Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grading systems of élite high school teachers

A: What grade should M. get?

Z: Is it his birthday?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The letter I just wrote to the junior senator from my state

To Senator Casey:

This is a duplicitous response. The Stupak amendment is much more far-reaching than the Hyde agreement and the Hyde agreement itself is a shameful government attempt to influence decisions best made by a woman in consultation with her doctor and family.

If you were truly pro-life in the principled way that you suggest, you would be introducing legislation to end the death penalty, to reduce infant mortality, and to end our reliance on foreign oil so that we did not commit the lives of our young people to risk their own lives and kill others. I do not see that you are in the forefront of any of these efforts to protect life that exists independently of a woman's body, so I call you on your deceitful language. You are not pro-life. You are in favor of controlling women's bodies when they are pregnant. Call your beliefs and policies what they are, and then see if Pennsylvanians like me will continue to support you.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer's winding down

Z. on the beach

(From our trip down the shore last weekend)

The windows are open and the sound of crickets is drifting in to the accompaniment of the neighbors jamming on the sidewalk with electric guitars and trombone. But the nights are cooling off and I'm sleeping hard.

The season's turning.

It was a long summer with far too much weekend travel in it and far too little time to hear my own thoughts, but I got used to having A. and Z. around. With both of them back at school, I spent hours walking outside this week, taking advantage of the time between day care dropoff and when the store opens. It has been very very grounding having time to get reacquainted with myself but I also feel a little like the parts of our family have been cut adrift from each other. I guess those feelings will balance out soon enough, kind of the way I adjusted to returning to sleep deprivation in September when I was teaching. But I'm noticing it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I am my grandfather's grandaughter

I just subscribed to The News From Lake Wobegon and This American Life. They are free. Free!!!

I might weep over the goodness that is public radio.

In other completely unrelated news, will you all keep your fingers crossed for the store? We seem to be on a little bit of a roll and I want--no, I need it to keep on going for like, well, the rest of my working life or so. Because I really don't want to get a different job.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


The first ripe fig and the first ripe tomato! (I was late with the tomatoes).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Good question

A.: Z, can I introduce you to your taco? (pitched high, voicing taco) "Hi Z.! Please eat me!"

Z.: (addressing taco) Why do you want to die so soon?

A heart I know by heart

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We all went to the Please Touch Museum today for Z.'s adoption day,* and I spent a lot of the visit mom-watching. The mom in the chador, the mom in slinky sundress with the backpack slung around her waist, canceling out the look, the many moms in t-shirts and the scattering of moms with visible pregnancies, and I realized that I assume a mom has given birth and most likely nursed, and has watched her body change because of her children, and that motherhood is an experience that involves a radical disruption of one's sense of physical self.

I assume that even though none of it is true for A.


*Yes, I birthed her, but A. and I adopted her together--such being the ins and outs of same-sex parenthood.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fodder for thinking about lesbian gender

This list has got me thinking about butch a lot the past day or two, in a back-of-my-head way, and I want to see what happens if I bring it forward. I think it will be kind of rambly around here while I do, so forgive me. Please click through, so you can see what I'm talking about--the pictures are awesome, and it's a visual record I'm reacting to here.

I tend to think of myself as product of the crunchy/hippie lesbianism of the 80's--I hung out in dyke bars, but I came out in the peace movement, surrounded by activists and artists. The butch-femme tradition is something I tend to regard from a remove--I admire the guts and the sexual in-your-faceness of it, but I'm not really within it. Contrasts in masculine and feminine energy don't work for me that way.

My hair has been long for all but a few years in my middle twenties, when I cut it boy-short in an attempt to be read more easily as a lesbian. It did work: I got a lot less attention from men and I read more easily to other women, but there's identity as how you're read by others and identity as how you read yourself. My missing hair haunted my dreams for years until I grew it out, and I don't think it's a coincidence that I had to go through that experiment before I really figured out how to bring myself to a relationship.

