Out with Mommy

Archive for the ‘lesbian mom’ Category

Julianne Moore who starred with Annette Bening as lesbian couple  rasing children together in “The Kids are Alright” recently talked about same-sex couple parenting skills.

Julianne Moore, a mother of two, commentedin  an interview that same-sex couples may make better parents because their children are planned.

“You know what else is really nice, is if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you can’t have a kid by accident, so these children are planned and loved and wanted, well-educated and well-adjusted — and that’s what you want,” she said.

That’s what we’re all here for, right?”

Last week my partner and I were shopping yesterday at Target in West Hollywood, buying some decorations and favors for a Halloween party we are hosting for the kids in the neighborhood, and we were having a delightful time picking out multi-colored flashlights and jack-o-lantern treat buckets, but the shopping trip turned ugly when my son wanted every bag of candy in the Halloween aisle.

A smart boy, he learned long ago how to Houdini out of the safety straps on shopping carts, so it has become a regular challenge to keep him seated in the cart.  After he stood up in the cart several times, and we firmly told him to sit back down, explained to him that it was dangerous, that the store manager would tell us to leave if he didn’t sit down, yadda, yadda, yadda, we finally warned him that if he stood up in the cart one more time, he would have to go with Mommy to the car and wait.

Always testing, as three year olds do, he stood up.  That was it.  I plucked him from the cart and plopped in on my hip.  “Ok, now we’re going to the car.”

He turned to my partner, whom my son calls “Momma,” for reinforcement.  In solidarity with me, she told him, “No, you have to go to the car with your Mommy, because you didn’t sit in the cart.”

I carried him, kicking and screaming all the way to the elevator to the parking garage.  The whole way he screamed, “Momma, Momma.  I want Momma.”

The other people in the elevator starred as I tried to calm down the desparate child in my arms.  I gently reinforced to him, “Next time if you sit in the cart like a good boy, then we can stay.”

All the way to the car he threw a fit and wailed for “Momma.”‘  Slightly embarrassed, I grimaced at the people trapped in the elevator with me and this squirming, screaming child.  As I crossed the parking lot  two men were following me.  I stopped beside my car and was fumbling to find my keys in my purse when one of the men approached me.  In a quiet but demanding tone, “Can you tell me, where is his mother?”

I realized that he thought I was not this child’s mother, and that he thought I might be kidnapping him.  I took a deep breath.  “I am his mother.  He lives with me and my partner.  He calls her ‘Momma.’  That’s why he was calling for ‘Momma.’ “

Still unconvinced, he stood watching me while my son screamed even louder because a threatening looking stranger was looming over his mom. The man was wearing (no lie) Bermuda shorts, socks and sandals.  He definitely did not look like he was from  our part of town.  Possibly a tourist, maybe from the Midwest.

“I want to make sure nobody is taking him who shouldn’t be,” said the man, his friend stepping in closer.

“I appreciate that,” I said, “But I am his mother.  I gave birth to him.”

Here I was in a parking lot telling way too much information to a total stranger, and I was stunned at the idea that someone could think I was a kidnapper.  After all, I was in West Hollywood, gay central.

I tried to sooth my son with, “It’s’ okay, it’s okay,” as I opened the rear door of my car to put him in the carseat.  The man wasn’t budging.  I supposed I could have asked my son to tell the man who I was, but the way my son was throwing a fit who knows what he might have said.  What could I do?  I had already told the man my life story in 20 seconds.  I focused on loading my son into the car, but with two men staring down his mom — and by now my heart beat racing and me exuding shaky nerves — my son was completely rattled.  He refused to go into the carseat.

I decided it best not to escalate the scene.  “Come sit up front with Mommy, OK?  You can honk the horn.”  Finally, my son heard something he liked.  Saved by the horn.  He quit crying, and we went around to the driver’s side where I sat with him in my lap and shut the door.

“Just one time,” I told him.  He tooted the horn.  The men were still standing behind my car.  Now, because of the horn, other people were looking at us.  On the passenger seat floor I spied the bag of candy that we had just gotten at the Westside Families Halloween party at Plumber Park.  A Tootsie Roll sucker!  Normally the one piece of sticky, sugary candy that he’s normally forbidden. I handed it to him for a guaranteed distraction.  He quickly unwrapped it and stuck it in his mouth.  Peace and quiet.

