Tag Archives: kids

Pages of life

A couple of days ago I was driving Miss Drama to a birthday party, following GPS directions through an unfamiliar part of town when I suddenly realized that unfamiliar terrain felt very familiar.

Backing up a few pages…

I was born in Memphis and until 9 years of age lived in the area known as Frayser. (Okay, technically the first 4 years were in Raleigh, but those areas aren’t that far apart). These areas are on the northwest outskirts of Memphis. In 1997 I returned to Memphis to attend college and my dad drove us through that area and past our old house, but it was almost dark and I wasn’t particularly interested, what with the excitement of starting college. So having been in the city for 19 years I have never sought out the house I lived in as a kid.

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It’s hard to say precisely what triggered that sense of familiarity. The trees? They beckoned like familiar friends. The gentle rolling hills? They reminded me of evening drives in the summer, windows down and the music of crickets, toads and whir of the car engine lulling cranky toddlers to sleep. After dropping off Miss Drama I pulled up Google Maps and plugged in my old address. I was literally a 5-minute drive away. If it had been farther, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Five minutes? How could I not?

The moment I pulled up to the house recognition hit me in the gut. Someone was parked there momentarily, driving off literally as I pulled to a stop. A for sale sign listed sadly in the front yard. I expected, given the area and the general housing trends in Memphis, a significant degree of deterioration. Based on information on the lock box and a peek through the front windows, it was possible the interior is in better condition than my house.

The gates Papa installed when I was little, probably around the time we got our Beagle puppies, were long gone.The aluminum siding had seen better days, but in many ways it was still so very much the same, albeit much smaller than memory, because I am rather larger than I was the last time I watched the house disappear through a car window for the last time. The open backyard beckoned, a place of primarily happy memories, of make-believe and games, races and gardening, digging for worms, and swinging on the long gone swing-set. The gumball trees still lined the yard, leaving their prickly nuisances that made barefoot play impossible. The giant hill my siblings and I had rolled and sent our big-wheels down now seemed little more than a slight rise. Partly due to my adult size, but probably just as much due to 30 years of rain washing soil and leaves to the lower section of the yard.

I stood by the gumball tree and memories played out in my mind. I could almost hear our laughter. I could almost see the little girls that we had chatted and played with through the fence. When I walked back to the patio, in my mind’s eye I saw my sister trip in her little hard-bottomed infant shoes as she tried to follow me into the grass and tumble before I could catch her, unhurt except for the unfortunate insect bite which made her swell up rather alarmingly. Looking up at the rusting, peeling rod-iron railing on the back step I saw myself leaning over with a stick and string, pretending to fish. In the front yard the giant oak still stood sentinel. I spent many an hour as a child running my hands over that bark, wondering at the mysteries the tree might know, wondering if it had thoughts in its own tree-way. I smiled at the maple sapling that had popped up recently by the house. Papa was forever trying to pull up saplings that sprouted to close to the house. I was forever trying to save them, burying acorns and watering little baby trees I found.

It was all so clear, as if I could just turn the pages of time and it would all be there. It’s a bittersweet thing to see the pages of the past so clearly. It’s a comfort to feel that connection, to know each page and how it brought you to where you are. The sadness doesn’t come from a desire to re-live the past. No. I lived that chapter, and I am happily living my current chapter. The pain and sadness I felt were because in a way stepping into that yard put me closer to my brother’s memory than anything else ever has.

In that house my brother and sister and I became more than just siblings, we became friends. For a time the rest of the world didn’t particularly exist for us. We were an insular little tribe of three, exploring our tiny corner of earth, making plans and dreams. It wasn’t the house that was special, not then and not now. It’s just a house like any other, but for a time it was my world and for a brief few moments I got a peek through time’s pages and remembered what that world was like.

 

 

Lessons on Love

My youngest, Miss Drama, does not have a phone or tablet of her own. She uses my phone to sometimes text her friends. It didn’t occur to her that since it’s MY phone, I’m totally going to read what was said.

For all you men out there reflecting back on your adolescence and wondering what girls said about you, well, it was pretty much this, and some of my friends’ spelling was equally bad and they couldn’t blame it on auto-correct.

 

According to the texts, her friend has a crush on a little boy, but clearly beauty is in the eye of the beholder because Miss Drama just isn’t seeing it.

Screenshot_20160505-111952

But back to her admirer….

So class, what have we learned? The way to a 10 year old’s heart is to be funny and not have a triangle head, and maybe not to go overboard with saying “you’re hot” all the time and trying to “protect” your crush when she doesn’t ask you to. That gets you named a “do do bird”.

