Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So far these are the discussions I have had to have with my daughter post visiting MY mother.

1. Suicide.

Apparently my mother shared that a "good friend" of hers committed suicide recently because she was depressed. Apparently this "good friend" was 16...and a neighbors child.

2. Online Dating

My mother shared her "profile" with my daughter. Including a picture of herself walking into a sunset. Emily reports that she also saw pictures of "the boys" that my mother is "good friends" with.

Oh. My. Head.

Temporary Lock

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I have turned my child over to my mother.

Well - I haven't - but Terrance arranged it. I am still not on speaking terms with Crazy D from the August outburst..but Terrance is a good person, and kind hearted towards my mother in a way that my brother and have exhausted.

I worry about Emily when she is away from me and more specifically with my mother. There have been visits with her grandmother in which her hair doesn't get brushed....and she hasn't been required to brush her teeth. And she has subsisted on Diet Coke.

Terrance used to think was full of shit when I would talk about the year I didn't brush my teeth, or my mothers attitude on meals and nutrition. I would call it my feral childhood, and Terrance would call bullshit for my exaggeration. In his mind, no adult could be so non-attentive to the children in the household.

So when I hand over my carefully observed only child to my mother, I worry.

It is a tough dichotomy - wanting your child to have a relationship with your parent that is not steeped in all the years of shit that you wade through...

Emily knows I am not talking with my mother, although she doesn't really know why. It is not her concern, and I have no need to poison a well that seems healthy. She sometimes asks and I explain that I love my mother....but I just can't talk with her for a while. Emily also knows that there is a baby boy soon to be born to my brother and his wife...and that my mother is not welcome. For my brother, he has had to shut that door - and BOLT it. I only put up a temporary latch, for I know that I will open the door again some day. I always do. I always have.

Just get through the day

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

By 11 this morning, I had already yelled, "EMILY! SHUT THE F**K UP!" at my beloved only offspring.

Yes, the sounds of profanity before noon must mean One thing!

It's Christmas Eve!

Combined with the imminent arrival of my period makes for a priceless personality combination in the Mother/Wife of the household.

About a half an hour later, she and I were entangled in a life and death struggle over the brushing of her hair.

I tried. I honestly tried to keep my cool with the usual whining and complaining. I was explaining that I was parting it into sections so I could comb out each section. Emily, if left to her own hair brushing devices, waves the brush in the general direction over the top layer of her hair. This leaves the undergrowth to resemble Mirkwood - filled with giant spiders and evil spirits.

It is into Mirkwood that I am forced to delve. I try to be gentle - holding the hank of hair in one hair to deflect some of the inevitable pulling on the roots. I remind her that I want to be done with this as quickly as she wants to have it done.

And after one too many whiny "oooooouuuuucccchhhhh - why can't you just be done?" Followed by "Why can't you just do it quick?".....

I snapped. I held the brush out and began to BRUSH. HARD. Her head began snapping back and forth as she cried louder. I yelled "SEE! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T BRUSH YOUR HAIR" and "THIS IS WHAT TO FEELS LIKE WHEN I AM NOT TRYING TO BE GENTLE!"

Not quite a metal hanger incident ala Joan Crawford....but bad enough.

She ran off to her bedroom - wailing - and slammed the door. I lay down on the bed and waited for my heart to stop pounding.

After ten minutes, I walked across the house and knocked on her door.

"Who is it", she called out.

"It's Your mother - may I come in?"

"Oh. Ok."

And the door opened and she stood there...tears still on her cheeks.

"I'd like to apologize and give you a hug", I said - stepping into the room

And she broke down. The tears of a little girl who needs to be consoled.

"That was MEAN", she murmured from my midsection.

"Yes it was and I was wrong to be mean. Can we try to be gentle with each other - I know you are excited about Christmas..."

"I AM excited. I can't help it."

"I know, sweetie. I love you."

That's how the pee drops get on the toilet seat!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This morning I was in the Shower getting ready for work.

I hear Emily walk in to use the toilet.

I peek out to remind her to NOT FLUSH because I will be boiled if she does.

She nods in agreement.

I peek my head back out of the shower - Can she hand me my toothbrush when she is done?

"Sure", she says and stands straight up from the toilet - pulling her panties up as she does.

"HEY!", I exclaim. "Do you plan on using toilet paper at any point after that transaction there?"

She sighs - heavily - and very dramatically pulls her undies down and reaches for the TP. She then makes a ridiculous amount of show by wiping and throwing the paper into the toilet.

I remain frozen, mouth agape, staring at my child.

"What was the hurry there? Were you missing out on a once in a lifetime sighting of the Yeti? Honey - you HAVE to wipe yourself. It is probably the reason you get itchy..."

She rolls her eyes in my general direction and reaches for my toothbrush.

"Here", she deadpans, handing me my toothbrush. And walks out of the bathroom and turns off my light.

Small Pieces

Monday, December 22, 2008

Writing for me is a habit I need to get back into - and the one I put off most easily.

I get tired. I need to do other things. Animals and children need attention, husband has lost (glasses, belts, car keys, insert item here)....and the days slip away.

So I am going to try to write down small things.

I broke up with my therapist last week. But I did it in a sneaky and kind of underhanded way insomuch as I had to go into have my prescription refilled...and waited until the last possible moment, so had to have one of the emergency appointments ( which pissed me off beyond reason - as if I am a drug seeking Prozac addict. The last time I saw Eric (my therapist) I felt defensive with him. I felt judged. And that made me angry. Which made me want to run away from him.

Because one of the ways I avoid hurt is to completely cut that person out of my life - (Hello, Mom - whom I have not spoken to since August!) Compound that with my internalized need to mask all anger towards men (Because god knows I can't be a perfect girlfriend/wife/daughter if I am expressing my anger at the men I want to Validate and adore me) and I took a sneaky way out.

I went to the emergency therapist and said that I didn't think I could make progress with Eric anymore. And he listened to me and made a referral to a new therapist who sounds like she could meet my needs better.

Now logical Dawn would say that Hell YES, if you need to move on, then move on.
But there is another Dawn who gets angry at her inability to be brave about this - to have just told Eric that it wasn't working - cauterize the relationship and move on.

But I can't. I freeze up. I become blocked and indecisive. I flutter.

Which makes me angry at myself, and the cycle of self punishment begins.

The Bitch is Back

Thursday, December 04, 2008

This bitch still has fabulous ankles. See? I wore these to work today. Because I may be 38 - but I still kinda rock.

Semester is almost done. Papers to grade. Shopping to finish. I am Addicted to True Blood and have read all the books too. SOOKIE!!!!!! I am also now reading "Let the Right One in" after seeing the movie ( which was kick ass) and am hooked. I know. Totally NOT the Social cognition stuff I am supposed to be reading...or the papers from class that I should be grading - but when the Vampires come for me, I'll have a full working knowledge of their social hierarchy and rule system. Zombies too. I'm ready and up to date thanks to the "Walking Dead" comics.

I have some posts that are partly written. Some funny. Some salty. Some a little sad and bitter. Some Professional Dawn in there too. But all me.

But here - as a teaser into my mind are the bits and pieces of draft posts that have been sitting in my blogger drafts for a year or more. Sometimes I write a little something and save it...or get distracted. I find them fascinating. Little slides into my mind.

So here they are. Take them as they are:
You can't know things until you know them. Yeah. I know - it sounds trite.

Blogging has become a part of my identity. Had you told me this, July 2005, I would have stared at you, dumbfounded. I had no idea of what a Blog was, let alone the desire to write one (or three) myself.

I was many things, most of them complex and not quite defined. But Blogger? What's that?

Eleven months later, I am a speaker at BlogHer. I am a writer and an advocate. I am a facilitator for women to begin to talk about the things that bother them. I am a destroyer of the cult of motherhood. I am Dawn.


I know, I no longer have a "bebe" to carry, but these signs at Loblaws made me happy. The parking spaces, right up front next to the handicap spaces must be a godsend to parents trying to wrestle child, groceries, car seat and every other thing involved with the care and upkeep of a young child.

You have my Mommy Loyalty, Loblaws


Ok, so I never smoke in front of Emily. Ever. I wait until she is asleep if I am going to have a Infrequent cigarette on the porch. I mean, a pack lasts me months!

I just like one every now and then. No every day need to smoke. But sometimes? A glass of wine and a cigarette? Heaven.

So, last night I wait until Emily is asleep. I pour my lovely glass of Merlot and creep out onto the porch. I sit in the warm breeze. I watch the stars and the lights of the cars that drive by. I smoke. I drink. I smoke another cause the first one was so good.

Time passes.

That's when it happened. A voice from the screen door:


to which I replied in the only way I could:

"What the hell are you doing out of bed?? Get back in Bed!"

Then I ran into the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my hands.

It's a sad state of affairs when I get busted by an 8 year old. I feel less guilty when she's caught us almost having sex.


Well, hello there folks from the Huffington Post. I didn't expect to see you all here. Of course, you caught me at a rough time...starting my PhD and all. I am less witty and prolific than usual, as the life force is being sucked out of my very marrow by my three classes.

