Friday, October 13, 2017

Five on Friday: This One's for the Fellas

Hi Guys.

There's been a lot of talk this week of high-profile case of a powerful man sexually harassing and assaulting multiple women. Of course then there's all the expected spinoff conversation on everything the women had done wrong. Then there are the questions to the other men, asking why they never said or did anything about it. Hey Men: people don't believe us when we say we've been assaulted--we need your help.  Even if we're not your Moms or Sisters or Girlfriends or Friends . . . for fuck's sake, man, we're human, aren't we? Do the right thing.

Maybe you've never witnessed anything like this, so maybe you think it's just . . . I don't know, something that only happens in the news. Rarely. Far away. Wouldn't ever happen to one of your loved ones, anyway. I used to think that about rape, and I'm a woman! But after I was raped and then was very vocal about it, countless other women began confiding in me about their own experiences. I've given up counting how many survivors I know.

Sure, I survived that one pretty extreme circumstance (a stranger breaking into my apartment and raping me at knife point), but I grew up safe, secure, cared-for and loved. I consider myself lucky to not have been molested as a child, harassed in the workplace, a victim of domestic or dating violence. As a matter of fact, when I look back upon my life, I initially think that I haven't really had to deal with much in this regard . . . but then I remember that one time. And another. And another. And so many more.

Why don't these moments come to mind immediately for me? Why don't they stand out? Is it because they weren't physically violent? Or is it because these incidents are so common for girls and women, we actually come to accept them as a normal part of life?

I think it's that. And that? That is infuriating.  Here are five memories from my lifetime in which men tried to touch, harm or intimidate me. And if you don't understand why, for example, numbers two or three are problematic, I'm going to ask you to try to set your male privilege aside momentarily and imagine what the realistic threats against women are on a daily basis.

But then I want you to assume your male privilege again; and I want you to use it when you  see another man abusing his.

1. The time I was squeezing past a family friend who was seated at a table. He grabbed my ass. I was eleven, maybe twelve years old. (I slapped his face. He laughed at me.)

I was around this age.

2. The time my toddler and I were walking out of the hospital--nobody was hurt, I think I may have been just dropping something off. It was drizzling. A man in a suit walked out at the same time as me. He offered to drive me and my baby to my car. I said no thank you. He offered again. I said no thank you. He asked again. I asked him if he had a car seat (thinking that would shut him up). He said that he was the President of the hospital. I said I didn't care. He kept insisting.  I walked away. (I later looked on the Hospital's website. He really was the President. I sent him an email. I got no response.)

3. The time my friends and I were driving to the beach on a sunny summer Sunday. Two men in a work van kept ending up next to us in traffic. The one in the passenger seat opened up the centerfold in a pornographic magazine and held it up to the window every time we were next to their van. (I copied the business' phone number down and called the main line first thing Monday morning. The Owner was rather unhappy with this news.)

4. The time a stranger began following me in broad daylight. I zig-zagged across streets to confirm that I wasn't imagining things. (When I made a quick move into a building without him noticing, I watched him look around for me and then give up.)

5. The time I was visiting my friend when she was tending bar. It was the end of the night and nobody else was there so we got to chat while she waited for closing time. A man came in and sat next to me; struck up conversation with us both. He revealed in conversation that he was an off-duty cop. When I mentioned something about my husband, the banter took a quick and serious downturn. My ring was on the wrong finger. (True. And I don't need to explain that to anyone.) He was pissed. Also, he made sure I knew that if he were my husband, I'd have a huge rock on my finger (I'm quite fond of my Las Vegas hotel gift shop $12 silver band, thank you very much). He left, very angry. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about going out to my car after that.

Remember: these moments didn't stand out for me when I tried to think of instances of men trying to exert their power over me--this just felt like a normal part of life for a woman. Ask one that you love if she can think of some moments like this from her own lifetime. You might be surprised. 

(My own symbol of survival)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Five on Friday: I Was Life-Coached. And I Liked It.

Last week a friend of mine asked if I would attend a workshop she was holding, it had sort of a life coach-y vibe. I'll admit I'm usually the type that rolls her eyes at such events but my friend needed a practice audience so I gladly attended.

I don't want to sound like a total jerk with that whole eye rolling thing; it's just that I'm a naturally motivated person so when I want to make a change in my life I normally just figure out how I'm going to do it. Except that one thing, of course . . . and after the presentation when my friend asked us all to write down something we wanted to work on, I knew just what mine would be.

Get back to memoir writing.

I thought she might have meant things more like "figure out a new career" or "make my marriage happier" but this was really what I've been struggling with.

