Damn you, Internet meme

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I never make resolutions.

This is, in part, because I know I am so damn stubborn that I will inevitably wilfully sabotage myself, simply to be contrary. Also because I am pretty clear on the things I  should be doing in my life. Making promises on one night because the calender changes really doesn't appeal to me.

A few weeks ago I saw a post on an old bloggy friends facebook wall ( yeah, yeah I gots the facebook, but not the twitter. never the twitter) that intrigued me.

Grace Davis ( one of the truly most spectacular, kickass, centered and all around lovely human I have ever had the pleasure of not only Knowing, but making her laugh her ass off next to a pool on a Balmy San Jose night...seriously, I want to be Grace when I grow up) posted 30 things to Stop Doing to Yourself

"hmm. I'll nibble at that" thinks I.

So I click on over...and read the first one...

 If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.


Well then.

I can give you a thousand examples of this in action in my life and the lives of people I know and love. People fighting for spots in lives, rather than room being made. I am guilty of it myself.

I will no longer fight for spots in the lives of people I know, and I will do my damnedest to not make people fight for spots in mine. 

This year, I work on Balance.

In all Things.

Peace to you, my internet friends.

Baby, it's cold outside

Thursday, December 29, 2011

So...we live in Canada now, right. We are New Englanders. We are used to cold weather.

Um. Yeah. Not so much.

Today Emily and I walked down to the bakery. All right. It's about a half a mile. We were bundled. Tra-la-la. We chat about life as we walk down ( wind behind us) to our delicious destination.

We eat, we drink, we are merry.

Jaunty Hat and Scarf Combo

We re-bundle. We head out.

Dear Lord in Heaven. It seems to have dropped about 150 degrees in the brief amount of time we were inside. The wind is right in our faces. The tips of my ears, although covered in scarf and hat, begin to get painfully cold. Our small talk, so merry on the walk to the bakery, drops to nothing.

Emily tries to pretend she can't see and hangs onto my arm. I shake her off, visions of the Donner party in my head. 


As we crest the hill which signals one block to our house, Emily spontaneously yells:


I start to laugh, and so does she ( as the little worm huddles behind me, using me as her windbreak)

We round the corner and begin to race walk home.

Emily demonstrates her "I'm Dying" pose 

Smart Mouth Gene

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sigh. I know I have a normal kid. What's more, I know that with a Mom such as myself, my child was fated to be a bit ( hold your comments!) of a smart ass.

I mean, I'm not exactly world renowned for my ability to keep my mouth shut, now am I? I have been "uninvited" from meetings/committees since I tend to speak the stuff in my head...out loud. Is it any surprise that my daughter seems to have inherited this tendency to "say stuff"?

Well, No. But it is dammed annoying when the commentary is directed at ME. Take this past week ( oh yeah, I am in recovery from this week for a LONG time).

Every. Little. Thing. She resisted me.

She would pretend to not hear me, or do what she was asked ( like put away her clothes) and when I found them shoved in the closet, try to tell me that she "misunderstood" what I meant by "putting them away".

Or the answer "No" to her umpteenth million request for "dessert", which ended in her stomping  away and muttering bitterly.

"What was that?", I snapped.

"Nothing", she replied.

"I heard that...", I said.

"what?", Emily responds.

"You said, "I wish I had a nice Mom", you don't know from Mean, honey. I can show you a whole world of mean if you keep pushing it."

 I pause - staring at her.

Every day. Wishes for a nice mom, a different Mom, a mom who is Pleasant and wouldn't make her do these ridiculous chores are muttered sotto voce...and I must challenge every one of them. Oh, and the LOOKS. I had to spank her bum yesterday for the look she shot me when I told her to get into the shower.

And on one hand as I must reign her in, I secretly rejoice on the other. She will not stay quiet. She is my daughter, through and through.

Gimlet Eye 2007


Saturday, December 24, 2011

She approaches warily. What is this box on her bed?

"How do I open it? Do you have a key?", she yells from the room


I tell her she doesn't need a key to open this box.

Her sounds of joy and excitement roll from her bedroom.

"Is this for ME? Where did you get this? Is this mine?"

And my house is filled with the joyful noise of a typewriter clacking.


Friday, December 23, 2011

After a hiatus of Never, Terrance and I attempted to wrap gifts together last night.

I am not sure that we ever discussed why we don't wrap gifts together, but I suspect that in the early years we just never thought about it. Actually this isn't true. I have always wrapped gifts. As he spent the first five years of our relationship buying me "gift sets" from the liquor store on the way home, he felt that since they were boxed that it counted as wrapped.

I recall the argument over this habit of his - both the lazy wrapping AND the not so subtle attempt to turn me into a raving alcoholic by waiting until the drive home before any "event" to purchase the most half assed gift he could find.  And then I drank the bottle of Sambuca.

Last night I figured - What the hell.

I assembled my carefully chosen for the best aesthetic combinations paper, and tape ( the good tape, not the cheap stuff that doesn't hold) and scissors and called my spouse forth. I requested he bring the gifts He has bought for Emily. In point of fact, we don't shop together, so we never know what she has until each adult has unveiled Ye Olde Mountain of Far Too Much Shit that they have been accumulating in the closets and basements of the house.

Terrance has the ability to simultaneously appear shocked and appalled at what I have purchased, all while unveiling more and more gifts HE has squirrelled away. So while he is yelling at me for spending too much money, HE is walking in with MORE AND MORE gifts.

Normally I do what I do with 98% of his conversation....which is to go to my happy place and ignore him.

 I begin to wrap my gifts. Measure gift with paper. Assess if the gift can be wrapped and another gift can be wrapped with left over paper.  Perhaps I even attempt to configure gifts on paper so as to make only one extra cut.

HEY! When you are wrapping a billion gifts, your efficiency of movement can stave off the inevitable carpal tunnel and spousal stabbing which is going to be, frankly, inevitable.

I am merrily on my third gift when I glance over at Terrance.

Oh.           Oh my.

He is handling a Rectangular package. Nothing hard or fancy about this wrapping job. The paper I  have bought even has the grid guidelines so he doesn't cut bizarre shapes that I can't reuse.

He has one side partially wrapped. I say partially because while there is more than enough paper to cover the gift, he has mangled the edge of the paper in what I can only describe as "twisted, burning wreckage."

He is now pawing at the other end of this gift like his hands have swollen to the size of hams.  In fact, this is when I started to giggle, because he looked like Frankenstein being confronted with Fire.  He was making the same noises too.

I finish my gift, chose the tag that matches the paper best and place it in the middle of the bed.

"Wrapping makes me Angry",  he states.

This strikes me as enormously funny. All I can think is "Fire! BAD! Fire, BAD!"

 My slight giggle becomes a chortle.  I now think "Gift wrapping with the Hulk" and envision my husband with Hulk Hands smashing gifts left and right.

He moans louder.

"Oh good god, just give it to me!"

I finally relent, taking the gift from him and attempting to unravel the Gordian knot of tape he has placed on the back. "For such an intelligent man, you'd think that the mystery of wrapping a rectangle might be a bit easier to solve...besides, I know you were just fucking it up so I would take it away from you - the same way I know you bleached the clothes in 1993 so you wouldn't have to do laundry."

He grunts at me. Yes. Grunts. Sullenly.

He announces his new job will be to write the gift tags.  I laugh again and go back to wrapping.

But here is where he slays me.  The pile of gifts is in the middle of the bed, and I am taking them one by one...wrapping and placing them over near him.

