Productive artists

NBTB-beakerhead intrude banner

This week, I am pensive and volatile, introspective and critical, vibrating with anxiety and full of energy. I am all these conflicting, competing things and I am struggling to make my words perform the way they want to.

Flora: “I’m feeling so sad. I don’t know why!”

Me too, little flower,me too. I put an arm around her and suggest we go up to bed, watch an episode of Friends together—mind pap, not even brain candy, more like Pablum that used to be the marquee brand but has now been retired, gathering dust on a creaky shelf in an old warehouse. It’s well past its expiry date—no matter, today, we will eat it anyway, because it’s what we… well, not what we need. But what we want, right now.

We watch. But it’s not about the watching. It’s about the cuddling—the 22 minutes of togetherness and physical contact and presence. The show on the laptop ensures we can be together without words. Without me lecturing (or whining). Her justifying (trying to put into words what can be silence).

Flora’s little brother was evil today and I worry that I am raising a vandal, possibly, worse, the Anti-Christ, a destroyer of worlds. I’m probably not—but I worry. That’s what mothers do, you know. Worry, worry, worry.

Flora’s worried too. She’s going on a trip next week, to New York City! With her grandmother, without me. She’s excited.

But worried.

Why?

Flora: “I’m concerned it’s not going to be productive.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, whose sentiment is she echoing there? Not mine, or is it? (What she means, really, is “I’m worried I will miss you.” But she chooses those other words. They’re safer.) Her father strokes her hair and kisses the tip of her nose. “To an artist, every experience is productive, important,” he says. I smile. Idly wonder if I should interject, correct “to an artist” to “to a human.” We respect-recognize-value-nurture the artist within Flora so much, but maybe that’s as harmful as trying to squash it, suppose down the line, she decides she’s over this drawing thing and she wants to be a neurologist, shop keeper or construction worker? Are we limiting her with the label?

(mothers, worry, worry, worry, worry…)

Flora’s room, in its glorious messiness, artistic chaos is so beautiful to me. When I open the door and peek in there, I am flooded with joy and love—her room is evidence of her creativity, her freedom, her exploration of the world and of herself in an explosion of colour. It is her self, her soul made physical—the same way my the space-that-is-me-made-into-place is mine (or, I detour, the way my words are me? Are my words me? That’s another story to explore…)

We have been talking about rejigging the children’s rooms for some time now, doing, finally, the Canadian thing and giving them each a room. This week, trembling under the weight of deadlines, consumed with anxiety over “Why haven’t they gotten the mark up back to me yet!” (and also, “why haven’t they paid me, yet, again, oh, wait, they don’t do that anymore, it’s most cost-effective for them not to pay their writers, bastards, I really need to rethink my career NOW”), I channel the nervous energy into making that happen.

It’s a game of dominos—the old film production office on the flood plain transforms into a sanctuary for me and Sean (“But it’s so cold!” “Yeah, but it’s two stories away from the ears of the children!” “And the bathroom!” “Lover, it will be so good, you’ll see…”), Flora, taking over the big bedroom currently shared by the boys and their Lego, Cinder into the shoebox with the big window that’s currently Flora’s over-crowded room (“Roof access!” he proclaims gleefully. “If you abuse the roof access, I’m going to put bars on it,” I warn him. “No you won’t,” he retorts. “It’s our fire escape.” Busted, dammit, never make threats you can’t keep), and Ender inheriting the former family bedroom with the king size mattress he’s been peeing on since he’s been born.

(As we play the dominos necessary to effect the change, I am most excited that my future holds a mattress free of child urine. Yes, yes, yes, YES!)

“Why does Flora get the biggest room?” this from Ender, the third child who’s most sensitive to “not fair”—and says “not fair” even when things are perfectly equitable and reasonable; “not fair” means “I don’t like this.”

I want to say, first impulse, “Because she’s an artist,” but of course, he has an artist within too. So, instead, “Because she needs the space and the light. You and Daddy can use her studio sometimes to draw and paint in—that’s part of the deal.”

“Not fair,” the little vandal humphs and goes off in search of, what? Possibly a hammer, something to smash. To follow him, or to risk it? I follow. He goes to a bin of Lego, starts to create.

I sigh with relief, for the moment. Call for Cinder to help me move a dresser down two flights of stairs. He takes over the logistics of the operation. “As you’re still a little bigger, you’d better be at the bottom,” he instructs me. I look up at him–yeah, another inch, and he will be bigger than me, and I suspect he might already be stronger… “No, just one stair at a time at the top here, but at the third step, veer right and over…” We get the dresser—it’s actually an antique Chinese medicine cabinet, totally useless as a dresser, three pairs of socks fit in each drawer, and my bras barely, BUT I LOVE IT, it is so beautiful—down to the bottom floor without hammering any new holes in the wall. I feel very satisfied. Productive. Lifting heavy stuffy, moving shit from one room to another—when you’ve done it, you feel you’ve done something, accomplished something, right?

Changing three words in a perfectly good sentence to make it better… not quite the same oomph. Waiting for a response to your email, phone message? Utterly draining.

Pensive and volatile, introspective and critical, vibrating with anxiety and full of energy, I survey the chaos I’ve thrust my house into. The work’s not done yet, but my minions are exhausted. “Go play,” I command, and they scatter.

I text a witch to ask if she can come smudge, exorcise some of the 2013 anxiety from the flood plain-level ex-office, our new bedroom.

Do all the things. Then, drink wine with people I love. Sleep like the dead.

Wake up, still pensive and volatile, introspective and critical, vibrating with anxiety and full of energy. Which is good, because there’s still so much to do…

xoxo

“Jane”

NBTB-beakerhead 2015 intrude

A colourful life

nbtb-colourfullife2

I.

Pop culture rules, according to Flora:

“If you wanna be a pop star, you’ve got to have a rapper friend.”

I think she nailed it, don’t you?

II.

Agriculture, as Ender sees it:

“Wheat is the most important crop, because you need it to make cupcakes. Everyone should grow more cupcakes. And also, popsicles.”

Goddammit. When I wasn’t paying attention, I raised a proponent of the default agricultural-cultural hegemony. Where, oh-where, to start the deprogramming?

III.

Cinder wants to make my life more colourful:

Jane: “What! The! Hell! Did! You! Do! To! The! Toilet!”

Cinder: “I put red food colouring in the toilet tank. See?”

Jane: “OMFG. You’ve dyed the porcelain of our toilet pink.”

Cinder: “Really?”

Jane: “Really. Fuck. I don’t know if bleach will take it out. What were you thinking, baby?”

Cinder: “That it would be pretty?”

Well. That it is.

IV.

So, this just came out of my mouth:

“Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

No, I did not just give you an argument for the existence of God. Did I? Fuck. That was not my intent… What I meant was…

You know what? Do with that what you will. I have no control over what happens in your head… Indeed, I don’t understand what happens in there are all…

But that’s okay. I’m a mystery to you too, aren’t I?

Yet we both exist… 😉

V.

The six mantras of loving speech, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

  1. I am here for you.

  2. I know you are there, and I’m happy.

  3. I know you suffer, and that’s why I’m here for you.

  4. I suffer. Please help.

  5. This is a happy moment.

  6. You are partly right.

(The Art of Communicating)‎

VI.

Flora: “You’re going to blog about the pink toilet bowl, aren’t you?

Jane: “How can I not? But I gave you the lead, chickadee. Look.”

Flora: “Ooooh. Cool. Who are you going to close with?”

I think… with Hafez. Sort of.

VII.

This is for you. And you. And you. And her, the one hiding over there, her too:

Those kisses you sent, I found them wandering
around the house. They were acting a little
lost, not knowing exactly where I was.

I was busy upstairs. But now we are all having
tea and talking about you, and wishing you
were here.

And they imparted all you intended. They did
well.

One more thing: I have seen you at your best
and at your worst; still you are always welcome
near me.

