i spent time talking with my counselor today, and i realized whilst doing so that i don’t let myself think about being transsexual very much. when my kids are around, i think about all the wholesome and wonderful things i want to do with them, and how to foster their growth, and how to create a strong, healthy bond with them. none of which should be incompatible with the fact of my trans-ness.

and yet i do feel horribly split from that part of myself, so much so that often it is almost like there is Katie-the-good-mother and Katie-the-woman-who-is-also-transsexual. i carry a lot of shame that i don’t let myself feel. there are a lot of uncried tears for the daily indignities (and worse) that i or my trans sisters suffer.

i cried some of them today. that was a hard sentence for me to write. in fact all of this is. i can picture so clearly the well meaning statements mama friends of mine might make when and if they read this: “oh, i don’t think about you being trans!” or “i don’t think it makes you less of a good mother!” or a dozen or so other things when really most of them speak from a position of relative comfort as people who are not daily seen as an abomination.

when i spend time in public spaces with children, i have to worry that people will think my presence is inappropriate, or a threat, even though those who know me will speak up and say i am a “good mother.” i remember that even if no one around me consciously thinks that, they could think that and there are people who would think that legitimate. a too long stare at our co-op from a new person makes me wonder… is my very existence unsettling?

that’s just the surface manifestation. all my life i have been split apart. as a young child, before i came out at 13, there was my public face that garnered a certain level of social acceptance (i was considered a sissy though) and then there was what was going on inside: i wanted so badly to be seen as the girl i was, even as i knew that that desire made me aberrant on two levels. valuing girlhood and femininity was uncool, and being a trans girl was disgusting. once i came out, all of this was on display, and the trauma of the constant judgement and disgust and fear and hatred is something that i still touch only from a cold, withdrawn distance. the girl i was at 13 is so hurt that it feels like approaching too close is dangerous. so she stays alone. when i discovered feminism shortly after, and became a riot grrrl and later a lesbian avenger, it seemed there was hope for finding acceptance and love for the girl i was, but i quickly discovered that even there both my femininity and above all my transsexual girlhood was incredibly suspect and even sketchy/disturbing to people. i was often provisionally accepted as a “good” transsexual girl, but this always meant keeping my mouth shut while other, older, less “passable” trans women were bad mouthed… all of which hurt me, too, because if they were disgusting or “smelled like boys,” what were my “friends” not saying about me (to my face)? aren’t i guilty by association?

in adult life i have gone through so very many phases where i’ve ignored my transness. this works to a point, in that by identifying strongly with what is perceived as good and normal (in queer woman spaces or out in the straight world), i don’t have to be actively experiencing my own reviled status. but it can never be even close to perfect. not only do i have the wounds i carry inside, but there are many little things that happen that remind me of my place within any social milieu as fundamentally an outsider. i can attend shakespeare in the park with friends, and be confronted with raucous laughter at the portrayal of a female character by a man: funny because femininity itself is ridiculous to so many, but doubly funny because there is nothing more shameful and silly in this society’s eyes than someone assigned male at birth attempting to embody that femininity. i am always the only one not laughing. and i know always that i am “over-sensitive.”

and so i push the feelings away and divide myself again.

when i sit down to write, i am faced with another dichotomy: if i write about this stuff, if i write about being a trans woman, or about characters who are, i know that i should expect the reputation i earn by doing so to affect me both socially and in my writing career. i can’t imagine a world in which the writer who explores this stuff (and the much deeper things that need expression) is allowed to be the same writer who writes and publishes the things i write for my kids, and potentially for all kids. There is no intersection of Beverly Cleary and Kate Bornstein (and, yes, fellow trans women, i know kate is a controversial figure at the moment… i’m just trying to pick someone who epitomizes bravely writing openly about one’s life experiences as, for lack of a better term and in society’s eyes, a “freak”).

i usually try not to ramble so much in my blog posts (that’s what my ‘zine was for!), but i don’t have the heart for editing today. it takes a whole heart to give a shit and for too long mine has been split apart. there is no glue but a total recreation of our society to eliminate trans misogyny. since that’s not going to happen, we must be brave of heart with whatever part of our heart is left to us.

