Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Schools are tightening up...

D couldn't get into his classroom at the local middle school because someone stuck something into the lock and broke it off, meaning the door lock was broken. Once inside, he read a memo that let him know that the school district cannot afford copy paper, or tissues. So he has to buy his own copy paper, and buy tissues for the kids. Meaning...god forbid that the swine flu comes around and kids have nowhere to wipe their running noses!

School has most definitely started. Fires are burning, kids are grouchy, parents are tired. Is it Friday yet?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Rage Against the Machine: Joy

I cannot help but be in awe of passion enacted, of seeing the temple in which a person's heart lies. As J lounged about at the foot of my bed, near midnight, laughing and chatting with me and D, I knew he was happy and proud and satisfied. Rarely do I see this person. Rarely does he allow himself to feel the joy to the point where it spills out, splashing those who love him most. It was a wonderful sight! They were precious moments indeed.

See, tonight he played his music - shared himself at his best with strangers, friends, and family at a humble restaurant-bar in the suburbs - he played his drums, driving the music with his excellent timing and lively fills. J and his band played their fave music, a 45-minute set of good old fashioned rock and roll. At the end of the set, he and his bandmates each got paid 50 bucks, and the restaurant owner wants them back. An awesome night. He was exactly where he wanted to be. He was where his heart truly lies, where he thrives and lives and breathes.

One year ago, J was kicking and screaming as we signed him up for an ongoing, formal "rock band" music program in our city. He didn't want to do anthing that even hinted of "school." The program director was young and hip and yet J proved a major challenge to him. J said horrid things aloud, rebelled against the structure of the weekly sessions, he sometimes didn't want to go to practice. The director would sort of look at J in distress, laughing sometimes, cringing at others. He admonished J. Sort of implied that maybe J shouldn't come back. The director was like a first-time parent (in fact, the session J attended was only the director's second session of his cool new program). Never had he encountered such an unpredictable and difficult to wrangle kid (we were so proud).

D and I figured this was yet another path that he'd burn up. Oh we fought him on it, we pushed for it, but we knew this was up to him to pull off. So J slogged through that first session, concluding the five weeks by playing three or four rock songs with other students at a big outdoor show (part of a music festival in our L.A. suburb). Another five-week session was about to start. D and I prayed he'd sign up but doubted it. J complained about the director, about being older than some of the kids he played songs with, about the time away from his "friends", friends D and I desperately loathed (and still do).

The director (like all smart and loving parents) decided to try a different approach with J. Before the session was to begin, he called J on the phone to personally invite him to the program once again. He used plain words, saying simply, "You're my best drummer. Nobody gets it like you do. I need you to be a leader...not a fucking shit head." Please know, the young and hip director had our full support.

J signed up again. And again. For the past four months, he has not only been a part of the formal program, but got asked to be part of a separate band by a fellow program student. The best of the best, really. These other kids are awesome, great kids. These kids comprise J's band - they have grown to be good friends. Very good friends. The band has played quite a few shows around town. Played at an under-18 club, at a party, played at a couple of fund-raising carnivals. All on their own, with a little help at booking by the parents behind the scenes. And they're good! I knew J knew his stuff, but how cool that these kids found each other, all very talented for being so young, all passionate about music.

Now, yes, they are well-supported by their parents. I worried about that actually. At first, they seemed like five kids stuck together, playing music their parents liked. J, of course, was most worrisome. He would get a bit moody because these weren't HIS friends. He liked them, but they weren't his people. I don't worry any more. He has slowly begun to prefer his bandmates to his friends. Slowly. In fact, they have not only become good friends, but true professionals.

When the lead singer quit (you're not a real band until someone quits!) a few short days before a gig at a carnival, the remaining four buckled down with the lead guitar player taking over lead vocal and let me tell you, they played the hell out of that show. They were in a pinch and they tackled it, without the parents calling any shots. I was most proud of J.

They have a new singer now who played tonight, another great kid with a great voice and that same amazing passion in someone so young. In other words, an excellent match. Mind you, the boys advertised for a new singer, got a hit, auditioned him, and took him on.