They are:

Cognitive Development
Seminar in Curriculum Ideologies
Research Design and Methods

Hold yourselves back, I know those are some HOT topics. And would you like me to start talking about the Lit review (non Norton Anthology version) I have yet to begin. And why is that?, You ask.

Well, the crack smoking and prostitution is taking most of my free time, and what's left I spend abandoning kittens in alleys. And kicking puppies.

Or it could be that becoming a part time Stay at home mom and a full time student seems to be kicking my ass more than I expected. I mean, I worked full time during my Masters degree. How much harder could it be to NOT work and go to school?

Confucious on a Croissant! It sucks ass. (Yes, donkey gelatian ass) I run around all the time. I make sure the child is bathed, dressed, has a lunch and all her homework/school forms, is walked to school, then I run home to do the dishes, straighten up and throw the laundry in, then I try to read a little before I have to have lunch (which I have to MAKE), then I think "How will I use this last hour before I pick her up from school and she terrorizes me until I wrestle her into bed?"

And these are the days that I Don't have class, or meetings, or running around to kiss the asses of various academics and beg them for signatures. Can I be blamed for wanting to punch the little Masters degree girls who:

1. Have no children/not married
2. Talk about children as if they know everything
3. Have never held a job outside of internships
4. Complain about how busy they are

I want to jump up on my desk and shriek:

"HA! You people have NO idea what busy is! And you are collectively going to be shocked as shit when you meet a real kid one day, cause they don't act the way you've read AT ALL. And I dare you to insinuate to their parents that it is the parents fault. I would pay good money to see that Deathmatch begin!" (Back me up here, Feral)

but I don't. I sigh. I look away. I listen to ridiculous statements about children and families. I close my eyes.


I am rapidly approaching my one year anniversary of leaving the United States for Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Now, Prior to my move here, I may have simply said "Montreal" - but now I distinguish that I am in Quebec - in Canada.

For those of you NOT in Canada - this is an important difference. Kind of like the difference between Boston and New York. Like the Red Sox and Yankees are the same team.

There are things I adore about my adopted country and province ( and yes, we are considering permanent resident status). The pace of life is actually slower. Yes. In a city the size of Montreal, my life is slower. Emily starts school at 9 a.m. Lunches can happily last 2 hours. With wine. And conversation. Bread is fresh and there are usually 2 bakeries/patessiere's within walking distance of most people's houses.

Now some of these things I notice because I lived in such a rural environment for a majority of my life. Montreal is a large international city. I see things that I have simply never seen before.


It is snowing again in Montreal.


As with every end of winter stretch, I feel fat and lethargic. Months of minimal activity and bulky wool sweaters make me feel a bit like Jabba the Hut on a bender.

This makes me crabby and irritable


Dear Body,

We don't talk alot, you and I. I suppose we should talk more...you know, spend quality time with one another. In fact, I generally don't notice you unless I am 1) Feeling Fat, as I am now at the end of winter in Montreal, 2) Sick or, 3) Pre-Menstrual (which can coincide with number 1).

Having been asked about my relationship with you, I have had to stop and THINK about it. Did I always feel this low grade dislike or general apathy?

No. I am pretty sure that I didn't feel this way about you when I was a child - pre puberty. I was a normal, kind of skinny kid. Active, bike riding, swimming and running around. Busy. I never recall thinking I physically couldn't do something.

Then puberty came, and the notice of my male cousins, and eventually my father. Is this the moment that I abandoned you, Body? Was the betrayal of the trust of my father the moment that I turned my spiritual back on you? Was that when the seed of my ultimate apathy was planted? Does some of our relationship lay within the multifaceted dimensions of the relationship with my own mother and in her relationship with her mother?


I am, after all, built like the women of my father's family. German Farming Women. Good hips, strong legs, breasts that are intended to feed many healthy babies. My genetic heritage insured that I would survive famines to pass on my genes to new generations.

My mother has always seemed effortlessly thin. And Tall. Until her own hormones caught up with her in her mid fifties and she found herself a size 12. At that juncture, I welcomed her to the sizes of the real women of the world. Shit, I AIM for a size 12. That is my middle compromise ground with you, Body.


You know the days that seem to go on forever - and not in a good way? You stumble form one vaguely surreal moment to the next wondering when the hell this is going to settle down. Is there some kind of retrograde planetary situation that was not mentioned to you? Full moon? Tide shifts? Global warming? ANYTHING???

I've had a full week of that. Like disjointed Monty Python sketches, where I am the completely straight woman unaware that I am in the middle of a grand farce.

Last week, I developed a grand Facial Cavity infection...given to me by my child who recovered within a day on Monday the 3rd. By Monday the 10th, I crawled into a clinic begging to be put out of my misery. With the same child in tow, as it was ANOTHER snow day in Montreal.

One might not describe me as the warmest TA in the history of TA's, but I was Extra crabby last week. My very weak sense of usual decorum was invisible and it was clear to most that I should be approached with extra caution - if at all. Sadly a few students braved it - and possibly had their heads handed to them - on curriculum infused platters. Seriously. Don't mess with me about early childhood curriculum when I am sick....trying to tell me arts and crafts projects are curriculum will not engender warm fuzzies from me. Looking incredulous when I suggest instead of the FOUR arts and crafts projects that you create an experiment on Gravity and saying "Isn't that a bit advanced for Kindergarteners..." will earn you the look of death from me. Then I will very meanly suggest that 4 arts and crafts projects are a crap excuse for a curriculum project and that if I were your Director/Head of School I would toss your crap lesson plans out.

By Thursday, I will pick a fight with every professor/instructor I work with on topics as varied as the correct way to do annotated bibliographies and the use of colloquial language within a "script" that is being presented as if children wrote it. I came down on the side of the use of age appropriate colloquialism (i.e. "Hey, Guys!").

By Friday, I will feel slightly better. I will mentally process an invitation to appear on a National Business News program and respond to the producer saying... "Sure - why not." Because it seems just weird enough to fit in with my week.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There are lots of stories running through my brain. Like a woman in the 39th week of pregnancy, I can feel them kicking and rolling inside me. I wake up and they are there, waiting for my attention - some more patiently than others.

And yet, like the dreamy stupor I recall from the last days of my pregnancy with Emily, I am both hoping they get here...dreading the effort and work of getting them out and oddly unmotivated to do anything.

So I sit. And wait.

Writing was almost never difficult for me. I mean, I almost never write a draft of something and nearly all of my posts on all of the blogs spring, fully formed from the ether of my brain. As if they had just been waiting to be set free.

With my last depression "episode", writing became locked down. Maximum security. No one gets in, no one gets out. There may have been a shanking on level 4 - we're still sorting through the bodies.

And for a little while it lifted. Things became looser, and I thought - Ah. Yes. It will all flow again now. So I waited some more. And there were trickles. Spontaneous writing sessions where I accomplished what for some takes months of writing in an hour. Then the tumbleweeds blew in again and I stood in the main street of my brain hoping to see some movement by the saloon door.

I know the stories are in there. I know the information is in there. Both in my personal and professional writing lives...which also still seems funny in my mouth. Professional writing life. Which is different from my personal writing life. I know you know what I mean, right?

The best news is that I am on the cusp of it. The signs are aligning. I was able to write something for a conference proposal with my Supervising Professor and Research Lead. Her gentle way of maneuvering me through my writing block has been helpful beyond description. It is always bits she asks for - 2 paragraphs here. An abstract there...which becomes a page. or two. And this is how she is guiding me through piecing together my comps and dissertation. "Come on", she will say to me on the drive to the research site, "You have all the knowledge you need in there - explain it to me."

The other signs - That I have been able to keep up with taking the photograph every day for the Envisage 365 project, and that I am seeing again. Seeing the things around me. More than that, I am looking.

My desire to quilt has returned. My desire to MAKE has returned. I made Em's Halloween costume this season, and followed it with a hat. A hat that I decided since I can't knit, I would take the skills I do have - Braiding rugs - and use the fancy yarn to braid and stitch a hat. And What a hat it is. Like an orphan from the Parliament Funkadelic Mothership. I half expect George Clinton to knock on the door and snatch the hat from my head.

So I continue to wait for my Athena, with the portents all indicating that the arrival is soon.

I already believe

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Being in Canada, I watch the cable news networks.

We have them too, Americans. I get CNN, MSNBC, the regular networks et al. I read Daily Kos, and my old local New Hampshire newspapers online. I check in with my hometown newspaper once a month of so, just to make sure that Rutland hasn't been washed away by some biblical deluge.

As an expatirate, I had to organize myself to get an absentee ballot quite awhile ago. When it arrived in early October, I voted and mailed it back in plenty of time to have my vote ready and waiting for November 4th.

The one thing I have not been....is in the US. Until this past week, when I came to visit my dear friend.

I saw signs for both candidates for President scattered pretty liberally on my meandering drive. New Hampshire tends to be a fairly politically active state, so it looked to me like the other multitude of Presidental years I spent there. Nothing horrifying like I had seen photos of and read in some accounts of people hanging effigies of Senator Obama in their yards.

