on someone who, in a way, saved my life

on someone who, in a way, saved my life

Back in 2009, when Mom’s death was fresh and I was shakily making my way back onto my feet, living in my childhood home, my childhood hometown, after so many years away, I met a man in a bar. He had the same DSLR camera I did, and he was handsome, and I started a conversation with him. We talked about being writers, and how I had my MA in journalism and needed to start working again but I didn’t know where to start looking. He told me to contact the editor of the Register-Guard entertainment blog, a woman named Serena Markstrom, and see if she’d give me a gig.

I went out on a limb, and I followed his advice. And Serena went out on a limb and agreed to let me contribute pieces to the blog. I didn’t get paid for anything I wrote, save that one piece that appeared in print on Christmas Eve 2010. It wasn’t a prestigious job, I didn’t become well-known and launch a career writing for some big-name entertainment rag. But that job boosted two immeasurably important things for me: (1) my confidence, and (2) my portfolio. I had fresh writing and photography samples, a current clipsheet, which I hadn’t had in a long time. I had references and stories to tell, concrete examples to point to that showed yes, I am reliable and smart and capable of this job you have that I want to do.

There are people who I’ve told, straight-up, that they had a direct hand in saving my life. People who pushed me to go to the doctor when things were hinky, people who supported me when my life was in chaos, people who helped me get the bills paid. Serena helped me get the bills paid, by going out on a limb for me.

She’s not the editor of the entertainment section at the R-G anymore. In fact, she’s not anything at the R-G anymore.

Serena, pregnant with her first child, has been sacked from the R-G, after those in charge of such decisions moved her from her desk at entertainment to the backwoods local beat. Anyone familiar with newsroom politics knows a shift like that smells like impending doom. But she was so talented, so positive about the opportunity to connect with the rural communities that surround Eugene, that I hoped, for once, that I was wrong about the drumbeats I heard coming for this woman (to shamelessly mix my metaphors), this woman who was instrumental in my recovery from grief, unemployment, and all that goes with both.

I wasn’t wrong, no matter how hard I hoped.

The reasons given, in print, for her dismissal make no sense to me. She checked work email while on pregnancy-related medical leave? She “destroyed company property” by deleting old emails? The cherry on the cake: criticism of her work, of her methods (she interviewed too many people in connection with a story? WTF does that even mean?) only started after she announced her pregnancy. I’m not an attorney (yet). I’m not an expert (yet). But I will say if you come across something brown and lumpy and covered in flies, and it smells rancid and squishes under your foot when you step on it, it’s probably manure of some sort or another.

The thing about manure, though, as a professor once said, is that it’s necessary to grow flowers.

Serena, being the incredibly resilient person she is, will bloom, despite this heaping plate full of newsroom politics shit that has been handed to her as though no one would notice. Well guess what? People are noticing. You can’t fire one of your most popular features writers, someone who has worked for you for 13 years, without people noticing.

I haven’t read the R-G in years. Not since high school, really. Not even when I was writing for them. The quality of the work published was in decline, even then. Beyond that, I knew about manure of this sort going on in newsrooms all over the country. That sort of backbiting political bullshit is why I didn’t pursue traditional journalism. You get paid a pittance (that piece I published in 2010 earned me a whopping $50), behavior like what happened to Serena is commonplace, and fuck you if you stand up to the old boys club.

————-

Dear the old boys club:

How about FUCK YOU. How about this is 20-fucking-14 and you can’t fucking behave this way anyfuckingmore. It was wrong 50 years ago, it was wrong 20 years ago, it is wrong now. I hope the R-G goes bankrupt because of this. I hope the backbiting manipulative scheming fucks who think this is acceptable, that no one would notice, have to rely on someone kinder than I am to go out on a limb and give them the chance I don’t think they deserve, just to be able to keep their lights on.

No love, and with less-than-zero respect, Me.

————-

Dear Serena:

You are a better person than I can ever hope to be. Your child is so incredibly fortunate to be able to be raised by you. Thank you for giving me a chance all those years ago. Shine on, rock on, and bloom.

With undying respect, Me.

So, my kid wrote a thing & it’s pretty darned cute

So, my kid wrote a thing & it’s pretty darned cute

BoogerMonkey’s in the first grade this year. His homework every week includes a writing prompt. This week’s prompt was to write a “trickster tale,” like the ones they’ve been reading in class. This is his story, about Mouser. I’m not sure it’s done, but it’s due tomorrow, so I’m calling it done. All spelling & such has been preserved.

