Posted by: emjb | December 5, 2008

The girl is gone

Gone here. If you want new stuff, gotta go to the new blog.

Posted by: emjb | October 6, 2008

Managing a corner of chaos

I guess I’m old, because I’m obsessed with the state of my yard. Or maybe in these times of turmoil, when a senile old man and his gormless wink-prone fembot monkey still have a shot at the presidency, when Wall Street has traded itself into a very expensive corner and we are commanded to bend over and grab our collective ankles as the only cure, I need something small and relatively simple to concentrate on.

Certainly it hasn’t been my blog, considering this is my first update since April.

But the truth is, my life has been fairly turmoil-y in ways that didn’t translate to pithy Web posts, or even pithier Twitterings, so I couldn’t bring myself to post.

My son was diagnosed with a mild form of hypotonia and hyperflexibility, neither of which is really more than a minor inconvenience, as disabilities go…some physical and speech therapy, and he’ll be perfectly fine, more than likely. He’ll never be drafted, and that doesn’t break my heart, but he will have a difficult time if he wants to be athletic at all…and that kind of does. Neither Matt nor I were ever good at sports, but we both have siblings who were talented in that area. My sister played basketball, my brother was drafted as a minor league baseball pitcher, my other brother was a great tennis player. On Matt’s side, he has a marathon running/dancing/aerobics instructor sister and a brother who used to do gymnastics and now goes rock climbing.

So there was always a chance Nathan would have talents or desires in that direction, and big as he looked to be, he might have been able to pursue them. Still might…it’s just that he’s going to have a harder time of it. And I hate for him to get saddled with that. As it is now, it’s hard to explain to teachers and others that the reason he’s not potty trained is that he’s had to struggle with being able to manage his clothes, that climbing stepstools is hard when your ankles won’t stay steady, that despite being the size of a five year old, he really is a nearly-three-year old with a muscular disability that makes him slow, and clumsy. It hurts to think that someone might look down on my bright joyful kid because of all this. I worry about school, about teasing and about teachers who won’t get it. I worry about all of that putting a dent in his happiness, because he is so happy, so much of the time.

So, gardening. Gardening is a little attempt at order in the midst of this chaos, and I find myself thinking about it more than I ever would have believed. With the economy like it is, our rent house feels fairly permanent for a while, so maybe that’s it too. But it’s also that I have a completely irrational affection for this battered little tract house, which was built the year I was born, which has had owners who loved it and others who abused it, but which is quiet and cozy and mostly big enough for what we need.

So after a few weeks of buying tools here and there, taking a swipe at hedges and (giant) crepe myrtles out front, I tackled the sad weed-filled flower bed in the front yard. I will be so sore tomorrow. I pulled up acres of dead monkey grass and disentangled a crazed rose bush locked in a death battle with some english ivy and a random tree sapling.  I found beer bottle caps, broken glass, and an old hose nozzle. I also found an entire brick garden path, buried under years of silt and running the length of the bed. And a tiny sprig of lamb’s ear lost and alone by itself outside the bed, a refugee and sole survivor from some earlier landscape attempt. The whole dang bed is infested with the ivy, though, so it’s going to be a constant battle to keep it from taking over.

Tomorrow I go back to add the compost and my bedding plants, which my mother in law helped me pick out; a rosemary bush, snapdragons, and a few other little colorful, hardy things. Then I’ll pretty much just pick occasional weeds till spring.

I’m already thinking bigger, about the back yard, which is a monstrous task. Old fence debris, an unbelievable amount of shattered beer bottle glass (though I found a Jose Cuervo bottle today), weird dips and holes, and a fence held together with chicken wire and dead (we hope) poison ivy runners.  It’s incredibly demoralizing to think of tackling it all, but oddly satisfying to tackle it in little pieces. Perhaps because the cause and effect is so much simpler. I don’t know what random set of genetic soup gave Nathan his problem, nor what if anything could have prevented it. Easier to deal with runaway ivy or an unhappy bit of bermuda grass, to feel the breeze on your face and to know that this little corner of chaos has been tamed.

