Friday, October 31, 2014

29 Halloweens

A million years ago today (okay, it was 29 years ago, 29 is nearly a million) I sat in the basement of a house in Arrowhead, a little neighborhood near where I grew up.  There were three of us girls as far as I remember.  We watched scary movies, I hated them then, I hate them now.  I know we watched Nightmare on Elm Street, I don't remember what else.  I'm sure I had no idea how that night would inform the rest of my life. I am no longer friends with the girl who lived there....but the other one, well the other one is possibly the definitive relationship of my life.

At the time she was the wild one (she would want me to tell you that that switched at some point....she's very good, I'm the wild one).  She had minimal parental supervision, she was worldly and she knew things I'd never even heard of...and I was knowledgeable for my age.  With her I would have my first drink, my first joint, my first lesson in....(I totally scared the crap out of you, didn't I?) let's just say I learned a lot from her. She influenced my taste in music, in art, in movies, in books.  I would literally follow her anywhere and if you know me, you know I don't follow.   

She is the only unconditional love in my life aside from my children and my brother.  We do not always get along.  In 29 years we've had fights.  Our first big fight...I have no idea what it was about...I remember she started to leave my house with a kind of finality I didn't understand.  I yelled something along the lines of, "Just because I'm mad at you doesn't mean I don't love you."  I'm pretty sure it was definitive for both of us.  For her, I believe, it was the realization that some people won't leave you no matter what.  For me, it was the realization that her history, her past told her that people leave, I wasn't going to be one of those people.  She was the first person that I ever chose to love of my own free will.  While our relationship has never been romantic or sexual, I have learned more about functioning healthy relationships from ours  than I have ever learned from another person or relationship.
This is significant; she is pregnant & miserable & she
NO IDEA what she is doing but she loves me.

She is the best person I know in real life.  She is kind and honest and funny and so, so smart. She is a hard worker and has been with her company only 9 years less than we have been best friends. When she smiles her entire face lights up in a way that makes it difficult to turn away.  She is beautiful and brave and forgiving.  She is my hero.

We have delivered one another's babies, we have buried people we loved, we have lived through broken hearts and broken promises and bouts of one or another of us being bad or absentee friends. We have taken road trips, we've gotten tattoos, we have rescued one another from our mistakes (Well, for sure she's rescued me).  We have camped in tents and slept in truck rest stops, and stayed in fancy hotels and trailers with fleas (really, we did that).  We've taken babies out of the country without passports and without guarantee of re-entry and...boys, so many boys along the way (that might have just been me). We've hitch-hiked and flown and driven and biked to one another.  One of us has basically used all of those methods in one crazy day and arrived just in time to deliver a premature baby (that was her).

I have no idea if I will spend my life with a man I cannot live without, I don't know if that is where my fate lies.  What I do know is that she will be my best friend; my very best friend until the moment I take my last breath.  I know that she will always be there for me, eventually; even when she's mad, even when she doesn't agree.  I know that she is my family in an absolutely tangible way. I know that I am very, very lucky and I am incredibly grateful. I love you to the moon and back.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word. I Promise.

I have kids, I adore them, there are three of them.  In general they think I’m fairly cool. The 17 year old probably a little less than his 8 year old sisters, but I’m pretty sure he would still tell you I’m the funniest adult he knows in real life.  A large part of my identity is “mom,” I am incredibly proud of my kids and of myself as a parent.

I am a daughter.  My mom is no longer here and yet her daughter I remain.  

I am a woman.  I like a variety of things.  The list of things I like is long, here are some; books, movies, George Clooney, glitter, an apple pie that I've baked, Orange Is The New Black, my friends, my family, good food, incredibly tall and expensive high heels, corsets, anything black, aqua things, plants, bacon, creativity, small and dark dive bars, anything well written, beer, smut of any sort, General Hospital, Harrison Ford, music that makes me feel, historical romance novels, porn made for men, long bubble baths, make up, buttered popcorn with lots of salt, Game Of Thrones, John Oliver and sex. I’m pretty sure I would still like most of these things if I was a man maybe not General Hospital and George Clooney, who can say?

