December 28, 2008

The Usual Suspects: A Mystery in Three Acts

Hart has been here for a few days. It's been a lovely visit and I had fallen into a reverie about having both boys living here again. Maybe it wasn't as difficult as I remember. Or, perhaps they are older now and more reasonable. Suddenly, there was a bit of a hue and cry.

Act I

A Heinous Crime Occurs

H: My money is gone! Someone has stolen my spending money!

L: Really? Where was it? Have you looked everywhere? I had it in my purse yesterday, so I know how much you have.

H: It's missing. Here, look at the envelope.

L: Hmmm. Well, it wasn't Inky and it wasn't me. So that leaves only one person capable of committing this crime.

H: It was Jeff!

L: How did Jeff know you have money? Did you tell him where it was?

H: No.

L: Did you tell him you brought spending money?

H: Well, yes.

Act II

The Defendant is Questioned

L: Hart says his money is missing? Do you have it?

J: Yes. He told me to take it.

L: Really? That was very wrong. That money belongs to Hart. I remind you that you two are not allowed to make trades or have any financial transactions without adult supervision. You are to return the money and make an apology.

J: Never!


All is Resolved

L: This is odd. Jeff says you offered him the money. Why would he say that?

H: I thought it, but I didn't say it.

L: You earned this money, you have to save your receipts and account for how you spent it before you turn it back in for safekeeping. Why did Jeff think you offered it?

H: I said it quietly. I didn't mean it.

L: I am just offering a suggestion. It's your money and you should keep it to yourself and not tempt Jeff with it. I don't think he is trustworthy.

H: (bangs table) Shut up! Shut up! Quit talking! You are annoying me. It's not my fault!


From the time the boys could talk it was ever thus. Some disaster would occur and I would ask for an accounting. Jeff always said, "It wasn't me. I didn't do anything." Then Hart would say, "Jeff told me to do it." As the boys got older, the situations became more complex and nuanced. I don't really believe that Jeff stole the money outright, nor do I believe Hart engineered a setup. Hart probably boasted about his stash and Jeff most likely cajoled and wheedled it out of him. However, as always, the one person everyone is mad at, the one who is most aggravated, "dissed" and put out, invariably, is ME.

December 25, 2008

May 2009 (artwork)

Hart's artwork was chosen for Children's Memorial Hospital's annual wall calendar!

Family Ties

I do plenty of complaining about my family, but I am constantly reminded that it could be much worse. Here are a few families that I am glad are NOT mine:

  • The Kennedys--wealth, power, status, prestige and then there is that curse.
  • The Duggars--There is the issue of eighteen children. Also the Duggars' Christian Fundamentalism is so restrictive as to prohibit all forms of secular music, dancing, hair-cutting for girls and women, and birth control, among other things.
  • The Gosselins--another weirdo Christian Fundamentalist TV family. Sextuplets and twins . . . on purpose! But like the Duggars, their religion does not, apparently, frown on exploiting one's own family for attention or financial gain. Then there was the outing to the creationist museum. Blech.
  • The Palins--where do I start? Huntin', shootin', snowmobilin', shoppin', mutilatin' the language, just to name a few. No contraception in that family either.
  • The Bouviers--wealth, power, status, prestige and the film/play GREY GARDENS.
  • The Sopranos and The Hendricksons--luckily, both families are fictional

Lies, D**n Lies

There are lies, damn lies - and statistics.

Lies, now there's a harsh word. Lying implies intentional dishonesty, malice of forethought, purposeful deceit. Jeff is more a purveyor of truthiness*. In past, I have greeted Jeff's truthy pronouncements with a cheerful, "That sounds like a tall tale" or "I find that impossible to believe!" However, as Jeff's speech/language skills have improved, these responses have become an invitation to embroider and embellish further. Sometimes, it's best just to remain silent. Or assure others that Jeff is not a credible witness, despite his emphatic protests.

I have since come to recognize three categories of "Jeff stories":
  • Tales so outlandish to be immediately disbelieved. Jeff remains committed to his story that there is a certain downtown garage that gives out electric car blankets if you park there--for free!

  • Tales that might possibly be true, but require further due diligence. Jeff's school social worker emailed me to ask about Dad's new pet bird, which Jeff described to her in vivid detail. Unlikely, but possible.

