You Push and I Pelt

Learning From How The Flowers Felt


2 Comments

The Start of My Family and Early Intervention

My Son and I –Kangaroo Hold–About One Month Old

In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU for short, babies like my son are called “25-weekers.” Babies get this name from being born extremely prematurely, at only 25 weeks gestation. My son was born weighing only one pound, four ounces in the middle of August 2015.

For 147 days, Joel lived in the NICU of two hospitals (Alta Bates in Berkeley and Children’s Hospital of Oakland (CHOO)), and I did too.

He required three blood transfusions. He endured intubation and a feeding line. He was poked by needles and prodded and invaded in his tiny isolette. So that his head wouldn’t be shaped like a toaster, as one nurse described it, he was turned every three hours in a world he wasn’t supposed to meet for another three months.

The nurses and doctors knew challenges were ahead. People who care for high-risk infants are well aware that premature babies face a mountain of health issues and developmental delays. Some go blind or deaf. But, not my son! I denied any possibility that he wasn’t going to grow up with a perfectly normal childhood to become the all-star captain of the football team and prom king. He still may be all of these things, but the nurses and doctors were right. His start was not smooth sailing, but I wasn’t ready to deal with what was coming next. I was so overwhelmed in the moment.

Living in a NICU is an emotional roller coaster. The first time I held my son skin-to-skin, the nurses had to do a dance with the tubes and wires just to lay him on my chest. Feeling him next to me was the happiest moment of my life. Minutes later he was ripped from me. His saturation was dropping. He was unable to breath. What followed was a real scene that looked familiar. I had watched dramas like this on shows like ER. Everyone on-call raced into our room. People pulled me out of it—I stood and watched through the doorway dazed, crying and in disbelief that my baby was dying in front of my eyes. The happiest moment of my life quickly turned into one of the worst. The medical director had to be called to re-intubate my son. After several attempts, he got the almost microscopic tube into the airway. My son stabilized. I had climbed and sped down that first hill on the coaster ride which was to come.

In a NICU, life and death are so close at hand. There is nothing normal about this environment. I cannot fathom how someone works there every day. My admiration for NICU nurses and doctors is too profound for words. At the very least, they are my heroes. They smiled for me through the harsh sterile smell of the soap, the meticulous record keeping, and my tears, feelings of guilt, shame, tiredness, confusion, anger, sadness, and all of my hopes and fears. Maybe they’re used to it. Every parent in the NICU is in emotional turmoil. I watched as some struggled with diagnoses they weren’t prepared to hear. I got choked up upon hearing that some mothers leave their babies there because the outside world with all its addictions, hustles and other terrible things calls to them; especially after the trauma of having a baby admitted to a NICU. I talked with some couples who couldn’t wait to go home, but had to wait until their babies didn’t de-sat for six minutes. I witnessed the nurses and parents of a baby mourn its death. I sat glued to the monitors so often that some nurses turned them away from me; trying to teach me to look at my son and the signs of desaturation his little body would show.

As months passed, I slowly came to terms with the fact that I was a new and first-time Mom at 44, with nothing but God, hope and a very sick baby. I had no home, no money, no assets, no car, no family, no friends, no nothing. I literally was starting from zero. The hospitals got the ball rolling because they need to get paid. Social workers applied for MediCal, and I got the aid that is wrapped in with this application. I also got referrals to the Regional Center of East Bay (RCEB). Assessments followed. My son qualified for all services: PT, OT, Speech and Early Intervention.

We lived in shelters and all over really: Oakland, Hayward, Brentwood, Pittsburg, Sacramento, LA and even a truck for a couple of nights. A year ago, we got “housed,” as it is called—through a project-based voucher at a decommissioned navy base that is being repurposed as housing for homeless people. As much as we moved around before getting the apartment, I did my best to stay in Alameda County. This is the place where our lives were saved. This was our new home.

Meeting the RCEB was empowering. My son’s therapy was nothing that I could have ever expected, which was to drive to a dingy office somewhere, leaf through an outdated Cosmo and sit in an uncomfortable chair as he would be ushered elsewhere while I waited for him to finish.

Home visits?

Caring about how I was doing?

Listening to my struggles?

This is EI?

At first I thought, this is some California, granola feel-good hooey. One day, they’ll discover I am on MediCal and the real therapy will begin—back to that dingy office with outdated magazines and uncomfortable chairs. But, that never happened. I met Program Managers who advocated for me, and some of my son’s therapists have become friends. These people catalyzed my return to confidence because they were on my side—on our side—on my new family’s side. I accepted that they really did care for me because I mattered as much as my son—because I am who my son has primarily.

