Saturday, October 6, 2012

Oh, god. What to say?

Dear bloggy readers:

Well, Thanksgiving weekend is upon us.  I've been a terrible, terrible, absent blogger (bad blogger, bad!).  But so much has happened in the past year.  Too much to write about, even if I did have the words.  (And probably I don't, but as you know, this has never stopped me before ;)).

So - to recap -

Our heroine been separated for almost a year now, after 13 years of marriage.  Every day gets easier.  And harder.  And easier.  I feel more independent, stronger, braver.  I don't know who this woman is that I see in the mirror everyday - but I am getting to like her more and more.  I have my own place.  For the first time, well, ever.  And every time I walk in the door, no matter the mess that greets me, I get this little thrill.  My home.  This is my home!  My art.  My stuff.  A mess of my own making.

Boy-o and Girlio are starting to adjust pretty well, and have been the most incredible troopers.  We each have them half time.  It's still hard.  I miss them much of the time.  And it will, likely, always be difficult for them, and for their parents (and not a day goes by that I don't remind myself that my sense of freedom comes at great costs.)  But they are loving school and daycare and they are flourishing.  And that is all a parent can hope for, really.

I started my phd.  I STARTED MY PHD!  I cannot even describe the feelings this brings to the fore.  It feels terrifying.  It feels overwhelming (like, what kind of idiot thinks, HEY! I know - I'll get divorced and become a single parent and start my phd?! Who does that?  Well, me, apparently.)  There is always too much to do.  There is almost always a little person who needs my energy.  School work that needs my energy.  A home that needs my energy.  There is little, little sleep.  And still, it feels like coming home.  I feel freaking amazing.  I am out in the world again.  I am using my brain again.  I feel passionate and invigorated.   This, too, is hard.  Because lurking around every corner are reminders that tell me that I am being selfish.  That this is not the right choice for a mother to make.  That I'm too old for this.  That my expectations are pie-in-the-sky unreasonable.  (Luckily, I've never been accused of reasonability!)  And this, I will defend with everything I have.  This is where I should be, and maybe where I should have been all along.   This is *mine*.

And so, I find myself again, here at thanksgiving, a year older -

I have so much to be thankful for, still.

I am thankful all of the love and support I have found this past year.
I am thankful for this amazing community of friends I am building.
I am immensely grateful for the resilience of my children, who everyday thrill me with who they are, and are becoming, and challenge me to become a better person.
I am thankful for my family, whose love an support is unflagging, even when I am far too often preoccupied and bogged down with the daily grind(s) to reciprocate.
I am thankful (and amazed) for this person I am becoming - this familiar-stranger - who seems bigger and bolder and braver and fiercer than she was before.

And I am, and will always remain, amazingly grateful for this blog (for you, reader, if you are still out there reading).  It may seem overly dramatic to say that this blog saved my life.  But that's kind of how I feel (and those of you who have been reading for awhile will be intimately familiar with my penchant for the dramatic!).  I came to blogging at a time when I was sure that I had lost parts of me that were unrecoverable.  When I was certain that I had lost my voice.   And as it turned out - I had some things to say.  And the feeling of community I discovered here was the start of recovering my sense of self. So, blog - I am so, so thankful for you.

But - this is also very likely my last blog here at AQFGIR.  The daily grind has gotten, well, a little grindier in the past while (as evidenced by my lack of blogginess).  I'll miss the blog, the readers and comments, and the I'll-spill-my-guts-even-though-I-don't-have-time-to-edit-my-guts immediacy of writing and posting and writing and posting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I hope this weekend finds you feeling loved and embraced in your homes and communities.

And thanks.  For reading, for lurking, for commenting, for spurring me on to write more, for the encouragement - for being here in whatever capacity - on my baby-making, baby-raising, working-through-it journey.


Mama T

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Repost on mothering and the writing life...

Please go and check out this wonderful post by Elisa A Garza on gender, mothering and the writing life.  Really.

Voicing Fears 
dwell·ing  (dwlng)
A place to live in; an abode.

I am on the brink of embarking on the nearly lifelong goal of pursuing my Ph.D.   This is, of course, in many ways, exciting, heady, exhilarating.    More than any of these things though, currently, I am terrified.

I live with anxiety, ever my uncomfortable companion.   A shadow of sorts; one which I spend, an inordinate (and unfortunate) amount of time trying to shake.  

But right now, I want to take the time, a few moments (or, more properly several hours) to really live in my fear.   Sit in it.  Take up residence.   Dwell. 

Breaking Silences

I am a mother.  Of course, I am multitudinous other things.   I am, in fact, a bloody complicated human being.  A writer.  A storyteller.  A peacemaker.  A femme.  A believer in spirit and in humanity.  A confidant.  A fighter.  A lover of music and art.  A friend.  A listener.  A caretaker.  An observer.  A thinker.  A survivor.   I have a veritable wealth of beings, and of human experience to bring with me to the academy, to my process of learning and navigating and grappling.  But first, foremost, I am and will always be mother.   This is my primary identifier in the world.  How I am seen.  How my worth is appraised.

Among the many, many things (both positive and less so) I have learned as a mother, is that nobody really expects mothers to think, and/or to externalize their thoughts into voice.   Mothers are doers.  They are feelers, cajolers, teachers, nurturers.  They expend endless amounts of energy outwards, onto and into their children.  They speak for and about their offspring.  But I must also acknowledge, in this dwelling in fear, that motherhood, while clearly very much an embodied experience, has for me very much been about a kind of disembodiment or dis/location of my own voice. 

While it is true that mothers (myself included) are writing, blogging and sharing more and more of their private sphere worlds, (spawning blog sharing sites such as ‘Moms Who Think,’ as if somehow, somewhere, there are moms who don’t think) this writing has, more often than not, been dismissed as insignificant.  Navel-gazing.  Self-absorption.  The world, it seems, simultaneously venerates the role of mothers, (indeed expects women to mother), but would prefer that mothers keep their thoughts and ruminations about the world to themselves.

There are, naturally, also certain elements of motherhood that prepare me well for life as a graduate student.  The dislocation of selfhood and relocation of energies into others.  To be a mother is to always be fractured.  To know that you can never be enough.  That the work will always be undone, no matter how efficiently or diligently you chip away, day in and day out.   That the developmental needs of your children will never be static.  That you will never know enough.   And the multitasking!  I can shave my legs while sharing the shower with not one, but two children jockeying for space.  I can talk on the phone to the people at the bank with one hand wrist deep in play-doh and the other one stirring dinner.  And I may, actually, have grown eyes in the back of my head.   I know too, that the understandings of the world borne out of the profound experience of being ‘other,’  out of dwelling in that other-worldliness, to my life with children that will ultimately serve me well, even in the vastly different world of academia.

But I carry with me too, lingering feelings that will serve me less well in my new endeavours, (often supported by external messaging both intangible and overt), that my ‘mother’ brain, and the epistemologies of mothering, do not matter outside the often constraining walls of my dwelling. 

And the silencing effects of being this entity called ‘mother.’ 

Transitory Migrations

As if migrating from life as a stay-at-home mama to life as an out-in-the-world mama and graduate student were not enough of a transitional leap; I embark on this journey at a stage in my life that previously seemed unimaginable. 

Divorcing after thirteen years of partnership.  Living on my own for the first time in my life, at the age of thirty-seven.  The mother of two children with shaken foundations; who are having to negotiate life between two households (to say nothing of childcare and full-time school) for the very first time.  And me, struggling to foster new friendships, build new community, find a place of acceptance, find out what it means to be single for the first time since my very early twenties.  Stretching to create alternative places of family; of being.  This slippery foothold between worlds old and new feels precarious enough without the addition of the intensity and rigours of academia. 