today i got to spend some time hanging out with just Ananda, my girlfriend’s teenage daughter. she was pretty worn out from skating nine miles at the rose city roller’s skate o thon to raise money for the Rosebuds (the junior roller derby team of which she is a part) to go to Denver. afterwards she dragged herself to the car while i carried her gear (it was heavy; hard to believe she was wearing all of it while she skated!) and we went to the grocery store and then i took her out to eat at what seems to be her favorite restaurant of late, the Vita Cafe on Alberta Street. we got to talk about high school (still a year away!) and roller derby and age segregation and the camp she is attending soon (Youth Empowered Action Camp, a camp for inspiring kids to take political action and change the world, which she also attended last year). i really appreciated the chance to just talk with her, joke around, and eat yummy food. i hope i have more chances to give her and my girlfriend’s other two kiddos individual attention soon (my two kiddos also need some one-on-one time, for that matter… single parenting makes such things hard).

i also got to see more of Ananda while my teenage sister was visiting from Chicago. Going out with the two of them and my girlfriend was incredibly fun. We saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show (as documented in a previous post), went to a couple concerts, and ate out way more than we should of, including more donuts than i would normally consider humane to feed a person.

it’s nice to get to know these inspiring teenagers outside of the context of our larger family and for their own sake, and there are ways that they inspire me to be more true to myself (something i was better at before i became a teen parent and had to worry about what aspects of myself might prevent other parents from wanting their kiddos to play with mine). seeing Ananda surrounded by a bunch of other neato teenagers who seem supportive of who she is, and seeing my sister boldly being herself despite whatever fools back in our hometown might think or do (just like i did when i was her age!) is awesome. it also reminds me that one day all five of the kiddos in my life will be in this teen stage and it won’t matter as much whether the other parents think i’m peachy keen or a queer satanic weirdo. 😉

it can be hard to remember that i’m the same person i was when i first became a parent… i’ve attempted to submerge a bunch of things about myself in order to (moderately more) smoothly move through the world of parenting.  but i don’t want my children to grow up and do that to any great extent. maybe with these awesome teens in their lives, they won’t feel like they have to.

tonight i read a few years’ worth of old posts from my livejournal, which was principally a place i shared lots of charming anecdotes about my kids. i also rediscovered that my ex and i had a family blog for six months or so. it was interesting reading all these old stories and looking at old pictures, remembering keenly those earlier years of our family. seeing rio’s cute chubby 5 year old body and robin’s tiny baby self… reading about the hilarious and sweet and shocking things a younger rio said…

when he was five, i wrote: “The other night I bumped him against something while carrying him to bed (he gets dramatically tired at night), and he said, “You hurt me!” I said, “That was the furthest thing from my desire…” He leaned back and said, “Not mine. The furthest thing from my desire is getting out of control in space without a space ship.””

he once spent twenty minutes crafting the opening sentence of his first book, the Misunderstood Bear, “Once there was a bear that lived in the forest and he was misunderstood  because he jumped from trees instead of for fish…”

After a visit from his grandparents as his grampa was nearing death, “The night they left, Rio was musing on how “if a person walked in a box shape, they could just continue walking forever over the same path, although that might get boring, even if the box connected to another box… And if they did just keep walking, eventually they would grow weak and die, like grandpa.”

I asked him how he felt about grandpa dying, what he thought he would do when it happened, and he said, “I’ll just get a lot of children and style their hair exactly like mine. And get them more sun if their skin wasn’t as dark as mine.”

what a problem solver! i miss that time, when he was so free with his thoughts and concerns, his plans… his cuddles. he is now 9 and a good bit more guarded. most likely a lot of that is a natural stage he is going through, but i sometimes reflect on the break up of my relationship with his other parent and tears come to my eyes, wondering if i could have handled it better and somehow saved him some measure of pain., obviously not by staying in what was a doomed and hurtful situation, but by some magic sleight of hand or understanding glance or simple caress or listening ear at the right moment…

but regret and nostalgia aren’t the only things i get from these old incarnations of myself and my family… they remindsme to save what memories i can, that the me i am when my oldest is 12, or 20, or 60, will be glad of these recollections i put now in my paper journal or here on my blog.  i need to preserve the ones on my livejournal, hundreds of stories my children weren’t old enough to inscribe in their own memories… i don’t remember a lot of them until i read them. it all comes flowing back so easily then and i am almost there…

i want hours to spend transcribing them into books, pasting in the pictures i haven’t yet printed from way back then… i don’t want to let go of those times. i guess the nostalgia and regret does run a little high here.

