Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank you, 2009

A double rainbow in Vermont. Taken by a buddy.

It would be foolish not to acknowledge what went well this year, so here goes.

First of all, Thank you 2009 for the fulfillment of one goal I had for this year, a closer and better relationship with my daughter.  It hasn't been smooth, but that's exactly part of the process. She felt safe enough with me to argue with me a few times and we've worked it out and found more common ground to communicate than just our love of pop culture.

Thank you 2009, for making up for the eviction by miraculously helping me into a terrific roommate situation. I really wasn't looking forward to it, but I found a place that is pretty good and a roomy who is enough like me in all the right ways that living with another person is easier than it could have been. Plus the dude makes the best pulled pork I have ever had in my life.

Thank you 2009, for introducing me to Twitter. Really that's because of Too Much Perfection. I still don't remember how I found her blog, but her twitter roll on her blog made me break down and try it and it's been fun to meet new people and get into some conversation and take on a Right Wing Nut Job or 3. As a result I will be attending Blog Her next year, which happens in my home town, but more on that in tomorrow's blog.

Thank you 2009, for keeping me employed. Temporary or not, lack of paid time off and holiday pay or not, its great to have had relatively steady income this year when so many friends and/or their spouses have not. It's a wicked rough world out there and for all that's been so hard this year, I'm glad to have not gotten further knocked back. Which leads to...\

Thank you 2009, for the chance to begin to etch away at debt, medical, consumer, tax and otherwise. It's gone slower than I had hoped, but it's gone...and that's important. It was a thinner Christmas than I would have liked, and this month's rent will be a little late. But I wiped out an entire section of debt left over from my hip replacement a few years ago...and that feels damned good in and of itself.

Thank you 2009 for the folks I have met in the blogosphere and twittersphere. Some real sweet people. Even a cybercrush or two (no I'm not telling). I do need to spend more time with my friends in the "real" world in the coming year, but I have found my cyber friendships to be fulfilling and meaningful and I hope they can say the same about me.

Thank you 2009, for me beginning to find my voice in the really learn how to express, argue and rant my sense of things...its been helpful.

Thank you 2009, for helping me rediscover the joys of Brooklyn. It's interesting and beautiful here.

Thank you 2009, for the slow and steady clarity of vision about my life. Got a ways to go yet, but its gone better than it has in a long time.

Thank you 2009 for getting Healthcare reform on the table. I may not be happy about how its turning out, but I still believe it to be an improvement and a first step. Social Security and Medicare evolved as well. So too shall this.

Thank you 2009 to the growing number of folks who actually read my stuff here and respond back. It's really fun and heartening and motivating.

And finally, thank you 2009, for ending. I'm tired from it.

Tomorrow, what I'm looking forward to in 2010

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fuck You 2009

It's almost over so I'm saying goodbye to the year in two parts.

Today's should be obvious by the title. Tomorrow's will be more positive.

Fuck you 2009, you started out with an eviction, upending my life and causing me to abandon 80% of my stuff.

Fuck you 2009, your recession halted my ability to find new or extra work to help my new situation along. You also pushed back for another 2 years the ability for the place where I temp to hire me permanently.

Fuck you 2009, for giving me more of that ignorant and manipulative bitch, Sarah Palin.

Fuck you 2009, for continuing to bombard me with that evil troll Dick Cheney's incessant and fearful nattering.

Fuck you 2009 for those teabagging morons who can't spell, read or think, let alone make a reasonable case for themselves.

Fuck you 2009, for making things more expensive undermining my paycheck.

