Thursday, August 30, 2007


Hot weather, humidity, power outages…stick a fork in me, I’m done. When the road gets this rough, it’s time for socks that pamper. For me, that means socks that pamper my fingers as I knit them. I like making socks for myself, but there just aren’t that many occasions for me to wear upscale socks.

My oldest son has the advanced teenaged male habit of wearing socks until they are stiff and horrible, which does not work well with handmade socks at all. My daughter wishes her feet were smaller, so her socks are crammed into shoes (along with her feet) that are, um, insufficiently roomy, so the socks get stressed along the heel line. Hubs is not a sock man; he’ll wear plain black socks all year round, and the only time he makes noises about wooly socks is in the winter, but he just wants plain black. I’d rather stick my needles in my eyes than make a bunch of plain black socks, so I just buy him socks.

Doodle, on the other hand, is young enough to find colorful socks fun, has no problem answering the question, “Oooh, wild socks! Where’d you get them?” with appropriate smug delight that someone loves him enough to hand make him socks by saying, “My Mom! Aren’t they cool?” To which the answer is usually, “Awesome! Your mom can make SOCKS?” All of which makes for nice ego maintenance when he tells me about that days’ sock conversation. He also wears his shoes a little big, since he’s still growing, and the socks last longer.

On one of my delightful yarn crawls this summer, I picked up this beautiful “Blauer Mond” yarn by Opal. I tried the sideways sock pattern, but the further I got, the less I liked it. I dithered over frogging for a while, and, just before the big rains hit last week, I did the dirty deed. The subsequent lousy weather mandated that I do something relaxing and low tech, so I started a sock for the Doodle; it’s a manly sock of ribbed leg and top of foot, but with that fabulous yarn. I’m through about 2/3 of the required foot length, and I still love this yarn. It looks like, at 100 grams, there will be plenty for a pair.

HOWEVER, and this is one of those sneaky cheapskate things, even if there isn’t quite enough, I can add in another sock yarn, possibly contrasting, for the toe, which no one will see. I’ve done this before, usually when a yarn ball runs shorter than I, or my gauge, anticipated, and the kids kind of like having different colored toes on their socks. I have also been known to unravel a finished toe zone to scavenge enough yarn for the ankle area of the second sock so that, while in shoes, they look like a match. Then, each sock gets a toe in some other yarn. This is possibly one of the reasons that I generally prefer leg-down sock making rather than toe-up socks. (The other reason is that working toe-up feels funky and strained around the heel/ankle area, and I don’t enjoy it.)

These cozy puppies should be ready, washed, and snuggly in plenty of time for the first frost. Mmmmmmm.

Oddball Word of the Day

billet-doux (bil-ee-DOO) n. a love letter

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


We’ve had a great many heavy rainstorms lately, and while I normally enjoy rain, this was not the kind I could watch wistfully or offhandedly from my perch on the couch and daydream about hot soup and giggling children stomping in puddles. It’s been the kind of rain where the dog clamps his body to my feet, shivering in terror while the wind blows branches off trees and shingles off roofs, the lights flicker on and off, and the children get sent home early because of tornado warnings.

We lost power on Thursday night, along with several thousand other people, and made it through to Friday morning, when we listened to the car radio to find out if the kids were still supposed to go to school, which they were. It wasn’t raining at the time, and I had hopes of being electrified again, so to speak, within a few hours. Just like the last couple of weeks, it was a 90-degree sauna outside, so the dog and I decided to hang out in the coolest room in the house, the living room, for a while.

The school sent the kids home just ahead of the next big storm, and man, oh, man did it rain! My husband was out checking on some clients who’d had lightening strike their home directly, so we knew he’d be late, and since the water supply was dicey with the pump out of commission, I started instructing the children on how to preserve the potable water.

“Don’t flush the toilets!” I urged, “The water in the tank is presumably potable!” Having seen the inside of the toilet tanks, I figured we could all manage on Kool-Aid and soda pop and give the tank water to the dog, if it got that bad. “Use hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands, we’ve got Stridex pads for all for sweaty faces, and nobody open the fridge!”

