Xhaustion - Live it, Love it - BE IT

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Xhaustion – the new fragrance for today’s woman

Xhaustion- for the woman who works full time – in or out of the home

Paris, France- Women cheered as the new fragrance “Xhaustion” was launched. Created by accident when a pan of milk boiled down, burning the bottom of the pan. The pan was left with lemon dish soap to soak in the sink, and later had peaches, applesauce and hotdogs placed inside while the dishes were being rinsed off.

While the fragrances creator is still unknown, the Man who brought the fragrance to market had this to say about his unknown muse. “I am entirely grateful for the fact that who ever this mistress of scent may be, she felt compelled to simply throw the pan out in the garbage. When I walked by that trash can and smelled that aroma, I knew I had a winner,” stated Jean St. Schadenfreude.

Aimed at the woman is so tired she can’t tell her black shoe from her blue shoe, Xhaustion signifies a departure from Schadenfreude’s earlier, floral based fragrances:

“The Woman who wears Xhaustion projects a sense of inner defeat. She seems to say to those around her “Just eat the fucking cheese doodles and leave me alone.”

When approached on the street, women who smelled Xhaustion were unaware that they smelled anything.

“Is there something in this bottle?” asked an unidentified woman, walking by in a broken heel and hunched over with a large, overstuffed purse.

 Another woman, with one baby in a front carrier, and another in a backpack was heard to say, “What? What? Good God - do you see a binky? I can’t find the binky!!,” before she ran down the street – apparently consumed by the joy of the Xhaustion.

Whether worn for a night falling asleep on the couch while watching “Lost”  reruns after eating several Advil Liqui-Gels for your raging headache, or a day filled with attempts to teach your child to speak Japanese phonetically so the other playgroup mothers don’t cast you out, Xhaustion is a very versatile fragrance.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

 I've been promising my sister in law for eons that I would scan the few pictures I have of my brother and I as younger versions. Since I had the scanner out for the dissertation, I figured I might as well those these on  too...

1974 - Dawn and Donnie
 I wish I had the picture of he and I an 1986, when I am in full new wave punk regalia, spiked pink/orange hair and jewelry..and he looks kind of bored and irritated. The way all 12 year old boys look when forced to pose with their sisters. 

Of course, in this picture I am still his beloved. He followed me around. He slept in my bed when he could.

Here he is circa 1986, with our sister Jessie in Cape Cod. I loved those vacations, for I love the sea. Donnie and I were swimmers, always. I am not sure Jessie ever took to it - partly due to her very fair skin and the fact that we continually had to put nuclear blast level sunblock on her to keep her from frying. My brother and I wore little to no sunblock then, the natural protection of our Cherokee great grandmother echoing through our quick to deeply tan skin.

Finally, appropo of nothing, here is the initial sketch for the Red Riding Hood rug. I am not entirely happy with the way the wolf is proportioned, but this will be the general pose. Intimate, maybe slightly menacing, but more intimate than anything, as if he is whispering in her ear. Promising Turkish Delight.

Rosemary Sprig Smile

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sometimes.....Even though you still have Hours of transcription to finish...

You realize that the snow is perfect outside.......

And it is the End of February.....

And you really haven't had snow all winter.........

so you drag your kid out into the magical softness and make snow people with rosemary sprig smiles, crazed juniper hair and dried daisy eyes.....

and then lay in the snow, making snow angels and letting the damp cold fog your glasses while you look up at the sky in wonder.

laugh, dammit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sometimes, after you have been transcribing preschool conversations all day in your ratty old UVM tshirt and leggings, drinking far too much coffee and endlessly worrying about having enough data because you have no time anymore.....

your daughter can come home from school and make you laugh.

Now, back to work.

Coco Loco

Monday, February 20, 2012

I can be a fearsome human.  Baleful, even.

Until I am with my rabbits. Honestly, it is almost shameful to see me dote on the rabbits. Had you told me ten years ago that I would share space with two free roam house rabbits, I would have mocked you mercilessly. 

And yet, here is where I find myself. 

