The Hot Mess Blog
BANANAS IN THE DRYER AND OTHER CHAOS
Today started off like any other day. My alarm went off at 5. I didn’t want to get up but I was getting squeezed out by not one, but two kids who’d sought refuge from bad dreams in the middle of the night. By 5:10, I went downstairs and used the bathroom. I still hadn’t turned on any lights. I debated whether to make coffee at home or go out and get one. Go out, I decided. I opened the door to the garage; then I opened the external garage door. It rolled up noisily. The cold ushered in. I closed the inside door to keep it out. I grabbed my winter coat, which was buried under three others. I put it on along with one boot. I couldn’t find the other. It was still dark and all the family’s shoes were mixed together. After locating it and pulling it on, I went to the kitchen to get my keys. A quick scan of the counters. Didn’t see them, so I took my husband’s. No more than three minutes had passed since the time I opened the garage door, dressed in my coat and boots and retrieved a set of keys.
The house is pitch dark. Outside too. I open the door to go to the garage where I plan to get in the van and drive to get coffee except when I open the door there are two men standing there. They are three feet away from me. Three stairs. I’ve startled them. They’ve startled me. There is a moment where we both freeze. I gasp. I analyze the situation. There are two men in my garage. There should not be two men in my garage and they are three stairs and one door away from being inside my house.
Instinct kicks in. I scream for them to “get out of my house.” A maniacal scream I didn’t know I was capable of making. It is wild and crazy. I don’t think I could mimic it if I tried. It took everything out of me. I recall standing on my tip toes as though it might aid the volume and reach of my voice. They say something to each other and turn to run. I am enraged. Violated. Furious. I chase them. Out of the garage and down my driveway. They are parked in front of the neighbor’s house. They scramble to get in their van. And I scream a second time. Crazy. They try to accelerate, but the tires spin in the snow. I stand three feet from it and memorize the license plate. I don’t forget. The van finds traction and leaves. I return to the house, legs shaking, my husband standing at the top of the garage stairs wondering what the heck just happened.
We call the police. The kids come down in succession. Only one is aware something is not right. I tell them a different story about my hunches someone was trying to steal the neighbor’s car. They don’t need to know there were strangers in our house. The sun comes up. I carry on. I make muffins, pack lunches. The police officer arrives while the kids are opening their advent calendars because it is December 1st. He and I talk at length. We both conclude: a crime of opportunity. He takes my statement. A neighbor comes with coffee. I recall the story. I cuddle my daughter’s bunny. He is comfort. She leaves and I go to the garage. Pack my youngest inside the van so we can run errands. My first time in the van since yesterday. The glove compartment doors hang open like mouths. A trigger. They were inside my van. My adrenaline surges. I don’t want to leave the house. I want to stay in the house with the doors forever locked. But I don’t.
I run an errand, but my daughter falls asleep so I return home. And it is only then, when I’m alone that I’m able to process the morning and I call my mom and cry my eyes out. The day carries on. I stare at the garage door. Continue to check that it’s locked every time I pass. I am reminded of the saying “it only takes a minute.” In my case three. I look at the garage door and then marvel at my instincts. My god-given instincts. I don’t know if it was having a background in Jiu Jitsu (a martial art which uses physics and positioning so that size doesn’t (always) matter). Or if it was knowing their proximity to my family could be measured in footsteps. Or pure rage. The rightous anger on behalf of every woman who has faced some sort of violation at the hands of a man. I make sure the back door is locked. I don’t want to think about alternate outcomes. What might have transpired if they made it inside.
I realize I haven’t eaten. I make soup and check that the kitchen windows are locked. They are. I think about trauma. That what I experienced today was minor compared to what others around me—friends, family, strangers—have faced and will face. People experience trauma every day. It changes you on a cellular level. UPS arrives at my door. I hesitate before opening it. Receive a package, shut the door, Lock it. Two minutes later I’m back to make sure it’s really locked and not pretend locked. Back to trauma. Mine is little but mighty. I think of all the world’s trauma victims. The big traumas. I weep.
