Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Cards; a Retrospective

Every now and then I feel I've accomplished something of note: writing a pithy blog entry for instance, performing for an audience who's clung to my every word, even cooking a mean pot of red beans and rice can make me giddy with pride. My list isn't terribly long, in fact some of my talents have waned over the years (these days I swim more like a geriatric manatee than the sleek porpoise of yore.) But I have recently acquired a later life skill which I would like to share with you. I have developed, if I do say so myself, an eye for constructing a heckuva good Hanukkah/Christmas/Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa/
Boxing Day/New Year's/and any other end of the year celebration you can think of holiday card.

All year long I keep an eye out for a unique opportunity that just might be a photo op for a possible kick ass card. And if no picture presents itself, well then, the Foster-Shepperds will not be representin' and mailboxes will be less full that year.

From four years ago...

Maxie was just six months old, Sebastian almost four. This card made quite a stir. It is still attached to refrigerators with dollar store magnets throughout the land. Complete strangers asked for this shot, and in debates on gay marriage and gay adoption this photograph has been used to quell opposition, I kid you not. The bar was raised pretty high with this one. It's golden, it's glorious and my hair is looking fabulous.

Three years ago...

A photographer came to Sebastian's preschool with vintage adult clothes and I was first in line, choosing the red dress and green overcoat for obvious thematic reasons. Let me tell you what I learned. Maxie loved having her picture taken without Sebastian, but the second they entered the same frame my baby girl turned into Aretha Franklin in those Snickers commercials. Nothing pleased her. Her Mae West pose is quite by happenstance. Maxie is really trying to push the hat off her head. Meanwhile, I'm just out of shot trying to keep it on. And what did Sebastian get for putting up with his sister's histrionics? A partially obscured face. The photographer did manage to snap a few traditional brother/sister shots but none of them included the divine hat. What does it say about me that I traded an Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter hat for a full view of my son's face? And just look at his expression (what you can see of it) it's so sweet, whereas my daughter's is pure vexation. What the fuck am I supposed to do with yet another strand of pearls?!

Two years ago...

Mailboxes were less full.

Last year...

This pic should have been used two years ago, but I wasn't totally in love with the Foster-Shepperds at a dude ranch motif. But it does have its charm and it slowly grew on me, so I sent it out last year. It's your typical family-on-vacation-so-it-has-to-be-our-holiday-card card.

And (drum roll please) this year...

I'm a little proud of this one. On the back it reads: The Foster-Shepperds, legally married since October 20th, 2008.

Now the idea wasn't to be political. No. Really. Watching other people's heads snap around to catch a peek of my family walking down the street is political enough for me. Besides which, I was worried that no one would want to put a holiday card with children with duct tape over their mouths on the fireplace mantle. But the more I looked at the other family picture I had in mind, the four of us in Maui waiting in line for a luau, the more I hated it. And so I asked Michael if we could use our NO H8 pictures instead.

For those of you who need a refresher course... In California, Proposition 8 was the anti gay marriage legislation that passed in 2008. One of the more visible organizations
speaking out
against this discrimination is the NO H8 Campaign. Get it? No hate. More information at

The truth is, I'm shallow. Being political had nothing to do with it. This, simply, is a better picture of me than the Maui shot, where I look like I'm in dire need of hair plugs and Spanx.

A very belated Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and the rest... And let's have one helluva fantabulous 2011!

Mommy With a Penis

PS. Taking ideas for next years holiday card.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shake the Waffle

On this, my son's eighth birthday, I made waffles. One would think I planned waffles as a special birthday breakfast. (When I was a kid my mother's birthday breakfast for us was oatmeal with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, sprinkled with brown sugar. Absolute heaven.) But no, the idea behind waffles had nothing to do with "birthday breakfast," it was born out of necessity. We are going out of town for the holidays and I'm trying to make do without going to the market. We have no milk, no eggs, no bacon, no oatmeal and for that matter, no vanilla ice cream. And so, the only breakfast staples I could think of that didn't require any of the above were waffles and that frostbitten package of sausage links stuck to the back of the freezer, purchased in aught eight.

I did have my concerns. For some unfathomable reason my children have professed a dislike for waffles. I know, how can they not like waffles? If I had my way as a kid, I would have eaten them thrice daily. An idea came to me, if I make the waffles special and top them off with their favorite things, Sebastian and Maxwell might learn to enjoy their buttery, perforated deliciousness as much as I do.

I would loved to have slice some bananas, but our larder being low we had no bananas. Nor fresh berries for that matter, nor whip cream. But a quick reconnaissance to the cupboards and fridge told me there were pears, boysenberry preserves, Nutella, a pickle jar void of pickles, and a Tupperware one third full of a viscous substance sprouting blossoms of penicillin. After rinsing out the pickle jar and throwing away the botulism, I convinced myself that a waffle bar will be a pleasant surprise and perhaps become a new favorite.

Sebastian opened a couple of birthday presents before breakfast. He guessed the Lego before ripping off the paper. I'm pretty sure I detected the slightest trace of disappointment before putting on a brave face and uttering, "This will be good." (Is it me or is the idea of Lego much more desirable before you open the box and scatter the pieces?)

Then it was time for Chi Chi's gift. Chi Chi is my mother, Sally. Long story short, my mother wanted to be called Sadie instead of Grandmother. Mom is of that subset of ladies who eschewed "Grandmother," "Grandma" and "Nana" for less doddering-sounding monikers. I think this trend started about the time Shirley MacLaine's character in Terms of Endearment insisted her grandchildren call her Mrs. Greenway. But Sadie turned out to be a tongue twister for my oldest nephew, Teddy, and instead, what came out was Chi Chi. And Chi Chi she will always be.

Chi Chi's was the largest birthday and Christmas gift under our tree. It was trapezoidal in shape and emblazoned on a sticker on the corner of the package were the words, balalaika with soft case, blem.

What the fig? Balalaika? As in Dr. Zhavago, balalaika? What hell hath Chi Chi wrought? She's usually so predictable in her gift giving. And yes, she's commented on Sebastian's natural rhythm but...balalaika! With a soft case no less!! And what the hell is blem? Oh, the responsibility of it all. Am I expected to search the greater Los Angeles area for a balalaika instructor? Which might not be so difficult considering Bash's school is sixty percent Russian...but even still! And if I actually do procure a balalaika instructor would I then have to suffer through Sebastian ploinking through "Lara's Theme" at balalaika concerts wearing a balalaika costume?

Turns out there was no need for hysteria. Inside the balalaika-with-soft-case-comma-blem box was a smaller trapezoidal box, reminding me of Russian nesting dolls. And inside that box...drum roll please...was a ukulele (which I'm pretty sure must be Hawaiian for balalaika.) And even though there was no soft case, this ukulele is not some plastic, Disneyrific toy. Oh, no. Chi Chi went all out in the hopes of encouraging her grandson's rhythmic gifts. It's beautifully crafted which made me a little worried for its safety. I will still have to get him lessons, but being born in Hawaii, I got this. Ukulele is within my wheelhouse, whereas balalaika...not so much.