  • Tales I know for certain to be false. "We are out of milk!" No way! I just bought a new carton. "We are out of milk!" You were with me at the grocery store. "We are out of milk!" Please open the refrigerator yourself, if you don't believe me.

On the other hand, if Jeff relays bad news, it's the honest-to-goodness truth. Jeff can describe a car accident he saw with details and accuracy of a news reporter. He will announce a trip to the Principal's office before saying hello. This week his doctor, who hadn't seen Jeff in a while, asked, "What do you do for fun these days, Jeff?" Without hesitation, "Break toys."

*truthiness: as coined by Stephen Colbert: the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.

December 22, 2008

Too Cool for School (photo)

Jeff and Jerry model the vintage sunglasses that friends Michele and Jerry brought us from Brazil.

December 19, 2008

Here Comes Hannukah

Last year at this time, I was grouchy and uncharitable. Unusual for me, because I quite enjoy gift shopping, provided I don't have to do it with the holiday mob or on short notice.

I learned my lesson last year; namely not to depend on anyone else coming through on gifts for the boys. Instead, I have been collecting small goodies for months. It's more appealing to have a stash of things for Hart's Hanukkah arrival, instead of a stash of pent-up aggravation with him as I did a year ago.

The holiday cheer seems to be catching. Jeff got his dad a BMW-themed gift and suggested a well-needed pair of gloves as a present for his beloved respite worker. He was thrilled with the guitar-themed T-shirt I purchased for his guitar instructor. He chose an elephant pop-up book to buy for Hart.

I'm pleased that Jeff has learned the joy of giving to others. He hasn't completely changed his old ways; I can overhear his phone conversations as he demands particular cars as gifts from Hart. This is dismaying, I explain, since Hart doesn't have the means or the transportation to shop, as we do.

Also, this year I won't be wrangling both boys at the same time. That was a recipe for holiday ill-will. There has been some secret phone giggling between the boys. I wonder if they got anything for me.

December 15, 2008


I have been practicing this "family apartheid" for so long, it doesn't seem so bizarre anymore. Everyone who knows us has seen me with Hart OR Jeff, but rarely both together. I forget that many people know one boy or the other, but have never laid eyes on the second one. Yes, it's weird, but I am used to it.

The boys have not been in the same classroom, same building or even same zip code since preschool. "Why?" strangers want to know, "Don't they get along?" Hart and Jeff DO get along. In fact, that's the problem. At best, it's a closed universe consisting of just the two of them, oblivious to all else. At worst, it's complete anarchy.

We took our last family vacation, all four of us, in 1999. A complete nightmare from start to finish. It became unarguably apparent that both boys could never be on the same flight, in the same hotel, or same rental car. Ever.

Since then, there has been the constant logistical challenge of keeping them apart, while still living together. Ever the optimist, over the years I have occasionally tried an outing with the duo. Nothing has been particularly successful. After two weeks of intensive therapy at a program in Minnesota, I felt empowered enough to take them out to a restaurant. Hours later, the police finally found them. For plays and concerts, I've bought an additional ticket, brought a second adult and sat in two pairs on opposite sides of the auditorium and that's worked satisfactorily.

The inequality haunts me. Any treat or experience can be for one or the other, but not both. It's been easier, of course, since Hart isn't living here. When he visits, I want the boys to have time together, but not enough time to go completely berserk. I want Hart's visits to be special occasions, but not special enough to get the police involved.

I had to make an orthodontist appointment for Hart during his next home visit. "Just bring both kids for their appointments on Monday," the receptionist replied helpfully. She must have wondered why I was so abrupt. "No thanks. I'll schedule two trips."

December 11, 2008


Dear YLJF,

My weight tends to fluctuate a lot. I feel like I am maintaining three separate wardrobes. It's disheartening and expensive.

___________________________________ Small, Medium, Large

Dear SML,

With a little resourcefulness and ingenuity, you will have one all-purpose wardrobe.

First, buy all bottoms; jeans, trousers, skirts, in your largest size. If you lose a few pounds, you can easily use a large safety pin to make the waistband a bit tighter. If you wish to camouflage this, wear a jacket or an untucked shirt. But if you don't, people will compliment you on your weight loss.

