Martha and Me

I could never have a blog without writing about Martha Stewart. First, it is important to say that I am a huge fan. I used to watch Martha Stewart Living in the 1990’s when I was in my early twenties, back when my kitchen was used more for mixing drinks and cleaning out ashtrays than it was for making chicken fricassee. Now, I have a house of my own, a couple of kids, a crafting closet, and a kitchen full of gourmet gadgets, but I watch the show more for entertainment than for anything remotely useful.  I just love watching her. Martha cooking with, or doing crafts side by side with, celebrities is first rate entertainment. Who doesn’t want to see Jessica Alba one-upped? When the celebrity says, as they always do, “yours looks so much better, Martha,” the average person would probably respond, “Oh, yours looks good, too.” But not Martha. She says things like “well, I have been doing this for a long time,” or “well, you need to be more careful.”

She is fucking Martha Stewart. Why the hell not? In all honesty, I have a lot of respect for her. It is impressive how she is able to continually reinvent herself while maintaining a consistent image. I mean, she has more than two-and-a-half million Twitter followers. The lady has been to federal prison and she still has the balls to look down on people for using Cool Whip. (Great moment of television when a baker topped a dessert with “whipped topping” and Martha reacted. The producers had to know that shit was going to happen, and they let it happen. Genius.)

Whenever I get my new issue of Martha Stewart Living, I am usually most excited about Martha’s calendar, which highlights programming events like her Today Show appearances and notes the days she will be doing yoga or meeting with her trainer. But the best parts of the calendar are the “gentle reminders” of things that need to be done around her homes/estates,  for example that Martha needs to “service the greenhouse boilers” on October 4th and “apply enzymatic cleaner to all drains for a healthy septic tank and sewer system” on October 5th (busy week!)

This month, however, although I was inspired by picturing Martha servicing the sewers, I was more intrigued by the four page spread about granddaughter Jude’s first birthday party. The best part, for me, is that the event seemed entirely inappropriate for children. The party was held at one of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurants and featured beautiful white décor, clear balloons (maybe so nobody would notice them), and a menu that included, as its second course, asparagus with mesculum, enoki mushrooms, avocado, and black truffle vinaigrette. Surely, baby Jude’s favorite cooked vegetable salad.

I held the magazine spread up to my husband and asked him to “name this event.” He said, “wedding,” and then asked who the hot chick was. He was referring to Alexis, Jude’s mommy, who I agreed looked smoking in her beige satin dress. The article that accompanied the beautiful photographs was written by Martha and is part of her “Life and Wisdom: From Martha” feature in Living.  According to Martha, the guest list was compiled of “all the adults who had something to do with baby Jude in her first year” and included a group of artists and photographers. As for the overall atmosphere of the party, Martha says, “because the event was a lunch for grown-ups, we kept the celebratory aspects minimal but whimsical.”

Martha Stewart is a bad-ass.

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Pee Talk

Last week, my four-year-old daughter, who has been potty-trained for two years, peed on the floor in front of her time-out spot, which is in an out of the way corner in the dining room. She came to tell me in a calm voice, “Mom, I peed on the floor in there. Sorry, it was just an accident.” However, I can’t help but feel that she was trying to send me a message, and I believe it goes something like this: take your time-outs and piss off. What confuses me is not her clever and messy message, but the fact that she doesn’t realize she has already won the time-out battle.

Have you ever been to a rodeo and seen the part where the kids try to lasso a goat? That is a good representation of me attempting to put her in time-out, but in our scenario I am usually inappropriately dressed (I get why the belt has become a staple of the cowboy ensemble), and she is the fastest, most cunning, most daring little goat that the West has ever seen.  Also, since we believe in lasso-free parenting (for now), even if I catch her, I can’t exactly keep her there. Pissing on the floor in front of time-out was not necessary, but she did it anyway . . . because she could.

