Thursday, August 31, 2006

Meanest Mom Ever

I'm not the only member of my family feeling the stress of all these upcoming changes.  My 9 year old, S, has recently regressed to the age of about four.  She has always been a timid, clingy child (Why yes, I do have some control issue that possibly have seen expression in my parenting.  Why do you ask?), but this past year had made some great progress in her independence and risk-taking.  She even stayed home by herself once while I ran my girlfriend to work. 
But for the past three weeks she's been acting like those things never happened.  S refuses to enter a room by herself, for example, and goes (literally) into hysterics if she sees a spider.  She won't brush her teeth alone and sleeps with the light on.  The only way she can go to the bathroom or go to bed by herself is by bringing a book to read, or listening to her &#@!% Harry Potter tapes so constantly that I can hear Jim Dale's cheerful british accent through my dreams.  It's as if being alone with her thoughts is too disturbing for her.  And that is disturbing to me.
Of course, S doesn't have all the coping mechanisms that adults do for those situations.  My thoughts are sometimes so troublesome that I'll drink a beer, or watch TV, or read a book, or ride my bike, or call a friend.  As a child she has little autonomy to do some of those things, and I try to take that into account.
However, my approach to this behavior is still pretty strict: I will not sit in the bathroom with her while she poops.  I will not stand there while she brushes her teeth.  If she wants a drink of water, she can perfectly well go into the kitchen to get it, because I'm sitting in the next room.  Sometimes it makes me feel mean.
S tells me so, too.  A lot.
Hopefully, though, having the meanest mom ever will help her grow up into a (reasonably) healthy adult who doesn't require more than a few years of therapy.  That's the plan, anyway.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What To Do with the Last Three Days at Your Job

Figure out how many letters you have produced (initial tally = at least 30,000)
Clean old school papers, digital photos, drafts of WT Chronicles, grants written for People's Free Space, off computer hard drive
Empty voicemail and email
Write notes for whoever sits in this chair after you
Drink more lemon/ginger/echinacea juice than initially thought possible
Write 30-day notice to landlord that you are leaving the apartment
Straighten out afternoon childcare situation for the coming school year
Clean out from desk dozens of salt packets, broken pens, a bottle of Vitamin C tablets, clay sculptures made by 9 year old, very hard licorice, tampons, tea bags, hand lotion, a spray bottle of Bragg's Amino Acids, a book entitled 99 Poems in Translation, a sweater, approximately 50 old paystubs
Blog about it

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Public Transportation

Because the City will be providing bus transportation for the students at the new East End Community School, my daughter--who also attends an out of district program--will be taking the school bus this year.

When she began school in Portland, I thought it strange that transportation is not provided for students (but I guess that the point of community schools is that kids tend to live close to the school they're attending).

Growing up in rural Maine, the bus was an inextricable part of my school experience: we caught the bus every day and rode for nearly an hour to and from school. It meant that, in the winter, we got on the bus in the dark and got off the bus in the dark. When I started high school, I had to catch the bus at 6:40 a.m.--which meant that I was up at 4:30 so that I could curl my hair to standard heavy-metal-chick height (that's 2 1/2 inches or more, for those of you who didn't live through those special days).

Our driveway was 1/3 of a mile long, so it was a long haul in the snow sometimes to stand out there for ten or fifteen minutes. And of course I was way too cool to wear a hat (and, of course, did't want to mess up that big mane of hair), so I was almost always freezing.

Now it seems like a novelty to have the bus actually come to my house to transport my daughter. Amazing! What will they think of next?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Internal Combustion

It's my last week here at work, and I'm spending the week getting my desk and everything in order so that someone else can come in and do my job.  I find it a little strange that I have feelings about this, since I have spent so much time complaining about it.  At the same time, I've worked here longer than I've ever worked anyplace else (3 years!) and I deeply, DEEPLY resist change on almost any level, so...
I started packing this weekend.  Only 33 days until the apartment must be empty [twitch, twitch].  Never too early to get started.
Also, said goodbye to goodbuddy Bec, who is off for west-coastian adventures.
So as a natural result of these changes (which, did I mention, I hate--not because they are not good, because they are, but just on principle) I'm coming down with something that makes me ache and sneeze and sweat.
Must. Hold. On. Until. October.  The moving and everything will be done then, and I can just try to settle.
Good lord, that's far away.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Writer's Group: The End