I make a little money planting things in gardens for nice people.  I hope I make the same amount I would make if I was a man.  

I am a writer and a storyteller.  Words are a huge part of who I am, they are how I navigate my position in the world, how I communicate, how I let people know how I am feeling.  I can’t be totally sure, of course, but I’m fairly certain I would still be a writer and a storyteller if I was a man.

Last night I was a MTV Video Award watcher, I know, I’m too old, I don’t care. Actually, I didn't think MTV showed videos anymore, who knew?  I love award shows. My favorite part of the night was this:

I know, it's like I just said a dirty word, like that would ever happen here. If you missed it, it was an amazing performance. She sang as a woman in love with her husband, as a woman wanting sex, as a mom lighting up at the giggle of her little girl, as a powerful woman, as a boss, as a full-on 100% committed feminist; you can watch it here

The definition of "feminism" according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is;


 noun \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\
: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
: organized activity in support of women's rights and interests

That's weird, it doesn't mean angry, crazy woman with PMS and lots of body hair? Strange. It sounds harmless. If Beyonce, Queen Bey, can be a feminist maybe we can too. Maybe your husband can be one, your son, your father, your daughter, your mother....maybe you.

I am a feminist, I believe in equal rights for men and women. And, you know what? I'm certain I'd still be a feminist if I were a man.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Save A Life

Last week I put Aidan's graduation date in my calendar.  And then I cried.  I cried a full-on ugly cry all by myself in my living room.  

I cannot be more clear about this....I enjoy my children more every single solitary time they age a year.  I'm not a baby person.  Fine, I actively want to drop kick babies when I see them  dislike them.  Toddlers are migraine inducing, small children are willful.  I get kids from about age five and up.  I no longer have the patience for children one minute younger than my youngest (except for Logi Bear but that's because he's a 30 year old trapped in a small child's body).

So the reasons that I cried....well, they're complicated.  First, there's my mom.  My mom loved Aidan possibly more than any other person on the planet.  On him she lavished all the feelings of love and attention that perhaps were too complicated and murky between she and I.  She was proud of him in ways large and small and I know she would be so thrilled at the turn around in his grades and academic life....Aidan was her entire hope for the future and my heart breaks for him and for me that she won't be here to see him throw his cap in the air.

Secondly, there is time.  Time is a fickle bitch.  I spent a lot of my youth not being able to wait for adulthood.  Adulthood is not as much fun as you think it is, kids.  It really, truly seems like yesterday that they put that tiny, premature, jaundiced baby in my arms and I thought (out loud because I'm a total asshole sometimes), "Oh my God, I did all that work and got a boy?????  And, of course, now I thank God that I did all that work and got that particular little boy because Aidan Erin James Harper saved me then and he saves me now in ways he will not possibly understand until he grows up and either has children of his own or takes one wholly into his heart to keep forever.  But time never stops, and now I hear it like a bomb ticking, incessantly......tick, tick, tick.....BOOM!  I know he's not really leaving forever, but I am closer and closer to him being out of my house and out of my day to day, moment to moment life and I still can't wrap my brain around it.

Thirdly, there is context.  I've written (seemingly exhaustively to you, perhaps) about the hows and whys of how I came to have Aidan.  Where I was in my life then?  Wow.  I was not four years removed from a devastating, soul-crushing heartbreak, a rape, a pregnancy and an abortion....I was doing too many drugs and spending too much time with people who were not worthy of me.  When I got pregnant with Aidan I was on two forms contraception with a success rate of 98% or better.  He was a very clear sign from God for me; time to grow up and pay attention to someone besides yourself.  And while I'm a different, more whole, more confident, more healed person now, it is still amazing to look back and see what a difference one tiny person can make in the lives of so many.  

