Archive for January, 2009

The potty train is chugging along the track

January 31, 2009

We are in the midst of the potty “train.”  First of all let me just say that whoever invented the little potty should be shot. 

You know, the little potty, the one small toddlers use, get M&Ms for, get cheers of “you’re a big boy” and any other kudos you can imagine while the moms then take the little potty apart, dump the piss into the big potty, flush the big potty, run water in the bowl of the litttle potty, pour bleach or some other cleaner into the bowl of the little potty, wash, rinse, re-assemble.  Only by this time, the new big boy is hollering, “Bopple Jew” which we all know around this place as apple juice, and the entire process repeats itself.

It’s disgusting!  And I’ve only detailed the urine process.  #2 (I’m trying to be less vulgar here) is worse.  And the kid’s practicing learning the new skill so one doesn’t want to restrict liquids which makes for a whole lotta sticky – wet – attach itsef to the bowl of the little potty stuff that again, the moms get to deal with.

I’ve been begging for the last year for this child to potty train.  And here we are in the midst of success and it’s all I can do not to vomit.  (But I am so proud.)

It’s no wonder the kid is so confused.

A while back we bought him a train set – a knock off wooden Thomas set because the real Thomas sets cost a whole lot more than these mamas are willing to pay – and told him he could get a piece of the set every time he used the restroom “like a big boy.”  The kid is obsessed trains so we decided to use that as bribery motivation for a job well done.

So last Saturday Casey decided it was time to actually get a piece of the set.  And his manipulation of the mamas began immediately.  At first I though he had a urinary tract infection.  He had to go every 20 minutes.  And he’d just dribble a little, retrieve his train piece, go play in his room for a few minutes, announce he needed to go with the urgency expected when one is just learning to potty train.  We’d stop what we were doing, run into the living room (I know – that’s disgusting – but that’s where he wanted to set up his potty) and help him get all situated all for a little dribble which was sometimes not even enough to set off the “royal tune” which plays everytime the sensor at the bottom of the bowl get covered.  Yah, I know, parents who spend $40 on royal tune potty chairs are probably the ones who should be shot.  But we were desperate.  Ok.  Desperate. 

This kid was playing us.  And at the end of the weekend, he had almost a 1/4 of the train set. 

So we cut him off.  We announced that he would only  receive train pieces for going on the big potty.  This weekend we’re learning that he can make dribbles in the big potty just as easily as he can the little potty.  Its much less gross so I’m all for it, but the “potty train” is over 1/2 out of track and the trains as well as all the bigger pieces have all been claimed. 

When the potty train is gone, will the kid be potty trained? Or will we be heading to the local toy store?

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longest elevator ride ever

January 27, 2009

I took the local transit train into work the last 2 days.  This will be my daily routine in the coming weeks and months, but I’m still a transit newbie.  The last 2 days have felt like riding an elevator for 27 minutes twice per day.  The people are packed on tight but nobody looks at each other.  Instead of peering at the illuminated numbers as the elevator moves up and down, the people peer through you rather than at you.  They look out the window.  Above your head.  And they look at their feet.  Your feet. The ground.  And the awkwardness is compounded by the fact that you sit facing one another while you ignore the presence of the person in scrubs and the man in the hard hat right across from you and the woman sitting right up next to you reading pulp smut.  

If you offer a good morning or a hello or any other polite consideration, they look at you like you’re crazy, like the man panhandling in the free-zone.  They wonder what you want.  Its sad really that we are this disconnected from each other.

I considered giving the panhandler my lunch but then reconsidered.  I haven’t really made peace with myself over this particular issue.  Riley wants to give every homeless person he meets whatever money he has, not to mention an invite to be roommates.  I myself typically have boundaries.  Several years ago I was in a community session with the local homeless shelter and they handed out stacks of cards to give out to panhandlers.  The card read something like – “I have chosen to donate to the shelter rather than to people individually so that you might be able to have food, shelter, counseling, medical attention, and other services.  Please join us at the shelter.”  I handed them out for a time until I met a homeless person who told me about her treatment and the treatment of her husband and children at the shelter.  She told me how she could never see her busband because he was required to stay on the men’s side.  Anyway, she endured a lot of dehumanizing behavior sometimes by staff members.  I handed out a lot of dollars in the months after I met this woman.  But then I hear the other side.  Ugh.  I’m totally rambling, but what I am trying to say is that I still just don’t know how to react in this situation.  I had no money, but I’m not saying I’d give it if I did.  Anyway, the one stop after the free zone, the transit robo-cops jumped on board to check passes and the homeless man darted out the door at the same time avoiding a confrontation. 