The kids gave me a look like I had just announced we were going to live in a bog and feed off of swamp critters for the remainder of their lives.

“Don’t flush?” they exclaimed, “That’s yucky!”

“You get one flush, guys, if you do, and then you’ll have used up the majority of our water supply,” I responded. Naturally, that made everyone have to pee, and, of course, ten minutes later, out of habit and sheer absentmindedness, there was a flush.

“AAARGH!” I yelled at the flusher, “What were you thinking?”

“Dang… Oops,” he replied. I handed him a bucket. Then I handed buckets to the other children. “It’s time to learn about manual flushing,” I said, “go get a bucket of water from the swimming pool.”

Bunny looked at her bucket and then looked at me in dismay. “You’re kidding, right, Mom? You don’t actually mean this, do you?” she asked.

I looked at her, raised my eyebrow and said, “Fortunately, it’s chlorinated, too. That’s an added boon. Shoo!” The kids trooped out to the pool like a fire brigade, returning with filled buckets. I showed them the technique. They decided it was icky. I told them it would be a lot ickier if we didn’t use that method, and had a bucket of water stationed in each bathroom. I decided against regaling them with tales from my youthful vacations to country relatives of outhouses, snake warnings, used catalogs and combining all three in the dark.

And that was only the first of the lessons in living without power. I’d have had to be more assertive and knowledgeable and really resourceful if my husband hadn’t come home. I think he was born under a lucky star in some ways. Cars that clank and thump and wheeze when I drive them run like Formula One race winners as soon as he gets behind the wheel – he doesn’t have to do anything other than exude mechanical competence at cars for them to run at peak performance. He has the same kind of luck with electrical stuff, which we found out about when he got home.

He walked in, carrying two cases of bottled water, given to him by the grateful lightening-struck clients, and said, “We’ve got power in the barn.”

“Hurray!” we all yelled, “does that mean we’ll have power back here soon?”

“Probably not,” he replied, “the barn is on a different transformer, but I can run an extension cord from there to here, and we can run the phone and maybe the refrigerator, and I’ll see what else I can figure out.”

“Holy crap,” I said, at a loss, “Well, welcome home, hero!” He replied with a smart aleck grin.

He managed to run two heavy duty extension cords, linked to smaller extension cords, over and over again into the house, and he set up the things that were important to him – One cord ran the phone and the frig and had an outlet left over for use on either the coffee maker or the electric skillet, which, with an all electric house, was going to be the only way we were going to get a meal that wasn’t straight out of a can or smeared on bread. He used the other cord to turn the living room back into his personal Man Cave – he plugged in his big screen TV, the satellite box, the VCR, a lamp, and an upright fan. “I’m fine now,” he said, “I’ve got light, moving air, and entertainment. I’m a happy camper.”

I looked at him, feeling vaguely annoyed, and said, “Well, you’ll be glad to know there’s a filled bucket in the bathroom, too.”

“Oh, good,” he said as he lay down on the couch and yawned, “I was wondering what we were going to do about that. Any dinner ideas?”

When I called the power company, so many people were suffering outages that I got an automated response telling me we wouldn’t even have an estimate for repairs until late Sunday night, so I wound up teaching the kids how to brush their teeth with mouthwash, dine cheerfully by candlelight on foods that can be cooked in an electric skillet, and take sponge baths with a minimum of water.

They were a little grumpy about having to watch Dad’s bang-clank TV choices and not having the Internet available to them, but we’re all big readers, so it wasn’t too much different for us during the daylight hours. When the power was restored late Saturday afternoon, we let out a cheer, turned on the air conditioning, and coiled up the extension cords.

All in all, it was a lot like camping only somewhat better. Lots of people in our area were not so lucky – our county has been declared a disaster area by the governor due to flash flooding that occurred, and many people are still cleaning out their manky, flooded basements. I’ve complained in the past about my nasty, sandy soil which makes it hard to grow flowers and vegetables, but I was awfully glad for it this past weekend – no leaks, no drips, no mildew, mold or mustiness.