Now it will not shock any of you reading that I don't tolerate hate speech well. Especially in code. I had, in fact, written to my own State Senator (Republican) and expressed my deep concern over the tenor of some of the "approved" message of the Republican party. Here is, in fact, my letter:

I am writing to express my deep concerns with the behavior which is being witnessed at Republican rallies across the United States.

As a New Hampshire citizen, I must believe that if this behavior ( yelling out Traitor - or Kill Him) happened within the Granite State that swift and complete renouncement would occur.
Furthermore, as the wife of a Black Man ( registered independent) and the mother of a bi-racial child ( age 10), I worry that there is more than a little racial hatred simmering beneath some of this reaction.

One of the reasons we chose New Hampshire to settle down and begin our family was the understanding that racism and hatred would not be tolerated.

I would ask you to speak with your party leaders and urge them to STOP or DENOUNCE this behavior Now. I can not tell you how sick it makes me to watch Republican rallies and witness such repugnant hate filled rhetoric.

Running a tough race is one thing - but this is stepping WAY over a line.
And we are better than that - I hope.

A little much, I know...but I felt I had to say something.

So imagine my surprise when checking out of the local Wal-Mart this week in the States while visiting my friend... (You really can't beat the 6 pairs of underwear for 6 bucks deal and the cheap Halloween candy, I mean - Come ON!)

It was maybe 2 in the afternoon and not terribly busy . I had stocked up on real Sudafed...and socks and undies and all the things I refuse to pay a fortune for in Canada. The cashier leaned over and said:
"At least it will all be over in the next week..."

I was half dreaming as I was waiting to be checked out. You know that dreamy kind of tired you get after the shopping hunt? Yeah, That was me.

"I'm sorry?", I said. My tone indicating that I hadn't been focused on her words.....but had merely half caught her statement.

"Over", she said, " In a week all this election stuff will be over."

"Oh - Yeah", I said. "I live in Canada now so I already mailed in my absentee voter ballot ages ago. I'm just down here visiting a friend."

"You probably don't get CBN up there do you? Well, you know that Obama was really born in Kenya and so he can't be President - He won't produce his birth certificate to prove he is an American. He is really Kenyan. "

Her inflection on the word Kenyan infuses the word with unsaid meanings. I hear them although she doesn't say them out loud. They are BLACK and FOREIGN and probably MUSLIM. They are TERRORIST and SOCIALIST.

"I don't believe that is accurate", I say. "He was born in Hawaii. His mother is from Kansas. So even if he was born in Kenya - which he wasn't - he is still an American citizen. "

She fixes her eyes on me.

"Why won't he produce a birth certificate? If he's got nothing to hide then he should show everyone his birth certificate."

"Well", I say. "He is a Senator. I have to believe if there was an authentic concern regarding his citizenship then it would have been fully investigated long before now..." I trail off. I am not sure what else to say.

"Well, if Pat says he isn't American then he needs to prove he is - If he's got nothing to hide, then he should show his brth certificate..."

I am at a loss for words. I mean I saw the woman tell John McCain "He's an A-rab" on CNN. I saw the woman in North Carolina yell "Socialist"and "Get out of here" when Barack Obama visited the restaurant. I saw further when he offerred his hand to her with a "How are you today Ma'am" and she refused to shake it.

And now here it is. A person making MAYBE $6.00 per hour, a woman who most likely does not have access to health insurance, a woman who does not benefit from the policies of the Republican party as far as I can see - and she has been made afraid by Pat Robertson. Someone who claims to speak for God is making her afraid of a potential President by playing on not even subtle veins of Racism and hatred that fly in the very face of the Religion for which they suppose to speak.

I wish I could tell you that I changed her mind. That I had a witty zinger that fixed everything.

But I didn't and still don't. I feel helpless and angry and sad.

But Hopeful.

It will Change.

Special Ed, Lite - pt 1

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As many of you know, Emily has had her share of educational struggles.

We certainly noticed that she wasn't a "typical" baby - the hyper-alert state, the lack of sleep, the constant nursing without weight gain, the chronic constipation of the exclusively breast fed baby....

And then she started to crawl. Full tilt crawl at six months. By mid October of 1998, she was a maniac - terrorizing the cat, pulling things off of shelves, eating magazines. Not long after Christmas that year...she walked. This minuscule hellion, not even 12 pounds of baby, was a running fiend. I had to go to a special store to find walking shoes for her, as even Stride rite didn't make them for feet as small as Emily.

Then she didn't talk. Which was strange to both Terrance and I. I mean, sure - it could have been an issue with the ear infections, but I had cared for lots of babies with chronic ear infections, and they were talking ( or at the very least beginning to) by nine months of age. She was a baby in a highly verbal environment. She was in a good child care. She had books and music.

High energy spazmo baby aside, her lack of most talking struck me now - and then - as the most telling light being shown into my daughters developing brain. But we, like most parents of babies with chronic ear infection, were told to wait. Wait. Wait until we could have her surgery to insert the ventiliation tubes and clear the fluid out of her ears.

As an early childhood person, I understood this. I too had seen toddlers come back after this surgery and have amazing gains in verbal ability. Once the can hear clearly, it becomes much easier to respond and make sure others understand you. All right, I thought. I can wait.

Did it get better after the surgery. Yes...a little. But her speech remained garbled and uttered at a rate that only the people who spent hours with her every day could understand.

Speech therapy that is covered by insurance is nearly impossible to attain. Speech Therapy for a two year old?..Insurance people will laugh you right off the phone. Wait, they told us. It doesn't interfere with her learning. It has to become a barrier before anything can be done.

So at age three, I called the County early intervention people. I wanted her assessed. And they complied. But honestly, with all the children with much greater special needs than Emily's, they could not make space for her. They patted me on the back, and said that she might yet grow out of it. She was not bad enough to warrent speech therapy.

So I tried the insurance company again. More laughter ensued. Speech Therapy? For a three year old? Hell to the nizz-o. It wasn't interfering with her education...and even if it was, it was a "custodial" issue and therefore under the authority of the school district.

I waited another year...and no improvement really in Emily's speech. She moved to Hopkinton Independant School for pre-K, and I called our school district for a re-assessment. By this assessment, she was deemed "impaired enough" for services to be offerred. It WAS affecting her learning, her teachers told the assessors. Other kids told her she talked like a baby, or they simply ignored her since they couldn't understand the stream of muddled words flowing from her mouth. Other things were noted. Her extremely low level of coordination, despite her constant movement. The way she put her mouth and body on things and people. Her refusal to write or draw. The tantrums that would leave her on the floor rolling and screaming. She was in Pre-K but beyond a scribbly "E", there were no letters being formed by her hand, and no interest in anything involving letters or writing.

No problem, I told myself. Some kids just aren't "into" writing. This isn't her strength...which is why we had chosen a private school based on the multiple intelligences theories of Howard Gardner.

Two times a week, Emily would have speech therapy with her therapist Anne. The district's early intervention staff truly believed in involving families and worked with us to find days and times that worked into our work schedules. Anne spoke with us after each session, and gave us "family homework" that we needed to work on with Emily.

Em made good progress with Anne. It was a good match.

But early intervention only goes until the child goes to kindergarten. Then the case is moved to the larger shool district. While they won't tell you this upfront, there is a concerted effort to get the child "released" from under the IEP ( individualized educational plan) during the EI . A child who goes INTO the public school with an IEP in place? That child is going to cost the district money. Oh, and there are no home or off site services after EI. You get services through the public school. End of discussion.

What's that? You are sending your child to a private school out of district. A school which has a ratio of two teachers to 12 children...and offers a full day kindergarten with after school care?

So you don't plan on sending your child to the 3 hour, half day public K - with 25 students and one teacher? That is unfortunate. ... for you. We, the district, aren't sure what to tell you then. We have to give services to the students enrolled in OUR school the priority. Yes, we respect your right to send your child to this fabulous school and spend the equivilent of what Dawn paid in tuition for her entire Senior Year at UVM - but we don't have to do anything to make it EASIER on you or your child.

And so my grudge with the Strafford School was begun....

What I do when I disappear

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Oh that crazy Dawn", I hear you all say in my imaginary place in my head....

"She puts something good up and then disappears for weeks! What in the name Canadian Thanksgiving is she doing!"

I am sitting in a chair. Reading. And Typing. And Reading some more. And walking around looking for a pencil that isn't broken or mysteriously out of lead (Damn you ten year old child using up all my pencils!). And then buying more coffee. And sitting down to read. And write....or pretend to write. But really play "farmer jane" on my computer.

What is it about these damn virtual farming games that turn my crank?

And sometimes....yes, sometimes, I do write something.

Lately, my professor has been looking for ways to break me out of a bit of academic paralysis that I seem to be experiencing. My comp questions, which were approved at the end in July, should have been mostly written by now. But with family stuff, and parenting, and then school starting and the US economy tanking ( and ergo Terrance's client base)...I just sort of froze up.

Teresa ( my professor, supervisor and now research lead) looks for ways to get me to say what I know.