But hair aside (and it was usually braided), I used to be a pretty straight-up flannel dyke: jeans, Birks or Docs, a baggy unisex t-shirt, an Aran sweater or a tartan shirt from Bean, and that was me dressed. And I still dress that way on winter days when I'm feeling the weather, or I want to feel armored and secure. The body-altering imperatives of femininity are a toxic mess and I have never wanted them anywhere near me, and the baggage that comes along with "pretty" often does my head in. But if I want to look good, I want to look beautiful rather than handsome. Wardrobe: I have shopped from the boy side of the store but not when I'm looking for something to make me feel sexy. It's never been the unisex tees but the femme outliers in my closet that I've reached for when I wanted to feel hot on a date or when I was heading out dancing. I feel as much in drag in a jacket and tie as in a dress: if I find the extremes of femininity asphyxiating, I find the extremes of masculinity alien rather than empowering. Butch clothing is protective, but it's dyke I'm aiming for rather than butch: a woman outside heterofeminine strictures, rather than a masculine woman.

In recent years as I've worked through some of my issues with moving through the world in my particular body, I've chosen my everyday clothes to acknowledge my curves instead of hide them, and I wear my hair loose much of the time. My sexuality and gender have a lot more to do with being a mother and a massage therapist than with playing with the erotics of the gender spectrum--and it's something that I love about women-only spaces, whether they are lesbian or not, that once men are out of the defining-yourself-against-them equation, the possibilities of female identity explode outside the two dimensions of a spectrum.

Scrolling through these pictures of butch women and transmen, I didn't feel like men were out of the equation in the way that makes gender interesting to me--it's not a women-only space, this list, and it shouldn't be when the story Sinclair Sexsmith is telling by compiling it is about a particularly blurry edge of the spectrum where "masculine woman" is not very far from "transitioning man," and that's a story that needs telling. It both isn't and is about me. What I wound up feeling about where I am is that any part of the spectrum is blurry, including my place near the middle. And even in a story about masculinity and female-born bodies, a hell of a lot of other--and to me, more compelling--axes of female identity are popping out of those pictures. I felt like these are my people, this is a tribe I belong to, and the self-portrait of Catherine Opie (#91) nursing her child gave me a shock of recognition. Motherhood is what crashed me hard into femininity, and I have found a power there I needed to own: it crashed me into femininity from a complicated place. How much more complicated for a butch woman or a transman?

ETA: Sexsmith has edited the list to remove transmen unless they give permission to be included--read her explanation for this change here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Question for those who menstruate*

Can we talk PMS for a minute? Because over the course of my menstruating life, my cramps went from incapacitating in my teens and early twenties to just seriously painful in my later twenties and early thirties, and now that I'm in my later thirties, after a year or two of occasional post-childbirth weirdness, they seem to have resigned themselves to being a non-event, but (you know there's a but, right?) my emotional shifts used to be something that I took in stride. Used to be. Not so much anymore. As my cramps have become negligible, the days before my period have become this righteous emotional spotlight of a bullshit detector, zeroing in on anything that is off in my life. Post-childbirth, my periods have gotten shorter, too. I'm wondering if this is something other women in their thirties have experienced. Are my hormones going after different receptors in my body as I age? Is this perimenopause? And does it give other women towering superpowers of emotional truthtelling? Or is it just a way my own personal limbic system has developed to cope with my not uncomplicated emotional life?

(*Cismen and transwomen can weigh in, and of course if you're reading I'd like to hear your thoughts, but I also really do want to know whether this is a common experience or just the way my own biology has gone.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Didactic moment

So A. and I have a lesbian-feminist tendency to interrogate the whole happily-ever-after-hetero thing when we read fairy tales to Z., because they are so poisonous. And I'm embarrassed to say it's become reflexive, but I got my comeuppance a few weeks ago. I keep meaning to blog it, so here goes. Remember, Z. is FOUR:

In the car, driving around Eakins Oval, the Beatles are on.

Mama: Z., do you think that's really true, that all you need is love?
Z.: No!
Mama: So what else do you think you need?
Z., hesitant: Vulnerability?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Picking serviceberries

Picking serviceberries

We haven't had enough sun for the berries to be as ripe as they ought to be this time of year.

