Your Kid is Not That Special

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Little reminder, Just in time for Back to school:

I know, it is difficult to believe. Your kid just isn't that special. He isn't a genius because he can read some words early, or knows all the dinosaur names, and she isn't the next incarnation of Picasso because she likes to color, or walked early.

Here, sit down. Let me hold your hand. I say this to you as a Friend. I say this to you as a teacher who has seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of children. I say this to you as another Parent.

My kid isn't that special, either. Of course to ME, she is everything. She is the sole cumulation of all my effort, knowledge and genetic contribution to the species. She is exquisitely funny and delightful.

However, in the scheme of things, she is just another Kid. Your kid too - just another kid with quirks and some talents...but really just an ordinary kid.

Why is it important that you accept this fact?

You, Parents of the World, You are trying too hard. You are moving beyond "supportive" to "Blind indulgence and Irate Body Guard" and it is not helpful. Not to your kids, and certainly not to the adults who are working with them.

I mean, we all want our children to feel loved. Supported. Encouraged.  But this continual "Rah-Rah-Rah, My kid is AWESOME" stuff? This is encouraging entitlement. Rudeness. Selfishness. Bullying.

As a teacher, I have been required to say some unpleasant truths to parents. Their child can be poorly behaved. Mean. Conniving. Deceitful.

When I say this to parents who believe that they have a normal, un-special child? I get listened to, and the parents and I can work as a team to correct the behavior. That's what discipline is, after all. To Teach. To Guide. We do this best when teams of adults can consult and listen to each other and then work together in the best interests of the child and family.

The parents who believe that they may have given birth to the Second Coming?  Fight. Denial. Their child would NEVER do this. Their child is SPECIAL and therefore should be given different or more consideration. Their child isn't a bully. Their child would NEVER urinate all over the bathroom wall because he thought it would be "funny".

Have you seen these parents? They will park in the middle of a one way street in front of the school and block all the other traffic so they can walk their child into school. They will show up in professor's offices to plead why their child doesn't deserve that failing grade...even though the child didn't show up for class all term. If the parent doesn't get their way with the professor, they will go to the dean. There is always an excuse. Always an exception.

We are not giving our children good "self esteem", we are setting them on the path of self destruction. Mini Lindsay Lohan's with no boundaries and no expectations beyond  outward markers of success that we - their parents - are willing to fight to the death to protect.

I love my Kid, but she is a normal kid and she screws up. As much as it kills me to see her suffer the consequences of bad decisions like deciding to put off her homework until the last minute, or lying to me about making her bed...I would much rather her suffer those consequences now, than for her to live in a world in which she believes that she has some kind of divine right.

Those screwups are not a reflection of bad parenting, but rather the necessary stumbles on the path to being a conscientious adult. As such, I can handle other adults disciplining her. Not beating her. Not berating her. Simply Disciplining Her as I do their children, if needed.

Parents need to remember that WE are not our Children.

 We are simply the vessels through which they arrived.

Why Covered Bridges Matter

Monday, August 29, 2011

Most of you likely know that I am a Vermont Girl.

While not born in the state, we did move there in 1979, when I was nine. My mother was fleeing my father and conceived some crazy notion to just pack up and go to Vermont.

Having never lived in any place more than two years, I was glad that it seemed like maybe we had settled for awhile.  Having never seen snow that I could recall - except for that one time in 2nd grade when we ran out with black construction paper to catch the flakes that fell out of our unlikely North Carolina sky - I was enthused to acquaint myself with the concept of Winter.

One of the first places my mother "found" as she dragged us hither and yon was the Brown Bridge in Clarendon.

Brown Covered Bridge - Clarendon, Vermont
Photo By Doug Kerr

She used to claim that it helped her to think, but I suspected she just wanted to keep my brother and I quiet. Since she had no money, the cheapest form of entertainment for two young kids was certainly a fast cold river, stones, woods and a covered bridge.

Brown Covered Bridge - Clarendon, Vermont
Photo by Doug Kerr

My brother and I - predictably - hated it.   It was so Booooorrrrriiiiinnnnnnnggggg. The water was very,very cold to two children accustomed to swimming in the warmer ocean water of North Carolina. And not deep.  And there wasn't any sand.

But we played. We crawled under the bridge and looked, we walked back and forth through the bridge looking up at the rafters. Years and Years of old carved graffiti were visible. But I remember smells best of all, and the bridge smelled of wood, and dust, and oil and cooler summer air. 

It smelled of Old.

Brown Covered Bridge - Clarendon, Vermont
photo by Doug Kerr

My brother Donnie and I would always get quiet when we would cross the bridge in our GMC truck. It felt solemn driving into the darkness of the bridge, even at noon in the summer, and emerge back into the light on the other side.

Not to mention you had to approach the bridge slowly and make sure another car wasn't coming from the opposite direction. If there was, my mother would have to reverse our giant truck and back up onto a small section...Stop and wait for the other car to make it's way out and pass us.

While my mother "thought", Donnie and I would meander. Make dams with rocks. Try to spot fish. Try to catch water dancers, look for berries and other things we could re-purpose into toys.

The Bridge was not meant to be negotiated Quickly. The Cold River was not meant to be negotiated quickly either, and we learned the art of gripping water slime-slick rocks with our toes as we wavered over the frigid-even-in-the-heat-of-summer water.

Years later, my mother would conscript her unwilling-child minions to carry river rocks to her Truck be crafted into retaining walls for her gardens. ( and here I have the back of my hand to my forehead, for I hated this job So - slimey, muddy, smelly rock hauling)

Brown bridge, After Irene - It Made it!!!