La la la…I can’t hear you!!!

What one word inspires instant embarrassment in Miss Drama?

Puberty.

I had her captive in the car with no one else, so I took the opportunity to ask if she had questions. She’ll be heading off to middle school this fall and this is about the time I had the talk with her brother and sister.

She got very squirmy in the back seat. “I know everything!”

Uh-huh. When I quizzed her a bit, she did indeed know the basics, but was highly relieved to discover that babies cannot spontaneously sprout from her eggs.

When I asked her if she understood what sex was, she stuck her fingers in her ears and gave me a very eloquent reply, “Lalala.” Her brother and sister squirmed too, but wanted to fact check what they knew. Miss Drama hasn’t gotten there yet.

I dropped the subject, letting her know I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, but if she had questions, she could ask them whenever.

Fastforward a couple of days. I woke to cthulu calling from the deep through our pipes. Sewage water backed up in both bathrooms. Gross. The plumber is on his way.

I gave Miss Drama instructions not to flush or stick toilet paper in the toilet right now. Not long after she informed me she opted to pee in the litter box instead.

Better than the yard?

Oh the blackmail fodder she hands me!

Somehow, I don’t think dating and sex are going to be important topics for her for a long while yet.

 

 

 

Welcome to the other side

No I don’t mean this one…

Adele

I’m referring to the land of teen snark from whence I once drove my parents batty. Now, granted I didn’t really go all that far afield; not a thousand miles for sure. Nope, I am a permanent resident of the adult snark and sarcasm municipality.

That being said, I suspect Mr. Smarty-Pants may end up as mayor long before I’m old and gray. He’s especially fond of real life trolling. What’s an example? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a perfect one that just so happens to relate to writing.

So, with the upcoming release of book 2 of my Crossroads of Fate series *shameless plug* I’m trying to think of little things I can add to a vendor table to catch the eye, sell, and hopefully use to encourage book sales. People like art. I suck at art. Guess who doesn’t suck at art? Yep, you guessed it, Mr. Smarty-Pants.

Me: If I described characters or scenes, do you think you’d be able to draw them?

Mr. Smarty-pants: You write porn, right? I’m not drawing porn.

Me: I do NOT write porn.

Mr. Smarty-pants: Ah, okay. So naked people?

Me: NO! There’s Delaney, and while she would wear leather, no skin would show.

Mr. Smarty-pants: Oh I see, so latex?

Me: NO! No latex!

Mr. Smarty-pants: Wait, are there gay vampires?

Me: No….well, not in this series.

Mr. Smarty-pants: See, you write porn.

Me: No, I write HBO type adventures. Can we get back to the scene thing? *starts describing scene*.

Mr. Smarty-pants: So who gets betrayed in “Betrayals” and what’s the weapon?

Me: Well, really it’s a series of people screwing others over to get what they want. *goes back to describing a character*

Mr. Smarty-pants: *interrupts* Screwing? Oh, so you want a picture of an open condom?

Me: …. No. No. No.

Mr. Smarty-pants: *Laughs like an evil villain*. So, what’s the deadline?

 

And that, dear interwebz, is my son.

 

Say again?

I’ve been doing this whole parenting thing for close to 15 years. Some things with children seem Sisyphean, like insisting my socks don’t disappear into their room, or requesting they NOT leave dishes all over the house. One particular battle that drives me nuts involves their dirty clothes. If they want to carpet their room with them, fine, but the bathroom is a shared space.

I have put various laundry baskets in the bathroom with instructions to put their dirty clothes on there. Somehow they would end up everywhere BUT the basket. Floor? Check. Sink? Check. Litter box? Check. (Yes, I am just as grossed out as you are by that.)

I had taken the last basket out awhile back to haul clothes to the laundry room. It wasn’t as if they noticed it was gone.

The other day Miss Diva says as she cleans the bathroom. “We should have a basket in here!”

I responded, “Y’all have had one.”

“When?”

“Countless times. Somehow you never use it.”

She didn’t believe me. Now that SHE out one in there, it is magically being utilized.

I am clearly doing this all wrong. I should just toss them into the wilds and see if they survive. I figure they would. I’m not sure I would stay sane through their trial and error though.

What do I know?

On the way to dropping Miss Drama off at school I got a call from the high school.

“Your son has a spider bite and it’s bad. He needs to go to the doctor.”

“He’s had that for like a week. ”

“But it’s getting worse. He really needs to be checked out. It’s contagious.”

No, pretty sure that isn’t how that works and it didn’t look bad when I saw it.  “Okay, fine. I’ll pick him up.”

