Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hot Glue & Ric Rac

Kristine, turn away from the post. It shows the package coming on Wednesday. I know, I suck. You are at work & desperately in need of some distraction to get you through some mind-numbingly dull review or regulation. I haven't posted all week. Well, read on, but be prepared to have your surprise ruined. 

All others, feel free to move forward without concern.

'Tis the season when my artsy-fartsy genes truly kick in. I come by it honestly. I have vivid memories of the blinking lights, wrapped with metallic garland, framing the mirror of my grandma's guest bathroom. I remember trying to make sure I washed all the food off my face between the static cling Santa figures. SO miss that lady. 

This is the wreath on our front door that I made when MiniMe was in-utero. The stereotypical holly & berry wreaths just seem so wrong here in the tropics. Considering our neighbors make fun of our house, calling it the 'Key West House' due to it's color, I think it fits. We haven't painted our house since we bought it, so apparently someone else thought it was a nice color. Whatever, windbags.  The wreath. We love it. Styrofoam balls wrapped in polyester thread, plastic bead garland with bells, hot glue. All that's missing is some foam curlers & a Virginia Slim.

These are more hot glue creations. The first was also made while MiniMe was in utero, but we stored it in the attic that first year where the heat was so hot the glue melted & I had to reconstruct it the following year. Some of the original ornaments were too far gone, so I came up with the idea of adding the admittedly random ribbon at the bottom. We like it. Our living space is largely blues & greens, so the typical Christmas themes clash too much for our tastes. 

The second I made for MiniMe's room last year, because she really liked the first one I made, & honestly, I just love gumdrops & wanted an excuse to use that garland. 

I have to take a second to whine about my kid. I told her I wasn't going to be putting the tree in her room until it was clean & it took over 3 days for her to get her shit together enough to help me get it done. She is going through a helpless phase where I have to show her 17 times how to do something over & over without ripping things from her hands & doing it myself. Lots. Of. Liquor. Thank GOD my innards have recovered from food poisoning & I can drink again. I am in no way that naturally patient & she knows it. 

I may be making another one this year from cheap bulbs I got last year, but we'll see. 

I kind-of have my hands full with sewing. This is the first of the Christmas jumpers. I realise now that I never explained the origin of the Christmas jumper. See, here it is still like 80-something-degrees in December & therefore way too hot for any kind of traditional Christmas garb. I thought about starting my own company of Christmas t-shirts, tank tops & the like when my friend Kristi moved back to The States from Sweden. She moved back to TN, where it is only slightly warmer than MI, where we grew up. She was all "!!!!!" about trying to have Christmas where it's over 40 degrees. We joked about the Christmas 'wife beater'. Well, after much searching, I decided to make my own fricken Christmas dress for MiniMe that would be just as she wanted & not, you know, velvet. 

This one is, again, Hello Kitty, for Morgan, Kristine's daughter. I had to make hers' first because it has to be mailed to AL. I wasn't happy with the way the neckline is laying because I didn't use interfacing, I sewed the ric rac between the lining & flannel. Usually I just sew the trim on after the thing is done, but Morgan is only 1 & ric rac can be itchy. Plus, you would think after making so many of the damn thing I'd have it down by now. Apparently I'm not as good as I think I am. 

I'm going to be finishing off MiniMe's Christmas jumpers (yes, two. She IS a Gemini) sometime soon, if she doesn't drive me to drink to the point I end up sewing my finger. I sound like a fricken pirate.

& no, I am not one of those sickos that tries to match the actual tree to the decor. I do have a number of blue ornaments, but we also have mostly traditional, more emphasis on the where-it-came-from type. I'm not THAT sick, people!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our perspective...

Y'all know I'm from Detroit. You can probably guess that the majority of my family does or has worked for the industry. I like to talk about it, & I have been. But you wouldn't know that because it's been actually speaking, not typing, because I've had a nasty bout of food poisoning. Better now. But as I was saying...