Though some people have been wonderfully supportive and encouraging of my present and upcoming challenges, there have also been no shortage of less positive messages.  I have bitten off more than I can chew.  I will be letting my children down.  That there cannot possibly be a way for me to succeed and I would be patently foolish to even try.  My doctor, for instance, upon hearing of my marital separation, exclaimed: “you can’t possibly still be thinking of starting your doctoral work?!”. Many others have exclaimed about my “bravery” for choosing this path at this time (which, though seemingly kind, is hardly reassuring of said path’s do-ability!) Another person recently asked, horrified: “You mean you’re starting school THIS September?!” 

Yes.  THIS September.  Yes.  Still planning on doing this thing.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 


 New Tricks for This Old Dog

Age ain’t nuthin’ but a number. 

Riiiiiiiigggggght.  Sure it ain’t. 

So what if pulling an all-nighter might kill me?  So what if I’ll be closer in age (or older) than my professors? 

No big deal.  I’m all cool with it and stuff.

And having been out of the academic world for the better part of eight years? Heading into an entirely new disciplinary terrain? 

Easy peasy.  Nothing to it.

Just like riding a bicycle…

 Beginning/End Notes

Being a person for whom anxiety is an unfortunate, though somewhat normal state of being, it occurs that I am perhaps much more comfortable dwelling in the articulation of fear than I am trying to reside in a place of hopefulness or optimism.  Far easier to ask  “What if I fail?” than to acknowledge that I might, just maybe, flourish.  Or at the very least, do just fine.

So there is this, too.  I might fail.  This much is as true for me as for anyone.  But in my thirty seven years, in my life as a mother, in my grappling with anxiety, in my experiences of loss, in my shedding of skins, in the undeniable liminality of the time and space that I currently inhabit; I have learned much about myself.   And I have faith that I am building, from the ground up, new possibilities and places of dwelling(s).  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

for Girlio

For Girlio, who turns three tomorrow...

We should have known, dear one, from the moment that you hurtled into the world like a little baby storm, how very fiery and fierce you would be.  Your passion for the world around you (whether you're liking it or not ;) is always in evidence.  We also should have known, after labouring all through the night, that you would be a night owl, through and through ;).

Your first expression, and your mommy and I both concur on this, was one of mild chagrin and disbelief-- as if you were concerned, at the ripe old age of a few minutes, of the validity of our parenting credentials.  I cannot believe that three whole years have passed since that amazing day when you came into our lives.  I cannot believe the tall, certain-of-herself, clever wee creature you have become.

Your expressiveness is really something to behold.  Your face holds a thousand or more expressions, and each one is so telling and so demonstrative.  I can never really pinpoint a'favourite' photo of you - they're all so full of character, and so very, very full of you-ness.

I continue to be astounded, each day, at how articulate you are.  The other day, I said something to you - I can't remember what exactly- and you looked at me quizzically and responded: "Well, that's very curious, isn't it?"  Curious, indeed sweet child.  I still remember your first sentence, at the rips old age of 19 months, when you looked at the cat, pointed and reprimanded imperiously: "KITTY!  Off table NOW!"  And you continue to wow me with your utterances and phrases.  You miss nothing.  I see how you watch the world around you intently - and how you take it all in with those big blue eyes of yours.  I look so forward to the many conversations we will have about the ways in which you see the world!

You don't give your love away immediately, like your more easily wooed big brother.  But man oh man, how you make people reallllly want to work for it.  Sweetie - I am hard-pressed to think of a sound more delicious than your laugh.  And your cuddles - oh! - they are amazing and soul-balmy.  We've nicknamed you "koala-baby" for the way you completely wrap yourself around us with your arms and legs.  It's like being utterly enveloped in the marvellous, squeeze-y love!

Your love of movement, dancing, music is so beautiful to watch!  Pretty much every song that comes on the radio is met with "That's MY song!", followed by some hip-shakin' dance moves (in the living room, in your car seat, in the grocery store).

Everything about you is a full bodied experience.  Full bodied happy, full bodied mad, full bodied everything.  It all happens with some serious gusto.   But your intensity fits in well around here.  And even though we all butt heads sometimes - we love pretty fiercely, too.

I love your brave, sweet heart.  Though, like your mama, you are shy to start with - there is a determination about you that transcends shy, especially when sticking up for your 'peeps,' (as you like to inform people, 'peeps' is what we say for 'our people.')  My own brave, sweet heart almost cracked open when your big brother was speaking about some kids being mean to him on the playground.  And without missing a beat, you looked up at him seriously, adoringly and oh-so-fiercely and snarled: "I will beat them with my sword!"  Nobody will ever mess with your peeps and get away with it!  Not on your watch.  I get a little thrill every time you show off 'your muscles' and talk about how strong you are.  And you are strong!  I imagine you will excel at sports someday - given your love of running and tumbling (and you know, hitting things with sticks!).

As two draws to a close for you, you are wildly comical, dramatic, silly, coy, shy, brave, active, and so full of enthusiasm for life.  (And I would be remiss if I didn't point out here that you are the best ever shoe shopping partner ;)).  t can't wait to see what the next year brings for you and for us.

Happy birthday, my fierce and gorgeous daughter.  You are such a gift and I simply cannot imagine a world making sense without you in it.

Love always,

Your Mama

p.s.  Ok, sweetie.  So just one thing -  you've got this princess phase going on.  I can deal with it (since I'm a bit of a princess myself).  I'm just hoping you'll remember (and if not, I'll keep reminding you) that princesses always, always, always rescue themselves!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Getting art-y

So, for my birthday, I got this amazingly wonderful gift of attending a multi-media art workshop at a local art studio.  And here's what I created.  I'm sorta, kinda, a wee bit proud of my first attempt :)

other people and divorce

So - I had this goddawful conversation with a neighbour the other day.  It involved her, sharing the observation (aka surveilling) that I'd lost a ton of weight and that "I'd be perfect if I lost 10 more pounds." So right away, I'm not feeling all loving.  But then, the conversation gets even better, if such a thing is imaginable.

"I was just SICK when I heard about your separation."  She tells me.  "Just SICK."

Now, I wish I could say that this is the first time I'd heard this reaction.  It isn't.  I get this one a lot.  It's probably the most common response I get, in fact.  In a way, I understand this reaction.  L and I were the Toni and Clarisse (Dykes to Watch Out For reference there) of our cohort.  I get this.  From the outside, we looked a lot like the Cleavers.  Actually, we looked a lot like that from the inside, too.  At any rate.  I understand people's surprise.  I understand people's concern.  I understand feeling slightly discomfited.   But if one more person tells me that my separation is making them feel ill, sick or barfy, I will rain down hellfire and brimstone all over their sick selves!  Seriously - how do people expect me to respond to this?  "Gee, I'm so super sorry that my personal pain makes you feel uncomfortable?" or,  "Sorry to have inconvenienced you?" or something along those lines?

 Think about the fact that:

1.  I spent so, so much time agonizing, heart up in my throat, desperately trying to figure out another way to be happy, be whole, be myself and keep my family together;
2.  that every night I go to bed with my brain whirring with terror that I've split up my children's home and parents and security;
3.  that I've desperately hurt someone that I greatly respect and who is a good and loving person, in order to save my waning self;
4.  that I've lost several other friends because these things are uncomfortable and yucky and hard;
5.  that I have no real security, very little income, no housing;
6.  that I've taken a giant leap into some really, really fearful and unfamiliar territory;
7. that, in light of #'s 1-6, I often feel pretty barfy, myself.

