Friday, June 29, 2012

A Little Backsliding

Today I am taking Benjy to the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester.

Am I CRAZY or what??

I ask this because Bnejy is not your typical 12-year-old boy, the type who will enjoy seeing weapons ancient and modern, and then go home and make fart jokes and watch Family Guy and eat potato chips and ride his bike. Oh, no.

Benjy is OBSESSED with firearms, and this junket will just fuel the craziness.

The gun obsession started shortly before his first hospitalization, a few years ago. As he became more and more off-kilter he spent more and more of his waking moments thinking about guns. Googling them. Looking at military videos. Drawing them. And then he began rolling and folding and taping white sheets of printer paper into the most beautiful paper replicas. Stunning and accurate, often with working parts. He spent hours watching Youtube videos of slightly bent boys and young men crafting these things, and after a while became so adept at it he no longer needed the tutorials.We became rich in white paper guns, and it was deeply unsettling but also suggestive of intense (if somewhat skewed) creative energy.

It's been a year or two since he's made one of those. But the obsession is alive and well. Now, I don't think that Ben would ever use a gun to hurt a person or animal. Until recently (and by 'recently" I mean the onset of puberty, which is really changing everything) he would weep when hearing about soldiers dead in Afghanistan or Iraq. All he could do was think about their loved ones, bereft and heart-broken here at home. And shoot an animal? No Way. Animals were -- and I hope still are -- cherished beings. I've blogged about Ben's animals obsessions before -- even tarantulas are beautiful to Ben.

But recently a new darkness has emerged. Now, he's always harbored dark thoughts. Thinks the world is full of evil-doers and miscreants. (Often I agree with him, by the way, but I NEVER let him know that.) And those dark thoughts have worried me.

He just spent a few days with his best friend in Connecticut, and twenty-five percent of the time he was deeply dysregulated -- so much so that he was trying to shoot squirrels with a bow and arrow (his friend, according to Ben, has all the luck, all the "cool" equipment, such as a pocket knife and a real bow and arrows. He tells me about this stuff to let me know my failings as a mother. As if I am EVER going to give a kid with a long history of suicidality and self-injury the knives, arrows, and box-cutters he longs for. Jeez.)

Anyway, he and his friend were "hunting" (believe me, I had no idea till I got there to pick him up) and his first words to me when I arrived were:

"We ALMOST got a squirrel."

"Huh?" I said, blinking.

"With the bow and arrow."

When this registered I told him that our family does not believe in killing animals for sport, and that as an underage member of said family he is not allowed to try to do so.

"It's for FOOD, Braniac." (Ben gets rude and rebellious sometimes when dysregulated.)

"Oh? and who's going to skin and clean and cook it?"

"I am."

Please note that this is the child who will not even eat chicken unless it is prepared by someone in a fast food uniform.

"And what will you do if you shoot it and it doesn't immediately die? Let it bleed to death or strangle it to put it out of its misery?"

Then the anger surfaced. "I HATE squirrels. They should ALL DIE. They eat bird seed out of bird feeders and I AM A BIRD LOVER. So who cares if I shoot one of them?"

Please note that our last conversation about squirrels centered on their cuteness and fluffiness and chubbiness and was conducted in a cute-animal-squeaky-voice. Like, don't you just WANT ONE FOR YOUR VERY OWN?

And it wasn't just squirrel murder that was on his off-kilter mind. He decided he hates cops, especially female ones, because apparently they are ALWAYS OUT TO GET YOU. Beware the lady cops -- they are cold-blooded killers. And he also decided that if you break a law -- a not-so-important one, possible like thou shalt not steal packs of gum from the convenience store, or something like that -- a simple apology should be enough, no police involvement necessary. And why the hell are there laws and rules ANYWAY?

Readers, this is scary stuff, because my child lacks the basic judgment of a typical twelve year old. Not that any twelve-year-old-boy is particularly reasonable, what with all those hormones kicking in. But mine has no common sense, no rationality, no cool head in a hot situation. I can just see him telling a cop, "Look, dude, you're the one who's wrong. There shouldn't BE rules about not stealing gum from convenience stores because there should NOT BE MONEY and EVERYTHING SHOULD JUST BE AVAILABLE FOR EVERYONE, WHENEVER THEY WANT IT. AND WHO MADE THESE STUPID RULES UP ANYWAY?

