Seven Visits

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In the First Visit, I sit humbled. I cry, mostly. I give the very roughest of outlines of all the experiences of the last two years.

I cry more.

I am released with the appointments set for the next many weeks.

Second Visit:

"How do you soothe yourself", she asks?

I have no answer for her.

I simply do not know anymore. I am not sure if I ever knew.

She casts around in the rambling diatribe of the sessions for something to which she can anchor the question, seeking through the jetsam of my words to find a piece worth saving.

"What about Emily? Do you know how to comfort her?"

Of this I am more confident. "Yes", I say. I can comfort Emily.  I know how to do that.

I am left with this task; to record what I feel when I comfort Emily in the coming week.

In the unceasing whirlpool that one would call my emotional life, I can perform Tasks. Concrete and defined.

Third Visit:

It shames me that I begin to cry even before I enter her office. Even in the rehearsal of my words in my mind, the tears spring unbidden. My desire to flee is strong, but I know that when this desire comes that I must push back.

I sit down.

I say, "When I comfort Emily, I feel calm. I feel grounded. It is something I know how to do."

Ah. She looks intrigued.  "And you?", she asks.

"I don't know how to comfort myself.  And so I feel everything, or I feel nothing.  And it makes me feel small and at the mercy of forces I can not control. So if I choose to feel nothing, I end up sitting here at 41 years of age and just crying for an hour every week. Which shames me because I am not that type of person."

She pauses, this tiny woman across from me.  She leans in across the expanse between us, and speaks.

I refuse to make eye contact for most of my visit, darting glances at her between blowing my nose.

I hate this, I hate all of this. I hate this person I am here, not even treading water, but actively drowning in my own sorrow. I pull myself up onto flotsam by the end of the visit and lay across it exhausted in the cold salty sea of my grief.

Seventh Visit:

I no longer cry before I walk into her office, which I take as a good thing.  The scab on my grief is getting thicker.

I can still be caught out though. A line in a song which never had any emotional connection to me can cause tears to well up. Hearing a Jesus and Mary Chain song in a commercial rattles me. I never have any warning for those moments. Just Like Honey.

The other things I have protected myself from better. I avoid. I ignore. I resist.  When thoughts push into my brain, I use words that my massage therapist taught me: "Back to your source", I say.

I will now engage in eye contact during our time. A bit haltingly, but progress.

It is in this visit that she uses a finely tuned question to pierce my armor.

"Was there really no warning, Dawn?"

The burn that spreads out from my solar plexus renders me mute. I wriggle on the pin.

Oh. The burn of that question. The burn as it spreads out into my body, making me sweat and feel like vomiting and crying and wrapping myself so tightly in my head that I am invisible.

"Yes", I admit. There was warning. I ache with that admission. My culpability. My willful ignorance. My blind faith.

"What is wrong with me", I ask her. "When am I ever going to feel something more than this sadness? Because this feeling is awful. It just never ends."

"Time", she answers. "It is going to Take Time."

"You have 41 years of grief which you are working through for the first time. I am not surprised you feel sad. It will start to ease, soon."

And like a Burn victim, I am released, scrubbed and pink, waiting for the new skin to grow, wincing at the sun.

An Open Letter to the World

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I do not care about Oprah or her show. I am sure she is a nice lady and she seems to have been successful, but the end of her show does not affect me in any way, shape or form.

I also don't care about Arnold's "love child". Aside from the misnomer of "love child" which bugs the shit out of me - I mean, was he in "love" with the mother? If so, OK. Otherwise just use "child". But really, I don't care.

And also, I am not surprised or shocked that anyone's marriage isn't as Fabulous as it may look on the outside. Can we all stop being so holier than thou? Humans are HUMAN.

Same with any member of the Kardashian family. In fact it pains me to even know the things I know about them.

I don't watch American Idol, Or Survivor, or any reality television. It makes me angry, in fact.  Therefore I do not care about who wins, who loses or who did whatever.

All right, carry on.

Mommy Muscle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I volunteer in the library at Emily's school one day a week.

During this time, I see Emily's class, who come in during the first library period.

While the children are now starting to catch on to who I am, I used the first couple of weeks to my
advantage. I knew who they were. I knew who like to tease my daughter, who said what to whom. Oh yes, I have the veritable 2nd grade snitch living with me. I hear all. I know all.

The first little girl I spoke to doesn't look like the hellion I know her to be. She is demure, small
– practically petite. She is, however, an excluder. She decides who can play with whom and her whims are mercurial. You can be in one minute and cut out the next. This has caused Emily no end of grief.

