"You happy now, bitch?"

a rebuttal

Another typical unschooling-defamation piece makes its way into my Tweetstream. I was inspired to make a little something I will picture in my mind every time this happens. Call it my personal moment of Zen.

"You happy now, bitch?"

This little bit of Photoshoppery has nothing to do with unschooling. It has everything to do with being awesome. For instance how awesomely I LOL every time I read or hear some other persnickety, tired-out, anti-child, parent-dissing pearl-clutching screed recommending enforced child-class institutionalization.


In other news: I wrote a new post at UB, but it’s kinda grouchy, fair warning. I had a good day today though, honestly.


Oh yes. It’s Valentine’s Day. Got anything planned? I do. But first I like to get a little love song in my system.

But don’t worry. It’s not all teddy bears and diamond rings in champagne flutes. Because I’ve got a little something for anyone in ANY valentine disposition.

JUST FOR YOU: Twisted / Ardor*

Share Twisted / Ardor

Twisted /

“Please Don’t Leave Me” – Pink
Funhouse has been getting a lot of rotation here, mostly by Phoenix but I ain’t complaining. The first time I heard this song I thought, ew! The video only verified the awesome levels of Creepy & Wrong

“Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League
Come on, classic desperation. And when you bring it to the dance floor, no smiling allowed.

“Obsessed” – Mariah Carey
Another fun video by a knockout diva.

“Skullcrusher Mountain” – Jonathan Coulton
Hard to pick from all JoCo’s good stalkin’ rockin’. Last summer found me belting this one out while driving. The kids eventually dug it.

“Freakum Dress” – Beyonce
Oh Bey. You’re like a real-life princess and you sound like an angel. Sometimes your lyrics though, a bit unrelatable.

“Caught Out There” – Kelis
Well. It is Valentine’s Day!

“F*ck You” – Cee-Lo Green
How is this not everyone’s favorite song? OK, OK, I reject the “golddigger” narrative as offensively misogynistic but let me have my fun!

“La Tortura” (Shakira & Alejandro Sanz) – Shakira
This is the one I belt out at home at volume 11. P.S. I want to re-enact the video frame-by-frame, I need a partner and a buttload of onions though. Interested?

“Lose You” – Peaches
No love mix is complete without her teaches.

/ Ardor

“Heal The Pain” – George Michael
Another lovely piece from a fabulous artist; from an album released in 1990 and enjoyed immensely since then.

“Need U Bad” – Jazmine Sullivan
This is another one I love to sing, and Phoenie does too. Sullivan is one of the most expressive vocalists I’ve got in rotation these days.

“Drive” – The Cars
A classic that serves up nostalgia and longing.

“Never Let You Go” – Justin Bieber
Hey. Do you remember being fourteen? This song makes me cry. Haters, fuck off.

“Prove It All Night” – Bruce Springsteen
OK, in all seriousness, THIS is the one I’d like to belt out most, when Ralph finally realizes my hints at forming a dancehall cover band are not really hints.

“Let It Be Me” – Ray LaMontagne
Like so many ladies, I have fallen for the bearded crooner. IT’S A TRAP

“Human Touch” – Bruce Springsteen
The Boss is so good he rates twice.

“Skinny Love” – Bon Iver
I like Bon Iver despite Ralph giving me a swirlie every time he hears me listening to them.

“Waterbirds” – Tennis
From a pretty album by husband and wife, all shoegazey and sweet.

“Hello Love” – Be Good Tanyas
I want to be a lady-country-folkster with a guitar. And be a bit prettier with a unique songbird voice.

“Love Like a Sunset Part I & Part II” – Phoenix
We have this on vinyl. The whole album is lovely and holds a very special, rainy-and-windswept place in my heart.


Happy Monday, all!

* (Um, let me know if there’s any weirdness with listening in… I don’t really know how Rhapsody works for non-subscribers.)

this is the face of depression

Today everyone was perfect. The kids were wonderful and beautiful and my husband and them were like in the kitchen laughing gaily while sipping cocktails. They were a bucket of kittens. They were a unicorn painting. Everyone was stellar.

Except me. I sucked.

I didn’t sew. Not a stitch. I wrote this arcane little social justice piece no one will give much of a damn about and those who read will likely think I get all frothed up over unimportant stuff*. I didn’t lift a finger to sort out domestic life (leaving Ralph to clean house, cook food, grab groceries, set the table and serve dinner, and raise our children). I tried to knit something but I’m too inept to figure out how to do a provisional cast-on (yes this is AFTER watching YouTube tutorials). I didn’t even get any television-watching done. I bathed and got dressed – because I have never been in my life so depressed I didn’t do that – but that’s about the only thing I did that made me feel like a human being.

