Thursday, May 7, 2015

Welcome to Tween-Town, USA!

Yup, it's happening. My kids are both officially tweens. And I can already see the rifts growing between us. Talking or hanging out with Mom or Dad is not so cool these days. And the merest suggestions that one might consider showering, or brushing one's hair, is tantamount to a gauntlet being thrown to the ground.

"You're so over-protective!" (I am; I'm working on it)

"I know that, Mom!" (Said to just about everything I say to my daughter.)

"Hi Honey, how was your day?" "Monosyllabic grunt" in response.

We have a tradition in our family at dinner time of taking turns telling about our individual days. Normally this conversation spills over past dessert, there is so much to be said.

But last night? We were done before we'd barely begun eating. The kids invoked their "No Comment" rights and whoosh, we were done talking. They can't wait to get out of their seats and go outside and play with their friends. This is a good and developmentally appropriate response, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt when they say "Potato soup, again? Didn't we have that two weeks ago?"

In the culinary realm I am way out of my depth. My food is usually too bland due to my fear of learning about spices. And besides, it's my husband's baileywick, to be the executive chef. I'm a sous chef at BEST. And that's being charitable.

Both kids' rooms are full of mess: clothing, mostly, inexplicable and disturbing crumbs and gum wrappers. It's enough to drive you mad. I want to keep going into their rooms and cleaning them up, but that's not a lesson I want them to learn. Plus, my husband and I are both pretty messy, too, so glass houses, you know. We have no leverage.

We do have a weekly "Cleaning Day" which works somewhat well. My daughter takes to her chores with more zeal (cleaning mirrors and cupboards) while my son does a half-assed job lackadaisically mopping the floors. I don't know how clean anything really gets, but so far we are still all on board with Cleaning Day. So at least that's something. We all have a common goal.

This tween business is going to get ugly, I fear. And that's totally normal. I just need to wrap my head around it and develop a MUCH thicker skin. Any ideas out there on that score?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Comment: Tidying Up

Just got my copy of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kendo from the library. I'd been waiting a couple of months for an available copy,

And while I'm about a third through the book, I've already got the bug. Kendo's premise is you should only have things in your life that "spark joy". This means a lot of crap should exit your home. I worked on my clothes today, but modified it a bit. She says to take every article of clothing from every drawer and closet in the entire house and dump it in front of you and pick up each article and ask, "Does this spark joy?" I've addended another:"Do I wear this a lot?" The two aren't mutually exclusive. I have some dumpy sweats that I love but they don't exactly make me feel joyful, they make me feel warm and cozy. I guess that's a form of joy, isn't it? Utilitarian things can bring joy of a sort.

So I didn't do exactly what Kendo suggests, but I did go through all my drawers and closet and will probably make a pass at them again. I took her instructions and didn't listen to music or anything that could distract me. She is at once whimsical and fierce in her determination that anyone who does her system WILL NOT FAIL. There are a lot of bolded sentences in this book. But it's already a treasure. I'll finish reading it in plenty of time to reap the rewards, even if I make adjustments due to my reality. (Kendo appears young and pretty on the back of the book. Put another way, she does not appear to have kids. But I could be wrong.)

I'm hoping that this zeal will translate to big changes in our environment. Kendo promises this to be so. But I figure if I can get another few days like today where I was focused and had time to work on my own, I'll be able to get rid of some serious shit. Stuff that was weighing me down. 

Because looking at all of the costumes that I wear or have worn, upon scrutiny, are helping me shape who I am now, not who I aspired to be two years ago, or five years ago. I see some of my own whimsical clothing going to the donate bag, because they're just too young for me now. I'm almost fucking fifty. I can't wear a Hello Kitty slap bracelet, even ironically.

So this is a psychological experience for me as well as a physical one. I will be interested in seeing how this develops. It signals change, and promise, and hope.

You have to start somewhere.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

No School

We had a snow day today, and another one is to follow tomorrow. We have been inside and on screens for far too long. I'm not winning mother of the year anytime soon, with my lack of social activities for the kids. But we did wrestle and jump on the bed, which was the highlight of the day.