Picking serviceberries

But I did get to pick them with the Queen of America, and that's something (her pirate crown is off in this picture, because it kept getting tangled in the branches). In the end, we scrapped our pie-baking idea and had ice cream sandwiches instead, which was a pretty fine outcome, really.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Share the road, but don't get yourself killed, 'kay?

It's Spring, it's a recession, the planet is slowly cooking to death: thus, more people are biking, at least in my neighborhood.

There is a subpopulation of bikers that is seriously irking me: women biking in skirts and not wearing helmets while doing so. There plenty of other bikers who aren't wearing helmets, but there are not a lot of bikers wearing skirts who are wearing helmets (in a Venn diagram the "skirt/no-helmet" bikers would be smaller and almost entirely within the larger circle of "any wardrobe choice/no-helmet" bikers). Do they head out the door, look at their helmets and think "oh, too bad I can't put that on, since I'm wearing a skirt today"?

Every time I pass one of these women I think about how not-cute traumatic brain injuries are.



About a block ahead, an oncoming car suddenly but safely swerves partly onto my side of the road. The marmalade cat the driver spared runs hastily back to the curb until the car passes, then sprints across the lanes, low and stretched out, scared. The car in front of me slows; the cat makes it. As I pass, the cat is crouched and staring, fascinated and poised to leap at her quarry: a flock of birds in a vacant lot.

The birds are safely surrounded by cyclone fencing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


In my case, the addictions are pretty mild. Chocolate, green tea, baked treats. But I have slipped into relying on them to get through my day and my emotional stability is more than a little shot. So I'm going off of sweets, caffeine, white flour. Day 1 today.

This is what it looks like in my head right now:

Sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, shoogar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, SUGAR, sugar, SUGAR, sugar, SUGAR, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, suuuuuuuuugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, Sugar, sugar, SUGARSUGARSUGAR, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, c'mon, just one little Swedish fish and no one will know.

And dark chocolate is practically a vitamin.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why customer service is an art form

Customer comes in making the kind of beeline for the desk that usually indicates an intention to pick up a special order; I greet him as he walks around two customers already in the store, who are half browsing but have also been somewhat engaged in conversation with me.

Customer (baseball cap, undershirt, 60's, a stranger to me): I have a question. I don't think you'll have it, but do you have "Woman in White?"

Me: Good question! I know that section pretty well, and I think we probably don't. (Checks computer.) We'd be happy to get it for you, but it's not in the store. We have stocked it before. Hmm. We sold it in '07, and it looks like it was just a slow seller.

Customer: (congratulating himself) I bet it was.

Me: But it's easy to reorder.

Customer: No, thanks. (wanders over to card spinners, other customers say goodbye and leave without making a purchase. I don't think they would have if I'd kept talking to them, since the conversation had led to hard-to-read questions about whether discussions at the Women of the World book club were feminist, but who knows?)

Me: (receiving books into inventory, making chitchat) I read "The Moonstone," but not "Woman in White."

Customer: You don't carry postcards.

Me: Sure we do. They're over here. (Walks to Syracuse Cultural Workers postcard display near register, brings them out onto counter.)

Customer: I can look at them myself.

Me: No problem. (goes back to receiving)

Customer: (snorts) "Resist Global Corporatocracy." Now, you can't send that to someone.

Me: Depends on the someone.

Customer: Maybe you can put it on the wall, but you can't send it to someone.

Me: (shrugs, keeps checking off books)

Customer: (browses cards a minute or two more) Well, thank you.

Me: Thank you for coming by.

Customer: (coming down on each word, sounding like he's correcting me this time) Thank you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Calling on the power of blogging lost dogs

My parents' dog is named for Kosmo Kramer, from Seinfeld, but it's a name that suits her by how much she doesn't fit it. She's a pretty little skinny dog in between the size of a whippet and an Italian greyhound, with the coat of a yellow lab, with light freckles on her elegant paws. She's skittish about crossing hardwood floors and shy with strangers, and if she decides she's not going somewhere, sometimes the only thing to do is pick her up and take her there. She carries stuffed animals back to her bed. Socks, too, and shoes. If she wants to make friends with you she puts her head down and her paw up. But she has to check you out for awhile before she takes a risk like that.