So really? You know those days where you just end up ungrateful and dispirited and you suck? Yeah. That was kind of the overarching sentiment.

* OK, rescinded, a few people liked it and a few more people at least “Like”d it.

hasta mañana

For Nels’ birthday my son requested enrollment in Spy Camp at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia (his actual birthdate is this Wednesday).  He chose the week of half-day events over a Netbook* which I think is pretty indicative of his desire to learn Spying, as he is a little computer freak just like his grown-up little computer freak father.  I begrudge the thought of driving to Olympia (a 45-minute trip) five days this week but given I’m an infrequent driver most of the time and my mother has loaned us her van (which comes with a Sirius XM radio, which I am addicted to, yes 80s hits mostly) it’s not so bad.  And I’m super-glad to do something special for Nels who is suddenly on the verge of turning six, which is really weird because I just gave birth to him a few minutes ago.

So today I lost my temper at the kids, in a major way, not once but twice.  And I feel so bad about it it’s as if I shouldn’t have made the effort (to have a good day) at all.  Yes, I feel bad about myself despite getting up and packing a great lunch (my kids eat so. much. goddamned. food) and getting the children dressed with their teeth brushed then whipping up to “the city” and dropping Nels at his event and taking Sophie around on a walk about town, including a reclaimed materials art gallery and vegetarian lunch and a stop at a bakery I knew she’d love.  No, after all this and even with a dose of Mellow and lots of good humor I still behaved horridly, and No I still can’t give myself a break over it, but TIA for suggesting it, kbai.

And don’t even say that it’s precisely the inner-applied pressure of trying to be Perfect Mom that makes me snap and behave like Mommy Dearest.  Nice try, Pop Psychology, but that’s really not it.  Because I know I’m not Perfect Mom and I know in my logical brain that I provide enough awesomeness to my kids, and I don’t need to do better or work harder or whatever.  I mean I know this.  (Don’t I?)

And it’s not because kids are so hard to deal with and that’s why almost everyone farms them out in school.  Because in so many ways I am so used to my kids and who would have thought it, I completely love living my life with them most of the time.

Maybe it’s just that when I screw up I really tend to feel like I’ve Ruined Everything.  Even if for all I know my family doesn’t feel that way and I really should give myself a break.

Not that anyone wants to or needs to hear more about this, but because I need to write it out: driving home in the pissing-rain I felt eight kinds of terrible.  The layers of Terrible were blended in a perfect mental-emotional culinary mess of Fail.  I felt terrible I’d blown up at my kids.  I felt WORSE in that I’d been a great mom for the entire day and then somehow turned into a monstrer (yes, this is the correct spelling), instantaneously.  I felt terrible some dude may or may not have heard me totally yelling and losing my shit, and that this dude may or may not be a dude I’m going to see more of as he may or may not also have kids in the camp (ugh!). Then I felt terrible I should give so much of a damn what some random person might think when the really terrible thing is that I yell and cuss at my kids. I felt surprsingly devastated – devastated – I was going to miss my dance class (later I would find out the dance class would have been missed in any case – I was an hour off in my calculations, if you could call them that. And by the way, you can imagine how listlessly – stupid doesn’t encapsulate the word – I felt later when I realized my tantrum was based on a total erroneous supposition, that I could have in fact taken my son to camp without missing my class). I hate that feeling when I realize I’m not taking care of myself in my daily life, which means I cling so tenaciously to some little thing I have to have or else I’m going to be so upset. Danger! Danger!  And then I resent the hell out of everyone who, you know, doesn’t have small children, and then I know that’s unfair but.  Whatever.

I can’t quite describe the full depths of ass-ness that were attempting to overwhelm me during the first part of our drive home.  My wonderful kids were quiet.  They were not afraid or angry but simply present with me in my misery.  I drove and believed all sorts of bad things about myself.  But there was this tiny glimmer of light somewhere within me that kept saying, “What we think we become.”* I know this to be true, so I tried to stop myself thinking I was a Bad Mother or a Horrible Human Being, even though the evidence therein was in place. Terrible thoughts rose in my mind but I didn’t want to make them my reality.  I tried instead to believe I am someone who can change.  This is hard for me to believe.  I shifted my thoughts to knowing I’m someone who does very well much of the time.  This felt irrelevant.  I shifted my thoughts to know I’d been so good to my family most of the day. And I was going home to make dinner and take care of them some more.  I knew I could do that much, at least. I knew it would happen.