Buy all blouses in the middle size. If one gets a bit snug, safety-pin the front so it doesn't gap across the bust. Once you lose a few pounds, wear it open over another shirt, jacket-style.

Presto! One workable wardrobe.

Singin' with WHQOPDJY

November 20, 2008

Imagine That: Part II

T, I recently picked up a copy of the book Imagine That: Letters From Russell.

I was reading the list of credits and thank-yous and saw your name listed. I have to believe there's only one of you.

It looks like it would have a very interesting project. I'm a bit more than halfway through the book and am enjoying it greatly.

Small world, yes?

How coool! I am so glad you are enjoying the book. Lydia is a dear friend and she will be so thrilled you are reading a copy. She lives in Evanston and composed that after Russell died as a tribute to him. That IS me in those credits along with my former business partner. We helped Lydia type copy since there was so much to type and she was gracious (because that is how she is) to mention us. Lambda did the design and layout but Lydia did get to approve it. If you ever want to meet the author just let me know. Small world, yes.


Wow! That is awesome. It's the beauty of having something in print. Unlike the blog, which just goes out into the ether, there are 1000s of that printed book . . . out there somewhere.

The world gets smaller with every email. Lydia lives here in Evanston? I would absolutely like to meet her and even ask for her autograph! She sounds like a good person to know from the letters. That she compiled a book from the letters she saved is impressive and says a lot about her. That they corresponded so openly and honestly for many years comes from another century of letter writers, not this one.I am now about 3/4 of the way through the book. Russell was an outstanding writer for his age. I have to believe he would have gone on to much success in the publishing world if he had lived. How privileged I am to be reading it. You are part of the book. The author lives in Evanston. I work in Evanston. I “just happened” to find the book at the Brown Elephant... Coincidences?

Wondering, B

Hi Lydia,
I am wondering if you would like to meet B (because he would like to meet you) for lunch or coffee sometime in Evanston over his lunch break. I can be there too and would treat. He is so enjoying the book that I said, "perhaps you would like to meet Lydia" and he said yes (see my note and his).

Sorry, I just had an overwhelming feeling that you and he would be fast friends. Seriously, I really did, and it was a STRONG feeling so I spoke before asking you. But then I thought, Lydia is friendly and outgoing and likes to meet new people so what the heck.

By the way, I have never even met him face to face. He is a new contact for me so we all may need to wear signs because in person you are not green sepia like the book jacket.

That is so amazing. Lambda Publishing used the books as giveaways for various events within the gay community, so I am not surprised that copies occasionally turn up at the Brown Elephant and Powell's Book Store.

Yes, it sure would be fun to meet B.

Now even Jeff has software on his computer. I could just read the material aloud and have the computer create text. Ten years ago OCR was rare and expensive, remember?

Let's do it! L

B, thanks for your note. It really was a treat. As I said, Russell is with me daily, but the book is sort of old history. I am delighted that Russell's words live on, out there, somewhere. That is exacty what I set out to do.

Your discovery of the book is sort of a 2nd chapter to the whole saga. I was so pleased to tell Russell's partner about you finding the book. He is a prominent musician in San Francisco. We were all so bohemian poor back then! I concur with you that had Russell lived, he would have found great success with his writing.

Please give my best to your writers' group. I look forward to your book launch party!

B, Talking about the book made me curious to see what's happening with it.

Please forgive a bit of self-promotion . . . the online comments are interesting.

Windy City Times Interview 1999

The book is owned by a number of public and academic libraries. The catalog shows that Gerber Hart, Seattle and San Francisco libraries have it, so do Harvard and Princeton. Whoo-hoo.

November 25

I recently found out that Imagine That is actually quoted from and appears in the bibliography of The Lure of the Logic by John Paul Ricco.

November 16, 2008

The Fisherwoman and her Son

nce upon a time there was a fisherwoman and her son. Of comfortable means, the fisherwoman spent most of her days fishing in Lake Michigan, as a hobby, mind you, while her son attended the local public special education program. One day she happened to pull up a very large iridescent fish which began to speak.

"Please do not kill me. I am not really a fish, but an enchanted prince. If you promise to throw me back, I will grant you a wish." The fisherwoman was surprised, but when she had found her tongue, she said, "My son has not had much success in a number of public special education classrooms. What I'd really like for him is a private therapeutic day school." "Go home," exclaimed the fish. "He is there already."