Fuck you 2009, for not being much of an improvement over 2008 despite my best efforts.
Fuck you 2009, for giving my hip so much trouble. It's supposed to be less painful than it's been so you can go screw yourself.
Fuck you 2009, for Dick Armey, speaking of those moron teabaggers, for being the kind of douchebag smart enough to know how to make people into sheeple.
Fuck you 2009, for Jim DeMint, the hipocritical asshole that has more to do with how fucked up National Security is than anyone else, but plays it as if it's Obama's fault. We don't have a head of the TSA because DeMint hates Unions. Country First, douchebag.
Fuck you 2009, for teasing us with Obama's election but sticking us with the worst Senate in memory. Not to mention Obama's penchant to stay out of things...very disapointing.
Fuck you entire decade for Joe Lieberman.
Fuck you 2009 for the bullshit racket of college textbooks. $150 for the Spanish language my ass. And that's just ONE textbook.
Fuck you 2009, for being the third year in a row that I wasn't able to do my retreat in Vermont this summer.
Fuck you 2009, for letting FOX cancel Dollhouse.
Fuck you 2009, for Snuggies.
Fuck you 2009, for killing off teachers and old classmates.
Fuck you 2009, and good riddance.

Tomorrow I'll say things that refute almost all of this, but venting comes first.

Thanks for listening and your tolerance.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Grateful: Tom et al

I'm about to head out to see some family for Hanukah today. For the second time in the last few years I am going without presents for my little cousins.

Just too broke this year to pull it off. It's a little challenging to be grateful today for that but I am focusing my mind on how I'm going to work things better in 2010 to be able to have a stress free Hanukah and Christmas shopping season.

Having said that....

I was at a couple of parties yesterday that were fun. One to someone's place I barely know but who lives not far from me in Brooklyn. One to an old friend and his partner's, Tom (and Greg).

It is safe to say that my 30s were somewhat disastrous, divorce, semi homelessness, dad's was really one of those get back up my feet, life kicks my ass back down kind of decades that lasted just a bit longer than 10 years.

My semi homelessness, due to under earning and the like resulted in me couch hopping awhile was about 12 years ago. The longest of those stays was at my friend Tom's. It was only supposed to last a few months, if that, while I gathered funds and found a place to live. This was slow going but then Tom got a gig working a show out of state and got the architecture firm he was working for as an admin to hire me in his place.

They were a few blocks away, nice folks and they paid really well. I worked every day and started a project that reorganized their storage closet and supply closet. (I'm fantastic at organizing other people's lives and own?..not so much)

It was a good couple of months and I earned enough to easily afford the expenses of moving. About 3 or so weeks before Tom's return I began apartment hunting. One day I took a longish lunch and as I was leaving the office to take a look at apartments in a part of Manhattan, not far, where we once lived as a family, I ran into my dad. He lived still in the small apartment building he had moved into after my parents had split up and where I lived with him when I was in High School, only a few blocks away as well.

He wasn looking old. A couple of months shy of his 60th birthday he looked a good bit older than that, and shaky. I tried to talk him into coming with me but he came up with some lame excuse about having to buy milk and then spoke obsessively about the things in his life he was worrying about. I'll save the details of this for some other blog, but I shrugged it off, gave him a hug and said I'd come by soon and we'd have dinner.

A week or so later my dad's body was found after he shot himself with his own .357 magnum. I got the call from the cops as I got into work that day after seeing my daughter, then 7 in her school play. I left quickly, running the block and a half and getting into the old place....

I called the office, told them what was going on. They told me to do whatever I had to do and not to worry about returning as obviously I would have priorities.

Two days later the accountant for the firm came over to give me my last paycheck which included the time I would have worked up until Tom's return with no expectation of actually working those remaining days.

It is a generosity I can never forget and am grateful for every time I think about it.

I spent the next few months going through dad's things, straightening out his affairs as best as possible and holding my ass together through a pretty awful period.

The money I'd saved ended up keeping me fed over that time rather than moving expenses and the time that all of this required kept me from finding work.

I ended up living on Tom's couch for another year. Tom charged a small amount of rent and I took up his living room for that time until I was able to move. I know it was hard for him. He enjoyed his privacy and was a single gay man at the time, trying to change that while his straight friend was taking up half his place.

It was hard for me too. Couches do not make great beds. But it was a lot less hard than any alternative would have been.

Last night as I was hanging out at his party he said "I don't know how you got through all that." I told him. "Dude, YOU!" It's also true that during that time I had other amazing friends who stepped up and helped out in ways that were beyond reason. My brother had friends who were also very amazing.

