So Not Gay

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

At 12, Emily still debriefs me regarding the entire details of her day. 

Tonight, we lay in bed and she chatted merrily away about who said what to whom, who traded things at lunch and who was now friends ( or not friends) with whom.

She paused, and then asked, "Is there any other meanings for the word Gay?"

I looked at her. "Well, what do you mean? Besides what meanings do you mean?"

"Well, Angel told me that my hat was Gay..and I said "Do you mean my hat is Homosexual? Do you mean my hat is really Happy?" and she said "No, your hat is stupid" and I said "Well, than it isn't Gay because that isn't what Gay means."

I turned and stared into her beautiful deep brown eyes.

"I am so proud of you, you know. You are absolutely right. And using Gay as an insult is absolutely not Ok and Mommy is just so proud of you for standing up to Angel that my heart could burst."

I am raising an incredible woman. 

Death may take a Holiday, But Influenza does not

an oldie, but goodie, As I wrap, and shop and generally hold my head in my hands.  A "true from my life Tale, of Christmas 2007

'Twas the evening of Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except for Dawn Rouse;
The stockings were empty,the gifts all unwrapped,
The cookies were eaten, I had not yet napped;

My child finally nestled all snug in her bed,
The two hours of sleep she'd gotten finally messed with her head;
And Terrance in his skivvies, and me, feeling groovy,
Had just settled down to watch a bootleg movie,

When out in the hall there arose such a splatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Terrance was out cold, I was all by myself,
To deal with the issue that presented itself.

The moon on the breast of the newly puked vomit
Gave the lustre of pearls to the puddles upon it,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But my own puking child, covered toe to ear.

The fluid spew forth, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment she was getting quite sick.
More rapid than eagles the vomit, it came,
That I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Lysol! now, Pinesol! now, Bleach and Windex,
On, Comet! on Downey! And Thank God I bought another box of Tide!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now clean it up! Wash away! Wash away all!"

As dry heaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
My daughter sat before the toilet and cried.
And then, in a twinkling, I knew without doubt
That my evening would be fraught with effluvia all about .

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
More vomit flew out of her mouth with a bound.
She was wearing new jammies, picturing Hannah Montana,
which were now all tarnished with what looked like banana;

the bundle of toys she had flung on her floor,
Now looked as if they'd been involved in a gelatinous war.
Her eyes -- how they watered!! Her forehead all sweaty!
Her PJ's were covered, blankets, rugs and Poor Bitty.

Her droll little mouth was drawn up in an "O",
making it easier forthwith from the vomit to flow;
I leapt over puddles of still steaming puke
to reach my poor daughter and give no rebuke;

While trying quite hard not to step in the yak
I murmured kind words, held her hair, rubbed her back.
And where was my husband, I hear you all wonder,
A sleeping pill he'd taken had put him quite under;

Once finished, I started a nice steamy shower,
And pre pared her toothbrush with all of my power;
I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And stripped down her bed, rugs, stuffed animals, towels, sheets, pillowcases, dear god, you can't believe how much stuff she actually HIT with her vomit....

My daughter I fetched from the shower with care,
and dressed her in clean clothes and braided her hair,
Her temperature I took, it was 104.
I knew that I needed to also clean the floor,

And stuffing the laundry inside of the washer,
I found the kids motrin, a bucket and water.
I knew for a fact that I would not sleep that night,
so I cleaned up the floor, separated colors and whites.

My daughter was sick, there would be no sleep for me;
And indeed there was little, between the puke and the pee.
But I heard Influenza exclaim as it drove out of sight
"Got you Bitches! Enjoy your puke filled Christmas Night!"

* and still it continues- Day Two. Maybe sleep tonight?

Sometimes a peanut butter cup is just a peanut butter cup

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Terrance has been away since last Wednesday. Which means I have been single parenting since last then.

I honestly do not know how single parents do it. The constantness of  a 12 year old is exhausting.

To make matters MORE....Em had Thursday and Friday off, so she and I have had full on 24/7 togetherness since Wednesday afternoon.

I am wrecked. Exhausted, short on patience and wrung out. My throat is sore and I have a raging sinus headache. I don't sleep well when Terrance is away, so that means I don't fall asleep until about 3 a.m. or so, only to be woken by Rabbits, Cats and Child bright and early the next morning wanting food.

