Archive for May, 2009

thinky thots thursday

And now for something completely different: a spoonful of accidental witticisms, assorted half-truths, earnest natterings, and downright inanities provided courtesy of my children on a weekly basis. Enjoy!

“Am I wearing underwear?”

“My favorite fruit is… all the fruit.”

“Ackshooly, it’s poop.”

“The way it works is, uh, it works by, uh… um… how does this thing work, anyway?”

“When I say give me a cookie, YOU GIVE ME A COOKIE. Mama. Do you understand?”

“How do unicorns get born? Do they put the horn on afterwards?”

“Doh, ray, me, fa, so, la, pee, doh!”

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to the invisible country

We finally saw Milk the other night, and as we watched Sean Penn’s remarkable portrayal of Harvey Milk’s inimitable spirit, of his ongoing courage despite loss after loss after loss, there was this odd sense of time catching up with itself as an eerily similar struggle plays out in the voting booths and halls of justice in this one hundred and fifty-eight year old entity known as California.

The California Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the voter-approved ban on gay marriage is as gut-wrenching as the bullets that tore their way through Milk’s body the day Dan White let corrosive hatred guide his hand. Those of us who grew up not “tolerating” the gay lifestyle but just accepting it, and gay people, as another shade of normal, owe Milk a debt of gratitude. Because of him, our minds aren’t clouded with hate, and we can love our gay family and friends without hesitation or judgment.

As much as I bear a deep and seething anger for those who oppose gay marriage, I pity them more. To be so insecure in their knowledge of love and so threatened by its boundlessness is to be truly alone. I hope, as the struggle continues to grant every person the freedom to love and marry whom they choose – and we will some day achieve this – I hope that the people opposing this basic human right can eventually come to where they know that love, as Dickens said, is “eternal and illimitable, not bounded by the confines of this world” and can instead of denying love, allow it in.

For now, I’d like to remind all the intolerant, hateful naysayers of this, a letter from the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, a letter which is to this day is commonly, ironically, read at weddings (including my own nearly a decade ago):

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

May our love let us bear this ruling, believe we can change it, hope for greater understanding, and endure the pain of the moment.

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a thing created

Before she was born, Shriekeuse was the gentlest mystery, wrapping us both in a strange sort of insular serenity that nothing could pierce. I knew, in some deep animal way, my only job was to eat and breathe and sleep, so she could float, comfortably brined in amniotic liquid, growing her little cells, dreaming her little fetus dreams.

I was reminded of this the other day in my water aerobics class (oh shut it, some of us require a daintier, low-impact form of exertion) when a rather enormously pregnant woman tenderly lowered her vast bulk into the pool and began languidly paddling about. As the rest of us crunched and twisted and pumped to smooth disco hits of yesteryear, weights on our ankles and giant foam barbells in our hands, this beautifully gravid creature fluttered limply, idly, her gaze fixed inward, the tiniest hint of a smile on her lips.

I had an almost visceral sense of longing for when being a mother was so simple, so peaceful, so sure. (Yes, forgetting all about the heartburn, the hemorrhoids, and the dreaded Hep B swab.) When everything seemed reduced to elementals: water, heat, light, salt. When sleep came swiftly, food was obscenely satisfying, and my belly was full of possibility and hope.

Author and teacher Elizabeth Stone once said to have a child is “to have your heart go walking around outside your body” and while that idea has resonated (with me and the rest of the mommyblogging metaverse) since I first heard it, at that moment in the pool it slammed into me with a tidal force. My heart.

At six years old, Shriekeuse is a new kind of mystery, her own person with her own interior life, no longer that tadpole swimming inside my waistline, no longer that baby gummily stretching my nipples to my knees, no longer that sticky, cuddly toddler with sweetly damp hair and less sweetly damp pull-ups, not even that preschooler proudly displaying her drawings of warbly potato people or fondly caressing my kneecaps in the checkout line. She is no longer physically connected to me, and yet, she is still distantly of me, our umbilicus now relegated to some bizarre astral plane where her joys and sorrows echo in my gut but are ultimately her own.

As she navigates her life, a little paper boat bobbing forlornly in the riptide stream of school and friends and recess, I tidy the flotsam at home, putting Junie B back on the shelf, folding the morning’s abandoned wardrobe attempts, acknowledging the beady stares of her bedridden stuffed animals. I go to the computer and look at old pictures, startled by the near-forgotten rounded cheeks and dimpled fingers, mesmerized by time unfolding image by image across my screen.

I’m quite sure that parents of teenagers would be riotously amused by this weepy little revelation: after all, adolescence is the very definition of excruciating misery for everyone involved, the separation wider, the cut deeper, the connection stretched so thin one just has to take on faith it is still there at all. Even so, age six strikes me as another, earlier fledging stage, where thoughts and feelings aren’t reflexively shared, privacy becomes valued, and intimacy is bestowed rather than assumed.

It is now that she begins to fly. Now that my heart breaks, and soars, and lets go. Just a little. Just for now. Just enough.

