Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Second Thanksgiving

Mom, thrilled to be at her brother's house

Family schedules being what they were, we ended up having two Thanksgivings this year; one on Thursday at my in-laws' apartment in the city, and then a second feast on Friday, at my Uncle Walter & Aunt Eva's house on Long Island.

Mom and her brother, my Uncle Walter

Both of my cousins came in with their families and cooked up a storm. We sprang Mom from the nursing home and brought her over to Walt & Eva's house for the first time since her game-changing fall last May.

We cooked, ate, played, took a long walk in the woods, shot hoops and tossed frisbees at the local elementary school, and talked, and talked, and talked.


Mom sat with Eva (now completely bed-bound) for a long, long time, eating and talking and then finally dozing off together for a bit.


A lovely day.

Here are a few more pictures, and hopefully I will be back with more words soon.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Blues

Jim & Pat's beautiful table at Thanksgiving

It's another year of Thanksgiving finding me full of mixed emotions, aware that looking backwards and feeling sad is so much easier than looking forwards and feeling hopeful.

This was the first Thanksgiving since my parents moved back north that I did not spend with my Mother. We will be seeing her today when my family does their day-late Thanksgiving celebration on Long Island. But Thanksgiving proper was spent with my husband's family in the city, a small quiet dinner with just two families (and our nephew's lovely girlfriend).

They live up high in the sky, on the top floor of their tall apartment building, and from a south facing wall of windows there is a clear cityscape view with the Chrysler Building standing out, central to it all.

The Chrysler Building is deeply significant to my mother, her favorite building in the whole world. She loves art Deco and it is a supreme example of that architectural style.  Whenever we came to events at Jim & Pat's (and we have for many many occasions since I've joined my husband's family) my parents were always invited, and my mother always seated opposite this window where her view of the Chrysler Building would be unobstructed. And she never ceased to wonder, marvel at the view.

One thing my mother has never been accused of is being unappreciative, ungrateful. She would thank Jim and Pat profusely every time she came over, would spend much time looking out over the city she loved, watching the skyscape shift from day to night, giddy in her good fortune at being invited for such a view.

And last night, every time I looked out the window and watched the Chrysler Building shining back at me, the unbidden thought kept welling up: "Mom should be sitting here, seeing this. And she likely never again will."

Two years ago, the first Thanksgiving without my father and Dan's mother was flat out hard. Last year, still, there such a sense of missing people, of present ghosts.

Three years ago, Thanksgiving day was the last time my father ever entered my home, and it was clear, that day, he was fading fast.

And now my mother is slip sliding away too; though slowly, so very slowly.

This may be her last Thanksgiving. It may not. We spin the big wheel and see where the fates take us. Either way, we're along for a bumpy ride.

I hate striding into the holiday season hand in hand with this melancholia. I long for simple good cheer. But that's not how life sits with me right now.

So I strive to feel grateful for the little things, those shiny moments, amidst the gloaming.

Shortly we will pile into our ancient but still serviceable car, drive out to Long Island to pick up my mother and take her to family, to the heart and hearth of her brother's nearby home.

It won't be the Chrysler Building, but it will more than do.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Of Grandsons and Soccer Boys

My nephew Simon, Mom and me on Monday

I've got a mostly picture post for you here today (can't say "wordless" because when am I truly ever?) as we ramp up for Thanksgiving. No I'm not making a turkey, just some side dishes, but still, Jake has a mere half-day of school today, and we're in for yet another long weekend, so anything I need to get done for ME in the next four days has to be wrapped up today by noon.

So, the hot points of the week in image: Last weekend was the end of soccer, Ethan on Saturday and Jake on Sunday (And I am so grateful that we have wonderful Special Needs divisions of Soccer, Basketball and Baseball here in the city, so Jake can play whatever his brother does, too)...

Ethan played goalie for a quarter
Ethan, proud of his soccer trophy
Jake loves being a part of the game
Jake, proud of his soccer trophy
His favorite part? The spinning ball at the top.

And then, on Monday, my nephew Simon was in town with his girlfriend, Rachel. (Not to be confused with his sister Rachel. If this thing lasts - and I hope it does as she's smart and lovely - it's going to get complicated. Someone will need a nickname.) They live in LA and were doing the East Coast family tour for the holidays.

I drove them out to Long Island to see Mom (his grandmother). She was delighted to see Simon and meet Rachel. We sprung Mom from the home, took her out for lunch at a Japanese restaurant in town - something I like to do whenever I have a chance.