It was early in the morning when when Mouser was geting up. He greeted the morning with his hi pitched sqeaking. Sqeak! sqeak! Mouser woke all the animals, even the non noctinal aninamals. “Be quiet Mouser!” they said. You’re waking us all up!” they would say. But one day, when no one was was was awake an od figure took a bite of the sun! When Mouser woke up first he looked up at the sky. A bite was taken out of the sun! But he greeted it any way. When the other animals woke up they were horefied by what the sun Wolf had done. What happend to the sun?!! Mouser tricked the monkys that there was a lot of bannanas at his hole. The monkys looked and looked for the bannanas but there were no bannas! When the monkys got back home their bannanas were gone! Mouser had eaten all of their bannanas! The next day, the Sun wolf came by again and took a huge bite again! When the others woke up they said, our Sun! All except Mouser. Mouser just laghed laghed. “Please help us Mouser they said. “Okay,” Mouser said I’ll see what I can do.

On pain and loss and power

On pain and loss and power

There was a memorial yesterday, honoring the life of a woman whose time on this planet was cut short. An accident, at 40, and four young adult children now live without their mother. I wasn’t there. I didn’t bring a cobbler or a pasta salad or a 2-liter of Sprite and my condolences. Why? It doesn’t matter. No reason would be enough, it seems, to take away the pain that has been expressed at my absence from this event, pain that I don’t thoroughly understand, except as a function of grief.

Some people are close to their cousins as they grow up, living like siblings or best friends. I didn’t have that privilege. The last time we were all together – the seven older than me, the two younger than me, my brother and I – was in 1993, when we took our grandfather’s ashes to the beach. I have a group photo of that day, somewhere in a box of pictures I inherited when my mother died. The two youngest cousins and my little brother don’t even remember that day. I was ten, nearly 11. Krissy was 21 and already had three of her four children, the oldest and the twins. Her sister, whose pain was so clearly expressed today, had one, a boy the same age as the twins. None of those babies, now all adults, remember that day, either.

My parents divorced not long after my grandfather died, and from then on contact with my dad’s family was sparse. I stopped talking to him completely when I was 16 and it was years until I had contact with any of them. Krissy made it to my wedding, and my baby shower for my older son, and we kept in touch, a little, through Facebook. But we weren’t close, for so many reasons, and I have to admit that I don’t know much about her. So being blamed, today, for so much pain, being told I “don’t have the right to think about” her, simply because I didn’t attend her memorial, guts me.

Millions of people died today. Millions of people mourn those losses. Ashes will be spread, and hymns sung, and casseroles brought, and bagpipes blown, and drams of whiskey taken down in honor of the dead. And every single one of those who survive to remember will wish, at least once, that the universe could just stop, just for one moment, to acknowledge their pain and sadness and the hollow in their heart. But that is not the way of the universe.

If I could take away the pain of every single person in the world who is grieving a sister, a daughter, a mother, a best friend, a wife, I would. I would rise into the sky and pull it out, spin it into the clouds so it could rain down and fill the ocean and bring life to deserts.

But I can’t.

If I could stop that pain, that raw emotion that came through the screen, in caps, screaming FUCK YOU at me for my absence, I would.

But I can’t.

Even if I had been there, even if I had shown up with a cobbler and a 2-liter and my kids in tow, it wouldn’t stop anyone’s grief. It wouldn’t stop the desire to call at 2 a.m. when you can’t sleep and can’t think of the name of that one guy who did that thing that time. It won’t stop her favorite song (what was her favorite song?) coming on the radio, making you sob on the highway and need to pull over for a few minutes until you can see again. It wouldn’t stop every birthday, mother’s day, Christmas, Easter, anniversary from now until your own death from being so very bittersweet. It wouldn’t stop you from saying, “oh, I should get two of these, she’d love one!” before you remembered. She’s gone.

And I can’t change that.

Death is shitty. Death is shitty and it sucks and nothing, no platitude, no pastel card, not a million images of gold foil doves with Psalms printed on them will make it less shitty. It is raw and it is dirty and it. fucking. sucks.

And I can’t change that.

So I’m sorry if I added to anyone’s pain by not going to a memorial for a woman I barely knew. A woman of whom my memories are those of a child. Coloring together, sharing cookie dough, laughing that her second daughter, as an infant, looked so much like me. I’m sorry that all the photos I have are old and yellowed and none of them show the woman we lost.

But I can’t change that.

I could ask where were you all when my mother died, but that wouldn’t change anything, either. People have their own lives, their own shit, their own grief, their own memorials. Another person, or ten, or 50, or 100 on the beach where we spread her ashes or in the bar where we had a pseudo-Irish wake wouldn’t have changed my grief. It wouldn’t have made it any easier when my birthday came and she wasn’t there to make me a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It wouldn’t have made it any easier when my grandmother died and no one knew she had been in the hospital, for two days. It won’t make my 30th birthday any easier, it won’t make Christmas easier, with the Grinch (her favorite) everywhere. It won’t make it easier when yet another of my friends loses her mother to cancer (FUCK CANCER) and I have to hug her and tell her that she can call me any time, I fucking mean it because I know what it’s like.

