Jan 31, 2007

The Puritanical Motherhood Witch Hunt

I have long been aware of the great divides existent in the world of motherhood and all their attending separate creeds. Often I stand outside the crowd cautiously because I have worried that my own peculiar views might blacken my son's chances of being accepted into the more boring mainstream currents of life. I don't want to limit his access to normal people just because I am a raving opinionated fat lunatic. I just want to give the boy a chance.

It really didn't take too many months of living with my son to realize that he is pretty much exactly like his parents and it doesn't matter what we do, he is going to be who he is going to be. All we can do as his parents is try to help him be the healthier version of who he is rather than let him fall into the deep pit that being him could potentially become. My boy is no yes man. He's not going to follow the crowd. Like me, he will most likely stand a little to the side of the crowd and raise a lot of eyebrows doing his own thing. Frankly, I'm pretty damn proud of who he is.

Early on in my new motherhood role I realized that I didn't fit in with this new culture of "play dates" and angelic motherhood. When you're me it's exhausting trying to pretend there's a chance in hell I'm going to be perfect in this whole mom gig. I could see all these other moms (with whom I was supposed to bond over our thin social connection as breeders) deciding what kind of kids they were going to raise. I would see these moms at the play ground and I could tell within seconds who I would be able to really connect with and who I could never hang out with because the second they found out that I let my kid watch movies all morning they would turn into sanctimonious snorting pigs. The biggest test by far in finding out what a mother is made of is telling her that all I can think about at eleven am is how nice it will be to crack open the first of a few beers at five pm.

Here we are at the witch burning pyre. Apparently there are a legion of mothers, not all of them Mormons and fanatical Christians, who believe it is irresponsible-possibly even evil- to drink in front of your children. I didn't actually realize there was a vast public opinion on this matter until I read my blog friend Kelly's angry post about it. She provided a few links to other posts about it and I read them all. For hours I read what people had to say.

This issue has been fuelled by a blog author named Melissa Summers who has play dates with friends during which the moms have a glass of wine or two. The issue got written up in the Times and then Melissa got invited to talk on the Today Show about moms who drink in front of their children DURING THE DAY. I saw the footage from the show and I now loathe Meredith Vieira more than I imagined possible. I invite all of you to view it for yourselves. But please, do yourself a favor and read what Melissa has to say about the whole experience. In one lengthy post in which she discusses the experience she had doing the show she lists a large number of links to others who have shared their outrage at the fact that this is even an issue.

The only thing that ever embarrasses me about being a woman is that there are so many women out there who have bought the whole martyr tradition lock, stock, and barrel. It is so ugly to me that any woman out there believes it is her duty to "sacrifice" herself to the alter of man, god, and children. I love my man, and I think there are a lot of other good men out there too, I absolutely feel its important to embrace the powers that be (whatever you choose to call it/he/she/them) to recognize that man is not the most powerful force on the planet, and I love my child like most moms do: with that visceral physical pull of almost violent connection that we call mother-love. Yet there is no part of me that feels like any of these things are so much more important than me that I have to give up all personal care and comfort to accommodate their needs.

You know, if you have to give up all of yourself to your husband, god, or your children, then one of two things is going on:

Either you are leading an imbalanced life and have a very twisted expectation of yourself and are more sick in the head than me...

Or you are with a bad man, the wrong religion, and your child is going to have the rudest shock imaginable when he finds out that he isn't, in fact, the ruler of the entire universe.

Boy will you be sorry when that happens.

I often like to say I'm not a feminist because I don't think being a housewife is demeaning. To me, the ultimate feminism is to be independent of spirit. I don't give a fuck if my husband is paying all the bills, I know who I am. I know what I'm worth. I know that when I clean the god damned toilet and care for our belongings, when I take the hours it takes to bake bread fresh, and when I build a fire in our home before he gets home, that I am making our lives richer than Donald Trump will ever get to know it. Money is undeniably important to have, but who makes it is so irrelevant to me. That's my radical feminism talking. I am not insecure on that point. Lord knows I'm broken in a hundred different ways, I am imperfect seven ways to Sunday, but I can tell you right now that I have no doubt of my equal worth with my child and with my husband.

This whole brand of motherhood in which mothers don't take the time to take showers because their babies need them every second of the day is complete crap. Mothers who spend every waking moment of their lives serving their children's needs and ignoring their own are living in such a deluded and dangerous place. They are doing no service to themselves, their family, or to me because I'm probably going to have to meet their kids some day and I am not looking forward to it. Those women who would never utter an opinion in front of their children lest they give the message that it's OK to take a stand on things and maybe end up wrong, they are such amazing cowards. Those mothers who never raise their voices to their children EVER because that would indicate that they are out of control abusive parents have obviously never been abused.

There is such a puritanical wind blowing through the hallowed halls of parenthood right now that I have no doubt what-so-ever that I am headed for one of the bad-mommy-burning parties in which I am one of the unfortunate witches tied to the flames.


Motherhood isn't a contest. It's more like a biological imperative for which the main goal is to bring our children to adulthood in good shape and able to hold their own in the inevitable company of others as humans tend to gather in groups. That's why we all hope our children don't turn out to be serial killers. All good parents want a wonderful life for their kids, we all want the best possible life for them. But what so many new parents are failing to recognize is that in the end, when the chips are finally counted, whether your kid ends up having a good life or not is actually going to depend on the choices he or she makes for themselves.

That's the bottom line. It doesn't matter whether you are a tee totalling DEVIL-CRUNCHING-DEVOUT-ASS-CHRISTIAN with impeccable morals who has never puffed a cigarette or hurt another human being. You child could still turn out to be an abusive alcoholic who embraces the Bukowski way of life and ends up getting lung cancer even though the only thing they never did was smoke a cigarette. I think its both sad and a little arrogant for mothers (and fathers) to think they have so much control over the people their children become and the lives they will have.

I take my role as a mother pretty seriously. I want to be a good role model. I want my son to have as many tools for coping as possible. I want him to be a good member of society. I want so much for him. But I recognize that I am only his guide. And he is a real person who is hopefully going to leave my home one day and he's going to have to live in the real world. Pretending to him that I am a perfect person is just about the meanest most dishonest thing I could do to him. It's mean because it is teaching him that he must live up to inhuman standards. That's so fucking damaging and depressing I can't even believe how many moms are setting their kids up for this kind of failure. My real job isn't to teach him how to be a good little soldier of faith. My real job is to teach him how to survive, to think on his feet, to be responsible for his own actions, to learn from mistakes, and to forgive himself when he has done things he's not proud of.

How the hell can I teach a kid to make mistakes gracefully and learn from them if I am obsessed with being perfect myself? What I want to say to parents everywhere is:


That was a real Dr. Phil moment. Feel the love dudettes.

So what about this whole drinking in front of your kids thing? What the hell is everyone in an uproar for? Didn't anyone pay attention to what happened during the prohibition? You take away people's soothing rituals and you invite a bloodbath. You wreak havoc. Why on earth do so many people still think that alcohol is the devil's calling card? I realize that there are people who drink and become really unhinged. There was at least one of those in my family. But Jesus himself turned water into wine. Why the hell would Jesus do that if wine was so evil?

