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Retraction

If you haven’t read my previous blog, you should read that first.

Jojo is a boy.

Mike went to Open House at Liam’s school last night and I received this text:

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I guess I’m not used to seeing little boys with high ponytails. I know guys where high ponytails these days. They also wear eyeliner and barrettes. It’s a free-for-all and I like it that way. Maybe that’s why I thought he was a girl. I pictured her with four older brothers and wearing their hand-me-downs and not caring about looking girlie. I liked her that way. But now I like him that way too. He’s probably the only five-year old boy at school with a high ponytail. Go Jojo!

I’ll close with a photo of David Beckham.

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Mondays with Liam and the other Jojo

I’ve written in the past about Thursdays being my morning with both boys, but I haven’t written about Mondays with Liam. I actually have both boys with me on Monday mornings, but their grandmother comes to take care of Finn at our house so it doesn’t matter if he wakes up or not. I don’t have to get him up, dressed, fed and ready to go anywhere. I only have to get Liam up, fed and ready for school. The difference between getting only one boy ready as opposed to two is like the difference between getting one boy ready and twenty.

I like Mondays with Liam. He usually wakes happy and on the rare occasion he’s grumpy, it never lasts. He eats the same breakfast every Monday morning; a fried egg sandwich with mayo, and he loves it. I’ve tried to switch things up on him, but then he says, “egg sandwich.” He’s easygoing and we never feel rushed.

I like my time with the boys better when Mike isn’t around. It’s totally fine when he is there, too, but they like me better when he’s not there. Perhaps it’s because of shared custody and him not being in their lives 100% of the time, but when they are with us, they can’t get enough of him. It’s only when he isn’t around that they take more notice of me. It’s not that they ignore me when we are all at home together, but they are much more affectionate with me when he’s not there. I don’t think he believes half the stuff I tell him that they do with me because he’s never there to witness it, except the time Liam said, “I love you,” to me and Mike burst into tears.

After our typical morning at home today we piled ourselves, his backpack, and my two bags full of all the stuff I schlep to work everyday and began the 7.4 mile drive to his school. I usually talk to Liam throughout the drive. With his limitations in communication, he doesn’t always talk back, but that doesn’t stop me from babbling to him.

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I park my car behind the school which means we have to walk a little bit of a distance where the path winds around a baseball field and then across the big playground to the Number 20 square where his special ed class meets before the bell rings. Teachers come out to their designated class squares when the first bell rings and the children follow him/her in a line to their classroom. I always wait for the teacher or her aid to come and get the kids. When he’s in my care, there needs to be a hand off.

Since about the second week of school, Liam has insisted that I carry him from the car to the square. He’s gained a few pounds since September and this task is becoming more and more difficult for me. I try to encourage him to walk, but he insists I “carry you.” I always say, “you want to carry me?” He lets me put him down when the big black cat is in the path so he can pet it, but then I have to pick him right back up. Despite the 40+ pounds of him and his backpack putting a strain on my back, I love the way he moves my hair from my shoulder so he can rest his head there. As soon as we are within 10 feet of the square, I put him down and he’s fine.

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Over the course of the school year, I’ve seen him blossom. He used to tuck himself right next to me until the teacher showed up. Now he ventures out to either go get a drink at the germ drinking fountain, or he goes to the wheelbarrow full of jump ropes and grabs one to play with. This morning was something different. He started walking through a bunch of other kids from different classes and walked straight up to a little girl in a bright green Ninja Turtles sweatshirt. If she hadn’t had a high ponytail, I might have thought she was a boy because there was nothing girlie about her. She took off running and Liam began to chase her. This happened over and over with some other little boys joining the chase, too.

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While I stood on the square watching Liam, one of his classmates (I should know his name) walked up and stood close to me with his back to me. This little boy has Down Syndrome. I put my hand on his shoulder and said “Hi.” He turned around to face me and put his arms around me so I put my arms around him. We stood like that for a few moments. Then he looked up and said, “Is Liam your little boy?” I said, “He’s kind of like my little boy. I live with Liam’s daddy and his daddy is my boyfriend.” He said, “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Just then the bell rang and Angie, Liam’s teacher’s aid, walked up. When Liam ran up, Angie said, “Liam, are you playing with Jojo?” He just grinned. I said to Angie, “Her name is Jojo?” Angie nodded. I squatted down to get eye level with Liam to say goodbye and said, “Of course her name is Jojo.” He looked right into my eyes and laughed.