“So, you’re on your way?”

“Not right this minute. I’m across town dropping my other child at school.”

So, I drove all the way back, took Mr. Smarty-pants to the pediatrician, who shared my, “Seriously?” attitude.

It had finally burst as those icky things are wont to do, releasing all the icky stuff, which meant it was healing up. No red streaks, no sloughing skin or crazy swelling– he just had a raw spot that’ll scab over and heal up in another week or so.

I told the doctor, “Yes, they claimed it was contagious.”

She laughed. “Yeah, if he like smeared it all over someone.” She gave him a band-aid to cover the bite so the school would quit flipping out. Yes, it fit under a single, normal sized band-aid.

As consolation, she gave me a sports physical form so I wouldn’t have to come back for that.

Having missed his second breakfast, AKA school lunch, I swung by the house so Mr. Smarty-pants could get noms. He devoured two sandwiches and three hot-dogs. Yep, sooooooo sick. I then took him back to school less than two hours after I had checked him out. The secretary that had flipped out seemed surprised to see him.  “I guess he was fine.”

I just smiled.

The Stubborn Ones

Yesterday I attended a WIMS (Women in Medicine and Science) talk regarding being assertive. Today I ran across this article, a look at why there are still so few women in science.

In particular, the following excerpt resonated with me:

Four young women — one black, two white, one Asian by way of Australia — explained to me how they had made it so far when so many other women had given up.
“Oh, that’s easy,” one of them said. “We’re the women who don’t give a crap.”
Don’t give a crap about — ?
“What people expect us to do.”
“Or not do.”
“Or about men not taking you seriously because you dress like a girl. I figure if you’re not going to take my science seriously because of how I look, that’s your problem.”
 

I’m one of those, the stubborn ones. When kids teased me, instead of conforming, I dug in my heels. When I heard that boys were better at math, and my brother regularly demonstrated his skills, I simply worked harder When told that maybe I should just go into teaching, as real science was a man’s field I just laughed.

I gravitated toward the teachers willing to challenge me. Some, especially at the graduate level, push harder and demand more than they do of others. There have been days when I gave in to tears. It wasn’t fair. I had performed adequately– not stellar, mind, but adequately, on par with others. I’d even pointed out flaws in the other students’ work and been able to see things they hadn’t, and yet I got dressed down.

After emotions cooled, I comprehended why my professor pushed me harder. He stated as much. “You’re smart and you can do better. People won’t go easy on you. You’re on a hard path, but I think you can do it.”

At least he expressed his faith in me, but it didn’t make me like getting dressed down any more. Basically, his message was that I was a woman with personal odds stacked against her, in a field dominated by men, and to compete I had to not only do well, I had to blast away the competition.

At one point, when I was extremely frustrated and being told I might be forced to take the Masters because, basically, I had kids and my boss wasn’t sure I could meet the demands of a Ph.D. I had to argue my case to the department chair.

That professor who demanded so much of me told me, “You have what it takes, even more so than other students I’ve seen in this department.” He said a few choice words about anyone who thought otherwise, which is why I took his criticisms so hard later on.

While I’ve had a couple of female biology professors in undergrad I saw as mentors, the vast majority of my interactions have been with males. There isn’t a single female faculty member in my department.

Most of the time, those interactions have been positive, and they’ve been supportive.

The article mentioned the author’s lack of confidence as key to why she didn’t pursue science. I think that right there is the linchpin. I knew what I wanted from an early age, and nothing and no one would stop me. Professors saw that single-minded dedication. When asked what I wanted, I didn’t hem and haw. Rather, I laid out my goals. That assertive, goal oriented mentality is what garners support.

I’m an outlier. I recognize this. We, as a society, need to change that curve. Even as an outlier, there are sacrifices I’m not willing to make. There are career paths I won’t choose, because unlike some who may define their success solely by their career, my definition is much broader. I look at the stacked deck and know when to leave the table. I won’t pursue a tenure position- at least not as a young scientist. I simply won’t play a game that I have little hope of winning, not with three kids that need me around more than a university needs a new professor.

That’s the kicker. While some men opt out at the expense of their career, women do so by the droves. At the end, everyone loses.

There’s no easy answer, but it starts with encouraging kids no matter their gender. It’s up to us to change the structure of academia and industry so that success does not mean sacrificing our families on the altar of the corporate ladder. It means understanding and acknowledging we all have biases, and to find ways to minimize their influence.

Above all, it’s up to us to teach our kids to be the  outliers. I’m working on it, but they are so darn stubborn…