The little girl approaches me with her library book in hand.  “Je m'appelle?” I ask, for it is French
library day and I have mastered the phrase of “What is your name”.

She tells me. I know that I have the right child. I smile at her. She smiles at me. She thinks I am another easily fooled adult.  I take her library book.

“So Unnamed child, do you plan on telling anyone that they can't play with Emily today?”

She stares at me. He eyes go round.

“What?” she practically whispers.

“Do you plan on telling the other girls that they can't play with Emily – or anyone else today? I've
heard you like to decide who can play with whom.”

This is the face of a child who had no idea how she has been revealed, but who has clearly been stripped
bare in front of this unidentified adult. I am confronting her with things that even her teachers have not seen, have not dealt with in the context of the academic day.

I stare at her, smiling.

She stammers, “No”.

“Good, I'm glad to hear that – It's really not your job.”

I check her book out and hand it back to her.

Today as she was getting ready, Emily said “You know, I am friends with Unnamed Child now – she never
tells me I can't play – do you think she is a nice girl now?”

I smile at my daughter.

I don't know, baby – but I know that you are a nice girl. I also know that I will make sure that you
remain that way as long as possible, even if I have to exert a little Mommy muscle.

Emily is no longer in 2nd grade, but I have remained a volunteer in the school library. She continues to fully debrief me about the ins and outs of the choppy, shark filled waters of 6th grade friendships.

Rating Scale

Monday, May 23, 2011

I know. There was a different post up before. But sometimes I am too tender to let some things stand and I know that if I sleep on it...perhaps things will feel better. 

Instead, you get this post from 2007. And let it be known that Emily and I STILL use these very same questions to determine if things are really as bad as they might seem.

A few weeks ago, I was walking Emily to school.

She was listing her usual litany of complaints. Who she liked. Who she didn't. You know, the usual walking to school conversation.

I reminded her that she needed to go into the after school program, as I had to work in the afternoon.

This prompted a new wave of whining.

"But I don't LIKE to go to the after school....Nobody LIKES me..."

Now, perhaps other Moms might try to puzzle out the who, what and whys of this statement.

Me? What pearl of wisdom did I have?

"Why not? Did you kill a hobo?"

This shocks my daughter into nervous laughter.

"Kick a puppy? Drown a baby bird?"

Her laughter now cascades out of her. Full on belly laughs.

"MAMA! I didn't kill a hobo!"

"Then I guess you can't be all that bad then."

And with that, we held hands and finished the walk to school.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

As we were driving today, I told Terrance about the History Repeats post. I was piecing together my logic, and emphasizing my clever turns of phrase when he sighed...Deeply.

"You are never going to get a job", he says.

"But, But - What?", I sputter.

"You are never going to be hired because any search committee is going to google you and when they find the blogs, they will want nothing to do with you."

"So you want me to lie? You want me to not be honest?"

My defenses are growing. The wall is going up and the metal door is coming down.

"You can be as honest as you want after you get hired. But if you write about History Textbooks and political influence, there is going to be at least one person on every committee who won't like you. And that means No Job."

I am silent. I am angry. I am hurt and worried that I have done something wrong and bad that will hurt me and our family by my inability to be employed.

Intersecting with this is my inability to even get interviewed for most positions and the few that I have interviewed have sent the "No thanks" letter.  I have been unemployed for 18 months now.

"Maybe he is right" says the small doubtful voice in my head. "If people know you, they won't like you. Shut up. Be a good girl and get the job then you can revert to being you."

I doubt everything.

History Repeats

Monday, May 16, 2011

I've been pondering some more, this War on Intellectualism.  Or, more accurately "War on anyone who is proud of their education and/or War on anyone who expects their leaders to be articulate, well informed people who can juggle a variety of ideas and thoughts without condemning any other group".

Of course then the word "intellectualism" couldn't be used as an insult. As in "Intellectual Elite" - which seems to imply that those people with education past high school belong to some 19th century Victorian Upper Crust society found in a Dickens novel. 

I forgot to add Liberal in there, since you rarely hear anything about the Conservative Intellectual Elite. They exist, of course, but in a manner which is so well camouflaged that they are rendered invisible.

During my pondering, I also saw THIS gem of a headline: Tennessee Tea Party Issues Legislative Demands.

Huh. Ok. What could they be? One is "Educating Students about the truth of America". 

Well, I don't have any problem with that, Until this:

Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.

