Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Secret Identity

Back to school has commenced, with all that entails, and I've found myself pulled in a couple of new and fairly uncomfortable directions.  In spite of my swearing I'd never do it, I've gotten involved with the PTA and, unfortunately, they turned out to be very nice people which sort of sucks 'cause I'd mentally written this whole post about how crazy they all were.  (Trust me- it was pee-in-your-pants funny.)  Too bad they were't.  Crazy, I mean. I don't know about the pee-in-your-pants funny part yet.

So that happened.  The other thing that happened didn't actually happen to me per se.  It sort of happened to everyone but, like all moms, I mostly only care about my kids- or at least I care more about my kids- so that means it happened to us.  The "it" was testing and, it's bastard mutant offspring, "loss of recess."

Yeah.  It's like something out of a morality play or a Dr. Seuss book or a Dickens novel or, at the very least, a Very Special Episode of Phineas and Ferb.

I spend a big chunk of my professional life causing trouble of just this variety.  I like to imagine that I'm sort of stealth bomber in pearls and a sweater set.  They hire me to do a simple job and I open up a Pandora's Box of questions.  I love it and I'm pretty good at it, I think.  I help people push back against stupid ideas like these.  Thing is, like all superheroes, I keep my professional and personal lives very separate.  I'm rocking this whole secret identity thing (some days Nice Lady with Cookies and Monkey Bread!  Next day Crazy Chick Asking Snarky Questions at Inappropriate Times!)  and it's starting to jam up the Badass.  

So let's say I come out of the closet, so to speak.  Let's say I drop the whole secret identity thing and just let it all roll out.  What if I do for my own kids just what I do for other people's kids?  Will my worst fears actually come to pass?  Will I suddenly lose all my friends?  Will my children suddenly be ostracized ?  Will strangers point and giggle when I walk down the street?  Will unemployment, homelessness and a bad haircut follow almost immediately?

I used to teach debate and my students would play this game- ThermoNuclear War- where they would take any decision and try to see how it could lead to Armageddon.  The person who could do it in the fewest steps was the winner and you didn't get points for the most likely or even possible sequence of events.  So now I have to ask myself, is this my own little game of Personal Annihilation?  Are all of these imagined consequences really just a way for the Dr. Evil Doofenschmirtz in my head to keep the Badass quiet?

Hell if I know.  But it's a question worth pondering, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Thought This Would Be Sexier

You know that scene from the 90's flick Ghost?  The one with the potter's wheel?  This may job your memory:

Yeah.  So I'm old.  Get over it.

See, here's the thing.  I've been using this whole "potter at a wheel" metaphor a lot lately.  Not 'cause I'm teaching classes in pottery or anything, but because I'm trying to step back from this need to MAKE things happen.  I mean, I can spout buddho-mindful flarn all day long, just so long as I'm spouting to other people.  But when it comes to me?

Yeah.  Not so much.

So imagine my shock when my choice to say "Yeah, do what you want" to not one but two important people actually worked this morning.

I know.  Crazy.

I didn't force them, just put the idea out there

It's not nearly as sexy as I'd imagined, but dammed if it didn't work.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Looking for Mama

Here's the thing:  Sometimes the badass rises up all on it's own.  I see stuff like this stupid T-shirt from JC Penny (not the one you may have heard all about last week, but this one's just as bad) and it just springs forth like Athena from the head of Zeus.  (Can you tell we've been reading some Percy and the Olympians in my house lately?

But you know what squashes the badass like a pea under a 300 lb princess?  Tears.  Specifically, little girl tears.  More specifically, *my* little girl's tears.  In the face of that, I've got nothing.  No badass.  No snark.  No force-to-be-reckoned with.  Nothing.  I crumble.  I waffle.  I fold like a crappy tent or a really good map.  In the moment when I most need to model my badass self for my girl, I'm not doing it.

And it pisses me the hell off.

She doesn't need loving, huggy, kum ba ya Mama.  She needs "get your ass through that door and don't let those feelings get in your way" Mama.