I make my daughter a snack. Do a load of laundry. Check the basement windows. Retire to the couch with my littlest on my lap. And for a moment I revel in my tiny personal act of heroism. Proud that in the face of danger, alone, I relied on my instincts. I scared the shit out of a pair of men. I chased them away. I’m grateful for jiu jitsu, for my athleticism, my physical strength. For every squat/curl/plyo/armbar/choke I’ve every performed. But my self congratulations are short-lived. Are the windows in the kids rooms locked? I wonder.
I switch the wash to the dryer. My husband calls to check-in for the tenth time. I move on with the day. 5:00am seems like forever ago. A crime of opportunity. Not targeted. Not violent. Nothing taken, to my knowledge. But it doesn’t matter. I wear it like a target. My body feels covered in microscopic bull’s-eyes. But in the paranoia I am grateful. For my God given instincts. For my hideous screams. For soothing neighbors and soothing cops and soothing husbands and soothing mothers. I go into the kitchen where the kids’ three advent calendars sit on the table, the doors to December 1st flapping open and I shut them.
Two weeks ago, I boarded a plane for Halifax. It was the first stop on my One Book Nova Scotia tour, after my novel Roost had been selected as the official book for 2014. I took my window seat, 9F and settled in for the five-hour direct flight. We were likely only at 5000 feet—I could still see the cluster of buildings that was downtown Calgary—when the man in front of me reclined his seat. I have sat in the window seat a thousand times. I have sat behind someone who reclined his seat also a thousand times. But on this occasion, it triggered a full-fledged panic attack. An experience that was unfamiliar and terrifying. The man beside me was large. I felt trapped. Five minutes into the flight and I had already ripped my scarf off. I sat completely erect, trying to increase the illusion of space around me. I had to coach myself not to press the flight attendant call button. I could see she was still strapped in her seat for take-off. The seat belt sign was on. I took my seatbelt off and hid the open parts under my scarf. I thought about crawling over my neighbors and standing in the aisle. I thought about laying my head on my neighbor’s stomach. I wondered if I could stand on my seat without anyone noticing.
I cried without tears. I covered my mouth as if to keep the panic in. Then I reached across my neighbor, tapped the woman in the aisle seat and said clearly “I’m having a panic attack. I can’t sit here.” She nodded sympathetically. I felt my neighbor, who was cradling my chin with his belly, suck in. “Will you switch seats with me when the seatbelt sign goes off?” She agreed. When the light went out I crowd surfed over the pair of them and into my new seat where I sat in stunned silence trying to understand what the heck just happened. Somewhere over Chicoutimi, I dug out my reading copy of Roost and signed it. When we finally arrived in Halifax, I chased the woman who’d agreed to change seats through the terminal like a weirdo and gave her the book. The inscription said something like “you saved my life at 32,000 feet.” I never got her name.
Things picked up from there. I was met at the airport by one of the Chairs from the One Book Nova Scotia committee. It was Friday night, she was very pregnant and still in work clothes. “How was your flight?” she asked. “Uneventful,” I lied, unlooping my scarf, scared that I’d developed some sudden onset mental illness and might do something rash like shove it down my throat and swallow it. She waited while I collected my luggage and only left when I was safely inside my rental car.
Two days later, my tour kicked off at Word on The Street on the Halifax waterfront. I was extremely nervous. What if no one came? Friends and family had already been forced to come to my book launch. I couldn’t bribe people twice. And my token audience member—my very loud American friend who slaps her knee when she laughs—was back in Calgary. But they came. Nearly a hundred of them. Real people, with hair and eyes and appendages and copies of Roost—worn and read and tucked under their arms. There were book clubs, passers-by and a film producer who I thought was pretend when he sent me an email the night before. My sister, who leant me a push up bra for the reading, sat in the front row, being big sister-ish. When I went to the table to sign books afterward, I had already sold out of books. People lined up to have their copies signed. In previous book signings, the only thing I signed was the word LOSER on my forehead. But the best part of this experience, and what would prove to be a theme throughout the tour, was that people came with their own stories. Of nervous breakdowns and failed relationships. Of asshole brothers and uncles who hoarded. I will not forget the one woman, who bore the look of someone who had had a hard life, explain that my book was “the first book of fiction she understood.” She was hugging my book. I hugged her. She smelled like cigarettes and hope. I didn’t want her to leave.