my children melt my heart, turn it into flaming, glowing, carbon plasma on a daily basis. and they did then, too. they get hurt. they experience empathy. they hurt others. they make things better, or, sometimes, worse, and either way we try to talk about it. they receive love and soak it up completely, release what we used to call “bursts of love” for all and sundry as often as they feel the calling. i am so glad to get to spend so much time around them, living with them and sharing our interests, passions, and wonderings.

A last story from when Rio was four:

“Ricky was singing Rio to bed tonight, and he was singing that lullabye that’s all “lullabye and goodnight, you are papa’s delight…” which is one he doesn’t usually sing, whereas I do, although only if Rio asks me to make it be about him being a specific animal (with new lyrics added each time through!;). Anyway, Rio said he didn’t like the “papa” being in there, because the “puh” sound wasn’t very relaxing. Ricky offered to say “mama” instead, and Rio rolled over and whispered, “because I *am* her delight.”

And he is.”

for the single mothers.

July 16, 2011

sometimes the washing machine is broken and the pipes in the basement have decided to rain shitty water on the dirty clothes and who knows what else and the reality is that those clothes must get washed and dried by hand or we will have a Public Health Situation on our hands, or the car is doing that thing again where the engine just turns off and we’re in the middle of traffic and i remember why we went car-free for so long but the reality is that with my two kids and my girlfriend’s three kids and my girlfriend’s busy job and my sometimes desperate scramble for money anywhere i can find it, two single mothers sometimes need a car. even if one of them is opposed to cars and car culture and breathing exhaust (or making others breathe it) and a frenetic lifestyle…

sometimes other mothers laugh and say they would love the break from their kids and joint custody sounds about right to them but the reality is that even two days a week can be too much when you aren’t asking for it and it doesn’t come at the time that works for you or your kids and maybe you need childcare some other time and there’s this event you want to take your son to on the weekend but those are the two days a week the Powers-that-Be have you on record as agreeing to, and you wouldn’t want to seem uncooperative, now would you? no one likes an uncooperative single mother.

sometimes your friends see those two days a week (or one, or three, or a weekend a month, or whatever), and they say “wow, s/he is so involved, you are so lucky, isn’t it wonderful that he pays for that class, isn’t it wonderful that she took her to the park or that birthday party” and nobody says “oh, wow, you are so involved, yr ex is so lucky to know the kids are taken care of, you pay for all the basic needs and then some, isn’t it wonderful you go to the park so much and play seven rounds of chess and go to every birthday party humanly possible, even the ones at Flashing-Lights-Loud-Sounds-and-Animatronic-Monster-Animals-Pizzeria” because that’s just what you do. you are the single mother.

on the rare occasions someone does try to valorize you, to praise you, there will be a voice raised to remind everyone that you get help, “support,” breaks… whatever it is. the speaker doesn’t know: it could be $9.35 or it could be $0 or a trip to court and you’d better pay for and bring your own lawyer. never mind that if a storm comes and your roof caves in you handle it alone for your kids. never mind that if the car breaks down and your kid has school/a doctor’s appointment/a homeschooling playgroup it is you who figures out how to get there or how to break the news… on the weekend it is rarely time to say “i’m sorry, we can’t make it because of this problem or we can’t buy that because of a lack of money or our values around consumption.” weekends are for leisure and during the week shopping has been done, for necessities and for presents.

behind many a stand-up-guy there is a single mother being told to sit down or sitting herself down in order to assemble dollhouse furniture for $1 a perfectly completed piece. working from home means you are so lucky! you set your own hours, and there are a lot of them.

you will do what it takes because that is what you do, and sometimes people will see what you were willing to do and they will judge you from the comfort of their almost-totally-owned townhome with the two kids and the two parents and maybe a dog whose shit no one wants to pick up, but just keep on keeping on, girl… it’s just what you do.