So, as I am currently thigh deep in Dissertation writing ( which frankly is not the type of thigh high I would prefer, but this here is a family discussion)...Please enjoy these ridiculous rabbit videos I made for you. As an added bonus, you can *almost* hear Coco snoring in one of them...but very faintly. It is the squeaky sound. Then she wakes up and gives me the very disapproving rabbit stare as I laugh.

I would not suggest messing with her Hay:

And a rare appearance by Jackson...complete with his amazing "Play Toss" ability. Bet you never knew that rabbits could play toss, did you? 

If Coco were Human, she would be L'il Kim...before all the crazy plastic surgery:


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alien Nation

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A couple of years ago, I TA'ed a Young Adult Literature course taught by my friend Maija.

The title of the course was "Alien Nation" and at the time, I thought it was clever and funny; a perfect title for a course on Young Adult Literature.

( oh, we language lovers with our double entendres...we crack ourselves up)

Now, at the time of the course, I was the mother of a not-quite teen. Logically and empirically, I knew of the changes her body was beginning. I knew the science of the brain chemistry changes.  I knew of the peer bullshit that was about to begin in earnest.

I've jokingly told hundreds of parents of toddlers that they might want to take a good look at the utter incomprehensibility of the behavior and rationale of a two year old because they were going to see it again as when said child is a teenager....and they wouldn't be able to pick up their teen and put them in their crib.

The context of that previous statement was that we need to parent with consistency and respect because we are setting forth the boundaries of the later relationship. Toddlers need strong boundaries. To be two years old and able to dictate the way adults act? Terrifying.

We set the boundaries with our children when they are young, and we renegotiate them as they age. Some of these boundaries are easy peasy: "Sure you can cut your own bread with a butter knife", which later becomes "Sure you can fix yourself some soup in the microwave", which later becomes "Please make dinner".  A gradual stepping up of responsibility, or to use a Vygotskian term- "scaffolding" - until the child is able to competently able to perform a task.

Other boundaries are much much harder: Body. Sexuality. Privacy. Separation and Independence.

The line we walk with these boundaries is, frankly, exhausting and well -  horrifying. As in "when I think about my child and sexuality I want to crawl into a cave and weep". Let me be clear, this is not because I don't want  for my daughter all of the wonderful things that a healthy sexuality can bring....but because I know all the dangers and pitfalls along the way to that healthy sexuality.

However, because I am the Adult, I must be able to remove my fears from the equation in order to scaffold her to the place she needs to be.  She, after all, is NOT ME. Her life has not been, nor ever will be, MY LIFE. Her experiences are not and will never be MY Experiences.

She is not Me.

(This, by the way, is a lesson that I am not sure all parents learn, given the culture of "My Kid is So Special")

Now, here is where I get to the reason for this post.

There is a video, which I will not link, of a father going batshit nutty after his daughter posts a mean letter on her facebook page in which she complains that she is not his slave and how she should be paid for all the chores she does around the house etc.  At the end of this video, the man takes his gun (!) and shoots his daughters laptop as punishment.  This is after he attempts to rebut her every point by telling her how good she has it...how hard HE works, and how much harder he had it at her age.

To be fair, I didn't make it to the point in the video where he shoots the laptop, mostly because his inability to realize that he was echoing his daughters teen tantrum clearly wasn't sinking in and I was getting angry.  Furthermore, I have seen guns pulled out in anger, and have had my own biological father shoot at cars I was sitting inside because my mother was peeling off in the car after a fight, or kill the dogs with same gun when they wouldn't stop barking, or bring out gun and "pretend" to look for Santa/Easter Bunny so he could shoot him.

 I don't find gun threats funny. Or lesson teaching.

The reaction to this letter/video, seems to have been mostly "You Go DAD!" and "Teens are so disrespectful/entitled today, I would have NEVER done that".

OK. To the second group, the "I never acted like that and I was utterly respectful to my parent(s)" people....I call BULLSHIT. UTTER AND COMPLETE BULLSHIT!

You did act just like that.

Believe me. I heard you act like that when I was a teen. Our parents heard you act like that when they were teens...because that is what Teens DO. We, collectively, were "those teens". We tried to get out of things, we complained when we had to do chores, we bitched and moaned to our peers about the sorry state of our lives and how our parents enslaved and denied us our basic human rights.

