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Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

Dear Brenda: I have started writing again after the great silencing that was the election and the installation of that person and all those who stand behind him and his supremacist notions. Now I am carrying a very small, very cheap, very inconsequential notebook, and sometimes I write things in it. It feels like something, and it also feels like nothing. Like all those calls I keep making to my senators and representatives.

Here is a photo of the little gifts you sent Callie Violet. They are leaning against a start from one of my African violets. All of the violets have done so well in our living room that they outgrew their pots. I’ve had to give them new homes. They’re struggling now. But they are hanging on.

My whole life feels like a metaphor these days.

All love,

Camille

From “Notes from the lower level” by Camille Dungy in The Guernica. 

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From “The secret to work-life balance: less work” in The Atlantic by Jenny Anderson:

One in five working moms say it’s not just difficult, but very difficult, versus 12 percent of working dads. And mothers are twice as likely as fathers to say parenthood has hurt their career.

But one group in the study appeared to emerge at least moderately content: moms who work part time. They’re more likely to take the juggling act in stride (only 11 percent of them say it’s “very difficult” to balance work life and home life) and they’re also more likely to be satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their children.

There’s only one problem with part-time work, in my experience, and that was the way in which my career completely stalled during that phase. In some ways this wasn’t a problem at the time because I had other priorities and I also managed to launch a writing career on the side during it all. But inevitably, I grew bored with the career dormancy and that boredom became a little damaging for me in the end.

Being back at work full-time I am well aware that work-life balance is out the window. And instead, I am running on the adrenaline of a challenging new role as well as the sudden thrill of being taken seriously again.

 

 

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This is such beautiful personal essay writing from David Sedaris with “Why aren’t you laughing?” in The New Yorker. 

Sober, she was cheerful and charismatic, the kind of person who could—and would—talk to anyone. Unlike our father, who makes jokes no one understands and leaves his listeners baffled and anxious to get away, it was fun to hear what our mom might come out with. “I got them laughing” was a popular line in the stories she’d tell at the end of the day. The men who pumped her gas, the bank tellers, the receptionists at the dentist’s office. “I got them laughing.” Her specialty was the real-life story, perfected and condensed. These take work, and she’d go through half a dozen verbal drafts before getting one where she wanted it. In the course of the day, the line she wished she’d delivered in response to some question or comment—the zinger—would become the line she had delivered. “So I said to him, ‘Buddy, that’s why they invented the airplane.’ ”

We’d be on the sidelines, aghast: “That’s not how it happened at all!” But what did it matter with such great results?

You’d think my mother could have seen the difference between the sunny, likable her and the dark one who’d call late at night. I could hear the ice cubes in her glass rushing forth whenever she took a sip. In my youth, when she’d join my father for a drink after work—“Just one, I have to get dinner on the table”—that was a happy sound. Now it was like a trigger being cocked.

“The little bitch,” my mother would say, her voice slurred, referring to someone she might have spoken to that afternoon, or maybe five years earlier—a shop clerk, a neighbor. “Talking to me that way? Like that? Like I’m nothing? She doesn’t know it, but I could buy and sell her.”

Fly home for a visit and you’d find her in the kitchen, slamming around, replaying some argument she’d had with our father. “Goddam bastard, shove it up your ass, why don’t you, you and your stinking ‘Why hire a plumber when I can do it myself ?’ You cant do it yourself, you hear me, buddy? You cant.” Late in her life, my mother embraced the word “fuck,” but could never quite figure out its place in a sentence. “So I said to him, ‘I don’t give a damn fuck what you do with it, just get it the hell out of my driveway.”

By that point in the evening, she’d look different, raw, like you’d taken the lady she was earlier and peeled her. The loafers she favored would have been kicked off and she’d be in her stocking feet, hands on the counter to steady herself as she raged. She was hardly ever angry at the person she was talking to, exceptions being my brother Paul, my father, and my sister Tiffany; rather, she’d be looking for support. “Can you believe this shit? I mean, can you?” We didn’t dare contradict her.

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This is a lovely piece by my friend, Monica Dux in The Age

When the sad day arrived my daughter and a friend she’d invited over disappeared into her bedroom, emerging an hour later dressed entirely in black, their outfits expertly cobbled from the dress-ups box, including black gloves and hankies, which they clutched, both their faces tear-streaked from weeping.

The two little mourners set up chairs on the lawn, with Johnny’s open coffin in the middle, and Lily and Sara in their enclosure, perched on the side. My son and his mate watched from the garage roof, not quite part of the proceedings, yet affected by the mood. “My grandmother died recently,” offered my son’s friend, solemnly.