No, being on that beach or at that bar wouldn’t change any of that.

Because, when it comes down to it, we all have our own memorials, in our own ways, and we all grieve alone. In the wee quiet hours, when it’s too hot to sleep, we grieve alone. When we’re in a pub, surrounded by our friends and family, joking and drinking and sharing memories, we grieve alone.

And I’m very, very, truly and honestly sorry, but I can’t change that.

Today was the hottest day Portland has seen in three years

Today was the hottest day Portland has seen in three years

(With apologies to Edward Gorey, the alphabet, and poetry in general)

A is for Andy, asleep in his bed.
B is for brain, boiling hot in my head.
C is for Celsius, one million degrees.
D is for death, come quickly, and please.
E is for everything, it sucks, ’cause it’s hot.
F is for FUCK YOU THAT’S WHY, YOU BIG SNOT.
G is for Gawd damn why am I not dead yet?
H is for Hell, where we’ve arrived now, I bet.
I is for icky, our moods and our feet.
J is for Jenni, who perished of heat.
K is for Kelvin, another fine scale.
L is for losing our minds as we wail.
M is for Mama, who can’t even think.
N is for nightcap, but it’s too hot to drink.
O is for OH LORD WHY TODAY?
P is for playground, with water that sprays.
Q is a question, a prayer and a plea.
R is for romance, GET AWAY FROM ME.
S is for sunshine, we got too much thanks.
T is for thunderstorm, absent our ranks.
U is umbrellas, packed safely away.
V is vagina, dripping sweat all fucking day.
W is water, there’s never enough.
X is for xylophone, because x is too tough.
Y is for yellow, the sun in the sky.
Z is for zebra, maybe a stampede will come by.

Unfucking my Habitat

Unfucking my Habitat

Anyone who’s known me for any decent amount of time knows that my housekeeping is not, shall we say, Martha Stewart-like. It’s not on the level of someone who would qualify for Hoarders, or anything, but if I still had a mother-in-law, there would be a frenzied rush of a few hours, stressing the fuck out getting everything put away & scrubbed before she showed up, in an effort to avoid embarrassing myself & getting passive-aggressive remarks tossed in my general direction.

Generally, I ignored the clutter, did laundry when I needed to, washed dishes as we needed them, and made an effort (sometimes failing miserably) to keep wet towels off the carpet. I’d vacuum when I thought about it. Laundry would sit, clean, in baskets for a week or more. Dishes would sit, clean, in the drain, getting pulled as they needed to be used. Workbooks were strewn about, library books scattered everywhere. Nothing unsanitary, there were no mice carcasses under the dining table (though some crumbs may have been there for a while), no cat liquified under a 20-year-old stack of accumulated newspapers that had tipped over three years ago. Just the house of a busy mom with ADHD.

And then, on Friday, I came home after some time away. The boys had been with their dad for two weeks, and were scheduled to arrive back that evening. Fruit flies greeted me. Hundreds of them. Swarms. Everywhere. I’d remembered to take out the trash and recycling before I left, but had forgotten about the compost. Portland does an awesome job of collecting food waste from every household in the city, as part of the waste management program, but it’s the first place I’ve ever lived with this program. Out of sight, out of mind, my bin was under my sink and I forgot it. An honest mistake, but one that snapped something in my brain.

For the next few days, I scrubbed things. I vacuumed fruit flies a dozen times a day, sucking the fuckers up the hose and delighting in fewer & fewer of them every day. At the same time, I discovered a tumblr blog, unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com. Bookmark that site now. Seriously. The woman who runs it has developed an iPhone/iPad app that I’m considering buying for myself, because it’s amazing.

She has challenges, like “look around. Find 10 things that are out of place and put them away.” That’s not so hard, right? How about “collect all the dishes in the house and bring them to the sink. Bonus points if you wash them or load the dishwasher.” Simple. Clear, concise tasks, broken down into simple steps. She advocates taking a break after every cleaning session, 10 minutes after 20 of cleaning, 15 after 45. She also acknowledges that sometimes you don’t have the energy (mental or physical) to clean something for 20 minutes at a time. That’s ok. Do 15 or 10 or two. Something is better than nothing. This concept, quite frankly, was new to me.

Cleaning, when I was a kid, was always a stressful event. My mother, may she rest and her name be for a blessing, had some major OCD tendencies. I don’t mean checking light switches & whatever other idea of movie-style OCD you have in your head. The woman did not sit still if there was something that could be cleaned. Once, when she was visiting me at my house, I was drinking coffee. I set my cup down to go to the bathroom. When I came out, it was in the cupboard. She had washed, dried, and put away a cup of coffee that I wasn’t done drinking yet in the time it took me to piss. I did community theater for nearly ten years; it takes me about 12 seconds to piss, 16 if I’ve been holding it a while.