Bizarre, I know. Getting me to shut up is usually the problem. But good Christ - you should see my amazing disappearing and silence act when Teresa starts asking me about Vygotsky. So she has broken this into smaller tasks. Dawn must read and produce an abstract of a chapter of her reading every week. 2 or so pages. Written with an eye for my research topic. Looking to clarify and pull out the minute threads of what it is I am saying - what I know.

I owe her 4. She has gotten 2 so far.

Some of this is an odd fear of assuming the grown up mantle of professor. I think that I have a fear that I will be expected to know everything... and I don't. I never will. So I freeze up. My bar is set so high for myself that it becomes impossible to jump.

I also ( and we don't need to tell Terrance) don't want to leave Montreal. I fear that finishing will make Terrance uproot me again - and I am not sure my psyche could take another move...not when I am still in love with Montreal. Not when I am finally comfortable. But he is restless and itchy. Wanting me to finish so we can move on - he can move on. We joke that I will stay here and he will go south and the more we say it, the more I am thinking it is not so much of a joke. That possible ending scares me terribly too. Even if it may be for the best.

So. This is what I write - in these in-between days.

This is what Academic Dawn sounds like:

While the author, Margaret Grendel, does an excellent job of trying to synthesize Vygotsky's 2nd and 3rd Laws of the Development of Higher Psychological Processes, it is the issue of culture that I find of particular interest. While Vygotsky states that Yes, Humans have some “primitive” or “elementary” cognition which is biologically driven and universal across cultures, he also emphatically states that it is the “higher mental functions” that develop within a specific cultural context. These functions, Vygotsky asserts, are NOT universal and therefore, one would not expect to see the same types of systems develop in every culture. The developments of higher mental processes would be , by definition, culturally constructed.

Every function in the cultural development appears on the stage twice, in two planes, first, the social, then the psychological, first between people as an intermental category, then within the child as an intramental category.”(Vygotsky/Grendler pg.80.)

Vygotsky was one of the first theorists to extract the cognitive development of a child out from the sole domain of individual development. The idea that from the Social comes the Cognitive is, and I posit, remains a bit revolutionary.

Vygotsky states that each mediation of symbol use in higher mental processes was once an interaction between people. This is a bit stunning. The implications are that every system that we have in place – as humans, as academics, as individuals, can be distilled to initial interactions between people. To extrapolate, this would mean that without the support of the social, one could never develop the knowledge base needed for higher complex thinking.

Furthermore, Vygotsky noted that the importance of complex symbol systems are on an equal footing with the internal mental processes. These symbol systems, for the child, represent an immersion and by-product of the social system in which the child is growing. Writing, for example, represents an external line to watch the development of the internal systems. It is not, and should not be thought of as, a finite skill set which once learned can be tucked away in the dusty attic of things one knows.

Technical knowledge is not enough. If you consider a fairly abstract line of thinking, such as writing dialogue between characters, the technical knowledge of writing words or that quotation marks must precede and follow spoken statements is not enough for a child to construct the meaning of dialogue. The child must be able to conceptualize a discussion, project outwards as to personality, character and theme of discussion, and then distill it out into a cohesive piece of writing. It is far more than checking off “competencies” in a classroom.

The other most important piece that I clarified from this chapter was around Vygotsky's ideas of teaching and learning.

Vygotsky's assessment of most traditional designs of curriculum was that it was designed with a child's weaknesses in mind rather than his or her strengths. Without an initial individual assessment of each child's baseline problem solving ability, Vygosty contends that the core curriculum then must be designed to meet the needs of no one in particular. Furthermore, this curriculum does not challenge those students who may be ready and waiting for more nuanced information, nor does it provide the atmosphere for the children not yet ready to gain more than a memorization ( or surface, primitive) understanding of a concept.

Vygotsky wrote that memorization was a very immature cognitive way to learn something. It did not reflect a true understanding of a concept, but rather a mid-step, somewhat lower than the idea of spontaneous imitation. At least with imitation, the child shows that he or she has absorbed enough of the surrounding culture to reflect an action as dictated by situation. Memorization, on the other hand, reflect no absorption of surrounding culture of the problem to be solved, but merely the ability to parrot an answer.

Finally, within this chapter was the first discussions of the “zone of proximal development” (ZPD). Vygotsky wanted to be clear that his view of the ZPD was not in line with Montessori's “sensitive periods” or Piaget's definitive spans of cognitive development (pre-operational, operational). The concept of ZPD does not lie in lock step with developmental stages.

However, the ZPD does form a major cornerstone of Vygotsky's theory of education as it pertains to a formal instructional environment. Through observation of a child at work, a sensitive teacher can determine the level of problem solving ability in the individual child. It is from that observation of tasks that the child can complete with assistance (emphasis mine)that a teacher can determine how to structure the curriculum in order to stimulate the upcoming growth within the child. Imitation, as mentioned before, is an important cue in this development, as it signals the integration of certain knowledge being brought to bear in particular situations.

Produce Porn: Season End

Monday, October 06, 2008

I love Jean Talon Market - Still. After three years, I get as excited now as the first time I walked through the stalls.

Magical Reality - The Final Chapter

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Her eyes narrowed. Her lips pursed She stared at me.

"What?", Emily said.

"I am the Tooth Fairy...and Daddy too, just like My mom was MY tooth fairy and Grandma Emily was Daddy's tooth fairy and someday you'll be your own child's tooth fairy...."

The silence in my car was killing me. I have never in ten years felt my child so angry with me. It washed over me in waves as I watched her face tighten and the tears begin. She silently turned her back on me and faced the window. With her back to me she said, "You lied to me."

"Yes", I said, "and it is all right if you are angry with me - I accept your anger, sweetie." I gripped my steering wheel. I reached out and touched her shoulder. She shrugged me off. I hesitated and put my hand back out onto the middle of her back.

I needed to touch her, to reassure her - to absolve myself somehow, to make her understand that we lied because we wanted to make the world magical for her, that all my parenting fears and dreams all collide into one jumbly mess that is the beautiful terror of being a Parent.

But I said none of those things. I merely said again, "I accept your anger with me, you have a right to be angry."

The drive to the Second Cup was silent. She opened the car door and stormed out, up the walkway. I reached down to hold her hand and she pointedly snatched it away. Her face was a thunderstorm.

"Two lime Italian Sodas, Please."

I mean - come on. There is no reason to be dehydrated in the midst of a family crisis.

Emily took hers from the counter and stormed back to the car.

She had still not gotten to the next part of the reveal. But I knew it was coming. I feared it more than the tooth fairy revelation.

I got back into the car.

"I just have to stop at the market for veggies for Coco - and the Trattoria for dinner for us, then we can head home - Ok?" I attempt to sound as if I am not on the verge of bursting into tears myself. I sound, I think to myself, like generations of mothers attempting to hold it all together. When the day is done, children and animals still have to be fed, watered and put to bed. There is no escaping the mundane.

She takes a few sips of her Italian soda. She says nothing to me.

I can feel her brain working - running the memories of the tooth fairy, reaching out, making connections....until it clicks.

For the first time, she turns to face me. She stares right at me.

"Santa?", she whispers.

I inhale. The raw hurt on her face is killing me. I have to cauterize the wound.

"Yes.....me.", I say.

More Silence. This time deeper and darker than before. We are both being sucked into it.

"I don't feel good", says Emily.

"I know honey - this is alot of information for you to take in. We'll be home after I make these two stops."

"No", she says, "I Don't feel good." Pause. "I think I am going to throw up..."

As she vomits -heartily - in my car.

And I deserved it, really.

That seemed to even the score in her mind. I was forgiven shortly afterwards as I held her in my arms and answered her stream of questions:

Would I still be her Santa? Could she still put out wine and cookies for Santa? Would I still take her teeth when they fell out?

Yes, Yes and More Yes.

Nothing about those things have changed, I explained - except that she knows it is Mom and Dad who are guarding the magical gate.

Protecting her.

Magical Reality Part Deux

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thursday Morning was no Better.

Em cried and huffed and puffed - asked if she could stay home from school.

As I stretched to my breaking point ( and let's be honest - my morning breaking point is a very low threshold), Terrance bundled her up and out the door.

When he got home - and I had a cup of coffee in hand - we held a Mommy and Daddy conference in the living room.

What were we going to do?

Terrance wanted to have a little one on one discussion with the Demonic Hell Child. I assure you that this was a fairly long and descriptive episode in the beginning of the discussion.

While I understood the sentiment, I informed him that his being in jail would not be helpful for our family well being.

Terrance wanted Emily to hit the girl. For Terrance, at one time a boy child in Detroit, this is a viable solution for many child to child disagreements. It worked for him, apparently, and so he feels it should work for his child. He chided me for my non-violent stance, and suggested that it was because I was white that I was raising his daughter to be a "punk".

Now, for clarification, this is not the first time that there has been a distinct cultural clash in parenting styles. There are several traits that Terrance ascribes as "white" which seem to have been passed from my trifling white ass directly to his child. For all you parents who are attempting a cross cultural family, I can only assume you have your own versions of "It is because you are [fill in the blank] ..."

But I digress.

