You Never Know Where Life Will Take You

It’s true. 5 years ago I was recovering from spinal surgery and didn’t think I’d ever play flute again. I used to be…okay. Not the greatest, but good enough to teach and work with some pretty more-than-okay students. At one time I had even considered playing in an orchestra for a living. Then my neck got messed up and I wound up getting it sliced open and having a neurosurgeon muck around with my spine.

Now I’m almost playing again. It’s been…a while since I’d even gotten it out of the case. I now have a flute student who started this week, so I figured I’d better get moving. Been working at it for the past week and my sound is not quite back, but almost. It sounds more like a reed player in a jazz ensemble whose 3rd instrument is flute; the notes are in tune, but the sound’s a little weak.

I hadn’t realized how much a part of my life it was until it was impossible to play. When I’m nervous, I still drum out fingerings to sonatas and concertos and Syrinx against my hand. But the fact is, I have a hard time physically playing the way I used to play.

But here I am. Last week, I had my first teaching job on flute in 6 years. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I found the place that was much farther away than I thought. I went in and confronted things head-on.

“I should tell you before we get started. I have a problem with my back and neck. I’m only just now going back to playing myself, but I still know how to play and I can teach you.” “That’s ok. You don’t have to perform.” And all at once the giant gorilla leaped off my back and we got started.

The lesson went okay for a first lesson. Okay enough for a next one this week; they’re sounding pretty much like a beginner, but by the end of the hour they’d found the spot on the mouthpiece that gives the best sound. I felt slightly less worthless than I had going in. We agreed to try again this weekend. I never thought I’d be doing this again, not teaching flute certainly. Life is weird. Weird isn’t bad, it’s just unexpected.

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Band Night

Yesterday was A’s last middle school band concert ever. It was also her band director’s last middle school band concert ever – she’s retiring at the end of the year, which is next week. It was something.

It started when A came home and announced that she had to be at the school 30 minutes earlier than we had thought. Which, in theory, meant that the concert time had been moved up. We raced through dinner, A got into her concert gear, and off we went.

That was when we discovered that the concert started at the regular time. While waiting in the parking lot, we also discovered why their band director made them come in a half-hour early for a picture. Wow.

In the meantime, M came over from her new job. She’s doing well there, and seems to like it. It was great to see her happy and at least a little relaxed. We went up to the “balcony” (the quotation marks make more sense if you could see the building), K set up the camera, and we watched the show.

The jazz band went on first. For a middle school band – hey, even some high school bands I’ve seen – they were quite good. They even tackled “25 or 6 to 4” with roughly 3 hours of practice time. (Children, go Google it and imagine playing that in 8th grade.)

Next was concert band. They’re divided up between “7th grade band”, which is meant for students who are just beginners as well due to our district’s stellar support of elementary school music; and 1st period band, which is more experienced 7th graders and 8th graders who presumably know what they’re doing. Both bands sounded pretty good.

Before the last song, the band director gave out awards to almost everybody. In different categories, from most improved to best musician. After the last piece, the 8th graders played a piece that was written/orchestrated by one of the kids. It was amazing, and the kids did a wonderful job with it.

After it was over, we hung out with M and waited for A to come out of the band room. She talked a little about her experiences with middle school band. We got to meet one of A’s friends – well, K did, I’d already met him – and finally headed out to the car. We all said goodbye and left for our respective homes.

M didn’t talk much to us about what she was feeling, which is okay. She did text A once she’d gotten home, which was awesome.

I’m glad that we were all able to do this. It’s what we’d been hoping for ever since we started this. To have all of this seem normal and feel normal and be just a regular part of our lives. I hope it continues just like this.

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Lasts and Firsts

This week is the beginning of A’s Last Times in Middle School. Yesterday she had the first of her two last concerts. It went well, a joint concert with the school orchestra and chorus. The band played with the orchestra for the last song of the evening, which also went well and allowed A to play near her friends who are string players. The orchestras around here appear to be only strings, which is kind of unrealistic and not that bad really.

Concerts here are a social event, a bit weird and uncomfortable for those of us who are not naturally social. The concert space is basically a giant open space in the middle of the school, just beyond the front door. It doubles as a lunchroom, auditorium, movie theater (probably). There are several rows of folding chairs for friends/family/other students. We usually go upstairs to the balcony. It’s better to video concerts, certainly for those of us vertically challenged types, and somewhat less crowded. Not empty, but there’s definitely more breathing room.

