The real reason

Sunday, March 05, 2017


Em: "Hey Mom! You've got like three episodes of Walking Dead on your DVR!"

Me: "Yeah. I can't bear to watch it right now."

Em: "Why not? You love Walking Dead."

Me: "Because if I want to see a sadistic manipulative bastard ruin the lives of everyone around them I can turn on the news and see what is coming out of the White House.  I don't need pretend. It is happening."

That, my friends, is the reason I no longer watch The Walking Dead.


Mel ankh o lee

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My rabbit died Wednesday night.

I held Jackson, first as I tried to warm him and syringe feed him, and later as he had seizures that left him gasping for air in between. His death was far more gentle than that of Coco who fought until the end. He just...stopped. As my last living tie to Montreal, I mourn him deeply.

Jackson did not love me, or rather his love came only within the last six months of his life. He loved Coco, his bonded partner, and he tolerated the humans. He was depressed after her death and I worked hard to gain any semblance of acknowledgement in the months and years after. He ignored me. He turned his back and fled. He hid. I'm persistent if nothing else and I kept at it, luring him out for treats...which he would take and then hide under the bed.

Over the last six months, however, he became a different rabbit. He would greet me as I woke, demanding copious nose rubs before his breakfast. His demands for affection became so great that Mischa, the cat, would run over to insert himself in between us fearing that I liked Jackson more than him.

I've often described myself to my students as a "small annoying stream that will wear you down until I reshape you". I feel that this was my approach with Jackson. After 7 years of living with me, he finally liked me.

***

In January I broke my finger. Like every accident of it's kind it was stupid and fast and happened when I was thinking about something else - getting to the grocery store to buy salad for Jackson, actually. I was leaving the dentist's office on one of the only snowy days of this winter. I was thinking about all the things I needed to do and tromped to the back of the SUV to get the windshield scraper. With the scraper retrieved  I stood on the side of the vehicle and reached up with both hands to close the back.

The finger was done for as the metal came down. My first thought, after "holy fuck", was that I'd taken the tip clean off, but as my hand was still in my glove  I considered whether to take out the hand to look OR try to clean off the car so I could drive myself to the hospital. That amount of pain indicated hospital. I couldn't walk what ever was or was not  in the glove off.

We Yankee ladies are nothing if not pretty fucking tough.

In the end, I figured that I needed to assess the damage and pulled my hand out of my glove. As I glimpsed the bone I shoved my hand in the snowbank in order to consider what to do.  I sat for a few minutes and decided to keep the hand raised high to minimize blood loss and try to get the windshield clear so I could drive. That lasted until I realized that I was bleeding *far* more than I'd anticipated and I couldn't quite remember where the emergency room was located. This precipitated the decision to wander BACK into the dentist's office to ask for gauze.

GAUZE. Why gauze? I have no idea.

I got to the desk and kept my hand well out of sight because it was a bloody gross mess and why worry others, right? I leaned in and said in the calmest voice, borne from years of working with small children and not wanting to freak people out: "Excuse me, do you have any gauze? I may have taken off the tip of my finger."

Those, my friends, are words of magic. Dental folks poured from all corners of the office. I was sat down - which was good because I was perilously close to passing out - and they did an elaborate pressure bandage.  My phone was retrieved and I hilariously realized that the print from the now partial mangled finger was the one that opened the phone.

Super long story short? Open fracture on the distal tip of my index right finger. The one you use for EVERYTHING. Not only did I break the bone in half? I crushed the entire top part of the bone.  Six weeks later and the finger does a funny, but horrifying, wiggle when I manipulate it. It will, it seems, take four months to heal.


***


Emily is hearing from colleges. She is 2/2 at the moment, with eight more to come.  My votes are for her to go home to Vermont as I know she will be safe(r) from emboldened racist homophobes. Maybe not entirely, but far more than here in the MidWest.

I am coming to terms with my 1) Joy,  2) angst, 3) worry, and more 4)joy at the idea of her launching into the world.  Motherhood has been hard and while I love her fiercely, I am not built for this.

Watching her struggle through changing friendships as she metamorphoses into an adult this past year has been brutal.  I crave silence and the lack of the percussive rounds of her emotions.  I keep telling her that her people are out there and that she will find them - as I did,  and as so many of my friends have done. But fuck me, is it ever brutal. I'd happily break a finger every 4 months if I could ease this for her. 



***


It is February and like every other February before it, I am melancholy.








Yep, we were there

Monday, January 23, 2017

Still I'll rise

Friday, November 11, 2016


I don't really have much to say about the election that hasn't been said by people more eloquent than I.

In our home, we have had to comfort our child. An openly gay black young woman who sobbed in my arms at 1 a.m. on November 9th. "Half of the country hates me", she whispered.


Later when Terrance and I talked about this, he gently soothes my outrage. He reminds me that I have the outrage of a liberal white lady who has been raised to believe that things will fall on the side of the good and just and kind.  He, as a black man in America, knows this to be not true. Bad shit happens. All the time. Racism abounds.

America has always been aspirational. From our founding documents forward, we've talked a good game. Hell, a GREAT game. Rarely, however, have our words matched our deeds. We talk about equal rights, while denying them to many citizens. We talk about freedom and safety and deny that to many of our citizens. We demand the BEST but we slide the cheap stuff across the counter.