When my daughter asked if anyone wanted to say a few words, her friend gently touched her arm. “It’s only right that you do it,” she said.  My daughter’s eulogy was short. “Here lies Johnny. He lived a short life, but it was a good life. He lives on through his children. Maybe.”  Then my daughter pressed a button on the iPod that she had hidden under her dress, and suddenly there was music. Kate Bush, singing The Man With The Child In His Eyes.

And so Johnny was laid to rest, under the crab-apple tree. The girls lingered over his grave for a time, remembering.  Then it was done. Johnny, the man with the child in his eyes, was gone. Ham and cheese sandwiches were served on the lawn.

Johnny was just an insect, of course, yet I don’t doubt that my daughter’s grief was real.

 

 

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This, “Coalition accused of vilification after releasing list of ‘bludger hotspots’ in The Guardian..

The Coalition has been accused of “heartless vilification” for releasing a list of welfare “bludger hotspots” across Australia.

The federal government on Tuesday released a list of 10 suburbs and towns with the highest jobseeker non-compliance numbers.

The list, which News Corp dubbed a “list of shame”, referred to the number of welfare recipients who failed to meet requirements, usually by failing to attend appointments or interviews with job service providers.

.. begs the question what has government done in these areas lately?

What’s the social mobility rate for families in these suburbs? Has it shifted since you came to power? What’s the local job creation rate? I mean, if jobseekers meet their requirements, what’s their chance of actually obtaining a job with a living wage in their local area? How do their wage rates compare with those in more prosperous suburbs? Their children’s access to elite schools? The provision of infrastructure? The number of children in out of home care?

More score cards.

Boggles the mind that government could think they’re somehow excused of responsibility for economic management.

 

 

 

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Autumn. Somewhere over Michigan, a colony of monarch butterflies, numbering more than fifteen thousand, are beginning their yearly migration south. In the span of two months, from September to November, they will move, one wing beat at a time, from southern Canada and the United Sates to portions of central Mexico, where they will spend the winter.

They perch among us, on chain-link fences, clotheslines still blurred from the just-hung weight of clothes, windowsills, the hood of a faded-blue Chevy, their wings folding slowly, as if being put away, before snapping once, into flight.

It only takes a single night of frost to kill off an entire generation. To live, then, is a matter of time, of timing.

I am writing because they told me to never start a sentence with because. But I wasn’t trying to make a sentence—I was trying to break free.

From Ocean Vuong’s “A letter to my mother that she will never read” in The New Yorker. 

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Stop everything and go read this short story, it’s amazing. Here’s a taste to tempt you…

There’s a man I hardly know, an academic. He began sleeping with a graduate student when his wife was pregnant, but everything was cool, because, you know, everyone involved read criticism and all three of them really wanted to test the boundaries of just how much that shit can hurt.

I imagine that shit can hurt a whole lot.

Every time I hear about another professor with a student, I think, Wow, that professor I know is way more messed up than I ever thought. Stealing confidence from eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-olds.

Nasty.

This professor, he cleared the fucking of the graduate student with his pregnant wife, and for reasons I don’t understand the wife allowed him to dabble in younger, unwed women while she gestated their child, while her blood and bones were sucked from her body into their fetus.

Though the wife is an interesting part of this triangle, it’s neither her nor the husband I’m thinking of here in bed while Sam bleeds out his last drop of life on our living-room floor. I’m thinking of the poor, stupid graduate student.

She and the academic attended a lecture together one night. After the lecture, there was a party where she was in the insecure position of being a student among people who were done being students. And though everyone was staring at her—they knew the wife—no one wanted to talk to her or welcome the grad student into the land of scholars.

This was not acceptable. She liked attention. She liked performance. She cleared her throat—and the noise from the room—as if readying for a toast. She stood on a low coffee table. Everyone stopped drinking. In a loud, clear voice, one that must still reverberate in her ears, the academic’s ears, everyone’s ears (it even managed to reach mine), she said, “You’re just angry because of what I do with my queer vagina.”

On my living-room wall I keep a photo of my Victorian great-grandmother engaged in a game of cards with three of her sisters. These women maintained a highly flirtatious relationship with language. “Queer” once meant strange. “Queer” once meant homosexual. “Queer” now means opposition to binary thinking. I experience a melancholy pause when meaning is lost, when words drift like runaways far from home. How did “queer” ever come to mean a philandering penis and vagina in a roomful of bookish, egotistical people? How did common old adultery ever become queer?

I feel the grad student’s late-blooming humiliation. How she came to realize, or will one day soon, that her words were foolish. I remind myself there in bed, Dont talk. Dont say words to people, because words conjure images. Her words created a likely unwanted idea of an organ that, like all our organs, is both extraordinary and totally plain. Some flaps of loose skin, some hair, some blood, but, outside the daily fact of its total magnificence, it is really not queer at all.

From Samantha Hunt’s “A love story” in The New Yorker. 

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