Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chatty Chads, Catty Carters, and Others of those Persuasions

So it's official: I am a highly anxious individual. If my awful, twenty-five-year-long nail-biting habit did not give you a clue, then perhaps the fact that (if it is within reach of my foot) I tend to rock Elanah's car seat when she is NOT sitting in it. My nervousness is hard-wired, but was probably exacerbated by various experiences during my childhood. It cannot be blamed on the side-effects of drugs or serious childhood trauma; mostly, it's just my brain and its strange chemistry (although it is not that strange in the grand scheme of strange brain chemistries that roam about the earth).

Last night I was at a La Leche League meeting at Early Beginnings. I brought my sling with me, and at the end of the meeting was asking for a demonstration on how to use it because I just never felt comfortable with it or got the hang of it when Darah was a baby. She always seemed oddly positioned, and her head was hanging off my right hip. I even bumped it once or twice while vacuuming (sorry, Baby). I hardly used it because there was always some negative aspect that bothered me: the vulnerable head suspended in the air; the way the little body pressed up against my (usually multi-layered) also little body made us both hot and sweaty, even though I am not one to sweat; the way her legs and arms seemed scrunched up to the point of being straight-jacketed rather than wombed; and the way it strained my back in a manner similar to that caused by pregnancy. Plus, she seemed too long to be draped across me in the pea pod. That's what the sling looked like as Darah's long baby body lay in it and across the front of me. But somehow we got off-track in our use of the sling. We had more success with the Bjorn carrier, as it was less versatile and more simplistic in its appearance. That was mainly Sandy's carrier, though. I was determined to get used to the sling but I never did. Until last night, when I learned that I had been misguided in my attempts with Darah. Apparently you hike the baby over one shoulder, cross her legs and pop her into the sling with her head up on your chest (rather than down on your hip). Iye. So I carried Darah upside down a few times. Who can blame me? I watched the Baby Carrier (sling) video. I did what I was supposed to do. It just didn't work. Every baby needs a little time upside down (or, almost upside down); it did wonders for Darah - she still loves to be carried around the house upside down. Anyhow, it is not the mishap with the sling per se that reveals my nervous nature; it is the nervous way that I react to my mistakes that is revealing. I laugh a lot. I come from a family that laughs a lot. It feels good and calms me.

Usually I laugh when it's appropriate - over stupid mistakes I make, over stupid mistakes others make, over humorous events. But sometimes I laugh when I am scared. I suppose it is a coping mechanism that allows me to feel more comfortable with something uncomfortable. A wonderful therapist I was seeing in Buffalo in 2004 once asked me why I was smiling (and sometimes laughing) while I was talking about an experience in my life over which I felt deeply hurt. I wasn't sure why I was doing it, but I found it hard to stop doing it. It was so interesting to notice how often I do smile and laugh out of discomfort. In fact, as I recall, when I was in middle school I could not talk to a teacher without feeling like I was going to cry. I would fight that feeling by doing nervous laughing instead (much more socially acceptable, I suppose). Confrontation makes me want to cry, and so I fight it by smiling (and sometimes laughing). It is difficult for me to know how it began, or even exactly what it is that I am doing.  I distinctly remember standing in the living room at the duplex we lived in on Sunshine Drive when I was six or seven years old. My dad thought he caught me in some lie, but I wasn't lying and I wanted to be believed (or, if I was actually lying, I do not remember it that way). He thought that if he could get me to smile or laugh, that such an expression would reveal the act of lying: if I was telling the truth then I would remain serious. He still says to this day that I could not keep a lie and would start smiling when I was trying to lie. Which is probably true; I have a hard time keeping secrets...lies or otherwise: like when I was six or seven and I couldn't stand that I knew Santa wasn't real and Missy still believed. I had to "ruin" it for her, by saying over and over, "I know something you don't know. It's about Santa. And the Easter Bunny. And the Tooth Fairy. But I'm not allowed to tell," until she went to ask my parents herself. I can still picture her sitting on the bed with them as they broke the news to her. I just watched from the doorway. I was probably punished in some way, for being selfish and cruel for telling the truth. It still happens to me today: truth teller = insensitive, "bad guy."