He then looks at the gift and says "What's THIS?!" in a simultaneously confused and accusatory way.

I then have to look at him and explain it is a gift HE BOUGHT her. I am just the agent of wrapping.

He does this EVERY TIME. Seriously. Every Fucking Gift.

Finally I blurt out:

 "Is the concept of object permanence lost on you? Are you the Cat? Just because something has been wrapped, doesn't mean the thing inside has been changed. If I hold my hand up to my face, will you be worried I have disappeared?"

I think this statement is Hysterical. I believe I riff for several more minutes on this theme, cracking myself up more with each passing second.

He, of course, does not find this funny at all.

And so endth our one and only attempt at gift wrapping together.

Watch this. I loved it. Terrance does not.

Three Sisters

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The first thing she noticed was the silence.

It frightened her.

The second thing of which she became aware was the absence of her sisters. She could not feel them beside her and when she finally opened her eyes, she understood why.

She was alone.

Luna couldn't remember falling asleep. This was not to be the only or most troubling perplexion of her day, however.

The sensation was unfamiliar, in part, because she had never slept before. As she lay still, her eyes closed again and she opened her other senses to the world around her.

She felt the sun. She smelled salty, sooty damp; wood rot and mold. But most of all, the silent sense of neglect and abandonment overwhelmed her.

Her sisters were gone. She reached out in her mind for them; any sign, any trace...but nothing. No smoky dark promise of Drea, no green gold excitement of Chase.

Just Luna. Pale, cold and forsaken. She opened her eyes again

The last thing she remembered was fire. Delicious warmth had turned to biting heat, making her cry out.  She must have fallen asleep after that, she thought, her eyes soft and unfocused.

Sleep was it's own mystery, for since the primal moment of her conciousness she had lived in a never ending flood of cacophony. Lights, music and movement had filled every second of her existence.

With her sisters, she had been a queen of the night.

Each in their kingdom, they had demanded and received endless tribute from eager supplicants. For Drea  it was passion; hasty couplings,  stolen kisses, and all things that happen in the dark between lovers. Chase wanted excitement; she loved the thrill of the hunt, the pursuit, her eyes sparkling like the shikari.

Luna? She wanted only music.

Laying in the sun,  Luna recalled a night when the sisters had joined hands and stood before their courtiers, incandescent.

The lover she chose that night was different. Luna rarely took humans as lovers and each one was unique, like curious bugs.  His reluctance was what drew her. Shyly watching her from the side shadows, she'd caught his eye and smiled. He looked away, for he was no musician and she almost never spoke to ones from whom no music flowed. She decided then to choose him.

Later, in her bed, she had opened to him. Her face becoming, he said, like the promise of summer.  The memory made a corner of her mouth turn up, an almost smile washing across her pale visage.

Luna closed her eyes again.

"Where are my sisters?", she thought

Snow White and Rose Red

Monday, December 19, 2011

I've not shown you updates on the Snow White and Rose Red rug for ages now. I have, of course, been working hard on it, for it soothes me to have the wool in my hands and the colours before me.

If you don't know the story behind this rug, you can find the original Grimm version all over. My affinity for the story is told here and here. I still think about Tender Morsels, you know. Almost every day and my screen saver has never changed...reminding me that my happiness is not paramount, but my presence always is required.

The next rug will be Red Riding Hood and I am starting to dig around about how I feel about it. There is something potently dark and sexual about that story that draws me and it is going to require some more digging around in boxes in closest's that I don't always root through in my psyche.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

But not yet defeated.

Three is a Magic Number

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I greet each pregnancy announcement from friends with honest joy. These women with whom I share this unique space between and within blogs...I like them. I love them.

I would, however, be dishonest is I did not say that I also feel a wave of jealousy. Envy, deep green and salty, washes over me.

I wish it could be me. I wish it was me that had a new baby growing in my body. I wish that it was me who would be holding that newborn, inhaling that smell. That smell that is so uniquely baby - sweet, sour and powdery.  I smell it sometimes and there is an almost indiscernible lurch in my breasts. I remember the pleasure of nursing my child, and the delicious yumminess of her dimpled flesh and baby soft feet.

I can see it, you know. My invisible baby. She is a girl and she is wrapped next to my body in a sling. I would take such joy in her, this second chance at mothering.

My mind meanders in this fantasy.  It is lovely and my baby is beautiful.

It is at this juncture that Logical Dawn kicks down the door and shakes the ever loving shit out of me. There also may be some swearing and yelling, too. For Logical Dawn knows that I am not built to mother another baby. Not for a physical reason, my pregnancy was easy by all measures, and my labor was less than 3 hours long. And yes, my husband has had a vasectomy. But details, people, details.

Do I fear another post partum episode? Unequivocally.

But it is more than that.

I never expected to feel so divided about being a Mother. I never expected that this transition, the assuming of a new part of my identity, would take so very much out of me. Some may call it being selfish, and I do too, sometimes. There is a part of me, a large part of me, which needs MY attention. When I do not attend to myself, this part becomes petulant and sick. That illness spreads into other areas until I am forced to withdraw and care for this part of my being. While I am doing this, there is no room for anything or anybody else.

The idea of having another baby and dealing with another -inevitable- depression?  Frightens me beyond words. But, abandoning a dream of having another baby in the hopes that it will be easier, sunnier, More?

I sing to myself:

Three is a magic number
Yes, it is
It's a magic number...

Sept 28, 2007 Gimlet Eye

It's Better than Bad, It's Good

Monday, December 12, 2011

So we've established that I get a little "over achieving" when it comes to lots of things, right?

Such as the size of my Christmas Tree?

Well, the stand that Terrance bought leaked...so he had to take the tree down  to return the stand ( one of those super duper swivel self watering things)

Since the tree was down, he decided to "trim" the trunk a bit. You know, make a fresh cut so the water could get in...and lower the tree a bit.

I was in the front of the house, decorating the porch, so I was unaware of his evil machinations in the back.

Until I saw this:


ACK! I believe we have the lead player for "LOG" on the Ren and Stimpy show. Its big, it's heavy, it's wood!

Next came Dawn pleading "Just leave me enough branches  on the bottom...OH MY GOD! STOP CUTTING THE BRANCHES!!! YOU'RE BUTCHERING THE TREE!!!"

And while I am not admiting a thing....This is what the tree now looks like:


Not so bad I guess. And Emily didn't notice a Thing.  The extra branches off the bottom gave me enough greenery to do this:


Ok, yes - I know. A bit much Dawn?  I know - but the neighbor has strung up these multicolored lights over the front door in the shape of a Christmas tree ( see exhibit A) - as if to broadcast to the neighbourhood that the people in this duplex have no taste! LOOK!


So I had to redeem us somehow.

Tonight I plan on shredding the trunk to make homemade wrapping paper...



Gimlet Eye December 2007

Blue Velvet Christmas Tree

Friday, December 09, 2011

Ah yes. The promised second part of the tree story. Of course other things were happening in the field as Terrance dragged the behemoth to the edge of the field.

You see, internet friends, I occasionally attempt to be NICE. You know, give it the old college try for the benefit of my child. I stand with the farmer - Elwood - and listen to his stories of farm hardship. I smile at him and thank him for having such a lovely farm. I express how much we missed cutting down our own tree.

Now I have NO problem with grizzled old farm types. Living in Vermont and New Hampshire has familiarized me with these types of people. I usually stand there and agree that the world is going straight to hell. That farming is a losing proposition. That I recognize that he works too hard for too little money. And that the banks suck ass.