In light of all of that - I gotta say - I think it's fucking nuts that when my life is in total chaos, other people would like ME to comfort THEM about it.   C'mon now.  Really?

When my neighbour uttered this phrase, (in a lovely one - two punch right after calling me fat,) I just turned and walked away.  Didn't even bother with the awkward smile, or the sympathetic, "mmmmmm."  Just walked off.

Next time it happens, I don't think I'll be nearly so kind.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Parenting under the influence

No, no and no, I don't want to discuss parenting whilst drunk.  This isn't that kind of blog.

I'm talking about being sad.  (Because, as you know, this is that kind of blog).   And I don't mean, boo-hoo-I-have- pms-and-that-commercial-with-the-baby-kittens-made-me-snivel kind of sad.  I mean, sad-sad.  Trying-desperately-to-hold-it-together-but-oh-my-god-that-Hedley-song-is-sooooooo-sad-and-now-I'm-crying-and-wiping-away-tears-and-snot-while-driving-in-rush-hour-sad.  (Attractive.  I know.  You totally want me right now.)  

The thing about me is, when I feel stuff, I don't sorta feel it.  I FEEL it.  It takes me over and it rocks me.  It's a full bodied thing, and I've been told it radiates.  You know, kind of intensely.  (Shocking, I know).  So then, other people FEEL it too.  And so, here I am FEELING shit.  But I have these littles.  These beautiful, lovely littles who have no need to experience my FEELING.  And I've been trying so very hard to 'buck up' around them.  I force the smile and pull out the crayons or walk to the park.  I do my very, very best to hold it together and do a good job of it.  But it's exhausting keeping up that front, especially because it doesn't really work very well anyways.  Littles are intuitive little buggers, and some, like my Boy-o, are veritable emotional sponges (sigh, sigh, and sigh, he comes by this so, so honestly.  Sorry about that, sweet little dude).  And besides them being intuitive little beings, the front always slips.  Because, well, fronts are freaking heavy to hold up all day.  Today, at the park, I'm half-watching them play and half in my head, and I don't even realize there's a tear slipping down my face.  Front fail.  Good job, Mamacita.

And so what's a sad mama to do?  It's not like I'm not going to get it together.  I always do (you know, mostly).  Do you sit them down and explain to them the shitty astrological mayhem of the transit of Venus (yes, yes, I know it's pretty).  (And yes, yes, I'm being droll).  Do you tell them the truth, because they probably know anyways?  Do you keep lying and hefting up the front as best you can?  Really, I don't know the answer to this.  I only saw my own mom cry maybe a handful of times as a kid and it scared the living shit right out of me.  Because as a child, she was my touchstone for safety and consistency and through her I knew that all was right with the world.  I would assume my kidlets feel much the same.  And they've already seen me cry much more than a handful of times.  Is this awful?  Am I scarring them? How honest should we be with our kids about this stuff?

Anyways... today, I opted for a truth/lie combo (my one-two parenting punch).  After they busted me being teary, I spoke to being sad with them.  I told them that everyone has sad feelings sometimes, even grown-ups, and that it's normal and okay to feel sad and cry.  Boy-o added sagely: "Yes, or angry!  Or frustrated!  Or happy!"  Well, at least we've raised 'em feelings literate.  I assured them that even though I was feeling sad, it had absolutely nothing at all to do with their perfect and wonderful selves, who bring me great, great joy always.  To this, they both nodded vigourously.  (God-I love these little people so much that sometimes it physically hurts).  And then Boy-o reached his little arms up and wrapped me in a hug.  And Girlio dog piled on top (which actually hurt, but was very, very sweet).  And then asked:  "Mama?  Are you feeling all better now?"  And then, I squeezed down the lump rapidly re-growing in my throat, forced a big smile and lied outright.  "Absolutely.  I feel all better now."

A must read from HuffPost

I read this post today, on HuffPost's parenting blogroll.  It made me cry big, big crocodile tears.  And it is so right on.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I need to make lists!  Lots of lists.  It's how I think.  I'm listy.
But I cannot, for the life of me, find a pen.  Anywhere.
And I can't think in crayon.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

a reconfiguration of self trash-talkin'

1.  I am clumsy.  But it's because I'm too busy being fabulous to notice things like the table being a little further away than the glass.  I may be a bull in a china shop, but china shops are horribly boring anyways.
2.  I blurt things out.  It can be charming.  And highly entertaining.
3.  I'm awkward.  Physically and socially.  It makes me all sweet and approachable.
4.  I'm not going ever to be the girl everyone falls all over.  But I got some moves.  And excellent fashion sense.
5.  I feel helpless a lot of the time.  I know when it comes down to it, I'm really super scrappy.  Like, hella tough.
6.  There are loads of things I don't love about my body.  It's mine.  It's super strong.  Sensuous.  And I love to dress it up.  I love to take it dancing.  I have a killer smile.  Half-decent eyes.  And I grew babies from scratch in this thing.
7.  I am far too trusting.  I have this capacity to be open-hearted and loving that I am really pretty proud of.
8.  I give too much of myself away.  I am fantastic at nurturing and caring.
9.  I'm not exciting.  Maybe not, but I am amazingly genuine, dependable and pretty effing smart.
10.  I'm scared all of the freaking time.  But I do it anyways.  So I guess that makes me brave.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ingrid Michaelson: Sort of (Live@Google)

MKay.  I have always, always loved this Ingrid song.  I relate to it, in the everything-I-do-in-the-world-is- too-big-sorta-way.   But this particular live version, which I stumbled upon serendipitously last night whilst in need of a good cry, is hella-holy-crap good.  And did the trick.   It's all good - but at around 3:30-ish on, it is so expressive that if you don't get a little teary, I think you might be hard of heart.  Listen if you, like me, are a bit masochistic in your melancholy love of melancholy music.  xo

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I have had several (and I DO mean several) what-the-eff-am-I-doing-? moments in the last little while.  So, in an effort to convince myself that I'm not actually a bumbling oaf of a human being, I re-read Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, an area which I am the moment, I am feeling particularly, um, gifted in.  But - though I really loathe self-helpy stuff, I quite love Brene Brown.  She is honest and talks about her imperfection's so bravely.  It's bloody refreshing.  Plus she swears, and that's a self-helpy book I can get behind ;).

Anyhoo - the re-read was good.  I am feeling, though certainly no less imperfect, much more grounded in my imperfections.  I was particularly struck by her words in closing, some of which I've posted below - just in case any of you and feeling a bit what-the-eff-am-I-doing-? too.

On her idea of a Wholehearted Revolution:

A small, quiet, grassroots movement that starts with each of us saying, "My story matters because I matter."  A movement where we can take to the streets with our messy, imperfect, wild, stretch marked, wonderful, heartbreaking, grace-filled, and joyful lives.  A movement fueled by the freedom that comes when we stop pretending that everything is okay when it isn't.  A call that rises up from our bellies when we find the courage to celebrate those intensely joyful moments even though we've convinced ourselves that savouring happiness is inviting disaster.

Revolution might seem a bit dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance.  Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance.  You're going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people -- including yourself. One minute you'll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you'll pray that it never ends.  You'll also wonder how you can feel feel so brave and so afraid at the same time.

p. 126


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Whew! and Yowsa!  So it turns out, I was in good company in my tough times as a stay-at-home-mama.  A recent poll (based on 60 000 responses!) shows that stay SAHM's experience significantly more sadness and depression on a daily basis than do working (outside the home) mama's and working women who have had no children.  Read it and weep...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Things I learned from my Mama.