Daniel Ladinsky, channeling Hafez

xoxo

“Jane”

photo (71)

Photo: Pimping our ride for Beakerhead (also, messy hands from another art project)! If you live in yyc and environs, you’re Beakerheading this week, right? Right.

Read my mind, Part II

NBTB-read my mind 2

I promised to tell you, didn’t I? And I usually keep my promises. (Except when I can’t.)

So.

I cook the way I write. It’s true. I invite her into the kitchen to watch, and you can too. Just stay out of my way and don’t ask any questions.

It goes like this:

I walk into the kitchen. I don’t do the dishes, I don’t wash the kitchen floor.* I shove the crap on the table and counters towards the back to make some space. I open the fridge. There’s nothing, nothing.

A limp carrot.

A can of coconut milk, half-used.

A bag of… what the fuck was that? Cauliflower?

Flora: Mooom! You’re not going to make us eat that, are you?

Jane: I was thinking about it. I hate wasting food.

Cinder: Mooom! Sometimes, you’ve just got to let things go.

It’s true. And it’s a metaphor, too: some things belong in the pot (on the page) and some, even though they’re there… you’ve got to junk.

The bag of cauliflower (maybe? maybe something else? sweet potatoes?) goes into the garbage.

I take my favourite cast iron pot and scrub it clean—what I’m going to do is, I’m going to toss some rice (sushi) and lentils (red) into its bottom, add a beef bone and the carrot…

Actually, I think there’s some frozen chicken thighs in the freezer, yah? Yah! OK. Keep the beef bone? Maybe… Fuck, yes, lemon grass! And in the fridge—was not there a container of left-over bananas-and-peaches-baked-with-maple-syrup-so-good-but-not-as-good-as-when-they-were-hot?

I see… possibility.

Flora: You could go to Safeway and get some groceries.

I could. But that’s a minimum 45 minutes out of my day, and a 45 minute delay on getting supper on the table, and 45 minutes spent doing something that’s really unnecessary if I just work with what I have.**

I’m thinking… Caribbean-Thai fusion. Something like that. Maybe.

I reach for the cast iron pot… mmm, but not in the pot. Is there a pan? There is. Layer, sprinkle—oh yeah, toss in the gnocchi that we’re not going to finish otherwise, why not—and cover with aluminum foil.

Into the oven.

Cinder: What are we having for supper? I thought you were making slop in a pot.

Jane: It’s now slop in a pan.

Cinder: Lasagna?

Jane: Sort of. Except without the noodles, tomato sauce and cheese.

Flora: Is it going to be good?

Jane: I hope so. We won’t know until we taste it.***

*

Interlude: there’s a freak crazy hail storm, the alley floods and the power goes out. Fortunately, the slop in a pan has been in a hot stove for a few hours; the stove holds the heat. When, storm triage is done and we know we’re not going to flood, I put it on the table.

*

Cinder: Wow, this is really good.

Flora: Mmmm… interesting. A little weird. Not quite what I expected. But, edible. Definitely edible.

Sean: This is the best thing you’ve ever made, OMFG, it is so delicious, can I have thirds?

(He’s my target audience, by the way. Nailed it.)

Ender: This is disgusting. Can I have a margarine sandwich?

(He’s not my target audience. And I know this, so it doesn’t hurt. Much.)

As I spread margarine on rye bread for the ungrateful child, Sean suggests that “I don’t really like it” or “It’s not for my taste buds yet” might be better ways of expressing a culinary opinion. Ender shrugs. Bites into the effort-free, uncreative margarine sandwich, devours it, thrilled.

Sean: Do you ever think we should just feed them buttered bread for supper every day?

Jane: Sometimes. But. You know.

He reads my mind. Nods.

And… yeah. That’s how I cook.

That’s pretty much how I write.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’ve just had an idea for something I could do with that bag of (was it?) cauliflower. Not the one I threw in the garbage—even I have limits. The metaphorical one. The piece I cut from the last piece I wrote? Yeah. Wrong ingredient for that. But I think… if I use it like this… Yes.

Possibilities.

NBTB-read my mind 2

xoxo

“Jane”

*

**

*** … I was going to make these metaphors explicit. But I don’t need to, do I? Not for you. Read my mind.

Read my mind, Part I

nbtb-read my mind 1

I.

Client: What I want you to do is, well—I want you to read my mind and to deliver a product that’s exactly what I need and want it to be—without me having to tell you what it is that I want and need. Got it? I don’t actually want to take the time to give you instructions, to explain to you what I want.

Jane: Yeah… that’s not gonna work.

II.

Sean: Love, but the problem is, you don’t want to tell me what you need and want. You want me to read your mind.

Jane: What’s so fucking hard about that?

Why I love him: he heard that first conversation. And he doesn’t call me a hypocrite.

III.

You: I would really love to watch you write.

Jane: Yeah… watching a writer write is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Flora: Not! True! She makes the most amusing, the most horrible faces.

Cinder: And sometimes, if you time it just right—if, at just the right moment, you say, “Mom! Where’s the charger for the iPad?” or “Mooooom! I’m hungry!”—she channels Cthulhu. And. It’s. Awesome.

The goddamn bums. Did you catch that? They. Do. It. On. Purpose.

Oh, for a room of her own… with a lock on the door.

(Soundproof, too…)

IV.

I can read Ender’s mind. Totally.

Jane: Don’t even think about it.

Ender: But…

Jane: No!

Ender: Come on!

Jane: No! Way!

Ender: Humph. Fine.

He stalks off. I dial.

Jane: Hi, Ender’s on his way to your house. Whatever he asks—I already said no.

Her: K. Good to know.

It takes a village, don’t you know.

V.

Client: This isn’t at all what I had in mind.

Jane: Good. Now I have a little more information. I still don’t know what you want. But I have a better idea of what you don’t want. Let’s talk about what, specifically, you don’t like about this.

Client: I don’t know. It just doesn’t speak to me. It doesn’t pop. Make it… snappier. More… you know… more… something or other, you know? Like this… but different.

Jane: You’re fired.

*

Interlude: A neighbourhood cat wanders into my basement office while I write. Sniffs around. Possibly pees in the laundry room.

*

VI.

You can’t watch me write, lover. But next week, I’ll tell you how I cook. It’s like writing… but different.

nbtb-read my mind 1

xoxo

“Jane”

Roadkill

nbtb-roadkill

I.

The car in front of us hits a jaywalking squirrel and as I swerve to not roll over the destroyed, twitching little body, Flora bursts into tears.

“Can we stop, can we save it?”

There is nothing to save; it is too dangerous to stop. I shake my head. She weeps all the way to the library. I reach out and hold her hand and let tears well up in my eyes.

(The mother I was two years ago, would have told her to control herself, to get a grip, to stop.)

II.

It’s 8:30 p.m., and the sun is low even here, and so the lake beach is deserted and the lake water, never warm, freezing cold. Flora and I are swimming through it, to the floating dock. There was a dead fish floating there earlier that she really, really wanted to examine… I promised we’d come back when all the other children—who were so grossed out by her zoologist’s desire to see what the fish was, how it died, where its wounds were they screeched and screamed and called for their parents—were gone.

The children are gone, and so is the fish.

Flora, disappointed, lets tears come. Then lets them dry up. We swim through the cold water, back to the shore.

(That’s the mother I want to be: the kind who goes back to the beach at sunset and swims through ice cold water to look for a dead fish with my child. Write that on my tombstone.)

III.

I can’t remember why they start planning my funeral, exactly—Flora and Cinder, I mean. I think it’s because we’re talking about the suicides of various famous people, and of course that naturally segues to burials and funeral rites and wakes, and I say how I really don’t want to have a funeral, but I realize it’s not about me—I’ll be dead, what do I care—it’s about the other people. And Flora, party planner extra-ordinaire, says,

“We’ll make it a big, big party! Who do you want to invite?”

“I don’t fucking care; I’ll be dead. All the people who want to come: all the people who love me.”

