Bread and Roses

Location: Southeastern, United States

Saturday, July 30, 2005

"Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers."

- Howard Thurman.

All the new kids from my residential college are up on the Facebook website.

Soon it will be back into the fray, won't it. Chubbier and duller, yes, but a year older and more certain of myself navigating all the frayed and difficult and beautiful boundaries of living in uncertain community.

Is it always painful to get a year older? Are you always looking backwards at the transformations you've already undergone, missing the excitement, or do you get to a point where you get to appreciate where you are?

I'm just scared. I was glad to graduate, to be ceremonially out from under the shadow of the Better Hippies, but at the same time, like I said, my relationship with my college - my infatuation with it - has been the major relationship of the last two years. It will be strange going back and looking it in the face.

nervous girl with transition issues. This will be peachy.


I have changed this title four times.

My (little) sister and I walked a total of three hours to 1) eat a cannoli and 2) rent "Hitch". Now I'm too tired to clean the house. No, I don't wanna. So far I've done the dishwasher and put the laundry in and there is grout to be scrubbed, people! Urgggh.

My chiropractor seems nice and all. (I have a chiropractor! My neck is no longer a painful, clicky thing that I'm afraid to move! My hypochondria is disproved and it turns out that not only am I not turning into a hunchback, my thorassic spine is abnormally straight!). However, the thing I went in for - vertebrae T7 - still hurts like a beeyatch. Hmph.

That's all the news that's fit to print.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Cranky Edition! (number 378)

1) Have started watching Firefly on DVD. Is quite good but should probably be regulated by law as it is so fast-paced that watching more than an episode every couple of days makes me all shaky and tweaked-out. Save me from myself, Uncle Sam!

2) I am definitely sick of people adding gender adjectives to job titles. As in: "Kaylee is cool because she's a female engineer!" No, she's just an engineer, you birdbrain, get over yourself. I don't think they really have (HAS UTERUS!!!) written next to her job title.
(and while I'm geeking, what's with them ruining my Inarra/Kaylee subtext? Because no show is complete without space lesbians.)

3) Shaky and tweaked out and also trying to cover the AWFUL SILENCE OH GOD with music and tv and a pointless project all going at full volume in different directions. It occurs to me that maybe I should just put the computer down and back away and try to make my peace with the quiet-and-boring. Maybe.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Today I babysat for the first time in a new house. It's one of those houses full of stuff, full of lamps and frayed faux-chippendale chairs, stuff on the walls and shelves and tables, jars and bottles and pictures and paintings and paper flowers and dried flowers stuck haphazardly in homemade clay vases and delicate spinning clocks with glass domes over them and twizzlers and pringles and South Beach bars and a Hello Kitty happy new year's card and glass birds and foam christmas trees and an inexplicable slice of foam cake covered with silk flowers in the front foyer and sunlight, perfect and peaceful, streaming in the west-facing windows.

On the coffee table, an art book open to Caravaggio, the Virgin - a swarthy girl, young - stepping through a doorway with the Christ Child in her arms, beggars bowing to kiss her bare feet.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Re: Not Taking Candy From Strangers.

So the new Charlie & the Chocolate Factory movie was not very good.

Within the first ten minutes I concocted a soundbyte and I want to use it:

In Tim Burton's Chocolate Factory, every pleasure is a guilty pleasure, and every dream is a nightmare.

I think Tim Burton must hate kids.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bubble bubble bubble.

It has been a week and a half. Since I have left this subdivision.

My social contacts number in total my bratty little brother, my extremely introverted mother, three children under the age of nine, and the internet. One of the mothers I work for chats with me for ten minutes after work, twice a week. This is my second most important source of social contact with an adult. And I'm on her shit list, for flaking out and forgetting a babysitting appointment with a friend of hers.