Followed with this clarifying statement:  
No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.
 Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

Oh. Made up criticism?  Intruding? Is that what we call genocide now? Because the Nazi's were pretty "intrusive" to the Jews, Roma, Homosexuals or anyone they wanted get rid of, I guess. The whole Serbian/Croatian thing was pretty "intrusive". Hutu's in Rwanda was generally intrusive on the Tutsi's.  Sorry about the "Intrusion", we'll just keep all your stuff and pretend you never existed.

I realize that I am preaching to the converted here, but this kind of rhetoric scares me. Why? Because to use the oft overused hyperbole of the Glenn Beck/Henny Penny's of the world: This is how it starts.

When we Change history to suit us, we begin down a very slippery slope. A slope which leads us back to committing the same mistakes over and over and over.

Are you aware of the Texas textbook battles? Are you a parent of a child in a US school? Because You should be aware of this if you are not.

Some time ago, some people who were Christian conservatives figured out that:

 1. Texas is the largest purchaser of Textbooks in the United States.
2. As such, they could make sure that the Textbook Publishers could be forced to print the curriculum that Texas approved.
3. If the Textbook Publishers printed the Texas approved curriculum, then other states would be forced to purchase the same books because the textbook publishers weren't planning to publish different editions for every state.
4. By electing Christian Conservatives to the State School Board, they could insure that their political and cultural agenda would be enshrined in the textbooks that were purchased and distributed to Every State in the Country.

Clever, right?

Now, Did you see David Barton on Daily Show a couple of weeks ago? He is one of these people.

He touts himself as an "expert in Historical and Constitutional Issues'. Sadly, he has no actual formal training in any of these arenas. His one and only formal degree was one in Religious Education, which he obtained from Oral Roberts University in 1976.

He will gladly tell you how the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Christian Country. Not that he has any credibility aside from his ability to pull quotes from a variety of sources...or simply make them up if need be.

Aside: I don't need to debunk this man's work when others have so thoroughly done so - Chris Rodda's site Liars For Jesus is an excellent point by point refutation of David Barton every utterance.

So, let me sum up where we are now. We don't like Intellectuals.  Smarty Pants Know it alls who expect Facts! And Sources! And Degrees! We much prefer people with No formal training, and no actual credentials in education to shape the curriculum of the US. Made up Facts are fine, as long as they agree with our religious beliefs..since we can adhere to the idea of "faith".

One group with a specific Political, Religious and Cultural agenda has seized control of the capitalist production of Textbooks thereby flooding schools in the US with their viewpoint. They also, it should be noted, are active in decrying any non-conforming viewpoints as an infringement on their rights, as well as a bias of a liberal media.

Again I say: Smart, Right?  From the same clever people who thought up that whole "Affirmative Action is Reverse Racism" argument.

So here is where I am going to borrow another of the Glenn Beck Tropes.

Do you know who got rid of the Intellectuals/Artists/People who don't agree with your viewpoints?


Oh, and the pesky Cultural Revolution in China, in which one country attempted to destroy anyone or anything they considered "revisionists" to the version of history they wanted to promote.

And let us not forget the Fascists. The real ones. The ones who chanted "Death to Intelligence", since  intelligence and logic were weaknesses. Shall we also consider Russia and it's purge of the educated, only to be replaced with the Stalin era pseudo-intellectuals? Or a thousand other places where people sit in jail/murdered/tortured for not falling in line with what Others with an agenda Wants them to say.

So, let's Pretend Slavery wasn't so Bad. Pretend that the Founding Fathers were really angels on Earth, rather than flawed humans who were citizens in a specific era. Pretend that Scientific Evidence is "debatable" - I mean, The Vatican was able to keep the whole "Earth Circles the Sun" thing under wraps FOR YEARS by invoking faith as their trump card. Pretend anyone that disagrees with you is really A NAZI/COMMUNIST/RADICAL MUSLIM/INSERT CURRENT BOOGEYMAN coming for you, even if the thing they want ( like health care for all, or access to higher education, or funding for the arts) is diametrically opposed to what those scary regimes were all about.

I mean even if the history "Actually occurred", it should never obscure our points of view, right?

"The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again" - George Santayana

This appears on a plaque outside of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Our memories in America are failing us.

Movies You Should See Vol 5: Ones That Terrified Me

I like "kind of" scary movies. I don't generally go in for raw, ridiculous cut 'em up movies. This is why the Saw/Hostel type of movies just aren't for me. I never even saw Scream, or any of it's spawn.  Since Munch's Painting already scared me, I didn't need that mask derived from a profound expression of human grief and suffering racing around with a knife.