There is the context of the other people and relationships he saved as well....Aidan's birth patched up many of the wounds my mom and I inflicted on one another over twenty six years.  Not that we didn't continue to have issues, but he gave us something which united us together and unclouded many of my views of my mom as a person and as a parent.  More importantly than that, I am 100% certain that I would have lost my brother to addiction and/or depression if Aidan hadn't been born.  Aidan's birth was a catalyst that brought my beloved, drug-riddled, painfully skinny, broken brother back home to my mom and me....for that alone I will owe Aidan for the entirety of my life.  Erin completely changed his life, he is whole and kind and alive.  There are things you know about yourself and one thing I know is that had I lost Erin at that point in my life, a point without kids, I would have had nothing to live for.  If Erin doesn't stop smoking and take better care of himself I will someday know what it is to lose him but now I am a mom and while I don't want to live in a world without him, can not even imagine existing in a place where he does not, I would carry on for my kids because it is what moms do.

And that's why I cried...Aidan's place in the world, what he means to me, his dad, his uncle....what he meant to my mom...I am incredibly blessed (mostly with and by dumb luck) to be able to shepherd this person into adulthood.  I was thinking last week about how much I actually enjoy my kids...the funny, the sweet, the annoying...all of it.  If nothing changes in Aidan's personality from today until the day he dies of old age....I like him.  I think he's fall-down funny and whip-smart and heart breakingly beautiful.  I love his view of the world and that he has a healthy dose of self deprecating humor that I gave him and that he has fine-tuned  to comedic perfection.  I love that he still likes me, doesn't mind hanging out with me and kisses me in public like it hasn't even occurred to him to be embarrassed by my existence. 

Aidan turns 17 on Saturday.  Before his next birthday he will have graduated high school.  Seventeen is important, may this year be everything he hopes for himself and everything I hope for him.  I hope he continues the path he's begun academically,  I hope he does something wild and new and out of character, I hope he continues to be sweet and kind and empathetic (even when the world tells our boys not to).  I hope he believes in himself and trusts his instincts.  I hope he gets in trouble (but not too much), I hope he laughs and cries and feels.  I hope he falls in love.  I hope he never ever stops believing in magic. I hope, I hope, I hope...but I also believe.  Happy birthday Aidan, I could not be prouder of you and I look forward to front row seats for what comes next.  The training wheels are off (I thought you'd appreciate the bike metaphor) and you've got this. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground

“Wait for me” I yelled falling further behind.  She stopped and turned back to me, her strawberry blonde hair catching in the sun.  I stopped suddenly, someone walking by bumped into me.  Sometimes with the light behind her she looked very beautiful, like a movie star.  I stopped and stared hard at her face.
“What are you looking at, silly Goose?” she asked holding out her hand to me.
“When I grow up I want to look just like you.” I say running to catch up and grabbing her hand.  She dropped down to her knees, letting go of the blanket she was carrying, so she was looking right into my eyes and she put one hand one on either side of my face.  She touched her nose to mine and scrunched it up.  She seemed not to be bothered by the sea of people around us.
“When I grow up, I want to look just like you, now let’s go, Goose, we are running out of time.”
I ran a little to keep up with her.  The crowd was getting thick, she wove in and out of people and I grabbed on to the back of her shirt, I was afraid to lose her.
“How about here?” she asked putting down the blanket. I looked around us and down the hill.
“Will we be able to hear?” I asked her worried, I didn’t want to miss it, not any of it.
She laughed.
“I promise we will be able to hear every word.”
“Will he sing it?” I asked.
“Oh, he will definitely sing it.” She said sitting down cross legged in the middle of the blanket.  She patted the spot next to her and I folded myself into her side, she put her arm around me.
“Will he sing it first?” I persisted.  Her mouth turned up like she was going to smile but when she looked at my face I saw her take it back.
“He won’t sing it first, he always starts with the same song.  But, Goose,  I promise he will sing it.” When she said it she squeezed my hand, that’s one of the ways I know when she really meant it.
“What will he sing first?” I ask her relaxing into her shoulder.
“Whiskey River.  He always starts with Whiskey River.  Goose?” she looked right into me raising an eyebrow, “Why do you love that song so much?”
“Because it breaks my heart, Mom.”

