Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Poem - it's long but sad and gorgeous both

October - Louise Gluck


Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted
didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters
wasn’t my body
rescued, wasn’t it safe
didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury
terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted–
I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted,
didn’t vines climb the south wall
I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground
I no longer care
what sound it makes
when I was silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound
what it sounds like can’t change what it is–
didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth
safe when it was planted
didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,
the vines, were they harvested?
Summer after summer has ended,
balm after violence:
it does me no good
to be good to me now;
violence has changed me.
Daybreak. The low hills shine
ochre and fire, even the fields shine.
I know what I see; sun that could be
the August sun, returning
everything that was taken away –
You hear this voice? This is my mind’s voice;
you can’t touch my body now.
It has changed once, it has hardened,
don’t ask it to respond again.
A day like a day in summer.
Exceptionally still. The long shadows of the maples
nearly mauve on the gravel paths.
And in the evening, warmth. Night like a night in summer.
It does me no good; violence has changed me.
My body has grown cold like the stripped fields;
now there is only my mind, cautious and wary,
with the sense it is being tested.
Once more, the sun rises as it rose in summer;
bounty, balm after violence.
Balm after the leaves have changed, after the fields
have been harvested and turned.
Tell me this is the future,
I won’t believe you.
Tell me I’m living,
I won’t believe you.
Snow had fallen. I remember
music from an open window.
Come to me, said the world.
This is not to say
it spoke in exact sentences
but that I perceived beauty in this manner.
Sunrise. A film of moisture
on each living thing. Pools of cold light
formed in the gutters.
I stood
at the doorway,
ridiculous as it now seems.
What others found in art,
I found in nature. What others found
in human love, I found in nature.
Very simple. But there was no voice there.
Winter was over. In the thawed dirt,
bits of green were showing.
Come to me, said the world. I was standing
in my wool coat at a kind of bright portal –
I can finally say
long ago; it gives me considerable pleasure. Beauty
the healer, the teacher –
death cannot harm me
more than you have harmed me,
my beloved life.
The light has changed;
middle C is tuned darker now.
And the songs of morning sound over-rehearsed. –
This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring.
The light of autumn: you will not be spared.
The songs have changed; the unspeakable
has entered them.
This is the light of autumn, not the light that says
I am reborn.
Not the spring dawn: I strained, I suffered, I was delivered.
This is the present, an allegory of waste.
So much has changed. And still, you are fortunate:
the ideal burns in you like a fever.
Or not like a fever, like a second heart.
The songs have changed, but really they are still quite beautiful.
They have been concentrated in a smaller space, the space of the mind.
They are dark, now, with desolation and anguish.
And yet the notes recur. They hover oddly
in anticipation of silence.
The ear gets used to them.
The eye gets used to disappearances.
You will not be spared, nor will what you love be spared.
A wind has come and gone, taking apart the mind;
it has left in its wake a strange lucidity.
How priviledged you are, to be passionately
clinging to what you love;
the forfeit of hope has not destroyed you.
Maestro, doloroso:
This is the light of autumn; it has turned on us.
Surely it is a privilege to approach the end
still believing in something.
It is true that there is not enough beauty in the world.
It is also true that I am not competent to restore it.
Neither is there candor, and here I may be of some use.
I am
at work, though I am silent.
The bland
misery of the world
bounds us on either side, an alley
lined with trees; we are
companions here, not speaking,
each with his own thoughts;
behind the trees, iron
gates of the private houses,
the shuttered rooms
somehow deserted, abandoned,
as though it were the artist’s
duty to create
hope, but out of what? what?
the word itself
false, a device to refute
perception — At the intersection,
ornamental lights of the season.
I was young here. Riding
the subway with my small book
as though to defend myself against
the same world:
you are not alone,
the poem said,
in the dark tunnel.
The brightness of the day becomes
the brightness of the night;
the fire becomes the mirror.
My friend the earth is bitter; I think
sunlight has failed her.
Bitter or weary, it is hard to say.
Between herself and the sun,
something has ended.
She wants, now, to be left alone;
I think we must give up
turning to her for affirmation.
Above the fields,
above the roofs of the village houses,
the brilliance that made all life possible
becomes the cold stars.
Lie still and watch:
they give nothing but ask nothing.
From within the earth’s
bitter disgrace, coldness and barrenness
my friend the moon rises:
she is beautiful tonight, but when is she not beautiful?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