Then I can see him being booked at the station and sent away to juvvy and living a life of terrible fear and loneliness and sadness and deprivation, and then I will want to die.

So why am I taking him to the Armory Museum? I guess to ease his loneliness and sadness, and give him something interesting to do on a hot, empty Friday.

Oh my God. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cool Beans, Saskia!

So, you might have figured out by now that I love opera. I know, just more evidence of my nerdiness. But boy, there is nothing like being immersed in Mozart or Offenbach or Handel for three hours...the music, the drama, the artistry, the costumes and sets.

When I was pregnant with Saskia I listened exclusively to classical music CDs -- instrumental music and opera -- at home and in the car, and I listened A LOT. (These days I listen mostly to NPR in the car -- I don't know why the change.) Then when she was born, the same -- lots of opera, and lots of Mendelssohn and and Bruch, as I recall. So she got an earful of it.

Two of my favorite Saskia stories are these:

1) When Saskia was three or so she used to DEMAND Mozart's (amazing) Don Giovanni EVERY TIME we got into the car. I happily obliged, because listening to Mozart is like reading Shakespeare or Dickens: you can do it over and over and notice something new each time. You keep being surprised and amazed, and somehow it always seems fresh. So, OK -- I indulged her.

One day, though, I had this rogue thought. Maybe, because I'm just a tad tired of Don Giovanni, I will sneak in The Marriage of Figaro. She is three, and she will never know the difference.

So I popped in Figaro, making sure NOT to start with the overture, because I figured she would recognize THAT as non-Don Giovanni. I think I started with "Porgi Amor" at the beginning of Act II.

And you know what? within two or three measures, an indignant Saskia cried, "THAT IS NOT DON GIOVANNI!"

Well. The funny thing is, there is nothing remotely like "Porgi Amor," the Countess's melancholy aria, in Don Giovanni. Because Figaro and DG are quite different, as it turns out. That kid was spot on, and I hastily ejected Figaro and popped in Don Giovanni.

2) Around the same time my parents took us to visit friends, accomplished musicians, in Saratoga Springs. They are the owners of a music performance venue, Alsop Hall, and they are the parents of the distinguished conductor Marin Alsop. Mr. Alsop invited me to take Saskia around the very cool house. On one wall was an enormous picture of Marin, conducting. Saskia stopped and stared at the picture, and I said, "That's Mr. Alsop's daughter. Her name is Marin."

Saskia looked a while longer, and then turned to me and said coolly, "That's a nice name. But I like Figaro better."

Obviously, this kid was born to be an opera singer. When she was in second grade  and could carry a tune about 60% of the time, I convinced her it would be awesomely cool to join Boston Children's Opera (no longer operating, unfortunately). She agreed, and for the next three or so years performed in operas written for and performed by children. The directors of the program were singers, and wrote the operas.

Saskia was pretty darn good.

But then something happened. She became a tween. And she decided opera and all classical music was for the birds. She practically DIED of embarrassment if a friend of hers was in the car and I put on the classical station.


Fast forward to thirteen point five. She was singing ALL THE TIME, with this amazing coloratura soprano voice, vibrato and all, and I when I asked her if she'd like voice lessons she screamed "YES!!!"

And now, after a year of voice lessons she sounds almost like a professional classical singer. More amazingly -- hold onto your hats! -- she wants to be an opera singer. She's singing Italian and German arias, and she BLOWS ME AWAY.

A couple of weeks ago, she auditioned for the Pre-College Academy run for serious high school musicians by one the the conservatories in Boston, and she wowed them.

They accepted her and she will start in September. Every Saturday for four or five hours she will go into Boston and study theory and voice. And she, and Lars, and I, are so damn excited.

We're hoping hoping hoping financial aid comes through (if not us, then who??). If not she will have to use her remaining bat mitzvah money to pay for a chunk of it. And as for the next three years, we'll have to cross our fingers and wait and see.

