it’s Nels’ birthday: he’s six

Last night Nels and I were snuggled up on the laptop watching “The Vicar of Dibley” (I adore that show and my son does too; he gets every joke and loves all the kissing!).  A little after 1 AM I suddenly looked at my son and said, “Nels, it’s your birthday!”  Up until that very instant I hadn’t had the date correct; I’d thought it was Thursday.  But I suddenly knew.  And he snuggled into me and we held one another.

I still remember his birth, so vividly.  I post the story every year.  Every year I get emails from those who appreciate reading it.  But anyway, it is written in my heart (and likely his).  A wonderful start for us.

Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story

Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia
1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long

April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?

A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.

April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing

My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.

Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.

April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote

Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.

April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!

Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful and very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of his head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.

April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born

With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of his long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding him to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. He is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby boy in my own home, with my own power.

April 7th, early morning – getting to know you

I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my child away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.

I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with Sophie too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with Sophie, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.

My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.

You can send birthday wishes to Nels at my email, kelly AT hogaboom DOT org. If you are so inclined.

Not coincidentally, I wrote about motherhood on Underbellie.

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.

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.

small wonder

Today was my daughter’s 8th birthday. I snapped a picture of her right when she woke up; then crawled in bed with her and we talked. She was in wonderful spirits. Like most mornings, she immediately rose to tend to her gecko and to play with the kitties.

Harris Whisks Away

Before we left for lunch we harvested the lemons on our lemon tree, a plant we ordered by mail last summer. It had only four blooms when we received it and two were destroyed in its early weeks – thus, only two lemons grew. My lemon tree is one of my favorite material posessions, and is also the result of a two-year-old running Hogaboom inside joke – if you know the story, you are indeed in our circle of trusted friends. If you don’t know it, let me tell you sometime in person – it’s not such a good one for the writingz.

Anyway. The ILLUSTRIOUS HOGABOOM LEMON ORCHARD:
Squeeze My Lemon

Sophie, Wonderment

Kids Contemplate Lemonage

This next lemon harvest is looking impressive; there are hundreds of blooms bursting out of the tree! Guess the diet of menstrual blood and cigarette ash has boded well.

There were no takers on our proposed lunch date in Olympia, and my daughter decided she’d rather not go. So instead we visited Sophie’s second choice of venue, My Sisters Bakery here in Aberdeen. After getting home she spent the afternoon and into dusk outside playing with the neighborhood pack of kids – no seriously, they are riding bikes and climbing trees and building a tree fort by the train tracks! – and then we went to dinner with friends at Alexander’s in Hoquiam. Which was also funny because my son was being what many would consider Rude, and the proprietor was clearly annoyed, but deliberately put a “polite” face on things. And I did thank the proprietor for his patience and we did tip well, but it kind of made me laugh to see him stand at attention with his hands behind his back, giving Nels the polite attention he so clearly felt the child did not deserve.

So, I want to talk about Sophie a bit.

I remember so much about my pregnancy – which over the last nine years has been rendered into fragments, impressions, and sometimes vivid experience. My reaction upon taking the pregnancy test: stunned, from across the little studio apartment I could see the little double-line result and it was like a scene in a movie where the camera pulls back and zooms at the same time – actually kind of like alot of this imagery and terrifying orchestration, not necessarily a positive reaction at all, and I would not be able to cook the dish I’d been preparing that day, ever again; and I remember getting a second test at the Health Department (recount: whaddya know! Comes up pregnant again!) and later that day Ralph’s reaction (amazing, so sweet, so tender, so excited)…

My pregnancy went very well. I was praised by coworkers for working as shift foreman, working as hard as a man even while carrying my spawn (now I know to say “FUCK off, seriously, I do love you guys but I do not work nor pregnate for your approval”*, but I didn’t know this at the time and I lapped up the “Good Girl” compliments). Pregnancy and, later, pregnancy while nursing and then, nursing two, was awesome – I felt physically amazing and had the appetite of a linebacker. Yet with Sophie’s pregnancy I was nervous and tried to “do things right” during the duration (again, learning a little FUCK OFF is a lesson I’d love to impart to today’s breeding families) but I suffered no ill effects and, after a rough birth, took to breastfeeding and baby-loving with a wonderment and energy that has never subsided since.

