Various thoughts, both deep and not

I laid around with my virus-that-is-not-the-flu-dammit for a couple of days, and then I felt better and got up and did stuff. Then I felt sort of sick again. Then better. Now I am just annoyed by the whole thing; there is little I find as vexing as being sort-of-sick. Either I want to be Justifiably Ill and free to take to my bed without guilt, or I want to be well. This in-between thing where I just feel kind of punky is aggravating. Make up your mind, immune system!

So for however many days, there, dinnertime would roll around and I’d be all, “Oh, you’re hungry? Okay… ummmm… I think there’s some leftovers…?” I was falling down on my duties as a contributing member of the household, is my point. This weekend as I felt a little better I did things like dishes and laundry and such, and now today I’ve got a crock pot full of Karen’s turkey chili going (make that IMMEDIATELY if you’ve never had it; it’s phenomenal) (we used to eat it all the time until Chickadee went vegetarian, and then this weekend I was all OH HEY CHICKADEE’S NOT HERE, LET US DINE ON MEATINESS like I’d just realized we could do that), so I feel like I’m at least sort of earning my keep, again.

I’m in one of those phases where I lie in bed at night and have trouble turning my brain off. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I busy Thinking Thinky Things, whether I want to or not. This is never good.

But hey, sometimes a purge of those things is helpful, so let’s try that. In no particular order:

Steubenville. (In case you live under a rock, here you go.) I’ve been thinking about Steubenville a lot. I am always bothered by news like this, so I can’t exactly tell you why this particular story has stuck with me the way it has. I don’t know if it’s the story itself, the timing of it (and where my life and family are right now)… I honestly don’t know.

It’s easy to say, “I can’t believe his/her parents didn’t raise him/her better” when you hear about a kid whose behavior is utterly unacceptable. I’m guilty of this myself, probably more times than I’d like to admit. What the last year or so has taught me is that we would love to believe parents have enough influence to shape their teenagers into exemplary human beings, and it’s rarely that simple. (Hubris! It’s what’s for dinner!) Teenagers, it turns out, have their own thoughts and feelings and influences beyond their parental figures, and sometimes they make terrible choices as a direct result of being raised poorly and sometimes they make terrible choices for reasons that no one (maybe not even the teen) can explain.

So I want to condemn the parents of those boys in Steubenville. Of course I do. What sort of person raises a rapist? How does a parent never send that message loud and clear, so that even in the throes of hormones or alcohol, a young man will never, ever think they are entitled to force themselves on another human? But I don’t know, I CAN’T know, whether this was a parental failing or something else. I’m all too well-acquainted with the agony of watching a child you love do things never taught or accepted by the parents. So I’m trying to hold my judgment.

This is a long and emotional prelude, I guess, to telling you that this weekend I sat Monkey down and had the most uncomfortable conversation I’ve ever had with him. NOT because I thought he needed it spelled it to him, NOT because I worry he will someday rape, but because the ONLY positive thing I could think to do in the wake of this awful mess was to make ABSOLUTE CERTAIN that he is crystal clear on this and related matters. He squirmed and rolled his eyes and did a lot of, “MOM! I already KNOW! I would NEVER!”s and I took deep breaths and said, “I know, son. It’s just important that we talk about it so everything is clear. And so that you know you can talk to me about ANYTHING, any time, and I would rather we talk about it than that you be confused.”

We talked about consent and alcohol and the important of making SURE that what you think is mutual really is. And we talked about what it means to be an accessory, too. And how it’s his responsibility as a member of the human race to say NO, THIS IS NOT OKAY if he sees someone doing something they shouldn’t.

I don’t necessarily hold the parents responsible in Steubenville. But I would bet money they never had a similar conversation with their sons. There’s too many things I can do nothing about; I can have the (uncomfortable) conversation and at least know that my kid will never fall into that “well maybe…” morality crack.

Getting my warrior back on. I mentioned in the last post that I’d had play rehearsal, and a few of you who pay really close attention (flattering! and sometimes just a little creepy!) were all “Wait, a play? Did I miss something?”

You didn’t miss anything because I just forgot to tell you. Oops? I am once again participating in The Vagina Monologues, and I’m not going to lie, last year I got to be bawdy and funny and THIS year I was hoping to get be bawdier and funnier, and I did not get cast in the piece I wanted or, indeed, in one that is even slightly funny. I’ll be in what is quite possibly the biggest downer of the entire show, and at first I was all butthurt about it because WAH I WANNA BE FUNNY.

Needless to say, I got over myself in short order.