I will be grateful to Tom and these other friends until I keel over and die at the age of 120. I can never ever thank them enough or love them enough for helping me through that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth it is.... have a thankless child" - King Lear

Laurence Olivier as King Lear, Alec Guiness as The Fool at the Old Vic, London (1946)

This is a long one, I apologize.

I've written before about how proud I am of my daughter, who, at the age of 2 was diagnosed with autism. Mirror staring, phrase repeating, repetitive behavior, classic autism. I've written about how in many ways it was her own sheer determination and will that helped her break through a good deal of that to the point where she is high functioning and is now under the label of Asperger's Syndrome. I've never written about the part of being her dad that is painful, frustrating and makes me want to run screaming and deny that I am a father to anyone, let alone her.

Today will change that.

First, something to edify those of my readers that don't know what Asperger's Syndrome is.

This is the simplest comprehensive explanation of AS I can find. If you want, read this first, then go ahead. It might be helpful.

My daughter and I are in the middle of a kind of fight this week. Over the Thanksgiving weekend she got into a pretty intense battle with her mother and her stepfather. (To clarify, my ex is not married yet, but her fiancee has lived with them for a few years now so the relationship, while not official, is concrete enough.) My daughter likes digging at my ex wire, as teen aged, early college children are want to do. It went too far, causing my daughter's friends to tell her to back off and my ex wife to break down.

Now to be sure, as events were given to me, my ex was inappropriate a few times and has a tendency to invite this sort of abuse from my daughter without accepting that responsibility. But in the end, my daughter needs to learn when enough is enough. If you've read the link above, you can see how her AS plays into the already troublesome mentality of the late teens/early twenties brain.

Enter me, calmly picking her up on a Sunday before she heads back to school for breakfast and a calm talk about what's going on and how to patch things up. I won't go into detail, but it got ugly at one point when one of the adults lost it and set back my efforts considerably. It was a tough day, but eventually Sarah saw where she had gone too far, felt bad about it and owned up to it. There was peace in the valley, more or less.

I took her to the bus, she hugged me before getting on and thanked me, then off she went.

A little more background. Her mother and I split just before she was diagnosed as autistic. Over several years my ex and I tried to get back together, back and forth back and forth. Long story short, eventually we got smart and gave up.

During the time since splitting up the relationship with my daughter has been complicated for all of us. I alluded to an over possessiveness on my ex's part that created a block between me and Sarah that I didn't have the maturity to understand or work through constructively. The bottom line is that in many ways Sarah and I never got to bond enough in her babyhood. After I moved out, whenever I could come over to begin our weekends together, there would be tears. This was fine and understandable of course, but over time, its difficult to not take this personally.

The AS resistance to changes or shifts complicates this...going to Dad's house for weekends, Grandma's for Christmas, etc...all shifts that are difficult. And because Aspys have trouble with empathy at times, they don't understand the emotional impact of their apparent indifference or resistance. All of this I understand, but in the end, our history while filled with many wonderfuls is also filled with many rejections. Her rejections of me and as much as I get it, it still stings because frankly, its hard not to hear "I love you, dad" once in 19 years. Not because she doesn't love me, but because its just not something she can say. "You too" is the best I can get.

So, honestly, I am somewhat sensitive as a dad. Not one of the most mature aspects of me. But there it is.

Sarah and I had a sort of date this weekend to watch on Hulu from our respective locations, the last episodes of Monk. One of the ways that she and I bond is through the shows and movies we love. It's also a classic Aspy thing and it has made a difference in our relationship. We started to get much closer when I started turning her on to Buffy DVDs when she was 11. It continued with Angel, Alias, Firefly....Monk she found on her own but I was watching it too...and she relates to Monk (guess why).

So, it was something I looked forward to. We made the arrangement last Friday when we were all up at her school to see her ensemble concert. We agreed to watch together over the weekend.

