Posted in Advice, Explaining the Strange Behavior, hair, Howling Sea Lane, Lancient History, Thor

Bad Hair and Carrots of Shame

I do things for this child…

Tonight, I found myself apportioning 10 raisins a piece for 21 children before questioning whether or not that was in fact the instruction given by Thor’s teacher, who had asked for 10 pieces of each of 10 snacks she had listed on a quest to have fun working with the kids on counting to a hundred.  Brain-tired, I shoved a handful of raisins in my mouth and mulled.  Or chewed.  Whichever.

There was a tradition in the Sophomore year of my high school, for upper-classes to take on girls as Little Sisters.  We, the younger ones, were doled out at random to the older girls.  One of the bonding exercises was for the Big Sister to dress the Little Sister up in hideous nerd gear and parade them around all day.  It just so happened that I was growing out what amounted to be Annie Lennox’s haircut as that day rolled around, and I had clipped my shaggy bangs back from my forehead with a baby clip.  This was prior to the 90s, when baby clips became fashionable, lest you think to yourself, “I’ll bet that looked cute.”

I was standing in the school bathroom with my Big Sister, who was so not into me.  She had two Little Sisters, and had known one of them–the cool one, whose mother didn’t make her wear her skirt at LITERAL TEA LENGTH–from birth, and was just not up to having a dorky hanger-on.  Another Big Sister walked into the bathroom, took one look at me–not even having put on a single bit of nerd gear yet, just me and my baby clip, bare face, and tea-length skirt–and cried, “Oomeegeeeesh!  Her hair is so NERDEEEEEEEE!  OMIGOOOOOOOOOOOD!  AWESOME!!  BWAHAHAHAH!!11!!!!1!!!”  Yes, I could hear the 1s within her exclamation points.

There was this moment when my eyes met my Big Sister’s in the reflection of the mirror, and what I saw was her total revulsion, disappointment, and embarrassment at having to deal with me at all.  We both knew I had shown up looking like that.  She already knew I looked like a dork.  I was just finding out.

It was one of those John Hughes moments, and should have been followed up with Jake Ryan calling to take me to the prom–that’s how meaningful it was.  It was also a defining moment for me.  I smiled at my Big Sister, turned to the other girl and grinned as widely as I could and I said, “I know!  Ohmigod!  I look like such a nerd!  Like, I need a pocket protector, or, like some horn-rimmed glasses!  She’s done it perfectly!”

My Big Sister was visibly relieved, and I think that’s what embarrassed me the most.  I ended up with a beat-up cowboy hat made of straw, and a half-hearted makeup job, and I spent the rest of the day trying not to cry.

The next day, I wore my baby clip again as inoculation against the way I had felt.  That was my way back then.  If something I really liked turned out badly, I tried it again a) just to see if maybe I had played it to the wrong audience and a change of “venue” might help the problem, b) to show the people who made me feel bad that I didn’t give a rat’s rump what they thought, c) to pick at the scab because I was a bit of a masochist.

Thanksgiving, this year, was the first time I had been able to attend one of Thor’s class parties.  It was a Thanksgiving Feast buffet.  I volunteered to bring carrots, enough to serve 5 classes of 1st Graders, plus teachers, plus any parents who were attending.  I thought I was the only person bringing carrots.  I had also been advised that serving dishes would be provided.  So, I showed up with 3 large bags of baby carrots, and a large bag of carrot chips–for variety.  Some other mothers had also provided carrots, so by the time I arrived, my offering was overkill.

I got busy with helping and didn’t pay any attention to my carrots, and didn’t even see them again until I was in the teachers’ breakroom washing the dishes we had used for the buffet.  Another mom–this gorgeous, Charlie’s Angels looking mom, who is incredibly nice, and helpful–came in with my carrots and offered them to the teachers since we’d had overflow.  The teachers–y’all–the teachers sneered.  I was shocked.