The deliberate nature of her so-called accident is supported by this child’s ability to “hold it” for unreasonably long periods of time. She never wets her bed, and on car trips she is capable of traversing entire states without having to stop and go. If she ever becomes an astronaut and needs to drive from Texas to Florida to terrorize an ex-boyfriend and his new lady, she will not need to wear a diaper because she can hold it the entire way. Also, I hope the popularity of the bladder bust is revitalized by the time she gets to college because I want her to have every possible chance to succeed.

My son is the opposite. When he says he has to go, it generally means we have under a minute to get him to a bathroom or at least just off the carpet. When he was potty-training, my husband would take him outside, and they would pee all over our yard. When we are travelling, and my son says he has to go, my husband just pulls over on the side of the road, and lets him piss on the shoulder of the highway or in someone’s front yard. The world is his toilet. One of the big selling points about our mini-van for my husband is that he can open the side door and let him pee without even having to get out. I hope they have never done it while the van is in motion, but I am sure it something they have both considered.

My son also likes to pee on things, over things, and in groups. This summer, we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we walked out on a boardwalk near the highest point. We looked out at the mountains’ dark blue silhouettes in the distance and down at the rocky terrain sloping away underneath. My son looked at me and said, “I want to pee off it.”

I let him.

The Write Time

People must be thinking, who is this trailblazer of technology starting a blog in the year 2012? Does she live in a spaceship? Can her phone simultaneously send out tweets and make wasabi foam?

Starting a blog now, when being concise is king and character limits are measured like golf scores, seems comical. That is funny shit all by itself. Blogging is retro, and like wearing neon, I am not sure why it was popular to begin with. I have never followed other bloggers, except when I had an office job, and I would read anything. I once spent two days engrossed in the manual to my HP printer (if you ever need your rollers cleaned, just let me know). Now, I have very little “extra” time. I have two children, a husband, an unwritten graduate thesis, and I just started teaching my first composition class. I stopped writing things like “mop kitchen” on my to-do list long ago because, like having a social life, or having kids who brush their teeth, having a clean house is one of those things that has been pushed to the backburner.

I also stopped writing. I had plenty of excuses for not writing: I have to focus on my school work, I have to get the kids fed, I have to finish this six-pack. When in reality, not writing was actually doing me the most harm. In my graduate classes I wrote constantly, but I wasn’t creating anything that seemed like me. Mainly, I was writing literary criticism mixed with some research about composition theory. I was writing as a caricature of myself—the me that is a graduate student—the me that uses words like “marginalized” and “discourse.” While the me that says things like, “drink up, bitches” and “Olive Garden can suck it” was left floundering, gasping for air.

I used to identify myself as a writer, but then other words that seemed so much bigger, words like “mother” and “wife,” clouded that once integral part of my identity. The fact that my writing sparkles when I am the most honest about myself and my personal shortcomings made balancing family life and writing even more difficult. Adrienne Rich, who heralds the importance of subversion in the creative process, describes how the poetry she published after the birth of her first child suffered because if her poetry displayed “periods of null depression or active despairing, these could only mean that [she] was ungrateful, insatiable, perhaps a monster” (23).

Once I had children, I found it increasingly difficult to be truthful in my writing. Sure, it was easier when they were babies, back when we could rock them to sleep while watching The Sopranos, but once my house started to reverberate with the sounds of Thomas the Train and Dora the Explorer, I felt like I needed to clean up my act. Maybe I shouldn’t write about the time(s) I puked up Jell-O shots or about my sheer shirt period (aka the 1990’s). But now my kids are in elementary school, and they watch a show called Adventure Time, which I am pretty sure is meant for stoned teenagers. I figure if they can handle a parody of the exorcist that involves a princess made out of bubblegum, then they can handle their mom spilling the beans on the Internet.

Every time I write, I recreate myself. I change history. I put what got me to this moment into perspective—on my terms. Writing is my Xanax. When I get caught up in the doing of life, and I don’t take time to reflect and to continually renegotiate myself and what I am doing, then I unravel. By starting a blog, I am forcing myself to make time to write, and not just in soundbytes, but laborious, lengthy prose.

Work cited:

Rich, Adrienne. “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision.” College English 34.1 (1972): 18-30. Web. JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2012.