The problem now is that teens do it in such a transparent and instantly broadcast to the world manner. They don't do it in hushed tones at sleepovers, or even sotto voce over the one phone in the kitchen (with the super long tangled cord so you could try to get as far away from the other members of the family as possible). They post it on the internet. They text it, they record themselves Saying it and post it on youtube for the whole world to witness.

Why do they do this?

Because they are teens and their pre-frontal cortex isn't fully developed. It's why we don't give them certain rights. Their decision making skills aren't fully "on-line" as it were. You know, the same reasons that their car insurance is so expensive.  They don't always think things through to the end. They are impulsive.

We, as parents and adults, should expect them to be less than logical. It's kind of their job. Their brains and bodies are going through SERIOUS hormonal and chemical fuckery. They have become aliens in their own bodies, prone to shifting and sudden landscape changes.

Another thing that bothered me about that video? Privacy. Yes, I know the daughter is 16....and she posted the letter on her facebook page...and that things on the internet aren't private....But...

There is a line that has to develop between parent and child, that line being privacy. It's part of a healthy separation and is really difficult for parents to respect. But Yes, Teens have a certain right to their privacy. They have the right to bitch and moan to their friends about what an asshat you are. Even if you are feeding and clothing them. Even if you are buying them laptops and ipods.

I know. As the provider of those things, it feels ungrateful. Yet, it is what it is. And please don't use the "I had it so much worse than you" shtick, even if it is true. Remember what I said about their lives not being yours?  When you devolve to that argument,  you are now at the emotional level of your teen, and that, honestly, isn't attractive.

When the father found that letter - not intended for him to see - and then rebroadcast that letter? Trampled all over her right to privacy. There was no pressing health/safety concern that he had to address. She wasn't shooting up heroin or having unprotected sex with people. She didn't say she was about to kill herself.

She was being a teenager. She was complaining. She was, perhaps, even saying some things which might be true.

I, for instance, clocked a shit load of babysitting hours from the ages of 14 to 16. I had to be home right after school to pick up my baby sister...who was being dropped off by her child care provider at about 2:45. I then cared for Jessie until our parents got home at 5 p.m. or so.  Did I do this? Yes. Did I complain - bitterly - about my having to do this, about not getting to hang out with friends after school? Absolutely.  Was what I complained about true? Yes.  Would my parents screaming at me that I should be grateful about caring for my infant sister because they clothed and fed me have helped change my attitude? No.

Teens - like toddlers - are built to be completely egotistical.  Shockingly similar brain chemistry, folks.  Which is why arguing with either can be similarly frustrating and pointless.

When Emily, now a full blown teenager, begins to throw tantrums, I try to establish a couple of things.

She may not be verbally disrespectful to either parent:

She tries to bad mouth Terrance to me all the time,and while I am allowed the privilege of being a smart ass to him, she is Not. One of us is his wife and the adult. And you can THINK it, but don't let me hear you say it.

There are some things/decisions that will not change:

I don't give a rats ass if every child on the face of the planet has one, SHE is not allowed to have a facebook account.  Arguing with me does nothing to sway me. In fact, it makes me send her to her room. And believe me, she tries to argue. She gives it her best supreme court justice attempt. She stomps. She shuts doors with intent and drama. She occasionally glares.

There are consequences to bad decisions:

If you lost your ice skates and I have to buy a new pair, you now owe me the $$ for the new skates. Logical Consequences. X=Y. If I have bought 8 protractors and suddenly, on Sunday Afternoon, you find you need a protractor and can't find one because your room is the hellmouth - Well then. After I make you spend 5 hours cleaning your room, I may go and buy you a protractor, but you are going to attempt to clean and find one first. And Lying makes it all worse. I may not punish you for the act, but I will punish you for the lie.

I never threaten unless I mean it:

This is a tough one for too many people. As a teacher, if I used idle threats I would have been trampled all over. If I gave you fair warning that next time I have to ask you to put away your computer, then you are losing it for a week?  It's happening. So don't threaten with crazy shit you don't intend to do.

 (cough cough, my husband... whose last threat was that she would never go to camp ever again in her life if she failed her exams, and that was because she was complaining about studying for the exams and how Hard her life was/is, and how  tired she is/was from being at school all day...)