After about a minute, the men walked away.

I sat in the car with my son not sure what to think.  Part of me was glad that strangers would step up to make sure a child was safe.  it was a like an episode of that hidden-camera show, “What Would You Do?” where actors play out some sort of unfair or dangerous social situation to see if passersby will intervene.  Then again, the incident was a reminder of the assumptions some people make and their ignorance about alternative family structures.

In the end, I decided I was glad that the men had approached me.  If someone really had been abducting my son, then I’m glad someone risked their own comfort to approach a stranger to find out what was really happening.  Also, the confrontation gave me the opportunity to educate the men about another family formation.  So maybe next time they see two women with a child they will consider that the women might not be sisters, friends or co-workers but partners.

All in all, a happy ending.

A couple of years ago one of the major mommy magazines ran a short feature on Cat Cora with nary a mention of her partner or the fact she was raising her children in a two-mom household, but Working Mother was anything but mum about the topic in their recent cover story on the out and proud lesbian and only female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef of America.

The article featured a family photo of Cat, her partner Jennifer and their four boys.  In a Q&A format the story covers everything from Cat’s coming out to her IVF adventures with Jennifer and their arrangement of having each other’s eggs transferred into the other mother so that they gave birth to each other’s biological children, except for the one boy who they don’t know who is bio mom because they mixed their eggs.

Thanks Working Mother for coming out with such a wonderful, honest and inspiring story of an accomplished working mom who happens to be gay.

Posted on: September 10, 2010

Saw this post on Mombian which is several months old but timeless!  Ok, so my partner and I are not on the list, but we feel pretty powerful each time we say no to chocolate ice cream at 8 o’clock at night.

Mombian Blog Archive  The Most Powerful Lesbian Moms in America.

POV (Point of View), the award-winning PBS documentary series, is proud to present POV Adoption Stories, three acclaimed films about international and domestic adoption, airing on PBS from Tuesday, Aug. 31 – Tuesday, Sept. 14.

The films explore the challenges of adoptees forging new identities while holding on to their cultural roots. The award-winning film Off and Running,  a story about lesbian parents raising a multiracial family, will air as part of the series on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 10 p.m. (check local PBS listings) In addition the TV premiere, POV will be streaming Off and Running in its entirety beyond the broadcast, from Sept. 8 – Dec. 7 at www.pbs.org/pov/video  to commemorate National Adoption Month in November.

Off and Running, by Nicole Opper, is the story of Brooklyn teenager Avery, a track star with a bright future. She is the adopted African-American child of white, Jewish lesbians. Her two brothers are black and Puerto Rican and Korean-American. Though it may not look typical, Avery’s household is like most American homes — until Avery writes to her birth mother and the response throws her into crisis. She struggles over her “true” identity, the circumstances of her adoption and her estrangement from black culture. Just when it seems her life will unravel, Avery begins to make sense of her identity, with inspiring results.  

Nicole Opper (Director/Producer)

Nicole Opper’s filmmaking credits include producing the Emmy-nominated “The Killer Within” (Toronto International Film Festival, Discovery Channel), “Sacco and Vanzetti” (Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Winner of Best Historical Film by the American Historical Society) and the Here! network’s five-part documentary series LSS. She was selected for Filmmaker magazine’s annual list of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2009 and for Heeb magazine’s list of “100 Jews You Need To Know About” in 2008.

Off and Running was an Audience Favorite Finalist at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, winner of the Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary at Outfest, Best Documentary at the Milan International Women’s Film Festival, Best Documentary at Philadelphia QFest, winner of the SILVERDOCS WGA Award for Best Documentary Screenplay and winner of the Audience Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

 Opper is pursuing a master’s in media, culture and communication at New York University’s school of education. A Brooklyn resident, she is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Mexico, where she is in production on “The Ipo Boys” (working title), a documentary about an innovative group home for abandoned youth.

Watch the trailer and find out more about this film at www.pbs.org/pov/offandrunning.