Because of the work my son has done he is at parity with his peers on cognitive abilities. He sings and dances. He laughs and he cries. I love to hear his cry. For so long, he couldn’t cry. He could only breathe. He is three now, and he has come so far from being a fragile “25-weeker,” that I dare say he can now be called a poster child for the immense benefits of early intervention.


2 Comments

Sex Appeal and Beauty

Sex Appeal and Beauty

Sex Appeal and Beauty

When did beauty and sex appeal become intertwined?

It has been my experience that the two things do not go hand-in-hand, yet they usually are spoken about as if they were. I think about Jean Harlow, Mae West, Mick Jagger, Denis Leary who are all very sexy indeed, but not classically beautiful. Sometimes the disconnect between society’s definition of beauty and what is happening between one’s legs is explained in utter disbelief.  I would have more money for my laundry than I do if I had a nickel for every time I heard one of these phrases when a man couldn’t stop touching me or wanting to fuck me:


“Baby you are damn sexy.”

“It’s not one thing—you’ve got the whole package.”

“It’s your mind darling…Your mind is what turns me on.”

“It’s the connection I feel when I’m with you.”


Being the insecure cunt that I am, I usually ask men for further clarity in a bat-your-eyelashes kind of Sally Field ‘You like me, you really like me’ kind of way.  “What do you like about me specifically though?”  I unabashedly probe.

Inevitably, he sighs before grabbing my ass, tits or voraciously kissing my neck before explaining that my 43-year-old, overweight 5’4” frame is made of flesh he just cannot get enough of.  Then, I am held up in great esteem as the superior choice when compared to a model he shared his bed with the other week, the stripper he watched dance that night, or a young bartender with a perfect body that failed to keep his interest for very long.

“She just had nothing to say,” he explains.

I want to quip, “You cared about what she had to say?”

But, I hold back. Sarcasm and sheepish ego-satiating questions are like oil and water.

At first, I was sure every man was lying to me—assuaging my ego—telling me I was hot enough to fuck without blatantly lying, so that I would let my inhibitions down and he could do what he pleased, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There have been too many unrelated instances of men telling me the same exact thing for this tactic to be the truth and the truth to be fiction. With these examples, and my understanding of quantitative studies—that is when reproducible results in two or more experiments creates validity—leads me to think the guys were and are telling the truth.  I may not be Cosmopolitan material, but it seems most of my casual encounters result in an erection and a man who is not content with wham, bam thank you Mam.  I usually am called the next day or so. He wants me.  He misses me and wants to see more of me though sometimes he is unable to articulate why.

I think about my attraction to David Bowie as a teenager. By no stretch of the imagination was he the hottest rock start in the 80’s.  He was not the epitome of a beautiful man, and yet the way he moved, his odd lyrics that spoke to my soul and his confidence despite the awkwardness made my fingers and toes tingle. Just thinking about the men I’ve been attracted to–famous and personally–who would never be Calvin Klein’s choice for underwear model still can get my panties in a bunch.  The way my first love bit his bottom lip and ran his sterling silver ringed fingers through his thick dark auburn hair is one of the sexiest images I can muster, but he was not beautiful. The untouchable and deeply sad eyes of a young man I could only look at from afar in college haunts me to this day—sexy, but not beautiful. The lawn mower guy with a thick head of dark brown hair, green eyes and disinterest in me was more sexy than beautiful – though he was both as a young man.

As I get older, the text of a frustrated love interest is sexy to me. “Okay you win-I happen to miss you probably more than you miss me. Call me,” it vibes and reads.   He doesn’t want to like me at all, but he can’t help it, and he admits it. It’s funny and real and that’s sexy. He likes when we read together and talk about math and science.  He even likes my obstinacy and absolute insistence that I do things my way. The last thing he wants to do is let me in, but he does.

I think most men love and hate that I cannot be controlled or held down.  I have a mind of my own and it drives them crazy. They like my passion and how I move. My honesty takes some aback. They try to unravel how I can be vulnerable and pissed off that I am vulnerable at the same time. Is it the mystery they find sexy?