My hometown, Rutland, did not fare well during Hurricane Irene, but I know that they will re-build, re-enforce and re-group. Vermonters aren't generally known for their waiting for anyone to do anything For them.

Without perpetrating the stereotype, Vermonters are kind of tough people. People who just do what needs to be done and get on with it.  It doesn't amaze me that , per capita, Vermont has the highest losess of citizen from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  You see? We can vehemently disagree with you politically - but if you ask us to do a job we've committed to, we'll do it. 

Places I knew and loved and wandered and ate and laughed and sat next to with boyfriends have been washed away....but new places will spring up. It is how it Is, after all.

What I mourn, most of all, is the Covered Bridges that didn't make it through the floods. Overwhelmed and sideswiped with more water than could have been imagined by their builders in the early 1800's, they simply gave way.

It must seem strange to people who have not known covered bridges to feel such passion about inanimate objects.

"They are just bridges", I have seen written on pages and blogs and reports. "Build a new one and get over it."

Yes, a new bridge will be built, but the old bridges have been Lost. The bridges that tied us to a heritage that whispered of communities coming together to build these bridges, of a before-time based on farming and logging and integrated living with the countryside around us. It reminds me that we are connected to Place in a million ways, and in a million ways, Place defines us.

When a child grows up having a touchstone to a Place - a Covered Bridge, for instance - it reminds us that we are part of a fabric of what came before, and what will come after. We are Part of something bigger and older than us, and will be part of something  from our future past. 

As an adult, I think it has helped me understand the integral part I must play in the preservation and honor of those who came before - even those I never knew and with whom I  have no genealogical ties. I am Them. They are Me.

I mourn these bridges. And I understand the sense of loss felt by the communities. They weren't just bridges, you see. They were part of being a Vermonter. And we need some time to feel that loss.

The Turtle Whisperer

Sunday, August 28, 2011

(While I work fervently on a journal article involving posthumanism theory and why young children engage in animal play (pretend to Be animals), please enjoy this treasure from last August.)

There is no secret that I am a liberal white lady.

Therefore, like the best of my breed, WE CARE. WE CARE ALOT!

We recycle. We buy our kids organic milk so that the bovine growth hormone doesn't make our kids go through early puberty and have some crazy not-yet-discovered cancer. Many of us volunteer at places like libraries, or homeless shelters.

We donate clothes to clothing drives, we help organize fund raisers for causes near and dear to our hearts.  We buy those special "Help a local school out with the purchase of 10 dollars of school supplies" bags at Office Supply stores.

We can't help it.  The polite white people gene in us just WANTS to do good. We WANT to be good neighbors and responsible stewards of the earth. My generation debuted at the beginning of recycling and organic and trying to buy locally while thinking globally. It is our default mode.

Ergo, when I saw the turtle in the dead middle of the exit to our vacation condo, you knew I was going to do something about it.

Terrance will share that I have a disturbing tendency to leap out of vehicles to offer care and comfort during any perceived danger. Roadside accident? I leap out of car with bottled water and instruct people to Stay Put so we can assess for internal bleeding. Guy on Motorcycle gets hit and knocked off bike in front of us? I go into primary first aid response to check him for broken limbs and concussion.

One one hand, I like to think it is my long time career with children that has made me move towards the hysteria in order to direct and calm. I know it isn't motherhood, as I was doing this shit LONG before Emily, much to Terrance's chagrin.  I am unbuckling and grabbing blankets out of the back of the car at every accident scene, usually with him chasing me yelling something like "Jesus Christ! I can smell Gas! Get BACK into the car!"

In the world of the socially conscious white lady, a Turtle in a Florida road is as good as a Human casualty. I instruct Terrance to STOP while I unbuckle and move to offer my assistance to the hapless Terrapin. He is left in the car with two girls who:

1. want donuts
2. want to go to the world of Harry Potter  
3. Would probably trample the turtle to death in their effort to get either of those previous goals accomplished.

Now, I can claim a small amount of turtle expertise, due to the summer I spent in a chi-chi Connecticut town and their nature center. I had to show various animals, including turtles, and elaborate on life cycles and habitat. In that job, handling the owls and hawks constituted the most fearsome work. The turtles were a piece of cake, comparatively. The worst they would do was pee on you. The Hawks and Owls might try to take a chunk of flesh out of your face in front of 35 screaming three year olds as you attempted to explain why we should protect their habitat while stuffing your dangling eye stalk back into your skull.

To this point in the story, we have established these facts:

1. I am a liberal white lady
2. I frequently offer assistance to others
3. I have turtle knowledge as I have worked in a Nature Center in 1992.

I see turtle in Road. I assess that this turtle is going to be crushed by an uncaring motorist. I know that turtles, while not an endangered species, fall prey to vehicles once they are large enough to reproduce and are an important part of our ecosystems.

*lightbulb* MUST HELP TURTLE

What I, and many other nice, well meaning, liberal white ladies both past and present, failed to account for was the desire on the part of the Turtle ( or by extension, ANY group, or animal or cause) to be HELPED.

This was not my concern. I was there to save the turtle.

I approach the turtle with no hesitation. This is a Hella big turtle. I am accustomed to Eastern Forest type turtles and this baby was no Eastern Forest Turtle. It was also no baby.  EASILY 12 to 15 inches in diameter. I was going to have to bend at the knees, get ahold and lift this sucker in order to cart her to safety.

