Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ronia D'Arc, the pseudonymous brainchild of the sometimes brainless person named Isabel, made her appearance on the cyberstage June 3rd, 2008. Ronia's mission in her brief life was to spill the beans about Really Personal Stuff (RPS) in an anonymous blog, a goal that was hard to keep because a) no one who didn't know her wanted to read her blog, and then b) no one who did know her wanted to read her blog.*

Blogging about RPS, it turned out, was self-defeating. As much as it provided a journal-like release, and as much as it temporarily allowed Ronia to see herself as a "Soldier of Honesty," sharing her innermost thoughts and embarrassments with family and friends made her eventually seem (and feel) much more like a Soldier of Idiocy, someone with no sense of why, in real life, we don't tell our parents about the weird _________ on our _______. Or how we ______ our ________, despite his _______. Or, incidentally, about our ________ habit, the one that on several occasions landed us in ______ _______. Yes, there are reasons we shouldn't share RPS with everybody: besides the whole preserving-one's-dignity thing, there's the whole they-don't-want-to-know thing. They don't want to know because, frankly, it makes them uncomfortable. And we should respect that.

If Ronia's blog had remained anonymous, if she had managed to acquire an audience made up solely of strangers, things might have worked out. She might actually have been able, as she hoped, to help someone by showing them that they're not alone in their weirdness/problems. But, by December 21st, it became depressingly clear that things were not working out.

Unafraid of the truth, Ronia packed her bags (with 48 bad blog entries) and headed down the long dusty road to the Next Dimension.

She bequeathed her blog, and its remaining entries, to Isabel.

*except for her devoted fanbase/sisters and, somewhat reluctantly, her parents


Monday, December 22, 2008

The time has come to say goodbye
to Ronia D'Arc, high in the sky
She began as a blogger and ended one, too
She found out the hard way what a blog shouldn't do

What Ronia learned in her short six-month life
Is a blog's not the place for complaints by a wife
It's fine to share if nobody reads
But once you have readers, have discretion, too, please

A blog should be honest, yes, that is true
And soul-baring's fine if it's what you must do
But watch what you say about those whom you love
Or you'll soon find a coffin and a new home above

Ronia D'Arc wasn't the worst blogger there was
Some of us even liked her, well, just because
We'll remember her story (or the parts we could stand)
And remember her lesson when we try our own hand.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Everyone knows it's best to look for Christmas decorations while standing on a stepladder balanced on the Mt. Rushmore of dirty laundry. One leg of the ladder burrows deeper into a high-art rendition of George Washington's face--done entirely in socks and underwear--while l'artiste herself declines the suggestion, made by a very loud voice in her head, to remove the suitcase from the shelf. Obviously, it's much more fun and adventurous to try to locate the zipper on the suitcase while balancing, 6-month-tummy and all, on the lopsided stepladder, two black and white dogs staring up in rapt admiration at such a display of holiday spirit.

The suitcase is filled with baby clothes, toddler clothes, infant clothes, and, inexplicably, children's clothes. They all fall to the floor of the garage, mingling happily with their soiled relatives making up the Lower Plains section of the Mt. Rushmore exhibit. A few tiny socks nestle into the embrace of a stained long-sleeve t-shirt nobody wears anymore but which mysteriously ends up in the "laundry basket"/Mt. Rushmore exhibit on a regular basis. Before the miniature pastel-colored socks are tarnished by seedy influences, they are saved. By a dog. With remarkably bad breath.

The socks are a little damp and strange-smelling, but they are saved, just like a certain species was saved by a certain hippy carpenter. Just like I saved approximately $20 by purchasing a Christmas tree from Target. Just like I saved the tree from falling out of the open trunk of the car by tying a piece of dental floss around it and through random holes in the car's body--holes that might have been designed for the pouring of brake fluid but might also have been designed for the pouring of egg nog.

Luckily, my prayers/swears were heard, and we did NOT cause a Christmas-tree-induced snafu on the busy freeway. Despite a disturbing creaking sound made by the trunk lid, our tree did not fly out and under the wheels of the car behind us. Everyone made it home safely.

The tree was immediately cut loose from the plastic netting Target's people used to snare it in the deep dark bowels of the Ventura Authentic Pine Xmas Trees forest, and once it was able to stretch out its limbs and yawn, to loosen up and adopt its natural shape, it became full and beautiful and gave off a scent that was in marked contrast to The Dog With The Breath. I managed to get it onto its base with a minimal amount of seasonal slurs, and as we strung the white lights and silver garlands around it I had the feeling I always have about a new, fresh, not-half-dead-and-potentially-a-housefire-risk Christmas tree: I wanted to keep it forever, like a houseplant or a pet. Sula apparently had the same thing on her mind:

"Maman, what happened to our other Christmas tree? Remember, the one at the old house?"