My mom is amazing.  A pretty effing great mom, but bigger than that, just kind of an amazing person.  And she's turning 65 this weekend.  Which got me to thinking about all of the things I've learned from her.  (There's a lot of 'em, because, among many other things, she is a smarty-pants.)

1.  always lead with your heart (because it's usually smarter than your second-guessing brain).
2.  always trust your intuition (we know more than we think we do!)
3.  it's ok to let yourself feel what you need to feel.
4.  it's ok to be intense (sure, you'll scare the shit out of some people, but that's their problem).
5.  don't settle.  Expect amazing.
6.  it's ok to fuck up.  it's how you learn.  (My mom has accepted and loved me unconditionally through far too many fuck ups to mention.  Seriously - it would be an essay a novella a novel)
7.  the painful stuff is important, respect it.  (growing is painful shit.  you don't go through the painful shit, you don't grow.)
8.  when you're feeling sad, find a crying tree.  (Yes, this means a good tree to hang out with a cry on.  try it sometime - feels pretty great.)
9.  take risks.  sometimes, they lead to pretty great things.  and sometimes, to fuck-ups (refer back to #6 here).
10. broke and happy is infinitely better than securely miserable.
11.  garden lots.
12.  walk lots.
13.  a good dog will always see you through the tough spots.
14.  don't forget to breathe.

Happy birthday to my most marvellous mom, and thanks.  For numbers 1-13, and all of the other numbers I didn't have room for, too.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Oh, you are a slippery one,

this hold I want to have on forward
momentum, this drive to stomp sure-footed,
(seams well-stitched and holding steady)
onto that gorgeous terrain in front of me,
breathtaking, uncertain

but like all beautiful things -
it remains just beyond outstretched,
grasping fingertips; ahead of feet
trembling, tentative

and here I stand,
(stubbornly frayed at the edges),
struggling, yet determined,
to put one foot in front of the other

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Glimpses of peace

On an ordinary day
After the kids have passed out
Sticky-faces sighing into clean pillows,
I sit barefooted in the grass,
Sundressed skin still warm from the day.
And one Iris peeking out a wild purple in the otherwise desolate garden.

I am thankful for spring.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 10, 2012

so far, so better

Today, thus far, has really kicked yesterday's proverbial ass.

The fish tank got cleaned.  Sir Albert the Princely Beta Fish (yes, that's his full name) may actually live to see another week.  The cats no longer hate for for forcing them to use a disgusting litter box.  The kitchen got cleaned.  Okay - so it's only one room.  But I can see the floor.  Like, the whole floor.  And the countertops.

Of course, something had to give.  So I spent the better part of the morning playing with the kids in my pyjamas.  Including outside in the front yard.   Because I didn't have time to shower and get dressed.  But I console myself in the fact that, a) the pyjamas were new, and thus clean, and b) my fuchsia kicks matched them delightfully.

Onward to an afternoon of errands...

(um, but first, perhaps, a shower...)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Don't read this if swearing offends you, or alternatively titled, Motherfucker

Just so you know I'm going to swear gratuitously now.  Just because it motherfucking feels good.

The motherfucking fish hasn't been fed in a few days. His tank is starting to get pretty sketchy. The cat litter is, well, it's pretty motherfucking gross. I did the motherfucking laundry, several motherfucking loads in fact. The proof is in the living room where, in between the motherfucking dust tumbleweeds, lie piles upon piles of laundry that was neatly folded until the children discovered it was fun to jump into like their own personal leaf piles. I cannot yet bring myself to motherfucking refold it and put it away. In short, my home looks like it's been burgled (but by motherfucking burglars who realized that we had nothing good to steal so they just decided to trash the motherfucking place). I am, truly, decidedly, and most certainly-definitely-completely-motherfuckingly overwhelmed in the chaos. Domestic engineer, my motherfucking ass. Housewife. Homemaker. Bwah ha ha!  Motherfucker. This clearly ain't my bag. I am domestically deficient.

Everything feels like a delicate balance and trade-off of what I can and can't force myself to accomplish. I got the motherfucking grass cut, but child services might yank the littles if they made it past the cleanly cut lawn to the innards of my motherfucking home (and as an aside, I did not motherfucking whippersnip the lawn, because i didn't have time and because it's motherfucking annoying, and caught my across the street neighbor doing it for me at 7 am this motherfucking morning. I am, apparently, THAT neighbour).

I have friends with kids who always warn me about the chaos of their houses when I come over. And their spaces are almost always motherfucking immaculate compared to mine. Are they lying? Keeping up with the Jonese? Or are they really that much more able to keep the motherfucking chaos at bay?

From time to time, I like to console myself that despite my very clear (and motherfucking) failure at the domestic, um, arts, I am a pretty good motherfucking mom. However, today, after living in shambles, attempting a playdate that turned put to be mainly motherfucking tantrum damage control, taking the kids to a really gross motherfucking playplace for dinner with no motherfucking nutrients whatsoever, because I couldn't stand the thought if returning to the shambles of my motherfucking house, and then attempting to take them motherfucking shopping for a motherfucking present for my ex (who is a great mother) for motherfucking mothers day (which is a motherfucking joke of a day because it's just plain motherfucking ridiculous to have a day to celebrate an occupation that no one actually motherfucking respects the rest of the 364 days of the year), and said children went ape-shit in all kinds of childlike ways, I lost my motherfucking shit. In motherfucking public.  Like, in an epic motherfucking-screaming-like-a-banshee-in-the-parking-lot kinda way.  It was motherfucking classy.

Those who can teach. Those who can't motherfucking blog?


(OH MAN!  That felt really, really, motherfucking great.)

End of Gender: It's a [Heteronormatively Gendered] Girl! | Bitch Media

End of Gender: It's a [Heteronormatively Gendered] Girl! | Bitch Media

Yup.  Just yup.

A Stay-at-homer telling it like it is...

Oh man.  Oh man.  OH MAN!  I love, love, love when I stumble across a mama telling it like it really is.  Admitting that the dumped out toys, (for the umpteenth time) makes her cry at the end of the day.  That she is often too spent for words.  Admitting that she loses it.  You know, like, a lot.  And this blog post from babble blogger Mindy Berry Walker does just that.  And I find her bravery inspiring.  You go, Mama!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Things I find myself wishing for lately

In no particular order:

  • a cleaning and laundry folding person (ok - all the ones after this are in no particular order!)
  • a fabulous daycare with available space
  • a thicker skin
  • a more equivocal, (careful) heart
  • a beautiful, cheap living space that falls right into my lap
  • a wealthy benefactor/lottery win
  • a louder voice (people often don't hear me.  why don't they hear me?  is it how I talk, or how they listen?)
  • more time to get things done
  • an end to the anxious
  • the urge and inspiration to write again (in case you are wondering why I've been so MIA)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ushering in a new year

It appears as though my birthday is upon me again, in a day or two.  While normally, I'm pretty 'meh-how-did-this-happen-again-and-where-the-hell-did-the-year-go?' about my birthdays (girl's getting older and older!),  this year, I'm kind of excited to send out the old and usher in the new, at least symbolically.  The past year has been fraught with landmarks, decisions and processing that were all on the, you know, agonizing and terrifying side.    Separation, applying for grad school and grants, really, really rough kid times, isolation, loss, a whole lotta therapy.  You know, THAT kind of year.  Some years are like that, I guess (even in Australia - in The Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day way;)).  And so, I am feeling the need to shake it off a bit, I guess.

