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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
From the dysfunctional family journals:monsters and fairies
Ok so I never thought of the tooth fairy as a monster before. But my husband long ago created this exceedingly wealthy mythical creature that pays $1 for the first tooth, $2 for the second, $3 for the third and so on. By the time the kid is 10, a lost tooth can wipe out my lunch budget for a week. So one awful week this winter, when the overdraft notices are in a stack, the debt collectors on the phone, and I am stealing milk money out of piggy banks, my 9 year old who has not lost a tooth since last summer has 3 pop out. Total damages: $39. We dont have it. Between copays for doctors for a recent spate of strep and me getting of all things some huge lung/heart inflammation dealie, we dont have even quarters for parking meters. So the damn fairy doesnt come. And doesnt come. Now in some households, 9 is a little old for believing in fictional characters that bring you things, but at our house, fantasy lives. Magical realism is our school bus we ride into the world, and we really do trust in creatures with wings and magic dust. So my son waits and faithfully waits and becomes gradually more and more despondent as nothing happens. My ADHD husband has spaced before so a late tooth fairy or one who puts it under the wrong pillow is not so unusual (I dont do fairies—I am Santa Claus, and the Easter bunny and sometimes play a pirate or a serving wench as a paying JOB and thats about the most I can handle in terms of fictional roles). My eldest got so disgusted with our substandard fairy performance that once the baby lost her first tooth we ended up with her getting TWO fairies because sister became The new fairy on the block. It was a war, and I stayed out of it. But given our financial straits this fairy dude may never get here. Finally, this week, I had to do something, because instead of giving up on the fairy, my son was getting despondent. He had, in his mind, spent this bonanza, this win-the-lottery amount. I got a little freelance check, and after a huge show of firing his fairy, I went to the bank. My husband said get those new silver dollars. My neighborhood bank had NO coin dollars at all so I ended up with rolls of half dollars. No wonder it took that idiot fairy so long, nothing could fly with that much weight, the creature had to WALK from tooth fairy land weighted down with 5 pounds of coins. And walk he did, putting those half dollars under the pillow about 1 am. That #$%^%!! Fairy that I could just kill, throttle and maim and pin his little wings to the bulletin board, little pissy monster thing making my life so exceedingly complicated. And with several more teeth on one kid and whole head full on the littlest I aint getting this genie back in the bottle for a while.
And so I woke up a little before everyone and waited for the screams of joy and the motor mouth rundown on the list of acquisitions to come from the nine year old dreamer. I forgot about the fact that I could have bought breakfast cereal and dinner with that money. I waited for the happy moment when I know I am not a screw up as a parent. As the commercial says: Priceless. *************************************************************************************
POST SCRIPT. Everyone overslept, my teen woke up with a sore throat AGAIN and I had to drag her in for another strep culture, and I will probably miss my happy moment because we were so rushed he never checked under the pillow. It will happen after school when I am buried at the office. But it will happen, and I will know that peace will reign in our little kingdom for about 10 minutes…….and spring IS coming. Right?
i have a confession to make. several, really...more than that, i just need to get some things off my chest. i've been at it again. yeah, you know it. eating carbs. damn that demon sugar, fuck that freaking flour...i'm a junkie, i think. i have dumped some serious pounds since my ex did the ol' split-ola, poof -and-gone routine back in the heat of august. was it really that hot, ever? i'm freezing my skinny ass off. maybe that's why i've been carbing out and i don't mean on beer. in fact, i haven't really been drinking at all. same for fucking. i put my pussy on the bench--we're at odds right now and she hasn't spoken to me in weeks. i'm immune to passive aggression though, so she can just get happy in her mad pants. who needs a pussy anyway, right? i always secretly resented being a girl and would have preferred to have the freedom a cock guarantees any damn day.