After I firmly held that Terrance was NOT going to pick Emily up at school in order to threaten the DHC, I moved the discussion to some of my fears and concerns about my role in this issue. I rehashed what Frances had told me about my tender-hearted child. I pooled the information given to me by her grandparents, and camp counselors. Emily had a very difficult time this summer, crying for a majority of the week at camp...and with her Grandmother Emily until she was sent home 3 weeks early from Detroit.

It was at this parent meeting that we discussed revealing the true identity of the Tooth fairy....and Santa...and the Easter Bunny. Were we setting her up for more mockery? How could we bolster her armour to help her resist the DHC? How could we convince HER that she did not need to choose the DHC as a friend, because that is what it all boils down to - Emily needs to make the choices that are right for HER, not try to be something or someone she is not nor can ever be.

How do we help her transition into this middle space in her life?

I thought on this all day. When 3:30 came around, I headed over to school to pick Em up...getting there early enough to slide into the classroom. I wanted to have an inpromptu conference with Emily, her teacher and myself. We needed to have a plan for Emily in the classroom - and I wanted her teacher to be part of the foundation. I sketched out the perimeters of the problem for Frances - and let her and Emily talk it out.

It went well. Really well. Emily let everything tumble out. Her anxiety, her upset, her fear and jealousy of the friendship between the other girl and DHC. Frances and I then began to build Em back up - giving her choices and options...suggestions and advice.

When you are ten, you simply can't HEAR what adults tell you. It doesn't feel like you will "look back" on this. It is present day. It is now. It is all encompassing. The standard adult advice of "Just try to ignore DHC " is useless and suggests to the ten year old that you aren't listening to them. I didn't want Em to think - ever - that I wasn't listening to her, or wasn't feeling acutely her hurt.

A half an hour later, we had a plan in place. Emily looked relieved and I felt like we had been listened to by Frances.

Emily and I held hands and walked to the car.

"I have a few errands to do before we go home", I told Emily.

We settled into the car. I glanced over at her tired face. I take the plunge.

"Sweetie, I know it has been a hard day for you. And Mommy has something to tell you. You might be angry or upset with me and that is all right, but I think it is important to know..."

There is silence and cocoa brown eyes boring into my skull.

I turn and look at her straight in the eyes.

"I am the Tooth Fairy."

Magical Reality - Part 1

Friday, September 26, 2008

I knew at the first parent and teacher conference of the year.

Emily has been having issues with one girl in her class. Emily wants this girl to like her...and this girl simply wants to hurt Emily's feelings.

The week before I had been in to speak with Em's teacher as the little girl had placed a rubber spider inside Emily's desk in order to frighten her. Emily, true to form, had flipped out and broken down in tears at the sight of the very fake spider.

This only encouraged the girl to target Em some more ala "Look, she makes exciting noises when I poke her!" What hurts Emily more is that a different girl that she has liked VERY much seems to have fallen under the sway of this future hoochie and has discarded Emily in favor of the allure of the bad girl.

The heartbreak of being ten. Emily is angry and jealous and longing for a best friend of her own.

At the parent-teacher night two weeks ago, I stayed last to have a long heart to heart with Emily's teacher. Frances has had Emily for two years now, so she has a good feel for the personality of my child.

"What worries me is that Emily keeps putting herself back in the line of fire of Demonic Hell Child. If DHC keeps bothering her, why does she keep going back? You know Dawn, some of it is the appeal of kids who "seem" like teenagers...and Emily is still a little girl. She is attracted to DHC because she acts like a teen, and Emily's heart is so tender that she can't figure out why they reject and tease her - she has no armor to protect her from that."

As a female, I remember. I remember being ten and wanting to be cool and grown up and knowing far more than I should for my age. By ten I had already smoked pot from a bong, and been sexually abused by my father. I had seen terrible fights between my parents in which shots were fired at the departing car by my father as my mother drove away with me in the back seat.

I suspect that I have kept Emily sheltered in a certain way, as I never wanted her to know about the harsh realities that sit outside ( and inside) the door. For all our disagreements about how to raise Emily - and they have been EPIC - Terrance and I have always been on the same page about this. Preserve her childhood.

I have been thinking about Frances' words since that meeting. I have waffled back and forth over my desire ( and sometimes my RIGHT, I assert angrily to myself in the middle of the night) to allow my child her extended childhood and my practical knowledge that I need to equip her for life among women. Life among children who have not had her space and time to be a child. Life as a teen where her peer group will supercede (naturally) her parents.

Fuck me.

This Wednesday, it all reached a crisis point. Emily flipped out before and on the way to school, hyperventilating, because she didn't want DHC to be mean to her...and she lost a tooth.

In our house, the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny have remained large and in charge. She has repelled attempts by her peers to disabuse her of the notion of these magical entities.
Emily believed in Magic. And I encouraged that belief.

I crept into her bedroom that night. I replaced her tooth and her note with a toonie and a hairband token from the Tooth Fairy.

And I lay in bed awake, worrying about the teasing that she would endure at the hands of DHC tomorrow, when she proudly showed the toonie and the hair band left for her by the Tooth Fairy.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I've been thinking about some the questions I posed in the last post.

When I wrote that post, it was pure Dawn mental jumbley stream of consciousness thinking. I had ( and have) been trying to puzzle out just what it IS about this particular woman that seems to get me bewildered and anxious.

And yes - it is VERY true that my politics lay fundamentally at the polar opposite of hers...But I know and Love people who have different political views than my own. It isn't JUST that.

And I tend to Like strong, intelligent, successful women. There are far too few of us stepping up to public service...and I know that first hand from my years in the New Hampshire State Government.

And I was, am and will always remain a Working Mother. I know what it is to attempt to balance family and home and child and self. I know what it is to have someone ( man or woman) ask you in a less than complimentary tone if you can "make" a meeting since you have - you know - a KID to take care of.... I know the sinking feeling when you need to call in to work because you have a sick child ( who ALWAYS seems to get sick on a day when you ABSOLUTELY need to be at some meeting at 8 a.m.).

Shit, I had a male boss tell me how much nicer I was since becoming a mother, as he felt that I was softer and other women could relate to me better. He also found a way to terminate my employment when I disclosed I was taking Prozac and being treated for depression, but that is another post.

It wasn't until I read this article that I realized what I had been trying to scratch away.

I resent the subtle implication that if I don't like this woman, that I am a misogynist. I resent the ridiculous view of motherhood that she is perpetrating - and the Republican pundits are howling over as ideal. Sarah Palin has set herself up as the super mom, and asked us all to buy into it.

As a child care worker for many years, I resent the idea that working mothers do their jobs alone. I was a working partner with Many, many families - just as I had the love and support of many, many other teachers and child care providers as I worked and studied.

When a person - any person, but particularly the Republican party, who has actively sought to eliminate Head Start, decrease funding for child care for low income working families, or designed punitive educational benchmarks such as No Child Left Behind, which further guts the educational opportunity for children in at-risk communities...made it MORE difficult for single parents to go to school for more than 2 years in order to increase their earning potential for their families....It makes me angry.

It is the same type of anger when I had to face in public service when watching decision making by people who didn't know, didn't care or actively sought to punish low income working parents by changing rules or limits or program specifications.

It's also the same type of anger when I faced political appointees who could not find their asses with two hands and a flashlight - let alone understand and empathize with the fact that only having a welfare office open until 4 p.m. just didn't cut it for the VAST majority of clients who needed our services.

"Well, if they really needed or WANTED services, I guess they could find a way to get there...."

If they just wanted to Not be poor hard enough, they could make it happen. If you want to be a successful working mother - you just have to work harder. Not Whine.

I resent the idea that asking someone to be intelligent and knowledgeable about a job they are interviewing for is Sexist.

I mean it's like the whole republican party has suddenly discovered that they really LOVE affirmative action, in it's most token and misunderstood way. And it is making me queasy.

Last, but not least, I wanted to take a moment and list the other women teachers who have helped me raise my daughter. From the moment I handed her over to Linda as an 11 week old infant, I have depended and relied upon this group of people to help me find and define my role as working mom.

I have done none of the work in my life alone, and I wish deeply that I could have paid each of them 5 times the amount of money that I did for the invaluable service they offerred not only me - but more importantly, Emily.

So Thank you Linda, Mary Ann and Cindy
Thank You Heidi, Katie and Amy
Thank you Carla and Becki ( Bebbi, as Em called her)
Thank you Beth and Julie
Thank you Cheryl and Erica
Thank you Cynthia and Jenny
Thank you Deb - for both years you had Emily
Thank you Mary
Thank you Frances

Thank you for being partners with me. Thank you for telling me the truth, or softening what you had to say so that I could hear it once my own "Mama Grizzly" reared it's head . Thank you for allowing me to grow in the circle of women who know how hard it is to raise a child - or five - and work, and attempt to retain some vision of myself as Professional Dawn.

So Yes. I don't like Sarah Palin because her Hubris repulses me and I reject the version of warped female empowerment she is happy to lead.

This chick scares me

Monday, September 08, 2008

and not just because of the politics she is spewing. Not just because she feels all right about using her children in a way I find distasteful or the religious stuff, or the plane she didn't sell on ebay.