harm reduction parenting chez moi

What kind of parent are you?  An attachment parent (Read: Clingy)? Authoritarian (read: hard-ass)? Authoritative? (Yup, those are different). Permissive? (Read: wishy-washy). Laissez-faire (read: francophone permissive)? Detached (read: emotionally unavailable)? Hands-on? Hands-off? Democratic? (Democratic?  People let their children have a vote?!)... the list goes on.  I am probably none of those (and possibly all of those at times, as well).

I believe (yes, with the rising popularity of attachment parenting in popular culture) that we've all been encouraged to go a bit off of the deep end, analyzing and re-analyzing (and then talking about in therapy), the consequences of our parenting choices and philosophies with our children.  I do it, too.  I'm not saying that I'm immune.  But I also wonder about a culture that encourages self-doubt (sometimes to the point of immobilization) about one's choices in parenting.

So - if I had to choose a term for what "kind" of parent I am, I'd say that I'm a harm reduction parent.  By this I mean, I do the best I can, with what I've got, in order to make choices to do the least amount of harm to them AND to me.

Okay, yep - cutesy little moniker, that.  But what does harm reduction parenting mean?  Here are some concrete examples.

1. If I'm exhausted, and have no groceries - I will take my kids through the drive-through and buy them formaldehyde laden chicken nuggets rather than take their tired cranky asses (and my tired cranky ass) through the grocery store (which would result in tantrums and dragging their bodies through the aisles whilst enduring the disapproving stares of better parents than I.)  Feeding children formaldehyde, in this instance, reduces everyone's harm.  And yes, I do it.  Sometimes often, sometimes less so.

2. When I do things that are harmful, I say I'm sorry.  I *do* do things that are harmful. I'm not unrepentant about that and I'm not overly invested in my children preserving the notion that I'm all good at life and shit.  Life is tricky.  It is for me, and it is for them.  Making them think I'm some kind of expert (at anything) seems like a wayyyyy bigger lie than Santa.  So - when I yell too much, when I say something that might hurt their feelings, when I have an "oh-fuck-there's-one-for-the-I'm-not-proud-of-that-parenting-book" (which is already longer and more varied than a Norton Anthology), I sit them down and tell them I fucked up.  And that I'm sorry if that hurt their feelings.  And then we all try to do our best to regroup.

3. I can't afford organic produce. (I know, right?!  GASP!)  So I wash the veggies.  When I remember.  (Whaaaat?  They're eating veggies....).

4. Sometimes - I don't make my kid do his homework.  He's tired.  I'm tired.  A cuddle feels more beneficial.

5.  There are some things I"m just not willing to fight with them over.  Don't wanna eat dinner?  Ok.  Don't wanna have a bath?  Ok. (Within reason, people.  But kids can go a day or two - or three! -without bathing.).  Fighting over this stuff is an epic waste of energy for everyone. They aren't going to die if they don't eat dinner, and I have to make a bedtime snack anyways.  Whatevs.  They have a little extra dirt behind the ears?  Maybe it'll help them fight off those daycare germs.  The truth of it is, I don't actually care that much.  They'll eat when they're hungry.  They won't actually get scurvy if they dine on PB&J three nights in a row, and if they go to school with dirt behind the ears, they worst that will happen is that I'll get 'the look' again.  Which I'll likely get anyways.

