29 September 2006

Shamelessly Seeking...

Your votes! Blog Emmys are here: http://mysteriousladyclues.blogspot.com/2006/09/let-blog-emmys-begin.html Hop on over, put in a vote for me, OK? Or even a nomination would be great! Thanks!

27 September 2006

Growing Up the Boy Named Sue

Recently, an acquaintaince of mine and I were discussing a particular instructor we'd both had. He was a large man (over 6'4"), heavy, with a deep, booming voice, and a very rapid-fire, agressive, New-Yorkey conversational style. "Don't you find him intimidating?" my friend asked me. Upon reflection... no. I really didn't. I wasn't even really sure why my friend was intimidated. I relayed this story to my husband, who laughed out loud. "You were raised by something scarier than you're ever gonna meet out in the world. Of course you're not intimidated."

My daddy left home when I was three And he didn't leave much to ma and me Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze. Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid But the meanest thing that he ever did Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."
...actually, my father died when I was 11. And my stepdad, The Bear, stepped in. I refer to him as my dad, simply because he survived my teenage years, and thus earned the title. My father was a small, highly intellectual, very airy kind of guy. The Bear, as you can guess, is a huge, very earthy kind of guy. He pretends to be big and dumb, but that's only to lure in and trap the unworthy. He used to go choose off tour guides at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant for fun, to test them on their knowledge of nuclear disasters.
Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean, My fist got hard and my wits got keen, I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame. But I made a vow to the moon and stars That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars And kill that man who gave me that awful name.
The Bear didn't believe in sissies. I am the only girl I've ever met who recieved a firearm for her 13th birthday. I'm also the only girl I've ever met who, when in the fourth grade, I came home from school crying because a bully was picking on me, recieved punching lessons instead of sympathy. And then recieved full support when I went on to break the poor kid's nose when he hassled me again.
Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad From a worn-out picture that my mother'd had, And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye. He was big and bent and gray and old, And I looked at him and my blood ran cold And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do! Now you're gonna die!!"
My mother joked that it seemed sometimes like despite the obvious genetic problems, I'd eventually gotten the right dad, because I was a lot more like the Bear than like my own father. And maybe it's part of youth's belief in their own immortality, but very early on, I forgot that I was not a 6' tall man. I ceased being able to recognize differences in physical size, or in bodily strength.
Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes And he went down, but to my surprise, He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear. But I busted a chair right across his teeth And we crashed through the wall and into the street Kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.
As most teens do, I knew everything. And was not afraid to back up my opinions. The Bear got fed up and threw me out of the house three different times, but I never even got as far as packing before Mom called me back and things were patched. But less dramatically than that, we held nightly sparring sessions. Verbal sparring, that is. The issues of the day, brought to the table with the mashed potatoes, to be ripped apart and analyzed. I learned both my argument style and some of my best phrases of opprobrium during those meals.
I tell ya, I've fought tougher men But I really can't remember when, He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile. I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss, He went for his gun and I pulled mine first, He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.
As I got older, I eventually got to a point where I could argue the Bear to a standstill on some points. I will remember the first day I did that until I die. He just sat there at the table, beaming, despite having been talked in circles for the better part of a few hours.
And he said: "Son, this world is rough And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along. So I give ya that name and I said goodbye I knew you'd have to get tough or die And it's the name that helped to make you strong."
I sometimes tell people some of the gorier stories of my childhood, and they're apalled. Not only are they stunned I survived, but they're stunned I'm not still in therapy. And I used to wonder about that too... wonder if maybe I shouldn't be. Then I laugh at myself. Right after my divorce, with my world crashing down around me, I drove home for a visit, and found that the Bear had set aside two cases of .12ga shotgun ammo, and a bunch of targets. My Winchester disintegrated in my hands, I fired it so much and so fast, and having planned ahead, the Bear was standing right behind me with a Mossberg to replace it. I felt better on so many levels. I know people who've spent years of their lives in marriage counselling, and I wonder if two cases of .12ga wouldn't do the trick for them too. But being a small woman in a large man's world, it is astonishing to count how many times in my life large men have assumed they could physically or verbally intimidate me. Like many women, I have been physically threatened with rape, and both times, I have literally laughed in my attacker's face, because I knew there was not a damn thing he could actually do to me. Model Mugging runs courses for women who've been raised, well, properly. The girls I always envied, whose parents bought them their first car instead of making them rebuild it themselves. The girls who lived in genteel homes, instead of homes littered with Viet Nam veterans with shaking hands and haunted eyes. The girls who recieved modelling classes instead of combat training courses. The girls who recieved Barbies instead of 50-round banana clips.
He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight And I know you hate me, and you got the right To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do. But ya ought to thank me, before I die, For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"
I hated, well, most of it, while it was happening. But looking back... I have fought one hell of a fight. I can see the places I would have been crushed, had I not had the raising I did. I think it's Maya Angelou who wrote "Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now.' She gets it.
I got all choked up and I threw down my gun And I called him my pa, and he called me his son, And I came away with a different point of view. And I think about him, now and then, Every time I try and every time I win, And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!
It's bizarre and schizophrenic to look back, appreciate so much of what happened, and simultaneously vow that my children will walk as little of my path as I can manage. Oddly enough, the Bear brought that up, last time we talked. He's just itching for my boys to grow up, old enough so he can really play with them. "But don't rush them, or anything" he tells me. "Just let them be." But in the meantime... shh, don't tell... "Bampa" is building Rowan a small cannon, that really fires. Because some things, maybe, shouldn't be changed.