After my near balalaika experience, I called the family to breakfast conscious to keep any anxiety from my voice. I kept telling myself, the waffle bar is going to be a huge success! It was immediately evident that that was not the case. Turns out it my kids hate waffles no matter how much they're spruced up. And here I thought they'd eat Nutella covered dirt.

I jumped into action. I brought out the last of the strawberry yogurt and started frying non-frozen sausage patties I was saving for tomorrow. But I missed my window. Appetites had vanished. All in all, a disappointing eighth birthday breakfast.


Fall, habitually you kick my sorry ass with your psychotic autumnal schedule: my birthday, Halloween, Michael's birthday, Thanksgiving, Sebastian's birthday, Christmas. The choosing of the costumes, the numerous presents to purchase, wrap and send, the sit-down birthday dinner party, the bounteous feast, the tree trimming party re-imagining the leftovers from the bounteous feast, the sending of holiday cards (221 and counting), the Christmas pageant, the travel arrangements and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer playing in the other room over and over again; all of it overwhelming and making what was once quaint seem vomitous.

Experience has taught me you're a bitch, Fall, and I have learned to accept your malevolent ways. However, this year, you have topped yourself. I thought Fall 2007 was a humdinger when Sebastian's Knights of the Round Table birthday party fell on the same day as our formal Toys For Tots Christmas gala. But that was a stroll through Versailles compared to Fall 2010. First there were the problems with Sebastian's education that have escalated so rapidly, once again we had to hire a lawyer. Then two uncles passed away in October and an aunt in November rendering me emotionally weak. And throughout it all I was dealing with horrific ear and sinus infections that left my head simultaneously throbbing like a motherfucker while feeling as if it were stuffed like a rag doll with thousands of Q-Tip tips. Making decisions became near impossible. Yes, Fall, you made me a waffler.

The thing is, tis the season for decisiveness. But my waffling has become so pronounced everything is getting done at the last minute. And haphazardly. Our New York friends have texted that they received our Christmas card envelope...without the Christmas card in it. I've all but given up making final gift decisions, instead posting on Facebook things like, "Xbox or Wii? Discuss." And because I didn't purchase them in time, it's dubious whether the Christmas Fairy will get holiday pajamas to the children on Christmas Eve.

One of my relatives sent Sebastian and Maxwell a board game and four C batteries for Christmas. At first, that didn't seem odd. But when it became clear that the board game didn't need C batteries, that they were extra for some inexplicable reason, I thought, "I'm slowly on my way to becoming that person." If I don't snap out of this haze, in next year's Christmas card envelope friends and family may find batteries instead.

I must shake the waffle!


I told Sebastian we had to take a birthday picture to commemorate the year. I tried to get him to smile, but this is what he gave me instead.

Please don't let waffling be contagious!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Soldiers and Bullies

Michael's nephew, Chucky, went to war. He served our country faithfully, rounded out his tour of duty and when he came home he was different. Friends and family noticed the change immediately. Chucky was more withdrawn and depressed. And there was something else...a quiet desperation, which I believe you can see in this photo. Look into his eyes. It's as if he wore a mask to cover the suffering within.

Michael's family used the tools they had at their disposal to help Chucky. His sister took him to the VA Hospital to get him psychological care, but since Chucky refused to admit himself the VA couldn't help. His parents tried to get Chucky to embrace religion, his mother is a Jehovah's Witness, his father Baptist, but it turned out getting on his knees and praying couldn't help either.

Sebastian loved his older cousin, and at the family reunion four years ago, the only person Chucky could comfortably relate to was my then four year old son. Interacting with Sebastian was nonthreatening. There were no awkward conversations to worry about or concerned stares to deal with. All haunting images of war were temporarily shoved aside while Chucky played with Sebastian, revving Hot Wheels across the floor.

That was the last time I saw Chucky; on the carpet with my son, working through his demons, hopefully on the mend. Not six months later, he bought a rifle and killed himself, as much a causality of war as if he had died overseas.


I didn't reach out to Chucky during that time. I had met him only two times previous and felt it wasn't my place. But now I wish I had. I would have said something like...

I get that you feel things are hard right now. I get that you feel all alone, like no one could possibly know what you're going through. But understand, those are feelings. And feelings are of a moment.

Think of it this way: emotion contains the word "motion." It's supposed to flow through us. We are not supposed to staunch emotion and wallow in it.

If emotion does take hold, however, get out of the house and do something. Go climb a mountain, or volunteer at a soup kitchen, or beat the fuck out of a punching bag. Getting off your butt is half the battle. Getting out of your head is the other half.

But if you choose to marinate in a dark room with a remote control in your hand, then you've also chosen to label yourself "victim." No one else is doing that. YOU are. Likewise, no one else can do for you. YOU have to do for you. Sure, people might extend their hands along the way, but you have to find your own path, flick on your own switch.

I speak from first hand knowledge. When I was an adolescent, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I took pharmaceuticals to stop the seizures, but the side effects of the meds made it really difficult to concentrate in school. I went from A minuses to Ds and Fs. My grades sucked, I fell down at inconvenient moments and I shook all the time. I felt I was a social outcast. I felt alone and insignificant. (Once again, "felt." Emotion, not reality.) And I chewed on that feeling of powerlessness, and it grew and grew. It was my choice to not look for the pressure valve. I didn't talk to anyone, or swim laps, or face my problems head on. My thing was to disappear into movie theaters and gnaw the fuck out of it until it was untenable and reality became distorted. At that point no one could say anything right. Friends' support sounded like taunts, my parents' concern, condemnation.

That's when I swallowed a bottle of pills.

I was lucky. My mother figured out what I did. She drove me to the hospital. Doctors gave me ipecac which induced vomiting. The pills went down the drain rather than into my system. I ended up physically fine, but mentally, I needed help from a therapist, who helped me discover the tools to move forward with my life.

Let me be clear. I am grateful the pills did not take hold. Suicide is not le grand geste. It is not romantic. You do not find answers in the last moments. It is final and lonely.


This note is not really meant for Chucky. It's too late to help him. This is for anyone out there who is grappling with thoughts of suicide.

Homosexual youth are four times more likely to kill themselves then heterosexual youth. Like Chucky, they too feel broken, alone and unappreciated. The wartime that homosexual youth are facing may not be car bombs, but there is a constant barrage of destructive statements and abusive actions being hurled at them. From the horrific gay bashing in the Bronx, to our religious leaders labeling homosexuals "impure and unnatural," to political bickering over gay marriage, gay adoption and openly serving in the armed forces, today's gay youth are inundated with negative images and somehow they must navigate the treacherous terrain of our divisive society.

Those who recently chose to take their lives, hurling this issue into the national spotlight, are Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas. Fallen soldiers who tried to live with dignity and yet were beaten down for being true to who they are.

My personal stand...

First, to parents: For goodness sake, keep your eyes open. If you get the sense your kid is a bully do something about it. Don't sit back and say, "Boys will be boys." Humans are supposed to be humane and compassionate. That's what separates us from the beasts. Also, if your kid comes to you at some point and says, "Hey, I'm gay," don't say something stupid like, "Well, I'm not proud of you." As a matter of fact, don't say anything at all. Go over to your child and give him the biggest hug of his life. And only then, after you've collected yourself do you tell him, "I love you so much and I will always be here for you." Because that's what parents do. They offer unconditional love. Don't try to guilt him and definitely don't try to change him. I can be made to wear brown contact lenses to disguise my eyes' true color, but trust me, underneath they will always be blue.

