“grow[ing] through a crack in the concrete”

From an essay Phoenix penned this year:

What is a hero? A hero is a girl or boy, straight or gay, who has done something good for themselves or others. No doubt heroes are all over the planet. Heroes range from a fearless gladiator to bees who bake Japanese Sparrow Wasps to death. A lone wasp first visits the honeybee’s hive and attacks a few bees, then smears the hive with a chemical stored in the Sparrow Wasp’s body. That signals the wasps to attack. Almost all of them come at once and prepare to slaughter the honeybees, but the bees come out and start flapping their wings to create an intense heat. A couple degrees more and the bees can die. In fact, some bees die in the process but the others just push them aside and keep going.

***

Our next paycheck arrives paid Monday, the 10th. I am so close to meeting my somewhat ambitious goal: to enter the next pay period without debts (this means: bad checks floating around out there, or bills we were supposed to pay last pay cycle but pushed up to the present one).

I am so close. About $100 off. But, who knows? It might happen. I am patient. Ralph is owed reimbursement for some services; perhaps that money will come in before Monday. Donations come in here and there from readers and friends online. Sometimes I get an Etsy sale or some goofy thing.

I’ve learned that managing the family’s money is exciting – it really is.

These last two weeks I have been exacting and working very hard to accomplish my goal – employing some goofy and some practical measures (we decreased our energy bill by $75 this month), selling a thing or two, performing the kind of small but meaningful money-saving operations that are my calling as the at-home worker [Queen] bee – and lastly, benefitting from a few donations from readers. Bless you, readers.

Our dog’s medical expenses – severe salmon poisoning and hospitalization last summer – have been significant in this last six months’ 20-30% shortfall. Hutch’s standing debt is intense, equal to that of the four human Hogabooms. But his debt, unlike ours, could be catastrophic. As of the end of this month, if we don’t pay the remaining $1600 balance, we will receive the sum total of deferred interest in one fell swoop and then begin getting charges on that amount – the typical Damoclean-assery of credit card companies.

This is distressing – but, what can I do? Hell, I am impressed we’ve paid down the additional $900 that was involved in the experience. I don’t regret caring for our dog and keeping him from a grisly death. I am proud of how we care for our animals, even if the learning curve can be a bit distressing at times!

I took over our family’s accounting and finances a few months ago. It turns out, I love it. It is difficult to do the family thing on one income; it seems it is harder even than it was predicted to be, twelve years ago when we made our decision to live as a single-income family (I even remember where I was when Ralph and I did decide!). Not only do I have no regrets, but it seems the experience keeps teaching me more about gratitude, about planning – and about laughing a little when plans go awry (as they usually do!)

Today, life is exciting. It’s not scary, it’s an adventure. Now and then anxiety gets the better of me; but there again, too, I am patient. Patience pays off where almost nothing else does.

I think that’s a bit heroic – don’t you?

Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend: Friday links

Today’s Friday links are shorter than usual; I took a media break halfway through the week (this meant, among other things, I would click over to my Google Reader, scan briefly for any of my friends’ blogposts to read – then close my eyes and click “Mark as Read” ON EVERYTHING ELSE while crying). OF COURSE I still got some great stuff for you all – never fear.

At What Tami Said: “Sexism and Saturday Night Live”. “When faced with hard discussions about sexism or racism or homophobia, etc., people are often quick to a) minimize the past and b) celebrate just how “post-ism” we are today.” Yup, you said it.

School: I mentioned this in last weeks’ broadcast: “The Worst Bullying PSA Ever”, a critique by author Rosalind Wiseman. The critique is great, of course, but what I didn’t mention last week and what I wanted to mention this week is an alternative work she cited: “School Bullying: What You Haven’t Heard”.

Regarding school – and was pretty upsetting (but not surprising) to read – from Voice In Recovery “BMI, Education & Extra Credit for Weight Loss”. The phrase “bad idea” cannot be overstated.

On the lighter side: h/t to friend and reader Jasmine, for a Monty Python classic, “Argument Clinic”…

as well as another classic: “Phonetic Punctuation”, by Victor Borge:

But here’s the video I’m hoping many people will watch. Regarding film, television, and media and the critique, analysis, and projects associated: “Geena Davis on the Effects of Gender Inequality on TV and in Movies” at Rice Daddies, featuring a 15 minutes of FANTASTIC as follows:

In the food department: on FB my lady Flo posted a recipe for Bacon Egg Pancake Cups. Let me tell you, I hate breakfast foods Times One Hundred, but the rest of the family loves them. Oh also: I will rock these the very first time I make ’em.

Ending on a transcendent note: friend and reader Medrie wrote “Fear Not”. I’ve mentioned her work many times; she is the blog I read that always has my heart in my throat. I can imagine many mothers and erstwhile children could relate to this piece.

Foxglove!

addendum

This journal is not really suited for newsbites (besides my Friday links), but I felt pretty dang happy about the conversation Tami Harris and I had last week, which she posted to her site this morning:

“Talking with…Kelly Hogaboom: Why are online conversations among women about mothering and children so contentious?”