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The Jesus Part

Another excerpt from the book with a working title of Cocaine or Jesus.

I walked into the apartment after a long commute from San Francisco during rush hour traffic. I was weary after spending the day working on the cold city streets pretending I was having a good time and not freezing to death. I had returned from modeling in Japan just a few weeks prior and the bookings back at home were coming in droves. This always happened when a local model returned from abroad. Your agent works hard for you. So and so is back in town.

My husband was stretched out on the couch in front of the television. He said, “Guess who I ran into today? Remember Gary?” before I could ask.
“From the band?” I asked. He nodded his head. I always liked Gary. He was a really nice guy during that brief time that he and Joe played together.
“How is he?” I asked, while walking toward the bedroom.
“He’s great. We talked for a long time,” he said. He paused briefly, then louder so I could hear him, “He invited me to church tomorrow.”
Puzzled, I called out from the bedroom, “Tomorrow is Wednesday.”

He went to church that next night. And then he went again on Friday night. And by Saturday he convinced this Catholic girl to go with him on Sunday morning. And then we went again on Sunday night, and by Monday morning I was fully indoctrinated into the cult known as the United Pentecostal Church.

Before Cult

Before Cult

After

During Cult

Crossing Paths

I like unexpected surprises. Good surprises, of course, but those little things that happen in your life that make you take notice. I also like to think about how our paths cross with one another. Coincidences? I like to think not. I had an unexpected surprise two Saturdays ago while working a wine club event at the winery where I normally work a regular 9-5er, Monday through Friday.

I’ve worked many weekend events in my almost five years of employment there and they are mostly enjoyable. I say mostly because you are working with the public and not everyone is nice, but really, most people are nice. The perk of working on a Saturday or Sunday is a comp day during the week so I always volunteer if I don’t have anything going on.

Anyway, my unexpected surprise came by way of the young man I was paired to work with at the Rosé of Pinot Noir station. He poured the wine and I served up a tart of salmon, goat cheese and leeks. Alex was also an employee at the winery, but he worked in the Tasting Room and we had only met a couple of times and really didn’t know each other. This may sound strange because we work at the same address, but those of us that work away from the part of the winery that the public visits might as well be in another town. Weeks will sometimes go by before I venture up to the other side of the property for one reason or another.

I said Alex “was” an employee of the the winery because within five minutes of our polite hellos and a discussion of who would do what at our station he told me that the following Thursday was his last day because he and his girlfriend, Ashley, are quitting their jobs and traveling the world for six years. WHAT?!!

In between our polite greetings and small talk to the attendees of the event, I had a million questions. And Alex was more than happy to tell me the story. I was thrilled to hear that they have a blog and Facebook page so I could follow their many adventures. Who doesn’t dream of being able to do something like this? And good for them for figuring out how to go for it!

What Alex doesn’t know is that the night before the event I was hanging out with Sarah who would also be working at a station. She was paired with a different employee. I said, “maybe one of us could trade and you and I could work together.” She agreed, but on the day of the event neither of us took the initiative, and I’m so glad we didn’t! I hang out with Sarah all the time. I think I know pretty much everything about her. But I knew nothing of Alex and would have missed that opportunity of getting to know him, even for just those few hours.

Here is a link to Alex and Ashley’s travel blog. And to their Facebook page. Check it out! Follow! Like!

Undeniable

The first time I laid eyes on my son Jarrod’s father, he was standing on a stage playing a guitar and singing into a microphone. I was completely captivated.

Fast forward to a 10-year old boy trying to teach himself how to play guitar with no encouragement whatsoever from his mother. In fact, I had hoped it was a passing phase. It most certainly was not. I’m slightly ashamed when I think of my indifference to my son wanting to play guitar back then. His father and I were no longer married, but his stepfather had an old acoustic laying around and from the moment that kid picked up the guitar, he never put it down.

To this day.