Yesterday was also one of A’s first auditions for high school. She’s playing in marching band next fall – which means somebody else to do Zombies, Run! with this summer – and she wanted to audition for Wind Ensemble. So she did. Practiced two entire weekends, even brought her instrument home a couple of times. We’ll find out for sure today. At least one of us already knows, but the rest of us will know by this evening.

Homework and studying for exams are taking up more and more time as the end of the year draws near. Next week there’s a project or exam every day in every class. Then the last day and a half and they’re middle schoolers no more. I can’t bring myself to think about that right now.

Next week is the band concert. A’s playing in concert band and jazz band. If everything goes well, M will be able to come down and see her play for the first time in person. Music is a big thing in her family as well, so I think it was expected that A would play some sort of instrument. It’ll be good to have M here as part of the audience, for both of them. At least we all hope it will. That’s the thing about adoption, an open adoption in particular; you just never know what’s the right thing to do. It’s always a guess and a huge leap of faith (said the faithless one). And bracing yourself for the therapy bills later…

Three months from now, she’ll be in the middle of her first month of high school. Growing up and farther away from all of us. It’s already started, as any of you with teenagers already know. She snapchats and Facetimes the people she saw in school just an hour or two ago. We only get to hear some of what happens at school, but I suppose some is better than none. We can’t protect her from the things that could happen any more, because they are too big I hope that we’ve all done well enough by her that she can move out into the world with only a few minor bumps and bruises.

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Mothers Day 2016

As a warning: the following post is a bit sweary and drops an F-bomb or two. Not bad, but only fair to warn you as it’s not the norm here.

So. Today is my obligatory “Mothers Day” post. I haven’t had a lot to say that I really wanted to say publicly lately, and I’m not sure how this will go. But here we are.

I really like Mothers Day, primarily because I have a mom. I’m pretty grateful to modern medicine that I have a mom today; in 5 months we’ll find out if she’s once again cancer-free. Everything went well after her surgery so far and nothing new has materialized. So I’ve sent her a card (that won’t arrive on time – we’re a late sort of family) and I’ll call her on Sunday. So that is the best thing about Mothers Day.

On the other hand, I’m a bit ambivalent about Mothers Day for me. Mothers give birth to their children. That is what society tells us, all the time, in so many ways. I did not give birth to my child, but I get to raise her. M gave birth to our child, but she isn’t raising her. So society tells both of us that we’re not really mothers. Or that only one of us is – real mothers, make-believe mothers, and on and on and fucking ON.

Awkward mom memory for today: when A was in kindergarten, her class had a Thanksgiving party with a lot of parent “helpers” that showed up. At one point when the kids were at recess or something, some – it felt like all, but some – of the mothers went around and shared their birth stories. Now that was an awkward damn moment. I have no idea if I said anything at all; lots of that day are a blissful blank. That was the first time (of many, let me tell you) that I wanted to run and hide from a flock of wild parents.

From the time that A was a baby, she has known that she has two mothers and two fathers. We use “birth parents” out of convenience, primarily when there are non-family around, but in reality she has four parents. Sometimes some parents can’t always be there, but they’re always around. A is getting something for M this weekend along with a card.

For a while there, my blog was called “Evil Mommy”. It’s still my Twitter handle, by the way (come say hi! Lots of politics and cussing) It was based on how I felt about myself for quite a long time after we were placed. Like I wasn’t a Real Mom. Like I was the one who took a baby from someone else, which is both literally true and not exactly true. But that was how I felt. Lots of hours of therapy and writing later, it’s a little different. There are no Good Moms and Bad Moms here. I will cop to being more evil that I used to be, which isn’t such a bad thing when you think about it. Mean and evil are not quite the same things; ask Atticus at Evil Supply Company. There are just two moms out of four parents who have an amazing child in common.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for A I would say a hearty “fuck you” to Mothers Day here at the Goth House. But that would make at least two people (not named Mom) feel bad, and I’m not about that this weekend. So I need to come up with something that doesn’t involve going to the movies 3 times this weekend to see Civil War and cry over Bucky Barnes. Maybe a trip to the bookstore and a bottle of something or other. We’ll see.

Happy Mothers Day to all of you mothers. No matter what word you put in front of it.

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What a difference a lot of years make

We’ve been a family for a good long while now. It doesn’t really seem like that long, but a look at A says otherwise. She looks more grownup than she really is. She thinks she’s more grownup than she is, but you know. Teenagers.