So the whole thing on the stupid-ass Today Show is that apparently a lot of people feel it's irresponsible to drink in front of your kids at all, and OH MY GOD during daylight? What message are we sending to our kids? Letting them know that we drink ALCOHOL. How can we be sure we won't wrap ourselves around an oak tree while taking our child to the hospital after having had a glass of wine? Children die all the time in front of their parents without imbibing a single sip of the evil dew. Bad things happen to millions of people without a drop of alcohol being consumed. Alcohol is easy to blame. It's a proven fact that our judgement can be affected by one glass of alcohol.

Mine is vastly improved with the consumption of two or three beers.

I may not love showing much of my skin in public. I may fantasize about dressing like the Amish. I certainly prefer not to break laws or jaywalk. But at the end of the day I am a human being. I need a lot of support to get through this life. Support from family and friends. Support from music, books, art. Support from blogs. Support from really cheddar-cheesy entrees that seem to melt my troubles away while solidifying the mass on my hips. And I need alcohol.

You could make a case that I'm an alcoholic. Do I really give a rat's ass? Look, if you want the honest truth, I will give it to you. I consider myself, by today's standards, to be a light maintenance alcoholic. I can count on my fingers the number of times I've gotten drunk in the last twenty years. I don't like being drunk. I don't like any substance to change my nature. I dislike psychedelics for this reason. I like to always remain in control of myself. Alcohol doesn't make me mean, belligerent, or turn me into a whore. I have built up a mighty tolerance for the stuff and it would take a lot out of you to drink me under the table. I'm not telling you this because I'm proud of it. But I'm not ashamed. I'm telling you this because I'm not a perfect human being. I don't necessarily want Max to grow up and drink as much as I do. I would like to drink less for my own sake and am currently working on it.

But I don't consider the fact that I drink in front of my child even a tiny bit wrong. It doesn't matter to me whether I drink one drink a week (as I did when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy) or I am drinking several cases of beer a week. Alcohol is one of those pleasures in life I refuse to give up. Like home baked bread with fresh rosemary white bean soup. I consider the pleasures of drinking alcohol to be one of those wholesome fine things in life that make everything richer and tastier. I don't drink to get drunk but drinking takes a sharp edge out of me that my son could really live without. Drinking makes me slow down and breath. It is the same to me as a really fine cup of coffee, the deep inhalation of a fragrant rose stolen from the garden on a summer morning.

To me there is no moral reason why I should not drink in front of my child.

But maybe that's because most of the people I love best in this world have been damaged by things far worse than a parent enjoying cocktails in their presence. I have a friend whose mother tried to kill her with a hatchet and whose dad raped her from the time she was five years old. I have another friend whose uncle molested her, whose mom's string of boyfriends abused her, oh...and whose mom eventually slept with her own boyfriend. Nice. I have a close friend whose mother neglected her so deeply that she basically had no parent at all, then at the ripe age of fourteen her mother officially gave her up to the courts.

When you know how parenting can really go wrong it dwarfs these petty issues of perfection. If you love your children, feed your children, play with them, help them navigate this hostile world, clean up after them, hold them close when it really matters, and show them how deeply you love and respect them by being true to yourself (and showering) it really doesn't matter if you drink cocktails every single day, or demand some private time, or develop a relish for dangerous sport. The most valuable thing you can give your kids is your real self, warts and all.

My mother made a lot of mistakes when I was growing up. She grew pot in her bedroom window that our octogenarian neighbors recognized and decided needed to be addressed by the law. She didn't stay in lousy relationships for my sake. She was emotionally absent at certain points in my life. But the reason why I love my mother so fiercely is because whatever she's done, she's never insulted me by lying about what the world is like. She's never demeaned my intelligence by trying to convince me that if only I don't drink, don't smoke, pray every single day, and never ever have sex I will have an easy good life. She's been honest. She's shown me the challenges I might have to face. She's never pretended to have all the answers but she has given me every scrap of insight she's gleaned.

You know what kills me? That my mother is still hurting over the mistakes she made with her children. She still loves me in spite of all the anger and hatred I turned on her in the heat of my transformation from teen to adult. She never once for a single second actually turned away from me or disowned me as her own father frequently did to her. For all her mistakes her true love was always evident. When I was really young I didn't feel it because there were bigger issues obscuring it. I wanted more proof of her love than she could give at the time. But when I look back now I can see it much more clearly.

My mother has never been an alcoholic though she often drank in front of me. Is that how come I drink way more than is socially acceptable as an adult? Is it her fault? Can I just rest all the blame for my social infractions at her door?

HELL NO. I am responsible for my own decisions. My mom never taught me that drinking to excess is OK. I'm sure she must have gotten a little toasty at some point, but I haven't got a single memory of my mom being drunk. I have no negative associations with alcohol. I had a pretty healthy relationship with it until I broke my hip and decided to drink beer instead of taking percoset to relieve the intense death defying pain. I'm still relieving the pain though it's now only ghosts of its former self.

My mom smoked lots of pot though. You want to crucify her? Here's the irony: my mom was never a huge drinker and she quit smoking cigarettes before she got pregnant with me, but she has a vast experience of psychedelics, having embraced the whole Hippie thing pretty seriously. She made sure to be honest with me about the drugs she's done, what they do to you, their dangers, and she insisted that if I ever wanted to do acid that I make sure the first time was in her presence in case I couldn't handle it. An eminently practical honest move on her part. You may want to nail her to the cross now. You can't because you will have to nail me first. She took all the mystery out of acid, PCP, and pot. My interest in it was minuscule. However, all on my own I discovered that me and cigarettes were identical twins divided at birth and can you even imagine my mom's horror at finding me chain smoking on our balcony listening to Frank Sinatra? She thought her mom had been reincarnated in her daughter.

Do you get what I'm saying? Be yourself because your children are going to have to experience the world for themselves and no amount of perfection is going to guarantee a safe passage. But if you are genuine with your children, if you are honest about who you are and the world you live in, at least they will be able to respect you when they grow up and find their own way. At least they will have useful tools to help them find their path.

So all of these sanctimonious people who believe that mothers should be doormats to their children; pretend they don't drink, pretend they got pregnant through immaculate conception, and who think the ultimate in motherhood is to sacrifice everything you are on the alter of family: GO FUCK YOURSELVES.

I didn't really expect this to happen, but apparently this has actually become an ode to my mother. My wonderful earthy, herbal, honest, beautiful, fun, sad, impulsive, tender, caring, insightful, wise, and human mother. I don't actually care how many joints she's deeply inhaled, how many bottles of champagne she's consumed, or how many mistakes she's made. At the end of the day there isn't a single damn mother I would trade her in for. And I've really missed her, being twelve hours away from her now, instead of a five minute walk.

It's not a black and white world, so everyone needs to stop trying to make it that way. You can be yourself, you can try every day to be the best parent possible (and I hope we all do), and if that means you drink some wine every day to help soften the edges, it's always going to be a better choice than shooting up heroine or smoking crack.