6.  I try to let them make their own decisions. But this here ain't no democracy, friends.  Sometimes, my needs and the needs of the household have to come first.  Partially, this is more of an issue in a one-parent household.  Sometimes, shit needs to get done and so they need to come along for the ride.  End of story.  And sometimes, it's because I'm a selfish prick.  True story.  I know that as a mama, I'm not supposed to recognize 'em, but I have needs that also need to be met.  I try to balance out our all of our (sometimes competing) needs whenever possible.  But you know what they say: 'If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.'  True story.

7.  Bribery.  Ahhhhhhh.  My friend bribery.  It works.  It really works.  And so I use a liberal sprinkling of it.  And a big Pooh! to all those books that say children should do things just because their parents tell them to, out of respect,  and a desire to please blah blah blah.  If my children turn out anything like me, they will not be lacking in a desire to please others.  And it hasn't always worked out spectacularly for me.  So maybe teaching them to be a little selfish will actually work in their favour.

8.  I try to balance the fun stuff with the shit stuff.  But sometimes I have a deadline and they get/have to watch a lotta tv.  Life goes on.  It actually does. Their little addled brains will survive it.  And truth be told, they spend all day being 'activitied' at school and daycare.  I don't feel the need to provide programming, and moreover, I actually feel like sometimes the poor little dudes just need to chill.

There are other harm-reduction-y things I do.  But that's a glimpse into what I mean.   Trying to remember that while of course they are little people, I'm a person too.  Balancing needs with needs and veggies with pesticides.  Rolling with the punches, and throwing a few bribes around when necessary.

The best I can with whatever I've got in the tank.

(And if it turns out that I've managed to do an exceptionally crap job of things, I'll be happy to help with the therapy costs later on...)

powerful post from feministing

Ok - I know I've been reposting a fair bit of late.  I'm working on some school stuff, and percolating a few blogs, too.  But this one, about how a woman stood her ground and told a train-full of pro-choice Washington marchers and their chaperones about her abortion story - is hella powerful.  Read on, MacDuff.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Reblog from 2010: Bossy Know-It-Alls

bossy know-it-alls

Today I have been blessed by the presence of people who clearly know more about child rearing than me, and really wanted to share their wisdom, which I in turn would like to share with all of you.  Here are a few of the special tidbits I have learned.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

1.  My son's reading comprehension and abilities are clearly delayed. 
We were picking up some photos at London Drugs, and Boy-o was asking me what different signs say around the store because that's his thing right now.  I read a lot of signs.  A lot.  It's amazing I haven't had a car accident from reading all the signs we pass.  But I digress.  The photo lady pipes in to this conversation and tells Boy-o that he "needs to get on the computer and learn his ABCs."  Then she turns to me and says "You really should teach him to read on the computer."  I tell her, somewhat distractly as Boy-o is practically flinging himself in various directions past breakable things, and I am trying to juggle a 21 pound baby in my arms, along with keys, a wallet, and now a year's worth of baby photographs.   "Yeah - he's only 3 and he does know his ABCs.  He's just not reading yet."   And still she persists: " But my grandson learned to read when he was 2.  On my lap.  On the computer."   Um that's great lady.  I'm not really sure where this pressure to make kids learn to read while practically still in the womb comes from.  He's 3.   I didn't figure he needed to know how to read The Iliad yet, or signs in line ups at London Drugs for that matter.  I thought we'd leave something for him to learn at school so he isn't appallingly bored there.  But apparently Boy-o is dreadfully behind in his learning curve.  So much for those college scholarships we were counting on.

2.  My daughter's learning is also sadly delayed.  
After London Drugs, we head to the doctor for Girlio's one year check ups.  We are late because there is no parking to be found within a ten block radius.  Consequently, we (that would be me) are also sweaty and grumpy when we arrive.  We see the nurse first for our pre-check up check-up.  The nurse goes through a variety of developmental milestone kind of questions and I'm all like, yes, yes blah blah.  Then the nurse asks me:  "Can she understand simple commands: Like go get your shoes?"  And I'm kinda surprised at this one, having never really considered asking the baby that can't walk or talk to go and get her shoes (or fetch me anything else for that matter- and am I the only one that thinks it's weird to ask your baby to fetch her shoes? Anyhoo...).  "I don't know..."   I go for the truthful answer.  The nurse looks at me with a very concerned look on her face: "Oh, well she really should!"  This time I go for the full out lie route and I assure her as earnestly as I can manage that we will get right on the shoe fetching business when we return home.