For a year and a half I have helped facilitate a writer's group at the homeless shelter where I work. Mostly what we do is provide space and materials for folks to write, since if you live in public space (shelters, streets, parks) it's hard to find good opportunities to put down all of your stuff and write--not to mention constant noise and the difficulties of even getting pen and paper sometimes.

Today was my last writer's group meeting, and several of the people who are regulars at the group came to say goodbye. It's been amazing to work with these folks, hear their stories, and create some fantastic pieces of writing with them. I have learned so much about teaching and learning, about my own prejudices about poverty. I figured out that this kind of work--working creatively with people who are often voiceless--is what I want to do, and that's been a lovely gift.

One particular man has been coming to group since it started.  He camps in the woods within the city.  Year round.  He is also a very talented writer who is receiving some notice for his work.  He wrote me a very nice letter, and also shared the first draft of a piece he's been working on about dying on the streets. He said I could share/publish it, so I wanted to put a little piece here.

He says in the letter to me, "this poem (eventual performance piece) is dedicated to the man who passed away, earlier this year, under the city's marginal way bus shelter."

The ellipses within the paragraphs are his. The phrase "don't forget to spike the door" is a reference to train-hopping etiquette: before you leave your car, you use a railroad spike to jam the door open so that someone else can climb in.

Finally... Shelter

The police officers stand over my demise. This
empty vessel, God's child; talk into their mikes; move
back the small crowd. Fearful of desecration, one lawman
hurries, runs around the park benches, wrapping crime
scene tape... never in my life... has anyone on the streets...cared
about me, given me this much room to sleep.

I witness an old drinking buddy protest aloud "this
is not a crime scene!" But, oh, it is, old friend. This is a
crime scene. A crime, what I did to myself. The crime, unto
my dear loved ones... and my unholy self. I can... no
more... defend myself. I can not answer. I will not reply.
But, every last one of you know the story, and the crimes.


I could not, would not, defeat the bottle. I would not
surrender the glass of raging spite. Only now, my dear
friends, do I discover I have regained my self esteem. I...
I... I am sorry, my dear friends. It is time for me to take my
leave. I hear the lone, lonesome whistle of a freight train.
Remember, when it is your time. Don't forget to spike the

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lesbian Radio Redux

[This is the piece I read on Lesbian Radio yesterday. It went well, even the chatting. But it still terrifies me enough that I felt shaky the whole rest of the day.]

Skirting the Issue

“You should wear a skirt more often,” my lover whispered a week ago, sliding her hand up my bare thigh. I want to, when she speaks to me like this, and she does every time I wear one. We were in the kitchen, preparing for our separate daily work when her appreciation for my attire took precedence over coffee and toast. I had a meeting later at my office job, which had prompted the skirt in the first place, but this was a lovely side benefit. I put down my mug of coffee and allowed myself to be distracted, feeling beautiful.

Later, as I carried the mail between the post office and my work, noticing how the late-summer breeze held an undertone of fall, a car approached me and slowed. I knew what was coming, even before the call floated out the open window: “Hey baby, you got some of that for me?” and the car passed down the street. My legs felt suddenly exposed, and I wished for thick jeans to cover them. I walk this street every day, every season, but wearing as skirt will almost always bring comments about my body from strangers.

Ah, the skirt. Weird symbol of the feminine, enforcer of crossed legs. Open to the ground and to the breeze, accentuating my vulnerability, my sensuality, my femaleness. Catcher of wind and symbol of my gender. Binding and airy, sweet and threatening: I have had to make my peace with this particular article of clothing, and it has involved my deepest conceptions of myself and my world.