It may be rare when beauty and sex appeal mingle, but when it does it makes for superstar fireworks that we usually only see in movies: Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Grace Kelly, Robert Redford, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Melanie Griffith, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and I’m sure you have your own favorites.  Still, none could hold a candle to David Bowie for me when I was 18. It’s the whole package baby—the whole package. Now that I think about it some more, I might go so far as to say that sex appeal and beauty are like time’s arrow moving in one direction. In that phallic arrow, sex appeal can become beautiful, but beauty alone can never become sex appeal.  There is just no makeover for that one now is there?


Leave a comment

Unicorns, The Universe and Other SkillsWhat Are Patterns For?

unicorn-wallpaper-desktop-10
I suppose it all started when I decided to become a unicorn, which is a mythical creature that doesn’t exist except in the dreams of the middle class voyeurs of weekend erotica. My demands for my individuality drove my husband to the brink of insanity. His jealousy caused him, my sister and his (my matron of honor and self-proclaimed BFF) to try and 5150 me, which I learned without having to experience the act of being committed, is an attempt to declare me insane. Imagine that! A woman in 2014 who creates a virtual identity for her sexuality is a danger to herself or others.

When the police were called because I threw a wine glass at the wall, I grabbed whatever I could from the run down hotel room where all of this freedom was to begin and ran to hide. I knew I looked like the insane woman they claimed I was, for I had grabbed a shower curtain that had been packed up, a few books, my computer, of course, and my Birkenstocks. I had been betrayed by everyone I thought cared for me. It was not the first time I would fall to my knees that month and cry to God. “What the Hell am I supposed to be learning?” I cried it again and again. The crazy woman who collects cans for a living and channels the Dali Lama grabbed me and pulled me aside when I was hysterical. She told me that I’m not supposed to be in control. “Let it go…” she laughed at me. “Just let it all go…” Her hand flitted the words into the wind. But, how was I supposed to let it all go? I had my dogs, no job, no money, no direction, and I knew nobody who would help me. The universe was about to give me my first lesson.

The events that were to unfold from that night are stranger than fiction. Suffice it to say, I am writing this post from an apartment of an ex Israeli soldier who is a French chef and lover of Fellini and Kurosawa films. He drove two hours to pick me up in his Range Rover with no promises of anything. He cooked me dinner. He wanted to hold my hand and listen to opera with me. He is a poet and apparently a very load snorer. He has left me alone here to write. He has fallen asleep in his bed and I could rob him blind, but I won’t, for the universe gives me everything I need when I need it. I am in awe, and I am still learning. I’m still insistent on a few things.

I want to keep my dogs. I made a promise to them-the only living things to stand by me no matter what, so I won’t just drop them at a shelter to save my skin, or to be put in some shelter prison. This insistence has been met with outrage and disbelief. Still, they are fat, happy, sleeping soundly and were just groomed yesterday. Since I’ve been “in transition,” the eccentric name for homeless, my dogs and I are in better shape than we’ve been in years. How fucking funny.

I started with three dogs. A man I am fairly sure is a non-violent kind of crazy fell in love with one of them, Gracie, and kept her. I know she is safe with him, as they drive to Scottsdale Arizona in his BMW. She finally has the one owner who will love her like the princess she is. He told me that he was saving her from me, and I believed him. She needs him as he needs her. He will be her forever home. I still have my 11 year old Shepherd Husky, Jake and my little bitch of a min-pin, Bella. She is irreverent, intolerant, watchful, loyal and just like me, her attitude betrays her size. I have six bags of stuff-mostly clothes, this computer and my music. I still have no car, no job, no desire to work for another asshole ever again, but it seems I have everything I need. I do have the ability to write and post ads on Craig’s List, like my most recent ad, which reads as follows:

Any decent men?

Single female needs decent place to stay for about a month. I need to get my life in order without someone calling me names, or stealing from me. Are there any decent people out there? I can cook, clean and I have other skills too.

Join me on my adventure in LA. Fasten your seatbelts. I have a feeling it is going to be a bumpy ride.


Leave a comment

When Do Megabytes The Dust?

Grave Markers For The New Millennium

When our virtual persona outlive us what is the right thing to do with them? Should Facebook pages of the deceased become their grave markers? Will Facebook be haunted with virtual ghosts? Or, should our pages RIP with our other belongings?