Um...has anyone seen that one? That kickass Mama? 'Cause I'm sure she's around here someplace...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saying No

I've been on a media black out for about a week now, at least where coverage of 9/11 is concerned.  I've avoided the articles in the paper, the Truther's letters to the editors, the specials on TV.  I've stayed of NPR and limited my web time to the most mindless and entertaining sites I can find.

So this morning, I was oddly surprised to find that even the comic pages weren't safe.  I was surprised to fin that, unlike every other media outlet in the country this morning, they were filled with tasteful, carefully designed tributes to the losses suffered.

But here's the thing:  on 9/11/01, I was cocooned in a world of work and baby and family.  I lost nothing that day.  No one I know was killed, no one was injured.  A couple of friends were part of the numb parade across the bridges, but other than that I had no personal connection to anything that day.  And watching the days and weeks and years unfold, I've had this strange sense that I'm eavesdropping on a stranger's funeral.  I don't belong here and, quite frankly, the masturbatory need of some to co-opt this tragedy confuses and saddens me as much as the tragedy itself.  It reminds me of the years when I worked with adolescents, when every tragedy took on a "what if that were me?" or a "I once sat two rows behind her cousin in biology!" hysteria.  I didn't deny that they really experienced the world that way, but it reeked of narcissism and immaturity and made me want to shake some collective sense into them.

I think it takes strength to step back from the peer pressure of "never forget" and "Proud to be an American" today.  It's not popular to day, "This grief belongs to someone else and I won't cheapen it by pretending it belongs to me."  So I'm going to work in my yard and get ready for the week ahead without the Sponsored by WorldMegaCorp tributes and the flag waving ceremonies with all of their oddly jingoistic undertones.

I'm going to leave this day to the folks who deserve it- who earned it through 10 years of wishing they could forget, but never managing to figure out how.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Once More Into the Breach

I did my Shakespearean time back in the day.  Took the classes and all that but I wasn't a scholar of the Bard by any means.  But today, this is all over my brain.

Back to school much?

Yes.  And it feels more than ever like a return to the front lines.  I'm a seasoned, grisly veteran of this war, but it's a war nonetheless.  Like all good soldiers, my only goal is to survive and to achieve my mission.

Wish me luck.  It's going to be a long, hard slog towards June.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Neighborhood Watch- Fairy Division

I just got home from our annual pilgrimage to the beach.  Trust me- anyone who willingly camps at the beach with children (let alone a husband) is, by definition, badass.  'Cause between the sand (oy the SAND!) and the trying to find things people will eat and the sleeping on the ground and the bug spray and the sunscreen which only attract more sand? That's a whole mess of work.

This year we had an added wrinkle in that my darling girl- the budding artist- wanted to Make Art this summer.  So we schlepped sketch books and colored pencils and markers down to the water every day and then we schlepped them back.  She wasn't that committed to the work, though.  Instead, she was all about the sculpture.  Mainly, she was about Fairy Houses.  You've seen them, right?  Teeny tiny little homes for Fairies?  They're sweet and charming and they're hell to build out of shells and drift wood and sand and kelp.  Especially when every. single. piece. has to be placed Just So.  We built about 10- complete with teeny tiny plates and teeny tiny chairs and teeny tiny itsy bitsy food on the plates.

As we were working on House Number 8 of our little Fairy Subdivision, crouching behind some rocks in Just The Right Spot, I hear a voice.  An 8 year old boy (aka juvenile delinquent).  Want to know how I know?  "Look!  Little tiny houses!  Let's stomp on them!  Look!" stomp stomp stomp.

Now, at this point I'd given over at least 3 days of quality beach time to crouching in the sand tucking little bits of sea gnarl into cracks that housed god-only-knows-what, so I was not so much the mellow groovy chick I usually try to be.  I popped my head up over the rock, eyes narrowed and ready to kill- especially when I saw this punk-ass kid in board shorts bouncing a ball into #2 and #4 of Fairy Acres.  His buddy kept yelling "Hey C!  C!  Over here!" I assume he'd selected the next victim.  Maybe they'd found a baby seal to club or a puppy to kick.