Sarah Palin scares me because she is perpetrating the myth that women are exactly like men.
And she does it with a narcissistic, self congratulatory smile that chills me in a way that I haven't felt in my adult life.

Now, I have Always been a working mother. From the day Emily was conceived to the day my secretary sent me home because I was audibly ( and unconsciously) doing Lamaze breathing in my office. I worked. And Yes, I delivered Emily and went back to work within a week to do interviews for teachers and the end of year ceremony for the child care.

I was hell bent on proving motherhood had not changed me.

And in doing that I nearly killed myself. Not to mention what it did to Emily.

While I was busy proving that Motherhood was not a life changing event, Emily was a failure to thrive baby. A special needs baby. One who would be weighed two to three times a week and monitored intensely. We celebrated weight gain in OUNCES. I ran back to work to prove that I could do it all. A functioning uterus did not affect my need for time off, or my ability to run a business. No sir.

My new motherhood did not provide me with empathy for other women, either. Shit - If I could do it...you could too. Don't tell ME how hard it is, I have you trumped with hard. She doesn't sleep. She doesn't gain weight, She pukes and is constipated as a breast fed only baby. But there I was. Professional Dawn. Right on time and last one to leave at night. I, of course, didn't have the influence on things such as parental leave on a national level..but I can assure you that I hated giving my staff days off.

I suspect Sarah is much the same. Of course, I was suffering from a spiraling depression that would end with me crawling under my desk at work to get away from the people there and my avoidance at all costs with my child and husband.

I have no idea if Sarah was assessed for the signs of post partum depression - especially after the unexpected late in life pregnancy of a special needs baby... I doubt she stood still long enough to be assessed.

The other thing that scares me about Sarah Palin? Purely a gut feeling here. No factual basis, I will say up front.

I lived in a family that kept secrets. I know what it is to be standing with your family, acting out an image that is completely fictional. I know what it is to pretend that we were the type of family who never experienced mental illness, or suicide attempts, or drug and alcohol addition. Everything was great!

I know what it is to have a mother who insisted that those images were maintained. And who withheld -approval, money, affection - if you did not meet standards.

I know what it is like to be raising younger siblings when you are 15, 16 and 17 years old. Having to be home right after school ( and on weekends and nights) to pick up your baby sister and younger brother because your Mom works and you were the child care provider. You start to think "Shit - I'm doing all this work and this isn't even my baby!"

Makes you feel grown up before you should.

When I see that family stand before me, I see all the secrets that are desperately trying to be kept in service to a Woman who sees her chance for power and has decided to go for it. I see an almost adult daughter looking for any way out she can get, even if it means sacrificing her own childhood to get out from under the iron grip of her mother.

I see a woman who has no compassion for other mothers by her touting of "going back to work three days after she delivered a baby".

I see a woman who has no qualms about saying that women can't be trusted with decisions about their own bodies, and who denies the humanity of the gift of female sexuality.

I see a woman who has no qualms about forcing her pregnant 17 year old daughter to stand before a crazed convention of hard line Republicans, holding hands with the boyfriend to maintain her image as "Good Mother".

I recognize a master manipulator, because I grew up at the feet of a mother who was just like that - changing the story to show her mothering in the best light. Getting rid of people who don't agree with her, coercing silence and agreement within the circle, at best.

It's not lipstick which defines a Mom, Sarah. It's all the other stuff. The sacrifice we don't always talk about. The struggle for balance in our lives. The recognition of our fragility AND strength as women.

Not being pitbulls.

Ah, August. When the giant spiders come out...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's one of the ways I know that summer is coming to an end.

The inevitable appearance of a massively huge spider, sauntering across my bedroom floor. You can practically hear it's spider thoughts - "I AM HUGE! I HAVE FEASTED ON THE FLESH OF A MILLION FLIES! FEAR ME MORTAL!"

And I do. While I look at the rabbit and the cat to do something about this beast in our midst.

I am not sure what I expect the rabbit to do, exactly. I mean there aren't tales of rabbits eating their body weight in spiders or anything. And the cat is still pretty disgusted at the whole "I now have to tolerate a fucking rabbit" issue, so she's not exactly inclined to help me out.

Although she will decide to sleep in the grass basket I bought for the rabbit. To annoy the rabbit and dare her to come over and do something about it.

But they are not my problem right now. That spider is my problem.

I watch it. It watches me.

For a very long time.

By the time I get up and move carefully A---L----L--- away around the other side of the bed ( so as to not alert it to my homicidal intentions) it has taken off.

Great. Now I have a crazed giant spider loose in the room.

So I do what I do best. I go back to my bed and wait. A few days later I find it's carcass - shriveled and shaped like an old woman's spiky broach.

I sweep it up into the dustpan with the runaway rabbit poops, waiting for the end of summer.

I am involved in this project - Pictures and Pie A picture a day, for a whole year. I have been inspired and awed by the output of the group of women in merely three days. It will be a beautiful year

Failure to Communicate

Sunday, August 31, 2008

After two years, my spoken French is merely pathetic. I try, on occasion, and usually am met with the stunned looks of the Quebcois wondering why I am chewing on gravel and attempting to gesticulate At them.

I then retreat to pointing and using the vocabulary of a two year old to describe what ever I am attempting to communicate. If I get really flustered, I will eventually splutter "I don't speak French!" and then hand over a $20 dollar bill and run off.

My receptive French is Much better. If I am concentrating and focused I can make out 80% of what is being said to me. This makes the show of nodding and saying "Oui" or "bon" almost convincing. Of course, the instant I spy a shiny metal object, my attention is dragged away from the speaker and I am lost once again.

Terrance, however, makes real and authentic attempts to speak in French. To people. Who may or may not understand what he is saying...but he tries. He listens to tapes. He watches French Television. He speaks with shop clerks and wait staff....in French.

However, as any non-native language speaker, he struggles with the speed at which people speak to you. And the Quebecois talk FAST.

One afternoon I watched my husband walk out of a gas station looking a combination of horrified, puzzled and slightly angry. He had gone in to pay for gas.

He sits in the drivers seat. I ask him what is the matter, for it is clear something has transpired in the Esso station.

and this is his tale:

"I went in to pay for gas - and the clerk saw me come in and asked me if I wanted "69" - which I couldn't understand since the gas didn't cost that much. So I said "What??" and he repeated himself - Did I want 69? And I thought, is this man propositioning me? Does he think I am gay? Is he offering to give me some kind of sex act here in the Esso - and if so, I am not interested since I am definately NOT GAY....So I look at him and I give him a look and said "WHAT, MAN? to let him know I'm not a punk and he must have understood since he said "69!, 69!" and held up a lottery ticket...which is the 6-4-9...but I didn't hear the four since he was saying it so fast and I thought he was asking me to engage in a sex act with him...."

My laughter needed no translation.

Blurred Lines

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Last week, we went to Toronto to pick up Emily from her time with her grandparents.

Emily celebrated by laying across me and attempting to cover every inch of my body with hers.

Her namesake and grandmother sat watching us, Emily's legs alongside mine, then noted:

"Girl! Look at how pale you are - you need to get in the sun. Your skin just looks terrible!"

Emily and I looked at Emily the Elder - puzzled.

Emily the Elder paused, looked at us both, then started to laugh.

"I forgot you're white! I thought there was something wrong with your skin!"

And the three of us laughed.

Yeah, I smell it

Monday, August 25, 2008

Terrance: "Dawn! Dawn! Come out here!."

Dawn: "Hang on, I'll be there in a minute..."

Terrance: "DAWN! Come here!"

(Dawn walking into living room)

Dawn: "What??"

Terrance: "Do you smell cat shit?"

Dawn: "Not really - or maybe a little..."

Terrance stands up from couch.

Terrance: "I can smell cat shit. Can't you smell it????"

(Dawn stands in front of Terrance looking a bit stricken)

Dawn: "Do you mean the cat shit you were sitting in?"

This is the moment that Terrance's head bursts into flame and he runs around in circles flapping his hands.

Keats, I am not

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ode to my Arm Fat

I brush my hair, You wave at me
From my bathroom mirror morning ritual
Mousse eyeliner, arm fat

Doesn’t my cleavage look great
In this strapless dress?
Arm fat smiles, dimpled in the sun

I expected my ass to fall
My boobs to droop, my belly stretch marked
But you, arm fat, were quite unexpected.

Mission accomplished
Arm Fat,

Through my Glass Darkly

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I am still thinking about the events of Saturday.

I don't like when my world view gets shaken or disturbed. I don't like when I am sure the things I know are maybe not so sure. That maybe what I know isn't entirely true.

We all have our high school origin stories. I mean, isn't that part of what makes us ...US? Part of what shaped our world view - our own private Breakfast Club experiences?

In some strange way, walking into that reunion was like stepping onto a movie set. I knew my lines and role inside and out. I knew everyone else's roles too. I knew who would talk to me and who would keep their distance.

I knew, most of all, that I needed a drink.

My social anxiety was palpable. Legs twitching and bouncing on the car drive down to the event, Terrance kept asking me why I was so nervous.

"I don't know ", I kept telling him, "I just AM."