I stood there washing my dishes, trying not to make eye contact with Gorgeous Mom, who knew the origin of the veggies, and who had extracted herself from the teachers’ conversation immediately.  That conversation among four, elementary school teachers went like this:

“I can’t believe how lazy some people are.  You don’t have time to even put the food on a tray?”

“Right?!  I would never show up with something that was so obviously from the grocery store.  You can’t make something at home?  You’re that busy?  Huh.”

“Homemade is always the best.  You know some people will just take the stuff they buy at the grocery store and put it on a platter?  That’s so rude.  I wouldn’t even take that to a friend’s party.  What do people think of you if you do that?”

“That you’re lazy!  And you don’t care.  And look–she didn’t even take them out of the bags.”

It went on.  And on.  And on.

I stood there, washing and drying, listening to these women talk about how rude, and tacky, and lazy, and disgusting I was for having brought food to the school, which I had purchased at Kroger, and left in bags so that they could be used as needed and otherwise shared if there were leftovers.  I had purposefully bought more than I thought was absolutely necessary, and I had thought people might like some fresh veg.  Uh…rude, tacky, lazy, and disgusting.

I was fifteen again.  Standing in that bathroom, eyes locked on [redacted]’s, knowing I had fallen short.  Only, instead of being hurt, I was pissed the feck off.  Who were these harpies?  Seriously?  Rude, tacky, lazy, and disgusting?  No, honey.  Rude is me saying I’ll bring food and then backing out without telling you.  Tacky is only bringing enoug’h for my child’s class and no one else, knowing it is a feast for all the classes.  Lazy is not bothering at all because some other mother will do it.  Disgusting is me spitting on the carrots before sharing them with you.

I seriously considered telling them they were talking about me, but I chose not to.  I was so taken aback, and disbelieving that by the time I had decided what I wanted to say, Gorgeous Mom had steered their conversation to kinder, gentler topics.  It seemed a moot point.  Besides, I could have outed myself, then the likeliest thing would be that they would tell the rest of the teachers that Thor’s Mom was rude, tacky, lazy, disgusting, and uber-confrontational.  For the child’s reputation, I swallowed my bile.

Tonight, I started working on those raisins and had such performance anxiety, I cannot tell you.  My packets weren’t pretty enough.  The Saran Wrap press-n-seal was too sticky.  There was no uniformity.  No aesthetic.  I started to panic.  Would Thor’s teacher think I was rude, tacky, lazy, or disgusting?  Was I even doing it right in the first place?  I had 10 packs of 10 ready to go.  I needed 11 more.  Or was I just supposed to send in 210 raisins by themselves?  Did there have to be 10 even for each child, or should I send one of those big boxes of raisins and let the teacher distribute at will?  OH MY GOD!  BABY CLIPS AND CARROTS!

So, I ate them.

I’ll work on it again tomorrow, after getting some clarification from Thor’s teacher, and having lived down my goofy hair and party tray shame through exhibitionism.

The moral of the story is: Be careful when you mock.  You may be mocking the person standing to your left.


Posted in Counting Blessings, Economics, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Friends of Mine, Howling Sea Lane, Inside Lane, OWS, Politics

Let Them Eat Cake

I really do think about how fortunate I am frequently.  My grandparents grew up with so little it is mind boggling.  They grew up in rural Alabama and Florida at the height of the Great Depression, in areas untouched by Restoration, having to give up educations in order to make livings.  My Granddaddy never learned to read.  How those men and women managed to carve out lives for themselves that included being home and car amazes me.

My parents grew up with a little more than their parents had, but my mother can remember wearing clothes made out of feed sacks, and they grew or hunted for much of what went on the table.  The children in her family also worked very hard before and after school to add to the minimal income of a soldier’s salary.  I don’t think there was anything my grandparents were prouder of, than my uncle’s achievements at the Citadel.  His education was (rightly) a crowning glory to them.