i’m forcing myself to write something, because more than a week of staring at a blank page is scaring me; writing is, to be dramatic and pretentious for a bit, what i do. not like childless writers do it, with hours and hours to devote to it and still hours left over to devote to their day jobs (if any) and then still hours to devote to their social (or non-social) drinking and their TV or Charles Dickens or Isabel Allende habits and maybe even a few hours for sleep… no, writing is yet another thing i do like a mother, and if i stay up late nine nights in a row and try to write and come away empty handed and empty minded, and have to get up in the morning and do the dishes i neglected, preferring to trust that i would write something if i sat long enough, i feel lost.

who am i when i have nothing i can manage to say? surely i am still a mother, but i want to be a mother to my children and a mother to the stories that are on the tips of my tongue and my fingers… my novel languishes, my ‘zine is a receding memory, and this blog is another page i break away from at 3 AM, leaving it unchanged.

the news:

my littlest has turned five, and he wants very much to have friends the way his now nine year old brother has friends: friends whose house we visit every other week or so, and who come here, too. i know he will find these friends; he is so sweet, polite, and kind in introducing himself to kids at the park, and in the fall our homeschooling co-op will start again and he will be old enough for a great many more classes and clubs than last year, and perhaps, too, there will be more kids his age now that he is “school age” and more parents of his peers are likely realizing they want to homeschool.

my oldest has become interested in basketball, and we’ve been watching videos of basketball games i watched as a child. i’m from chicago, so various championship games from the 90’s featuring Michael Jordan, John Paxson, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, and BJ Armstrong, but i’m also a fierce lady so we’ve also been watching WNBA games from the first two seasons, which I used to watch as a baby dyke whenever they were on TV. he and i have also been playing basketball… mostly he wins and i’m actually trying reasonably hard. I’m not a jock and I never was into sports (i think it would’ve been hard to ignore the Chicago Bulls in the 90s living in Chicago as a kid, even as a totally flaming queer trans girl), but i am very supportive, of course, of my kids exploring every bit of this life they find themselves in, so i’m excited for him to be trying out something new! i want to find him some other pals to play with, or for us to play with together.

my girlfriend and i and our five kids, as well as her kids’ dad, went to the Rainbow Gathering in rural Washington. I am not very into hippie culture for a host of reason, but i found myself surprisingly won over during our day there (although i am still not very into hippie culture;), and i think it was a really good experience for the kids. the idea is that a temporary intentional community of family is formed in a wilderness, and a week (or more) is spent sharing food and brotherly/sisterly love. there’s a Kid’s Village camp which was pretty exciting… so many charming feral and semi-feral kids (i mean that in the best sense) running around! all of our kids brought their own trading cloths and lots of stuff to lay out on them to trade at the Trading Circle, thanks to lots of help from my girlfriend. there were some good trades made, as well as some seemingly poor/regrettable trades, but that, too, is something from which to learn. the kids were all impressed that, when a fire broke out at one of the kitchens, relative calm was maintained and a bucket brigade started, averting what could have been a really big disaster.

my house is a little bit disordered but i am focusing on having great times with my family and friends and figuring i’ll catch up this weekend. i’d rather have a somewhat disordered house than be unavailable for our summertime adventures and our needed snuggly downtime post-adventure!

i am now going to see if forcing around 800 words of blog post out has freed up my writing flow for my novel.

hopefully next time i will have a post for you that reads a little more coherently and effortlessly. 😉

appreciating a femme.