My tour continued. A second reading in Halifax, then one in Kenvtille, and then another in Yarmouth. They brought gifts and roosters and questions. At a pre-reading dinner with “the third Thursday book club” in Yarmouth, I ate only ten percent of my meal because I spent most of the time laughing and talking. Again the people who came out for One Book Nova Scotia brought their stories: of single parenting and luggage mix-ups and one night stands. About how they could relate to something or someone in the book. Some of it was shared out loud, others pinned me down afterwards and we had private conversations about darkness or breastfeeding or blow jobs. I remember, with sadness, the one woman who arrived at the reading only to be called away within minutes. A family emergency. The change in her expression haunts me still. I left Yarmouth, bound for Baddeck with a jar of raspberry pretzel dip and the map of a secret beach that promised sea glass. It was my only real stop in what was an eight-hour trip to the other side of the province. Though the glass was sparse, the beach was something out of a calendar. I arrived at sunrise. The sand was snow white and there was not a sound.
Baddeck was charming. World class food, accommodations straight out of 1965 and a great crowd. I shared with them how Baddeck was the sight of my first kiss. People giggled. The stories flowed, as the tea did afterward. Of dead goats at birthday parties, kids doing disgusting things. Of the moment a mother’s death was made awkward and silly by the arrival of a hot paramedic. A picture of that same mother with marshmallows on her cheeks. I walked home from the library at 9:30. My “reading” had lasted two and a half hours. An article form 2007 recently popped up in my newsfeed about how fiction readings were essentially boring and lacked the “on-stage conversation or interview, or better still (the) no-holds-barred panel discussion” of non-fiction. That “nothing works better than fact-based literature” to liven up a reading and get people talking. Not true. Contemporary literary fiction can ignite hours of discussion. Relevant, topical, important. Just go to Cape Breton. Such was the case when our talk moved from Roost to my new novel The Figgs. “It’s about adult kids living at home,” I said. “No,” shouted a man from the audience. “That’s too close to home!” Later at a reading in Amherst. “I have three of them!” A woman said. “One of mine just moved back in! And she’s almost thirty.” The woman next to her gave her a sympathetic pat on the knee. Like Roost, the situations in The Figgs seemed to resonate. When I explained that adult kids living at home was now a diagnosable syndrome treated by psychologists, people cheered and cried both.
Before leaving Cape Breton for my final stops in Antignoish and Amherst, I stopped at a certain beach to look for more sea glass. A librarian at Cape Breton University had tipped me off. She even told me where on the beach to find the best of it. It involved me removing my shoes and walking knee deep in the late September Atlantic Ocean. But it was worth it. After two hours of trolling, I collected 312 pieces.
By the time I reached Amherst, my final stop on the One Book Nova Scotia Tour, I was beginning to get antsy. My neck hurt from staring at the beach. My two year old was back home, pining at the window watching for me to return. My nine year old seemed to have forgotten about me and I’d been on a steady diet of gluten and coffee. But then seven o’clock came. The library was full. They’d run out of chairs. It was standing room only. It was how I imagined my funeral when I was on the plane having a panic attack. You couldn’t see the back of the room for people. There were librarians and school friends, readers and strangers. My mom came over from PEI. The mood was lively. The wine had been breathing for a few hours. And again it wasn’t just me who was speaking. We all were talking about cat-squirrels and feminism and self-discipline. After things wrapped up, someone brought me a glass of wine. Another, a plate of food. And as in the previous readings, people pulled me aside. To tell me a personal story that may or may not have related to the book. Including one Ukrainian woman who shyly thanked me for the book because she was able to simply enjoy it without having to mess around translating things in her head. In fact, she said there were only two-words she needed to look-up: CUNT and PUSSY. Her colleagues told her not to use the words in public. We laughed and both turned red. Cunt and pussy are amazing words when spoken in a Ukrainian accent and I regret that I didn’t pull out my IPhone and record her saying them. I’d love to wake up in the morning to her repeating “cunt” and “pussy” over and over.
