Archive for September, 2006

‘Look, Mommy,’ Lucy says to me as she holds up a rubber duck dressed up like Frankenstein with a popbead necklace, ‘we’re having a Forgivements Day party. That’s where each duck chooses a partner who’s been decorated by me.’ She places her hand on her chest. ‘Then they marry each other.’ She’s standing on her stool in the bathroom and since her idea of ‘marrying’ involves holding hands and spinning around, she attempts a sort of whirl-shuffle but instead ends up with a faceful of hand towel. ‘Oh duck, you look beau-tee-ful. See mommy, he only has this old shirt on with the spider.’ She’s out of knowledge about the rituals of marriage, and doesn’t like to admit it, so the story ends as abruptly as it begun. Even at three, though, she is very concerned with the properness of things, and boy do I know where she got that from.

The remarkable thing about Aunt N. is that she’s about 5′ tall, has worn her hair in the same black chinlength bob for at least 40 years, and she says everything, totally deadpan, in a deep, raspy voice. She is my grandmother’s younger sister. My grandmother is about 5’4, has worn her own dark hair pulled back for at least 40 years and has a much more lilty voice than N. I think they both dyed their hair black or dark brown until the greys got too persistent. The two of them grew up with my great-grandmother, who I named Great when I was far younger than Lucy is now. She was 4’11” of pure Irish stubbbornness, born and raised in County Antrim. She came over as an eighteen year old in 1912 and even in her later years was known to climb over her fence to make sure the other side was as properly groomed as her yard. I can only imagine what the drivers on the highway thought when they saw Great on her stepstool coming over the fence at the top of the hill. In between, she raised my great aunt and grandmother just outside of Pittsburgh, and believe-you-me, there are in fact proper ways to do everything and the proper way was Great’s way.
I lived with my grandparents as a child, after my parents’ divorce, since my mom couldn’t afford for us to live anywhere else. We visited Aunt N. more frequently since she had a daughter 2 years older than I was, and I thought she was the coolest thing on high heels. Her house had a yard with a treehouse! There was a drumset in the basement! Her sitting room had this crazy black and white newspaper-replica wallpaper! Our townhouse had a patio instead of a yard, paint instead of wallpaper, and well, nobody played the drums so how exotic was that? Rock and roll happened in my aunt’s house. Piano practice happened in ours, and even our upright piano was far less cool than her baby grand. As I got older, there were other coolness factors–my grandmother towed the Ulster party line while my aunt, who had been to see our relatives in Ireland, wanted peace. My grandmother was very concerned about keeping up appearances and N. was far more easygoing. Well, with me. I didn’t get then the difference between kids you raise and kids you know.
In fairness, hindsight being rosy and all, the year my grandparents laid down a sheet of plywood in the living room so that I could practice tap dancing was pretty cool, as well as the winter they flooded and froze a mini-skating rink on the patio so that I could skate at home. The piano I resented so much was a replacement for the old organ and they got it so that I could take the piano lessons I wanted so badly. It may not be rock and roll, but it’s above and beyond what most people will do for their kids.
On the other hand, I also lived in a house where entertaining involved hours of bizarre cleaning rituals. One of my jobs was to, no kidding, polish the strip of metal on the floor at the front door. Crazy people do that. I was pretty sure Aunt N. never stuck one of her kids at the front door with windex and a towel to make sure guests didn’t see a dirty whatever-that’s-called. I did find out later that she once corrected my cousin for putting out a linen tablecloth that had only been ironed before it was put away, not again before it was placed on the table. See what I mean? There is a right way. It is our birthright.
It is also our birthright to make people work as hard as possible to figure out what is going on with us. Phone calls must be vague and talk of ills must be couched in disinterest. Complaining about other people is allowed, but complaining about woes is simply not. How are you supposed to martyr yourself if other folks know what’s going on. It is simply not done. This is why, when word made it through the family grapevine that N. had been bitten by a brown recluse, we were all forced to freak out. See, by the time we all know about things someone is usually in pretty bad shape.
Thankfully she is not in terrible shape. Sure she has a quarter-sized hole in her leg but she still has a leg. It takes several conversations to get this stuff out so nobody is ever quite sure what is going on. She has also been saving spider carcasses in a jar and researching entomologists, which may be more therapeutic than informational but definitely presents a humorous picture. The second bite is newer and therefore not as necrosed as the first and she has an appointment with a plastic surgeon to take care of it all, so things are moving. See, she had to have a clear plan of action to report before providing all of the information. That’s how it’s done.

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My great aunt has been bitten by a brown recluse spider. Twice. In the last few weeks. In her house. First time not so bad, this time she’s not doing so well. I am really freaked out by that–both the spider and the not doing so well. I should be emailing her daughter to check in but I have no idea what to say. I should be calling my grandmother, but I have no idea how to casually ask how her sister is faring with the whole deadly spider bite deal. I think I’ll just sit here and hallucinate things crawling on me for a while.

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New Margaret Atwood!!!

I’m so freaking excited.

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I’m having one of those kind of creepy but nonetheless wonderful ‘It’s gonna be a beautiful day’ mornings. The coffee is strong, the sun is shining, Bean hasn’t attempted to murder me by walking between my legs, Lucy has thanked me for each little trinket I brought her yesterday (and some from indeterminate prior occasions.) I didn’t even freak out when I awoke to an already risen child fingerprinting herself with a hot pink inkpad (note to self–suspend art supplies from ceiling?) I didn’t berate myself when I missed my mouth with aforementioned coffee, leaving a lovely spatter on the once-off-white carpet (don’t ask what I was thinking when I chose that–it was before I went to therapy and clearly I wasn’t entirely in my right mind.)