July 2, 2011

according to a group of folks on facebook, today is femme appreciation day… i was considering writing my usual snark about female-assigned dominated queer communities (boring), maybe exploring my relationship to the femme visibility movement (umm, complicated, loooong, AND boring), or just ignoring the whole thing… i do, after all, have a cake to bake for my youngest kiddo’s birthday tomorrow! i was in the car with my girlfriend, though, and ranting on those first two topics and she reminded me that appreciating people is good.

so, in the spirit of femme appreciation day (even if 60%+ of what i read about it makes me want to turn on my snarky rant mode), i am going to appreciate a femme from my life.

when i was 15 or so, i was on the AntiJen e-mail list for trans youth (mostly trans girls), run by the wonderful Aunty Jenny. i was trying to cultivate a certain radical-punk-rock-dyke persona that appealed very much to me as a queer girl-who-didn’t-really-feel-like-being-trans (i would have greatly preferred being one of the “normal” (as i thought of them then) radical-punk-rock-dykes who populated the world of the chainsaw records message board), and the level of pink loving, fluffy-stuffed-bunny snuggling that was being talked about by a lot of my ostensible peers was making me nervous. nervous because i was in the process of disavowing those parts of my self that loved pink and fluffy-stuffed-bunnies and wanted to wear lipstick… i was cutting off the parts of myself that it was possible to cut off in order to try to fit my perception of a radical-punk-rock-dyke, cutting off the one part that seemed to distinguish me most from the “normal” ones having proven entirely too difficult and painful.

Aunty Jenny let me know at some point that there was a girl on the list, a little bit older than me, who lived near me, and i arranged to meet her in my neighborhood to go record shopping and eat nasty fast food.

as soon as she got out of her mom’s car i was fascinated, wowed, and mortified. she was so confident seeming, so in her body in a way that i am still struggling to be… neither of us was passing particularly well (we were babies, practically), but she was trying to do what i was trying to do when i was 13 and 14, before the radical-punk-rock-dyke dream swallowed me up with it’s whispered promises of carhartts and pomade and making out with cute girls wearing bandanas around their necks: being a “normal girl,” wearing cute jeans and barrettes, wearing lipgloss… the things that, when i tried them, got my ass kicked, got my arm held to the flame of an older boy’s zippo lighter, got death threats shoved into my locker repeatedly, and got boys interested in secret makeout sessions that no one could ever know about… or else.

she was funny and i wanted her to be my best friend. she was beautiful and if she had asked me to kiss her i would have imagined doing so for a thousand nights afterwards at bedtime, but chickened out on actually doing it. and yet…

i was scared. and embarrassed. i had decided that if i wasn’t going to pass all the time, i was going to claim a space in the world with comrades (the aforementioned radical-punk-rock-dykes, assumed to never be other trans women, of course) who would shout on street corners: girls can have any kinds of voices! girls can look all kinds of ways! girls don’t even have to pass as girls! and here was this smart, kind girl who didn’t seem to be taking whatever fear she had of this world and it’s violence and running home with it, reinventing herself to not get noticed or to get noticed as intentionally queering the discourse through her radical non-normative gender. she was just doing what she wanted to do with her body and her life. i imagined that if she had wanted to intentionally queer the discourse through her radical non-normative gender, she would have been doing that, too. and here i was, not doing that to be true to myself but to protect my true self from public mockery (the world has a special brand of plutonium poison for femme trans women, and it is distributed freely by queer folks as well as straight folks) and to present the world with a persona of devil-may-care toughness, as well as to claim allies it would later turn out didn’t understand my gender presentation as having much relationship to their radical non-normative genders.

we talked for a long time and for once i knew how my friends felt, the ones who were always telling me i talked too loud, that my voice sounded fake, that i was embarrassing them. i feel so much shame even now, and i certainly felt it then, but i felt like the eyes on her and on me were spewing their poison past the tough exterior defenses i had created… finding and killing my pink-fluffy-stuffed bunny.

fuck.

i didn’t return her calls or e-mails after that. i was, i told myself, busy with my work getting Riot Grrrl Chicago going, and then with my new membership in the Chicago Lesbian Avengers. and besides, we didn’t really have all that much in common, she and i.

i still sometimes wish she had been my best friend… i hope i would have learned to be a good friend to her and be proud of her, like i have learned to care about and respect myself in the last few years, even the parts of me that love pink and sometimes wear lipgloss. i am way more similar to her than i ever could have admitted then.

i appreciate that she planted the seed in me that would grow into a need to give real caring and support to other trans women, and to quiet the self-hating part of me that wants to be busy judging them so as to feel safe from thinking about myself, who i am and how i have failed to become someone entirely different. i hope she is out there being radness incarnate still and not taking any shit.

