Friday, December 14, 2012
Now, on December 14, 2012, as I sit on the couch with my child while he eats Extra Cheesy Cheddar Bunnies and watches “Wonder Pets,” that essay sits unfinished in my queue, and 20 children and 7 adults have been slaughtered in Newtown, Connecticut by a man with guns.
On Tuesday, a man with guns killed two people at a shopping mall in Oregon. Here in Minnesota last week, a man shot his granddaughter because he thought she was an intruder. (She lived.) On Thanksgiving, again in Minnesota, a man shot and then executed two teenagers who he says broke into his home. I don’t need to go any further back in time, do I?
Because America has reached the point where headlines such as this are necessary: “Mass shootings at schools and universities in the US” (emphasis mine) and “A history of mass shootings in the US since Columbine.” They don’t even try to list them all anymore.
One of the reasons I have not finished the essay is because talking publicly about guns and gun policy is a daunting prospect in this hysterical, gun-addled country. It’s like a third rail or, more accurately, a religion, where no one is allowed to criticize or question. The moment anyone brings it up, the NRA and various right-wingers go ape-shit, bark about the Second Amendment, trot out false equivalencies, blame it on gun control, and it’s all over.
“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Fuck you, NRA, and the heavily-armed horse you rode in on.
People with guns kill people, and you can keep your bumpersticker mentality and bizarre interpretation of the Constitution to yourself. Your superficial, myopic sloganeering in your adoration of the Second Amendment is laughable, uncritical, and harmful. It hinders thoughtful discussion of our culturally complicated relationship with firearms. It distorts our history and makes effective, evidence-based public policy impossible. I have no use for you; you are part of the problem. Because you stifle any chance to approach this issue with sanity, facts, reason, and long-term thinking.
Sure, it’s not just about guns, but you won’t let us talk about the guns part at all. And, truth be told, your friends on the right don’t want to assist the mentally ill, talk about poverty, drug policy, education, or anything else that might help. And it’s not about better defenses or arming teachers or security at schools. Stop blaming the victim.
All you have is “No.”
So just shut up.
Your right to have a gun is infringing on my freedom to be safe anywhere, ever.
After today, you have nothing more to say.
Thoughts and prayers are one thing. I'm sick of them. Thoughts and prayers are not action.
Surely a great nation such as the United States can work to craft sane gun policy as well as policy that works on other related issues. While it is certain that every prohibition creates another underground, I believe that we can begin a policy long-game that starts to create change.
Stop standing in the way, GOP and NRA. You have no leg to stand on.
You never did.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
This is a project.
You have to have a plan.
First, do you have a snow-shoveling partner? If so, now is the time to discuss your expectations: before you begin, not half-way into it or, Satan forbid, after it’s over and all you have left are pain and recrimination.
Is your partner a perfectionist or a halfasser? Find out. If you intend to shovel down to the pavement, even if it means relentless chopping, and your parter is going to shovel until he or she hits packed snow and shrugs because it’s too hard, you need to know.
Define your parameters. Do you want a narrow path to stumble down until the first thaw, or do you want to use your whole sidewalk, the whole winter? Mark these areas so your halfasser knows what you expect. Remember to leave space for recycling and garbage bins. If you don’t clear the area now, it will never happen. You will tell yourself you will handle it later, but you won’t. (See above: pain and recrimination.)
Side note: if you are dating someone, it’s a good idea to asses his or her snow-removal ethic now to avoid a painful breakup and dividing of assets later. Freshly evaluate the relationship on the basis of your assessment.
Check the prevailing weather conditions. Dress accordingly. Layer your clothing to ensure that you will be boiling within 30 minutes of beginning, no matter the temperature, and will wind up shoveling bare-headed and bare-handed. Important tip: don’t put your discarded scarf, mittens, and hat somewhere they will be covered with snow, not to be found until spring.