Posted by: emjb | July 11, 2008

Toddlerese Update

Scawy (with claw hands, and you are supposed to go “Oh no! Scary!” so he’ll laugh)




See later–see you later


Scoodiver–as in “scoodiver fix tactor”






Sii, sii–sing, sing

Posted by: emjb | July 4, 2008


Matthew has new songs; his new album is done, off to be pressed and ready for sale. You can listen to tracks here. My favorite is “Half the Man” because I dig the over the top production, and was one of those who said MORE reverb, YES choir, and is there any way to add more freaky distortion? Thanks, honey.

Wife-ish bias aside, what I like about Matt’s stuff apart from lots of “indie” music out there is that there isn’t long intros with lots of twee fiddling about, dissonant “low-fi” nonsense. He is a total drama queen, and that’s what I prefer–music that reaches out and grabs your throat and says HEY  JERKFACE, THIS IS GOOD/WEIRD/INTERESTING. NOW SHUT UP AND LISTEN.

Lots is happening in my life, good (Matt’s album, my new book project, Nathan’s unrelenting cuteness, my house’s awesomeness) and not (Matt has been sick, Mom is still sick, work is crazy, and my healthy young coworker just announced she is a) pregnant and b) going to have a c/section “just because.” Lovely.)

The blog will continue, because I think I’m just too addicted to telling people on the internet that they’re wrong. And that’s a job that will never be done.

Posted by: emjb | June 22, 2008


Apparently I was able to import all of my old stuff over here. If even a webidiot like myself can do it, then it’s pretty darn easy. Thanks WordPress!

Posted by: emjb | June 21, 2008

New blog, same old griping!

I’m hoping to get my redirect from working. Deanpence was the one who got tired of me whining that updating was hard, I don’t wanna, and told me to just let WordPress do all the work. Certainly, it’s not uglier than my old one. Content-wise, I hope it will be better

OK, on to griping.

Did you know that teenage motherhood will KILL US ALL??? It’s true. The absolute worst thing that a girl can do is get knocked up when she’s a teen! I can tell, because of all the hand-wringing over this story in the media.

The sort of wide-eyed shock that so many seem to have that a teen would actually get pregnant on purpose, without wanting to get marred is…kind of revealing. The usual story has always been He Done Her Wrong, or else She Tricked Him–either he was a cad (and she apparently too innocent to know about rubbers) or she was a psycho who wanted to live off his vast teenage boy paycheck. Anyhoo, since you can’t accuse these girls of not knowing that Teh Sex leads to Teh Babies, then you have to fall back on “psycho.”

Superintendent Christopher Farmer confirmed the deal to WBZ-TV, saying the girls had “an agreement to get pregnant.”

He said the mothers-to-be are generally “girls who lack self-esteem and have a lack of love in their life.”

This is the more acceptable version of psycho, where she is not a conniver so much as just someone with low self-esteem. Although it does seem that planning and carrying out such a scheme took, if not self-esteem, then some kind of self-determination.

I have another theory. These are girls in a depressed fishing town, the kind of place that doesn’t promise its kids a lot of opportunity. For at least some of them, college may be out of reach, and a good future not too visible. They can’t change that. But they do have the power to become mothers, and they decided to exercise it.

What we don’t talk about much in our society is that reality; regardless of consequences, the power to create life, to create another human being, is something that we are uncomfortable leaving in women’s hands, especially young and/or single women. When they use that power outside of the boundaries we set, we crack down on them and judge them harshly. We say it’s because they are ruining their lives, but we don’t know that that is true. Maybe they aren’t. For poor teens, waiting may confer no benefit at all, and some downsides. They’ll be older, have access to less parental and state help, and no more likely to be in a stable situation.