“We should invite all the people who hate you too; they’ll be really happy to dance at your funeral. Do you keep a list of those?”

I don’t. But apparently, I should, for my funeral.

Cinder prepares the song list. He’s going to lead with “Highway to Hell.” Follow up with “Staying Alive.”

Flora adds “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” (“Especially if you’re murdered,” she says. WTF? I think.) Also, the Barenaked Ladies’ “Big Bang Theory Theme Song.” She pauses. “We end with Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church.’ It’ll be kind of ironic, get it?”

I suggest the “Macarena” instead. They don’t get it.

(The human I want to be doesn’t want to be afraid of dying. And I don’t think, if I lead the full life I want to lead, I will be. Will I? So hard to know what will be. Hard enough to be aware, appreciative of what is.)

IV.

Ender’s favourite bedtime book right now is I’m A Seed, written by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by  Judith Moffatt.

“How many books are you going to read me tonight, Mama?”

he asks. I consult the level of exhaustion in my body.

“Four.”

I say.

He asks me to read I’m A Seed four times.

I raise my eyebrows. Feel “No” and rebellion rising in my chest, and then pause. What is the difference between reading the one book I’ve already read him dozens of times four times tonight… and reading four books I’ve already read him dozens of times?”

I read:

“I’m a seed!”

“Me too!”

Four times. Treat it as meditation.

(That’s the mother-human I always aspire to be; too often fail. Today, I achieve. Kiss his sweaty head as he falls asleep. Realize I’ve forgotten to brush his teeth. Fuck.)

V.

“Mom? Are you still thinking about the dead squirrel?”

No. Not even a little bit. But that’s not what she wants to hear.

“Mmmm. You?”

“Yes.”

I hold her tight.

nbtb-roadkill

xoxo

“Jane”

Vices, Heaven

NBTB-VICES HEAVEN

I.

I have this neighbour who only ever sees me when I’m loading my kids into the car. Three out of four times, I’m yelling at them. Example:

Jane: It. Is. 11. A. M. And. I. Am. Already. Sick. Of. You. Will. You. Stop. Fighting. Before. I. Go. Raving. Mad?

I suppose she thinks I’m a terrible mother.

I think I’m providing a public service. No matter how bad her day goes, her Super-Ego can reassure her Ego by whispering to it,

“Well, at least you didn’t call your children fucking assholes this morning…”

(I didn’t actually call them fucking assholes, but the phrase was strongly inferred in the yelling. And yes. I thought it.)

II.

Jane: Your job, now, is to look out for a coffee shop. Starbucks, Second Cup, Tim Horton’s, I don’t care—I need to be caffenaited. NOW.

Cinder: You know, Mom, you’re not supposed to drink coffee after 10 a.m.

Jane: Do you want me to yell at you again? Find me a coffee shop, now. Starbucks! Yes! Wait here. Don’t drive away. Don’t let anyone steal the car. If the dog jumps out through the window, don’t follow her. I’ll be right back.

Flora: Mom? Have you ever thought that you might have a problem?

Yes. Yes, I have. But you know what? I only have three vices right now, and this is the least troublesome one of them. Caffenaite me. Now.

III.

Hell is being trapped in a car in traffic while three children sing “What does the fox say.”

IV.

Heaven is this rocky river bank I know. Bald eagles and ospreys fly overhead, the water is fucking cold but blissful. The children roam free, and there are no other people.

The bitch of it is—to get to heaven, you have to first endure hell.

NBTB-VICES HEAVEN

V.

A stranger wanders by.

Stranger: Having a good day?

Jane: No, not really.

FYI: pretty much the best way to get a person to walk away from you as quickly as their knobbly legs can carry them.

VI.

Flora: Feeling better, Mom?

Jane: Gods, yeah. Thanks, babe. But that doesn’t mean you guys can start acting like little jerks again.

Flora: No, we’re all feeling better too.

We have lemon meringue pie for dinner. Then lazy sushi* for dessert.

VII.

On the way home, after I stop to pick up the lemon meringue pie and cucumbers for the sushi, I swing by the liquor store.

Cinder: Jeesus, Mom, how much wine are you planning to drink tonight?

Jane: That all depends on you.

I’m joking. Really. A glass, maybe two with dinner. That is not one of my vices. Although, between June 22, 2013 and June 21, 2014, it was definitely one of my more common, yet least effective coping techniques.

VIII.

Flora: I wish I understood Ender’s fascination with dog’s butts.

Cinder: I can explain it to you.

Jane: Please wait until I’m out of the room…

IX.

Exhausted, Ender falls asleep on the couch. Excited, Flora packs her lunch for camp.

Jane: What do you want to do, Cinders?

Cinder: Take over the world with Paul and Sam.

Jane: Go to it.

Cinder: What are you going to do?

Jane: Come up with creative excuses not to work.

Cinder: Go to it.

I do.

X.

I actually kind of feel like working. Magic combination of afternoon coffee + wine with supper + chocolate for dessert for the win.

xoxo

“Jane”

19.7.2015

P.S. Lazy sushi: Make rice. Shred carrot. Cut a cucumber into long pieces. Ditto avocado. Put basil, cilantro or something like that on a plate. Shred crab meat or left-over chicken. Cut seaweed paper into squares. Put everything on the table. Have everyone make their own sushi cones or maki rolls. It’s like tacos… but different.

Anarchy, not

nbtb-anarchy not

I.

So. This happens:

Cinder: Mom! The light in the bathroom burned out!

Jane: I know!

Cinder: Are you going to put in a new bulb?

Jane: Well, I was thinking about it, but the bathroom was getting really grodie, to that “I need to clean it or the world will end” state, and I was starting to feel bad about it, like I should maybe, you know, clean it, but now that it’s dark in there, I don’t feel that way, so now I can get back to that “OMFG-it’s-finished-it’s-almost finished” project and…

Flora: Oh-my-god-mom-you’re-insane. Where are the bulbs?

Jane: Home Depot.

Flora: We have no spare light bulbs in the house?

Jane: Well, they were in the basement, but then there was that flood thing…

Flora: That was two years ago.

Cinder: Are you saying you’re not going to put a new bulb in the bathroom? Do you expect me to pee in the dark?

Jane: Entitled child, how hard is it to get your pee into the toilet? Leave the door open!

Flora: Mom! You have two sons!

Cinder: You will regret this.

Fuck. I will. I know.

Fortunately, when their father comes home and notices the bathroom light’s burned out, he just changes it. Without fanfare, drama.

II.

“everyone feels the inanity of the sad family nucleus”

The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection

III.

I am too practical-cynical-critical and insufficiently romantic to be an anarchist. But I enjoyed reading J. Jack Halberstam’s Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2014) enormously.

IV.

Sean: Are you going to write about the end of the nuclear family again? Cause that always makes me twitchy.

Jane: No, not the end…

V.

The thing is, what’s inane/sad about the family nucleus is that it’s NOT ENOUGH. It needs to be one part of the web of the relationships that support parents, children. Not the end-all, be-all.

The beginning? The centre? I’m not even sure about that. Because it isn’t the beginning, unless you reject/lose where you—the adults—come from… And the centre? Sometimes, maybe.

And sometimes, not.

And throughout: it’s not enough to have just one other adult watching your back, providing you with support—define support as you will, emotional, physical, financial, other. I know you despise clichés, Internet memes and tried-and-truisms as much as I do… but…

 

You: Are you going to say ‘It takes a village’ again? Cause I’m gonna vomit if you do.

Me: At this moment, I don’t think even a village is enough. It takes an entire society, culture. Think about it. Everything is related, interdependent…

VI.

“Mutual aid or mutual protection or new notions of exchange actually flourish already in the worlds we inhabit and those we are making as we go—open-source exchanges on the Web, cooperative food collectives, subcultures, new modes of kinship, and different understandings of our mutual responsibilities exist already for the purpose of exchange and not profit, and this motion of working with others rather than in competition is probably the only thing that will save us from the greed of free-market economies.”