I will consider myself a success as a mother if my son grows up to love me as much as I love my own mother. Warts and all.

A miscellany of information

I have been tempted to share the visual feast that Philip and I get to enjoy on a regular basis. It's one thing to tell people you clean up blood splashes three times a day some weeks, but I always suspect that there is no way to convey the gut clenching reality of frequently seeing your child's blood on the outside, on your favorite chair, on the floor, on the carpet, on his pillows, and covering his clothes instead of in his body where it belongs. I almost took a picture of a bathroom mess that looked like a massacre scene which actually left me a little shaken even though I knew it was just from a bloody nose. But I decided that it isn't my mission in life to gross people out. I underestimated my inability to keep things to myself. This is what I found when I opened Max's bedroom door to play "peace-time legos". It never ceases to shock the pit of my stomach. I just wanted to share the love.

On a happier prettier note: yesterday was a momentous day because Max made his own toast for the very first time and insisted on wearing the apron I made for him.

Max won't usually perform tricks for anyone. He is pretty clear on the concept that little boys aren't really monkeys, even when their mama says they are. However, the kid likes to pose for the camera. (Remember the giant cabbage post?) This isn't a reenactment though. It's the real deal. A very proud moment in a young boy's life.

Look at the deep satisfaction making one's own toast can inspire. Since this is what he eats the most, besides X-tra cheesy goldfish, it's important that he be able to go out in the world and not need a woman to make his sugar toast for him. That's right, I'm raising a good son.

Here is the finished fence. Philip built two gates. He still has to get the cross bars on them, but the important thing is that THE DOG IS NOW OUR PRISONER. Which is, of course, the way she sees it. I expect we'll live in comfort for two whole days before she figures out a new way to get out. I wouldn't put it past her to teleport herself next time.

This is Penny, Chick's little Corgi friend. They have been romping around (inside the fence) for a couple of hours now. Boy does Chick LOVE Penny. I love to see my dog hanging out with a pal, having their version of beer and chips: water and rawhide scraps.

I have just this afternoon been made aware of a fire raging through blog-land sparked by the Today show featuring the blog writer Melissa Summers of "Suburban Bliss". Apparently there are many people out there who don't believe parenthood and martinis mix. (Idiots!). I have got a brain full of rage to evaluate. As soon as I am finished snuggling the wee one to bed, I will put on my headphones and write until I can say what I want to say about it. Hopefully I will learn to post links to other posts so I can usefully point you all in the direction of this issue if you are not already well versed in the exchanges that have already taken place.

In the mean time I would like to tell you all that my mom has started a very cool blog and when you get a few minutes, check it out! She has recently finished her MFT program to become a therapist and is currently working to fulfill her internship hours. One thing she does is her own version of Tarot. She made her own special deck of cards by collecting poignant stirring pictures and using them to help clarify issues in your life. You can e-mail her specific questions about things going on in your life and she'll pull blind cards and post them up on her blog so you can see what cards she drew and she will tell you what they might mean to you. It isn't fortune telling. It isn't cheesy. It's a fun tool for getting to the meat of the matter at hand. Some of my friends have had her do this and they've found it helpful.

Part of the reason my mom makes a great therapist and a great friend is that she has a vast well of life experience to draw from and a lot of compassion to offer. I have often thought she isn't great at making good life decisions for herself, but all the decisions she's made have provided her with a rich understanding of the human heart and all the ways it can lead itself down dangerous paths. It is often the case that those who see others with amazing clarity have a certain amount of blindness to themselves. Whenever I have been open enough to listen to the advice my mom has offered, I've got to say it's been good. She is great at helping other people guide themselves through rough patches. It's taken me a long time to appreciate my mom in this way.

My mom (whose name to everyone else is Lorena) can't tell you how to get rich. She can't tell you what path will guaruntee love. Because if you think anyone can do that then you are beyond help at this point. What she can do is help you figure out what you need to be looking at to get clear answers from yourself; what questions you should be asking yourself, or maybe others; what issues you may be facing; and she can help you figure out what your strengths are.

If I'm going to be completely honest (and I really try to be), I have to say that my mom and I have had some pretty shaky moments in our relationship, as many mothers and daughters do. We're very different in some ways. We have been known to drive each other crazy. She has accused me of being a near-Victorian prude, I am prickly, stubborn, reluctant to try new things, and I've been known to be annoyingly rigid in my determination not to break the law by refusing to jay-walk. My mom, on the other hand, is a very free spirited person, always ready for adventure, easy going, warm, and not afraid to show bare legs in public. Furthermore, she is amazingly creative, she taught me to laugh so hard my stomach hurts, and she has always had the ability to heal others and to not judge them too harshly for their foibles.

In recent years I have been a little shocked to realize that I am a lot more like my mother than I ever imagined possible. Rather than horrifying me it actually made me proud. I still would wear tights all year long if I wasn't too fat to fit in any of them comfortably. But I am willing to gamble a lot in the persuit of a life worth living, I am compassionate, I am not afraid to explore the world I live in, and I have always had the intense desire to heal those around me in pain.

Can you tell how much I love my mom?

Philip is exactly like a crusty old sceptic when it comes to things like spiritual hoo-doo-voo-doo. But doesn't everyone like a little focussed attention? He asked my mom whether he should work harder at his fine art or put it on the back burner to concentrate on commercial art for our store. My mom drew cards for him and talked about it here.

So go on, is there something you need help clarifying? Are there questions you need help answering? Ask my mom!
Train notes: on the tracks between Portland and Seattle

The following are excerpts from my journal, mostly written in the dining car of my train both to and from Seattle. I wonder what kind of thoughts other passengers were having. What kinds of things are others noticing and wondering about? For me, travel is a supreme people watching treat. While for many people travel is a time for adventure and action, I prefer to sit quietly, eavesdrop and observe.

On the way to Seattle:

I am sitting still on Amtrack train number 506 in the dining car, looking at a very shiny hunk of mac and cheese which was described as having been "lovingly" made by an actual chef. We have been delayed on the line for over twenty minutes, most of which I have spent waiting in line to order this "food". Truthfully? It's not really that bad. Now we're moving again.

I've ordered a very expensive bottle of beer. Thank god it's a good one. I'm sitting at the counter in the dining car and it's weird how much it seems like the counter of a Denny's with a moving landscape as a dinner show. I'd like to stay right here for the whole trip because I can look out the windows. I didn't get a window seat which is terrible because I failed to bring a book, music, or trashy magazines. If I sit in my seat I will only be able to write. Since the most interesting thing to see from my seat is my head-shaven boot-wearing seat-mate who would probably not enjoy my speculation concerning his world out look, I'd rather stay right here.

This is so much better than buses or planes. No high altitude or regurgitated air, a dining car, and the ability to shuffle around without having to buckle up at any point. You get to view the scenery, see all the creaky half fallen down shanties that strange people live in. This is old world travel, not at its finest, but surviving.