About 5:30 when we got into town I met up with Ralph at the bus station (he bikes/busses to work now that we’re vehicularly-compromised) and I had him take me to the dance studio while he and the kids ran to get dinner groceries.  Which was a weird request because my class was long dismissed.  But like Richard Gere shouted to his drill instructor after doing a butt-load of sit-ups, I had nowhere else to go.

There was a tap / jazz dance class in attendance at the studio, a very small one: the teacher L. and two students who seemed about high school senior age.  The threesome let me stay and watch.  I’ve never particularly liked tap nor jazz dance.  But watching these dancers was the perfect prescription for my bruised ego.  L. is a teacher who obviously enjoys just about every kind of dance, so it’s pretty wonderful to watch her.  Singing a show tune and mapping out choreography and lifting her arms she is a beautiful sight to behold not just for her skill and physical beauty but for her enjoyment of the dance itself.  I’ve known her, albeit not well, since she was a little girl.  She loved dance then, too.  Funny thing.

A few minutes after I arrived the class tried to encourage me to join them.  I was so drained and exhausted and kind of crazy-sad I didn’t have the energy to stoically refuse (which would be a typical MO).  Fortunately my very wide feet  (raised in Doc Martens and therefore untrained to cram into ladies’ narrow fashions) kept me from fitting in the pinchy (¡pinche!) shoes.  I sat in my sock feet and watched, warmed and grateful for a respite. The dizzying and fast footwork were oddly completely soothing.  It was like feeling like a terrible person but somehow still being safe because no one was needing me nor paying attention to me.

Home and I read to the kids; but not before cooking a (vegetarian, Ralph and I are tasting the Hate and Suffering in meat lately) dinner: butter parmesan noodles, pan-roasted garbanzo beans, sauteed kale, cucumber salad, roasted cauliflower, and steamed broccoli.  And I washed the clothes and folded and put them away and got things ready for tomorrow. Because:

Tomorrow is another day.

Nels, posing for his Spy Camp badge:

Urbane & Sophisticated

* Not the real link we would use to purchase, as my husband would find some way to get the damn thing cheaper.

** The entire quote is: ““All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” It is attributed to Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

of needlesharp ire

Yesterday in my belly dancing class we learned to hold the veil and work with it while dancing. Holding the veil hurt the claw part of my hand, because I’ve been handsewing more of late.  The pain in my extremeties served a bittersweet reminder of my love and bondage; it spoke aloud of something that will be with me for the life I have, as long as I’m able:

Because I love sewing. Times one million.

I’ve been sewing since tempus immemoria, i.e. always.  And over the years I’ve been annoyed by, to some extent large or small, the following:

1.  The elitist, sizeist, racist, ableist, etc. buffet our current glut of craft books and websites are serving up. This needs so much unpacking I had to write up a separate post.

2.  “You should / could sell those!” Really?  Because I’ve never heard anyone say that before.  Or no wait, I hear it all the time.

I understand this is delivered as a compliment 99.44% of the time.  That’s cool.  And it’s interesting that from the lips of so many springs the concept that the ultimate compliment is deigning my work fit for commoditization or earning potential.  Huh.

A tip: those who sell things usually mass-produce them at some level.  This is not for everyone.  Some of us who sew shudder at the very thought of making two identical pillowcases (hello!), let alone churning out one after another diaper cover. Some sewists thrive on this sort of thing, sure. I personally know several. But when someone spies my crayon roll- up (genius!) and says you should sell those, they don’t seem to realize if I took their “advice” I’d be making a bunch of crayon roll-ups instead of other stuff, and the resultant item would be something that would either end up being more expensive than I could unload easily, or it would necessitate a whole wholesale fabric / factory-style construction / mailing center / production workshop.  And me making the same thing over and over.  And: no.

These days I simply smile and say, “If I sold them I wouldn’t have time to sew for my family.”  Ralph says I’m getting good at this.

What I say to other crafters:

“Wow, that’s fantastic.”
“How long did that take you to make?”
“Do you sell those?”
“I’m impressed.  How long have you been making those?”

3. “My mom/Granny/whomever used to make all our clothes.” Really? Did she do anything else, ever? Did she bonsai kitten you into a glass jar so you didn’t grow?