I would advocate those of you who know me in real life trying to rescue me, but I fear if I were to ever glimpse something outside of this particular housing project, I would burst into tears, and that would be embarressing for us all.

melodramatically yours,

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"One thing the Bible tells us is that we need to pray for our enemies,"

Benton said at a Duke Medical Center news conference. "Being angry and hateful doesn't hurt them. It hurts us. I guess I just feel a great sense of sadness. They've not accomplished anything. They've lost their lives, they've ruined their families' lives, and ruined a lot of other people's lives."

Monday, July 18, 2005

"Clever talk can confound the workings of virtue, just as small impatiences can confound great projects."

- Confucius.

I'm not sure I like this new format, but it was shiny and there on the templates page and I said, I'll take it.

I've given up on taking Spanish classes, cooking, and leaving my cul de sac for any reason, so now I'm down to sewing. Luckily, I get really really excited about sewing. Less luckily, I tend to believe that instructions sheets are included for those other people, the ones who didn't have the benefit of a high school sewing class in which they made two whole pairs of ill-fitting pajama pants. Expert that I am, I started with a Mexican baby shirt (small people use less fabric) and did a beautiful and irrevocable french seam right over the place the sleeve was supposed to go. I suppose I could call it a new approach to swaddling.

I started a second shirt that seems to be going okay, besides a slight and apparently unavoidable underarm bunchiness and a poorly clipped seam. I suspect this particular garment will be inflicted on a close relative who will not notice that the sleeves are different lengths.

Nonetheless, I am bursting with overconfidence and am having to tell myself over and over that I'm definitely not good enough to jump right to pretentious and adorable Norweigan designers.

But but... Norweigan designers!


Friday, July 15, 2005

Disappointing news.

Google says there is no website entitled "I hate John Rosemond". In fact, "I hate John Rosemond" in quotes comes up with _no results_. No hate societies. No anti-rosemond fan clubs.

Perhaps I should start one.

For the record, I agree with his basic premises, as stated thirty years ago. But every so often I read one of his current, right-wing fundie bits of parenting advice, and I am afraid, my friends, that the rage rises in me again.

I'm working out a parenting philosophy of my own, mind, and it should be ready just in time to be torn to shreds by actually trying to deal with offspring five or eight years from now. I would call myself an old-fashioned parent. I sort of feel that the best place for children is 1) doing the business of being a child, which is playing alone and with peers, not being entertained by adults and tv 2) living in the community by the community's standards, and (fellow first-worlders, ready those rotten tomatoes) doing useful work in that community 3)with a herd of other kids of mixed ages, possibly in the form of daycare. I realize that this looks like Rosemond all over, but it's not because I don't hate children, and also I was a rebellious twit and think they should be too.

See? Won't my theories get an ass-whooping when I actually breed? Kindermusik, here we come. It doesn't help that my children probably will be very like me, geek syndrome all the way, with 'personality quirks' that look like the dsm-iv page for sensory integration problems, and occasionally serious introvery tendancies. I've been threatening my parents with the possibility of sperm-bank babies for years now. Maybe I should see if there's any out there that would accept a request for 'cheerful, short extrovert. Not too bright.'

Whee! Babble! The kiddies have Big Neighborhood Sporting Event tomorrow and are wierd, so I'm hiding in the internet.


The Intellectual Life of Alex M. Pseudonym

"If You Give a Pig a Pancake" is by no means as good as "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". I had high hopes, but "Pancake", while well-illustrated, succumbs to a hyperactive and fantastical sequence of events that could not be more different from the gentle tone and mellow pacing of "Cookie". If one is in the market for "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" sequels, I recommend "If You Give a Moose a Muffin", which retains the calm and amicable spirit of the original.


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pseudonyms gone wild.

My family lives - and I graduated high school in - Big University Town. Big University Town is a intellectual part of a wealthy area - the only reason we managed a whole house to live in was because the last resident had a lot of cats - and the people have a permanent edge of professionalism and resources. The hipsters are devout and unapproachable, the hippies beautiful and tan, the activists have short hair and sweaters and excellent analysis. The stereotypical - and in some departments, typical - Big University girl goes to classes in high heels, which she can actually walk in.

