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.


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.


Friday, May 27, 2016

I stood at the sink this afternoon, hands under running water, slicing strawberries.

I'd finished cutting the peppers. Then I tackled the jicama. Bit by bit, the raw produce was washed and peeled if needed then assembled into the containers for the fridge.

It's easier if I do all the prep work as soon as I get home. If I don't, then you are most likely to see rotting vegetables in the bins when I forget that I bought them. If they are washed and cut up, I will wander down to find something to eat and be delighted at the magical bounty of the prepared veggies. I can still be amazed at finding things in my refrigerator. My sense of magical realism has never really departed.

I find washing and cutting to be soothing. I line up the vegetables and find my favorite knife.  I place everything in the colander and then let the cold water run over it all for several minutes. I read - who knows where now- that you have to let running water fall on vegetables and fruit for several minutes in order to really get any pesticides off. I have no idea if it is true, but it made sense to me as a young adult and the habit has stuck.

Emily comes home as I am starting on the jicama. I peel, then start the chopping. She reaches in to steal a piece.

My mind wanders as she chatters at me. End of year, chemistry test, who said what to whom at lunch. I murmur in the right places as I watch the knife line up the pieces of jicama.  Down it drops, then up again. Neat sticks of vegetable ready to be placed in the container.

She chatters more and takes another piece of jicama. She is 18 now and I am befuddled at having an 18 year old in my house. An 18 year old who is my child. I do not feel old enough to have a child who is 18.

I look at my hands and wonder if they look like my mother's hands. How strange it all is.

Once the jicama is done, I wash the cutting board and the colander, then begin again.

Quarts of strawberries are lined up and I begin to transfer them to rest under the water. I seek out a different knife, for I need one a little duller as I begin to take off the leaves, then quarter them all in a few swift movements.

As I flip the berry in my hand, I press the knife through to meet my thumb. Gently, not hard enough to cut, but just enough to part the berry... I have an image of my grandmother cutting an apple for me. When she did this same hand movement that I am now doing with these berries, I would hold my breath because she was using the knife in a way that I'd been explicitly told to never, never, never use.

I smile at my hands under the water. My daughter, still talking, walks over to me to begin eating the berries as I pile them in the bowl.

My mind wanders.

I don't need that pressure, Ron.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

In Target:

Emily: I don't get "fitbit".

Me: Neither do I. I don't need that kind of pressure in my life.

Woman in target looking at the FitBit display: Oh, actually they're really fun!  I don't even want to recharge mine in case I miss counting steps."

Me ( looking balefully at her): Yeah. I don't need that kind of pressure. I got other shit to worry about.

In Gap:

Me to Em in dressing room: Here are some nice summer dresses.

Em ( changing into one): Mom. You got me a romper. Did you want to see me in a romper?

Me: I did not get you a romper. That's a dress.

Em: There are legs on this. It is a romper. I am coming out to show you.

Me: Jesus. That's terrible.  Do you like this?

Em: NO! But you gave it to me to try on.

Me: No one should wear a romper over the age of 3.  I apologize for that awfulness. Take that off.

In Walmart:

We are picking up Em's Adderall. The pharmacist comes over to ask "Any questions?"

Emily: NO.

Me: Geesh, that was emphatic.

Emily: I've been taking this for years.

Me: You make it sound as if you are a hard core drug user.

Pharmacist stares at us.

We walk away.

Me: I don't think Dave found us to be amusing.


I am in my bathroom changing the liner and shower curtain. 

Terrance: Hey!

Me: Oh, hey.

Terrance: Did you buy more cider? When I pulled in, I saw two more six packs of cider.

Me: Yeah.

Terrance: Got plans to drink all of that?

Me: Shit yeah. I have a new shower curtain and liner and 12 bottles of cider. Shit's getting real now that school is almost done! Watch out! I plan on binge drinking and showering!

Terrance (completely deadpan): Okay.

No one finds me as funny as I find myself.

Indirect Conversation

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Emily and Terrance have the perfectly awful habit of attempting to have conversations through me.

I detest this, and have told them both a million times to just. converse. with. each. other.

The truth is that my daughter and husband are more similar than either would care to accept, and as such, they are both squeamish about certain topics.

Neither are squeamish with me,  mostly because there is very little in life that I am squeamish about and  because I rarely hesitate to have conversations about anything, even if the conversations feel weird at first.

On Friday, Em tells me that she would like me to tell her father to make sure that he takes care of his condoms because it horrifies her to see them. Terrance tried to flush his condoms- even though I have been telling him for 25 years to knock that shit off.  He does not listen to me. He flushes them.

They do not flush well. Emily comes into the bathroom in the morning to take a shower, looks down and sees floating, used condom.  Becomes horrified that her parents have sex....adds this to list of things to discuss with therapist.