Now this train has only one destination -the university –  and 90% of the people on the train have free transit cards because they are either students, faculty or staff at the university.  The train uses the same gas whether the man pays his share or not.  There were empty seats.  It was 17 degrees this morning and the man was simply warming up.  But our look THROUGH each other elevator etiquette is interrupted by the asking of the dollar – by the breaking of the silence – by the reminder that we aren’t as disconnected as we like to think. 

And I suppose the robo police know that if they let one man warm up outside of the free zone, there will be more.  And nobody wants – ticket-paying – (but not really ticket-paying riders, remember I said that most of us get a free pass to ride) riders to have to feel uncomfortable, actually have to consider whether to give a dollar or share a lunch.

I would say that I have never felt so disconnected from humanity as riding that train, but then I’d be forgetting the lunch I took today from 1 – 2, sitting alone in the cafeteria, looking through people pretending to read a book, wondering why I can’t just skip my lunch and leave work an hour early, but refusing to simply give my lunch up and eat at my desk no matter how uncomfortable the isolation of not knowing folks yet at the job, of eating alone, and riding the train alone makes me feel.

Last Month’s Q Column

January 23, 2009

I was asked to post my latest q column. A bit outdated now, but it was from mid-December. I’m too groggy from a head cold to write anything new and original anyway, so here goes..

It was the best of times; It was the worst of times

I’ve never been more proud of being a part of the LGBT community. I’ve also never been more disappointed. The coming together to protest in the wake of the passing of Proposition 8 astounded me. The handling of the No on 8 folks and their decision NOT to utilize LGBT people in their media strategy was unsettling. Calling on the LDS church to support basic protections for LGBT folks – protections they claim to support – was heroic. And the LDS church’s silence in regard to the Common Ground Initiative was not surprising. The renewal I felt after watching MILK was rejuvenating. The dismal showing at Equality Utah by parents to strategize about the adoption bill was unacceptable. I’ve been surprised and thrilled with the stepping up of straight allies in this struggle. And, I’ll admit it, the belief by some that I as a queer person can single-handedly destroy civilization and cause the obliteration of the nuclear family makes me feel powerful. In all of this, it is the racist and transphobic handling – by the national gay media around this entire movement – that I find unconscionable.

I believe there is value in bringing forth commonalities between and among oppressions as a way of finding common ground and as a way of understanding the power structures that keep us (all oppressed people) marginalized. But that, to me, is where the usefulness ends.

A useful argument might be, for example, illustrating that the same arguments that are being used now to deny LGBT folks rights were used historically to deny other marginalized groups similar rights. LGBT people today have heard the argument that allowing same sex couples to marry would fundamentally alter the institution of marriage and would subsequently destroy civilization. Dr. Robert Dabney, who was a theology professor in his day, when talking about women’s suffrage said, “What then, in the next place will be the effect of this fundamental change when it shall be established? The obvious answer is, that it will destroy Christianity and civilization in America.” He said this over 100 years ago.

A not so useful example would be the recent Advocate cover proclaiming “Gay is the new Black” and following that with, “The Last Great Civil Rights Struggle.” This cover sends the message that racial minorities have achieved equality, and it completely denies the existence and the struggle of transgender folks. For folks who bother to read the article there’s a tenuous balance of not claiming the only pain and injustice available in this country. But for the many who see the cover and don’t read the article there’s only this:
The stereotype that gays are white.
The non existence of transgender people and their lives.
The partitioning of oppressions rather than seeing the complex overlapping of our shared experiences.