Because of my mother’s OCD, my room was a constant battle. I had a lot of stuff, a short attention span, and hated cleaning because why bother if it couldn’t all get done at once? And I would have to do it all at once in order to be able to go & play with my friends. It sucked. It would take forever, I’d be tired when I was done, it was never quite good enough, there wasn’t enough space for everything, and I grew to hate cleaning.

I carried that hatred into adulthood. If I can’t get the entire house done in one swoop, why bother? I have two kids, they make messes, why bother? Cleaning sucks, why bother?

That, my dears, is where that tumblr I mentioned comes in.

She makes the point that even two minutes of cleaning leaves the area cleaner than it was before, and that is ok. She makes the point that we need to let go of perfection. She makes the point that if we just put things where they go in the first place, cleaning won’t take so long next time.

She’s also profane and, unlike that insipid FlyLady woman, doesn’t insist that you wear lace-up shoes inside the house and thank your family for giving your life meaning because without them you wouldn’t have anything to clean and a clean house is a blessing.

You know what’s a blessing? Being able to pay someone to come to your house once or twice a week to scrub your toilet & floors & windows for you. Until the day when “housekeeper” is a line item in my budget, I’m going to keep unfucking my house, 20 minutes at a time, my own self. Because the gal at UFYH is right: 20 minutes at a time is better than nothing. I may not be OCD like my mom was, and I don’t want to be, I don’t want the low-level anxiety that comes part & parcel with my ADHD to manifest itself that way. But I want to live in a clean home. And 20 minutes at a time, throughout the day, has been enough to get us there.

My kids are old enough to help, which makes things easier. I fold their clothes, give them each a basket & use that chore as a stick, paired with the carrot of time spent watching Netflix. Those kids will get that chore done fast if the Electric Company or Batman are waiting for them on the other side. I remind them to put their workbooks away, and they do it. We have a designated spot for library stuff now. We make folding the blankets they use to make forts a race.

So, if you’re in the same boat as I was, challenge yourself. Don’t try to do it all at once. A little bit is better than nothing at all. One stitch may not be much, but repeat that stitch 25,000 times and you have a sweater. 20 minutes may not be much, but repeat it enough times and you have a clean house.

Happy Unfucking!

For the benefit of a princess (updated 7/13)

For the benefit of a princess (updated 7/13)

WINNERS OF WHAT THE YARN HARLOT CALLS “COSMIC BALANCING GIFTS” ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Tori M: Blanket (or the yarn I would’ve used to make the blanket; you decide)

Mary A: Nightfall Gift Set

Sophie T: Self-care gift set

Tamara K: Wollmeise Klapperstorch

Kim H: Headband

Caitlin O: Shallow purple bowl

Elizabeth B: Wollmeise gift set with DPNs & project bag

Jennifer L: Purple Shawl

Suzanne M: Free Form Bowl

Rachael A: Tili Tomas yarn

Marka Eberle: Lotus Yarns Chakra

Jennifer B: 4 skeins of custom-dyed Bugga from Cephalopod Yarns

Kelly C: The full line of patterns from Rebecca S.

Molly M: Green oval necklace from Ashley W.

Susan O: Purple Headband

Rebecca D: Purple teardrop necklace from Ashley W.

Sandra H: Wollmeise Aquarius

Christine M: Round green necklace from Ashley W.

Joan D: Wall vase

Agnieszka: Hair fork, hair stick, or nostepinne from www.artemiswoods.com

Jennifer S: Jojoland Harmony laceweight

Lindsey K: Leaf-shaped plate

Jennifer Loggins: Fascinator clips from Taylor Made Accessories

Suzanne B: Self-care set

Elizabeth A: Self-care set

Rhonda R: Khan gift set from www.sweetlibertine.com

Rachel H: Brownie Points gift set from www.sweetlibertine.com

Erin S: Round purple necklace from Ashley W.

Nadean L: Self-care set

Ashley W: 4 skeins of custom-dyed Bugga from Cephalopod Yarns

Anyone listed above has been notified by email. Karmic balancing gifts will arrive from the person who donated it. Instructions have been included in that email to contact the donor.

Also: HOLY CRAP THAT’S A LOT OF SUPERHERO CARDS TO SEND. Um. Guys. They’re going to be e-cards. I was absolutely bowled over at the number of people who donated and I cannot possibly mail that many right now. But I do want to keep my word for that, so you will get a really cool drawing as a thank-you, in your e-mail, and if you want to print them to use as postcards, or kid-room wall art, or to add to your collection of superhero stuff, that’s totally cool with me, just don’t sell them on etsy or something.

I met Talana on the first day of first grade, when she held the broken bathroom stall door shut for me after lunch.

