Death by Scent

Monday, November 29, 2010

I don't know how many other couples argue about smell, but Terrance and I do.

I've spent the last 20 years being asked "Do you smell that?" or "Smell this? Can you smell that?" This often leads into the argument about how I don't need to smell something that he finds repellent in order to confirm his feeling about the smell. Or taste it. Because if he thinks something tastes bad, he wants me to taste it too.

I didn't see that part written into our marriage vows.

"Will you, Dawn, taste everything that Terrance asks you to, following the words "Ack. I think this is going bad, taste this! Will you also willingly stick your nose into every container or box or carton to verify his feeling about possible spoilage?"

That could have been a wedding day deal breaker, right there.

It isn't that I don't have a pretty highly attuned sense of smell myself. Ever since a particular incident when I was nine and knew there was mold on the bread because I could smell it and got talked into eating a peanut butter and jelly after my mother assured me there was NO MOLD on the bread. As I was four bites in, my mother pulled out the next slice of the loaf and it was as encrusted with mold as if it came directly out of Fleming's lab.

Vomiting commenced.

I knew I had been right, dammit. Years later, my family would tease me about my sniffing of food. I denied that I did such a thing until I was caught on video in 1990, leaning down and sniffing all the food on my plate. Um, apparently I DO sniff my food. My nostrils flare and everything.

This is all to say that I am no stranger to the quirkiness of the olfactory sense.

When I came home one day last week, I noticed a new device in the living room.

Terrance has tried and discarded nearly every home smelling product on the market. He likes incense, but I object to my house feeling and smelling like my University of Vermont dorm room circa 1988. He loved those oil and stick contraptions...until he knocked one over and it ate through the varnish on a table in less that 10 seconds.   I had visions of my child or cat running into the room with melting flesh after inadvertently touching the deadly cucumber melon scented oil/acid and made him get rid of them. I myself like candles...and he views them as fire hazards.

Since the device made no impact positive or negative on me, I paid it little mind.

Until approximately 1 a.m. that evening when I walked into the bathroom.

As I groggily reached for the light, simultaneously trying to not trip over the cat who has a desperate need to get into the bathroom with every human who enters, and ready myself to sit on the toilet, I hear the strangest noise.


What the hell? Am I about to be attacked by an angry rattlesnake?

The cat, sensing danger, bolts from the room. I am half asleep suspecting that I am about to be bitten by some rodent or other unexpected visitor who has taken up residence in my bathroom.

I stand up and search out my nemesis.

It is the Glade Sense and Spray. Terrance has positioned it so that it's motion sensor is activated by anyone entering the bathroom. He has failed to warn me.

We have now entered into some sick game of cat and mouse with the Glade Sense and Spray. I keep moving it so that I am not assaulted by a cloud of air freshener, and/or get a flood of adrenaline assuming I am about to meet my doom at the hand of some mutant city dwelling acid spitting spider every time I walk into the bathroom to, say, brush my teeth


wash my face


Grab a Q Tip


I move it, he finds a new place in the bathroom to hide it, but cleverly so that the motion sensor will detect me and set itself off anew, all done without me Seeing it.


Of course, once I either have a heart attack or knock myself unconscious and lose control of my bowels the good news is that the scent and spray will dutifully cover up the smells of my decomposition.

Well played, Terrance. Well played.


Internet Thunderdome

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The loss was entirely unexpected.

I discovered it first, crawling back into bed at 2 in the afternoon and booting up my laptop.

The internet had disappeared.

Since I had seen some workmen down the street clearing branches blown down by the wind I simply assumed it was a temporary loss. I did not worry.

By the time Emily had gotten home at 3:30, I had done everything I knew how to do. I restarted the modems. I turned the entire system off and on again, waiting for the light indicating that my connection had been reestablished.

Terrance then arrived home, and proceeded to repeat the exact same steps I had just taken. You know, because I might have failed to correctly turn off the machines. Or maybe his extra testosterone would scare the modem into finding the internet signal faster.

When that failed, he called the internet people. Who explained that when we decided to change telephone providers, they accidentally just shut off everything, Whoops! Oh, and even though they were able to shut it off in one fell swoop from a building downtown, there was no possible way for them to turn it back on the way they turned it off.

So maybe they could turn in back on by Saturday. Morning. Saturday Morning. Yeah, Saturday Morning, they could turn it back on.

Emily immediately fell apart. Wailing, crying and flopping about. Her SHOWS!!! What was she going to DOOOOOOO?"

She gets sent to her room, so her parents can pointedly try not to glare at each other.

It is clear that this situation could quickly devolve. Two adults who do a majority of their work via the web, not to mention 90% of their socializing and entertainment are now faced with NO internet. And a long holiday weekend. Oh, this could get bad. Like old west, Donner Party Bad.

By Friday, I had gone shopping A LOT. I had also read several books. Straight through. May I suggest Patrick Ness'  series Chaos Walking?  I read The Knife of Never Letting go and The Ask and the Answer each in  a day.  I finished two rugs.  I discovered a deli who specializes in real Eastern European food! I made Stuffing! From Scratch!

If we could just all hang on until Saturday, our life would return to blessed normalcy.

When I woke, I could hear Terrance in the other room. I couldn't exactly make out what he was saying.

I opened the door and was faced by a stricken looking Emily.

"It could be a Week! It could be a MONTH!", she whisperers urgently.

Oh.             Oh No.                    This is really not good.