If there's anything commendable about trains, besides their complete coolness, it's the fact that the United States is already covered in tracks. Not in good condition, perhaps, but they already exist, underused. I don't want them to disappear. I want them to prosper. There is something so romantic about them, even in a dilapidated state. In some ways that may be the very thing that makes them romantic: the faded glamour. Touching and delicate. It pleases me enormously to know that in this landscape, the train whistles are mine. I'm on the tracks with the whistles this time instead of hearing them off in the distance in the quiet of night.

At the train station in Portland there was a large posse of women sporting black pill box type hats worn NOT a la Jackie, but back on the head to cover their pulled back hair. I wonder what religion they belong to? The surprising thing to me was that the children and teens accompanying them were dressed contemporarily. The women were wearing long skirts and sensible shoes while one teen girl with them was wearing jeans and sequined ballet flats.

I really wish I could sit down with them and ask them about their life. Do people ever convert into their communities? Because, if not, surely there must be some genetic issues by now. What do they do when there are no longer any suitable matches to be made? Do they try to hook up with similar groups far away? Is there any compromising? What if there are no options? What if all first cousin unions have been exhausted? Do any of them pair up siblings in desperation? (The thought of that makes me really ill. Why do I have to have these uncomfortable thoughts all the time?)

Every time I see the emergency brake handles on this train, fairly screaming out to me in their challenging red shade, I get the incredible urge to pull them.

The caps that the train people wear are quite wonderful. Especially on the thin girl who takes her official hat more seriously than the others.

The train was an hour late. This is the kind of sloppiness you need a fascist to fix. Where is Mussolini when you need him most? If we have to have a dictator running the country, why can't he make some useful improvements: Why can't he actually be a useful despot? At least then we could say he had our sons killed so we could catch our trains on time, not just to make him richer.

On the way back to Portland:

As I was walking to the King Street Station I was witness to a rarely seen spectacle: a man crossing the street holding onto his pants which had fallen all the way down to his thighs. He was wearing dirty underwear. I hope to god I never get so poor that I can't do my laundry. (I've been so poor that I had to do it in my bathroom sink by hand with bar soap.) I hope I never get so poor that I can't afford to buy new ones occasionally.

I sometimes wonder if it's common for people to have the kind of disturbing thoughts I do, or to have them as frequently? I've had more of them than usual in the last few days. When I walked up the dirty dark deserted stairs to the street level at King Street Station, I suddenly realized that this is the kind of stairway where women get raped.

The banks along side of the train tracks is kind of worrying me because it's the kind of place where bodies get dumped. Some part of my Psyche is certain that if I look long enough I will glimpse an arm barely covered by the thick ground cover of leaves and fallen branches. Or perhaps a foot.

Garbage bags dumped on the side of the road, or next to dumpsters on city streets always worry me too. Maybe it's just a manifestation of an imbalanced brain, but I have (for as long as I can remember) been afraid that I will discover a dead body somewhere. It isn't even so much a fear as it is a certainty. Do you have any idea what the chances of that happening to me are? I don't mean finding someone I know either, I mean finding a random dead body or body parts. My brain will not let go of this. It infiltrates my nightmares. It makes me see things skewed, and darker.

My hotel was the kind of place where bad liasons take place. Too expensive for prostitution uses, it's exactly the kind of lonely anonymous place where people get together for less than romantic get-aways. For seedy seductions. The halls are narrow and dim. Looking down them is like being lost in a nightmare of identical doors, one after the other, opening into sad uncomfortable rooms. When one of the hall sconces began flickering this morning it transformed the hotel into the kind I am always running from in my dreams. The kind of hotel where crimes are always being committed.

I feel sorry for everyone who must watch me eat a candy bar in this dining car. I can't just eat it in straight bites. I have a carefully observed method of deconstructing my Snickers bars.

1. First eat all the chocolate off.

2. Then eat the nougat layer.

3. All that is left at this point is a disgusting looking slab of peanuts. I eat that last.

I would break into a cold sweat if you forced me to eat a candy bar in any other way. But that's totally normal, right?

Jan 30, 2007

The permanent showrooms: where you find out how low on the totem you really are

In addition to the vendors who set up tent for the three day trade show event, there are hundreds of other rep groups in a building so secret you have to be blindfolded and then shuttled there so you can't reveal it's location to outsiders. These reps are always in this building. You can visit whenever you like, provided you are willing to give up your first born should you accidentally leak any confidential information.

My second day was spent only partly in the convention center. I had to write a couple of orders before heading off to the permanent showrooms. I realized, much too late, that I should have planned to give myself three whole days in Seattle. I also should have visited the showrooms first. The wisdom of which you shall shortly see for yourself.

In McMinnville, a small town of thirty thousand people, it is very important to not carry the same merchandise as the other stores. It isn't good for the customers, and it isn't good for the business owners. As the newest store down town I am on the bottom most rung of the store hierarchy. Oh, you didn't realize there was such a thing? Oh yes. There really is. As a newer store I must be sure to check out what all the other stores are carrying, and not carry those lines. Some reps will protect store owners by refusing to sell a line to two stores in the same town, but this is not always the case. If I want to be respected, I must protect my own interests as well as those of the others around me.

So, in the first showroom I visited there were about seven different lines of goods that seemed perfect for my store. Here's the protocol: I tell the rep I'm interested in these lines, I tell her/him where my store is located and ask them to check to see if anyone has already ordered them in my town. I'm telling you all this because it had a serious effect on my day in the showrooms.

There are two stores in town that I am in direct competition with. One is a well established, much loved store called La Bella Casa. The other one is three doors down from me called "Tutta Bella". Did you already guess they are owned by the same person? These two stores have a distinctly different feel to them than mine. They are the kind of stores you go into if you are a rich American wanting to buy the rustic Tuscan fantasy. The kind of store you send your decorator to. The general price point is higher than mine is. The aesthetic is much more earthy, rich, and the kind of store that every Marin County girlfriend my dad has ever had would all shop at frequently. They wouldn't be shopping at my store buying copies of "Subversive Cross stitch"

In spite of all of the differences between my store and La Bella Casa, there are many cross overs in our style. As I found out to my utter discouragement. Of all of the lines I was interested in at the first showroom I visited, at least five of them were already being ordered by my competition. So the next showroom I found that wasn't filled with giant "lifelike" Santa dolls got me all excited, I found some really cool umbrellas...but guess who had already come through yesterday to write orders for that company? Uh huh, you guessed it. I could spend several paragraphs telling you all about every show room I went into that had anything cool in it, but why bother? It was the same story over and over again.

I started getting pissed off. I have some complicated feelings about this whole issue. They aren't all super mature either. I started wondering why the owner of La Bella Casa has never bothered to come see what I'm selling. I've shown her that courtesy. Not all reps are scrupulous, as I mentioned, yet she is completely unconcerned that she might order something I'm already carrying. There is an arrogance in not coming to my store even once. Almost all the other store owners in town have checked my store out. Yet the only store I'm in real competition with is La Bella Casa (and her other store Tutta Bella) and she couldn't be bothered to drop in one single time in seven months of my store being here in town.