As we approached the restaurant, I curled my arms into my husband, matching him step for step. Someone pulled up and beeped a horn. I ignored them, all intent on being a stealth reunion attendee - hiding under the arm of the only black guy in obvious sight. Military Tactician, I am not.

And then we were inside. Up the stairs into the loud, puzzling music choices.

We checked in. Terrance and I had our usual scuffle about my adding his last name to mine on name tags. I tend NOT to add it, and he would like it added. I told him that I wanted my last name added to HIS if he forced me to hyphenate. I stayed Dawn Rouse on the name tag.

There was hugging. People I was genuinely hoping to see spotted me - classmates I became friends with after college and had moved back to Rutland for a couple of years. There was a much needed glass of Merlot. There was me telling people that I lived in Montreal - Yes, Montreal. No, I did not speak much French, but was quite happy. No, seriously, everyone in Montreal does not speak French - there is a whole Anglo side and I am enrolled in an English speaking University. Listen buddy - I have now told you three times that we don't all speak French. I mean, I can order from a menu decently and do shopping and understand and respond to basic requests - but long philosophical discussions in French? No. Non.

There was me saying - Yes, an almost PhD. Yes, a daughter who is ten. Yes, A blogger. Distilling twenty years into questions and answers.

There was me talking with people I kind of wished I had been better friends with in high school - People that I knew, but really didn't know. And then, I did it.

A woman walked up to me and said Hello. I glanced at her and resumed my conversation with her now significant other - a guy who my high school boyfriend had lived with for while. At the time, I thought nothing of it. It was perfectly normal for me to disregard this woman. She was to be ignored because I viewed her as a threat to my status in the high school hierarchy. I did exactly what I did 20 years ago. Glance. Say nothing - pretend you aren't there - resume conversation with more important person.

Of course, we were also fucking the same person for a little while between high school and college. Not at the same time, I think ( but with this guy, it is perfectly possible). I am not sure if she knows or knew that. It isn't entirely important except to say that my pathological need to be Most, Best or Beloved can supersede my humanity. All I can say is that I am sorry for being such a royal Bitch, Abby Timbers. It is not you - it is me. I own it, entirely. My fears can make me a person I don't like very much.

Then to have Jill St Peter tell me that I was impossibly cool in high school and scared the hell out of her? What the ever loving fuck?

No! No! There can be no revision of my self image as wounded loner, cast out by her peers in 7th grade and forced to forage a social life for the remaining years of high school. I was NOT cool. I was weird and quirky and ....well, lots of other things.SHE was cool - tall and slim and athletic. Every thing I could never be...

Maybe by the time my 30th reunion rolls around, I will have matured enough to say these things to these peers of mine. I hold out hope for myself. After all, I went didn't I?


Sunday, August 10, 2008

I hadn't even committed to going until Thursday.

And THEN I only said yes because Terrance had booked a room at the Inn at the Long Trail.

The dance between us started months ago. Terrance read - aloud - that my 20th high school reunion was announced in the local Vermont paper. I pretended not to hear him.

"Do you want to go?", he inquired from the doorway.

"Mmmmhmmmm", I cryptically replied. This was followed by my hunching down and doing my best "flounder in the sand" impression.

A few weeks later, he tried again.

"Do you want to? Your reunion? You want to go?"


Oh, my wily spouse. He is wise in my avoidance ways.

He is also wise in the knowledge that my bravado is often just that. Bravado. I talk an excellent game and can also follow through with said game if pushed....but would usually prefer not to. I, like Bartelby the Scribner, would simply prefer not to.

I like to think that I could kick the door in to dulcet strains of "The Final Countdown" and do a dance in the middle of the party, pointing at various people and yelling "I RULE!"....but I wouldn't.

In fact, as late as Friday night I was hedging my bets.

"We don't Have to go if you are too tired - or don't really want to make the drive...", I offered over dinner. "I mean - I am not even sure if anyone I know will be there...and I haven't paid for the tickets yet, so really there is no pressing need..."

He was not swayed. "I think you should go - it only happens once, Dawn. A 20 year reunion."

This is how I found myself bundled into the car on Saturday morning, being driven to Vermont. 20 years of my fears and insecurities looming on the horizon. Stepping back into the skin of the 18 year old Dawn to face her peers.

Zen in a Double Wide Trailer

Friday, August 08, 2008

Today I took my daughter to a birthday party - the first of her public school experience.

I had called several days ago to chat with the mom and flesh out what may be appropriate gifts, as well as what constitutes acceptable parental birthday decorum. My daughter is in class with the little boy - and he has a twin sister, so I needed to get 2 gifts.

Since I do not know these children - or any, that my daughter now attends school with, I find it hard to judge what the likes and dislikes of the group may be.

School stuff is a touchy subject for me. I have over extended myself to make sure that Emily has the nicest clothes, the best toys - a sense of plenty that I never had as a child. I never had the right clothes, or things and knew it every day of my school life. My husband has called me a snob during some of the less proud moments when I cried because I didn't want to buy a coat at Walmart, or when he tried to get boots that weren't LL Bean. I know, I know, I know. I am not overly proud of this trait in myself. It has cost me more money that I can even bear to describe. It has caused fights between myself and my husband. And....yet...I...Can't...stop......

There is a rather infamous moment when a girlfriend was in the Hannah Andersson store and was buying Emily a gift, but didn't know her size. They called into the Main store - who told her over the phone what sizes Emily was now wearing. Shameful.

So, I went and bought these children Playmobil. Playmobil has been a god send for Emily. She loves her Playmobil to distraction - almost as much as Bitty Baby and American Girl. The Pirate Playmobil set for the boy and the Unicorn Fairy Playmobil set for the girl. Emily practically swallowed her tongue when she saw these in the bag. She has neither of these sets. So we wrapped them in fancy ribbon and paper ( presentation is half the battle!) and off we went at the appointed time to the place.

When I called the mother, I made some assumptions from the phone call.

A. the woman's name is Candy.

B. I was told to look for the double wide trailer, behind the fire dept.

C. The kids have never seen playmobil and have no idea what it is.

I'll give you a moment to put this picture together in your mind.

Have you fixed it in your mind? Yeah, I did too.

So, off we go to find the double wide trailer at 11 a.m. in the pouring rain. When I find it, it is all that I expect, and more.

There is a bathtub Mary in the front yard!
There are several less than funtional vehicles parked to the side!
There is some sort of shed which looks to be a serious fire/health hazard!

We park and I walk up with my child to, what I can only assume, is the entrance to the house.
We come in. I quickly take in the interior - which looks exactly like I assumed it would. There are different shag carpets from the early 70's. There is a great deal of sheet rock that is being used as wall -- sans paper or paint. There are Nascar pictures. The only thing I didn't get to look for was the "Screaming eagles of freedom" collectible plates.

Now, don't get me wrong. I was born in West Virginia. These are my people. My 30+ first cousins were lucky to graduate from High school, and most had their first babies at the median age of 16. I am, if truth be told, one genetic leap away from hillbilly. And not even a giant step.

I sized Emily up, and she said "I think you should go Mama." "Are you sure?", I reply - half wanting to stay and imprint this scene on my mind the way an anthropologist would , half wanting to get the hell out of there as fast as I could!

I leave. I get to my car. I begin to turn around in the very narrow driveway. I am almost all the way around when my front tire slips off the pavement and hits the mud that is the front yard. My car slips farther down onto the mud. Sliding, sliding. All 4 wheels are now on the mud.

A sheer wave of unadultrated panic slides over me. I try to reverse and the sound that my tires make is not a good one. Squelchy, and muffled. I go forward, and inch further out on the mud to get a more solid spot. Then reverse again. Minutes pass. I am not going anywhere. I try to call my husband - because he will surely get me out of this mess with his 1987 Jaguar? It would be like the blind leading the blind.

I go forward and backward. I call my husband. I get no fucking signal. I resist the urge to fling my phone and watch it sink into the mud. If I get out, I'll have to do it in bare feet, since my Birkenstocks will be no good in this mess. MOTHER FUCKER!!!! I try to call again and get a signal, but no answer. Just the voice mail. I practically scream "Where are you!! I am stuck in this fucking front mud yard since these people have torn up their yard and I can't get out and where are you!!!" and hang up.

Terrance calls right back. "Hey babe what's up?" Whats up? WHATS UP?? I am stuck in some metaphor for my fucking life. In the mud filled front lawn of a god damn double wide trailer.

"I'll be there in just a few minutes"

I put the car in park and sit.

A small hand knocks on my window. I jump. The birthday boy is standing outside in the rain. I roll my window down.

"You're stuck in the mud." he says.
"Yeah, I know."
"My dad can pull you out - he's got a four wheel drive"
"Ok, I called my husband too."
"I got stuck right over there when I was driving my four wheeler - see the hole?"
"Oh yeah, Emily says you like her hair", I say
He smile shyly, "It's fluffy", he says

And then the nicest man I have ever seen drives a 1983 GMC truck down, hooks a chain to the back end and pulls me out of the mud. This guy even looks like he could have been one of my cousins.