(ooo lookie there, my elitist education is shining through! I have Art History Knowledge!....Little Known fact, Dawn considered (heavily) an Art History major, but didn't want to commit to living in a city where it was clear I would have to settle in order to have a career)

Movies that scare me tend to be ones where small things are emphasized. The things we don't see scare me, because that is where your imagination kicks open and you can fill in what could be happening.

When the hype around "The Ring" was happening, I was only partially attentive. I knew it was a re-make of a Japanese movie. I knew that some of the images they flashed in the previews made me uneasy. But Meh. Not really interested.

The "The Grudge" was remade with Sarah Micheal Geller in 2004 and the commercials began. Oh My.  Those previews were even more scary. That NOISE. That woman and child.  Oh dear.

I broke down and ordered it on Netflix.  And it was Good. Scary. But I knew it had been a re-make. I knew there was MORE in that story that was not really coming across in the Western remake I was watching.  I also became aware that there was a horror tradition that had nothing to do with my upbringing surrounded by Gothic creations like Frankenstein and Dracula.

So, off I sent for the original - Ju On (2002). The director had made a 'for TV" version in 2000, which was extremely well received...and let him bring the story to film.

Let me just say that Ju On, as my first  excursion into the genre known as "J-Horror" was complete and utter success. I was Terrified.  Not a ton of gore. Lots of slight movements and silence lets you craft the story with the Protagonist.  It was in this movie that I was also introduced to the very Eastern idea of  Evil existing AS Evil, with no goal.

By this I mean that I had become accustomed to Evil being vanquished by the Hero at the end of the movie. That was just how it went. Bad things happened, but in the end, Justice was served and the crazy guy was  vanquished.

However, this movie introduced for me the idea that the psychic energy left by the victims and perpetrators of this crime becomes it's own entity.  It does not need to be "put to rest", as in so many Western Ghost stories. It simply IS. It does not want resolution. It can only seek more victims.

I realize that may sound kind of ridiculous, but it was a new concept for me.  I also admit it kind of troubled me. I mean, how could you fight something that wanted no resolution or was, by definition, unstoppable.

At this point my curiosity was piqued and I rented Ringu 1998. Sweet Suffering Moses. If Ju On terrified me, than this movie paralyzed me.  I honestly don't think I moved for the entire viewing, aside from when I was pausing to run and pee since it was making me so dammed nervous.

I assume you all know the premise, right? Many of you may have even seen the remake with Naomi Watts. Do yourself a favor, go get the original. You will  understand more of the backstory that is left out by the remake, as it makes no sense in the Western context. You will also start to understand that there are specific imagery in J-Horror that are somewhat Iconic. The Woman in White with the long Black Hair. The issues around Water which seems to recur again and again. These are elements in the folk and ghost stories of Japan and other eastern cultures.

Other movies in this genre that I enjoyed?  Dark Water , Cure 1997,  Premonition (2004), Reincarnation/Rinne 2005 ( I actually REALLY enjoyed this one, it's use of place was excellent as well as a sort of dual time reality). Kansen/Infection 2004 kept me AWAKE, mostly for the superb use of the hospital for atmosphere and the real unknown of what was happening.

Now, I have also gone through a great many others in the genre - Ichi The Killer, Suicide Circle,  Kairo/Pulse,  One Missed Call (original version),  Parasite Eve 1997.... Many of these fell short of expectations for me, but they did fill in gaps around mythology and themes that I would see over and over in other films. Isolation. Obedience. The fear and use of technology as a transmitter of evil and supernatural.

Korean Horror has many similar themes to the J-Horror Genre...although I find most of Korean Horror to be more "thriller"  or mystery oriented than its Japanese counterparts.

Whispering Corridors (1998) is kind of the "starting place" for most of the K-Horror movies. Arang (2006),  Memento Mori 1999 are all enjoyable. Some would include others I have talked about previously - A Tale for Two Sisters, Hansel and Gretel, but I think of them as more than scary movies.

More recently, a true stand out for me was 2007's Epitaph/Gidam. When it ended I thought "Well THAT was a proper Ghost Story!" Yes, it is kind of slow. Yes, the stories are intertwined, but in subtle ways.  The use of imagery and the attention to the cinematography  is truly epic. It is a BEAUTIFUL film - Sad, and beautiful.