Yes, yes, tomorrow we'll get angry at J for more rebellion, for more poor decision-making. He will continue to struggle against those damn boxes until he can get to music full-time. We will struggle with trying to get him into the box because that's our job. We're hoping for a little compliance with the continuation school...for meeting with the school-appointed psychologists...because we are his parents and we have to do the "right" thing to keep him off certain rocky, unpaved roads to which he seems ever-drawn.

Not too long ago, someone commented to me, "Why the hell are you encouraging this rock and roll crap? He needs to be in school!"

We encourage the "crap" because we ARE his parents, and we see where his heart lies. It is a beautiful place. It might not look like YOUR temple...it might not offer up a degree...or a corner office...or a pension plan.
No, J's temple is deliciously dark, and moody, with colored lights flashing, tall amplifiers blaring, electric guitars whining, where beers and tacos get carted around by curvy waitresses, and there's a tip jar on a step. His temple smells like cigarette smoke that wafts in from the outside, and there are flirtations happening on the side of the stage where he can't quite see. There are girls in the front dancing and making eyes at the players, and there are grown folks who nod and bob their heads the incessant beat and say, "damn, I remember doing that," or "damn, I wish I'd been able to do that way back when..." The temple is filled with music...and joy.

Tonight J was at his best, he was where he is supposed to be. For that, I am in awe.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Our entertainment for today: putting out seeds for birds.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Throughout this summer, I've been reading Danny Miller's highly moving story of the premature birth of his twin sons at his blog, Jew Eat Yet? His tale of the loss of his son, Oliver, and then of Charlie's fight for survival in a Los Angeles NICU, has brought his readers along on a harrowing journey that reaches all the amazing parts of parenthood. In reading Danny's heart-wrenching entries, I cannot help but turn to my own children, and see them again as the miracles that they are.

It's not that we, parents of children who are..."out of the box" for lack of a better word, can ever forget the amazing fact of having a family, but rather that we can (at least *I* can) easily lose perspective. And maybe it's just me. Maybe I have unreasonable expectations, maybe I'm so influenced by what we're all "supposed" to be doing, that I cannot see the good parts of children who are not like all the others.

The other day, the Bliss family was having dinner with my sister's family. Now...my sister AB, is one of those lucky people who has children who are highly compliant. They follow the rules, they heed the demands of their parents, they perform fantastically at school. Rebellion is simply not a part of their lives, and I'm quite confident, based on obverving their personalities, that rebellion will never be a part of their lives. It's just not in them. So...at this dinner, my son, is trying to explain why he has to leave the party early. Why he has to get up at six in the morning to pick up trash at the local park.

Community service. This simply does not register on the mind of my nine-year old nephew. So J is his special way smiles broadly and says to little T, "I'm helping society and our environment tomorrow morning! It's a good thing to be green."

Yes, it is.

Our summer has been filled with a lot of music, J and A both are in cover bands and they're playing all over town - at band battles, baseball fundraisers, and J's band is playing in local under-18 clubs. They're having a blast and doing well. M is busy with swimming and guitar lessons.

We're all playing lots of Playstation Rock Band gigs. We've been to Mammoth Lakes and have been completely indulgent in going out to dinner. I've done lots of reading, prepping for classes and a presentation in October, and lounging around in idle and funny conversation with the kids. We've watched a lot of tv, our feet up, popsicles in hands, our dog in our laps. The summer has been surprisingly cool. When it's hot we swim in our community swimming pool. We've had few battles this summer since the boy both decided summer school wasn't going to happen, but for the most part D and I have just focused on enjoying the free time we have without the onus of work.