For many years, the kind of person I imagined when I thought of “lesbian” is now what I would consider butch—like my lovers, like many of my friends. Generally short-haired, often broad-shouldered and big boned, sometimes slim and boyish, these women are as awkward in dresses as most men. They are the ones my baby-dyke self would notice excitedly in the grocery store or walking down the street. I would nudge my best friend during those coming-out years—a slight blonde boy who was the only other queer person I actually knew—and whisper, “is she?” “Definitely,” he would answer. “Family.” And we would somehow feel bolstered by this sighting, proof that were not alone in our Central Maine town, that there were others out there who were like us.

Made visibly queer by their gender transgression, butch women became my icon of lesbianism. Thus, when I finally decided to be out, my hair came off and my wardrobe settled into a very comfortable dyke-chic: baggy jeans or dockers, button up men’s shirts or t-shirts, boots. The dresses and fancy shoes went in a big bag to Goodwill, the makeup and razors into the trash can. I wanted people to know, when they looked at me, who I was, who I loved, and what I stood for.

But as I learned about the distinctions between gender and sexuality, and became more comfortable in my sexual orientation, I began to collect skirts and dresses once more, at first hauling them out for special occasions and then for almost regular days, like the one last week. I have begun to understand a more fluid sense of my own identity that blends and crosses traditional boundaries. The armpit and leg hair stays but the baggy dockers go; the high heels will never return but the lipstick does, for dates and job interviews. I appreciate the feeling of air and freedom a skirt gives me, and I enjoy feeling pretty—to myself and to my lover.

Still, often, dressing femme—or at least femm-er—makes me uneasy. The skirts and dresses that hang mostly unused in my closet have become heavily fraught symbols of my identity and desire. Many times, wearing more traditional women’s clothing, and especially when my daughter is with me, I unintentionally pass. Since my wardrobe has shifted towards more feminine clothing, I have to come out a lot more frequently; people often unknowingly refer to a boyfriend for me, and I have to state what used to be much more obvious: I am a big old dyke, and there is not, nor is there likely to be, a boyfriend. Probably. And I can forget how it feels to walk visibly queerly through public space—that funny ripple of attention that sometimes trails you like a canoe wake—though when I hold hands with my lover I am quickly reminded.

The kind of attention I get wearing dresses is sometimes unwelcome—like the guy in the car. Sometimes it reminds me of how gender norms are enforced by social practice, as when I waitressed a few years ago and my tips were consistently higher if I wore a skirt to work. Putting on a dress means putting on a whole way of being in the world. It affects how I feel, how others see me, what kind of space I occupy, and what power I appear to have.
Likewise, I find myself dressing in a more masculine way when I am feeling especially vulnerable—like the day after a man in a passing car comments about my body—and I have to remind myself that equating masculine clothes with qualities like strength and safety is the worst kind of essentialism.

Clothing is often shorthand for the various categories we all occupy; it’s a quick way to sort out people and their affinities. Our clothes do often serve as our armor, our exoskeleton. But people are more complicated than their clothing, more flexible, more hodge-podge. Less like cotton or silk and more like the layers of light reflected off water. More like the way skin stretches seamlessly over muscle and bone.

What I would like for myself and for my daughter—for all people—is a world in which any person can dress in the way that makes them feel comfortable, regardless of the body they were born with; where anyone can enjoy the cool softness of their legs together under a skirt without fear of violence or assumptions about who they love. For now, the best I can do is to challenge what I know of gender essentialism, to embody that paradox with heart, and to proudly wear my queer skirt on my hairy legs, with my lover’s hand planted firmly on my bare thigh.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lesbian Radio

Tomorrow is Lesbian Radio Day. I'm working on a lovely piece about skirts.

Which is way more interesting than it sounds.

The show is from 1-1:3o on WMPG 90.1. You can stream it here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tomorrow is our Ninth Birthday

Originally uploaded by jennyjeez.
Well, her birthday, my birth day.

We are going to a historical re-enactment village to celebrate the day (her idea, not mine, even though I'm kind of excited about it).

People say we look alike. Even strangers say this as we walk down the street.

I guess I don't look at myself that much. Maybe I don't have to because I look at her.