My son has adored dolls since he held his first one around age one.  He relishes playing tea party with Tara and Michaela, my partner’s nieces and their dolls when we visit Grandma’s house, and he just delights in pushing along my neighbor Stella’s doll in her play-stroller during their playdates.

When I see him very naturally cradling a doll and talking to it, I see glimpses of a conscious boy growing into a caring and sensitive man who will one day be the most wonderful loving father imaginable.

My son is lucky.  Many young boys are deprived of the privilege of developing their nurturing instincts with dolls because of a bias toward dolls as girls’ toys, but Baby GoGo is helping to change that perception.

For today’s modern boy, the folks at Baby GoGo have created a doll outfitted in gender neutral clothing and that comes with a story book that instructs how to care for baby.  The book, soon to be in its second printing, will be updated and revised to include images of a single parent figure, alternating male and female, in order to broaden the accessibility to families with same-sex parents and single parents.

Products from Baby GoGo include the Baby GoGo Goes Home Baby Set ($39.99), with doll, PJs, bottle, blankie and other accessories; the Baby GoGo Diaper bag, sized for little ones and complete with play diapering supplies ($24.99); and the Moses Bed, a carry-around travel bed for the doll ($29.99)

Available at babygogodoll.com.

 

Tennessee Court Rules Mother’s Lesbian Partner Can Remain In Home During Visits With Her Children

Overturns Ruling That Barred Partner Of Over 10 Years From Overnight Visits




NASHVILLE – A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled today that a trial court judge was wrong to impose a “paramour provision” barring a mother’s lesbian partner of more than 10 years from being in the home during the mother’s overnight visits with her children. 

This is the second time the appeals court has rebuked the trial court for imposing the “paramour provision” against American Civil Liberties Union client Angel Chandler. In September 2009, the appeals court ordered the trial court to reconsider the provision. After a hearing in March 2010, the trial court decided to impose the restriction even though, as the appeal courts found, “the record is devoid of any evidence whatsoever to support the finding that a paramour provision is in the best interest of the children.” 

“We are relieved that the appeals court has recognized that restrictions like the one imposed on Angel Chandler can unfairly harm families raised by same-sex couples,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Hopefully such a stern rebuke from the appeals court will send a loud and clear message to judges across the state that these kinds of restrictions are unduly burdensome on lesbian and gay parents who are just as capable of being good parents but don’t have the option of marrying.”  

The appeals court also noted today that there was evidence showing that the paramour clause was contrary to the best interests of the children, including evidence showing that the partner interacted with the children in a “positive and supportive manner” and that the partner “appears to be emotionally stable and capable of providing appropriate support and nurturing to the children and to [the Mother].”  

The “paramour provision” barring Chandler’s partner from her home during visitation with her children was first imposed in May 2008 after Chandler and her former husband appeared before the Gibson County Chancery Court to modify their parenting plan for custody and visitation of their two teenaged children. Despite a court-ordered psychological evaluation of all the parties finding Chandler’s partner was a positive influence on the teenagers, the trial judge imposed the restriction, claiming that he was required to do so under state law. After the appeals court made it clear that there was no such requirement under state law, the trial judge imposed the restriction again in March 2010.   

“We could not be more pleased with today’s ruling from the Court of Appeals,” said Brian S. Faughnan, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Tennessee. “For the second time now this court has made it clear that custody and visitation decisions should be based on what’s best for the children, and that can mean having the love and support of a lesbian or gay step-parent.” 

The restriction caused a huge strain on Chandler’s relationship and finances. Chandler and her partner relocated to North Carolina, where they lived in a duplex that allowed them to abide by the order. Eventually this arrangement became too costly, and Chandler had to stay with a relative when she visited with her children. 

“Working and raising a family is hard enough under the best of circumstances, but this restriction really put a strain on all of us,” said Chandler. “Hopefully, we can now put this nightmare behind us.”

 

My personal note: I tend to believe that Jodie Foster, who has an impeccable reputation, would not attack an innocent teenager trying to take a souvenir photo.  I do believe that as a mom she would stand up to predatory and intrusive paparazzi who are invading her and her children’s privacy.  I have been caught in paparazzi crossfire before and these guys are rude and ruthless.

