My Gift Is My Song

Five years ago right now, I was filling out paperwork to get my baby lined up for school in the fall, and seeing the light at the end of the 'I had kids before I was done being one' tunnel. I was going to stop cocktail waitressing. I was finally scheduling my tubal and called the reproductive chapter in my life closed. I was going to go back to school and get my degree in handwriting analysis for the serial killer profiler department of the FBI math education. I had happily set me aside with the birth of my first son, and eagerly added to that postponement with my second, but it was time for me to start figuring out who the hell I was. My life was beginning in 2005 and the future was so bright, I had to wear shades.

I never did go to university. I never got the tubal. I never started on that version of me that I'd placed so much of my hopes and dreams into creating. What I did was start a blog and then get knocked up. Maybe not in that order; we're not sure. The blog came on January 19th, 2005 and the plus on the stick came on January 29th. Then I threw my guts up for 4 months in a way that, if I told you about, you'd be instantly struck with fear-induced infertility, and all the while I counted out the months and the days and the minutes until I'd again be in the position I, quite literally, fucked myself out of, the one where all my kids were in school and moving on with themselves, and I would be finally be afforded the time and opportunity to do the same.

When you're 29, five years seems like a light-age. It's unforgivably long. It's unfathomable that someday you'll be pushing 35 and this baby you didn't know you'd have would come into your life, shake your foundation to the very core, and then abandon you one day for the sweet smiles and soft hands of some high school students studying to be early childhood educators. When you're 34, however, that shit runs up behind you and smacks you in the head when you're not looking, and you hand them $70 a month to make it happen.

The best part is that you have five years from when you think you know everything until you realize that you just don't know jack shit and everything you thought you knew was bollocks.

I don't want to be a serial killer profiler anymore, at least not professionally. I don't want to analyze anything deeper than the existential implications of the Teletubbies. What I do want to do is write. I want to write every little thing down that no one ever told me and hand it to my daughter one day. I want this pen to be mightier than every sword that ever pierced the women in my family. And I never would have known that if I didn't start a blog five years ago, and I didn't start a daughter, too. This blog is her song, and the book it's born is her song, too, because she is my song.

And today, I set her free. Today, that day I counted down to all those years ago happened. She went to school. She loved school. And now, my job here is done. I am afforded the time I thought mattered to me all those years ago, that I know now doesn't at all, but at least this time I know exactly where I go from here.

First Day Of School

The War of the Roses

One day, a long time ago, my kids came home from school and asked me what the Underground Railroad was. They'd read some book in class and it just didn't make any sense to them. It just doesn't make any sense to me, either, I told them.

That was one of those moments when I had to choose between protecting my children and preparing them. I looked at those babies who never factored skin color into any equation, who I'd purposely taken out of the all white, all money school and enrolled in the 70% free and reduced lunch, 30/30/30 racially split school with the three classrooms dedicated to students with extreme needs so that they'd always know that life, she is the most beautiful rainbow, and I knew I had to make a decision. I had to let them think that the world holds hands and sing Kumbaya or I had to let them know what's real.

I chose the latter.

I sat them down and started with slavery. I moved on to emancipation. I continued to civil rights, to Dr King and Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. They wept, and I joined them. They asked, "Why, momma?" and I told them I didn't really know. I told them that some people in the world will go to any lengths to be more than, better than, others. I told them that there is a whole lot of evil in the world screaming in our ears, and it's our job to drown that out with song.

