No Perspective

dream landscape 2 Spent the last half of last week feeling progressively more physically run-down, culminating in actually succumbing to the Princess’s post-AP-exam cold. She got better just in time for me to get walloped. Saturday afternoon was the worst of it, and I couldn’t take my long run yesterday, which means I’m twitchy as fuck right now as well as feeling dried out and weird from waking up several times to unload a cargo of nose-mucus.

Isn’t that a glorious mental image? You’re welcome.

To add to that, the Little Prince is subject to hormonal storms the likes of which I haven’t seen since the Princess was his age. I’m left shaking my head and trying to keep a straight face. EVERYTHING is an important, LIFE OR DEATH battle for him. No perspective means everything is a mountainously big deal. And, of course, I alternate between being BEST MUM EVER and WORST HARRIDAN IN HISTORY. It’s enough to give one whiplash, but really, it’s much worst inside his skin with the chemicals raging. Poor kid. My outright laughing at some of his drama probably makes it worse, but I can’t help myself.

Miss B and I are both longing to run, but it’s best if I give it another day. She’ll have to settle for herding me about and playing fetch. That is, if I can get her to bring the flung toy back to me, instead of just prancing around the yard shaking it once she’s caught it. Once it stops moving, she loses interest, just like a cat.

They’re saying thunderstorms this afternoon, which will no doubt be massively entertaining. And the contractor is to finish caulking everything in the upstairs loo, so I can call the plumbers back to put the trim on, then the children can take showers upstairs again. I should look into prep for painting. I’m tired of the nasty goldenrod color of the walls in there, and as a first painting project, a small bathroom isn’t that bad. I’ll just need drop cloths. Lots and lots of drop cloths.

But that’s a consideration for another day. Right now I need breakfast, and I’ll steal an hour of writing on a trunk novel before I get down to real work for the day. A salutary throat-clearing, as it were.

photo by:

Rubik’s

Right out of the package.

Right out of the package.

The Little Prince has grown addicted to Rubik’s Cube. His greatest wish was for a 4×4 one to match his 3×3, so I made a special trip–and when he took it out of the package, we found out it was already broken. Luckily, a local toy shop had one 4×4 left, and I snagged it while he was at school the next day. There was much rejoicing, and the Princess asked, “So are you going to take the broken one back?”

Well, there was a no-returns-on-open-toys policy, which I understand, so I did the next best thing. “Take it apart,” I said. “See how it works.”

And they did.

Social Motherhood

Alice Glass, Crystal Castles This morning the Little Prince was telling me about a show he watched at school. Something that particularly interested him was the amount of sugar in foods, and how cereal companies (among others) lobbied to raise the “acceptable” percentage of sugar in certain foods. So over breakfast we talked about corporations, food deserts, and how we’re very lucky to be able to afford the hidden costs of eating well–the ability/income to shop in bulk, the petrol and time to drive to the grocer’s, the time/energy to prepare homemade food, which is largely a function of making enough money. Above all, I impressed upon him that we’re lucky–it is not at all usual for a single mother, especially one working freelance, to have the time and energy necessary for some of these things. I told him about how minimum wage isn’t enough to live on, and highly processed foods are “cheap” in food deserts, and how profits are squeezed from people who can least afford such squeezing.

He asked very cogent questions, and made a number of very astute observations about the whole thing. I’m not sure it’ll sink in very deeply, but at least the seed has been planted. He had questions about “obesity” and the term “epidemic” as well.

Motherhood: the constant scramble of trying to find a way to help a child understand things most adults don’t even understand, or have only the foggiest notions of, or just plain don’t want to think about. It requires more self-education than I could ever perform, even studying round the clock, but I try because I don’t want to give them inaccurate information. It also requires encouraging them to go look for themselves, to take the information I have and go further, dig deeper, and find out what they think. No doubt this makes them the type of student who will question teachers.

I honestly don’t see an alternative.

Which raises another specter: we have the funds, the time, the hardware (which isn’t free) to research, the leisure time to think about these things. It takes energy to look at this stuff, energy we can spare because of our relatively privileged socioeconomic position. I am frequently reminding the kids that had things been a little different, I would be working two or even three jobs, and I wouldn’t have the time or energy left over to do other things they enjoy, since all my resources would be directed at survival. Working damn hard is only part of the equation, and it doesn’t guarantee a living wage anymore. (If it ever did.) Luck, especially the luck of being born lower middle class and in a particular skin color, plays a huge part.