Why am I in such a good mood? I love my writing workshop. Scratch all of my bizarre ramblings from a few days ago. The feedback I got last week was so good that I was able to turn a really confused piece into something coherent, and the feedback from last night so good that I think I can make it even better. It’s going to be a great group, and I’m more than a little embarassed that I was so judgmental. It’s a really cool cross-section of women, and I like all of them. Another note to self: chill out with the paranoia and trust a little bit. ‘Nuff said.
I really am a prat sometimes.

Today I’ll be going to the bookstore in honor of 2006 BBW; Read Banned Books: They're Your Ticket to Freedom

I think I’m going to finally read To Kill a Mockingbird and Lolita.

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The proverbial straw

I can’t read Blogging Baby anymore. Not because of the writers, but holy hell, what an incredible collection of ignorance and hate in these comments. Thank God for the handful who can speak against them more eloquently than I ever could.

I can’t remember when I’ve been quite so offended by invisible folks on the Internets. Somebody please tell me it’s a joke? Feminists are to blame for child-hating? Women suck in the workplace? Christ on a crutch, was there some bizarre timewarp I’m not aware of? This is still 2006 isn’t it?

I’d love to point out how sad it is that women are so ignorant of things like what feminism is about and laws preventing employment discrimination but I can’t get past the ugliness and personal attacks. Disgusting and unnecessary and quite frankly, I can’t even imagine that there is a new generation of women who believe that there is one path in life that *all* women desire, whether that path be work or staying home. Something has failed along the way, and I don’t know what it is, but it sure as fuck needs to be fixed.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever completely feel like an adult. A lot of people tend to assume I’m much younger than I am (I’ve heard sixteen on the low end and 24 on the high end–I’m 33.) A lot of the time I find myself ‘casually’ mentioning my age or a pointed reference like ‘fifteen years since I graduated high school.’ I’ve had cause to explain to a doorman in the building where we live that I have in fact held jobs before having my daughter. To say that I hate it is an enormous understatement.

I have been working on a rewrite this past week of the piece I took into workshop last week. Much like the first piece I wrote for my essay class last spring, this rewrite specifically states my age. I hate feeling like this is necessary, but to be honest I felt a little uncomfortable in the first workshop. I feel like the feedback, while I definitely wrote a far better piece from it, was more negative than it would have been if I was (or was deemed) of peer age. Did I mention I have age insecurity? In spades?
I don’t really know yet if I like the group. I had just hoped it would be a little…homier, maybe? The problem with not getting out much is that when I do I tend to have all sorts of pipedreams about camaraderie and sisterhood and nonsense, and nothing is ever like that right away so I don’t know why I even work myself up. I just wish I didn’t worry so much about not being taken seriously.

It’s all women, which, well, I’d kind of like to have a male perspective to balance things out. I do really like the leader, who was my teacher last spring, and my favorite classmate from the essay class is in the group as well. Both are great for feedback, and I really respect and trust their opinions. The other women seem, well, I’m not usually friendly with women in that life folks call real. They have all been in the group together so I feel a bit outsider-y. I may be foisting flashbacks of cliques on them, and it’s certainly too soon to expect to have all bonded. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I guess I’ll see if my rewrite helps to explain a bit more about who and how I am.
Part of the reason that I like blogging is that it feels more like a lot of us are looking for common experience and something to relate to. In workshop, it’s more like we may relate or we may not, but it’s hard not carry a person’s writing over to the person since they’re sitting right in front of you. I struggled with this myself with one woman in my essay class, and had to do a lot of tongue-biting to not comment on content rather than effectiveness of writing. I feel like there is the potential to clash with one of the women in workshop, and since I’m new, I’m afraid it’s not going to be comfortable or as productive as I want it to be.
I’m a little nervous about taking my piece in again because either I totally sounded different than I intended or the group took my piece totally differently from what I intended. Again, could go either way. I felt very uncomfortable with some of the feedback, especially from one of the women who I felt was commenting more on my voice than my piece. I hate that, and I’m trying not to let it color what I take from the group. I’ve rewritten the piece a lot, and I’m going to take it in again, but I’m really afraid that, despite the piece being very different in everything but subject, the feedback is going to be based on the perceived tone of the first draft. Have I mentioned I’m a bit paranoid?

I do hope that once we’ve all read and have had a chance to understand a bit more about what everybody’s about, it won’t be so uncomfortable. If not, I’ll be looking for a new workshop when this is done. I’d so love if all of my writing friends were local so that there wasn’t so much getting to know people involved. I’d far rather have an online writing exchange.

And can someone please smack me the next time I write really? Really.

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But my cousin is appearing on The Young and The Restless today as Dru’s court-ordered therapist. Check out his muted Western Maryland accent!
Actually, he does a really good job and I’d love to see him get a steady role. And not just cuz we’re family.

Other than that, writing and rewriting and pacing and stuff. It ain’t fun, but my piece is much better than it wa when I took it to workshop and I’m rather pleased. If only I could relax now that it’s done, but Lucy has been soaking pillows overnight and we have to sort out her art and fitness class this afternoon. All I want to do is nap and watch crap tv!

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