But as my 36 draws to a close, I am also recognizing all of the learning and growing and changing this year has brought me.   I accepted that constant feeling of floundering and learned to give myself a bit of a break.  I found my feet.  I took chances.  I met new, wonderful people who turned out to be great, great friends.  I accepted the scholarship offer to go back to school.  So - as with all things - this past year has been both intensely painful and a time of growth and change.

While I am not so foolish as to think that the painful growth and change is over (is it ever?).   There is housing to find, money to pull out of my ass, and let's not forget becoming the world's older grad student ;)  Nevertheless, I am eager to recognize my leaps and bounds from the past year, and very, very eager to welcome in 37.  Because if there's one thing this past year has taught me, it's that I am one hell of a tough cookie.  So I'm gonna greet 37 dancing my pants off, shaking off 36 (see ya!), celebrating my survival instincts, and gearing up for whatever the coming year decides to throw my way.  BRING IT!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Today, in parenting-land: a hope

A Hope for Today...

I will not lose it.
I will not yell.
I will do better.
I will be more patient, more gentle, more understanding.
I will try squash my grrrrr instincts.
I will avoid power struggles.
I will not let my buttons get pushed.
If they do get pushed, I will not blow my stack.
I will negotiate.
I will listen to the unspoken words between the whines.  (ha!)
I will practice better empathy.
I will research special needs.
I will learn how to deal better.

And when all of this fails, as it likely will at some point during the day,
I will not succumb to 'bad-parent-itis and cry myself to sleep

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2 a.m.

I'm trying to look at the positives these days.  You know, dwell less on the empty of half of my glass (the part I more than likely spilled, cause I'm just that kinda girl...).  And so I find myself, the chronically sleep deprived mama, awake at 2 a.m., with an annoying recent bout of insomnia, attempting to see the good.

It's so deliciously quiet, I can hear the clock ticking.  I snuggled with my love deprived cats and revelled in their purring bodies.  I saw the moon.  I trolled for poetry on-line and found one so positively lovely that it made me teary (and I am not that kinda girl...).  I knit.  I sat perfectly still and stared into space.   There are no plaintive requests (demands) for my time, energy, body.  It's just mine.  My thoughts (jumbled though they may be), my energy (however dwindled and dwindling still), my time (always fleeting).   
So 2 a.m., right now I think you're pretty swell.  

In two hours, when I am awakened (and it's bound to be pretty rude), I suspect I may feel differently.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

A big queer fairytale?

“The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill,” is a 23 minute short film  and fairytale by Middle Tennessee State University professor Bob Pondillo, and some folks have their knickers all in a knot about it.  But - as we all know - some of the most interesting things in life and art piss off moral and religious conservatives :)  Have a look!  

Monday, April 16, 2012

walkin' and talkin'

So - the littles and I are walking to the park after school, and they are delighting in counting the NDP election signs as they go (having been properly indoctrinated by yours truly, natch).  But we come upon a Wildrose Party - Alberta's very own tea-party-party - sign, and Boy-o asks what this new sign is all about.  In what can only be described as a knee-jerk reaction, I snap that "it's a sign for the spawn of Satan!"  When this draws quizzical looks, I realize that I've got some 'splainin' to do.  For starters, because my kids don't have a freaking clue who this Satan dude is...

So I begin by telling them that it's another sign for the election, from a party that Mama thinks is, you know, wrong.  (Okay - so it's a bit of a sugar-coat.  What I actually think is that all those bigot-ty, anti-choice, misogynist, poor-hating cretins should be put out on ice floes so they can hate each other to their hearts' content and leave the rest of us the hell alone, but I'm not so sure this is the right time for this particular explanation of my personal beliefs.  Such a fine line between telling your kidlets the truth and scaring the shit out of them, no?)  But of course, the explanation can't end there.

"Why are they wrong, Mama?" Boy-o asks.

"Well..." I begin... (okay, it was probably more like "Weeeeeellllllllllllllllllll," cause I was kind of scrambling in my mid-day brain for the right words to explain to a five-year old why I think the party that thinks his parents should burn in Hell is, you know, a bit off.  Anyhoo).  "I guess I have a problem with the way that they think about the world," I continue, "like, how they don't think that women who love women or men who love other men are as good as other people, or how they don't think helping people with less money or no place to live is as important as we do."

Boy-o thinks about this for a moment, and then asks: "Well, can't we just tell them why this is wrong?"

And here my heart breaks, because, of course it should be that simple.  And of course it isn't.

"People are sure trying to tell them, buddy," I assure him.

"Oh" he nods sagely, "they don't have their listening ears on?"

Yes - well - there that is in a nutshell - right outta the five year olds mouth.

"Yeah - and they also don't believe things like art is very important, so they might try to cut funding to the arts, and to schools, and..."

"WHAT?  No art!"  Boy-o interrupts me, clearly horrified.  "But MAMA!  We can't have NO ART!  The world would be so terrible and SO GREY!  You have to DO something.... Let's call 911!"

And here, I feel stuck.  I don't know what to tell him.  The mama in me wants to pull him close and say, everything's going to be alright.  There will still be anti-homophobia in the schools, there will still be arts funding, we won't close the precious few low-income resources this province has, women will still have a right to choose what happens to their bodies - our basic human rights won't be put to referendum.  But I can't say those things - because I'm pretty sure they would be lies.  Because I am honestly and frankly scared of what this province will look like with the Wildrose Mad Hatter Tea Party in power, for me and for my kids and for so, so many other people.

So I just tell him that no matter what, if the people who we don't agree with come into power, we just have to keep trying to make our voices and our ideas and our values heard.  That this is the really important thing.   And he seems satisfied with this and comforted.

I wish I was.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tough week at the office...

I've had a rough week at the office.  You know the kind.  There were the eye infections (both kids), colds, tantrums resulting from putting in eye-infection-goop, tantrums of the general variety, nightmares of the Girlio variety (resulting in very little sleep for the mama-worker), and then Girlio got sick and Boy-o got squirrelly.

I texted a friend of mine yesterday to ask them to remind me why I was against corporal punishment.  It was THAT kind of Thursday.  The littlest little, sick and clingy like a baby koala.  The biggest little, cagey and wound up and lippier than I was as a teenager.  And I was pretty fucking lippy as a teenager, so that's saying something.  (Really, just ask my mom.  It's a wonder she let me live.)  At any rate - Boy-o and I were not doing well with each other, clashing for the bulk of the day.  There was no corporal punishment (in case anyone was worried), but at one point, after I'd asked him to cease and desist one thing or another for the gazillionith time and made my exasperation at his noncompliance known, it came pretty darned close.  He turned to me, rolled his five year old eyes in my general direction and said "Mooooom - I think you're just crazy."  It was then, after some finding-my-zen-like-inner-calm-deep-breathing, that I said in my deadliest calm eyebrow-cocked-fisted-clenched-don't-give-me-no-shit-if-you-know-what's-good-for-you-child voice that when Mama was getting crazy, he wouldn't think it, he'd know it.  He thought about this for a moment, and then very wisely ventured away.   As it turned out, he may have been foreshadowing his own fate.

At any rate.  It was THAT kinda Thursday.  Between the clinging and caregiving and the worrying and the clashing, by the time my 6 a.m. - 8 p.m. shift was rolling to an end, I was fresh out.  (As an aside, people always give me the gears about being such a stickler for the kids' bedtime.  But I submit, not-so-humbly, that if their regular workdays ranged from 14-15 hours plus nighttime overtime, they'd be sticklers too).  Anyhow - no gas in the tank.  I'm all frayed at the edges.  Bad, bad, bad-assed day at the office.  Exhausted, ready for bed myself, yet thinking about all the things I need to do before that can happen for me, and so on and so forth.  So the kid's bedtime is feeling pretty darned important to me.  Like, really, really, really more-important-than-usual-kinda-important.  Which is, naturally, why Girlio, having been too sick for most of the day to opine about anything, chooses this particular juncture to lose her shit.  And why, being fresh outta sweetly-gentle-handed-mama-guidance-and-patience, I go right ahead and join her in the shit loss.