And, no, I don’t want to buy a generator. In the 11 years we’ve lived here, we’ve only had one other significant power outage, and that only lasted 12 hours. I don’t think we’d really get our money’s worth out of it.

Now, if only my husband’s lucky star covered plumbing, too, I’d never have to worry about the septic tank ever again!

Oddball Word of the Day

fallal (fah-LALL) n. a frivolous piece of finery; a useless article of dress

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There’s a Cream for That?

Sometime ago I think I mentioned that we sent Spawn off for anger management therapy. It’s been pretty successful – we haven’t had any more scary temper storms, and I think it’s very helpful to him to talk to an adult to whom he is not related and get a third party point of view. He’s still going, and I really don’t care what they talk about; if he feels he’s getting value out of the time spent there, it’s not wasted money.

A few weeks ago, he asked me for a recommendation for a dermatologist. He’s had a slight problem with his complexion being flaky on top of teenaged acne, and it was getting on his nerves enough for him to want to talk to an expert. He went off for his first appointment today, then went to work in my husband’s office that afternoon.

When Spawn came home that afternoon, he told me the dermatologist had said he needed to use a prescription cream and cleanser, and if those didn’t work, there was some kind of pill they could try, but they were going to do this other route first. He seemed pleased with the doctor, and I went back to my normal routine.

It was a little different when Hubs came home, though. He charged in through the door, gave me a kiss and said, “Did Spawn tell you about the mix up?”

“Well, no,” I said, “what happened?”

“Well, he came into my office and announced, ‘I have bad news, good news, and better news. What do you want to hear first?’ I told him I’d take the bad news first, so he told me, ‘What I have is incurable!’ Then he said, ‘But the good news is that my doctor has it, too, and the better news is that there’s a cream for it!’ I thought he was talking about his therapist, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that there was a cream for anger management, so we had quite a time straightening out that misunderstanding!”

“Oh, shit,” I said, “’A cream for that, eh?’” And I started laughing and laughing and finally said, “Oh, lord, can you imagine the commercial? ‘HEAD-ON! Apply directly to the head! HOTHEAD-ON! Apply directly to the…’” And we both dissolved in laughter.

What a picture!

Oddball Word of the Day

unguent (UHN-gwent) n. a soft or liquid ointment for wounds, etc.

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Things That Go Knit in the Night

I knit in the dark. Not all the time, just when I can’t get or stay asleep or when I wake up early and want to enjoy the combination of dark, quiet and coffee, but my hands are bored. I don’t work on complicated things, just regular garter stitch, maybe stockinette with a minor, regular variation. Occasionally, I’ve dropped stitches, miscounted, or made another mistake, but, since I was, after all, knitting in the dark, it doesn’t bother me as much as if I had made the same mistake in the full light and consciousness of day. I fix it, or decide if it’s unnoticeable enough to ignore and knit on.

I taught myself to do a number of things in the dark, or with my eyes closed, when I was a child. My Mom had told me, with perhaps either a perverse sense of humor which I mistook, or, which was more likely considering her other behavior, a sense of everyday cruelty, that the ophthalmologist had said I’d be blind by the time I was 40 years old. I accepted a lot of those kinds of remarks from my Mom back then without comment and that was one such. I felt a momentary stab of advance regret, and then I made up my mind, silently, to learn to do things by feel.

I taught myself to crochet by feel, all manner of patterns, and I once stood in front of a yarn display feeling the different colors to see if I could determine color by feel. I was very young and willing to experiment, just for the sake of trying, and I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand about fibers – I thought all yarn was cheap acrylic. I also watched “The Miracle Worker” with Patty Duke several times, trying to figure out how Helen Keller had managed to write, and tried to learn to do that, too. My resulting writing was unlovely but legible.