This is the moment that Elwood injects the truly gruesome and macabre into our fun family outing. He tells us of his mauling in October by his tractor. The one coming to pick us up. Emily's eyes grow wide. The other mother standing in the field with us looks horrified. But Elwood? Ignores all signals coming from his captive audience. We hear of his hospital stay. The morphine. The weeping wound. The stitches. And then - in a move I can only describe as oddly poetic, he launches into a story of his neighbor. The neighbor with the three year old daughter. Who had her in his lap as he drove the tractor this summer.

Do you see where this is going?

Cause I seriously didn't. It happened so fast.

Elwood tells two mothers and four collective children about the three year old who fell out the back window of the tractor cab and was mangled by the machinery "Never to be seen again." At which point he adds this festive gem: "And her aunt, who was working in the emergency room when they brought in the pieces - cause they brought the whole machine with them - yeah, she didn't even recognize that it was her niece she was trying to put back together..."

Now let's rejoin Terrance:

When we left the Rouse-(other last name redacted), they were (scratch that, I was) attempting to secure the B.A.T. to the roof of our car. After being assisted by two farm employees, we finally secured (somewhat) the tree. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I caught a glimpse of the two farm employees shaking their heads in a disapproving manner. I'm sure they were calculating their legal liability.

The first mile of the journey back home was trouble free. This gave me confidence that I could take the highway without fear. However, my confidence was about to be challenged. As we pulled onto the entrance ramp of the highway-Emily announce, "Daddy, I can't see the tree anymore." What! I rolled down the window to discover that the tree had shifted. While still secured, the tree had slid from the left to the right-side of the car. This was going to be a long 30km's.

I would like to say without reservation-that Montreal is a wonderful city with a wealth of natural beauty. However, ask anyone what they dislike about the city and you will hear, the roads and the drivers. Montrealer's are notoriously bad drivers. Courtesies in the forms of signaling before turning and allowing someone to merge into traffic are rarely given. Quebecer's view driving as a competitive sport. They routinely  weave in/out of lanes, tailgate, run lights at 100 mph, while simultaneously smoking, drinking coffee, talking on their cell phone, flipping you the bird and cussing you out in French. Ahh yes, these are the only driver's in the world that make you long for the good old days of driving in Boston. Driving on a Montreal highway at 40 mph with your flashers on give you the feeling of being a three legged dog trying to run across a six lane highway! You might as well paint a target on your trunk and put a sign in your rear window that reads, " Hey, I am from the U.S., your country sucks, that's not really French your speaking, Poutine taste like Ass!

cough-cough. This is actually true. I now drive in Boston like a champ, people. It doesn't even make me blink. Driving in the middle of Boston is relaxing compared to driving here.

By the grace of Xmas-we made it home. This is when the real fun began. Once we got the tree off the car -we decided to drag it into the backyard and allow everyone to eat and rest. Oh, by everyone, I mean me. Upon returning from dinner, it was decided ( again, not by me) that the tree needed to be brought inside and put up. For reference sake, our ceiling is about 15ft high, the stick next to the tree in picture 1 is 15ft high. I'm looking at this tree- it's not going to make it into the living room. After knocking everything over from the back porch to the living room- we finally try to put the tree up. Just as I thought, when we try to stand the tree-it scratches up the ceiling. I take two feet off the top, place the tree in my fancy self-watering, self-centering stand and we get the tree up. We step back to gaze upon our accomplishment and take a collective sigh of relief.

The saga is over. Not! On Sunday, I'm finally able to put the entire tree episode out of my mind. There's something to be said about the peace and serenity that comes with having a pollen infested, asthma inducing, fire hazard in your house. My peace is soon broken as Emily walks into the living room and request that we trim the tree without mommy. What?  "Honey, why would we want to do that?" The crying starts. "Mommy put the decorations up outside without me. I'm going to be in school all week and won't have time to decorate the tree."

I explain to Emily that we can't decorate the tree without her mother-and unless she was now attending a boarding school-she would have plenty of time to decorate the damn tree. A few moments pass and I hear Emily crying again and Dawn ordering her to her room.

What the hell is it now! It appears that Em' had tried to convince her mother to decorate the tree immediately, for fear that her mother and I are so lazy that somehow it wouldn't get done.

I yell into the next room, "I just want to watch the game and eat my pizza in peace, is that to much to ask?" Emily starts to cry louder as she stomps away into her room, Dawn closes our bedroom door, and I head for the kitchen to consume whatever has alcohol in it. I yell at both of them, I drink because of you two!

Terrance has failed to mention the six hours of handmade garland twisting I endured. Because plastic garland is for pussies.

He's such a diva.

A note from the teachers of the world

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Holiday message on behalf of All of your children's Teacher, Caregivers, Child Care Providers, et al.

Please do not give me anything with an apple on it. Please do not give me candy. Please, no mugs and no jewellery.

If you must purchase something ( which honestly, you don't need to) Then how about  a small gift certificate to a book store?  We love books, you know.  Or  a gift card to a coffee or tea place?  Or a small box of stationary with stamps to go with them? Or something for the classroom - new markers, exciting markers with stampers on them?

Or write me a real letter about your child. About how my days with your child are important to you. I'll take a sincere letter over a thousand mugs.

But honestly, you don't have to get me anything. I like my job. I like your child. That's why I do it.

(P.S. - As a Mom, I always tried to get gifts for my daughter's teachers - One year, I collected from all the parents who wanted to give Ms Deb a gift for end of the year. Rather than each of us give her individual gifts, we all chipped in and bought her a day at a lovely local spa. I think she loved it, and it was something she would have never bought for herself.

As a Child Care Director,  I encouraged the teachers to make classroom "wish lists". If parents wanted to give a gift, they could buy something for their child's classroom.  Plus, as we worked with families from all economic situations, we wanted to make sure that it was a way for every family to feel that they could give something - if they wanted to do so. If not, it was no big deal. But it also avoided the "hey, look at what X's Mom got me!" scene.  Holiday's are stressful enough without adding competition in gift giving to teachers in the mix.

But honestly - I didn't teach for the gifts I might get at holidays. I taught because I loved the children in my care. It was enough for me that I got to share in the care and development of each child. I was truly blessed to have a career where I enjoyed going to work every day.)

Sing Me Something Brave

Monday, December 05, 2011

I had a day today, the kind of day that you wish you could stay in bed but you really really can't, but then it just ends up morphing from one thing into another until you wonder:

What next? Martians? Sea Creatures emerging to suck my brains through my nose?

It started late last night when I decided to eat a piece of carrot cake. I don't eat sugar, folks. I can't. Not only does it make my blood sugar wonky and then make my doctor shake her fist at me, threatening dull needles to inject insulin for the rest of my life until my lovely, lovely toes are amputated BUT it disrupts my sleep and then my stomach.

Gah. I am OLD.

Since I had thrown down at the alter of sacrificing my health for the promise of good carrot cake, you can imagine my irritation and overall angst when the cake was not good.  Oh SO disappointing.  The frosting was too sweet and not cream cheesy enough, the cake didn't have enough spice or the bits of walnut and raisins you should find in any self respecting piece of carrot cake.  Therefore, I made the epically poor decision to attempt to redeem the carrot cake with an Apple tart.

I knew as I made this decision that it was a bad one and that I would pay in some manner.  Even so, I had committed to sugar and therefore SUGAR IT WAS!!! After eating the not quite as disappointing apple tart,  I had some peppermint tea and settled in for the night.  You know, because peppermint tea aides the digestion.