Jack Halberstam,
Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal

VII.

You: You’re incoherent, and just kind of babbling.

Me: I know. I have too many thoughts in my head, and I can’t exert any kind of discipline upon them at the moment.

You: How almost anarchistic of you.

Me: Shut up and let me free-form.

VIII.

Cinder: Mom? Can we turn on the sprinkler in the back?

Jane: No!

Cinder: Why not? It’s like 100 degrees Celsius!

It’s not. It’s only 33. Still. For a Northern Hemisphere human: boiling hot.

Jane: Because you will turn the weed patch into a mud pit, get filthy, and then need baths, and I’ll have to clean the bathroom!

Cinder: You said it was so grodie you had to clean it anyway!

Point. Sigh.

I text Sean: Why, why, why did you have to put a new light bulb in the bathroom?

Sean: You’re welcome?

Jane: Sob.

Sean: Are you ok? Is your work not going well? I thought you were at the “OMFG-it’s-finished-it’s-almost-finished” stage?

Jane: But then you fixed the light in the bathroom.

See? EVERYTHING is connected.

IX.

There is a mud pit in my backyard, my bathroom is still filthy, I’m proofing that “OMFG-I-think-it’s-finished” project, and I’m planning a party.

I think I’ll clean the bathroom for that. Actually…

Jane: Hey, Flora? Wanna make $20?

Flora: Does it involve taking care of Ender while you write?

Jane: No…

Flora: Let’s talk.

Tapping into the greed of free-market economies for the win…

xoxo

“Jane”

nbtb-anarchy not

Difficult-awkward-flow

nbtb-difficult-awkward-flow

nbtb-difficult-awkward-flow

I.

Sometimes, I do this: stroke into stroke into letter into letter into word into word into sentence and another one and look, there’s a paragraph, and then, what?

There is a book, by Stanely Eugene Fish, called, How To Write A Sentence. It is an academic book, a critical analytical reader’s book, a lover of words book, but not a writer’s book. No writer should ever read it.

Flora: “Whatcha doing, Mom?”

Jane: “I’m writing about writing.”

Flora: “Is that as pointless as reading about reading?”

Jane: “Pretty much.”

But I’m doing it because in this moment, writing about anything else is too difficult.

II.

I’m at this conference thing, and there’s a break, and the room naturally, inevitably divides into editors and writers. The editors are talking about participles and dangling modifiers.

The writers don’t actually know what any of those words mean.

That’s why we have editors.

III.

Jane: “Why! Are! You! Guys! So! Evil!”

Cinder: “It’s not our fault, Mom. It’s the way we were raised.”

Flora: “They fuck you up, your Mom and Dad.”

Ender: “I! Am! The! Most! Evil! Thing! In! The! World!”

IV.

Stroke into stroke into letter into word into sentence… it’s called practice, perseverance. It becomes chasing flow. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t—there is only word after word, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, oh, fuck, look, 500 words, 1400 words, it’s done. It’s not good. But it’s done. (The editors will make it better. Sometimes, even good.)

You can’t explain that to the people who say “Oh, I just love to write.” See, because they stop as soon as it’s difficult.

V.

I used to procrastinate by cleaning house, did I ever tell you that? My mom or Sean would take the kids out, I’d sit at the computer, the words wouldn’t come, and I’d get on my hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor until it shone. Clean baseboards. That awkward-to-reach place in the bathroom.

I don’t do that anymore. I chase flow. The kitchen floor be damned.

Sean: “You’ve noticed I clean the kitchen floor now, right?”

Jane: “Um… sure, baby. Yes. Thank you so much.”

Jane: “Um… do you ever clean that awkward-to-reach place in the bathroom?”

Sean: “There’s an awkward-to-reach place in the bathroom?”

Yeah… I wonder what’s growing there…

But not enough to check.

xoxo,

“Jane”

But I would drive 500 miles, and I would drive 500 more…

nbtb-500 miles

I.

Cinder, 13 (too grown up, not adult enough, don’t hurry, my love, stay a little boy longer, longer), wakes me up at 4:30 in the morning on a day on which I’ve set the alarm for 5:08 a.m. in anticipation of an eight-hour road trip. He has a sore throat, is sniffly, hasn’t slept all night, and it’s almost time to wake up, and he’s upset.

“I’m sick, is this going to ruin our trip to Kelowna?”

he asks, on the verge of tears (too grown up to dare to cry, not grown up enough to know that you never stop needing to). He’s been looking forward to this trip, counting down the days, for nine months—since the last one.

“Nothing is going to ruin our trip to Kelowna,”

I promise boldly.

“I’m going to dope you up and give you a bag of lozenges to suck on through the car ride. You will snooze and rest. And by the time you are on a beach with your friends, you will be fine.”

(Hey, sore throat and runny nose: We reject your reality and substitute our own.*)

603.2 kilometres, eight hours through the winding Rocky Mountain roads, three over-excited children, one under-slept driver.

“Jesus, Mom, are you stopping for coffee again? We’re never going to get there!”

“Do you want to live? If I don’t drink more coffee, we will really never get there.”

But we get there, we get there in record time, by 1 p.m., we are eating cake for lunch. The Posse is reunited, and my best girl and I are crying all over each other’s shoulders, and an hour later, seven kids are in Lake Okanagan, and two women are trying to say EVERYTHING to each other.

nbtb-500 miles

“How can you guys have so much to say to each other? You text every day!”

—that, from Flora, to me and Marie.

“How can you guys have missed each other so much? You Skype for hours every day!”

—that, from me to the Posse.

^^^And there, in an oversimplification that isn’t, you’ve got everything that’s wrong with cyber-tribes. They’re contact, connection… but they’re not enough.

II.

I can’t remember when I first met Marie. “Isn’t that funny?” I tell her. I do remember a handful of awkward first contacts, coffees, “playdates” (I fucking hate that phrase). I can’t quite remember, though, either what it was that drew me to her—nor the moment at which I realized we were friends, and life-long friends at that. (Neither one of us is particularly fond of strangers.) Maybe it was that her house, like mine, had a solidly “lived in,” messy look. That her kids were barefoot and always moving and even louder than mine (to be fair, there were more of them). Or that we could go together to the river for six, seven hours—and either talk for all six of those hours or be silent for most of the seven, and it was all good.

She taught me more about vulnerability and courage than any other human I’ve encountered on my journey so far.

III.

Stretched out in the hot sun while the kids play in the cold water, Marie and I talk about boys, girls, husbands, exes, currents, potentials, children, shoes, books, art, writing, work, the red dress or the blue dress, the meaning of life, ticks, fleas, “what do bed bug bites look like anyway?” (don’t ask) and how to get caterpillar gut stains out of white cotton (you can’t).

“Mooom! I’m hungry!”

“I’m bored!”

“Mom! He called me a…”

“They’re picking on me!”

“Mom, where’s my life jacket?”

“Mooooom, I need…”

nbtb-kids on raft

We feed them. Water them. Re-apply sunscreen. Deliver a lecture on big people taking care of little people, and on not being asses to each other, and then tell them to go the hell away. We have more talking to do.

IV.

She leaves me in charge of supper when she goes to work. I go all out:

nbtb-simple supper

Then, I work too:

nbtb-sleeping while i work

When she comes back, half the children are gaming, and the other half unconscious:**

nbtb-gamers and jumpers

(I mean sleeping. Really.)

(Half of seven is… well, I can’t chop one of them in half. You know what I mean. Fractions are not poetic.)

I pour wine. We talk some more. When the gamers interrupt us, looking for more snacks (“For goddsakke, do you guys NEVER stop eating?” “Never!” “Not true—we were just gaming for two hours with not a single snack break!”), we’re crying. Or laughing.

It’s hard to tell the difference.

Both are necessary.

V.

We’re still, by the way, texting. While she’s at work:

“Hey, the twins and Ender are riding skateboards in the house. Is that cool? What are your house rules around that?”