I counted steps around the house, to school, and all kinds of other locations I frequently went, even though I knew I’d be moving to new places, going to different schools, and would probably have a cane or a dog to help me out. I wondered about what kind of assistance dog I’d have and wondered which one would be the best.

Then I started wondering what would happen if I also lost the use of my hands. I taught myself to tie my shoes, well, at least one of them, with the toes on the other foot, a feat that still astounds my children. Velcro hadn’t been invented back then, but that would have been a real time saver. I tried sensing my way around using my elbows as feelers, and with my eyes closed, and I wound up spending a lot of time sliding along walls.

I realized as I got older that the whole threat of blindness was just another one of my mother’s cruelties and stopped believing in it as an inevitability. Nevertheless, I still have the old habit of learning to do things by feel. I have found myself learning how to do a lot of things with my eyes closed after I had learned the basics with them open. It’s just a quirky thing I do. I found it basically only takes longer with my eyes closed, and the results may be a little different.

So, I knit in the dark when I don’t feel like turning on the lights. And, it’s six steps from my side of the bed to a right-hand turn, seven steps to another right, and four into the bathroom, where I can feel my way along the vanity to the necessary, in case you were wondering. I did put in a nightlight for my husband, though.

Oddball Word of the Day

sough (sou): v. to make a sighing, rushing, or rustling sound, as of a wind blowing through trees.

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

504 Reasons to Soak My Head

My youngest son has a 504 plan, and, now that he’s starting high school, we needed to do a review of his existing plan. If you are unfamiliar with what a 504 plan is, the short version is that for kids with learning disabilities of any type, they’re evaluated to see if they need special services and would then qualify under the federal program IDEA or if section 504 of the ADA would be more applicable. 504 plans are generally considered less expensive for the school district and generally include things to take place in the regular classroom.

Seven years ago I started my journey on learning more about special education law and the various twists and turns along the road to FAPE because Spawn also has ADHD and needed a 504. My first year was an introduction to the gatekeeper mentality of my local district, which is the most pervasive point of view of most school districts. They dithered for a year, using the Intimidation Triangle of gate keeping.

The Triangle has three levels. The first level is delay – stall, put meetings off for as long as possible, find ways to avoid having meetings, question the same things over and over again on tiny technical details, hoping to run out the school year clock. One of the favorite tactics at this level is to pretend that “necessary” people are constantly unavailable, the person in question changing for each proposed meeting. Also included is feigned ignorance – we don’t understand the law, so we need to research it to find out how we can best serve your child.

The second level is denial – your child doesn’t require services or accommodations or modifications, tough luck, better luck elsewhere, we’re not going to tell you about your rights to mediation, that you can file a complaint, or how to resolve the issues otherwise. And, the third level is intimidation – you don’t know what you’re talking about, you wouldn’t want the teachers to cop an attitude towards your child because YOU are being so difficult, or, my favorite, larding the meeting room with as many people dressed in suits and dour expressions and sour attitudes as will fit in order to really impress upon you how outrageous your request is and how much valuable time of theirs you’re wasting.

I survived that year, bringing in the same plan I’d suggested a year earlier. We were one day away from formal mediation when they buckled. I have not had a problem since in dealing with the district or the Special Ed Cooperative. Most helpful was this website and the information on it, Wrightslaw . I read, reread, studied, memorized, highlighted and printed out reams and reams of data. I also made friends with the regional Office for Civil Rights, speaking with the head of the office, and contacted the State Board of Education as well, following the guidelines on the Wrightslaw site.

This year, in the transition to the high school for Doodle, which is in a different functional district, I’m facing gatekeepers again. Fortunately, my skills are still sharp. I started the meeting by placing a tape recorder facing the staff and nicely offered to provide them a copy at cost, if they desired. We each introduced ourselves to the machine and carried on, discussing various issues such as extra copies of texts for home (I volunteered to pay an additional book fee – always a key ingredient – make it easy for them to say “yes” and thereby remove objections proactively), they indicated they’d need documentation on extended test time, we discussed discipline factors, and then the big issue came up.