She's been missing since this afternoon--there are workmen in the house, and she got freaked out, and a door was left open, and now she's somewhere away from home. She's been spotted around the neighborhood, and she has her tags on, but it's raining there, and night has fallen. My parents are worried, and second-guessing themselves.

So I'm asking you, if you're still reading this on your feed, to help out by doing whatever you can to get the lost-dog-found mojo going.

ETA, morning of 5/6/09: She came home!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

As sharp as I sting, as sharp as I sing

I can't get enough of this song.

(Unh-hunh, you know you have to hear it again)

(and again...this one has lousy sound, but it's worth it for the way her foot hits the stage, every time.)

(h/t to Phantom, who knows me well.)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Birthday season begins

Z.'s long-awaited fourth birthday was on Monday. I keep starting posts and not finishing them, so I'm going to resort to the random bullets form just to get it all out of my head:
  • Twenty-one kids, 16 of them three or four, the rest all younger siblings: this is because of the way that Z. falls at the exact midpoint of the very large group of kids at her school who will be entering kindergarten in the Fall of 2010. Last year I argued that she should be included in the youngest preschool class, instead of being kept in the infant/toddler program for a third year. That was one of the best advocacy moments I've had as a parent, with the greatest unforeseeable positive consequences, and if a crazily large fourth birthday party is the only downside, I say hooray. (This year, the class wound up split so that she's almost the oldest in her room, but the two older preschool classes spend a lot of their day together, so now she has new, slightly younger friends in her class but her slightly older friends from last year are still current.)
  • Despite how high it was on the overstimulation meter, the party was still a roaring success. When the parents are hitting it off and having a great time, you know things are going well. We used the bookstore, which has three levels, and it was very low-key. Storytime downstairs in the kids' section, freeplay in the reading nook on the second floor, crafts in the community room on the third floor. Kids could move on when they got bored, and it was fine. We paid for pizza, cake, balloons, favors (minimal), and paper goods. I think we spent more than we needed to on the paper stuff, but not too much. Otherwise, I feel like we did it well, for not much money, and minimal headache.
  • Z. made out like a bandit, of course. I've introduced a concept that I take seriously, which is that of the birthday season, which starts on your birthday and continues for a month afterwards. It's kind of like your birthday is the shiny, blazing head of the comet, and the season is its lingering, tapering tail. This works for me because I have a lot of birthday anticipation and post-birthday let-down, and I could see it going the same way with Z., and I don't want to live with her crashing.
  • Declaring it birthday season lets us ration the presents, and this is a HUGE advantage. Really, I think y'all should all copy me. She opened all of her grandparent and cousin presents while her grandparents and cousins were here, on the day of her party (the day before her birthday). She opened her parent presents on her birthday, plus the present from her favorite friend. The rest she's been opening one in the morning and one after school, and it means she's actually played with each one instead of discarding it in a frenzy of acquisition.
  • In theory, this would also let us pace ourselves on the thank-you notes, but we have let that slip and will probably do them all on the weekend.
  • The binky fairy came to our house on the night before Z.'s birthday. We didn't expect the binky fairy for another night, but Z. said she was ready. No more binkies for sleeping--until she was three she had a binky in her mouth every minute she wasn't in school. Last year we eliminated them except for sleeping and car trips, and in the Fall we let the car trips drop. Getting to sleep with them, and early-morning-still-in-bed use, these were the last regular holdouts. She still has one for the emotional emergencies we have recently dubbed cyclone feelings (post to come on these eventually, I hope) but it lives in the catch-all space that is my underwear drawer.
  • I mostly forgot about my labor and Z.'s NICU stay. I had a day or two of saying "hey, I think I'm better, no more PTSD," and then A. left a detail in a story that she would have edited out if I hadn't declared myself better, and I promptly crumpled. So not all the way better, but much, much, much further along the road. And learning that A. has been editing out details like that for years (it was about a mother and baby being separated)? I was terribly touched.
  • It snowed hard the night before Z.'s birthday, and her birthday itself was a snow day. The night she was born it was the same way. That was a good echo.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We're here. Get used to it.