My mom's mom divorced her husband after they had raised six kids because he stood up on Christmas Eve, in front of whole family, & bragged about the women he had all over the country. It was not a common, or heck, even accepted thing back then. I remember Gram taking me to Mass & how most people in the parish did not speak to her, but through other people to her. It was a sort of communicated excommunication. It wasn't just because she divorced her husband, but then she dared to remarry, without an annulment, therefore outside of the church, a Baptist. (!) She met this new husband at the job she got, in Plant 9 of the Pontiac Assembly Plant. He was a General Foreman, who worked his way up, when he moved to Michigan from Arkansas at age 15, lying about his age to get a job on the assembly line. I remember as a kid watching him leave for work in his Johnny Carson sport coats & wide ties. I remember him talking about the people he oversaw with a furrowed brow. He worried about their kids, knew their names. He got angry from time to time about someone not pulling their weight. When he retired our family threw a party for him at a little community hall that burst at the seams. He asked me perform a dance as part of the entertainment. (I took dance lessons from age 3 onward & knew I was the apple of my Gram's eye.) The first time I heard the expression "bee's knee's" was after I finished my dance at that party & it was used to describe me personally. I made a mental note to use it on one of my own kids one day.

My dad's father came to Detroit from Massachusetts, where he did his apprenticeship as a tool & die maker with Bethlehem Steel after coming back from the Pacific Front. He had an amazing ability to just know how to put things together. When I was an architecture student he was the only one who could explain how to calculate tension or compression to me, becuse he knew how my brain worked, too. He worked in various shops all over Detroit over the years, with shops slowly closing down into the 1980's as those jobs were replaced by computers. Now, it does suck, but I told him he should just think of it as validation that his brain was a machine. 

When my parents were first married, my Dad worked at Detroit Diesel in southwest Detroit. He developed an allergy to diesel fuel & had to find work elsewhere. Years later, when he moved back downstate from Petoskey, he became a journeyman & worked in the foundry in New Haven. I don't believe there is a more fundamental relationship between the auto industry & the foundry where they make metal molten & form it into engine blocks. When the foundry closed down a few years back, my Dad became a truck driver. He ran routes for dedicated Chrysler, Ford and GM & was considered an asset not only because he was a model employee, but because he understood the big picture of how what he was hauling fit into the economy.

When my mother was getting burned out from the work she did in the juvenile justice system, she too began to work on the assembly line, first part-time, at night. Then when she saw a posting for a salaried position she thought she was qualified for, she moved up. She became an auditor for the CPC (Chevy, Pontiac, Cadillac) division, travelling all over the country. I remember how our lives changed when this happened. I remember my mom going from wearing jeans to work to suits. 

Biggie is a Car Salesman. Before that, he was a Mechanical Engineer. He isn't interested in the status quo that has been available to him working in Detroit. He'd rather be with people, weighing the pros & cons of different vehicles. When we got married he worked at a Chevy dealership. When one day every single car that he took on a test drive malfunctioned in some way, he decided he needed to move on. Now, to their credit, a lot of the malfunctions were due to a lack of maintenance by the dealership. For example, cars that sat for so long their batteries would go dead & no one would have checked them. But there were other instances of door handles coming off in customers hands that made him finally leave after over 3 years. 

We both drive imports. We both take criticism from my uncles about not supporting the economy, but truthfully, both of our 'foreign' cars were manufactured in large part in North America, if not the US. Certainly more than their domestic counterparts. 

I used to look at the Renaissance Center, the large black building usually featured as a defining building, in the Detroit skyline & glower. The building was built by Henry Ford as symbol of the rebirth of the Motor City. Now it's the headquarters for General Motors, who used to have one of my favorite buildings of all, built by a firm I used to work for, as their headquarters. I hate the Renaissance Center. When I look at it all I can think of is how many people I love, or how many people that I love love, have given of their lives for this industry. My own father, who is now gone, who poured the very hearts of so many engines. My own city, who made so many sacrifices for & allowed itself to be taken advantage of, for this industry. When you stand in front of the damn thing you can't even see the Detroit River. I don't think I've ever been in the building & not gotten lost. Then there's the fact the same exact building is in both Atlanta & Los Angeles. Like we don't even deserve our own symbol of rebirth. 

Excuse me if I don't get a little defensive when you talk about the 'lazy union man'. It's a lot bigger than you know, people.  That Gram, who MiniMe is named after, left high school at age 15 to work at Willow Run constructing B-24 airplanes because she realised that if the Allies didn't win World War II America would never be the same. My grandfather came home from liberating Auschwitz to find her in the barracks, nearly fatally ill with rheumatic fever. It's a sweet vision I have of my Grandpa, who looked like the actor Van Johnson, swooping in (in my mind, he's in his Army uniform) whisking Gram off to the hospital. The auto industry is what made it possible for the United States & the Allied Powers to defeat Hitler, people. The moniker 'Arsenal of Democracy' was coined for a reason, & a city.

My point is this: I'm just one lady. There are millions of us out there. Want perspective? The recent dip in the economy has been a 0.3% reduction in our GDP. The auto industry is 4% of our GDP.