Next, to the bullies, the name callers, the finger pointers, the politicians using stump issues for reelection, and to our religious leaders who instill fear in their flock: There is no one as cowardly as you. You gather in groups and single out the unsure and the awkward. You say in the name of whatever deity you worship that homosexuals are not welcome. You say that you have homosexual friends, while strongly denying us marriage and adoption rights. You harass us, invade our privacy and beat us to a pulp. But here's an idea, it's in your Bibles, Torahs and Korans, let's be civil to one another. Can we do that? No one is asking you to jump into bed with, or even split a banana split with someone who is gay. Just nod your head in acknowledgement and move forward. We've all felt pain from another hand, from someone's hurtful words. We've felt the knife, imaginary and real, twist in our gut. Let's just stop it. Let's exercise civility and stop causing pain.

And finally, to my brothers and sisters who are wrestling with self doubts: There is so much chatter. And sometimes it is hard to hear anything but the negative. But do me a favor, call The Trevor Project. They will listen and lead you in the right direction. Sometimes all we need is a boost. Let the Trevor Project be yours. Seriously. Call them. Right now. I mean it. (866) 488-7386. Like the YouTube videos say, "It gets better." And guess what? It does. Take it from someone who's licked the bottom of the pickle barrel. DO NOT GIVE IN!

October 16th was Chucky's birthday. Yesterday was Matthew Shepard's. Both would have been 34.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

White Bias or Snow Black?

Last month on Anderson Cooper 360, the suave, silver fox news hunk introduced a pilot study helmed by CNN called "Kids on Race." Black and white children from two different age groups were shown the above picture and asked questions like, "Which is the good child?" "Which is the ugly child?" "Which child do adults like?"

This was based on an experiment administered in the forties. Instead of the cartoon rainbow coalition shown above, however, children chose between black and white baby dolls, the findings of which were used in the landmark case, Brown vs. Board of Education. Sadly, although perhaps not surprisingly, sixty-three percent of black kids wanted to play with the white doll rather than the one they themselves resembled.

In the Obama era it was hoped that the findings of the newly administered test wouldn't show such white bias. That our country's first African American president would raise self-esteem among black kids and awareness in white kids.

But guess what? Both black and white kids alike still chose the white image as the good, the smart and the beautiful, while its black counterpart was bad, dumb and ugly.

Of course, white bias exists in this country. For me, that truth resounded more once I had a black daughter. It's not always easy surrounding her world with positive role models when she is constantly being inundated with perky, blond imagery.

For instance, Maxwell (she made a recent proclamation that she prefers that to Maxie) loves the Disney princesses and she glows with pride when talking about Princess Tiana, the titular African American character in The Princess and the Frog. But more often than not, the Disney princesses represented on packaging from DVDs to sleepwear are alabaster white. Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Aurora and Ariel preen beautifically on tee shirts and plastic tiaras, but if a princess of color is invited to join their merry group, she is usually situated off to the side or shoved to the back.

I was actually amazed how easy it was to prove this point. I typed disney princesses images in my Google search box, and take a gander at the first picture that popped up...

Poor Princess Jasmine can barely find elbow room among all that Caucasian-ness. And there's no sign of her melanin endowed sisters, not Tiana, Pocahontas nor Mulan (not really a princess, but oftentimes represented as one.) It's tokenism pure and simple, and day after day my daughter is subjected to such inequalities.

Hold on to your hat. I just had one of those flashes of yore, a blast from my past; a photo from a glossy TV mag. A picture of a different group of princesses entirely...

...situated off to the side or shoved to the back.

One image from a nighttime soap circa mid-eighties, the other from a Disney clip art site dated 2010. How much have we really changed? Tokenism is alive and well and Diahann Carroll for one does not seem at all pleased.

Our television shows, our movies, our advertisements, and, yes, even the Rockettes during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are chalk full of chalk white faces. Sometimes a lone person of color will be included making the sea of white seem even more glaring. Of course, I was thrilled when Princess Tiana came along, as was I thrilled with the timing of Princess Sasha and Princess Malia entering the White House. Sistahs for my daughter to look up to. But for every Dora the Explorer and Kai-lan there's an awful lot of Wonder Bread out there, spread thick with mayonnaise.

So, yes, white bias is alive and well in our fair land. That being said, however, I'm not sure the CNN test accurately proves that fact.

A bit of trickery was involved, meaning there is no appropriate answer to "Which is the ugly child?" Some of the older kids who were administered the test could articulate that none of the cartoon children were smarter or more beautiful. Some even went on to say, "It's what's on the inside that counts." But the younger ones, the little four and five year olds, those who have yet to reach the age of reason, didn't have the life experience necessary to help them navigate through the trap. And I question whether their answers really support the institutionalized racism CNN was trying to prove.

If the kids tested are anything like my kids, then two things... Four and five year olds blindly trust authority figures, and if they don't know an answer, they make shit up. So, when an authority figure asks a young one, "Which is the good child?" then to their little, guileless minds one of those five cartoon figures must be the good child because an adult says so. And since there is no correct answer, what's the kid going to do but guess. When Sebastian was younger, he loved guessing. "What's one plus one?" I'd ask, and immediately Bash would offer, "Five." "What color is a fire truck?" "Green."

The difference is what's one plus one has an absolute answer, as does what letter comes after Q, or is it proper to wear white after Labor Day? But which is the smart child is a trick question.

I imagine that my five year old self would have given the white cartoon all the favorable characteristics. I positively identified being white, so why wouldn't I have chosen Whitey McWhitenstien to be the beautiful, the smart and the good?

One mother was shocked when her white son labeled the caricature with the darkest skin as ugly, bad, and dumb. The thing is, I see my five year old self doing the same thing, choosing the image that is most not like me, the one at the opposite end of the color spectrum. Is this really racism or a strong dose of positive self esteem?

I can only wonder if the experiment would have been less sensational if the children were offered the option does not apply.

The heart breaking moment was watching a beautiful black girl with a smile to melt your heart, say she thought the black cartoon was the ugly one. When Anderson Cooper questioned her in a later moment, she said point blank, she thought the color of her skin was nasty.

This prompted me to find out if my two ragamuffins with their two different pigmantations would support the white bias identified by CNN. I asked them which skin tone they found more beautiful, my white son said "black skin" without hesitation, which was then echoed by my black daughter. What seemed devastating on television, a black girl not choosing her own skin color, was downright endearing when Sebastian chose his sister's skin color rather than his own.

Then as a follow up, I asked Maxie, I mean Maxwell, the rest of the questions and systematically she went down the line, labeling the cartoon images in order, irregardless of color. (The stupid child was the first image, the smart child was the second image, and so on.) The only time she deviated from her methodology was when I circled back to the word beautiful. Then she always pointed to the darkest of the drawings. I love that Maxwell loves the color of her skin (she prefers to call it brown rather than black.) And I love that she insists on going out with her hair plain, which means natural, no pigtails, no braids, no frills. She has a strong sense of self at such a young age, and I hope she'll stay strong even with the constant bombardment of lily white imagery that will most surly be a part of her life.

