Showing posts from March, 2013

Cat calling

It's been a while since I was cat-called on the street, probably because I don't walk very much here. It's hard to be cat-called when you're behind the wheel of a car. I had sort of forgotten what it was like. (In case you are wondering, it is not shiny.)

This is sort of funny in light of the story a woman I know told me recently: Her work puts her contact with the public a lot. A while ago, a client at her workplace said some inappropriate things about the boots she was wearing and what they signified about her. When she went to her supervisor, looking for some support, she was told she "should just hold on and ignore this kind of thing," because once she's 40 "it won't happen anymore." Yeah.

Today I was waiting to cross the street in Shaker Square. A man approaching me from behind called out "You sure do look nice in those jeans." I ignored him. He said it again. When he got to the corner, he said, "Did you hear me? Did you…

The Alchemy of Lentils

Earlier today I was mulling over how to write a blog entry on the general topic of "surviving vs. thriving" in some way that wouldn't come off as too self-helpy and vague. And then I cooked lentils.

I was thinking about self-definition and how it can create or limit our (read "my") sense of the world. To be a survivor is good, even if it sucks that you had to survive something. It means you're strong and resourceful. (I had a whole riff going as I was making my way through the afternoon about being a social/emotional MacGyver.) But how, I wondered apropos of a situation I won't go into here now, does thinking of yourself as a survivor prevent you from *thriving* when you have the space and resources to do so? Maybe this is what a dear teacher of mine once called "the habit of poverty" when he admitted he didn't know how to use the bigger budget his program had been granted. We get so used to creatively making-do that we lose track of how …

Out East

I've been thinking about how having children has brought me into contact with people, places, and things I wouldn't have experienced on my own. (This is neither an endorsement for or against having children. Merely an observation of my own experience.)

On Friday afternoon, I took Z to see her friend A while their little brothers "competed" in a chess tournament at a local elementary school (it was deliberately not terribly competitive). A's mom, Andrea, is one of my "yoga mom" friends, a group of four of us who met while pregnant more than 10 years ago. She and I were talking to some other women and came upon the topic of how we are much more networked we are as a result of our children (one woman used the term "social capital") and with people we wouldn't have crossed paths with if we stayed in our own circles. Andrea, who is dear to me, is someone I doubt I would ever have known otherwise. Then again, I didn't know most of my neighb…

And life goes on

What can I say? Calvin's Day was a delight. The day after was a bit of an emotional hangover (well, and I worked for 10 hours, so that).

We slept in, played games and wrote while David ran, had breakfast out, went to the aquarium and got to touch a slipper lobster along with rays and anemone, went to the zoo where an orangutan stuck her tongue out at me and the otters were very playful, and came home and prepared a big feast together.

At dinner, I asked the kids what having this day meant to them, partly probing to try to find out if having a dead brother whom they never knew is socially awkward for them. "Having the day off from school" and "We get to play all day" were the answers. Those are fine answers. When I asked what they tell people about it, Z said what she has said before, "I just say I have an older brother but he isn't alive," and O nodded and said, "That's pretty much what I tell people too."

And Thursday was just anot…

Calvin's Day

It is the first day of spring, Calvin's Day, as this date has come to be known in my family. Getting ready for bed last night, O grinned at me and looked up through is hair and said, "I can sleep in tomorrow because it is a holiday in our family."

March 20, 2013 is the 12th birthday of my first child, Calvin Baker Thayer-Hansen. He was stillborn twelve years ago, and my life changed irrevocably. Or it changed the morning of March 19, when my midwife couldn't find a heartbeat. Or sometime in the 10 days before, when he died without me knowing it -- maybe when I was sitting in the seminar room of the English department interviewing for my first classroom assignment. Or it changed in the first weeks of pregnancy, when something went wrong with the implantation of the placenta or with the combination of my chemistry with that of the embryo or whatever mechanism it was that fucked with my vascular system and cascaded into preeclampsia, the condition that killed him and c…

Home to roost

I just got home from a conference in Florida, where I went blissfully sockless for three days then somehow tripped while dancing in my vintage stilletos. Did I twist my ankle? No. I hurt the lowest toe joints -- the ball of my foot, but on top too, and inside.I don't know how exactly, but I am limpy.

The conference was good, but I am a ball of confusion.

