Archive for July, 2006

Dared to Eat a Peach

July 31, 2006
San Jose and BlogHer seem, now, a world away. Well, 24 hours away, anyway, 14 of which were spent in airports, on tarmac and in the air. You heard me. 14 hours of air travel, only 5 of which were actually spent in the air. And the last hour was spent cursing the trio of middle-aged hippies who rushed past me in their Birkenstocks and straw hats at 2 a.m. to steal the last cab in the airport taxi line-up, leaving a pungent trail of patchouli-tofu stink in their wake.

But that wasn’t the best worst part. I cursed American Airlines, and the hippies, and I cursed them long and hard, but they weren’t the worst part of yesterday. The worst part was leaving San Jose.

To be clear, I don’t wish that BlogHer could have gone on forever. I don’t wish that it had gone on for even a few more days. I was anxious to come home. I missed WonderBaby so hard that my bones ached. I needed to get home.

But I left behind something else that I think that I am going to miss almost as hard – the me who was happy and fulfilled in the absence of the loves of my life. The me who could assimilate the quiet ache that is that absence, the pressing ache of those missing limbs, into another kind of energy and move, happily, despite that ache. The me who felt both quieted and stimulated alone (sans child, sans spouse) in the company of other women, other writers, other mothers who, for a moment, put the activity of motherhood or whateverhood aside and said, now, what about me? What about us?

I will miss the me that felt at home among my own kind, among a kin that I can only, for the rest of the year, carry with me virtually. I will miss being me among women who, most of them, are trying to be fearless – or at least, know how to not be cowed by fear, even as they quake with fear – in the most important moments of their lives. Among women who are, like me, trying to use found moments of lived fearlessness to navigate the murky waters, the frightening waters, of new motherhood and new writerhood (here be monsters, here be monsters. We know this. Still we fly our sails). Among women who are willing to say, out loud, that they don’t know how to always be fearless. Among women who walk with fear, but who carry wit and intelligence and charm and strength as rods and staffs for comfort.

Women who walk with babes in arms or babes in tummies or aches for distant babes in hearts (and some, even, without babes, happily without babes), who are fierce and indepedent and determined to carpe the diem despite their fears. Women who work a room like red-hot real estate agents in pink lace pasties. Women who stake their claims. Women who speak their claims. I love these women. I loved being one of these women.

I know, I know. I am, still, one of these women, and all of these women continue to walk with me. This is, first and foremost, a virtual community. A community of words is always virtual. I will write and read and virtually walk among these women daily. But for a few days, I walked among them for real. And I walked among them as a friend and a writer first, a mother second. The face that they saw when I approached was mine, the arms that embraced them held no child. And it felt good, powerfully good, in a funny kind of way that both held the ache of being a mother-missing-child and let that ache go.

Now, I’m curled up at home, writing these words with a WonderBaby rolling about at my feet. Her Bad Mother is most fully Her Bad Mother when she has Her clasped to her side. And I love this. I wouldn’t trade this, not for anything. But I also love that, for a few moments, I was Her Bad Mother, fully Her Bad Mother, on my own, with WonderBaby clasped only in my heart, and I love that I loved that alone, that stolen slice of alone. And that I loved it, that ‘alone,’ without fear. I loved it without fear. For a moment.

I miss that moment already, and the women with whom I shared that moment (you know who you are), and the women with whom I did not get to share that moment. I miss it all.

So all that there is to do, now, is keep it alive, in words. Until next time, and beyond.

Mommy went to BlogHer and all she brought me was this Fussy t-shirt
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Post-Script
All you fabulous writers who have been doing the Mupproustian Interview Experiment? I’m reading your interviews, and I’ll be Muppeting you up and spreading the linky love really, really soon. Thanks for keeping the love alive out here in the blogosphere.

And, Toronto Mamas? Getting together soonest is now of paramount importance. Check our space later today.

And, all… please do keep visiting the Basement. Someone’s hanging there right now, and could use the company. Bring cookies, and all of that BlogHer love.

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Bloggrrls Gone Boobie

July 29, 2006

You know that you’ve reached a special place in your life as a quote-unquote mommy-blogger when: a) you really want to write about your breasts, and not in the context of breastfeeding, and b) you cannot write about your breasts because other people have already written about them and the topic of your breasts is already so freaking yesterday.

Which, whatever. It’s not really about your boobs any more.

(I cannot believe that I just said that without immediately following up with a Gratuitous WonderBaby Photo.)

(OMG WonderBaby. I cannot even go there.)

So, yeah, the boobies. Or rather, everybody else’s boobies. My boobies started a meme. A tittie meme.

You can read about it here. I’m now officially sick of my boobs now and it has nothing to do with breastfeeding.

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Okay, lie.

It has a little bit to do with breastfeeding. I’ve been weaning WonderBaby for a couple of weeks and I figured that I was homefree heading off to BlogHer for four days. All boobies no baby? No problemo. I didn’t give it a second thought.

Which sucks, because that second thought might have reminded me to pack a breast pump.

You know what happens when you are lactating and you don’t have a baby or a breast pump on hand?

Udderly engorged! With pasties!

(These are not my boobies, people. Please.)

It sucks. Hard. (No pun intended.) It hurts.

And it totally detracts from the in-yo-face rockstar glamour of being a mommy-blogger at a blogger conference.

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And there is glamour, y’all. Dirty glamour. And it goes waaay beyond the nippie pasties

Bloggrrrls Gone Wild. You knew that it would be like this, right?

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We’re toasting you all here. You do know that, right? We totally are. Every third conversation begins with the words, don’t you wish (insert mama or papa – yes, you, MetroDad – blogger name here) was here?

We’re maybe not doing so much visiting this weekend – we’re busy dressing up les boobies and getting drunk – but we’re thinking of you. Every minute. (Okay, every other minute. First minutes are reserved for missing babies and husbands.) So, every other minute. No lie.

And all you rockstars who have been doing the Mupproustian Interview Experiment? I’m reading your interviews, and I’ll be Muppeting you up and spreading the linky love immediately post-BlogHer. Pinky swear.