Being dismissed by your competition is certainly an insult, but it's also a weakness on their part. One that I will certainly exploit should our store last long enough to do it. I learned a lot from following in the footsteps of another store, being thwarted, being pushed to the bottom-most rung on the show room ladder. It forces you to think hard about what makes you different, what your strengths are, and to make use of that knowledge or fail. I have a much clearer picture of my own store's strengths now:

  • Our price point is friendlier in general than our competition.

  • Our goods are more practical.

  • Our store has an edgy aspect to it missing from the other stores: we offer some truly different merchandise for everyone who's grown tired of the rustic Tuscan fantasy.

  • We produce some of our own goods which prevents our competition from carrying it, ever.

That last one is our biggest strength. Considering just how much junk is out there, how hard it was for me to find cool stuff, the fact that we design some of our own merchandise is a huge advantage. If we can find people to produce it for us before we run out of capital to pay them, we will have an edge that our competitor's will not have. If I can place those goods in the hands of a competent rep, other people can buy our merchandise for their stores too while we remain the exclusive sellers in our own territory.

I really have worked hard to get to know the other store owners in town, to give them the respect I believe they deserve. In turn, I have to say that so many of them have been incredibly supportive and have appreciated the efforts I've made to not step on their toes. It's gratifying to have good relationships with the other store owners in town. It makes being a part of the down town commerce fun and I've found several people with whom I really enjoy socializing with.

I was pretty bent out of shape by the time I got to the last showroom before I completely collapsed under the weight of the pulp I had gathered. I was feeling the urge to fight dirty, I wanted to complain loud, to scream out my war cry. Luckily I didn't have the energy to muster up my wicked call to arms because I had the fortune to meet a really cool rep who completely understood my chagrin at being always a step behind someone else. She showed me two lines that La Bella Casa didn't place orders for, plus she had a huge wall of millinery flowers. A gorgeous enormous collection of the most beautiful silk and velvet flowers I have ever seen. It was balm on my sore self.

I could sit around resenting being dismissed by someone who should probably be paying closer attention to what is happening over here at Dustpan Alley, but I don't have time to foster such bad feelings. I have a lot of groundwork to cover, a lot of ordering to do, and a lot of things to arrange so that everyone can see Dustpan Alley standing out from the crowd. I don't have time to worry about whether or not our competition sees us coming.

We're almost there.

Next up: train notes.
Seattle Gift Show: an outsider infiltration

This is the Washington Convention Center. It's a massive building in which commerce is enjoyed on a large scale. Picture taking isn't really encouraged inside the event. To be allowed to wander the hallowed isles of complete commercial crap you must provide a formidable stack of proof that you have a right to be there: picture ID, proof of federal tax ID, business license, at least five invoices of amounts over two hundred dollars for gift type goods, a birth certificate, proof of family status, pet pictures, and a blood sample.

My sister took me to the one in San Francisco a year and a half ago when I was on crutches from having broken my hip. She could tell you that it is an amazing event to see; isle after isle of stuff you avoid at Hallmark like the plague. It is rare that outsiders get to see this side of commerce. I thought it would have been marvelous to have had the guts to just whip out my camera so that I could write a great journalistic piece on this trade show accompanied by revealing photos. I don't usually fancy myself a journalistic type of writer, but this trip brought it out of me. I stifled my urge to get myself in a heap of trouble.

I have to admit, before I completely slam the essence of this event, that there really were some cool companies there showing unique merchandise. I found a few amazing card companies that I had not previously seen, I found a fantastic source for realistic fake birds and bees, and I found what I think is a great bath product line. When you consider, though, that there were over a thousand vendors present, finding four or five lines of cool goods is pretty pathetic.

Here are a few of the wonders to be bought:

  • A variety of neon colored rubber alien looking balls and "wigs" that you can don to show the world what a wild cat you really are. Beer not included.

  • A bunch of companies "specializing" in regional tourist goods: Alaska t-shirts, Pacific North West goods with moose on them, sweatshirts with the state of Oregon printed on them. The kind of stuff you buy at the base of the space needle.

  • I cannot tell you how many companies were there selling crappy pink stuffed animals with hearts embroidered on their chests. Some of you may love these things, and that's your prerogative, but I've been forced to see enough of them recently at my local post office and it worries me that people are buying such stupid things for each other as a token of love. When I see how many crafting people out there are making genuinely cool stuffies, ones that are unique, interesting, and sweet without making me want to kill myself, I just can't understand why people are wasting their money on the horrible Walmart variety teddy bears.

  • The handmade section was abysmal. I understand that many people have not gotten over burl wood crafts, but it's time. Almost all the handmade crafts being shown were cheesy, uninspired, completely unhip, and seriously depressing. C'mon people, make some wind socks that aren't rainbow nylon. The only cards in this section were these horrendous brightly embossed designs. I want to support hand made goods. I can't afford to sell lots of it in my store, but I'm trying to find what I can afford because there are so many wonderful handmade things being made out there, there's no excuse for crap.

  • I want to know what's up with people getting tapestries made with the images of their babies on them. Does no one understand how TACKY that is? Or their pets?

  • Lastly, the country style goods were like a tumor choking out all the sunlight in the world. I love a good fake-aged galvanized bucket, I love enamel ware, I really do. I can appreciate quite a lot of the country aesthetic, but really, the amount of aged wooden signs saying "This house serves the word of the Lord" and "God bless us, every one" is just stupefying.

I learned a lot about going to trade shows on this trip. At first I couldn't understand why all these idiot women had rolling luggage with them. Jesus, you'd think they were afraid to leave their things in their hotels...which if they were staying in the same hotel as me I kind of understand. They weren't idiots, they were way smarter than me. The rolling luggage is for transporting the plethora of catalogs you acquire without forcing your arms into a state of permanent numbness from carrying an extra fifty pounds of pulp in a paper shopping bag. I will know for next time.

There's a kind of excitement that circulates these events. People are there to shop and what can be more stirring than spending tons of money with the hopes that the goods you buy will eventually turn into more money? It almost makes a person hot with anticipation. (I said ALMOST) It is mostly women buying. Some surprise, huh? Most of them travel in packs. There's a good reason for that. Not only do you need the moral support and someone to gossip with, but you do not look like weak prey for the pushy reps in the gifty desert when you are part of a group. I had to avoid a lot of eye contact with salespeople who were repping lines that I could see out of the corner of my eye would make me want to slit my own throat if I had to look at them all day long.

Lucky for me I'm a lot more wily than I appear. I look pretty open, like an easy sell. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that I am easily influenced, that I am gullible (I've had my moments to be sure) and that I am too weak to say no. I will take your catalog out of politeness, because I know how hard you're working and how clueless you are about the degree to which your goods offend me. But when I return to the Williamson Ranch with the offending catalog I will burn it on a pyre in grave disgust. And I will curse you for trying to lure me into buying evil crap that I wouldn't give to my worst enemy.

I am going to recap with a few handy tips for the next time you find yourself required to travel to a trade show; the retail mecca of the west:

  • Wear good walking shoes. Preferably ones that have little tiny angels holding your feet just a little bit off the ground on cushions of clouds.