Returned home to a house dark and messy and full of sleep. David promised Z that I would wake her and tell her I had returned, but she would not wake. Only one cat has roused itself to greet me. I too need to sleep.

Reading: Carol Anshaw's Carry the One is really deftly done. I appreciate how each chapter is a  bead on the thread with no messy webbing trying to tie them together too tightly. Also, she manages multiple POVs very well. And, also, the story and characters are compelling, and she has some really startlingly good turns of phrase. I'll try to dig something up to quote tomorrow.

Writing: A little this afternoon on…

Driving in my car

Took a long drive to Columbus and back (a 6-hawk trip!) today for an inspiring meeting. On the way down and back I got to listen to CDs and reflect on a lot of great stuff.

Wordy stuff, like some funny Wait Wait Don't Tell Me bits (Michael Pollan and the Japanese high tech toilet quiz, for instance), and pieces from Chuck Palahniuk's book of short nonfiction pieces, Stranger Than Fiction, and the first couple of chapters of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. And musical stuff too, like the David Bowie Reality Tour live album (I recommend it) and the Pretenders' first album. (I also had Scissors Sisters and Preservation Hall Jazz Band CDs that I didn't get to listening to.)

The introduction to Palahniuk's book he read himself for the recording. It is a personal essay about the cycles of loneliness and connection, fact and fiction in his work and in American culture in general. He makes this interesting point about the American dream being one of self-isolation and…

Habit forming

By the way, as of yesterday this blog has a reanimated age of 3 months! That's almost like a habit.

I am not good about the 20-minute rule, though, and too often I blog in the morning, which is writing-writing time. The blog is supposed to be a brief nighttime thing. My habit has habits.

So what are other habits I have and are they good or bad or are they simply what they are?

The first ten habits I can think of:

The first thing I do in the morning is pour a cup of coffee. The first sip is one of my favorite moments of the day. I then neglect to finish the cup before it gets cold.I chew on the cuticle on the left side of the nail on the second finger of my right hand, where the flesh is permanently dented and thickened from all the pencils I held as a child.  I say yes to too many things.Every time I do, I think about a quote from Sark, in which she recommends experimenting with yes-saying and I wonder about the wisdom of this. I want to write about the wisdom of no-saying.I make …

Sleeping arrangements

A Monday notable in its mundanity. (Cue song: "Mundane Monday" ... you are welcome for the earworm.) Not even any sports practice to get in the way of a long uneventful evening at home. Both adults at home, collaborating on dinner, splitting music practice duties. O had all the time he wanted to flop around and not make any forward progress on anything, an important activity that he too often has to forgo as a member of this hectic entourage.

Then Z couldn't get to sleep at night. She of the eternal complaint of exhaustion. I don't know if it is just that our routine has suddenly shifted. She knows the winterbusy is done and now ... what? Does that keep her up at night? Or is she worried about something she won't reveal? Or is it, most likely I think although she denies it, that we told her on Sunday that she will ... wait for it ... get her own room this summer!

They've always shared a room. When they were small, they mostly co-slept with us, then at 2? 3? …

Springing forward

Two days off, and a busy weekend and here I am again. The writing retreat was really more of a reading and reflecting retreat. I am going to accept this as where I need to be with things right now. When writing I am working on three different levels of revision sort of simultaneously, which turns out not to be the most sensical and efficient thing. Go figure. But right now, I am wanting to be immersed in other people's stories ... to remind me of what a story is, what a NOVEL is, and to examine the way they narrate and string plot, and to remind me of what is pleasurable and therefor useful about this whole enterprise of fiction.

Then a big day with the kids and a big night out to see David's big play, and today a day of re-acclimating ourselves to life as a family.  David's wintertime busy is done and it is time to go on to the next chunk of life, a new order of things, and to get a handle on at least some of the household maintenance.

Speaking of being immersed in other…

Going underground

Months ago I had planned to be on the way to the AWP conference today. It's in Boston this year. I could stay with my doppelganger and go soak up all the writerlyness. (That's a technical term.) For a while I even entertained the notion of taking the train - wouldn't that be a luxury? All that time to do nothing but stare out the window, read, and write.