In addition to ADHD, Doodle has a slight processing disorder. It has the most significant effect in on-demand writing tasks, be they longer essays or short answers to questions. He locks up and his brain locks down. When it was originally diagnosed, it affected a wider range of areas, but over the years we’ve strategized, worked around it, and gotten him habituated to working past it to the extent that he is a fantastic student in math, science, and all other subjects that don’t require writing, and his marvelous brainpower can shine through. Not so with writing, unfortunately.

Up until the last two years, that hasn’t been a critical issue. We worked with prompting, outlines, brain mapping, and a wide variety of approaches here at home and in school. He was able to do extra credit work to counteract his classroom problems and get a reasonable grade. Standardized tests requirements for writing on demand have become increasingly more difficult, and the problem is becoming more significant. His last set of tests showed the problem in glaring relief – 100% in all multiple choice questions and next to no points at all in extended response or essay areas. His teachers last year tried and tried, but nothing worked.

So, this year, I specifically asked for Special Education services to be implemented to assist him in overcoming the processing disorder’s effect on writing initiation. It’s not that I want him to become Shakespeare; I’d be happy if he became a midget Dave Barry. Heck, I’d be happy if he could manage to squeeze out the bare minimum. I was very clear and very specific about my request. I included references to FAPE intents of teaching students to state standards, and indicated that he was clearly falling below those standards in this area. Nevertheless, I could hear the gatekeeper mentality locking into place.

First was the round of “is it because he doesn’t like the topics,” then “is it just essays,” all followed by “that would mean a case reevaluation” which was supposed to dissuade me from pursuing it further. One staff member even tried to bring up the “severity” gate – that a problem has to be severe enough to cause the student failing grades before services can be suggested.

Experience was on my side. Most of the staff in the room had not been in the district as long as I’ve been advocating for my children. Those with similar longevity had it in areas unrelated to special education law. Kindly, and in a very friendly manner, I pulled out my printouts from the OCR website indicating that special ed services are included in potential 504 solutions, specifically and without restriction. I offered them my copy of the decade-old elimination of “severity” as a determining factor letter from the Department of Education. I told them I’d value a case reevaluation so that personnel trained to the master’s degree level in uncovering learning disabilities would be giving my son the expert attention that would be most helpful in resolving the problem.

I showed them copies of his last standardized test results, backing up my case. I offered to talk with the head of the Special Ed Co-Op, and mentioned him by name, glowingly (because honey catches more flies than vinegar), assuring them that I knew him to be an honorable man whose main concern was adequately and appropriately serving the children of the district. I offered to run interference for them, negating that implied obstacle. I asked for additional suggestions and ideas.

One, clearly unfamiliar with SpEd law, suggested Sylvan. I saw the SpEd representative’s eyebrows shoot up in dismay, as I turned to him and said that if all options within the district failed to serve the purpose, I was certainly willing to try any alternative the district suggested (and, by law, will need to pay for). I advised that that I had no problem bringing Doodle in early, picking him up late, arranging for transportation for weekend assistance, that my goal to was to do whatever was necessary for us to work together in resolving this one issue where he falls below state standards in performance and ability.

I’m not unsympathetic to the constraints of school districts – money is always abysmally short, and sped costs can put a district in the red in a heartbeat. Specialized personnel are hard to find, hard to keep, and hard to motivate. Often, they’re on the road between facilities for long stretches of time, the workload is crushing, the results few and often fleeting. They’re also faced with people who haven’t done their homework, who don’t want to do anything for their children at home, and nowadays, with parents of perfectly normal kids who are trying to scam extra time at exam time to improve scores for colleges. Their road is might tough, too.

It would have been easy to give up, years ago, when the first district pulled out the big guns and the intimidation triangle. It would have been easy to tell myself I was asking for too much, that I was wrong, that I was odd, that there was something peculiar about my wanting a little extra help or at least a margin of ease for my kid. Perhaps some perverse sense of aggravation, or an overblown protective maternal instinct, or just generalized frustration made me persist, and it served Spawn well. He graduated with honors, with a high ACT score, and with as much of a sense of competence as I could indirectly jam into him. I can’t do less for the Doodle, not ever.