I started out so strong at the beginning of the year and kept exceeding my monthly word count for myself. I was worried about the summer but I was way over my goals by then so I got lax. And after our road trip, I just stalled. Could. Not. Get. Back. To. It.

Granted, my days are full from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. But I had gotten to 30,000+ words with the same sort of hectic schedule already, so why couldn't I get back to it now?

For today's Five On Friday list, here are some things my friend taught me and the goals she encouraged me to set for myself. Thank you, Susan.

1. She taught us about the regrettably named "Five Second Rule" It has nothing to do with floor cereal (which you may remember, I have no problem with). It has to do with making a conscious effort to NOT talk yourself out of something. For example, when I finally get to sit down on the couch at night and relax, and I think, "I should work on my memoir," I should immediately make the decision that YES I should before I can talk myself out of it. Which brings me to goal #1: Say yes.

2. So the thing about saying yes to writing or any other creative endeavor is that sometimes things just don't flow. But lately I'm not even trying, I just assume I'm too tired. I realized I have to at least give it a chance and that there are things I can do that don't require a muse. Things like these other goals:

3. Touch base with those people who agreed to be early readers and I said "maybe in about a month" and then they never heard from me again. That's a job I could do at night while lazing on the couch. (*Note: I still haven't. But I will!)

4. Bring some articles and photos to work to scan. At night I can always trim and add them in where they belong. (*I have done this!)

5. Pick up Sherman Alexie's new memoir and get to reading. ("Oh, good," Susan said, "Looking for mentors!"  I might just have to add my life coach to that list too.)

A picture of real me really writing could go here but it'd be pretty boring . . . because it'd just be me in my pajamas on the couch.  But this metaphorical mermaid me, tattoo and all, painted by my daughter a few years ago, makes a lovely finishing touch.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Five On Friday: Dear Mrs. Quimby

Dear Mrs. Quimby,

I must admit, I used to just love reading about your daughter Ramona's shenanigans. It is so entertaining when other people's children are naughty. And you can't ever be mad-mad at her, she wasn't setting out to misbehave, things just always seemed to somehow get out of hand.

I've always admired your parenting style. That time you helped Ramona pack to run away by loading her bag up with roller skates and all sorts of heavy shit so she couldn't actually get anywhere? Classic. One time when I was a teenager babysitting my younger sister, she was being a pain in the ass so I called on my inner Mrs. Quimby and offered, "Why don't you run away? I'll help you pack!"

I think maybe I lost something in translation.

Anyhow, I am now the mother of five children. I have a feeling my youngest may be Ramona Incarnate. I think this may be punishment for being entertained by your earlier struggles. It seems only fair that I now share my own little Ramona's recent mischievous actions so that you, in turn, can derive some pleasure from them:

1. It all started when she was a baby. We should have known then . . . because even though she was our fifth kid, she was the first to:
          a. Have a pacifier for-freaking-ever
          b. Repeatedly take her (sometimes poopy) diaper off in her crib
          c. Figure out how to unlock the back door and escape
          d. Quickly go to the most dangerous place possible during said escape
          e. Paint the dog blue
          f. Apply nail polish to her eyelashes
          g. Find an ancient tube of vaginal cream and use it as facial lotion
          h. Have a imaginary friend to blame things on
          i. Draw all over her dolls and love the creepiest ones best
           . . . . You get the idea. More recently she has:

2. "Accidentally" fallen into the washing machine*


4. Started a Christmas list. See, I recently found a toy on clearance that I think she'd really like so I bought it and hid it. The only problem was, she didn't even know this toy existed. I put the idea into her head and she got very excited and got a paper and pencil. Would you like to know what she put at the top of the list? Do you think it was the toy? Of course not. She wrote fake barf. Closely followed by fake poo.

5. Stealthily climbed onto the dryer to reach some out-of-reach (ha! So cute of me!) supplies and took them outside to play with while I was cooking dinner and helping her brothers with their homework. A few minutes later she came in saying she wasn't sure what happened but she had blood dripping down her leg. I wiped it off and didn't see where it was coming from so I sent her back out. She returned a few minutes later saying that she thought it was from a thorn. Her leg was again dripping with blood but this time also had strategically placed thorn stuck in it (the blood, not her actual skin). It was at this point that I began to realize she had gotten into the face paint and had taken a big bottle of fake blood outside with her. She said that big brother showed her a movie in which the man had to write a letter in blood to his mother (Son: "Um, there was nothing like that in the movie. I told you, he had to give himself medical staples but that was the worst of it.") Now we keep finding things like this around the yard:

Please write back to let me know that Ramona is a functioning adult who no longer lives with you, has apologized profusely, and has a child just like her.

I'll be over here counting how many new grey hairs I have every morning and anxiously awaiting your answer.