The truth is that the white LGBT community has not shown up en masse to support causes of immigration, racial profiling, the achievement gap, and the numerous struggles people of color (gay and straight) deal with on a daily basis. The mainstream LGBT movement in many ways, in many places, is still like the early women’s movement. It is not a vast coalition of social justice minded folks who want equality for ALL. Many white gay folks have not analyzed nor even acknowledged the impact white privilege has had on their lives and many are truly not allies to the struggles of people of color in this country. Similarly, many queer folks rattle of “LGBT” without any real regard for the T. GenderPac just released their 70 under 30 Report. 70 gender non conforming people under the age of 30 who were murdered – victims of hate crimes. This report shows just how dangerous it is for gender-nonconforming young people in this country especially for young people of color. While so many of us are (rightly so) worried about marriage equality, there are still so many pressing problems within our community. Problems of drug and alcohol addiction, youth homelessness, hate crimes, in Utah we still do not have workplace or familial protections. Let’s keep the involvement alive, but let’s not base it all on marriage.

For the people who do bother to read the article in the Advocate there’s one very problematic statement amid the tenuous balancing act. The author asks why this movement doesn’t have a “Martin Luther King Jr., a telegenic brilliant spokesperson to whom all of America can relate?” What’s the problem? My movement does have a Martin Luther King Jr. His name is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King’s dream was for all of us. Is your dream for him?

a blubbering gushing snot factory

January 20, 2009

I’m sick.

It’s my birthday and I’m sick.

It’s Inauguration Day and I’m sick.

Not wanting to share these germs far and wide, I watched Barack H. Obama (notice how he’s become a middle initial guy) take the presidential oath  of office while snuggling into my new electric blanket (happy birthday to me) right on this very couch. 

Where I listened to the words of the 44th President of the United States and I bawled my eyes out.  See, I’ve always been one whose been moved by talk of liberty and justice.  For years I couldn’t accept that my country was flawed, that the Forebearers dream was a limited dream whose scope covered only straight white male landowners.  I took on the failures of women, the failures of the working class, and the failures of queers as my own personal failures.  I once believed that this country – the USA – was divinely inspired – and that we were truly free.  As I came to understand the myth of meritocracy, as I came to understand the impact of oppression on the lives of citizens of the United States, when the cognitive dissonence won out over the rhetoric, I still held on to the ideals of freedom.  I looked forward to a time when what we say we are really is.  As I came to understand the falsehoods of this rhetoric, as I came to understand the history of slavery, of suffrage, of Internment Camps and Reservations, I still believed that we had to work for the day that our lives would mirror that which we were told we had.  I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance, but I never stopped yearning for it. 

And that yearning came dribbling out today as the snot and tears gushed down my face for 2 hours as if I were repeatedly watching the ending of Savannah Smiles or reading the last chapter of Flowers for Algernon.  The hope streamed down my cheeks where I swiped at it with my shirt sleeves and gathered it up with my tissue.

In the emotional perfection for me that was the Inauguration this morning, I still can’t shake the doubts that keep popping up in my head.  I’ve never given so much hope and belief and allegiance to a public official.  And even as I do, I fear being let down.  What if he faces the same fate as revolutionaries before him?  What if somehow Secret Service cannot keep him safe?  What if he hands the gays only crumbs?  And while he’s passing out crumbs, what if that is all any of us get?  And, I want to give credit for what an amazing step forward this day is, but I worry – what if his presidency becomes “proof” of the culmination of Dr. King’s dream?  What if racial justice actually takes a step back because our proof of overcoming slavery and inequality is embodied in that great man standing up there today?  There are people already saying such.

I’m optimistic.  I’m hopeful.  And I am ready for this change.

A view of the Wasatch

January 17, 2009

This is the view from outside my front yard tonight near sunset.  The fuzzy foggy – as if looking through a cataract – smudge above the road and the bench (the foothills) is the Wasatch range.  The towering amazing mountains have been reduced to the fuzzy blur you’re seeing because of the inversion.  And more specifically because of all the pollution trapped in the valley due to the inversion. 

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My eyes have been watering for 2 days.  My nose is itchy.  Casey says his throat feels funny.  Kim’s been coughing.  Riley is wheezing.  We’re breating this filth.  We’re breathing in this filth, this filth.  We’re being smothered in our own fumes.  And.  We.  Do.  Nothing. 

My health.  The health of my family is at stake. The boys and I are getting in the car in the morning and driving out to Roosevelt.  Just.  To.  Breathe.