Perhaps my own bias keeps me from seeing the validity of this test. Perhaps we all need to talk about race more openly. Perhaps I'd think the findings more significant if instead of asking, "Which is the stupid child?" the questions were posed this way, "Do you see a stupid child? Which one is it?"

Bottom line, one plus one equals two, white is not to be worn after Labor Day, and one black Rockette in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is not integration.

Parting image: my daughter this Halloween...

White bias or Snow Black?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Light of Day

Late August, I was in the Bay Area for my dad's birthday. While there, I kept hearing about aunts, uncles and friends of the family who weren't faring well. The list seemed overwhelming: cancer, a couple of strokes, heart palpitations, a semi-vegetative state and while boarding a plane one family friend somehow managed to slip between the gangway and the airplane's door, falling to the tarmac below. Still alive, but paralyzed.

Sunday morning, the kids ran into our bedroom screaming. (Michael insists it was 5:30. I tend to think it was 6:30. Daylights Savings Time really messes with your head and can cause family squabbles in the retelling of stories.) Whatever the time, the kids yelled, "There's a dead raccoon. There's a dead raccoon." This is not surprising at our house. Cosmo, our half husky/half possible wolf, is a card carrying critter killer. Doesn't matter if it's a bird, rat, opossum, squirrel, skunk or even house cat, any varmint that enters our yard Cosmo will strike with ferocity and precision. And although he's never killed a raccoon before, it seemed entirely likely that a raccoon kill would happen at some point. C'mon coyote, you're next.

Quite simply, our dog is a menace. Before we were aware of his psychotic tendencies, Cosmo would bark ruthlessly at any passers by, sometimes escaping and terrorizing the neighborhood. Cosmo has also sent two smaller dogs to the hospital at a great expense to us. (Oddly, he's a big, dopey love to humans and has never lifted a paw to children.) Once we knew we had a problem canine on our hands, we installed a side gate to keep him in the back yard. How then, did this procyonid (my husband would have taken offense had I called it a coon) get himself killed on our front patio, to which Cosmo should not have had access? My assumption was that the gardeners didn't securely latch said gate, which on closer inspection was indeed found ajar.

After settling the kids' down and convincing them that touching a dead raccoon was not a good idea, I needed to relax with the Sunday paper. I opened the front door, and like Dorothy's door opening onto Munchkinland, I too was met with a Technicolor eyeful. But instead of the stock and trade yellow bricks and ruby slippers, my alternate world was smeared with viscera and gore. The front steps were a battlefield. Tufts of feathers were glommed everywhere. We're not talking four or five out-of-place feathers. No. I could have stuffed a muff with the plumage stuck to my steps.

Even with the side gate open however, Cosmo could not have gotten to the bird(s) on the front stairs. Being a devoted Dexter fan, I was able to deduced the following scenario from the blood/feather spatter... The raccoon, needing a nosh, killed the fowl on the stairs, then climbed onto our patio, perhaps to recline on a chez lounge to relax and digest. But what our masked mammal could not have anticipated was that Cosmo happened to be lying in wait, most likely with a Jack Nicholson glint in his eye. "Heeeere's Johnny!"

Not even the "diabolical" Sudoku in the LA Times could keep me from thinking about Death and why it's insisting to seep into various corners of my life. Death seems to prefer to travel by night. It is only with the light of day when we make out the puddles of blood, when we receive the bad news. It was in the early hours when I received the telephone calls in October. Two of my uncles passed away. Both had failing health. Both were talked about at my father's birthday dinner in August. Both now gone.

I admit, I have guilt that they weren't more a part of my adult life. Both of them had moved to the East Coast, Uncle Ron to Atlanta, Uncle Bob to one of the Carolinas, I always forget which. I'm ashamed to admit I haven't seen nor talked to Uncle Bob for about sixteen years. My memories of my uncles are mostly childhood ones, awe mixed with respect, the naval Vietnam vet and the businessman who liked to tipple just a bit too much. My heart goes out to my cousins, now fatherless, and can only hope they are able to make peace, that their pain doesn't overwhelm.

Then, sometime after putting the raccoon in a plastic trash bag but before I had a chance to hose down the deck, my sister called me in tears, also with morning news. One of my favorite aunts was in such a bad way she was in need of hospice care.

Aunt Pat has always been a vital force in my life. When I was younger, I probably spent more time with her than any other woman aside from my mother. (Oddly, she and Mom share the same birthday.) My cousin, Mark, is my age and I slept over at their house quite often. I locked myself in her bedroom, flushed gum down her toilets and while sleepwalking peed in Aunt Pat's clothes hamper.

Over the years, she has sent me letters of support and encouragement during difficult times. And on a couple of opening nights she sent telegrams telling me to "break a leg."

The thing I associate most with Aunt Pat is Thanksgiving. When I was younger, she and Uncle T. Jack always hosted the family's Thanksgiving dinner. She would spend days preparing the meal. Our family was large and Aunt Pat would have to get two twenty pound birds to feed the lot of us. Coats and ties were mandatory, and the dining room would sparkle with impeccably good taste. The china on the table was exquisite, but we wouldn't eat off those plates. They would be removed by servants, never to be seen again the entire meal. Place cards would mark our seats, and on occasion I remember being honored by getting to sit next to Aunt Pat.

Every year I would listen to her talk about the preparations of this monstrous meal: what she did differently, which recipes worked, which didn't. One year, she found a turkey recipe where the oven temp was kept incredibly low, let's say 150. The turkey was cooked overnight, and to ensure moist breast meat, Aunt Pat would get up on the hour, throughout the night to baste the birds. I don't remember her looking haggard the next day, nor do I remember this technique making the turkey any more or less moist than previous years, but then, to me the food always tasted wonderful. Thanksgiving has a special place in my heart and I have Aunt Pat to thank for that.

Three mornings ago, I got the news that Aunt Pat passed away.

I started this post before she died, perhaps to question death but that doesn't seem important now. Certainly the raccoon doesn't seem important nor including a critique of The Lovely Bones, which I saw a couple of nights ago, a movie that articulates the futility of finding meaning in death. (Much too deep for where I am.) No, right now, I just want to remember a wonderful woman.

Three mornings ago, clouds billowed soft and white against a crisp blue sky.

I want to remember her style, her class. I want to remember her numerous jars of cosmetics and countless bottles of vitimins. I want to remember her sitting at her makeup table gluing on one eyelash at a time. I want to remember her wearing a peignoir to the communal bathroom in Yosemite. I want to remember her dancing cheek to cheek with Uncle T. Jack. I want to remember her intelligence, her beauty, her humor, her pecan pie, her laugh.

Three mornings ago, I went to my fridge and pulled out a turkey. I don't have any of Aunt Pat's recipes, but that didn't matter. I roasted a turkey and made stuffing. It wasn't as moist as hers but somehow it felt right.