So when Terrance rolled in last night, I was grateful to see him.

So grateful that I walked out in the living room at about 10 p.m. and offered up part of my secret stash:

Me: "Hey - you want a peanut butter cup?"

Terrance: "What?"

Me: "Do you want a peanut butter cup?"

Terrance: "A peanut butter cup? Is that a code word for sex?"

Me: "NO. I am offering you a peanut butter cup - as in an actual peanut butter cup!"

Terrance: "Oh. Maybe we should make peanut butter cup our code word for sex."

Me: "NO, because when your daughter asks me for peanut butter cups, it will eternally ruin the joy of the peanut butter cup for me because it will be a code word for sex and will be said by my daughter and just Ewwww."

Terrance: "Ok."

Me: "So do you want a peanut butter cup -a REAL one?"

Terrance: "No, but I would like to have sex."

Me: "I give up."

Family farm

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My paternal grandparents were farmers, in Ohio.  As long as I knew my Grandmother Rouse, she was in a wheelchair. She had developed Multiple Sclerosis sometime around the time I was being born and I never remember her anywhere but in the wheelchair, in the front room of her house.

Even then, she was a comforting and gentle woman. She was fond of the grandchildren who ran through her house, yelling and making chaos as a houseful of grandchildren can. We rode ponies, we picked cucumbers and plums and generally ran wild in the hills of their farm.

There were a lot of grandchildren in the Rouse family. The five children produced in excess of 20 grandchildren, with my uncle Jack being the most prolific. I am pretty sure there may be a few unclaimed out in the world who belong in my paternal family line through Jackie.

I took photos of the farm, which has since been sold, when I went back to Ohio for my Maternal Grandmother's funeral. I walked, alone, around the buildings and barns. Even though it was February, the smell of tractor oil and old hay and long dead animals permeated the air.

I peeked into the windows, trying to see if anything had been left behind. I tried the door handles to see if the house was unlocked.

I wanted to see if my uncle Edwards name was still engraved in the window frames in the dining room, a left over from when he was a young boy and the origin of a story of my grandfathers rage at finding his youngest son carving the window frames he had made., and the whipping delivered after the discovery.

I wanted to see if I could see the space where my grandmothers tapestry of JFK hung was discolored. Or the spot where the picture of Jesus praying could be discerned. I wanted to smell the house and feel like 5 year old Dawn. Maybe I would even go into the basement, a place I had never gone past the top of the stairs for fear of what might be down there.

No, Nothing. No way in. So I wandered the grounds, looking, thinking, smelling.  A house my grandfather had built himself, at the corners of four counties so my grandmother could look out of each side of her house into a different place.

A place where I had climbed trees with swings and eaten plums after being warned that too many would make me sick. A place where I had wandered the gardens to find cucumbers to slice and place in vinegar for dinner, only to disturb sleeping garter snakes under wide leaves.  A place where I had ridden horses, bareback, through fields, or sat underneath old trusting ponies slapping horseflies before they could bite. A place where I fell in manure, and got caught up in barbed wire only to have my aunt wash the wounds with Mercurachrome...leading me to believe that the cure was much worse than the injury.

This was my family's farm, and to honor them I made a rug of my memories. A rug that will live in my house, and the house of my daughter and granddaughters so they can see what I saw.

Winter Kills

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I still have good days and bad days, although the bad days are blessedly fewer than earlier in the year they can still creep up and smack me down. This new medication is working well for me. I am no longer sleeping for 14 hours at night, only to fall back to sleep 2 hours after I wake up. Yes, the good days are claiming more of my time.

However, last night was a bad night.  A combination of a cold, stress and a wounded soul that was bleeding out into the void kept me awake for a majority of the night. Despite my melatonin tablets. Despite my Rescue remedy. When I did sleep, it was blurry sleep from which you woke startled and unsure of the surroundings. I find myself staring at the quilt on my wall, having no idea what it is until it slowly refocuses into something my brain recognizes.

I signed up to receive the reverb10 prompts at the beginning of December. I had no intention of writing on them, daily, but I was curious.