While the Pang Brothers are most "famous" for their movie The Eye ( which was entertaining and much better than the terrible Jessica Alba remake), the movie that really stayed with me was "Recycle" (2006).

At first blush, I didn't like it. I was confused and by the end I just felt irritated. Then, the images starting recurring in my mind.  Is it a horror film? Not entirely, but it does tackle how we mine our life for bits and pieces - keeping some, discarding others, entirely editing some events.  Where do the other bits go? Where do they live? How do they live? Are the decisions we made in the past the same ones we would make now?

I watched it again. True, the special effects are kick ass. However, it was this idea of the ghost towns of our inner lives which fascinated me.  Perhaps because I know I have these ghost towns. In some ways, it reminded me of why I loved Pan's Labyrinth - this acceptance of these alternate inner worlds, acceptance that some things that live inside these inner worlds are grotesque. Plus, if you didn't find the ogre in Pan's Labyrinth terrifying then you sir do not have a soul.

Speaking of Spanish films? REC was an unexpected delight...before it was re-made into that crap-tastic hollywood version.

El Orfanato ( 2007) was a film that also also stayed with me. Slow, atmospheric, building to the ending which left me both shaken and impressed.  While not mentioned in most reviews, I also viewed it as a Peter Pan story, told in reverse.  Rather than the children leaving for neverland, the adult comes back. Not unlike the story told in Cornelia Funke's Thief Lord .

Sorry, see, this IS how my brain works, mixing bits and pieces from other genres and stories, mixing folk and fairy tales. It can be maddening.

OK, Last one. Noroi (2005) - At first I wasn't sure I was going to watch it, as it is shot in the quasi documentary style that produces a billion really crappy movies and every once in a while gets a Hit like Paranormal Activity, or Blair Witch, and so we get a billion MORE crappy derivative films shot in quasi documentary style.

However, give this one a chance because it is one of those rare REALLY good ones. It also tells a Story, so it takes some time to build. The stories the film makers explore, at first , seem to have no connection. However, one by one, you start to tie the events together with the film makers until the end when I was - Literally - STARING wild eyed and breathless at the screen and thinking "HOLY SHIT!".

When you see a movie this good, you get angry at having to endure the trope filled crap.

Have Fun!

No Apologies

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today I experienced something that I have been dealing with all of my adult life. And Finally, I got sick of it.

What could it be that has finally broken my notoriously strong back?

Having my Education used as an insult.

I know I am not the only person to have felt this jab. It happens in every presidential election, after all. I have seen it in other realms of politics, and certainly all over the media.

Who does he think HE is? Being all Smart and stuff.

Followed by one of my favorite statements: "Am I supposed to be impressed by that?" married to "Book Smart doesn't equal Common sense." Finally, the inevitable follows: "Are you saying you are BETTER than me?"

Honestly? Yes.  Yes I am.

Indulge me, however, as I break this down.

Do I think I am a better human being?

No. Not at all. I have known amazing people who never attended high school. I have known incredible douches that have PhD's.

Do I attach value to a system of learning which is codified into degree granting institutions?

Yes. My family bought into the idea that Education can help you get ahead. My grandparents didn't attend college. My own Father never attended college, while my mother graduated in 1971 from a 3 year RN program. She always called it Nursing School -which is what it Was in 1971.

I was, to my knowledge, the first Rouse in my family to graduate from University with a Bachelors Degree.  My Brother followed suit with his degree, and my sister eventually followed with her degree(s). Later, my Mother went back to school to get her Four year BS in Nursing, and later a MS in Nursing.

I may be the first Rouse to get a Masters Degree, and I am nearly 100% certain that I will be the first to earn a doctorate.

My Fathers people, as I have written before, were farmers in Ohio. One step, and I say this with love, from hillbillies.

My Mom's family were slightly more middle class tradesmen, with my grandfather being a meat cutter, and my grandmother being a congressional secretary before she became a housewife and mother.

What does having advanced degrees say about you?

First and foremost it says that you have learned how to navigate a system of rules.  As you move up in academia, the rules become more rigid.  The rules about a PhD are FAR more rigid than the rules around an Associates Degree.

You have to complete coursework to the satisfaction of someone else. That means you have to  be able to read, evaluate and respond satisfactorily to another persons academic demands.

You must learn to argue your point...But not be one sided. You have to learn to Research - really research your topics. Wikipedia isn't enough.

You must be able to communicate in writing and through conversation your ideas and points, backed up with documentation and reference material. You must be able to CITE YOUR SOURCES, and give credit where it is owed.

