I Found Dory…Kind Of…

woman with fish

That little orange hellcat Nemo, is like a rock icon in the birth defects world. (Yes, that is a thing.) He’s the mascot for a variety of groups because what better point of reference for a one-eared Microtian (like my Nugget) or a kid with a limb difference than a sassy orange whippersnapper. For kids like mine, Nemo is the man…or the fish…I guess.

With Finding Dory hitting the big screens, it’s good to have that little finned wonder back in full force when Nugget is old enough to be targeted by the typically outlandish marketing campaign. I assumed we’d see Dory eventually, likely at home because convincing Nugget to sit through an entire movie in a quiet theatre is basically akin to overseeing union negations with a bunch of drunken longshoremen. But a few days ago in a moment of weakness, I loaded up my tiny Turks and hit a morning matinee.

What prompted such madness? Heat stroke? Hormonal imbalance? Sign language threats from a knee-high Nugget? While all could be viable options, it was none of those. Rather, in my numerous special needs parenting groups, again and again posts touted that every parent of a special needs kid needs, nay, must, see Finding Dory. Now, special needs parents are not “must” kind of people. Unlike those broads on the frontline of the Mommy Wars (which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist before Facebook and might I add – girls, this crap really needs to end.) special needs parents never tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your kid, but rather we’re more “hey, anything is worth a try” kind of people. So these recommendations held weight.

Over the past couple weeks, Nugs and I have been butting heads like a couple of mountain goats. (Goats or rams? No clue, but you get the point.) And while I attribute much of this to turning three in a month, it’s a lot more than that. We’re out of sync. So under the guise of “hey, anything is worth a try,” I hoped that finding that crazy Dory might give me some guidance. (Desperate times my friends, desperate times.)

Nugget’s been rough lately for a few reasons. For one, having a super-talkative big brother (who never shuts up) home all summer makes Nugget want to talk…which is awesome…but thanks to his apraxia of speech, he can only say vowels with the rare odd consonant. He’ll address me with phrases like, “Ay un a o ou a oo.” If I don’t immediately translate his drunken ramblings into Standard English he slaps his head and yells, “Ugh!” If I ask him to sign it, he yells, “O om!” (no Mom) while stomping off muttering “arggggg.” It’s like living with Charlie Brown. (And full disclosure, I’ve always had Lucy tendencies. The kid better not try to kick a football…)

We’ve always battled frustration meltdowns that happen when he misunderstands situations due to his hearing loss but now, since he thinks he’s talking (I guess he can’t hear the missing sounds?) he doesn’t want to sign, so no one understands him. Add to this his genetic combo of two hotheaded ethnicities and he’s become as aggressive as a linebacker with roid rage. Just to push me a bit further, he’s also developed a new love of the spontaneous nudist life (People, things have occurred in recent days that will likely take years of therapy to erase from my memory…one word…poop.). So even Dory was worth a shot. 

Five minutes into previews, Nugget said he was done and wanted to go. (Hey kid, I just shucked out 30 bucks for tickets and we are staying at least through the opening credits!) As any good (read- cheap ass) mother does, I began pulling a small grocery store’s inventory out of my “purse” in the hopes of feeding him into complacency. That bought me ten minutes until he screamed, “air uus ox?” (Where’s my juice box?) Unfortunately, an usher was unexpectedly fluent in drunken vowel speak and immediately got all up in my business. I had no choice but to hit concessions and buy a $50 box of M&Ms.

The rest of the movie was a combo of wrestling, walking up and down the stairs (again and again and again) and watching from the entrance but at least we made it to the closing credits. And while Dory didn’t solve all my problems as I’d hoped, I did walk away with three bits of knowledge.

  1. I’m never taking this kid to a movie ever again. Ever. Never.
  2. It’s really hard to fix a hearing aid in a dark theatre, especially after it has been flung down the aisle by an angry child.
  3. The groups were right – special needs parents really do need to see this movie.