Afterwards, I drove her around town and we parked at the harbor dock so she could see the water and the boats. I love giving her new vistas, something my nature-loving mother gets so little of now that she is effectively immobilized.

Mom, tucking in to her bento box. She was always good with chopsticks.
Mom and her Grandson, Simon
Mom, happy to be with family

I was so happy to see Mom so happy. Can't wait 'til Friday when I bring her to her brother Walter's house for our day-late Thanksgiving Day celebration with all my cousins.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Making you laugh today

My husband - who is a big supporter of my writing - has been very busy, and just caught up on a couple of weeks of blog reading. "Good stuff, really good work you've been doing lately." he told me. Then added the caveat: "You might want to post something funny soon."

In other words, it's gotten a wee bit heavy around here lately. Can't argue with that. It's true. And while I do genuinely feel the need to lighten things up on the blog, I can also only work with what I've got, and I know I just don't have a funny post in me right now.

Fortunately for you, I have friends. Funny, funny friends. And it turns out that I, too, am funny when I'm yakking with them on social media (translation for my Luddite friends - murdering time on FaceBook and Twitter).

And one of these cyber-friends (just as real as so-called "real life" friends, don't you believe otherwise) has written a hysterically funny post on "Ways to make your next IEP awesome."

Yes, this is "awesome" with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Because IEP Meetings*? Well, the term "torturesome" comes up much more often than "awesome" -- unless you take these ideas to heart, because then you too could have the funniest IEP meeting ev-ah!

So, go! Read! My friend is Lexi Sweatpants and her blog is Mostly True Stuff.

The post: "Ways to make your next IEP awesome."

And if you look down to the bottom to see the crowd of bloggers who offered up suggestions for this post, who were part of the autism brain trust, as it were, you'll see my name listed. Two of them come from me. Whoo-hoo!

There's a third one I came up with that didn't make it on to the list, and I'll share it with you here, as a little bonus: "Wear an eye patch, and every time they look away switch it to the other eye."  You're welcome.

So go, visit Lexi and read all of the rest and get your laugh on. I promise I'll be funny again here, some time soon. (But probably not tomorrow when I'm telling you about bringing my nephew Simon and his girlfriend to see Mom today.)

*Note: If you don't know what an "IEP" is? (First off, consider yourself incredibly fortunate and know I envy you.) It stands for "Individual Education Plan" - and is basically the contract between the school district and the Special Ed student that spells out what is needed for the child to receive the "free and appropriate education" to which they are entitled as citizens of this nation.

It the sets educational goals for the student - both short term and long term. It specifies the classroom setting - inclusion or specialized classrooms; number of students and/or student-teacher ratios. It outlines the teaching methodologies, accommodations and additional therapies necessary to educate your child. And? It is legally binding.

If a miracle has occurred and you live in a school district that is truly seeking to do right by its needier students, this can be a wonderful thing; written as a true collaboration between the family and knowledgeable educators, creatively coming up with a great blueprint for your kid's education.

And if you have a Special Ed kid, and have sat through an annual IEP meeting, I will pause now for the laughter and/or tears to subside.

Because in 99.9% of the cases I know of, that is not the case, and it becomes instead a battleground wherein the family tries to get what their child needs written into it while the school district tries to eliminate as many services as possible and write the thing so vaguely that you have nothing to hold their feet to the fire with, when they fail to properly educate your child.

A bad IEP meeting resembles nothing so much as negotiations between the White House and the Kremlin at the height of the Cold War. It can get ugly and mean and above all ridiculous. You walk out of a bad IEP meeting ready to go to war because people who do not know your child are planning his education, not with his best interests in mind, but hell bent on their singular goal of saving the school district some money. At the expense of your child, who is just so much collateral damage.

And then you fantasize about doing some of the things listed in Lexi's post, instead of grinding your teeth while trying to smile and appear reasonable. 

OK, I'll shut up now, because I have clearly stopped being the least bit funny, and am at risk of turning into a giant buzz-kill. Mea culpa. Go read Lexi and laugh. G'night.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I am a Sandwiched Caregiver

Me, my boys and my parents, 2006

I used to think my blog title was self-evident... The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation. Maybe even a little too on the nose.

But apparently not. I still get asked questions. "Why are you squashed? What's that 'Sandwich Generation' thing mean?" And I feel shocked, and if I take a moment to think about it, a little saddened. I've been living the "Sandwich Generation" life for so long now, I forgot that it might be possible to not know.