And as we are scrapping (no, not literally) in the bottom bunk and I am struggling to get the screaming bambina under the covers - all of the sudden, a five year old head pops down from top bunk and says in the voice of an octogenarian:

"Are you feeling frustrated with Girlio?  That's hard.  I know, she's very difficult to deal with sometimes...".  

Now - the humour of having these words come out of the mouth of my five year old, who is dangling upside down like a monkey, bestowing sage and empathetic advice to me from his bunk bed is not lost on me.  Neither is the irony of the words themselves.  At this point, I don't know if I started laughing so hard that I cried, or if I started crying so hard that I laughed.  Because everything was feeling all of the sudden
really, really funny. And desperately fucking un-funny. Let's just say there was some laughing and some crying.  And some wide-eyed staring on the part of the children.  At this point, I decide that I need to take a breather from the smalls in order to become reasonably human, or at least a little more, you know, coherent.  So I tell them I need a grown-up break, and that I'll be back in five minutes.  There was balking.  And then I hear Boy-o tell wailing Girlio - "It's ok - I'll deal with this."  Momentarily, the brave (or...?) child marches out to the kitchen where I am trying to count myself back into calm, and says: "Mama - we really didn't like it very much when you left the room."  To which I respond that sometimes grown-ups need a bit of a time-out, and that it will make me a better parent, and I'll be back in two minutes... or something along those lines.  And then, with a nod and a pitter-patter, he returns to his sister and says:"It's ok, Girlio. she'll be back as soon as she sorts herself out."   Really.  I mean, you can't make this shit up.  

So, I sorted myself out.  And then I got those little buggers to sleep, an hour late, but unbeaten and reasonably unscathed.   (Though I'm not sure the same could be said of me...).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Moms and Judginess...

Check out this spot-on link from Gina at The Feminist Breeder.  It's about how we jump to judge moms who make different choices than we do.  Which is, you know, bad.  Bad, bad.  I've written about it from the other side of the coin (the less attachment parent-y side, I suppose).  But really - c'mon now people.  Let's get our shit together.

Monday, April 2, 2012

adding it up, parenting style

Today (well, actually yesterday, as this is a day-after the hurricane post) was rough.  Like, rough, rough.  One of those too frequent days that leave you wondering what the Hell you've gotten yourself into, and if you're in wayyyyyy over your head.  But they aren't all like that.  Thank goodness.  Here's my mathematical (insofar as I do math!) assessment of my days of parenting.

There are days.  The days your mama warned you about.  (And of course, she was right, dammit!)  Days like today, days that make you want to crawl into bed hours before most toddlers, days that make you crave entire buckets of ice cream and bottles of wine.  Days when you're positive you've failed at this job.  Days, for instance, when you accidentally kick Girlio in the nose doing a pilates move, or when Boy-o comes home from his weekend away so full of non-stop tantrum that you want to pack your bags and move into the magpie nest in the backyard, because it would be much, much quieter.  And you deal with that feeling by, you know, screwing up. You know, just as, um, random examples.   It is hard to be philosophical about these kinds of days.  My internal dialogue here mostly consists of: 'try not to cry til they fall asleep,' or 'you fail.  you fail.  you fail.', or 'jeez, I hope this doesn't all end up like "We Need to Talk About Kevin".'    I'm going to say that over the course of a five day week, I have at least one day like this.  Of late, sometimes more.  These days are brutal.  Exhausting.  Hard on the heart.  And more often than not, by the time bedtime rolls around, I fall asleep beside my smalls, bloody exhausted and heartsore.

And then there are the parenting days that tend towards the not so bad.  These days have tantrums and oopsies and regular kid-like oppositional behaviour.  You deal with things the best you can and know this. And this behaviour gets balanced out by other wonderful things like toothy toddler grins, spontaneous Boy-o hugs, dance parties in the living room, snuggles and books and backyard shenanigans.  These sorts of days are much easier to be philosophical about.  You win some, you lose some - you may even most often lose more than you win - but damn, look how cute and smart and entertaining (if obstreperous) they are.  And look how YOU get to have a hand in helping to nurture these little demons.  Generally speaking, I'd say I have about 3-3.5 days out of the five that I have my smalls that feel, for the most part, like this.

And then there are the wonderful days.  The days full of laughter and outings and GOOD PARENTING MOMENTS.  These days are rarely seen birds, of course, which is what makes them so coveted and deliriously wonderful.  You end these days thinking that having children was the most amazing thing you've ever done, and holding onto fleeting glimpses of what their fabulous futures will hold.  And, though perhaps selfishly, even better on these days is being able to tamp down those inner voices that so often tell you that you are really stinkin' bad at this parenting gig.  These days assure you that you might actually be doing ok.  You might not have to save QUITE so much for the therapy fund (theirs, not yours.  Yours you still have to save for).  I wish I could say I had more of these days than I do - but like I said - they're an exotic and rare sort of bird.  Out of my five days a week with the smalls, I probably average about .25 of a day like this, or one REALLY good, sunshine-blowing-out-of-my-magic-parenting-fingertips per month.

And that's the way it adds up.  Luckily, the mostly present in-betweener days occur more often than not.  And I guess, those .25 days, the sunshiny-full-of-free-and-easy-smiles-and-hugs kinda days, serve to exponentially fortify you for the really tough days.  Because though few and far between, these days are the most gorgeous part of this parenting gig.   And oh man, I live for them.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Money, money, money

Post shopping trip at Ikea, my mom bought the kiddos some ice cream, letting them 'pay for it' with their 'own' loonies.  Girlio was beyond excited to get to pay for her purchase, but more than this, she was transfixed by the loonie.  She kept holding it up proudly, announcing loudly for all who were in earshot, that she had her very own 'golden money.'  The people in line all around us were getting all gooey at this big-eyed cutie and her wonder at this beautiful loonie treasure, which of course, does a mama's heart good.  When it came time to pay, she handed her treasure over willingly for the coveted ice cream treat.  But as soon as her golden money slipped from her chubby little fingers into those of the poor high school kid working at the snack counter, she was crestfallen.  'He took my golden money!' she cried, indignant!  Over and over.  It was a pisser.  By this time, the people in line all around us are having difficulty containing their laughter at the little nugget having a crash-course in the meaning of payment.  Boy-o, myself and my mom tried to explain to her that she had to trade her golden money for the ice cream, but she was having none of it.  And now Ikea will forever be the place where the horribly mean ice cream man stole her beautiful golden money.  

(Though I'm sure this will not be any consolation to her at all, Ikea has stolen a good chunk of my golden money, too!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Diving Into the Wreck

Fierce feminist thinker and writer Adrienne Rich died today, at the age of 82.   I spent a good chunk of my undergrad reading Rich, her poetry and feminist theory.  I am posting one of my favourite poems of hers below, as a reminder to myself (and to you if you want one) of just how powerful her voice was.