I needed sleep because I am now in research mode of ye olde never-ending dissertation. This involves me immersing myself in a classroom of 4.5 year olds as I frantically attempt to keep up with their Tri-lingual ( and sometimes 4 or 5 language) abilities. Since I am still "new" in their classroom, I am the focus of a great deal of attention by them. I am an adult sized living doll who only follows them around with expensive and fascinating recording equipment that they turn off as soon as I turn it on and attempt to capture their conversations.

Seriously.  One boys sole purpose in life is to turn the recorder off as soon as he sees the solid red light indicating that I am attempting to collect data. Another young lady decided that the recorder - like all your bases - belonged to her and hid the recorder behind her skirt.

While I know that in a few days both the recorders and I will become passe, it is hard work just trying to keep up with them.

So, I needed sleep. Which due to my poor food choices was not going to happen. Since my gall bladder  decided to raise an unholy fuss at 2:30 in the morning.  It was rugged. I tried a hot bath, I tried rolling around and moaning. I tried drinking water. I tried weeping and dry heaving. Nope.  The one miracle in all of this was that NO ONE ELSE woke up.  I am, it seems, a wholly silent sufferer.

I finally fell asleep at 6 am, only to get back up at 8, in order to get to the research site for 9.

I erroneously thought that being tired and having a belly ache that resembled some alien entity trying to dig through my stomach muscles would be the sum suckitude of my day. I was wrong.

How so Dawn?, you may think.  Well, let me tell you, says I.

I had a meeting with my supervisor. I thought I was in Year 6 of my PhD.  Apparently I am not. I am in Year 7.  Which means that I have until end of Winter Term to submit my dissertation. My Completed Dissertation.

I go into a meeting, which I think I am going to get praised for doing so much this past year, and to my serious mother fucking shock, awe, horror and mind caving in on itself fear, find that I have under 5 months to produce a finished dissertation. I did mention that I have only just gotten into a research site?  It was at this juncture that I looked - quite seriously - at my supervisor and said ( entirely without guile) "Your words are bouncing off my brain". I believe I also managed to say: "I have a terrible stomach ache" as she and I rode down the elevator together.

After this meeting - in which I seriously developed the urge to 1) vomit and 2) kick over her computer and leap from the window, I exited the building. Via the parking garage. Which I tried to pay with my debit card. which was declined. Because it had been cloned this weekend and used for fraudulent purchases and as such, cancelled. I forgot that it was no longer in service. Perhaps due to the Lovecraftian levels of  fear I was experiencing. Mountains of Madness? HAH!

There I am. Staring that the machine that keeps repeating "This Card is Declined. Please insert your Payment" in a  Stern, Soulless voice which would have terrified Hitler.

My lip trembles. I park (illegally) and run up the stairs to get cash from the ATM. I return to the car to discover that I have now lost the ticket to insert into the machine and so now have to pay 10 extra dollars to get the fuck out of the building of doom before I break down sobbing while bludgeoning the parking meter with a copy of "Dewey Reconfigured".

It seems to me there are a few other things that happened, but at this point I am fairly certain that I am losing sight in my right eye from panic.

Did I mention that I had to clean the rabbits anal glands tonight as well? Because that was an extra special  and unexpected treat. Or the Job interviews that are making me break out in hives?

So forgive me in the coming days and months when you are forced to endure old stories or things culled from Gimlet.  On the up side, I'll be about to become a Doctor of Education after the end of April.

I just can't vouch for the sanity of yours truly by the end

An alternate version of Killer Sapin

I know many of you have oft wondered about the long suffering Terrance.

He, of the "female issues" and general squeamishness about illnesses. He, of the "I can smell cat piss everywhere". I know, internet, that you have been perplexed by his ability to stand silent as his spouse wanders off into the world of true wife confessions and bad penii pictures.

No longer. He wants to share His version of the hunt for the Killer Sapin. Which I will graciously present....with my commentary in italics. I mean, you really didn't expect me to sit here silent and let him tell this story, didja?


Dear Family and Friends,

This story recounts our adventures over the past weekend to hunt and capture this years B.A.T. (Big Ass Tree!) While I enjoy Christmas as much as the next person, I don't understand why we have to have such a BAT every year. For my wife and daughter, Christmas is somehow diminished without the addition of a mutant sized tree. In the past, we have actually cut down trees that woodland creatures were still residing in. Birds have left their nest, only to fly back and find a smoldering stomp. Still, they need a tree that can be seen from space.

So far, so good. All of these things are true - as offered in pictorial evidence above. Remember - the man grew up in Detroit and misidentified a star nose mole as a Rat.

Okay, let me set this years scene for you . The tree farm that Dawn found this year was in Ille Perrot, a small town approximately 30km west of Montreal. This means at least an hour in the car to get a damn Christmas Tree. After arriving at La Ferme Quinn, Dawn and Emily decide that the trees that were pre-cut, netted and tied were not up to their B.A.T. standards. So we boarded an open air wagon pulled by two Clydesdale Horses and headed into the woods. While this sounds like a beautiful -postcard picture thing to do, it was -9C outside. It was cold as hell!

In point of fact, Em and I didn't even look at the precut trees. We already knew without talking that these would not be up to our standards. Why drive 23 km to buy a tree that was already cut? And Yes. It WAS cold. But the pretty horses! Look at the pretty horses!!

The "Sapins de Noel" were located in the very back of the woods. The long trip to get to them seemed even longer with little kids all around you coughing in your face. This wagon trip was one big germ incubator. I have never seen so much frozen snot in my life. This combined with the repeated warning to the kids to sit down while the wagon was in motion -least they fall off and be crushed under wheels, made this trip even more enjoyable.

See the germ phobia there? And the paranoia about accidents?

Upon reaching the tree section, the hunt for the perfect B.A.T. began. After searching for a tree for an hour, Dawn and Emily finally settled on one. While they say that they asked for my opinion, it really didn't matter what I wanted, they were going to get their BAT. So, Dawn and Emily pick the biggest tree in the woods. They do this primarily for two reasons; they generally believe that "bigger is better", they also know that I'm the one who has to fell the beast. I must admit that I didn't cut the tree this year. The farm owner felled the tree. I simply dragged it back to the wagon.

In many ways, Terrance has finally embraced his extraneous position in the choosing of the tree saga. He follows Em and I around waiting to agree with the one we decide upon. With the addition of child in my arsenal of persuasion, he simply gave up.

On past occasions Dawn and Emily would generally stand around and offer words of encouragement as I struggle to cut through the tree with a butter knife passing as a saw. That was in the past, now, they simply point at the tree, turn around and head into the warming barn for mulled cider and hot cocoa. After getting the tree back to the barn I was told that it was to large to be netted. This means that I would have to tie the tree to the roof of the car with all of the branches exposed and catching the wind as i roll down the highway at 60 mph! Would we make it! I'll let you know in part two of the Saga.

Although in years past, this MAY have been true, I can assure you that there was no warming barn in the back 40 of this tree farm. My feet had frozen, only to be re-warmed by the walking. However, here is the point in the tale when Terrance (who was guarding the tree lest some nefarious other person swoop in and claim our hard earned prize)  missed something special - spending time with the farmer and his tales of farm land violence - which is what Em and I were graciously doing.

