Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Great Escape....(hopefully)

The jackhammers have stilled, the sewage hauled away, court date with the awful neighbors - behind us. Tearful goodbyes were said this morning with the Japanese mother-in-law, Evan started summer camp, and I was looking forward to finally restoring a normal routine. Today I would be ALONE in my house for the first time since I could remember. I was giddy! My plan was to write from sunup to sundown, to catch up on all the time that had been sucked away.
Tomorrow we leave for Northern California for a much needed getaway. Let me rephrase that…desperately needed. My husband has a gig withWilson Phillips in Marin, so we get a beautiful all-expenses-paid hotel room for a couple days, then we head up with friends for Yosemite. Ah, nature, the great restorer of the spirit. I was counting the seconds until I could exhale …Goodbye stress, hello blissful 500 thread-count sheets, majestic waterfalls, and magnificent sunsets.
But wait! The Universe steps back in….not so fast, missy! Last night I woke to the sound of my terrier panting heavily, seemingly unable to move. She was lethargic and excessively thirsty. Needless to say, I kept vigil and got NO SLEEP. Got up this morning. She’s worse.

As I walk my dog into the vet’s office today, I can’t believe my eyes (but I believe my nose…) There are men with jackhammers and shovels right outside the front door – get this….putting in a new sewer. Oh my god - really???? REALLY? Is there NO ESCAPE?
So I’m writing this blog on my laptop in the vets waiting room, with the sound of jackhammers and the smell of sewage because, hey, that’s my life! As I wait for test results, my dream of Yosemite fades slowly from view….
Even though I’ve been griping a lot lately about the dramarama going on, believe me, in spite of it all, I am deeply grateful for my life. Not for a second do I take any of my blessings for granted. I love my work, I have amazing friends, an incredible husband and my kids are healthy and thriving…what else really matters? But oh how I dream of “boring”. “Humdrum” sounds enticing. Hell, I’d even settle for a rut. 
I recognize this intense chapter as a growth period. How could I ever find out who I am and where I stand if I wasn’t pushed to my human limits? If I had a cushy, easy going existence (oh god that sounds so dreamy...) I would never have to be strong or brave and I certainly wouldn’t have much to write about. People tell me “God never gives you more than you can handle”. Yeah, I’ve definitely heard that one before. I just wish “God” had a little less confidence in me.
Whatever comes, whether more doggie disasters or septic disasters, my husband and I will hold hands and walk through it. But honestly, if I don’t recharge my battery right now, it could get ugly. So I am declaring this and you are all my witnesses : My dog is going to be okay, and come hell or high water, I AM GOING ON THIS FREEKIN TRIP!
Hold on 500-thread-count sheets, I’m on my way!

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Life As A Sitcom

Remember that I Love Lucy episode where she’s working in the chocolate factory with Ethyl….and just when they’re getting the hang of the assembly line, it starts speeding up like crazy and all hell breaks loose? That’s what my life has been like this year, but instead of chocolates, it’s been challenges.
It’s crazy how the things we laugh at in sitcoms are stressful situations that we’d never want in real life. Yet writers are always looking for the rub, the conflict. A good example is that movie “Meet the Fockers”. I felt like I needed to take a Xanax after watching that movie.

I’ve got some good plot ideas mined from my real live life in the past six months. Here’s my pitch:
The main characters are a typical sitcom family, nice couple in their forties, middle class everyday folks with three kids. The husband is a great stable guy, and the wife is this zany writer trying to finish an impossible book, but every time she tries to write, something happens to trip her up. 
The season kicks off with their college-age son getting his Japanese girlfriend pregnant. Take “teen pregnancy” add “not an American Citizen” and “no health insurance” to the mix, then let’s say the parents have to throw a wedding together in twenty days, while their daughter is going through a terrible break-up, their four-year-old regresses in his potty training, and top it off with their oldest son getting into a fender bender they have to pay for…hilarity ensues