"I'm really sorry for tearing up your yard", I say to him.
"No problem - want to come in the house?" he says.
"No, my husband just pulled up - I'll go let him know I'm ok - Thanks again"

And like Buddah himself has come down to re-teach me the lesson of judging others, I drive home.

Don't make it so easy

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dear Man in his late 50's with a white puffy head of hair in the silver open top Porsche that just HAD to pass our car as we drove the speed limit on the mountain in Montreal:

Having the song "Love is in the Air" cranked from your sound system as you sped by us just makes it too fucking easy.

Please. We beg you. Just take the Viagra and simmer down.

Baleful Regards,

Pretentious Snob

Monday, July 28, 2008

My relationship with my mother is....complicated.

I rarely write about it because honestly I don't want the grief that will come from her recriminations and accusations. And there will be grief. And recriminations.

I have been in YEARS of therapy trying to come to terms with my experiences as a child, as a young woman and finally as an adult and mother to my own child.

While I never blamed my mother, per se, for my experiences - I did seek to place events in perspective.

Last night in a deserted Chinese restaurant in the town in which I came to adulthood, many years of silence broke into a hailstorm.

It was not because of my mother that I made the drive south. No. It was for my sister, about whom I also rarely write.

My mom is a narcissist. With a capital N.

I have spent a life in the shadow of her most beloved - herself. Her children, her husband - all played second fiddle to HER experiences, her opinions and her greater glory. She sets grand drama into play and then spins it all - hard - to her advantage. She is the great martyred mother, whose ungrateful children disrespect, abuse and abandon her. She accepts no responsibility for her part in any of the dramas she has created. She is a victim of them, you see.

It is generally useless to argue with this, as you can never win. This has led my to simply refuse to talk or engage with her in her presence. Which, I must admit, drives her crazy. She will up the ante until I engage. Like when she tried to wear a white dress to my wedding. And asked who was walking HER down the aisle. At which point I suggested she just wear her wedding dress and walk on my step father's other arm. Then I think I hung up the phone on her.

And I tried last night. Tried to withstand the baiting over dinner designed to draw me into this ridiculous rehashed argument about what a good mother she was to us.

It was when she asked me when I became such a pretentious snob that the dam gave way.

Not because I believe that to be untrue. I can be a hell of a pretentious snob. I have gotten to this point in my career and life BECAUSE I can be a gi-normous pretentious snob. As I have also been called whore, slut, bitch, and told that I was ruining her reputation by dating a black man ( I read this as nigger-lover, don't you?), the names don't affect me much.

No. It was my overwhelming need to serve this woman a dose of reality to her face.

My answer? I became a pretentious snob when I was forced to be the only adult in the house...say 1971 or so.

It was, in all, a foolish thing to get drawn into with her. It, as always, exhausts me.

But the funny thing is that I didn't feel any rush of adrenaline. I felt flat during this whole argument. I kept saying my truth...to be rebutted by being told that my childhood wasn't "so" bad. That I took my blog title from HER, since she always said that she was doing the best she could, that she never kicked me out of the house and withheld the last year of college tuition from me because I was dating Terrance....

Exasperated, I finally asked - "What do you want from me?". But I know what she wants and I can't give that to her. She wants me to tell her that our family is normal and all right. That she is/was a good mother and that none of the current events in her life, or the lives of her children have anything to do with her actions, words or omissions. She wants absolution, and I can offer her none.

She has reaped what she has sown. In her obsession with herself, she has put forth children who can not give her what she wants. We were too busy protecting and raising ourselves. She does not actually know any of the three people produced from her womb.

"Was I that bad a mother - was I abusive?" she shouted.

"No - I never said that. You were inattentive." I said.

My feral childhood filled with benign neglect came from life with an inattentive mother so consumed with herself that there was no authentic room for her children. We were props in the greater drama of her life.

Exit, stage left.

Mix with Sangria and watch the fun begin....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This summer my husband and I had some friends over for 4th of July. Normally, our child is safely ensconced in Detroit and we have a blissful month, where we act like we are child-free sophisticates once again. But this summer, she was home with us.

When she is in Detriot, we do wild things like eat dinner after 6 p.m., stay in bed until 10 a.m., read the paper all the way through without exclaiming "Emily!!", drink wine and other adult beverages and have really relaxed evenings in which I remember how and why I conceived this child in the first place.....Lovely Summer nights exactly like that.

So, we have friends over for the 4th and Emily is there. I proceed to drink ALOT of wine. In fact, we all drink alot of wine and allow our child to run around the yard with the flaming sticks of death that are sold under the brand name of "sparklers." [3 packs for a buck! Enough sparks to burn your house down - gar-un-teed! Your eye gets put out or your money back!]

Through our 3rd pitcher of sangria, I am a giggling mass of female. It hasn't gotten dark enough to see fireworks, but I am well on my way to full on drunken debauchery.

And then.......off in the distance....we hear it............it sounds like.........the song "the Entertainer".........which would make it............the theme song for............................

"The Ice Cream Man!!!", come the joyous cries of my child and her neighbor girl friend!

They tear off running - full tilt- in the direction of their houses, each running and screaming "I need money for the ice cream man! Mommy, please, mommy please can I have money for the ice cream man? Mommy?"

In my mind's eye,I really must admire myself . I am quite intoxicated. I also realize the importance of having money for the ice cream man - in a global kids memory way.

I leap up from the picnic table in the middle of our yard and begin to run - full tilt- toward our house. I am not a small woman, nor do I have a small bosom. I must have been HYSTERICAL to watch run from the picnic table. Like pee your sangria drinking pants funny.

I get into the house and empty my purse in my bedroom. I know this because I found it there the next day - emptied, upside down. I am too drunk to do things in an orderly manner. I find my change purse and then begin the run into the street to catch up with my child and the ice cream man. I have had several glasses of wine.

I should not be attempting to chase down the in a truck ice cream man on foot. About half way to the ice cream man, it occurs to me that I am not built to be running in this manner. But, I make it and thrust my wallet out to my child to take what ever she wants from within, as I bend over - hands on thighs- and begin panting in exhaustion and the whole hearted effort to not Keel over and begin to puke my guts out.

Emily gets her ice cream and we walk hand in hand back to the house where I resume my glass of sangria. I may not be the most perfect mother in the world, but she's gonna have ice cream from the ice cream man, dammit. Even if I have to chase him down.

(originally published September 2005)

A letter to Paul from Sarah

Friday, July 04, 2008

My dear Paul.

Yes, I see you a few rows over there with a fancy grave marker. People dressed in the attire of our "day" wander in and out of this graveyard all day, pointing you out. Some people leave you flowers. Nearly all of them point small devices at your grave, stopping for a few extra moments.

And where am I? Your beloved wife. Woman who bore you 8 children. Yes, count them. 8.
Nearly four rows over...buried next to your father. Who, forgive me for saying so, is a miserable grave companion.

On this day of days Paul, let me remind you of just who did the work of revolution in this fair city. Was it you and your friends? Oh, perhaps as recorded in the poems and histories of the events. But we both know who it was. The wives. The wives who spun and sewed the clothing. The wives who cooked and served meals for children, friends and co-conspirators until late into the night. While your friend Sam Adams gets a huge statue down the road, we know who the real brewers were, right? Women.

We gardened, we harvested, we preserved and slaughtered the animals. We made soap, washed, quilted, stuffed beds with straw. When you came home at all hours of the night, I made sure you had food to eat, and a warm home in which to enter. I nursed and cared for 8 babies...until I died not long after our youngest was born.

Who stitched wounds, bandaged cuts, and wrapped the dead after the massacre and battles? Women. Who brewed that tea that you all eventually went crazy over for being too expensive? Who then served it to you in the silver mugs that you crafted? Yes. Me and the other wives.

Paul, ,my love, I am not saying that you and the other "founding patriots" of the day don't deserve recognition for your commitment to an idea that a society could be different. I am merely suggesting that the visitors to this grave yard do as Abigail Adams later exhorted her husband John - to "remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors."

Yes Paul. I watch you from over here. I watch the stream of people wander by you, struck silent by you - the midnight rider ( by the by, I thought that poem was pure hilarity - I know I was dead when it all occurred, and I felt for your second wife, Rachel...You galloping off into the night, with ten children at home. The poor woman was sure that you would be hanged before the sun came up.)

This woman stops at my grave. She peers at the name engraved on the stone. She brushes mud off the letters, as the damp spring ground sucks at her boots. She walks back over the sign near your grave and reads. She comes back, kneels close and points one of those devices at my stone. She stays awhile. She leans close, and in that terrible accent the people here have acquired, she whispers "Thank you, Sarah".
Yes Paul. She thanked me. She thanked me for weaving the fabric of the country with my body and my work. She thanked me for feeding and cooking and bearing new citizens.
She whispered that it is not an act of heroics, or lofty speeches that make a patriot, but the unending toil that is life.

Indeed, Paul. That is what patriotism is - it is stoicism in the face of endless work. It is doing what is needed, not for acclaim, but because without that labor, life as we know it would halt. It is seeing your giant grave over there, and living with the knowledge that without me, without all of the wives, the American Revolution would have gone nowhere.

Happy Independence Day Paul Revere.

Your Consort,
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