December 2007

Good Advice at any age

Friday, December 02, 2011

I was driving Emily and the neighbour girl to school. They, being 13 year old girls, insist on the local pop station turned up loud at 7:30 in the morning.

This morning it was Usher who was assaulting my ears, with his song "OMG".

After this lyric:

"Honeys got some boobies like Wow, Oh Wow"

I turned the music down and gave this tidbit of motherly/womanly advice:

"Girls, if a man ever says this phrase to you, or uses the word boobies as some kind of pick up line?  You must punch him in the face immediately."

Attack of the Killer Sapin

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Now, it is well known that I am not an Uber-Mom. I don't bake stuff, I don't take Mommy and Me Thai dancing classes, and god knows the few times I have visited the park the other Moms stayed FAR away from me.

Christmas, however, seems to bring out something primal in me. There are urges. And these must be listened to - for the good of the whole family.

The main urge? A ridiculously large tree. That - if possible- we must hunt and cut ourselves.

For comparison purpose, I present the tree of 2005:

Please note that we had cathedral ceilings and that this originally 12 footer (ok, maybe closer to 15) had no problem occupying the space once modified to a modest 10.5 feet..

It was a lovely time, back then. We would saunter out to the tree farm in October, choose, tag and pay for our chosen tree. Get a free organic pumpkin. December would arrive and we would drive up the hill to the tree farm to retrieve our temporary member of the family. All for about 30 bucks! For a fresh, just cut balsam!

2006 arrives and we are at a loss. We now live in a city and have no idea how people procure their trees. What to do?

Go down to the florist on the corner and pick this specimen....

Now truth be told, I wasn't THAT satisfied with this tree. It wasn't fresh and the needles dropped everywhere. Plus, we paid 60 bucks for it, which Terrance was having FITS about. The damn thing Barely made it through Christmas with needles intact. Oh, and it too was big. Really big. But it has a nice shape. And it too is Balsam. But the joy of watching Terrance struggle to cut the trunk and then drag it through the snow to our car?


So THIS year, I made it my year long task to find a tree farm around Montreal. I mean, good LORD, these people pride themselves on being farmers - there has GOT to be a fresh tree farm somewhere, right?

And I did it. I found a Tree Farm about 25 minutes from our house.

WHOO- HOO!!! I get a fresh tree! My tradition continues!

Except that here, the "idea" of a tree farm is quite different from my American version of the tree farm. In fact, this is a story which will be told in the coming days - but suffice to say for NOW that the feeling of "let them grow free and wild" seems to be the overriding mantra. A live and let live philosophy, if you will

cause this is what we came back with:

I had to mercilessly hack off over two feet from the top to get it to stand up in the house. The thing is a wild beast in our house.

LOOK AT IT! You can't look away, can you? I am waiting for some hoary beast to emerge and eat the cat.

But wait.

Look at the trunk:

Do you see the normal, human sized bookcase in the back? Do you see the massive, monster trunk in the foreground? What you can't see is the 4th tree shooting off the back. Yes. 4 trees in one.

In my defense, it didn't look as big in the field, and it was the nicest tree we found.

And the house smells really, really nice.

Now, let me go give Terrance his pain pills with the shot of bourbon.

December 2008

Definitely Smaller

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

There is a joke in my family. Every few years, my turn to pick out the tree would come around and I inevitably chose the biggest tree that I could. I always pitched for the bigger trees, but got shot down by my practical parents who knew that the 15 foot tree wasn't fitting in the house with 6 foot ceilings.

So, when I made my own "home", I got to choose the trees. ME! ALL ME! I think I started out pretty reasonable....and have gone mad with Pine-frenzied power. Sadly, I have also infected my daughter who now feels the normal sized tree is "too small". I apologize in advance, future partner of my child. For clearly, you will be suckered into hauling 100 pounds of tree into the house and hoisting it up into the living room.

Here is a picture of last years tree. After my yelling at Terrance for chopping off "too much of the trunk", it ended up measuring 10.5 feet in our living room. Come on now, I still had Plenty of room with that cathedral ceiling.

 Of course, I also was worried that it wouldn't be big enough - cause it did look kind of small in the field.


We went off to find a Christmas tree in Montreal today.

Now, you have to understand - for the last 14 years, I have tagged and cut my own Christmas tree.

The routine is such:

Go to Christmas farm in October. Walk amongst the warm fall fields and find the perfect tree. Tag the tree with long pink ribbons. Pay the Tree Farmer our $28 dollars for an over 6 foot Balsam and get our organic pumpkins as our free "thank you".

Come back the second week of December and have a mug of mulled cider with the tree farmer. Walk out to the snowy field and find our tagged tree. Watch your child dance about in the field as your husband works on cutting down the tree. Place tree in sled and pull it over to your car to tie it on your roof. Drive the mile back to your house, and pop the tree in the stand.  Last years tree was ten and a half feet tall.

Aw, Life in the country. Can't get fresher.

Not so much the way it happened here in Montreal.

We drive down to the Florist's shop - The HORROR! A FLORISTS SHOP!!!

And look at trees that are already cut down and bound up in netting or tied to the fence. I see a potential tree.  Emily and I circle the tree like wolves. We assess the tree. I fluff the branches up to smell the balsam. Emily rubs the needles.

We smile at each other. We like this tree. True - it's big. Perhaps the biggest on the lot. It's not ten and a half feet, but still. Terrance stands to the side and waits for us to choose.

We agree, this is the tree we want. Terrance agrees too.

Then the price is given....


Terrance controls his facial features beautifully. He barely bats an eye. We tie the tree to the car roof and drive the mile home.


Spacial distinctions are clearly not my strong point.

December 2007, Gimlet Eye

Only One Reason

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This morning, sometime unnaturally early, my daughter woke me up to tell me this:

"Mama. Mama. I can't sleep. I want to but my body just WON'T! What do I do?"

She woke up a mother who had, in the past two days, gotten about 4 hours of sleep. She woke a mother who, experience has taught her, must get 8 hours of undisturbed sleep in order to not resemble Medusa.

Yes. My brave daughter.

I don't know exactly what I mumbled to her. I suspect it was along the lines of "Just close your eyes and stop talking'.

This morning, however, I brought the topic up again.

"Why did you wake me up last night? Did you wake me up to TELL me that you couldn't sleep?"

"Yes", she replied, all sunshine and happiness.

"From here on in, there is only one reason that is valid enough to wake me up...do you understand?  That reason is the violent production of a bodily fluid in a manner which is NOT expected...Bleeding, vomiting..... are you feeling me here? Waking me to  Tell me you can't sleep? Not even nearly good enough."

"Yes, Mama." She smiles, demurely, kissing my belly as I wait in line for my coffee.

August 10, 2007 Gimlet Eye

(Psst...Now she just heavily stomps by my room over and over, sighing heavily, until I lift my head in defeat)

Service and Sacrifice

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What does it mean to serve? What is sacrifice?

These are the type of questions which rattle around in my brain with alarming regularity.

Perhaps it is because my biological father was a Marine who enlisted in 1969 during the Vietnam War and large portions of my childhood were spent on bases in the Southern US surrounded by other men and families who were part of the military. Perhaps it is because my mother, despite her other issues, has been a dedicated RN who has continually worked as a patient advocate in her nearly 40 years of nursing, serving in Labour and Delivery, Oncology, Pediatrics and Geriatrics units.

Service is ingrained in me as part of what it means to work. To Work is to Serve.