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keep me always at it

What could be more tedious than housework? Reading about housework, of course. Or so I thought, until I kept finding myself rammed halfway through posts scattered around the intertubes, all strangely devoted to domestic duties (hi DoctorMama and the modernity ward!) and actually rather intrigued by it all.

Housework is one of those rare topics that manages to be absolutely stultifying as well as instantly galvanizing. Getting people to discuss the division of domestic labor has about the same net effect as turning a few gladiators loose in one of those spherical iron cages: a swinging, hooting, bloody mess of vengeful madness. Particularly here in the twenty-first century, where the legacy of feminism unfortunately contains — along with its fabulously cracked glass ceilings, voting rights for half the population, etc — a certain degree of confusion about what, exactly, constitutes valuable work. [See: Hilary Clinton’s unforgettable cookie comment and ensuing backlash.]

These days, we are all careful to ask one another, “do you work outside the home?” rather than “do you work?” so as to sidestep the implication that homemakers don’t do real work, a notion that has been laughable since neanderthettes were stuffing wooly mammoths into crockpots and Swiffering out their caves.

But despite this growing consciousness, the fact remains that work inside the home – be it cleaning, cooking, or childrearing – is inherently less valued in our culture than work outside the home. How do I know this? Because no one pays me to change diapers, scrub the bathroom, shop organic, or find Polly Pocket’s goddamned shoe. No, that is its own reward, dear hearts!

And here’s where, for years – YEARS – my husband and I tripped over our mutual resentments on an almost daily basis. I probably don’t need to go all granular with our separate points of view, where he laments the chains affixing him to his desk and where I sadly reflect on the fact that he at least converses with actual adults during the course of a typical day. It is probably all too familiar for all too many of us, in varying degrees and permutations.

So as I read DoctorMama’s two-column list of his ‘n hers chores, delightfully peppered with gender stereotype-busting duties, I admire the balance of their shared responsibilities yet at the same time note that for a while now I’ve been studiously avoiding making exactly those sorts of lists.

Because for Monsieur Shriek and I, even though he excels at ironing napkins and I usually manage to get a square (ok, triangular) meal on the table most nights, keeping track of who does what is a ridiculous exercise, provocative only in its propensity to ignite the chips on each of our shoulders into flaming pyres rather than foster any sort of productive dialogue of mutual appreciation and support.

No, the mutual appreciation and support only comes when we relax our grip on the “I do this, this and this” stick and instead recognize that at the end of the day, we are each drained in our own way and try our best to replenish each other with humor, hugs, and the occasional Harvey Wallbanger (ok, actually a Cosmo or iced Lillet, but bear with me, I do so love alliteration).

The fact of the matter is, he’s got the earning power, I’m the Polaris of our domestic compass, and both of us do work of Sisyphean proportions in our own way. He is wonderfully hands-on with kids and chores when time permits. I freelance for pay when I can squeeze it in. The scales may not always balance out, but knowing that we seek fulfillment in other areas of our lives at least helps us disengage our sense of worth and identity from what we must do and instead focus on what gives us joy, what intrigues us, and what unites us.

Honestly, at this point I’m convinced that our best option is to stick our heads straight under the sands of the gender equity debate, at least as far as the who does what conversation goes. I’m tired of trying to hold up my feminist ideals with one hand while vacuuming with the other — I know I’m an intelligent creative woman whose integrity is in no way diminished by quotidian responsibilities (and here please permit me a small plug for my children, who have enriched my life beyond words and yes by enriched I do mean those low lows as well as those high highs). I realize this may not sound like a terribly enlightened approach, but I think if we want to stay married – to each other – making like ostriches will ultimately prove to be our saving grace.

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press of life

Good gods, I let much more time lapse than I meant to since the last post. I blame drama and dithering, in equal parts. Désolée!

The breast lump turned out to be “normal fibrous tissue” which is nice, because it means all that fiber in my diet was actually going somewhere after all (though I’d prefer it to work its magic on my hips).

The mammogram machine, however, was the stuff of nightmares. There is nothing quite so discomfiting as having one’s boob firmly – no, adamantly – clamped in an ominously impassive machine twice one’s height. And while the technician went out of her way to be comforting, offering blankets and little reassuring arm pats and perky chatter about the new digital thingummy, all I could think was What if there’s a fire? Or an earthquake? I CAN’T ESCAPE.

Convinced rescue workers would someday find my scorched and battered body suspended ridiculously by one mammary from GE’s finest, I mentally pleaded with the heavens to at least have an auto-release feature built in, in the event of a power failure or, I don’t know, meteor strike.

Of course the machine had had a good deal of thought put into it: some design touches were obviously for the express purpose of connoting warmth and humanity. The pleasing curves, the soothing hmmm as it adjusted it’s grasp to the specifics of one’s anatomy, the clear plexiglass plates (all the better to see the squishitude, though damned if I was going to look) were all gestures at softening the process as much as possible for what must invariably be a very nervous woman awaiting her fate.

Might I offer a suggestion for the next model? Lattés. If the thing is going to resemble an enormous Mr. Coffee anyway, it may as well deliver.

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