I’d like to say that I feel triumphant, or that I’m sure the district will do what is right. I don’t, though. I will be thrilled if we can get Doodle the help he needs to continue on his journey to be his best self. That’s all any of my requests have ever been about, and they have been few, as well. But there are times when I want to soak my head, nonetheless.


dwang: to oppress with too much labour; to harrass, worry; hence, dwanged, bowed down, decrepit

(from The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Monday, August 06, 2007

It’s OK to Disagree

My husband likes to tell the story of one of his early epiphanies in our relationship. We were dating at the time, I was living with my Dad and Stepmom, and one night we all went to have dinner with her godson. Now, her godson was a former seminarian who had gotten all the way to being a few weeks before his final vows, and, in what seems like a real head-slapping “duh” moment, he realized that he liked women too much to want to be a priest, so he backed out of the whole thing. He went on to become extremely well educated in the sciences and was studying at a university known for its abundance of Nobel Prize winners. He roomed with a grad student in another branch of science.

We got our going-out-to-dinner togs on and headed off. When we got there, the godson had some good wine breathing for us all to enjoy, and as he fixed dinner, we engaged in various discussions. I spent a lot of time gargling in German with the roomie, who seemed pleased to find someone who spoke German at least as well as he did. My dad was discussing the Soviet character (which tells you how long ago this was) with the godson, and Ellen, my Stepmom, and hubs were engaged in polite chatter.

The discussion about the nature of Russian Soviets carried over into dinner, with none of us really having a serious clue about what we were discussing, but all of us arguing over the nice spaghetti and wine with increasing fervor from positions of historical literature, wartime strategies, news reports, Russian poetry, and what we might have gleaned from news and magazine articles about life in the Soviet Union. By the time we got to dessert, some participants were waving their arms and using outdoor voices to help carry their points. It didn’t stop us from eating heartily or snorking up the wine, though. My date was, unnoted by me, sitting fairly quietly, absorbing food and the goings on without getting embroiled in them.

Ellen looked at her watch and, during a pause in a passionate point of argument said, “Oh, it’s after 10. We need to go or we’ll be standing around waiting for a bus much too late.” We put down our spoons and wineglasses, hitched up our drawers, kissed each other good-bye, said what a lovely time we’d had, and hustled out to the bus stop. As we stood there, we did basic waiting chatter… “Wasn’t that lovely?” “He’s such a good cook; I hope he finds a good wife who appreciates him.” “They were both so interesting!” “Did you have fun speaking German with his roomie?” “We’ll have to do that again soon, but at our place. I’ll have that Crème de Menthe dessert my godson likes so much.” And so on.

We hopped on the bus and headed home. When we got there, Dad and Ellen went to bed, leaving hubs and I alone in the living room. I offered him coffee, took off my shoes and innocently said, “That was fun, wasn’t it?” He looked at me with his mouth slightly open, shell-shocked, and said, “I never saw anything like that before in my life,” and clutched the hair on either side of his head and tugged it.

Alarmed, I searched my memory, trying to figure out what had happened that would cause someone to react with shock and dismay. I couldn’t come up with anything. “Are you upset that I was speaking German with his roomie?” I wondered aloud. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“No,” he said, “It wasn’t that. You all were arguing; you were arguing and waving your arms and it was like knives and spears were going to come out at any moment.” I furrowed my brow and looked at him quizzically, hoping for more information. “And then,” he said, “like there was nothing unusual at all, Ellen said it was time to go and you all acted like the best of friends, the argument stopped, and we left. Then everyone said nice things.”

“Yeah,” I said slowly, “I don’t understand. What bothers you about that?” “YOU WERE ARGUING!” he exclaimed, “And then afterwards, you all acted like it was nothing. You acted like you still liked each other!”