It has been so many years that I've been simultaneously caregiving for two generations (and doing pretty much nothing but that) that I can barely remember the time when I had just myself to worry about and care for, cannot fathom what it would be like to be innocent of my intimate knowledge of sandwiching, to not constantly feel like the meat squashed in the middle of the family bread.

The "Sandwich Generation" is the catchphrase much used by the popular media to describe people like me, who held off on their childbearing until later in life. So when our parents become elderly and needed us to step in, instead of having older, adult children who can themselves help out, we have young children still at home, depending on us as well.

Thus we are "sandwiched" between caring for the two generations at once: our parents AND our children.

In my case, this is ever more so, as my parents were - quite unusually for THEIR generation - older parents themselves. My mother was nearly 38 when she had me, and I, nearly 42 when I had my boys. (I'll spare you the math, that makes me a 52 year-old with 10 year-old boys and a 90 year-old mother in my care.)

In February of 2005 my parents moved back to New York City from Sarasota Florida, where they had enjoyed an active, happy and lively retirement for nearly fifteen years. I'd had my boys in 2002, grandchildren they wanted to spend more time with. But the stresses of travel were affecting them so that every time they came up to see us, Dad ended up in the hospital. It was time.

The other, unspoken, but clear imperative was that my parents really needed to be cared for, both on a daily basis around things like meals and medicine, and on the larger scale, like bill paying, doctors appointments, and decision making in general. All of which they had been thoroughly failing to manage on their own.

So, although they had moved into a senior residence with meals and "recreation activities" provided on site, they were effectively in my care to oversee all aspects of their lives. And chauffeur and accompany them wherever they needed to go.

And yet, at that time, I also had toddlers, my two and a half year-old twin boys, one of whom was beyond a handful all on his own, having just been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

I would say a quintessential "sandwich" moment took place on Mothers Day in 2006. There were plans for us all to have a big luncheon together, along with my husband's family, which included his elderly mother, too. When I called my parents in the late morning to confirm that I would be picking them up in about an hour, my mother replied that they would have to beg off, as she didn't feel up to going out.

Further inquiry revealed that she was still in bed. Because she had fallen in the bathroom that morning at about 6 am. And, as she was in too much pain to walk afterward, she had crawled back to bed, where she intended to remain until she felt better. And could I maybe come see her tomorrow.

Um, no, Mom, I don't think so.

And thus I spent Mothers Day that year - yet only the fourth one of my life as a mother to that point - NOT with my darling boys, but with my parents in an emergency room. My poor mother had cracked her pelvis, a fact which it took them 10 hours to X-ray her and figure out, and then FINALLY knock her out with potent pain meds, so she could get some rest. My father and I were not so lucky, spending the night shuffling between the hard plastic chair at her bedside and the uncomfortable ER waiting room sofas.

One night, of many, many more - not my first, and hardly my last - in the ER with my parents; my husband putting our kids to bed on his own, waking them up in the morning and having to tell my sad, missing-me boys: "Mommy's still not here, she's taking care of Grandma / Grandpa at the hospital."  

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that this past year, my mother been on a steeply downward trajectory, clearly entering the endgame of her life, hastened by her fall in May, wherein she broke her hip badly.

That very nearly killed her, and it effectively ended any last remaining shreds of her independence. Confined now to a wheel chair, she has had to move into a nursing home for the level of care she needs.

My heart is broken on a near daily basis as her mental and physical deterioration both proceed apace. I am watching her fade before my eyes.

It is both different from and similar to what I went through with my father, when he passed away in March of 2010. There was a both rapid and excruciatingly slow three months of torturesome leavetaking involved in that. But he was home up until the very, very, very bitter end, when we brought him to hospice to better manage his pain.

And he had my mother by his side.

My mother, for years, has been fond of repeating the saying "Growing very old is not for sissies" at the end of her long list of complaints, ailments and discomforts, usually followed up by a resounding "This sucks!"

When I reply, in turn "But it beats the alternative..." she has always nodded her head in agreement and acknowledged "I suppose so."

But these days she is sometimes answering "I'm not so sure, I'm just so tired, so lonely, I don't really want to go on."

I comfort her as best I can. I hold her hand, remind her of the grandchildren she so loves, who want her to stick around.

"I'll try to make it to their Bar Mitzvahs." she declares; a date three years hence. It's her goal now, less ambitious than their college graduations she had once promised to attend. But maybe, possibly, just on the outside chance, attainable.