"We...put it in the trash."

"In the TRASH?! No, Maman! A tree can't go in the trash!"

"Yes, it can--a special trash. You put the tree on the sidewalk and special trash people come and take it away and put it in a big, big trash place called the dump. Remember how our old tree stayed on the sidewalk for a really, really long time? Until the neighbors started looking at it funny because the pine needles had turned completely brown and it was mostly just a trunk and some spindly broken branches?"


"That's what happens when you miss the trash people and then ignore the dead tree for a few months."

"Oh. But what's going to happen with this tree, Maman? Are we going to keep it for a long long very time?"

"Yes, baby. We are. Until we're sick to death of looking at it and it's time to hunt for Easter eggs."

The new, fresh, lovely-smelling tree sits in its little corner like a happy troll, dressed in twinkling lights and a few tacky Target decorations. For now, it's home.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yesterday was mostly awful, today was mostly good.

I actually had a wonderful time with Sula this afternoon, after she threw a massive tantrum: we ate pizza together, then she helped me make hot chocolate. We drank the hot chocolate in the darkening kitchen and talked and had fun.

She was sweet with me the rest of the afternoon and all evening, and when I turned out the light in her bedroom I was filled with relief and happiness.

Santa might be coming to our house after all.


Friday, December 12, 2008

The past few days have been difficult, partly due to not getting enough sleep and having a cold, but mostly because I'm worried about Sula. She's still not her usual self, and a few times lately I've felt like I'm losing my connection with her.

She's usually been pretty well behaved with me in the past, but now she'll use a tone that's blatantly rude and downright insolent. It's like she all of a sudden lost her manners, like she just doesn't care. I find myself reprimanding her all the time, and I find myself feeling apprehensive about dealing with her: will she be happy and normal, or will she be unpleasant and difficult? It's like she's regressing, but in truth she never was as bad, in the past, as she is now.

The school situation is not great--she doesn't seem to have bonded with the teachers and kids there yet--so Johnny and I are wondering if she's going through a delayed reaction to the switch from the old school, where she was so happy and comfortable. If this is the case, I'm sure she'll get over it soon enough, and I'm sure she'll be happy and probably stronger for the experience in the long run, but I can't help having pangs of regret at having moved her.

Tonight I picked her up from school and when she told me in a surly voice that she wanted to stay and finish watching the movie, I told her to say it again pleasantly, with "please" and "Maman" this time. She did, but then she was surly and demanding again while we sat on a park bench eating french fries, watching the dogs run around, and then again walking back to the car. When we got to the car I lifted her up and told her I love her, and that she needs to talk to me like she loves me too. She looked so tired, with her fingers in her mouth and gray shadows under her eyes, I didn't have the heart to go on, making her feel bad for making me feel bad, so when she nodded yes I just brushed her hair back from her eyes and gave her a kiss.

I was looking forward to having some alone time with her, to getting back on a good level and seeing her happy and herself, but as soon as we pulled into the driveway the neighbors invited her to go look at Christmas decorations, and that was that--they piled into their big car and took off. I walked into our dark house alone and, purposely leaving the curtains open, turned on all the lights so Sula would see a cozy, warm-looking home when she returned.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Lately I've been feeling like I don't know what the hell I'm doing with Sula. I thought it was pretty easy: you put the kid in her room when she's misbehaving, maybe throw in a spanking or two, and ta da! Problem solved!

Well, guess what--it ain't workin' that way. For one thing, the spankings feel all wrong. I don't like giving spankings. It makes me feel like I'm losing control, like I am not, in fact, in charge.

I read that successful discipline needs to entail anticipation--you have anticipate that the kid will chew with her mouth open 6 times in row, despite your having told her to close her mouth while chewing, and then be all ready to calmly explain that, since she's disobeyed, you're taking away her cars.

The kid is now in her room and you're collecting little cars off her rug, from between the books on the book shelf, and out of the toy box, feeling like you're on a weird Easter Egg hunt. You're feeling weird altogether, because is this going to work? The cars are all in a basket now and you show them to her, then lift the basket to the top shelf of her closet. You close the closet. You leave her room, shutting the door behind you.

She cries, she yells, she kicks her feet. She is being awful. You think there's something wrong with her. You think there's something wrong with you. You wish you hadn't promised, last night, during the wonderful conversation you had with your husband about installing a Parenting Plan, to stop giving spankings. A spanking would work great right now. It would shock her, it would scare her. She'd know you meant what you said. But afterwards, you know, you'd feel like a jerk. Most of all, you'd feel like you can't control yourself around a 4-year-old. It would scare YOU a little.