“It WAS nothing,” I said, taken aback. “It was a discussion that got passionate with the help of wine and good food. We do still like each other. We’ll probably argue about something the next time we get together. Unless we go to a movie or a play; we don’t argue during those,” I replied.

“Well,” he said, still shaking his head in disbelief, “I’ve never seen anything, or heard of anything like that before. We don’t argue in my family; we don’t even discuss. We don’t disagree, and if we do, it gets shut down really quickly like it’s something awful that polite people don’t do.”

“Oh, my God,” I said, “then what do you talk about?”

“Well,” he said and considered for a moment, “Nothing, really, I guess. The weather, things that have happened, church…” This time, my mouth hung open. “You don’t disagree with each other? You don’t talk about things like books or movies or plays or politics?” I asked.

“No,” he answered, “and if we do, we all express a polite point of view, or we don’t say anything at all.”

“Holy crap,” I said, and I spent a minute thinking. “It used to be like that for me when I lived with my Mom,” I said. “She interpreted disagreement as if it meant we disapproved of her, and if we disapproved of her, then we didn’t REALLY love her, and that was so incredibly wrong that we couldn’t talk, not really. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad I’m living with Dad and Ellen now. Arguments don’t nullify the love we have for each other; they’re just opinions or points of view. We still love each other just the same the next morning. Arguments or disagreements aren’t personal attacks, they’re just people airing their positions or ideas. It’s not personal.”

“That’s so strange,” said hubs, “It’s hard to wrap my head around it. And you all really meant what you said after? That it was fun, that you were going to have them over for dinner and all that?”

“Sure,” I said, “they’re good company,” and I smiled at him. “They still like us, too. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says to love them. They’re separate things. I don’t agree with everything you say, and I still love you.”

“Oh, my God,” he said, “I suppose that’s true. I’ve just never really seen it before.”

So, I poured him some coffee and we talked about lighter stuff until he was ready to drive home.

He has never forgotten that evening. That night with my folks is burned into his brain because it was so different from the stifled, frightened way he grew up, where all dissent was silenced as if it stank and was a socially appalling crime. His family truly does not discuss; they chitchat, and they absolutely, positively never disagree, no matter what. Any disagreement, even over whether or not they like a movie, causes family members to rush to the site of the conflict and start mediating, smoothing things over, sometimes to the point where it’s offensive or bizarre, trying to get someone to back down so there won’t be any dispute or dissent – like so many white blood cells mindlessly rushing to a wound to overpower any germs.

It’s a little freaky, and it’s very, very sad to me. They’re stifled by a dread of conflict or disagreement, and I don’t think they really know each other as a result. They also view me as a disrupting influence because I’m not like that, and their conflict avoidance has caused lifelong, serious problems in jobs and personal relationships for them. They cannot separate loving each other from being of one hive-like mind, or behaving like an unthinking swarm when they’re together. Somehow they’ve confused love and acquiescence.

Fortunately, my husband knows life is different “out there” and that life is different here, at home, and he loves that about our life together. Sometimes, over the years of our marriage, I have occasionally sensed him backing away from disagreeing with me over something and called him on it, asking him to tell me his point of view because that was information I might not have. I’ve reminded him that his opinion is important and valuable too, that I’m willing to discuss things, compromise, and come to a mutually satisfactory agreement over whatever the issue is, or we can agree to disagree. If he’s still reluctant, I remind him of that evening with Dad and Ellen, and then he’ll usually speak up.

I believe that the ability to disagree, even vehemently, over something and not HAVE to back down for the false god of “family peace” and still be able to love each other without any change is very, very important. It seems to me that it’s the bedrock of a stable relationship, because if the danger exists that if I say one wrong word, I’ll become unlovable, or our relationship will be permanently altered with no chance of healing, I can’t trust you. I can’t trust you to see me as an individual with a separate life, a separate mind, a separate series of imperatives, and a separate point of view. It turns me into an unwilling, resentful, oppressed clone, and that will, to a very big extent, poison love and undermine trust.