  • Bring a rolling suitcase to comfortably store all the catalogs you will later burn in a soul cleansing ritual.

  • Come in a pack, you won't have to work so hard to fight off the hungry hyenas. Plus you'll have more fun dissing all the bazaar fashions wandering loose around the great retail Sahara.

  • Take a break in the middle of the day. Don't fall for the prepackaged sandwich scam, it isn't food. It looks like food, and you'll be ravenous from all the work avoiding the garden signs reading "Fairies welcome here". Instead, go for some hot food and be sure to drink a pint of the finest ale you can find. It will pluck up your courage to return, which you will need.

Next up: a visit to the permanent showrooms. A little visit to hell itself.

Jan 29, 2007

Woman killed by own shoes in brutal downtown Seattle slaying!

This has been an interesting unrestful educational trip for me. I took the train from Portland (see the spiffy station in above photo) to Seattle. I haven't taken Amtrak since I was about seventeen or eighteen when I went to visit a friend in Bakersfield; the land of hot dirt.

Dominique took me to the train because she is so amazingly sweet! Between Dominique and my friend Lisa who bravely watched Max pretty much all week-end, we were able to keep the shop open while I was away. Dominique worked in the store on Sunday too. Thanks you guys!!

I don't like pictures of me being taken anymore but I asked Dominique to take this one so no one would be able to accuse me of having any insecurities about having my picture taken.

This is the King Street Train Station in Seattle. It looks pretty ritzy from this view, but in another post I will show you all its dark secret dangerous deserted stairway. This part of down town is not so nice. I've lived in cities before, I still have a little tiny bit of city savvy left, so I wasn't that concerned.

This is one of the trains. I love the way they look. I love train whistles. I love train stations just as much as I love airports. But taking trains is actually better than taking planes, as long as you don't mind how much longer it takes to get anywhere. I enjoyed my experience.

I made a dreadful mistake booking my hotel room. I thought I was booking my room in the same hotel that I did on my last trip to Seattle. Imagine my dismay when, after walking for a mile and a half to the hotel, I find out that the hotel I'm actually booked in is directly across the small highway that separates the good hotel from the really scary ones. Not that Holiday Inn is that good, but compared to Quality Inn...there is really no contest. So this is the narrow scary endless hallway of the "hotel" I came to loath by the first night.

These shoes taught me a valuable lesson, one that-regrettably-I have had to learn over and over again...which now that I'm saying it here I realize means I haven't ever learned a thing... anyway, these shoes are NOT made for walking. After walking a mile and a half to get to the "hotel" the previous evening, on Saturday morning I had to walk in these stupid-ass not made for walking shoes another mile to get to the Convention Center for the trade show. I took this picture when they only kind of hurt. Long before the Seattle police found my mangled stumps of feet and me all dead in the gutter. This here is a still-hopeful moment. I was sitting on these steps to some government building (because all government buildings must have steps) while drinking a Starbuck's latte and an unpalatable "cinnamon roll" which I had to throw away in dramatic disgust.

After spending all day looking at the most incredible crap at the trade show I headed back to the "hotel". On foot. No, not on foot...on bloody frickin' stumps barely passing for feet. In all my dire pain, I stopped to take this photo in a fit of journalistic fervor. It has come to symbolize my own little corner of this city. I suffered for this photo, so you better appreciate that I took about forty snaps before I got a halfway decent one because the thing slowly revolves. What amazes me even more than this one interesting neon sign is the fact that there are actually TWO of them in Seattle!

This was seconds before I was brave enough to remove my shoes. I know you're admiring the lovely slick comforter on which I laid down my weary bones. It wasn't until I'd been laying there groaning for a full hour before it occurred to me that it is probably not washed nearly as frequently as the sheets. I quickly got under the sheets which I could at least hope were clean.

This morning I walked back to the King Street Station with a one hundred fifty pound suitcase and passed through this lovely little area of Seattle. It's one block from the station and just as you'd expect, one of the coolest looking galleries (for which you need an appointment) is one block from here.

Ahhhh...this was a sight for weary eyes! Oh he smelled so good to me. I hugged him and hugged him and smothered him with kisses. The only way I could tell that he was glad to see me was the way he clung to me like a monkey and let me kiss him without a single protest. I love time away from my family because it makes me love them even more when I come home.

Some highlights from the trip:

  • I met a store owner from McMinnville at the trade show who, until then, I knew of but had never met. One I have tried so hard to be respectful of. One whom I have tried to imagine in the best possible light. Forget it. She turned out to be a... never mind. One must not slander others. (I was going to say she turned out to be a tepid bitch, but I think I may find out later that she's really a delightful bowl of lovins when I get to know her. Well, I'm pretty sure I won't. But she will turn out to be every one's best friend.)

  • On Sunday morning I waited twenty minutes for breakfast because I like to see how close to passing out from hunger I can get.

  • The noise of my "hotel" almost rendered me deaf in both ears.

  • People buy the most stupendous crap imaginable.

  • I became so hungry waiting for my breakfast on Sunday that I almost ended up not feeling hungry at all.

  • I finally understood how a person could want to cut off one of their own limbs.

  • Il Fornaio is a terrible restaurant whose ravioli tasted mostly like hot salt. I kind of forgave them though because they had Sierra Nevada beer on tap.

  • A random guy on the street shouted out to me and said "Hey! You're really beautiful!" Proof that he had recently smoked some PCP, or that he likes his women to look frightened and tortured by their own shoes. He may have found my trail of blood arousing. Which leads me right back to supposing that he had recently smoked PCP. Can there be a less sexy drug than giant mammal tranquilizers?

  • Sales reps sometimes resemble cackling hyenas whom I wouldn't leave my kid with for fear he'd be sold the second I turned my back.

  • I did meet several super cool reps who I enjoyed talking with.

  • Il Fornaio's cheesecake had no crust on it. I consider this to be a food crime.

*There will be more pictures of the trip, more ruminations on the business, and train notes. So stay tuned!

Jan 24, 2007

A whole lotta nothin'

This is a macro view of the fabric I used for one of the Valentine's Day aprons I posted a couple of posts ago. You couldn't see it in the other picture. I just love it. Even though it has not only hearts, but hearts tied together with bows, but not only are they tied with sweet little bows, they are surrounded by bows! Normally this is the kind of sweet thing that makes me want to impale myself with whatever mechanical pencils are at hand that the dog hasn't already chewed up and spit out. Yet, I'm here to tell you that I love this fabric. I would wear this fabric if it wouldn't make me look like a broad-backed sunburnt demon from the underworld of the broken hearted.

My order for "Smart Women" products came and I love them! I love the colors, the graphics, and the messages. We got coasters, glasses, mugs, paper napkins, magnets, and dish towels.

The store is slowly filling up.

I couldn't resist the lip gloss. They are discontinuing it which kind of breaks my heart, but I'm sure I'll get over it in time.

We got more books and stationery too. This is a book I wanted to order, but decided not to. I guess I just had to have it because I accidentally wrote its ISBN number on the order and got four of them. I think it's fabulous. Hopefully other people will too.