"I'm trying to not eat processed sugar because it's bad for my body. But I always get this sugar craving right after lunch. I guess I'll go out and smoke."

Ok, it was actually me who said that. But I did realize its ridiculousness as soon as it was out of my mouth.

No, really.

I did.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We Are A Circle... Within A Circle...

This semester at school I am studying linked short story collections since I am [gulp] in the process of writing one. My motivations are mostly cowardly and greedy: short stories, unlike novels, can be published individually in journals, and if my short story collection never gets finished, well, I still have a bunch of short stories and not a big unshaped mass of novel.

Also, linked collections have always seemed wicked clever to me, and I like being clever. It feels to me a little bit like working within a poetic form--faking a rhyme or rhythm never really works, but when it does work the appearance of effortlessness knocks you on your ass.

I found an article today that had the following quote from the ever-sage Michael Chabon (pronounced, I learned the other day, as shay-bonn):

A group of linked narratives can create an effect you can't get from a novel or from one story alone. It's like a series of snapshots taken over time. Part of the pleasure is turning to them again and again. The interest lies in what has happened in the interstices.

Exactly. And how can you not love a quote that uses "interstices" correctly?

I have just put together the following list of short story collections to investigate:

Last Call K. L. Cook
All This Heavenly Glory Elizabeth Crane
Miranda Stories Katherine Anne Porter
Go Down, Moses William Faulkner
Beck stories, John Updike
The Elizabeth Stories Isabel Huggans
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Robert Olen Butler
Stones for Ibarra Harriet Doerr
Craft book: The Short Story Cycle: A Genre Comparison & Reference Guide Susan Garland Mann

My mentor and I already agreed on

Bastard Out of Carolina Dorothy Allison
Brownsville Oscar Casares
The Golden Apple Eudora Welty
Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson

I read Allison and Casares for my annotations last month, and am starting on Welty and Anderson for this month. There are a few extras in that list, since I am dependent on the local library for my reading material, and not all of it will be available when I need it.

Yes, I'm a nerd. You got a problem with that?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dream Job

Hey, remember that job I really wanted, and have been interviewing (and praying, and lighting candles, and visioning, and practicing foot reflexology) for?

I got it.

Hi, my name is Jen, and I'm professionally gay.

PS: More on the lovely Burdock weekend later, but here's a teaser: poison-ivy-ass, milkweed poisoning, and meteor showers.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What Does a Lesbian Bring On a Second Date?

I have decided to cohabitate with my new girlfriend. Yes, we've only been dating since June. Yes, it's wonderful. Yes, I'm terrified.

Spending so much time with this lovely woman has forced me to have a few revelations about myself, namely, that I am difficult to get along with and that I have gotten distressingly rigid about my living habits.

Hm. Maybe those are related.

It's good to know these things about yourself, so that you can be knowledgeable in your apology when when you freak out about them eating some of the frozen blueberries instead of saving them for January.

My landlord is being a complete dickhead about this whole thing, and is not "open to the idea of adding another person to the lease," even though I've been a good tenant for two years, and even though she's been a good tenant at her place for two years, and it's time for me to re-sign my lease anyway. He's a controlling bastard in general (ie "I see you've been smoking on the porch" as evidenced by the neat and closed container of butts hidden behind the chair, and "please don't put your empty recycling bin on the front porch"). The decision to move out became easy (well, easier) yesterday when he had some comments about my parenting choices. I was gleeful when I called him back today to say we'll be leaving.

So, after getting buy-in from the nine-year-old, we're moving to K's apartment about four blocks away.

It does make me wonder, though, how many major life changes can I go through within one month without developing facial tics or trichtillomania.

Blogging from Beiruit

Blogger suggests reading this blog from Lebanon. So do I.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Maine... The Other White State

In case you haven't been following local news, about a month ago in Lewiston, a local guy rolled a frozen pig's head into a mosque during worship. Heinous is the only thing I can say about that.

