Friday, March 5, 2010

5:00 Fridays

So the Oscars are on this weekend. Yawn. Ho hum. Whatevah. It's normally kind of a big deal in my house. Over the last 12 or so years I have seen all the Oscar nominated films in the top six categories. You know, the ones in which the actors get accosted on the red carpet and make the cover and center spread of People magazine.

Mac Daddy and I would fill out our ballots and sit down to a feast of the surf and turf variety. We used to call our old friends Chris and Shan during commercial breaks to taunt them since we took our balloting seriously. I never liked Oscar parties because of all the...talking. I like to watch it all in uninterrupted silence: the pre-show, post-show, fashion police show, and everything in between. Shan is the only person I have ever met who would watch the Oscars with the same riveted attention. Back in the day we ended up shooing our loud mouth husbands out of the room so we could watch in peace.

This year our Oscar night will be a wee different. For starters, we've seen about two movies. Mac Daddy and I are the only people on the planet who have not seen Avatar. The only category I have covered is Animation. I have a hunch Chris and Shan are in the same boat. And now instead of shooing our husbands we'd be shushing our boys, which is never very effective. Also, no more surf and turf since we gave up red meat. Surf is still on the table but doesn't have quite the same ring to it. I'm also a tired wreck these days so it's likely I'll fall asleep somewhere between the Cinematography award and the recap of the technical awards where all the geeks are segregated from the real stars but get to ogle a Hollywood hottie in all her cleavagey glory for an evening.

The one thing that won't change is toasting our love of the movies with champagne. Even if we're curled up in fleece PJs a size too big (that would be me, not Mac Daddy) and a shedding farting dog between us, we'll crack our the Tiffany champagne glasses my brother (who happens to be a Hollywood type himself who has been nominated for an Oscar...ooh, the irony) and pour some bubbly. Not to be confused with the Buble that might be on your iPod, not mine.

I'm mixing it up a tad this year as a nod to our dear friends Chris and Shan whom we miss terribly. I recall some excrutiatingly fun evenings with them way back in the day, just a bevy of buddies sharing some Absolut Mandrin libations.

Oscar Oranj

5 ounces good quality brut champage
1 ounce Absolut Mandrin vodka
teaspoon Grand Marnier
Orange slice

Pour the vodka and Grand Marnier into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with an orange slice. Sit back, pretend you're dolled up in a custom gown so fancy and tight that you're taped and tucked into it, toss your head with a gay lilting laugh, bat your eyelashes, pout your ruby lips, be charming, and have a sip. Now revel in the escape of the movies.


In the words of Kevin Spacey at the 1995 Academy Awards (Holy shit! The Usual Suspects is 15 years old?!):

"Whoever Keyser Soze is, I can tell you he is going to get gloriously drunk tonight."
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Project Enlightenment Saved My Family

I posted this to Facebook this morning when I read about the drastic cuts proposed for Project Enlightenment.

"My family was in crisis when our son was 3. Not medical or financial crisis. Behavioral crisis. It is no hyperbole that we would not be who and where we are today without Project Enlightenment's support and care. Without those counselors and programs, our son would not be thriving in first grade now. The impact of that experience fixed what was a potential shattered relationship with my son at that tender young age. I'm emotional even harkening back to that time. These programs are not just for those people whose paths you don't cross. "Those people." These programs are for ALL of us. And they work."

My fingers quiver on the keyboard as I conjure up the memories of when Bird was 3. He had violent raging temper tantrums. I'm not talking the I-Want-Candy variety. He'd overturn furniture and fling books out of his bookcase in a head spinning rage. He would yell like a banshee and writhe in fits of fury. 15 minutes would pass. Then 30. 40. Most rages lasted 45 minutes to an hour. Full on screaming, flailing, kicking, hitting. Deal was an infant then, cradled snugly in my arms for fear he'd be in the path of Bird's destruction.


Not just his room and his belongings. Our family. Our relationship.