Take pictures. Do not allow your child or children or partner or dog or cat or city chickens to step on any of the freshly-fallen snow that is in the shot. You need pristine images of this momentous event, and your child will need the memory of having to wait for what seems like hours before it can play.
By all means, set a stopwatch before you begin. You will need to know how long you worked so you can complain/brag about it on all forms of social media, especially Facebook, because no one else in the city (or the nation) has it as bad as you/is as awesome. You also need to know how long you were at this activity so that you can replace the calories with beer.
(For instance: it took me 1 hour, 34 minutes and some odd seconds to complete the steps and walkway. In Weight Watchers terms, that’s slightly over one beer. I will need to shovel for approximately one more year to make quota.)
If you have a child who wants to help but is not quite of age to truly be of assistance, dress it warmly and chain it to the porch.
Hydrate. Jam that water bottle right into a snow bank. Just don’t shovel over it (see above note).
About a quarter of the way into a major snow fall, you will find yourself considering giving up. Resist. Think “shark in water.” Or Dory, if that helps. Just keep swimming. You have to get over that initial feeling of “I’m going to die,” and find the resolve to continue. It gets easier as you see progress, but be warned: there is another wall, and it comes about three quarters of the way through. You will be convinced that it’s all over, you can’t finish, and you are a miserable loser. Miserable loser you may be, but you can do this. Worry about your personality flaws and inability to find work later.
Save touch-up work for the end. Resist all temptation to remover “rollers” as they happen. This will save you time and murderous rage. In the same vein, resist the urge to redo neighbors’ halfassery. This job is about resistance and perseverance.
There are rewards along the way, especially if it has stopped snowing, and the sky is a crystalline blue that you usually only see over soaring mountain peaks in the west. Pause to watch the breeze blow sparkling crystals through the air; feel the coldness fill your lungs, refreshing you and reminding you of bitter beautiful mornings at your grandparents’ farmhouse; uncover the scent of peppermint and oregano as you near your garden beds; watch your child struggle against its bonds and hear its cries of “Mama!” wafting lightly through the crisp air.
It’s good to be alive.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Pete thinks he has PTSD from our whole preemie experience; I think that's patently ridiculous and self-indulgent. We had a preemie, who is now a perfectly healthy four-year-old. It's not like we were the victims of an IED in Afghanistan or sniper fire in Iraq or solitary confinement and torture. I get that PTSD can result from "less terrifying" experiences, and I totally understand that rape survivors, abuse survivors, and other survivors of grievous personal trauma can and do suffer from it (hence the quotes around "less terrifying." It's relative.), but I just don't feel that our situation--white, middle class, insured--qualifies. Certainly, it was unexpected and rather scary at times, but now, four years later, our normal, interesting, infuriating, adorable, and smart boy is just that: normal (interesting, infuriating, adorable, smart). I can look at videos and pictures from the hospital and feel a sense of gratitude and even nostalgia, not fear.
I think I am sleep deprived, four years older, 15 pounds overweight, and lacking in purpose, as well as jumpier, but I don't think that's PTSD, nor is it related specifically to having a preemie, though the first, third, and fifth are probably related to having any kind of baby.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
A sensible pair of flats and a casual cardi?
I know. It's Barbie. She started out as a fashion model, and now, she can B President, right? That's progress! She has B-liefs! She can B Aggressive! B B Aggressive!
And you, little (white) girl, playing with Barbie, can B anything!
I know you can't make everything in a version that looks like everyone, but instead of white brunette President Barbie AND a white blonde President Barbie (such diversity!), how about black President Barbie? And I know pink is your signature color, and certainly the women pictured above have appeared in it, but for President Barbie of the B-certainly-does-not-stand-for-Bitch Party, couldn't you have knocked down the Studio 54 disco-ball glitter just a tad?
At the very least, you are not teaching the art of smart campaigning, as no one, male or female, is going to win the presidency with a sunglasses-wearing micro dog in their purse and cutesy not-spelling and supremely weird phrases on their campaign literature.