Our vacation is coming to an end and the routine will once again jump up and force us to strive towards "in the box" behavior. But until that day, we've tried to adjust our perspective and soak in the miracle of our little family. Thank you, Danny, for sharing your story and reminding me of the amazing parts of life that get swallowed up in routine and living in the box.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer Again

Wasn't it just a couple of months ago when I posted about Summer, 2008? I had big plans and accomplished few of them. Wasn't it really just a few months ago when I posted that J was determined to not fail the semester? Well, here we are, June lurking in the short distance and he is failing all his academic classes. He plans on continuation school in fall. He plays in a band and hangs out with his friends. He has locked himself out of driving, proms; he has no phone, he gets no money from us, or extras. Essentially, he has no life. The school did everything they could, short of doing the work for him. Every teacher sat there with everything they possibly could to get him to give one little shit about getting a "D". We yell every so often, but for the most part we have given up. His future in his hands.

We did everything within our economic means. We did everything emotionally but bleed out in front of him. The doctors have examined him up and down. He's on medications to address his disorders - he skips taking them. He curses us when we don't provide him with money or a ride anywhere. There is no "punishment" that elicits anything, nor any reward either.

It is hard to be supportive because there is not much to be supportive about. That he takes a shower? Good job, son! Oh look, he's walking on the sidewalk! Excellent, he remembers his password for MySpace. Nice job on getting dressed and finding your own way to your friends' houses. I can imagine that for some these would be miracles. I have completely lost all perspective.

I dreamed last night his friends broke into my house.

We simply stand by and watch him fall lower and lower. He wants no help to move forward. He doesn't want to move forward. He simply doesn't care.

I do not know what to do any longer...short bleeding out in front of him simply to end a terrible ache.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Today, tomorrow...

The weekend has hit and I couldn't be happier. While I love school, I love teaching, I'm thrilled that summer is here. Never fails I imagine so much getting done without the drag of a routine and meetings.

I signed up on Twitter, trying out a new way to write, another possibility of technological expression.

Probably, I'll abandon that, too.

Tomorrow's the beach.

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A New Day

One thing I love about teaching is the prospect of a "do-over" every semester for the repeat courses. It's a great thing being given the opportunity to restate information to students, to tweak assignments to make them more effective, to adjust lecture material to make it more interesting and accessible.

J seemed to have the same feeling with the start of the semester. Towards the end, he gave up because the snowball had become too large to manage. He blew major classes in the semester because he believed there was no chance to salvage his grades, and he was probably right. Too much make-up work.

Tonight he's working hard to complete assignments. He told me he was going to really try to get all the homework done. "Check my homework every day, Mom. I'm really going to do this. I have to."

Do-overs are soooo wonderful.

Friday, January 09, 2009


It's been a hellish week - the child, J, isn't attending school. At all. We've got the school involved, he'll be cited (50 hours community service for him; three hours in court, court costs and getting up early to take him to community service for us), he's lost his phone, computer time, money for lunch, rides anywhere. He still has a warm bed to sleep in, food, clothes, medical care. He left without permission to hang out with friends and didn't come home until nine o'clock. He grinned at me through the front door's window, cold yet sweaty from skateboarding in 60 degree weather. Hungry. I was surprised to see him, sure he'd stay the night out. Sure he'd miss tomorrow's drum lesson and Saturday detention. I was wrong. D told me he'd be back.

"You missed dinner," I said as he strolled inside. He made himself a can of soup. Made small talk with M. Watched TV with D. Went to sleep. Another day...

Dealing with this has left D and I feeling hopeless, helpless. The situation reminds me much of when I was a child and could do nothing to control an out-of-control mother. It frustrates me. Saddens me. I see such a bad end. The depression is rolling in like late-night fog and when the children leave for school, I crawl into bed and stay there until noon.


M is enrolled in gymnastics for the first time. She loves it! She's sweet in her baby-roundness, in her clumsy efforts to follow along. She smiles at me, though, from the blue mats, trying hard, and at the end accomplishes moves she could not do at first. I sit and watch, listening to the other mothers. One boasts about how she follows her children all day long from activity to activity. "I don't miss anything. I'm there all the time whether it's practice or the games. I have three children and I get to every thing they do."

I don't understand why she needs to prove her devotion so loudly. I say nothing. We were devoted like that to J.