Ah, Sophie. Has any baby been more loved than our baby girl? Her second year of life I quit my “Good Girl” job and we received unemployment benefits (due to a big OOPS on the part of my former employer) and this was life-changing and instrumental to our family life and what it was to become. Ralph built his computer business up enough that it changed everything; during this year he was home so much and although work-from-home and no-one’s-really-employed wasn’t easy (thank you so much, State medical, which covered my child and myself for one year), it was like a respite and a deep dive into family life, and it was incredible. This was Ralph before he grew to hate me for various and sundry, before our second child seriously challenged our worldview of PARENT IS BOSS AND IN CONTROL, before we had four mouths to feed and the high cost of living in Port Townsend caught up with us (NSF, sorry, no groceries, hungry lady-with-two-hungry-babies!).

But these idyllic memories are concomitant with so much baggage and weird shit I believed, like my baby should behave well and look cute and that other restaurant patrons have the right to never once have the experience of Children foisted on them (this is a big one for me, as I’ve always enjoyed eating in restaurants) and perhaps more importantly, this is before I knew that children grow so fast, and that it doesn’t make sense to do anything but enjoy every minute you have with them, truly, even if that means you don’t get the shit done you want to, or they splash in the tub and you have to clean the bathroom; and please, cleaning the bathroom floor while your baby / child laughs and watches you and loves you so much, is there any reason this isn’t just as amazing and wonderful experience as anything else? Fuck-yeah! to being happy to be alive and to have those we love beside us?

My daughter is cited as the “easier” child in the minds and mouths of those who know us and who hear us talk about our son – but of course, she is not “easy” because to the extent she is a more convenient child she is one we can wound, suppress, and over-socialize. We can so easily teach her – and when parents do this is it almost always, always inadvertently – that her compliance and Good Grades and Good Behavior are necessary for her to upkeep to receive our love. She is strong yet (usually) defers to authority; she is rugged yet impressionable. She sees deeply into the truth of things, probably in part because I do as well, and I’ve passed this on to her – but also, of course, this is her nature. I asked a lot of her as an older sibling, and I still do, and maybe one thing incredible to me is she knows this and accepts this most of the time; yesterday in my mother’s old truck as we drove home in the sunshine she said, “Being older is better, but it means we have to do more work.”

It was funny because the other day I was taking a bath and my girl came in the room to join me. She was carrying some sci-fi fantasy paperback she’s been reading, and she asked if she could get in the bath. I was thinking how when my daughter was born I would have wanted all the things I currently have (“have”): a smart, intelligent, well-read, well-adjusted, polite, slim and beautiful little girl. But I would have wanted these things for many wrong reasons: to glory in my “accomplishment” of this child and to be assured I wasn’t screwing up in some way, and in some way to prove to everyone Look, I Can Do It, or maybe more accurately, to ensure I would never receive criticisms for making Huge Mistakes in my role as parent, because holy damn, making mistakes as a parent really, really sucks, bad, it hurts worse than any mistake I’ve made in any other way – jobs, relationships, anything.

I’ve since released myself from believing my children’s behavior and choices are direct reflections on me and my worth, my work ethic, or my intelligence. I’ve since rejected the concept that my children’s lives should be used as sole measure to justify or denigrate my parenting STRATEGIES, my personal strengths or weaknesses, or my savvyness at making-sure-I-get-my-way and kids-need-to-know-their-place,-see?-mine-sure-do; likewise, I release my friends and neighbors from these same dogmatic correlations and when my Judgment wells up I gently address it.

And in releasing those who judge based on my children and their accomplishments or good behavior – or lack thereof – I have in the meantime been delivered the most glorious and amazing children. They couldn’t please me more, simply put, although when I am complimented on their manners or intelligence or forthrightness I do not feel smug or Right in how they are; I feel grateful and humbled and joyous, and more than this I feel so excited because they are doing this all themselves, I am only their love and a bit of guidance and I feed them and care for them, but I do not hold it as my job to mold them – not anymore. I am still reeling from a change in worldview, that it is not solely my efforts that make amazing children – or my lapses that create conflict and fights – and I’m still so excited when I talk and it spills over sometimes I worry it sounds like bragging when it Just. Isn’t.

Today my daughter, I couldn’t be more proud of her, but I am not proud in the way I thought this meant so many years ago. I am proud of her in that I cannot believe my good fortune, and the miracle that may occasionally move through me, but really isn’t about me at all.

Sophie, Upon The Morning Of Her 8th Birthday

* “pregnate” = Not A Real Word

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.