I have no doubt some moms (grandmothers, aunts, fathers, etc. etc.) did in fact make close to 100% of their progeny’s garments (though: socks? underwear? shoes? really?). However the number of times I hear this, I’m pretty sure many have exaggerated. Before I sewed a lot I used to say this about my own childhood wardrobe and I think I’ve even heard my mom say it. Until I look at the pictures in the photo album and yeah, I’m rockin’ some homemade digs but a lot of non-homemade stuff too.  To the extent cheap labor and crappy enviro-pillage occurs it’s currently a bit cheaper to buy ready-made (although not necessarily quality) than the materials and time-effort going into homemade.  This wasn’t always the case, though, and some people did used to sew quite a bit.

It annoys me to hear it because it’s all part of a conversation that cheapens the time and effort needed for high-quality, sturdy clothes. As if a half-hour a day thrown here or there could clothe a growing family.

What you could consider saying to crafters instead:

“My mom/Granny/whomever used to sew clothes for me. I loved (/hated) them!”
“How much time did it take to make that?”
“How much time do you spend sewing?”
“I seem to remember my mom made so much of our clothing. I wonder why so few do so now.”

4. “Will you make me one of those?  I could pay you [ some incredibly small amount for your time and the materials ].”

These days I will do it for free or not at all.  Because first off, again, my goals do not include earning currency. Secondly, if I charged someone a fair price it would be more than most people are willing to pay (trust me!).  So the offer of $25 for a full dress and pintucked pinafore, including fabric costs, is insulting (true example!).  But a request for a gift is flattering (I may not say yes, but it never hurts to ask).

5.  “OMG I would love to sew but I just don’t have time.”

Right.  I have loads of it to spare!  Why don’t I come over and do the rest of your lifework so you can sew, if you’re not too busy!

OK, no more sarcasm, but: Hey guess what!  I made all that time!  I elbowed other things out of the way!  It has been long, mostly joyous, occasionally hard, haul! It’s not like I just had time lying around!

6. “OMG, did you make that?  That is so cool!  I totally want to sew but I just can’t get past blah-blah, one time I made such-and-such, and everyone loved it blah-blah”

My sewing is All About You, so thank you!

7.  “You need new curtains?  Why don’t you just make them?  You can sew anything!”

FUCK YOU*, I totally hate sewing lots of things, including home dec, duvets, cushion-covers, etc. Just because I can make things doesn’t mean it wouldn’t kill my soul to undertake the effort (recent potholder-fail, I am looking at you!).

[ / asshattery, mine ]

* I don’t literally think “Fuck you” towards hardly anyone, it’s more like I think “fuck you” towards curtains.

balls. part deux. (also: trolls)

I got my first anonymous hater today:

Wow. So artfully self-aggrandizing and self-effacing, yet so ANGRY, defensive. Root emotion: anger = FEAR. What are you so afraid of? Your smart readers must do so only to shake their heads. So sad. I’ll be looking for your caustic, derisive response.

The person who wrote this formspring query had emailed me previously – a much more level-headed criticism – but apparently didn’t like my response. Instead of moving herself on to read other blogs, she felt she’d take me down a peg.

Not to be a downer on formspring, but I thought I would post this to let people know that anonymity can often foster hateful language. Those of us who write online – and attach our own names to our writing – get this sort of thing now and then.

Anecdotally: I’ve always thought the root emotion of anger is hurt, not fear. But I’m open to other opinions!

OK, of course, I know what several of you smarties are thinking: “That doesn’t deserve a response!” And goddamn it, you’re probably right!  And yet, this formspring flame is a timely one for me and is touching on something that’s been on my mind:

In the handful of months since I’ve opened comments on my blog, I have been receiving good comments fostering lively discussion – and, behind the scenes: private picking-at-me emails and, now, my first anonymous hate-mail (um, yay?).

This is truly incredible and I’d like to give you a minute to think about this.

People have been reaching out to talk to me since I’ve been blogging – six years.  Before I opened comments I received DMs, IMs, emails, Facebook responses, snail mail letters, people stopping me in the street and phone calls from across the country.  These communications have often been supportive, grateful, and complimentary;  many asked for my advice or my perspective.  Occasionally these communications directly challenged my assertions or writings (this is a sensitive-New-Age way of saying: people would argue with me).  And always, always these experiences have been worthwhile to engage in.  Every single one.

Things have changed.