Does this make you an expert?

 Yes...and No. It is true that I know a hell of a lot.  I am a rare academic mind which is fed not only be my own area of study, but also by other fields that I simply find interesting.  I have blended my ability to take in vast amounts of information through reading and then access that information in my professional life.

That means that when I was in direct care and education with children that I was constantly referencing my back catalog of child development theory, with physical and pediatric development knowledge, with social cognition information through my direct observation and note taking.  I also continued to read, and read, and read when things puzzled me...or new information came out.

So, Yes. I deserve somewhat the title of Expert.

However - and this is a huge caveat - I don't feel than Any person can rest on their past laurels. I don't deserve the title of Expert because of what I have  achieved in the past, but rather what I continue to Learn.

When I come across people who tell me that they don't bother to develop professionally (or personally) because they have seen or read it all, I know I have found  an educationally dead soul.

Am I supposed to be Impressed by Your Degrees or Awards?

Yes. A little bit. If only because of the knowledge of the Years of reading, and studying, and thinking and doing that I have invested in those degrees. Think of it like the Sistine Chapel. You might not be impressed by the final product ...but you have to hand it to Michelangelo for tackling the Task.

During my time as Director, one of the most persistent criticisms from particular staff regarded my use of "fancy terms like curriculum".  It was a puzzling criticism for me, but one which I know understand to be fueled by a deep seated fear of change and the knowledge that I viewed the profession of Early Childhood are more than "just liking kids" and demanded more.

And awards are nice, but only because they mean that your peers have said "She does Good Work. She knows what she is Doing."

Book Smart doesn't equal Common Sense!

No, it doesn't. But Common Sense didn't discover Antibiotics. Common Sense thought that mental illness was caused by demons possessing people.  Common Sense burned people as Witches. I sure as Hell don't want someone with only common sense operating on me or my family members.

It pisses me off when this statement is used as some kind of justification to degrade the educated.

I mean sure, perhaps if I had been born into the 18th century aristocracy and was unable to make my own meal, or dress myself this might have been a more pertinent insult.

I pump my own gas at the gas station. I grocery shop and stand in line at Walmart.

When I was Teacher and/or Director, I changed as many diapers and cleaned up as much vomit as any other staff member.  When I was given Assistants to work with I always told them that I would never ask them to do anything I wasn't willing to do myself.  In my field, it is hard to be credible when you haven't put in your time in the trenches.  Believe me, a room full of 18 Four year olds can rip your professional identity to pieces much faster than my PhD committee.  It is because I survived boys who would look at me and poop in their pants at age 4 rather than go into the bathroom, or babies who screamed at me for months without end that I have the confidence to go forward into the Expert Arena.

And psst, let me tell you one more thing about People with Advanced degrees.

We have been forced by training to see both sides of an issue. We have been forced to consider viewpoints that are not ours, or ones which may make us uncomfortable. We have had to take classes with people who don't look like us, or think like us.  We have had to justify our ideas with a multitude of thinkers, through layers of history. We have had to understand what came before, in order to move forward.

In my particular field I have had to think about parenting practices with which I don't agree. I have had to find common ground with those parents to still work in the best interest of the child,  while still finding a way to be supportive of the child within the family.

You think politics is tough? Try navigating the feeding schedule of an infant who you know, empirically, is not getting enough food with a mother who is concerned that her baby is "fat".  Or the 4 year old who still walks in with chocolate milk in a Bottle. Or a Toddler whose mother gives her over the counter medication every night to make her sleep through the night, because the mom is a single mom and can't deal with the baby waking her up.

End of War treaties would be easier to navigate, I assure you.

My professional and academic degrees have trained me to step back and try to see the issue from the other side. Not as an adversary, but as someone who is bound by her professions ethical code of conduct to see the child as a member of a family, a larger unit. This larger unit must be seen as having a multitude of needs, simultaneously. It is not my job to Tell the parent what to do and how to do it, my job is to get inside that larger family unit and figure out how to get the information I need to share placed strategically so that it is almost as if I wasn't there.

When the argument that I should be shamed for or ashamed of my education gets hurled at me, I always feel sorry for the other person.  Just a little bit.  I have to believe that they have internalized either a fear of education,  or some sense of educational inadequacy along the way that makes this a powerful response/insult for them.

So No. I will not feel Any shame for my degrees nor the hard work I have put into any of them. I don't feel shame for stretching my mind through books and experiences, including living outside the US. I don't feel shame for taking advantage of the struggle and sacrifice of my family to better my own education and professional status.

