Friday, October 31, 2008

Superheros and Princesses

Yesterday morning when I dropped E and Z off at daycare, complete with now-finished butterfly wings, I went inside to find two boys dressed as Batman and one as a "Little Ninja." They were running around making air kicks and punches to go with their personas (one got in trouble for hitting, pushing and knocking other kids down in the five minutes I was there). At least three or four girls dressed as princesses. The four-year-olds were getting ready to go outside (they had had their party the previous day) and the girls among them were gathering around to admire E and Z's wings. When Z put on his fuzzy purple antennae, one girl said, "Those are for girls." "Why?" I asked. "Those are for girls," she repeated. "Well he's a boy and he's wearing them, so they must be for boys too," I responded. My little, futile bit of rebellion against rigid gender roles (probably about as effective as my Kashi Tasty Little Crackers are against the doughnuts the other parents brought). I was relieved to see another boy arrive in a green frog costume and another in something red and fuzzy, like a dragon or monster.

I went straight to a meeting, where around the table sat 18 men and three women. I rarely find myself in meetings this unbalanced (I also rarely work with industry, which I'm sure would be equally Y-chromosome-dominated). These were mostly energy people and lobbyists. I kept envisioning them as a bunch of Cromagnons squatting around a fire, wearing colorful, phallic neck ornaments, planning the next Woolly Mammoth hunt. When one man said he'd finished his comments at 1:30 that morning, I felt really happy that I'd been up until almost that late making butterfly wings for my kids, and NOT working on comments on the rule we were discussing.

So, questions:

A. Do those superhero and princess costumes on three year olds have anything to do with the six-to-one male to female ratio in my meeting?

B. Am I traitor to feminism to get more satisfaction out of making things for my children than anything I do for actual monetary compensation?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Curmudgeon Season Tidings

So it begins, the excruciating five month festal torture that begins with Halloween and ends with Easter. Whoever thought the way to survive the long and brutal months of winter was with one never ending party must have been some kind of pagan. Oh right, they were pagans. And they believed you had to appease the gods with sacrifices so that the sun would return from its journey to warm the flat earth once more. But now that we know better, couldn't we just skip the agonizing over, buying and making of costumes, food and gifts? (What's that you say? I sound like a curmudgeon? Of course I do! Read the title.)

I would so much prefer whiling away the short, short days of winter with a large stack of books, cozied up to a fire. Preferably a non-greenhouse-gas-emitting, non-polluting, non-go-get-another-load-of-wood-from-the-snowy-cold-outdoors kind of fire. Like the sun. Right. I'd much rather spend the long, dark, cold days of winter on a nice warm sunny beach in like Puerto Rico or someplace (I don't even know where the good beaches are--the only beach I've been to that was remotely warm in winter was in Savannah, Georgia, and even though they had palm trees, I wouldn't exactly call it the tropics), as opposed to, say, staying up half the night making two pairs of (Lepidopterally correct) butterfly wings for the first in the string of pain-in-the-ass festivities.

Not that I'm not secretly delighted that I have two boys--who usually spend most of their time blasting me with their imaginary power rings--who want to dress up as butterflies for Halloween. And not that I don't also take secret delight in the Alex-P.-Keaton-esque money fabric bow-tie I made for Mr. Millionaire (who was threatened within an inch of his life when Tuesday night he casually mentioned he might change his mind and be an Army Guy). It's just that there are about a million things I'd rather be doing at 11:30 p.m. than sewing spots onto (Lepidopterally-correct) butterfly wings (if you've ever thought that an Eastern black swallowtail doesn't have a lot of detail, try making one out of felt. You'll reach whole new levels of appreciation for what happens inside of chrysalises). Numero uno: sleep.

The worst part is while I cut out my little blue and orange and yellow blobs (scales?) my mind races through the litanies of the next projects I'm compelled to take on: patching 15 pairs of pants so the twins have something to wear! A changeable daily calendar for daycare/preschool! Living room curtains! Fleece mittens for everyone I know! Patchwork scarves! Pants! Knit hats! Baby shoes! Ginger syrup (for our coughs)! Christmas cookies! Candy! Pie!

Because I. Just. Can't. Control. Myself.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Write is to Write

I went to a writing workshop this weekend. And by "workshop" I mean 150 participants lined up in chairs before their exalted leader. And by "150 participants" I mean 122 middle-aged lesbians in scarves, 18 tall, fit young women who sat in their chairs twisting their bodies into improbable yoga poses, 8 men looking as out-of-place as if they'd suddenly popped up at a Vagina Monologues performance, my friend Sara and myself. Our instructor was as delightful and unassuming as possible when sitting on a great big chair before a room full of supplicants. Her assistant was great, although I was both inspired and annoyed by his "how I became a writer" story in which he quit his glamorous corporate job in New York, moved to New Mexico and wrote six hours a day while waiting tables at night. Clearly something you can only do if single and childless. But he did redeem himself by having two kids and working as a high school teacher.