I’m not saying “teen mom with kid” is optimum for anyone. But for some of these girls, looking ahead, it’s not worse and may be better. Because if they are cut off from education and meaningful work, then at least they can do the necessary work of childraising.

So the question really shouldn’t be “why do teen girls act so crazy and get knocked up” but “what are the alternatives for these particular girls? What would make delaying kids seem like a good idea to them?” It’s not as easy as writing them off as lazy or stupid, but it’s bound to be more useful.

Posted by: emjb | May 3, 2008

Change, of course.

I am giving some serious thought to ending this run of my blogging life, if only because it covers such a huge chunk of time (as my Diaryland diary, since ’99, as Grabapple, since 2002) and because it’s just become unwieldy. I’m thinking I’d like a new blog look, new title, new everything. But I haven’t decided what that will be.

I have gone from wanting to be an editor, pursuing that dream, and finding out I couldn’t make enough cash at it, to having a kid, dealing with the life -changing, horrifying, radicalizing birth trauma that is so common in the American system, and wanting to become a midwife, to…wherever I am now.

I don’t know anymore about midwifery, is what I’m trying to say, not because I’m not capable of it (I have enough confidence to think I am) but because it’s just too painful. Nathan is my one and only birth, and will stay so…you don’t know how hard that is for me to write…and for better or worse, I don’t know that I can do birth work for other women if that is my only experience. I don’t really know what “healing” from what happened looks like for me. And while I have always felt that fighting for change in the way birthing women are treated is a big part of that, that’s not precisely what being a midwife is. Midwives serve women who birth, first and foremost, and they have to be able to put aside their own resentments, obsessions, and hurts to do that. I don’t know if I can.

I worry about my own jealousy and resentment of the women I would be serving, about my own un-healed pain; I worry about money, about insurance, about being strong enough for that grind of working for myself. I worry that the business of midwifery in the U.S. is changing to a model that mandates a nursing degree, and that I just don’t have the patience and strength to go through all that, especially to have to work so much inside an industry that I still find so hostile.

I am not strong, not really. I crouch down and endure, but I don’t change myself easily, and I don’t heal quickly from deep hurts. I have been greatly helped by therapy, but it’s not a quick fix, it’s not really a “fix” at all, it’s not supposed to be. It is a safety rail that holds you up, but it doesn’t take away the void that you happen to be looking into.

I have, for the moment, no real plans for my life, the way I always thought I should. I have always believed in having capital-G Goals for my life, but none of mine have come to fruition, for reasons mostly beyond my control.

So I am experimenting with having only small-g goals: some stability, some small rewards to myself, some break from drama. It is not an easy trade-off. It is hard not to think that my existence lacks much in the way of meaning, that I’m just marking time. On my darker days, I think maybe we all are.

But I can’t do anything about that, and it does me no good to be in that place, so I don’t stay there. I just go forward, in the blankness, and wait for something to turn up, and try not to think that it never will.

This post turned out much darker than I planned, and I don’t want that to be my last entry on a blog that has been a joy and a lifesaver to write, so I won’t. That’s a small-g goal I can keep, at least.

We should have known when he stopped sleeping through the night for a week or so. The baby books warn you that sudden sleeplessness is either illness or growing of new skills. Kind of like when the lady in Species would go to sleep and wake up 10 years older. But not so prone to killing people.

Anyway. My often-silent boy of few words talks now. He says hi, bye, please, thank you, and people’s names. He repeats things (time to find more cursing euphemisms, Mom and Dad). He struggles to use words instead of gestures or simple shrieking to request things, or even just to hold conversations that only he understands. (Judging by the laughter, these are apparently hilarious, we’re just not getting the jokes.) He experiments with sentences; “Geen mee go. Red mee shop.” at the stoplights. He prompts us to run through Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, which we’ve memorized, an 8 millionth time.

Other new skills; “running”, colors, some counting in English and Spanish, sliding by himself, making Playdoh snakes, brushing his teeth, and climbing/falling out of his crib and giving his parents a heart attack. Making kissing noises when we talk about one little girl in his preschool class.