Let’s say the main character is estranged from her mother, you know, you gotta have those pesky bad-parent relationships, like in Everyone Loves Raymond. So her mother comes to the son’s wedding and it’s really awkward, because….awkward is funny!
Or how about this one, they rescue a cute little abandoned dog and suddenly, some loony guy pops up who claims to be the previous owner (but has no documentation to prove it- even funnier!), decides to sue them for over $25,000, and they have to pay thousands to defend themselves. Hilarious!
And then, speaking of dogs, cause everyone loves a cute dog in a sitcom, let’s say there’s a kooky neighbor with a violent streak, who has some really aggressive pitbulls with a zany penchant for attacking neighborhood dogs (think the "Bumpus Hounds" from A Christmas Story), and then…you could ramp it up a notch by making the neighbor start attacking too! Restraining orders are just plain hysterical, no matter how you look at it.
And then, right as they’re bringing the new baby home from the hospital and the Mother in Law comes from Japan to live with them for the month, the septic tank explodes, sending sewage everywhere, thousands of flies (ha ha ha ha!) and it costs thousands of dollars to rebuild it, oh-- and the four year old gets the stomach flu right in the middle of all that…..ooooh my sides ache from laughing.
On second thought, sitcoms are too freekin’ stressful.
I say we rewrite this as a cheesy Lifetime movie where the bad guys get what they deserve in the end, and the couple lives happily ever after. I don’t care if its unrealistic. People love that shit.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thoughts on Prop 8

This Prop 8 matter is very personal to me, as I have two gay brothers, and a Baptist preacher dad, who I discuss this openly with all the time. My father's view is that many things in the bible are said to be sin; envy, lying, coveting, etc...things we are all guilty of. In his studies of the Bible, he can't find any passage that states that the "sin" of homosexuality is more grievous than any other. He loves all four of us equally, and knows that my gay brothers are good men with pure hearts. In fact he has great admiration for them, and the men they have grown to be: loving, family centered, kind, hard working.

Personally I will never believe its a sin to be who you are, who you were born to be, whether gay or straight. If one believes we were all made by God, then God doesn't make mistakes, right?

With the Prop 8 trial going on in California Courts, I thought I'd repost this thought provoking letter which was written by college professor James M. Kauffman, Ed.d. some years ago. This was an open letter responding to Dr. Laura Schlessinger's statement that homosexuality is an abomination according the the bible.

If that is the case, and it's really so simple, we've got some other passages in the bible to ponder.

(Thank you Stacey, for passing this letter along)

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

PS. It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hey Jealousy

In 1996, Troy and I were in the midst of the worst chapter of our lives. Our home had burned down in an electrical fire, my business partner had embezzled all the profits from our company, we were in the middle of bankruptcy, and to top it off had lost our best friends through a horrible betrayal. I can’t even put into words what an awful, sad time that was. It put a tremendous strain on our marriage.
During this difficult time, as we worked, coached little league, schlepped our kids back and forth to school, and tried to live a normal life, there was a woman whose life I watched from afar. We were casual acquaintances. Our kids went to the same school, were in Little League together, and both our husbands were musicians. While my life was a catastrophe, hers was, by all accounts, blissful. The disparities between us were glaring.
I was bankrupt.
Her husband had a successful album out and was touring.
My kids and I were still wearing ill-fitting donated clothing given to us after the fire.
Her kids were always decked out in the finest boutique clothing, the kind I used to make before my business burned down.
I longed for a third baby, but was approaching thirty-five, the do-or-die age (at that time). We were so broken, financially, emotionally, physically. There was no way.
I watched her progress through her third pregnancy, gorgeous and stylish the whole nine months. She had a perfect, stunning baby girl. My heart ached with longing.
I worked at a corporate job I hated, dog-paddling to keep our heads above water.
She stayed home with her third child. Of course I imagined she spent the majority of her time getting massages and pedicures and eating bon bons.
Now get this - her name was Bane. No, I swear I did not make that up.
God I envied Bane. It wasn’t my nature to feel this way. Normally I’m happy to see someone thrive. My philosophy is there’s enough room in this world for us all to be successful and happy. But this time, I couldn’t help but feel envious, even jealous of her life. Everything seemed to fall so effortlessly into place for her, when my life was a fucking disaster on the grandest scale. (Shamefully, I even wrote a song about this, and recorded it on my second album.)
Thank God I was in the middle of reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. There’s a chapter that discusses how Jealousy is a map for your life. She suggests you use your jealousy to discover unlocked parts of yourself. By writing down everything you’re jealous of, you’ll find out what you really want in life. You take that negative emotion and let it fuel a positive action.
So I did, and I found out that although I was trying to be top salesperson at work and attempting to “make it” as a singer/songwriter, what I really wanted was what she seemed to have in spades: security, home, peace and family.
So I let go of the jealousy, the “Bane of my existence”, and instead focused on what I wanted, writing about it, dreaming about it, holding tight to my own vision.
Four years later, in 1999, we bought our dream house. We moved out of the old neighborhood. Memories of Bane drifted away from me, as I began living the life I had dreamed of.
In 2003, I got the shock of my life when I found out I was pregnant at 41. I had long given up on that dream. We were responsible and conscientious about birth control, and I just assumed it couldn’t happen anyway. Nevertheless, it looked like life was going to bless me with that third child I had hoped for.
In my fourth month of pregnancy I went to a friend’s birthday party, was mingling with friends, chatting, when I turned around to see none other than Bane. I walked up and said hello, and as fate would have it, she too was four months pregnant. Gorgeous, thin, glowing and pregnant. (I too was glowing, but most definitely not thin.) I gave her a huge hug, and this time I was truly happy for her, without a tinge of jealousy. What an amazing moment, to be able to embrace Bane with an open and free heart. How happy I was that we both got what we wanted in life.
Two years later, on Halloween I took my precious “third child” Evan back to the old neighborhood to trick or treat with friends. Walking down the street in the dark, I saw Bane from a distance. She was looking back at me as her older kids ran ahead of her. It was strange because she didn’t wave, just stared at Evan for what seemed like a long time.
I asked my friend what she ended up having, a girl or boy?
“Oh, you didn’t know? She miscarried.”
I was stunned, the wind knocked out of me. I clutched Evan tight against my chest. In that moment, my heart absolutely broke for her as I said a silent prayer in my head that she didn’t feel any jealousy toward me.
I made a vow to myself that night to never waste an ounce of energy on that misplaced emotion Jealousy, because we never know what burdens another bears.
I never saw Bane again, but wherever she is, I wish her all the happiness her heart can hold.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day/ What's In A Name?