I grew up with exponentially more than either of my parents had.  We were decidedly middle class, but since I was an Only and had grandparents who were generous with me, there was enough of a disposable income that I had things in my childhood that many other kids my age didn’t see until they were teens.  During our leaner years, I never knew there was any lack.  We used layaway, which I just thought was exciting.  My mom made a game of finding the least expensive items possible, and when I was old enough to care about labels and designers, we would go on a veritable safari through the Fashion district warehouses to find either what I wanted, or something so close to it it didn’t matter, and we NEVER paid anything close to retail.

But, we also never had to make a choice between milk and a winter coat.

I do a lot of my shopping for Thor at Ross and WalMart (shh, Lisha, you didn’t read that) where I can keep him pretty well set for 3-4 months at a time for under $75, including shoes.  Now and then, we’ll shop Target, whose prices are higher.  Shorts at WalMart?  $3–$5 a pair.  Shorts at Target?  $7–$12.  Same goes for the clothes of the adults in our family.  I find the best I can, for the least amount of money.  And no one has ever accused any of us of looking cheap.  I defy you to tell me Thor ever looks anything other than well put together.  Point of maternal pride there.

We had a space of time when it was to our financial benefit to buy Brand X products at the grocery store, but I have never had to make a choice between milk and a winter coat for my child.

I was walking home from Thor’s school today, shivering in my layers, and passed a little boy of about eight, wearing nylon track pants that were two years too short, a tshirt and a light hoodie.  There was a good three inches of space between the hem of the pants and the top of his ankle socks.  He was huddled into himself, eyes on the ground.

I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “How did his mother let him out of the house like that?! Those pants come nowhere near fitting!”  My second thought was, “Shame on you.  He might not have a mother, and that might be the best he has.”  My third thought was, “Or his mother got tired of waging the clothing war every morning and told him to just dress himself-wear whatever he wanted-freeze to death if that would finally make him happy.”  I hope it was the latter.

I’m glad I carried it through, though, because it tells me I am not completely out of touch.  It tells me that I remember that there are parents out there, who after paying the rent and the utilities, have to sit down and look at what is left over and make HARD decisions about whether to buy food or diapers.  I remember that there are people working three jobs just to be able to buy both.  I remember that there are people whose children will never be quite warm enough, quite full enough, or have quite enough of their parents’ attention, because those parents are working so hard to provide the minimum.

There is a disconnect between the unspoken caste system in this country, and it sounds something like this:  They have no bread?  Let them eat cake.

In the modern vernacular it would sound like this:  They can’t afford disposable diapers?  Let them use cloth.

And it sounds good, doesn’t it?  Cloth is an ecologically sound choice–doing something great for the baby’s bottom, the earth, and your purse all at the same time?  Awesome!  But you know those parents who are having a hard time affording diapers?  I’m betting they don’t have washing machines, or the money to plunk down on diaper services, and have you ever tried to find a daycare center that would allow you to pack cloth nappies for your baby?  Good luck, Marie.  Ain’t happening at LaVerne’s Kids ‘n Play, which is probably about what these parents can afford.

The truth is that some people will work all their lives, and work hard, and because of circumstances beyond their control (national economy, industry booms and busts, slight shifts in policy, misconduct in high places) will never do better than watering down the milk to make it last longer.

The truth is that there are some mothers whose husbands have been laid off, who are now expressing breast milk for the whole family because that’s all there is–I knew that mother.  Well, the one I knew was married to a guy who got laid off and never went back.  She fed me pancakes made with breast milk before telling me the truth of their situation, and then I cried all the way home.  My tears did her a fat lot of good, but I didn’t have anything else to give her.  Except diapers–and when I gave her the diapers, she told me how she had been making those last longer.  And that was another drive home in tears.

She was able to find benefits, though, and she has worked her keister off to get an education while working from home, caring for three kids as a single mother.  And she has carved out a life like my grandparents did.  She is a vital part of the American Dream.

We have to remember that for every lazybones trying to grift and bilk, there is an honest citizen just trying to get by.  And those people are too busy to get in front of the cameras and tell you the problem.  They don’t have time to complain.  Think about that:  A life so hard that complaint is a luxury.