Los Angeles – After RadarOnline.com reported on Friday that Jodie Foster had been accused of battery by a 17-year-old boy, a rep for the actress tells People that the boy was “most definitely a professional paparazzo” who was harassing Foster and her family.

According to the police report, the incident happened May 29 at the Los Angeles shopping center The Grove: “Vict while at The Grove saw susp and began taking pics of susp with his camera then walked to the valet area of The Grove. Susp followed vict, poked him on his chest, grabbed vict by his left arm causing visible injury.”

The 17-year-old’s father told RadarOnline.com, “My son was at The Grove with his girlfriend and they were going to see a movie. He saw Jodie Foster and is a big fan so went over and took a picture of her.

“She came after him, poked him in the chest and said, ‘Do you even have a mother you slime ball?’”

Foster’s rep, however, says the police report is a complete “fabrication” of what happened. “He had a large camera bag and 100mm telephoto lens. He tailed Jodie and followed her all the way from the move theater to the valet.

“He crowded her and her two young children and took photos of them the whole time,” says the rep, adding that the actress then asked him to stop.

From TIME magazine, June 7, 2010

The teen years are never the easiest for any family to navigate. But could they be even more challenging for children and parents in households headed by gay parents?

That is the question researchers explored in the first study ever to track children raised by lesbian parents, from birth to adolescence. Although previous studies have indicated that children with same-sex parents show no significant differences compared with children in heterosexual homes when it comes to social development and adjustment, many of those investigations involved children who were born to women in heterosexual marriages, who later divorced and came out as lesbians.(See a photographic history of gay rights, from Stonewall to Prop 8.)

For their new study, published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers Nanette Gartrell, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco (and a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles), and Henry Bos, a behavioral scientist at the University of Amsterdam, focused on what they call planned lesbian families — households in which the mothers identified themselves as lesbian at the time of artificial insemination.

Data on such families are sparse, but they are important for establishing whether a child’s environment in a home with same-sex parents would be any more or less nurturing than one with a heterosexual couple.(See a gay-rights timeline.)

The authors found that children raised by lesbian mothers — whether the mother was partnered or single — scored very similarly to children raised by heterosexual parents on measures of development and social behavior. These findings were expected, the authors said; however, they were surprised to discover that children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression. (Comment on this story.)

“We simply expected to find no difference in psychological adjustment between adolescents reared in lesbian families and the normative sample of age-matched controls,” says Gartrell. “I was surprised to find that on some measures we found higher levels of [psychological] competency and lower levels of behavioral problems. It wasn’t something I anticipated.”

In addition, children in same-sex-parent families whose mothers ended up separating did as well as children in lesbian families in which the moms stayed together.

The data that Gartrell and Bos analyzed came from the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), begun in 1986. The authors included 154 women in 84 families who underwent artificial insemination to start a family; the parents agreed to answer questions about their children’s social skills, academic performance and behavior at five follow-up times over the 17-year study period. Children in the families were interviewed by researchers at age 10 and were then asked at age 17 to complete an online questionnaire, which included queries about the teens’ activities, social lives, feelings of anxiety or depression, and behavior.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that 41% of children reported having endured some teasing, ostracism or discrimination related to their being raised by same-sex parents. But Gartrell and Bos could find no differences on psychological adjustment tests between the children and those in a group of matched controls. At age 10, children reporting discrimination did exhibit more signs of psychological stress than their peers, but by age 17, the feelings had dissipated. “Obviously there are some factors that may include family support and changes in education about appreciation for diversity that may be helping young people to come to a better place despite these experiences,” says Gartrell.

It’s not clear exactly why children of lesbian mothers tend to do better than those in heterosexual families on certain measures. But after studying gay and lesbian families for 24 years, Gartrell has some theories. “They are very involved in their children’s lives,” she says of the lesbian parents. “And that is a great recipe for healthy outcomes for children. Being present, having good communication, being there in their schools, finding out what is going on in their schools and various aspects of the children’s lives is very, very important.”

Although active involvement isn’t unique to lesbian households, Gartrell notes that same-sex mothers tend to make that kind of parenting more of a priority. Because their children are more likely to experience discrimination and stigmatization as a result of their family circumstances, these mothers can be more likely to broach complicated topics, such as sexuality and diversity and tolerance, with their children early on. Having such a foundation may help to give these children more confidence and maturity in dealing with social differences and prejudices as they get older.

