating for this woman, bringing 15 years of legal experience to the aid of battered women as part of the Blossom Project. It was my baby, a special six county program solely devoted to assisting victims of domestic violence. As the Attorney Coordinator, I designed the services, including eight-week classes geared toward giving victims much-needed information and direction in terms of where to find jobs, housing, child care, and more. Each week, I also represented up to 15 victims, mostly women, in the process of gaining protection orders in court.

There are a few women who really stand out from the hundreds of bruised faces I saw over those years. One came to every class, listened faithfully to everything that was said, but refused one of the bright pink carnations the ‘graduates’ received, for fear her husband (who she was preparing to leave) would think she’d been with a man. Another waited two years before she gathered the quiet courage to leave, more for her sons’ sake than her own, once they became secondary targets of the violence; as she predicted, she lost her income, then her house and finally her children. The system managed to work against her at every turn. A different one did much the same, but finally her children saw the truth of things and came back to her. She put herself through college, got a Fulbright to go to Africa for a semester to help women there, and now counsels abused women professionally.

There is nothing worse I’ve seen in my law practice than the results of one human brutalizing another, particularly when that man or woman or child is one for whom the batterer has professed great love. What kind of screwed-up message does that give the loved one? Studies have shown that it obviously distorts the ideas about relationships for a child growing up in such a home. Many of the men and women who I represented had grown up in a home like this as a child. That’s why we believed the education component was so important–giving them a hand up, if they’d take it.

Some did, and it was a proud day for both of us when it happened. Many didn’t. Statistics show that a DV victim returns an average of seven times to the abuser before being able to make that final break. I’ve been lucky that none of my clients have received the other kind of finality. They’ve been threatened with capital punishment if they leave, and occasionally, I’ve been threatened as well with harm for helping them. But somehow I kept on.

I still take divorce and custody cases referred from the women’s shelter, often pro bono, because someone who knows what they’re doing has to stand up for these women. I teach the chapter on civil remedies each year during shelter volunteer training. The legal advocate knows she can call me day or night for immediate advice to help her clients, who often need to have information to make a split-second decision. But it’s not the same as being the one in that courtroom chair. That position was the one time in my career I could feel that I was a hero every day. Yes, I miss it.

For information and food for thought.

Just like peas and carrots

Kids and emergency rooms just seem to go together. All this hoopla over The Mysterious Ankle Injury of Captain Oblivious and the impending trip to the orthopedic folks has brought up flashbacks of horrendous emergency room episodes over the years:

  • the time K, about 5 years old, picked up the grill bars with her bare hands just after the fire was put out;
  • the time when B, 12, got her hand slammed in the closing car door; or fell down a hill to embed a piece of glass in her leg (that year the ER people started knowing her by name when we walked in–bad sign);
  • the night K, also about 5 (that was a bad year, too), jumped off a bed onto the handle of a Fisher-Price wheelbarrow that landed in her privates –try explaining how she got cut THERE to a suspicious doctor…
  • the day I was covering a local election for my newspaper, and I had very young M with me, who decided it would be fun to dash out into the street as a car passed by while her mother was speaking to a candidate. My police officer ex was there to retrieve her from under the car’s bumper, bundled us both, tears streaming, into the car, and drove us to the ER. He walked in carrying the child, announced, “The child needs a CT scan, the mother needs a Valium,” and kept walking. She didn’t even have a bruise-I got a thousand gray hairs.

But the best of all has to be the phone call in the middle of the night during B’s teen years. She was staying in another state with her dad for his custodial time, and I was just climbing into bed when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I said.

“This is the emergency room at Akron Children’s Hospital. Please stand by for the orthopedic surgeon.”

*blink*

Say what?

I found a chair, quick, and sat down, while they searched out the doctor, wondering what in the hell had happened. Come to find out that dear daughter B had been staying at a friend’s house, playing on her trampoline, and had jumped off into a wall. One of the bones in her left forearm had broken, badly, and they needed permission to treat her.

Okay. The next obvious question becomes, “Um…where is her father?”

Turns out he’s out of town! Can’t be reached. So they’re calling me. Wonderful. I give them verbal permission to treat and then make arrangements to go over the next day, after I find someone to watch the other kids. B has surgery to put in a metal plate to bind the broken ends together again, her dad comes home, too, and all goes well. In fact, she figures out that if she twists her arm just right, the metal plate will poke up under the skin and look all manner of disgusting, and she uses this to gross people out for years. I think she still does.

Come to think of it, K had a trampoline accident too–discombobulated her shoulder when someone fell off a trampoline onto her. Three months of physical therapy there.

Trampolines are evil things. (I say this, confessing that I’m thinking about getting one–with a fence around it!!–because Little Miss would really benefit from the sensory effects.) But they’re still evil.

And think how exciting it would be to have a trampoline, when C.O. can break his ankle just walking across flat ground. Oh well.