3.  Fat people must not know about healthy eating and exercise habits for their children, since they obviously have taken such poor care of their own slovenly selves. 
The nurse seemed to really want to impress upon me the importance of eating properly and exercising for the baby (who again, can't walk so probably isn't ready for jazzercize just yet).  Anyways - nursey, after already confirming with me that we do in fact feed the baby appropriate and nutritious foods, felt the need to quiz me on the types of food we feed our child (who is, by the way in the 50th percentile for both height and weight!).  "Do you feed her whole grains?"  Yes.  "All four food groups?"  (SHIT - THERE ARE FOUR?!)  Yes.  Then she actually proceeds to list the food groups for me, in case I am a total idiot.  "Meats and alternatives?"  Yes.  "Dairy?"  Yes.  "Fruits?"  "Vegetables?"  Yes.  Yes.  Breads and Cereals?  Yup.  Check.  Wow.  There really are 4 food groups.

Next, she impresses upon me the importance of physical fitness for children.  I try to make a joke of it and let her know that Boy-o never, ever stops moving and Girlio is fast following in his footsteps.  However. You should know.  Exercise for children is NOT a trifling matter (and again, I suspect doubly so because their mom's a fatty, but whatever).  "Here is a booklet on exercise and healthy eating for kids.  Do you need it?"  Here again, I mistakenly go for honesty.  "No thanks, I think we're good."  (And my recycle box is full).  This is met with total disapproval (and I didn't even say the recycling part out loud!)   This was not the correct answer.  "Oh, well you really should!"  And she proceeds to take me through several of the pages to convince me.  I take the booklet, which is currently sitting in my recycling bin.

Lotta learning for one day.  Tomorrow we'll be sure to do better.  Reading, (possibly some simple algebra so we don't lag too far behind), fetching and all four of those new fangled food groups.  Mama's honour.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bloggity announcement of the general variety:

Until the very last (*and I do mean the very last) abused, neglected, homeless, starving and/or otherwise badly cared for or, more properly, uncared for child currently living on this planet is otherwise, I will not entertain with anyone a discussion about fetal rights superceding a woman's right to bodily autonomy and integrity.  (This being the first in a very long, long list of reasons why.)

'Cause I'm all rabid feminist like that.

Cheerio and happy Friday.

Mama T

Cruel and Clumsy: a song for the January/February doldrums

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lines uttered this morning that my littles will never appreciate the pop-cultural value of:

1. To Boy-o, upon telling me I was not his mother because I made him put on his boots to go to school:

"You are right.  I'm not your mother.  I'm a dementor, sent to suck all of the joy and sunshine out of your life."

2.  To Girlio, whilst sitting in the snow screaming at me to carry her while I juggle two sets of schoolbags, snow pants and one stuffed animal:

"I do not negotiate with terrorists."

I'm either a total disaster as a parent, or simply spectacular.

Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference.

* parenting tidbits brought to you with the aid of Harry Potter, Donald Rumsfeld, and a healthy sprinkling of sarcasm.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An awesome and less-rantish post from Suzanne Barston of Fearless Formula Feeder

a brief rant (on maternal breasts)

I have no use for parenting dogma.  At best, I find it rather irritating. It assumes a sort of moral superiority that begs to be taken apart at the seams. We're all just slogging through the trenches, doing the best we can with what we've got. This shit, as I've been known to point out, is difficult. At worst, I find it harmful. And here's an example of how and why I find it thus...

Doing a search on Dr. Google for some unrelated issues, I've recently stumbled across some particularly yucky statements about breastfeeding.  Uttered by self-professed feminists.  Statements that included gems such as "Everyone should breastfeed," "There is no excuse to use formula," and my personal favourite, "formula should be taxed" (I could write a whole separate rant about the class-based violence of this particular statement, but it shall have to wait for another blog). 

