Archive for February, 2008

I bitched and moaned so much about being sick that my good friend PT-LawMom sent me a gorgeous bouquet. She has had so much going on of her own – I am so not worthy. I am, however, very very grateful. Winter up here is a horrid monochromatic mess, and there is so much snow piled over my poor garden that I doubt I’ll be able to see even my crocuses before May. 😦 So these flowers are a lovely spot of color, and much needed!

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Rain Dog tells me that when it comes to the computer, I am Scrat. Yeah, I guess he can afford to make snarky comments when he has been upstairs NAPPING ALL DAY and so has not been able to ponder that the reason I am so attached to my keyboard is that it is the ONLY THING KEEPING ME FUNCTIONAL at this point in time. This flu has me so whipped that if I weren’t forcing myself to work, I’d be hard pressed to deal with two little boys.

Anyway, who’s the real Scrat? Me, or the guy who’s been cuddling up to his pillow for the last six hours?

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The last few months, I have been sorely tempted to offer all kinds of excuses to one of my clients for not turning his stuff around as fast as he wants it. I did offer one: deadlines on more pressing work. But the rest of it? Although just as legitimate, clients, like bosses, can only take so much. They might be the most understanding people in the world–this particular client has three small boys of his own–but they don’t want to hear you complain about how you’ve been working on everyone else’s stuff so much, you just had to take time to work on your own. They don’t want to hear you martyr yourself on the altar of maternal self-sacrifice (“I’ve been sick and still had to take care of my sick family all by myself!”). And they don’t want to hear about how you hardly have time to do your taxes, much less their work, because your kids had a “needy” rather than a “laid-back” day or week.

It might all be true. It might all be legitimate and even un-fluffed up. But it’s not their problem. They have people breathing down their necks as much as they are breathing down yours. They need to know you can do the job, that their confidence in you is not unfounded, even when your confidence in yourself is as shaky as it can be. As Bethany wrote recently, “[C]omplications. They ARE a part of life. No matter how you slice and dice it. It is how you choose to uncomplicate them and make them a part of your routine. That is the real tricky part. And the part that can really unhinge you if you let it. So don’t let it rip you to shreds. Take it one complication at a time and prioritize.”

And don’t let your clients know what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. Really. They might seem like your best friend, and they might totally understand all the tribulations that come with being a work-at-home parent. They might even sympathize with your lack of regular adult contact. But they don’t want to know that it’s affecting your work on their projects.

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New blog

I can’t remember if I mentioned that I would be blogging for another startup site this year. I think I did, because I seem to remember mentioning that it was an opportunity remarkably like the one I had with Disney. However, these folks are less corporate, and also local. Additionally, I’ll be writing articles for their new regional parenting publication, which will begin running in April.

I’m really excited to be working for them, and hope that I’ll see at least some of you over there!

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Yes, it’s a day late. Give me a break, OK? Our house lost power yesterday. But Patti and Aldo are very forgiving, and said I should reprint this story from Flashing in the Gutters. Enjoy:

Beautiful Trouble

Denny loved Leann best when she went looking for trouble. She’d fling her honey-brown hair back off her shoulders, narrow her storm-gray eyes. She got a swagger, too, not like a guy’s but like a woman who knew the knife in her back pocket gave her her pick of guy. Denny wished she’d realize she didn’t need the knife. At the same time, he knew she did.

She had that look walking into tonight’s party. Denny knew they’d crashed it, if not for the fact that she only crashed parties to make trouble, then by the way everyone stared when they walked in the door.

Still, as always, it was a thrill to see the expressions change on people’s faces. They went from anticipating to unrecognizing to annoyed… and finally interested, once they saw Leann. “Why do these assholes look at me like that?” she asked once, not long after they started dating.

“Because you’re beautiful,” he answered.

“Bullshit.” But she tossed her hair in that way of hers. He knew she liked hearing it, needed to hear it. That was why he told her so often.

They made their way out to the deck, “where the booze is,” as Leann put it. Someone whistled; Leann raised her head, looked for the source. She always reminded Denny of a wolf when she did that.

It didn’t take her long to find him. It never did, mostly because they were all the same: big dumb guys like cattle, made dumber by the sheer amount of alcohol they’d consumed. He stood near the bar, leaning against the deck rail, leering at her. She made her way to him. Denny checked her ass, couldn’t see the knife outline even though her jeans looked painted on. Nice.

“What’s all the fuss about?” he heard her say.

“No fuss.” The slime reached for her. For a moment Denny was afraid he’d feel up the knife. Instead he curled an arm around Leann’s waist. “My name’s Mark.”


Trisha Yearwood. She always picked the name of a different country star. Denny always wondered, just for a second, if Leann was her real name. It had become part of the routine.

Mark leaned down, started to talk into her ear. She smiled, laughed, flirted back. It only took twenty minutes and three more drinks for her to get him to leave with her. She’d say it was the booze. Denny knew it was her whole package.

He tailed them to the Lovers’ Lane she’d picked for one of their first jobs. She’d been reminiscing about it lately; Denny knew she’d come back. He hid the car in the same spot as before, waited for her.

It was 1 a.m. before she appeared, the swagger more pronounced than ever, the eyes flashing like a bull’s. “Do you know what he said to me?” she fumed as she got in the car. She put on a phony baritone with a Texas accent. “‘It’s probably just the beer talkin’, but you must be the prettiest cunt this side of the Mississippi.'” She dropped the accent, grinned like she was recalling her first amusement park. “So I started with his tongue.”