"This is wonderful," marveled the fisherwoman when she saw the school. It was small and nurturing. There was a social worker assigned to each pupil who oversaw that student's program. There was a level system of rewards and reinforcements for appropriate behavior. Her son spent several happy years there, but it became apparent that he was not making academic progress. The fisherwoman resolved to return to the fish.

"Hello. I haven't seen you in years. How is it going?" asked the fish. "Actually, that's why I am here," replied the fisherwoman. My son is not progressing. What he needs is a different therapeutic day school that can address his academic issues." "Go home," answered the fish. "He is there already."

"Perfect," said the fisherwoman when she saw the school. "You'll be able to spend the rest of your school career here." The school had an impressive teacher/student ratio, a living skills curriculum and mainstream opportunities. The son was there less than a year when the school's administrators informed the fisherwoman that her son could not continue there. She had no choice but to return to the fish.

"Yes?" said the fish gravely, when he came to the surface. "I am sorry to bother you again," said the fisherwoman. My son has become very disruptive at school. He is aggressive and a security risk. He must have a residential placement." "Go home," said the fish curtly. "He is there already."

"Gorgeous," said the fisherwoman, when she visited the new place. Each resident had a private room. There were structured programs, community activities and field trips. The school was right on campus. Of course, there was 24-hour supervision. Within three months, her son was doing so well that he set his sights on moving to one of the school's group homes and would talk of nothing else until the fisherwoman was forced to call upon the fish again.

"What do you want?" asked the fish impatiently. "I know I just talked to you a few months ago . . ." the fisherwoman began. The fish said nothing. "My son wishes to go to a group home." The fish cut her off abruptly, "Go home. He is there already."

The new house was astonishing. The eight residents shared chores and took care of cooking and cleaning. There was adult supervision and a strong emphasis on independent living skills. Both the fisherwoman and her son were thrilled. Two days later, the son complained to his mother. "I miss you and I miss living with you. I can't stay here forever. I want to come home."

With a heavy heart, the fisherwoman summoned the fish again. When he came to the lake's surface, the fish merely glowered, so the fisherwoman resolved to be brief. "My son is homesick." "Go home," the fish thundered. "He is back in your local public school!" And with that, he dissolved into a spray of dirty water.

November 10, 2008

The Scurge of Vacuum Cleaners

I have heard of people who house-clean BEFORE the cleaning lady arrives. I have also heard of women who complain that the maid's cleaning is inadequate by their exacting standards. I don't hold with either of those. I have a cleaning service for the simple reason that I hate housework (with the strange exception of ironing) and I want to pay someone to do it for me. So I am grateful for any house-cleaning because it is much more than I would ever do myself. But I have finally cracked.

Over the past few years, I have bought at least a half dozen vacuum cleaners. I should find a model I like and buy them in bulk. I have come to dread the frequent cry of "Missus . . . vacuum . . . broken." Why? The cleaning ladies wreck them with impunity. Socks, toy cars, playing cards, marbles, checkers all have been fished out of a hapless vacuum cleaner's internal mechanisms. Opening of one of my discarded vacuums is no doubt like opening a dead shark's stomach. I would not be surprised to find stray shoes, lost library books or dead animals.

This particular vaccum, a Eureka HEPA SmartVac, has lasted longer than most, either because of its design or my increased attention on its behalf. But even this vacuum has proved no match for a zealous vacuum abuser. I came upon Y dissecting the ailing beast this week and switching it on and off. Y pointed out the visible clog. "Stop, I'll get the manual." Vrooom. I have learned through bitter experience (although clearly the women employed by my service have not) that if you continue to run a clogged vacuum, you will soon smell burning rubber and then it's straight to the curb with that one and back to the store for me. She pointed to the clog again. Vroooom. "Stop, please." Vrooom, vroom. "I'm calling Eureka right now. Please stop running it." Uh-oh. Up two flights of stairs to get the model and serial number. She indicated the clog again. Vrooooom. I yanked the plug out of the wall. "Yes, I can see that it is clogged. I'm listening to the instructions." Although it seemed obvious to me that a Eureka technician might know better than someone fruitlessly switching from "floor" to "carpet" and shrieking "clogged," Y did not agree and an argument ensued. Finally, the patient was successfully dismantled with the help of phone instructions. We removed the offending clog, a whole Yu-Gi-Oh card, and the patient survived to vroom another day.