Dory’s parents wanted to shield her from the world because she was born with something that was going to make life difficult for her, much more difficult than for other fish. The same is true for parents of kids born with special needs. We parents know how hard life is and how much harder is it going to be for our special little guys. Once her parents realized they couldn’t hide Dory away, just like the rest of us, Dory’s parents armed her with ways to adapt and hoped for the best. It’s the same for Nugget. I’d do anything to make his journey easier but sometimes the best I can do is arm him with tools to make his own way. I think right now we’re just stuck in a phase of tool development and he’s testing the waters in preparation for finding his own way when school starts.

I’ve thought a lot about that damn blue fish over the past days and I must say, it helps. Not quite as much as that glass of wine after he finally goes to sleep, but the movie did make things more clear. If for no other reason, it reminded us both to “just keep swimming.”



You’re Not An American Until You Can’t Live Without Air Conditioning

A taxi driver sleeps in his cab during the heatwave in Paris, 1911

It’s during great trials that we see the true strength, (…or not…) of those we love.

It makes no difference the length of the relationship; there are always new discoveries to be made (…not always good…) of our loved ones.

Just when we assume we know the ones we love, a new (…not always flattering…)discovery immerges.

I wrote a deep feeler this week about being a fatherless kid on Fathers Day for the Good Men Project (here, go check it but I’ll warn you there are no fart jokes involved.) So I’m all in touch with my inner psychoanalyst but I’ll rein it in to share my tale.

Last weekend a great trial befell our home and while I assumed my Mediterranean-blooded husband would adapt quite well, I was sorely mistaken. Instead of rising to the occasion, I watched him melt like the snowflake he has become.

A week earlier, I returned home on a fantastically humid day expecting to enter a 73 degree climate controlled home but was instead met with the beginnings of a sweat lodge. Not only was there no cool air, but my dear Petula, (What? You don’t name your major appliances?) was squealing like a pig in the backyard. Knowing the importance of climate control to a woman like myself who is dipping a toe into the premenopausal pool, I rushed to aid Petula, before realizing I don’t know jack about H-VAC. After discovering that wrapping my arms around Petula and whispering, “It’s ok baby, Mama’s here,” wasn’t going to fix it, I called the professionals.

Being relatively new in town, I find a repairman using my scientifically unsound method – whoever has the least amount of bad Yelp reviews and the best coupon gets my business. I made the call and was surprised to find a service slot available the following morning, but a woman of my age and girth is in no position to doubt a potential rescue, even from a technician named Roy.

The Turk felt my cry for professional help was premature and was certain that the AC just needed time to acclimate. (This was crap but in a good marriage, sometimes one just nods and agrees until it all goes south and she can said, “I told you so!” while giving side-eye.) The fear of going AC free persuaded the Turk to meet Roy as I was stuck in meetings.

Strike 1: Roy called to say he’d be there in 10 but showed up an hour later. Upon completing what I learned was a ten-minute diagnostic, the Turk texted me to say Roy had determined the problem– we needed a new unit…the $10,000 model because the $8,000 unit wouldn’t be enough for our home. Perhaps the previous homeowners who’d installed the unit had no idea they possessed a second floor or our home had mysteriously added square footage since last summer when the unit worked perfectly. Strike 2 Roy. Roy noted that if we didn’t want to buy the unit that day, ours was fine but would die any moment. Roy was an asshole.

Roy confirmed his ass status minutes later when he phoned me with the diagnosis because, “Your husband doesn’t speak English that well so I thought I better call you so nothin’ gets lost in translation.” Oh Roy, strike 3. You have just made a horrible mistake…and now you will pay.

Fortunately for Roy, I was surrounded by coworkers and was unable to offer the verbal smack down I desired, but I’m now ‘taking care’ of Roy though very exciting means thanks to my new BFF, our hometown AC hero, who after resuscitating Petula with ease provided detailed means for enacting revenge in the HVAC world. (Who knew that was a thing? Thanks Jimbo.) Roy, never judge a man by the thickness of his accent and never, never judge the lengths his crazy-ass wife will go to to school you on your own stupidity.