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In my own defense, I lived through the crazy years of his father playing in a band. We piled all the equipment into station wagons and caravaned all over the San Francisco Bay Area. They played one dive bar after another. Occasionally there was a good venue, but mostly these were places that had seen better days and didn’t care that I was underage, though I carried a fake ID just in case. We partied too much, we slept too little, and we made no money. So it was all of that that I wanted to keep him from.

But I couldn’t.

There is no doubt that there have been years of him partying too much, sleeping too little and not making much money from his music, but it’s nowhere near the same. I’m not sure why, but it just seemed dirtier, and reckless, and more volatile back then.

And so, not going to college wasn’t an option for him as long as I had anything to say about it, and I had plenty to say about it. Off he went to San Diego, and eventually so did the rest of the band he was in, but he graduated in four years. I felt my work was done (wink).

I didn’t come to love his music until he was almost through with school because I wasn’t really into death metal, but eventually that went away. The guys grew up, and so did their music.

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I’m grateful that Jarrod has figured out a way to balance the responsibility of being an adult with pursuing his passion. There was no denying the boy and his guitar.

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Here’s a link to some new stuff. Barefoot Girls is my favorite.

 

No good deed…

I am not a fan of people “walking” their dogs while they are on a bicycle. I realize there are certain breeds that need a ton of exercise who might benefit from running alongside a bike and that there are safe ways to do it, but mostly what I see are dogs panting and struggling to keep up. They aren’t happy with this form of exercise. They can’t pee, sniff flowers, or look up at you for reassurance in any unforeseen situation that might arise. Also, it’s dangerous.

Yesterday brought me almost face to face with a culprit. I was making a left turn at a very busy intersection on my way to the gym when I noticed a woman on a bike with TWO dogs on a leash. One was a good sized pitbull mix and the other was a puppy that looked just like the bigger one. She wasn’t riding. She was on the sidewalk straddling her bike with her feet on the ground trying to get them to move forward. Both dogs looked very confused. What the fuck?

While I sat there at the stoplight watching her struggle to control both dogs, my thoughts immediately went south. Idiot. What the hell is wrong with that woman? But right after those thoughts I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she bit off more than she could chew. Maybe there’s a reason she needs to get somewhere with those dogs and she has no car. Maybe she needs help.

Given that I had 20 minutes before my spin class, I decided to see if she needed help. I have a bike rack on my car and I could drive them all home. Or wherever. I made the left turn and parked my car on the side of the road and waited to see if she was coming in my direction. She managed to cross the street and started toward me on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. It took her at least five minutes to get close enough to me. While I sat there waiting on this busy stretch of road, I watched a runner go by them, which prompted the big dog to lunge at the runner. It seemed more out of curiosity than an aggressive move, but it was further evidence that she had no control of the dog. The puppy seemed to be limping and walking in circles completely clueless as to what it was supposed to be doing.

When she was almost up to my car, I got out, crossed the street and started walking toward her. There were about two car lengths between us, but I saw the big dog alert to me so I stopped.

“Do you need help?” I called.
Her tone and body language were immediately defensive, “What?!” I asked again if she needed help.
She yelled, “No, I’m not hurt!” We were competing with noisy traffic.
I said, “No, do you need help with your dogs? Do you need a ride?” I gestured toward my car.
“I don’t need any help. I’m training the puppy to walk with me on the bike.”

I held my tongue, which was hard, but there was a big dog staring at me and I wasn’t confident that she could or would hold onto it after I pissed her off with my rant. I walked across the street to my car mumbling all those initial thoughts I had.

April 7, 1955

My first husband would have turned 60 today if he were still alive. I thought of this on my drive to work this morning. 60. Wow. Joe and I would have been married 35 years this year if I hadn’t gotten the hell out of Dodge. I thought I would write about him on his birthday. On my lunch hour today I wrote four sad paragraphs and with the cursor at the end of the fourth paragraph, I put my finger on the backspace key and watched the letters disappear one by one.