Which is how we left the house, leaving Terrance behind in some enraged cleaning frenzy. Shouting at us that we weren't cleaning up to his standards and that I was lazy.

A Month of no internet?

This is going to get ugly.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

In my internal vision of myself as Mother, I am patient. I am kind. When I assist with homework, I explain the item at hand and then continue to clarify as needed until the proverbial lightbulb goes on over Emily's Head. I am a teacher, after all, and my knowledge of teaching pedagogy and practice guides me.

In addition, since I intimately know the challenges that my daughter faces in her learning, I am brilliant in my ability to supportively meet her needs.

Except for Sometimes. Sometimes I find myself getting so frustrated with her that I verbally lash out at her; telling her that she simply isn't LISTENING to me. Sometimes I send her to her room because if I spend one more minute with her arguing with me about how she is doing it the RIGHT way, when I am clearly showing her that her answers are not correct and thus she cannot be doing the problem the RIGHT way, my rising blood pressure will surely send my brain exploding through my skull.

Early last week, Emily received her corrected grammar test. Since I know that my daughter does indeed know what nouns are, and can accurately distinguish plural from singular, the very poor results were disconcerting. With my teacher eye, I scanned the test. Ah, yes. I see what happened here.

Emily starts out all right. The first part of the test is pretty good. However, by the middle of the 2nd page, I can see her starting to panic. Her answers become more scattered, she may be concerned with how much time she has left to complete the test. By page 3 of the test, she has encountered a question that she did not immediately know the answer for....which leads to her full freaking out mode. By page 4, she is writing ANYTHING in the space provided to just be done with the damn thing and hand it in.

When she flings the test at me upon her arrival home from school, she immediately starts to cry. Wail, actually.  She holds her head in her hands and tells me she just doesn't KNOW why she did so poorly. She is worried that her father and I will be angry and disappointed, while she cries that she just wants to do well on a test for once.

Oh. Oh my love.

I console her. I tell her that I will talk to her father. I will talk with her teacher. We will work with her to find a way for her to take tests so she can show us what she knows.

I spend the next day writing emails to her new ( and wonderful) teacher. I speak with Terrance and explain what I think is going on with Emily. I calm and reassure him.  Ms Jessica, Emily's teacher, suggests that she would be happy for Emily to take a re-test during recess so she can have a quiet room and more time to complete the test. We try this theory out with a Math test she did poorly on, and Emily's grade improves dramatically.

Three days later, as I help her with her homework, I lose my cool. I snap at her and as she begins to cry, I get louder. Terrance races into the room and separates us. He calms her down and sets her back onto the track of her homework.

I sit in my room glaring at the door, waiting for him.  He walks in and shuts the door.

"If you are coming in here to criticize my parenting, you can march right back out the door." I am tensed, ready for the fight.

He just stares at me. He comes over and sits on the bed, his hand on my foot.

"I know", he says, "It is easy to get frustrated with her..."

I start to cry. "She wasn't listening to me. She wanted to argue that she was right rather than re-do the problem. I was just asking her to re-do the problem and she wouldn't."

I cry until I am finished.

Later, I apologize to her for snapping at her. I explain that I wasn't angry about her getting the answer wrong - I was angry because she was arguing with me about it being wrong. I was trying to help and she wasn't hearing me because she was so invested in not having to do the work again.

I wish I could say that I am a model parent of a child with learning difficulties - disabilities, if you will - but alas, I am not.  I wish I could say that I am always ready to help her, with unending patience and a never depleted reserve of good will and support. I wish I could say that I never wished that it just wasn't so god damned HARD for her, and for us to struggle through every facet of her educational experience. I wish I could say that we never turn on each other, parent on parent, child on parent, parent on child, with accusations, blame, harsh words and tears.

I wish I could. But I can't.

We each remain human. Imperfect.

Holidays aren't Curriculum

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I was once at an early childhood conference when the topic of using food in art projects came up. I piped up and explained that I did not like children to use food stuff as art materials, even infants and toddlers. Aside from the disrespect and double message I felt that it conveyed around the topic of playing with food ( something that kids get in trouble for at the table all the time), I also believed that it was disrespectful to families for whom food was not a luxury.

"Imagine", I said, "walking into your child's classroom and seeing enough rice to feed your family for a month in the sensory table?"

*crickets chirping as Dawn is branded, once again, as a killjoy of child fun*

Finally, a young lady near me said "Oh. You're one of THOSE."

"I'm sorry?", I said. "One of what?"

"I bet you don't let children have holidays", she said.

"No", I responded, " because Holidays aren't curriculum. My job is to plan curriculum, not celebrate individual belief systems. Cut out turkeys or snowmen made of cotton balls mean nothing. They are easy "activities" to offer in lieu of a curriculum."

I am, you see, one of THOSE.

I wasn't always, of course. My teacher internship at the University of Vermont was done in the Fall of the year.  There were plenty of turkeys to be cut and colored, Santas to be decorated and Halloween pumpkins to be placed around the classroom. I spent a great deal of time photocopying pages to hand out to my students, with the blessing and guidance of my supervising teacher.

It wasn't until I got to my first job in Early Childhood that I began to critically consider the introduction of holidays into curriculum. Why were we - the adults -doing this? How could any of this matter to young children?

Sure, Parents loved to see the projects produced. However, here is what I noticed: Teachers were doing 90 to 95% of the work on these projects. These were, on the whole, not being produced by 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 year old children.  These were being photocopied, cut and arranged by adults, with minimal input from the child.