Cool beans, Saskia. We're proud of you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Me and Saskia

We're going to watch this over the weekend:

A luminous, gorgeous, and chilling version of Don Giovanni. Makes me shiver.

A Lesson In Housewifery

Last night I got to see Lars in an apron. It wasn't the first time. I doubt it will be the last. For some reason, on the rare occasions on which he cooks, he likes to protect his clothing. Yes, that same holey, worn-for-a-week clothing he digs out of the trash when I try to dispose of it, screaming, "Gardening clothes!!"

Go figure.

You might wonder why Lars was cooking last night. I will tell you why. A week ago I cracked a rib or two. The same ribs I cracked two years ago. And the year before that.** And let me just say: cracked ribs HURT. Every time you draw a breath it feels like someone has inserted a knife between your ribs and given it a spiteful turn. Lying down in bed is a nightmare, exceeded in awfulness only by getting back up.

So I'm slogging and snoozing through my days on a perpetual Vicodin high, and Lars has had to take over MY job while more or less neglecting his. Last night he had to step in and cook a meal for a local fmaily who recently lost a son. Under my instruction he bought a rotisserie chicken and made some lovely mashed potatoes and gingery honey carrots, (Actually, he really did it all on his own while I watched CNN and slept. I abdicated my repsonsibility for this venture after the shopping list stage.)

Other things Lars did yesterday: Shopped, drove kids places, walked dog. Things Lars did not do yesterday: any sort of cleaning up after himself or paying of bills.

Oh well, you can't have it all.

I said to him over OUR dinner of rotisserie chicken, lovely mashed potatoes, and gingery honey carrots, "Welcome to my world, Lars."

And he said, "Can I go back to work tomorrow?"

** Why do I keep cracking my ribs? Good question! Probably because I had my ovaries out in 2000 (thank you, BRCA1!) and have developed mild osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. This, in spite of the Evista and calcium supplements I take every day (the latter of which are now apparently going to give me as heart attack, according to what I read). The first two fractures came from a vicious cough; the current from a fall while woozy on a new medication. I wonder what will cause the next ones?

Friday, June 1, 2012

To Work or Not to Work -- That is the Question

Cheap reference to Hamlet aside, I am pondering if, how, and when to go back to work.

I NEED to work, because we are bleeding to death here. Our overdraft can only take so much abuse.

I may or may not WANT to work. I mean, when I work I have two full-time jobs. At least. And that is simply No Fun. I LIKE that when I'm not working, our house is bordering on clean at least half the time. I like that there is time for cooking REAL food (when we can afford it -- sometimes it's a box of spaghetti. Although I'm back on the low-carb bandwagon so I will have to find a way to make chicken for the price of spaghetti. Any tips, people?).

I do find that I accomplish fewer important things -- i.e. writing -- when I am not working. I know it's counter intuitive, but the less time I have the more writing I get done. These days I'm throwing in a load of laundry here, watching an episode of House Hunters there, and all of a sudden it's dinner time. After dinner I don't write, although when I'm employed I often write from 10 p.m. till midnight.

The unemployed Anna hauls her butt to bed by 10.

So, I have a few applications out, but I have a sinking feeling about them. I mean, this is a HORRIBLE job market. And I want to do stuff for which I am more than qualified but which I have not really done before. That is, I've DONE it, but not under that job title. And I am sure there are plenty of folks lining up for the job of Chief Widget-Maker who've been Chief Widget-Makers in the past.

I think in a year's time I will still be Googling for "$5 Low-Carb Meals" and making my own laundry detergent.

The real headline here is: BENJY IS DOING WELL ENOUGH THAT HIS MOTHER CAN CONSIDER WORKING. If nothing else ever comes my way I will be grateful for that.

While I wait and see if I am fated to work, I'll write. My agent and I have decided it's time to overhaul my novel, so I will devote myself to that endeavor, in the hopes that the damn thing will finally sell and bring in that twelve cents an hour the advance will be worth, after five years of working on it for nothing.

At least I won't be frittering away my time doing laundry and watching House Hunters. I hope not, anyway. ;)