Seven years ago, I was standing in a Hallmark store choosing a Father’s Day card, tears running down my face. It was the first time in my life I had gotten to visit that section of the store, where the cards read: “To My Dad”.
Until I was 39 years old, I had lived with the fact that I had no father. I knew that was biologically impossible, but I was told not to ask about my real father, and never to tell anyone my real name. Growing up, my mother gave me the last name Holmes, but it was a lie. That was the name of her boyfriend, who was basically a stepfather to me for the five years he and my mom were together. Gene Holmes was a good and kind man, but unfortunately, he was a short chapter in my life. The truth is…I am not a Holmes, I am not a Dexter.
Today I’d like to introduce you to the real me.
Hello, my name is Hollye Fisher. I am the daughter of Ted  Fisher, a hard working man, a Baptist preacher who teaches bible study at the Second Baptist Church of Galena Park. My father is an oil painter, a gardener, a recovering addict, an ex-con and a huge sports fan. He reads the newspaper, the bible, and loves his family above all else. He is human and flawed, with an enormous loving heart. I have never heard him say an unkind word about anyone - ever. I have never heard him swear. You've heard of people who would give the shirt off their back? He recently gave his cell phone to a young couple who were struggling financially, and still pays the bill. That pretty much sums him up. Although my father was only present for the first three years of my life, he still left his imprint upon me. It is from him that I got my heart.
Although we’ve built a loving relationship, this year I found myself stuck in that Father’s Day section of the card store. There are no Hallmark sentiments that encapsulate the complicated relationship and history I have with my father (and I suspect that I’m not the only one.) Considering that he spent the majority of my childhood in prison, ours was not a Father Knows Best scenario. But he is the man who brought me into the world and set me on my unique path. I carry his blood, his genes, the fallout from his damages, and his history. I no longer struggle against that fact, I embrace it, and am grateful for all of it.
I feel that is an important thing to reflect upon and honor today. We are our father’s children, for better or worse. We carry their legacy in our very bones. What we do with it is up to us.
Today I not only honor my father, but I honor myself in claiming the truth of who I am, and who I come from. It is with deep gratitude that I say:
Thank you Dad, for ushering me into this crazy world, and for all the love, blessings and insanity you have handed down.
Now why can’t I find a Hallmark card like that?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fumbling with Faith