One reason I’m feeling great about this is Tami Harris is a writer and blogger I have the utmost esteem for (based on many things but, if I had to pick a stand-out, she has an incredible ability to create and facilitate productive discussion on intensely polarizing social topics). I really appreciated getting the invite to speak with her on this subject. From other conversations I’ve had with her (usually via DM or @ on Twitter) and reading her writings, I can predict this new “Talking with…” series she’s brewing up is going to be worth reading. Tami is not a “single-issues blogger” (not that there’s anything wrong with that), which means I never know what to expect and what direction her work will take me. For example: not a handful of hours after Ralph and I posted my first broadcast, I’d decided the next installment would feature the issue of food (the production of, topical news regarding, and the cultural experiences of what we eat – and, of course, some recipes) and clicking through on her site a few minutes later I found a relevant work she’d linked to that I’m definitely going to be discussing.

Anyone moved to comment extensively on the conversation between Tami and I, as per usual I recommend doing it at the source article. If you like I am happy to link to you here!

In other news, Nels was up off and on last night crying with a fever (one very responsive to acetaminophen, which he eventually requested for his discomfort) which meant I as up off and on last night as well. Frankly, today I’m a bit wrecked. As soon as I’m offline I’m going to bundle us up for a bike ride and spend the day caring for the two of us as best I can.

From the archives: here’s a picture of Nels from early last summer, carrying a foxglove he selected for me.
Foxglove!

everybody needs a mentor

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.
РFran̤ois Mauriac

Many of my heroes aren’t even real people but perhaps fictional – maybe even ideas of people.  Teachers long dead who weren’t even real in the first place.

Case in point: Sherlock Holmes.  In my mind and my heart – my nose in a book as long as I can remember – he’s never been the tweed-cloaked stodgy Brit with a magnifying glass, all smart and superior.  No, in revisiting his improbable adventures year after year, forward and backwards, he has been someone I know, someone I feel a kinship to, someone more corporeal to me than words on a page.  I own only a handful of books and at present two of them are Sherlock Holmes volumes (one on indefinite loan from Saint Placid’s Priory, the other a free paperback I’d found at the library).

The words of his stories still thrill me in the delicious way I feel when spending time with someone who satisfies me through-and-through; last night I read “The Adventure of The Speckled Band”, and sank my teeth into the passage which introduces the despicable Dr. Roylott – and Holmes’ handling of this villainous personage:

“But what, in the name of the devil!”

The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man framed himself in the aperture.  His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand.  So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side.  A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.

“Which of you is Holmes?” asked this apparition.

“My name, sir, but you have the advantage of me,” said my companion, quietly.

“I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran.”

“Indeed, Doctor,” said Holmes, blandly.  “Pray take a seat.”

“I will do nothing of the kind.  My stepdaughter has been  here.  I have traced her.  What has she been saying to you?”

“It is a little cold for the time of the year,” said Holmes.

“What has she been saying to you?” screamed the old man furiously.

“But I have heard that the crocuses promise well,” continued my companion imperturbably.

“Ha! You put me off, do you?” said our new visitor, taking a step forward, and shaking his hunting-crop.  “I know you, you scoundrel!  I have heard of you before.  You are Holmes the meddler.”

My friend smiled.

“Holmes the busybody!”

His smile broadened.

“Holmes the Scotland Yard jack-in-office.”

Holmes chuckled heartily.  “Your conversation is most entertaining,” said he.  “When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught.”

“I will go when I have had my say.  Don’t you dare to meddle with my affairs.  I know that Miss Stoner has been here – I traced her!  I am a dangerous man to fall foul of.  See here.” He stepped swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into a curve with his huge brown hands.

“See that you keep yourself out of my grip,” he snarled, and hurling the twisted poker into the fireplace, he strode out of the room.

“He seems a very amiable person,” said Holmes, laughing.  “I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own.” As he spoke he picked up the steel poker, and with a sudden effort straightened it out again.

Ah, how this account struck terror, adventure, admiration, a kind of glowing pride to read it!

Holmes wasn’t smart, not really.  He had a good memory but was – rather than the deductive reasoner he is renowned for being – above all things: intuitive.  He was by turns anti-social and deeply amused by the company of the unwashed masses (or uptight nobility), living a life completely his own outside a society obsessed with social niceties.  He was a poor housekeeper, a smoker, and an occasional cocaine fiend, by turns energetic and lazy.  He didn’t work for money but for the work itself, and he allowed clients to pay him what they could afford.  He was at ease undercover in an opium den or in rooms of State, with palpitating damsels or remorseless thugs.  He loved his friend and partner Watson – deeply – but he was not demonstrative or given to emotional outbursts (FTW and totally relatable! Because as my friend Abi likes to say, I am “not a hugger”).  He was strong but not a bully.  He was brave but had nothing to prove to anyone.  He was a bright star but he was Human, and human in way I could relate to even as a young girl.  And he was Free.

How I wanted to be Holmes, as a child. It almost seems in some way I did live his life – in between building forts behind the train tracks with my brother, swinging on the tire swing in our aged and venerable willow tree, the life I lived free when I wasn’t preoccupied by Doing Well in School, which was apparently my job and since I did that, people were more or less happy with me (what shit rewards that all turned out to be!).  Holmes was a part of me that wanted to follow my own lights.

I wonder if I still have time to do so.

Oh yeah, and since you asked? Yeah, I saw the recent movie version. And I didn’t like it much. It wasn’t my Holmes at all.