Yes, I know who wrote the formspring snark*; if I chose, could email this person and say, “Hey dude, not cool”, or ignore this person or write them and their opinions off, or whatever (I do think a focused post about my ANGRY would be good – although of course, I pretty much happily trot the subject out often enough).  But let me stay on point for now:

I have a lot of readers at this point, a number that has grown over the years. I have many lurkers – that is, people who read and never comment, never email, never let me know they’re there (or who perhaps eventually reveal they’ve been there, for years). I figure it makes sense that eventually I’d get a couple readers who read me and discover they don’t like me, yet – and this is the icky part – keep reading.  I know this could be true, in part because I myself have hate-lurked on a blog, chewing myself up inside about someone whose life, for whatever reason, got on my tits because it was too preachy or too consumerist or too slutty or whatever.  I’m not proud that I did this or that I had these feelings.  I’ve moved on from reading specific publications because I realized it was toxic for me to stay; I was unable to engage the author in a productive, dialogue-inducing way and keep my mind open to who they are; I was both intolerant of and tormented by our differences.  Until I self-corrected I would hate, obsess, chew over why the person or author was wrong or gross or whatever.  I’ve never made a secret out of my own Hater tendencies, because they are a part of me.

What sucks for me is that I don’t publicize my blog as a prescriptive worldview nor a direct communication to specific parties. This is my journal.

So, for instance, my recent personal litany on what people so often say to me about having kids out of school was not a dogmatic denouncement of public or private schools for all parties; the social construction of education is one I am not well-versed in – yet – and I have not been asked to weigh in on by anyone, ever. (If you do wonder what I believe about the vast majority of standard education, and how my life fits into the world at large, I’d direct you to this jaw-droppingly amazing article by Eva Swindler; she’s an actual authority writing professional copy by the way).  I am a human being and you are seeing me in all my humanness; I keep very little private from this journal.

Yeah, I’m aware my thought processes challenge people.  Maybe, reader, you don’t feel particularly challenged, but I want to tell you I get told this all the time; in fact, I’ve often been told this is one of the best things about knowing me (other reasons: my compassion, my cooking, my breasts).  Seriously, in the last week this is what I’ve heard about my writing from about a half dozen parties: “amazing writer”, “on another level”, “hard to follow”, “witty and fast”, “jumps around a lot”, “perfection” (ego-zing! on that last one). Even being handed the shit-sandwich from formspring I know, in theory anyway, that someone who makes character attacks and says I’m “so sad” is, in fact, likely very threatened by what I say, which means hey, maybe I’m saying something worth saying.

Yet, of course, if anyone out there sets me up as Enlightened (or, alternatively, SO SAD AND ANGRY), they are using my very human expression against me to insist I’m not fully human.  This feels like infringement – in both cases.

Because I am not at some “level” of awesome (holy shit, do you even READ here?) or, alternatively, someone who is JUST a sad, frightened, judgy person (duh).  I am just as insecure and brittle and flawed and shitty as the next person.  Writing has been the sole tool I’ve used to know myself.

Oh my god, that reminds me: writing.  When some people say “such-and-such has saved my life”?  This is writing, for me.  And not writing some nicey-pants stuff nor trying-to-say-the-least-(or most!)-offensive-thing. Or like, “I saw my kids playing by the pond today and I realized, this is Life, like seeing a newborn kitten in a sunset” stuff.  I have been trying to say the Me, trying to express myself and I am getting pretty good at it.  Expressing myself.  My best ever writing is when I feel I have really told you who I am, what I think, how I behaved. And I know it’s not always pretty (although sometimes, it’s sublime).  In fact, I love keeping my journal so much I will never stop as long as I’m able.

So getting another I think you should be careful with your language because you are saying things I don’t like email, then a few “I don’t always agree with everything you say” prefaces (from people who asked me to open comments, but have never used the comment function), then “you’re sad, caustic, derisive” – well, it just starts feeling a bit frustrating.  And assy.  Because, you know, fuck off.  This is my diary.  It really is.  I am terribly sorry if at any point I gave the impression this is Life Lessons from Kelly Who-Gives-An-Arse Hogaboom (incidentally: this site is not my diary and would likely be the closest I’d come to claiming “professional” copy, although P.S., I don’t get paid for shit, ever).  Because, you know, it isn’t.

So, yeah, comments.  I know if I close comments things will shift back to where they are more comfortable for me; indeed, my closest loved ones have suggested this.  But the majority of the comments here on my blog have been edifying and delightful.  And I’m not sure I should do things to make myself more comfortable (although yes, I hear you – this really is my space to do whatever I want).

Oh and! Because seriously, everyone tells me I’m smart and intimidating and “rock-solid” and it seems nothing hurts me?  (No seriously, I have been told this three times by three different women this week).  Just to be clear: anonymous hate and snark directed at me, personally?