To me, the OWS movement has been about remembering those people.  And I am thankful to everything holy that our family has the means to do a little something now and then, and that I am married to a man who always says yes when I want to give, and that I have a little boy who is already thinking about sharing with those who have less.

And that I never have to think about it when I need to go buy some milk.  Which I need to do today.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, Inside Lane, Lancient History, Women Worth Knowing

Why WWK Is Supporting the Rape Crisis Center

I’ve made no secret about the fact that I was date raped when I was 21. That’s actually how I lost my virginity. You want to talk about awful first time experiences…sheesh.

To this day I have a lot of confusion about what happened and what to call the events that transpired. My own intellectual knowledge that “no means no,” and “NOOOOO means NOOOO,” gets muddied with the common response to the call of rape: What was she wearing? Had she been drinking? Where was she? What time of night was it? Did she struggle? Was she a tease?

I was wearing a black velvet catsuit and a gold smoking jacket with black velvet lapels and some really, super cute shoes. I’d had a glass of wine. I was in the boy’s bedroom. It was close to 2am. Once I realized it was going to happen no matter what I said, or how loudly I said it, I think I must have quit struggling–I don’t know. I’ve blacked that out. I do know Information Society was playing on the radio–maybe that’s why I blocked it out. I never liked that band.

Was I a tease? No. I’d been very frank about what I would and would not do. I was perfectly happy to do anything that could not result in pregnancy, and was precise about what acts that might include. The boy seemed quite pleased with the deal.

I didn’t tell my mother because I was afraid she would kill the boy, and then I’d have a mother in jail. I did not go to the police because of the above. I didn’t figure anyone would believe me. I am exactly the kind of girl This Cop was talking about. Maybe I wasn’t dressed like a “slut” but we can all be realistic about how I would be viewed based on dress, drinking, and willingness to do some if not “it”.

My Great-Aunt is a different story. And her story is much more to the point.

Aunt N was in her 80s when a man broke into her house to beat and rape her. He accomplished his goal.

I have no idea what she was wearing at the time, but I’m pretty sure it involved Granny Panties, not a visible thong. I highly doubt she’d been drinking. She was in her own home, in bed, in the middle of the night–right where she belonged. And she fought as much as an octogenarian can. Given her nature, I can assure you that she was not a tease.

Rape has nothing to do with what you wear, your state of mind, where you are, what time it is, whether you fight, or whether you’ve ever had sexual relations with your attacker.

Rape has nothing to do with YOU.

Rape has to do with the Rapist.

Rape isn’t something you bring on yourself.

Rape isn’t something that you do to yourself.

Anyone who has been raped will tell you how unpleasant it is–it isn’t something anyone would court.

Rape isn’t flattering.

Rape isn’t a compliment.

Rape isn’t a judgment.

Rape is an attack, a violation, and a crime–it is nothing positive, and it is nothing you can force anyone to do to you. You cannot MAKE someone RAPE.

Rape is not a reaction.

Rape is only an individually driven action. It is a purpose driven action.

I support, and have put the WWK project’s support behind the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center because I’ve been there and I know. And because women and men, girls and boys who are hurt need help. They need to know there is a safe place to go, where people will believe them, and help them. Help them understand that the problem isn’t THEM.

The problem is, and only ever will be the Rapist.

Raise your kids to respect themselves enough that they would think it beneath them to take something not freely given. Raise your kids to respect other people enough that they wouldn’t dream of taking what wasn’t clearly offered. That’s how you deal with rape.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane

Blubber, by Judy Blume

Judy Blume helped raise me.

I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret the summer between 2nd and 3rd Grade, while I was at daycamp. I used to beg to stay inside and read, while the other hooligans played in the heat. My camp counselors made no bones about how weird they thought I was, but Margaret Simon was figuring out her world, and I needed to know more about these belt things because my mother had certainly never breathed the words menstrual cycle to me.