I guess Ignorance really is Bliss.

Vlad the Impaler, Early Childhood Expert

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today on “I am doing the best that I can”, the editorial staff is pleased to present Q&A regarding parenting questions. Today’s guest writer is Vlad the Impaler, well-known child development specialist:

Q: Dear Vlad,

I am perplexed by the behavior of my 18 month old child. She has recently taken to throwing full out temper tantrums every time that I tell her “No”. This occurs even when I telling her “No” for a good reason, like not petting a rabid dog, or touching live power lines. Is there some other way I can convey my intentions to her without the giant hissy fit being thrown?

Earth Mother


I am Vlad the Impaler! Ruler of Wallachia. In one day, I impaled 30,000 merchants for disobeying trade laws and left their bodies to rot outside the city walls. None shall disobey me.

When the Turkish ambassador refused to remove their Phrygian hats, I had the hats nailed to their heads to remind them of my power. I have bathed in rivers of blood and rejoiced in the suffering of my enemy’s.

In reference to your spawn, I suggest you impale her on a stick and see how she likes it. If she continues to defy you, I would cut off her hands to keep her from touching anything you have decreed off limits. If she persists on screaming, her tongue can easily be removed.

Now leave my sight, before I send the army of Romania to destroy your bloodline.*

*The views of Vlad the Impaler do not reflect the views of the editorial staff and must be viewed in the light of one demonic rulers opinion.

Feel free to submit your own child development questions to Vlad. He would be happy to respond.

Originally Published on this here blog in 2005.

Spare me this shit

Thursday, May 05, 2011

This is the thought I have every single time I see another post on Facebook, or on Blogs, or even on Blogher about Mother's Day.

My relationship with my mother is difficult. Non existent, really.

Yes, By my choice. For many, many, many reasons. And Now, for the past week leading up to mothers day, I get to be pummeled with reminders, daily, of this relationship.

The subtle message is that I am a bad daughter for not raising a shrine to the vagina from which I emerged. A Kind of daughter Lemming, rushing to change my profile picture to my Mom, to gush how much I learned, or how much I treasured all the time we spent together.

Spare me this shit.

One of the things that I fought - HARD - for when I was Director of Child care was the removal of holidays, including mothers day, from the center.

Because what if you are the child in foster care?  Being asked to make a card to the mother who can not care for you because of her addictions? Or because she decided to live with a man who beats You, or her and feels that she can not live without him instead of you? Or a mother who does beat you, or withholds food or affection and you spend your time covering up for her because this is the person who is supposed to love you the best and to betray her is to betray yourself?

So no. No Forced mothers day gifts or cards or poems being made by children who can not choose, for a million reasons.

Spare them this shit.

I spent a good part of my session with my therapist today unraveling bits and pieces of why I can not soothe myself as an adult.

"My mother always told me that I was such a calm and unflappable child", I said. "It wasn't true. I just learned to shut down rather than attempt to resist or fight."

"Your mother had that part covered, didn't she?", my therapist responds.

"Are you kidding? Why bother to resist when you are being faced with the hurricane of her emotional life? What could you have felt that wasn't MORE than what she felt? I just shut down."

And I still do. My emotional highs and lows do not reside on scales with normal human beings, because I did not learn this modulation.  I am a 41 year old woman who is re-learning how to comfort herself because my mother did not give me this skill.

"Mothers do that", my therapist tells me. "They teach children how to scan the horizon and put things into perspective. Judge whether something is a danger or nothing to be worried about. This is what you do for Emily when you sit with her and talk through her fears - Right? - Yes, you want her to do well on the test, but if she tries her hardest and doesn't...nothing truly bad will happen."

I laugh.

"Yes. Do your best, but if it doesn't go as planned, you won't live on the street or have food withheld - I tell her that nobody has asked her father and I how we did on our Fractions test in 6th grade, and in the scheme of things it is just not a big deal."

"Exactly. You teach her to assess and soothe her fears. When you don't have a parent who teaches this to you - you end up over or under reacting to perceived threats - cycling through highs or lows that you can't modulate."

My own mother thrived on the energy of tumult. Of crisis. Of Upset and Worry. Of Intrigue.

It is what makes her such a good nurse.

But as a mother, she had no reason to soothe us for our energy was what she capitalized upon. We were the batteries that fueled her spotlight.

So, forgive me if I can not join in the rah-rah-rah Mother's Day Bullshit.