The prompt that came on the 5th was one that sliced into my very core: What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

Letting go is the hardest thing in the world for me. Despite years of therapy, despite years of a well honed rational voice which can balance and counterbalance issues, it is the things that I desire, the people that I love that I grasp more tightly. Thanks to an oldest child's point of view combined with sheer force of will to MAKE IT WORK, I have been known to be the last man standing on many a project or relationship. Long after everyone else has moved on, I remain among the ashes waiting for the resumption of normalcy.

I had a close friendship die this year. Die? Change? Suspend itself in amber waiting to be reanimated? I can't say for sure, except that it hurt me deeply. The more I tried to fix it, the deeper the gulf became, so that at the end when anger and pleading and crying and withdrawing and gift giving and promises and everything else I could think of hadn't worked, I found myself just sitting by the side of the relationship, puzzled and forlorn.

I suffer Beautifully. Exquisitely. I rend. I gnash, I weep.

I envy the ability of others to simply pick up and move on. Because it is not a skill I seem to possess, it can seem almost magical to me the way one can just get past the wreckage. I, on the other hand, linger over ever sliver of wood, every crack, every fissure. I create stories to make sense of what I see, regardless of if the stories are true or not. I need to make sense out of the senseless and these stories of How and Why and When soothe me.

In my child like view of the people of the world as either Friends ( and therefore people I love) and everyone else, there can be a wonderful directness. You are either part of my circle, my clan, my pack....or you are not.
If you are part of that circle, if I have accepted you as one of my own, then you are close to my heart. I open to you in a way that the rest of the world can not imagine, for I keep myself closed and at a distance publicly.

A lover once told me that when we were in bed, my face opened up. It became, he said, like the Promise of Summer.

But when it closed?

My winter can be colder and more brutal than Montreal in January, scrubbing every tender thing from the earth.

It is Winter now.

Fear the Patriarchy

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

So I am surfing ye olde interwebs while listening to my "remember the 80's" music channel - cause I loves me some Whitensake served side by side to Bronski Beat, when I head on over to CNN to catch up on the American news.

And read this little gem of a headline: More Education means more Faith in Marriage

Hmm. I am intrigued. Is this going to tell me that we highly educated folk are as superior as Glenn Beck is always telling us we think we are, and this is why we value marriage More?

Ok, you got me CNN. I will click thorough and read your news article.

Nearly instantly, I wish I hadn't. First of all, let's make sure we understand the definitions. Highly educated = 4 year degree.  Moderately educated = High school grad, and some college but no 4 year degree.  I assume that least educated = High school, but I wasn't able to suss that out from the article.

With each paragraph making me feel worse,it was this the 7th paragraph which sealed the ridiculousness of this report for me.

Ready? It was this:
The report cites an adherence to a "marriage mindset," which means religious attendance and faith in marriage is now a way of life for the highly educated.

BWHAHAHAHahahahahahah. Oh, my. So highly educated = religious attendance and faith in marriage?
What kind of magical thinking is being used in the design of this study. We do know that cause does not equal effect right?  That staying married does not equal faith in the god of your choice and religious attendance. That highly educated does not equal Staying married, and that each permutation of the equation is as ridiculous as the next.

The author, Bradley Wilcox, clearly has an agenda. That agenda includes Marriage between a Man and a Woman, with a fairly healthy dose of Christianity thrown in as a qualifier. Take a look at his publications list. See any noticeable trends? Religion, Religion and more Religion.

I like this next gem from the CNN article too:

"The retreat from marriage in Middle America means that all too many Americans will not be able to realize the American Dream," he said.

Wow, Brad. That is quite a stretch, eh.  Retreat from marriage kills the American dream? I bet it has to do with the damn gays and lesbians. I bet it is THEM who is robbing us of our American dream, and not a punitive social system that forces many of the "least educated" families to not  marry since it would out them over the income limits for services ranging from housing assistance, to food, to child care, to health care.

How about the exorbitant cost of a 4 year degree? Did that factor into your study? That with the gutting of the school grants (Pell grants) system that more Americans can't even think about affording to go to college?