I had already read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, and had Superfudge all lined up to go, but none of Blume’s books affected me like Blubber.

In a little twitter chatter with the fabulous Martha Brockenbrough, I learned that Blubber is one of the most contested books in school libraries. What the devil for?! A little goggling tells me that the book is most often banned because of offensive language and the fact that the ringleader of the bullies goes unpunished for her cruelty. Er…okay? So reality is reason to ban?

I write and delete so many posts that I can’t always remember what I’ve said, and what I haven’t. Forgive me if I am repeating myself here. I was driven out of a school by a trio of girls, who were unrelenting in their bullying my 6th grade year. By the last quarter, I’d had enough and finally stood up to the girls and announced (before my parents had agreed to it) that they were such awful human beings, I wasn’t even coming back to their stupid school. After that, two of them were aggressively nice, and even continued to try to phone me the next year and convince me to return to the school.

Blubber became something of a how-to manual for me. In elementary school, I had determined never to be a Wendy, or even a Jill, and I was thankful I hadn’t ever been a Linda. When 6th grade, the new state, new uniform, and new school rolled around, I learned very quickly just how easily one can become the Linda, and then I honestly scoured that book trying to figure out how Linda had turned the tide on her oppressors. I never managed to unlock that secret, but for me, the trick was standing in the middle of a classroom and screaming lines from The Merchant of Venice like they were scripture.

And, embarrassingly, I became the Jill in high school, when my throwaway comment about a girl I was jealous of, became the nickname and catchphrase that pushed her over the edge of an eating disorder and out of school. Also like Jill, I tried to clean up my mess to little avail. I’m still ashamed of that. And I should be!

Frankly, I think Blubber should be required reading at the junior high school level. It should be taught as an anti-bullying PSA. And it should be appreciated for its realism.

Actually, I think you could build an entire 7th grade human relations study around Blume’s books.

Health teachers can pass out Margaret Simon’s tome to teach girls about their innards, and Tony Miglione’s story can be given to the boys, who are surely struggling with their sheets about that age. Forever can be used to help teach kids about the emotional repercussions of sex. Tiger Eyes can be used to teach about life and death, and everything in between.

Marry Blume’s works to Madeleine L’Engle’s and you’ve got science and math covered, too!

This is totally the world I want to live in.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, relationships, Religion

Wagging Tongues

I love the concept of fasting for clarity, and am reminded of it every time Lent rolls around. Again, though I am not Catholic, I did go to Catholic school and plenty of it rubbed off on me. I have said before that I have a feeling of relief and release with confession, and I should add to that, I have a sense of purification through penance and works. Fasting fits that bill.

Now, I don’t fast foods. Giving up food isn’t a big deal to me. I can just as easily find something else I like to eat, and I sure am not going to miss a whole meal unless there is a medical reason for it. I need to eat for energy. I fast things that tickle my soul, and I select them as things I want to burn out of my life anyway.

I haven’t done a fast in several years. I’ve been too lazy. But a discussion I had last night has made me think, and I realize I may have been projecting some of my own self-criticism as criticism from others. I also realized that I couldn’t think of a good reason for doing what had started the discussion, as it was just mean-spirited.

So, what I am giving up for Lent-and-beyond is mean-spirited conversation. It isn’t flattering. It isn’t edifying in any way. It has nothing to do with the graciousness I’d like to project. It isn’t how I want you, or anyone else to think of me.

I know you’re supposed to give up something you like for Lent. I am. Isn’t that awful? I have enjoyed every one of those mean-spirited conversations! Alice Roosevelt would have loved sitting next to me–up until this morning.

With that in mind, I give you James 3:1-12, which I will be using as anchor for my lenten soulish hunger-strike. Paraphrased, if we control our tongues, we can control our worlds. And if we can control our tongues, we can save ourselves (and others) a world of hurt. But straight from Saint Jimmy in the NIV:

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Wish me luck.