When I started towards them, the buddy took off (C needs to make better better sidekick choices, doesn't he?).  C starts to take off too but it's either a testament to my teacher voice or to his lack of intelligence, that C stops running when I call his name.

"The little girl who built those worked for hours on them.  You just ruined her work for fun. FOR FUN!  Do you think it's fun when someone ruins something you made?  I don't think it's fun.  I think it's mean.  That was a mean mean thing you just did. Go find something else to break and stop being mean, you hear?  Now git."  (Yes, I said "Git."  Like some Ozark grandma.  Apparently I channel the Beverly Hillbillies when I'm cranky.)  And I waved him away and watched him run.

Don't mess with the Fairies. They'll kick your ass.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This is Your Brain...

Long holiday weekends like this one just past are a mixed blessing for me.  I love the days off- I'm not an idiot- but they're hell on my unreasonably high expectations (a kissing cousin of my Impossibly High Standards).  I imagine bar-b-q and family board games, all governed by the calm competence I recall infusing the adults of my childhood.  Now, we did pretty well this weekend- there were fireworks and a baseball game and friends over for the aforementioned charbroiled goodness and a lovely spread of food under my apple tree- but I'm up this morning with a little bit of an emotional hangover.

Here's the thing- I think the RealSimpleMarthaStewartNaturalLiving thing is a gateway dream.  It's not real but imagining it feels so good and it seems so possible...but it's an illusion.  It's a mirage that leads us further into the desert, away from the oasis of real connections with people who are imperfect and funny and interesting and definitely Not Martha.

Not badass, maybe,  but perhaps a step along the way?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blinding Flash of the Obvious

I had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious (BFO) today.  Actually several of them. 

1) I cannot sew.  
2)  I am a terrible gardener 
3)  I cannot cook (though I sort of suspected that) and 
4) I am neither an educational visionary nor a powerful force for change.  

I have no doubt that I could learn to do any of those things, if I really wanted to.  I also realized, however, that I lack a work ethic of any kind.  And developing a work ethic?  That actually requires a work ethic.

I am, however, decorative and occasionally entertaining.  

Living La, What's Spanish For "Working too damn hard?"

It's summer. I'm sitting in a basement meeting room, engaged in relatively interesting conversation around educational legislation and policy. With people I don't know. And there's no booze and thus far no one has laughed at any of my jokes.

This? So not badass.

But when I get home I'm going to sit on my deck with a beer and ponder the world-gone-mad in which people ask *me* for input on educational legislation and policy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Calling me out

"You know, I still have yet to see signs of bad-assery..."

Thanks to my friend Katie and these words, shared in a recent exchange over why she needed to write me a giant grant to fund this project, I'm do a teeny bit of soul searching today.

She makes a good point. I haven't done that much, outwardly, to merit the title "Badass." A little shooting, a little shouting, a whole lot of thinking...

Then again, there's a reason this whole thing is called "Becoming Badass" you know.

It's a process.

So get the hell off my back and write me the damn grant already.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Badass Poultry

I rarely make posts out of other blogger's stuff. It feels vaguely ooky and just a little dishonest. But then, I rarely come across something this perfectly, beautifully badass in just exactly the way I one day hope to be badass.

Behold. The Chicken.

This is golden. It is perfect. It is all I aspire to be in life. I need this chicken. I need it with the most powerful force known to man or woman. I need it more than sex or chocolate or a cabana boy named Pedro. Where can I find this chicken?

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have lots of things on my Becoming Badass list of skills. Some of them are internal- I want to be able to carry my Screw You internal attitude into the world at large. I want to stop caring so much about what people think of me. I want to let go of my impossibly high standards. I want to say what I'm thinking- even if it's not the nicest thing to say. Some of them are what we call "hard skills"- stuff that I want to be able to do. I wanted to learn to hotwire a car (though I learned better), to throw knives, to fight, maybe to ride a motorcycle, to shoot...