* stay tuned for a future Five on Friday list of other things she has "accidentally" done!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Five on Friday: Things Making Me Smile Lately

I've noticed that nobody ever says to me, "You sure have your hands full!!" anymore. But the truth is, I feel like my hands are fuller than ever. Sure, the kids are more independent now but with more independence comes more individualized interests and activities (that they all need rides to). 
Remember those days when I used to complain that I practically needed a flowchart to keep everyone's schedule straight? Those days are 3-5 times a week now.

Yeah, we've reached that stage of life with five kids.

So I'm just going to take a moment  and not worry about which balls I'm probably dropping by doing so. I'll enjoy my next thirty seconds of silence before the day's chaos starts with a quick collection of pictures of things that have made me happy lately.

1. My 2nd grader had to bring something in to school to represent her hair. We had fun making it . . . aaaaaaand putting it on the dog with a tiny ridiculous hat. 

2. This eggplant at the Farmers' Market. It had a nose! I had to take a picture, of course.

3. My very artistic teenager got some cones of henna!! Mama's never having boring hands again! (As long as I can find time to sit down with her and get some more, that is . . . )

 4. This one is two-fold: first, my 7-year-old said she might want to be our neighbor Mary (dubbed "Grand-Mary") for Halloween. Second, my bff reminded me that she has an article hanging in her kitchen about another little girl doing this exact same thing with her fake-Grandma-next-door:

5. It's been awhile since we've found any really interesting skulls . . . and we didn't actually find this one, either!! But our neighbor did and gave it to us because he apparently realizes we're kind of weird. Check out that tooth!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Five on Friday: Things I'm Not Fighting About Anymore (with disclaimers)

Hey kids,
You're all getting to be such big kids now. For some of you that means 2nd grade, for others it means Junior year of High School, it's all relative. The fact is though, you're all growing and becoming more independent and involved in your own activities.

Based on our marks on the closet wall you may think I'm no longer growing but I am, in other ways.

I'm growing and changing, too. I'm working outside of the home more than I ever have since you've been alive. I'm trying to evolve along with our changing family. And in the spirit of change, I've decided there are some things that I'm not going to get on your case about any more. Of course, I do retain the right to have caveats for each one of them, but here they are . . . today's Five on Friday list are the things I'm not going to argue with you about any more:
1. What you wear on school picture day. Hey, it'll capture you as your purest self in these days. (*The major holidays are still mine to dress you as I see fit.)

2. How messy your room is during the week. (*However, every weekend you have a running date with that pigsty.)
3. One sport per kid per season. (*But seriously, no more than two. For real.)
4. Making it to every single one of your games (*You're so talented you make me enjoy watching sports. I'm so proud of you. But see above and remember you have four siblings.)
5. That Hot-90-whatever radio station you've discovered. I've actually come to enjoy the dance-y pop music, even if Daddy makes fun of me for it. (*You realize that the potential for me embarrassing you by singing one of these songs in public just increased exponentially, right? Sorry.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Five on Friday: Back to School Stats

1: Number of caterpillars currently living in our house . . . that I know about

They tell me this little guy is going to stop pooping so much and become a beautiful butterfly

2: Number of times I’ve spoken to Principals on the phone so far this school year (Sorry fellas. You had a good run of not hearing from me, though, so be thankful for small blessings.)

3: Number of schools my kids are currently enrolled in (And of course they don't all follow the same schedules, that'd make my life too easy.)

4: Average number of neighborhood kids found in my yard on a daily basis (I love it)

5: Number of lunches I am no longer packing on a daily frenzied morning basis as the “kids pack their own lunches” rule is back and I really mean it this time!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Five on Friday: Back to the Grindstone

Towards the end of the school year, the kids and I started writing a list of fun things we'd like to do over the summer. One of the ideas was for my teenagers to navigate public transportation to get themselves to a town they like that has an arcade, a record shop, a comic book store and some vintage shops.

They were home from school less than a week when my son approached me saying, "So are we going to do that idea soon? Because I feel like summer is sort of slipping away." Of course my response was, "DUDE. You haven't even been home a full week. Give me a minute. It'll get done."

Guess what didn't get done. (*note to self: remember to apologize to son). We did do so many other things on our list and plenty of things that weren't. Of course the teens can still carry out this plan in any other season but I should have known summer would pass by in an instant and we should have prioritized something that he really wanted to do (*second note to self: pick a date for them to do this ASAP before the rest of their childhoods slip away).

But for now it's back to  school, back to work 3-4 days a week, truly back to the grindstone (with credit given to my husband for coming up with this week's title as I actually do work at a mill that's now a museum . . . where there are many grindstones. He's so clever.) and  it's also . . .