As I stepped over the turtle in order to best assess how to pick her up, I noticed she was one FUGLY turtle.

The weird snout like thing that could only be the nose bobbed in and out as she assessed my threat to her. She pulled her head back as far as she could to pretend as if there was nothing to eat here and I should really just keep on moving.

Oh no, Turtle damsel in distress! I am here to Help You! I leaned down and positioned my hands in the center of her side shell. I wanted my fingers to be safe since I wasn't entirely sure what subspecies she might be, while still having a firm enough grip to carry her back to a protected place.

Hands in place, I bent down and LIFTED.

Two things immediately struck me. The Stench of the turtle. And the Sliminess of the turtle.

All my turtle exploits had been with dry, smallish forest type turtles. This was a culvert dwelling water turtle. A BIG culvert dwelling water turtle.

 My next mistake lay in my assumption in the perceived passiveness of turtles.  I assumed that the turtle would not protest, nor would she struggle in any significant manner. She would accept my help, and then mildly go on her turtle way. Safe. Sound. Whole.

Imagine my surprise as I lifted the turtle in the air to figure out that THIS turtle was having none of it. THIS turtle began to flail about like some toddlers I have known as they do their "dead weight drop" of protest. In my shock, I drop the turtle, who then launches herself even faster towards the oncoming traffic of 192.

In my attempt to save the turtle, I am driving it faster towards its doom.  I recover quickly and race in front of the turtle to herd it back towards the driveway and away from oncoming traffic.

OK, new strategy. Now I know the turtle is Heavy. It is smelly and slimey. It is going to kick like hell when I lift it off the ground. It has extremely sharp nails. And it moves Fast.

I am going to lift it, and then move it over to the grassy area where I can direct it back to the culvert which I assume must be its home.

The turtle also has a new plan of attack. Immediately flail like hell and try to scratch me.

I lift the turtle and begin to turn. As I do, the turtle gets a nail into my forearm and with an amazing vault that would make Mary Lou Retton proud, she flies upward into the air.  During my last moments of  physical contact with the crazed turtle, I lean out and stretch my arms towards the grass.

The turtle lands on her back. I rush towards the turtle to assist.  You would have thought I would have learned to leave the turtle alone, but No. Now there was a large turtle on it's back, and it was my fault and I was going to flip her over and then direct her to the culvert.

It is difficult for me to describe how quickly this turtle turned over.  I was a mere step and a half  coming towards the turtle when it flipped over like something out of the Last Exorcism and began running - yes, running - towards me. Weird little turtle snout all out and aiming at my exposed in sandals feet.

Holy Crap. This turtle has gone wild! I am about to be on the receiving end of some heinous turtle attack that will be featured on one of those Discovery channel about dumbasses who end up being bitten by the Only spider of its kind in the known world and practically die specials.  The last thing my daughter and her best friend will see is my hand, falling into the fetid water of the culvert as the turtle drags me to its lair.

So I do what all liberal white ladies do. I make a last ditch effort to herd the turtle in the other direction. This mainly consists of  me NOT TOUCHING the turtle, while dancing around it to discourage it from running into traffic.

The turtle, who can not believe my stupidity and anthropomorphizing of her plight, gets disgusted and turns back towards the culvert.

I look up. Several cars have gathered Behind my husband.  They can not get around him, as I have left the passenger side door open.  They have been watching my whole unwitting performance art piece. ( I really should have "super-starred" for them)

I smile. I walk back over to the car and get in. Terrance shakes his head. The girls are laughing.

Emily leans forward, "Mom. I think we should call you the turtle whisperer."

Whorish Ravens

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Once captured, the koi were consigned to service on her rain boots.

Hey. What's that up there?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oh Hey! It is a link to a little gallery o'rugs I have made!

Since I can't seem to get hired due to my habit of over-sharing on the internet, maybe I can sell some rugs.

Humor me, people. 


Yesterday, I told Emily that we needed to do some errands.  Predictably, she balked.

"but Whhhhyyyyyyyyyy do I have to go wiiiiiiitttttthhhhh  youuuuuuuuuuu?"

I lay in my bed in the sunshine.

"Because I am dying to go spend another 150 bucks on uniforms for you that equals two pairs of pants and a shirt and you need to be with me when they hem the pants because if I am paying 50 bucks for a pair of pants for you then goddammit they are hemming them for free."

Silence ensues. The rabbits scamper.  Then I say:

" I also want to stop by your new school."

This gets her attention.

"What For?", she queries.

"Nothing really. I just have a few questions."

More Silence. Then this retort from my daughter:

"Nothing good can come from this."

Which made me belly laugh. Because my kid obviously knows me really well.


We ran down to pick up the CSA basket tonight.  I swapped some of the melon for an extra kohlrabi and an extra spaghetti squash.  Em and I got home and I began to peel the kohlrabi for a quick salad.

Terrance appeared in the kitchen to pick through the basket and investigate this weeks bounty. He is on his way to some kind of rockem-sockem kickboxing class.

(aside: Oh, the moaning and complaining post-exercise. Thank god I don't share a bed with him anymore.)

He says: "What are you making?"

Me: "A quick Kohlrabi salad"

Him: "Hey, I was at a fancy restaurant in NYC last week and they served a Kohlrabi slaw with the meal. It was really good." He continues to expand on the amazing deliciousness of the salad at the restaurant.

I balefully turn and stare at him. This man who, for the past two months, has refused to eat my kohlrabi salad ( which is the SAME as this slaw he is raving over).

I ponder if this is how a certain percentage of husbands get stabbed in the kitchen.