It's just so freaking cold out there. And it's much warmer in here, even though we live in a large, drafty and OLD house.

It's getting harder and harder for the kids to get bored, with all of the screen interaction they can have: games, Skyping, research/homework, blogging. My kids do all of these things, not to mention watch reality cooking shows rather religiously. We're all into "Chopped" and "Cuthroat Kitchen". We are learning about food presentation and we spoof it up in our own kitchen. I would be "chopped" at most meals, for presentation AND content. I just don't enjoy cooking, but I do enjoy watching other people cook.

And that's the news that's fit to print in this cabin fevery time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Comment: Heavy Lifting Required

So my son's reading curriculum is tied to the social studies unit on the wars of the last century. Thus, there has just been one depressing book after another. "Night" by Elie Wiesel, "The Diary of Ann Frank", "Hiroshima". And now, "The Things They Carried", Tim O'Brien's seminal vietnam war-based novel. (Aside: I went to graduate school with his wife, Meredith, but I never met him so I'm just showing off because his book won all these awards.)

Anyway, my point is, this is some heavy shit. For sixth grade! Total downer. So I am volunteering to read the O'Brien book along with my son, to help him through it. I think the reading really gets to him, and he's already a sensitive kid to begin with. And squeamish. And he tells me the war book he's reading now, whose title eludes me, is "full of swears", which he does NOT like. 

It makes some sense to me that my son says he is depressed. His reading material is not helpful. Also, he is in middle school. A very small middle school with very few students and no close friends. He's lonely. And he's reading about war every day and every night.

We need to lighten things up around home. He does that by playing "Baldur's Gate", a D & D type of video game, and by walking backwards on our treadmill. He also wrestles with his sister and Dad and he and I lip synch to pop music while we clean the kitchen. Gotta have those light moments. 

I really feel for him.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Comment: It's not so bad

I thought I hated Valentine's Day, but it turns out I don't. What I don't like is the mass commercialism of it, and the implication that you must do something ultra romantic, that you're buying into the myth that chocolate and roses equal love.

My most romantic Valentine's Day has most likely already happened. My husband cooked me a four course meal, plus dessert, got down on one knee, and proposed to me on Valentine's Day many years ago. So I don't expect any romantic gestures beyond that. I mean, how do you top that?

Even without the fanfare, I know my husband loves me. His version of romance is generally to do things like wash my car for me or take out the compost because he knows I hate it. This works for me. I remember to get him hot sauce when it runs out and I try to use more spices in my cooking because he likes it.

Right now, he and my kids are baking a cake that they are keeping "secret" from me. They won't allow me in the kitchen (you'll get no argument from me on that). I'm of course playing along and know that whatever they've cooked up will be delicious because it was made with love. 

Forget the diamond earrings and the roses and baubles. A family willing to bake me a surprise chocolate cake is all the love I need. May you all have that much love in your lives.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Comment: Back at it.

It's been nearly four years, but I'm back on Facebook, and it's already affecting me positively and negatively.

On the plus side, I can promote my writing, Dat's Not It You Fool ,available in Kindle on amazon and my husband's business, Level.Works, which is also the homepage.

I've looked for a few friends and just found out one of them moved away! That was a bit disheartening. We weren't best friends, but I would have liked to have said goodbye at least. Ah well. Time's wheel continues to turn.

I've also chatted with my cousin, who is a doll. Some of my friends are doing pretty swanky things, which impresses me and in a small way depresses me, because I don't have a clear career path like most people. Well, not anymore. I think I've never been able to be totally conventional, so why should I expect my work history to be so? Still, people who have had jobs for 20 years in a row blow my mind! It's unfathomable to me. And not too shabby.

Lots of beginnings and reinventions going on, and Spring is coming, albeit with a nasty cold snap right now.

I've also now just spent an hour on Facebook and now it's time to make dinner. Duty calls.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cognitive Shift

So I've started working with/for my husband and it's interesting. Seeing him as a boss is kind of weird. Our dynamics are different and it's a real gear shift to go from talking about Facebook posts to drying dishes with him and talking about our feelings or the day's events. I want to please him but in a different way. It feels a bit complicated.