When I went in to audition this year, the director asked me why I was there. And I didn’t really think about it, so it kind of came as a surprise to me as it came tumbling out of my mouth: “I’ve come to see the show for years and I love it. Last year I did it for my daughter. This year, I want to do it for me.” So I said that and then I had one of those little lightbulb moments where I realized OH YEAH. It made sense. Chickie was already struggling with a lot by the time I auditioned, last year. She’d seen the show with me, the year before. I wanted her to see me in it, see me up there being part of this thing. And I loved it, ALL of it—the show itself, the cast, the experience of being onstage again, being part of something that felt like joining hands with women everywhere. But Chickadee was the reason I went and auditioned, last year.

And this year, I’m doing it for me. And in the spirit of “things work out the way they’re supposed to,” I’m coming to feel like I’m in the piece I’m supposed to be in.

Don’t worry; I will plug the ever-lovin’ HELL out of the show when we get closer. (If you want to mark your calendar now, locals, it’ll be Valentine’s Day weekend at the UGA Chapel.)

Jodie. Fucking. Foster. Man, Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree last night during Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. I have many thoughts and feelings on this, but will simply direct you to Vikki’s excellent post because, well, it’s excellent. It’s also a good way to get your brain muddled up on the complexities of sexuality, privacy, what it means to live a public life, and oh my God, I just HOPE someone is doing some sort of sociological analysis of the responses to this, because WOW. Lots of opinions.

Also, I hope I look half that good when I’m 50. Just sayin’.

Time marches on. If you’ve been around here for the last year or so, you may have noticed a certain… ahhhh… challenging set of circumstances we’ve slogged our way through, lately. Things are much better now than they were, of course, but 2012 will definitely be going down in infamy here at Casa Mir. Anyway. Yesterday Otto and I loaded up the dog and went to a Scenic Location for a trail walk (and then we went for ice cream; don’t judge me) as it was a lovely way to spend a 70-something degree afternoon in January. Chickadee was, I assume, doing homework at her dad’s house; Monkey was off at a friend’s house; it was just us and the dog.

Much entertainment can be gleaned from watching Licorice both enjoy sniffing all kinds of new things AND her reaction to other people on the trail. I used to think that everything I ever needed to learn about self-esteem I could learn from Monkey—and this may yet be true—but everything I need to learn about enjoying other people I should learn from Licorice. Because any time other people came into range, her tail would start going, and if they approached her to say hello and give her a pat, so much the better. But the EVEN BETTER scenario was always the one in which approaching people appeared not to notice her. The walnut-sized chunk of brain matter that drives my little pooch was utterly unable to process the confluence of APPROACHING HUMANS and Y U NO PETTING? Her tail would wag ever more furiously while she trotted right up to her subject’s ankles and jockeyed back and forth in a delicate circle, all, “Um, HELLO? Do you not SEE how adorable I am? BECAUSE I AM.”

Aside from enjoying watching Licorice be, well, Licorice, as we walked along, I realized that sooner than I think, it’s going to be just us. Apparently the kids will grow and leave us and it’ll be me and Otto (“… and Licorice, or if by then she dies, then I guess the five dogs I’ll need to replace her because I’ll miss her so much”). Having failed at marriage once makes one (well, certainly it makes ME) keenly aware of the many pitfalls—most of them unintentional—into which a relationship can stumble, and despite my heartfelt intentions to always prioritize Otto so as NOT to screw up again, life has a way of getting in the way.

So we held hands and walked and watched the dog be ridiculous and I found myself offering up that I know we’ve kind of been on the back burner, and I am sorry, and the GOOD news is that I still love it when it’s just us, and hanging out together is fun. Otto is used to these awkward, wordy attempts of mine to let him know I think he’s swell, and he endured it with good humor. (Though he did take issue with my suggestion that I might need five dogs to replace Licorice, someday.)

All communication is good communication. I have some thoughts brewing about this whole long-distance-parenting thing, but I’m not quite there yet. In the meantime, may I just point out that when you have fewer in-person opportunities to talk, communication tends to shake down to its core level of importance?

This is fascinating to me. My daughter now tells me things via text I think she probably wouldn’t tell me in person. And I suspect she’s able to hear things I type to her with less knee-jerk reaction than if I were standing there saying it. These are Good Things.

The flip side of that, of course, is that I now also have an inbox that overflows with things like images of Justin Beaver (go ahead, Google it). I’m all WE COMMUNICATE ABOUT THE IMPORTANT THINGS and then just when I’m feeling all productive and awesome and like a SUPERGREAT MOM, my darling daughter emails me to say UR BLOG IS SOOOOO FASCINATING and then gives me this link. So. Yeah.

In summary: Communication! It’s good. Mostly.


  1. Brenda

    I’m glad you elaborated on the play. I was wondering but forgot to inquire. I’m glad to hear about good things coming down the pike. :)

  2. Karen R

    Yay for all the good things in your life, and congratulations on slogging through the not-so-good things.

    On teaching our sons not to rape — I was very fortunate to have a son who adored his younger (8 and 10 years younger) sisters. When I sat him down for The Talk, I asked him to treat women the way he would want his sisters to be treated. He ended up with lots of friends. :-)

  3. js

    Oh great…now I am Thinking Thinky Things! Like I needed help with that ;-). Also, mmmm…chilli. Chilli cheese fries. Chilli dogs. Damn it.