That was 24 years ago this September.

Today, she’s in the hospital at Stanford University, and has just gotten word that calCOBRA won’t cover her because she has Medicaid A, which will only cover hospital expenses & none of her prescriptions.

Prescriptions she needs because she has Cystic Fibrosis and has just gotten a lung transplant. The transplant is why she’s in the hospital in the first place.

Her husband is going to fight this, is going to jump through all the loopholes & whatnot. But I want to help, somehow.

So here’s how: make a donation via PayPal to her medical fund (tcfairfax@gmail.com) To the Chipin fund we’ve set up in her name. $10 gets you an entry into a raffle
update: PayPal doesn’t allow raffles. So everyone gets something tangible as a thank you.

$10 donations get a hand-drawn card of child-made superhero art and a chance to win a hand-knit throw blanket, made by me. Washable wool, cream. No guarantee on finish date (I’m starting law school in August, so knitting time will be limited), but I’ll send progress photos every week until it’s done. Alternatively, if you’re a knitter or know a knitter, I can just send you the yarn & you can make whatever you want. 5 skeins of MadTosh Vintage, which retails at $19.50 per skein.

$20 donations get two hand-drawn superhero art cards and two chances to win the blanket.

$30 donations get two hand-drawn superhero art cards, three chances to win the blanket, and a chance to win two hand-made fascinator hair clips from Taylor Made Accessories (one red & black flower and one multicolored feather hair clip).

$40 donations get two hand-drawn superhero art cards, four chances to win the blanket, two chances to win two hand-made fascinator hair clips from Taylor Made Accessories, and a chance to win the entire pattern collection from Rebecca Stromgren

$50 donations get two hand-drawn super hero art cards, five chances to win the blanket, three chances to win the fascinators from Taylor Made Accessories, two chances to win Rebecca’s patterns, and one of two lots of yarn (4 skeins each) from our wonderful friends at Cephalopod Yarns: two lots of custom- dyed yarn in Bugga. 4 skeins each, the winner picks the color, any color we have ever made, we will dye it just for you, OR you send us a picture of anything EXCEPT someone else’s yarn, and we will make a custom color just for you..

Donate more than $50 and I’m not sure what I’ll throw in.

One randomly selected person from the Eugene area, or who can travel to the Eugene area, will also receive one outdoor photo session (single, couple, or family, pets allowed) with Heidi Turnquist of Taylor Made Photography, and a CD of the edited images from the shoot. I went to high school with Heidi and can personally vouch for her quality and professionalism.

Some people have already said they don’t want to be part of the drawings, and that’s fine. You don’t have to be. You’ll still get cards as a thank you, because that’s how we roll around here.

I’ll use www.random.org to pick winners, based on the order in which I receive donation confirmations.

Drawing date is July 12, which is Talana’s birthday. She’ll be 30. If the Oatmeal can raise over $100,000 in a day, let’s see if we can raise even 10% of that in just under a month.

Donate after July 12 and you’ll still get the hand-drawn superhero cards, as well as the amazing feeling of helping someone totally awesome. This isn’t a business or a charity, this is community coming together to help someone who is going to have ongoing medical costs and needs tens of thousands of dollars in medications tot stay alive, medications that insurance may not cover.

And if you have a gift to donate, let me know & I’ll post about that, too!

Additional thank you gifts that have been donated (updated 6/19) (each increment of $10 gets you one chance to receive each of these items).
This amazing shawl

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Four self-care boxes, each with 2 bars of handmade raspberry swirl soap, one washcloth, and one tube of handmade raspberry lip balm

Two hand knit purple headbands

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A Nightfall yarn gift set. That’s one 4oz shawl ball and a matching Sock Set (which is two smaller balls so you can make matching socks).

One hair fork, hair stick, or nostepinne from www.artemiswoods.com

Four necklaces, two purple and two green, one for each of four winners, from Ashley White

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A hank of wollmeise (amethyst WD), a slipped stitch studios sock bag, a sock pattern and pair of knitpicks DPNs (this would be a great gift for a special knitter in your life, if you’re not a knitter yourself).

Yarn that has been offered to date: 2 skeins of lotus yarns Chakra (MCN base) in “prayers for rain,” a skein of Aquarius wollmeise 80/20, two skeins of Jojoland Harmony (laceweight) in purple, and a skein of Tilli Thomas rock star in sapphire, and a skein of klapperstorch wollmeise 80/20.