There has--rightly--been a ton of media coverage, and today's Press Herald reports more on this story. Listen to what the pig-roller's lawyer has to say:

"It's basically a run-down storefront in Lewiston. It's not like there's any wording to the effect there's a mosque there," said Matthews' attorney, James Howaniec, referring to the Lisbon Road mosque.

Howaniec also said his client did not know pigs and pork products are offensive to Muslims.

Howaniec also alleges that police and corrections officers laughed about the incident the night of the arrest and as his client was being booked, adding that one officer even said, "I wish I had thought of that." He contends rank-and-file officers
and the community at large do not consider the case a serious hate crime.

"It was an act of stupidity. Not every stupid act constitutes a crime," Howaniec

I'm speechless. Is ignorance and racism really a defense in the 21st century?

"[Lewiston police Lt. McGonagle says that] officers may have appeared to make light of the incident during the investigation to elicit more cooperation from Matthews. Suspects often are more likely to cooperate with investigators if they believe the officers are sympathetic to their view, McGonagle said. He said Lewiston officers do treat the incident seriously.

WTF? Is McGonagle covering his ass? Does anyone have any doubt that Lewiston cops are less than enlightened about, say white privilege and race relations?

Sigh. This stuff makes me so tired.

[EDIT: The online comments on the above news article are developing exponentially & I am suddenly ashamed to live in this state. These comments are mostly horrifying and racist and awful, but there are a few bright spots. Of note (because getting angry makes me strangely satisfied and probably suspiciously superior):

RC from Damariscotta: Brent Matthews disgusts me. He knew exactly what he was doing when he rolled that pigs head in there. I don't like all of these foreigners here either; a majority of them sucking the life out of Maine and the USA in general, but a person needs to have some common decency.

c, no town noted: Haven't your politicans and cops anything better to do than crucify some guy over a pig's head? When you come to this country, better bring a thick skin. Everybody else did.

Renee, from Biddeford: the fact remains that crimes commited against any group of people are not any more or less severe because of what group the victim is part of. Beating up a black Somalian and telling him to go back where he came from is no worse than beating up a white American in an upperclass neighborhood and telling him to go back to his own neighborhood. Violent crime is violent crime regardless of who is the victim. ]

Friday, August 04, 2006

Anarchist Rafters

I'm into this. (via eyeteeth)

Wish I lived on the Mississippi.

Pronounciation and Pop Culture

Perhaps this is the source of my segue/segway confusion.

From Kottke:
After Deam Kamen introduced his scooter, "segway" became a popular misspelling for "segue". Thirty years earlier, Thomas Pynchon used the same spelling in Gravity's Rainbow: "But segway into the Roxbury hillside."
It's like when I was at the district spelling bee in sixth grade, and I lost when I spelled raspberry R-A-Z-Z-B-E-R-R-Y because the company that made my shirt spelled it that way.

Segue/segway into book talk:
Gravity's Rainbow is one of two books that I began and never finished. Ulysses is the other.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Today's Numbers

Marriage proposals by strange men: 2

Double stuf mint oreos (dairy-free!) eaten at lunch: 3

Dollars found in Monument Square: 1

Approximate debt, in thousands: 28

Before 8:15 am, number of times I asked my daughter to please get ready: approximately 15

Evening's dinner guests, excluding those related by blood: 4

Number of above dinner guests under the age of eight: 3

Job interviews scheduled: 1

Days until I leave my full time job: 28

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

For Slackers Like Me

You can make your illegitimate surfing at work look like Microsoft Word so you won't get busted.

Do it here.

(via kottke)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Karma Fairy

So remember yesterday, when I was ecstatic and full of love for the world? Remember that?

I woke up this morning with a serious grump on, and the day has been filled with tiny irritants, like dropping all of the cards out of my wallet while paying full price for the vitamins because I forgot my chain-store-discount-card. Plus I wept while preparing breakfast, for no reason besides pure crankiness and misery.

It's not even That Week.

There will be consolation and apologies tonight over garlic shrimp and thai iced tea, that I know.

PS: I found out what Bret Michaels has been up to for the past few years: getting a plastic face.


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