Some of the time we spend is together, but most is not. So I am doing work for him, copywriting, that he needs to approve. I'm not used to that, as I have my own writing outlets, this blog included, where I can say whatever I want however I want. It is a new challenge to be writing for a specific audience, especially when your business is so young and most of the control is out of your hands. I've done copywriting before, but not for a spouse or relative.

So it's tricky, the ego mind shift one needs to make in order to go from partner to (unpaid) employee in the blink of an eye. I think that's called code switching, when you play different roles with different people. We all do it all the time. If I were going to go back to grad school for the third time (Will I ever learn?), it would be to study something like that--cultural anthropology, how people change and react in different situations and with different people.

But I don't see school days coming anytime soon. I've got stuff to do, including writing. For my husband's company as well as for myself. Best get on task.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Comment: Hibernation Mode

The mucous is flowing, the wind is a'blowing, it's fucking February once again. The shortest month that feels like the longest. A time I always dread, for fear of an outbreak of seasonal depression. So many of us get really low during the winter. I have a light box (and a panoply of other resources) to help me through. But I just can't wait for Spring. It fills me with hope that it's coming. We're already about a third through the month, so that's progress.

I was walking outside today and everything looks so grey and ugly. It's amazing what a makeover sunshine is, to everything it touches. So here's to sunny days, soon, I hope.

I'm very distracted because I'm editing one of the two novels I want to get published. My husband is doing a start-up and in a way, so am I. There's so much I don't know. The self-publishing route is very exciting to me. And there are other websites I'm going to try.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Comment: It is ready.

Hi Everybody, I just Kindle published a book! It's a selection of some of the more amusing and hopefully entertaining posts from the early years of QCC. I'm awaiting proofs before it becomes a real live book on Amazon. If you have a kindle, here's the link.

Dat's Not It, You Fool

I'm so excited about this! I have two novels I am working on but it is hard to edit in a vacuum. So I will try to explore some of these other websites that purport to help self-publishers such as myself get our books out.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Comment: Cabin Fever

We're all feeling it, at this time of year, and no thanks to Punxsutawney Phil. (I kind of feel bad for the oversized rodent. All this attention and in such unnatural circumstances. Whose idea was this, anyway? Do I need to go search this on the Interweb?)

As you may infer from my previous sentence, I've been watching a lot of "30 Rock", season one. It is one of the only things I have to watch while I ride the exercise bike in the basement. My phone is having issues with Netflix and the screen is just too fucking small to watch shows on. (When I watch "Downton Abbey" on my husband's 17 inch screened lap top, I feel like I'm at the movies.)

So I'm really living with the characters of "30 Rock" and I'm starting to sound like them. Blerg. Liz Lemon is such an awesome character, as are all of the others on the show. There isn't a dud among them. They're unique, quirky, and hilarious hijinks inevitably ensue. Just thinking about the show makes me smile.

Liz is everywoman, albeit with an amazing job, which most women don't have. Most women aren't pulling in six figures. Some of us aren't even pulling in four figures. Some of us aren't pulling in anything except laundry and groceries as we take care of our families. So we're not just like Liz. But we are.

So how does a middle aged semi-housewife such as myself relate to single, childless Liz Lemon? Because she's a dork. And I'm a dork. 

I love the scene where she takes her bra off in the magic special way we ladies know how to to it without ever taking our shirts off. (Can't be done with sports bras, sadly). She's just standing there with her bra in her hand when Floyd comes in and finds the flowers sent to Liz the he meant to send to his girlfriend, Liz Lemmler. 

Liz Lemon gets in awkward situations that many of us can relate to, and this is why she shines high in the pantheon of modern female TV characters. Those monosyllabic women (and men) on the "Law and Order" shows have got nothing on ole Liz Lemon. She's our everywoman. She uses a scented candle as deodorant, and mistakenly uses the men's room to clean up after a night editing scripts and watching a "Designing Women" marathon on Nick at Nite. It's these details that delight.

I could go on, and probably will later, but let's just toast to Liz Lemon. "30 Rock" may be over, but it's such a solid show that repeated watching only enhances the hilarity. 