And, and… keep visiting the Basement. Someone’s hanging there right now, and could use the company. Bring cookies.

Live! From BlogHer! It’s Friday Morning!

July 28, 2006
And this pretty much sums it up.

Loose Ends

July 27, 2006

Dear Baboo,

You are not, despite all of your efforts to commence rule of the Universe at such an early age, yet able to read, but Mommy needs to pretend right now that she’s able to leave a little note for you. Something for you to find tomorrow when you wake up and she’s not there. A message to you, from your Ma, saying how much she loves you and how much she misses you already and how much she’s going to miss kissing your chubby little legs and your apple cheeks and your sweet downy head. How she’s going to ache for your sweet laugh, for your sweet smile.

How she misses you. How she will miss you every moment until the moment that she returns.

But she can’t leave that message. You’ll wake, and she won’t be there, and you’ll turn to Da, and your smile will be for him. He’ll love you enough for two, this weekend, while Mommy’s gone. You’ll hardly notice that she’s gone.

So I’m whispering these words to myself, really. This is for me. This is so that I can freeze you in time, right now, and hold onto this moment and carry it with me for the next four days and for ever after that.

Dear Babchi, my sweet little monkey, my petunia pie, my Miss Milly-Fo-Filly. You are eight and a half months old. You are the most beautiful creature on this earth.

You are just over 30 inches long, a tall girl already. When the man at the farmer’s market insisted upon letting you sit on his vegetable scale a few weeks ago, you weighed in at nearly 19 pounds. More than a watermelon; not quite as much as a bushel of apples.

Your eyes are bright and blue and sparkle with the light of a million giggles. You are always smiling, even when your sweet lips are downturned. You make me smile, always.

Your first teeth came in just over a week ago, and now they peek out when you smile, two little pearls. You use them to munch on the cucumber that you so love: you bring the stick of cucumber to your mouth and nibble away like a bunny. Then you shove it all into your cheeks and grab for more.

You love cucumber. You also love watermelon, and wholewheat bread from Ace Bakery, lightly toasted, and avocado, and slices of tofu with melted cheddar cheese. The slices of tofu with cheese, we called them tofu soldiers, until your Da challenged the name. Now we call them peacekeepers. You love them. You grab a slice in each fist and lick the cheese and nibble and then, as with the cucumber, you stuff it all in your cheeks.

You can fit a lot in your cheeks.

You have the sweetest cheeks.

You love pressing your cheeks against mine when we hug. If I say ‘kisses,’ you purse your little lips and brush my nose and then pull your face back and look me in the eye and laugh out loud.

You love to steal my glasses. You love to take them off of my face and then try to put them back.

You love peek-a-boo. You love the cats. You love your little wooden castanets, and your blocks, and your books. You so love your books: you pull them out, one at a time, from the book carriage, and sit, patiently working the pages, turning the pages, before hooting at me or your Da to come read.

You love life. You greet each day with a hoot and a fart and a smile.

You love me. And you have taught me that love can not only fill one’s whole heart, but that it can fill one’s soul completely, and one’s whole being, and make one feel such joy, such unrestrained joy, that it seems that one’s own little heart and being cannot contain it.

You are love. You are my heart.

I will ache, missing you this weekend. But I’ll be okay. You will too. Better than okay: you and your Da will play and laugh and love and each day will sparkle and shimmer and you will be happy.

And because you will be happy, I will be happy.

With so much love,

Mommy

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In case anyone is wondering, yes, I will miss the Husband, too. But we’ve endured times apart before, and we’re big kids; we know how to finesse each other’s absence, how to tuck that extra pillow behind our shouders just so, the better to imagine that the other still sleeps alongside us. We know how to do this.

I don’t know how to ‘do’ the separation from WonderBaby, how to endure the absence that will surely press upon me, ache and echo like a gaping hole in the middle of my chest. This is entirely new. And scary.

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Okay, well, one thing that I do know: I will fill that gaping hole with liquor.

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AM SO FREAKING EXCITED OMG.

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I’ll be posting from BlogHer. And, all of those Mupproustian interview links that y’all are sending me? I’ll link a few with each BlogHer post (and into next week with the post-BlogHer posts), with select Muppet Guest Star profiles (and, in the meantime, if you’re looking for some Red! Hot! Blogger! Profiles! check here…)

And I’ll be raising my glass to all of you, for sure.

Wish me good times (and lightness of heart)!

Um, this is me. Substitute martini glass for child.

(Not) In the Pink

July 25, 2006

Do you still call it a scare, if you’re not scared?

We had a pregnancy ‘alert’ this weekend. The whole late thing, the-past-that-time-of-the-month-thing, you know, the sort of thing that once upon a time had you kneeling on the cold white bathroom floor late at night, praying hard that the cramps would come and that your panties would stain and that you would know that everything was going to be okay.

The sort of thing that, last year, would have had you pacing in anticipation, if you had ever gotten to the missed-period stage. Which you did not, because you obsessively took First Response tests from the first opportunity (how many days-past-ovulation? How many days before expected period? When when when can I test?) The sort of thing that was cause for hope sweet hope. The sort of thing that ended in a WonderBaby.

This time, however… this time, you don’t pray. You don’t know what you want. You count the days off on your fingers in the dark, pricking your palms with your fingernails so that you don’t lose count and wonder how you really feel about this, about this being-late thing.

You know – you think that you know – that you want a Number Two. You just don’t know when, or how. Should siblings be close in age? Should you wait for your body to recover more fully from WonderBaby’s incubation? Can you handle pregnancy with a turbo-charged WonderBaby? Is waiting worth the increased risks that attend thirty-something pregnancies?

Is it possible to love any other being in the universe as much as you love your WonderBaby?

You take a test. Nothing. No line. Negative. You wish that you knew how to read the patter of your heart. Is that a twinge of relief, or of disappointment?

You wait. No period. Three days, four days. Five.