All those idle threats do is teach your kid that you don't mean it, and they can amp it up to the next level ( or 2) before you do anything. It goes without saying that they have no problem with amping it up. To 11.

I will not embarrass you in front of your friends:

Sure, I wear my super cool tshirts and quirky outfits which make you wish that I looked like the other moms. But I will discipline you in private. Teens need to save face in a way that adults forget. It is ALL about the social group at this age....you don't want to stick out of the herd too much. Yes, I will give you the look in public. The one that broadcasts to you that it will be ON when we get home, but doing the discipline in public? I won't do it.

I will try my damnedest to respect your privacy:

So, after living 12 years with zero privacy ( Can I get a What What from all my fellow parents who haven't used the toilet alone in several years?), this is a tough one.  Not just with body stuff, but life stuff too.

While I am Emily's mother and hope that I have built a healthy line of communication between us, I am not her Friend. There are going to be things that she doesn't tell me.  This is both a  good thing and makes me sad.

On the one hand, I am aiming to raise a woman who can launch into the world and have the tools to survive. On the other hand, I have protected and nurtured this person for so long, that the habit is hard to break.

Yet perhaps it is within the idea of protection and nurturing that I need to bring some scrutiny. Protection and nurturing doesn't equal "smoothing everything over". It doesn't mean "I do the work for you".  It means, I think, to scaffold for you...to help you notice the super huge cliff off which you are about to blithely jump. Then to patch you up when you insist on jumping. Not to put a big cushion at the bottom, or prevent you from making a decision about jumping.

When I worked with 4 year old boys, I found they didn't listen to me if I overstated my case. It wasn't until I stopped preventing them from experiencing that they began to heed my words. My warnings about a playground game which was clearly going to turn into an unpleasant experience couldn't be heard if I always warned and nothing happened.  My suggesting that I had a concern that rubbing snow in peoples faces was, perhaps, not the best idea became that much more powerful when the game went very badly and everyone was in tears after 3 minutes.

As our children become teens, our role as "consultant" needs to expand.  There needs to be an implicit understanding that we have been working together to craft the child's decision making skills. And then we have to TRUST that in as many situations as possible.  As terrifying as that may be. If we rob them of the opportunity to make shitty decisions while still within the scaffold of parent/child safety, they never truly learn.

So, cut the teens a break. Yes, they can be maddeningly argumentative. And Contrary and tantrum throwing and stroppy. It is the last messy and difficult metamorphosis on the way to adulthood, so I think we can forgive them.

Parents who react in the same manner? I have no patience for that.

Fabulous ankles, still

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I haven't done this for ages...partly because I switched to funky walking shoes for a good portion of my time in Montreal.

Oh Yeah. I have very cute clogs and merrills and rocket dog sneakers in a variety of colours and fabric styles.

Yet , as we all know, my heart has remained in heels. I glaze over and my smile wanders off to shoes I will have...or do have....or will continue to search for until I find them. For I will find them.

If you are newish to my blog and couldn't tell by the banner? I like shoes. I like HIGH heels. I will suffer if the shoe is beautiful enough, with gratitude for my ability to find the perfect shoe to meld with whatever look I am attempting to pull off.

Did I ever show you the pictures I took maybe a year or so ago? Someone asked me how many shoes I had...and to be a smart ass, I assembled them and took pictures.... This is just One.

Excluded from this photo ( aside from the ones you can't really see on the edges)? Boots (Rain and Leather), "Casual Shoes": So, Clogs, merrills, sandals, strappy wedges and anything else I wouldn't really wear to the office.

Now, in my defense ( as if there could really be a defense here, but bear with me) I take really good care of my shoes.

Many of these have been with me for up to ten years, for I carefully re-box them once they are worn...and then arrange them by season in the closet.

Sigh. I know. I know.  But the joy of walking out in the right pair?

Over the past weeks I have been shoe hunting again. In preparation for my transition back into the world of Professional Dawn. I've even thrown out all my old makeup and bought new stuff.

So here are some of the new goodies. Forgive me for my "Taking pictures of my own shoes while  leaning over in modified yoga poses" skillz have grown rusty over the past couple of years. AND I have to keep 2 rabbits and a cat from trying to photobomb my every shot. 