Yes, it hurts.  Like, upon reading the words on the screen my chest constricted and I felt flushed and Terrible as a Person and like I wanted to Make It Go Away, for several minutes.  I felt Wrong in everything I said and Hated and so pathetic and somehow it’s right I should be hated on, because I have a public blog and write about my life (of course, as a lady I really do “deserve it”), and I have opinions and show my ass and stuff.

Funny thing.  Writing this all out helped.  Huh.

* I’m not sure why people don’t know that first of all they use some of the same phraseology, grammatical errors, figures of speech, and the same tone; secondly, I can “see” people when they are online so thus when a query or comment pops up it isn’t as if I hadn’t seen their recent tweet, or IM status, or whatever; thirdly, that as popular as I am to read it is rare the EXACT ONE SUBJECT gets up the ass of two separate people in the same exact way, so if someone already emailed me then followed up with an anonymous formspring post, well. Yeah.  I know it’s you.

Do Your Job

“Do your job.”

So, ugh.

I’ve been a frazzled, overwhelmed, resentful woman, wife, and mother.* I apologized to my family today but only after I blew up and said something so mean-spirited and ungentle and terrible. And it just really sucks, because of course an apology can’t un-do the thing I said, or the way I’ve been feeling and how that’s likely affected my family. Because: of course when I get to a place where I’m this pissed and pent-up and all, by then my family is usually acting like asses because they rely on me (probably too much) to be a good Mama and a decent person. So it’s kind of like a Square One kind of deal. And I need all the help, good will, and good fortune I can get.

^^^ Me, during better times, and incidentally with my hair, not the chemically-altered version. & my boy. Telling me a story. & I love him.

* Yes, despite – on Thursday – having a wonderful 33rd birthday full of friends and family treating me very, very well.

pretty little disappointments all in a row

Today: kind of murderous.  For the most part.  Dishes, drudgery.  In the evening I’m pissed at my son for interrupting the few minutes Ralph and I have to talk on the bleachers while our daughter swims, after I told our son to Please Be Quiet because I want a few minutes to talk to my husband. And of course he wasn’t, and it made me so angry that he’s such a selfish dick, and I know if I don’t curb my anger he feels it and it makes him feel Bad and Terrible.  The list of grievances kept coming: I’m irritated the yoga classroom being so damned cold, eye-rollingly cross at my husband for caring too much what other parents think (of us, of our kids’ behavior) in the public sphere, annoyed at my mother at dinner when she orders a huge drink, which who cares, but of course she’s always telling me she “isn’t drinking anymore”, probably the most confusing and gaslighting lie of my childhood.  And then other stuff that adult children can get annoyed at their parents about (in other words, No Big Deal). I feel surprisingly acrimonious towards my daughter at 7:30 tonight, who displays an uncharacteristic disrespect when we leave the YMCA and she asks for her chocolate muffin and I say kindly Hey, you told me you didn’t want it, and your father and brother ate it and she cries, then yells – at me – and won’t calm. I mean normally I can handle her crying fits or small rages or drama because I really, really do understand and it isn’t “drama” to the person going through it. But today I felt like pulling the car over and screaming at her. I didn’t – which I do put down to good parenting – yay me.

As shitty a day as I sometimes have, I’m aware of how fortunate I am to have a family.  And there’s something comforting in the fact that even when I am having a Bad Day they aren’t necessarily having such a rough time.  At dinner my mother and Nels cuddled together and she spontaneously asked him if he’d like to stay the night. And I felt this amazing gratitude toward my mother, who let me down in so many ways growing up but her love of my children – and their love of her – is something completely Beautiful and all their own and one of my great pleasures to witness.  Ralph got home a little after 10:30 PM – he’d taken The Boy grocery and craft supply shopping (the latter is a near constant around here, whenever there’s cash to scrape up) and left our son – bathed, hair washed, snuggled in a blanket on my mom’s couch and watching 101 Dalmations – at my mother’s house. Ralph and I have a night with just our girl, which frankly feels wonderful.  And because the kids don’t get up for school it’s like every day is a weekend, and that is rather awesome I must say, because I feel I can really recover and rest from a Bad Day and I don’t get sick or stressed too much the way I absolutely did when I worked out of the home.