Hey, while I am complaining about cleaning ladies, how about them letting me pour a cup of coffee before throwing out the whole fresh pot?

November 6, 2008


I grew up hearing German spoken, not Yiddish. It was hochdeutsch, the language of Schiller and Göthe, albeit spoken in my father's Viennese accent. I learned modern Hebrew in Israel in my teens. So it FEELS like I should know some Yiddish, an old German dialect with lots of Hebrew loan words, but I do not, nisht kein vort.*

But, ever a fan of word games and word play, I submit my own list of words that sound like they are Yiddish, but aren't:

pot luck
upheld, uphold

For some real low-brow Jewish humor, I wonder if anyone can supply the rest of the lyrics to There Were Five Constipated Men in the Bible. I can only recall three:

Cain, he wasn't Abel
Noah, he had an arkful
Moses, he took two tablets

Herzl, he started the movement**

*"Not one word"

**While clever, this verse doesn't qualify because Theodore Herzl is not Biblical.

November 5, 2008

Obama's landslide

I tried to encourage Jeff to stay up last night to experience the historic significance of Barack Obama's presidential win. Alas, at 9:15 pm, Jeff insisted we leave D's party. At home watching TV, when Obama's win was announced at 10:01 pm., I had to scream alone in the privacy of my own living room.

In the car en route to and from the party, we had listened to the returns. I explained how the Electoral College worked and why we had to pay attention to the state returns.

I talked about the significance of having our first black president, in terms I hope Jeff can understand. Are we Americans past racism? Of course not. But this hurdle must be considered a huge leap over the burden of racism that has plagued our country for its entire history.

The news reporters (appropriately) inteviewed black Americans about their feelings. But it's a huge accomplishment for Barack Obama and his supporters and volunteers, and in fact, all Americans.

In the next presidential election, Hart and Jeff will be able to vote in the real election. That fact is something I can barely contemplate. This morning, Jeff said I should have woken him!

October 28, 2008

Twin pix (photos)

According to an email, as of this week AOL no longer hosts AOL members' photos. Bummer! However, it was an opportunity for me to download some old photos that have been out there in the ether. Here are a few:

October 20, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

It's probably a good thing I didn't speak or understand the language of my table mates at Pita Inn. It might have turned ugly.

Pita Inn is a local treasure. The food is inexpensive, fast and tasty. Judging by the number of diners in head scarves or salwaar kemeez, the food is the genuine article. It's also consistently crowded. Pita Inn does a brisk take-out business, so the entryway is inevitably packed. To dine in, you must wait until someone vacates a chair, then grab it. This is how Jeff and I found ourselves sharing a table with a young couple and their 2-year-old.

The mother was desperately trying to siphon soup into her unwilling daughter's mouth. Each spoonful was preceded by 30 seconds of loud coaxing, cajoling, threatening, begging, followed by squealing, crying, sulking refusal. After twelve such tries, I wanted to beat the woman about the head with my plastic spoon.

My parents also had old world attitudes about feeding children, although they would not have engaged in such preamble to each mouthful. As a result, I have taken a radical feeding approach with my own kids. To wit: make healthy food available, shut up about it.

After a dozen years of this philosophy and its success--no dinner table tantrums, no weight issues, no waste--I have become fairly strident. Unfortunately, this woman didn't get my telepathic messages. My brain was screaming at her, "JUST LEAVE THE KID ALONE ALREADY!"

October 16, 2008

Go, Jeff, go!

Not too long ago, I spoke with a woman whose daughter has a theatrical background. Her daughter has professional credits onstage and has had minor parts in film. She was her school's film critic and had just been selected to write reviews for an international film festival. "But what she really wants to do is direct," the mother told me. Her child is an 8th grader.

I am not in Akron anymore, I thought. When I was a kid, childhood ambitions were treated like the whims of . . . well, children. We were expected to be good students, go to college and then do something--anything--productive. I was astonished at the matter-of-fact way this mother talked about her daughter's accomplishments and ambitions.

My children are not likely to win awards, go to international film festivals or even college, but once in a while, there is a special achievement which I can brag about!