You test again. You wait. You stare into the clean white window of the stick, of your future. You notice that you are staring, hard. You notice that you are looking for it, that slash of pink, the faintest hint of a line that will tell you that, yes, WonderBaby’s sibling is on the way. The empty space of the test window stares back at you, the persistence of its stark whiteness taunting you. Where is the pink? Where is the pink?

A day later, today, the waiting ends with a streak of blood. A different kind of pink. And the sigh, yes, this time, the sigh is deep.

Because you know, now. You’re ready.

(GRATUITOUS WONDERBABY PHOTO will go here, with heart-tugging caption, whenever %*@^*# Blogger gets its photo-upload shit together)

(The good news? Unfettered drinking at BlogHer. Someone’s gotta pick up Kristen’s slack, right?)

We will, we will BLOG YOU (uh) blog you (uh)…

July 23, 2006

Finally.

The fog clears and I am able to get my bloggy shit together well enough to post the much-anticipated BlogMe interviews…

Starring… The Amazing Devra and the Scrumptious Izzy!

But first:

My apologies to my lovely interviewees and to you, dear reader-friends, for lollygagging on this. My own interviews (which you must go read if you are squirming to know more about HBM)have been up at Parentopia and IzzyMom since Friday and Saturday respectively, and I have had Devra’s and Izzy’s responses to my interview questions since Friday. I have no reasonable excuse, really, other than that WonderBaby’s Quest for World Domination continues unabated and, as you all should know, World Domination Begins At Home! And, yesterday was a bit of a head-fuck day (a subject for another post).

Also, I am being tormented by Britney Spears. If you read my post on Friday, you would have seen that she and I are currently deriving inspiration for our, um, writing from the same sources. Which has led some to wonder whether I am not cadging from the Great Britney for all of my posts. I assure you, I am not. (Go, read, and tell me what you think. My dignity demands it.) And now she’s haunting me. I have heard her songs no less than a half-dozen times in three days AND (oh god oh god oh god) I have dreamt about her twice since Thursday (oh god).

If this continues, I will lose my mind before BlogHer. So, if I turn up there singing Oops, I did It Again and sporting a Her Not-That-Innocent Mother t-shirt – please stage an intervention. Take me into a dark room, blare The Cult (She Sells Sanctuary – Izzy, you bring the CD) and show me the Colin Farell sex video while forcing me to down a half-dozen frozen vodka shots in rapid succession.

Oh, hell, you might as well do that to me anyway. Can’t hurt.

Okay. Enough about me.

(Cue theme to The Muppet Show) And now, our very special Guest Stars… Devra and Izzy!!!

(You must read both of these interviews, and my remarks, and my notice at end, or I will send Animal after you. Animal is my bitch.)


So, Devra, tell us

What is the quality you most admire in a blogger? The ability to utilize language colorfully instead of just using colorful language. For example, if I read a blog entry which states, “The lady giving me unwanted parenting advice as my toddler threw a fit in the middle of Target (Which, if held at a border of two warring countries would fend off any decision to invade), was out of line. So I took things into my own hands and said “Lady, ‘Thou art a purpled hell-hated canker-blossom!’, and she calmed the fuck down.” I’m going to be impressed by that.

What is your most marked blogging characteristic? Honestly, I don’t know if have developed one. I’ve not been blogging long enough to feel like I do.

What is your greatest virtue as a blogger (what do you most like about your blog)? Altruistic intent. Aviva and I desire most to help others. Flat out. That’s it.

What do you regard as the principle defect of your blog? We don’t seem to be in a high traffic area on the Internet. It’s possible we need a larger sign as I’m not sure people know where to find us, but we are always in the same place. Here. We try to stay really really still.

What character of fiction do you most wish had a blog? Hands down, Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. By far I think he would have enjoyed the hell out of blogging and may have called his blog “The Most Terrific Liar” or named it after some moron.

What historical or real life person do you most wish had a blog? Historical it would have to be Eleanor Roosevelt. She is oft quoted and I would love to read her own words as she put them to paper, or in this case, screen as she reflected on our country, her motherhood, etc.

What is your present state of blog (present state of mind as a blogger)? Panic. I am afraid Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah may try to ditch me during the day or kill me at night (we are sharing a room which would make quite convenient for her. Really.) I keep asking her technical blogging questions, she’s been extremely helpful, and happy about it, but I have that panic in the back of my mind that my life may be in the balance.

What is your blog motto? “Ditch the Mommy Guilt and Parent For Pleasure!” Our editor would not let us use “Parent for Pleasure” in our book’s subtitle because she thought it sounded, “too sexual”. Aviva and I decided we absolutely must use it on our blog. If any of you are “Reading For Pleasure” just stop it now before you get hairy palms and go blind.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? If chocolate disappeared from the face of the earth.

What is your idea of earthly happiness? No one experiencing abuse, neglect or disease and everyone grew up to be healthy and happy adults who eventually die of natural causes.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent? I lack Pie Hole Control (PHC). Seriously, at times I feel somewhere down my in the depths of my ancestary, someone procreated with a Paddlefish.

What is the quality you most admire in a man? Integrity.

What is the quality you most admire in a woman? Integrity.

What is your favorite virtue? Integrity. Big surprise. Who knew?

Who or what would you have liked to be? Taller, definitely taller.

Where would you like to live? I would like to upload New York City into the state of Colorado and live there. I love New York City because it is the city of my origin I feel invigorated when am on the streets of NYC. Sitting on a Colorado mountain top, looking out at the landscape and breathing in the mountain air is restorative to my soul. Combining the two would be where I would like to live. But what to call it?

(ed. note: ColYorkorado? New Yorkorado? Aspen?)

Who are your favorite composers/musicians? I have such an eclectic taste in music, I can’t pick favorites. My musical taste changes with the weather and my mood. But I can say with certainty I can name almost any song from the 70’s or 80’s in three notes.