But over all, in the eight years they’ve been here, this is the first broken bone or other major trauma among the three little ones. Little Miss goes for an occasional F.U.O.–fever of unknown origin, since she can’t really explain how she feels, and Ditto Boy cut his knee up badly at a flea market one day, but that’s about it. Lots of other families have a worse record. Guess I’ll go cheerfully to the orthopedic office…and start investing in crutches.

UPDATE: Good news: C.O. has a cast now, because it’s fractured, but he only has to use the crutches through today and then he can walk on it.

Bad news: C.O. has a cast now, because it’s fractured, but he only has to use the crutches through today and then he can walk on it.

Remember how Aspies don’t deal well with sudden changes or different routines? Oy.

Bad parents! No soup for you!

So the long-suffering Cabana Boy and myself conceived it would be a great idea to steal a date night for the two of us. What were we thinking?

We left the children with my daughter, who has five kids of her own, knowing they were in good hands, and headed to Erie–I know, not the fancy metropolis of fabulous entertainment, but we have pretty low standards. An hour, undisturbed by little voices at Barnes and Noble? Heaven. A meal at the Olive Garden, without constant nagging about table manners, courtesy of a friend who gave me a couple of gift cards? Nirvana. Telephone call from daughter indicating Captain Oblivious had broken his ankle?

Priceless?

Not exactly.

So we checked out at Target without buying the 32-inch LCD tv we were drooling over (probably a good thing, actually) and headed home. My daughter had said they thought it was sprained, till it swelled up and turned purple (ouch), so they called our mutual pediatrician. He said it was a three to five hour wait at the emergency room this evening, and they wouldn’t cast the thing till tomorrow anyway till it quit swelling, so not to bother going. So they kept up the ice on 20 minutes, off 20 minutes routine till he fell asleep shortly after we got home.

It doesn’t look nearly as bad as I’d pictured it–you know, it had been described as somewhat indigo-colored and size of a football. Not really. It’s a little puffy and maybe a bruise toward the heel. He won’t walk on it; but then C.O. is the kind of Aspie kid that when he makes up his mind about something, that’s what he does, no matter what the facts. We’ll probably take the run to the ER tomorrow, just to be sure, and keep our fingers crossed.

I can’t help but feel guilty, though. We haven’t had a night out like this in a couple months. Because all the extended family lives away, we don’t get weekends off or have family in town who routinely take the children. My daughter has her five, who range in age from 15 years to 8 months–I hardly ever ask her, she’s got her hands full! But it had just reached the point where it felt like there was a canyon between my husband and I, and we had to do something. So we rolled the dice, and got snake eyes. I’m sorry we weren’t here, son. I suppose we’ll think long and hard before leaving them again.

As Lionel Kauffman said: “Children are a great comfort in your old age – and they help you reach it faster, too.”

UPDATE:
After a three hour trip to the ER, turns out it’s “probably” a bad sprain but no one is sure, and if there IS a fracture, as the paperwork says, it’s on the growth plate. So we have to go see the orthopedist tomorrow. Sometime. And C.O. gets at least two days off school during my busy week. Bad BAD parents…. *sigh*

Am I a writer yet??

While I participate in the writer’s soap opera As The Nervous Stomach Turns, waiting to hear back from agents and editors about my novel manuscripts, I alternate between dark bouts of never wanting to pick up a word processor again and the juicy buzz of hot flowing prose.

My husband is so pleased, because unfortunately he catches the downsides of both ends. But he’s young. He’ll survive.

In the meantime, there are the occasional publishing and financial successes that encourage me. In December, I’ll have one of 50 stories in the book A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women. I’ve recently had a book review published for Wolf Pirate Publishing. Next week, I’ll see in print an article on a topic I first addressed here, dealing with the threats of the Patriot Act as a writer doing research, in a newsletter called Absolute Write. (And I got PAID!!)

And this week, I’ve been hired/selected as the tech writer for Firefox News, not to be confused with the Mozilla browser folks. This Firefox has a cast of authors who cover entertainment news from a fan point of view, but look at the scene with a very broad eye to keep its readers informed. The tech writer–me!!– as I understand it, will cover the gamut from Internet to gadgets to…whatever sounds like something people ought to know about technology.

Shameless self-promotion warning!
Here’s my first article: ReactOS: Bringing Power to the People . I also linked them in my blogroll, because the menu of articles available is varied and interesting. (One of the Mary Sue articles I read there today brought me to tears, laughing.)

Fortunately, the Cabana Boy is a geek, teaching up and coming geeks, and they all have a subject they’re willing to go on about ad infinitum. With any luck, I should be able to produce material long into the future– perhaps as long as the above-mentioned soap opera continues. Now, please excuse me while I sit back to chew my nails till the publishing world calls with my good news.

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Come feel the estrogen at the First Edition of the Women’s Festival, a carnival about and for women!