While Ralph and Nels are out I work on a sewing project; Sophie comes back with some pipe cleaner and origami creations she’d worked on while we were out at dinner (she enjoys spending time alone, an aspect of her personality I love about her) and we make plans for a project. Then she tells me she wants to sew and can I take a break from what I’m working on?  Sure.  She picks a pattern from the specialized stitches on my mom’s Bernina and selects a scrap and finds thread and asks me how to thread the machine.  I start talking her through it but before I can say more than a couple words her hands perform the operations effortlessly and gracefully.  I feel chills:  it’s one of those moments like the quickening in one’s womb, or a first kiss, or witnessing a death, something amazing happening.  I have taught many, many people to sew but I don’t think I’ve seen any novice thread a machine as beautifully as she just did, her first try.  I know that in part it’s because I’ve been sewing around her as long as she can remember; still, I’d never shown her the operation directly.  And it feels so strange to me the workings are in her blood and her long, beautiful fingers and I didn’t mean to put it there, but there it is at any rate.

I <3 My:

what brings us together is food

An entry from today featured in our newly launched family project, Ask Nels:

Cynthia asks:
I want to find a boyfriend. Where should I look?

Nels replies:
You can just ask someone to be your boyfriend. You can look inside some woods, like my Grandma did. You can stay there until I get older and then I can be your boyfriend.


I hosted nine people for dinner tonight.  Three of our friends from up north came by on their way back from camping, and my mom invited her boyfriend D. over.  In honor of Sophie’s first soccer practice I prepared her favorite meal: spaghetti with meatballs (I rarely if ever use a recipe for this dish and it is always fantastic).  I also made roasted cauliflower, salted cucumber, garden carrots, ceaser salad, and sweet tea.  And somehow I did this while chatting with my out-of-town friend S. and not feeling at all crazy about (still) living in the non-space that I make my home in.

As we sat down to dish up D. waited until my mom had loaded his plate with veggie accoutrement, then took up a huge, huge spoonful of angel hair pasta.  My mom quickly (but quietly) jumped on him for taking such a large share.  “You can’t take that many – there are lots of people here!” she whispered.  “But I’m hungry for this much,” he said, and didn’t budge.  WTF – is he five years old? They actually argued over this for a while.  Then he put some back, and later when there was enough, requested her apology.  This was kind of perfect, a knife’s edge balance of things that grate on my ass: my mother’s constant chastisement of people about the “polite” thing to do, vs. a display of douchebaggery at a communal meal. Unbeknownst to the guests I’d already set an extra salted pot of water to boil for the possibility of a pasta FAIL, so we were covered.

In D.’s defense, I have seen my spaghetti and meatballs make people do crazy things before.  Once we had a male guest who loaded up plate after plate, telling us these enthralling stories the whole while to distract anyone from infringing on his meat-share, and only getting one speck of red sauce on his impeccable shirtfront.  I have seriously not seen anyone eat that many meatballs, not even Joe Crecca from my Port Townsend years.

By way of previous reference, my mom did indeed find a boyfriend “in the woods”. Or rather, they ran into one another in town and when she found out he lived off the grid out in the boonies (no plumbing, no electricity, a house that needed much work on) these aspects of his lifestyle further recommended him to her fancy.  I haven’t been to his place.  I don’t really like the guy.  But I’m glad my mom does, and that my kids do.  They’ve been out to his place a few times (the kids).  But he comes over much more often to ours.

Looking up my own caesar salad recipe I came upon a post  (also including diners who behave like heels) that reminded me:  I miss my dad so much.  That was some OG bastard.

raising some sort of sasquatch-like creatures

I admit I find a lot of people guilty of idiotic statements that for some reason I allow to deeply annoy me.  One high on my list is: “blah blah blah see how boys are different than girls because blah blah blah“.  About a third of the time I’ll be telling a story about my son and how Hell On Wheels he is in some particular situation the person I’m talking to – without being asked, and for no reason relevant to the conversation – will offer up, “Well he’s a boy, and boys blah blah blah” or some such drivel.  I never know exactly how to respond to this, because it’s annoying, and usually this person has selectively ignored the myriad of “girl” that my son exhibits (examples below), and bottom line, I think gender stereotyping in social conversation is just plain lazy (interesting: I have never heard the converse – someone attributing an aspect of my daughter’s more compliant persona to femaleness).  There’s probably some really snappy phrase describing the phenomena of someone wanting to see a certain connection and lo and behold finding “examples” everywhere. Maybe I need to look that one up and arm myself with it.

In any case, speaking for our family, “boy” vs. “girl” seems to be most obviously delineated by genitalia differences and chromosomal count, less descriptive regarding my children’s preferences, affinities, or temperaments.  For instance it is my son who loves pink, passionately enjoys gardening, cooking, and washing dishes, has a more forgiving nature, wears his blonde hair long by choice, adores playing with Barbies and watching Disney Princess films, and on lunch dates likes to eat a small salad and order Diet Coke and then for dessert a big piece of cheesecake because he’s been so good all day.