Lately I’ve been troubled by my loss of faith. It’s not that I don’t have any, I just don’t know what it is I have faith in. Is it God, nature, the cosmos, chaos, people, love? Recently I saw a bumper sticker What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about? I contemplated that. I mean, who knows. I’ve put my left foot in, my left foot out, shook it all about. Still no closer to the truth. Or am I?
So when I recently said a half-assed prayer and sent it hurling out to an unknown source somewhere in the Universe…I didn’t really expect a response. The “prayer” went something like this:
Uh….to whom it may concern….If you’re out there, I mean, if you exist…I guess it would be nice to be able to believe in something again like I once did, before life became so full of contradiction and pain and betrayal, and before I learned that the law of karma is about as accurate as an umpire at a Detroit Tigers game. I’d like to believe again…in something.
(Could I be any more vague?)
So of course what happens next is all hell breaks loose in my life, the good the bad the ugly, all at once. And I’m sitting here scratching my head going….wait…is this what I asked for? Let me clarify:
Uh, sorry to bother you again, I mean, if there even is a “you”. No offense. Well, anyway…When I asked for my faith to be strengthened, I was thinking more along the lines of… a dove of peace landing on my shoulder, or a burning bush (and believe me, be VERY specific if you ask for a burning bush – that’s all I’m saying), or maybe a golden angel could descend upon me and whisper in my ear. But what I got was a crazy lawsuit, violent neighbors with pitbulls, an exploding septic system, and a gorgeous healthy baby. Maybe I’m a little slow. Trying to make sense of all this…Testing…one, two, three…is this thing on? And if it is, could you send me a CLEAR sign?
But no dove. No golden tablets with all the instructions hammered out. Zip. Nada. Nothin’.
Man. Praying feels like when you’re calling AOL tech help, and your call is being transferred to India, and you’re on hold forever, and then you finally get an answer but it’s one you can’t understand at all, and the accent is so thick and the connection is terrible. I’m so jealous of people who seem to have that direct hotline.
But in the midst of all this lamenting and self-pity, my horrible week was capped by an incredible weekend where I was surrounded by my dearest friends, from old to new, every one of them making me believe in goodness again. I felt my spirit lifted as I witnessed my best friend Erin holding my newborn grandson, as I shared stories of the past with Dennis and Dani, as I laughed, hugged, cried, and drank wine with Amy, Maxee, Linda and met new wonderful friends… and tonight will be spent with my adopted family- the Doyles and Eisenbergs. My cup runneth over, my spirit renewed. As I sat here basking in the warm fuzzies, the epiphany hit. You know, all those bible stories -they are poetry and metaphor. Angels don’t descend from the sky, bushes don’t talk. The answers come to you in the form of friends, strangers, a little French bulldog, and even enemies. The message is there if you’re paying attention.
So okay, I’m paying attention, and I think I finally get it. Faith is not something you’re born with. It doesn’t float down and fall on your shoulder like an angel's feather. Faith is hard freekin’ work. It is a muscle that has to be pumped like crazy before it’s useful at all. And the only thing I can figure is I’ve gotten faithfully flabby, and my creator is putting me through boot camp. But thank God I’m not going it alone.
As I was writing this, my daughter in law came in and placed the baby in my arms. He stared up at me, looking deep into my eyes, focused, unblinking. His gaze was so deep it was almost unsettling. And then, out of the blue, at only twelve days old, he smiled at me.
He smiled at me!
Now that’s what I call a clear sign.
Thank you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Can You Dig It?

Today, one of my oldest friends, who happens to be a plumber, drove all the way from San Diego to rescue me. Well he’s actually rescuing me from my failing septic system, which is leaking daily into the street. But it’s so much deeper than that.

Dennis Barnett was the very first friend I made when I started first grade. He and I have known each other all our lives. We grew up together, practically members of each other’s families, our lives intricately intertwined. His oldest sister used to babysit me, I was best friends with another of his sisters, then as we got older, he babysat and helped raise my little brother. We used to watch his super cool mom Vi sing at the Beef N Barrel with her band Applejack. God, she was cool with her Angela Davis afro and her long colorful caftans. The world lost a bright star when Vi left us.

Dennis and I have a rich complicated history. He was there to witness the good, and the very bad times in my family life. Recently he sent me an email, just one line. “You were my Jenny from Forrest Gump.” That’s how it was back then, two little kids trying to find their way, each being a touchstone for the other. And now he is here to dig up all my crap – literally. Oh the metaphors of life.

Dennis and I had lost touch for many years. When we turned eighteen, he joined the military, and I fled my mother’s house, never looking back.

But in my forties, as I started to write my life story and “own” my life, one by one the people who were the bedrock of my foundation began to show up. Dennis, Dani, Laura, Beverlee, Scott, Karen, Bret and on and on. It was miraculous. I realized then that they were my strength. These bratty little kids who were in girl scouts with me, pulled pranks with me and later shared joints with me, in a way raised me. We leaned on each other, all us little kids.