My friend and I were both a little out-of-sorts due to other stressors in our regular lives. My trouble originated with the fact that I thought the workshop was NEXT weekend and only realized it was last weekend two days before I had to leave. Then M woke up Friday a.m. with his eye swollen shut with conjunctivitis. In my rush to get out the door remotely on time, I forgot to grab extra shirts (after six hours in the car with the sun on your left, you kinda need a new shirt). Maybe this led to my cynicism about the shawls and yoga (I really do love yoga). That along with the line from Sandra Tsing Loh's A Year in Van Nuys that kept running through my mind--the part where she is helping out at her friend's writer's therapy group and she blurts out, "You aren't writers! You're addicted to writing workshops!" Am I that person?

I tried to relax, but I have to admit I didn't fully let go in Yoga Dance. And my monkey mind ran the show during sitting and walking meditations. The food was great...soooo great, but as much as the concept appealed to me, silent breakfast kind of freaked me out (although I am thinking of instituting it at home). In the end, what I most got out of the weekend was that if I want to write, I need to write, not sign up for expensive weekend writing workshops. I guess it was worth it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random moments in my week

My head feels full of clay...only external inputs that can drill their way through six inches of solid, wet, sticky clay can actually penetrate to my brain...needless to say not much gets in. And not much gets out either. Which is why this will not be a coherent post but a string of unrelated paragraphs. Enjoy.

Last spring I signed up for a weekend writing workshop at a retreat center in western Massachusetts. All this time, I have been thinking that this workshop would take place next weekend, October 24-26. Yesterday it occurred to me to double-check the dates and I learned it will actually be taking place THIS weekend, October 17-19. Oops.

This morning as we were getting in the car to go to daycare, I mumbled to myself, "I'm so tired I'm going to die." Z overheard this and said, "No! Not my want you die." Awww.

Yesterday I dropped the kids at daycare just as the kids from School B left to catch their bus. All of the kids must sit and watch TV until School B leaves. After they were gone, the preschool "teacher" turned off the TV and announced, "The girls can go play in the (toy) kitchen. The boys can play cars." I just sort of gaped as I sat with E and Z eating their Cheerio's and Rice Krispies. "What are you going to play with?" I asked them. "Nofin'" Z said. After finishing their breakfast they got two bulldozers off a shelf and drove them around in the kitchen area (not the boy-sanctioned car rug). Can I look at this as a sign of them comfortably crossing (and defying) arbitrary gender roles? WTF?

Finally, M brought home from school last week a flier inviting, "Hey Kids! Come join the Good News Club!" Whenever you hear "good news" you gotta assume it's bad news, in the form of religious this case the Child Evangelism Fellowship. I wrote three letters to the teacher and principal. I tore them up. I considered calling the principal, but I didn't. I'm holding onto the flier to take with me to the next PTA meeting, or parent teacher conferences and discuss it with him there. Double WTF???

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


That's the sound of my own horn, because this week in the fiction section at Literary Mama my short story Measuring Rain appears. Check it out.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


M's interest in politics has risen during this build-up to the election (his interest had waned since the days when he was about three and blamed everything bad on the president--if he saw litter on the ground he would say, "Must have been George Bush"). We've been talking about the candidates and the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Without apology I feed him my biases: "Republicans want to take money from poor people and give it to rich people, destroy the environment and start wars. Democrats want everyone to have equal access to health care and education, to take care of the environment and make friends around the world." (Actually that's more of a description of the Greens, but I'm throwing my chips in with the Dems this year--and they better not disappoint!)

Last night as I was getting everyone ready for bed, Z and M had an altercation. M made as if to hit Z.

"Hey, hey, hey," I said. "No hitting."

"I want to hit him really hard in the face," M said.

"That's what George Bush would do, isn't it?" I asked. He looked chastened.

"What would Barak Obama do?" I asked.

"Probably tell him to stop it," he replied.

Shameless, I know, but if it works I'll take it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I just went to a memorial service for a co-worker who died suddenly last week. It was a half-hour of silence in the wildlife garden outside of the building, under the autumn-blue sky, the sun shining down warmly. Crows cawed in the distance and this year's new seagulls flapped and soared over the nearby parking lot. A young spruce tree gave off a warm and piney smell. Threads of spiderwebs glistened in strands between shriveled flower stems. Tiny bugs wove through the air, lit by the sun, bravely spinning out their waning days. Dried maple leaves crackled under the feet of people as they came and went. It struck me, standing there, soaking up the sun and the aromas and the saddness...Life is beautiful and messy. Wonderful and tragic. And too short to waste time being angry, impatient, bored, resentful. And it's way too short to waste time doing things we don't want to do.
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