Oh yes, here it is, Your heterosexual bias:

"On average, marriage plays a key role in securing the welfare of children," said Wilcox, who added that studies show "children are much more likely to thrive if they are raised in a married home with their own mother and father."
Studies also show that children are more likely to thrive in homes where parents ( and notice here that I don't exclude my gay and lesbian fellow parents and citizens) are in healthy relationships. Some studies even talk about the issue of family STABILITY, versus structure. So keep your moralizing to yourself. I can whip out as many studies as you to disprove every word you say.

I also really loved the last paragraph in which:
"He also called on society to do a better job of pointing out the advantages of marriage, particularly when it comes to having children."
Um, Brad? I don't know if you touched upon this in your sociological degree, but the World has been stressing the "advantages" of marriage to Women for the last 2000 years of recorded history.  Frequently, this has been "pointed out" on pain of death, regardless of a womans desire to be married. And I am not sure if you read up on the whole persecution/societal labeling and disapproval of women who bear children out of wedlock thing, but it was still going on well into the 1980's when I was a teenager, and girls who found themselves pregnant would disappear to special homes and be kept out of sight until after the blessed event.

Should I even try to get into the pre 1973 Roe V Wade estimated death rates of women seeking abortions for unwanted pregnancies? About 1.2 million women is estimated.  Want to guess how many of them were unmarried? I am going to bet 2/3rds of them.  And you know it was only in 1972 that we established the right of unmarried people to be given contraceptives, right?

I once wrote a pointed Blog in which I explained how research can be bent to serve just about anyone's agenda, using the discredited and retracted research about the link between autism and vaccines.

I know this because I am part of Your club, Brad.  The researchers of the world. The academics. I know the game and how it is played, so I know you do as well.

Therefore, I am calling you out for your clear bias against Women, your clear bias against Gay and Lesbian families, as well as your blatant promotion of Religion as some sort of glue that is going to save society. In my eyes, you are just another man wielding a stick of fear that parents are going to harm our children if we don't follow your rules, wrapped in religion and marriage. And you wonder why we may fear the patriarchy, Brad?

As far as I can see,  your version of the "American Dream" hasn't offered much of anything to a majority of our citizens. Perhaps the problem isn't marriage, but people like you telling us all how we should be living our lives.

I go to Rio

Monday, December 06, 2010

I had a completely new experience yesterday. Well, kind of completely new, in so much as I added an external participant in my previously "solo" endeavor.

I think that I have demonstrated that I am not a shy woman. What with my continuous and inadvertent breast flashing to half of New Hampshire, one would think that I would be perfectly comfortable and willing to do just about anything.

So I figured. What the hell. It was time to move to the professionals. Even with my Yoga, I was not able to contort into the positions it would require to do a bang up job.

I booked the Brazilian.

I mentally prepared for the Brazilian, much as I mentally prepare for the Pap Smear. Come on, I know you all do it. Are my legs shaved? Lotioned? Toes painted. God forbid we let our hoo-ha doctor see us with ashy legs and chipped toenails...not while they are eye to eye with our holy of holies ( Ha-Ha! a Pun!)

I took my ibuprofen prior to, as indicated by all the web sites on which I researched this procedure. This was to help with swelling and discomfort.I also gave myself a trim. I mean, yes, this was a professional, but there is no need to go in looking like I let everything go to hell.

I arrive and enter the spa. I maintain my air of casual aloofness. As if I expose my nether regions to strangers on a daily basis. That this is "no big deal".I announce to the thin, gorgeous receptionist that I am here for my "Brazilian". You know, me and the Brazilian? Old friends. Best Buddies.

I was escorted to the tastefully decorated waiting area, where I lounged on a chaise. I maintained my air of casual nonchalance. Why, I bet EVERYONE in this place has Brazilians!

The "Wax Professional" arrives. And speaks to me in French.

Fuck. Fuck, Fuckity, Fuck. I immediately tense up. I mumble, "Bon Jour, Hello" - which is my way of alerting all French speakers that I am not one of them. She smiles. She changes to English, heavily accented, but English.

Ok, remain calm. Be Cool. You can do this, Dawn.

I am escorted to a lovely room. And then the charade falls, the gig is up, the canary begins to sing. I am revealed as a Brazilian impostor. She asks "Have you had a Brazilian before?"