I did not have a panic attack on the flight home. I was filled with gratitude and humility and bread products. I learned that a book really has the power to unite people. That the experience could transcend the book itself. One Book Nova Scotia was about real people, discussing real things. Reading there, was like talking to someone in his or her kitchen with all the mess and beauty and hijinks of real life. I learned that humor writing, as a form, is legit and desired and necessary and relevant in this country. Ultimately, CanLit can be funny. One book, one week and one thousand memories. Thanks Nova Scotia.
A few weeks ago, Author Leanne Shirtliffe invited me to participate in the “Tour de Blog”- a literary relay of sorts whereby Canadian authors answer the same four questions about writing. Links to those who have participated before can be found below. And I pass the baton to the great 2013 Leacock Winner Cassie Stocks.
What am I working on?
I’m mid-way through the first draft of a MG (middle grade) fiction manuscript. I’m also mid-way through cleaning my fridge, my closet and my basement. I’m making final edits on my kid’s picture book, Wake Me Up When You Get Home. Also mentally preparing for flight to Nova Scotia tomorrow with three kids, including my 2 year-old, Rasputin who is like six kids in one. Wish me luck.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Humour! It’s funny but still literary. I use the word Asshole a lot and words like WalCrotch (instead of WalMart). I write contemporary fiction that is gender neutral, accessible and oftentimes relatable. I can make people simultaneously laugh and cry. My work is also flawed. I break a few rules with structure for example, but I like to think this is also what makes it special. I have yet to use the word Asshole in my Middle Grade manuscript, which is probably a good thing.
In my children’s picture books I celebrate kids and all their idiosyncrasies, quirks and anxieties. I want my kid readers to be able to relate to the characters on the page and find comfort in that recognition. I aim to make them feel understood and heard by using the right language, and of course humour. I steer clear of overt finger-waving lesson-giving.
Why do I write what I do?
I never intended to be a “humour” writer. It is just what came natural and seemed to resonate with readers. In my early days of writing and sharing I learned I had a gift for making people laugh. Still I’m surprised at what people find funny. Sometimes people will laugh and I’ll think “dude, that wasn’t even that funny, but hey.” Having said that I can also write sad and it’s that mix that makes my work, work.
In terms of genres, I comfortably write fiction, creative-non fiction (essays) and kid lit. I do not write short stories or poetry, though my first and only publishing credit outside of my first novel Roost was a poem called First Touch of the Hip published in a Saint Mary’s University literary journal. I also wrote a poem in my second novel The Figgs called The Girl With The One Blue Hand.
How does my writing process work?
I get up at 5. I drive to Tim Horton’s in my pyjamas. I buy a large coffee with half sugars and half creams. I open my lap top and I write. I never use an outline. I also exercise. Lunges keep me creative.
Leanne Shirtliffe Bradley Somer Janie Chang Theodora Armstrong Kathy Page Lorna Suzuki Barbara Lambert Matilda Magtree Alice Zorn Anita Lahey Pearl Pirie Julie Paul Sarah Mian Steve McOrmond Susan Gillis Jason Heroux
There was some drama this morning. According to my nine-year old I had dragged her out bed and was forcing her to leave the house again. This was the third day in a row. She was still tired. She had only just got up. But she hadn’t really. She’s already been up for three hours and I was dragging her out for lunch. But there were other things too. Her shorts, though the same size and brand as all her other shorts, didn’t fit right. They were too big/small/awkward/uncomfortable. There were also mosquito bites and she smashed her knee on the corner of her bed. Her brother messed up her blanket. Her sister walked off with her lip balm. She told me all this through a series of messy exhales. Both her tears and voice were big. I told her siblings to go downstairs. I suggested she take some time to herself. She agreed and before I pulled her door closed, I watched her fall onto her bed face-first. An hour later she emerged from her room and hugged me, her head resting on my shoulder, because though she’s only nine she’s already up to my chin. Our feet are already the same size.