I have been surrounded by the telegraphed idea that the importance of "Me" is nothing when compared to the importance of "We" - that My comfort, my financial prosperity, my rights as a human have never superseded the rights of others

I pass this trait to my daughter who told me of the whining and bitching of her classmates when it was announced that they would - as a class - be volunteering sorting and folding clothes at a Salvation Army. While Emily actually is looking forward to going, her peers threatened to be absent or have their parents excuse them from service.

It simply puzzles me when I run into children or adults with the attitude and ideology that they are above or beyond being responsible to the other people in their communities ( or planet). And while I am loathe to be judgemental, it just feels selfish which is anathema to me.

Of course it is fashionable now to proclaim the rights of the individual as being beyond the rights of all and in our sick bizarro world the Privileged co-opt language to show that it is They who are wronged, they who are oppressed.  I mean I can hear the phone calls now, can't you? "How DARE you make my child volunteer at a Salvation Army? I am her parent and if I WANT  her to volunteer, then I would Choose for her to volunteer!"

Yet all we can do, those of us who serve, is to keep working, keep going, hoping against some hope that the value of All can somehow be seen by people who are blinded by the value of their One.

Which is, of course, a fruitless struggle. Yet still, we hope. And work on. 

Thanksgiving 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Most of you have never gone back into my blog archives to read some of the truly Baleful Regards classics....This being one of many and the trip where the classic phrase "can the Baby get a Hot Dog?" was used repeatedly by my mother-in-law, causing me to almost push her in front of traffic in my attempt to stop her from buying my child a sure-to-make-her-violently-ill cart hotdog in downtown New York. In addition, Terrance and I had secured staging tickets at the Macy's parade, meaning we were going to see the floats LIFT OFF!  Plus I got hassled by the fuzz AND obsessed about bed bugs - so really it was fun for everyone! Enjoy.

Prior to telling you the parade story, I will treat you to the vision outside my office window. I have a corner cubicle, so although it is a cubicle, it feels as if I have an almost enclosed space. What makes it the BEST, is that I am on the 4th Floor and on an old mental institution campus grounds. Well, maybe that's a little creepy, but The old Elms on the grounds are gorgeous. Today was misty. The snow is melting, and it causes a fog to linger over the ground.

Basement 010

Ok, so we were staying at this studio apartment on E80th, between Park and Madison. Prime Location for museums, the park, et al. Thanksgiving morning arrives and I, sleepless from my night wedged in one small side space between two flailing bodies, moan as my husband gets up and announces that he's going for coffee!! He then further announces that I should get up and get us ready!!! Cause we're going to the Parade!!!!

My husband is totally a city person, He thrives on this energy. I myself feel ambivilent about most cities. I like the culture they offer, and the possibilities of cuisine that I can not get in the woods of New England, but am wary of the smelliness, and having my personal space bubble encroched upon, and waitstaff of whom I an unsure of their personal hygeine habits. That, and my new found fear of bedbugs - which I swear crossed my mind looking at those sketchy sheets even before I read the accursed NYTimes article.

I mumble at him something about "I'd rather live in the fifth circle of purgatory" and roll over to go back to sleep, since without his manly body taking up 2/3rds of the bed, I now have some space and the blood is returning to my legs.

He walks the brisk 3 blocks to one of the 8 billion Starbucks and then, knowing his wife, calls me to remind me to get up out of bed and get ready. Of course, his call comes at the p-re-cise moment I am finally falling to sleep. To add insult to injury, my ring tone is currently 'Ol Dirty Bastards "Baby I got your money", which jolts me to conciousness as if 'Ol Dirty was gyrating next to my ear, his gold grille a-grinnin. "Oh, oh yeah, baby I got your money, do-do-do-do-do, baby I got your money!"

The words that sprang from my lips were nothing close to "Happy Thanksgiving". I believe my daughter was treated to "Jesus Fucking Christ, what the fuck could you want?" - which is the traditional Thanksgiving greeting in my family. A little known fact.

Terrance: "Are you up? Are you getting Em ready? It isn't so cold as last night. I think it will be a great day to get out and see the parade."
Dawn: "I don't want to go. I am exhausted. I was almost back to sleep. Where the hell are you?"
Terrance: "Dawn, get up and get Emily ready, at least."
Dawn: ( showing how low her mothering standards have become) "Do I have to wash her or can I just put clean clothes on her?"
Terrance: "Just get her dressed, I 'll be back in a few minutes"
Dawn: "You better bring me the biggest cup of coffee they have"

So, I rustle my child out of bed and dress her. I wash her face. I am not sure if I made her brush her teeth or not. I don't think I did. I bundle her up and greet Terrance with grunt as I crawl back under the pillows. They leave. I lay in bed. I start to feel guilt. I mean, C'mon. I am in New York on Thanksgiving Day. I am across the park from the start of the parade. I am now watching pre-parade event on NBC. Terrance calls. He rubs it in. I hang up. I sip my coffee, and lie abed. I call him back. I inquire as to where exactly he is. He mocks me further. I hang up and ponder my sorry ass state further.

I watch the beginning of the parade. I call him again. He picks up the phone and laughs at me. He answers: "You can't stand it, can you? It's KILLING YOU, isn't it?"

Yes, it is. It is killing me. I leap up, shower and get dressed. The parade is well underway. This is the view from where Em and Terrance were stationed:

Thanksgiving05 008

Thanksgiving05 010

Clearly a fucking awesome spot.

I make it across the park and get to w81st. I call Terrance. "Where are you?", says he.
Me: "I am on the other side of the street....How do I get across? There are barricades every where!"

T: "Just run across the street!"

Me: "I can't there are police everywhere. Hey, there is the little Jai from Queer Eye. Man, he's SMALL! But he has really nice skin."

T: "Just run across, no one will stop you!"

I walk up and down the street nervously. I may be a bad ass in theory, but I am hesitant to jump out at the Macy's parade where there are many, many security people, all looking like Osama may be thinking about attacking Super Grover. I am a white woman - 5 foot four. I feel that I look very non-threatening, but these guys don't look festive or happy or anything.

I decide to make my break for it in front of the Budweiser Horses. I see a couple of police officers watching me, but keep my eyes averted and act as if I am a New Yorker - annoyed at such frivolity. I have to actually move a barrier to get across and begin my brisk walk to the corner of 81st. Woo-hoo. I am almost there.

Apparently not. The 2 cops at the corner point at all of us walking and say "You have to go around the other side." huh? All the way around the block? They ain't hearing a thing. I watch a few intrepid souls give it a go, trying to explain why they need to get by. No, No, and No.

I give up and turn back to walk around the block. Sigh. I call Terrance and explain that I have to walk around the block to get to him.

T: "Hurry up, you're missing the best stuff!!!"

I get to the corner and make my way to swing around. I large black police officer puts his body in front of me. "Where you headed to, ma'am?"

Me: "Over there, my family is waiting for me right over there. In front of that hotel."

I smile at the nice black man, making good eye contact. This has always worked in New England, and even in Detroit. But then again, I am always accompanied by my husband.

This time, it doesn't work. He is not impressed.

"Do you have ID? Are you a  guest of that hotel? Only guests and invited guests can get over there"

Me: "but, but. My family is right there.(pointing) "

"You can't go over there Ma'am. Not unless you show me some ID that says you are a guest of that hotel."

Me: "Yeah, but they aren't guests of that hotel....How did they get there?"

"I don't know ma'am, they must have invitations - you need to move aside there are people waiting to get through."