And with much luck she will still remember who they are, when she gets there.

(I would like to add that caregiving for your elderly parents is not for sissies either. But it too beats the alternative. By a landslide.)

If you are a caregiver or know a caregiver who needs support, please visit for much caregiving help and information. This is a very useful site, a resource that I wish I'd had as I took on my caregiving role with my parents.

I am a member of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving and Caresupport. November is NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH and I am helping to get the word out about elder care issues. All opinions/views expressed here are my own.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Fading

My mother was mostly very happy to see me today, but still, there were moments when the tears welled up, overtook her.

"I'm so lonely" she says. And I have nothing to offer. "I miss your father so much. He wasn't just my husband, he was my best friend." All I can do is hold her hand, murmur that I miss him too, pass her a tissue from the ever present box, to dry her tears.

Physically, she is in good shape; remarkably good shape for all she has been through and the state of her noisy, glitchy heart.

But I am losing her, bit by bit.

Moment to moment she is still herself, her eyes clear, her hand gripping mine in gratitude for my visit. We talk, we laugh.

And yet the dementia is visible everywhere. Her short term memory, bad for years, is now gone. Completely gone. And the long term memories are slip-sliding into the vast ocean of forgetfulness too.

I tell her of Simon's impending visit and instead of excited she looks quizzical. "Who is he again, now?"

"Your grandson." I tell her. "Bruce's son."

"Oh. How nice!"

And not two minutes later.

"Who is coming to see me?"

"Your grandson Simon." I call up his picture on my phone thinking that will help trigger memories.


"Oh, yes," she says, "such a handsome boy!"

But then after a mere moment, "Whose son is he again?"

And thus it comes.

The fading.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fired for Sure

"I. Need. To. Sleep!" growl-shouts Jacob when I go to wake him up this morning at O-dark-hundred. It's hard to get back on track after three day weekends, after school vacations - scheduled or unintentional like the week he just had off for Hurricane Sandy. But he's never been like this.

The whole morning, getting ready for school is filled with Jacob growling and sobbing and angry-crying and clenching his jaw, grit-grinding his teeth, overwhelmed by waves of frustration.

Besides this, his begging for more sleep, he is also demanding "My. Skittles!" a holdover from our struggles yesterday to curb the upwards spiraling trend of candy consumption in our house, engendered by the one-two punch of Halloween and hurricane.

"I'll get fired for sure!" he wails, his latest script - culled from Sponge-Bob - in response to any admonition I make, no matter how gentle.

Me: "Jake, please keep it down, everyone else is still sleeping. I know you're unhappy but you can't scream at 6 AM."

Jake: "Oh, no, I'll get fired for sure!" (cue sobbing)

And I am also pretty sure he doesn't know what "fired" means, afraid he has conflated it with the idea of things catching on literal fire - a frequent of occurrence on Sponge-Bob - and is somehow terrified of becoming actually torched, set aflame for his wrongdoings.

I repeat over and over that "being fired" means losing your job, and he doesn't have a job; that his only job is being my kid and he can never get fired from that. But I can see in his eyes it's just words washing over him, none of it sinking in. A conflagration of misunderstanding sweeping over all.

It breaks my heart when he is this unhappy. Shattered into a million glittery pieces. It breaks my heart that I get angry and frustrated with him, too, at these moments, watching the clock tick away knowing I have only so many minutes to get him dressed and fed, medicated and jacketed and downstairs, ready for the bus. Legally, they are allowed to wait for 3 minutes, and then they are required to speed off.

So I alternately scold and cajole, hug and hustle and DO get the kid on. the. damn. bus. 

And then after waving goodbye to my boy, still alternately crying and grimace-grinding, I come back inside to pick up the heart shards. And they cut deep, so deeply; yet another set of guilt lines, criss-crossing my invisibly battle-scarred arms.

Just Write

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Listen To Your Mother is back and badder than ever!

I've been sitting on this for a while, so it is with a great sigh of relief that I can finally shout out to the world: Listen to Your Mother is returning to NYC in 2013!

That's right, once again, this May, I will have the honor and privilege of producing the Listen to Your Mother show, here in New York City. I will again be working with the killer team of Director Amy Wilson and Associate Producer Holly Fink. And this year we will be joined by the lovely and talented Shari Simpson AKA Dusty of the blog Earth Mother just means I'm dusty.

If you're one of those really organized types, you'll want to save the date. This year we'll be performing the show on Mothers Day itself: May 12th, 2013, in the early evening.