She is at the onslaught of puberty. In the shallow end of a wading pool. She is only ankle-deep. She’s made it as far as wearing a bra and discussing body science at school and at home. She moves with trepidation. The water is cold and cloudy and there are waves.
I hug her back. She apologizes for being tired and emotional and sits down at the kitchen table and I’m reminded of the ABBA song Slipping Through My Fingers.
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time
We go for lunch and when we get back she disappears up to her room. I can hear her IPOD playing adult music. I peek in. She’s cleaning her room. I catch her tucking in a row of small stuffies with large eyes. There are about ten of them swaddled together on her shelf. She is listening to Missy Elliott. Krumping while she works. She’s assembled a pile of things she doesn’t need anymore. Girlie middle grade books. Shirts with horses on them. I put them in a box for her two-year old sister.
When she’s certain her seven-year old brother is out of ear-shot she asks me a question about nipples. Her brother, skulking outside her room with a stash of Pokemon cards has overheard and thrashes around on the floor yelling nipples. I tell him to stop. She tells him louder. I close the door and answer her question.
It’s two o’clock. She’s off to a sleepover in an hour. I tell her to pack. She asks for help. She picks out pajamas plastered with talking strawberries. She packs a stuffie. The stuffie—a polar bear—has a moustache. The perfect symbol. The juxtaposition of being nine. Stuffie with a moustache, child with a bra. I remind her to take her tooth brush. She forgets it. At three, her ride comes and the song plays again. It’s trapped in my chest.
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
Minutes pass. Five, maybe ten and then my two youngest, sit on me in succession. They are always sitting on me. The conversations that follow are simple. We discuss orange juice and tank tops and world records. I measure how high they can jump. I cut the cucumber into tiny pieces. We go to the playground. We don’t discuss mean girls or wet dreams or world poverty. I revel in the playground moment with my youngest two. The sun is hot. My son climbs poles, crosses the monkey bars and jumps off garbage cans. In between tricks he sits on my lap. My two-year old marches around like she owns the place. She never asks for help. And I can’t help but think of my oldest because she’s absent. Slipping through my fingers. Everyday inching her way into that wading pool. And I’m scared/thrilled/amused/frustrated. It’s going to be a long swim.
I pass her empty room on my way to bed. The tucked in stuffies make me smile. Her room is almost clean except for her Jiu Jitsu gi, which is on the floor. I throw it in the laundry bin and fold up her belt. Jiu Jitsu is done for the summer. We shared our last class earlier this week. We took turns choking each other. She arm-barred me. She hurt me. But she also did something amazing. She held my hand in between drills. I remember this. It chokes me and I instinctively squeeze my hand.
Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
It’s exactly what I do. I freeze the picture. Of us holding hands. As we did at nine days, nine months, two years, five years, seven. At 9. I know the water will soon be up to her knees, then up to her waist. Her chin. That eventually her feet will no longer touch, but I know I will also be there. Treading, flailing, swimming. My hand aching, reaching, longing. Ready. When she needs it.
O-Goshi is a Judo throw commonly practiced in Martial Arts. In my case, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s a fairly easy throw to execute and results in a pleasing thud, unless you are the one being assaulted and you haven’t properly prepared for the fall. Then it’s an O-My-Goshy.