This was the moment that I ALMOST said, it was at the very tip of my tongue "It's cause I'm white, isn't it?" But I didn't. I did not want to get booked on Thanksgiving. Riker's can't have a very Happy Thanksgiving  feast.

Instead I called Terrance, who walked over and said "What's the problem here?". At this point, this police officer looked everywhere but at me and my husband. My daughter leaps up on the barricade to hug me and says "Mommy, why won't the police let you in?" in her most plaintive cute child voice.

So my husband comes over the barrier, and hugs me in front of the officer. I cut my eyes at him. and say loudly "He didn't believe that my family was over there, he wouldn't let me in"

Thanksgiving05 014

Thanksgiving05 013

I make it in, just in time to see the last balloon - Jo-Jo go before Santa makes his way to join the parade.

Truths Her Mother Tells Her

Monday, November 21, 2011

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 important...at 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. Way to back up the Marx reader you have on the bookshelf.

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 cheap 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. 

I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. 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 those 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.

Ride the Yo Yo

Friday, November 18, 2011

When I was Emily's age, I loved the rides at the Vermont State Fair. The Yo-Yo, the Avalanche, the Wheel of Impending Death, it made no matter.

I would ride and ride - never feeling queasy, never feeling anything but alive and free.  One year, when the fair had a "zipper" type ride in which you spent a majority of your time upside down, my friends and I would try to rack up ride after ride in order to see who could ride this behemoth the MOST times.

The last time I went on the rides at the Fair, Terrance and I were newly dating. The year was 1991, and he and I decide to go on the Yo-Yo ride.

Do you know this ride? It has seats suspended by long chains, which then swing wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyy out over the midway as the ride lifts off the ground and moves in circles.

I spent the entire 3 minute ride clutching the chains in terror, calculating the projectory of my demise. If I flew off NOW, I would most likely hit the funhouse......and if I flew off NOW, it was the Scrambler on which my body leave this mortal coil.

Good Times, ya'll. Good Times.

Needless to say, I did not go on anymore rides at the Fair after that moment....nor to this day. Fairs scare me. They scare me in a way that I was never scared as a child.

No. As a child, the Fair was a time of wonderful things. Fried Dough, Fries and Vinegar, small mirrors with the logos of 1980 rock bands on them, the occasional feathered roach clip which was worn as a hair accessory in my small Vermont town, and the ever present multi-layered fancy colored candles.

So what happened? Did the Fair get progressively more dangerous as time went on?

I don't think so. My best guess is that I crossed a threshold in which I became aware of my own mortality. Aware of my mortality in a way that was not possible for me to know, even as the precocious, street smart kid that I was. I understood that I was going to die, and that this death could come at any time from anywhere. I gained fear - true fear. Scary movies were no longer thrilling...they were SCARY. There were monsters in the world, and more often than not, they looked like people I knew.

I wonder if that is the moment in which we choose to forget what it is to be a child - the moment in which we decide that we are adults and we must protect children from the dangers that don't exist for them. Is it this moment when we decide that we should crusade to protect the "innocence" of children by censoring or out right depriving them of opportunities to grow and explore? Is it this moment when we forget what it feels like to have our decisions made for us by people who aren't listening to us?

I don't know.

I do wonder, however, if I would have been the same person if my mother had hovered over me, warning, admonishing, fussing, instilling fear of death in a person who was still learning what it was to live.

November 2007, Gimlet Eye

Time will do the Talking

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In one of the last times I spoke with my mother, we had a rather heated argument. In an empty Chinese restaurant, with my sister looking pointedly down at her food, our voices raised in anger. My sister had just been released from the hospital following a half hearted suicide attempt - which would be followed by her near fatal attempt two years later.

During this argument, in one of her many attempts to goad me into forgetting or shame me into silence, my mother yelled these words at me:

"I hope Emily grows up and blames you for everything."

Powerful words, these.  And certainly not an idea I hadn't had a million anxiety ridden moments before those words hurtled at me, nor the million moments after they soaked into my skin.

At the time, my ability to stay calm and respond astonished me. What I recall saying to my mother was along the lines that Emily's stories will belong to her and that I will have to accept that as her truth, which meant that I would have to accept responsibility if and when Emily told me her stories.

(cough cough - Wasn't a popular answer at the table, if I recall)

I don't entertain the idea that I am unique or different from every other parent on the face of the earth who holds these fears.  Far from it. The idea that we are profoundly fucking up our child is part and parcel of the parenting experience.  It is why we obsess over every hurt, every slight, every wrong. It is what has led me to plan extravagant birthday parties or prepare care packages for camp months before she departs.  I want to embed the knowledge that I love her into every cell of her body, unconditionally, despite my occasional crazy, despite the knowledge that being a mother often feels ill fitting on my psyche, despite the knowledge that I took a 3 year hiatus into terrible postpartum depression.

It is a short walk from these thoughts to my unfailing ability to begin the flogging of Me, my built-in self punishing instincts in full effect.

As I have been reading the Alice Miller books, with her view of abuse in childhood, it has not been difficult for me to create horrific scenes of my daughter's future. In part because I can pretty clearly trace some of my own issues - body, trust/affection, profound caution, boundaries - in a fairly direct line from Crazy D.  Coupled with the knowledge that I was emotionally unavailable to her during what I know to be important brain development times?

Why, Pass me that Hair shirt and cat-o-nine tails, Thanks!

Given my approach to mothering now, I brought Em in on the conversation. I told her about the books, and the premise.  I told her that I worried about asking her to stuff her feelings, that maybe I was conveying to her that I just didn't want to know how she felt.

Her laughter was spontaneous and full throated. A true belly laugh, that went on and on.

Finally I blurted: "But I worry that I am screwing you Up!"

When her laughter subsided, she leaned in and put her arms around me.

Looking me in the eyes, she said. "You are. But in a Good Way."

And because this is too perfect, I give you this from The Onion:

Study Finds Every Style Of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults

SANTA ROSA, CA—A study released by the California Parenting Institute Tuesday shows that every style of parenting inevitably causes children to grow into profoundly unhappy adults. "Our research suggests that while overprotective parenting ultimately produces adults unprepared to contend with life's difficulties, highly permissive parenting leads to feelings of bitterness and isolation throughout adulthood," lead researcher Daniel Porter said. "And, interestingly, we found that anything between those two extremes is equally damaging, always resulting in an adult who suffers from some debilitating combination of unpreparedness and isolation. Despite great variance in parenting styles across populations, the end product is always the same: a profoundly flawed and joyless human being." The study did find, however, that adults often achieve temporary happiness when they have children of their own to perpetuate the cycle of human misery.

The Ballad of the Binky

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I learned the importance of Two as a child care provider.

The first time I watched a parent try to pick up their child...and they didn't have the car seat. Having a parent hightail it back to child care to pick up THE binky, or THE bottle of tylenol. The agony. The frustration.

I thought to myself, "There has got to be a better way."

So, when I prepared us for the arrival of Emily - I insisted on Two. Two car seats. Two bottles of everything. Two sets of boots. Two snowsuits. This way, I reasoned, we could always have back up in case of...whatever.  I would never have to curse Terrance for forgetting to leave me the car seat, hoping against hope that the child care might have an extra one.

This extended to favorite babies as well. When Em attached to "Baby Baby"....I began seeking the second "Baby Baby". Who then became Know as "Baby Baby Baby Baby". We are an inventive group in the "naming of things". We have a cat named, Kitty or Le Chat - depending on the day. I am vaguely surprised we were able to name our daughter something other than "Human Female Baby who is driving us Crazy".