Fast forward one-week post Roy to heat wave, day 1. Of course you know what happened. Petula passed. The old girl up and died. I was next to her for the tragedy, watching my kids in the blow-up pool when a large clunk and unsettling silence shook me to my core.

“We leave the windows close. It will keep cool.” The Turk said.

“Are you freakin’ crazy?!?! You’re turning our house into a convection oven!”

“No. Trust me. I am engineer.”

“Well you’re a water engineer so… and since I’m now a science teacher who has spent the past month preparing lesson plans on heat transfer, I can say you’re WRONG.”

This loving argument continued for the next 48 hours. In the brief moments that our Petula would struggle back to life, The Turk would immediately close up the house hoping to contain those 45 minutes worth of luke-warm air Petula gifted us with. I would placate until indoor temperatures reached 83 at which time I threw open every portal with gusto.

We spent 3 years in Turkey. There is little to no AC in Turkey. We lived there during one of the hottest summers on record with temps reaching over 115 degrees. In our city it got hot in April and stayed that way until October, ridiculous hot. We can handle heat, right? Apparently not.

The Turk slowly melted on the sofa, eating box upon box of ice pops. By the middle of day two sans Petula, he was incoherent and basically brain dead. Me? Hours after Petula’s passing I demanded the Turk buy a window unit for the bedroom, where the kids and I hid in meat-locker like temps for the duration.

Because I’m of the Irish people and Jesus gifted me genetically with thighs that rub to the point of friction burns, I’ve never been a fan of the heat. But The Turk is…A TURK! He grew up on the Aegean sea in weather that is sweltering, in a land where BO is the eau de toilet and hot weather is standard, but he couldn’t handle it either. While disappointed in watching my formerly bad ass Turk wilt into a puddle of sweat, he did have the perfect retort.

“First I get fat and now I over-heat. What can I say? I am true American now.”

Touché my friend…touché.

Tenacious Mom VS City Hall

Deaf Child Area Sign

Once upon a time there was a tenacious mom with a kid who couldn’t hear so well, so she decided it might be a good idea to get a sign to warn passersby. She wanted a sign that said “Yo, Slow Down Fool. Deaf Kid Up In Here.” But research quickly showed her that signs like that were frowned upon by the founding fathers of her town. (Hoosiers can be uptight like that.) So she settled on a sign that read, “Deaf Child Area.” It wasn’t as eloquent or direct as her chosen wording but it would do. Tenacious Mom called the City and inquired about how a sign like that might be procured.

The first City secretary was flustered by Tenacious Mom’s request. “Oh ma’am, I don’t know anything about signs like that. You should check somewhere else.”

The second City secretary was confused but had the good sense to redirect Tenacious Mom’s call. “Honey, I’ve got no clue but I’ll connect you to the Streets Department and I’m sure they’ll know what to do.

Much like Goldilocks, Tenacious Mom hoped her third connection would be just right. But as we all know, crap never happens like that. Tenacious Mom left a charming message and awaited what she assumed would be an informative return call from an intelligent City official, after all, City officials are there to assist the people…right? (Aw hells no. Not even in fairy tales.)

            One week later, Tenacious Mom received a call. The man identified himself as the Superintendent of Streets and when he gave his name, Tenacious Mom –also known as Smartass Mom- bit her tongue to avoid commenting as the Superintendent of Streets’ first name was the same as his last. (For the purpose of avoiding litigation, he will henceforth be known as Steve Steves.)

“Hello Ma’am. I have a message here that you are interested in procuring a Deaf Child sign for your street.”

            “Yes, Steve Steves, I am.”

“I’m assuming you have a deaf child?”

            “That’s a solid deduction Steve Steves.”

“Well Ma’am, by law in the State of Indiana, we are not required to put up that kind of sign.”


“Yes Ma’am. Deaf Child, Blind Child and Children at Play. We’re not required to put those up. We get nervous mothers asking for Children at Play signs every week. If I gave a sign to every mom who wanted to let her kid play in the street, ha ha, I’d never get anything done, ha ha ha.”