“Mine too, Goose.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rules Are Made To Be Broken

Sometimes parenting identical twins feels like running a science experiment. The push and pull of their relationship with one another is fascinating to me. The ways in which they are different are surpassed only by the ways in which they implicitly understand one another.  
Where one is jubilant the other is thoughtful.  Where one is salty the other is sweet.  Where one is bound by rules the other...the other has a fine career in crime ahead of her; keep your eye on your wallet.

I've said many times that if parenting and watching your children act like you doesn't make you love yourself more then you are doing it wrong.  Being with my kids allows me to be kinder to myself.  Parenting daughters means you have to be kinder to yourself...assuming you don't want them to grow up with all the fucked up messages that made you hate your body, your face, your....everything. 

My relationship with rules is complicated....there is a part of me that follows rules as if breaking them is not an option.  And then there is the other part...the part that does things she knows she isn't supposed to and revels in it, every moment of it.  Each of my daughters inherited one of those parts. Liv revels in rule breaking, being mischievous is part of her identity; it is truly who she is.  Grace is a rule follower, she almost never steps outside the line. Except today, she did, literally.

At lunch today Grace and Olivia were playing with friends on the playground. The kids weren't allowed in the grass today, probably because it was so slushy.  Gracie stepped backwards without looking and inadvertently placed one foot in the grass just as a lunch lady turned around.  She was yelled at and had to "turn a card" to yellow.  It is the first time in her school career she has been reprimanded for anything.  Apparently, if your card is turned in class you have a chance to "earn back" the turn, but if it is turned at lunch you're just screwed.  To say she is upset is an understatement, she got in the car, hours after the incident, crying her eyes out.  What I was upset about was that she didn't feel confident enough to speak up for herself, to tell the lunch lady that it was an accident, that she understood the rules and didn't mean to break them.  She said she would have spoken to her teacher after lunch but they had a substitute so she couldn't.  What she is upset about is that her record is permanently marred.  Someone told her that they email your parents when your card is turned, she was upset and embarrassed that I was going to hear about it from school. My kids all need different kinds of parenting, what Gracie usually needs in these cases; at the times when her anxiety is at it's highest, is an example of how exactly her life will not be ruined by this particular event.

"Gracie, look at me" I say into her reflection in my rear view mirror.  She looks right at my eyes, her own spilling tears down her cheeks.

"Was it a mistake?" I ask her and she nods.  "Do you think I'm a good mom?" I ask her, she nods her head enthusiastically.  And Olivia, bless her criminal heart pipes up with, "You're a fantastic mom and you're really silly too!"

"Gracie, I make about 1,000 mistakes a day.  Today I think I made 2,000.  Seriously, shit just happens. I promise you when you are a forty year old picking up your second grader no one is going to know that when you were 8 you had your card turned.  I'm pretty sure no one will remember tomorrow.  It isn't worth spending one more minute worrying about, really, even if you did it on purpose, it's not a big deal.  Mistakes can be lessons but not this time, your foot just went in the wrong place, the lunch lady just didn't' understand.  I got in trouble when I was a kid and look how good I turned out."  I say all of this while navigating us out of the danger zone that is school pick up and she looks at me the whole time, trying to gauge if I'm right or not.  I can tell when she decides I am.  It's when I said "I got in trouble when I was a kid."  The minute I said it she visibly relaxed, she stopped crying, she moved on.  I gave myself a pat on the back.  I feel like I know my kids really well...Aidan is rule bound as well, he would have required nearly the same speech but he would have calmed down at "shit just happens."  Olivia would need me to say, well, nothing, she wouldn't have been upset about it at all.  She had a card turned once in kindergarten, she's clear that it was because she was in the bathroom when the rules were explained and that's that, the teacher should have paid better attention.