That was easy to do. But I can’t delete that part of my life, nor would I want to. That union gave me the greatest gift of my life. My son. And though we were never meant to stay long in the journey that was Joe’s life, we were meant to pass through it. We were meant to step up onto the stage and have staring roles. We were in the second act, but by the third we were gone. We were meant to leave and find our own path, or journey, or a stage that only had room for two. It starred a young mother and her son.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of living between then and now, but that was our beginning. It was the beginning of life for me as an adult and it was the beginning of life itself for a baby boy. And so I honor that part today with this small mention, and a happy birthday, and a hope for continued restful peace.

 

 

 

Two Cats

Every morning I feed my cat. I talk softly to her while filling her bowl and then I set it down in front of her while she sits quietly on her round red rug. I feed her after we have risen from bed and walked together the dozen or so steps into the kitchen, where I start brewing my second cup of coffee because the first one was consumed while still in bed, delivered by my boyfriend a few minutes after my 6am alarm sounds. It’s my absolute favorite time of day.

I can’t recall a morning since I’ve had my cat that I didn’t wake up to her laying right next to me, her body under the covers usually stretched out the length of my left side, her head peaking out from the covers resting between my neck and shoulder. When the alarm sounds, I reach with my right arm to my bedside table and turn it off. She doesn’t move. We snuggle until the coffee arrives and then we just stay there for a little bit longer.

Every morning I feed another cat. I arrive at work, head to the kitchen to put my lunch away and fill my water bottle, walk to my office, turn on the lights and my computer and then fill a plastic bag with two heaping scoops of kibble from the big bag that sits behind my desk. I walk out of my office, up some steps to the crush pad, across the ramp where the trucks deliver grapes during harvest, and then down some other steps where a little house sits for the feral cats. They don’t really use the house, but it’s there if they need shelter and it’s in that house where I dump the food into a bowl made from the bottom of a large plastic Folgers coffee container.

As soon as I start down those steps I softly call, “Baby,” or “Momma,” or sometimes “Babymomma.” She’s not always there and I worry if I don’t see her for more than a couple days, but most of the time she comes running through the bushes and waits on the concrete ledge for me to put the food in the bowl and walk away. Then she eats. The other ferals stay out of sight until I’m gone. She has come to trust certain people.

These two cats are the mirror image of each other with eyes of gold and a splash of caramel from chin to chest. They share the same person, yet they no longer know each other. One is safe behind four walls, the other is in a constant state of alert. One loves scratches behind the ears and the other has never been touched by a human. But in their vastly different worlds, I think they are both happy. I know the one that lives with me is happy, and I sometimes spot the other with her guard down. Sometimes she is meandering through the vineyard and sometimes she is asleep in a sunny spot. I give them both updates on the other. “Your baby girl is doing fine,” I’ll say while I’m pouring kibble into the makeshift bowl, and then when I get home at night I say to the baby girl, “I saw your momma today.”

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It’s been a year!

House

J:  I invited Michael to co-blog with me for the second time in honor of Day 1 of 40 Days of Writing. Today is our one-year lease-iversary, which means our lease is up and we can move out if we want. It also means we have been cohabitating for one whole year and we still like each other. “Love” goes without saying. “Like” is very important when you are sharing a tiny house with a giant man and his two young boys.

M:  At first it was a bit like Peter Pan and the lost boys had moved into Wendy Darling’s nursery. But after a year of learning, careful negotiations and compromises, things are finally getting dialed in…I think. It might not be fair to say there have been compromises on both sides. She brought a house cat into my life. I brought three-year-old and five-year-old boys into hers. It would take the cat half its lifetime to inflict the destruction my boys unleash in the 45 minutes it takes me to fix dinner. Sure, I’ve made some good moves, like offering to pay for professional housecleaning twice a month and contributing a bit more to rent, but ultimately I find myself wringing my hands often and hoping she isn’t secretly searching Craigslist for some kind of sanctuary. Can I be charming enough to convince her this is all a good idea? Can anyone?! We just planted tomatoes last Sunday. I take commitments like that as a good omen.