26 September 2006

Made For Birthing

Not long ago, the discussion came up, as it does, about women who've just had babies. One woman mentioned a four-hour labor, where the baby practically fell out of her. "That woman was just made for birthing!" was the exclamation. I stared intently into my drink, not meeting anyone's eyes. At all. I had a primary cesarean, and then a VBAC. The jealousy/envy over vaginal births never goes away. Rip-her-throat-out-wtih-my-teeth jealousy of those women whose babies fall out of them. Yes. Almost crippling. Unless you've been there, you cannot understand the fundamental feelings of failure that a cesarean can create. And once you do your homework and find out that yours was perhaps avoidable, the emotional rip tide can carry you out to postpartum depression hell, to slowly drown in it. Then I had my VBAC. And was totally blown away by the fact that I still had a ridiculous stupid long hard labor (36-ish hours). I had thought that if I got the positioning thing right, the baby would fall out. I figured that if I approached it without fear, if I visualized my little heart out, that I'd get the kind of easy birth these women had. Nope. I, apparently, am ... not built for birth? Not meant to birth? Not a birthing woman? Yet... there was my baby. I had birthed him. When people read Kestrel's birth story, or hear the story of my labor with him, I am greeted with all kinds of shock. 38-howmany hours? Without any kind of pain medication at all? You're serious? Yup. Totally serious. There are rules in the Geneva Convention about not doing things to soldiers, that laboring women endure. No sleep, no food, then hours of extremely strenuous physical work to the point of bodily harm. You'd get arrested for treating a dog that way. But women just do it, like they've always done. I am sometimes amazed, reading my own and other womens' birth stories. We? We did that? Why yes, we did. And then ride the endorphin high for days on end. The very endorphins that are one of the chemical bases of bonding. So that on the very deepest of levels, by our ability to marathon instead of sprint, we prove that we are made for birthing.