Saturday didn't work out well because it was crazy around here with my roomie's party preparation, so we agreed on Sunday. Sunday was a series of phone calls on my part with schedule issues for her and subsequently me saying, ok..why don't you call me when you are able to watch, even if its not tonight. She agreed.

End of Monday I find on her FB status that she's watched the show and hasn't bothered to tell me directly. Now, I'm less pissed about missing the show with her, though I am disappointed. It's the not calling that gets me.

And yes, she's 19 and to some degree this is normal anyway...and combine that with AS its not unusual. But when I email her about it I get scolded for thinking its such a big deal, as if my phone calls weren't a cue that it was something I really wanted to do with her. To her it wasn't important enough because we weren't in the same room or couldn't talk about it during commercial breaks. So it couldn't possibly be important to me.

Ugh. She doesn't get that its rude, she tries to say that I could have called instead of me waiting for her (as if my 5 calls to her 0 weren't enough). It's the same kind of insensitivity that drove her mother to tears only a week ago.

I've spent 19 years enduring resistance, rejections, patching up fights, advocating for her helping her, coaching her monologues, staying in a city I have come to loathe to be near her, suffered financially to some degree for her and continue to do so. All of these things are things that go along with being a parent. And I don't want to play martyr to it, but today I am sick of it. I am sick of the treatment, sick of the life I live for it, sick of the nonsense drama I have had to deal with. Sick of the situations I am stuck in for her. SICK OF IT.

I know in a few days it will be ok...peace will be had...and that this goes along with the territory of being a father of an Aspy, who is 19, who has all the arrogant and stubborn genes of both sides of her family and who is also a spoiled brat (that I blame on the other parent...but it is what it is). It also goes along with the territory of a child who had the strength of will to pull herself from staring at mirrors in silence at the distance of half an inch, to moving to mainstream education, a specialized high school for actors and into college. Yes her parents helped, but in the end it was her will that pulled her through...and its that same will that makes me want to grow my hair back so I can pull it all out and run to California or Georgia or Arizona and forget I was ever a father. Today. Sometime later this week I'll be back to being proud as can be of her for one reason or another.

I just have to keep remembering, this comes with the territory, this comes with the territory, this comes with the territory.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Grateful

Malachite is said to bring harmony into one's life. It is also believed that malachite gives knowledge and patience. Malachite is used as a children's talisman to ward off danger and illness. It is attached to infant's cradles.

I'm trying to return to this tradition. Like many of us I think its really important to just make notes, of what you appreciate in your life.

This morning I am starting by being grateful for coffee. Yes I know it's a drug and it doesn't REALLY wake you up. But it says 'Good morning' to me and it does indeed ease me into the day and give me a way to settle myself and gather my thoughts.

I had a really good time on Friday visiting my daughter with her mother and stepfather. It was a very pleasant and fun day despite the terrible tension of the previous Sunday. My daughter had a really great time. We enjoyed her company immensely and she was really funny.

When she had her ensemble concert it was the usual delight in watching her have such a great time.

I'm grateful that I am still employed in this rough economy, WhyIsDaddyCryin' recently lost his job and is undergoing all the frustrations that come with such things. And TooMuchPerfection's husband is now beginning a recovery from over half a year of being jobless. It drives home that I am fortunate and count my blessings. As well, I am keeping my fingers crossed that TMP's good fortune continues and that WIDC only finds that his life picks up after this snag as his blog seems to show that he will.

By the way, I'm grateful for my many blogger friends who are awesome.

I am grateful for this apartment I am currently living in. It's not ideal for a man my age to be living this way but the fact is that I have a really good roommate who is a nice guy and is a great cook. His holiday party last night was a gas and much needed and it was good to meet his good friends and eat that damned delicious food he made.

I'm grateful people in my life whom I love greatly and who despite how difficult I can be and how complicated my life is, love me back.

I'm grateful for you readers and my twitter friends. My world is expanded because of you and I am the richer for it.

I'm grateful that despite the economy I am taking stock in myself and beginning the hunt for new employment so that I can continue to improve and grow and lead the sort of life I want.