Think about it people. What 2 year old is going to perfectly cut out a tree shape? What three year old is going to draw you a realistic turkey?  That's right. None of them.

And the teachers. Spare a moment and consider the teachers who are cutting out 30 turkeys. Or putting costumes on unwilling toddlers for a Halloween Parade. Or consoling a child who didn't get what he/she asked for after Christmas since their family is too poor, even though the letter to Santa that the child made in class was presented to Santa. Or hey - what about the kid whose family is Jehovah's Witnesses, and so he/she has to leave the room every time the class partakes in yet another Holiday activity?

So, after years of asking teachers "Do you enjoy this? Does this seem like a worth while way to spend your time with a group of children?", I was finally able to give holidays the boot in the child care center's curriculum.

Yes, I have heard the counter arguments. I was told by one mother that I had psychologically damaged her one year old by not having her dress up in a Halloween costume. I heard how I was robbing the children of their childhood. I heard how anti-christian I was from a teacher who had a Birthday Candle up on the wall for Jesus, dated December 25th. (I took it down)

I didn't care. No holidays.

Now, that isn't to say that the children did not mention or talk or share what they had been doing outside the center. Of course they did. That isn't to say that during the fall they didn't use pumpkins and apples for counting and graphing and cooking and tasting. We simply did not make the holiday the focal point of what we were doing in the classrooms.

So we stopped.

Holidays aren't curriculum. They are individual days given meaning based on a specific set of beliefs or cultural background. They can be indoctrination tools used by a society to reinforce myths or legends on which the society may be founded.

Curriculum for young children involves Numeracy, Literacy Skills, Dramatic Play, Fine and Gross Motor Skills, Science and Observation, Art and Exploration and Social Navigation, Negotiation, Compassion and Empathy.

Sticking cotton balls on a photocopied Santa for 30 seconds doesn't serve any of those abovementioned goals. That is the curriculum of the lazy and uninspired, passed down simply because and done for no particular reason.

Children deserve far better than that, and Parents need to demand it.

Truths her mother tells her

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This time of year mixes up lots of feelings for our family. As two adults who are committed to teaching our daughter about American and World History through non-rose colored glasses, it can be difficult to detangle the multitude of messages implicit in the majority of the Autumn American holidays.

When Emily entered public school for the first time, she encountered the stories of Columbus. She brought home photocopied pictures of the Nina, the Pinta and Santa Maria.  Eventually in November ,she brought home paper Pilgrim hats and Cornucopia's and yes, even faux paper "Indian headbands". 

She asked if we planned on having a special feast for Columbus Day. After all, we mark most of our holiday's with special dinners, and given that this newfound holiday and story seemed to be so least important enough to require coloring and cutting and hats, one would assume an observance of some sort was due.

In that first attempt at telling her that maybe we all didn't see the story of Columbus and the Pilgrims in the same rosy light, Terrance ditched me. Hightailed it out of the kitchen with his "Daddy doesn't "do" Columbus" remark.

Yeah. Thanks for that Mr. Social and Economic Justice. 

Clearly, I was on my own.  

I did what I always do - I found a book.  Jane Yolen's Encounter. I sat the then 7 year old Emily on my lap, and we read it.

The story could be that of Columbus, but it could also be the story of any number of arrivals of Europeans on the shores of North and South America. The illustrations, done by David Shannon, are lovely. The story, however, is not. The story is one of theft and murder and pillage. The indigenous people who meet these white men are fascinated, for they have never seen anything like what is before them. White Skin. Blue Eyes. Large Ships. 

Told from the point of view of the only survivor of the Encounter, it is the type of story which leaves you shaken - wondering how you ever believed the tales of Columbus, the Pilgrims and the other Glorious Founding Legends of our Nation.  Of course it couldn't have happened the way we were taught. It makes no logical sense for it to have happened that way. 

When you start to poke around and figure out that the Pilgrims walked into land that had already been cleared by First Nations peoples...who had most likely been wiped out by a smallpox or other disease epidemic, and that they viewed this as a sign from God that the land belonged to them....That they looted graves of those peoples for the tools inside them, assuming that some divine providence had left this stuff just laying about.

It starts to make our founding stories a little less glorious. A little less heroic. Makes our manifest destiny credo, still evident in the nation building dogma of our political institutions, tarnish like gold plating. 

Yes, there was heroism and bravery...but too often at the expense of someone else. Oppression of others is tightly woven into the American Story. First Nations/Native Americans, Africans, Irish, Catholic, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic, Arabic and Muslims have all served their time as the Undeserving Villain in the story of America. The Losers.  The people who do not get to write the truth of their experiences into the story because it would damage our national self esteem to know that We are one in the same. 

America is a great nation.  I am proud to be an American. However, I will not tell my daughter the same stories I was told. I will not allow her to believe that there were gifts that were given with no strings attached in the formation of our nation.  I will not encourage her to think that to be American is to be better, or more, or unthinkingly correct in what she sees and hears. 

This year, I put away Encounter and begin reading Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen to Emily. 

I want her to know that it is good to be proud to be American. It is good to be thankful for the gifts bestowed upon our nation and citizens. However, we must never forget that part of these thanks must be given to those peoples who do not (yet) get to tell their stories. That sacrifices, including murder, genocide, theft and slavery occurred to grant us these liberties.

I want her to know that truth comes in a multitude of shades. That every victory had a loser, and that their stories and experiences are as important as the ones that get repeated in textbooks and celebrated as holidays.

Big Boy Band Aids

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terrance: "Dawn, are you going to the store?"