2 amazing eyeshadow gift sets from www.sweetlibertine.com
Khan (Jet Set, Oasis, and Dragon City)

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Brownie Points (Copper Penny, Cafe au Lait, and Filigree)

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Matt’s cousin, Amber, is a potter and has donated the following four items:
A free-form bowl, which is raw clay on the exterior and the interior is a mottled green. It measures approx. 6″ in diameter and 3.5″ tall

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A leaf-shaped plate, which measures 8.5″ across

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A shallow purple bowl with lace imprint and metal handle which measures 6 x 8″

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A wall vase which is 6″ from top to bottom

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On friendship and being behind the curve

On friendship and being behind the curve

My mother, may she rest and her name be for a blessing, was a wonderful, charming, creative spitfire of a person. She was generous and pulled no punches and left an impression on everyone she met. She was not, however, particularly fashionable and she enacted incredibly strict and controlling standards about appearance. I was not allowed to wear makeup until I was 14, except on school picture day, when she applied it for me. The result of that combination was me, as a teenager, not knowing how to do my makeup and her never teaching me. She thought blue eyeshadow, a la “Totally Hair Barbie” was a good idea well into the 21st century. I learned how to do stage makeup from my years in community theater, and I knew better than to ever use blue eyeshadow (at least, not the way she did), but I didn’t know much of anything else.

I picked up a few tricks here & there over the years, enough to look decent when going to job interviews or weddings, but my skin became increasingly sensitive and I became less and less concerned with that sort of thing. Until one day, a few years ago, I realized I was in my late 20s and there was this knowledge base that my friends all seemed to have picked up 10-20 years before and I was clueless. You mean you’re not supposed to use the little sponge applicator that comes in your eyeshadow box? What are loose mineral shadows? There’s a difference between under eye concealer and concealer used for blemishes? What the blue bloody fuck is primer?

My darling friend Jeannine came to the rescue, with Face Enhancement 065: Remedial Application Methods. From her, I learned how to do a basic smokey eye, how an eyelash curler is used (I still haven’t purchased one), and precisely what primer is and how it makes everything better.

What I did not learn, however, was how to choose products best for my skin tone, eye color, etc. Having sensitive skin complicates issues, because I can’t just go to the store & get a set made for blue eyes or whatever, because most of those products lead to a reaction ranging from flaking skin to OH GOOD LORD WHY ARE MY EYELIDS ON FIRE THIS IS BURNING ITCHY BADNESS, GET IT OFF ME NOW. Yes, the caps lock is necessary.

I flailed about this issue on twitter a few days ago, because I’m going to soon be in an environment where looking at least semi-professional/put-together is going to be required, and on-campus interviews & internships & jobs mean more days where makeup is recommended as part of a “professional” appearance. I flailed because, despite my success in Face Enhancement 065, I never progressed to Face Enhancement 101: Basics of Product and Color Selection.

Enter the wonderful friends I have made over the years, many of them with literal or figurative certifications in basic and advanced cosmetology. Erica, who I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person, hated seeing me so anxious about this. And really, I was. Still am, a little. There is so much information available. Tutorial videos, blogs devoted to different “looks,” entire (enormous) stores dedicated to makeup. As someone who needs to know ALL THE THINGS, it’s a near-paralyzing amount of information. Going to one of those stores is intimidating, at best. I’ve gone, with friends, to the M.A.C. counter to get my face done, and they always do a great job. I usually walk out with at least one purchase, but that’s a really roundabout way of doing things, and sometimes the ladies in the shop are done up in a way that makes me think, “please don’t let her near me with an eyeshadow brush, because she is scary.”

So Erica, who is not scary at all and always has flawless makeup, offered to make me a little kit. She & I wear the same shade of foundation (which she knew by seeing my pictures, but I had to read the label on my stuff because all I know is I’m pale). Samples of products she uses & loves, brushes, that sort of thing. That kit came today and I am verklempt. There are instructions and everything is labeled, and she even included mini notecards & fun pencils & elephant-shaped sticky notes for my kids, because she is so very sweet and thoughtful like that.

My friends have taken over where my mother, great as she was, fell down. I may be learning it all 15 or 20 years later than most American women learn this stuff, but I am learning it, thanks to very patient friends, some of them more than 3,000 miles away. I cannot express how grateful I am to them for this. For all my flailing, and all your patience, I appreciate your efforts.

You keep using that word…

You keep using that word…

den·i·grate/ˈdeniˌgrāt/ Verb: Criticize unfairly; disparage: “there is a tendency to denigrate the poor”.
Synonyms: blacken – slander – defame – vilify – asperse – malign

Today, Ravelry.com’s code monkey, the talented Casey Forbes, posted a letter he received from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). In this letter, Casey was told that Ravelry could no longer use the word “Ravelympics” to describe the act of Ravelry users simultaneously knitting, crocheting, and spinning items during the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A clerk, writing on behalf of the USOC’s legal team, stated that “using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

The USOC, under the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, holds the exclusive right to use the term Olympic, Olympiad, etc. in the United States, with a few notable exceptions:

(A) such use is not combined with any of the intellectual properties referenced in subsection (a) or (c) of this section;

Subsection (a) defines those intellectual properties as:

(1) the name “United States Olympic Committee”;
(2) the symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of 5 interlocking rings, the symbol of the International Paralympic Committee, consisting of 3 TaiGeuks, or the symbol of the Pan-American Sports Organization, consisting of a torch surrounded by concentric rings;
(3) the emblem of the corporation, consisting of an escutcheon having a blue chief and vertically extending red and white bars on the base with 5 interlocking rings displayed on the chief; and
(4) the words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”, or any combination of those words.