  4. MomQueenBee

    I was desperately afraid that when our four sons were all out of the house Husband and I would have nothing in common. As it turns out, empty nest is much like dating, but without the pressure and with better incomes. Who knew?

  5. Arnebya

    There is something about the realization that one’s husband has not been, um, related to (let’s go with that and take it however you like. I’m using it for more than just ONE THING. Ahem.) What’s better, though, is the realization and then the decision to rectify the lack of, well, whatever. Fascinating.

    I bet the conversation you had with Monkey is similar, yet vastly different, than the one I had to have with my 12 year old. It’ll be ongoing, just like I’m sure you’ll revisit with Monkey along the way whether prompted by more disturbing cases such as Steubenvill or not. I had a friend tell me that she was planning to talk to her daughter about things like that when she was 15 or so. All I could think was SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID. It’s happening now, we need to discuss it now. Most of her friends have the internet in their pockets and I refuse to have her know about things and be confused about them (maybe?) and be unable to discuss them. (And then I flash back to your conversation with Chickie about sex and her “who told you that?” and I lost my train of thought.)

    Also, Vikki’s post? Fuck yeah.

  6. Rachael

    I was all following the yo-yo of your blog today… then I popped open your “dialectized” version of your about me page. I can’t stop giggling now.

  7. Zudie

    I agree on your statement that parents can’t be blamed for all the teenagers behavior. Having an oldest who is a teenager now with very difficult behavior, I’m getting way milder in my judgements. In the conversations I have with her she is all sweet and ‘model behavior’. But in what happens outside my view she is far from sweet and a model. In her case there is probably something more severe happening than just teenager behavior, but still, I fear for what is going to happen in the next years and I know I can’t control it.

  8. Anna

    Yes, communication. I’m in a position where my family is alive and well, and they’re not terrible people, but we’re pretty much non-communicative. And I hate knowing that every day we’re missing a chance that will some day be gone.
    Communicate. Even when it is ugly.

  9. kapgaf

    Yes to all of the above but particularly the talk about rape. We live in a ‘rape culture” – there are endless lists of what women should do to avoid being raped but there are no campaigns aimed at men that say ‘rape is wrong, don’t do it’. Good for you for talking to Monkey about this. If only more parents would do it. Sorry, this is one of my soap boxes. I’ll get down now.
    Thanks for the link to the chilli recipe (although I still don’t know where to get molasses in France) and may you enjoy many more moments with Otto.

  10. Clarity collins

    I think many a mother has sat down with their son over the last few weeks and said in whatever way we thought they’d hear best that every woman is a daughter, a sister, a mother, and a friend and should never be treated as less. I told my own small boy that one day he will be big and strong and he will make me the proudest mother in the world if he has the courage to protect anyone smaller and weaker than himself, but he will break my mother’s heart if he ever hurts a woman in any way. I’m not sure that he understands at this age but oh I hope he never forgets.

  11. Kati

    Texting reminds me of the notes my mom and I used to leave each other during my teenage years. We could barely speak to each other face to face, but were easily able to communicate via paper in a civil and semi-rational way. I’m hoping for the same sort of openness with my son, who is end-of-12-beginning-of-hormone-rollercoaster, complete with “whatevers” and “yeahs” already.

    My poor son has already gotten lots of rape/homosexuality/teen sex/healthy relationship talks from me. I used to work at a sexual violence shelter as their middle/high school education person, so I have qualms about talking to him about anything at all. I usually pick a time when we are working together on a chore that does not require eye contact. Busy hands and downcast eyes seem to make talks about masturbation, rape, and other unsettling topics go better for The Boy.

  12. NTE

    Those uncomfortable conversations are vital, so good for you. Also, I’m so glad there’s so much positive. :)

  13. Ali

    Re: Stuebenville. My extended family (but not me! not ever!) populates this town’s WV neighbor across the Ohio river. It has been dominating my facebook feed for MONTHS.

    Having been subject to many visits to the area over many years, I can tell you that the culture of manliness, football, and “this is our town” is very much a part of the region (not just that town). Honestly? They could use the glaring spotlight on their town brought by the Anonymous blitz. Maybe it will keep me from feeling as if every man on the street is about to ask me why I’m wearing pants and not making him a sandwich.

  14. mandy

    That link makes my brain hurt. Also, thanks for the link to Vikki’s blog. Serious goosebumps. I’m now a follower (but not in a bad, sheep way.)

  15. Heather

    I am happy for you and Chickie that there is such a thing as texting and email and you guys are able to communicate more than technology would’ve allowed in the last generation.

  16. EmmaC

    Justin Beaver! (I’m still laughing over here.)

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