I went away to school at Small Town College. Small Town College is in the mountains. The mountains in my state aren't just the last holdout of The-South-Will-Rise-Again people; they're also a magnet for people that believe in aliens and crystals and Revolution in Our Time. The girls who go to my college can't walk in high heels for shit. There are two stereotypical types: the mountain girl, blond, a little lumpen, who came to Small Town College because it was a teaching school, a state school, within the circuit of Southern-Baptist Appalachia. The other type - rare, I know most of them by name - is a clean-faced part-time farmer who wears carharrt overalls on dates, has farm-girl skin and long curly hair and enjoys contra dancing.

I used to believe that I belonged whole-heartedly to Big University Town; I wore neat khaki clothing and had reasonable hair and I was a die-hard proponent of good analysis. I haven't lost the analysis, but damn I want to be a farm girl these days.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

I want to go home. I am sick, literally ill, of being afraid of buses and subways, airlines and unattended bags. I am sick of not knowing what to think or what to feel; I am sick of turning away. Everyone's been to London; I haven't. I have no idea what I'm supposed to feel for a city around the world. I have no idea what I'm supposed to feel for any of this; I can't stop it or fix it. I have sat vigil; I have held compassion through hopeless situations, but I don't have the attention span or the compassion for wounds the size of the world. I have a dull blind sense of panic that there's no way out.

I have this conviction that somewhere somehow there is a chance for a good human life, nothing too fancy, just a life with work for the hands and the mind, and health, and compassion, and families and friendships and a living world all around. That's all, a good human life for everyone, and I don't know how we get there from here.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.

- Robert Frost.

My boss is making me nuts.

Stomach twisting, heart-racing, loose my appetite before breakfast nuts.

I am a nanny; I adore this woman as a person, I've watched her kids grow up and I really like them, I share their basic values, and I realize that the specific circumstances my employer is dealing with - like any circumstances that require a paid parent-by-proxy sixty hours a week - are gut-wrenching for her too.

Nonetheless, I feel like I'll be spitting up blood soon if I can't get this woman to back off.

At root is a difference in personalities. Some people come into this world with a clear understanding that there are rules to be followed, and a sense that violating these rules - whether they're "do no harm" or "no shoes in the house" - makes the world a more difficult place for everybody. To such a person, who has an order and a policy for every action, failing to get things done on time in order and completely verges on willful and malicious incompetance.

I am not one of these people.
Luckily, neither is Eldest Child; we have about the same approach to things, and the same total confusion when faced with schedules and lists and tasks that have to be done over and over, completely, like sweeping and wiping down counters. I'm rather proud of how moderately I've grown up, I can make a timetable, clean a kitchen, balance a checkbook. But that doesn't mean I'll stick to the timetable or feel the need to clean the kitchen ever again, ever. I understand now that some things have to be done, but I still assume that anything lost will be found eventually and that "schedule" is synonymous with "mild suggestion". I think I'll live; I suspect I'll still manage to pay my taxes and feed my kids and avoid living in dumpsters, though I might still live in a dump. But I will have to learn to live with a boss for whom a lost anything is a disaster.

In the meantime, perhaps in twisted vengeance for the stress-nausea, I have taken to vengeance-eating. Because a boss without snack food must be a very sad boss indeed.

I really do like this person, you realize.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

One's dreams are never as interesting to other people as to oneself.

Two nights ago, I dreamed that I was some sort of environmentalist research scientist, living with my beloved other scientists in a research post on top of a rock on top of a jungle mountain over a green sea where we swam every day. (The water was warm, if two-dimensional, and full of - dolphins? seals? Some mammal.) Orders came from on high that we would be moved, fo some typical evil purpose - we'd published results someone didn't like, or they wanted to build a military base on the jungle mountain, or something. We refused to go, we went down into a bunker - strangely like a spartan beach condo - in the heart of the mountain, the last place the - fire - would reach. They were going to come after us, bomb us, kill us, and I was the one who decided - though I was not the leader - to turn us in. I decided that the people around me, these seven other scientists who I loved, should stay alive to fight the next battle, should be alive blockading nuclear submarines and chaining themselves to bulldozers and sailing the world in tie-dyed t-shirts forty years from now. So I opened the door, and went up to the command post, and I saw my friends hauled off in handcuffs - but still alive, I said to myself. I opened the door, and we all lived.