Denny drank her in: her raw power, sexuality, bloodlust. He wanted to touch her, make love to her. He reached for her hair. It was always his favorite.

“Denny, what the fuck?” Leann shied away like his hand was on fire. “My hair’s run through with blood, I’m a mess. You always do this. What the hell’s the matter with you?”

“Why can’t you ever see how beautiful you are?” Denny didn’t wait for an answer. He never did. He just pulled her to him and let her overcome him.

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The popular-media image of the mother-daughter relationship is, generally, a yin and yang of deeply personal conflict and everlasting love. We’re told that we drive each other mutually crazy–but that our love trumps all. The uncomfortable truth–that this is not always so–seems to escape most women’s media. That’s why Felicia Sullivan‘s memoir, The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here, is so important. Mother-daughter dysfunction is real, and although its significant symptom in her life was substance abuse, it’s clear that drugs and alcohol were only a symptom; the core problem comes out in behavior and dialogue.

One of the most painful aspects of the memoir is that “the core problem” is never neatly defined as “borderline personality” or “bipolar,” or other disorders that often result in substance abuse, shaky romantic relationships, and so forth. For Sullivan, there is only the desire to make sense of why her relationship with her mother was such a catastrophic failure.

Jumping back and forth in time, she moves between her hardened (and ultimately truncated) childhood in 1980’s Brooklyn, to her not-so-distant past: first as addict, then as recovering addict. Throughout, her painful details of her childhood as an outcast who could only be friends with other outcasts become equally painful details of an adulthood where Sullivan treats her friends as surrogate mothers, stand-in dartboards for the rage that she can’t direct at her mother, even as she self-destructs. And always, the remembering, thinking back to when things seemed better, or at least when she had the ability to try to make them seem better.

When I first began to read The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here, I feared that its beautiful literary language would obscure the real story. Other literary writing is a breath on the lens that examines life–fogging it and making it seem ethereal. Sullivan’s writing, however, effectively shows the brutality of her life, at the same time that it blunts the impact and carries the reader toward hope.

Interestingly, the book’s cover is a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge under repair, with the author’s childhood image appearing to gaze up at it. But the “bridge repair” is not between her and her mother–indeed, her final forgiveness of her mother is ambiguous, and she freely admits that she feels no love for her mother–instead, it’s between her past and present selves. In other words, the relationship may be irreparable, but the person is not, when she chooses to make the repairs.

Sullivan’s memoir is excruciatingly personal. She does not claim to have healed; her blog contains some touching continuation of her story, even with the success of a published debut:

I had a nervous breakdown at work on Wednesday and had to go home. I’m pretty sure I freaked out my boss and several of my coworkers. I continued sobbing all the way to Brooklyn and even through my four-mile run. I then proceeded to read Glamour and US Weekly and slept for twelve hours…. Right now, my life needs to be about tabloid glitz and celluloid heaven. Easy things. Things I can handle.

The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here is hard to read, at times, because of its honesty, but it is also a worthwhile and healing read–no matter what the relationship you have with your mother.

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I’ve been trying to get to this for weeks, and now is as good a time as any…

The blog is moving! Thanks to Creative Construction, I’ve been able to work with a CMS that I like a lot better. So, sometime in the next week (or maybe two), I’ll be moving to this address:


And will post one more time when it actually happens.

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Super Tuesday

I support Barack Obama, and here’s why:

“We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.”

If you live in a state that’s holding its primary today, or even after today, please: read Michael Chabon’s excellent op-ed in its entirety. Then go out and be the idealist we need – and vote Obama.

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Deadline rebellion

With a major project due in two days, clients demanding I put their work first, and my new blog in need of some startup posts, I woke up Wednesday with a plan: take as much time as I could to do whatever the boys needed.

See, in the past, I’ve had a hard time with balance. I can get very focused on work when I have a deadline, to the point where I get snappish and frustrated with anything–or anyone–that distracts me. I’ve done that often enough with Hamlet to know I needed to try a different tack.

I played with him and Puck all morning. Even though I did have to knuckle down that afternoon, and even though Hamlet acted out because he didn’t want me to work, I still feel as if I made a good start. Which is why, on Friday, I rebelled again: with one project complete, I could have gone on to the others. Instead I left the computer off, and spent the day with my boys.

I don’t like to generalize and say “The work will always be there.” This is true, but specific projects won’t be. As a freelancer trying to make a living–not a hobbyist making a little extra spending money–I take my obligations to my clients as seriously as (okay, slightly less than) my obligations as a wife and mother. Anyone with customers and a boss feels the same way.

But it’s also important for us to know when to back off. That’s why finding family-friendly clients is so important. To be able to say, “I’m working on your project, but it might take some more time than I anticipated–my kids are sick (or clingy, or whatever)” is so critical to any freelance parent’s success. I always feel a little weird telling those things to non-parent peers, as if they might think I’m using my kids as an excuse to avoid responsibility.

The fact is, those of us who work from home with kids–especially of the small variety–almost never get a chance to shirk responsibility. True, to rebel against our deadlines is a lot like playing hooky. But it’s not like we’re going off to the theater to watch movies all day, the mall to go shopping. Having fun with the kids is an investment in business–fun, yes, but also insurance against bad feelings and stress, the creativity-killers.

So, I slacked off work. We all needed it. And you know what? I’m still on schedule.

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