Em complains to me. I tell her father. Terrance denies that he has left a condom in the toilet and/or gets horrified and promises to stop flushing the condoms ( until a week or two later when he reverts to his same old procedure).


On Saturday, I tell her again that if she wants to have the most direct impact on her father that she needs to convey how uncomfortable seeing the condom in the toilet makes her. My telling him hasn't changed his behavior, so perhaps she should address this herself.

Later that afternoon, she walks by him and lays on my bed. He is in the hallway. They can not see one another:

Em: "Dad?"

Terrance:" Yeah"

Em: "I'm tired of seeing the things in the toilet. So can you just not do it anymore?"

Terrance: Silence

Terrance: More Silence ( I watch his face go through the horror of having his condom usage indirectly addressed by his 17 year old daughter)

Terrance: Ok. But you have to take care of your situation. Because I don't want to have to see that in the laundry.  ( He is now referring to her leaving her menstrual pads in her underwear which he never finds until they've been through the wash. And yes. I've communicated his horror to her before.)

Emily( from bedroom) : Ok.

Terrance ( from Hall): Ok.

It's a beginning.

My 2 Hours with a Felon

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My birthday is coming.

Terrance finds it increasingly challenging to find gifts with which to shower me after 25 years as a couple. This year, however, he came up with a novel solution: Tickets to see Night Vale.

Now, I love the Welcome to Night Vale podcast.  As such, I got Emily to start listening with me a few years ago and we all know she loves a good fandom venue.

Terrance understands none of this. He stares at his wife and daughter as we yammer on about the levitating cat, or the Hooded Figures or the sentient Glow Cloud. Terrance doesn't enjoy fantasy or science fiction. He will endure these things because he wants to be near us but the collective love of all things weird by his wife and daughter just leaves him flummoxed.

When he figured out my love of Night Vale and figured out that the podcast was doing a live show in Minneapolis on a date adjacent to my birthday?!? Ding, Ding, Ding! We have a birthday winner!

The show was to start at 8 p.m. on Saturday the 16th. We live about 2.5 hours from the Twin Cities so we decided to sleep in, then get on the road at about 1 p.m. We would get to the city, walk around, have some early dinner then head to the theatre.

The drive is typically uneventful. We pass the first largish city on the journey - Rochester, MN, and head into the pure farmland that is that part of Minnesota.  60 miles of unmitigated farmland, resplendent with the aroma of manure as the farmers till the fields to ready them for planting.

About 30 miles from Rochester, Terrance says "What was that?"  Dawn, enjoying the first truly warm day of the spring and wearing her glamorous sunglasses says "What???."

Terrance aims for the exit ( which ends up being a roundabout) as our Mercedes SUV sputters and bucks to a halt.

(Backstory - the car just got out of the shop on Tuesday with a new water pump and all new sensors. That was a $1350 makeover. We do not expect this car to break down.)

I keep calm. Terrance can get hysterical when car stuff happens. This hysteria is tripled when Em and I are in the car.

We wait.

He tries to turn the car over. Rrrrrr, Rrrrrrrr, Rrrrrrr. Battery is clearly fine.  No bizarre sounds. Just no turning over.

Terrance calls our roadside assistance and they begin to arrange for a tow truck. However, the nearest city is behind us by 30 miles, and the next one (Twin Cities) is about 60 miles away. Terrance explains that whomever comes to get us will have to drive us to someplace because we are in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday afternoon.

Roadside Assistance lets us know that this really isn't their problem. ( Why yes, Progressive, you ARE getting dropped at the end of May for that little customer non-service tidbit) Roadside Assistance tells us we should find a rental car place to come and pick us up. On a Saturday afternoon. At 3 p.m. in the LITERAL middle of nowhere.

I begin googling car rental places that may even be open. Hint: none at all.

Roadside assistance calls back to tell us that the tow truck is 2 hours away. He is coming from the Twin Cities. Roadside assistance also tells us that they will pay for 12 miles of towing....and after that the tow will most likely cost $10 a mile.  So $500.

Armed with smartphones and the bottles of water I wisely bought at the onset of our journey, I look for rental car places in the Twin Cities and find the airport. AIRPORT!!!! I book a rental car at the airport while Terrance, the savvy negotiator that he is, schmoozes the tow driver via phone for a heavily discounted rate ($3 a mile) and a promise of a cash tip if he will drive the three of us to the airport after we drop the car off at a mechanic in the Twin Cities.

A Plan! It comes together!

The blessed tow driver appears and hooks our car to his flatbed. He cleans out a portion of the extended cab and Emily and I cram our bodies into the back. Please envision my legs at a severe 87 degree angle, with one foot twisted at an very odd angle as I drape myself over a mobile battery kit.  I also have not one but TWO wrenches digging into my left hip.

However, I care not. We are moving.

The sainted driver seems a typical tow truck driver. A dude's kind of dude. Late 40's.  He makes typical small talk with Terrance. Asks what does Terrance do for work, then some light politics chat.