For a long time, we never heard from A’s other mother on her birthday. Understandable, to be sure. The reasons why aren’t for me to find out. Anyway.

This year was different.

M had just moved into a new place with a new, better job that she had just started. We went to visit and dropped A off for the afternoon. They were going to the movies and to hang out. K and I went home.

We didn’t do much. Stopped at a sub shop to pick up lunch, drove a little slower than normal and marvel at how much the area had changed since we moved there a long time ago. We didn’t really talk about what we were thinking, but we both knew everything would be okay. A was, after all, spending the afternoon with her other mom.

A and M said they had a great time. M gave her a couple of books to “borrow” and read later. We all said goodbye and left.

A long time ago, we became a family. I always wanted to have a family of my own, and that family became bigger and more…weird isn’t the word I want, but different. Yes, different. Despite what certain politicians would like us all to believe, different is pretty damn good.



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Taking another dip into the deep side of the pool

Last year, I joined a professional organization affiliated with the new career I’ve chosen/am trying to get into. I went to a few meetings before I took a certification test – which I passed the first time – and kind of enjoyed it. Well, as much as I enjoy any situation when I’m in a room with a bunch of strangers for 2 hours. For the next 3 months, circumstances kept me from going back. A had her honor band rehearsals, a concert, and there was a meeting for the high school in there somewhere.

This week, unfortunately, I didn’t have an excuse. I didn’t really want to go, but I felt like I had to go. Social anxiety and I are old friends, and it was kicking in in a major way. But I really did need to be out and around people. So I took a deep breath, got into the car, and headed into town.

The drive up there has always been a little weird, for personal reasons. About 6 years ago now, I think, I went to the hospital for an outpatient program (essentially treatment at a mental health hospital without staying overnight). The same hospital where I go for business meetings now, as well as where I went for my certification exam. Yep, even down to the same floor. The first time I went, I found myself making the turn at the elevator when I should have been walking in the other direction.

The meeting was interesting. The best class I’ve ever had has been anatomy and physiology, and some of the talk showed a procedure that’s being used on Parkinson’s patients (including some of the surgery and radiology/MRI scans). It was really great, and I realized that I missed going there. Just the feeling like I was a “professional”, the same as everybody else in the room, was pretty powerful, no matter how wrong that might be in reality.

When I was driving home, it was pretty clear to me how much I’ve changed since I went to the hospital for the first time. I am a much different person now than I was then. Not always doing well – certainly not the past few months – but much different. Instead of reaching for somebody to help me out of the giant black hole, I can figure out ways to pull myself out. Not right away sometimes, but it’s better.

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An Open Letter to Cam Newton

This is in response to seeing Cam Newton’s disappointment and hurt over losing in yesterday’s Super Bowl. For the record, I am a fan of both teams and it was still hard to watch.

Dear Mr. Newton,

First off, I’m really sorry about the way the game turned out. The Panthers have the #1 offense in the NFL (still, as far as I’m concerned). You did, however, meet the #1 defense who made 52 sacks in the regular season this year. Defenses, as they say, win championships. That was not your fault.

I know it hurts when everybody expects your team to win, and they don’t. If you get to speak to Peyton Manning again before he retires (and I expect him to announce that sometime in the next couple of weeks), ask him how he felt when they played the Seattle Seahawks two years ago. Lots of fans here like to pretend that game didn’t happen. The Broncos were expected to win, but they didn’t. They didn’t by a lot. Manning was fairly well humiliated in that game by the Seahawk defense. Sound familiar? And yes, that was the team you crushed on your way to the Super Bowl. For both a Panthers and a Broncos fan, that was spectacular to watch.

It’s easy to be gracious in victory, but not so much in defeat. Especially when there are so many people seemingly gloating over your loss. Yeah, I saw the press conference too, and I understand why you left. From what I remember, Manning had a hell of a time being gracious when the Broncos had the crap beaten out of them in SB48. But he did. Certainly, he had much more experience having to suck it up and be polite after a loss.

Lastly, I hope you get used to the SuperBowlWeek Circus, because you will be back. Probably sooner than later.

See you at Super Bowl 51,


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What I Did Today

Hey. It’s been a while, I know. There’s not been much to write about lately; I’ve been finishing school, took two exams for professional certification in a field that’s a 180 flip from where I have been, and have been hunting for a job.