While she’s making sure the kids don’t drown and I’m getting coffee:

“If it’s not too late, honey in my cappuccino, k, babe? Oh, and remind me to tell ya what happened on Tuesday when…”

While I’m at the grocery store:

“For Chrissake, this is fucking British Columbia, why is there no local produce in this store?”

“Where are you?”

“Your local IGA.”

“Yeah, it sucks. You need to go to…”

VI.

We watch our kids love each other and love being with each other, and it makes us love them more—and each other more. “Do you think they will be friends, when they are 20? When they are 40?” she asks. We don’t know, of course.

But we do know we, Marie and I, are going to be friends when we’re 60. 78.*** I’m gonna give her rides on my Vespa scooter. She’s going to buy me costume jewelry at Value Village. We’re going to wear age-inappropriate bikinis on Okanagan beaches and talk about boys, girls, husbands, exes, currents, potentials, children, grandchildren, orthopedic shoes (can they be sexy? Or do we just need to stop trying?) and support stockings (oh, those varicose veins!), books, art, writing, work, the red dress or the blue dress, the meaning of life, people who look like their pets, dentures, people who piss us off (“maybe it’s her, maybe it’s too much Botox”), and whether lime green toe nail polish on your 76-year-old feet is a strike against ageism or a cry for help (“Independence, baby! Don’t you fucking dare tell me what I can or cannot do to my toes!”).

And when I’m too blind, to old to ride that Vespa, I’m gonna make my kids drive me that 603.2 kilometres… and they’re not going to ask why.

xoxo

“Jane”

nbtb-girls on the town

FOOTNOTES (cause that’s how I roll)

*You may think I’m quoting Mythbusters’ Adam Savage here, but he’s actually quoting Paul Bradford in The Dungeon Master so there you have a quote within a quote within a quote…

**Aunt Augusta—you know Aunt Augusta, right? If you don’t, let me introduce you here: On yelling, authenticity, aspiration, and the usefulness of judgemental relatives-and-strangers—looks at this photo and pursues her lips.

“And you drove 603.2 km so they could play video games in the same room instead of via Skype why, exactly?” she says.

“I drove 603.2 km so that they could play video games in the same room instead of via Skype, exactly,” I smile. “Are you going to your bridge night tonight, Auntie? Yeah? Why, exactly?”

***I had my major life crisis at 38.5-39.2, from which I infer that I will shed this mortal coil at 77-78. I’m good with that. Right now, anyway.

And on that uplifting note, please enjoy this fabulous Proclaimers song:

 

Study in yellows

nbtb-study in yellows

nbtb-study in yellows

I.

Jane: When I have my next mid-life crisis, I’m totally getting a Vespa scooter.

Flora: What did you do the last time you had a mid-life crisis?

Cinder: The less said about that the better.

I kind of agree, but I whack him on the head with my purse (not full of rocks) anyway.

Cinder: But you know, you won’t. You’ll do the math, and you’ll go on a trip instead.

Yeah. Probably. But on my trip—I’m gonna ride a Vespa scooter…

(In a garish, girly colour. Lime green. Hot pink. Sunshine yellow. Oh yeah.)

You: Not a Harley?

Me: Been her, over that.

II.

I’m working in a café, and there is a table of three women near me mapping out a strategy for their business. It will be immensely successful. Because of the youngest chica in the group, the most intense, most passionate, most dominant one.

Except… that youngest chica? The most intense, most talented one? I’m pretty sure she’s going to drop dead of a heart attack by 35. I want to prescribe meditation. Medication. Or a torrid love affair.

Maybe a Vespa. She looks like she’s due for an early mid-life crisis…

III.

Why, yes, I have decided that writing blog posts in very short Roman-numeral numbered verses is my new thing. I’m doing it for your ADD.

And perhaps, mine.

IV.

Ender: Mama-my-mama-mia-mama, FEED ME NOW!

Jane: Will! You! Stop! Yelling! At! Me!

Ender: I! Can’t! Help! It! When! I’m! Quiet! You! Don’t! Listen!

Fuck.

Busted.

V.

Sean: Does it count as date night if we’re both sitting next to each other at the kitchen table working on the same project on our two different laptops?

Jane: Yes. So long as we’re drinking wine, yes.

VI.

Have you ever noticed how, when you have so much work to do it’s overwhelming, paralyzing, and you’re pretty sure there is no way in hell you will ever get it done, instead of attacking it in small, manageable chunks, you kind of ignore the whole thing and decide THIS is the weekend to paint the kitchen?

No? Never mind then.

xoxo

“Jane”

“The child weaned from mother’s milk…”

photo (14)

I.

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.”

Rumi

Rumi’s translator, Coleman Barks, calls the poem that begins with these lines “Unmarked Boxes.” It resonates.

II.

Confession: I’ve just read my first parenting book in near a decade (see The Day I Stopped Reading Parenting Books): Anthony Wolf’s I’d Listen to My Parents If Only They’d Shut Up: What To Say And What Not To Say When Parenting Teens.

This is not, incidentally, a book review, but if it was, it would say, “It has good parts. It has bad parts. Read with a critical filter, take what’s useful, discard the rest.”

III.

I have a teenager now. I am still as much in love with him as I was with the newborn who woke me up every two hours. I will be more frustrated with him than I was with the toddler who pummeled everyone in sight… but that’s fine. That’s part of the package (It doesn’t get easier). My love for him has redefined how I understand, feel, experience love. Myself. The universe. I love him, unconditionally, and I will love him, unconditionally, until my experience of the universe ends.

Here’s something most parents don’t want to hear: he doesn’t love me unconditionally. No child loves a parent unconditionally. Meditate on that.

IV.

Whenever you tell me you love me. I think about what you might possibly feel for me, and what I think I feel for you, and compare it against what I feel for this child, for his siblings, and… if that is love, this is not.

You: Semantics. Always, with the fucking semantics.

Me: Words are important.

You: “What language does so spectacularly is lie, that silver-tongued projector of illusions.” That’s Coleman Barks, so you know it’s true.

Me: Fucking poets. Always telling the truth with their lies.

V.

That Rumi poem, the next line, it goes,

“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box…”

(I was going to be a petty atheist and replace the first words with an ellipsis. But, I didn’t.)

I’m not sure about the metaphor. Is my son an unmarked box? Am I? Mostly, I am very literal—and there are still three unmarked boxes of loss in the space where I create.

VI.

I make my nocturnal teenager crepes and carry them up to his bedroom two hours short of his preferred waking time of noon.

Cinder: Best! Mother! Ever!

Jane: I know. Now wake up and get your sibs out of the house so I can work!

xoxo

“Jane”

photo (14)

P.S. Rumi, same poem: “I don’t want to make anyone fearful / Hear what’s behind what I say.”

Stumbling On Happiness: First, find a squished beetle…

NBTB-Stumbling on Happiness

NBTB-Stumbling on Happiness

So she writes and says, “You haven’t been funny in a while, whazzup?” And I get all defensive and spittle goes out the corners of my mouth—she’s so lucky she’s writing from far away and not sitting across from me. But then I think… haven’t I? Perhaps not. It’s probably Joan Didion’s fault. That, and too much poetry, not enough television. That’s it. Ok. Funny. Funny, funny, funny. I haven’t forgotten how to do funny. Here you go, love:

I.

So we’re walking down the street in the coolest ‘hood in YYC and they’re skipping and I’m skipping and all of a sudden Flora’s in tears, tears, tears, because—squished click beetle, so-very-dead, on the sidewalk.

Cinder: “Look! Another sign of spring!”

And that just makes it worse of course, tears, tears, what to say, wah, I don’t know, must say something, so I say…

Jane: “Sweetheart. Don’t cry. Someone will eat it and it will be part of…”

Flora: “Ugh! That is so gross!”

Cinder: “Betcha Ender will eat it.”

Ender: “Eat what?”