As the adults in our dual racial family, we have done our best to hide the ugly from our child. We have taught her that kindness is better than cruelty. We have taught her that she is beloved and worthwhile. We have taught her the aspirational parts of what makes America unique; that she can be free to marry whom she loves, that she can be free from being sexually or racially discriminated against, that she is free to be who she wants to be.

Terrance says to me,  "It hurts her so much because she now knows we lied to her." My tears return anew.

The election has forced me to admit that I have lied to my child about America.

*

On Wednesday, I tell my students what my crying daughter said to me: "Half of America hates me."

I tell them this because I know some of them voted Republican. I tell them because they need to see that their decisions impact people they know, that it isn't some random "other" living in the far away - that it is THEIR teacher's child. It is my family who is affected when something like "Go Home Ni**ers" is scrawled on the door of 4 students of color.

It is my child who thinks about her civil rights being removed, including her right to marry. It is my child who will endure unwelcome sexual comments or actions, spurred on by a President elect who openly suggest that we grab women by the pussy.

It is my child who will endure racial hatred emboldened by a President elect who is openly endorsed by the KKK.

I suspect I will get some negative comments on my evaluations, but I don't care.

*

Last night, as I was holding my child again, soothing her I quoted Maya Angelou:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 

Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 

Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 

Don't you take it awful hard'
Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 

Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Mitzvah

Monday, October 03, 2016

What's up?

Here? Not much, you know. Beginning of school tumult. Massive research project launch in which I run around with 4 year olds who are all wearing mic's and I photograph and document in my research journal like a crazy woman for 3 or 4 days a week, while still teaching a full 12 credit load.

And have a senior in high school who is applying for college and who just had her senior portraits done yesterday.

And edits are due on a journal article that *must* be finished because I have others waiting but I seem to have pulled a metric ton of committee service this semester meaning that I am at research of work from 7 am to 6 pm every. blessed. day.

(note: I have fallen to the "curse of competence" insomuch as when people want something done they start tagging me to the committee because I am a workhorse. )

My 20th wedding anniversary is this week and I have nothing. I can barely keep my eyes open in the evening.  More than one glass of wine will find me face down in whatever dish is before me.

Some days I genuinely have no idea what day of the week it might be. My always tenuous grasp of time is slipping away into the abyss.

***

I spent my summer in the community garden and now that it is fall, I work. On the weekends I walk in graveyards and photograph graves. I walk miles and miles.

Last weekend, Terrance asked me if I planned to go grave robbing.

I responded: "Grave walking? Because grave robbing is a very different activity and and not one I particularly have planned for a Saturday afternoon, if ever."

This leads my overactive imagination to wonder what would be in modern graves to rob, exactly? Polyester? The powdered remains of the 1919 influenza outbreak?

I don't know. But I walk the graves and call out "Hi friends!" My reading the names of people long dead brings them back to life, a tiny mitzvah,  if but for a moment.  Sometimes I read a particularly spectacular name and address the individual to let them know that - Wow. I hoped they lived a life to match that amazing name.

I slap at the last mosquitos and biting gnats of the season. I do not mourn their passing.

Purl

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


I finding myself spinning off into dreamy contemplation as of late.

It's the season, I know. Hot and humid, my hair in ringlets every morning after sleeping in the steam bath of my room, I wake from restless dreams of dancing.

The cicadas thrumm in the yard, unseen but omniscient.

I get sleepy by mid afternoon, only to find myself wide awake at midnight when the air cools down and I rediscover music that makes me cry.

The earth is hot, the grass is dry. I smell the indolent eroticism of river.

"Plunge yourself in me", it whispers.

I resist, I refrain, I remain steadfast in my boycott.

If I submerge myself, I may never come back.





Time makes you bolder

Monday, July 18, 2016

Children get older

I've spent the summer thus far in service to college visits.  We have visited many and one thing is clear, my preferences are not my daughters.

In some ways, it is perfectly understandable. In places I would have thrived, my child would feel lost. In places in which I would have felt conspicuously lower middle class, my daughter walks easily.

As was always the plan of life, she will walk where I could not.


Bowdoin



We spent nearly three weeks in Vermont. We arrived in Burlington late, near midnight, and rode to Stowe with the windows down. It was the smell I was after. Always the smell. I am a sensual creature who connects first with her nose.

Sweet grass, underlying pine and birch trees with early summer flowers. I breathed it in, over and over. I fell asleep with my window as open as it could be so I could be surrounded by the air.


von Trapp Lodge


New England feels different than where we live now. It is difficult to explain exactly, but I feel secure in Vermont. I relax back into the soil, closely held by the trees and mountains.  It isn't that I am unhappy in Wisconsin. I love my job and have made a few friends - it's just that Vermont feels so familiar that I suddenly understood stories of people who wanted to go home. For a person who never wanted to go home, this is a singularly unusual feeling.




I also look like the women my age in Vermont.*  There is some trait at the heart of it all, beyond the obligatory clogs and flowing cotton skirts. They are like me. They do not ask me about my "church home", they do not ask me about my kid(s) or husband. We smile at one another and move on.



When we returned from Vermont, there were many things to do. Reunite with rabbit and cat! Work things! More College Visits! I found solace in the community garden here. I work for hours at weeding and harvesting the garden for the food bank. I haul compost. I give shockingly expert opinion on hot peppers and how to harvest and store them. I come up with recipes for fennel.  After the last 5 hour session, I am so achingly exhausted that it hurts to walk the next day.





Working like this is a prayer. An ecstatic call and response of dirt and sweat. It is my shark cage against the conceptual sharks that surround me.




 
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