I explained to them that sometimes, weeds will grow so thick and strong in a garden that everyone can just start to accept them, even admire them. People can look at an over-run, weed infested garden and think it looks lovely and right, because that's how weeds work. They bloom flowers that look pretty and grow in patches that look appropriate and they fool the people who aren't paying attention. The truth is that they are killing everything around them, choking the ground, ruining the garden. They're hard to get rid of because the take root so deep, so fast, and spread everywhere when you're not paying attention. But sometimes, someone comes along who is paying attention. Maybe that person will plant a rose bush. That rose bush will start small, and it will struggle, but that person will tend to it and push the weeds away from it and make sure it has just enough light and air and soil, and that rose bush will slowly grow. Maybe someone else will see that rose bush, and they'll come plant another one. Maybe another person will, too. In a city of people moving together, thinking collectively, jointly blinded by what is just there and what is just easy, maybe you'll get three people who can see things for what they are, and those three people can make a rose bush grow tall and strong amid the weeds. And then one day, while everyone else was busy accepting the way things are, that rose bush has grown taller and stronger and more beautiful that anything around it, and then everyone will notice.

That doesn't mean they're going to come pull the rest of the weeds with you, but at least you've gotten their attention. At least they can see the weeds for what they are. At least you've shown them what their world could be, should be, if they just opened their eyes and ears and hearts and started digging.


And super heroes come to feast; to taste the flesh not yet deceased. And all I know is still the beast is feeding.

I'd like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.

{Five points to the first person who says it}

I'd like to take you back to a day, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when we used to have to walk 13 miles in the snow, uphill, to read someone's blog. When we had to manually add things called "trackbacks" using things called "permalinks" and if we wanted a blogroll, we had to write the html code for one in the sidebar of our blog. After we wrote the html code for a sidebar. A day when you weren't trying to attract readers to your blog, you were trying to explain to your mother what a blog was. A day when you wrote "posts", not "pieces" and you had a "blog", not a "website". A day when the word "widget" didn't exist and the only way to make money off your blog was by sitting on the monitor while you gave blowjobs.

These were the days when people visited each other's blog. These days, you left comments because, you know, you were already there and stuff, yo. These were the days when you formed relationships with the bloggers you read, because you all were this tiny little group of inverted freaks that no one really understood but each other.

Back in those days, you could write a blog for over two years before you ever even heard of Dooce because there weren't communities and blog awards and readers. And then they invented And one day, that started notifying you when someone on your blogroll updated their site, saving you from clicking through every link on your blogroll every day. And then Google came out with The Dreaded Reader, saving you from ever having to click anything. And then some asshole invented Twitter, and Twitter Killed the Weblog Star. And then they invented Tweetdeck, so you never actually had to even follow anyone on Twitter, even though you're following 16,872 people. And now Newsweek Magazine is calling you a GOD.

These days, everyone wants COMMENTS and FOLLOWERS and AWARDS and there are movements created to rally the troups back into submission. These days, there are SPONSORSHIPS and SWAG and ADVERTISING DOLLARS to be had. There is SEO and SEM and there are plugins and platforms and contests and giveaways and everyone wants a piece of it.

I have absolutely no problem with any of this. It's an evolving market, this blogging thing, and there's no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going...yet the rowers keep on rowing.

The thing is, social media has made it easier than ever to be an unsocial recluse. Which is in exact opposition to the point. We don't have to read blogs; hell, we don't even have to write them anymore. Everything that we need to say can be nicely summed up in under 140 characters on Twit-Book. Every correspondence we ever need to have can be had using only a well-placed semi-colon and that weird not-quite-a-hyphen-wiggly~thing. We can completely participate in this community that we desire so much out of without actually participating in it at all.

Social Media is the worst thing to happen to Social Media since Social Media.

We use social media to further the interests of out community, and by using it, we're undermining our community. Which, also, I guess I could be okay with if I had to be (See above; evolution and Willy Wonka) except that one day I woke up and realized that I didn't watch the Daily Show the night before because I'd learned everything I needed to know for the day on Twitter. And when Twitter replaces Jon Stewart as the standard repository of breaking news, something has gone terribly wrong and must be fixed.

Round the world and home again, that's the sailors way.

It's time, for me at least, to turn social media against itself. It's time to take it all back to where it started. It's time to know who my community is again. It's time to take advantage of the tools available that allow us to connect more easily, not less. It's also Delurking Day, so I have that going for me, which is nice.