Cinder: “The dead beetle.”

Ender: “Mmmm… maybe?”

Jane: “I meant a bird or something! Not one of you!”

Flora: “Are you sure, Mom? Cause you’re kinda disgusting…”

And also, tricky. D’you see what I did there? Tears—gone.

Click beetle—not eaten by one of my children. But it’s not there when we walk back.

Jane: “See? Someone ate it.”

Cinder: “I bet it was that guy. Look—he’s a-chewing something…”

Ew, ew, ew.

Birds. I’m sure it was birds.

II.

Wow, I think that was it. I. Got. Nothing.

Too much poetry.

III.

yeah… nuthin. Nuthin, nuthin, nuthin funny coming out.

Sorry.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS I’ve just finished reading Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness—brilliant, get it, read it, devour it—and, here, have a joke on Dan:

Two psychologists walk into a bar. One says. “You’re fine. How am I?”

Funny? I don’t know. But this video by Gilbert is funny AND it will tell you why you keep on making choices that don’t make ya’ happy. It won’t tell you how to stop doing that… but, you know. He had to save something for the book:

Original Gilbert TED talk on TED

PS2 Actually, if you’re gonna read the book because you want to make better choices, let me save you some time: you’re kinda screwed, you’re not gonna… but at least you’ll know why. And it’s fatalistic. But if you’re not gonna read the book, at least read this: The Psychology of Your Future Self.

PS3 Why are you still here? Go get off your laptop or ‘fone, find a squished click beetle, stake it out, and see who eats it…

Days of the Week

nbtb-days of the week

I.

Yesterday was the day I wanted to brush Ender’s hair. (I do brush their hair, sometimes.)

Jane: Where the hell is the hairbrush? … OK, so I last brushed your hair, right here, in the middle of the living room. Um… what are the odds that I would have taken it back upstairs to the bathroom?

Cinder: Pretty much zero.

Flora: That doesn’t sounds like something you’d do.

Ender: Didn’t you throw it across the room because you got so mad at me?

We find it. In the Lego tub.

Jane: I definitely did not put it there.

Flora: Don’t look at me.

Cinder: It was probably Ender.

Ender: Sounds like something I would do. So Mom couldn’t find it.

II.

Today is the day that I explain to the children that reading a 700 page book of poetry backwards-and-at-random while listening to Leonard Cohen is something I NEED to do for WORK. IT’s WORK, dammit.

Flora: It. So. Is. Not.

Jane: Pretend it’s the Government of Canada’s Technical Guidance on Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions and LEAVE ME ALONE!

III.

Monday was the day I locked myself in my office (it’s a metaphor; I don’t actually have a door) (I don’t exactly have an office either) (but whatever, I make it work) (it works) (I work) (I write) with Philip Larkin, Mary Oliver, Anne Lamott and The Edge Foundation’s favourite maverick scientists* and then, for a while, abandoned them all for Sufi poets and philosophers. I sucked on the end of a fountain pen I was not using and threw chocolate wrappers at my computer screen, and called it work.

Intermittently, Sean brought me down food, coffee and chocolate.

He didn’t once ask—“Did you finish?”

Nor, “Did you start?”

IV.

Tomorrow is the day Stella’s mom looks after my children in the morning and afternoon and Baby M’s mom will look after Stella in the evening because that’s the way the web of a community works.

V.

Sunday is never a day of rest. But I stop moving, for a while. I have a bath in the dark, with Leonard Cohen.

Ender: Mom? Where are you? Mom? Come outside with me?

Jane: I’m in the bath. Not wearing any clothes. So, um… no.

Ender: Are you crying? Why are you crying?

Fact: You can’t listen to Leonard Cohen in the dark and not cry.

Fact: You can’t cry in front of your children FOR WHATEVER REASON and not freak them out.

Ender: Daaaaddddyyy! Mommy’s crying in the bathroom!

Sean: Um… Jane?

Jane: I’m fine. I’m listening to Leonard Cohen.

Sean: Wouldn’t you rather listen to some happier music?

Jane: No!

I turn on the lights, dry off, get dressed, and take Ender outside. I’m not done NOT moving yet. I lie on the brown, damp grass, soak up the sun.

VI.

Saturday was the day on which Flora slept over at Frederica’s house and Stella had a sleep-over with Ender, and we played Cards Against Humanity and laughed and when the night ended my lungs hurt and maybe, possibly I had broken a rib.

VII.

Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday. They blur and knock into each other and I try to find their rhythm and sometimes I do, but too often it eludes me. An email, phone call in the morning sabotages everything.

You: But you thrive on chaos, right?

Me: That story is running out of juice…

VIII.

Today or tomorrow or maybe yesterday, I will go for a walk with Rumi in my pocket and try to photograph the wind.

IX.

Cinder: What are we having for supper today?

Jane: Oh, fuck. Probably… food. What’s in the fridge?

Flora: Food. An assortment of food.

Jane: Good. Food. We’re having food for supper.

Flora: Some of it’s slimy.

Cinder: Don’t worry. If it’s gross, I’ll bake cookies after.

X.

Today’s the day everything happens, and tomorrow’s the day it all begins again. And I can’t quite remember what happened yesterday. Right. I wanted to brush Ender’s hair, and couldn’t find the hairbrush. But then did.

I have to go now. Leonard Cohen wants me to take another bath with him.

xoxo

“Jane”

nbtb-days of the week

PS I now desire a Blue Raincoat.

*This Idea Must Die, edited by John Brockman (Harper Perennial 2015)

“Boys only want love if it’s torture…”

nbtb-boys only want love if its torture

nbtb-boys only want love if its torture

I.

Snapshot: Flora and I are careening down Deerfoot, singing along to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space.

Now, you might infer from this that I like—the singer. Or the song.

Truth: I couldn’t care less. I live under a pop culture rock. I don’t think I could pick out Taylor Swift from a line up. And, thoroughly unmusical that I am, I can’t tell you whether the song’s good or bad. It just exists.

Fact: Flora, 10, LOVES it.

Truth: I LOVE her enjoyment of it. It thrills me.

I think: She loves that I love her loving it, and she’s thrilled that I’m singing along with her.

Truth: We love doing this silly loud thing TOGETHER.

Bonus: When we scream…

“Boys only want love if it’s torture
Don’t say I didn’t, I didn’t warn ya”

…the boy children in the back seat make puking-and-dying-noises.

Everyone’s happy. Win-win all around.

II.

Ender’s six-year-old friend Stella is staring with disapproval at Cinder, who’s standing on the kitchen table, in order to reach something way up on the wall.

Stella: Jane? I think you need to come up with some rules for your kids. Like, they shouldn’t stand on the table, and…

I actually have some rules. Such as… You must wear pants at the table—after the horrible penis-in-hot-soup incident—and no vermin at the table after the traumatic “I lost a mealworm… I think it’s in Daddy’s salad” incident.

And also: Do not make fun of things your siblings love. You don’t need to love Barney (gods know I don’t), because you’re a cool 12 year old, that’s fine. But don’t ruin your little brother’s enjoyment. Don’t mock it. Don’t dis it.

Say, “It’s not my thing.” “I don’t really enjoy that.” “Not to my taste.”

Not: “It’s stupid.” “It’s lame.” “I hate it.”

There are so many things my kids love to do that I really, really don’t enjoy.

Playing video games (any).

Watching iCarly.

Playing Munchkin.

Eating Jelly beans.

“Mom, will you play Battleship with me?”

“You know, sweetie, I don’t really enjoy that game. Could we play something else instead?”

But sometimes:

“Yes, I would love to watch iCarly with you. Tell me, who’s your favourite character? Why? Really? Why do you think she acts like that?”

(Just to be sure I’m not misrepresenting myself: Most of the time it’s—“I’d rather not.” But it’s never, “Why would you waste your time watching that stupid show?”)

(yes, sometimes… I really, really want to say that. But I don’t.)

III.

Flora: Are you watching Pride and Prejudice again?