I’m grateful that I learned that lesson, and that my husband did, too, before we married. Thanks again, Dad and Ellen. You did some really good stuff for the next generation, too.

Oddball Word of the Day

deipnosophist (dye~pNOS-eh-fist) n. a good conversationalist

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Potpourri and Reasons for Anonymity

My computer crashed last week and took some ideas and rough drafts down with it. In the meantime, things have happened…

Crazy Aunt Purl (link on the right) has also become addicted to “How Clean is Your House?” I’d like to be mad at her for stealing my latest minor obsession, but she’s too funny.

School is starting for my kids soon, which means Large Checks must be written, and that makes me crabby. If I write when I’m crabby, I seem much more dangerous and zealous than I actually am in person, so I usually use crabby writing as rough drafts. Most of the time, anyway.

And, on another blog, someone clearly illustrated why I don’t use my real name or my kids’ real names, and why I don’t post pictures of my children or myself. I deliberately, and possibly irritatingly, do not use information that would make me or my children accessible via an ordinary Google search for name, address, map location, Google Earth picture of my house (and thereby neighborhood and vehicles), etc. I’ve already made it clear that I live in a particular small town. I talk about family things, personal experiences and feelings.

I also talk about my women’s group, and I’ve said before that this group is for women who have suffered abuse, generally child abuse and frequently sexual abuse to the extent that every last one of us has complex PTSD. All of us have met evil, and we know how insidious and devious it is. If I were to knowingly and deliberately expose enough of my personal information to people who don’t know me otherwise, I would also expose my children.

This link takes you to an article about a blatant pedophile whom the police cannot arrest. I do not want to give people like this an easy path to my children, not to leering perversely at pictures of them, not to sniffing out locating information, not to finding their schools and stalking them. There are too many like him out there for my comfort level to allow me to make myself and my family a Google Earth Easy Target. Sure, the shrewd among you, or those who already know me wouldn’t have a problem finding me. It’s not YOU I’m worried about. I just refuse to bait a hook and leave it in a pool as big as the Internet, so to speak.

And, there are all brands of psychos and sickos fluttering around on the Internet looking for marks, for easy conquests, for something they want. Luckily, they are most often greedy and lazy, which works in my favor. If I can stay off the radar of the greedy crooks and the lazy perverts, then I figure I’ve done a pretty good job of balancing the act of having a publicly accessible blog and maintaining my family’s security without descending into sufficient paranoia to keep me off the net altogether.

Pedophiles, who are inherently stalkers, regular stalkers (is there such a thing?) and extremely nosy people, of whom I am occasionally one, have a quality lacking in your garden-variety criminal – persistence. They are also frequently intelligent and creative thinkers. It is harder to maintain security from them. On the occasions when I have been very nosy, usually about people with whom my children interact regularly, I have been astonished at how easy it was to find out information without spending a nickel and without leaving my keyboard. A Google search is usually enough to reveal snail trails that can lead me back to some information folks might not want me to have. Free. Readily accessible. Downloadable. Printable.

I sometimes read blogs or comments from people loudly proclaiming that they are “proud to not be anonymous” or “use their full names because [they] stand behind what they say,” and I think to myself, “And now, if I wanted to, I could find you, your house, your family, probably guess your bank, and, depending on what else you’ve said, guess some passwords, find your email, poison your dog, or any other piece of life-jolting criminal behavior I might chose to engage in. I’d know what email groups you’re on and what you’ve said, and that would reveal further information.” And so forth. The FBI has some good tips for maintaining privacy and reasonable security, as does the Internet Safety Awareness site.

So, I remain moderately anonymous without apology. I don’t expect others to feel the same way about it I do; your experiences may be different, and probably don’t include the contact level with madness and evil that mine have. My antennae are, and will, for the rest of my life, be somewhat more sensitive than those of many. If it helps to keep my children safe, and I think it does, I cannot regret it.

Oddball Word of the Day

sthenic (STHEN-ick) adj. sturdy or strong in build

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)