truth is, i've been a little lonely and i struggle with that. a lot. my inner schism rules me, most days. inside, it rages on and on...through the depths of sleep and over the banks of dreams, the freeze of my resolve is melting and there's a soft nougat center where an ice sculpture was not so very long ago. i'm not good at admitting to myself that i feel like a loser and moving from that to graceful is impossible without a lot of drama in the betweens. by all accounts, i am not a loser. i have a good job with perks that some would kick piles of dogshit for. my house is small and cozy and filled with the loving chaos of two divinely delicious, healthy children who, strangely enough, slipped from that hot place inside me that i'd rather not think about. i love them more than life itself and yet i cannot wrap my mind around raising them singlehanded for the next 6 weeks, let alone the next 15 years. wow. i never really wanted to do this. i never really thought i'd make it out of the ghetto intact, much less get beyond needles and hard-ons and wake up to find the fruit of my labors walking and talking and being perpetually clever.
did your kids ever walk in on you blowing somebody? mine either, i was just being abstract, really. still awake?
tonight i saw a man whose sharp profile reminded me of my ex. the sight of him sliced me through and i was weak for a moment. i only just admitted today that i still love the man whose children i nearly died in the great endeavor of gifting sentience to. i do. he left me and them without a fight. he walked away and even if he looks down from his mountain at us, i know i'm invisible to him. his eyes would be for the children he once loved so sweetly. i am an afterthought and a howling wind to be avoided at all costs, my brutality has scarred him into a junk heap like a humpty dumpty that even the kings men cannot fix. how could i ever give my life and everything over to such a person? was it him? was it me? did i break him? was he already broken? did i fuck it all up myself? am i the bearer of this overwhelming devastation alone? how can i ever be trusted with my own heart again? i am obsessive, compulsively seeking the furtive glances of the male passersby in my wake. they see, they approve. they lust, lunging in a gape-eyed moment and i smirk. reassured, i am okay, really. i win the gazes of potential suitors every day that i step out of my house. none of them ever speaks...they are mute, silent on my doorstep and there are miles of cool glass between us. i'm on the wrong side of a two sided mirror, persephone and narcissus. i am sad and perhaps dangerous. it radiates from my pores and sings out between the spaces in my teeth. maybe one day i'll stick my head in an oven, a la sylvia plath. best not trust me with your vital organs, friend. wouldn't be prudent.
did you ever find yourself walking along, feeling your standard, run-of-the-mill numb, only to find yourself very suddenly on your knees, spilling every drop the oceans ever held through your very own eyeholes? the layers of emotion are so very convoluted that i cannot manufacture words to tell about them. i assume that this is what is referred to as "the human condition" and, no, i don't expect to elude such a stealthy tracker. even the captor is hostage to the folks he's jacking up by virtue of the fact that he needs them to get the thing he wants badly enough to do harm to acquire; i assume that this is all right and good somehow and that someday it will all even out on the playing field of just desserts and eyes for eyes. i wanna scream sometimes, that's all. and sometimes, i do and it's those times that are the worst because then i have to believe in my own ferocious need and debilitating infantile urges.
one day i'm gonna pick myself a better poison. last night i actually ate food products from taco bell on purpose and i paid good money to do so. my friends think me so virtuous--ha! i only demand virtue from others. put it into the machine and get a steamy styrofoam cup of happiness to go! i stay up late and get up early. i forget to shower sometimes and often realize it's been a week since i brushed my hair. people always tell me how pretty i am. i expect it now and wind up petulant if it goes unacknowledged. without my pretty, my secret uglies stashed under clever entendre, i am invisible and aphrodite is a vengeful patroness, it's true. the discovery that a man wouldn't make me feel better has dealt a huge, crushing blow to my mental playground. i have no daddy. i exist in no-man-land. i can't eat away the black inside. i can't shop or wardrobe it away. i try to laugh it away, bawdy funny girl that i am, and that works while other people play along, tapping the table to be dealt some of my cards....but damn sure, and it hurts to tell, this black in me can't be fucked away. i am at a loss.
a cocktail and a pill, boy that's a nice little vacation. but a hangover's no good when breakfast time is here and dem wee bellies are rumbling. in the dark, the dreams are spiked and grizzly in the haze of booze and xanax. can't do it. too bad.
they say you can never go home. i wonder why such a dreadful truth exists when you can turn on the radio and hear a song that takes your hand and ghost-of-christmas-pasts you right back there, pasting you into the picture where you left off another day, in a universe far, far away. can't go back. can't go home. can't know what's next, can't trust your own vision. creating your own truth and blazing a new trail is a damn tough thing and you don't even know how scary it is until you are miles and miles down into the bowels of nowhere in an endless cotton field in the south louisiana of your mind and there ain't nobody around to ask for directions. even if there was, they'd be speaking some foreign language and they'd laugh you silly for being such a thick minded free thinking dumbass who left the flock and got themselves lost and dirty in the cold.
i wanna go home. i wish i just knew how to get there.