This is why the oligarchical refrain of “the poor/brown/whatever people are LAZY” bothers me so much. The entire deck is stacked against many people, they’re living in a society where racism and classism is endemic, they’re playing the video game of life on the most hardcore setting, and some motherfuckers have the temerity to call them “lazy” because the scramble for survival means they prioritize differently and are forced to make decisions the rich or the “right” skin color never have to even consider. Poverty and trauma don’t ennoble, they kill, they grind people down, and they steal so much from not just the poor but from everyone. Who can tell what art, what books, what science we’re missing out on because the people who could have created them are mired in poverty, institutional racism, bigotry?

And all the while, corporate welfare marches on, and billions are poured into new and inventive ways to kill and terrorise people instead of education.

It’s enough to make one sick, indeed. I try to make sense of it so I can explain things to the children without breaking down into a spluttering heap of indignant fury, but sometimes there’s no sense to be had, and I have to admit as much to them. “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand it either” are terrifying words to have to say when your child turns to you to make sense of things.

photo by: chriszak

The Gap

Magnets

These are tiny, super-strong magnets, Buckyballs, the type one is cautioned not to swallow. The ex, who somewhat fancied himself Fuller’s unrecognized heir, bought them. Now that the kids are in their teens and understand what they can do inside one’s body, they’re relatively safe; they mostly live on the fridge. The Little Prince in particular loves them; he associates them with the good parts of having his father around.

So much (personal, family) history in this one photo. Especially in the gap.

Supportive Like Wonderbra

Carriger_Prudence-HC I’m over at the Orbit blog today, interviewing Gail Carrier for her new release, Prudence. It’s my first interview ever–asking the questions, not answering them–and Ms Carriger was very gracious. I hope you like it!

I’m happy to report that the Certain Situation with That Certain Publisher has been…resolved…now. Thank you all for the messages of support. It was an extremely unpleasant set of circumstances, but it’s behind me now.

Also in the “good news” category: I got a surprise visit yesterday from my girl C, who is DONE WITH CHEMO and CANCER-FREE. *throws confetti* It was amazing to see her on the mend, hair reappearing, and her old wicked sense of humor still intact. (I may have misted up a little.) Best of all, the kids both have sniffles but she didn’t have to avoid us, because her blood counts are recovering. When you have kids and pets, immune-compromised friends can have a rough time just dropping by.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to her medical costs, and thank you for all the supportive messages for C, too. You guys are wonderful, as uplifting as sports brassieres but not nearly as pinch or rash-inducing. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Not least on the gratitude list is the fact that I’m going to finish Cal & Trinity, if not today then tomorrow. I can feel the book boiling under my skin, and the lunge for the end has begun. It will be nice to get the zero for that shoved into a mental drawer so I can revise Blood Call with a clear conscience.

Thank you, dear Readers. You’re a wonderful bunch.

Off I go to stumble for a finish line somewhere, anywhere…

Eating My Harmony

Windows The weekend was full of storms. Yesterday in particular, the wind made the cedars thrash, and the honeysuckle on the north side-fence narrowly missed being flattened by a fir bough. The noise made both dogs nervous, and the presence of punch balloons turned Odd Trundles into a ball of protective rage. (He was also bathed, so that probably had a little to do with his mood.) I had to put a couple balloons on the floor and pet them to make Trundles realize they weren’t enemies, and wouldn’t harm him. Poor little fellow.

This was also the weekend we discovered a lemon cake with chocolate frosting was not necessarily a good idea, though the kid who requested it loved it to stomach-burning distraction. I was glad to provide such joy, but really, lemon cakes belong with super-sour lemon glazes, in my humble opinion.

It was also (so much happened!) the weekend the Princess and I got addicted to Egg Baby. They’re cute! You tickle them! You feed them and bathe them and they hatch! There’s an achievement for letting an egg die, but neither of us can bear to do that. We’re bonding over fire eggs and ghost eggs and how long to let them sleep.

Hey, when you’ve got teenagers, you take every bit of commonality you can. I’m just thrilled both of them want to talk to me as often as they do. I gather it’s not normal for them to actually want to converse with a parental unit, so I’m glad to be bucking the trend.