Last night I dreamed that I was a middle-aged black woman, an activist, with a tiny daughter. I lived in a city in a situation of constant struggle - tear gas, police helicopters, the whole bit. A wealthy industrialist killed my daughter and ate her. And yet somehow I ended up his hostage, me and a handful of other people, and I guess the Stockholm Syndrome set in, because I started siding with this guy, seeing things from his point of view, even though he'd killed my beloved child, even though he - who in my dream wore very nice suits and flashy jewelry - was the enemy. I think in my dream, again, I was negotiating to keep my friends alive, but this time the emotional stakes were a lot higher. In the end I was running, running somewhere, and molotov cocktails were being thrown all around me, at me, and I wondered if maybe they were right to target me, if I was now part of the enemy, if I had betrayed everything.

Today I was emailed the new Zapatista declaration. (word doc). It's all fairy tales; it makes my heart hurt to think the door might be open, the possibility might exist, especially because I know now what revolution looks like, at least more than I used to. I am afraid, my friends, but/and my subconcious thinks I'm a sellout.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Other People's Memories

1) In the car back from driving my sister to camp, a song (This Moment? something) was on the radio in the dusk, and it was the kind that you can hear staticking from a tinny record player in a linoleum-floored room, dusty screens on the windows, where women in flared skirts and heels dance with boys with buzz cuts. My dad talked about his big brother, high school class of '57, who went out in a cloud of Aqua Velva aftershave, gelled hair and a jacket with Pall Mall cigarettes in the pocket, and came back with lipstick on his collar.

2) Two yard sales next door to each other up the street. One of them is an estate sale - the aged father has just died - and when I buy a sewing pattern next door his son calls me over and offers me his mother's sewing stuff. We're upstairs looking for a pattern box in a room filled with his mother's newspaper clippings and old photos and tiny black velvet hats, and by the time I've gone they've given me a doll she sewed (porcelain, with a sprigged muslin dress) and an old mohair coat, protesting when I try to pay them. In the box of patterns I find a day planner, 1954, the year she graduated high school. The first half of the planner is full every day, with dances and dates and sleepovers with friends and notes about school. (School: Boring. School: hanged dull. School: Oh hell.) Halfway through a name appears: Dick T. She goes several weeks without seeing him. "Have been in a mood all day." her entry reads. "Nothing appeals to me. I am grumpy and dull." The next day he writes her. "Everything is wonderful!" she writes. A few entries read, "was supposed to go to the dance with Peeves. Dated Dick." On her birthday, he pinned her; two days before the New Year he asked her to marry him. In "Notes for 1955", only one thing is written: November: Marry Dick.

I walked back to the other end of the neighborhood and returned it, of course. Their mother A. is still alive; her children said she'd want to read it. I think they must have had a happy marriage: "It didn't say what they did on those dates", her son said. "Maybe a circle means something good." I'm glad I gave the book back, and have a box of patterns, for dresses with narrow waists and full skirts and little hats like curled velvet shells with veils.

Friday, July 01, 2005

If I kept a news blog, every entry would start "in this week's New Yorker..."

But there is an article in this week's New Yorker(some background here) that passes the smell test about Iraq better than anything else I've read. Its analysis is excellent. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that "excellent analysis" is my highest form of praise, never mind that I rarely do any analysis at all. "Poor analysis" is nearly an irrecoverable damnation. Good analysis, after all, is a gift given; making the peices work together and increasing understanding is a generous thing to do. It is not isolated and intellectual; good analysis looks and smells and sounds like the real world. One of the problems I've been having with this war is that none of the analysis - left, right, mainstream news, whathaveyou - passes that smell test for me. This article does.

Maybe I'm just being told what I want to hear. But shouldn't things make sense if they're true?

Feel free to read the article and get back to me.