I also had a model of confusing humor, because my father tends to be passive aggressive and say hurtful things in the poor guise of "humor." Like the time, last summer, when we were at the Buffalo Zoo and he randomly made a comment about Sandy's age to me - something like "Ohhhh, well we don't know if Sandy will be around for that." He was joking and smiling, but it was not funny. It was completely cruel and tasteless, in fact. Plus, it was out-of-context so it was clear that it was coming from some dark, mean, selfish place inside himself. Maybe he said it to hurt me because he was angry at me for something else, maybe he said it because he is having a so-called "mid-life crisis" over being a young grandfather and made himself feel better by making comments about Sandy's age. Well, I think I handled it well. Instead of pretending to laugh or brushing it off, I walked away for a minute to calm down. I really was crying behind my sunglasses and I did not want to start bawling so I sat on a bench, pregnant belly and all, and waited until I could speak without The Quiver. Then I went back to him and asked him why he made that joke. I said, "Dad, why would you say that to me? I don't understand why you would say something like that to me." He got the point, sort of, and said "I don't know, I was just trying to make a joke. I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry." Then I said, "Dad, think of it this way. I love Sandy. When you say something like that to me, I feel very hurt. That is a horrible thought for me. And then I think of Darah. Sandy is Darah's mom. If you ever said something like that in front of Darah I would be angry. If you say things like that in front of Darah about her mom then I won't let her be around you. Do you know how bad that would feel for a child to hear someone say something about their mom dying as a joke?" He acknowledged me and seemed like he might also start crying, so I walked away because I felt he got the point and I also felt the tears welling up again. My dad isn't a bad guy, but he has his own childhood issues that cause him to use humor as a passive aggressive way of dealing (obviously, indirectly) with uncomfortable emotions. Usually he is very funny, but sometimes he tries to use "humor" to disguise verbal aggression. So that was all to say that maybe my nervous smiling and laughter are the result, in part, of seeing him deal with his uncomfortable emotions that way.

Back to the story of the time my dad was trying to get me to admit to my lie with a smile. I remember trying SO hard not to smile because I was telling the truth and I knew that if I smiled he would think I was lying. But he was making monkey faces and it was reeeeeeally hard to keep a straight face. I felt so frustrated because I wanted to laugh AND I wanted to be believed. I was being put in a trap, too. Actually it probably can be compared to tactics that some lawyers might use when they are prosecuting a defendant (to make the defendant look like a liar) - maybe not monkey faces, but something else to underhandedly make the person look like a liar. I may or may not have been lying, but who can keep a straight face when someone is making outrageous monkey faces at them? Not me, and certainly not child/Jesby me.

The sling brought out that smiling, nervous side of me. I wouldn't have noticed it. I did as I usually do, and started rambling on and on about how the sling worried me because of this and that. But a friend, Julie, pointed out my state. She did it politely, she didn't say "But Jess is nuts" when the LLL leader suggested that the things that I was worrying about were not actually that worrisome. She just said, "But Jess is a Worry Wart." She was right and I agreed with her in my smiling, laughing, rambling, scattered manner.