Who are your heroes in real life? I realize this sounds corny, but my husband is my hero. He serves in the US Air Force (almost at 20 years!), is a veteran of two wars. My husband supports all of my endeavors 100 and ten percent and is equally as dedicated to being husband and father as he is to serving our country. Go ahead, cue the music. My other heroes are my children. I know! Even more corny. Well maybe it’s because they were born here. When I look at my children, I am reminded of where I came from and where I am going and why. They also remind me to get out of the cashier line when we aren’t buying anything. This happened recently. Who knows what I would have done had I made it up to the counter.

What is your motto? My motto actually belongs to my friend, and one of my many mentors, Jill who said, “Remember, your most important legacy is the honor and integrity of your life.”

That interview picture above? That’s not Devra. THIS is Devra.


And now, live from the pond… IZZY!

What is the quality you most admire in a blogger? I like it when I feel like we could be compadres in the real world, that we have a similar outlook on life. It’s not a specific quality that I could define. I also like when they keep me on my toes with new and interesting topics or things to think about and of course, a sly, dry wit is always appreciated.

What is your most marked blogging characteristic (or, how would you describe your blog)? That’s a hard question. Let me answer it in another way… If IzzyMom was a character, she might be a blend of Xena Warrior Princess mixed with a bit of Dawn AKA “the Weinerdog” from “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and Jo from “Facts of Life” with a dash everybody’s favorite understanding & sympathetic teacher from middle school. Kind of tough but tender and super dorky on the inside. Of course, I have no idea if that’s how others perceive me or my blog but I’d certainly be curious to know.

(ed. note: HBM perceives Izzy as Rita Moreno circa 1976. One hot mama.)

What is your greatest virtue as a blogger (what do you most like about your blog)? I don’t know how to answer that really but I guess if you pressed me, it would be that I try to be true to myself always. I try not to exaggerate or embellish too much or do anything that would make me feel like I wasn’t keeping it real. I’m not suggesting it should be that way for everyone. I just meant that for me, that was one of my ground rules for myself when I started my blog.

What do you regard as the principle defect of your blog? I bitch about things…people, society etc. I mean I don’t know that it’s a defect, per se. But it’s a central theme from time to time that might make people roll their eyes. Every blogger has their “thing” and that’s mine, I guess.

(ed. note: um, I said DEFECT.)

What character of fiction do you most wish had a blog? Most definitely Holden Caulfied.

What historical or real life person do you most wish had a blog? I think a blog by Bettie Page or Edie Sedgwick would be kind of interesting. Or maybe John Lennon? The Dalai Lama? Andy Warhol? I enjoy biographies/autobiographies of all kinds of people so this list could go on and on.

What is your present state of blog (present state of mind as a blogger)? I truly love it but sometimes I wish it didn’t consume so much of my free time or rather, I wish I knew how to better manage my time so that I could both blog AND do tiresome household chores AND have a social life outside the tiny Mac Mini box.

What is your blog motto? Well, officially it’s “Faking it since the turn of the century” meaning that my first child was born in 2000 and I’ve been faking being passably good at this mom thing ever since. But to be honest, being around so many first time moms in both the blog and real worlds and also having a second child has made me recently realize that after 6 years, I’m actually nearing all-pro status… So I think the real motto is the old quotation “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” (In case you didn’t know, I have found being a mommy blogger among so many other mommy bloggers to be quite empowering.)

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Depression.

What is your idea of earthly happiness? Those rare moments that feel magical. But also the really ordinary ones where you realize as it’s happening how awesome it is. Just a few minutes ago, I snapped a photo of my husband on the sofa with two kids and a cat on top of him, laughing and being so silly. It was both ordinary AND magical. That’s earthly happiness.

To what faults do you feel most indulggent? Self-doubt

Who or what would you have liked to be? A cultural icon that brought about positive social change.

Where would you like to live? Someplace very progressive and pedestrian friendly. Anyone have any suggestions?

What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty.

What are your favorite names? Tristan and Natasha.

What natural gift would you most like to possess? Unwavering self-confidence

What is your present state of mind? I have PMS so I am feeling anxious, cranky, persecuted, unloved and unlovable. The usual fare for that time of the month…

This is a piece of Izzy. Yes, she’s cooler than you. And me.

Now that you know Devra and Izzy (and me, if you went and read my interviews), aren’t you dying to let us have a little piece of you? Especially if you are not going to BlogHer and want us to raise our glasses to you (which, fine, we’re going to do anyway, but still)?

Write a post in which you respond to the following Proust-inspired questions, and invite someone else to do the same. If you do this, and post a comment here with the link, I’ll assign you Muppet Special Guest Star identity. (I KNOW! How can you NOT participate now?) And I’ll write about it, and there’ll be pictures. (TO mamas, I’ll link your interviews here, too.) It will be a Mupproustian Interview Experiment, and it will prove for once and for all that motherhood and blogging have caused the limbic and cortical parts of my brain to melt together into one confused mass.

Just answer the following Proustian Blogger questions (and, if you like, any of the original Proust questionnaire questions that you think might reveal something important about yourself. You can find my selections from the questionnaire here, and a version of the original questionnaire here). Or do a post about one or two or some of these questions (I’m particularly interested to see who you all wish had a blog, and why):

1) What is the quality you most admire in a blogger?
2) What is your most marked blogging characteristic (or, how would you describe your blog)?
3) What is your greatest virtue as a blogger (what do you most like about your blog)?
4) What do you regard as the principle defect of your blog?
5) What character of fiction do you most wish had a blog?
6) What historical or real life person do you most wish had a blog?
7) What is your present state of blog (present state of mind as a blogger)?
8) What is your blog motto?

I saw you lookin’ at Izzy’s boobs, amphibious perv!

**Just one more thing: it’s a little quiet in the Basement; our current visitor could use a little company…

In The Forest (Post Script) and other random crap

July 21, 2006
Because there is, always, more to say… And because I needed to take on those rumours that my last post totally stole from the inspirational writings of Britney Spears. Read on… (reflections on Britney’s treatment of William Blake, and really cool BlogHer stuff, follow further musings on religion. Because, you know, God comes first!)