this one goes out to her:

p.s.-i know that there are a lot more radical trans women around these days, and that, on the internet at least, we have a tendency to buy into the transmisogyny that tells us unexamined, unintentional femininity is bad, at least in trans women, and that this often comes out in making fun of trans women who aren’t (by our exacting measurements and standards) “radical,” or who have websites with pastel pink cursive fonts on dark pink backgrounds, and i think we should stop. as long as we play the game of being the good, cool, hip, or enlightened trans women, cis feminists, trans guys, and female-assigned genderqueers are going to view even us “lucky” few who can play their game as lesser, faker, and generally an afterthought to their own amazing radicoolness. and i don’t just say this because my ‘zine is full of hearts, i like to bake in a cute apron, and i never wear pants.

who’s in charge here?

June 29, 2011

i was once flexible.

my kiddo (yes, i only had one then) would ask to stay up late and go look at stars, or to have a midnight snack, or to stay at the friend’s house we were at longer than we had intended, and i didn’t exhaustedly, anxiously come up with a million reasons why we couldn’t; not always or even often.

even with kiddo#1 + a baby, i said yes to what the world offered us way more often than i said no. there was no reason we couldn’t get out all the paints or fill the water cooler with water so kiddo#1 could splash around in it out in front of our apartment complex.

i had more fun, being flexible. not being anxious. anxiety is horrible: it kills fun and joy and, within families, it is very contagious.

even when i first became a single parent, i could be so spontaneous and adventurous… we lived in a basement apartment and had no outside space, so at the drop of a hat the kids and i would be out in that Portland rain, at the park a few blocks away, getting covered in mud and grass, rolling down hills, sliding on waterproof pants down a wet slide, flying out the bottom, giggling… heading home filthy, i would carry the kids from our apartment door directly into the bath tub and go through a few changes of water, waiting for the moment when their bath water didn’t look like tea.

once the custody dispute happened and i felt real fear that i would lose most of my time with my kids, and unschooling (and by extension, stability for the kids, in terms of routine and money and lifestyle) was brought up as an issue, i started to feel like i needed to be in control… in control and perfect. and i felt tired and worried. i said no a lot, to variations from our schedule especially, and that was okay, i suppose… probably it was necessary to get through that time. saying no to everything kept me from losing it completely.

but things are pretty secure now, if not financially, at least in terms of my relationship to my kids. we are together five days a week. i have a relatively healthy working relationship with their other parent.

for a year or so my girlfriend has been pointing out that my kids are not so flexible. and our counselor has noticed it, too… so now i am trying to model flexibility, and especially taking things (and opportunities) as they come. it’s hard for me… i feel like i’ve fossilized in the last two years. but flexibility is my great goal… when we are capable of it, we will have conquered a lot of our anxiety.

on monday we went to the coast with my girlfriend and her kids, knowing that it was going to be hot in Portland. when we arrived, it was raining, windy, and about 60 degrees. of course, the two adult, the teenager, and the preteen realized that we should probably have stayed in Portland and had a water gun fight, but the three littlest kids (my two and her youngest)  didn’t care one bit for this reality… they had been in the car for two hours, so they were going to have fun immediately!

and they did! the two older kids went to the car after a short while, and the grownups huddled on the blanket, getting miserably wet, but the little ones were busy digging massive tunnel cities (they were overjoyed to strike water eventually!) and getting wet in the little inlet. my littlest one came over several times to ask me to join him, and at first i put him off, hoping, i suppose, that huddling grumpily on the blanket would somehow warm me.

at some point i realized that i could let go of my idealized version of the trip and enjoy what was possible, and that he would enjoy things more and for longer with my demonstrated willingness to dive into what we were being offered: a wet, gray, cold day at the ocean, which we could experience as we pleased.

the inlet wasn’t really that cold, and we found a lot of shells. the older kids’ tunnel cities were really quite amazing feats of engineering… and running around was warming me up almost as much as smiling at the kids was cheering me up.