He leaves and I finish dicing the kohlrabi. On the very last bit, I slice into my finger with the knife.

I immediately grab the kitchen towel, apply pressure, raise my hand over my head and finish dressing the salad with Lime, salt, pepper and a smidge of cayenne with my unmarred hand.

I serve Emily her salad and chicken.

Then I walk to the bathroom to attend to my cut.


I had to re-pierce my left ear this year.

It was shocking because I have had my ears pierced since I was 7 and simply never considered that one hole would make an executive ear-decision to close after 34 Years.

I was trying to put earrings on in July when I found that it was a no-go. This found me then walking into stores that sell decent jewelry to find a pair of thin real-gold hoops.  I can not abide being poked by studs ( in more ways than one, my friends) so if I was going to commit to earrings, hoops it had to be.

Since I no longer wear jewelry - no rings (nope, no wedding ring), no earrings, no necklaces - it has been strange to get re-accustomed to the hoops in my ears. A subtle reminder of my much younger self.

I am submitting my ethics applications this week. Finally the research plan and the millions of consent letters I have to write are all in place...ready to go before the faceless tribunal who exists - I just know it - to make my life miserable. I also then get to try to convince some childcare to let me use them as a  research site.

I had a moment the other day when I thought:

 "Fuck me, I am going to get in there and absolutely nothing is going to happen. I will spend three months and not prove a goddamn thing. What kind of pathetic dissertation will THAT be?  I will get to write a dissertation about how I didn't hear anything. "

After this minion of self doubt had finished snacking on my professional sensibility, I wrote to Maija:

"Remind me if I ever do another PhD to just do a fucking textual analysis of authors who are dead."

Why "The Giving Tree" is One Messed Up Book

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now, if you are one of the 5 people who has heard me rant about this in lecture feel free to turn away now.

Otherwise, listen up.

I try really hard not to get all judgey when it comes to books. As a person who reads nearly everything I know that the appeal of a story is so intimately ensconced in ones personage that it is nearly impossible to detangle why you love some stories so much. Maybe it was Who read them to you, maybe it was Where you found the book, maybe the love of your life (you know, the one to whom you finally said yes to anal?) just dumped you for the skank down the hall and the only reason you did not fling yourself from the top of the dorm was that Danielle Steel novel.

I don't need to know - well, maybe about the anal - but that is a whole different blog post.

I do not like The Giving Tree. When I come across papers of Undergrads who wax poetically about the beauty of this book, I want to give them a shake. If I were to meet these individuals:

I would flee in terror.  ( I would also take aside any romantic partner of these simpletons and tell them to run far, far, away...)

Now the why: Yes, I get that the Tree "loves" the boy.  I get for some people that this is some kind of metaphor for Mother love.  For others it may denote some kind of romantic love, the all giving selflessness of archetypal L-O-V-E.


Both ideas are shit.  At least if you are beyond that age of 10.

The tree in this book - a feminine voice - gets all kinds of fucked.  She gets disassembled - literally. She gives everything.  She gets stripped down to the barest of entities...then gets sat upon.

The boy? I know this boy, don't you? The one who comes back when he needs something? The one who liked you enough to have sex with ( as long as no one else knew about it) - but not enough to date?  The father/brother/cousin/friend who wants you to loan him money, or drive him around when he lost his license because of DUI ( which was most likely the fault of some cunt, amiright?) - and if you dare to say no...Good Luck, sister.

This boy is entitled.

This boy will rape if he can get away with it, and then blame the victim of his rape. This boy will tell the police how his wife MADE him punch her, because she wouldn't shut the fuck up. This boy will tell his daughter that it is her fault when he rapes her.

This boy will start a war, then make up lies as to why he did it.  This boy will steal from the vulnerable and then tell you it was their fault for being stupid. This boy will deny climate change, despite scientific proof. This boy will feel he has the right and obligation  to tell other people how to live - who to love, how to express their sexuality, and if they should control their reproductive systems.

If I taught this boy in a preschool classroom ( and I have), I would spend a great deal of time teaching him how to consider the feelings of others. Most likely his parents have told him that he is special beyond imagination. They have praised leadership in his character, when it is, in fact, bullying.

I would watch him closely - and this would make him very uncomfortable. He doesn't like to be watched, because then you might see that he is doing things - things that are not acceptable, poking his friends until they lash out, then crying to you for being hit. Taking things from other peoples lunch. Pocketing other peoples toys. Kicking over other peoples block structures.

This boy doesn't understand when an adult doesn't buy his bullshit.  It has always worked before, after all.

The tree never says No to this boy. She gives, and gives and gives. Long past the point of pain, long past the point of being able to survive.

What is this saying to our children - when we read them this book, with love in our voices?

Are we saying: "I will do this for you"?

Are we saying: "If you love someone YOU should do this for Them?"

Are we saying: "If a woman loves you enough, she will give you everything that she is, no questions asked?"

Are we saying: "A boy you love should strip you down to nothing, and you should be grateful he comes back?"

I call bullshit.

And that is why I do not like the Giving Tree.

(perhaps later I will write "Why "I love you Forever" really creeps me out)

How Can I get more Dawn?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

You ask yourselves. I know. I often wonder the very same thing. Or would if I wasn't my own best and most appreciative audience.

Seriously, I KILL inside my mental amphitheater.  It's all lighters and encores in here, baby.

Where you too can be privvy to the usually funny, occasionally esoteric, often confusing conversation in my mind.

Where else can you get things like this?