Ah, there must be something about me and warts - we just make a great pair, or maybe my face resembles a wart. Maybe it's something about my love of crones and hags. Well, whichever. That's me, a wart. It brought me right back to the days I would sit on the sofa chair at my Nana and Papa's house, watching musicals, drinking my cherry soda ("pop") with a spoon because it reminded me of the "Spoon Full of Sugar" scene in which Mary Poppin's gives Jane and Michael their blue and red magic medicine in a metal spoon, and biting the hell out of my nails. My grandmother, Nana, called me "Her Little Wart." She called me a wart because, she said, she couldn't get rid of me. But I have also been called a Worry Wart by her and many others. So Julie was right, I am a wart of worry. I had to write this post because, as I was lying in bed last night, I remembered that Sandy recently called me a "Nervous Nellie." That was a new one to me. I don't know which is better - a wart or a Nellie. You decide. I thought it was funny, Sandy calling me a Nervous Nellie after all these years living with me - had she just realized this? And can't we somehow use my name? How about Jittery Jessy or NuttyJ? I think what Sandy said was, "Well you're a Nervous Nellie, aren't you?" Sandy could only have meant it in a loving, observant way, since her great grandmother (who she adored) was named Nellie, and I can imagine the name would bring back only the sweetest of emotions. I can't even recall what I was nervous about. Was it Darah's eating habits? Was the playroom a wreck? Was I thinking about how I hadn't dusted the basement in a while? Oh, I'm getting nervous just thinking about what it was I was nervous about. Just kidding. Frantic, perhaps. But not nervous. I guess I am a Nervous Worry Wart named Nellie. That's what the title of the book will be, anyway!

I also got to thinking about these names. Nervous Nellie, Chatty Cathy, Simple Simon, and the like. Where do they come from? Are there staples or can I just come up with my own as I please? Apathetic Andrea. Lonely Lauraine, Vindictive Vera. When we can come up with whatever we please, why is is that a few are so common and widespread? Why Nellie and not Natalie? Why Cathy and not Chad? Are these stereotypes, most often aimed at women? I have heard of Chatty Cathy but never of Simple Simon. I only managed to find him when I looked up Chatty Cathy.

Being the Nervous Nellie that I am, I cannot help but feel nervous that I am not exploring my nervousness enough in this blog entry. I imagine I could run a whole blog on nervousness. We could call it I can just, nervously, imagine all of the nervous activity the site would generate!

For those of you who want more of Nellie, just Google her:

Mmmm. I'm getting hungry. Nervous Nellie's Jams and Jellies. You can always trust a Nervous Nellie to worry day on end about her jams and jellies...

And now, a few fingernails and a cup of tea to go with my jellies.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lesbian Adoption : Adopting Our Daughters

I want to honor two occasions that are very dear to my heart: One, Adoption Day. Two, my seven year anniversary with Sandy.

On Friday, December 11th 2009, Sandy adopted Darah and Elanah. They are now legally her children. As part of the process, I also had to adopt my biological children. We are happy to have it completed. We will soon be receiving new birth certificates that list BOTH of our names as parents of Darah and Elanah.


On January 1st 2003, Sandy and I first became a couple. We have been together for seven full years and have been joined in unholy matrimony since February 2005. It is something I am quite proud to announce. We have lived together in two states and we have two children. I love being on this journey with her by my side. I am so grateful to have her in my life. In honor of my love for and commitment to Sandy, I want to share something I admire greatly about her. Sandy often tells me how she admires me for my boldness in being honest and being open about my lesbian sexuality. But I think it is much more rare and admirable that she lives in honesty about her person and sexuality. Sandy was born in 1954, a very different time from the year in which I was born (1984). Many of the lesbians that I know who are Sandy's age (and even 15 or 20 years younger) are closeted and dishonest about their sexuality. From the moment Sandy and I got together, she was very willing to be honest and open about our relationship with EVERYONE. She says that my honest spirit and good intentions inspired her to be courageous. While I think she was very touched and inspired by my decision to be honest about our relationship with the world, I think she already possessed the qualities necessary to join me in my pride. Many of the "older lesbian" that I know are not willing to be honest about their partnerships and sexualities. It's true, it drives me nuts (and not in a GOOD way). But it makes me appreciate Sandy and her courage all the more. It's always felt easy for me to be an OUT lesbian. Sandy, who may not have always found it easy, is much more impressive in her decision to be OUT of the closet. Not just peeking out of the closet, but with the majority of her body out in the open. Maybe I should learn to appreciate those who are IN the closet a little more, since it makes me feel all the more like a trailblazer. I like to think I would never be dishonest or secretive about my sexuality for a job or the like, but I have never lived in a time when my financial security and physical security were at serious risk. I like to think that I would be bold enough to take major risks in order to be myself, however I do realize that I would be MORE likely to do whatever I had to do to protect my children and wife. Many lesbians living in the U.S. today may perceive a major risk (for their job, for instance) that does not actually exist. I plan to be open and honest, just as I have always been, when I go out there to get a job outside the home someday. As I face what I will face, I will think of Mame on her roller-skates. Lace 'em up and roll right outta there!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Funny Things Kids Say