If you don't know what all this is about? Here it is (in the words of Ann Imig who started this whole thing):

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER (LTYM) is a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother's Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish online, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities.

LTYM began with one show of local writers reading in Madison Wisconsin on Mother’s Day 2010.  The video of the show was posted online in its entirety, and so LTYM reached a global audience and garnered a huge response.

Bloggers across the country began asking to host LTYM in their home towns, and so in 2011 Ann took the project national with shows in 5 cities across the country. And then in 2012 it expanded to 10 cities - including New York City!

The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor.

Last year's show was amazing. I loved every minute of putting it on, from the auditions, to the rehearsals, to maintaining the local website, and all the hard work that went into making it happen. Working with Holly and Amy and Betsy was a dream. Our cast was an incredibly talented group of wonderful women (and one man) and I can't imagine a better one. And then of course there was the show itself, a highlight of my year.

And this year? (Drum roll, please) ... TWENTY-FOUR cities around the country! Yes, 24! Watch this lovely announcement video to see them all listed: Introducing Listen To Your Mother 2013!

And if there's one near you? You should definitely consider coming out to audition (it's a wonderful experience, whether you get cast or not) and most certainly go see the show, come May!

The production teams in each of these 24 cities will be announced soon (with 9 out of last year's 10 cities returning this year too), and I have to say I am bubbling over with excitement about how many of my dear blogging friends around the country are coming on board. This is some mad crazy talent pool here, and you will be thrilled when you read that list, too.

Watch for that announcement on the main Listen to Your Mother site next week. And in the days and weeks to come, more information about the shows around the country and right here in NYC will appear there too. Also please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for timely announcements.

And if you want to see what we were up to last year? Here's my post linking to the VIDEOS of both the NYC show and all the others as well: The LTYM Videos have Launched!

And also, because hey, it's MY blog, in case you haven't seen it yet, here's the video of me reading "Holding Hands" at the 2012 LTYM-NYC:

Stay tuned for more soon!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Democratic Process

Tuesday was a pretty intense day around here. Both kids off school again, after having been back for only ONE, after that unexpected week off for Hurricane Sandy. Ethan had homework to do for the first time in a week, and yes, that went about as well as expected.

And, of course, it was election day.

The boys and I had been out all morning at a movie-and-lunch birthday party followed by some errands. I had not yet had a chance to vote.

I had been hearing tales all day long of 45 minute waits to vote, and the idea of being trapped on a crowded line with both of my boys (who get along about as well as a pair of rock-em-sock-em robots) was unappealing to say the least.

In past years I have relished taking a kid with me into the booth to talk about voting with him and have him tip the switches and pull the big lever at the end. But I knew there would be no such satisfying conclusion to the process this time, as New York City had switched over from the old mechanical voting booths to electronic voting.

So I made the (wise, wise, wise) decision to leave the boys home with their dad while I went off to vote.

When I arrived at the public school that was my polling place (new this year, they had shuffled the districts yet again) I was greeted by a very disheartening scene: a line that stretched not only out the door, but also... around the corner... all the way down the whole block... around the next corner... and 3/4 of the way down THAT block.

The line at my polling place as I left, still 2+ hours

And, we were told, this was only the half of it. The line was just as long INSIDE the building, too.

Yes, it was going to be a two hour process to vote, with one hour of it waiting outside on a very cold day. (Thank goodness I'd worn my hat and gloves!)

But I didn't even think for a second about leaving and retuning home un-voted and defeated. Even though I may have skipped an occasional inconsequential year (nothing really to vote on besides judges running uncontested, etc.) I have voted in pretty much every election since I turned eighteen, and most certainly every presidential one.

And this one? Very important to me (see Tuesday's post: Obama, Obama, Obama). Even though New York State was certain to go to Obama without my one lone vote, I knew how important it was that his electoral college win be backed up by a win in the popular vote too, and there my vote absolutely did count.

So I resigned myself to waiting. Luckily, the moment I stepped into the line, an old friend from the neighborhood popped on right behind me. Our kids had gone to the same pre-school, and they used to live across the street from us, but all that had been quite some time ago, so we had years of catching up to do -- the perfect distraction from an otherwise potentially excruciating wait.

Thankfully, just about the time my nose and toes were starting to freeze up, our part of the line had snaked its way into the building. In the meantime, the woman behind us in line had joined into our conversation, a retired teacher with grown kids who had lived in the neighborhood for years and years.