            “So parents of deaf and blind children just want to let their kids play in the street too?”

“No Ma’am. I was just explaining why we don’t put up those kinds of signs.”                    

            “I’m assuming in Indiana it’s ok to run over deaf and blind children who didn’t see or hear  the car coming? Obviously they’re of less value as they can’t hear or see.”

“No Ma’am, now I didn’t say that. We Hoosiers respect our children.”

            “Just not deaf or blind ones, as it seems to be unimportant to keep those kids safe by alerting   drivers that my kid might not hear them coming.”

“Now Ma’am, there’s no need to get upset. There’s good reasoning behind this that proves these kinds of signs are unnecessary.”

            “Oh Steve, I’m not upset. We’re just discussing. Right? Now I’m pretty new to this state and I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of some of the laws here but why don’t you tell me more about why signs protecting small children who cannot hear or see are unnecessary, because to a gal like me, that sounds a bit odd. ”

“Yes Ma’am. There have been studies that show drivers are immune to such signs and do not yield, thus the sign is of no use. Might I suggest you place something large and colorful on your sidewalk when your child is outside playing instead?”

            “Large and colorful?”

“Yes Ma’am, when our kids were young my wife and I used to pull out one of those neon turtles with the ‘children playing’ flag, to alert traffic.”

            “Ah yes, a neon turtle to protect my deaf son. Steve Steves, can I ask, do you have a deaf child?”

“No Ma’am.”

            “Do you have a blind child?”

“No Ma’am.”

            “Then you shouldn’t tell mothers to use a neon turtle to protect their deaf or blind children.”

“Again, Ma’am, I’m just trying to help.”

            “No Steve, I don’t feel like you are. I think you called to feel me out. You wanted to see if I was going to be a pain in your ass about this or if I was going to be easily cajoled by the suggestion of a neon turtle. Well Steve, as I mentioned before, I’m new in town. I’m a life-long teacher, an advocate for deaf kids and unfortunately for you, I’m coming from Philadelphia and my husband is from Turkey. Steve, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t fight like Hoosiers. We fight like Philly Turks and I’m assuming you had World Civ in school so you know how Turks fight.”

“Now Mrs. Özemet, there’s really no need to fight. There are options.”

            “Like what Steve?”

“Well, you can petition City Council with your request.”

            “Fantastic! Get us on the docket for the next meeting. The Turk and I will be there to petition. Should I bring my own expert testimony and research? Is the venue Power Point ready?”

“Um, I…I…I’d have to check.”

            “You do that Steve because I’m not going away.”

“Let me do some checking and get back to you Mrs. Özemet. Maybe there are other options I’m not aware of.”

            “Good thinking Steve Steves. If I don’t hear back in a few days, I’ll just swing by your office and we can chat in person.”

Three days later, Steve Steves called Tenacious Mom to inform her that her request had been passed through City Council without any need for her to be present. Was it fear of The Turk waging jihad? Was it fear of a Philly smack-down? We may never know, but she again fought the urge to morph into Smartass Mom and thanked the man with two first names for his assistance.

One month later, just when Tenacious Mom was about to visit Steve Steves’ office to “check” on things, City workers mounted not one, but two, Deaf Child Area signs on either side of her house. Though she still longed for a sign that read, “Yo, Slow Down Fool. Deaf Kid Up In Here,” she was pretty damn pleased with the ones she got.

The Moral Of Our Story: Men with two first names should never take on a tenacious mom and her Turkish husband.

Deaf Child Area


I’m Goin’ All Patty Hearst Up In Here


I wasn’t sure what it was or what was actually happening until a friend kindly offered a label – Stockholm Syndrome. Boom! It was like a light bulb exploding above my head. (Don’t worry, I ducked.) I wasn’t going native after all; I was going Patty Hearst! Relief rushed over me. I kicked my feet back up onto the coffee table and proceeded to Patty away the next two hours.