It's 2010, and Darah will turn two on January 13th. In honor of her second birthday and the New Year, here are some of the memorable things she has said and done:

"Eh-nah-nah cyin'. Ah need some boob." (She said this, emphasizing the last b in "boob," when Elanah was fussing in her crib.)

"Ah'm (I'm) haahpee (happy)." (She says this quite randomly, at times, and it is so sweet.)

"We'ah (We're) home. We'ah (We're) home. Ah (I) det (get) home Ah'm (I'm) home. Pay (Play) wih (with) toys." (This is what she exclaimed over and over when we got home at 11PM from a hellish drive through two blizzards - one in Erie, PA and the other in South Bend, Indiana. She hadn't been home for two weeks, and she was so happy to see all of her familiar surroundings. She clapped and hugged Darah bed and put her head on the things she missed.)

"Ah'm (I'm) tewin' (tellin') mah (my) mom." (This is what she said to my dad after he flipped her upside down in the air...We have no idea how or where she came up with this phrase.)

"Ah'm hunky (I'm hungry). I wan(t) beditz (her word for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Ah (I) eat food. I wan(t) pantakes (pancakes). I wan(t) take (cake)."

"Chihmunk. Ah tahkin' 'bout ih. No moh tahkin' 'bout ih. Nnnno moh tahkin' 'bout it." (She heard us talking about throwing away a plastic chipmunk from McDonald's, and came in, intervene. We ended up digging the chipmunk out of the garbage can. She can't stop talking about it, although we are not sure what, exactly, she is saying.)

"Ah top dat (I stop that). Ah sah no, no (You said no, no). Ah'm payin' at (I'm playing it)." (In reference to my disapproval over her attempt to press buttons on the DVD player)

"Baby seester. Ah det out. Ah det out ah ceeb (I get out of other words, get her out of the crib)."

"Ah sad. Ah say bah bye. Ah wanna do home." (Things she said when she was waiting for Mummy and Momma Si to return to Gramma Sue's from their trip to the Galleria Mall.)

"Ah don wike dis (I don't like this). Ah (You) said no. Ah (You) take it away. Ah top dat (You stop that). Ah'm sahwee (I'm sorry)." (She said this after I took the plate from her just before she would have dumped its contents on the rug.)

"A wady (lady) bug. Pih (pick) up ah wady (lady) bug. Pih up, Mah Si (Momma Si). Ah do hi (I say hi). Ah fow aht oh-way (You throw it away). Ah darbage (in garbage). Danks (thanks)."

"Wook ah dis (Look at this). Ah bwoke it ( I broke it.)  Ah doin' a take ih out dees (I'm taking these out). Hew awa da key-ans (Here are the crayons). Ah tans (The crayons...she has various pronunciations for crayons). I need open tee-an (I need open the she hands me a crayon with a wrapper that she wants me to peel back). Danks (Thanks)."

"Ah wipe ih ah tissue. I dotta wipe ih. I dotta wipe dis. I nee(d) ah tissue. Ah fow it away ih darbage. I nee(d) a wah cwof (washcloth), Mommy." (As she rubs the carpet with a dirty tissue.) "No, no. I doh away (It go away). Ah wat cwof (With wash cloth). Ah teen ih (I clean it). I tan (I can). Ah teen ah book (I clean the book)."

"Ah'n wan anysing (I don't want anything). Nope. Nope. Nope. Doh away. Doh away. (Go away)." (She often tells us to go away if we walk in the room and she is doing something she thinks we will not like...)