Like crawling, like walking, with speaking he has waited until almost the last minute, almost the point at which dr.’s start recommending a therapist, to suddenly jump into his new skills. And it’s a pattern I recognize, the way I learn, which is a long curve of nothing much with suddenly waking up one day going Oh, now I get it. I am doing that at my job right now, actually; I have had spectacular screwups and a lot of general confusion long enough that I sensed my boss being concerned, but now, I am starting to feel some competence kick in.

The kicker, of course (Nathan, not my boss) was when he told me “I duv yuu.” Not that he necessarily has much inkling what it means, but Lord, just melt me with the heat of your cuteness, why don’t you? He is a relentless cuddler, a bit of a clingy monkey, especially to his dad, and a real pest to older boys, whom he adores. At the bookstore today, he grabbed a manga book from a stack next to a preteen boy that was reading them, and elbowed practically into the boys’ face to show HE could read too, by golly! The kid was peeved, and I apologized and tried not to laugh. It’s a long way until Nathan is a sullen preteen rolling his eyes at the toddlers, but it’s getting shorter all the time. Which makes me not get so anxious about my son still being uninsterested in eating with utensils or potty training. All I have to do is keep an eye out for the next set of sleepless nights.

Posted by: emjb | March 7, 2008


Do you know I have been writing this blog, in one form or another, nearly 10 freakin’ years?

And I’m TIRED.

Anyway, being tired, and being snowed in with Life, and needing a change, I am taking a Blogcation until…um…huh. How about June? That sounds about right. When it’ s warm again, I will have more material, and we’ll be moved out of our sad little rent house to a hopefully less-sad little rent house. Baby steps.

Good news is, I got a raise and a bonus today. Raises me from Taco Cabana to…hmm. Chili’s level, maybe.

Anyway, read my ever-excellent blogroll or just hang out with your own selves till June. See you then.

Posted by: emjb | February 27, 2008

Cries from Belly of the Beast

During my semester abroad sophomore year, I knew a guy named Amos* who it was impossible to hate. He was a hard-drinking, partying sardonic type, smart but mostly funny in an extremely bitter way that I’ve always found attractive. We all partied because we were all giddy at being legal and away from home, and because English beer was actually tasty. (some of it…). But Amos got a little drunk every day, and blind-drunk at least once a week. During a school-sponsored boat tour, he got so out of control that the bobbies were called and he was escorted off the boat to dry out. When he went with a bunch of others to Amsterdam during fall break for the obvious reasons, he apparently narrowly escaped a knife fight. None of which seemed to faze him.

A few years ago, my school’s alumni magazine came my way, and I was surprised to see that Amos had become an insurance underwriter.

As you may know, I work for a Giant Insurance Company (That You’ve Heard Of), in the marketing department. And I had forgotten all about Amos until a week or so ago when I had to talk to a guy in our underwriting department. GICTYHO is so big that I barely know the people on my floor, much less the ones across the complex, so I had never met any of the people I emailed all day. I hardly ever call people, because I hate talking on the phone, and because I am paranoid about getting things in writing when it comes to work. Anyway, I had to call Underwriter Guy to demand he send me something, and instead of being a gruff, actuarial sort, he sounded…friendly. Goofy, eager, and most sad, desperate to talk to someone. I could not get him off the phone, without finally pulling the “wellthanksgottagobye” routine.

Huh, I thought. Weird.

And then today, with a different Underwriter Guy…same thing. Desperate attempts to spin out small talk into smaller talk, anything to keep me from hanging up. And while I do, indeed, have a sexy voice, that wasn’t it. They weren’t asking me for my cell number. They just didn’t want to be alone.

And now I have this vision of the underwriting department as some dim hellish place where no one talks to anyone and life is grim beyond description. So much so that talking to a gruff writer from Marketing is like manna from heaven. And I thought of poor Amos, and realized that he’d either found another job by now, or drunk himself to death.

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