(I did get one, and it lasted about a week. So I’m out looking again.)

There have been a couple of possibilities, including one that’s the sort of work I’d like to eventually do in an environment where I’d like to be for at least the next 15 years or so. Today I went for a volunteer interview.

It’s a dream job for a well-respected clinic, and it might lead to better things if I can be patient and work hard. The interview was the hardest I’ve had yet.

The building was on the opposite side of town, in an area I’ve only been to once. When I finally found the building, my next challenge was to find the entrance. It’s deliberately hard to find. I finally recognized it by the placards lining the 10 foot high iron fence. Can’t recall the exact words, but I know I was relieved that there weren’t people next to those cards. Yet.

The interview was pretty straightforward. A group interview, with a wide variety of fellow volunteers; everybody from a vet school student to a retiree to a couple of other people beginning new careers. Except for the retiree, they were all younger than me. We talked about why we wanted to volunteer, how we could be of use to the clinics, and what jobs we could see ourselves doing.

I had a bit of bad news about the clinic where I’d prefer to work, but I am a patient person and I don’t mind waiting a few more weeks or so to start. Then we left to go home.

On the way out, I heard a voice from across the cedar-lined fence. “What a shame. It’s a death camp in there.” No, girl, they said non-engagement. You can’t say what you feel. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, someone with pamphlets in his hands tried to walk in front of the car. He stepped aside once it became apparent I wasn’t stopping and I really wasn’t in the mood for a game of chicken.

I took the long way home instead of heading for the highway. It was good to have some time to think about what happened. The streets became familiar the further away I drove.

This is something I want to do. It’s important. Even with my limited range of skills, I could still help somebody. Plus it’s experience, which is desperately lacking in my resume. We’ll see what happens.


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Long Time Coming – and a Long Way to Go

Once upon a time, I almost married a woman.  Not when that was any more than a symbolic ceremony, or even a distant dream.  Things didn’t work out for us, and I wound up marrying a man, almost 27 years ago now.  As of today, my ex can now marry her long-time sweetheart, officially, and have that marriage recognized everywhere.  That, frankly, is awesome.  It’s a really good day.

There will be better days coming.  One day, in every state, people won’t be afraid to put a picture of their same-sex spouse on their desk (and risk possibly losing their job or rental apartment – yes, that is legal in some states).  One day, people won’t have to worry about coming out as trans* and risking many other things, including their lives.  One day, being on the LGBTQ spectrum won’t matter; in my opinion, that’s the way it should be in every state in America.  But it’s not that way today.

This fight is not over.  Let’s not pretend that it is.  I’ve got a lot of other feelings on this subject, but this is justthisside of turning into a giant, incoherent rant.  Celebrating today is great.  About damn time, too.  But let’s not give up fighting for more again tomorrow.

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Writing, Day 19: Word Vomit

It’s less elegantly put than Writing 101 did, but yeah. Like this:

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

So here goes.

I love summer. Usually. I’ve loved summer a lot more, oddly, since becoming a parent. Trying to figure out what to do in these long, hot days (at least they are here in the Great Southwest), planning trips, begging to go on trips, picnics, hiking, doctor’s appointments for furry and not-so-furry children…Honestly? I enjoy it. This summer, however, has been a little different.

I’m taking classes this year for one of my goals: to be gainfully employed doing something that doesn’t entail driving very long distances twice a day every day. My dream job in this particular field would only be a drive of less than 30 minutes. So for the past 3 weeks since A has been out of school, I’ve been learning more than any human not going to med school should know about the body. So this summer is different.

My mornings start out about the same way they had been during A’s school year. Except that I have a little more studying time in the mornings than I had. Which is good, because both of these classes are normally 15 weeks. Condensed into 10. Whee. A is a late riser most mornings; I have to get both her and Mr. Goth up, not a lot different than the rest of the year. When I’m not studying, writing papers or, um, here – which explains my absence – we’ve been going out and doing things.

Like hiking. A came up with that idea on her own. She asked where we could go hiking this summer. There are a lot of places near our house; several really nice trails, two state parks and a major hiking destination trail.

That one is one of the easier ones, as well as one with the most weekday parking. So we’ve been going there twice a week. On Monday we only made it about a mile, to the first meet-up with the river, and had to turn around. When we got home, A fell on the couch and didn’t really get up much for the next couple of days. But we did it, and she was only disappointed she didn’t go farther.

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