Because the research is ongoing, Gartrell hopes to test some of these theories with additional studies. She is also hoping to collect more data on gay-father households; gay fatherhood is less common than lesbian motherhood because of the high costs of surrogacy or adoption that gay couples face in order to start a family.

This morning my little darling, Stephen, who will be three in August, demonstrated just why his age is called “Terrible Twos.”  After being told “no” when he wanted to pour more syrup on his already drowning pancakes, he threw a fit and tipped over the breakfast table. A cup of hot coffee landed on the dog, a glass of orange juice shattered with shards flying in all directions, and sticky, syrupy pancakes, sausage and fruit salad flew across the room, splattering the floor and even the walls. It was a scene not to remembered but not cherished.  Our first concern was the dog, who appeared startled and frightened but not injured.  The our attention was to the bad boy in the high chair. My frazzled partner, Kira, picked him up out of the chair with an “Oh My God, NO!”  She hauled him off for a time out in his room.  He was already bawling, as he was just as shocked at the aftermath as all of us. With a deep sigh, I began picking up the broken glass, sopping up the coffee and juice and lamenting the hot breakfast of blueberry pancakes I had just made going to waste, not to mention I was just about to have my first bite, and I was so looking forward to it. Stephen was still crying in his room, Kira took the dog out for a walk, and I cleaned up.  It was another Sunday morning in our happy home.  It wasn’t even 9 am yet, and my day was already just like most days, as I go from cleaning up one mess to the next mess and from tantrum to tantrum, trying to get through the day without any major meltdowns, just to wake up and do it again the next day. The other day when I mentioned this pattern to a fellow mom, she said, “You think the twos are bad.  Wait until you hit the Terrible Threes!”

The disaster that was our breakfast table

But for all the tantrums and messes, this is what I signed up for.  It’s all part of motherhood, and this is what I wanted.

When years ago I told a friend, actually an ex,  that I wanted to have a child, she warned, “It will change your life.  It will be all about the kid.”
“Yeah, I know,” I responded.  “I’m ready for it.”
The irony of this morning’s breakfast disaster was that the orange juice glass that broke into a hundred tiny pieces was the last of a set of crystal bar glasses given to me by, yes, another ex.  It was symbolic that the remnants of my old days as a swinging single gay gal are disappearing.
Those days are over.  Motherhood is my life now, and I do love it, even as I brace myself for the Terrible Threes.

Glee’s Jane Lynch celebrates her marriage to long-term partner Lara Embry

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:50 AM on 2nd June 2010
 

Glee star Jane Lynch celebrated her wedding to Dr Lara Embry in an intimate ceremony on the Memorial Day holiday.

The long-term couple said their vows in front of 18 of their closest friends and relatives at the Blue Heron restaurant in Sunderland, Massachusetts.

Lynch’s role as caustic cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester has made her the star of hit TV show Glee. 

But Deborah Snow, who owns the restaurant with her wife Barbara White, said the 49-year-old couldn’t have been more different from her TV persona.

Happy day: Glee star Jane Lynch, right, with her new wife Dr Lara Embry, left following their wedding ceremonyHappy day: Glee star Jane Lynch, right, with her new wife Dr Lara Embry, left, following their wedding ceremony

‘They’re both extremely warm-hearted, down-to-earth women,’ Ms Snow said.

‘Jane, with all her star power these days, is probably one of the pleasantest stars I’ve met, she’s just really sweet.’

 

 

 

The couple chose the location as Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to legalise lesbian marriage and Dr Embry, a psychologist, attended the nearby Smith college.

‘She was familiar with this area and it was a little fate,’ said Ms Snow. ‘We’re a lesbian couple who own the restaurant and we’ve done 30 to 40 lesbian weddings.’

Jane Lynch and her partner Lara Embry at this year's Golden GlobesIntimate ceremony: The couple, seen at this years Golden Globes, wed in front of their friends and family

The restaurateur watched the ceremony, along with the couple’s friends and family.

‘It was just sweet and very touching,’ she said. ‘They’re both extremely warm-hearted, down-to-earth women.’

The wedding took the newlyweds just two months to organise.