The exercise is good for M and will improve her tendency to fall easily, make her less clumsy. She's too much like me in that way. On the way home, M tell me about the Vice-Presidential run-off she's in for her second grade. She's concerned about the boy-girl ratio. I tell her that Hillary Clinton had the same problem. We both agree that politics is a rough road. She wants to know how many times a President can run for office. She's calculating how many times it might take to turn around that boy-girl ratio.

Next week I'm headed to a university retreat in the local mountains. I'll be grateful for the change in pace, for the snow, for the cozy dinner. It will be nice to sleep in a warm bed, alone, and in complete white silence.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Another day, another...

Another day, another opportunity for my eldest and dearest to tell me to "fuck off." His language is such a delight! It always makes me self-reflect, wondering, classically, where did I go wrong? At what point did he decide that life "in the box" was not his thing? I don't even know WHAT his thing is anymore.

I don't know where he thinks he will end up. To him, the streets seem a viable and sometimes preferable place to being in a home where he has to attend classes and not fail them, oh, and not commit crimes. That is ALL we require. I don't demand that he do chores, or get straight A's (hell, I don't demand C's), or even be nice to people.

BUT...the streets is where he'd prefer to be. I'm not sure what to do about it. I thought therapy would be good, but he refuses to comply. Medication he won't take. He simply says, "fuck off."

God, I'm so glad I decided to procreate.

This morning, I dreamt of my mother. I was so relieved that she was here and ready to tackle the problem of J. I cannot quite convey the intense disappointment when I wakened to a darkened room, with my husband snoring away and my dog curled up in between my knees.

Damn, it's all on me. Still.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Procrastination runs in the family. Tomorrow the kids start back at school and in these last moments of vacation, I checked A's teacher's website and oh dear, there's a book report due on Friday. I scrambled through our own limited library for books to read, plugging them into the Accelerated Reader website to see the reading level and finally said...hell with that, kissy, kissy, go to bed.

I ask, why did I not take a peek at the website two weeks ago? Why did my little angel not bother to remember that this book report needed to be done, i.e. that reading needed to be done? He's in sixth grade - I think he's ready to take some responsibility for his own school requirements. Yes?

J has an opportunity to audition for a band that might get media attention and so to do that, he needs to practice the most basic elements of drumming: keeping a beat for longer than three minutes. He played all of five minutes today. He says, "Yeah, I'll do it." I won't even mention the schoolwork situation. We have two letters on the counter saying he's failing courses at high school. Yeah, yeah...I'll do it.

I have many projects sitting on a desk at work waiting for me. Yeah, yeah, I'll do them.

What is my New Year's resolution? Get better at not procrastinating. I'll try to get to that res tomorrow...or in the next few days. Sometime later this month.

M is like her father and is not a procrastinator. She might be young, 8 years old now, but she is always keenly aware of school obligations, or important dates, or activities. She put out her school clothes for tomorrow morning. She made sure she was in bed at 9:00. She always comes home and does homework right away. I pray she will always be so punctual.

J, A, and I will drown beneath put-off obligations.


I so wish to return to daily/weekly blogging. I miss my home here. I'd love to say, I will write here every week/day. Yeah, I'll do that.


Where has 2008 gone? We struggled with J most of the time. I struggled with my marriage the rest of the time. D and I have very different viewpoints on how to handle difficulty. In the end we are textbook dysfunction: we point fingers at each other and everyone is miserable. We dare not venture near the other because we're too pissed off. I cannot seem to rise above the muddy fray. Instead I choose to wallow, burying myself in work. At work. At least there, there is the semblance of functionality.

My second resolution is for a better family life, but I doubt that will happen.

My third is to get through the promotion process at work successfully. I'll let you know if that happens in February, 2010.


I'm terribly lazy when it comes to exercise. Wouldn't it be grand to try for that 20 minutes a day routine? Yeah, yeah...that would be a fantastic resolution to accomplish. I'll get to it after I read a few more pages of "Hood" by Stephen Lawhead.


Happy New Years, blogger-world. May you all have resolutions that can be accomplished. And get a little goofy in the process.