I think the elections of 2008 & 2012 showed us what happens when certain parties don't choose serious people to run for higher office, and I will not be expecting "Lastly, I have to thank Barbie" in Paris Hilton's 2050 acceptance speech.
But I do think we can do better than this for our girls.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Due to my current status as a moocher, freeloader, person-who-does-not-take-responsibility-for-herself, Obama voter, possible member of the 47% (Sorry. Had to.), I had the time to attend three Irish Festivals with Pete and the rest of the band. It was great. I was not worried about deadlines; I was not filled to the brim with stress; Finn was in good hands with family; I could mostly sit back and enjoy myself.
At the third of the Irish Fairs, I walked up to a security guard, intending to ask where the Ladies' was. Instead, I said,
"Can you tell me where the potty is?"
Friday, September 21, 2012
Of course, my child has a different idea: breakfast whine. He came staggering in at 5:30 this morning, in full whine. Sparkly hand, hair in his mouth, thirsty; a crumply, floppy mess of whinging.
I thought: this is why we need breakfast wine.
*No, unemployment has not led to me needing looking after during the day while Pete is at work. I just don't feel like clarifying. Nor has it led me to drinking in the morning, at home, alone. See yesterday: don't freak out.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Pete and I are having issues. He lives a life with multiple identities; husband, father, videographer, musician, entertainer, all of which fit into "Pete" and make him a busy, interesting person. That's not to say that he is entirely fulfilled or doesn't feel lacking in some way, but he has a spectrum of identity that, from my perspective, allows for greater freedom and self-satisfaction. Heck, he even regularly receives enthusiastic praise from hundreds of people.
I am wife and mom. I don't even have my lame work identity to fall back on anymore.
I love my kid. He is smart, sweet, weird, caring, and funny. I chose to become a mother, and I would not take it back. But I am not Made of Mom. I don't find it so fulfilling that all else pales in comparison. It's not enough. In most ways, in fact, I feel motherhood has reduced me. Life has become a process of getting by, getting everyday over with, and adding twelve more items to the "Later List." When you add the guilt that comes with such feelings, you have a recipe for an existential crisis casserole complete with a crunchy topping of crushed, salty melancholy. Too bad my oven is still broken. That could be delicious served up with a side of shame and a tall, cool glass of iced rage.
We've had arguments about this before, and it seemed to come down to this for my spouse: it's either that I am not grateful that nothing terrible has happened to me and am just a purely privileged person, that I don't want to be a wife and mother, or I am so sleep deprived that I have lost all perspective.
I acknowledge that I am a privileged person and that I am sleep deprived. It is not being a wife that has made me dissatisfied. It is being a mother. Or is it? It's how motherhood has altered my life, and it has clearly altered my life in a way that has not made me happier overall. It has sucked more Me away, rather than creating more Meaning. I love my boy, and I love being with him; I would be devastated if anything ever happened to him. But his presence has created an absence, reducing me while making me something more. Motherhood is a paradox for me, and it seems like fatherhood is mainly an unrelenting joy for my husband, marked only with annoying bumps in the road.
This fact only makes my ambivalence worse and brings up a sense of inadequacy and failure. I must not have given myself over to this, my perspective must be all wrong and my expectations unrealistic. The fact that I miss my life before the boy makes me a terrible person. The fact that the thirty minutes I sometimes had before they both came home from work/daycare (when I was working) was often the best part of my day made me a selfish troll. Even if I am cooking dinner while watching Victorian melodramas and having a Guinness, I am simultaneously dreading their arrival while wishing to see them.
I am purely awful.
And daddywhumpus is a wonderful father.
Or maybe I don't want to be Just a wife and mother.
Only one of us can have a Big Fat Life, and while Pete is out and about getting approval and accolades for doing what he loves to do, I am failing and flailing, getting no accolades or approval for anything. I am keeping us going, which no one cheers about.