Jane: No. Downton Abbey. It’s like Pride and Prejudice, except without the hot guy.

(Sorry. Dan Stevens can’t hold a candle to Colin Firth.)

Flora: Is it boring—I mean slow—like Pride and Prejudice? I mean, are there any murders and things in it?

Jane: Well… there’s deaths… but yeah, it’s pretty slow. I don’t think you’d like it right now.

Flora: Well, maybe when I get older I’ll like boring, I mean slow, stuff too and I’ll watch it with you.

Jane: I look forward to that.

Flora: Me too.

IV.

Jane: Boys only want love if it’s torture

Flora: Don’t say I didn’t, I didn’t warn ya

Cinder: Mooooooooom! Aaaaareeeee you trying to kill us?

Jane: No. Just torture you a little.

Cinder: It’s working! It’s working!

(It’s not necessarily that he hates the song. It might be that I’m a really bad singer. But you know. He won’t say THAT either.)

xoxo

“Jane”

 PS Want to sing along with us? Do:

It’s not negligent parenting. It’s sanity parenting

NBTB-Sanity Parenting

NBTB-Sanity Parenting

I.

Meet Stella. She’s six, and, for a few more weeks, an only child.

Stella: Eeeeeeender! You never share! You do not understand what sharing is! Sharing is when I want something, you GIVE IT TO ME!

So I pee myself laughing and text Stella’s mom. She ROLFs. “Is that my fault?” she asks. “Probably,” I tell her, because I’m a bitch.

II.

Stella: Ender wants to build a fort, but I don’t want to build a fort. I want to play Minecraft and Ender wants to watch Good Mythical Morning. We can’t agree on anything!

Jane: You guys are together for four hours today. I think you’ll have more fun if you find something you can agree on.

Stella: I’m not going to agree on anything TODAY!

Jane: Then I guess you’ll have a miserable day.

Stella: I! Will!

So here comes Flora, who can’t bear if anyone is determined to have a miserable day:

Flora: How about if you two…

And here comes the intercept by an un-helicopter mother:

Jane: Baby? This is so not your job or responsibility. You have things to do. If the littles do not want to play together, it is not your job to make them.

Flora: Is it yours?

Jane: Fuck, no. I have things to do too.

(20 minutes later, they’ve figured it out. Yes, there was screaming. But no blood. This time.)

III.

Stella: My mom is way nicer than you.

Jane: I know.

Stella: But you’re a way better cooker.

Ha. By the way, beloved, that’s because I feed them lemon meringue pie for lunch.

IV.

Today’s story does have a moral.

Do you see it?

If not, go meet he who became my new favourite love in the summer of 2014—and then come back, and read this piece again.

xoxo

“Jane”

“Love is disgusting.” But you knew that already.

nbtb-love is disgusting

nbtb-love is disgusting

I.

How I know he’s mine:

Jane: Cinder? Could you take out the recycling when your game’s over?

Cinder: Is it urgent?

Jane: Well… it’s not urgent right now, but the cupboard’s stuffed full and barely closing, and so next time someone opens it, all the recycling will flow out, screaming, “Freedom! Freedom!” and make a mess on the floor and…

Cinder: So how about, as soon as I hear it screaming, I take it out?

Jane: Ok. Works for me.

Cinder: Just so we understand each other—you’ll scream “Freedom! Freedom!” if you’re the one who opens the cupboard?

Jane: Yes.

Cinder: But you won’t do it on purpose. Only if you actually have to try to stuff something else in there.

Jane: Yes.

Cinder: Ok. Works for me.

II.

How I know she’s mine:

Flora: I can’t believe this. I! Can’t! Believe! This! The only likeable character in the book, and they kill him off—and there’s like a third of the book to go! What the hell? Who does that? What’s wrong with this writer? I am never, ever, EVER reading anything by this jerk again!

Jane: Where are you going?

Flora: I’m going to rewrite this chapter the way it should have been written!

III.

I don’t know where the hell he came from:

Ender: I! Love! Boogers! I! Love! My! Boogers! I! Love! Your! Boogers! I! Love! Everyone’s! Boogers! Sooooooo! Muuuuuuuch!

IV.

How they know they’re mine (even though they’re not):

Flora: He’s so disgusting.

Jane: It could be worse. When Cinder was his age? He used to feed you his boogers.

Flora: Jeezus, Mom, seriously? And you let him? What’s wrong with you?

Cinder: She didn’t let me. I mostly did it when she wasn’t looking. And only if you were awake.

Flora: That’s supposed to make me feel better?

Cinder: Well, at least I never puked on you, Ms Lazy Esophagus!

Flora: I didn’t… Mom? Did I puke on Cinder?

Jane: Yes. Kind of incessantly. Don’t feel bad. It’s very common. And he peed in your ear. So, you know. It all balances out.

Flora: Children are really disgusting. Like, the most disgusting thing ever. And that’s not even counting the bloody birthing part.

Jane: Pretty much.

Flora: But you’re happy you had us?

Jane: There is no meaning or purpose to my life without you.

V.

I’ve read Joan Didion’s Blue Nights last week, and it almost killed me. Listen:

“When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.

… Once she was born I was never not afraid.”

“A question: if we and our children could in fact see the other clear would the fear go away? Would the fear go away for both of us, or would the fear go away only for me?”

““You have your wonderful memories,” people would say later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. … Memories are what you no longer want to remember.”

“I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted.

In theory these mementos serve to bring back the moment.

In fact they serve only make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.”

“I do not know many people who think they have succeeded as parents. Those who do tend to cite the markers that indicate (their own) status in the world: the Standford degree, the Harvard MBA, the summer with the white-shoed law firm. Those of us less inclined to compliment ourselves on our parenting skills, in other words, most of us, recite rosaries of our failures, our neglects, our derelictions and delinquencies.”

“I tell you this true story just to prove that I can.”

I am changed.

VI.

They are loved.

They know they are loved.

Ender: Mooom! Hug! Kiss!

Cinder: Don’t do it, Mom! He was eating boogers!

Ender: I was not! I was only pretending. I was feeding them to Maggie.

Flora: Well, at least it wasn’t me.

Ender: Next time, I will share… My! Boogers! With! Yooooooooouuuuuuu!

Cinder: That’s my little bro! High-five, man!

Flora: Groooooosss! Moooooom!

Love. Disgusting, innit? 😉

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Of course he took out the recycling. Of course.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: There is such a thing as loving nature too much, or, more proof that children are disgusting.

“Is it important? Yes? Then don’t text me.”

nbtb-is it important don't text me

I’ve instituted a new rule in my house. You’re welcome to copy it. It might save your marriage. It is thus:

DO NOT TEXT ME ABOUT ANYTHING IMPORTANT.

This is my compromise on the rule that I initially proposed, which was the draconian:

DO NOT TEXT ME.

This is because—ready? Revolutionary!—we do not speak the same texting language. AT all

Example A:

I’m working out of the house. Ping.

Sean: We are out of milk.

My reaction: Why the fuck are you interrupting my work flow with this inanity? (I don’t text it. But I THINK it.)

What he meant:

“We’re out of milk; could you pick some up on your way home?”

My reaction to which would have been:

“K”

But instead I’m pissed, my flow disrupted, and I wonder why I didn’t turn off the phone?

Example B:

I am out in the wild with the children and I see something beautiful-ugly-heartbreaking and I take a photo and I send it. Ping.

Jane: [Image]. Heart-broken. Sobbing. Despair.

Sean: WTF? Are you ok? What happened?

What he wishes I had said:

“Look at this disturbing picture of [X] I took. Doesn’t it make you think of heart-break? Despair? It is so evocative!”

What I want him to say in response to what I actually said (didn’t say, implied, experienced, tried to convey with fragmented words):

“God. Baby. Beautiful. I love you.”

Example C:

Jane: 2 out of 3 of our children want to go swimming and I’m going to force the other child to cooperate. Should we wait until you get back home so we can go together?