after three hours or so, we left and went to the candy store. traditionally my role in the world of sweets is to remind everyone that they are going to have to brush their teeth right after and be a general killjoy… i managed to shut up and everyone had a great time figuring out how far they could stretch $1.30 (i have to vote for the teenager’s quarter pound of saltwater taffy as the best use of resources). i’m sure all of it will be remembered by everyone for a long time.

when we got back home, after eating dinner at their house, the kids said they wanted to ride bikes… seven o’clock is usually the beginning of our bedtime, but i was so busy being flexible that i said “yes!” we went to the park and played lava monsters and my littlest did some new tricks and my oldest rode two miles on his bike on the basketball court (he has an odometer). then we (yes) brushed our teeth and read and told a lot of stories before passing out, exhausted and happy.

i like our routine and i know the kids do, too, for the most part, but i’m really glad to be relearning how to be flexible… it feels good to be on an adventure, whether a literal beach-in-the-rain adventure or just the adventure of letting our family return to finding it’s rhythm on it’s own. it’s a rhythm that mostly follows our currently imposed schedule but is not ruled by it. our schedule is a tool, and i hope to be able soon to say honestly that it’s not in charge anymore!

(thanks, Ananda, for taking the picture… wish there were some of the rest of us!)

some things can only be said with paper + gluesticks, things that start with heavy hearts and cold hands and hopefully end with light hearts and sweaty palms, mine pressed against yours… there is safety in numbers, in person and through the postal service.

there was a time when i could scam copies from a thousand places and mail my zine for one stamp and lose so little money on it that i called it sustainable. back then you did a zine, too, and when i got it in the mail i squealed with excitement and my children, helping me get the mail at the end of our long, dusty, rural driveway, knew that mailboxes were magic, that they contained connection even when we were so far from anyone, and half the time you sent something for them: shells from the beach near your house, a little comic, a letter about playing the drums without “learning how” first in a punk band my son loved when i told you he wanted to play the drums, too, coins from around the world: there was plenty of wonder for all of us.

you taught me i could draw even though i “couldn’t.” i meant to tell you that, meant to write you a letter and send my zine, but i was always a little bashful about it, wondering if, with a zine-turned-book as popular as yours, you would still squeal with excitement out there in Ohio… that was silly, but everyone gets to be silly sometimes. maybe i’ll send you that letter now.

i read about the death of your grandfather and cried with you. you spent a whole issue bowling back home in Chicago and i wanted to visit and go bowling and listen to polka.

this moment in time is so hard, and in some ways the least of that is that we can’t afford to copy our ‘zines: we struggle for food, to make rent, to find a place to rent, to keep the water and electricity on in any given month, to keep our heads not just above water but held up with pride… but your solidarity and companionship helped with that last.

and i wonder if you walk out to your mailbox sometimes and wonder what magic it will bring, and if, like me, too many days have gone by with it empty. i would mail you this love letter if i had your address. can we pretend that i did? and, since i don’t really know how to work a scanner, let’s pretend that next there’s a little drawing of my kids and me with a bow in my hair and we are riding our bikes to the post office to mail you cookies. mwah! ❤ ❤ ❤

not measuring up…

May 21, 2011

i feel glum and mad at myself today. i thought my oldest son’s last soccer game of the season was at 1:30, but it was really at 12:30, which means, since i’d take the bus or bike or walk there, that i’ve missed the whole thing. i left him a message at his other parent’s house (where he spends almost two days a week) apologizing and saying i wish i’d been there.

i feel so guilty, even though i know every parent has these moments of failure and letting their kids down, and i know as well that beating myrself about them doesn’t serve my kids well, since it sure doesn’t put me in a calm, centered frame of mind.

this one thing (or something else like it) can set off a whole cascade of bad feelings… suddenly my house is too dirty and cluttered and the garden (what garden?) is so tragically behind schedule that we are going to starve despite all my food storage and i’m so broke i’ll never be able to catch up and get the kids the things they need… all of which was true before i got the time wrong for the soccer game and was singing along to old low-fi folk punk classics while i made myself breakfast and will likely still be true when the kids and i are having a great time together when they get home tomorrow.