And for the record, I breastfed both my babies for a total of three years. I breastfed through excruciating pain, bleeding nipples and three, count 'em three violent bouts of mastitis.  Never once did my care-providers suggest that bottle-feeding might be an alternative.  Though I likely would not have taken up this option, it would've been kind if they had).  I'm not saying I don't believe in the value of breastfeeding.  I do.  I believe.  I'm a believer. I believe the world should be a breast-feeding friendlier place and I have whipped my boobs out in every imaginable corner of this city and along several highways to boot (and heck, if asked especially nicely, I still might!)

I don't, and here I mean emphatically do not, however, believe that pushing us baby-carriers (What? What's that you say? You mean those are actual people?!) to do things that, for whatever reason, cause stress or emotional discomfort, makes any kind of good sense.  In fact, I find it ridiculous and all kinds of offensive. 

The aforementioned statements about the moral superiority of breastfeeding blow my bleeping mind.  Blow it right out my ears.  I've said it once, I've said it twice, and I will keep saying it until I'm blue in the face. Mothers are people. Folk. Women-people-folk. Women-people-folk who need to be able to make autonomous choices about what they do and do not do with their bodies. Arguing that women should *have* to breastfeed because it is better for babies, helps with attachment, its more child-centred, blah, blah, blah is really not all that different than saying women should have to bear the babies resulting from unintended zygote-making bc it's more child-centred. Or that women should have to stay home with their children because studies have shown this results in healthier offspring.  Seriously. Maybe breastfeeding is better for children.  Maybe it does help with attachment. (Though, for the record, there are many, many ways of building attachment, breastfeeding being just one of them.  Just ask my children's other mother, who did not breastfeed our children. Trust me when I say that they are all mightily attached).  As feminists, it behooves us to be equally concerned about the welfare of those whose bodies might undertake the work (yes, work) of breastfeeding.  Anything less than this is profoundly anti-choice, anti-woman, and anti-feminist.

Bodily autonomy is bodily autonomy. Pro-choice is pro-choice. Our bodies do NOT belong to our children, past, present or future.  My body did not belong to my children when they inhabited it and neither does it now. Breast feeding is a choice. Formula feeding is a choice. Anything in-between, yes, also a choice. We need to trust women to make the best choices they can for themselves, depending on their resources and the life circumstances they find themselves in.  

And you know what? 

They will.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friends who say the right thing

So I was having a visit, and many glasses of red wine (need this even be articulated?) with a dear friend (also a grad student) whom I haven't seen in quite some time.  She came before bedtime to visit with the kids, and was an enormous help by reading to Boy-o when Girlio had an evening meltdown brought on by exhaustion and needed my full attention.  It felt luxurious to be able to provide my full attention, and I had her snuggled into bed to sleep in no time.  Boy-o went down without my hitch a half hour later. A pretty regular Friday night chez Mama T.  Over-tiredness, exhaustion, meltdowns (the melter-downer alternates between the three of us, though on particularly special Fridays, we all go at once!) and bedtime.

Later, when my friend and I were into a bottle of red and good catch-up conversation, I confessed to her my feeling that I am feeling like a failure.  She laughed uproariously and said the most perfect thing ever.  She said: "Oh man.  No offence, but when I was watching you deal with the kids and put them down and then listening to you talk about all of the crazy school stuff on top of that, I was thinking: I wouldn't trade places with you for the world! How are you still standing?"

I don't think I have ever, in my life, felt more validated.  And I was SO not offended.  ;)

I may not exactly be keeping 'afloat'.  I may have a to-do list longer than Santa's.  But GD-it.  I'm still standing. Almost upright, even. And if the lights get shut off because I forgot to pay the bills again, I'm gonna hang on to that.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

She got The Look (na na na na na, na na na na na...)

I got The Look again from Boy-o's teacher.  

Oh god.  I hate The Look.  