If you are unfamiliar with the inversion, check out this site:   http://utahpictures.com/Temperature_Inversion_Grandeur.php  This guy has taken some amazing pictures of the polluted valley from the pristine mountains above the waste.  I’ll try to write from dialup land, but if not, Monday.  Really.  I mean it.  I’ll write Monday.

in retrospect…

January 10, 2009

I found our old “film” camera a couple of months ago and I took the last few shots on it.  Neither Kim nor I could remember what pictures were on the camera but I decided to get the film processed and see what surprises awaited.  I finally got around to getting the pictures picked up and it amazed me the memories locked in that cannister. 

Most of the photos were over 3 years old.  They began as Riley’s 4th birthday party.  There were a few of Christmas.  And then a couple of Casey as a baby.  It was so amazing to go back in time.  I gushed with happiness.  I stood there in the line at Target and weeped at the photos of Riley when he was 4.  His hair was so curly and vibrant.  His smile was so carefree.  His activity was just part of him at that time.  There was no diagnosis.  And in retrospect, the activity doesn’t seem to have been so bad. 

Sometime between then and now, Riley took on the anxieties of the world.  But then…he was carefree.  He was everything rockstars.  He was guitars and drums.  He was so patient with me being tired as I was pregnant with Casey.  He gave me back massages with his little 4 year old hands.  And foot massages too.  And he couldn’t wait to be a big brother.  This time is past.  And I look back on it so fondly.  But I know myself well enough to know that I probably didn’t enjoy every smile as much as I should have.  I probably complained about the pregnancy symptoms too much.  And I know I was tired, and unsatisfied in my job.  I know all that on some REASONABLE level.  But when I look at the pictures I feel so sad that I didn’t fully love this time.  Because the pictures remind me of how amazing it really was.  I truly don’t know how to live happily in the moment.  I’m only happy it seems in retrospect.  So I share with you some happiness from 2005/2006. 

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Can you see that he is making guitar cookies?

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He still allowed himself to LOVE the color pink.

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And his presence lit up the room.

So that I don’t get in trouble for favoritism, I am attaching the only photo of Casey in that whole roll.  He was 3 months old.  And just chillin’.

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Our daily life is so “managed.”  We have to keep it all planned and organized or we fall behind.  Our life is so much managing the details that I often don’t find the beauty in the day to day.  In so many ways, I feel like I am marking time until the dissertation is written, until we move.  I’m afraid to become close friends with anyone because I will just have to start all over again.  And I am tired of starting all over again.  But I also worry about my boys being raised here in this stifling homophobic culture.  Will I only be able to look at myself and my family during this time – from some later date- in order to be happy? 

I know this about myself and yet I can’t seem to be (in any sustainable or long term way)  happy in the present.

The kiddies as kitties

January 7, 2009

I know I lost some status last week with some of you animal-loving people.  My true feeling for cats may somehow reveal that I have a cold and heartless core.  I wanted to redeem myself a little though.  Or at least attempt a little reconciliation with Pam, Judith, Carrie and any other cat-loving people out there.  So here goes.

I was able to dig deep in my heart and realize that there are cats out there who my heart melts for.  And I now offer you a couple of the cutest, most adorable kitties I know.  I even clean their equivalent of a litter box, I’ve been known to clean up their vomit, and I’D EVEN FEED THEM WETFOOD if needed.

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Is this what I have to look forward to?

January 4, 2009

The interaction between my sister and my nephew that I, as an innocent bystander, overheard earlier this afternoon:

Mom:  “Are you picking your nose?”  Pause, LOUDER “Are YOU picking your nose in MY house?”

Teenage son:  “Stop it Mom. Leave me alone.”

Mom:  “You know what you have to do so DO IT.”

Teenage son: “Mom.  You’re embarrassing me.”

Mom:  “Eat it.  Eat it now!  There will be no flinging boogers.  Eat your booger or you’re grounded.”

Teenage son:  “My nose itched.”

Mom: “Eat it”

Teenage son while licking the booger off of his finger and eating it, “I want you to know that you are sick and wrong.”

Mom: “Sick and wrong?  Sick and wrong is picking your nose in my house.  Or my truck.  Or in my presence.  I will not find boogers flung on my floors.  You will not fling your boogers.  You will not roll them up in a ball and stick them to my walls.  Do you understand me?

Teenage son: “Yes mom.”

It takes a special person to love a cat

January 2, 2009

I am not that special.