Also, many other neighbors and friends old and new were spotted, saying hello as they walked back to join the end of line or offer their sympathies as they were joyfully exiting the building. All in all, there was quite a neighborly, community-like feeling bubbling up all around us, completely appropriate to the civic-minded venture that is voting.

While I was in line, a friend texted me, letting me know she had come to vote with her youngest child in tow, seen the line and fled, knowing it was melt-down worthy. She asked me to get the scoop on how late she could show up and still be able to vote, and that's when I found out the "On the line at 9" rule. I let her know if she was here and in line by 9 (when the polls closed in NY) she would get to vote, even if it took 2 hours (and it did).

So, after all that waiting, I have to say the electronic voting process seemed a little... anti-climactic. I missed those old mechanical voting booths with their heavy crimson curtains, smelling of metal and machine oil.

I had fond memories of going to vote with my mother for years and years of my childhood, feeling shocked at how different my school building looked when it was full of adults and voting machines instead of its usual cohort of kids. I had stood with her in those selfsame booths, tipped down the switches, pulled the big lever for her, heard that satisfying ker-CHUNK that let you know your vote counted, was being tallied.

I like voting booths. There is a feeling of hush inside them, of being sequestered from the world, making your choices in secrecy, then whoosh -- as your vote goes in, the curtains open. A perfect dramatic exit.

There was none of that in the new process. It's like taking a standardized test - you get a piece of printed paper to bubble in your choices on. A "privacy booth" is just a tiny high desk on wheels with three raised sides, white melamine, nothing booth-like about it. Then you walk to the other side of the room and a bored woman looks on as you stick your paper through a computer scanner and hand it off to her afterward. Your only satisfaction: the words "Ballot Registered" or some such pops up on the screen after "scanning."

"That's it?" I thought as I hesitated for a moment before walking away. I missed the sacred feeling inside those old booths something fierce; that sense of completion upon exiting them. But what's done is done, the world has moved on and so must I.

I stepped out into the even more chill evening, two hours after having arrived, and briskly walked the six blocks home. When I got home Dan was finally able to head off to his office, voting, himself, on the way.

So Dan was working late, and Jake went to bed his usual early time, as election results tip way too far on the abstract scales to hold his interest. But Ethan stayed up with me for some time glued to the TV set, watching MSNBC (the only channel that didn't make me stabby) as the results came trickling in.

He fell asleep on the sofa, his feet in my lap, about an hour before the decisive state - Ohio - dropped into the Obama camp and victory was nigh. I called Dan to let him know and we quietly cheered together by phone.

Watching Obama's acceptance speech, I was proud of my nation for choosing to stand by this man, who, though clearly a flawed human, like all politicians, I believe has his heart in the right place, and is in possession of a soul.

Which is further evidenced in this, much smaller, but equally heartfelt and moving speech he gave when he stopped by his Chicago campaign headquarters, unannounced, to thank his campaign workers:

Hoping you enjoyed your voting process, whatever the outcome meant to you. And now I'm done with politics for the bit, and will shortly be back to my regularly scheduled program of old people and autism...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama, Obama, Obama

(Hoping if I say it thrice, it will conjure him, like Beetlejuice, into continued existence.)
I am rarely political on my blog (saving those rants for my friends on Facebook), but Today is Election Day (and the first Presidential election since its inception), and this one is so important I just can't stay silent.

Let me be clear: A vote for Mr. Romney is a vote against women, against old people and against my family. The same for a vote for any Republican Senators or Congresspeople. Because the Republicans have consistently, for the last four years worked AGAINST to good of this nation and the American people, just so they could undermine Obama and win this election. People have suffered and DIED so that they could play politics. They shot down a very important aid bill for VETERANS.

Make no mistake: The Republicans wanted this nation in terrible shape today and they kneecapped everything Obama tried to do to help our nation emerge from the dangerous financial place irresponsible Republican policy had brought it to four years ago. 

I could go on and on, but I have been reading some brilliant words by others who have laid out why. so movingly, eloquently and in some cases surprisingly, I am just going to quote and link here from now on.

First off, from Avitable's Why I’m Voting For Barack Obama In The 2012 Presidential Election. I don't even know how to chose a quote here; his whole post is clear, concise, brilliant, heartfelt, and 100% on the mark... so this:

"Over the past four years, I have seen President Obama try to compromise and work with Congress to help this country, and I have seen his opponents act ignorantly and prevent him from accomplishing as much as he could, just because they are from a different political party. Who are these people that are so arrogant that they put their own ideology ahead of the desperate needs of the American people? When did the welfare of our own country become second to the aspirations of those in Washington?."