They ate duck, sea bass and a three-tiered vanilla cake with chocolate mousse filling.

Lynch and Dr Embry announced their engagment in April. Dr Embry is a mother of two, born during a previous relationship.

Long-term couple: Lynch with Dr Lara Embry and a friend's daughter on an earlier holidayLong-term couple: Lynch with her partner on an earlier holiday

 

Meanwhile Glee creator Ryan Murphy is adding a Christian character to the show, he tells TV Guide.

‘We’ve taken a couple of jabs at the right wing this year, so what I want to do with this character is have someone who Christian kids and parents can recognize and say, “Oh, look – I’m represented there, too!”

‘If we’re trying to form a world of inclusiveness, we’ve got to include that point of view as well.’

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1283280/Glees-Jane-Lynch-celebrates-wedding-long-term-partner-Lara-Embry.html#ixzz0piWuolrl

The question “Who’s the man?” comes up a lot for me.  As a mother who has opted to have a baby using a sperm donor, and as a woman in a relationship with another woman, many people have asked, “Who is the man?”Latley I have wondered about this myself.

Who really wears the pants in our family?

In the first instance, it’s not important; and in the second instance, the answer is more complex.  As far as my sex life, again, not important; but, regarding the division of labor in our household, it is an issue for me.

My partner Kira and I do not follow traditional sex roles, and it has not been easy to iron out who is responsible for what, such as taking out the garbage, yard work, housecleaning, laundry, cooking or grocery shopping.

In some cases we have naturally taken on household chores based on our interests and aptitudes.  For instance, I am the more mechanically inclined, and I’m handy with power tools, so I am the one who fixes things, installs stuff, assembles and changes the batteries in the toys; and since I also have a knack for computers, I am the resident IT girl.  By default, because I am deft with a spread sheet, I also handle the household finances.

Kira has the green thumb in our family, so she does the planting and nurturing of our perennials.  She also is the more experienced cook and has mastered some favorite signature dishes, such as her goat-cheese and sun-dried tomato pasta, chicken Marsala or shrimp risotto, so when we have company she is queen of the kitchen.

Then there’s the things that neither of us really like to do, but somebody’s got to do them.  We solved part of this problem by hiring a cleaning lady who does the mopping, dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, changes beds, etc., but it’s the responsibility of the everyday chores that have frustrated me.

In many ways, I feel like the man, because I do the heavy lifting and dirty work; but then I also do all the straightening up and all the little things around the house, like picking up toys, changing the toilet paper, throwing out the spoiled food and wiping up the hair in the bathroom. The reality is that if I don’t do these things, they won’t get done, because my partner, like the man, doesn’t think they are that important.  So I nag at my partner, and then I feel like a 50s housewife, complaining about my husband who doesn’t take out the trash.

So while most of the time I feel thankful that I am not tied to a traditional sex role and expected to do the things that women of past generations did purely because they were born a woman, sometimes I wish it were that simple, and that it was clear, who is the man.

Fish are friends!

I just returned from a 13-day trip to the east coast with my 2.5-year-old son Stephen.  During our trip I realized something that, perhaps for many moms is a given, but for me it was a truly amazing and significant discovery:  how well I know my child.

Introducing my son to new things, people, surroundings and situations, I realized that  I could predict which toys and games he would take or leave, to whom he would warm up quickly, and which activities would make him shine or whine.  Likewise I could anticipate a tantrum or other scene, and often times I would know how to avert or allay it.  It was a gratifying feeling.

When we went to Blue Ridge Seafood House, I knew right away he would love the big faux shark head protruding from the bar.  The waitress said that many kids are scared of it, but not mine, who begged to go touch it.  Same story with the hard-shell blue crabs, which he helped me eat by cracking the claws with a wooden mallet, which I knew would be a delight for him, as was his first crustacean encounter.

Stephen meets his Uncle Johnnie

Later in the week, when Stephen met my dad’s brother Uncle Johnnie, I knew the two would hit it off because Stephen would be fascinated by his booming baritone voice, and he was.  I also knew I could trust Stephen to hold and not hurt a delicate caterpillar that we found near my parent’s house, because he has a gentle nature, and quite literally, he wouldn’t hurt a (butter)fly.