Though I should be used to it by now.  I get it from multiple directions and people, sometimes multiple times a week.  And usually I can brush it off with a quick check-in, a deep breath and a reminder to myself, that as far as moms go, I'm actually halfway decent.  

But this morning, The Look (which is a mixture of annoyance and plaintive 'why can't you be more responsible and on top of other things like the other mom?'-ishness) makes me shrivel and wilt into that bad-mom place. 

For the record, the other mom is more responsible and detail savvy. I freely admit that this is verily true. And it's also true that the details of daily life, they are not my best skill set. I have other strengths. Many, even.  Intuition. Big picture thinking. If you are feeling sad or unsteady in your world, I'm the girl you want standing next to you. Unflagging loyalty. I'm fairly articulate and sometimes a little funny. And by god, if you are lucky enough to be loved by me, that heart of mine is as open and giving as they come.  I also make a mean quiche and my cookies are freaking outta this world. I got skills.  Mad skills.

But I do not do those earthly daily details well. I lose keys and bank cards. (Like multiple times a day). I forget appts.  I forget to pay bills, like the parking tickets I get because I forget to plug the meter.  I forget to eat breakfast. And I almost never, ever time the school run right.  And thus, I get The Look. 

And today The Look is harder to take than most days.  Because we've had a morning from hell.  Like, not just a bit o' purgatory-leanings-towards-hell.  Hell-hell.  Hot-fires-of-molten-lava-tears-and-damnation-hell.  And because this morning of hell is my fault.  I kept the kids up past their bedtime so that I could go to an evening lecture at school. Selfish.  But true. I know they don't sleep in. I know Boy-o is wayyyy more challenging than usual when tired. (And as a kid with sensitivity issues, challenging at the best of times is how we roll). I know these things. But I did it anyways. And when the morning brings tantrums and attitude and dragging feet and shattering glass, I should not be surprised. When I am brought to tears not once, but twice just trying to get them out the door, I should not be surprised. When Boy-o jumps in a snow-bank sans snow pants and I have to go back and grab him an entirely new outfit, I should not be surprised. When we are late for school, I should not be surprised. And so when I get The Look, I should not be surprised.  

I'm not surprised, not really - but I am a little heart-sore.Heart-sore that it's hard to juggle the priorities and I don't always get it right. Heart-sore that I'm sending my sweet Boy-o off to school (which is often overwhelming for him at the best of times) over-tired, teary and raw from a morning of struggle.  Heart-sore because this is another one of those 'you can't have it all' moments.

Heart-sore because this morning, The Look is probably very well-deserved.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

making mistakes

"If you can't stand to see your children unhappy, you are in the wrong business."  Best line ever.
Check out this article on letting your littles make mistakes and learn from them.  It's pretty good.

Monday, January 14, 2013

self care, crazy-town and holding it all together

So - it's the second week of classes. I get up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to hit the ground running.

Ok.  That was a lie.

So - it's the second week of classes. I get up all bleary-eyed and exhausted because I stayed up too late last night reading and re-reading Foucault.  And I'm not at all ready to hit the ground running. I'm ready to have a panic attack.  I can feel it mounting as soon as I get out of bed. (For reasons academic and otherwise, school is a locale of pretty wild anxiety for me these days). I tell myself it's no big deal. I tell myself "you got this." I tell myself that sitting in my enormously overpopulated Foucault seminar, talking about theory that is sometimes over my head, is No Big Deal.  NBD, Mama T. NBD.  I tell myself "Haha! Anxiety -you aren't so tough. You aren't the boss of me."  And so anxiety does what it does best - it turns around and gives me the finger. With both hands.