I want to remember her stories, especially the one when she visited Venezuela in the middle of a coup (unintentionally of course) and found herself running from gunfire. I want to remember her generosity of spirit. When I was four, I desperately wanted the plastic cereal container shaped like Donald Duck. You could cut open the slit in the back to make it a piggy bank. Aunt Pat saw my four-year-old desire and over the protestations of my cousins gave Donald to me. Also, every year she would send my children Christmas presents, which is incredible considering the children from our collective families number into the thirties, maybe forties, and Aunt Pat wouldn't forget one of them. I also want to remember the comfortable times. The conversations around the breakfast table. Perhaps these most of all, when convention did not dictate the event, when we wore jeans, told stories and laughed.

Three mornings ago...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Strike My Fancy

A cozy moment between my four year old daughter and my ex-drag queen husband.

MAXIE: Daddy, do boys wear makeup?

MICHAEL: Yes, some boys do.

MAXIE: I bet that makes them feel fancy.

MICHAEL: I bet it does.

MAXIE: Daddy, I like fancy boys.

MICHAEL: So do I, sweetheart. So do I.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Aloha Passion

Now that I'm back in the throes of monitoring school homework, packing lunch boxes and driving to and from numerous extracurricular activities, it's hard to believe that not six weeks ago I was sipping mai tais poolside on the beautiful island of Maui.

You know how folks develop that special place they go to unwind? Well, Hawaii is that place for me. The second the plane's wheels scrape rubber on the tarmac I feel transformed. I've come home. You see, I was born in Honolulu, just like Barack Obama and Bette Midler. (And like Barack Obama and Bette Midler, I too can show you a valid birth certificate.)

And even though I only lived there the first nine months of my life, the islands feel familiar. The fragrant Hawaiian breeze is mother's milk, the loamy earth and brilliant colors my pablum.

That doesn't mean our special getaway wasn't without incident. I somehow managed to get both sinus and ear infections, Maxie got a bladder infection, Sebastian, five stitches on his chin, and my husband...well...he took countless pictures of hot island boys with tribal tattoos. And still, a wonderful vacation was had by all.

The first thing I do, after arriving on the island, is buy a glass of cane juice with a squeeze of lime...the tropics in a sippy cup. Then, I buy Hawaiian fruit for our room. I love pineapples, papayas and apple bananas, but this year, I was cuckoo for passion fruit.

You know when you have one of those crystal clear revelations, like for dinner I'm going to make something with chicken thighs and green olives. You have no idea why chicken thighs and green olives came into your head, nor have you ever heard of that peculiar gastronomic coupling before. But you're confident it will be a dilly of a combo. And you're not at all surprised when you find many fabulous online recipes using chicken thighs and green olives. And voila, a new favorite dish.

Well, that's how it was with the passion fruit. I don't know why it was calling to me, but I knew, in the central most part of my being, that this vacation was all about passion fruit, or as the natives call it, lilikoi.

I was gaga for lilikoi gelato, lilikoi shaved ice, lilikoi soda, and fresh lilikoi right out of the rind. I wanted to climb to the top of Haleakala and shout at the top of my lungs, Me likee lilikoi! And I didn't care who knew it.

You might think my obsession with passion fruit unhealthy. You might think some sort of transference is going on. Perhaps the passion fruit was a psychological replacement for something missing in my life, maybe for passion itself.

Okay, you got me. I wouldn't say it's missing, but over the past few years, passion has, on occasion, gone on an unexpected, month-long voyage to Tahiti, without even bothering to send a postcard. It's just that home life has gotten much more complicated with children. They have specific needs and... No, I refuse to be one of those parents who make children the scapegoat for what's out of sync with their lives.

But things have changed. When Michael and I first started our relationship we promised that we'd always tell each other I love you before we went to sleep. That doesn't happen as much as it used to. More often than I care to admit, one of us falls asleep with the reading light on, reading glasses askew, script in hand.

We're just so frickin' tired all the time. Even in Maui, the Heavenly Bed felt so heavenly, the only activity we wanted to do in it was sink into its downy oblivion.

And our schedules are so completely out of whack. Michael, on average, gets home around midnight, and I, on average, get up at six. Gotta prepare breakfast, gotta drive those little fuckers to school... No, I will not blame them.

Also, occasions aren't occasions anymore. There are no flowers on opening night. No candy on Valentine's Day. On our birthdays, you're more likely to hear, "Don't worry about getting me a present."* And our anniversaries have become anemic: there's the one celebrating our legal wedding, the one celebrating our illegal wedding, the one celebrating the day we first met, which was October fourth, marking our thirteenth year. But never, in all that time, have we let an anniversary slip by without some form of acknowledgement, until last week! We both plumb forgot.

I was probably too busy, buying some meaningless gift from Toys R Us for the next kiddie birthday party, or packing snacks for the entire soccer team, or ohhing and ahhing at my daughter's assembly program where she played a singing butterfly. She was stuck upstage and you couldn't see her, because all the other butterflies covered her up, but I took time out of my day to support...once again, not the kids' fault.

Let me be clear, Michael and I still have sex. But in comparison to the beginning of our relationship when we slept naked and bumped like bunnies all night long, nowadays, it's more like, "Better put your pajamas on or you'll catch a chill."

How the fuck did this happen? We sound like one of those old couples, who sit across from each other at Denny's and never talk, except to say, "There's soup on your chin."

I tried to get Michael and the kids as excited about lilikoi as I was, but they weren't buying it. Perhaps it has to do with its appearance. It only tastes good if the rind is as bruised looking as Kim Basinger in pretty much any movie. And the insides aren't any more appetizing. As Maxie tells it, "They look like boogers with seeds." And on this, I'd have to concur. But the taste...delish.

Now, what to do about my passion dilemma. It's time to take it back. Little by little, I must empower myself to make changes. Starting now. And I need a slogan. Something like...

A little more passion, a little more lilikoi.

Yeah, that will work.

*Michael, tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm expecting a present!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's a Pickle

My mother sent Michael a yodelling pickle. That's right, a yodelling pickle...

What is a yodelling pickle, you ask? Quite simply, a plastic pickle that stands on end, and when you push its button, it yodels. No cutesy cartoon face. No accompanying movement. Just a collection of high-pitched alpine trills from a stiff faux-vegetable. Yodel-Ay-Eee-Ooo.

And unlike the Santa who gyrates to Jingle Bell Rock, this mass-produced gewgaw is perfect for absolutely NO occasion.

What's peculiar, besides the gift itself, is the sender. My mother is not one for spontaneity, nor is she particularly fond of gag gifts. Sal is a logically-minded, no nonsense kinda gal, and a yodelling pickle would be the last thing I'd expect her to send my husband, via UPS. Especially when it's my birthday next week!! What's in store for me? A rapping kiwi?

The other, perhaps noticeably, odd thing...odd and that the damn thing looks like a green dildo. Now, I don't get into Michael's and my bedroom habits in this blog, but green, bumpy, yodelling (and somewhat petite) dildos are not our thing...especially when sent by MY MOTHER!