Go over to read . He's saying it all much better than I can. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The sacrifices & compromises

In my last full-time position, I was given the opportunity to actually do the work I always wanted. I had not one, but two large-scale true urban renewal projects. Fort Myers isn't exactly a metropolis; but I was the project manager for two of the most dense, urban scale mixed-use projects in the City's history. It didn't really hit me until the day before I realized I was pregnant with MiniMe. My company had sent me to the State Planning Conference & I was very actively pursued by several other employers. I felt like the new, pretty girl at school. Except this had nothing to do with my appearance & everything to do with my brain. It was a profound moment in my life. Trying to talk about it makes me stutter. 

I was completely unprepared for becoming a mother in so many ways. Yes, my own mother worked through most of my childhood, but of course that first year, when she stayed at home with me, I don't remember that. I didn't realize that finding a caregiver was so hard. I didn't know that I would feel so torn; that I would come to resent my career for taking me away from MiniMe. When my boss tried to dangle a carrot in front of me that she might want me to take her place when she retired, I was already feeling the weight of what I wanted. I was honest. I told her that I wanted to have a child, & I knew that she worked longer hours than I would be willing to with a new baby. She assured me I could do it. It was a vague statement, & I remember feeling like I was expected to just smile & nod & move along. When I complained later of the trouble I had getting MiniMe to sleep the woman actually suggested I drug her. It's what she did with her children, after all.

I remember being three years old & refusing to speak English to my mother. She was away from me most of the time. I resented the changing of rules between when she was around & when she wasn't. "No es Mama!" I would shout. I believe it's something that made me a better mother to MiniMe, who so greatly needs to know what to expect. 

I never expected to be on this side of the Stay-At-Home/Working Mother battle. I always felt that I didn't deserve to have a choice. I spent so much time & money on my education. I am talented in my field. I felt the choice was made, if not for me, because of me. But when I think back to that the panic I felt when our nanny pulled the rug out from underneath me & I suddenly had no childcare, I shudder. The relief I felt when I found the wonderful, but outrageously expensive Montessori school that she attended for the majority of her first 3 years, was monumental to me. 

When I remember that first day back to work I get angry, but mostly at myself. I was lucky in that Biggie was the one who took her in, that I got to pry her from my breast in the privacy of our own home, was given the time & space to try to get ready for work in solitude & silence (except for my blubbering).  When I rushed in on my lunch hour to nurse her, she had already been fed & was asleep. I was full of milk. I had left my pump in my office. I just sat in a chair & held her & wept. Ms. Kim, who would become one of the people I am most grateful for, brought me Kleenex. I hadn't wanted them to let her go hungry. I was glad she was taking the bottle. I just didn't know it was going to be so hard. We had an appointment with the pediatrician that afternoon & he had told me that if she wasn't yet eight pounds he was not going to sign for her to be in daycare. I nursed her in the waiting room until they called her name. She was eight pounds, one ounce. As we drove home, I had expected to feel relieved. I could go back to my work & feel I was doing a good job as a mom, too. That's not how I felt. 

It is so hard for me to put into words how I feel about this scenario. Saying I am mad at the way that families are treated in this country is an understatement. No, I don't think parents should be given special treatment in society. I certainly think children should be. I'm not saying they should be allowed to run around like hooligans. I'm saying I think that we were made the way we are for a reason. The whole thing I went through of going back to work when MiniMe was just 9 weeks old?? Yeah. Never shoulda happened. It was torture for a reason. Both my body & her body were designed to put us through bloody hell if we were separated the way we were because it wasn't in our best interests. Now, I know there are some mamas out there that NEEDED to go away from their kids for a few hours (preferably to somewhere with someone playing a harp & a king-sized tempurpedic bed) when their kids were nine weeks old. It's alright. I get that. However, the majority of women, & babies if they could, would tell you they'd probably be better off, & choose to be, together. 

We have to screw with everything. We have to take every single natural process & try to make a buck off of making it better. I am completely not surprised with the whole formula thing. I wonder if anyone has ever taken it as far mentally as I have. Wouldn't be shocked. Follow me, here... 