i need to breathe. and destroy my measuring stick. last night i slacked off on doing my housework, garden work, and/or figuring out some way to make my finances not add up to a sea of red ink and watched a few episodes of my favorite sitcom (actually one of only a handful i like, and i rarely make time even for those), Roseanne, which certainly helps with destroying the measuring stick, or at least changing the scale on which i measure our family’s difficulties. their family is very loving within their snarkiness, and they certainly struggle with money and the dilemma of dealing with what is possible for them because of money, time, energy… everything. they remind me somewhat of my family when i was a kid. my family wasn’t anywhere near as snarky, but i see us as having been real and unsanitized. there wasn’t any west coast psychoanalyzing and selftalk and breathing through things, as far as i’m aware. we were just a family, with warts and love and mistakes and hurt feelings and making up and affection, teasing, and affectionate teasing. i love my family and i love my parents. they probably had their own dark moments, freaking out about some real or imagined or blown up beyond reasonableness failure of their parenting. i was certainly mad at them, sometimes mad enough to say rude things, slam my door, cry hot tears, and yell.

and i don’t for a second wish that my parents had been radically different from how they were… sure, there were missed opportunities and things that hurt me, but in a more controlled family environment all of that might just have been simmering underneath the surface, felt but not spoken…

and yet it feels like i’m just trying to justify my failure (this is where you go, “OMG it’s just a soccer game, a messy house, an unplanted garden, and an overdrawn bank account!!” or whatever, especially if you don’t have kids;). after all, my other favorite show is the Donna Reed Show. nobody does anything really wrong in this show (within the value system of the show, i mean… of course they do things that are wrong within my value system, or possibly yours).

hmm. i think i should go watch another episode of Roseanne. maybe then i’ll feel fortified by it’s hyper-augmented vision of a real family’s warts and troubles. at least i’ll laugh…

when i was a kid, even as my peers seemed to age out of imaginative play, i kept at it, both live action style (i particularly liked being Kitty Pride on the playground while my best friend at the time liked being Cyclops) and with little figures (i collected pewter fantasy figurines as well as action figures). it tapered off somewhat when i discovered dungeons and dragons, a marginally more socially acceptable way to play pretend (i.e.-i became a nerd, no longer a nerdy baby). i did sometimes play the old fashioned way, either alone in my room with action figures, or running around punching imaginary villains on vacation at my friend’s cousin’s farm when it was just the two of us for miles.

my oldest kid has always had trouble with this kind of play, preferring board games and building things over taking on roles, although his little brother frequently inspires him to stretch a little in this regard.

recently, though, he asked me to play and when i asked what he wanted to play, he said, “well, i thought you could be your usual Lego person and i could be mine and we could have a certain number of health points and weapons that do a certain amount of damage depending on what we roll, and we could rescue little brother’s Lego person…” (little brother loves the role of person (or creature) in distress)

i am enthusiastic  about this idea, and we manage to play for over an hour, collaborating in deciding how the characters we aren’t playing are going to respond to us and where the story is going to go.

we have since played variations of this game every day for the last week! there’s the version where we have pokemon to do battle for us and we get to use the attacks on our pokemon cards, and the version where we have to roll in order to move, too…

i love that this little bit of rule-making has got my son excited to pretend, not just because of my own nostalgia about pretending, but because i think it’s an important skill to have. i’ve noticed him being a little more patient with the kind of pretending his brother does, too, which has been an issue in the past, when little brother wants to pretend that he can talk to fairies and spirits and older brother wants him to admit that he is a liar. 😉

and i love that he is willing to bend the rules and have them evolve, since they are our rules… he’s usually angry about rule changes in board games or games like tag or kickball. i think flexibility is another area in which he will be well-served by some growth.

i had been toying with introducing him to role-playing games in a more formal way, but i’m very glad that he invented this system himself and sees it as a tool to use to make a story, to interact with each other, and to play. i’m not sure that could have happened with me reading him rules from a book, even one of the less rule heavy games (like Faery’s Tale) seems like it would have made him feel like there was a correct way to play…

i love seeing his freedom to play and imagine increased! he’s even played a little bit with his Legos on his own, acting out little adventures, like i used to do as a girl… something he’d previously needed another kid to drag him into doing.

here’s to many more years of home made role playing games!