Delurker Day 2010

This month, I am reinventing my own wheel. I'm changing my outlook on blogging, on my blog, on my role as a blogger and my attitude towards it. There are changes a'coming in my little corner of the internet, starting today. Today, I re-instate the blogroll (that I don't have to code myself anymore, thank you sweet, pink baby Jesus.) You read my blog? You're on the blogroll. Leave your url in the comments and I'll take it from there. (Please be patient) Today, I also start clicking through that blogroll. Fuck the reader, screw's time to visit blogs. It's time to delurk, for good. It's time to help the people who take the time to read this blog earn that extra dollar with their ads. It's time to remind myself why the hell I do this on the internet and not on a cocktail napkin in the first place, which is honestly way more tactile-y satisfying and significantly easier to roll my chewed gum up in.

I've wished this blog dead more times than I can count. It almost died a million times, and I almost let it. This Mr Lady person has almost vanished from the internet because, quiet frankly, Shannon has a hard time keeping up with all. But we're not dead yet. Blogging is not dead yet. This community of bloggers isn't dead yet. I think we should all go for a walk.

What Goes Around Comes Around. Twice.

My husband and I have been married for eleven years. Eleven years is a long time to do anything. We've seen our share of ups and downs, and that is the understatement of the year. I am not the easiest woman to be married to, for any number of reasons. I am grossly insecure and particularly needy and excessively sensitive. He's got his things, too, but this isn't about him today, it's about me. I've made him work for this relationship. I change the rules on him constantly and expect him to just keep up. Example: When he met me, I worked three jobs, 19 hours a day, 6 days a week. Now I stay home and let him go to work for at least 12 hours every single day while I fail in every way to so much as wash the dishes. He does this with a smile on his face, or so I assume; it's not like I ever actually see his face anymore. I'd like to say that he at least gets to come home to a hot little body waiting for him in lingerie, but what he really comes home to is a snoring wife wearing his sweat pants hogging his side of the bed who used to be a size -0 and is now a solid 12.

I make few apologies for this. It's not like I knocked myself up with a baby that decided to make me gain 105 pounds in nine months, after all.

However misguided my feelings on the subject, I do feel a little bad that the 98 pound girl with a D cup you could stack plates on that he signed up for a life with has now turned into a National Geographic centerfold. I feel bad enough, in fact, that I, on occasion, will buy him pistachios and roses and have them waiting for him when he comes home in the middle of the night after the umpteenth night straight at work.

Roses & Pistachios are the way to a man's heart

He reciprocates occasionally, coming home late from work on the nights he's due in early, bearing gifts for me, too.

If I wrap the divorce in silk, it will be an appropriate 12th anniversary gift

That is a gym membership, brought home for me last week, because apparently he wants a divorce. You leave a man enough times and he'll start double-dog daring you to do it again, all for the low low price of $31/month.

To his credit, he did include all-you-can-eat childcare in the package. So now I can't bitch about being fat, having no where to go OR having no one to watch my kid while I go there anymore. It's like he's robbed me of everything, including my lovely lady lumps. Asshole.

But I'm determined to use it, partly because I do want to get the fuck out of this house occasionally, and I would like to do it sans-four-year-old, but mostly because I'm sick people congratulating me and asking me when the baby is due. The best answer to which is, "Four years, three months and eleven days ago; thanks for asking." So I went last night to try this thing out. I got the four year old ready to go and the nine year old announced that he'd like to go as well. So I put my gym bag down, huffed a little, and called to see if I had a two-for-one daycare special. Which I do. I grabbed my bag, my two youngest, and headed out the door when my eleven year old ran down the stairs in full gym gear asking if he could come, too. You know, to work out with me.

Seriously, I just started being able to poop without company. Will there never be a moment's rest from these people?