My batteries are simply too low.

She loves me

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

For my birthday last week, Emily presented me with this card:

And no, that isn't a beer mug.  It is a coffee cup. She also enclosed a 2 dollar coin with the instructions to "Get a cup of joe on me".

Of course, she HAS had words with other girl. Last week , the other girl tried to exclude her from a conversation and told her to leave.

Emily started to walk away and then - and in her words, "I began to channel You, Mom" - she turned and gave the girl a verbal dressing down.

This included swearing, she later tearfully confessed to me.  My sweet girl gets very upset when she thinks she thinks she has broken the rules.

I soothed her tears with the explanation that sometimes only swearing can properly convey the emotion you are trying to get across.

In my life, I have only ever experienced true unconditional love with one person - Emily.   Her willingness to love me above and beyond shines through any other storm I am managing.

And just because, here are some bonus pictures from Our adventures:

Finding delicious cheese at Jean Talon:

Walking in Parc Mont Royal on Monday:


Monday, May 02, 2011

As Terrance and I make attempts to renegotiate patterns that we have taken 20 years to carve into one another, I often stop to just wonder how the hell we got here.

I am immediately defensive when he talks to me about Emily. Partly from my own shit about being a Mom, and if I am doing it right - But Partly because I don't interpret his Tone well.  Since I assume that any discussion is going to fundamentally come down to why I am doing something wrong, I immediately throw up the shields and prepare myself for battle.

And after a day in which I snapped at Emily more times than I care to admit and finally just walked out of the house and sat on the back porch for while after she dumped her beverage all over my night stand, my mother credentials don't feel very worthy.

It is a bizarre thing to look at a person with whom you have created a child, with whom you have lived for so long and think: "I have no fucking idea what you are thinking".

This happens far more often that I would like.

The first perceived threat came after Em had attempted to paint the gnomes.

Even writing this sentence feels utterly ridiculous.

In the course of this, she lost her ever loving mind and painted the gnomes as if they were items from a bad acid trip. Sloppy, dripping paint of every color, grey blue faces as if they had been dredged from ye olde Thames, I yelled at her that it looked like Three year olds with no sense of color had painted my gnomes.

I was angry. I was irritated that she had done something so unnecessary to the gnomes, that it was perfectly fine for her to sloppily splash paint over something that, while small, meant something to me.

Terrance took this time to tell me about some article he had read about the result of over-praising children and how he felt that we do this to Emily.

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

I stared at him and finally said, "Yeah. I am familiar with the concept. I have the books on which the original information is based. Do you want to read the source material?  Because I have it. And No, I absolutely do not think we over praise her. I just think she was being an asshole."

He did not agree. We parted.

Later that evening, during our new "together" time in which we watch a minimum of an hour of TV ( chosen by one partner in turn and no complaining allowed about the choice) together with no computers/internet, he started to fuss.

"What if...What if we have to move in two years, and this will disrupt Emilys school, and then she will have been to three different schools already and don't you know Dawn she has a hard time with change..."

I feel helpless in this.

And attacked.  Blamed, as if it is my fault I haven't finished my degree and found a job so that our daughter could have a more stable life.  As if it is my fault that I am not being interviewed for the professor positions for which I apply - which is already enough of an ego blow that I have a good cry with every "There were many outstanding applicants of which you were one...BUT we didn't even want to interview you" letter I get.

That I finally just said "Listen, I could take a job for which I am WAY overqualified, but it would be a job if that is what you want. We could just move back to the US and I would take a job as a Teacher at a child care and Bam. It's done. "

And this is all true, but it makes me angry and ashamed to even say it, as if I am too good for just be a child care teacher any more but with three degrees what can I do if I am not being let into the club?

Because Yes. I know how hard change is for Emily. She has inherited that trait from me, the woman for whom moving here helped to kick off a manic depressive episode.  I resist change so hard, it engraves itself into my body as the mountain moves to me.

So finally I just say "What. What do you want. Are you saying this because you want me to help you find a solution? Or are you just talking?"

"Just thinking out loud. I will tell you when I find a solution."

"Wait a second. No, No, No. You don't find a solution. WE find a solution, because when YOU find a solution, you just tells us what to do regardless of what we think. So No. WE find a solution."

He says nothing.

We were always so pleased with ourselves as a young couple, the way we didn't need each other. The way we walked side by side, without leaning on each other.

Twenty years later, I find that our separateness has not always served us so well, leaving us on opposite sides of the gully unable to translate each other.
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