So that last one was proving to be tougher than I'd imagined. I never occurred to me that the guys who wanted to teach me to shoot might also want to teach me other stuff- like how to manage their zippers. As a result, it took me awhile to find some one with both the appropriate skill set, but also appropriate expectations. Turns out, the guy I needed was a guy I'd known for years. Never in a thousand years would I have known that this mild-mannered teacher with an amazing wit and a great brain would also be a guy with an arms stockpile to rival a small-time militia. Other people, however, were hip to his real passion (besides teaching and his wife)- small arms.

We made arrangements to meet at the local "Rod and Gun Club" (which was really just a firing range). The local police department was re-certifying so it was like walking onto the set of a John Woo movie: lots of pop-pop-pop, lots of yelling, lots of stinky gun powder. I'll admit, I was surprised to see picnic tables- this didn't really seem like my first choice for a Family Friendly outing, but R assured me that the community of folks who frequent the place were harmless. I took him at his word but I also kept my eyes peeled. He opened his trunk and pulled out a duffle full of stuff. And by "stuff," I mean guns. Big ones and little ones. Being a teacher, he started me off with a bit of history and a quick overview of how they were the same (they all have safeties, they all go boom, they're all wicked helpful in the zombie apocalypse), their differences, and then- just to scare the crap out of me- the skinny on what exactly happens when a bullet enters a person- er, a zombie.

Suffice to say I had a healthy respect for the thing going into this. After his little lecture, I was scared shitless.

Then we went down to the range. And, without further ado, my results:

See those red arrows? Those were my first three shots.

Yeah. Pretty badass.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Soccer Mom My Ass

It's soccer night. That means I get to schlepp my kid, his best buddy, my other kid and a butt load of stuff out to sit in the middle of a field to stand by as two teams of 9 year olds race around after a ball for an hour. Then I'll schlepp them all home. The badass possibilities are limited, so I'm choosing to stake my claim in a more subtle fashion: I'm actually going to watch. I'm not going to talk on my cell phone, catch up on my reading (or texting). I'm going to watch my budding David Beckham as he runs, trips, dives and falls. Then I'm not going to holler that he should be more aggressive, pass the ball to Danny or "Go! Go! Go!" He'll get a pat on the back and a question about whether he had fun, but that's it.

Then we'll come home. 'Cause soccer may be something we do- but it's not who we are.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tough Enough

I've heard lots of people make the joke about birth being the easy part of parenting. You know, like this. I sort of assumed, though, that this hellish childrearing experience would come with adolescence. I imagined screaming fits, tattoos, poor clothing choices and Libya-level engagements around curfews and cellphones. Maybe that stuff is coming, but I've already seen the worst I can imagine.

My daughter has always been chipper, easy going, free-thinking and adventurous. Not much throws her and she's got a natural badassity that does my heart good She's my idol in a lot of ways. But in the last three weeks she's become a different kid. A kid I recognize because I was that kid. The timid, "Mama don't leave me," cling, terrified kid. The one with the red eyes and the constant tremor. My darling girl has somehow inherited the anxiety I tried so hard to hide from her. Not just inherited it, but been attacked by it. It's crept out from under her emotional bed and has her cowering under the covers- and she's missing out on big chunks of her life as a result. Brownies? Nope. Sunday School? No way. Play date? Uh-uh.

I've done everything I know to do. Therapy, mindfulness, sitting with the feeling until it passes (it never does so this is fairly fruitless), keeping her so busy she can't think, more rest, less rest, changing diet, changing bedtime stories...nothing's getting us closer to the goal of a return to my brave, happy girl. A few good friends have pointed out to me that all of my efforts may be convincing her of just the opposite- that it may be reinforcing her belief that there's something to be scared of because otherwise why would mama be giving this so much attention?

Damned if I do, damned if I don't right?