"At the dance academy for the morbidly shy, skeletons must be used for partners"

Or This:

"The source of her headaches was obvious to onlookers. Marie-Catherine, however, remained oblivious."

It is cryptic comic GOLD.

I also just realized that this past week marked my Six Year Blogging birthday ? anniversary? Blogiversary?

Six Years.

I'm uncharacteristically speechless.

Storied Formation: Tender Morsels

Friday, August 19, 2011

I know I didn't tell you the book in the last post.  But then again, I am a contrarian doxy and did this purposely so the handful of you would come back to hear the rest of the story midst my mental meanderings.

Have you ever wondered what two friends doing their PhD's email about?  Here is Maija:
(oh, we memory detectives sally forth under the tutelage of tsw... pointing out everyone's storied formation and its meaning. shit, there's a detective novel there dawn... let's write one!)
Which elucidated this from me:
I laughed at your idea of us writing a Storied Formation detective novel. With an audience of Zero.
And then we began furiously emailing about Singularity and my stance that: "I don't know that we can create thinking machines, or tolerate them existing.  As such this is why virtual reality and special effects do nothing to move me. It is not real, despite what it wishes.  It simply re-mediates reality. 

But were it to happen? Then yes. Machines would move far faster that humans, for we are bound by culture. We can not move faster than culture and it is bound by humans. "

I know, right? Hold off on that flood of dinner party invitations for the sparkling wits, Maija and Dawn and their ever so interesting to others conversations on things Not related to their dissertations

But I digress. 

The Book that crushed me? Blasted and etched itself into my most heavily fortified spaces?

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan.

As a child, I particularly loved the Lang Fairy Books. At first I was annoyed when I would notice story elements repeat over tales from different cultures.  Later it became a tool I would use to relate one story - one culture - to another. It was in those books that I began to understand the inextricable quality of story to culture and that culture is more similar than dissimilar despite where the culture is geographically situated.

The story - and I am by no means intending to write a "review" of the book - combines two fairy tales in my mind- East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Snow White and Rose Red.  (The real one, people. No prettied up shit here)

The objections that got this book booted from the list are spurious, at best. There is rape. There is incest. There is abortion. However, to quantify the essence of a story by the objectionable events located within the pages is so ridiculous as to be grotesque. I can think of one in particular (cough cough) which is held up to justify all sorts of immoral shit that exists between it's own pages - some pretty heinous buggery going down there.

I won't offer you story synopsis as you can get that on other sites written by people far better skilled than I. But bear with me as I deconstruct and attempt to articulate what moved me to dissolve in tears.

This has proved uncommonly thornish for me to express.  Which is, of itself, a perplexion - for I am rarely without words to describe.  I can only surmise that this is still  fresh, so close to my bone that I must cleave the words from a place particularly safeguarded and so I feel an uncustomary reticence.

Bear with me, I beg you.

There were two distinct messages that I received from Tender Morsels. In one, I cried as a Mother. In the other, I cried as a Woman.

Mother First:

The mother in this story goes to extraordinary lengths to keep her daughters from the pain of how they were conceived ( through incest, and then a gang rape). Far more than the societal shame ( although she fears that too), the mother seeks to raise her girls in a world without emotional discomfort.

Why did this make me cry?

Partly it is the understanding of the desire to keep from your child, your daughter, the terrors of the world.  The lengths to which you will go to protect, the careful manipulation of the world so that they see no ugliness, no gangs of boys, no fathers who molest. You do not want them to worry about walking home at night, or how their clothes may be interpreted in ways that could make them vulnerable to rape.

You want them to believe that they are strong and capable and will be given fair opportunities in life, work and relationships.You want them to know that their beauty does not come from some external measure of pretty. That the people they love will love them and never hurt them with forethought and malice.

Would I give up my life to protect Emily from pain?

There is a recurring nightmare I used to have when she was a toddler. In it, masked assailants would break into our house and I would bargain with them to not hurt her - to take me, rape me instead of her. I would tell her to run.  I wanted to bear it all in place of her.

It is much, much more than an issue of life as animation of flesh, a beating heart and synapses firing. In fact, the issue of life as physical animal seems inconsequential.

It is more an issue of standing still, locking your brakes into place and holding - gritting your teeth and holding, even as your brakes wear down and the smoke coming off them chokes you.

Would I stand still in my life to protect her - holding everything in a 1998 pattern to provide her with a sanctum? Even at the expense of Me?

What do you think? Would you? Have you? Have I? How many of us do just this - hang onto our illusion of security and normalcy far beyond it's usefulness, and further beyond natural endings?

The author wasn't done with me, I fear. No. She was pulling back her hammer for the next blow.


I confess that in my past year, as I rended and gnashed and poured ashes on my hair, I'd retained an idea that I deserved happiness. That I - of anyone I knew, More than anyone I knew - Deserved Happiness.  In every regard.  I guarded that idea like a virulent envy. Even as I had my body deconstructed and knit back together, even as my Wendy stitched my shadow back onto my self, I held onto this. I deserve to be happy.

Then I read this:

You may never be entirely happy; few people are. You may never achieve your heart's desire in this world, for people seldom do. Sit by enough deathbeds, Branza, and you will hear your fill of stories of missed chances, and wrong turnings and spurned opportunities for love. It is required of you only to be here, not be happy."

and like a thump in the gut, I disintegrated.


I read it again.  And cried.

The truth that fills that last sentence is so monumental that it still takes my breath away.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I made that sentence my screen saver so I can see it over and over: a scrolling mantra.