12 September 2006

Thank You

Yesterday, we did a family field trip to IKEA. And I'm here this morning to brag shamelessly. The IKEA warehouse in Emeryville is huge. I mean, bafflingly, overwhelmingly huge. And you're fed through it like rats in a maze, complete with arrows painted on the floor to keep you from getting lost forever. I assumed it would be unbearably boring for the boys, so I prepped a bag of raisins for snacks, and spent a lot of time talking about stuff, showing them the bits that were interesting. Both boys comported themselves beautifully. I think I started in telling Rowan how proud I was of how well he was coping (and acknowledging that he was, indeed, coping) midway through the Offices section, and kept it up as the screams of other bored-beyond-capacity children echoed off the cavernous interior. We spent some time in the Children's section, because they have play structures there, and it allowed Rowan to both blow off some steam, and to be the focus. Interestingly, my child is not the shopper a lot of kids are. Jason and I kept asking if he wanted things, and he kept declining. Really amazing. He did end up with a flashlight with a snake body, and a hanging chair of his own for the apple tree. At the end, we bought some cookies for the car trip home. Despite the fact that Emeryville isn't that far from home, the rush hour traffic makes it more of an expedition than tiny stomachs can endure comfortably, thus, one sensibly provisions before starting the engine. And being as how they were Swedish cookies, they had no corn syrup (a uniquely American perversion, that; to replace plain old sugar with corn syrup, which makes Rowan violent and insane). So there we are. We have just endured Megashopping, and both boys were still smiling and happy as they got into their seats to go home. No dramas, no crazies. I handed each boy a cookie. And Kestrel, who is now just 15 months old, took his cookie and clearly said, "Thank you!" I am blessed and graced beyond all reason.

10 September 2006

Props To Me!

I am totally pleased to announce that I am now a Featured Author on Life Without School, a blog for homeschoolers and unschoolers, to explore what our lives are like. My premiere post, "Unschooling Birth" is the same as I posted here a few days ago. But this will be the only crossover; all my subsequent work on LWOS will be unique, so if you want to know what I have to say over there, you'll have to come check in. Please, leave commentary, check it out, and let the blog leaders know that you're happy to see me there. In other news, I had a meeting Friday with Beth Adams-Smith and Richard Smith of the Atlantic Cruising Club/Jerawyn Publishing. I will be writing a book with them over the coming year, a Marnia Guide to California. You can check out the other books in the series at the ACC website. This isn't really a creative writing project, but a travel writing one, and I am beyond ecstatic to be involved in this project. It's going to allow me all kinds of latitude in exploration and other article opportunities. So... here I go, leaping into publishing of all kinds of flavors. And thanks to all of you, who've been so awesome about nurturing, encouraging, and just being along with this blog, which I started simply to see if I could do it.

05 September 2006


Anyone who cosleeps can tell you that sometimes, on some nights, a king sized bed just isn't enough. Rowan has his own bed, in our room, and has the ability to sleep wherever he prefers. Sometimes, that's his bed, sometimes, it's ours. Some nights, he wants his own space, some nights, he wants to cuddle. That's fine with us. He's still a very little boy. Lately, he's been sleeping more in our bed. He's growing, so he's physically a little uncomfortable, and seems to sleep better when snuggled up to the Human Blast Furnace that is his Papa. Unfortunately, that means he's also next to Kestrel, who, like most babies his age, flails unbelievably. Whomever said the unfortunate phrase "sleep like a baby" has obviously never coslept. Kes is all over the place, sometimes because he's looking for comfort, sometimes because he's signalling that he has to pee. Either way, we've all gotten our share of Kestrel-inflicted bumps. Eventually, it'll mellow out, and he'll sleep like his brother, who at this point pours himself into bed, and doesn't move or stir for 10 or more hours. Sleeps more like a teenager than a baby, really. Last night, Kestrel was flailing. Lots of stimulation, a very busy day, and some unusual items in his diet, combined with teething and growing, and bammo, you have the SuperMobile baby. Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop. Pound. Thumpthumpthump. Flail. Mumble. Repeat. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed him and snuggled him in close, really close. Wrapped an arm around him, nestled his head up onto my shoulder... ...and felt his whole body relax. He melted into me like a symbiote, and immediately was soundly, motionlessly, blessedly asleep. And really, how many things is that a metaphor for? We, all of us, do better sometimes when we're closer. When the people who love us best make room for us right beside them, so we can snuggle in, absorb the warmth and the smell and the security, and settle in, in peace. Closer is the answer.