So I put everything down, again, and called the gym, again, huffed, AGAIN, and lied about his age, again, and found out that I could bring him. So off we all went. 45 minutes after I was planning on getting to the gym, we had two kids checked into daycare and one magically-turned twelve year old on an elliptical next to me. Who beat my fat fucking ass, hard. Every spanking this kid has ever received in his entire life was repaid last night, in full. He pwned me.

Vengeance is a dish best served sweaty, with burning quads.

It's not like I can let me kid out-work me. If he does 50 crunches on the ab-thingy, I have to do 50, also. If he's barely broken a sweat after 20 minutes on the elliptical, I have to grin and pray silently for god to strike us all dead and spare me this humiliating torture. If he gets through an entire circuit and asks to do it again, well, I just have to do it all again. Even if I can't stand upright anymore. Even if I've sweated out every drop of moisture in my body and am now replacing that sweat with blood. Even if my legs are jello and I can't recall where my arms used to be. Even if I just want so scream that THIS WAS MY PRESENT AND YOU ARE RUINING IT, SHORT PERSON. I can't do that, now can I? We're having a bonding moment, right? One of those fleeting mother-son moments that will be over the second this kid learns what a Playboy magazine is. Which, thanks to him, I may be able to appear in someday.

Peter Pan

When my boys were little, I could get them to do just about anything, so long as it meant they'd get to grow up because of it. "Momma, why do I have to take a baff?" So your skin can be clean and stretchy for it to grow, of course. "Momma, do I have to eat dis broccowee?" Only if you want your muscles to be strong so you can grow up big and tall, silly boy. "Momma, I don't want to sweep!" Well, if you don't sleep, your body can't grow. Little boys can only grow while they sleep. You want to grow, right? All they wanted to do was grow-grow-grow. They wanted to be big like their daddy, like each other. They wanted to do big boy things like play video games and go to school and ride bikes outside.

Not so much with my daughter.

I so much as mention growing up and the waterworks begin. "I don't want to gwow up, Momma! I want to stay wittowl forever!" she cries. And it's not just pissy little defiant four year old tears, either. The kid is flat out afraid of growing up. I have no idea where this comes from.

I've tried to rationalize this with her. I've pointed out that she's already a big girl; she pees on the potty and she rides a bike and puts on her own shoes and eats ice cream cones. Babies don't do those things. She drinks milk from a cup, not boobies. She has a big girl bed, not a crib. She writes her name and plays on the computer. She's already big, I tell her, and she just cries and cries and tells me no, she won't grow up. She's going to stay wittowl.  She can't grow up.

Now I know where Peter Pan came from.

I've kind of given up on the whole thing and just accepted that I'm going to have to resort to "Show momma how the piggies eat" to get her to eat her vegetables, or worse, the "Pull it out of her belly-button" game which is really fun when they eat mini-marshmallows but not at all fun when they eat mashed potatoes. The fact of the matter is that this is the last kid I get, and I wouldn't mind it in the least if she stayed little. She got big way too fast as it is, really.

Except that she really wants to go to school. Except that I really want her to go to school. Except that my husband would like to see his floor and my boss would like to see that report and I need her to be elsewhere if I'm going to get those things done.

Last time we tried school, she was two and not at all ready and cried from drop off to pick up every time we left her there. We ended up pulling her out because I just didn't feel like paying someone to make my kid cry. We haven't tried since, but Tuesday is supposed to be her first day at pre-school here. And she's very excited. She asks me all the time what she'll be doing and brags that she's going to have a teacher and homework, just like the guys. She tells me that she won't cry at school this time, which, holy memory Batman, and I say to her that of course she won't, because she's a big girl now, and I hold my breath.

And she looks at me with those big, green eyes that are starting to well up with tears, and she thinks. She thinks really hard and says, "No momma, I'm a big BOY now. I'm your son. Big son-boys go to school." And I think I have a really clever little girl.