So now I've taken to what my friend Katie calls Bored Indifference. When the worry starts to well up, when the panic sets in, I'm trying to respond with "Oh, that? Yeah, we're used to that. We've seen that before. No big thing girlfriend. Just keep moving and it'll pass."

But that means that I have to not show how much it kills me to see her quiver. How I have to feign nonchalance when the tears well and her hand tightens in mine. It means peeling her off me at school and bedtimes with a cheerful kiss and a reassurance that she'll be okay and that she's safe. I'm not sure I'm tough enough to do it. I'm not sure anyone is- but I'm doing it. Just like I did childbirth when I was sure I couldn't (right around hour 20). That was the second hardest thing I've ever done. Coincidence?

Essentially, it means doing every single thing I don't want to do and I hate every single moment.

I think that's the bad side of badass. Incidentally? It sucks ass as well. Just in case you were wondering.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Free to Be...

I've been thinking a lot lately about a little girl named Lisa. Lisa was in my 2nd grade class (about a thousand years ago) and I invited her to my Super Amazing Sleepover Birthday Party, along with 7 other girls. We did all the usual birthday things- ate cake and pizza and slept in sleeping bags on the floor of my room. It was a typical 8 year-old good time.

The morning after that party was not so much a good time. I was suddenly persona non grata in my small town. A 2nd grade (and 3rd grade and 4th grade) pariah. I was invisible.

See, Lisa was (and, I assume, still is) black. She was the only black girl in my class, in fact, but I had been living in a Free to Be You and Me world for the first 7 years of my life. It never occurred to me that her skin and hair should be factors in my party planning. Plus she wore her hair in 4 braids sometimes and she had white knee boots and I thought that made her the epitome of cool.

Since I had no idea that I'd violated some social contract with my birthday party guest list, I attributed my new social leprosy to something I'd done. I assumed there was something wrong with me- that I was inherently broken. It took me years to put together that I wasn't about me, that it was about the ignorance and fear of a bunch of small town parents who taught their own kids to take that fear out on another kid.

Later on, I learned that my parents saw this coming. When the party invitations went out, other moms and dads (including my dad's boss and the school principal) contacted my folks to tell them that this was a Bad Idea. That Lisa had to be dis-invited asap. While I wish someone had explained all this to me then (I could have lived with a little more righteous indignation and a little less self-loathing), I understand that it was complicated. (1977 wasn't exactly the most enlightened time in the Midwest, you know?)

My mom admits she had a moment when she considered it. She thought of calling Lisa's grandma and making excuses- the party had been canceled or we'd had to postpone because I was sick. Then she realized that she wanted more for me. She wanted my life to be bigger than that single, stupid small town. She wanted me to be a part of creating that Free to Be You and Me world. She was brave enough to stand by what she knew was right and to bring me along to stand beside her.

I think that's pretty badass.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


You know what's really freakin' brave? Standing up and saying "Hell No" when something's just wrong.

Visit my darling friend Katie to see the latest in Badasssity.

Then go here and tell NH Legislators to keep their damn hands off Katie's Marriage.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tearing Down My IHS

I have a confession. It's a hard one to make and I hate to admit it because it feels like a terrible, awful thing to admit- like the sort of thing I need to whisper with my head down, not making eye contact.

I'm L and I have Impossibly High Standards.

There. It's out. That's like 50% of the battle right? Or 90%? I can never remember.

I'm not sure when it happened because my youth was filled with "screw you" on the standards-front. I did what I did as well as I saw fit because I wanted to do it that well. Or not well. Period.

But somehow, the Talbots- Inspired acid trip that was my 20's and 30's brought me here. Here, to this crazy place where I obsess over how clean the grout is and how well behaved my dog is and whether my roots are showing. I have somehow landed in a world in which I must be beautiful and cheerful and totally organized and mistake free all the time- in spite of my perpetual clinging to the Big Fat Lie that this isn't the case.

I'm no Tiger Mother. I don't hold anyone else to those same standards. My kids, TMOTH, my friends, my family- they all get a pass. They get to be human. I guess because they are sub-me. Not as strong, not as smart, not as able.