Diving Into the Wreck
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers

the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
abroad the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it's a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or week

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
and I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
Obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to the scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear. 
Adrienne Rich

Monday, March 26, 2012

Collision of worlds

I have, of late, these two worlds. The first, the one I've inhabited solely for the last five years is singularly focussed. In this world I am mama. I am defined by this role, by my ability to fulfill their needs, by how they walk in the world and how I foster and respond to these ways of walking. This place feels limiting, because my ideas, needs, longings must always take the back seat. But it also seems less risky than the public sphere.

Lately, however, I've also embarked into new territory. A world in which I am not defined (solely, if at all) by my relationship to children. A world where the other aspects of myself come to the fore. This world is freer, of course and reconnecting with that social, intelligent, person-in-the-world is heady and exciting. And also riskier. Here I have to be something, think something, do something on my own behalf, which is surprisingly difficult.
In this world few people know me as I inhabit the role of mother, this more mundane, other-focussed way of being.

But eventually, of course, these worlds have to meet. Because, of course, whether my kids are physically beside me or not, I am always mother, and I always carry them (and my role as their mama) with me.

Yet as these worlds start to seep into each other, I am struck by this overwhelming sense of, well, vulnerability. Can I manage to straddle both of these spaces? What will people who one know me as just T make of me when they see me as Mama T? Is it even possible to reconcile these worlds, which at the moment seem so disparate?

I wonder...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It is a rare thing, I think, to really delve into the real gifts you are given in life. And one of my great gifts is most certainly where I come from...

(thanks Mom).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hairy Tale

Heard this morning, coming from the bathroom, Boy-o inside:

Snip, snip, snip.

Me: O, are you cutting your hair?

O: Um. Noooooooooo?

Me: Are you lying?

O: Um. Yesssssss?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

that was then and this is now, or the new world order according to me, or manifesta on the brink of 37

I medicated. Raged.  I swore and railed and threw stuff until it shattered. I cried for what seemed like hours on end.  I lost entire days and months.

And then I made a mess with no inkling of how to clean it up.  (A mockery of housewifery if ever there was one).

I opened the windows and yelled outside as loud as my throat and lungs allowed, without a thought to the neighbours.  (I was always profoundly awful at keeping up with the Jones anyways).  I used to think I was a failed June Cleaver, but can you really fail at something you were never meant to be?

I let myself be selfish and found it made me grow bigger and bolder.  I curb-stomped terror masked as immobility.  And I moved.  I found a new rhythm of me-ness and it made me somehow more beautiful.  And resilient. And different.

I realized.  I realized that just because I'm sweet inside doesn't mean I have to be a doormat.  Just because I'm soft outside doesn't mean I can't be also be hard and fierce and tough-as-nails.  Just because I want love in my life doesn't mean I can't also have one eye on the door.  Doesn't mean I won't use it should the need arise.  And if I lose sight of that emergency exit, I'll find that one open window and use it to jump towards the nearest road, thumbs out and ready to go.  Seems I'm all kinds of scrappy like that.  It doesn't mean I won't wonder, regret, ache.  It's just that I've discovered I prefer the ache of lonely to the ache of swallowing myself whole; to jumping all over myself to be sorry when I have no idea why; to choosing everyone else over me.

God, if you only knew how tired I used to be.  Not sleepless tired, although that too. But bone-weary, ghost-of-myself kinda depletion.  Tired of being so careful, so caring of everyone but me.  Tired of the tiptoe.  Tired of feeling so grateful for love, as though everyone was some kind of gift to my life but me.

Well fuck that.  (Yes - you read me right.)  Because if you have me, let me be the first to let you know: you're damn freaking lucky.  I am all kinds of good shit.  Tricky?  Hell yes.  But so worth the wrestle.

This is my new world dis/order.  Not so much me first as me too.  

Don't think I can?  Maybe not.

But just watch me try.

Repost: madwoman in the academy + extra thoughts

Around this time last year, I posted a book review of The Madwoman in the Academy, a compilation of academics contemplating their negotiation of being female in the academy.  I re-ead the book when I began seriously considering what my own presence in the academy might look like, and grappling with whether or not I could conceptualize this path as an actual possibility.  And this time this year, I I find myself definitely about to re-enter the world of higher education again.  And contemplating my own madness, still not feeling sure-footed about my ability to juggle two young children and the rigours of academic work, both of which I love.  In this last two weeks, I've already had to miss two talks I really wanted to go to for lack of childcare.  What happens when this is a class?  When I have a sick babe who can't go to daycare?  When they pull my arms away from my keyboard because they are needing my love and attention and focus?  What happens when it doesn't come naturally after more than 5 years away?  I guess I'm about to find out what I'm made of and how far these arms and this brain will stretch...

The Madwoman in the Academy: 43 Women Boldly Take on the Ivory Tower.  (Eds.) Deborah Schnitzer and Deborah Keahey.  Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003.

I likely shouldn't have read it.  I knew it as soon as I picked it up.  But it was like a train wreck - I couldn't look away.  It's actually a fantastic book.  And I'm not just saying that because it's co-editted by one of the best professors (and loveliest people) I've ever known.  An edited collection of women's experiences in the academy.  The downs and outs.  The dirty bits.  The scary bits.  The frustrating bits. Details I need to remember and think about before I choose whether to jump in feet first.  The still far too prevalent sexism in academia.  The in-fighting and me-firsting and I'm-smarter-than-you-ing and eating-the-young-ing.  Imposter-syndrome.  The particular challenges and lack of accomodation for moms in academia.  (Breathe, T. Breathe.)   As (the wonderful) Deborah Schnitzer asks in her essay "Tenure Tracks",
How can a system that has been organized for and by male experience and privilege respond effectivelyand respectfully to the realities of women's lives?  How can a system burdened by a dependence upon a ritualized transmission model, restricted and often mechanical standards of measure, esoteric official languages, and limited ways of defining what constitutes knowledge comprehend those who work within frames of reference that are dialogic, inclusive, multidimensional and organic? (199)
How indeed? (I know - she is brilliant, right?  And also brilliant and right).  And those realities of academia are ones I must consider - carefully- before I jump back in.  But then there are the good bits too, of course.  The mentoring.  Sage navigational assistance.  Breaking barriers.  Smashing one's own ideas of one's limitations (and possibly other people's too).   And the parts I really crave:  The thinking. The writing.  The Thinking!  The Writing!

My absolute favourite essay in the collection is by Monika B. Hilder, entitled: "This Three-Horned Bronco of a Life" in which she describes the challenges of life in her triad roles as mother, academic, writer.  So gorgeously and bravely.  (Note - I am sharing big chunks of Hilder's writing here.  It is not my intention to overshare.  You should buy the book.  Read the essay in its entirety.  It's good, good, good.  But this particular essay really spoke to me,  to my own current worries and processing, so much that I feel compelled to share it with you all).

She writes: "Mad?  Me?!  You bet I'm mad - dissapointed, frustrated, feeling guilty, and alternately fiercely angry that I am able to do so little with words while I engage in the whirligig of family details.  I am not always so disgruntled, but sufficiently so to answer your question in the affirmative" (35).

And I read this, slightly panicked, and think: Good lord.  But I feel this NOW.  Can I really dare to add more fuel to that fire?  Can I handle another role, another division of self?  Can I handle that triad Hilder writes about? 