1. Back-to-school shopping! The supply lists for the younger kids are so long and specific, it's a little mind-blowing. I did salvage some things from last year ("Mom, this notebook says my brother's name and Spanish 2!" Yeah, and for some reason he only used five pages of it, put a sticker over his name because now it's your Science notebook.) but the rest we needed to purchase. We very carefully went over each list individually while at the store and still somehow came home short one binder . . . which is a perfect segue into the next item on the list:

2. Back to dropping balls! The very first day of High School (the day after we got home from our huge road trip) I was convinced my kids only had a half day. I told them that when they got home at 11:30 I'd be at work and then food shopping so they could eat the leftover pizza we ordered the night before. Guess who didn't have a half day. Nor any cash with them (that they apparently wouldn't be able to use at the cafeteria now anyway as this year it's purchase via account only). 

3. Back to sports and activities! My middle boys just started club soccer, our first year not doing township sports. It's more expensive, a bigger time commitment, more intense and further away! Of course they're on two different teams because of their age difference and three days in I'm already pretty much over it.

4. Back to kids packing their own lunches! Oh, every year I have such good intentions for this being the norm. The plan is that after dinner, while the kitchen is still messy, all kids shall pack their own lunches for the next school day. Around October I'm back to packing their lunches in the morning but THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT. I'm working outside of the home too much now to do everything for everyone. I also acknowledge that I'm not doing my kids any favors by not teaching them to be a little more self-reliant. This year the plan is really going to stick! I swear! Which is a perfect segue into the last item on the list:

5. Back to good intentions! Oh we are not only going to pack lunches at night, I am going to set up my coffee maker every night, too! And meal plan every damn week! The kids are walking the dog before school! I am totally going to bed on time almost every single night. The world is a shiny new (slightly used by your older brother last year for Spanish 2) single subject spiral bound notebook and it's mine to fill with completely organized notes and hardly any doodles! Here's to a great school year!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Five on Friday: The Good, The Bad, The Ridiculous: Road Trip '17

We survived our longest, most ambitious, most memorable family road trip ever. We hit huge tourist attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Gateway Arch, the National Civil Rights Museum and Gracleand. We also went to smaller, lesser-known attractions like a random field of giant concrete ears of corn, the Krema Nut Company, a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint and the Unclaimed Baggage store. We saw natural wonders like the Mississippi River, the Smoky Mountains and the solar eclipse in totality.

With all that we saw and did, how on Earth can I tell you all about it or even attempt to pick a favorite? I won't even try. Instead, I'm going to dedicate this Five on Friday to listing my top five picks of the good, the bad and the ridiculous of our adventurous journey.

1. The Good: Oh man. Wasn't it supposed to be easier listing it out this way? Maybe I'll start with the Bad to get it over with.

1. The Bad: We camped on three separate nights. The first night there were thunderstorms and the tent leaked. The second night of camping we had electricity right at the site so we decided to use the air mattress but then it leaked. I could tell you about our third night but that one was great so I can't talk about it here.

2. The Good: Okay, fine, now I have to tell you that our third night of camping was great. Warm, dry, comfortable. Another good thing? Airbnb refunded me $50 because I was super unhappy with one of our rentals (and I'm really not that particular, so you know it was bad).

3. The Ridiculous: Five kids in a van for hours with (not) only markers and their imaginations to entertain them leads to conversations like this:
Me, to 7-year-old: What did you write on your leg under those scribbles?
 Bob . . . wait, what?? Bob Seger??
Her: G (15-year-old brother) did it to me but I didn't like so I crossed it out.
Me: Bob Seger, G?? Really???
(days later . . . )
 16-year-old B: I gave (9-year-old) Z a "Kenny Loggins Seal of Approval" tattoo on his leg. It's in response to the Bob Seger one.

4. The Good: There was so much good. Kind strangers when I had trepidation about driving through the South with my transracial family and really needed kindness. Visiting friends, kids playing, fascinating museums, swimming with my family.

Oh!! And I am sort of obsessed with funiculars and try to ride one on every big family vacation. We rode our steepest, longest one yet in Chattanooga!

But I'd say the very best thing about the trip had to be seeing the solar eclipse in totality. I'm not a science or astrology geek. I wasn't honestly hyped about it, I thought it would be pretty cool, I guess. But when the moment came, I surprisingly got a little choked up from witnessing such an unusual and seemingly magical natural phenomena. I kept wanting to tell the kids, "this was a once in a lifetime chance!!" but apparently it'll happen again in the States in another seven years. I predict another road trip to see it that year . . .

5. The Ridiculous: We traveled in one vehicle with five children through twelve states over eleven days and drove almost 3,000 miles and on the drive home we agreed that we all still liked each other.