On a morning, when I washed out the roasting pan...again, put away the raspberry preserves...again, stripped away the pee pee sheets from the mattress...again, forgot the kids were out of toothpaste...again*, I must say, this novelty brought a little ray of sunshine into my otherwise monotonous mommy life.

It's just so damn curious. I prefer not to call my mother and ask for clarification. There's something delicious about its incongruity. Even the kids love playing with this kooky thing. (Although it's disturbing watching them fight over a phallus.)

I'd go on and on, but I have to drive Maxie to school.

*Note to self: remember to buy Crest.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sebastian in Awe

On Saturday, I was channel surfing and decided to take on the last third of Shakespeare in Love. Perhaps once and for all I could figure out if I really liked this movie or downright hated it. I can't quite put my finger on why I am so indecisive.

The film has many wonderful qualities: the historic references, Tom Stoppard's witty script, the lush art and costume design, and yet, when the film's title is mentioned in polite conversation, I cringe and regurgitate a little. Perhaps my response has to with Joseph Fiennes being prettier than Gweneth Paltrow, or Miramax's aggressive campaign to win the Oscar beating out Saving Private Ryan, or just maybe it's Geoffrey Rush's disgusting teeth. Whatever my misgivings, I decided to give it a go once again.

And immediately, I was hooked.

Sure, it's manipulative and at points cheesy, but so many of the pieces fit beautifully. And being a stage actor, I love that the central action centers around mounting the first performance of Romeo and Juliet. So, for now at least, I'm back to liking the film.

It was during the dueling scene, where Romeo slays Tybalt, when I heard Sebastian's feet running down the hall towards my room. This is not surprising. He flat out ignores me when I call him for dinner, but through a closed door he has the uncanny ability to make out the cinematic strains of a car chase, gun fight or shark attack. He then hightails it to my room in the hopes to sneak a peak at "adult TV." Of course, it's my job to quickly determine whether the program I happen to be watching is appropriate for his seven-year-old eyes and ears. Usually, I turn the television off, much to Sebastian's protestations, "I won't get scared, I promise," because like most Americans, I prefer my entertainment to be violent, salacious and nothing to do with Scooby Snacks.

Sebastian is a huge fan of the Star Wars films. He also loves Indiana Jones, super heroes and anything Jurassic. And true to his word, he doesn't get scared easily. This is the kid whose favorite part in Finding Nemo was the blood thirsty shark. While some parents would fast forward through the shark parts, at the behest of my son I'd play them over and over again.

I will admit, there have been instances where my judgement was lacking and I allowed Sebastian to watch something he probably shouldn't have. For instance, at the beginning of summer he was crazy about anything werewolf and he kept pestering me to watch a werewolf movie. I wracked my brain but couldn't think of anything until one day, in the TV listings, I saw An American Werewolf in Paris. Perfect, I thought. I had never seen it, but if it was anything like the first film, where that guy from the Dr. Pepper commercials ransacked London, I figured it would be gory, but funny gory. I warned Sebastian about the blood and guts and he insisted he wouldn't be scared. I foolishly took him at his word. He had nightmares all night.

Now before you parents chide me, know that I am very much aware of my mistake and have taken it down a couple of notches. No more CSI reruns, he's now only allowed episodes of Curious George.

So, Sebastian's feet were running towards my room and I had to decide if Shakespeare in Love was suitable for him. I quickly ran through what I remembered of the film and the only thing I found objectionable was the casting of Ben Affleck. I decided to let him watch.

He was enraptured. He had many questions about the story of Romeo and Juliet. And he wanted to know about Shakespeare and why women weren't allowed to perform in his day. I found it very educational actually.

It was at the climax of the film, where Gweneth Paltrow, who'd disguised herself as a man, was about to be exposed for being a woman, thus possibly shutting down Shakespeare's troupe forever, when out of the rafters, descending like a vampire bat came Queen Elizabeth I in the form of the formidable Dame Judi Dench.

Sebastian's jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide as if he'd seen the Crypt Keeper, and he said something like, "What the... I didn't know... Where did she... Oh, my God."

He was really taken aback. And then, as if the previous almost incoherent group of phrases didn't accurately describe how he felt, under his breath he uttered the multipurpose, "Shit!"

I didn't punish him for the curse word because, well, look at her...

Like Freddy Kruger, the Virgin Queen makes even my
"seated heart knock at my ribs."

Shit, indeed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

San Francisco Girlfriends

I'm in San Francisco for my father's birthday and my sister shared with me the following story about my seven-year-old niece, Gracie.

Gracie and her good friend were enjoying a vigorous afternoon of make believe. The friend had a fairy princess doll while Gracie had a schoolgirl doll, and Gracie suggested, "Let's pretend we're walking down the street and we bump into each other. And then, let's pretend we fall in love and want to get married, but we can't because the government says it's against the law."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Laura is Bustin' Out

Last week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger dropped the N-bomb on her radio show while giving advice to a female African American caller. Actually, dropped is the wrong word; strafed might be more apt, for to drive her self-proclaimed philosophical point home (although I could tell you neither what her point was nor to what philosophy she ascribes) she repeatedly blasted her black caller and radio listeners with N-bomb following N-bomb, making me think, perhaps incongruously, of the last image of Bonnie and Clyde.

Subsequently, Dr. Laura has announced on Larry King Live that she will quit radio. She explains, "I want to regain my First Amendment rights," whatever that's supposed to mean. According to Dr. Laura, her rights "have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate, they want to eliminate." And so, before these treacherous groups get their diabolical way, she has decided to sign off when her contract ends at the end of the year.

I have a wee confession to make. I will miss my Dr. Laura time. I've not always agreed with her "get over yourself and get under your man" advice, but there's something about the way she bitch slaps ignorant America that I find highly entertaining.

Over the years, radio listeners have been attracted to Dr. Laura's strong moral compass, all the while unable to live up to her strict standards, especially on subjects of marriage, infidelity and child rearing. I'm unclear how these standards lapsed when she herself was a home wrecker, had an affair with a married man which led to his subsequent divorce, and ended up pregnant before their wedding day. But those are past discrepancies. Peccadilloes really. The Dr. Laura of today refuses to look backwards. Her tongue is as sharp as a block of cheddar, and even after the N-bomb brouhaha her rules remain uncompromising.

Every now and again, she may lend one of her callers a sympathetic ear, however more often she flexes her superior intellect (I only know it's superior because she reminds her listeners on a regular basis) by interrupting the caller before he or she has finished spelling out the problem at hand. Then Dr. Laura will offer a quick-fix solution, sometimes attached to a personal, funsy story, all within a two to three minute segment. You tell me: therapy or entertainment?

And quite aware of Dr. Laura's almost fascist morals, single parents and multi-divorcees brave her wrath and continue to call in. They butter her up by telling her how much they love her books and by repeating one of her personal catch phrases like "I am my child's mom" in the hopes that they won't be chewed up and spat aside like a wad of overcooked gristle. It's reality pablum at its best and I find it a hoot.