Why, Hello there dark brown leather knee high riding boots that have been hiding in the basement since December. In fact I DID pay full price for you, and am glad I did - as you are no where to be seen now. Your companions (not pictured), the Black over the knee riding boots say Hello.

Up first, we have these lovely versatile camel leather numbers. I was iffy on the stacked heel - But these are ridiculously comfortable with a good foot bed, so you can really walk in these babies. I also like this wooden heel look. As I am about to be awash in custom made for me vintage pattern dresses, I wanted some neutral heels - I had some of the dresses made in brown plaids, so these will be perfect.

First of all, I must say that my ankles have retained their fabulousness.  I mean - Come on. Do those look like the ankles of an almost 42 year old woman?  

Now, onto the shoe. Notice the wooden heel here too? This was the search for the taupe/beige heel that wasn't patent leather. Yes - I caved and got the patent leather, which you can't see so well in this light BUT not so shiny that crows are going to fly into my feet mistaking them for treasure. Or maybe they will. These are some pretty fucking hot shoes.

(And yes, I was wearing Yoga pants. Come on. It was a saturday night and I was at home taking pictures of my shoes. You can't have the full show. Well, unless you buy me drinks - then we can negotiate the full show....)

Ok - By rights, the one pair of taupeish shoes should have sufficed - But look at these! So cute! A lower heel than I would normally choose, but a T strap. I am a sucker for  T-Straps. And Mary Janes. And they were on clearance and kind of quirky. 

So kind of the same style as the T Straps...in a mary jane. Plus a very versatile color here - that deep rusty copper brown. Again - the vintage dresses are going to look great with these shoes.

I have had a Betty Paige dress that I haven't yet worn because none of my red shoes looked right with it. It is a cute white-with-red-polka-dot number that has a sailor style fold down in the back.  When I saw these, I immediately thought - "Oh - these go with the polka dot dress". Also the cork heels...which I have seen done hideously on some shoes, but it actually works on these. Annnnnnnnddddd Also: Look how great the ankles look?

And finally - these are a dark grey...patent again ( I couldn't avoid it) with the double strap. I know it's hard to see the color in this picture, but these pleased me immensely. I have been searching for good grey heels as my favorite pair is beginning to give up the ghost.

The only thing I didn't find? Navy Blue. But I have not begun to despair....I just have to wait out the hideous colors in the stores now ( Um - neon suede? really? Do 12 year olds design these shoes?) and continue to search.

Colour Block

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

If I had time to think about it, I might almost feel guilt for deluging you with old posts and scattered photos of my rugs.

Of course, that would be if I had time. Which I am woefully lacking.

The dissertation timeline which was heart stopping in December has become stroke inducing in February. The grueling schedule of Site visits, trying to transcribe the conversations of 4 and 5 year olds, as they weave between French and English, doing revisions on the chapters already submitted and then repeating the cycle, amongst the million other things which have decided to crop up.

You know, the odd pap smears I have ignored for the past three years? Or my daughter's hormones and 7th grade exams, which have both conspired to punch me directly in the face? The fact that my student visa runs out in August so we get kicked out of the country? And I have no job? Or the brakes on the car deciding to throw in the proverbial towel?

Here, wait a second. I can feel your breathing get a little panicked....Look at this photo:

Why Yes, that IS a picture of our cat Loki, underneath one of Emily's Bras.

So, in between having dreams about Google Scholar and falling asleep thinking about the journal article on code switching that I really need to find, and did I properly cite something...and how exactly AM I going to get all I need to get into each section, while reviewing all the reading on qualitative methodologies and ethnography's, and making notes in my research journal as well as checking the field notes ...only to wake up and start it all again

I started this little rug.

Originally just to use up scraps and mindlessly do something at night when I refuse to engage in thinking activities. Plus, I need something to gift to my supervisor...if I make it to the end of this hellish race without bursting into flame. 

And I find this soothing. Hands in wool. Colour all around me. Like a glorious abstract painting that flows out of my hands at night.

Getting me ready for another day.

Professional Soapbox

Monday, February 06, 2012

For a large part of my professional career, I have worked with families in poverty.