I sat in tears, quaking with stress, worry, fear, resentment. I never knew what would tip the scale to make Bird fly into a tantrum. I tiptoed and spent every waking moment anxiously awaiting the rage to begin. He saved it all up for me. Bird didn't demonstrate this behavior at school. Whatever he corked up at school came gushing out at me. He spewed all his emotional venom and bile upon me. We spent many hours huddled in his room sobbing. Feeling helpless. Alone. Defeated. Guilty. And just terribly sad.

All while tending to an infant.

I was alone. No family support. A husband at a new job.

Bird's tantrums were escalating. It was as if he were possessed. Seriously out of control and a danger to himself. I began to resent this behavior. To resent my own son. Do you know how that feels? I feel ashamed admitting it now. My heads hangs, my whole being awash of guilt. I defied all truths of motherhood; suddenly I was rewriting what unconditional looked like. I loved Bird, of course, but I didn't want to be around him. I didn't want to cater to him and fear him. I wanted to instead protect the sweet baby Deal who was innocent and vulnerable. And yes, easy. Easy to love. Easy to care for. Easy to adore. Then I was swept with such guilt for feeling so that I mentally collapsed.

Once, just once, I slapped my son.

In the midst of one particularly violent rage I slapped Bird across the cheek thinking I could get him to snap out of it. It didn't work. He didn't even take note of my hot hand on his wet cheek. I still feel the sensation of my sweaty shaking palm making contact with his tear streamed soft skin. His face. I literally shake my hand to get rid of the sensation as if it were an EtchASketch. My eyes well with tears and a coal-like lump rises in my throat as I write this. I've never said this before. I never talked about what hell it really was. For all of us.

But that afternoon I called Mac Daddy. I told him I couldn't do it anymore. I wasn't fit to be a mother. I was overwhelmed and under supported. In retrospect I am most certain I suffered remnants of undiagnosed and untended-to post partum depression. I was the camel, and my slapping palm was the straw.

We called Project Enlightenment.

Our counselor saved us. Saved me. Saved our son. Saved our relationship. Without the skills and insights and therapy we received....

I'm afraid to even think what might have been.

Project Enlightenment gave us specific tools, words, exercises to manage Bird's tantrums. We learned how to handle anger, fear, anxiety, in him and in ourselves. We learned how the parenting we were a product of made us the parents we were becoming. We learned how to repair what was shattered. Just yesterday I opened my Project Enlightenment file to get a quick refresher on how to teach empathy to my sons.

That file has sat atop my desk for almost four years. Its contents are dog eared and highlighted. Those resources have given me my son back. Project Enlightenment served a need, a desperate need, that no doctor or grandparent or teacher could have filled. Or fixed.

If our counselor at Project Enlightenment hadn't helped us, my resentment toward Bird would have surely escalated. I know this much is true. I find myself still battling it at the times he's particularly difficult or defiant now. My brain takes me back to those fits when he was three, and I think, "Haven't we been through this? Haven't I paid my parenting dues?" But now I know how to change. Now I know what resonates with him. Now I know. The self loathing I have from that time still haunts me. There are times I want to rewind, words I want to retract, steps I want to retrace.

Project Enlightenment, while unable to magically erase or rewrite the past, has enabled us to walk into a shinier future. Hand in hand.

Bird is now a thriving first grader. He has no behavioral or medical or psychological issues. Well, he does pick on his little brother and talks too much in class, but that's all normal, right? My Bird is bright, curious, eager, and awfully funny. He knows he is loved and adored. I still call him my first baby when I kiss him good night. We exchange Eskimo kisses, butterfly kisses, and lip kisses. Then he blows me a kiss from his bed, and I pretend to catch it and put it on my cheek. This is our ritual.

And we have Project Enlightenment to thank.

Join the Facebook Group here.
Send an email to the school board. You'll find their contact information here.
Write to the paper.

Raise your voices, people. Cutting funding for early childhood development and education will prove to be disastrous, and expensive. Our children are an investment, not an expense.
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