In reading all of your wonderful comments – thank you thank you a million times over – on my Gotta Have Faith post (which is what I would have called it if I hadn’t been going for that heavy, pedantic vibe that only references to writers like William Blake can provide), it occured to me that I hadn’t really spelled out why, exactly, I felt it important to expose my children to religion and faith. That Santa/Tinkerbell analogy was handy, but it didn’t really stand as an argument for religion or for faith in general. Do we expose our children to faith simply for the sake of faith? Because it’s nice to believe in something, if only in our youth?

I made it clear that my wishes for my children with regards to spirituality were not grounded in a belief that spirituality/religion/faith would make them (morally) better people or get them into heaven. I don’t believe that one needs religion to be good, morally or otherwise (indeed, I think that religion can get in the way of goodness.) And, heaven has bouncers? Whatever.

So, whaddup with my determination to expose my children to religion? I said that I wanted them to have meaningful choice in the matter of whether or not to be faithful, and that I believed that to provide them with such choice required, requires, introducing them to religion and inviting them to take it seriously. This does not, I should be clear, require beating them over the head with pieties and responding to their questions with faith-based answers. (It’s raining, sweetie, because God is crying. God is crying because you spilled your milk, and because David Hasselhoff is on television. We must pray to make it stop.) I also want my children to have the choice, one day, to reject religion for themselves, and to be critical of organized religion. A difficult line to walk, but one that I feel I must walk.

But, again, why? Beyond the simple matter of choice? Yes, and for the very reasons that I feel strongly about such choice. I feel, strongly, that they must know religion if their future rejection of religion is to be really meaningful. Which is to say, I think that in order to be really critical of a thing, of a set of ideas, of a belief, you have to have some experience or knowledge of the thing that you are criticizing. Socrates, after all, knew his Homer, and knew it well. I want their criticism, when it comes (and I very much want it to come), to be informed, and not the result of some sort of acquired reflexive secularism. The kind of reflexive secularism that simply assumes that faith is stupid, or misguided, simply because it is faith. I want them to taste faith, to feel it on the tongues of their souls, before they decide that it disagrees with them.

And I want them to know, directly and intimately, why it disagrees with them so that they will know, really know, that such disagreement is always personal. So that their disagreements with religion or with God can be their own, and not my disagreements, or somebody else’s disagreements, or society’s disagreements. And I want this, again, because I want their critique of religion, when and if it comes (and I hope that it does come, on some level) to be well and personally informed. And, I want this because I always want them to respect the faith of others. I want them to have some sense of why it is that people embrace faith, even if – especially if – they come to reject faith in any of its forms. I never want to hear them dismiss another person, or another person’s ideas, simply on the basis that that person is Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Wiccan or whatever. I want them to only ever reject ideas on their own merit, and only after respectful consideration of those ideas.

I want them to understand why people believe. I think that this is necessary to understanding why religion is still such a powerful force in the world, why it still moves people, and peoples, to heights of love and the greatest depths of hate. I think that this is necessary to compassion, and to understanding why certain kinds of hurt persist in the world.

(Yes, I am a beacon of selflessness and love. This is why Jesus loves me.)

But, full disclosure: I have my selfish reasons, too. That argument for honing my children’s critical faculties through exposure to religion has, it must be said, a bit of a competi-mommy edge to it. To know, well, the Judeo-Christian tradition (which also shares much with Islam) is, like it or not, to know the core of the history of Western (and some Eastern) culture. It is to know, better, the many threads that make up the tapestry of Western philosophy and art and literature. And I want my children to have this knowledge. I had, have, a tremendous advantage as a student and as an academic for knowing, and knowing well, the Bible. My understanding of philosophy, art and literature is much more extensive and nuanced than it would be without that knowledge. I know when a writer is making esoteric reference to a passage in the Old Testament, when a modern story is really a re-telling of a much older story, when arguments for war borrow from the Christian philosophical tradition (yes, there is one). I know why Nietzsche got his panties in a twist about Christianity. I knew, at a young age, that the stories of CS Lewis and Tolkien were far more theologically sound than those of George Lucas. I know and can explain why the Da Vinci Code communicates a sloppy theology (but, I must confess: I still enjoyed reading it.)

(OK, so those last two are not so special. But still.)
(I should note that I do not believe that the only route to such knowledge is through religious education, and especially not through any one particular religion. Far from it. Anybody with a good liberal education gains access to all of this. But a religious education – one that did, I should stress, allow ample room for questioning and critique – in childhood gave me a head start. And it provided me with personal reference for the more focussed study that came later.)

So, an education in religious tradition will give my children an advantage. That matters to me. Yes, I want them to be good people – more than anything I want them to be good people – and some exposure to religion and the opportunity to experience faith will contribute, I hope, to that end. But I also want them to have knowledge. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem at first glance, a religious education – any religious education – will contribute to that end as well.

This whole speculative project goes, then, a little bit further than the joys of Santa and TinkerBell and that warm, secure feeling that comes from singing Jesus Loves Me. And is, perhaps, somewhat less pious than it might have initially seemed. But what did you expect? I’m Bad.

Save it, Ma. Christianity is Platonism for the people. I’ve decided to worship Bopis.

*******

What, what, WTF, is up with the universe that both Britney Spears and I wrote about William Blake – the same work, no less – on the same day? Her post got more traffic, I’m sure, but I think that mine was better written. Still, you can’t beat her analysis of Blake:

Then from the gloom came Britney Spears
And broke the poets down to tears
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made Will Blake make thee?

William Blake is currently up in Heaven smashing all of his Britney albums under the heel of his boot.

*******

More! More!

When not pondering the mysteries of the universe, I’ve been giving and receiving interviews. BlogMe interviews!

BlogMe

Devra at Parentopia interviewed me today, and I’m completing an interview for Izzy as we speak (well, after we speak). I’ll post my own interview of Devra, and my interview of the scrumptious Izzy as soon as I get Izzy’s material. Both interviews will be sizzling, I promise you.