Yes, I was a child care provider in some high end child care centers.  I cared for children who would most likely never worry about hunger or heat or warm clothes. They were the children of the upper middle class.

However, I was also the Director of the Somersworth Early Learning Center. This facility was built with Community Block Grant funds,and was affiliated with the Housing Authority. We were situated next to the low income housing development.

Sometimes, when giving tours, potential families would point over to the Development and ask if we had problems with "those people".  After all, we were a very new building, beautifully constructed. We attained NAEYC accreditation. Many staff had teaching degrees.  Our reputation in the community was solid.

The first time someone asked me about "those people", I was taken aback. Who?

The life in a good child care center is intimate. You know families. You see them as parents, people, humans. They struggle, they share, they  allow themselves to be imperfect and vulnerable. 

As this center received USDA food commodities and was a contract agency with the State of NH for the CCDF scholarship program, we maintained financial and personal information on all families. We housed court orders and custody decrees. We worked with children who were being raised by grandparents and those who were in foster or protective custody. We talked with Moms, Dads, Aunts, Grandparents, Case workers, Guardian Ad Litem's  and Therapists.

But that stuff? That was adult stuff. In the classroom, there were only children. They did not know or care where the other children lived. They played, they grew, they fought, the giggled and stomped in mud puddles. There was no differentiation in the care and love that any of them received.

So when I would get that question, I would pause and ask for clarification. To where exactly were they referring? If they had the cojones to persist, I would smile and gesture to the classroom.

"There are several children in this room who live in the Housing Development", I would say......and smile.  The person would look around, as if the poor children would be wearing a Scarlet "P" to distinguish them from the other One Year Olds.

Those families almost never came back.

My job - among many during that time -  was to make sure that quality education and care was available to ALL children. Being poor did not mean that you got the crappy run down facility and the least trained teachers. Being poor did not mean you lived in a basement with 12 other children under florescent lighting with no educational curriculum.

However, that is the exception rather than the rule. Look around at your local child care centers which serve low income families.  Would you send your child there? Why or why not? If you answer No, I challenge you to ask yourself if those children deserve less because they are born into families who, due to income or circumstance or what have you, are poor.

 In many communities I would argue that there is a definitive segregation of low income children into the worst, and least expensive programs.

Consider it. We are tracking children as young as 6 weeks of age into the "haves" and "have nots". 

I was happy that Emily lived and loved and grew with children from all sorts of families for the first four years of her life. I fought for the quality of the care and education, not only for her, but for all the children that attended the child care. Later, I would do that at the State level, as part of the Child Development Bureau.

Every child deserves deserves the highest quality child care. No exceptions.

August 2, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Why my daughter should run the CIA

Thursday, February 02, 2012

This morning - 5:30 a.m.

Em:(whispering) "Mama? Mama? Can I open up one present now?"
Me: "Emily - Go back to sleep! No! No presents at 5:30 in the morning!"
Em: (Whispering still) "Mama? What time can I open presents?"
Me: "EMILY! Go back to sleep!"
Em: "Mama? Mama! Can I open them at 8:00?"
Me: "Emily, please. Please go back to sleep. It is too early to discuss this."
Em: "Mama? Mama? Mama? How about 8:00? Can I open them at 8:00?"
Me: Silence.
Em: "Mama? Mama? Mama?...Mama? Is 8:00 OK? Can I open them at 8:00?"
Me: "Listen, if you go back to sleep, you can open one present at 8:00, then we'll go to the bakery and get your cake.."
Em: "And a candle like an 8?"
Me: "Yes, we can get a candle like an 8"
Em: "And ice cream? Can we get ice cream?"
Me: "Of course. You have to go back to sleep though."
Em: "So at 8:00, I can open one present...and we'll go and get my cake....and a birthday candle like an 8, and vanilla ice cream...and then will you take me to lunch?"
Me: Silence
Em: "Mama? Mama?"
Me: ( defeated tone) "Yes. Yes to everything - just go BACK to sleep. Please - P-l-e-a-s-e."

Em: "OK Mama - see you at 8:00!"

Originally published May 22, 2006 at The Gimlet Eye
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