But I think I'll stick to regular deodorant.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Comment: Hot n' Cold

Ahh, tweendom. It's only just beginning at my house. Moodiness is the feeling du jour, and it goes without saying that there are great highs and deep lows. And that's just at breakfast.

What can I say? I was such an insecure kid, I don't remember much about rebelling or yelling at my mother. I'm pretty sure I never yelled at my mother. Scratch that, I KNOW I never yelled at my mother. I'm not saying I didn't give her trouble. I did. And plenty. But in the rebellion domain, that all happened once I was out of the house. I was in puberty a WHOLE lot later than most gals n' guys. I had a delayed pubescence. (That sounds graphic, doesn't it? It just means I got my period late and didn't get drunk until I went to college.)

The challenge with the tween child is not to over react, because that sends you both down the slippery slope, the dominos all fall down, etc. Be still and calm when the storm comes through. Or as they like to say, lean into it. Accept that there will be sass. And yes, there will be sass. And door slamming. And deception. And low-level scheming. All part and parcel of the gig.

My challenge is to be as chill as possible. How do you warm up for that?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Comment: Oh, the Horror!

Yup, the inevitable happened. I was innocently bagging up my groceries today at Trader Joe's, using my seemingly unlimited stash of reusable bags when I picked one up and was struck by a stench so foul, I can not perfectly describe it. It was like garbage plus body odor plus rotten dead meat. It was my bags. The odor hurled itself out of the bags and into the air and I actually said something to the effect of, "Oh my, these bags smell terrible!" And the cashier was all, "At least you admit it, you should smell some of the bags that come across my counter". I was a little bit mortified, so the humor was useful. 

Stinky grocery bags. A new low. So I came home, unpacked my groceries, and washed my bags, Nobody ever talks about washing your reusable bags, but it's a really good idea and I may just win the Master of the Obvious award for common sense.

I just felt I needed to write about it. Is it a metaphor for life? For my life? Do I need to wash out the stinky bags of my psyche, to clean them and purge them, making room for new wealth? Or am I reading too much into this?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Comment: Sorry.

I got nothing. Blaming it on hibernatory symptoms.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Question: Mid-Life Crisis?

Am I in the middle of one right now? The timing's right. I'm angst-filled and feel completely fried from the teaching I've been doing for most of my life. I feel like I've lost my passion for teaching, especially children. This depresses me. Then again, it's late January in the winter in the mid-Atlantic region, so most things depress me. Like snow. And cold.

But seriously, where to next? I don't know. There are tons of answers, no doubt. My husband is starting a business and he needs help, so I'm going to help him to the best of my abilities. 

I also think i could be a better "homemaker" even though I am loath to use the term. I mean, our house is messy and disorganized and if I could just channel one percent of Martha Stewart that could really help me out. I don't want to get into decoupage or make my own ottoman, but I could use some organizational and storage tips. And a big garbage bag or ten. 

We are overrun with books, too. I went through a period of time over several years where i bought a LOT of books. Many of them are no longer relevant to me, so off to the library they can go. I think I could even sell some of them back to Amazon, though I'm not sure I've got the gumption. It doesn't look too hard...

The embarrassment of riches is surrounding me. I am grateful for that and don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth. I can make a difference by being a good role model for my children. That is of utmost importance. If I keep that in mind, whatever else I do will be icing on the cake.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Question: Why don't we do what we like to do?

I've talked about this long ago, but the answer still eludes me. I love to write, yet don't take the time to do it. My son loves the drums, but doesn't practice. Ditto my daughter and piano. Ditto some days exercising for my husband. These are all things we deeply enjoy, yet we don't allow time for them, even though we could.

I don't know what to make of this aversion to things we like. It makes no sense. I should be writing all the time and jogging all the time and my kids should practice their instruments at least some of the time. My husband usually waits until dinnertime to exercise so he's often cut short. It's all about planning, I guess, and we don't always do the best job at planning.

These days my self-care routine takes up a lot of my time, though I have no personal trainer nor stylist nor dietician. In order for me to get through my days in one piece, there's a laundry list of things I have to do to stay sane: exercise, meditate, sleep. Not to mention the laundry.