In the meantime, you can see my interview questions here. Toronto-area mama-bloggers, I’ve tagged you with this interview thing; see details at Mama Blogs Toronto. Please participate, especially if you are not going to BlogHer: I want to gather together TO mom-blogger profiles before I go so that I can direct people to one virtual location to meet you all.

And anyone else who feels at all interviewy – I’d love to see your responses, too! Go, go – do it!

In the forests of the night

July 19, 2006

Obligatory warning: long post. Much religious auto-biography and reflection on piety and faith. Some heresy. Proceed with caution.

(But, sweet reward awaits! Gratuitous WonderBaby photo at end!)

A month or two ago, Amalah wrote a powerful post about her struggle with issues concerning faith. A couple of days ago, Nancy took on the same topic. Both wrote from the perspective of lapsed believers, of women who had grown up with faith but grown apart from faith. Both struggled, in their posts, to make sense of their relationship to God and Church. For the sake – for the possible sake – of their children.

Both posts hit me in the gut. Hard. I’ve been wrestling with these issues for, well, forever. Since my own faith started taking sucker punches from Real Life – divorce, death and other tragedies that make the voice waver as it recites the 23rd Psalm. Oh, yeah, and a young adulthood spent studying political philosophy, and reflecting upon the political uses of religion, most of which reduce to pacifying or mobilizing the masses. Hurt, and reason: both have a sobering effect on blind faith.

I was once a passionate Catholic. As a teenager I thought seriously, if briefly, about becoming a nun. (This in my goth phase. Yes, I was a Catholic goth. I wore a rosary as costume, but I took that rosary seriously, by God.) Not so much because I felt strongly about commiting to my faith, but because it was fascinating and I wanted to make it my own: all of the esotericism and the Latin and the mysteries and the feeling, at once giddy and solemn, of tapping into some deep vein of meaning. I would sit in the dark in my room during thunderstorms, looking out my window and trying to wrap my head around the relationship between God and Nature, trying to work out the theology of Milton and Blake and Big Blue Marble. I read the Bible for fun.

(You would have wanted to be my friend, for sure. I was good times. A bit intense, but really! Fun!)

I was into it. I loved it. It provided both security and stimulation, soothing me to sleep and pricking me awake, for a very long time. But then I grew up, and the stars threw down their spears.

I grew up, and my family – that had long been so solid, so secure – hit difficult times, and my parents split up, badly, and I left home and made all the bad decisions and took all the dangerous steps that disillusioned Catholic girls who leave home at 18 make. My mother declared that God had abandoned her, and me, and us, and insisted that she would herewith keep faith only with Mary and the saints and that I should do the same. God was a mean old guy who provided no comfort because He could not, my mother insisted, be trusted. He’d turn on you. He’d turned on her, and on us, after we had prayed so hard for Him to guide us and keep us.

I wasn’t sure that I agreed with my mother, but with every bad thing that happened in my life and in the lives of others, as the world came to seem uglier and uglier, my commitment to the Church waned. My faith waned. And it took a direct hit when, in my very late teens, after I had left my broken home to try to find my own place in the world, I was informed by a well-meaning – and very Catholic – boyfriend that I was going to hell. He had discovered, by finding and reading my diary, that I was tainted by sin (a long story, and a whole ‘nother post). And, after going to confession to consult with a priest as to whether my sins might taint him, he informed me that God had told him in the confessional booth that he could no longer associate with me. I was corrupt, I had committed a mortal sin, and I was going to hell.

God told him to break up with me. And that was that. It was absurd, unreasonable, and just enough to tip me over the edge that I was already teetering upon. This was not my Church, not my God.

It was, in a twisted way, my Lisbon Earthquake. I thought: how could a just God, a reasonable God, inspire such nonsense? And then I thought: what evidence have I ever had that God was any of those things? A few moments of spiritual epiphany while watching cute altar boys light candles and a succession of thunderstorms didn’t weigh up very well against broken families and death and starving children in Africa and fucked-up twenty-year-old boys spouting nonsense about God’s greater plan for their dating futures. Clearly, God was, as my mother said, a dodgy piece of work.

I wanted nothing to do with it, with Him. That day was the last day that I ever went to confession.

And then I went off to university and began studying philosophy and that did nothing to restore my faith. I began studying the Bible as a book and God as source material for art, literature and politics. I presented papers on how modern philosophers used women as figurative representatives of conventional Christian morality. I argued that some philosophers suggested, quietly, that women could be understood as the ultimate practitioners of moral deceit and use this deceit to their greater strength and that this practice reflected the politics of the Catholic Church and of Christianity generally and that this revealed all variety of interesting things about morality and virtue and the power of women.

I liked these arguments. A lot.

And I liked that, on one or two occasions, during mid-summer lectures in which I related these and similar arguments, a thunderstorm would roll in and lightning would flash right after I said something about Nietzsche or Machiavelli and godlessness.

It was an ambivalent relationship. Philosophy was more interesting when it was transgressive, and it only really felt transgressive when it confronted and challenged my faith. So faith became a way of keeping things exciting, of pricking myself awake when I became complacent about Liberalism and Secularism and Rationalism blah blah blah. I became an opportunistic believer, using God and belief in God as a tool to advance my own learning.

Then the Husband and I decided to start a family, and there were problems, complications, and for a while it looked like we couldn’t have a family. But then the path opened up and I became pregnant and thankful. I struck bargains with God. I swore up and down that I would raise a believing child if He let this child come into the world. And when more complications emerged I swore harder. I went to sleep murmuring Pater Nosters and Ave Marias. I prayed.

And I meant it. I prayed with full acknowledgement of my own confusion, my own ambivalence. I couldn’t do otherwise; there was no comfort in prayer unless it was confused prayer, if that makes sense. But my promise to give my child the opportunity to experience faith was not confused. I meant every word. I wanted – I want – my daughter, my children, to know God. As I did.

I do not want this because I think that it will make her, them, morally superior beings (I don’t think this, not at all). I do not want this because I want to secure them a place in Heaven. I don’t know that I believe in security-patrolled Pearly Gates; I do know that it is possible to be ‘good’ without God (but please do not ask me to unpack that statement here.) I’m not looking for spiritual guarantees or moral failsafes, if such things even exist.