It's no secret that men love boobs. But truthfully, boobs are meant to serve the purpose of nursing, producing food for the babies. Now, I know that there are a lot of women out there that can't nurse successfully & I'm not trying to make any judgements on them or the families who simply choose to use formula because they don't want to nurse. But the pushing of the formula!! The gallons upon gallons of free formula given to new or soon-to-be new mothers! We've got a perfectly good system of feeding babies, but we can take this thing that was invented to feed orphans or kids with sick mothers, tell everybody it's better than breastmilk, make tons of money off of it, our wives can go back to work & we get our wives boobs back to ourselves, again! (I literally had a dream involving Mad Men about this)

Then, there's the cereal... It will help them sleep better, it will help them gain weight. It has been found to increase the likelihood of diabetes! Yeah! Not only that, it tastes like wallpaper paste!

Sometimes I feel like in the effort to free women from the trappings of motherhood, we kind-of made it an expectation. I feel like people use these 'advancements' to pressure mothers into spending more time away from their babies than they really want to. I feel like shaking a fist in the air & it's not because I want to stay home with my little offspring, gloating in the wonderfullness of bon bons. It's because it's what I feel I am supposed to do. I don't resent her. I resent that I'm going to have take a hit in my career for doing what I thing is the right thing. Anyone who knows me knows I take this work, of being a parent, seriously.

One of my peers, who seriously is a mentor, but so funny & humble she comes across as more of a peer, has a daughter in her second year of college right now. The friend is beautiful, witty, an excellent cook & hostess. She has an illustrious career. The daughter is darling, insightful & charming. When the daughter was graduating from high school I was leaving that last full time position. My friend told me in an almost self-deprecating way that I was doing the right thing. My friend was sad & was questioning her past decisions to not stay home for a while with her daughter. I don't want to be watching MiniMe graduate from high school & feel like I missed something. I'm grateful for this time & glad we, as a family, found our way to it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Consumer Pilgrims

Please don't read this & have me committed. I know I'm insane. Well, if I wasn't before, I most certainly am now. 

Since yesterday was Biggie's day off, I scheduled a meeting to work on that uber-mysterious, yet to be revealed project. He took MiniMe to the beach, as I have an ass the size of a billboard & am not too keen on having sand stuck between my fat rolls, further calling out to me that I am not keeping up with the things I'm putting in my mouth. I had bugged him earlier in the week about how Ikea had sent me this email with these killer deals on some dining room tables. He was all, (sigh) "Really? I don't want to drive all the way over there & then all the way back in the dark. I hate Alligator Alley!" (for my Australian friends- Alligator Alley is a long stretch of interstate highway that runs through the huge swamp known as the Everglades. It is extremely desolate, as I imagine northern Australia, but with swamps, not desert.) But when I asked him what he wanted to do when we met up back at home after lunch, he was all, (sigh) "Oh, alright!" when I asked again. 

I have to explain that I have a bordering on sick thing about Ikea. Remember how Edward Norton's character in Fight Club poured all over the catalog at the beginning of the movie, prior to becoming, er, enlightened? Yeah. I can mumble & proclaim all I want with some anti-consumerist rants, but I'm not fooling myself. Or whole house is Ikea. I am writing this on our aqua Karlanda sofa, across from our Karlanda chair, with our Lack coffee table & end tables, and Magniker entertainment center. If you look at the photos from the leaf rubbing experiment, you'll see the Marianda curtians in our family room. Our desktop computer sits on an Alve desk, between 2 Alve drawer units, under a Hensvik shelf. Our bedroom, which has dressers & nightstands either built by my dad or purchased from the unfinished furniture store & stained by me, has curtains, duvets, & pillow shams in the now discontinued Alvine Satin botanical pattern. MiniMe's room is decorated with a combination of fabrics that were once Rosalinda duvet sets. The only rooms in our house that don't have anything Ikea are the bathrooms. It's a little freaky. 

The freakiness is more evident when you realize that the closest Ikea to us is over 2 hours away. That's where we went yesterday. That store has only been there for 1 year. Most of the Ikea in our home was bought years ago. We either ordered it online or over the phone, which with this company, is quite an ordeal. he curtains in the family room & the fabric I used for MiniMe's room were only available in the store, so I paid my friend Alexandra who lives in SF to go to the store, buy them for me & ship them to me. Yeah. I know. Freak.

It gets better.

When we left for our trek, MiniMe had pranced around the beach all morning & had told me she was tired & wanted a nap. Great, I thought. I'll pack a snack just in case, get our water bottles filled up, & subject Biggie to 2 hours of me wailing some Audra Kubat

When we got to Ikea, MiniMe had slept for just over an hour, which is not as long as she usually naps, but okay. Well, she pissed her carseat. & I, who used to have a laminated post it for excursions such as this, left her extra outfit on one of those Lack end tables. Shit. So, I went into the store, past the signs declaring that both of the dining room table deals that I was hoping to score were out of stock, as I had managed to hold the contents of my bladder. I asked the lady at the door if there was a Target or something nearby & was told it was only a couple of blocks away. 