My happiness is not required. It is not obligated. I deserve no more than any other person living, and some may say that for my privilege of race and education that I deserve less.

It is a truth I have always peripherally known, but lost along the way while listening to whisper promises. My serpent promising me the apple.

The deed of which I am supremely liable is in not being Here.  Of removing myself to my own hearts desire in my head for too long and too often over this past year.

I failed myself in allowing me to linger in that other place. Perhaps it was a necessary part of healing. I can't be sure.

What I do know is that the rubble over which  I have lingered, turning over rocks and crooning my songs of loss, is being cleared. The patterns of treading water, of locking my burning brakes is done.

It is my time to re-build.

Storied Formation: Getting There

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A few weeks ago I read a book.

A book that shook my core so profoundly that I sobbed through the last 50 pages. Not just trickle of tear here and there. Sobbed. Like "end of Old Yeller" sobbed.

My friend Maija and I have been PhD Candidates under the same professor. Part of our tutelage has been being immersed in this professor's philosophy of the formation of our storied selves, the autobiography of our professional (and personal) personas as informed by our Reader personas. In Maija's more eloquent terms: We are the books we held.

It doesn't always happen in childhood, although for many of us it is where it starts. The first story that you became captivated by, or in...the first narrative that you imagined yourself in place of.... I mean how many American little girls wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House books? How many Canadian girls lost themselves in Anne of Green Gables? [Here I note a gendered and  hetero-normative specific bias to my formational book lists]

As a reader, I continue to be able to lose myself in story - something my friend Maija has a harder time doing. I can forget my critical "academic" mind and dissolve into the pages.  Perhaps because reading, even academic reading, has been mostly pleasurable I have never disassociated reading from bliss.

Therefore, when a story extends a papery finger and places it in spots so tender and unguarded as to make me sob? I notice. I attend.  I ponder. I ruminate and reflect.  I get uncomfortable and fret until I can articulate what got inside and how it did so.  The castle walls, after all, are not made to be breached. Therefore that which does demands close and particular attention.

The book had sat on my shelf since February. As I began my stumbling and inelegant dog-paddle back from my grief, I ignored the books on my shelves.  They had to wait until I was ready to read again.

This summer I have been reading like a fiend.  All the books that have been accumulating in stacks next to my bed? Now is their time.  This particular book was one of three I had ordered when the furor over the YA Feminist Lit list and it's subsequent removal of books from the list using means that still befuddle my imagination.

Being an oppositional bitch myself, any pulling/boycotting of a book signals to me that I MUST read this book. It's just the way I am built. Forbid me and you will find me climbing over barbed wire to get to the glittery contraband.  More than that, however, is my deeply held knowledge that someone will object to Everything.  Therefore, if you are going to go all "100 best list" on people, double down and have the ovarian fortitude to weather the storm, dammit.  Because there will be a storm.

I could make a "Best Vegetables In the World" list and get into a fight with someone over why Lima Beans were left off. Aside from my personal conjecture that Lima Beans are, in fact, the devils legume (Blech, Blech, Blech) I can entertain that there are humans who may like them. I would be highly suspicious of those humans ( if that is what they ARE), but I could accept it. That wouldn't mean I was changing my list.

Censorship, particularly of books, really chaps my ass.  There is never a good enough reason to decide for others what words they consume.

"But Dawn", say You, "What about obnoxious hate speech and racist rants".

"what of them?", I answer.

We will never be rid of hurtful and hate filled ideas. Allowing it to go underground only pushes it out in a more pus-filled and virulent form. While banning may bring comfort to the handwringers who allow themselves to be comforted by token and empty gestures, it does nothing else.  It doesn't stop Hate. It doesn't End Rape. It doesn't Change Oppression.  What it does do is to ingrain a code, a double speak, so that the preachers of these noxious and foul schema can continue while hiding in plain sight.

The satisfaction of censorship, to those misguided do-gooders who seek to do so, does not lay with the removal of the words, per se, but with the Ideas. And we all know that Ideas simply can not be stopped. 

Murder in Ikea

Monday, August 15, 2011

"What do you think of this couch?"
"Don't like it"

"How about these chairs?"
"Yeah, hate them."

"And this? How does this strike you?"
"You seriously like this piece of shit? It's hideous."

"I kind of like this couch - it seems comfy to read on."
"That couch is awful. Who would want a couch like that in their house?"

"Here, try this chair. I like this one."
"Terrance, It's the SAME chair you hated five minutes ago, just in a different color."

"Listen. I am 36 years old. I deserve to have real furniture. I do not want leather couches. I am sick of living on futons, mother fucker. I am not afraid to cut you."

"Did you just say that when you divorce me I can choose my own furniture?
It is O-N mutha-fucka...."

All right, so this may have been slightly more dramatized than the real event....but it was how it went in my mind. I think Ikea should have a lawyer on the way out, so you can draw up the divorce papers. Big ups to the Playmobil Playahs. 

I look forward to furnishing my house in Bookcases, Chaises and floor lamps after the divorce.

Needless to say, we have never gone to IKEA together, ever again.

First Published 2006

Dear White Actresses of the world:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I want to personally thank you for your refreshing choice of a movie role as White, Upstanding, Female Ingenue who bravely battles racism by your clever manipulation of your white privilege. This is as true today as when I first wrote this in 2007.

Where would the poor black/latino children be without you? I mean - honestly. Had they not seen your perfect giant teeth and size 2 body clad in designer clothing, they would be forever doomed to their careers as future pimps/drug dealers/thugs/rioters and crack whores.