Stephen with a very hungry caterpillar

Throughout our trip I found myself one step ahead of Stephen, telling my folks, “Watch this, he’s going to go give Uncle Johnnie a hug,” or “”He needs to lay down for a nap in the next half hour or he’s going to meltdown.”

My two-week travels with him, alone, without my partner, tested my ability to handle him by myself, including on a five-hour-10-minute plane ride, through a time zone with a three-hour adjustment to meal and sleep times.  It was immensely helpful to feel attuned to his peculiarities and preferences, as when I could foresee a spate of boredom coming on during the plan ride and distract him with a game that I knew would engage his attention and keep him from repeatedly opening and slamming shut the tray table, to the appreciation of the man in front of us.

Of course, there are occasional surprises, like when he hated a floral-print sundress my cousin gave me.  Inexplicably he cried and screamed for me to “take it off, take it off.”   I could not get to the bottom of this odd and very pronounced aversion to my dress.  I guess, as a Southern friend of mine was apt to say, “There’s no accounting for taste.”

While I don’t profess to know everything about him, I realized I know a lot about him, as his mom, and I felt proud about it.  The more I know him, the better of a mom and parent I can be for him, and suddenly that old Dolly Parton song came to mind, and I smiled as it played in my head, as it was exactly my sentiments.

“To know, know, know him, is to love, love, love him, and I do…”

Today, May 11, 2010, l have lived in LA for 10 years.  It’s an anniversary I never anticipated, and it still shocks me that I have reached this milestone and what has transpired in the past decade.

Big brother Stephen and me at 1 and 3 years old.

Shortly after the loss of my beloved brother who died of pancreatic cancer on September 19, 1998, I started planning my move to a new life.  My brother Stephen had willed me all he had, and he had urged me to move to LA and follow my dreams.  I loved movies and writing, and I hoped somehow to combine my passions into a career, perhaps in filmmaking.  So off to Hollywood I went.

Within weeks of landing in Los Angeles I found full-time employment at a publicity firm, working with clients such as Britney Spears, NSYNC, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Joan Rivers and James Brown.  I also met a nice doctor, who I began dating.  It was an exciting time.  I was out on the town a lot, meeting people and making friends.

One night in a valet parking lot I met a woman who offered to help me out.   She said we’d “do lunch” sometime.  She gave me her card.  I called, and we had a couple of meetings,  and then asked me to meet with her about “an opportunity.”  She proposed that I become her business partner, along with another woman, in a new venture.   The result was me becoming co-founder and co-executive director of a promising new networking group for lesbians in the entertainment industry.  Wow, I had not even been LA less than six months and I got my first big break!

Launching the company was an immense amount of work, but worth it.   I devoted every free moment to making our new enterprise a successes, attending every women’s event, mixer and ladies night in town, nightly, working every connection and connection-to-a-connection to promote our fledgling organization.  All seemed well.  I was meeting people.  I was helping other people meet each other.

Our company’s accomplishments in just a few short months were rewarding, and impressive.  I put my PR training to use to secure countless articles in the press about our organization.  I recall asking one prospective member where she heard about us, and she replied, “Where haven’t I heard about you?”  Our membership kept growing, and we even launched a chapter in New York.

Hollywood Nights:  Hanging with Ellen

As they say, it was too good to be true. I’ll spare the details , which have provided ample fodder for my forthcoming book, but I will say that I came to understand Bernie Brillstein’s famous quip, “You’re nobody in Hollywood until someone wants you dead.”

Meanwhile I was learning that my new relationship with the doctor whom I had met just a few weeks after moving to town was not everything I thought it was.  At the same time, my dear little dachshund, Pepa, my most loyal companion for more than 14 years, suffered a stroke that rendered her lame and blind.  Then, while I was on the way to work early one morning, two planes hit the World Trade Center.  The news was too much to bear.  I turned off the radio and cried.  When I got to my office, my boss sent me and my coworkers  home to await further notice.  Two days later, the owners of the company called us all in to inform us that due to 9-11 and the economy, we were all laid off.  It seemed like Armageddon.

Pepa. A Little Dog with a Big Soul

Essentially I was alone in LA.  All my family and true friends were in Washington, DC, where I had lived my whole life.