Oh the laundry! It's Sissyphean. The minute the pile is empty something new flies down the laundry chute, which, I'll admit, is cool, but would be cooler if PEOPLE ACTUALLY USED IT ON A REGULAR BASIS AND NOT ONLY ON CLEANING DAY. I'm just sayin'.

There are always napkins to be washed, jeans, stained shirts, sweaty grown up clothes that could march around the room with the weight and heft of their stink. 

Some people only do laundry once a week. Once a week?! Maybe if you were single and lived in The Bahamas and all you had was a few sarongs and a couple of shawls, sure. But in a family of four living creatures, all of whom grow larger and dirtier by the day? 

I do laundry every day or we would sink under the weight of our own filth. I make time for laundry. Why don't I make time for something I actually like?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Question: Why did you bail on Facebook for years?

One of the reasons I stopped using Facebook for nearly four years is because it kept making me wistful for my past. I’d see names from the good ole days and get all nostalgic and forget about my wonderful life that I have right NOW. This is my challenge in going on Facebook. I want to reconnect but sometimes you just can’t. Time passes, people move on.

I have people on my Facebook Friends list who are barely casual acquaintances, as well as very dear old friends with whom I’m thrilled to be back in touch.  I disappeared from Facebook for years. I’m back because I want to get back into the game, such as it is. People I care about are on it, and it’s also a platform for advertising my blog and other writing I do. So going back on was a rational decision.

I also stopped Facebook because we moved and I was trying to build a real 3-D life in my new hometown. This took years of effort, as anyone who has ever moved a family across the country knows.

Additionally, there was the Facebook Envy. Seeing my old friends and acquaintances on their vacations and photo shoots didn’t always make my day. It was Keith Johnstone who once wrote that whenever someone tells you about something nice that happened to them, it was like they were kicking you as they spoke. Not that people report nice things to be mean, but sometimes our more primal selves react with envy at what good tidings that have befallen our friend. We can still love and respect said friend, but if they win the lottery, you feel like someone kicked you in the nuts, so to speak.

That’s because we are, on a visceral level. competitive animals. We eat, we fuck, we shit, we sleep, and that isn’t enough, we always want more. Our ambitions and our desire to be good at something, brilliant at something, pushes us. That’s evolution.

So I guess that answers the question.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I've decided to be somewhat disciplined on writing every day, so stay tuned on how that works out. I'm in the middle of a bunch of creative projects but can't seem to pull the trigger on any of them. It's not a case of writer's block, it's research block. I have books to read, websites to decode, to get my work out there. I don't know who's gonna read it, but I'd like to put at least some of it out there. So I need to get moving.

But enough about my navel gazing. Does anyone know when "Orange is the New Black" is starting its third season? I'm itching to get back into watching that world. Excellent show.

A lot of my time lately is on my physical health. I have a stupid hip injury that is acting up, so I'm doing exercises and going to physical therapy. The place I go to is like this MASSIVE operation across the river where all the professional sports teams take their injured members.

There are autographed jerseys framed all around the first floor, which I think is reserved for the plebs such as myself. don't imagine Troy Polamalu or Sydney Crosby having to sit in the gigantic waiting room like the rest of us. I bet they have their own wing, or floor, or both. Needless to say, I haven't seen anyone famous there, but there's really only a handful of professional athletes I can name, so I'm not much help there.

Physical therapy is so boring yet so important. I have a very nice PT who has green eyes and a pleasant demeanor and uses the word "tummy" unironically. He's nice. He explains everything but basically I just have to stretch and strengthen, which is, you guessed it, tedious and boring. But I want to get my mobility back up because this May my 50 year old sister, my 78 year old dad and I are going to "run" the half-marathon. I say run in quotation marks because when we did it three years ago it was really a spectacle, not a race. We stopped to pee and have snacks and dance in front of the motivating bands who were playing and basically made glorious asses of ourselves. It took us three and a half hours and it was a total laugh riot. It was an event.