While society has accepted women in workplaces, much of the underlying consciousness has not changed. The idea of gender roles and expectations has not changed or is changing much more slowly. So women work out of the home as much as men and twice as much in the home. We are still the main provider of childcare and domestic chores, while men "babysit" and "help out around the house." Unemployment for me has actually improved our lives in many ways. I am on top of those domestic chores and I am significantly less stress-out and filled with twitchy self-loathing. It helps that babywhumpus is still in day care.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Ok, not really. My brother's family is really good about planning road trips that utilize our nation's extensive and marvelous National Park System, and I hear tell that there are families who even plan trips abroad. But if you are of limited means, whether that is in vacation hours or money, and you have extended family out-of-state, it's really difficult to go anywhere other than holiday visiting once you have spawned. Once you have a little angel, you are obliged to cart it around so it can be adored.
After this past Holiday Tour, which saw us again driving to Massachusetts, driving to Pennsylvania, and driving home, I am inches from declaring a travel moratorium: if you want to see the kid, you have to come here. We are staying put for the next two years unless we choose to travel, and when we do, we are going to the mountains or the Northwest or Alaska. If I had my way, it would be Ireland or New Zealand, but I am not made of magic any more than I am made of mom.
Friday, June 29, 2012
I'm all for DIY, and I think it's important for people to have a breadth of basic skills in their toolbox, but sometimes it's better to weigh all the options and just give someone money to do it for you. The job is often better and faster, and your pocketbook is not even that much lighter. Plus, while the guy (or gal) is busy doing your bidding, you can do something else like read or write or just daydream about what you would do if you won the lottery.
Here's the situation: I was out in a wealthy suburb having coffee and brilliant conversation with a dear friend, and when I arrived in the parking garage, my car had a flat tire.* To be fair, my car had told me that it was having issues with "tire pressures," but I was driving at the time as well as running late, so by the time I parked, I had forgotten. If my car were Kitt from Night Rider, it might have told me in a soothing British voice, and perhaps I would have listened, but those are the breaks.
Then the conversation in my head went something like this:
"What do you mean, call your husband, you dumb broad? You have been alone plenty of time in your life and had to take care of things all by yourself, including in Wyoming and in the parking lot of a bar in Hopkins, Minnesota.** What would you do if you did not have someone?"
I called Pete. Sometimes I don't listen.
He said, "Oh yeah, I got that message last night, and I forgot."
(See: British voice, calmly but firmly telling us what to do and not to smack our partners. Repeatedly.)
Pete advised me to drive it to the nearest service station and have them take care of it because the one time he had a flat tire on the car, he found that the jack sucked total balls, and he didn't want me using it. I was now resisting the idea of girling out and having a dude take care of it, so I got out the jack and the spare tire and took the bolt caps off. I tried to get the jack to work or even look like the diagram and the instructions in the owner's manual, but it just did not make sense to me.
I put everything back where it belonged and drove to the nearest service station, where a guy jacked it up, found the screw, and patched the sucker in about six minutes. I paid the guy $24, and went on my merry way.
*Sorry to disappoint, dear reader, but would you really want to read a post about car repairs?
**Both places where I have changed tires.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
So we did nothing. Turned on the air conditioning even though it was a lovely evening and stewed in our own angry juices.
Then this morning, Pete unloaded the car from last night's gig and encouraged Finn to help and be as loud as possible. He encouraged shrieking and the singing of the "Super Hero Squad" theme song.
Because we're assholes. And clearly, thoroughly Minnesotan.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Today at day care, one of my favorite little girls was having an end-of-the-day meltdown which focused on her perfectly reasonable desire to remain shoeless and her dad's perfectly reasonable desire to shoe her for the trip home. When he signed her out, she was laying on the floor, out of view, wailing. With shoes on.
Sometimes, that's just what you have to do.
I said, "I've felt like doing that all week."
"But you have to maintain dignity," our wise day-carer said.