Subsection (c) says:

the corporation may file a civil action against a person for the remedies provided in the Act of July 5, 1946 (15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.) (popularly known as the Trademark Act of 1946) if the person, without the consent of the corporation, uses for the purpose of trade, to induce the sale of any goods or services, or to promote any theatrical exhibition, athletic performance, or competition…the words described in subsection (a)(4) of this section, or any combination or simulation of those words tending to cause confusion or mistake, to deceive, or to falsely suggest a connection with the corporation or any Olympic, Paralympic, or Pan-American Games activity

Leaving aside, for now, the issue of whether or not engaging in fiber crafts while watching television actually, in some way, denigrates the work of those being filmed, let’s look at the actual phrasing of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978. It was this act that led the USOC to win its case against the Gay Olympics (which was then renamed the Gay Games).

First, there’s the issue of what the Ravelympics is. At its core, the Ravelympics is a worldwide knit-along. It starts at the same time as the opening ceremony, and ends at the finish of the closing ceremonies. The purpose is to challenge yourself. It’s not a performance, an athletic event, it’s not a theatrical exhibition. There are no sales or services involved. It’s fiber artists, working simultaneously, to challenge themselves. It is not affiliated with the Olympics, nor does it pretend to be. In fact, the Ravelympics group page clearly states that it is a subsection of Ravelry which, by definition, is not affiliated with the Olympics or the USOC.

Next, there is the issue of language. The Act doesn’t state that parts of “the words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”” couldn’t be used, it says the words themselves, or combinations of them, can’t be used.

It seems, therefore, to me, that this letter is without merit. Obviously, the clerk writing it has other ideas (poor dear, he’s come under such fire today, and likely makes a pittance). Let us now tackle those ideas.

First, that knitting is, somehow, not a feat of skill

20120620-204626.jpg
(knitchickmelly‘s Lyra)

Look at that and tell me that you could pick up needles & yarn and just do that. You can’t. You could no more, never touching needles before, make that any more than you could swim even half as fast as Michael Phelps, if you’d never been in a pool before. Knitting like that takes skill, practice, training, patience, dedication, and a little bit of luck. For the USOC to say that knitting, crocheting, or spinning, denigrates athletes is to say that those crafts somehow require no skill of their own. It also sets up a logical fallacy, the zero-sum argument.

Skill is not a zero-sum equation. Swimming, running, biking, shooting, jumping, etc. on an Olympic level takes training, perseverance, dedication, luck, and a whole LOT of money. But you know what else takes all those things? Getting a medical degree & becoming a neurosurgeon. Getting a law degree & becoming a US Supreme Court Justice. Sandra Day O’Connor’s achievements aren’t diluted or denigrated by the US Beach Volleyball team’s medal-winning performance in 2008.

It says a lot about what our society values when artisans and crafters are accused of lowering the dignity of the Olympics by engaging in those crafts while watching the Olympics. It says that, somehow, the skills required to make something like this (with sticks)

20120620-210700.jpg
(Hedonknitstic’s TARDIS afghan)
are less valued than the (measurably enormous, let’s be fair and honest here) skills it takes to throw a stick or jump over a stick or paddle a boat with sticks.

I doubt Ravelry is going to win this one, simply because the USOC has a legal team, deep pockets, and a history of forcing companies and businesses that should be exempt to change their name (such as cafés in Washington with Olympic in their name, which of course references the geography of the state). I just wish that it didn’t have to be this way, that the USOC could realize that the tens of thousands of people participating in the Ravelympics means tens of thousands of people watching the Olympics, together, challenging themselves and each other, coming together in a spirit of worldwide unity and learning.

Instead, once again, it’s jocks picking on artists. And that, frankly, sucks.

Wherein this becomes, temporarily, a “Mommy blog”

Wherein this becomes, temporarily, a “Mommy blog”

Boogermonkey will be in first grade in the fall, and for a long time we’ve known that he’s operating on an academic level well above his peers. The official label for kids like him (99th percentile in reading, 91st in math) is “Talented and Gifted,” or TAG, and that distinction is fraught. You’re accused of bragging about your kids, teachers don’t often understand or have time or want to differentiate (even though state law says they have to provide work on their level & at their pace), and then people try to say that you are saying their children aren’t smart or whatever. “Everyone is gifted,” they’ll say. Or they don’t believe you when you tell them, “He’s reading The Graveyard Book.” They say you’re making it up to make yourself feel better, that you think you’re better than other families.