"Um, well no, well yes, I mean I have never had one done professionally, I've done them myself...but not very well, which is why I decided to just suck it up and have it done professionally, so I guess , kind of."

I stop myself. Hey-zeus, I am rambling. Her smile does not falter. She begins to explain the different versions of the Brazilian. The demi, the full, the front, the back. Do I want everything off? Do I want a strip left, a patch, a smiley face? Do I want the hair to remain on the lips, or all hair off the lips? I may have gone a little wild eyed at this juncture. Did she just ask me about my lips? Are we discussing my .....labia?

I smile.."Let's just do everything." Cause I can not discuss the benefits of hair on or off my "lips". I just can't. Not to mention that I am pretty sure I just agreed to bare my ass for internal waxing. But, I'm in it now. We might as well just go for the gusto.

Now. Here is where is gets REALLY funny.

She tells me to take off my skirt, but to leave my thong on. In my panic, I mishear her and assume that she wants me to take my underwear OFF and lay on the table. I mean, I don't want to seem prudish.

So I do it. I take everything off and lay down on the table. Midsection on, exposed. Trying to look as if I do this all the time.

And she sees me. In direct violation of her first order to keep my underwear ON, I am laying there panty free. She hesitates. She struggles for the question.
"You did not have any underwear on?"

I begin to ramble, apologizing at the same time. I thought you said..I didn't understand, I am SO SORRY. She hands me a paper thong, which I now most ungraciously try to wriggle my ass into, while still remaining in the prone "on the table" position.

I grow silent. I am the worst Brazilian wax client EVER. They are going to be talking about me in the "Spa break room" for ages: "And I told her to leave her underwear On, and when I came back she was laying there with her underwear OFF!"

The good news? My social shame had now made me forget what was about to happen next. I didn't even remember to tense up. For the waxing had begun.

It feels like what you expect. I had done this at home many times, so the sensation was not shocking. In fact, it was easier to take when you aren't doing it yourself - kind of like having someone else take out a splinter.

Until we got to the aforementioned "Lips". Wow. That was a unique pain. As I am not a "yeller", I merely got very wide eyed and took a very deep breath in. She was talking me through it, and was being quite soothing, but still! Ouch!

And here is my second tidbit of advice. In your "pre-wax" prep, Don't trim any hairs too short. For you will be rewarded for your effort by individual tweezing of these hairs which are not picked up by the wax. Each and Every One. And it will feel like an eternity.

By the time we got around to flipping over for the ass section of the waxing, I was filled with endorphins and way past caring. This chick had just spent 35 minutes staring, with a large powerful light, and Tweezers at my Mons Venus. My ass was not going to phase her in the least.

"Voila!", she announced. And we were done.

I got dressed, and exited the room. She met me at reception where I resisted the impulse to Hug her. I felt as if we had just been through battle, together. Instead, I shook her hand, and left her a hell of a good tip. And booked my next one.

Originally posted in October 17, 2006

Child Abuse is no Cartoon

Friday, December 03, 2010

I'm sorry Facebook Friends, I will not change my profile picture to show how much I hate child abuse.

Aside from the utterly counterintuitive plea to put a human face on child making my icon a cartoon, I don't need to put a human face to child abuse.

I was that face of child abuse.

When I grew up, I took care of children who had been abused by the adults who were supposed to love them. Deprived them of food and medical care, lived with known sexual predators, allowed the new babies father to beat up on the five year old child with another man....Oh yes, I know them all. Some overwhelmed, some addicted or addled, others just beaten down too far under the wheel of generational poverty or abuse to know a different life.

I read the files. I saw the court documents. I was screamed at by the parents who had been found to be guilty of these crimes when I refused to allow them to provide child care to other peoples children.  Not a cartoon character among them.

You want to help? Really?

Because it is going to involve sacrifice. Turning off your computers and getting out into your community, you are going to have to interact with other people who may make you very uncomfortable. You are going to have to do things like call in concerns to child protective service agencies, or maybe even offer to help a parent in a grocery store who looks overwhelmed instead of clucking to yourself under your breath.