Dawn: "Mmm, Most likely, Why?"

Terrance: "I think we need some band aids."

Dawn: "Ok, I'll put it on my list."

Terrance: "And Dawn?"

Dawn: "Yeah - what is it?"

Terrance: "When you get band aids, is it possible to get ones without hannah montana or any other kind of decoration on them?"

Dawn: "Terrance? Are you asking me to buy you big boy band aids?"

Terrance: "Yeah, I guess I am."


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It is impossible to look dignified when the fun, patterned tights that you are wearing are rolling down your booty-licous bum, taking the skirt you are wearing along for the ride.

Did I mention that you are in your favorite Iranian Muslim grocery store as you realize that a good portion of your ass is now showing ( Hey! The infidel is wearing a red thong !), while being oddly suspicious that your little wardrobe malfunction has been going on for longer than you may have suspected.

Make no additional eye contact as you finish your shopping, pushing the cart with one hand, while you other hand holds the skirt and tights in place. Ponder why your ass seems to be attempting to show itself to a good portion of Montreal.

Coco Versus The Broom

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So, while I continue to have my freak out about Emily going to high school, here is a little something that should hold you.

I present:

Coco the House Rabbit versus her Nemesis, The Broom

Inhale, Exhale

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tomorrow, we are interviewing a high school for Emily.

Yep, you read the right. A HIGH SCHOOL. In Montreal, there is no middle school. 7th grade begins high school.

So, I am just this side of a major panic/anxiety/complete mothering meltdown in which I weep for my Youth whilst simultaneously trying to disengage all the memories of what goes ON in High Schools.  More specifically, what I was doing in High School.  Ergo, what Emily will be getting up to in High School, made only more god-awful by the not-invented-when-I-was-in-high-school Digital technology.

Makes a woman want to wrap her daughter in suit of barbed wire secured with a double chastity belt and run for the hills.

Combine this with my continuing attempt to wade through possibly the most terrible part of 'ze PhD - the methodology - and I can feel my fragile grasp on reality slipping away into the loving arms of Zynga Games on Facebook.

We are interviewing a high school tomorrow.

Hold me, Internet.

The Devils we Know

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I am a survivor of child sexual assault. I am pretty sure this isn't "news",as I have been fairly open about my experiences...once I came to terms with them and stopped fearing the stigma of the brand "victim".

With the internet in an uproar about the self published book on Amazon about pedophilia ( for which I will not be providing a link, if you don't know of what I speak, google it), it cracked open a few doors in my brain.

Was my father a pedophile? My Uncle? My Male Cousins? They were certainly using children for their own sexual gratification, but not exclusively.  They also had access to consenting adult female partners. My uncle, in particular, has fathered at least 10 or 11 children that we KNOW about.  They all seemed heterosexual* in their orientation, so I have always assumed they only perpetrated against my female cousins and myself. Always least what I know about, often pried out of them in fits and starts and over the course of years only to be spoken after people died or moved so far away there was no fear of reprisal.

(I am not implying that one has to be hetero or homo sexually oriented to be a sexual predator - only that in my own family, it seemed that the perpetrators were all heterosexually oriented, as they chose the girls...that I know of.  In hindsight, I really wonder since so many of the older boys seemed to step into the pattern so easily. Were they also being abused and said nothing or was it a culture of of opportunistic abuse? I just don't know)

Of course, as an adult I have often wondered who perpetrated against THEM. For I know that the cycle of sexual abuse tends to be just that - a cycle. One begets another, who in turn eventually begets another. Like a ponzi scheme of dysfunctional family sexuality, the logical part of my brain knows that this little "habit" didn't simply start spontaneously with the generation of myself and my female cousins.  You need flies to lay maggots, after all.

But I don't know.

But I can tell you what I do know. I was the person who helped to manage the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry for the State of New Hampshire from about 2002 until 2005. I entered cases into the registry. I cross checked matches to make sure it was the same individual. I read and entered cases into the files to make sure they were accurate against the notes in the computer systems and then I closed them.

In short, I read a lot of terrible, terrible shit.  Some of the shit was so terrible that I would go home at night and tell Terrance to sleep out on the couch because I needed to have Emily in bed with me. I needed her body next to mine so I knew she was all right.

Occasionally, I would come across children  I Knew. Families I knew. Suspicions would be confirmed and I would feel helpless and bitterly Angry. Sometimes I would cry because I had held those children. I had diapered them or washed their faces.

More often, these were not children or families I knew. Bad decisions were made about leaving kids in cars in the the winter while Mom/Dad went inside sex shops, or kids in cars when parents were busted for drug deals, or parents who simply did not have the resources - emotionally, mentally, physically or otherwise to care for their children's bodies needs.  The sexual abuse cases, however, nearly Always Always Always involved people whom the children KNEW.

Cases in which a child is sexually abused by an "unknown Perp" are  comparatively rare. That isn't to say it doesn't happen, it just happens much less rarely that for a child to be sexually abused by people the child knows.

Because, you see, that is how the pedophile, or person who targets children, gets Away with it. The child invests in the relationship. If it is Dad, or Uncle, or Grandpa, or Best Family Friend, or your best friends Dad or Moms Boyfriend, then the child has an investment in keeping the perpetrator SAFE. After all, MOST of the time, that person might be nice to them...Extra Nice in fact. Or if the perpetrator is your Dad  , well then , he is your hero, isn't he? The man who keeps you safe and the monsters away from your bedroom, the one who can beat up other kids Dads in school yard taunts. The one who puts food on your table and clothes on your back. You are tied to him. To give him up would be to cut off your lifeline, and children are uniquely wired for their own self preservation when it comes to protecting their parents/family/loved ones.