But I did not leave LA.  I stayed.  I was determined that nobody and nothing would run me out of town.  So I did the only thing I could do:  I made things better for myself.  New job.  New home.  New girlfriend.  New circle of friends.  I even got a new body, thanks to being unemployed.  Each day after I scoured the help wanted ads and sent out a half dozen resumes, I would stave off boredom with exercise.  Each day, sometimes several times a day, I would run, bike, hike, Rollerblade and lift weights.  My mind and body got strong.  Life was good again.

Back with a vengeance with a new outlook and new physique (photo by pal Brian Rawdon)

What happened next was my fault, in part.  I made some bad choices.  I went backward.  Back to the doctor.   She promised she had changed.  But it didn’t last long.   After a big fight, I left her house with the parting words, “My life is better without you.”  Then, a few weeks later, I got the call.  She was dead.  I had always wondered how our tumultuous relationship would end.  This was how.

My grief would be short though, because soon after her death I found myself in a legal battle with her family over my brother’s inheritance, which she had co-mingled with her own funds.  Despite an abundance of documentation that proved the money was mine, I was forced to pay off her family to get it back.

I was bitter, but I moved on.  With what was left of my brother’s money, I decided to do what he had wished for me — follow my dreams.  I would start my own family.  I had always wanted to have a child, and while my brother Stephen was alive I told him about my hopes.  But when Steve got sick, I put my family plans on hold.  Then with the move to LA, the disastrous business venture and then my partner’s death, it seemed the time was never right. Until now.

I was single, but I knew I could do it on my own.  If nothing else, my life in LA had taught me I could not only survive I could thrive by my own doing.

The process was long and arduous, as chronicled in my three-part column series “Nothing as Planned.” but I began taking all the steps needed to prepare my life for a baby.  It was an exhilarating time.  My heart was full of hope and promise.

Then, unexpectedly, I found love.  Kira, whom I had known for a couple of years, came back into my life.  She, like me, had suffered the death of a partner.  Her lover, a close friend of mine, had died in a tragic car accident.  Kira asked me to help plan the memorial service.  From that beginning, we became friends.  Now that I was trying to become pregnant, Kira had visited me for support, and one thing led to another.

After a trying time of emotional ups and downs through nearly a year of fertility treatments, I was expecting!  Alleluia!  Thank you brother Stephen for your inspiration and for making this incredible event in my life possible!

Birth was another story, again, all chronicled in my series, “Nothing as Planned,” but here he was, the joy of my life, little Stephen, born August 11, 2007, 8 lbs. 11 oz.

Nurturing a little newborn and being there as he has grown into a walking, talking, charming, extraordinary toddler has been all that I hoped, imagined and dreamed it would be.  My son Stephen is the single best thing ever to happen to me in my life.  I thank God and I thank my brother Stephen everyday for giving him to me.  I want the best for him in life and will dedicate the rest of my life to making it so for him.

    

A portrait of me and Stephen taken by my friend and pro photographer Sara Corwin.

My story is not over though.  Once again, the choices I made, which I thought were the best choices at the time, have had repercussions.  I did not anticipate that my choices might harm me or my son.  I relied on my faith, wishing and hoping that everything would be wonderful.  I am writing a second book, Anchor Baby, inspired by my true-life experience conceiving my son and the unforseen consequences of my decisions on our family.

It has been 10 years here in LA; here where everything was not as I thought it would be.  Life will always have ups and downs, but my decade here has taught me that my choices can directly influence how high and how low.  I remember a saying that used to give me strength when I first moved here:  “Your happiness in life is equal to the risks you take.”  And so I have taken risks, and I hold on to the hope and dream that in the end happiness is the reward.

Epilogue:  My next commitment is to writing.  I am finishing one book I started four years ago and I have begun working on Anchor Baby as well. Some have heard my working title of novel #1, and many have urged me not to change it.  As this is a G-rated site, I cannot post the title here, though it is in my bio under “About.” Once I actually talked to shock-master John Waters about it, and he said I would have to change it to get it published, though he loved it.  I am undecided.  After all, how will my mom explain it to the bunco club?

Stephen now at 2 years old.


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