Eventually she comes out of her room. She's still being bratty, but you can tell she's exhausted. She's also hungry. She doesn't mention the cars but she's got one clutched in her hand; you consider demanding it and putting it with the others, but decide not to.

She finishes eating. You give her a bath, no playing. You put her in bed, no book. You tell her she's been a bad girl and you're not happy with her. She's crying when you leave the room.

You sit back down at the kitchen table and think of her hand holding onto the little car. After a while you go back into her room and kneel beside her bed, rubbing her forehead. You tell her you love her.

Sitting there, you wonder at the fact that you feel so lost.


Monday, November 24, 2008

You know you've got a nice brother when he discovers a bowl of week-old pee (see "Driven to Folly") in your car and hands it to you calmly, without getting all freaked out, even though it was turned upside down (it was in an untippable dog's water bowl) and there was, like, decomposing kleenex and a small leaf that looked like a sewer creature floating around in there. Even though the smell of rotting urine filled half the Trader Joe's parking lot, and you were certain strangers could tell it was a bowl of disgusting pee you were carrying to the trash can, your brother coolly made the "executive decision" to put the Thanksgiving groceries in the back seat of the car where they would not risk contamination from the vile, hideous, worse-than-a-kennel-of-hyenas smell.

As you drove to the park to have a picnic, you reflected on another time your brother was really nice to you. This time it was on a boat, an antique sailboat to be exact, and you were drunk, and he had just told you not to throw ANYTHING into "the head." For some reason (maybe because you were drunk?) you threw your tampon into the head and it promptly clogged the boat's plumbing. And at 2 o'clock in the morning your tired tipsy brother calmly unscrewed some pipes, fished around for the offending object, pulled it out, and gave it to you. Or did he throw it into Narragansett Bay? You can't remember, because you were drunk and you blocked that part out. All you really remember is how grateful you were that he didn't embarrass you further--he didn't call you an idiot, which you most certainly were, and you never heard about the incident again.

It's nice, really nice, to have a nice brother.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Someone recently told me about being stuck in traffic and having to pee in their dogs' untippable water bowl. While driving. This is something I would never, ever, EVER do. Even if I was stuck in traffic and really had to pee and had the dogs' untippable water bowl next to me. Nope, I would NEVER EVER do that.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'll never be a patriot, because I don't believe one country deserves more of my love than another, but I like the United States a lot better now, and for the first time in my life I truly care about the president. And also for the first time, I feel a sense of unity with this country and with the world.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

When I was pregnant with Lula, after I'd had the ultrasound and knew she was a girl, I told anyone who asked that I was having neither a boy nor a girl but a tomboy. I did this because I was a tomboy when I was young and it was always something to be proud of. Being a tomboy, to me, meant being strong. It meant being tough and being able to walk around with your shirt off.

So, when I knew I had a little girl growing inside me, I hoped that she too would be a girl-boy, a special, personalized mix of the better and more interesting qualities of each gender, and when she was born and old enough to specify her choice of clothing it became clear that I got what I asked for.

Lula has displayed such a strong desire to be a boy, NOT a GIRL, that I've wondered, half seriously, if I jinxed myself. I say "jinxed" because it's such a constant part of her personality that it's caused extremely annoying problems on a daily basis (especially regarding the clothes she will and won't wear) and it's led me to worry about problems down the road.

Ultimately, I worry that Lula will grow up not fully appreciating herself. I worry that she's not getting positive reinforcement as a female--that all the kid's movies, with their quick-witted, daring, and tough-talking male leads, are making it very clear that this society is more interested in men, and if you want to be at the top, you'd better be able to hang with the boys. Or even better, you'd better be one of the boys.

I can't help wonder what the implications are for a society whose kids' clothing and toys are based so much on the supposed/exaggerated differences between boys and girls. As more children grow up believing the other sex is inherently different, what's it going to lead to? What, for that matter, has it already led to?

I remind Lula as often as I can that she's a girl: she's a strong, smart, funny, loving, girl; she's a loved girl. And, by playing dumb, I do my part to outsmart the system: "What do you mean, you see boy clothes down that aisle? I don't see any. Nope, no boy clothes--just some gray and brown clothes with trucks and lizards on them. Nothing particularly boyish, though, that I can see. Just clothes..."


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joedy and I are realizing we're not very stoked on Ventura. This isn't really a surprise, because we knew V-town would pale in comparison to Santa Barbara in many ways, but it still is kind of unsettling--I mean, we just moved here.