While A. and I were in Baltimore last weekend, we saw Milk, which was one of the things I hoped for out of the weekend. I wasn't sure I was going to get a chance to see in the theater, and it was an astonishing performance, but the thing about seeing it in the theater wasn't Sean Penn on the big screen, it was the audience. It was going to a mainstream theater, on any old day, and standing in line with a whole bunch of other queer folk. It was watching in a big darkened room filled with rows of those slide-back seats, where A. and I? We were the norm, and the story was our history, and it wasn't a special film festival. It wasn't Pride. It was just another movie, telling another piece of American history, like our lives have as much weight as anyone else's.

I left saying "I don't know my history, I just don't," but I did know Harvey Milk's story. I learned some details, I added more players to what I knew, but really I already had that story well enough to use it. So what I think I meant was that being given my history that way, as part of pop culture, made me understand to what extent it is usually buried.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


This morning, my shoelace snapped while I was tying it. No matter, I thought. I'll wear the other pair.

Then I noticed that the shoe already tied on my other foot was from the other pair.

A. has orders not to say anything to me after 11:00, if I'm still awake, which I hope not to be.

Good night, all.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The benefits of a religious education

S.: Z., the Miriam who's your pretend friend, is she the same Miriam who's in the Bible?

Z.: No, she's a DIFFerent Miriam. And her brother Moses is a DIFFerent Moses. Not dah Moses who's in da Bible who supposes his toses are roses.

S.: Not that Moses?

Z.: No, not dat one. A different one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


When she went out of town last weekend, A. brought Z. back some Chapstick as a "surprise." It's cherry.

The first night Z. had it, I came into the room to do my part of the goodnight ritual and found her sitting up in bed, the room filled with the smell of candy, red candy.

"Z., what are you doing?"

"I'm lip-bumming myself!"

(Happy Valentine's Day, all!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Z.: What's more important, sleeping or being loved?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Yesterday, in the car home from our Valentine's tea, Z. asked about my friend Helen dying. For those of you coming in late on this story, Helen died by gunshot at the hands of a stranger who has never been caught.

Z. has figured it out--she put together my sensitivity about guns with Helen's death and she asked, a few weeks ago, if Helen had been killed by a gun. I said yes. A direct question, you know?

So now I had to tell her a story about a bad guy, a real bad guy, and Z. was already obsessed with bad guys, and weapons, and jails, and the various ways of neutralizing bad guys and unleashing your power against the more powerful. It's the kind of storytelling that we find unremarkable in small boys. Z., with her love of dresses and purple and fancyness, is all about the ways of violence in the world.

She wanted to know about the bad guy who killed Helen, and when a story enters Z.'s repertoire she wants to hear it again and again. I do not usually put limits on whether she can ask questions, but it was hard to keep going, and A. finally stepped in and said that she was too young for us to keep telling this story, and when she was older she could ask for it again. I don't know if that was the right way to handle it, but I didn't want to be telling the story, so I let that decision stand.

Instead, we talked about the mechanics of guns, how they work.

Today, when she was playing with A., Z. said that if Z. shot the bad guy one more time, he would have to go to jail. I guess she's still working it all out for herself. But god, it was easier to watch her at it when we were pretending it was all still make-believe.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Let's call it a blogaversary

My actual blogaversary, by the calendar, is this Friday, but I'll be out of town by the end of that day, putting up pre-written stuff over the weekend if I can swing it.

The subject of my first post, though, was our tradition of going to the Four Seasons for tea once a year, around Valentine's Day, and this year we went today. It was neither a particularly good tea or a particularly bad one. It seemed less magical than it has previous years, at least to me, but Z. had looked forward to it for days, and buzzed with excitement every minute of today, and I don't think she was disappointed. That, I guess, is much of the point of making a holiday for your kid.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I spent all of last week with the kind of cold that makes you keep wondering if it's flu. It started with a fever, it left me too weak to support Z.'s weight when she bumped into me, and when I dragged myself next door, I had no more than an hour of coherent work in me.

And I couldn't sleep. I piled up the pillows, I took medicine, and it helped not one whit. I spent my nights tossing in semi-consciousness, a hostage to phlegm management. I hate broken, fitful sleep more than just about anything--I far prefer fewer hours of full oblivion.