And then more:

Mad?  Me?!  When I was young I had the hubris to reject the position that a woman must choose between books (teaching and writing them) and babies.  (Isn't it ironic that this either/or dilemma is still presented by many camps: the misogynists, the kindliest patriarchs and matriarchs, the feminists?)  I still reject this position.  I still want it all: books and babies.  But sometimes I feel crazy with the competing demands on my person.  I grow furious with the helpless feeling that I am going too slowly along the journey of teaching and writing literature. (36)
And just like Hilder - I also want it all.  Babies and books.  I want desperately to reject that either/or dichotomy that feels so much like losing.  I want to be able to be a mother and a thinker, a writer, a do-er.  I want to be able to inhabit multiple worlds.  So much so that I often feel these days like I am leaping out of my own skin.  But I worry - have I waited too long to go back to school?  Can I keep up?after six years away? Will my trying to keep up put my other roles in jeopardy?  Will we all adjust?  Is it really possible to keep it all together, to remain - more or less - intact?

And then back to Hilder, who essentially tells me that the answer to my question is, in fact, no.  Not so much.  Remaining intact is likely not an option.  She relates: "[m]y mothering life is a crucible. . . . Pain characterizes too much of this fleeting lifespan I have in which to raise my beautiful beasts.  I would die for them (birthing does prove that, for starters).  The immediate fact though, is that I am dying daily in just trying to live with them.  So my teaching/writing aspirations are daily crucified to the needs and nonsense of my dear ones three" (36-37).

Something will always give.  And that something will almost always be the external obligations, the public sphere self.  Because that is the bargain I struck, quite willingly, when I chose the path of motherhood.  It feels overwhelming just to consider adding that public sphere self back to my repertoire.  But it feels equally like striking the sort of bargain which meant choosing not to do this would be a bit, you know, disastrous.  Luckily (?) for me, Hilder seems to suggest that perhaps remaining intact is overrated, and perhaps, not the end result I should be aiming for:

I whine, but the truth is that I wouldn't trade this triad life for anything.  To ride this three-horned beast for even a few seconds is an extraordinary privilege.  In the words of Ursula Le Guin, 'Babies eat books.  But they spit out wads of them that can be taped back together; and they are only babies for a couple of years, while writers live for decades; and it is terrible, but not very terrible' (812)*. . . . Mad? Me?!  Yes, yes, a resounding yes!  I'm riding this three-horned bronco of a life with all my might, dust-caked, and with tears in my eyes. (38-39)

So then - to be or not to be a madwoman in the academy?   I strongly suspect not even this book will scare me away from trying it on for size.  But I also strongly suspect that I won't ever be sure...

*The Ursula Le Guin quote in Hilder's essay comes from: "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Writes the Book." The Art of Short Fiction.  (Ed.) Gary Geddes.  Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

bedtime shenanigans

So - it's late.  Like, late late.  Boy-o is fast asleep.  But his little sister, Ms. Girlio is being a total resister and man oh man, is she ever holding out.  There's nose picking (hers) and attempts to pick mine.  There's singing and crush-your-head hugs.  Requests for more songs, more water, more this and that.  Pissing around.  So I finally run out of patience and tell her she's gonna have to figure out how to get to sleep on her own and leave the room (cursing under my breathe).

And then the little oh-so-cutie-patootie bellows (the kid has an unusually deep voice for a two year old girl, so I DO mean bellows!) out at me:

"MAMA!  You have to get under the covers and take off your glasses and lie down with me.  That's your JOB!!!"

JAYZUZ - the kid's only 2.

Andrea Gibson - Blue Blanket (trigger alert here peeps)

Okay- so this topic has been on my mind of late - and coincidentally, (or not, since there are no coincidences) I discovered a whole schwack of Andrea Gibson's amazing spoken word online today.   This is by far one of my least favourite of her pieces - but I still think it's worth sharing, especially the last bit.  (With the caveat that I don't believe sexual assault renders women 'not whole', at least I don't think it has to.)   I'm gonna post another one of her pieces below, too.

Andrea Gibson, Pole Dancer

I don't know about you, but I've never wanted to be a pole dancer so badly...

A Monday Reminder - by SARK


Sunday, March 18, 2012

i look continuously behind me
checking and rechecking for their absence
small silent ghosts
if i turn my head just so
i can catch them sometimes
sweet sudden glimpses of their bodies
in empty carseats

i wiggle my tongue absently against new lip ring
still a foreign presence
its steel clicking against my teeth
a reminder of how this new voice
falls across my lips
(still swollen)
a terrain both familiar and strange

head half-filled with the enormity of the mundane
to-do lists and groceries and jobs undone
and half-filled with things said
and things swallowed
people lost and found
tiny Sunday nerves


Monday, March 12, 2012

School's Out: Giving Our Schools Some Homework | Bitch Media

School's Out: Giving Our Schools Some Homework | Bitch Media

So called "mommy-porn" turns out to be porn for the barely literate

Okay - so I hadn't heard about "the book" as it is apparently being called, until reading about it on Jezebel (see above.  No really.  See above).   50 Shades of Grey, which was initially created as Twilight fanfic (yes, that's right kids.  Fanfic for Twilight) is the story of a 22 year old virgin (Anastasia) who falls for a 28 year old gazillionaire (Christian) who's into a little bsdm (though from what I could see from the excerpts, in my world, he seems fairly tame - but then again - I haven't read the whole 1200 page first novel.  There are also sequels).   

So many things bother me about this book and the way it is being described, I don't even know when to start.  I should however, point out, that unlike many critics, I don't give a rat's ass about the gendered sexual power dynamics between the two characters.  Cause that's how it works.  Someone's a top and someone's a bottom.  Whatever.  

What I do hate, is that this is some seriously bad, bad writing.  Really bad.  It makes Stephanie Myers and the entire fleet of Harlequin writers look like they should've been awarded a Pulitzer.  For example: Anastasia describes giving her first blow job as "surprisingly tasty... [her] own Christian Grey flavoured popsicle."  And later, post receiving her first spanking, as Christian applies baby oil to her posterior, Anastastia reflects: "from makeup remover to soothing balm for a spanked ass, who would have thought it was such a versatile liquid?"  Hawt.  Because I know that I always enjoy a good product review in my porn.  Later on, in case that wasn't enough product reviewing, the phrase: "His words curl around me like a soft fluffy towel from the Heathman Hotel" appear.  Again.  I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  How bout you?  There are more examples of the utter ridiculousness of the book, but I think (hope!) these serve to make my point.

I can't even fathom a world in which this is sexy writing.  I can't even fathom a world in which this is acceptable writing to publish!  And why - why on god's green earth - is this shite referred to as "mommy porn?"  It's like we pop out a kid or two and suddenly lose our brains, autonomy, sexual selves AND our ability to recognize good writing (never mind good porn)?  But apparently us housewives are eating this shit up.  Can it be true?  Are we really to blame for making this god-awful writer a soon-to-be gazillionaire?  It's too sad to contemplate.   

Now - let it be known - I'm no prude.  (You're just going to have to take my word for this, well, because I can't really prove it.)    But I shudder to think of the idea that this kind of crappy writing (which made me laugh out loud several times) is responsible for the reheating of marriages across North America and the current favourite one-handed read of mommies everywhere.  (*yes, yes.  It's good that it's making women talk about sex.  And blah blah.  I get that, I suppose.  But I also find it very depressing that 1. we're still in a place where women need the guise of a 'novel' in order to read porn (and I DO mean guise here, folks), and 2. that we can't find ourselves some better porn-y vehicles with which to do this.)


To all bored housewives out there:  THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT!  There is better porn out there.  Toppy, bottomy, in the midde-ly.  It matters not.  Really.  For true.  I swear it on my soul.  With nary a mention of popsicle flavours or the versatility and usefulness of baby oil.  Please stop reading this crap.  Or at least stop talking about reading this crap in public.  It's giving me the heebie-jeebies.  

And giving us snobby-about-our-porn (and snobby about other things t00) housewives a really bad name.