Then there's this: The Politics of Pressure Support  A very important post (please share EVERYWHERE) from a father whose child has grave medical issues and who, though a hardworking taxpaying member of America;s middle class was being ploughed under by his child's medical care costs and insurance companies who had capped their spending. Until "Obamacare" forced them to continue to pay the care this child needed instead of just lining their pockets more deeply. 

"Governor Romney has repeatedly promised that on his first day in office he will work to repeal Obamacare. Insurance companies will again be free to deny my family coverage for whatever reasons they see fit. The Ryan budget which Governor Romney plans to enact as president includes enormous cuts to Medicaid.  A vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket is a vote to completely destroy the financial security and medical safety of my child and family. If you are planning on voting for him I’m sure that you are doing it for other reasons but these will be the consequences of that decision. You may not like hearing it but it’s the truth. A vote for Romney/Ryan is a vote that will hurt hardworking Americans like me and my family." 

And then this article: Why I'm Voting to Re-Elect President Obama from a man who does not love Obama, not at all, but finds the alternative guy so wacko and deeply owned by and aligned with questionable people and organizations; so much so he feels it is the only vote possible...

"I watched the Republican primaries. I went to the debates. I saw long-settled assumptions about the nature of representative democracy thrown down and danced upon. I heard long-established axioms of the nature of a political commonwealth torn to shreds and thrown into the perfumed air. I saw people seriously arguing for an end to the social safety net, to any and all federal environmental regulations, to the concept of the progressive income tax, and to American participation in the United Nations, the latter on the grounds that a one-world government threatens our "liberty" with its insurance-friendly national health-care reform bill. I saw Rick Santorum base his entire foreign policy on the legend of the 12th Imam, and I saw Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann actually be front-runners for a while. I saw all of this and I knew that each one of them had a substantial constituency behind them within the party for everything they said, no matter how loopy."

Then there's this chart from this Forbes article: Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It's Barack Obama? revealing that Republicans actually OUTSPEND Democrats when in office.

 Not a typo. True. Please send this article to ever Republican you know!

Then there is this: The Eldercare Cliff. It's Coming. Are You Ready? an article that doesn't name names, but talks about voting for candidates that support eldercare - the elderly and those who care for them; talks about how important Medicaid is to the middle class, not just the poor. And you ALL know a vote for Romney is a vote against the safety net, including Medicare and Medicaid. A vote for Romney is a vote AGAINST old people. 

"One-third of Medicaid’s entire budget—almost $120 billion—is spent on long-term care services for frail elderly and younger people with a disability. Which means any of the proposed cuts in Medicaid will directly result in unpaid caregivers needing to take on the care of aging relatives, adult siblings or children who lose their coverage and services."

Finally, a bit of levity -- Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly/Serenity for the non-geek among you) with a very funny video about the whole thing - WATCH!

So share this with everyone you think needs to hear it. And go out and vote! (Or as my father used to quip: Vote early and vote often!)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Survivor Guilt

NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy hit New York City a week ago. The kids are back in school today. After a few days home, we were out and about in our Upper West Side neighborhood as if nothing had happened.

The only signs of anything being off or odd were all the big kids on the street in the middle of the day; a few more branches and leaves on the ground than on your average fall day; and the grocery stores looking sad with their half-stocked shelves.

And yet we were a little island of normal in a sea of despair and destruction.

So many of my friends sat in their cold, dark houses, cut off from the world, yearning for heat and light.

People lost homes, businesses, and lives.

A mother's young sons were ripped from her arms. Lost. (The family needs help paying for their funeral costs, please click HERE if you can give, even a little.)

And yet, here we sat, untouched, my biggest problem keeping a pair of jangly 10 year-old boys entertained and away from each others' throats.

It felt - it feels - surreal, odd. I feel uncomfortably disconnected. If I didn't have these children on my hands I would have tried to go out and do something to help the relief effort. But have them I did, 24/7, for a whole week.

My husband, a writer who can work from home as easily as anywhere, had many projects demanding his attention, deadlines to meet, and really no excuse to not work (we had lights, heat, food, internet). So he did. A lot.

So much human drama was unfolding all around us, I should have been electrified, writing away. But I wasn't. I wasn't writing a thing (facebook updates don't count).

I felt moved, horrified and numb at the same time.