So I stayed up late, being sure I was really wiped out when I lay down. And my bedtime slipped later, and then A. went out of town for the weekend and all hell broke loose.

Time to reset my bioclock.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Magic Fingers

When I had the house renovated, ten years ago, one of the things I did was move the washer and dryer out of the little room tacked onto the back of the first floor (which became our dining room) and up to the too-small-for-a-bedroom, too-big-for-a-closet room on the second floor.

It's great. The laundry is on the same floor as the hampers and the dressers.

But. When the spin cycle goes, the entire house vibrates.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Last year, I joined Facebook, for the same reason that many of you did: Phantom made me. In the year or so that I've been on, it went from being a clubhouse to being an interactive address book. I still spend way too much time there, spying on you all, but I'm not flinging pies anymore the way I was in the beginning.

My friend list consists of a jumble of family, friends, and acquaintances. Among them are almost all of the small handful of people I would call if a true disaster struck (almost: ahem, Mom and E., when are you going to join facebook, again?), some are long-lost people with whom I have been thrilled to be back in contact, but most are everyday friends, or former everyday friends: people whom I liked well enough while we had proximity on our side, but did not hang onto as time and distance intervened. A decent number are simply acquaintances, shtetl folk, potentially useful contacts.

Friends and Acquaintances: it will not surprise anyone who knows me that I am a Rabbit on the Winnie-the-Pooh character quiz.

And I will now admit, there is one person on my FB list who I can't remember at all, not even a little bit, but we had so many college friends in common I felt I was in the wrong for not remembering him, so I clicked "accept" instead of "ignore," expecting that any day now, some dining hall conversation would surface in my memory. That hasn't happened yet, but from his facebook activity, he seems like a very nice gay man, of the sort I was often having dining hall conversations with.

A jumble. Like the real world, facebook is a jumble.

Today, though. Today, a friend who was a couple years ahead of me in high school set up a facebook group for people who went through my high school's extracurricular theater program, those of us who consider ourselves students of its director.

I do. She taught me English and Theater, and she was my advisor, a role that was a little like being an untrained shrink, at my school. I chose her because I was a techie, a set builder, in fact, and it was not something I can easily explain to someone who wasn't there, but it was serious, what we were doing there, at School That Saved Me High. We were in high school, and therefore prone to tearing each other to shreds, but what we created? It was professional, and obsessive, and joyous, and good. We had chutzpah, and we taught it to each other. We had no stage: we started with a black box and transformed it into whatever we wanted, making magic with things we designed ourselves on graph paper purchased for math class and built with power tools we mastered along the way. (I specialized in staircases, because I was good at trig.)

Of course, theater was a multi-grade activity, so in a very real way, my cohort at school is not my class at all, but everyone who did theater during my four years, from three years older than me to three years younger, and there were some legends still echoing from the classes that graduated immediately before I arrived. Scrolling down the group my friend created, it was like being at the virtual version of the high school reunion I've been longing for for at least 20 years.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tough audience

Z.: Say somethsing dat I thzink is funny, and den I'll write it down.

A.: The pressure! The pressure!

Z.: Dat's not funny.

(I wonder where she gets that from...I wonder....)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snow day

snow day

(photo courtesy of A. Z. is on the left, Impish Neighbor Girl on the right.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Outside the store's window, the snow is sedately filling the air above the street, melting the moment it touches anything. There are no customers today. Behind the register, I'm knitting a baby blanket in fine-gauge merino for an old friend's newborn, and letting my own stillness fill me.

My wall calendar, newly changed to February, says "excavate," and shows hands on a shovel flinging up dirt from behind a mound of earth. January was "fix," with strong fingers making a tool usable again. Flipping one page too many, I read "resume," in March, but I tried not to see the picture. Time enough when we get there.

Monday, February 2, 2009


There are hellebores about to bloom in my garden, small green pokes of curled tulip leaves. And dog poop, but that's how it goes.

I stopped on my way back home from the co-op, found a pruning saw I had forgotten I owned, and pruned back the branch of the forsythia that I had trained myself to duck around every time I go in and out of the house.