And you know what? FUCK THAT NOISE.

My kid is really fucking smart. And that is a fact. Just like he has curly hair and a wicked sense of humor and brown eyes and runs really fucking fast. I’m not trying to make anyone else feel bad when I say that he knows how to tell time & understands the concept of fractions, and if you do perhaps you should look into fixing those feelings of inadequacy because they are categorically not my problem.

What is my problem is where my child attends school. The school he’s at has very low ratings, both objectively from the state and subjectively from school ranking sites. There are kids in his class now, at the end of Kindergarten, who do not know how to count to 100 or write upper and lower case letters. Even average kids are getting shafted in a situation like that. Kids like Boogermonkey are going to get bored. He’s already getting bored. His teacher says he’s “very chatty” and doesn’t sit still very well. Only 15 minutes a day of recess will get any kid antsy. Jeez, lady. I can’t fix that. Did I mention there hasn’t been a single parent-teacher conference all year and there has only been one field trip?

Lucky for Booger, and for kids like him, our school district has a public charter school for TAG kids and he’s enrolled for first grade. A girl from his class is going to be his classmate and we went to the meetup at the school today. Dudes. There is a vegetable garden next to the playground. There is a Lego Robotics club. The PTA goes to Salem to lobby for better school funding (hello, legal issue close to my heart).

I can’t fix every school. Every school should have a garden and longer recess time and extracurriculars and frequent field trips and all the awesome stuff his school in Eugene had and his new school in Portland has, too. I can’t really do anything about the other schools until I’m part of the PTA going to Salem & lobbying for improvements, but I can and will celebrate when this one thing goes right.

Crossing the Bog of Eternal Stench

Crossing the Bog of Eternal Stench

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great, and you have no power over me. —Sarah, Labyrinth (1986)

I met a gal last year at a party. She was a 2L (2nd year law student) at the University of Oregon, and I told her I was considering going to law school. After I told her what my goals were, with regard to practicing law, she admitted my ideas were sound ones and good reasons for proceeding with the process. “But I warn you,” she said. “You’re going to be dealing with egos the size of which you have never seen before.”

That, as it turns out, seems to be the universal reaction. “Don’t do it,” my friend Davis said. “But if you do, keep in mind what you want.” “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” another friend said. “Go to Lewis and Clark,” another attorney friend said. “I loved going to the U of O, but Lewis & Clark prepares its students for the business side of the profession and has a LOT better career counseling.”

There’s a video, made by students and faculty at the University of Calgary faculty of law. “Dear 16 year old me,” it starts. “It’s called law school. It’s where insecure overachievers go to do something with their bachelor of arts.” “Get counseling,” they say. To get over your daddy issues, your insecurity issues, your need to be validated, your need for praise.

And, of course, there are the law school blogs and YouTube videos, all saying how much law school sucks. Like really, really, really sucks. And you know what it reminds me of? Labyrinth, where the professors are Jareth, school is the labyrinth, and we’re the muppets & Sarah.

I’m crossing the bog of eternal stench, threats be damned. It’ll stink and some of my crossing mates will whine about it, but come the fuck on. We chose this journey. If you are so naive as to think it’s going to be easy, that you’re not going to be reduced to tears by some egomanaical dictatorial professor, you are fooling yourself. Turn back now. Go back to whatever job it was you had before you started, making the same amount of money as you will in three years (if you’re lucky enough to land a job at all), and save yourself the trauma.

I went to grad school. I’m no stranger to egos and classmates who need to be right all the time. I’m going to law school for reasons that are, according to people who actually practice law, quite solid. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking the next three years are going to be easy, but I don’t give a shit about what grades other people get, how many hours other people spend in the library. I don’t even know what my GPA from my MA program was. It was good enough to get into (and get a dean’s scholarship from) the only school to which I applied, and that’s all I need to know. Also, I’ve had quite a bit of therapy and I have dealt with my daddy issues & my need for external praise very well, thanks. I’ve lived through way worse than some limp-dicked academic trying to make me look stupid in front of my peers.

Yeah, I’ll probably cry in the washroom. And then I’ll wipe my face, draw my shoulders back, and remind myself that 24.5 hours of pitocin-aided, unmedicated labor is harder than law school. That surviving & extricating myself from an abusive marriage is harder than law school. That being the caretaker for a dementia-addled grandparent who thinks I’m my mother is harder than law school. That doing the latter two things, and raising my two young children, in the wake of my own mother’s death is harder than law school, so chin the fuck up, get back in there, and shine, because failure never is and never was and never will be an option.

I fought my way here. My courage is great, and fear, ego, and uncertainty have no power over me.