In writing, anxiety might look and sound like this:

************** (radio crackle and static) (nefarious cackle) We interrupt this life to bring you a panic attack. We'll let you get back to thinking, seeing straight and breathing properly when we good and goddamned feel like it. (more nefarious cackling) (more radio crackle and static)***************

----------------------more time elapses -----------------------

Andddddddddddddd. Breathing again. Whewf. Made it. About ten minutes had gone by, as near as I can tell. And I'm beyond drained. I still have time to get out my door and make it to class.  But I don't have it in me.  I email the prof and tell him I have the stomach flu, wondering while I do it why it is somehow less embarrassing to have the stomach flu than it is to have a panic attack. But it just is. Those who dwell in this reality from time to time will likely know what I am talking about.

I spend the morning drinking coffee, and then tea, under the softest blanket in the world, looking at the snow falling, and reading more Foucault. At first, I felt pretty horrible. I hate it when anxiety 'wins' over the iron will of my stubbornness - it's a rare occurrence, granted, but I hate it nonetheless. It feels yucky, and fail-y, and wimpy and did I mention fail-y already?

But then, the more I dwelled in those feelings of, you know, failing - the more I started to see the other side of the equation.  Maybe, crazy-town shows up every once in awhile to teach me some things.  For instance, like putting myself first (say whaaaaaat?), or like failing isn't the worst possible thing in the world that I could do (say whaaaaat?).

And maybe just mayyyyyybbbbeeee, in order to hold it all together, we may have to let it fall apart once in awhile, too.

*And, after that brief moment of 'navel-gazing,' it's back to cozy blankets and Foucault for this mama.

Friday, January 11, 2013

In or out?

I got a call for creative writing on the topic of inclusions and exclusions in my inbox this morning.  And, of course, when I should be reading for my class this afternoon, all I want to do is write about the ins and outs of my own places of belonging and not-belonging.  It's interesting (or maybe fortuitous?) that this found my eyes today, as I've really been thinking a lot in the past few days about how I straddle a strange sort of liminal space between belonging and not in so many areas of my life right now. And how those slippery, shifty places are interconnected. The areas foremost on my brain these days though are my roles as a mama and as a student.

Take, for example, the mommy club. A fairly well-known club, if I do say so myself. A club I have a membership to, but which also always seems in immanent danger of being revoked. I'm a mama. But I'm a queer girl. (Gasp - even the queer part is slippery... I'm a queer girl who sometimes crushes on boys! GASP! Do not tell anyone this. I have enough membership cards at risk of being revoked too!) I'm a queer girl who has kids. (This will never cease to be weird - though it does seem to provide excellent opportunities for guest lecturing.)  I'm a mama. But I'm divorced (But what about the children? Does anybody think of the children?!?!?).  I really don't do attachment parenting and you won't catch me posting memes about the beauty of it all. (Not that it isn't, you know, all beautiful and shit). I only have my kids half-time.  I 'left' my stay-at-home gig to get my phd.  I like to dance and drink and flirt my ass off.  (It just always kind of feels like, I'm a mama. But...).

And then there's the Phd student club. Another club I seem to be a member of these days.  I've got the transit pass I.D. and overdue book fines to prove it. And it's another club in which I don't entirely fit into. I'm a student. But I'm also a mama. This is a weird combination of roles when both jobs require you go at them with 100% of your energy. I'm a student. But I'm old. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not dinosaur old.  And I really like my cohort.  They seem to reasonably like me. (I'm generally reasonably likeable, I think, though lately I've been wondering about this more than usual, which is sayin' something...).  My cohort is full of super stars.  Really - smart people. Who will interview for jobs all across the country, and others, when they finish.  And get them.  Smarty-pants I tell ya.