Kim’s good friend “Doodi” as Casey calls her went out of town for the holidays.  Since this was going to be our first Solstice/Christmas season that we were going to stay home as a family, Kim volunteered to take care of Doodi’s house, which included bringing in her mail, monitoring the heat, watering the plants, and taking care of the [insert epithet] creatures that we humans call cats. 

But when my dad became unexpectedly ill, we decided to haul the holidays to Roosevelt and this posed a problem with the commitment that Kim made to Doodi.  Kim called Doodi to explain the predicament and Doodi told Kim about a self-feeder that Kim could rig up and that her poor babies would have to go without wet food for a few days, but certainly would be okay.  

Thinking the problem was solved, Kim joined us in Roosevelt on the 24th and we spent the next 5 days there.  The kids were hyper with sugar and presents, my dad was in the hospital (he’s fine now), and my sister was trying to manage 18 people in her house, but all my wife could think about were those [insert epithet] cats.

The first thing we did when we arrived back into the city was go and check on the cats.

We entered the apartment to a stench that reminded me of the smell of my mother’s sister.  I know this isn’t nice to say, definitely not in a public forum, but my aunt (I use that term loosely) is not the best smelling person.  Several years ago while I was doing errands with my mom, she saw her sister walking around town.  My mom stopped to ask if she needed a ride.  She did.  I spent the next 10 minutes trying not to vomit, the next 15 minutes scrubbing the filth off of me in the shower, and the next hour trying to get the smell out of my mom’s upholstery with open windows, a can of lysol, and faith that what took 10 minutes to develop had to be cleared in the next hour.  Now that I have revealed myself to be the asshole that I am, I want to clear things up and say that while poverty does stink, it takes a special king of disdain for one’s self to acquire the kind of smell I’m talking about.  Ouch.  There’s no clearing it up.  I’m just an asshole.

Anyway, the asshole entered the apartment with the wife and kiddies and drama ensued.

I stuck my head into my shirt and started counting to ten in hopes of taking control of my oh so privileged self and not yacking my no-pets attitude right up with the cheeseburger I had consumed.   Riley simultaneously started sneezing and dry heaving.  Thankfully (I can’t believe I began this sentence with “thankfully”) he had already lost his lunch in Parley’s Canyon on the twisty drive back to the valley.  Trouble (the cat) let out a growl/purr/squeak/undefinable moan sound and hauled herself to Doodi’s bedroom and under the bed.  Mercy (the other cat) rubbed herself right up to the boys and started purring.  Casey stepped back in surprise and landed right into what we later learned was dried cat vomit and we all squealed at the information.  Kim hollered at us all to “GET IT UNDER CONTROL BECAUSE YOU AREN’T HELPING!”

I was given the option of feeding the cats wet-food which I knew from past experience was the smell of vomit and liver in a can, cleaning out the 6 day old litter box, or scrubbing the floor and the child from the step-in-vomit incident.  I insisted that I MADE NO COMMITMENT to take care of cats and that I would sit on the couch with the children and feel sorry for myself for having to be there in the first place.  In my defense, I did take off the vomit-shoes of my toddler before parading through the apartment.

Only on the way to the couch I found another two piles of cat-vomit and the smell of the apartment suddenly revealed itself to be the gluttony of cats with a self-feeder at their disposal.  

Casey sat on one side of the couch snuggling with Mercy and eating his candy necklace that the Santa-Mommies put in his stocking.  Riley hung out in the bathroom gagging and hollering that “cats smell worse than Casey’s diaper.”  Kim got to work scrubbing, emptying, and feeding.  I sat on the other side of the couch and didn’t lift a finger to help.  As I sat there, I knew that I was being a total jerk, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else.  Finally, in an effort to redeem myself, I checked the mail.

A half-hour later we got home.  As I picked Casey up out of his car seat I noticed that there were scads of cat hair that had attached itself to the already wet and slobbery candy necklace hanging around Casey’s neck.  I also noticed that Casey’s wet and slobbery hands held a few tufts of hair as well.  Riley’s eyes were bloodshot; he was already obsessively scratching off his skin like he was flea infested, and the kid couldn’t stop sneezing.  Lets’ just say that the asshole entered the house with the wife and kiddies and drama ensued.