When I ask you a question, can I listen all the way through to your answer? If you're my kid, and you are answering something about your day, can I really intently hear what you are telling me? Or am I thinking about the fact that you should be wearing a sweater or that you need a hair cut or that I have to go meet Grandma or that we have to start dinner?
When I'm talking on the phone in my office, I look at my email at the same time. So you might be telling me something really important on the phone, and I have just gotten a message from my sister that I am sort of glancing at at the same time. My voice fades out of sounding genuine and I have that weird pause in my speech pattern. I can't take in what you are saying because I'm busy reading or even replying to an email.
They say that our brains are wired only for one thing at a time. Something like that. We are able to take in only so much. We are being warned, by people who study this stuff, that if we talk on our cell phones and drive at the same time it is the same as if we were driving drunk. We are being warned that we're sort of fracturing our brains. Something like that.
I drive a highschool boy in a carpool who talks to me and text messages at the same time. I always tease him. I try to surprise him by saying something like "OH MY GOD, A HERD OF ELEPHANTS!" But he knows that I am joking and his reaction to my joke, always a beat too late because he's just finishing a message, is a tiny smile, and then back he goes. Or maybe he gets a call at the same moment.
The two girls in the backseat of this carpool are 8 and 12. The eight year old is still eager to look out the window and see what is out there. She can tell us the whole plot of a book that her brother is reading to her while we drive the South Minneapolis streets. I'm half listening, and half listening to the radio, half talking to the text messaging boy, half watching the road. Wait. That's too many halves. OH I see.
I worry all day long about how distracted I am. I interrupt myself as I ask a coworker a question. I change the subject immediately after she answers me and my mind races forward into something else.
The thing I'm trying to do is to be aware of my distracted edge. To see if I can truly draw myself back in to just thinking about one thing at a time. I'm thinking that if I can get a handle on it myself, then it will naturally be apparent to my kids. We all know that our kids have absolutely no interest in what we TALK about, or what we PROFESS. They know only what we DO. How we ACT. That's what has an effect on them. So if I can actually achieve paying attention, this might serve as a lesson to them too. It might show that I actually care about curbing my distraction.
--Nanci Olesen is making two pilots for Minnesota Public Radio about parenthood. You can check out her radio resource MOMbo at http://www.mombo.org/
Last weekend I shredded hundreds of documents from my largely defunct consulting business. These papers were a testimony to my professional life before (and a year or two after) becoming a mother. Perhaps I should have tucked some of them into a scrapbook as I do with my writing clips. My first client, my first Fortune 500 client, my first government contract are distant memories.
I shredded checks and receipts. Tossed program evaluations and outlines.
All to make room for my boys' spelling tests and math quizzes. Thanksgiving folders and Valentine's Day poems. Report cards and soccer rosters. And a few plump folders filled with my half-written essays.
What I think is interesting about arriving at a desk every morning is that the effort is so huge that I feel like I cannot waste any time. I have spent years and years working at a desk at my house and at my kitchen or dining room table. Now I am afforded a short window of time (four months) to pilot a project at a public radio station. I have a desk with a computer and all the amenities, including my NAME on the side of the cubicle, printed out like I'm a CEO or something. The day that someone came over and attached my name to the cubicle, spelled correctly no less, I shouted "WOO HOOO!" which, in retrospect, is not really a good policy for office life.
I'm trying to relax in the job. By nature gregarious, I am also incredibly shy in some ways and very private. There's something in me that really wants to do this the right way and there's something that makes it all seem sort of mysterious, because I have spent my whole life up til now stopping in at offices like this, but never dwelling here. Learning the social life of a place like this is as important as the job. This makes me resentful sometimes, and also eager sometimes, and everything in between.
So here I am. It's a Friday. I'm going to get SO MUCH DONE today. It's like the Olympics for me to be here, to be a part of this system and to put my very best foot forward.