"Ah poop (I pooped)." (This is what she said when she passed gas a moment ago...a few weeks ago, when we were letting her air her diaper rash covered bum out, she did not say "ah poop" when she shot a mushy poop on the floor and ran right through it (heel in the poop) without a thought.)

"Wan tome too? Ah tome too? (Wanna come, too? You come, too?)" (This is what she said to me the other day, when she wanted me to go rock her in the gliderocker before her nap. Who could resist that offer?)

"Mommy? Mahmeeeeee? Maaaaahmee?" (Darah sometimes loses track of me and looks for me around the house. She will use various inflections for Mommy, sometimes the MAH is up and the MEE is down and sometimes the MAH is down and the MEE is up. Last night, Sandy and I awoke from a just-developed deep sleep to the sound of a distant "MAHmee." Darah must have jumped out of bed, half-asleep, and ran to the playroom to find me (which is where I usually am when she wakes up from her nap in the afternoon). It scared me to hear her calling for me and looking for me from a distance. I jumped right out of bed and met her in the family/living room (I first wrote "loving room"). She ran right into my arms. We were both relieved, I think. I popped her into bed with us and that is where she stayed for the rest of the night. She kicks the covers off of us and has the sweatiest head (it stinks when it sweats, oddly enough), but I really like cuddling up to and snuggling her. She is like a mini-heater. She will say, "I wan tuddle you. Wes snuggle." And now, whenever she wakes up, she runs to me and announces "Ah'm awate," and then proceeds to hand me her Da Duck and Zucky pacifier.)

While we were playing on the floor, we looked up at the ceiling (where often we see Asian Lady Beetles crawling about). I asked Darah, "Are there ladybugs on the ceiling?" to which she answered "No, ah don' see any up dare."

"Det off me. Det off ah me (Get off me. Get off of me)." She gets right to the point when she dislikes something. I am learning from her assertiveness and honesty.

"Ah'm sowee, ah need tow weenie. Ah need some towa weenie (I'm sorry. I need some tortellini)." She apologized for getting frustrated when we did not immediately jump up after she started demanding tortellini.

Here is what she announces after dinner: "Wahtin da teevee tahm (Watching the TV time)!"

And when she wants her socks off, it's "Ah need take em off. Take em off a me."

Darah usually likes it when I sing, but sometimes she gets annoyed (just as her Aunt Missy used to...). The other day she said after I tried singing a few songs -some original and some learned, "Top singin. Top singin ah Dimpy an Damma Sue. Ah top singin da banana phone sahng."

Dar's latest precious new behavior is an early form of protest. Lately, when I ask or tell her to do something she does not want to do, she looks down and then runs off to the bedroom bathroom. She sits down in the darkness on the floor, against the shower door. When I follow her in, I know exactly what she is going to say. "Darah, what are you doing?" And she says, "Ah'm saad (I'm sad)." It's very precious. We much prefer it to the first forms of protest she was showing...squeezing us, pinching our arms, hitting us (and by us, I mainly mean poor Sandy). She was reinforced for the "Sad Act" over winter break, when Aunt Missy frequently asked her, "Are you sad, Darah" in the hopes of seeing Darah's sad faces...which, I must admit, are extremely charming and cute.

"Ah! Ah hit dat ah puter. Ah hit a box ah knee. (Ah. I hit that on the computer. I hit the box with my knee)"

When I ask if she is coloring she says, "Ah tolorin. Ah wike aht. Ah wike it." When she is marching to the Frosty soundtrack, she announces, "Ah'm mahchin. Wook, Mommy, Ah marchin"

One of her favorite phrases: "Ah'm payin' toys."

"Ah wan tewetubbies"

 "Ah maybe ah-marrow (Maybe tomorrow)."

Darah is such a precious joy in our lives. We are so very grateful for the presence of her loving spirit in our lives. Happy birthday, Sweet Darahbean!!!