And then there's me. I'm closer in age to my profs than most of my cohort. Weird. It is. It's a bit weird. It sometimes makes me feel like a loser-y slacker. I shouldn't admit that ( know it isn't even close to the truth). But as you know well, I'm all about the humiliating admissions, so there you go. It's a bit like I'm this kid who's been put back ten grades or something.  (Ummmm - not that that's anything wrong with that, natch). It's not that I don't also have the capacity to be a superstar in some way, shape or form. But my capacities (energies) often feel limited (or maybe overshadowed?) by my other roles. And on top of that, I will emphatically not be interviewing across the country (this, or any other) when I complete my doctoral work. By virtue of being divorced, it's Redneckville for me. Because my responsibility to my kids supercedes any superstardom (of the academic variety, anyways).  So, maybe I'll get a sessional lecturer gig. Maybe I'll get some other kind of job. Maybe I'll hit the unemployment line.  More than likely, it'll be a combination of all three. So - here I am. Straddling again - feeling like a student, but always on the periphery - never totally able to immerse in that identity. Parenting is not a school place. School is not a parent place. School brain and parent brain are *always* at odds.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm happy to be in both places. I like, I mean really like, both places. Books and babies.  What's not to love?! I think my ability to hop back and forth might give me unique perspectives and, well, maybe perspective in general.

But I just don't feel like I'm ever either here or there.  Most days, I feel like I'm tap dancing across two different stages at the same time.  Maybe it'll make me more flexible.  Or maybe it'll drive me bat-shit crazy.  I guess only time will tell ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

checkin' in

Soooooooo - for those of you who still wander on over here from time to time, I'm still kicking!  I made it through my first semester as a phd student, broke-ass, single mama.  I'm not sure I did it with a whole lot of grace, mind you. (Or any). I'm pretty sure I have way more grey hairs (who are we kidding, I don't even know what my natural hair colour is anymore), lines around the eyes, and I may have permanent dark circles under my eyes from lack 'o sleep.  I generally feel like I've been hit by a Mac Truck.  But, it's a Mac Truck I really like to think about.  I think about it a lot. What colour is it?  Why is it on the road barreling right towards me? Why isn't it putting on the brakes? And who's driving that fucker, anyways?  What do they think or feel about running my ass over? You see where I'm going here.... ? And though my body has taken a shit-kicking, my brain is in a constant state of whirring and motion, and holy hell, I love it.  Love. It.

I've had fellow students ask me 'how I do it'.  The single mom, phd student gig.  I generally say that I cry a lot and drink a little wine.  Or I drink wine a lot and cry a little. I wouldn't say that these bit of quippiness aren't true.  Of course I cry and drink wine.  DUH.  But really, the truth is: being separated 'affords' me some nights without the kids.  My "scramble" nights.  I try to sandwich everything in then, so when I have my babes, I can focus mostly on them.  Being a totally unreasonably hard-on-myself over-achiever, I more often than not fail at this sandwich-ing.  But, in terms of school-work, it helps some (though still I am chronically overwhelmed and over-tired). In terms of missing my small peeps and generally feeling like a crap mom, it's not so much helpful.  And the resentment (unfair and unwarranted) at having to miss all kinds of special lectures and school-ish things that happen in the evenings - also doesn't help with that 'fuck-up' mom feeling.

BUT- I passed my first term, with flying colours.  No one pointed their finger, shouted "fraud" and bade me to "never darken these doors" again.  No one gave me a B. (I know this fear is ridiculous.  But I can't help it. I'm B-phobic). And though academia is not exactly renowned as the most parent and/or kid-friendly place (and let's be clear, it really really isn't), I have had a wonderful experience with profs in my first term, one a parent herself who understood the ridiculous amount of times I or my kids had the flu, and one, who (mad props JR!) even offered that I could bring my 3 year old to class if she wasn't too germy-toxic.  These are not things I expected going in, and have been a really wonderful surprise. The kids are still alive and kicking, and sometimes (just sometimes), I feel like I'm doing a reasonably ok job with their little heads and hearts.

My task this term is to keep up the B-lack, and work on the self-care bit (which I may or may not have gotten a failing grade in last term). My current goal is to stay out of the hospital emergency room (lonnnnngggg story).  In this vein - I've taken up a non-academic class (pole-dancin' - cause nothing says 30-something, queer single mama like pole-dancin'!). I'm also endeavouring to get more sleep, and you know, feed myself, more regularly.  I have fantastic friends who, amoung other things, remind me to do these things.

And that, dear friends, is where our heroine finds herself these days.  Tired, reasonably happy, as un-well adjusted as usual....