I have gone to AWP twice before and had a great time, found inspiration, made friends, discovered writers I wouldn't have known about otherwise, developed crushes (on John Wesley Harding/Wesley Stace mostly), continued my obsession with Junot Diaz, discovered that I actually like Joyce Carol Oates, reconnected with old friends, basked in time alone, come up with too many new ideas, learned things to apply to works in progress, made great new connections that I failed to follow up on at home, drank many drinks, enjoyed being in cities on my own not a mother or a wife but just me. (I have also been fortunate to have the…

Carpe Tea Time

For many weeks now, it has been rare for the four members of our family to be home during the week at the same time, so we seized on David's afternoon of downtime to have family tea. ZandO helped make the tea and set the table -- with my "Goldendawn" pattern English tea set, a true score of a handmedown from my mother in law if there ever was one. (And doesn't it look nice with the daffodils?) Yes, our tea snacks consisted of muenster cheese and multigrain crackers, "triple double" Oreos, and sour cream and onion Pringles. We run a high class business around here. The tea served was Target brand decaf orange pekoe -- out of my tall white teapot with the built in chrome cozy (not pictured), one of my favorite wedding gifts, from my Aunt Nell, I believe.

We all sat around the table and talked about Much Ado About Nothing and Zelda's school orchestra and other random topics.

Reading: Quite a bit, actually -- now into puberty and adolescence in Ex-Prom Quee…

Just keep it inside, would you?

Z was singing along soulfully to Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" in the backseat on the way home from the grocery store. I like this song, musically and ideologically. It's a lament that he didn't treat her better and devote more time to her when he had the chance. It's not a bitter recrimination song but a wow-I-blew-it song, and I think this is probably not a bad thing for a 10-year-old girl to be ingesting. (Although having her sing the word "man" so many times in a semi-romantic context made me feel weird. Not ready to have her thinking about "men.")

It makes me think of my own diet of popular music at a similar age. Along with my box of old 45s, I had a K-Tel compilation that featured both the disco remake of "Knock on Wood" (good to have in my repertoire) and "Don't Cry Out Loud," which may have been the single worst song for a pre-adolescent girl to have as an earworm ever, ever, ever. (Worse even that the…

What's lurking around the corner?

O told me at dinner that he is "kind of scared all the time because"  he "could just walk around any corner and die." Z loudly proclaimed that she did not want to talk about this. I asked O if there is something in particular he is scared of around that corner. He thought for a second and said, "No, I just have figured life out, and I know that you can die at any moment."

I nodded, said something about our odds being good at any particular moment, and started trying to construct some piece of wisdom that would be reassuring but not bromidic. Some other subject flew across the table before I could come up with the right thing to say. I breed existentialists.

Reading: I got to sit and read Ex-Prom Queen while Z practiced violin. That's a loaded scene right there. Third wave feminist mother reads second wave feminist coming-of-age novel while 10-year-old daughter studiously applies herself to her exacting instrument. Made weirder by the fact I was readin…

Handwash and hard quesions

In the morning, I sat on a window seat in a stairwell in a creaky old music school building and read an article about Purell. I am a Purell skeptic, one of those convinced that we are a culture of neurotic germophobes, and also that there is nothing wrong with plain old soap and water. These thoughts often are spoken inside my head in my grandmother, the public health nurse's voice, which gives them, to me, extra authority. The statistics cited in this article did a lot to dent my beliefs in this regard, and also some disturbing stuff about the origins of hand washing as disease fighter coming from a man who observed that women died in childbirth more frequently when they were being attended by physicians who had just come from autopsies (door opening here for an essay on history of childbirth) and more disturbing stuff about a system in development to monitor whether people are washing their hands enough (which connects for me with another disturbing thing I read today in the Ti…

Brought to you by the suffix -ous

And now it's March? That seems preposterous. I desire in March to become again more daily with the blarg.

Daily, I have found, is good -- with so many things. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure that out. I've been very rebelliously opposed for most of my life to too much form and order -- don't fence me in -- and certainly to doing things just because people say they are the thing to do. Writing every day is one of those things you are told to do, and maybe because my circumstances made that difficult for me, I really resisted the wisdom in it. (Circumstances internal as much as external ... fear is a circumstance. Fear of what? At first I wrote "fear of being who you want to be," but that is too simplistic.) Also though, just the implication that there is something wrong with you, that you are failing if you don't follow this rule.

Walter Mosley (if you haven't read him, you should. He's good, and we both have associations with Goddard a…