This is a Forest Whimsy Fairy Crown. Eventually I will have more of them in my shop. They are really amazing and reasonably priced at $20 each. Lucille makes them by hand. If you haven't already checked out her website you really should. (Her website is on the side bar.)

This is one of Philip's "Prayer Machines". No, it's not actually a device for literally praying through or anything like that. I mean, if God answers your call with this piece, it's all your own equipment taking the call. "Prayer Machines" is just the name of this particular series of his work. I know you're all desperate to buy this baby, but it's NFS. Because this one's mine. There are more in the store that are for sale. Maybe I'll post a few of those pieces soon. I just wanted to share one of my all time favorite pieces that Philip has done.

I love the drying and dried up red inks which are so stark against the white background.
I love the bone. This piece reminds me of the inexorable march that life makes towards death. It makes me think of buzzards in the desert picking bones dry and how in their own way they are beautiful creatures who serve a purpose, unlike mosquitoes. From the day we're born we are headed in the fifth direction. No amount of botox or surgery is going to postpone the inevitable. Maybe healthier living will buy you a little time. Maybe it won't. I like how death is not a racist, a xenophobe, or concerned about how old you are, how fat you are, how much you've loved or hated, how much you've taken or given. It comes to us all.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly looking forward to it. Sometimes it scares me. But I find comfort in accepting the inevitable. There is almost nothing else in life we can be one hundred percent sure of, except that we will eventually die. That's what is so attractive about suicide to people who feel hopeless. It's amazing to me what you can fit in between those two margins of absolute truths. If you accept the inevitability of death, then you can get on with the business of living with a much freer heart.

Today has been one of those useless days with a mounting sense of doom and frustration at not being able to get a single thing accomplished. Well, I got one single thing accomplished: I made my hotel reservation for Seattle. I leave the day after tomorrow. Today I was going to do laundry, cook food, organize my trade papers for registering with the trade show, and clean the house at least a little.

The dog's needs got in the way. We can't let her outside now except to go to the bathroom because our stupid animal fencing is flexible enough for her to worm her way under it. We have to section off part of the yard with sturdy Chick-proof fencing. I don't know how many of you out there have built your own fences before, but it takes time. We don't have time. Philip is vehemently against paying someone to do it. Because he knows we can do it ourselves. I'm all on board this whole idea of doing things for ourselves, yeah, I mean I like being self sufficient and all, but there are times when it is just stupid to expect yourself to accomplish something when you are already aching with the stress of trying to accomplish five hundred other things.

Today I thought I'd just grab the bull by the horns, just build a damn fence. Why? Because the dog won't stop whining to go outside, and four seconds after she's outside she's in the front yard headed for the street. It has become very stressful around here dealing with the dog. I'm not even going to go into it right now, but Philip and I don't speak the same language most of the time, and we don't operate the same way. I wanted to just whip something functional together, to fix our dog problem fast. Philip wants everything done perfectly the first time and has been known to spend weeks on drawings for a chicken coop which I ended up building without plans or sketches, just some tools and materials. He hates that.

Anyway, I ended up going to the shop because he was so stressed out about the fence being done unattractively. Jesus, this is exactly what we don't have time for. So I have relinquished the job to him. In the mean time, our kid is permanently fused to the joystick (are they still calling them that these days?) of the evil PlayStation and I'm sure some parents around here have their fingers on the dial to child protective services, no home cooked food has been made, no laundry has been done, and now it's the evening and I'm tired.

One nice thing is that Lisa, who came to borrow my canner today, got her elbows dirty with my living room and transformed it from a horrible pit of dirty boys clothes and adult socks and half chewed dog rawhide into a livable space that doesn't repel me. Thank you Lisa!

Since Philip must do this fence thing himself, I will be in the shop tomorrow too. So nothing will be cooked or cleaned or organized for my trip tomorrow either. Because Philip doesn't multi-task.

What I keep telling myself though, is that Friday morning I will get a ride into Portland to the train station with my friend Dominique, and I will be gone for three nights. That's three nights of no one pushing me to the edge of the bed and denying it ever happens. No worrying about how everything is working out. I will get a ton of walking done because I'm a little reluctant to take buses in a city I'm unfamiliar with, or to take taxis anywhere ever. (The taxi thing is a fear of not knowing the right protocol, how much to tip is a constant worry for me. Plus getting in a cab with someone creepy has actually happened to me.) I love walking everywhere around cities.

I will get to watch television until my eyes dry open forever. I will get to go to a trade show for two whole days. I will get to take my time checking the vendors out, hopefully placing some orders, and scoping out which reps I will hunt down contact when I am ready to find one to sell my wholesale goods. I will get to listen to my headphones, eat when I feel like it, and not know a soul in sight. I LOVE travelling by myself.

Some women claim that they can't enjoy leaving their family for a few days because they worry the whole time about how everything is going, worrying if the man is burning down the house, losing the children by the river in the middle of the night, worrying that they are all starving to death huddled by the radiator, and that they just love their kids so much they hate being away. While this is totally sweet of them to say, and I'm sure that many moms out there would be shaking their heads in total agreement with this sentiment if they happened to be reading my blog, I am not such a mom.

No one even needs to reassure me that it's OK for me to not ache with terrible pain when the shiny apple of my eye and I are apart. I feel completely fine about it. I feel like I spend almost everyday tending to the needs of my family, and I generally do it with love, satisfaction, and even enjoyment. I just don't get that whole womanly gig of being so selfless that she thinks she doesn't deserve time away, or so egocentric that she's convinced the whole family will fall apart without her, or so family oriented that it never occurs to her that if she went away for a brief alone spell she might recharge her driving light, have more to offer her children and husband, and that maybe, just maybe, she'll find that she still has it in her to listen to herself for once.

I don't go in for that whole thing. I will confess to missing my boys. But not until I have tucked myself into my hotel room and I wish I was snuggled up to my squirmy delicious little boy. The feeling passes pretty quickly as I enjoy watching trashy television which I only get to do when I travel since we don't have cable of any kind (and get no stations without it). I enjoy the quiet in my head. I enjoy not being at the beck and call of others. I like the stillness. It makes me feel like a new woman. You won't find me feeling guilty about it either because enjoying being away from your children or spouse is not a measure of how much less you love them than you should, it's a measure of how much you retain autonomy of spirit. I am a mom, a wife, a dog owner, a poultry raiser, a cook, a storekeeper, a crafts person, a cleaner, a writer, a seamstress, and a gardener.

But before all of that, before everything else that I am; I am a woman.

If you really need a soundtrack to this touching moment, may I suggest Helen Reddy with "I am WOMAN, hear me roar"? (But the one I hear in my head is "That's Alright" by Fleetwood Mac.)

Needing space, demanding space, or brief spells alone is a measure of how strong you are as a woman. How capable you are of making sure there are pockets in your life devoted to cleaning out your own heart, your brain, and taking yourself. You put your own oxygen mask on first, then you help your family. Without oxygen, you will die, and if you die then you have nothing to give anyone. Wow, I'm back to the macabre again. How do I do it?