So while this idiot self publishes a book on Amazon and brings the fury of a million terrified mothers on his head, I am here to tell you that it isn't the people who "Out" themselves who are the potential abusers of Your children.

Oh No. It isn't the pervy guy in the park who is hunting for your kids, or the crazy people who kidnap children out of bedrooms at night. Nope.

The monsters we have to watch for are those we invite into our homes. Maybe even those we live with or next to or go to visit. They are invested in keeping themselves low profile and hidden from sight. I used to joke that it was only the stupid or reckless ones who got caught, a sort of gallows humor for me in a job that was exceptionally difficult.

So were my father and uncle and cousins pedophiles?  I don't think they were in the classic definition of only being aroused by children. Were they simply men who sexually assaulted based on opportunity and availability - or what is called non-exclusive sexual offenders? Most Likely.

I will never be able to trace the fissures of destruction that their actions, and the actions of their victims, and the actions of their possible perpetrators began. I will never know when it started, and with whom.

All I can do is watch the other adults in the life of my daughter, and her friends and respond when my "gut" tells me something is off. Because my gut is Never wrong.

A-S-S-U-M-E, makes an ass out of You and Me

Friday, November 12, 2010

Inspired by Kelli's Diwali story, I recalled one of our family's very own little cultural misfires.

I was interviewing for a job in Vermont, and it was looking like it had some pretty good potential. As such, Terrance and I made a second trip to the area with the intent of interviewing a number of child care centers for Emily.

Yes. A Whole day and Trip devoted to interviewing child care centers. I don't think I have to tell most of YOU that child care quality is one of our family's top priorities....and that I am deeply aware of the time and energy it can take to find the right place for family and child. In fact, I had made it clear to the potential employer that finding child care was a major contingency of my accepting the position.

We were on our 3rd or 4th interview of the day - with Emily in tow. As she raced through the space exploring and looking and touching ( and most likely licking things too), I asked my list of questions.

As a dual race family, living in the (statistically) whitest parts of New England, sensitivity to...well ANYTHING that wasn't the dominant white culture was important to us. It was one of the concerns which eventually helped move us to Montreal, this desire for our daughter to see other people who looked like Her.

My question was pretty straightforward: "Can you talk a bit about your programs policy regarding diversity and  anti bias curriculum?"

(Okay I own that maybe this was a scary question...but at the same time, I was talking to Another ECE professional in what, I was told, was the BEST child care in the area.)

The director paused. She looked at Terrance and I.

"We don't celebrate Kwanzaa, but we would be happy to, if you wanted..."

Her words tumbled out so quickly that it took a moment for them to sink into our brains.  Terrance looked at me. I looked back at him.

"We don't celebrate Kwanzaa. We celebrate Christmas", I said.

Long Awkward Silence.

Needless to say, I didn't take the job and she never attended that child care.

*There is nothing wrong in asking questions and being genuinely curious about cultures other than the one in which you grew up. It is one of the ways that my marriage with Terrance has been able to be successful. However, it is quite another to assume things about families or children based on external characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation of the parents, age or profession.

In hindsight, the "correct" answer may have been "You know, we haven't really thought about it but we are willing to work with you to learn more." It isn't about being ALL the way there, but about being willing to take the journey.

Some people never learn

Thursday, November 11, 2010

So, after thinking and listening and emailing and talking, I felt better about the situation around True Wife Confessions and the obvious derivation.

I decided to wander over and look at the site...You know, what the heck.

Which is when I saw "Truu Wife Confessions"

Oh Sweet Jeebus. My blood pressure rose dramatically.
But I did nothing at first. I thought. I meandered.

And then I emailed, through the website.

I stated that the title was derivative but for ONE letter, and I wanted it taken down.

The response?

Thanks for reaching out Dawn.  This vertical has been up on the site for almost 2 years (since I relaunched

Would you have any interest in taking this vertical over and using the confessional on your site and pulling your content into the truu blog?

truuconfessions works on a lifestage model (much like the knot, the nest, etc) and wives was always a category and then its own vertical.  Just as the huffingtonpost creates "big news pages" around topics, that's all I did and continue to do with other topics.

I'm sorry for any bad blood in the past - no intention to "plagiarize" as u say.  If you'd like to work together on this section (with a fair rev share split) I'd be happy to talk by phone or email.


Um, Hell No? Hell to the Nizzo?

My response:

No. I have no interest in partnering with you.
I want you to take it down, regardless of how long it has been up.

Dawn Rouse

Within Minutes, I got this:

Thanks for your quick response.

Sorry. I'm not going to go in and change the infrastructure of my site.


And My final response:

The concept and title is derivative of MY site, which has been in place since 2006.

The is my last request to take down that section. I should, by rights, ask for a portion of your revenue for the entire time you have been using the name. I am not.
Take down Truu Wife Confessions.

Dawn Rouse

Let's see what the next chapter brings.

Updated to add the Contact form for "Truu wife".  Feel free to use it - Hell, even if you want to tell Romi that  I am a spiteful bitch who should shut up. Just let your voice be heard. I am not being quiet this time around. 

Walk this Way

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last year marked a turning point for us in our parenting.

We (well, "I"- I shouldn't act like Terrance was HAPPY about this) insisted that our daughter start walking to and from school BY HERSELF. Prior to that Terrance had walked her to school and one of us had waited to walk her home after school.