Come Sunday, we were all in the living room. I was tending eggs and reading Che Guevara, the Prince was playing Fantasy Life, and the Princess alternating between egg-tending and Animal Crossing. The family that games together ends up not throttling each other, I guess.

I did finish the Guevara reader. It wasn’t until I got to the letters in Part IV that I realized Guevara had more than one child. Being left alone with multiple children to raise while a guy hares off to Bolivia isn’t my idea of a good time, but I guess Aleida March was okay with it. She wrote a book about the relationship, which I should add to my reading list just on general principle. I’m generally more interested in what those who actually raised the children have to say about revolutions.

What I didn’t get done over the weekend: finishing Cal & Trinity. I hoped I would, but last week the horrorshow of stress coming from a publisher’s extremely sloppy manner of business (yes, still waiting to be paid) put a dent in my productivity. I suspect I could work much more effectively if the worry over whether or not a contractually mandated cheque will arrive WEEKS AFTER it was supposed to wasn’t eating my harmony. This is another thing plenty of new authors aren’t told: employees of publishing houses generally don’t understand that for a writer, late cheques are like the salaried’s paycheck just not showing up. “Oh, we’ll fix paying you…eventually…” isn’t good enough for a salaried employee, but it’s expected to be good enough for a writer. It’s not fair, it’s pretty hideous, but it’s the way things are and one needs to be prepared for it. This is the sort of situation where having an agent is crucial, because, in Caitlin Kittredge’s immortal words, you can lose count of the many ways in which you’ll be screwed without one.

*looks back over preceding paragraphs* God. I feel like I need a nap just to recover from the weekend. But the kids are at school, the music is playing, and I’ve got work to catch up on. The proof copy of Rose & Thunder arrives today for my approval, and hopefully I’ll be able to approve it and have the paper version on sale early. We’ll see…

photo by: Exothermic

Hazelnuts

hazelnuts

The Princess did homemade Nutella for a friend’s birthday–a true labour of love that involved blanching and peeling, then roasting, the little bastards. Hazelnut skins dye things a very strong red, as we found out. The towel she’s using still bears the marks, and there was a ring inside the pan used to blanch them that defied all sorts of scrubbing. The ring has since faded, but the towel is still streaked with red, and we affectionately call it the “hazelnut towel.”

She may make more Nutella for my own birthday. Because she’s amazing. My girl.

Sock Monkeh!

Sock Monkeh SOCK MONKEH, avec embarrassing bulge, in honor of the orgy of capitalism and greed that is about to ensue. I actually snapped this some time ago, and sent it to the Selkie with the threat that I was going to buy one for her, so he could help her write.

Her reply was sufficiently unrepeatable as to scorch my phone. Heh.

Yesterday was full of ham, stuffing (once a year I get to eat all the Stove Top I want; sadly, I usually only end up wanting about a cup of it. BUT I COULD HAVE MORE, IF I WANTED!) and mashed russets, greens (Bandit, our remaining cavy, got a generous handful of fresh kale) and challah bread. True to form, half the challah disappeared before dinner could be had.The kids had fizzy apple juice, and I broke into the wine early. (Honestly, nobody expected any less.)

The older I get, the more I value a quiet holiday.

Anyway, today is for listening to Sir Mix A Lot and getting back into the swing of sample chapters and more of the second Gallow book. Kids and dogs are still sleeping, the coffee is beginning to sink in, and I plan on being nowhere near a mall, ever.

All together now: Ahhhh.

Blank Spaces

bruise I’m taking a break from writing the adventures of Beauregarde–we’ll finish up next week, I think.

I woke up from a pretty intense dream this morning, and as I was writing it down (I love these for dream journals, by the way) I realised that the setting for the dream was actually someplace I’d been in my childhood. I hadn’t recognised it, because there are gaps around certain traumatic childhood and teenage events. Memory fuzzes into a particular sort of gray haze, and a rushing in my ears–a rushing I’m all too familiar with, the precursor to disassociation.

I learned how to disconnect very early, certainly before I was six years old. I’d focus on that roaring in my ears, for example while an adult caregiver was screaming or enraged, and just check out. It protected me from sonic or physical assault, helped me cope with dangerous, unpredictable adults. It helped me retain some psychic integrity while at the mercy of baffling, raging giants unable to be propitiated or calmed.