So, while I am abundantly stressed out right now (getting calmer by the minute, but still harboring some negative thoughts about the way this day has turned out), I am thinking about the break I am about to have. It's a terrible time for me to take a trip, but for some reason they just don't plan these trade shows around my convenience. There's nothing I can do about the timing. I've had to call in some pretty heavy favors from my friend Lisa and Dominique to do this trip and keep the store open. (We cannot afford any kind of day care). I really need to do this trip for the sake of the store, and the perk is that I will be able to rest my nerves.

The other thing I keep trying to remind myself is that no matter how urgent anything seems to me right now, that enormous list of things I have still only barely made a dent in, the dog problem, the challenge of arranging a trip, all of that....in the big scope of life, these are very small issues. If we don't take every step we need to take to make the store successful, because there just isn't enough time or money, then what? What's the worst? We start over. If we're lucky enough to live a long life, all of this will seem so small when we're old. If we don't live a long life, then why on earth should we spend every day tangled in a giant web of stress?

So hopefully I will let go of all the stress and secretly hope that all these people who believe in miracles are right and that laundry really can do itself.
It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to

Lucille pointed out a blog to me yesterday that many of you may already know about called "Inside a black apple". I read a post about the purpose of her blog which she wrote in response to some criticism she received from a commenter about how opinionated, snarky, and hoity toity she can be. I thought her post was a really sharp explanation of what blogs are really all about, which is that each of us creates our blog to be a place where we can come to be ourselves, to record our daily comings and goings, and to offer up our nonobjective view points. Blogs aren't really created to appease the general PC public. People create them, often, as a personal haven, a little world where we can post the pictures we want, share the details we feel like sharing, and swear if we want to.

The fact that blogs are public is only really a side note. A small perk, because putting our personal world out there for others to find us means that people who share our passions, who like the same things we do, or who want to see what we're up to can come and go as they like. People can be voyeurs if they choose, silently observing our sideshows, or they can become an actual part of its landscape. How brilliant is that? Why are new blogs being created every day? Because they're brilliant!

Eh, anyone who comes here knows that I like to run off at the mouth pretty much for hours on end. I used to do this to my friends all the time. Grab on to a collection of subjects that seem about as diverse as the religions in this country and weave them all together, excitedly dissecting our humanity. Maybe my friends like this about me, maybe they don't. But here on my blog, I can do what I want. I can write five hundred pages of total crapola. The beauty of it is that if you get tired of it, if you find my words offensive, or stupid: YOU CAN LEAVE WITHOUT HAVING TO HURT MY FEELINGS.

I can do the same to you.

Just about every week or so I write a post that once I've pressed the "publish" button makes me worry. I have opinions, and they are bound to occasionally be completely different than someone else's. Plus, I have no way of knowing who's reading this blog unless they happen to leave a comment. Which lots of people don't. I was thinking about this yesterday, obviously, because of bringing up religion. If there is any topic more hot than religion, (besides sex), I don't know it. All day I was thinking about who out there might be shocked into a coma at the comparison I threw out there between the Mormon and Islamic faiths. On the surface they seem quite similar to me, I want to explore that. So I throw it out there.

Then I get a comment from a Mormon who tells me I got everything all wrong about Mormons. And invites me to learn more which doesn't surprise me at all. What surprises me is that a Mormon is reading my blog in the first place. How did she find me? Are there Islamic people reading this blog too?

I was already thinking all these things when I read the post on "Inside a black apple". I think she really nailed the whole issue. No one should have to censor themselves on their own blog. Period end. Out there in the real world I expect myself to be respectful of others all the time, I try not to swear too much, I try to be polite, even to really rude people. Here on my blog is where I can let my hair down, say what I think, even if I turn out to be wrong. I can cry and whine if I want to, because this is my party here. I suppose I try, even here, not to be a pig headed mean-ass unthinkingly prejudiced jerk. But I refuse to shield people from my curiosity here at Dustpan Alley.

And that's my final stance.

I'll still write things that make me uncomfortable about once a week. But if I wasn't saying them here in my own little dark fairyland, I'd be blurting them out on the streets where no one can get away from me fast enough. Poor souls.

The same principle applies to comments. I don't mind that the Mormon put in her two cents. And I really super duper amazingly enjoyed the other comments from yesterday's post! (Very juicy I thought.) I enjoy thoughtful comments, I enjoy comments that challenge ideas I've put out there, and obviously I love it when people tell me I'm like the Michael Pollan of the retail world. (Well, no one's told me that, but some of you were thinking it, weren't you?)

As a little side note here, I'm actually super surprised I haven't attracted any real hate mail yet. There have been several posts on this blog of a highly questionable nature and I expected to get a whip lashing of objections from someone out there. I don't actually want to get any, I just sort of expected it because my favorite topics tend to be pretty inflammatory.

Well, I just want to say how much I appreciate that some people out there enjoy my blog enough to come back often, and I love hearing from you. I look forward to writing here every single day while drinking my cup of coffee; imagining all of you hunkered down with your coffee at your computers reading my posts and with fists in the air shouting "Dammit woman! Stop insulting my grandma! You're wrong, you're wrong....DUDE, you're so wrong about everything!"

Jan 23, 2007

Two haircuts later...

Anyone who found themselves shaking their head at the comments I made about Mormons in my last post will enjoy the rich sauce of irony laid thick on my morning at the hair salon.

A Mormon cut my hair and made me look like a conservative politician's wife. Which made me want to cry. Why do women keep trying to give me bobs that make me look like I should be going door to door about something? I even had pictures with me of my last haircut which was the first good one I've gotten in about two years. She consulted it many times and her interpretations of what she saw leads me to believe that she:

a) is blind as a bat

b) read my earlier post and was getting her revenge for not automatically thinking that all Mormons are the best people on earth.

c) or she's not a very good hair stylist.

Two out of three women working in that salon were Mormons and both of them confirmed that this county is absolutely full of them. You better believe I asked some questions. I found out that only "pure" people get to go on missions, people unsullied by life's temptations. So only virgins are allowed to spread the gospel. Hmm. Interesting. I suppose they can check the women and hopefully take into account that hymens are often not intact due to sporty activity, but how on earth can they be sure the young men are all "pure"? I did ask about men getting their own planet when they die and they said that wasn't really true. Well thank the almighty I got that cleared up!

I had to go immediately to get someone more capable to fix my hair. Although it's much better now (no big shelf in the back of my head), I am tired of bad haircuts and would like to shave off all of my hair. This would unfortunately accentuate my abundantly padded body and make me look like a lesbian pin head. Plus Philip wouldn't like that. It would also show off my scalp which no one but the very brave could look at and not run in fear of getting my leprosy.

I used to have such a good hair life. I guess I should just be glad it lasted so long.

*A commenter in the last post pointed out that everything I said about Mormons was completely wrong. I would like to say for anyone who didn't get this already: I am not an authority on the Mormon religion and am likely to have many misconceptions about them just as most Mormons have automatic misconceptions about me. Maybe if we all keep having dialogs with each other we will come to understand each other better and be more comfortable sharing the planet together while still having different beliefs. This would be nice.