I don't know what the lesson is here, except, your kids are going to be like you....good, bad and ugly.  Enjoy the good, let the bad and ugly go when you can.  Maybe if you figure out a way to help them through it you can learn to be a little better to yourself.  Shit does just happen, let it go and move on....rules are made to be broken.  Just ask me and Olivia.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olivia Rose... Button Pusher and Ass Kisser

Olivia Rose is my difficult child.  I could pretend that it's not true, but it is.  People who tell you they love all their kids the same are either lying or they're doing it wrong.  I love all my kids but I love them differently; they're different people.  It's okay if Liv reads this tomorrow or in 10 years or in her therapist's office in 15 years when she starts to figure out all the ways in which I've screwed her up.  And it's okay because Olivia knows how much I love her and I know how much she loves me....and we both know she's the difficult child.  She is also the joyful child and the mischievous child and the magical child. And yet, for me, she's the difficult one.  It doesn't even imply fault on her part; I'm sure it's me....I let her push my buttons.  Olivia is a very gifted button pusher.

My childhood was magical...single mom, no money, she worked a ton of hours and yes, it was magical.  My mom did magic on a budget...but more importantly she did it on a short temper.  My childhood mornings were not magic.  They were a nightmare.  My mom screamed from the moment one of us woke up until we left her for the babysitter or school or the side of the road where she often left us (kidding).

I work extremely hard, really, really hard to not have the mornings of my childhood.  And honestly, my kids have probably seen me lose my shit a handful of times in their lives.  I keep it under wraps.  And you know what?  I thought my mom was a crazy person and I didn't understand her need to torture Erin and I every day.  Now I know that kids are a fucking pain in the ass.....we were torturing her, she was just trying to get the hell to work where little kids would leave her alone so she could make just enough money not to live in a cardboard box.

Right. So this morning was tough.  Our mornings are complicated.  Aidan starts at 7:30 and the girls not until 9am so we leave the house at 7:00, drop him off and head to my friend Jesica's house.  Jesica has a 5 year old and three nineteen month olds.  Her life is very boring so she has us over 4 mornings a week to liven things up.  Don't go back.... I said 3 NINETEEN MONTH OLD TODDLERS...and a 5 year old because those people are easy to deal with!  This morning Olivia had a melt down.  I was going to tell you the hilarious story of what happened leading up to the melt down and why she had it....except I can't remember at all what it was about.  It resulted in me yelling at her which truly happens very rarely, when she got out of the car she had tears in her eyes which bothered me; I remember how that felt.  

I had a perfectly good day after I dropped off my crying child at school.  Until I took my unchargeable iPod to the Apple store only to find out it would cost $189 to fix and $200 to replace and....I can't afford tampons right now so I have no iPod.  Which, may not seem like a big deal to you but my iPod is what keeps me from killing sprees so it may be more important to you that you originally thought!  And here's the thing....I don't let my daughters touch it because they lost my first iPod and the day this one quit charging was the first time I've let them touch it and now it's broken I was pretty pissed when I walked in tonight.  Plus I burst into crazy lady tears at the Apple store prompting the lady to ask if my kids had something else to play on besides the iPod to which I replied, "I don't care about my kids, this is my iPod!" (Author's note: I can't sleep without my iPod and I'm going on about two weeks of near total sleeplessness, I'm really tired and I care about my kids but come on, they all have Kindle Fires and I had my God damned iPod)

I literally cried all the way home...the ugly sobby cry...I think I may be getting my period, fuck yay!  I walk in the door and Livi gives me a gift bag with her favorite stuffed tiger inside it and an apology card.  It reads:

Sorry how I behaved this morning. You understand I was just having a bad day :( and I was tired.  I love you so much.  Do you forgive me?  Yes or No?

Um.....YES, I forgive you, you sweet little thing!  I love that she didn't ask if I understood....she knew I understood!  She may be a grand champion button pusher but she is also a really good ass kisser and that is just what I needed this evening.  I am never going to be the mother of the year, sometimes I struggle to just get through the day, but my kids absolutely adore me and it isn't because I'm a push over or easy on's because I accept them for who they are; good, bad and ugly. With me is where they can be exactly who they are and know that who they are is exactly enough. They know they can have occasional meltdowns and we figure out a way to do better next time.  Tomorrow is another day, thank God.

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