And binkies ( aka Pacifiers, dummies or whatever thing your family calls them)?  Ok, I am going to tell you one of my shameful, obsessive mother secret.

Emily chose ONE binky. A Playtex binky - The kind that looked like a butterfly.

In a fit of panic born of sleep deprivation, hormones and the reality that I had birthed the weapon of my destruction, I bought one of each kind pacifier available for sale at Walmart and popped them in - one after the other -  until she found one that she liked.

Hurrah!, I rejoiced. A respite for my poor gnawed upon nipples!

My previous ten-year-held conviction that my child would be binky free crumbled in less than two weeks of constant nursing.

Emily, Age 2 - with the Magic Binky

Four months later, I was strolling in the Walmart and looked up at the binkies. Huh?! A new design on the Playtex binky. Let's try it out!

We got home and I broke out the new binky. I popped it in.

My daughter's face scrunched as she tentatively sucked on this newish binky.  Then she opened her mouth and simultaneously spit it out and SCREAMED.  I mean, screamed as if she had just been set on fire. The scream of inconsolable anguish. The scream that makes your armpits tingly and a sweat break out.

My mind raced. Oh Playtex! Why had thou forsaken me? Your new binky design was of no comfort and this was the only one she liked. Playtex was trying to kill me!!!

Then I calmed down. I thought, I will simply call Playtex and alert them to the fact that my child does not like these binkies. I will then offer to buy their surplus stock of old binkies. They will be thrilled to unload their old merchandise. They will offer me a discount!

Um, no. That woman on the other end of the Playtex customer service line had no empathy for my plight. She calmly told me that they had tested the design and that babies couldn't tell the difference.

This may be true, I countered, but they didn't test MY child and that was the only one I cared about at the moment. Didn't she realize the future she was condemning me to? Years of sleeplessness and chewed on nipples? Did she not realize that it was the binky which kept my daughter from being left on the side of the road to be raised by groundhogs or other various rodents? My hysteria mounted.

The woman stood firm. I could not directly buy binkies from them. Maybe I could drive around town and find the old style and stock up?  And Hey, she will even send me one free binky, old style.

I called her names.

After I hung up, of course. I wanted the free binky. And then, with the determination and focus only achievable by a sleep deprived, lactating mother of a Four month old, I put my child in the car and drove to every pharmacy, every big box store, every convenience store within a 40 mile radius which might possibly stock binkies.

I would dance with delight when I would find one. But alas. I didn't find many. I could clearly see the disintegration of the binkies and with them, my fragile sanity.

At this juncture of hopelessness and hysteria, I had an idea. I would ask the internet. Remember, this was 1998. I was a member of a bulletin board of women who were having babies at the same time, the "MomMay's" we called ourselves.  I put out the call, and they responded. I would happily cover expense and shipping. Just find them and send them to me.  They did. They, equally hormonal and lactating,  understood the terror I was facing. They put their babies in car seats and replicated my store crawl, all over the United States.

I never counted exactly how magic binkies many I stashed away. Suffice it to say that Emily had her binkies until she was about four and a half years old. She was on her last few binkies, by that time. 

While I don't recall the names of those glorious women, those other mothers, who found these binkies and mailed them to me, I do recall that it taught me that Motherhood was a Club. One whose rules were not easily understood from those outside, but that if I really needed them, they would band around me and give me what I needed, be that booze or binkies.

June 25, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Open Letter to the Students at Penn State

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dear Students at Penn State protesting because a Coach got fired for protecting a Man who sexually assaulted children:

Wow. Just wow. I don't usually feel such anger at unknown people, but I can only say to you that I feel both great pity and amazing revulsion for you.

I personally would like to sit you in groups and let survivors of child sexual assault tell you their stories. In every last horrifying detail.  I want you each to face a Human who has been raped or molested or had their trust destroyed by Adults, either directly or through the tacit silence of fuckwads like this Coach. Of course, that is the survivors who didn't kill themselves or are in jail, or are so far gone in addictions that they simply can no longer tell you their story.

I want you to read case files of children raped in motel rooms or bathrooms or places that they live, their genitals or anus ripped and torn to the point of needing vast re-constructive surgery. I'd like you to meet five year old girls who can only relate to Men by offering them oral sex.

I want you to see the pictures in those case files.

I want you to justify to these survivors why Football is more important than the life of any child.

Because right now, the urge to drive to Penn State and punch every single one of you  in the fucking face is nearly overwhelming.

Very Baleful Regards,

Body as Lived Experience

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I've been thinking about my parents a great deal.

In part because I am delving into the worlds of monsters for young children. This leads me to reflect on the monsters of my childhood - some of my monsters lived in my house, after all.

However, what I have been thinking about is the role of the Body. Body as Sensory Experience. Body as Lived Experience. Denial of the Body and the Consequences of that Action.

Since part of the tenet of my ( and Maija's) Monster paper revolves around the Sensory experience of Monsters in the lives of young children ( and later in that of young adult readers) I have had to consider the feelings of the Body as Prime Experience. Which makes complete and utter sense, right?

For young children, Body is everything. There is no facet of life that they do not first filter through the lens of their bodily experience. Until we socialize this out of them, of course...so by age 7 we have them pretty well under wraps ( which is when many monsters start to recede) until their bodies betray them at Puberty, and we see the explosion of Horror/Vampire/Gore consumption.

It was in this mindset that I grabbed the book "The Body Never Lies" by Alice Miller from my bookshelf. Alice is a German psychologist who also wrote "The Drama of the Gifted Child" - which deals with children who have survived Narcissist Mothers.  I bought these books about three years ago and after reading "Drama",  my interest waned.

However, in my thinking about the Body, this title intrigued me. I grabbed it off the shelf and began to read.

Now, some of what she claims is bullshit. People miraculously reversing serious health disorders overnight after realizing and naming that they were seriously pissed at their Parents for abuse/neglect etc. I can't even start to entertain those claims as my rational mind rejects them.

However, some of what she says is intriguingly spot on..... particularly about our bodies forcing truth out. Particularly if we continue to engage with  our Parents, even as that relationship is poisoning us. As we defend and rationalize our lived experiences, regardless of hurt. Our bodies scream at us with the truth.

I certainly know this from experience. When I ignore my feelings, my body takes the punishment. Perhaps not right away, but it does.  Headaches. Stomach issues. Panic Attacks. Losing feeling on the Right Side of my body?  Um, yeah.  All expressions of emotions and experiences I attempted to bottle up. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

Sandra, the therapist who diagnosed my post-partum depression once asked me - quite seriously - if I was prepared to deal with one of the auto-immune diseases I was headed towards. "Take your pick", she said, "Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue? Your cortisol levels are killing you. and your immune system will turn against you soon."

Miller's other point is the occasional necessity of breaking with your Parents if the relationship will never change.

I miss my Mom. I can't lie about it. There are times when I long to re-connect with her, to crawl under a wing. Yet, I know without a doubt that she has not changed in the least, and never will.  I know that a reconciliation will come at an unbearably high cost for me.  That this cost will eventually be at the expense of my own daughter, for whom I am trying to be a centred and honest adult.

It is THAT which keeps me from walking through my mother's proverbial front door. I can't deny anything anymore, nor can I simply pretend that nothing has happened, or that I agree with any of the crazy shit she spews - which is, of course, the price of admission for my mother's good graces and conditional love. Deceit.

My body is my lived experience, and it will simply no longer tolerate deceit.
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