You have inspired me to run down into an unsavory part of town and start, I mean "re-educating" them. Them being the non-whites, of course.

Perhaps you can bring them Jesus Christ as their personal savior in your next movie.

Maybe you can BE Jesus Christ in your next movie. I bet Mel would love to direct.

And Oh, I love this flow chart with the passion of a million suns. Why Yes, I DO love Coolio! :

No. I can't Help You

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I have found myself saying this more and more frequently.

Not because I am the meanest mommy on earth (although truth be told, I may be). No.

It is because my daughter is nine. Nine years old. The age at which I walked to school on my own and babysat my brother (alone)  for large chunks of time. The age at which I roamed the neighborhood on my bike and would disappear to the library for whole afternoons. The age at which I can not ever remember my mother making me breakfast, let alone bacon, eggs or pancakes on a week day.

Now, I am not expecting her to be me. When I was her age, my parents had separated and were almost divorced. I had seen and experienced things that I would never,never wish for her. I would, in fact, get stabby if anyone tried to expose her to those things. No, my life was very, very different.

No. I am talking about learned helplessness. I am talking about "I can't pour my own milk" or "I can't turn on my own shower". Without even trying, she calls out "Mama, can you help me?"

I confess to falling for this - Lots. Her father is even worse as he can't bear to hear her fuss or struggle over anything. He is the one who gets up in the morning and makes the pancakes and bacon ( which needs to be chewy, not crispy). Any suggestion to her that she attend to her own breakfast leads to full out tears and conniptions. SHE CAN'T!!! SHE'S JUST A LITTLE GIRL!!!!

This came to a head a few weekends ago. Her father had been away since Wednesday, and she failed to sleep  between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. This intrinsically means that I must be made to fail to sleep as well.  Because who would you complain to about not being able to sleep if you didn't wake your mother up to tell her that you can't sleep? With each day, I was becoming more frayed and irritable.

By Saturday, I had just about had it.  She kept me up Friday night, then woke me at 7:30 a.m. to request - and I quote:

"Scrambled eggs made with cream and bacon. Chewy bacon, cause I don't like it crispy. Chewy , right? and the eggs with cream and ketchup on the side. and can I crack the eggs? Oh, and I want passionfruit juice too. Remember the bacon needs to be chewy. I don't like crispy bacon."

Apparently, the one glaring eyeball that was peering out from under my pillow and the sharp exhale did not CLEARLY signal the impending danger. Shit, Clowns could have been sending her both semaphore and smoke signals from the end of the bed, and I believe she would have blissfully continued her assault.

My head rose higher. "Get yourself something for breakfast", I muttered.

There was moaning.

Followed by rolling around on the bed.


I rolled over and tried to re-establish my position of sleeping.

Intentional Nudging began. Now, my kid is the queen of the intentional nudge. She uses it on me when she can tell I am falling back to sleep. It is designed to get maximum effect with minimum effort. The finger would find a soft space in my arm, and the poke both goes forward, while digging up. A twist pinch poke.

This drives me CRAZY. Like raging bull, Mom gone psycho crazy. Lucky for her about 89% of the time, I am still asleep enough to not know I am being poked. But the 11% of the time I do? Whoa, Baby.

This was one of those days.

I leapt up. Pillows scattering. Eyes aflame. My voice was low and close. It was my mothers voice. The one that she used when she was really angry. The one where I talk through my teeth, while maintaining constant eye contact.

"Let me tell you something. I don't know who gave you the impression that I was placed here to serve you breakfast, but you are woefully mistaken and if you poke me again, you will spend the rest of the day in your room." If memory serves, I may have inserted some swear words. Other vague threats may have been described, but I was half asleep and irrationally mad. In every sense.

And then? I got up and made breakfast. Cause now I was awake and it seemed silly to NOT make breakfast. Right?

July 3, 2007 Gimlet Eye


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Even a Gorgon can not always be wrathful, harpy talons outstretched, screeching with splenetic judgement of man.

For when she woke, the snakes were quiet, loosely coiled along the sides of her face.

They slithered and turned gently. Glissading along her temples, murmuring and sighing words of love in their not quite awake reverie.

In some lights, you could see the maiden she once was, all rosiness and anticipation.

But now, she lay in bed, listening to the sussurations of the snakes, luxuriating at the bottom of their pandora's box, warming themselves in the sun.

storm warning

Saturday, August 06, 2011

His weather is constant.

Moody. Angry. Tense. Stormy. Silent. Glowering. Critical. Unforgiving. Disappointed. Turbulent. Dour.

Separated by unpredictable, unexplained silences.

His sunny days are for other people. His audience finds him charming. Erudite. A pleasure.

I have built my weather proofing with skin toughened from 20 years of this inconstant and perpetual storm.

But for her? I shield her the best I can, when I can. I intervene. I step between and deflect. I remind and caution. I divert and disperse.

The gift I thought I was giving her when I chose the immovability of a father, the never abandon you, the pendulum weight of responsibility and duty, all gifts I thought I wanted for myself?

They batter me. They wear me down as I place her under the aegis of my breastbone and hold my hands over her ears, staring at him.

These are no gifts. They are dead-weights, millstones as albatrosses flying over our heads. They are bloated, fetid road kill.

I do not know the people he wants, the wife he would prefer, the child the would shine over and thrum approval. Those females, those not us, are neat and tidy, aiming to please him and show gratitude or appreciation.

I only know that they do not live here, do not live inside us. We are not Them.

"Start no fires", I whisper into her ear, as I open my weather annealed skin to drape over her as best I can.