"Wouldn't it be great if you didn't? If sometimes, you could just Do That? Have the fit, the tantrum, let it all out and completely lose it, up to and including all control over your limbs? Just have a wail-and-flail?"
For all my wishing, though, I don't think I could manage it even if it were allowed. I find myself being too restrained and feeling that it would be self indulgent to sit and weep for more than a few minutes or even to wallow silently in distressing emotion. And so far, 2012 is testing me.
This is probably why I feel like lead. I don't think I have let enough of it out.
Though wailing on the floor by the sign-out table at day care probably isn't the best option.
Because I am home most days, enjoying the fruits of unemployment*, one would think I could take a moment or two, pop in "Terms of Endearment" or "Steel Magnolias" and just let fly with the tears, but that would be a colossal waste of time when there is a job to look for, a garden to tend, dinner to cook, a house to keep clean, and numerous projects to work on.
I'm kind of an idiot.
So instead, what happened when I got laid off was I got all weepy one night when Pete was at rehearsal and was not the best mom in the world. Or I get all weepy one morning while getting Finn's cereal, when my grandfather has died. Or I randomly cry when I think of my friend Gary or my friend Sean. Or when I break a beloved bowl. Sad Mom is truly tragic. Whenever she crops up and Finn is around, he says, "Mama, are you sad?" And through tears, I will say, "Yes," and he will ask why. First it was that I lost my job, then I lost my mentor, then a friend, and now my grandfather. All reasons for tears, and tears that often can appear when one least expects it.
When you have an observer, you can become more sensitive to your own moods. At least, I have. Now, that doesn't mean that I am any better at controlling them, but any moods that differ from happy or at least even keel become more noticeable because there's your kid watching you be angry or upset or, as it has happened all too often lately, sad.
In general, I pretty much try not to cry, and I divert energy into other things like scanning photos and cleaning and projects. But it bubbles up to the surface sometimes, and there's Finn, sitting there with a weepy mess of mom.
It sucks. But at least he's a good hugger.
The first glimpse I had of the show was before I had a kid, and in it, I saw them show a large sauropod walking while dragging its tail on the ground. We have found no evidence in the fossil record that they did this, nor does it make any sense from a physiological perspective. Their long tails would have balanced their long necks. Since then, however, I have found them to be relatively accurate and to teach good lessons, aside from the fact that they occasionally allow the "monkey" to drive the subway train or work at the soda stand all alone. Or go on a space walk to repair a telescope.
But this particular episode filled me with enough anger that I have to contact the producers:
(From the PBS Kids website) Monkey Fever
The Man with the Yellow Hat always takes such good care of George, so when the Man comes down with a terrible case of the sniffles, George wants to return the favor...
All that sounds good, aside from the obvious fact that George is going to make a mess of something at some point because he is not a human in an ape suit. Where it fell off the rails into woo-ville was with this segment:
Naturopathy is woo, not science or health care. One does not need to visit a naturopath to learn about staying healthy and eating right; evidence-based medicine has always and continues to emphasize these elements of health care. Herbs and potions coming from a naturopath are not necessarily tested or proven to work as they are not subject to the same rules and regulations as medical care. It is irresponsible for Public Television to be promoting this nonsense.
"You know what they call alternative medicine that's been proven to work? Medicine." (I have heard this from Tim Minchin and Dara O'Brien.)
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Friday, June 1, 2012
Didn't feel any better.
Do I glue the bowl, and put stuff in it, this making it a reminder of my stupid klutziness, or do I throw it away? Do I bury it in the back yard complete with prepared words and black garb?
I may never eat cereal again.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Four, a set on Flickr.
Four years ago, this little man scared the shit out of us. His specialty now is not listening. And defiance. And button pushing.
Oh, and super excellent cuddles, weird questions, funny faces, and love.
Happy birthday to my babywhumpus. This blog would be whumpus without you.
We love you.
Friday, May 25, 2012
They made them at day care for Mothers' Day.
Thank Odin he's cute.