But there are still those gaps. I used to think that I should actively pursue those blank spaces, dig through them, expose exactly what had been done to me during them. Calm Therapist and Frau Doktor, however, both suggested to me that maybe I didn’t have to, if I didn’t feel like it. The deciding factor, both of them noted, was whether or not I felt there would be a benefit to doing so. “I should” is not necessarily “it would be beneficial for me to,” a lesson I find I have to keep relearning. Naturally I want to face such things so the monster isn’t behind me, breathing on my neck. (I hate that. I’m a firm believer in turning around and beating the shit out of said monster.) Balancing that against the idea that maybe those scars have healed and I don’t need to cut them open is strange, a skill I’ve only slowly begun to master. I’m hoping it’s like a bicycle, it’ll become habitual after a while.

Which leads me to thinking that perhaps the dreams are ways of processing, too, my body and brain drawing the poison from things so awful I chose to blank them out entirely. After all, you can wake up from a dream. For a long time, as a helpless child, there was no waking up. I much prefer adulthood, with my own car keys, bank accounts, and the ability to walk away from certain relationships and people who made my earlier years so incredibly damaging and toxic. Sometimes people ask me if I wish I was younger, and my immediate “OH HELL NO” and laughter has a bitter edge. The further I get from being small, helpless, and terrorised, the better.

I remember leaving my childhood home for good, and feeling relieved and vastly less terrified than I expected. The outside world, I felt, couldn’t be as bad as the nightmare inside those walls. I’m happy to say I was right. Nothing I’ve endured since has made me regret that choice or want to go back in any way–which is saying something.

So I’ll keep writing the dreams down, and leaving those rushing-air spaces to open in their own time, if they want to. If they don’t, well, I’m slowly beginning to think that they don’t have to. A traumatic childhood doesn’t have to define me. Now that the anxiety is being managed and my entire body has had a chance to rest from years of severe, daily panic attacks, it’s a lot easier to find other definitions. One of the great joys of adulthood is building those new structures.

There’s also bacon, kung fu movies, having ice cream for dinner, and raising my own beautiful, fearless children who have never been spanked, terrorised, or even yelled at, who can’t even imagine such things. All in all, I much prefer things this way.

photo by: AnnieCatBlue

Tarzan and Beauregarde

Have you ever seen a six-foot-tall former competitive swimmer levitate? I have. In fact, I did just this past weekend, and there was a squirrel involved. And anime, but only tangentially.

The Princess attended Kumoricon with a friend, and I had a lovely brunch with said friend’s mum at Willem’s on Main. (Thumb’s up for the food, a so-so handwavey motion for the tables.) Coming home, pleasantly full and pretty mellow despite the fact that my baby was roaming a convention–sixteen and on the buddy system with regular cellphone check-ins, but still a mother worries–I pulled into the garage and cut the engine, hit the parking brake, and hit the button to lower the door.

A couple seconds later, unplugging my phone from the charger and grabbing my purse, I noticed it was entirely too light in the garage. What the…

I hit the button again. A third time. Nada.

Okay, fine. First step was to check to see if something had triggered the motion detector at the bottom of the tracks. Sometimes a spiderweb falls, or a piece of paper blows in. I was hoping it was that simple–where do you find garage door repair on Labour Day weekend? I didn’t want to find out, and I still don’t.

Nothing appeared to be…wait. Just wait.

Hidden Squirrel See that dark little square in the middle? Something twitched in there, and I’m sure my eyes widened. I bent, cautiously, and peered at the space between the garage doors.

And I realised, holy fuck, it’s a goddamn squirrel.

A little baby squirrel. He cowered in there, twitching, and we stared at each other for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure there were tumbleweeds. He had a playful glint in his eye, and it occurred to me that he was probably scared to death.

“Okay,” I told him, softly. “I’m getting reinforcements.”

Because if I have learned one thing in life, it is not to underestimate arboreal rodentia.

Upstairs, Tarzan was cleaning the kitchen. I walked in, probably frowning, and uttered the fateful words. “Hi. There’s a squirrel. Come with me.”

He’s been around a couple months, so he (mostly) knows better than to ask questions when I announce anything in that definite tone. Downstairs he trooped after me, into the garage, and peered at the hole the same way I did. “Jesus Christ. Do you think there’s a nest in here?”