Banana Seat Bike

I forget things. When I was a kid, I would ride my bike to school, and then forget to ride it home. Often, I wouldn’t realize I had left my bike until the next morning when I went outside to get on it, and it wasn’t there. One time I forgot two days in a row, and someone from the school brought the bike into the courtyard so it wouldn’t get stolen. Now, I loved my bike, but apparently it was not, let’s say “cool.” Your bike was supposed to be a Huffy and it was supposed to be pink. Mine was a yellow banana seat bike decorated with sunshines and rainbows.

When we walked to lunch, my classmates couldn’t help but notice the bright yellow banana seat in the courtyard, and they started laughing and pointing, “Ooooh look! Someone left their bike in here!” Then I said  . . .  “oh yea, look, someone left their bike in here.” I was mortified. I thought about it all day. My bike was on display for the whole school to see. Did they think I parked it there? What kind of a weirdo would do that? Probably, the same kind of weirdo that rides a sunshine and rainbow banana seat bike.

I decided that I would wait for everyone to leave school, and then I would get my bike and ride home, and drive it straight to the nearest dumpster. I sat on the curb on the side of school. I could see my bike, but I tried not to make eye contact. Finally, almost everyone was gone. All the walkers and bike riders had gone home, and the line of parents’ cars had meandered back onto Osprey Avenue. There was just one little girl left. “Where is your ride?” I asked. She didn’t know.

“Late, I guess.” She said. We sat in silence. “Are you waiting for your mom?” She asked.

“Umm, yes. She is always late, she probably won’t be here for a long time.” I said.

“I wonder whose bike that is?” She asked.

I was getting really tired. I needed a snack. I looked at the girl; I didn’t know her. Maybe I would never see her again. I said, “Actually, that is my bike!” and I ran over to it, jumped on, and rode right past her, almost clipping her backpack. She probably thought I was a psycho. I didn’t care, though. I was free! I rode home as fast as I could, parked my bike safely in the back of the house and went inside to eat my feelings.

For Christmas that same year I got a portable radio that strapped onto my bike’s handlebars. It also had an alarm. You pushed a button on the top and it blared a loud horn, similar to what you would hear if a tsunami was approaching. I rode to school trying to listen to a radio station, but there was a lot of static, so mainly I spent most of my cruising time adjusting the dial (did I mention there were no helmets back then?) The teacher who worked the bike pen told me I better put the radio in my bag or it might get stolen. This thing was huge—like the size of a small television, heavy and red. I took it off my handlebars and put it in my backpack. During class I reached into my bag to get out my folder, and I made the alarm go off. My teacher thought it was a fire alarm, so she started to line people up to go out the door. I wanted to just get in line and get the hell out of there, but I had to admit that it was my new bike radio. I pulled it out of my bag, but it took me an incredibly long time to figure out how to turn it off. Some of the kids in the class started crying. She took my new bike radio, switched it off and put it on her desk for the rest of the day. I found that to be embarrassing.

One last thing. There was a man who worked the crosswalk that I took each day on my way to school on my banana seat bike with the giant red radio/community-wide alarm system. He had a bumper sticker that read, “Retired. No job. No Bills. No Money.” I felt really bad for him; he seemed like a great guy. One day I tried to give him a dollar.

I am starting a blog.

With this post, I make it true. I have tried blogging before. I started one in 2009 to try and share recipes, and I made two entries, and collected one follower: my sister. She made one comment that said, “Yum!” The excitement fizzled and my blog “Feeding Frenzy” was sunk in the water after only two recipes. Maybe the problem was that I am not a writer of recipes. I love to cook, but writing recipes isn’t my thing. After I graduated high school a good friend (and by “good friend” I mean this stoner guy that I hung out with sometimes) said, “I thought I wanted to go into forestry, but it turns out I just want to grow pot.” That made an impact on me. I realized that what I love about writing isn’t lists of instructions, and what I love about eating isn’t the words. I thought I wanted to write and share recipes, but it turns out I just want to write funny shit.