I want this because I want my children to have a meaningful choice in the matter of whether or not to embrace faith. And I don’t think that they will really, meaningfully, have such a choice if they are not exposed to faith from an early age. It’s all well and good to take a principled position against what might be called an indoctrination of faith, and to insist that exposure to religion is something best left until children have the maturity of reason to critically evaluate organized religion, but that position pre-determines its own end. If faith is set aside in childhood, and reserved for later examination and evaluation under the bright lights of reason, then it’s doomed from the start. Reason is antithetical to faith, especially in its first age, when it is clung to like a brass ring, when it causes us to chortle with delight at knowing, to thrill at being let in on the world’s secrets (Chrissi is still a baby because she still believes in Santa, right Mommy?) It is only the strongest, most hard-won faith that does not pale at the approach of reason. Reason shatters faith, exposes belief as simply that – belief.

Who among us would ever have given Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Tinkerbell a second thought if we had only discovered them in the age of our reason? We might be amused or entertained by them, but we could never take them seriously. But when we meet Santa Claus in the innocence of our youth, we give him a chance. And we’re well-positioned to decide, when we’re ready, whether or not we want to continue believing in him. If we never believed in Santa as children, we can’t be said to have ever made the choice to not believe.

So it is, I think, with God. I’m not suggesting that God is a character of myth or fantasy, as Santa is generally understood, although many have argued and do argue that God is exactly that. What I am suggesting is that belief in God usually (not always – people do sometimes ‘find’ God and religion later in life) requires exposure to the real practice of faith before one learns that faith is, or appears to be (appears to be), contrary to reason. It requires having someone say, emphatically, insistently, that yes, Virginia, there is a God. It requires, yes, some sort of indoctrination into faith during childhood. Saying yes to religion. Talking seriously and respectfully about God and church and faith. Reading Bible stories. Attending church or synagogue. Saying prayers. Watching Little House on the Prairie. Some or all or variations of the above.

The problem? I no longer do these things, for the most part. My faith, such as it is, is quiet, private. It is something that I subject to scrutiny every time that I pull it out for inspiration or for comfort. It lives in the strange space that I’ve craved out in my soul for those things that I fear and love and am confused by and ever will be confused by. I’ve made my choices, it seems, if living in a state of such critical ambivalence can be regarded as a meaningful choice.

But I don’t want to make that choice for my children. So how do I create the opportunity for my children to have a choice, a real choice? For them to really, meaningfully explore the option of faith, and take that option seriously? Do I suck it up and re-enact the rituals of the religion of my own childhood, and swallow the hypocrisy as well-intended? Or is there another way?

How do you find your way when the path is dark?

This Blog Needs an Enema

July 17, 2006

Or at least a good bran muffin.

This blog has never been regular. It doesn’t always move every day, but its movements are always long – sometimes so interminably long as to be, ahem, runny – and robust. So after living for so long with blogorrhea, it was discomfiting – to say the least – to suddenly be struck with a severe case of blogstipation.

I’m not sure what bunged it up. The heat, the sick, the lack of sleep, the frustration with blogging induced by a confusing comment tussle – all, I think, undermined my usual healthy, fibre-rich blog regimen. And by the end of the week the small hard posts stopped coming. (And, as a consequence, I stopped venturing out for visits, and managed only the feeblest of occasional waves from my virtual front window. For this I apologize. If you haven’t heard from me in a while, know that it is entirely due to the gastro-blogtestinal distress that I am currently experiencing.)

I’m still struggling with this. But I’m going to keep pushing away. Something’s gotta give eventually, right? And in any case, I want to keep a record of everything that’s going in – all the things that demand passage into posts – the better to ensure that most of them come out.

So, herewith, HBM’s recent diet of mental and emotional consumables that are awaiting passage pending laxative:

1) Milestones! But not your good old BabyCenter developmental marker milestones (sure, I could blog about how the Future Ruler of the Known and Unknown Universe has moved from standing and cruising to balancing and climbing – prison-breaking, effectively, as she masters hoisting herself up and over the baby gates – but these are coming so fast as to defy meaningful posting. And besides, they frighten me – they represent the very real possibility that my baby will very quickly overtake me and defeat me entirely – and I haven’t yet worked out how to process that fear.) No, the Milestone of the Week is much more in keeping with the scatological vein of this post: Baby’s First Dump in the Tub!

Ducky? You okay Ducky? It’s just a little spill, Ducky. DUCKY?!?!

Eight months on this Earth and WonderBaby had never even had so much as a little tinkle spill on the change table. We had never actually seen her produce a poo. We might have – if we were more fanciful people, and if it weren’t for the robust farts and occasional grunting that accompanied the bigger deposits – imagined that little poo fairies came in the night and during naps to deliver custom-made fairy shits to WonderBaby’s wee diaper.

If we had imagined such a thing, that fantasy came to a shocking end on Saturday evening, when WonderBaby let loose in the tub. It was a dump and it. was. spectacular. Or, at least, that’s what the Husband tells me. He witnessed it, he cleaned it up. For which, it must be said, he rocks, even more than usual.

2) Why the Husband rocks. A post about why the Husband rocks is long overdue, as the Husband very helpfully reminds me on a regular basis. Such a post is so overdue, in fact, that the Husband informed me on Friday that he would soon be respectfully requesting to write a guest post, to the effect of the following:

Hello Internet,

This is Her Bad Mother’s Husband, aka Her Awesome Husband (ed. note HBM takes no responsibiity for the acronym). I am, as my name suggests, awesome, and I welcome your positive comments.

Thank you.

HAH

Cleary, I need to get on that post, before his fragile ego is irrevocaby destroyed.

No, the Husband is not threatened by this rooster. But he still felt it necessary to enter into a little cock-a-doodle-doo-off in the barn. Cockcomb envy, maybe.