Don't I sound like a freshman?
Nanci Olesen is hosting a pilot at Minnesota Public Radio about parenthood and family issues. You can read more about her history and check out MOMbo at http://www.mombo.org.
Instead of playing it cool, and waiting a reasonable amount of time before begrudgingly accepting my tag and illuminating the world with 5 little known things about me, I'm gonna bust into this as fast as I can. Partly this is because I'm a sucker, and partly this is because my wee babe is sleeping and my kiddo is watching the brain drain.
1. When I was in the second grade I discovered that if you put a note in the guidance counselor's box you would get called out of class (usually math) to go discuss your "problem." I was not a fan of math, so I began to write a series of letters about various "problems" I was having. I managed to escape math at least once a week until I went waaaay overboard and wrote a note about how I thought my parents were monsters. Now, to clarify, when I say "monsters" I mean I fantasized that when I went to bed at night my parents would rip off their human faces and watch TV and iron as the true lizard-faced monster/aliens that they were. I expected that at my 10th birthday I'd be shown how to rip off my own face to reveal my own lizard face. Cool! I didn't really elaborate about all of that to the guidance counselor, though, and she called my mom to come in for a talk. "Why would Kari think her parents are monsters?" went the line of questioning and holy shit my mom lost it. She cried all the way home in a way that only a crushed mama can. I explained my line of thinking to her (and my desire to skip math class) and things were eventually OK. I never went to see the guidance counselor again, and I got much better at multiplication.
2. I smell books before reading them.
3. I have a tooth on the bottom row that's behind all the other teeth. It's in a really funky, ugly place and pokes me in the tongue. I call it Ishmael (which means "outcast"). Sometimes I'll be eating and find myself muttering things like,"Ishmael doesn't like egg salad sandwiches" and "Corn on the cob hurts Ishmael."
4. I have never smoked a cigarette or been stung by a bee.
5. In middle school I pretended to have a crush on Nick from Duran Duran, but I really had a crush on Miss Susan, my sister's dance teacher. She had the best red hair ever. And Sally Jesse Raphael glasses. Rawr.
My ex-pal Kathie Sever tagged me yesterday. This means I had to actually THINK about something other than my puppy eating its own shit and the hawk trying to kill my lone surviving chicken... Kathie will regret her actions. Apparently it is WAY cool to get tagged and means you are part of that secret upper echelon of shiny peeps who have thick hair and white teeth, which explains why I'm just now getting tagged when this trend has surely run its course and is dying on the vine. Anywho, I'm supposed to list 5 little known things about me and then I'm to torture 5 more bloggers with a tag, but I never could follow rules, so I'm tagging ALL of our guest bloggers here at AustinMama. Ha, ha suckahs!
1. No one, under any circumstances, at any time, is allowed to touch my kneecaps when my legs are straight. When they are bent, this is not an issue.
2. In 5th grade, a handful of us girls decided to form a membership-only "gang." That evening, I spent well over an hour constructing talisman/tokens for each member, which consisted of small foil squares filled with Folgers coffee, then shaped into interesting teardrop-like forms (think big smelly hershey's kisses, here). Each membership token was to be presented with a small pirate-like scroll, again that I toiled over -- soaking each parchment in brewed tea to make them look old, then tying them with ribbon. I only remember the first line on the scroll: "Welcome to the group!"
3. I was on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, filmed here in Austin. My boyfriend at the time had been "cast" as an extra. I joined him on the set wearing an outrageous hat I used to think was cool, and some thrift-store duds. The director made his way over to me and said "Wow.. did you mean to wear that?" He immediately put me in the scene. My boyfriend, however, was put on crowd control. He was so mad, he kept both his $50.00 check and mine.
4. In the house I grew up in, there was a switch-plate in my parents room with a switch that appeared to have no use. I convinced myself that the switch, when flicked on, would deliver chunks of meat down a metal chute to the prisoners we kept in our basement. Several times a day for many years, as I passed the switch, I would flick it a couple of times in triumphant generosity. I imagined the prisoners cheering my name and worshipping me for my kindness. (interesting aside: we had no basement).
5. I despise, with every cell in my body, washing silverware by hand and long toenails on anyone.
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too. But we are decent people who will never be too proud to accept
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