I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a group of men and have done so for eight months. Someone told me the sport was known as the “gentle art.” That it was all about technique. That size didn’t matter. That someone, lied. Both my shoulder and hip joints have felt out of place from a drill practiced a few months ago and there is nothing gentle about a two hundred pound man straddling your rib cage, jabbing his knee into your belly (there is an actual move called “knee on belly” invented by an asshole) or finding yourself locked in a rear naked choke hold. But it’s also amazing. It takes an incredible mix of mental strategy and physicality. Speed and strength. Patience. And there is a sick satisfaction that comes from putting your opponent into an arm-bar or taking him down at the knees. Sometimes it’s difficult being the only woman in the class, particularly when I’m being crushed or eating someone’s forearm. One of my fellow participants once said his natural intuition was to go light on me when we rolled (and by roll I literally mean rolling around trying to hurt each other). Then he decided that going light was a sign of disrespect. This made me happy, until our second round of rolling where I wanted to do nothing more than yell DISRESPECT ME! DISRESPECT ME! Of course I couldn’t because my face was stuffed into his armpit like a plug.
After only 3 months of training I made the foolish decision to compete in a tournament. My opponent was sixteen. She was a blue belt. Her name was Hannibal. My belt was still glowing white and almost too stiff to tie. After an immense stand-off, she was awarded two points for an Oh-My-Goshy. But that was all she got. She went on to win the fight and the next one against another opponent. I tapped out of my next fight in the third round. Exhausted both physically and emotionally while my team, which consisted of my husband and three kids, looked on. I cried. It was a weird emotional response that I did not expect. In retrospect I knew it had to do with the fact I put every ounce of my being into those fights. But I did it. I went up against a blue belt half my age and I survived.
In many ways, writing is similar to Jiu Jitsu. There are incredible highs and lows. Writing a perfect line feels as good as executing a perfect Kimura. Surprising your reader with a plot twist is not unlike surprising your opponent by taking his back, or sweeping him to the floor. A good story hook has the same effect as a good choke. Practice makes you better. And so does losing. It’s difficult to find yourself in a position where you know your arm is millimeters away from getting broken. Or you learn you’ve been passed up for a literary award. But here’s the thing. Sometimes you go up against that blue belt and you win. You can’t believe it, but you go up on stage anyway, having just polished off a giant chunk of butter you mistook for a piece of bun, and accept your award. You look out, see the faces of your opponents, in awe of their talent, and you tie your white belt and think Oh My Goshy.
Tonight we made a spontaneous trip to the movie theatre to see Frozen in 3D. It capped off an otherwise low key New Year’s Day. My two-year old stayed home with my husband while grandma and I took the older two kids. I sat next to my son. About mid-way through the movie he whispered that his teeth were chattering. I helped him put on his coat to keep warm, but within minutes he was wiggling. Do you have to pee? I asked, but he shook his head no. I had told him to pee before we had got in the car. Fast forward another few minutes and he leaned in and whispered in my ear: I have to pee. The “sometimes me” would normally sigh. I might say why didn’t you go before you left the house? But the “other times me” simply said “Let’s go.” I took his hand and we raced down the stairs out of the theatre, a near sprint all the way to the washroom – his lead. Neither of us removed our Buddy Holly glasses. We settled back into the theatre. He was still cold.
Do you want to sit on my lap? He didn’t hesitate, and quickly plunked himself between my knees, the single string from his size 3 left winter boot hanging down to the floor, like an anchor. We watched the remainder of the movie like this. One of the characters said: Do you even know what love is? It’s when you put someone else’s needs before your own and I knew in that moment that for a long time, this is what my son needed. For me to put his needs before my own. That being flanked by a pair of larger than life sisters is not always easy for a kid who’d rather discuss genetics and multiplication than what the fox says. That pinning down a mom with an erratic schedule can be enough to make a six-year old cry.