In my attempt to finish writing this damn book, I’ve been excavating some really deep stuff from the past, and wouldn’t you know it, as life imitates art, my septic system starts backing up into the yard. My shit is out there for everyone to see (or actually, smell). Dennis sees a sarcastic post I make about it on facebook, calls and says “I’m coming to save you.” He knows me, knows everything about me, my family, my mom, my brother. He knows our past, our family secrets, all the pain and all the shame, so who better to witness all this than him?

As I write this, jackhammers are blaring outside, ripping up my patio and my entire front yard, exposing the bubbling cauldron of sewage underneath. The sound of jackhammers, and the clickety-clack of the keys as I write…Drill, drill, drill….type, type, type….create a crazy heavy-metal symphony which reminds me that I can’t run from the past. It’s always right there under the surface, bubbling and brewing and at times spilling over into my life.

This computer is my jackhammer. I, too, am ripping up the surface that has held all my memories, secrets, and pain suppressed for so many years (hold your noses, everyone) in an attempt to rescue a part of myself.

The stench of sewage is now wafting through my open bedroom windows. The wounds are open, let the excavation begin. The typing part may not be easy, but somehow I feel safer doing it while Dennis is here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Present

(our little sushi-roll baby, with Stitch in the background)

The past two weeks have been a wild rollercoaster ride, to say the least. Life has been coming at us full force, and I wonder if it will ever let up. You know how sometimes you ask the universe for a drink of water, and you get the firehose in the face? Yeah, it’s been like that. Incredible things have happened, some crazy bad, some crazy good. I’m choosing to focus on the crazy good, which is that my new baby grandson was born. Little Ayumu Cameron Ikuta-Dexter shot into our crazy world on June 1st, our ray of hope bursting through the clouds.
When a newborn comes into the family, there is no choice but to slow down and become fully present. You become aware of every little detail; a tiny yawn, a squeak, each movement he makes, a brand new miracle. With this new blessing in our lives, I am reminded of the importance of staying in the moment.
A week ago we were stressed, hurt, fearful when our dog was attacked, which led to an awful conflict with our neighbors. If I had stayed in the present last week, I would have realized that all the suffering was due to lamenting about what had already happened, and worrying about what might happen in the future. Right in that moment, everything was actually okay. And that’s the way it always is. We spend so much energy hurting over the past, worrying about the future, that we so often miss the gifts the present moment offers.
Even on the worst days of the last few weeks, I was surrounded by miracles of love, friendship, new life, encouragement and hope. I let that carry me, and did my best to let the fear stuff go. I have all of you, my friends, to thank for keeping me afloat and not letting the bad stuff submerge me.
Today I intend to stay fully present, and enjoy my life for the gift that it is. I hope you’ll do the same. Have a beautiful Sunday, and please remember to enjoy the present.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some baby snuggling to do….

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mother Guilt, Part 2

Last month in my blog “Mother Guilt”, I worried that my youngest son Evan might not remember all the good times we’ve had; playing Candyland on the floor, reading books together and building castles out of blocks, but instead might only have memories of me yelling at him and sending him to his room. After all, it’s a human flaw that we remember our injuries much more clearly than our victories, the bad over the good, the insult over the compliment. It’s impossible to know what a person will hold onto and carry in his heart.
Cut to this morning. Evan came running into my bedroom, his underwear backwards and on the OUTSIDE of his pants (I don’t even ask anymore), and he says he has a great idea.
Evan: I know, Mommy! I’ll pretend I’m YOU, and you pretend you’re ME, okay?
Hmmmm….I thought, this is a great way to see how he views me, plus I’m always up for a good game of make believe.
Me: Okay. Starting now, you are Mommy.
Evan: (in high squeaky voice) Hello my precious boy!
Me: sigh…
Evan: I’m going to make you lunch. What would you like?
Me: Hmmm… how about cookies and cake?
Evan: No honey, that’s not good for you. But I’ll make you a peanut butter sandwich.
Me: Thank you Mommy
Evan: What nice manners you have! You’re going to get a sticker on your chart! And after your lunch you can have ice cream.
Me: Can I have a big huge chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce?
Evan: No – that will make you too hyper. Then he thinks for a minute. Wait! I changed my mind. You CAN have chocolate! It’s good for you!”
He hands me a toy.
Evan: I bought this present for you today!
Me: Oh boy! Why do I get a present?
Evan: Because you’re my precious boy and I love you soooo much.
* sigh*
Mother guilt…alleviated. At least for today.