So I drove to where I thought she said this place was & it started raining. The irony shouldn't be lost on any of you so just know that it only rains around 5 times between October & March here. I couldn't find the damn Target. We drove to a gas station & ended up at a full-fledged mall. I just ran into the stupid Macy's, found something that reasonably matched the shoes she had on & wasn't too hot for the tropics. Yes, they still sell clothes here that are for true winter weather even though it's 82 here today. I could have bought 3 outfits at Target for what I paid for that thing & spent a good 10 minutes alone trying to find someone to take my money. 

Yes, we went to Ikea. No, I didn't get a new table. We still have this ridiculous glass top, black metal thing that I hate. (pausing to glare at it across the family room.) I did however get some random things I needed that were way cheaper & cooler than anything from a non-Swedish store. I mean, $.99 for 40 Christmas ornaments?

Oh, & today was the last day of the Music Together classes I've been doing with MiniMe & the SAHD we're friends with. So, I had to leave the house at 9am this morning, which wasn't fun. Then, I had to go to the grocery store with a hungry MiniMe, who was starving because I had to rush her away from her scone to get to the fricken class on time. Then I had to listen to the old grocery bag guy sigh about how he had to try to help me load the groceries into my car stuffed with Ikea bags because we got home so late Biggie didn't want to take them in. He did have to peel a piss-soaked carseat cover off for me as I was dealing with her being piss-soaked again when we got home.

So now I have to take a nap, because I think Biggie is going upstate for a training tonight & I am not prepared to deal with MiniMe by myself. Then I have to clean up this dump. & I have 4 baskets of laundry to fold.

If you're holding out for some drunk ramblings tonight, you might just get them!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Today is my Christmas.

I am starting a new endeavor, to be revealed shortly, which required we get a new computer. Well, that & Biggie click, click, click, click, click, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLIIIIIICKING on the ol' Inspiron. Back in the day I was a Desktop Publisher. I'm a mac paerson. Clarification: I used to be a mac person. Now, I am again a mac person. But, I am lost. Lots of things to figure out. So, sorry if I'm not too frequent with the posts for a few days as I'm playing with my AWESOME NEW 15" MACBOOK PRO!!!

So, yeah. No other presents for me.

It's alright. 

THIS is a gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This is where you were on this day

Yep. I made her shirt. The woman who handed me my ballot asked to read the back of her shirt. It reads:

"...and it means taking full responsibility in our own lives- by demanding more time from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism;

they must always believe that they can write their own destiny..."

The woman got all teary. So did I. Because, this pretty much sums it all up for me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Such a weird fricken holiday

MiniMe has known what she wanted to be for Halloween for months. I've spent the last month locked in our family office that really serves as a giant 'In' box for random paper we need to file & my sewing. She begged me to make her a mermaid. Now, this did not initially begin as wanting to be the Disney character Ariel, but eventually she infiltrated our lives.

Sidebar: I am one of those moms that hates those bitches aka the Disney Princesses. The first one to come into our lives was Princess Aurora, or Briar Rose, or Sleeping Beauty. My mom was all, "What's wrong with Sleeping Beauty? She's a sweet girl!" Now, I must confess that this is/was my favorite of the category, but it has nothing to do with Princess Aurora. I love the faerie Merriweather. She's a faerie badass. Now, Sleeping Beauty??? What does she do? She sleeps until some prince comes & saves her & the whole world by molesting her in her sleep. Not my idea of a role model.

MiniMe found a Disney Little Mermaid book at the library. I read it to her for weeks. I've decided she's okay. She does save the prince, afterall. & stand up to the expectations of her family for her own dreams. Okay, I'm stretching, but I refuse to buy a Barbie, dammit!

She wore the costume several times throughout the week. To Music Together class, to storytime at the library. On the actual day we went to the 'Family Festival' at the Mega-Church I call the God Mall. They had bounce houses & slides for the kids. She was not impeded by her tail at all; bouncing & sliding right along the other kids. She won the chicken race. Something wrong with a mermaid fishing, though.

I gained some serious points with these adhesive crystals I bought & offered to stick on her face & body. The girl likes her bling.

She still tells me her favorite part was after we came home & trick or treated at only 3 of our neighbors houses because it was pretty late. She told me while we were walking home that I am fun & thank you for her costume. So, I already got what I wanted for Christmas.