When we lived in New Hampshire,  there was simply no choice. Everything is spread so far out over a multitude of miles that unless we planned on preparing our daughter to trek 6 miles over terrain on which there was no sidewalks, traffic lights or evidence of human habitation she simply was NOT walking to school. This wasn't little house on the prairie, for pete's sake.

Upon moving to our hood in Montreal, she was still only in 2nd grade and we were new to the neighborhood. LOTS of parents walk with their kids here, and it was novel to simply have sidewalks. Yes, wrap your collective minds around that! We had just moved from a place in which Moose and Foxes and a multitude of other wildlife regularly sauntered up onto our deck. Sidewalks and Street Lights were novel concepts for our family. You can imagine what the idea of having the school a mere two BLOCKS from our HOUSE felt like - It was amazing.

So - We walked her from school. We picked her up from School. We chatted going, we chatted coming. It was nice.

Somewhere between 3rd and 4th grade, she asked to walk to school on her own. Her father hesitantly agreed. Then followed her, ducking behind trees as he tailed her - poorly - to school.  Within a few days, she asked him to start walking her again. Frankly, I think she liked the company and time with him.

It was last year when I decided to push this baby bird from her nest. She was in 5th grade. Many of the parenting clashed we were experiencing were between her insistence that she was OLD enough to do LOTS of things - and her repeated proof of her not being able to walk the towels to the hamper....or hiding her dirty socks in her dresser. After one particularly tearful and extended battle between her and her father, I took him aside.

"We have to force her to be more independent. You can't complain that she isn't acting her age when you have not given her the space to Try."

Terrance and I never Quite seen eye to eye on parenting. I am more of a loosey-goosey parent and he is the Fort Knox of Fear/Anal Retentive parent. I have been fighting against HIM from the moment I gave her finger foods to try to pick up herself and he accused me of trying to starve her. Also, making her use a sippy cup was surely leading to massive dehydration and brain tissue decay.

You think I jest? Um, No.

She, predictably, pushed back.  She didn't WANT to walk to school by herself. It was too...COLD...or too WET...or too SCARY. I pulled her up short at the scary accusation.  Scary? In broad daylight with all the other kids walking to school?  Knowing a majority of the parents in the houses nearby? Scary?  When she has had a cell phone of her very own since she was 9 to use to call us if she needed to? Puh-lease.

Nice Try.

So she started.  And she was fine. At first she would call us as soon as she Got to school to tell us she was there. Then she would call us after school to tell us she was either on her way home....or going to play in the park next to the school with some friends for a bit before walking home. Later, that became "going to the library" or "Going to the pool".

This summer, we added riding her bike to and from the community pool as part of her circle of independence. I have even let her walk down to the convenience store ( about 6 blocks) to pick up something and walk back.  She was ready. She was confident she COULD do it and we had walked her through the steps of How to do it.

Yvonne just wrote a post about her six year old walking home from the bus stop. She is being pointed to the free range parenting "movement"  by many commenters and told "Oh Just LET her Do it".

I don't think it is so simple, however. Parenting is not only about negotiating with your Child, but also within yourself. If you are not comfortable - and you have good reasons that satisfy YOU - then you get to make the decisions. Its why we ARE the parents.

Furthermore, deciding that you LIKE walking with your kid, or LIKE meeting her as she gets off the bus is OK too. I don't know why, but I get the feeling there is some kind of shame being thrown at parents who just LIKE being with their Kid vis a vis the free range parenting.

One of the things I say to Emily ALL the time is that she will have far more time to be an adult than she will have to be a Kid.  That time is growing shorter and shorter for us.  Her joy at Playmobil will diminish, her love of Harry Potter will fade. Next week we are interviewing a potential High School for her (I shit you Not) and the whole Idea of having a kid in high school is enough to send me on a drinking binge while I weep for my poor, dusty uterus.

She is, as I wrote before, closer to leaving me than coming from me.

We should never allow others to make us feel shame for our parenting decisions. So what if we attachment parented or breast fed or bottle fed or had our kids cooking at age 7 or walking to and from school in kindergarten? We each do the very damn best we can with our "package" - the mix of fears and hopes an experiences and personalities that make up our Individual families.

So, in the immortal words of Humpty Hump from Digital Underground:
"Do Whatcha Like."

Two Vignettes

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(so after 3 years of Owning the domain, I finally moved to Blogspot will still forward, but you may want to update your bookmarks.  I am pleased to be joining the 21st century and this magical place called the "internet")

Vignette One:

Monday Night, 9:45 p.m.

After drinking a massive mug of peppermint tea, I make my way to the bathroom.  Upon entering, there is the heavy aroma of bleach. I remove comfy pants and sit down upon the receptacle.

I realize I am sitting in what can only be a puddle of bleach.  I exhale. Deeply.

I stand....I clean the bleach from my bottom. I clean the bleach from the toilet seat.  Inhale, Exhale.

I exit.

Dawn: "Terrance? Did you decide to bleach the toilet and seat for some, unknown reason sometime within the last hour?"

Terrance: "oh, Yeah. Why?"

Dawn: "Because I just SAT in it. If I wanted anal bleaching, I could arrange for that at a "specialty spa". And WHO decides to bleach toilet at ten o clock at night? What is Wrong with you?"

Vignette Two:

My Facebook Status Update at 12:03 a.m.