We caution children about the content they post, explaining it can take on a life of its own. When we issue these warnings do we consider our own mortality? If asked, most of us would say that what we share online is a reflection of us-the lives we live outside of the virtual realm. Though we would be wise always to operate under the belief that nothing sent, published, tagged or posted will ever be a secret again, as humans, we likely do not always follow such a conservative protocol. It is difficult to always keep the fact that potential employers, love interests, neighbors, friends and enemies, will peek at our virtual selves and judge us on what they see. Although we want our online persona to show our best selves (for the most part) it is beyond our ability to consistently maintain awareness that everything we do online becomes a part of the public domain forever.

Now that Baby Boomers and GenXers have entered the second half of their lives, there are more stories about posthumous Facebook pages because we are finding that online personas have a power and life of their own.

Messages From Beyond

On a blustery Saturday in the winter of 2012, I received a message from my Facebook “friend.” I didn’t know she had died seven days earlier. I clicked on the little quote, but instead of a Happy Holidays wish, it was her sister, also a friend of mine and old college roommate, who was writing to me. Her message was a personal obituary for which I wished I had been warned. A flashing red message box might have prepared me. Pancreatic cancer had claimed her sister, and my Facebook friend. Formal services were held earlier that week.

“I thought you should know,” the message read. “I was going through her things, and saw you played Gardens of Time, but not until after the funeral.”

It was true – we played a few Facebook games together. She and I had reacquainted after more than 20 years apart. I gushed about Facebook reuniting people like us. Her house at the end of Main Street in my artsy, eclectic hometown was the center of all action back in the wild 80s of my youth. As a teen, I baby sat her children. I hung out at her pool nearly every summer day day between 1985 and 1988. She was elected as our driver when we saw Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason concert at the Vet in Philly. After graduation, I went to college, and from there started my adult life. I forgot about high school, my hometown and my friends from there for a while.

In 2012, I asked her “Would we have ever met up again without Facebook?” She said no. We shared brief messages like this before trading requests for items in the games we loved to play. “Please send me a present, so I can build my fountain?” I clicked and sent a request to her about four times a week. One or two days later, the gift was delivered to my inbox. This back and forth went on for a year, during which time she never mentioned the chemotherapy, radiation, nausea, sleepless nights, losing her hair, and the suffering she endured.

On June 26 2014, the news of another friend’s untimely demise shook me. I found out through a cryptic post on Facebook.

“Goodbye Marquis!” It read.

“Huh? Couldn’t be.” I thought as I punched out a rushed comment on my phone, hoping to quickly dismiss my suspicions.

“Sounds weird.” I wrote. “Did the Marquis finally go native to that giant Congo in the sky? Message me privately.” I referred to things only friends and readers of his would know. He had visited Africa and written a book about it, entitled “Going Native.” My high school friend’s message back was quick. It confirmed my worst fears.

“He died. Sad to say he hanged himself. I guess he always was the master of his own destiny, so in a crazy way, it makes sense. Hope you’re well.”

I wasn’t well though. I felt sick. He was only 55 and I hadn’t spoken to him or seen him in years. We weren’t even friends on Facebook, yet I felt as if I had lost someone really close. I felt guilty about not being there for him, strangely enough. He was one of those staples that towns like ours come to rely upon. He defined what was cool about us. He was well educated, irreverent by accident mostly, I think, and a living dichotomy. He was a writer, a junk man, a mower of lawns, a connoisseur of French cooking and wine and a country man who loved antiques, but who had lost everything he loved in this horrible economy.

“Damn. That’s really bad news.” I messaged back.

“Shitty eh? Sorry to have to tell you the hows of it all.”

The messages ended.

When Should Megabytes The Dust?

In 2012, I called a friend for advice.

“What are your thoughts about death and Facebook?” I asked him.

He told me about one of his friends who had died a year ago. “On his birthday and anniversary, this whole social circle pays homage on a Facebook page. They post that they miss him, and they share memories…maybe leave virtual flowers,” he described.

What do you do?” I asked.

“It’s all too strange for me. I don’t go,” he answered. “Too macabre!”

I contemplated Facebook pages as virtual shadows. I turned to my friends the poets for guidance. Has the digital age silenced death’s finality? Will social media give us more comfort as we grieve?

In Macbeth, Shakespeare wrote:

Out, out, brief candle!
 Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
 That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
 And then is heard no more. It is a tale
 Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
 Signifying nothing. — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Robert Frost’s last line in”Out Out,” which is inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, reads:

"And they, since they were not the one’s dead, turned to their affairs."

Will it be our friends and kin or the courts who will turn to our affairs once we are dead.  Who will decide for how long our sound, fury and megabytes shall live on Facebook?