A little more space. A little more hope.

Jo(e), February is a short month. Don't get me wrong, it can still be a fucker, but it's easier, further south, where you can see winter's hold breaking up earlier.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hey everyone

I just remembered something.

It's February. That means January is over.

Thank god for small mercies.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Five pounds

That's how much I've lost since Christmas. The scale is now giving me a number in the 160's for the first time in at least 5 years.

As I've said before, I am NOT a model for how to lose weight. This is because the weight I gain, I gain by depressive eating and bodily neglect. In order to be fat, I need to eat more than feels comfortable, to eat most of that in crash-and-burn carbs, and throw in some big helpings of sedentary on top of it. Right now, at my current size, all I need to do to lose weight is cue my eating to my hunger instead of my emotions, and make sure I have some exercise in my life. "All"--um, yeah, you're right, it's not actually so easy to manage, but compared to someone whose body's set point is in the obese range? My kind of weight loss story is not fun to hear about, or desirable as a goal. I feel a little guilty, actually, like I'm not adequately protecting my inner fat girl. But I'm still really, really happy about it.

I've been at it awhile, at slower and faster paces, but never anything but gradual, sometimes with upwards hiccups. I'm not dieting, I'm just paying attention to how my body feels when I eat, and honoring that: intuitive eating. Sometimes I go up a few pounds, and I figure it was something I needed, physically or psychologically or emotionally, and I don't sweat it. I figure the loss will start again when I'm ready, and so far it always has. After 18 months of watching a downward trend on the scale, I know I'm going to settle in somewhere, and every time I stick at a weight for a couple of months I have been figuring out how to get used to that shape as my permanent (ish) body, but I do think I have a ways to go yet.

I gotta say I hope it's not too soon. Losing weight is like years of depression coming off my body. It's like bringing myself back to myself. It's like taking up a place in the world after retreating to a hermitage. It's like taking a slow journey back to my body-image home, where the body I imagine I have is the same one people see. I won't do it if I have to actually diet, but I would like it if I wound up back where I was before my my size started creeping up. It would feel like a complete recovery--but I'll take any amount of recovery.

Five pounds since Christmas: it's not a huge amount. But it's taken me around some crucial bend, where I find myself feeling fond of my belly again: I have a round belly. I intend to keep it round. It's been round my whole life, but until these last five pounds came off, I didn't like the shape of it. Now, today, I do. It feels good.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My mother's gingerbread recipe

For Turtle Wexler and Phantom. This makes a sweet, cakey kind of gingerbread.

1/2 c. butter, softened--and soften up some extra for hard sauce, too
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. clove

1 c. molasses

1 c. boiling water

confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 x 8 baking pans or one lasagna pan.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the sugar in the butter. Add eggs and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients with the molasses and combine thoroughly. (While you're mixing is the time to turn on the kettle.)

Add the boiling water last. I like to use the molasses cup to measure the boiling water and stir it a little, to get all the molasses into the cake. Mix until smooth.

Pour into pan(s). Bake 45 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Set out to cool slightly.

While the cake is baking, prepare the hard sauce--this is not really optional, unless you are very silly about your priorities regarding calories and deliciousness. Real, actual hard sauce apparently involves alcohol, but this is how we always made it in our house:

Take some softened butter and a more or less equal amount of confectioners sugar. How much is up to you, but a little goes a long way, though, so I'd start with a couple tablespoons, and you can always make more. Mix with a fork until completely combined. Add more sugar or more butter, to taste.

Eating a bite of hot gingerbread with a dab of hard sauce is pretty much the best antidote to winter I can think of.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Over at Songbird's yesterday, she wrote about the effect rheumatoid arthritis had on her last year, which rang bells for me with my own diagnosis of osteoarthritis, which is a very different kind of beast--it's repetitive stress, rather than autoimmune--but which was my first encounter with a chronic condition in my body.

I learned I had it early in 1997, after spending the fall of 1996 with increasingly crippling pain in my right arm. I was 25. I walked a mile each way to campus, I was a gym rat, I went out dancing twice most weekends, and I was in the middle of a one year night-school course in massage that was revolutionizing my understand of both the body and my body. It changed my life so profoundly that I can't clearly recall what it was like to be me before I was in it.