So I'm aiming to be fit enough to have this next event. I can't wait to get the go ahead to start running again. I don't know how soon that will be and I'm an impatient gal, but I'm doing my best with the exercise bike to keep some semblance of fitness. I am also doing this seven minute workout (executed very poorly) that is supposed to cover all your muscles and is supposedly all the workout you need, if you can do it in seven minutes. I can't even do some of the exercises, and it takes me longer than seven minutes, but I see it as a challenge and it doesn't involve running, so I'll take it.

Challenges are good.

Rock on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I'm baaack!

Trying to get back in the swing of things. Just finished an intensive writing workshop with wondergal Ariel Gore, writer and teacher. Always gets me fired up.

Decided I'd pick this up again and see if I have the juice. It's been years since I've blogged regularly, so I don't know how this will work. If you'll be patient, I'll put out some of my writing for y'all to peruse. Below is something I wrote in Ariel's class. I'm asking, is this flash fiction? Cause I'm older than 25 so I'm not sure.  Happy reading!

The Tunnel
by Emi

Jack and Lucy always play together. They’re alike in that they’re both foster kids who live in the same apartment complex. But they’re different in that Jack is pale and blond and Lucy is brown and raven-haired. They are the same age, six years old. They both play together every chance they get, because they have an understanding. She won’t say anything about the large birthmark on his face and he won’t say anything about how heavy she is. Both children are teased and ridiculed at their homes and at school.

The only time they have when they can relax and let their guard down is when they go to the beach. There’s a special beach they go to, not the one with the tanned attendant looking for badges. It’s a secret beach that only Jack and Lucy know about. And you have to know how to find it. And only Jack and Lucy know. It’s their secret.

Friday is Special Beach Night.  Both children know that right after they are dropped off by the bus driver, they can leave immediately for the beach. They don’t need to check in with their overwrought, unengaged foster parents. There’s so much adult drama that Jack and Lucy don’t understand. But they do understand when they’re not wanted around, and Fridays seem to be the time, especially Friday nights when people start drinking and smoking and acting all loud and shit.

It’s also a good time for Special Beach Night because Jack and Lucy both need to blow off some steam from their rough weeks of being harassed and bullied. They have each other and they have Special Beach Night. You can only get there through the tunnel. Most people think it’s a sewage tunnel, but it isn’t. It’s just full of a bit of stagnant, acrid water. But there are no needles or soda cans or candy wrappers or crushed glass. Nobody goes in the tunnel mostly because nobody knows it’s there. But Jack and Lucy know.

And they know that at the end of a horrible week, all they need to do is slosh in through the tunnel and find peace and acceptance on the other side.

At the end of the tunnel, there is a small inlet on the beach that hosts all kinds of interesting creatures that Jack and Lucy can’t identify because neither one of them can read yet, thanks to the neglect they have at home. They’re both in first grade and should technically be able to look stuff up on the internet, if they had it, which they don’t. they don’t have love, they don’t have web access, but they have each other.

When they get together to play, they don’t talk much. It’s more about being in silence with another person, someone who isn’t going to scream at you and tell you you’re a retard or a wide load, that you’re ugly or fat or freakish.

Jack and Lucy have the understanding that they are each alone in the world. But when they really need to, they can always crawl through the tunnel to their beach of refuge. At this place, they are whole and they are loved.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Back in the Game

It's been years since I've blogged, and haven't had the itch for awhile now, but with the amount of time I now have on my hands, at least as of this writing, I am able to spend some of it writing, which is boss.  I just completed an intensive writing class online with Ariel Gore. I strongly recommend her. She is awesome and so are her workshops.

We're in the middle of a big adventure right now. My husband has decided to start a business. He was laid off on Halloween (eerily appropriate) and his severance just finished, so we are on a tightrope without a net. No, that's not true. There is a net. It's just pretty far down. We're not stupid, we're optimistic. If in a few months there is no traction on this company, we will change course. That's just the nature of online start-ups. They either work or they don't.

I feel both excited and nervous about what this project entails for my husband and my family. Penny pinching will become an art form, I'm guessing. This is a good thing. For too long we spent money without thinking about it. I know I did some time ago and I regret it.

But back to now. Now is a tightrope. Do you know that song, "Tightrope" by Janelle Monae? It's highly appropriate to describe both starting a business and managing mental illness. Just a little connection for you there. Check it out.