Every night - without fail - my cat decides to defecate in his litter box...At Midnight. Since I am 1) the only person who is awake and 2) the only person who CLEANS the litterbox I trudge out to take care of it. Why? you ask. Well, if the litter isn't clean enough, he will try to use the Rabbit litter boxes. And they will protest by pissing everywhere. Its like a terrible defecation domino effect. Without communism

Photographic Proof Of Said Rabbit(s) and their expressed displeasure:

Bloggers, Heal Thyself.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

With all of the Brou-ha-ha flying over the internets this past week:

with Semi Famous Dad Bloggers being called out for unwanted sexual tweets, pictures of his junk and preying on Mom Bloggers who have talked about their depression with a "I know how you FEEEEEEL" intro line AND a food Blogger who found that her article had been lifted and re-printed without her knowledge and a callous response by the Magazine with the now famous "everything is free on the internet" quote

Things sure have been exciting around these series of tubes.

A friend emailed me on Saturday morning with a link to another article of the infringing of the Food Bloggers Intellectual Property with these words:

"amazing what a difference a few years makes"

To which I replied - "Ah yes. True Irony, Dontcha think?"

In June 2006, I created True Wife Confessions:

I got this email:

 hide details  10/1/06

Oct 1, 2006 11:10 AM

Huffington Post/True Wife Confessions?
Hi Dawn,
I am a big fan of True Wife Confessions and wanted to know if you would be interested in our BECOMING FEARLES page featuring some of your content (a weekly confession or two perhaps?).

Would also like to invite you to blog for us on other topics of interest too....

Hope to hear from you!
Romi Lassally
Features Editor, The Huffington Post)

Note the Date? October 1, 2006. Hey Look, she is aware of my website. She is a FAN! She wants me to give content ( which I wasn't going to be paid for)  to the Huffington Post!

Hey Now Look - This here is the first letter I wrote to a lawyer!

Apparently, after Romi left Huffington, she "created" True Mom Confessions - an idea she claimed to have simply "thought Up" - according to her June 2007 interview on Yahoo picks. 

I was never approached about using the idea for a confession site, nor was I ever asked about use of the "True (Blank) Confessions" name.

Today (July 28,2007), while at BlogHer, I got a door hang with a " and the phrase "Confession in Session"

I emailed the company and informed them that I believed they were infringing on my intellectual property this morning. Romi personally responded to me from the email address on the True Media website. That was how I found out that this is one and the same person who had been in contact with me last year. She then called me and after a very heated and unpleasant conversation which I terminated, I informed her that I would be looking into my rights as the creator of the genre of "True Blank Confessions" particularly after she explicitly approached me about this during her stint with  Huffington. I contend that she has copied my idea and is making big money off of something I essentially started. 


I was told - point blank - by some of the very same bloggers who are the loudest voices about the terribleness of Stealing someones IP  that I should shut up. Be Nice. They didn't want to "pick sides".  Shockingly, these are some of the VERY Same women who were later asked to write chapters in Romi's book. (snark/) 

Now, is this EXACTLY the same? No. Of course Not.  Am I obviously Bitter? Oh HELL yeah.  Bitter, Table for Dawn. A Permanent Table for Dawn. My ass may have cemented to the chair by this point. 

Now, I never did sue, although I had a very good case. I was in the midst of my Bi-Polar free for all AND had just moved to Montreal to be a full time student. 

I had neither the money, nor the emotional energy to invest. However, every time I see another thing - book, website, interview -  associated with the woman I consider a thief and a liar, I get angry.

Why didn't my blogging brethren rise to protect me?  Why were there no outcries to protect MY intellectual property? 

I don't think we get to pick and choose, my Blogging brethren. We don't get to stand for one, and not the other. We don't get to talk about how it isn't ok to Bully - then launch a Bullying campaign against another blogger. Hypocrisy much?

This post will not make me any new friends. Shit, I may lose the few in the blogging world that I have left. 

This is why, however, I closeted myself for So long from the world of the Mommy Bloggers. I turned to them in my time of need and I got royally shafted by people I considered Friends. 

Why? For money? For making themselves into Brands? To get Book Deals and paid writing gigs?

All I know is that it is easier to scream and shout about what is right and what is wrong, until it is time to lay yourself down in front of that train. 

The people remaining holding your hands after the train passes you by, the wind whipping your hair as it barrels past? 

Those are Friends.

So again I say. Bloggers, Heal Thyself.

Apparently 20 years together has taught him a few things

Friday, November 05, 2010

Terrance: I saw that Montreal email coupon today, did you?

Dawn: Yeah.

Terrance: I thought about getting it for you. But then I thought that it was something you should buy for yourself, if you wanted it.

Dawn: Yeah. Laser Hair removal is not the type of thing you give your wife as a gift.

Terrance: Yeah, Like "I don't like your beard, take care of it"

Dawn: Exactly. Which could lead to tomorrows Montreal coupon - Gaping wound suture and facial reconstruction.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I have been pondering the nature of Authenticity.

Years ago, when I was a novice blogger, I never worried about how my words might be interpreted, or how I was presenting myself, or who might see that presentation.

I just wrote.

I knew that my voice was coming across because when friends who knew me - real life in person friends - read the blog, they said "It sounds like you are sitting on my couch and telling me stories".

Ah, yes. Very Good. That was what I wanted. Me. The same experience you would have were you to sit my ass on the couch and give me three gin and tonics and just watch the show evolve.

Years have passed - 5 years, can you believe it? - and I think that I have pretty successfully maintained my voice through all of my own personal storms, as well as the storms that batter the shore of many long time bloggers.