Neither of us care for the big-box/franchise stores that are everywhere and the general lack of aesthetics and greenery. It's often very windy and there are too many cars. We like the downtown and the parks we've been to, but you have to drive on the freeway to get there, and then you run the risk of getting shot by a white guy with a tattoo on his neck (my personal fear).

We miss the feeling of community we had in SB. After living there twelve years, we got to know a lot of people and could count on seeing familiar faces at Arigato or The Paradise Cafe; Jose Luis, the manager of Carlito's, would always give us hugs and treat us like old friends. And then there are our real friends, too, whom we rarely see even though we're just 30 miles away.

It's not disappointing to not like Ventura, because we moved here knowing we'd feel this way. We didn't move here thinking we'd want to stay very long--in fact, we hoped we would find it unpleasant, because that would give us more motivation to make the "big move," the big move out of the country, hopefully, that we've been talking about so long and that has been put off partly because Santa Barbara, with its relentless charm, sucks you in and doesn't let you go.

We hoped being in Ventura would stir things up, make us try harder to fulfill the dream of living somewhere different: in a place, preferably, where people are less gun-happy, less frighteningly religious, and less money-driven. A place where more value is placed on living than on working, and where the importance of nature is a given, not subject to debate. A place where the general mode of thought is "we're in this together," not "you're in this alone."

For a long time we thought about moving to France, where one of the main attractions was being close to my family. Moving to France, though, is not something you can just do, especially if you're not a French citizen. Unless you're independently wealthy, you need to find a job there, and even that doesn't guarantee long-term staying rights. The best thing, of course, is to marry a French person, and for a while Joedy and I considered that, but neither of us really felt like entering the dating scene again.

When France seemed too unrealistic, we started thinking about other places we'd like to live. After we visited and lengthily debated the merits of Puerto Rico, Joedy went on a surf trip to Costa Rica. It was his third time there, and he came back raving about the people, the affordability, the beauty, and what seemed to him a unique perspective on life. It was like going back in time, he said, while remaining in the modern world. There was a strong feeling of "work to live" and of community; the people were as friendly and warm as the Puerto Ricans we'd met; love of nature was an obvious and unifying force. He woke up to monkeys shrieking in the jungle, he ate fish caught from the warm blue ocean, and he noticed that everyone seemed pretty relaxed and happy. Even the federale who demanded Joedy's wallet insisted on giving all his money back.

We've done a lot of research on Costa Rica and it seems pretty great. It has a high literacy rate, it got rid of its army and all its guns--yes, I said all its guns--years ago, it has a good healthcare system, and it has gobs of flora and fauna. And if you're not Costa Rican but you have a baby there, you can become Costa Rican.

It sounds perfect, but of course you have to figure out the work thing, too. We know what we'd like to do--start a children's library--but there are so many hurdles. Where do we start?

In Ventura, apparently, in October 2008.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dumpty, that is. As in, one whose main body area is in the shape of an oversized egg, with arms and legs sticking out of it. And with something like a head stuck on top, although the head doesn't always work very well--most of the time, it's just there for effect.

Humpty's head isn't working well tonight because Humpty fell yesterday. He fell off a wall and crashed to the floor in his boss's office. He lay there, writhing and crying like a baby, for what seemed like a very long time.

His boss saw him cry, a lot. It was embarrassing. Humpty flailed around for some of his broken pieces and tried to put them back together, but all he really wanted to do was get the hell out of his boss's office. He didn't have much dignity left, so he stuck the pieces together any old way and left looking and feeling all mismatched.

When work was over Humpty went to McDonald's and ate an order of medium fries with four packets of salt. Then he drove home. He took a shower and waxed 2/3 of his legs (he left the tops of the thighs for later). He went to bed. He wrote in his blog until very late. He posted the entry and then changed his mind because it was a stupid, depressing entry. After sleeping for 3 hours he woke up feeling very unhappy about having to go to work in 4 hours. The thought of having to get up and go to work made him want to cry, and he did. He cried a lot, way more than he had in his boss's office; he completely lost control of himself. The cat meowed in its obnoxious way and Humpty screamed at it to shut up.

Humpty's husband was concerned. He got his cell phone and tried to show Humpty its calendar, explaining that with strategically placed vacations the time until maternity leave wouldn't seem long at all. But Humpty didn't want to hear it; Humpty just wanted to cry.

Humpty's pieces are still a little mismatched and his head still hurts. But he's in bed and he feels loved by his loved ones, and he knows he's not going to be Humpty forever.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008