I’ve never been a fan of 3D movies. The action sequences make me dizzy. Avatar actually made me sick, but tonight was a magical one. Never mind the snowflakes that floated what seemed like inches in front us. I held my son for close to an hour. I could feel the sharp pockets of his newly minted Christmas cargo pants. The knobs of his spine when he changed position. I felt the thinness of his pinkie finger as it wrapped around the base of my water bottle. When he tipped his head back at one point to look at me, I recognized the smile from his baby days when he and I were holed up in his room in a nurse-sleep marathon. Eventually, I felt the heaviness of his head as the time approached 9pm and when the movie ended, we did not skip the credits. I held on for dear life. His dear 3D life. The boy who likes to jump. Who embarrasses easily and asked for Nutella for Christmas. The boy who still has ALL of his baby teeth.
We drove home and I put him to bed and he went to sleep smiling because he’d managed to stay up past nine and staying up past nine in his head is something reserved for only the coolest people in our house. I went downstairs and choked down a glass of water, the emotion of the night still trapped in my chest. And then I went to my pocket and pulled out the 3D glass that we did not recycle and I pinned them to my bulletin board in my office, grateful for their clarity. Their perspective. A perfect symbol for the beginning of a New Year.
I’ve been stewing for days over something to blog about. I wanted to write about turning thirty-five, which happened last Friday. I wanted to say something profound about what it felt like as I recently recalled a conversation I had with a university counselor about women in their thirties. I was twenty at the time. During that visit, our conversation veered away from why I wanted to go to the Olympics to how I felt when I looked in the mirror. “Have you ever seen a woman in her thirties?” the counselor asked. “Do you know what’s different about them?” They’re too old to go to the Olympics? I thought. He pointed straight at me and said, “They accept themselves.” I left disappointed. He was supposed to tell me how I was going to get to the Olympics.
After waiting for over four months, I was thrilled to finally see a medical dermatologist this week for my adult acne. I gave myself plenty of time to find the office – a medical professional building next to the mall. What I did not give myself enough time for was the gerontology parade on the sidewalk in front of the building. I am convinced there was an Official in the building, releasing seniors into the parking lot in a staggered start format. Wait until the person in front of you is approximately ¾ of the way across before you step out into the crosswalk. The first crosser smiled at me, as I sat behind the wheel of my big white van watching the minutes tick down to my appointment time. I smiled back. The second crosser gave a little wave. I waved back. By the time the tenth and eleven crossers were sent out on the course I pretended they were pylons and weaved through them, I waved and smiled. No one waved and smiled back. Finally through, I signaled left to get into the parking lot only to discover a second crosswalk, where the parade route continued, except it was worse because it also lead to The Bay.
There’s a blog post floating around the Internet about how to talk to your daughter about her body. Step one: is not to talk about her body. Ever. “Except to teach her how it works.” Then it provides a list of recommended things to do and say and to not do and not say, all of which are essentially about her body. There goes step 1. It concludes by advocating that “the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.” This part I agree with, but it’s the exact reason you should absolutely talk to your daughter – and your son – about their bodies, because his or her soul isn’t going anywhere if it doesn’t have a body to transport it in and in a day when people are so out of touch with their bodies, we should be screaming about them. Unless your kid is a ghost or a cat.
I fancy myself a fairly good teacher of things. I can teach people how to squat, tie shoelaces, and kick a ball, but I cannot teach kids how to read. My son, who just turned six, has been doing home reading for the past month at school with the hope that at the end of the program he will read on his own. The kids start with “A” books and progress through the alphabet. The books have thoughtful titles like “Pals” or “Breakfast” or “Ugly Child from 1970.” The sentences repeat themselves over and over, when you are lucky enough to get to sentences because the “A’ books sometimes have only one word or a phrase on the page, like “pleats” or “homo milk.” You would think that the repetition would make for easy reading, but 90% of early literacy is guessing. So even if your child successfully read “I like Atari” on page 1 and “I like tube TVs” on page 3, they might get to page 6 and say “I look Frogger.” WTF? You look Frogger? You just read that same word ten times. Then your child might laugh and correct himself and say “I AM Frogger.” Because that’s right. “Am” and “Like” are often mistaken.