3) The effect of the heat on my will to breastfeed. Sweaty baby clamped to sweaty tit, sucking fluids from my dessicated, wilting body. Need I say more?

4) Further to breastfeeding – how to get WonderBaby more comfortable with bottles before BlogHer.

5) Further to BlogHer – how to get me more comfortable with self, and with liquor, before BlogHer.

6) Further to issues concerning my comfort and the comfort of my family – whether or not to seriously consider moving to a bigger, more comfortable home outside of the city. Which is to say – gasp – leave the city. And become exurbanites. Commuting exurbanites, ack. (Better than commuting suburbanites, but still.) Which means, of course, that we would never see the inside of a museum or art gallery again. Would we trade the buzz and hum and culture of the city, trade our tiny, dusty, 120 year old house in an up-and-coming neighbourhood that is nonetheless overrun by roaming gangs of Portuguese youth who roll each other for BBQ chickens for a house with a finished basement with family room and big treed yard and full laundry? Near a lake?

Did I mention how hard it is to rid a house of 120 year old dust? And did I say about the gang-bangs provoked by BBQ chickens?

7) Further in the category of things that are messed up: Where’s Suri? Over three months since the purported birth of the TomKitten – the off-spring of the emphatically heterosexual Scientologist and publicity-whore Tom Cruise and some chick who surrendered her identity and free will for the greater purpose of bearing, or pretending to bear, said offspring – and still no verifiable sighting of the child.

The obvious answer is, of course, that there is no baby. They may still be awaiting delivery of the black-market baby that will be passed off as the natural product of Mission Impossible Sperm. But there are other possibilities: if the child is, as widely rumoured, an alien, then it may take some months before she acclimates to the Earth’s atmosphere.

However, it is equally likely that the TomKitten is the human vessel of a rare bloodline that can be traced back to Jesus Christ. Scientologists, then, are latter-day Templars charged with protecting this extraordinary legacy and that they are currently battling a vast Roman Catholic conspiracy to destroy all evidence of this legacy. This theory does not presuppose that Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes share such divine lineage (heavens forbid); rather, that Tom Cruise beat Bill Gates in a secret auction for genetic material stolen from the last of the Merovingians and consulted with Michael Crichton and various genetic scientists on the best methods of creating a human child out of this material. The result of these efforts is Suri, the Holy Grail test-tube miracle baby, who is now being held in a top secret bunker near Rennes-le-Chateau in France, the better to protect her against Opus Dei-funded bounty hunters.

But that’s just my guess. Your thoughts?

My guess is Area 51 alien breeding program, hijacked by Scientologists, but that’s just me.

There. If anything’s gonna clear the pipes, it’ll be the monstrous hybrid of TomKat gossip and Da Vinci Code psycho-babble.

Now we wait.

*******

There’s a new guest in the Basement. Go, keep her company, hear her story, and have some cookies…

Still Cranky After All These Minutes

July 13, 2006

My throat is burning and my ears ache. My head feels weighted by rocks and it hurts to open my eyes. I’m sick, and I’m not happy about it.

WonderBaby is fine. So is the Husband, who felt under the weather for a day or two but was able to dope himself up with all manner of pharmaceuticals and ward off the virus that somehow mutated out of WonderBaby’s little teething cold into a mama-smackin’ monster that flung itself onto me and knocked me clean on my ass.

Havin’ a bad week.

The Husband, bless his big manly heart, has been a trooper, tending to WonderBaby so far as he can and letting me sleep and brewing up hot gingery throat-relief concoctions over a hot stove in the smothering heat of Toronto’s July. And WonderBaby, though climbing the walls – literally (halfway up the baby gate yesterday) – is being forgiving and focussing much of her energy on her father, who happily swings her about by the ankles and flings her toward the sky and encourages her in all manner of extreme baby sport, all the while tooting the theme song to the Muppet Show on a kazoo.

And, always, the smile:

The cheeky little smile that says aw, you sick Mommy? Lemme bash your head!

As sweet as those smiles, though, I can’t help feeling a little overwhelmed by the general suckage of this week. Can’t sleep (and here, yes, is further evidence that the gods have it in for me: WonderBaby has slept through the night, 11 hours straight, three nights in a row now. And yet awake I remain, reflecting upon the burning in my throat and thrumming in my ears), can’t eat, can’t write. The last, possibly (possibly), the most painful. No release from swirling thoughts, the better to lay awake at night. And so on and so forth.

Can’t even blog-socialize. Yesterday was scatter-shot blog visiting, through the haze of discomfort, stopping here, linking there, forgetting where I was, whether or not I’d commented. And, in the process, mucking up my usual rounds and missing just about everybody. Then, instead of just starting over with Bloglines (which I still cannot figure out because I am stunned), I spent a very long time trying and failing (Typepad! WTF?) to leave comments at two blogs that I’d never visited before, obsessed with the desire to leave markers of my visit, before slamming my laptop shut in frustration and cutting short visiting hours. Today, I can’t do visiting at all. I’m sorry. Not up to it. I know that you can’t see me here, flushed and sweaty and voiceless in porridge-stained pajamas, but still. I feel that I would smudge up your screens, infect your virtual living rooms with viruses and clouds of funk.

Really. ‘Cause gloom is following me and you don’t want me dragging it your way. This morning I pulled this out of the mailbox:

Creepy. And not even interesting-creepy, which sometimes (not today) isn’t so bad. I mean, first of all, if I did have questions about cremation, I’d Google them, and secondly, they wouldn’t be questions like ‘what is a columbarium niche?’ They’d be a bit more grisly, a bit more Gil Grissom-y.

But whatever. I wasn’t up for having whatever sicky mellow I’d got going from the Husband’s throat brew harshed by creepy purple pamphlets about death. Thanks, Glendale Memorial Gardens. Thanks much.

And. My apologies to any one of you who came here looking for profanity or discourses on dolphin penises or marginally amusing pedantry. None up today. I can offer you this, though:

It’s going to make me feel better. Soon, I hope.

Real soon.

(Cue Muppet theme song on kazoo. Gotta close on a high note.)