In massage school, you learn by doing, but also by receiving. Twice a week, we took turns learning how to work on each part of the body, lavishing weeks of attention on the back, with all its overlapping layers of muscle running up the spine; on the thick, heat-generating quadriceps and the hamstrings that insert at the crease where the thigh meets the ass; on the muscles of the hand that actually begin at the elbow and lie along the forearm. Our fingertips learned how to feel through five layers of muscle to the processes of each cervical verterbra. We studied body mechanics and moved from our feet and our hips and our own shoulders as we stood at the head of the table and kneaded out tension from our partners' shoulders.

Before massage school, I felt like I lived in another country from anyone else's body, and as for my own, I trusted my legs to walk and my fingers to make things, and that was about the extent of it. Massage school got me hooked on anatomy and physiology, which made intuitive sense to me and was just so cool. (I realized that while I would have hated medical school, I would have made a pretty good nurse or physician's assistant.) And as I came to understand how it worked, I came to like my own body much better. I also, strangely and wonderfully to me, became the knower of my friends' bodies, not just the friends I made in massage school with oil on my hands, but the graduate school friends who knew me from seminar tables and let me work on them, and later even paid me a little, as I got good enough to feel like I could charge.

In the middle of this, though, my right arm started to hurt, and kept on hurting, and simply wouldn't stop. I finally went to the doctor, who sent me to a specialist, who felt around in my wrist and told me it was arthritis, with attendant tendinitis extending to my elbow. Massage is a repetitive, weight-bearing activity, and writing, typing, and knitting had already put so much stress on the joint that it simply couldn't keep up. I went on a painkiller that made me spacy, and found a brace for my wrist, and laid off everything for a few weeks, then gingerly added things back in as I could. I tried to knit slower. I got a support for my wrist at my keyboard, and a trackball instead of a mouse. I did less writing longhand. I gave up Minesweeper--and, eventually, regretfully massage. I finally accepted that giving one hour's massage was going to cost me two days to recover, and really, I never fully felt the pain go away until well after I'd stopped.

It wasn't hard, accepting that creating and thinking--knitting and writing--were more important in my life than doing bodywork, and that the point had never been to make a long-term career out of it. I finished the course, though, and even took one continuing ed class. I'm not sure how to wrap this up, but that course was worth far more to me than anything I learned for my master's degree.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bring on 2009!

Hi, all. I didn't really want to check on how long it's been since I abandoned you the last time I posted, but then I checked anyway: it seemed like a million years, but it turns out it wasn't quite two weeks, which for me isn't that long of a gap. The good news hiding inside my tenuous grip on the passage of time is that it got so busy at the store that it felt like there would be no end to it--even though, alas, I knew to treasure every single $1500 day. We were slammed, crazy-busy with lines of people at the register at the high points in the day. I haven't run the numbers on the month yet (the store's closed today) but I suspect I'm going to find we're still down from last December: everyone is, all through retail, and I don't have any reason to believe we're different, but it wasn't for lack of customers. The month started slow, and we didn't have as many large sales, but I'm pretty sure we had at least as many transactions as last year. This is good, whatever financial stuff comes down the pike. We're doing something right, if people in the 'hood are choosing to bring their dollars to us when dollars are scarcer.

I'm not going back to last New Year's Day in any kind of archival way, but I suspect, without looking, that it sucked royally, and last January went downhill from there. This year, I'm feeling okay. It's been a better start, anyway. I've been living my life pretty intensely these past few years, and 2008 was up there for intensity. In the lows I was a furious, sobbing, wreck, curled tighly into myself, unreachable: the highs were like sunshine and chocolate and swimming a mile and the feel of your baby's cheek under your lips. The work I did getting from the first to the second was really fucking hard, not that I was doing it alone--well, that's the point, that's what I had to learn how to do, to uncurl and let myself be reached, to trust the love around me. It's harder than it looks, this trust business. I'm hoping it gets easier, though, that this year the direction is uphill, not down. I'm hoping, I'm hoping.