The fact that this came at breakneck pace, right upon the heels of our very small, local tragedy (the Krim children's murder) just pushed me further out from my center, thunderstruck.

I feel scooped and hollow, yet vastly lucky and deeply guilty all at the same time. 

Today the children were back in school. But I still had no time to myself (train rides, surrounded by jabbering strangers don't count). I wanted to go to the Krim children's memorial service to support the family and gain some closure there, but other needs pressed: my mother. (Always my mother, these days.)

So I boarded a Long Island Railroad train today, as I had just before the storm, and went to spend the day with my mother, who has forgotten there ever was a storm, but was deeply happy to see me, as ever. (And evoking ever more guilt, as whatever I may have to give is not enough; she needs a companion, and that I just cannot be.)

She, who is now the eldest of her clan, was the one who first taught me the phrase "survivor guilt" when describing her own mother, my Grandma Dunia.

My grandmother was a difficult, gruff and mostly unloving woman. The eldest daughter of a large family in Eastern Europe who all stayed behind and vanished in the Holocaust, she was the sole adventurer, come to America. The sole survivor.

She would not talk about her family. She shut down her feelings. Her oft quoted retort to my mother - who had answered her question of "Why are you in therapy?" with "Because I'm not happy, Mom"... The classic: "Happy! So who's happy?"

Me, Mom & Grandma Dunia in 1974 (Mom was 52 = my age now!)
I fear there may be a passing down of this familial torch some day, as they say that siblings of kids with special needs often feel a form of survivor guilt, too, as they leave the family behind and march on with their lives.

I hope to spare Ethan that. But then again, it's impossible to truly control what emotional baggage we pass on to our children, can only hope it's knapsack-sized and not the whole damn steamer trunk.

Tomorrow morning we'll make cookies and bring them to Ethan's school for the traditional "Election Day Bake Sale" this year's profits going not to some school project but rather to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy; assuage our collective guilt with a little sugar.

For though our buildings may have been untouched, here, our hearts have been breached by this storm. And only by reaching out with our hands, and doing... something... anything... just a little baking, even, will we move forward, together, into the sun.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween in the blink of an eye

This year: Batman & a ninja
It was Halloween yesterday, a holiday that is usually a high point of our year. Jake starts talking about it over the summer. By September it comes up nearly every day. Jake loves pumpkins and Jack O' Lanterns and all things Halloween in that passionate and obsessive way that autistic kids can love things.

For Ethan it's about the costume and the candy (the CANDY!!!!!) and the fun with friends. But for Jake it's so much more. It's something really recognizable that helps him figure out the passage of time. Halloween time comes around every year, and every year it is more or less the same.

He loves seeing his superhero friends come to life and walk all around town. He loves ghosts and witches and black cats. "Oooooh scary!" he'll say, not the least bit scared.

Jacob IS Batman

Jake loves the decorated buildings, the Halloween pop-ups that sprout in empty storefronts; is disappointed when they disappear in a sudden poof come November 1st.

But this year? I must admit that Halloween 2012 was a bit of a wash. Between the tragedy last week and then the storm, with the fear and preparations; and then the destruction all around us, I admit I was in a bit of a daze, hardly entering the holiday spirit at all.

Jake & me, in my annual "throw on a hat & call myself a witch" costume
For years now I have been obsessively making Ethan's costumes by hand (I would have done so for Jake too, but he dearly loves the store-bought ones) but this year I just knew I didn't have it in me.

Between the pressures of caring for my mother in Long Island, being in the thick of the intense middle school application process for Ethan, it having taken a month to get Jake's schoolbus straightened out and being in the midst of our legal process to get his school paid for, plus about a dozen other things I'm not even going to go into, I am worn quite thin right now, stretched to near breaking point.

Something had to give, and that was the handmade costume. So be it.

And then there was Sandy.

We live in uptown Manhattan in New York City, which means on high, high ground, well above the surge and North of the dark zone, the blackout line. We live in the land of heat and light and screens and open stores and restaurants. But all around us are those in cold and darkness.


So our building held its annual Halloween party, for who could deny our children their fun, their pizza and candy, their rides in the spookily decorated elevators run by the Hulk and Blackbeard.


But it felt strange to be celebrating amidst so much destruction and tragedy.


And now it's over. Jake was so sad to come to the lobby today and find the decorations all taken down. "Where did Halloween go?" he asked. Where, indeed?

Hope your Halloweens were full of less mitigated fun and joy. (And now I'm going to steel another mini Heath Bar from Ethan's stash and call it a night)