You are going to have to offer up more of your salaries in taxes, so programs like WIC and food stamps, and school lunch programs can be expanded. You are going to have to vote for politicians who value quality early childhood education and care and high quality after school care so that parents who are working can know that their child is not home alone or on the street. You are going to have to subsidize higher salaries for the professionals who work in these programs so we know that the highest caliber of teachers are working with these children, because 7.50 an hour isn't much of a living wage.

How about donating money to your local fuel assistance program? Because it is hard to feel safe when you are freezing.

But you know all that, right? Cause you are so dedicated to stopping child abuse that you changed your facebook profile to a cartoon.

I am sure the abused children around the world will sleep easier tonight.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tomorrow is Parent Teacher Conference.

It is also the day I meet with the school psychologist and special education team who oversee Emily's IEP.

In many ways, one could assume that I am a pro at these meetings. I have been dancing this dance since she was  three years old and I asked for testing for her speech issues. Not to mention the whole multiple degrees in education thing.

The truth though? Is that I dread these meetings.

In past year, it was Emily's teacher that I disliked.  I dreaded having to sit in a room with her and listen to her talk about my child, whom we both know she didn't like. Well, to be fair she didn't like anybody who required her to put any effort into differentiated teaching, and my kid had the additional misfortune to have two parents who were educated about what Emily needed and prepared to be as loud a pair of advocates as ever befell this teacher.

I have no doubt that there was a celebratory drink and cigarette had by her the day she realized that we were insisting Emily be removed from her class.

Now that Emily has moved to a new classroom, this issue does not worry me. Her new teacher and I have met a number of times, both informally and more formally. We email, we send notes, we talk when I am in the school volunteering. I feel confident that she views Emily through a similar lens as her father and I view her.  Smart, Capable, Funny, Tenacious...but needing certain things in her learning environment modified in order for her to be successful.

No, it is the psychologist that I dread meeting this time.

The system in place for special education in Montreal is, quite frankly, abysmal. I can't speak for the French schools in the city, but the English schools? Just awful.

When I hand delivered Emily's IEP to the school when we arrived, I knew something was....Off. In the States everything is highly regulated, by law.  You have X number of days to assess, then X number of days to call a meeting of the team, then X number of days to implement.  Here? There is none of that.

In New Hampshire, Emily was receiving speech therapy, occupational therapy and specialized phonemic exercises. Here? I was told that the one speech therapist that is shared by the schools in my district would not have time to see my daughter. Besides, her issues were not nearly bad enough to warrant therapy. And Occupational Therapy?  After they stopped laughing, the answer was No.  When I asked about when the team would meet to discuss her IEP, I was told that someone would "read it" and "get back" to us.

Two years later, I finally got someone to talk to me about Emily's IEP when the school got a Resource coordinator.

It has taken me nearly two additional years to get the school district psychologist to see Emily. Two Years of calling in favors from people I know at McGill to get names of the right people to talk to, two years of writing letters to School District officials and government representatives.

In September, the school psychologist came in to "test" Emily.  Why? When her father and I have pointedly disavowed testing?

Sigh.  In Montreal, in addition to having a terrible special education system also has language laws.If we plan to apply for permanent residency ( which would give us health insurance...since we have been living here and playing taxes/filing income tax with Canada since 2006) then she would be forced into a French Immersion school.

Unless....Well, unless I prove to them that to be placed in French Immersion would be more detrimental to their system than is worth for them.  As in cost them far more money to service her special educational needs in French, in addition to all the other things.  If I can prove that, then and only then will they give me a waiver to keep her in English school. It's a game. A sick game of who has to pay and superiority of language and culture.

I hate that I have to play it. I hate that I even have to wade in the English versus French bullshit that goes on in this city. I hate that the English school system receives far less funding than the French schools which makes their special education systems even worse.

But I do it, because above all else, I must protect Emily's desire to learn. Above all else, I must make sure that she is in a place where she can learn. To do that, I have to wade into cultural issues that are far beyond my comprehension to fight for the right for my daughters education to remain in English.

This psychologist is a gatekeeper of that right, with her tests.

Tomorrow, I suit up again. My armor is a bit more battered from every battle survived and I am getting tired.
I must lock my mother love of my daughter away, far under the armor, so it can not be used against me or catch me unawares and expose my soft and vulnerable places.

Which remains, as always, Her.

My child. My External Soul.
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