But over the weekend, I had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious. I don't have to do anything other than be kind, fair and loving to the people around me. That's it. I actually don't have to DO anything. And just being, well, that can't be measured against any standard- high or low.

So that's that. Starting now I'm pointing my feral badass self at those Impossibly High Standards- and I'm totally bringing them down.

What about you?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Feral Mindfulness

I've been dabbling for a few years with the idea of mindfulness as a way of climbing out from under the giant, ever-growing tsunami that is my life. The whole idea- that I can better manage by focusing myself on the present moment, not yesterday or next week or 5 years ago- seems lovely, in a polished wood, watercolor, home-canned jars of peaches sort of way . I imagine that, in my totally mindful life, I'll be patient and smiling and very Caroline Ingalls. My world will be filled will candlelight and moonlight and I'll be lovely. It will all be lovely.

I've had a couple of good friends with me on this exploration. One of them I pay. The other I don't. The one I pay asked me a really good question which, after a little thought, came down to this:

What if the whole mindful-acceptance- be in the moment thing is intrinsically at odds with my deep need to have something to push against? What if the "battle against" is the only thing moving me forward? What if the only way I can be in the moment is if I'm fighting hard against the present in an effort to bring about a new future? What if the feral, refuse to accept the boundaries me is the me that the world needs?

I have to say, I really like the idea. My need to fight back isn't in the way of my acceptance of the present- it's how I accept the present. I think that's sort of Badass- in a sort of feral way.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I can't sleep. Technically I suppose that's not true- I can sleep. I can close my eyes and doze off. I snore a little, drool a little, have a little dream- and then I wake up. (It's the waking up that clues in me in to the fact that I was actually asleep. I'm pretty clever you know.) So actually, what I can't do is stay asleep past about 3. Or go to sleep before 11. I can go to bed before 11, but rarely does sleep actually occur before 11.

Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm not doing anything interesting- I'm just lying there. I'm just Not Sleeping. In a really big way.

I'm coming up on day 5 of this and it's wearing thin. I'm not cute when I'm this tired. I'm not bitchy either- bitchy takes effort. I mean, bitchy done well takes effort because it requires wit. Wit requires west- I mean rest. Which I'm not getting. Because of the whole "not sleeping" thing.

Someone told me today that I'm not sleeping because I'm worried about something. Well of course I'm worried. If you're not worried, you're living in a cave. Things are sort of a disaster in general and my particular corner of it isn't any great shakes right now either.

See, my darling TMOTH is sick. Not ManFlu sick, really sick. Chronic, life-changing, bad medicine sick. Thankfully, though, not life-threatening sick. Certainly sleep-threatening sick. And Wit-Killing sick. So yeah- I worry. I worry about everything from the time I was mean to that guy in high school (sorry!) to what I'll do if TMOTH gets sicker and can't work. I worry about the house, which seems too small and too messy and too rundown to represent the pinnacle of my income potential. I worry about my kids and how they're coping with the New Normal.

Mostly, though, right now I worry about being able to sleep. "Not sleeping because you're worried about not being able to sleep" feels ironic. Is it ironic? I"m too tired to know. What I want is to be mad- to fight back against something. There's no Zombie Apocalypse to deal with, no contagion or Super Villian! to foil. In the movies, there'd be something powerful for me to do. Something meaningful and IMPORTANT. Something that would require a clipboard and a purposeful stride. And maybe a microphone. Or a megaphone. So that everyone could hear me make big important updates about the situation. Don't panic. Our best researchers are on the job. A solution is coming!

But I fear that the people who would listen are also tired of hearing about it. I worry that there is no solution, no research, no important updates. I'm starting to suspect that this And that is unacceptable.

There's no way to be Badass in this, nothing Badass about managing a chronic autoimmune disease.

Maybe the Badass is in getting out of bed in the morning, but I wouldn't know. I'm too tired to tell.