The "Who are you?" storms, the "How are you Presenting yourself to the World" storm, the "Can we box you up nicely and make you an attractive commodity to sell other things" storm, and the "Making yourself a Brand" storm.

In a small gift filled way, my rides on the carousel of crazy in 2006/07, with repeat rides in 09 and 10 have exempted me from some of those decisions.

Attractive crazy is sellable. Crazy that is self solving is also sellable. Crazy that ebbs and flows and sometimes hides in the corner and cries, uncontrollably at times, and slashes at its skin and clothes? No. Keep that shit behind closed doors.

Except I never do keep it behind closed doors.  When I decided to live this life as out loud as possible, I opted to make most of the things considered "personal" as public. Since I am not invested in securing my reputation as Wife, Mother, Woman, the vanity that defeats  self disclosure is refreshingly absent. Of course, I know there are some in my life who wish I wouldn't. This doesn't please Terrance, I can assure you.

However, there are still parts of me that are not for your viewing pleasure. I may show you glimpses, through elaborate fan dances, but they never fully come through.  It is, simply, not your business. It may not even be Terrance's business or Emily's.

Am I betraying my authenticity by not showing you everything?  I don't think so.  You get a hell of a lot. The pieces I retain as Mine are as important as the pieces I share with you. They keep the balance, as delicate as it is.

Keeping my internal promise to be Authentic in this voice means that I will never be a Brand.  But I will always remain Me.

Funny, crazy, opinionated, foul mouthed Dawn.

Insomnia Haikus

Loki is the cat
Coco and Jackson are not
Rabbits don't like cats

Why am I awake
I think something bit my hand
bed bugs worry my brain

Dissertation Woes
Methodology sucks ass
Please let me be done

Litters must be cleaned again
Why is this my job?

Phi Delta Badass

Monday, November 01, 2010

So, I was at this conference this past week - and it was OK. By that I mean that I didn't attend but one of the talks, and got so quickly freaked out, horrified and vaguely distressed that I fled the venue and retreated to my room to listen to the dulcet sounds of the union protesters picketing out front.

I also got fairly inebriated two of the three nights and met some lovely bloggers who may or may not know my policy of imprinting:

Once Dawn has decided that you are "good people" you will be placed in her internal friends column. This may occur with little to no effort from you. Unless like poor Palinode, she announced the policy to you - in between her detailed description of various graphic novels and 1980's alt bands - after her fifth glass of white wine. She may also just give you her debit card and tell you to go get more money for booze.

While I did not interact with more than five or six people that I can recall interacting with ...and lets just say that it is safe to assume that after my 4th gin and tonic I don't really recall, especially when I am not wearing my glasses in order to make my mask fit better and seem like everything was in a vaguely sexy myopic fog.... I DID come up with a good idea.

It was during the talk I visited for a little bit. Also, it was my general feeling being surrounded by polished Mom type people with shiny boots and carefully done makeup...Myself in my Rocket Dog Skull sneakers, black skirt and variety of T-shirts (zombie avoidance, Mother Daughter Fight Club/Book Club shirt, RavenClaw and old skool Green Eggs and Ham), no makeup, with bound copies of  The Walking Dead I had found at a bookstore for $9.90 (SQUEEEE!!!).  Also, at no time was I looking at my Phone in order to tweet, text or otherwise engage in phone based social media.

So, Ok. I didn't much LOOK like them.

And my kid - she's cute, for sure..but she is also six months from being a teenager.  I have been blogging since she was 5, so I got no cute baby to coo about, or funny toddler or even endearing kindergartener. I got the hard core parenting shit going down here. The truly UN-Glamorous end of parenting. I have to discuss really difficult things with her, as the protection I can offer her from the world at large is so thin that  it is translucent.  She is closer to leaving me than coming From me.

Not alot of parenting commonality there.

Finally, I care fuck-all for being a "brand". Just the fact that I just used the word "fuck-all" lets you know that I am not looking to be a brand, because I suspect one of the unspoken rules is try to not swear too fucking much in your fucking blog.  HAH! I love to swear. I love the feel of swears rolling off my tongue and fingertips. It remains as delightful now as it did when I was 14 and said "bitch" in front of my mother with no repercussions.

I also like sex - and like to talk about sex. I love my Penis Blog and have never hidden that it is mine. I love that it is popular in alternative sex communities.  Ribald and Bawdy make me laugh. I also like to eat and occasionally get fat. I have never been skinny and even at my thinnest am not considered skinny. I am, in every way, a woman out of the Renaissance - lush, sexual, well educated, and in love with the sensual gifts of the world.

So where do I fit in, amongst this community of Women? Amongst this community of Parents? Amongst this community of Bloggers?

I am not Club. I am not Yummy, I am not Bad.

I am, however, a Badass. Phi Delta Badass, in fact.

So - I am starting  my Own space, called Phi Delta Badass, where Moms and Dads and in-betweens or No, Thank You's can mingle.   I've got some sketched out ideas about how I want it to be, and I have purchased the domain and email and blog space.  In rough draft, I want it to be a place for Me - a place where I am not looking to get a book deal, or lure advertisers to sponsor me or Brand anything. An Authentic Space. An occasionally raw and raunchy space. A space which promotes and explores fashion and beauty in a way that is less conventionally polished, but still utterly beautiful.

So this is what is rolling around in my head. I can't promise anything will come of it. It is all still very much an embryonic bean of an idea, so I have set a space aside for it to see what it will become.

What do you think?
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