Sean: Walking from Bridgeland to downtown. PS Forgot to take out the steaks to defrost.

Jane: Does not answer my question.

Sean: I also have to go print photos after.

Jane: You! Still! Have! Not! Answered! My! Question!

But he thinks he has…

Right? He’s said:

“Here are all the things I’m doing and have to do.”

But he hasn’t said, what I need to hear, which is:

“There is no way I will make it back in time, go without me.”

Or even, you know, I’ll accept this:

“I really don’t want to go swimming. Just go with the kids; I’ll see you at home later.”

Dedicated to that girl I love, so far away now. You know who you are. Who insisted I should get a cell phone. And ruined my life. ;P

(Not really. But. Don’t you sometimes wish you could go back? I do…)

nbtb-is it important don't text me

xoxo

“Jane”

…but research shows…

nbtb-research shows

I.

The rather annoying thing about having me as a mother:

Flora: Mom? I made my bed yesterday.

Jane: And?

Flora: And what?

Jane: Is that the whole story? Did you find something, break something, think something, learn something?

Flora: No. That’s it. I made my bed.

Jane: That totally doesn’t work as story.

Flora: Does everything I tell you have to have a plot or a climax? And character development?

Jane: Yes.

What? I’m busy. And I like to be entertained.

II.

The kinda awesome thing about having me as a mother:

My 10 year-old can define plot or climax. And character development.

So can the five-year-old.

III.

The really annoying thing about having me as a mother:

Flora: Ok, let me do this again. Mom? I made my bed yesterday.

Jane: I’m waiting…

Flora: Did you know that studies show that people who make their beds are happier than people who don’t make their beds?

Jane: What studies?

Flora: You know. Studies.

Jane: Where did you hear about these studies?

Flora: You-tube?

Jane: Did you know that most people who say “studies show” or “research says” are just making shit up? Whenever someone says, “Studies show” without referencing the specific study, what they’re actually saying, “I read this article on the Internet once and I’m now passing it on to you as proven truth, assuming you’re just as lazy as I am and will not track this information to its source.”

Flora: Does everything I tell you have to be supported by evidence?

Jane: Yes. Except when we’re talking about unicorns. Where are you going?

Flora: I’m going to Google the fucking bed-making study.

Jane: Good.

IV.

The really awesome thing about having me as a mother is that I’m going to loom over her shoulder as she scrolls and tell her: “Not a real source. Not real science. This is a blog—this is a blog post, and that is not research. Yes, this looks like a journal article, but what does it say, right here? See? ‘Research shows…’ What research? Yeah, this one’s not worth anything either. Keep on going… OK, now that one’s better, but what institution is he professor at, exactly? Let’s check that out… ”

My kids are going to know that typing search terms into Google is not research.

Research shows that children whose parents take the time to explain this sort of thing to them make better researchers. ;P

xoxo

“Jane”

nbtb-research shows

PS My original headline was “Research shows people who make their beds in the morning don’t understand climax is necessary to good story” but apparently it had subtext.

 

Facts of Life

NBTB-Facts of Life

I.

Ender hatched from an egg. That’s how they tell the story, anyway.

Flora: It was the cutest egg ever. Orange, all orange. But I’d decorate it with purple squiggles and rainbows.

Cinder: …and we all took turns sitting on you. Like, when Mom had to go somewhere, or even take a shower, Flora or I had to sit on you. But sometimes, when she was out for a long time, instead of sitting on you, we’d just throw you back and forth like a ball. You’re so lucky we didn’t smash you.

Flora: Mom was so mad was she caught us doing that once…

They’ve told him the story so many times, they’ve even got these details down:

Flora: …and after you hatched, I tried to keep the egg shells for my museum, but Dad said it would be unhygienic and he threw them out.

Cinder: But I kept one. Want to see?

(and the mystery to why he was rooting through the garbage earlier for chicken egg shells, and through Flora’s room for an orange marker, is solved)

Flora: You were the cutest little baby.

Cinder: Well. The cutest little maggot. You were all white and squirmy. You didn’t really look human until you pupated. That happened when you were two.

(he might have crossed the line here. Yes. Yes he did?

Ender: Mooom! Did I pupate when I was two?

What would you say? What should I say?

Isn’t all life just a really long metamorphosis?

II.

This is 100% true: While Ender was in the womb, we called him Two-Horned Rainbow Merlin Stinky Socks Marsh.

So it’s all our fault, really.

III.

I’m in a café, working, and there’s a new proud father at the table next to me, showing off his progeny to co-workers. “She’s such a good baby,” he says.

What he means is “easy.” And “convenient.”

She’s four months old.

In three to six weeks, he and her mother will look at each other, and one will ask the other, “When do things get back to normal?”

Ha.

Normal.

What they mean is “the way they were before.”

What they don’t want to hear: Never.

IV.

Jane: Do! Not! Call! Your! Brother! A! Maggot!

Ender: Yeah! I’ve pupated!

Ha.

xoxo

“Jane”

NBTB-Facts of Life

 

“Smoking is all the rage, but it will kill you,” mixed messages, and boring people

NBTB-Smoking is all the rage

I.

Flora: “I can’t stand bossy people. But boring people, they’re okay.”

Jane: “Really? How do you figure?”

Flora: “Well—bossy people, obviously—they always tell you what to do, and who likes that? But boring people don’t force you to do anything. I mean, yes, you have listen to them talk if they trap you in a room, but thanks to you, I know how to totally zone out and just think my own thoughts while they blather on.”

So… I’m not sure. Parenting win? Parenting fail?

Yes, I’m a little bit defensive. Yes, I must own this quality and technique: she learned it from me. My disassociation capabilities are legendary. It’s how I stay sane. (Not to mention, productive.)

Still, it’s not the sort of thing you put on your resume, right? Or a quality that endears you to… um, well, boring people. Because every once in a while, they stop and ask you a question—just to check if you’re listening to their boring story.

(BTW, darling… are you reading? I’m still writing here…)

And when you’re not…

Flora: “Fortunately, we don’t know that many boring people. Why is that, Mom?”

I think it’s because we live in this really awesome community in this really awesome neighbourhood in this really awesome creative-edge bubble and…

Flora: “I guess it’s probably because you’ve offended and alienated most of their parents. Good work, Mom!”

Parenting fail. Definitely, parenting fail.

Sarcastic little titch.

She gets that from me, too.

II.

I’m chasing happy. It’s right there—right there—just within reach—just two, three tasks away. 500 words away. A load of laundry away.

Ah, screw it. I jump. Grasp it with both hands… hold on to it for 30 seconds. An hour. Yes.

Let go. Put in the laundry. Write the words. Do all the things.

Happy.

III.

I’m writing so many things right now, in so many different voices, sometimes, the different voices start to shout at each other in my head.

Jane: “Shut! Up!”

Cinder: “Mom, please treat your computer with respect. And speak in an inside voice.”

Sarcastic little titch.

I don’t think he gets that from me. Oh wait. Yes, he does.

VI.

NBTB-Smoking is all the rage

Flora: “Mom! Take a picture! The caption is: ‘Smoking is all the rage,but it will kill you!’”

Parenting fail? Mixed messages. Mixed messages…

V.

Flora: “Sometimes, I wish my life wasn’t so easy and so ordinary.”

Jane: “Really? Sometimes, I wish my life was…”

…so I was going to say, boring. More ordinary. But… really? No. I’d be lying. I was, truly, wishing for boring in the summer, fall of 2013.

But, I’m done.

Jane: “I accept the consequences of needing to live an interesting life.”

Flora: “What did you say?”

Jane: “Nothing. Why do you think your life is so easy and ordinary?”

Flora: “Because I don’t suffer. At all.”

Jane: “I can probably change that. I mean, if that’s what you really want.”

Flora: “Um… on second thought… I’m so glad I have an easy and good life.”

Parenting win.

xoxo

“Jane”