The African American woman who called in said she had an issue about the racist comments made by her white husband's family and friends. She said she was beginning to resent her husband because he wouldn't stand up for her. This peaked my interest. Living in a multiracial household, Michael and I have had quite a few conversations about perception and race, not always seeing eye to eye, I might add. However, we both respect that our different life experiences may lead us to different conclusions, both pertinent, both valid.

But never in our relationship has the N-word been hurled as the caller claimed happened to her. Dr. Laura bizarrely defended a white person's usage of that word by saying, "Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nig*ger, nig*er, nig*er."

And she was off. The caller's problem was small potatoes compared to the newer, more shiny problem Dr. Laura brought to the table. In one broad stroke she went from racism to racial sensitivity. Evidently, one of the good doctor's pet peeves had been poked and she made damn sure it was her voice that was heard...

DR. LAURA: I think you have too much sensitivity...

CALLER: So it's okay to say "nig*er"?

DR. LAURA: ...and not enough sense of humor.

CALLER: It's okay to say that word?

DR. LAURA: It depends on how it's said.

CALLER: Is it okay to say that word? Is it ever okay to say that word?

DR. LAURA: It's... It depends how it's said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it's okay.

CALLER: But you're not black. They're not black. My husband is white.

DR. LAURA: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can't do much about that.

CALLER: I can't believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the "nig*er" word, and I hope everybody heard it.

DR. LAURA: I didn't spew out the "nig*er" word.

CALLER: You said, "nig*er, nig*er, nig*er."

DR. LAURA: Right, I said that's what you hear.

CALLER: Everybody heard it.

DR. LAURA: Yes, they did.

CALLER: I hope everybody heard it.

DR. LAURA: They did, and I'll say it again...

CALLER: So, what makes it okay for you to say the word?

DR. LAURA: ...nig*er, nig*er, nig*er.

I found this transcript on line exactly as written and I have to ask, what's with the asterisks? We all know what the word is. We're all saying it in our heads as we read the transcript. It's that incredibly divisive double-G, unlike jiggle or nugget which are jaunty words that are delightful to say, this double-G eviscerates, forcing us to face the grottiest of our country's history, and dare I say it, of ourselves. But an asterisk doesn't really give the pretension of softening the blow, does it? "The N-word" or "the N-bomb" do not take away the sting. do they? As misguidedly delivered as it was, could that have been Dr. Laura's philosophical point? After all, she didn't call anyone a racial epithet, she used the word as an example. Might it be better to face it in it's basest form rather than pretend it doesn't exist or bury it in in effigy as did the NAACP?

From time to time, Michael lets the N-word slide from his lips, never in front of the children, and always in an inclusive "my people" way, as the ladies from The View have co-opted "bitch" as a form of female empowerment, as I have used another insidious double-G, "faggot" within this very blog to call attention to or poke fun at my tribe.

Par exemple...

Michael and I invited group of friends over for drinks. We were sitting around talking about the recent death of Lorene Yarnell, half of the the well known mime duo Shields and Yarnell, of a brain aneurysm. Trying to top the rest of us, one friend in a faggoty TV anchor voice announced, "Lorene Yarnell went quietly into the night." This was met with an uncomfortable silence, until another friend chastised with the equally faggy, "Too soon."

I don't feel the least bit uncomfortable using faggot, or any of its derivations. However, if someone calls me faggot, or cocksucker, or if I may steal from Dr. Laura, "biological error" you'd better believe it would hurt. Of course, I'd get over it, but in that initial moment before the armor went up there would be, dare I say, a disquieting prick. And I'm pretty sure if I bumped into Joy Behar coming out of Carnegie Deli and espoused, "Hey bitch" I'd end up with a stiletto in the eye socket.

But maybe we're all too hypersensitive. Is that what you were trying to say, Dr. Laura? Do we all need to lighten up? At eleven years old, when my dad taught me to make his scotch and soda, I remember feeling oddly uncomfortable when he told me to pour a jigger of scotch. In 1999, David Howard, a white aide to Anthony A. Williams, the black mayor of Washington, D.C., had to tender his resignation when in reference to the budget he used the word niggardly. But perhaps, Dr. Laura, you're saying that's part of our past, that slavery was centuries ago, that we have a black president now, that race relations are strong and all of us are ready for an open discourse. Perhaps you think the asterisks are silly, that calling it "the N-word" is provincial. And maybe, just maybe that's why you spoke the word, Dr. Laura, why you spoke it out loud eleven times, perhaps that's why you said...



If I could put in my two cents, Dr. Laura... Too soon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Knee Jerk

"Roger, do you take Dave to be your lawfully wedded husband..."

It's hard to believe that those words could incite such fear and hatred. That there are those who see gay marriage as the onset of the Apocalypse. In my own little world, dissolving Prop 8 actually seems the natural course of things, however the same ruling has caused others to mutilate.

At the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, to which I have never been (something else to add to the bucket list) a sculpture of two grooms atop a wedding cake was vandalized. It was part of a group show called, "Some Assembly Required: Race, Gender and Globalization." The piece was created by artist Susan Tibbles, which is just a fun name to say, for a 2008 op-ed piece in the LA Times entitled Marriage Isn't the Half of It, by Nancy D. Polikoff. The museum's publicity coordinator recounted, "The two guys were unfortunately torn off and thrown about the gallery along with some other embellishments."

Embellishments aside, it must be difficult lashing out against the inevitable. Even our illustrious governor said yesterday, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Let the fags and dykes marry already." And this statement was a bit of a shocker since Schwarzenegger has previously vetoed two same-sex marriage bills, not to mention he was the named defendant in the Prop 8 law suit Judge Walker ruled on Wednesday. So, if Governor Terminator is readying marriage licences to read spouse and spouse, rather than husband and wife, well then, traditional marriage devotees might indeed feel like the quicksand is falling fast.

Ms. Tibbles, still fun, made an astute observation by posing the grooms on a cake of American dollars. Californians need to face a very strong reality. Our fair state is in the financial crapper. So, now that gays and lesbians can marry, think of the money that will fuel our economy. How much does even a modest wedding ceremony cost? Now, multiply that by fifty thousand. (I'm just pulling a number out of my ass here. But since there were eighteen thousand same-sex marriages in that four month window in 2008, I would imagine fifty thousand weddings would happen in the blink of a drag queen's false eyelash.) Think of how the service industry would boom. Think of the taxable income. Think of the teachers who could be rehired, the roads repaved. And then, the cherry of this matrimonial sundae, think of how forty-three percent of us will be throwing tons of money at getting the subsequent divorce.

So, let's stop destroying artwork (and no egging, TPing, tagging, keying or dewigging while you're at it) and if you must, direct your personal angst at a punching bag, a therapist's couch or Mel Gibson. Because destruction only leads to reparation. The art piece in question has been sent back to Ms. Tibbles, really a dilly of a name, for repairs, to be back on display before the show closes September 12th. And believe you me, homosexuals are as at least resilient as their plastic replicas.

Friday, August 6, 2010

An Improper Basis

Yesterday's front page of the Los Angeles Times blared, "Ban on gay marriage overturned." Now, don't get me wrong, I'm elated that Prop 8 was kicked in the nads. Well, maybe not elated, more like cautious. I couldn't quite revel like the thousands of other gays and lesbians who partied hard two night ago in West Hollywood, the Castro and the Little Caesar's in Pacoima. You see, I'm having a difficult time trusting Judge Walker's landmark ruling will hold, as I've had a difficult time trusting my legal marriage will remain, well, legal...I don't care what anyone says, it will always be a marriage.