So understand the reason I was surprised that it was Sophie, and not Nels, who dropped trousers to piss in the small hedged-in hilled area behind the Hoquiam Transit station today is not because I think it is more “boy” to urinate in public places but because one thing about Nels is he has generally been rather free in general to mark territory with his urine. And why not?  We’re an outdoor, active family. Kind of difficult to instruct a small child in the finessey differences when semi-public urination is a perfectly good solution (like a camping trip or long highway trip “bathroom break”) versus when it’s a kind of regrettable idea.

I think Sophie could have known better though, especially given there are perfectly normal actual bathroom facilities on the premises.  In any case, I have no idea if the kids had ever previously peed back in this miniature no-mans-land, so in a way I’m glad the kiosk Transit employee caught my daughter red-handed.

The woman’s reaction, however, is near apopolectic.

I look up as she’s striding toward the kids and yelling, “No, NO! No!”  In fact her voice is raised so angrily that for a moment I feel a stab of fear that something terrible has happened.  Then I hear the woman continue in a thundering lecture: “You don’t do that back here!” as my children obediantly and with open, agreeable faces trot out from the shrubbery, my daughter re-seating her linen pants and heading towards the bathroom.

Witnessing this interaction I feel sadness, disappointment, and anger.  A month ago this same woman had spoken nearly as harshly to my son for the grevious sins of attempting to make a call on the public phone (which was in fact out of order), and a few minutes later, not sitting in one spot on the cold metal bench I was located (adults are, of course, allowed to roam freely).  In the case before I’d disliked how rude this woman was to my son but I’d figured hey, she was having a bad day or whatever. Even now as she stomps behind my children I’m thinking I’ll just file away her behavior and give her another chance next time because of course my kids are doing something “naughty” that to those without small children could seem shocking.

But no, even as the kids have obeyed and are on their way back towards me she’s still angrily lecturing on the point that they need to use the bathroom and not the bushes (I counted, and she literally repeated this four times).  Sophie and Nels are now of their own volition in the restroom washing their hands (see? their manners are actually quite Fancy) as she barks at them from a few feet away.

So I step forth and say, “Ma’am.  Ma’am. I’m sorry, I can see you’re upset.  But you really don’t need to use that tone.”

She’s angry but is attempting to avoid eye contact.  She starts in, for the fifth time, to explain to me the problem.  I hear her out for a minute and say, “I completely understand.  I will talk to them,” I promise, “but this is the second time we’ve been here you’ve spoken to them in that tone, and I can assure you it isn’t necessary.”

This brings her up short.  Someone has actually watched and noted how she treats the public?  Who’d have thought? “Well good then, okay, fine,” she says, stomping off, admitting a kind of defeat: upset I’d confronted her (as anyone might be) but grudgingly convinced in my overall Decency because I had not defended my child’s right to soil the public facilities willy-nilly.

(Incidentally, as we waited for the bus we did see the Transit’s Code of Conduct posted on the wall.  Rule #3 reads “No spitting, urinating, or defecating.”  I guess they do have to spell it out, even to some grownups. By the way, I heard later from a friend this exact woman had had the unfortunate circumstance of discovering a grown man’s bowel movement back in the bushes, on an earlier occasion.  Once bitten, twice shy I suppose).

Sitting with the kids and I make sure they understand the decorum I expect of them at the transit station.  I’m a little irritated, rubbed raw in the way I get when I feel the world is unfair to my kids. “I’m sorry she spoke so rudely to you,” I wind up.

“I didn’t mind,” Sophie says. Yeah, and I get it, because I know I raise my voice in a similar assy fashion to them, they’ve heard it before – and some days more than once.  But perhaps even more striking, I’ve observed children seem to have a more rugged Ego when it comes to being corrected in public.  It’s like they hear what the person is saying and aren’t as angry or defensive as an adult might be.  This is a humbling thought; and a great trait I’d like to have myself.

But when it comes down to it, my kids don’t have to mind one way or another, and I’m not one to swoop them up in big, protective arms each time the world is a shit to them.  But every now and then I do say something to adults who think it’s perfectly permissible to speak to children as if they were second-class citizens.

We continue on our way, loading the Xtracycle up on the bus and venturing out for Sophie’s soccer gear and some groceries.  We arrive back home at four o’clock, a day without driving, a beautiful sunny one at that.