The better to eat you with

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The old cliché is that the shoemakers kids are the ones walking around barefoot, right? Well, kids of early childhood professionals are the ones who fail to adhere to developmental timelines. They are also the ones on whom all the advice their parent has ever spoken will be guaranteed to NOT work. They will talk late, be constipated as exclusively breast-fed babies, and get chronic ear infections. They will also become biters in their classroom.

Yes, I was the Mom of the Biter. That Biter – you know the one who took a chunk out of your child’s face? Then followed that up with the bite on the back the next day? Yep – That was my kid.

What doubled my pleasure, so to speak, was my dual role as point person for the angry parents who wanted me to “do something” about that Biter.

Logically, I could tick off the reasons for Emily’s biting. She was small. At a year old she weighed a whopping 13 pounds so her classmates were behemoths in comparison. She used her teeth when she felt threatened or unsure. She also bit people when she was overcome with love or happiness. Knowing her life long struggle with the modulation of her emotions and her eventual diagnosis of ADD, it doesn’t shock the Me watching seven years later. But try to explain to another’s mother that your child loves her child so much, that she bit them. Not a popular sell.

For Emily, she was also dealing with a significant language delay. Having experienced chronic ear infections from the age of 3 months on, she was a very late talker. She would get frustrated with a friend, and since the word or objection couldn’t be quantified as a word – the teeth were handy and fast.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The day that another child bit Emily, I fought back my urge to punch a 14-month-old child in the face. I also knew that my husband was going to go apeshit when she saw the marks on her cheek. “Who was it, Who was it, Who was it” he grilled me over and over.

“Are you asking me as the mother or as the Director?”, I responded

“The Mother”, he said

“I don’t know, as the mother. Staff doesn’t tell you the name of the biter.”

I braced myself for the follow up.

“Then Director. I am asking you as the Director.” His eyes were widening, mouth tightening.

“As Director, I must tell you that we don’t release the name of the child. It is a matter of program policy and confidentiality. I can assure you, however, that the parents have been notified and are working closely with the staff.”

I took a deep breath. I braced myself, for the gale was a-coming.

“What!!! You will tell me Dawn. You will tell me who bit our child! You will tell me …or I’ll sue you. I’ll sue the Center! This is a matter of health! What if that child has something?” He paused, panting and huffing.

After several more threats to my professional well-being, he desisted. The tables turned soon after. WE became the parents of THE BITER!!!

Her reign was not mercifully brief. She had a long and glorious stint as the top shark in the pond. It persisted through the Two-year-old room, off and on.

The crowning moment in my title as “Mother of the Biter” came after one of Emily’s best beloved friends transitioned into the classroom.

Now, Early Childhood people worth their salt will tell you that groups of children behave in some very predictable ways. In groups of Toddlers, new children are often targeted with a bite. This may come from the last child to transition into the group – or may come from the “Top Toddler” so to speak. I wasn’t kidding when I referred to my groups of Children as “Wolf Packs”. They have very, very similar characteristics.

J was coming into the Ones and Emily was overjoyed. She was her buddy in badass behavior. In fact, this group of Mom’s and I often joked that there must have been a streak of Bad Ass in the water, since we had produced some of the most Bad Ass group of little girls to grace the center in quite a long time.

Day One, Emily greets J and Bites her on the right Cheek. The bite takes up about 70 percent of J’s cheek. It is a nasty thing. Purple and swollen. I want to cry when I see this other child. It is bad. It’s a bite that, as Director, I have to call the Mother about. A mother whom I considered to be a friend. As with my husband, I am going to be questioned. As with my husband, I am going to have to hold the professional line.

This Mother was actually OK. This was her second child, and she was a bit more relaxed when it came to life in the child care center. Her husband, predictably, flipped out. I believe that she later told me that he had wanted to come beat up the Toddler who had bitten his child. I understood.

No, the beauty of my tenuous situation came from another mother in the group. Mother of the child who had bitten my own child, in fact. Having observed J’s bitten face, she approached me in the hall.

Her: “Boy, J has a bad bite!”
Me: “Yeah, It is a big one”
Her: “You know, I’ve been thinking. The parents of that Biter have got to do something about this. I mean, they can’t be very good parents if their child keeps biting, right? What kinds of parents have a child that bites like this?

Me:” I can tell you that the parents are very aware of the situation. They are working closely with the staff and they feel just terrible about the biting.”

Her: “Still, if they were better parents, their child would stop biting.”

At age one, Emily taught me that while she is Of me, she is not me. She has to make her own way, as hard as that is for me to watch and experience. So what kinds of parents have the biter – or the hitter, or the pincher, or the pusher-downer? Ones just like Terrance and I, apparently.

February, 2006

Morphic Resonance

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

I am certain that there is no place for me.

Despite whatever costume face I have affixed to my body for the day, I know without looking that there will be no one else that will quite "get" me. Even if there will be, I won't be able to find them. And if I do find them, I won't be able to convey our similitude.

I will be left, mid floor, waving my hands about, nattering on, trying to explain how much we have in common, my relief manifold at having found even the most minuscule of connections in the vast sea of my uneasy neurosis and abject loneliness.

Until, like a bound mime, I am forced to concede that I cannot hope to reveal the secret that I know lay between us, waiting to be unearthed.

So I fade, back into my shadows, back into my hidey hole covered with the dead vines and leaf litter of 40 years, my self imposed privation settling on me like a tattered cloak.

There is nothing for you here.

I am but a shadow dawn. 
◄Design by Pocket