All it takes these days is some Bible thumping organization, or Target trust fund baby, or a state like Utah to throw a gazillion dollars towards the appeal and we'll be right back at square one, or maybe, square negative seventy-eight, and my kids will be bastards once again.

I know, I know, it's an ugly word, bastards. But my children's fight has been my biggest fight all along. I demand we protect the security they've come to take for granted. Sebastian and Maxie were at our wedding. They were part of the ceremony. It's as much their marriage as it is Michael's and mine. How dare anyone spouting Christian beliefs or tea-bagging rhetoric try to remove that stability from their lives.

In an odd twist, yesterday's other top news story was that Bristol Palin once again called off her nuptials to her son's baby daddy, and sometimes Playgirl cheesecake, Levi Johnston. When the Wasilla teens made the surprising announcement that they were getting back together, most of use (let's be honest) did not think it would last. For me, the reasons for this breakup are inconsequential. What I find significant, is there is a high percentage of Americans who would have rather seen these adolescents give it the good ol' college try (did either of them even go to college?) even when threatening to besmirch the sacred institution of marriage, rather than allow filthy homosexuals the same opportunity.

A few jewels from the 136 page ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker....

"Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gays and lesbians."

"An improper basis..." Damn straight!

"The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without a reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples."

That's right, bitches, we are far from inferior!

"The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal."

Did you hear that, Meg Whitman, E-Q-U-A-L!

Thank you, Judge Walker. Of course, this ruling will be appealed and most likely Prop 8 will find itself before the Supreme Court. And maybe that's why I'm cautious, because this is not over by a long shot, as perhaps the saga of Bristol and Levi is not over. But for now, I might not be able to trust elation, however I will allow myself to bask...just a bit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Glittery Crap

Dear Store Owners and Kiosk Keepers,

I have endured brightly wrapped candy, promising explosions of sugary goodness, awaiting me and my two tykes at every grocery checkout. After exiting the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, I have suffered dragging my kids through the Pirates of the Caribbean store overstocked with overly priced and cheaply made swords, hooks and buccaneer hats. I've even pulled my children screaming from displays of Fruit Roll-Ups, Chips Ahoy and Lays Potato Chips after gymnastics and swimming. (BTW, gymnastics and swimming, why at a place of fitness do you insist on hawking sugar and empty calories to kids? Paging Michelle Obama!)

Now, this by no means, is an old practice. When I was eight my family vacationed in Hawaii, and we were in some store and I was seduced by foil-wrapped glimmer and the promise of minty goodness in the form of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum. I begged my father to buy me a pack. Because for some reason, it was very important at that particular moment, that I get what I wanted. But no matter how much I cajoled, he resolutely said no. This struck me as entirely unfair, because I clearly remember that I hardly ever asked for anything. (In retrospect, and now with kids of my own, I'm pretty sure I asked for crap all the time, but my memory is insistent and I will allow it to speak for itself.)

So, I stole the gum. And I got away with it. Or at least I thought I did. About a month after we returned home, my dad got a letter informing him that his eight year old son had stolen a pack of gum, and would we kindly remit ten cents at our earliest possible convenience.

Some back story...

I was born in Honolulu. Most folks assume my father must have been in the military because of my Hawaiian birth. But, no. Dad is part of that other prominent American institution of destruction and economic gain, real estate. My family is responsible for constructing one of the first hotels along Waikiki. I used to harvest a kernel of pride at the opening credits of Hawaii 5-0 as they quick-panned towards Diamond Head. If you have a discerning eye and don't blink you can just make out the silhouette of the Foster Tower Hotel. And that was home for the first nine months of my life, in the Foster Tower's penthouse.

Before you put me in the same category as Paris Hilton (although I do sometimes like running around without my knickers) know that this was a singular hotel, not a hotel chain. The Foster Tower is now condos and our family's connection to it long gone.

Anyway, on Oahu, my dad was (and I write this loosely) somewhat of a celebrity. His company had various holdings around the island. And our family picture would appear in the Honolulu newspaper whenever we would vacation there. So, when he got the letter in the mail about the lifted Wrigley's gum, I'm sure this wasn't regular procedure. Someone didn't want to embarrass my father publicly, and decided to use the long arm of the US Postal system to cushion the blow.

I remember running upstairs to my room and extracting a dime from my kiddie bank. But mostly I remember how shamed I felt when I handed the coin to my father. I'm sure it was that incident that kept me from entering the lucrative field of cat burglary.

But Store Owners and Kiosk Keepers, let me get back to you. I'd like to call a couple of you out by name...

How dare you Staples for having a tantalizing lollipop display! You sell office supplies! Lollipops should not be part of your purview. After returning home with printer cartridges and a ream of paper, you could have knocked me over with a staple remover when I deduced by the bulges from my kids' pockets that they had both committed lolly larceny.

Seasoned criminals! And they're only seven and four.

You probably want to point your toner-stained fingers with blame at my parenting skills. But I say, "Get thee behind me Staples!" It is you who are luring my little ones with luscious lickables, putting a lollipop display where a CD-ROM rack should be. Shame on you!

And before you start snickering Crocs Kiosk, know that I'm on your case as well. My children were immediately drawn to those drawers of plastic studs which one can buy to adorn your product. This prompted me to say, "No, we are not going to purchase overly priced doohickeys to decorate your already overly priced shoes." I have since found out that doohickey is not the technical term for a Croc stud. No, they have been given the unfortunate moniker jibbitz. But whether doohickey or jibbitz, three dollars for the face of Marge Simpson, really?

But even my threat, with a heavy innuendo of doomsday, could not stop my daughter from pocketing this gem:

What little girl wouldn't want to steal it? Hell, I want to steal it. It's brightly colored. It's heart shaped. And it's faceted like the Hope Diamond.

So, I did my job. I reprimanded them, returned the stolen booty with the kids in tow, and even said the obligatory, "I sure hope they don't call the police."

But now, Store Owners and Kiosk Keepers it's time for you to do your job and remove the glittery crap from their eye level.

Because kids are hardwired to steal. That's what they do. They are all, me, me...want, want, want...must have, must have, must have...with no sense of consequence. I realize you strategically place those items because soft parents often give in and buy this shit. But your practices have gotten so much more insidious. Products are shinier and more brightly colored. There are a thousand and one flavors and movie tie-ins. So, when there's a hard ass parent like me, who isn't inclined to indulge with geegaws and snicky-snacks, well, what recourse do my kids have but to steal.

Your stock holders might not appreciate moving the booty to an upper shelf, but parents all over this country would out and out praise you.

And I'm letting you know now, Staples, and Crocs and wicked grocery store chains, at some point one of my rugrats will steal something, and I'll take it from them, of course, but instead of wasting the gas and the time to return the bauble, Papa might just end up with a new jibbitz for his Crocs.

Put that in your lolly and suck it!