Almost four years ago The Turk got a new job in the U.S. with the same company he’d worked for in Turkey. (Side note: Be sure that when your potential spouse reveals their career title, you really understand what it means. I did not know what an environmental engineer really did initially, but in our ten years I’ve spent 2 years living at a wastewater treatment plant, had countless dinner conversations about sludge eating micro-organisms, learned exactly (unfortunately) what happens when you flush the toilet and received mail regularly containing trade publications with titles like – Big Pumper, Waste News and Port-a-Potty Today (I only wish I’d made those titles up.)) With the Turk’s new job we also received a relocation package –to Indianapolis. The only thing either of us knew about Indianapolis was the Indy 500 (Even in Turkey you can watch the Indy 500) and neither of us were too excited.

Once we go here we realized Indianapolis wasn’t so bad, as long as we looked past being landlocked in a society of God-fearing gun nuts. Slowly we began to find people a little more like us (Ok who am I kidding? With the exception of Ricky and Lucy, no one is like us.) but in time we did meet a few who never uttered the phrases, “It’s my right to bear arms,” or “I’d love for you to come church with us sometime.” ((No for real. That’s part of why we joined the Catholic church- no one tries to convert a Catholic.) Religious America, why is that a thing? Do you get bonus points for bringing in heathens?)

Though we’ve been able to slowly fade into the background in this land of Hoosiers (No, I still don’t know what a Hoosier is.) the month of May has continually caused us to stand out like a good dancer at a Midwest prom. In May, all of Indianapolis shifts to race prep. Homes are adorned with checkered flags and signs reading “Welcome Race Fans!” There are parades, runs, historical recreations, smaller races and nonstop new coverage in which some of the favorite racers even get their own regular segments. I’m sure this is all very exciting if you’re the kind of person who enjoys watching men (and one lone woman- stay strong Pipa) drive in circles for a few hours while drunks cheer from behind a fence but the Turk and I don’t fall into that category.

The strange part has always been that even if I wanted to watch the race on television, I couldn’t. The Indy500 isn’t shown on television in Indianapolis. WHAT? Oh yes, if you are local you have to wait until the replay that evening, you know, after they’ve already showed you the winner and 3 hours of highlights.“You have to go once to experience it.” Is what’s always said when I share my disinterest in “Race Day.” The Turk did go once but returned sunburned and bitter uttereing, “Vat vas dat?”

But this year, either because it was the 100th running or maybe because someone finally realized the blackout was stupid, the ban was lifted and the race was played live in Indy. It was all very exciting from the press conference announcing the change to mutterings about town, “Can you believe we actually get to watch it?” I think that’s where they got me. After three years surrounded by checkered flag décor (The checkered flag mani/pedi is rampant here.) the month-long media coverage and race cars parked in every store hocking everything from beer to burgers, they got me. By the time the race started, I was actually watching.

I tried to tell myself that this was just research as I’m preparing to teach a 7th grade physics course in the fall and I’ve been recently preoccupied with velocity and speed but I’m not sure that was it. If I have to be honest, the excitement of the crashes and the instantaneous end to a potential win by something as innocuous as a bump from another car was what really sucked me in. (I’m morbid like that.)

As I watched, I worried that by acknowledging the existence of this car race I’d previously ignored meant that after three years, I was becoming a native. If I watched, what was next? Would I too invite people to go to church after stopping off to buy a gun? Would I soon refer to myself as a Hoosier? (Even though still don’t know what that is.) Worst of all, would I ask some woman to paint checkered flags on my big toe? God no. What was I doing? Why was I watching? Worse yet, why was I enjoying it?

That’s when my friend saved the day – I was experiencing a case of Stockholm Syndrome, assimilating to my captors to ensure my survival. While the Hoosiers have been fine with my lack of race day love up to now, it’s only a matter of time before they don pitchforks and march on the home of the foreign guy with the wife who doesn’t like racing in the car racing capital of the world. My viewing bought us some time, I’m sure of it.

I can’t promise I’ll ever watch again, and I highly doubt you’ll see a Welcome Race Fans banner hanging above my hollyhocks anytime soon, but you should try everything once.