J:  It was actually more like Shrek than Peter Pan, but he’s not the only one that wrings his hands on occasion. I sometimes wonder if the three of them would rather have a bachelor pad. I’m a bit of a clean freak. This doesn’t always bode well for this household. I try my best not drive the three of them crazy with following them around with a towel in my hand wiping every crumb left behind their wake. The twice monthly housekeeper was a very good move on his part. It’s true there is constant picking up, wiping down, and not a day goes by without dirty laundry, but knowing there’s a lovely lady named Irma coming every other Friday for a deep clean helps me to not sweat the small stuff. I admit it’s an internal battle within myself, but I’m hoping the boys might benefit from small doses of my craziness. After all, my own grown-up boy is very tidy and has impeccable manners.

M:  The other day Jodee shouted, “Finn! Stop eating your boogers!!” He just looked at her with an expression that said, “Lady, these are mine. You want some? You’ve got a perfectly good nose of your own. No one is stopping you,” and he just kept right on feasting. It should be noted that language is an issue in our house, in that the boys don’t really use it. They’ve both been diagnosed as being “on the spectrum.” On the bright side, they aren’t those kids who interrupt you with questions and horrible anecdotes every 11 seconds. On the other hand, it would be nice if Finn would eat food.

J:  When I first met these two tykes, Liam would eat very little and Finn ate whatever you put down in front of him. There’s been a shift. Liam now eats more than Mike and I together and Finn starves himself, though food is certainly entering his body as evidenced by his man-sized poops. Watching him pick and eat tiny shreds of parmesan cheese off the top of a plate of delicious pasta and then push the plate away is enough to make me want to pull my hair out. You start strategizing. “Maybe if we mix in the cheese so he can’t see it,” I say, while handing him a cheese stick. Meanwhile, Liam has eaten his entire plateful and is now finishing Finn’s.

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And yes, there is the autism thing, but these are two incredibly bright, adorable boys who have a whole village behind them. The situation does present it’s own set of challenges. It challenges everyone in our household in different ways and frustration does seep into our relationship on occasion, but what Mike and I have going for us is that we never hold back. We are two open books walking around that house, and ultimately we both want the same things for them. They come first. I knew that going into this.

M:  There is a key to making this all work: taking a break. Actually, not only is this the key to making it work, it’s the key to happiness and fulfillment as far as I’m concerned. It’s a universal truth that you never appreciate something more than when it’s gone. This is true of children, and it’s true of free time. So the fact that I give up my freedom for half of the week AND I give up the kids for the other half the week, means that I truly cherish my time with them as much as I cherish my time without them. There is nothing sweeter than seeing their little faces after two days, except maybe that first sip of wine alone with Jodee after they leave.

J:  Yes, what Mike said. This year has been a wild ride, full of wonderful highs, like Mike landing his dream job, and the lowest of lows, like Maeby almost dying. And there is the middle of the road stuff that makes up day to day living. Stuff like establishing schedules and routines for the boys, finding TV shows we both like because his favorites are science fiction fantasy and Glee, and mine are dark and twisted dramas and documentaries, finding music we BOTH like (Billy Joel works), splitting our expenses, sharing the cooking, and planting tomatoes. Yes, planting tomatoes.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Maeby.

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My First Escape

Another rough excerpt:

The neighborhood was familiar, though I had no idea whose house he just went into. I sat shivering in the passenger’s seat of the car. I pushed my skirt down over the big rip in my tights that exposed my left thigh. My shoes were gone, thrown out the window somewhere along the way to this house. I ran my left hand through my hair and gently pulled a handful away from head. For a moment, I stared at the tiny pieces of my scalp attached at the ends, and then, not wanting to drop it on the floor of my own car, I rolled my window down enough to toss it into the wind. I wanted to disappear into the wind. Instead, my tongue found my stinging, swollen upper lip. I tasted blood. The gash my tooth had opened from the smack to my face last night was open again. To this day, I have a scar.

My thoughts went to where he said he was going to take me, and what he was going to do to me. I’m going to die today. I don’t want to die.

I looked around the neighborhood. Though it was just before noon, it was deserted. I wondered how long it would take for him to buy more drugs. Should I leap from the car and take off running? Should I knock on someone’s door? What if no one is home? Would anyone be able to protect me from him? I was paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t move. He had hissed, “Don’t move,” before he left the car. I knew the minute I opened the door to run, he would walk out of that house. And then I saw them. Keys. He left the keys in the ignition. Without any hesitation, I climbed into the driver’s seat. I am not going to die today.

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