I laughed–that kind of nervous laughter that means change the subject, I don’t even want to think about it. “Probably not. Miss B would have sniffed it out before now. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Can you bring me the broom?”

“Hallucin–” He blinked, visibly stopped himself. “And the kids, too. They’ll want to see this.”

I was going to tell him that might not be a good idea, given my history with squirrels, but he was already gone. I checked to make sure I was still wearing shoes–regular readers will know why–and began hunting for something to coax/scrape the little fellow out of that shallow square and possibly out into the driveway, where no doubt his Wild TreeRat Instincts would take him off into the blue yonder.

I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple.

I now break to inform you of an ancient bit of wisdom. To wit, baby squirrels are pretty goddamn agile. I will further inform you of the entire problem with this little furball.

He liked it here. He didn’t want to leave.

“I AM BEAUREGARDE!” he squeak-rumbled, a surprisingly deep voice for one so young. “I HAVE FOUND YOU! STOP POKING ME!”

“Shut up,” I whispered back, fiercely. “I have dogs. Cats. Cavies. There’s no vacancy, we’re fucking full up.”

Tarzan arrived with the broom, the Little Prince, and Tarzan’s daughter P. Soleil (short for Purple Sunshine, yes, this is her nom de Lili’s blog) and I grabbed the broom with unseemly haste.

“Be caref–” Tarzan almost swallowed the words as the little thing darted for me, but my broom-fu was strong. Beauregarde, occupied in clinging to the bristles, uttered a pathetic little moan and tried to shimmy up the damn thing. I swore, Tarzan yelled “JESUS!” and I got our uninvited guest out into the driveway. He darted behind the rubbish bins, and I heard tiny sobs.

I hardened my heart, and sighed. “That’s that, then–”

Oh no, that was not that. That was not that at all.

“EXCELSIOR!” Beauregarde squeaked, and scooted back into the garage. I was too late to catch him with the broom, and we were right back where we started. Tarzan laughed, the kids giggled, and I felt my blood pressure rise.

“That’s it,” I announced. “Fetch me the gloves.”

There was a general scurrying, and a little while later I had the leather gloves last used when Tarzan cleaned the gutters. (Ironic side note: he found peanut shells clogging one of them. “Looks like someone’s been feeding the squirrels!” he yelled down cheerfully from the roof, and looked a little taken aback when I swore like a sailor. He still is amazed at my vocabulary.)

“I should probably do this–” he began, but I snatched the gloves from his hot little hands.

“Stand over there.” I pointed, and he ambled obediently, visibly deciding that it was better not to question a woman with fire in her gaze and a squirrel to deal with.

He contented himself with a, “Please don’t be a badass,” delivered in the weary tones of a man who has seen me ride into battle once or twice by now.

“Too late,” I returned grimly.

“Where do they give you rabies shots nowadays?”

“What a marvelous thought, thanks.”

“EXCELSIOR!” Beauregarde screamed again, but I nabbed him. Long practice, and all that–they used to call me to rescue baby possums out of drainage holes, long ago and far away when I lived in falling-down townhouses. (That’s, say it with me, another blog post.) He nestled in my palms, somewhat contentedly, no thrashing or shivering as if he was terrified.

In fact, he looked sort of…well, pleased. Nevertheless, I got him to one of the pine trees and situated myself to release the beast. I craned to look over my shoulder. “Close the garage door!”

Tarzan, ever the gentleman, didn’t think so. “And leave you out here alone?”

“DON’T BE A HERO, TARZAN!”

“Yes ma’am.” The door rumbled down, I made sure Beauregarde was sticking to the tree and backed away carefully. He eyed me, now rumble-purring. I was hoping it wasn’t him powering up for a combo attack.

“YOU KNOW THIS IS FATE,” he informed me. “IT’S MEANT TO BE.”

“Don’t push me, nutlips,” I whispered back, and fled. The Little Prince had unlocked the front door, and I slammed it with perhaps unjustifiable force and a little bit of pride. After all, I’d ended a run-in with a squirrel without screaming, losing my shoes, falling down, getting pelted with pinecones, or having to use The Shovel.

Pride goeth, they say, before a fall.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Next: A Bike, A Squirrel, A Levitating Man