This starts to get dodgey, as he wants to complain about "people on entitlements", but Terrance smooths this over. I hide behind my giant sunglasses. Tow driver asks if we watch the History 2 channel.

Now this wasn't a segue I expected. I listen with interest.

Tow driver talks about the shows on the channel, emphasizing the ones about the legal marijuana grow operations. He emphasizes this twice.  He begins to expound on the uses of hemp. I say "It makes a lovely fabric" because I think in terms of fabric and what I can make from it.

We are an hour into the ride when he shares that he ran a large grow operation in a Southern State for 16 years. When he got caught, he had 360 plants. He served 13 months in prison through a deal and is now on parole.

Emily and I start squeezing each others hands, which is usually a code for "Did you hear that?" We go silent and I am so grateful for my very large, very dark sunglasses.

Terrance, bless him, takes this in stride. Tow Driver expands on the particulars of who was the informant, and the circle he ran with and the things they got up to, including hustling pool.

Emily and I sit in the back, contorted into bizarre positions, eyes wide as saucers.

We get to where we are going and drop off the car. Tow Driver transfers us to his car ( inherited from his father who was married 4 times, and the last marriage to a younger woman who went through all of his money while he had Alzheimer's) and drives us to the airport.

We get the rental car and finally get to our hotel by 7:20 p.m.. We looked so sad and bedraggled that the lovely front desk gentleman upgrades us to a suite at no extra charge.  We ask for directions to the theatre because we have 30 minutes to get to the show. Daniel, the front desk gentleman, informs us that he has a shuttle! And will drive us as soon as we put our bags down!

We make it into the theatre with 10 minutes to spare.

The show was wonderful. We laughed ( Not Terrance, but Em and I), we bought overpriced Tshirts, and tried to explain three years of plot lines to an uninterested Terrance.

We sat down for our first meal of the day at 10:30 p.m.

As the first drink arrived, I began to giggle. Emily began to giggle. Terrance said "What?"

I put my head down on the table and began to really laugh.  As I looked up I said "Honest to God, if I hadn't just lived through that I wouldn't have believed it all. I mean, the grow operation and the prison sentence and just - all of it."

Terrance begins to laugh too. Then, with all seriousness he turns to Emily and says "And this is why you stay in school."

I begin to laugh so hard that I nearly fall out of my chair.

It seems I was in a classic mid-80's after school special.

Stay in school, kids.

Words matter

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I've spent 27 years caring for other people's children.

I have no complaints about how I have chosen and managed my career. It was the absolute right choice for me and I do not recall a single day in which I hated my job. I may have hated budgets or policy or standardized tests, but the children and the job? Never.

I never expected to become wealthy doing what I do. Those of us who have worked in early care and education for any length of time can empathize with the plight of our students who, after investing in their education, are asked to work for near poverty wages. The last year I worked in direct care, I earned just over 13,000 dollars. For 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year work during which I cared for eight infants and toddlers ages 6 weeks -18 months of age.

For a very long time I have taken the view that what we call things matter. Words denote respect.  If I call you a babysitter, I have subtly denoted that I am not paying for for anything more than temporary, unskilled work. Babysitters bring to mind an image of a teenager who works on a limited, temporary basis without a great deal of education in child development or curriculum.

Would it be appropriate to call me at age 23, a person with a 4 year degree, a babysitter?

No. It would not.

Day care is a term that aligns with babysitter. While it may have been helpful to discuss "daycare" circa 1889 in Hull House ( which is when we saw some of the first formalized non family care for working women), it is a term that needs to be left on that side of history.

I do not care for days. I care for children. I am not a temporary worker without education who provides unskilled labor.

I recently had words in another online venue with fellow PhD holders about their continued use of the term "daycare". I am considered to be an outlier in my opinion and continued reiteration that they use the term "child care" instead of "daycare. Most of these people with advanced degrees simply can't figure out why I insist on drawing this distinction. The feeling I get from these interactions is that I am being pedantic and silly.

Yet, I continue to insist that I am neither. I am a woman with an advanced degree in a field that continues to be underpaid and way undervalued. I see my students march into a working world in which they are also underpaid and undervalued.  The important work of shaping brains through experiences and supporting families continues to be considered "less than" in the field of education. I mean why on earth would you work with toddlers when you could teach in elementary school?

While others may casually talk about their "daycare providers", I see an inherent disrespect in that term.  Implicit in any inherent disrespect is a devaluing of the work you do - I get to look down on your work because it is less valuable than that of a teacher.  And we all know that teachers are less valuable than medical doctors.

What happens in high quality early childhood environments is far more than warehousing of the bodies of children. We are laying the foundation for thinking, for perceiving, for understanding.

We deserve some respect. We deserve to be called more than babysitters who provide daycare.

We are early care and education professionals and we provide child care.

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