Sadly, the face grew so fragile I couldn’t finish it properly (and had to use toothpick support, which I really try to avoid), but here is this year’s Snape:
Two of the four pumpkins I picked out were fine on the outside but soft of flesh… had I known I’d have saved this one for eldest’s simple jack-o-lantern-style carve and saved the firmer gourd for Snape. (And, of course, I couldn’t figure out where I’d stashed my camera, so this is a cruddy phone photo. My apologies.)
I love Halloween. And by love, I mean LOVE. All of it. Insanely. Especially pumpkins!
Making stencils for pumpkin carving (using Photoshop):
Tip: If you’re carving well-before Halloween, coat all exposed flesh (cuts and pumpkin interior) with petroleum jelly – it’ll help the pumpkin stay hydrated (ie, not shrivel) and keep it from rotting as quickly. (Or put it in the fridge, if you live somewhere very warm this time of year.)
Last year I carved six pumpkins of varying complexity… this is the best, I think:
(Edited 11/1 to add)–And here’s how they turned out (both quick phone shots): The first took a little less than three hours. I was running late and rushed through the second, finishing in somewhat over an hour and a half (I carved a total of five pumpkins this year–my hand is still cramped).
Medievalists: pre-registration deadline is the 28th, after which a late fee will be applied.
Register now, save that late fee to buy me a beer. (lol)
I was recently reminded that although I have told this story to friends, in three weeks I’m going to encounter a lot of people (at the Congress) who haven’t heard it, and there will be those who ask about the tattoo on my wrist.
And after reflection I decided to post the story here, too, since I’ve used this platform for other parenting discussions. And also since I don’t want to repeat this, all or in part, multiple times.
Twenty years ago last month (on 3/16) I attended a Jesus and Mary Chain concert in Detroit; opening for them was Nine Inch Nails – I came in mid-set. I was 19 and burning out in art school and it was a fucked-up evening fucked-up by interpersonal fuckwittery—suffice to day, one I would have been happy to forget (and looking back, it was probably the opening death knell of an engagement that was through less than a year later). Except not quite… I came in, slunk against the wall and cold and pissed and looking like something the cat dragged in (with freckles) …and I was transfixed.
It seemed like a good date to get this, my first tattoo.
16 March 2010, immediately after tattoo was finished. (Pardon the lousy cellphone photo.)
The line is taken from a NIN song, but this isn’t about NIN nor about Trent Reznor (not really):
Lights in the Sky
She’s mostly gone
some other place.
I’m getting by
in other ways.
Everything they whispered in our ears
is coming true.
Try to justify the things
I used to do.
Believe in you.
Watching you drown.
I follow you down.
I am here,
right beside you.
The lights in the sky
I am staying,
right beside you.
I tried to stay away,
just in case.
I’ve come to realize
we all have our place.
Time, time has a way you know,
to make it clear.
I have my role in this.
I can’t disappear,
or leave you here.
Watching you drown,
I’ll follow you down.
And I am here right beside you.
The lights in the sky
are waving goodbye.
I am staying right beside you.
Listen… it’s a quiet one, just piano:
There are a lot of NIN songs, through the years, that have resonated with me for one reason or another. Some still do, and others simply remind me of the time they did (and which I am happy not to be living, anymore).
When I first heard this one I sobbed. Still do, actually.
To understand why I need to tell you a story.
You see, I was a first-gen university student. There was the weight of expectations and the weight of culture-shock and the weight of a total lack of understanding by my parents of this different planet, this academia. I had Responsibility to Do The Right Thing and Make Them Proud (even in the face of being, personally, a pretty odd damn duck). I started in art but switched to humanities double majors/ double minors, got my BA, I stayed for an interdisciplinary MA… I had plans, potential… I gave conference papers, I worked hard (I worked through both degrees, at one point simultaneously half-time university staff, student, and teaching as a grad assistant). I applied for Ph.D. programs; I was accepted into my top choice. But. But it was without the funding needed to move a family out of state. I had money… enough to move just me. But. But I had two children, one of whose impairments we were just beginning to plumb the depths of. And I had a clear choice, one I had to make that I considered one that I could not un-make and I’d better fucking get it right the first time.
Work to reach my full potential, or sacrifice my dreams so Em could have any chance at reaching hers.
Let everyone down—my family, advisers, friends still in the field… even and especially myself—or let her down. All or one.
Watching you drown. I follow you down.
I am here, right beside you.
My choice was for the one.
Time, time has a way you know, to make it clear.
I have my role in this. I can’t disappear, or leave you here.
And as we’ve learned more and she’s worsened in so many ways and the way before us is clearer (but with information comes a lack of room for hope, sometimes) I remind myself that I made a decision. A choice. What happened to her chromosome might have been random, but nothing I could—can—do can be. I was not tricked, I was not trapped, I do not sit around feeling sorry for myself (although I deeply wish she didn’t have these challenges and limitations, and I certainly have days that make me wonder if I have the strength and emotional wherewithal to do this), I made a choice.
I chose her.
And now in addition to that imprint on my heart and mind, it’s on my skin as well.
Certainly there are other layers of meaning for this line I now have on my wrist… in my marriage there has been some very bad, very trying times—times that are past and that we are stronger for having survived. I have another child who struggles for a sense of normalcy in the face of instability, a shortage of ‘normal’. We all have our place.
And yeah, there is this band (this guy who is this band), whose music lent me sanity when I needed it, was the screaming I couldn’t vocalize, was hope (yes, I said hope) that is only possible after recognizing Things Are Very Wrong and, once recognized, opens a way. Who makes me cry, in whose instrumentals I find peace (in the inner landscapes they invoke), whose own journey was so clearly and painfully mapped from album to album (not the same road I was on, but the two sure ran parallel a lot of the time)… and so when I needed out of the bad places I had built inside myself to convince me of my own lack of worth there was a song, a line, a chord to lead the way, shine a light, kick me in the ass. I am loyal, long-term, to very, very few things… so when I realized that very nearly all of my adult life has had this one—one—constant I had to honor that.
And that is my tattoo.
Maybe for my birthday (40!) I’ll do the other wrist – for balance.
The International Congress on Medieval Studies has a Twitter account:
If you’re a Twitter-using medievalist, please follow!
There’s also a designated a hashtag #Kzoo2010 for use before, on-site, and after Congress for Congress-related tweeting and micro-blogging for searching ease.
Let the tweets begin!
(Yes, it’s me tweeting in my significantly more boring official capacity.)
Interesting posts with subsequent discussion re: tenure, graduate school, and expectations over at Blogenspiel.
The Program for the International Congress on Medieval Studies—online for a month–is printed and has been winging its way through (priority) US and international mail for a week. US bulk is going out in waves (so many thousands of books to process!) and should be complete this week.
Don’t forget to register. See you all in May.
The new Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Eye Roller … can’t imagine what was on their mind during design.
Well, I’ve heard it said it keeps you young — but if you’re sticking your Pocket Rocket in your eye you’re doing it wrong!
Four years ago I was asked to join seven other bloggers–parents of kids with a variety of disabilities–to blog in an organized fashion on their behalf. Educate. Advocate. Each year since I’ve continued the practice, albeit solo. This year I’ve been joined, again, by a coordinated group (a list to which I will be adding their URLs as they post):
(eta: this is an excellent comment)
Parenting children with disabilities is challenging on a number of levels. In the case of my family, the disabilities are (initially) invisible–mental, emotional–but no less present. I addressed some of those challenges (and the specifics of our situation) last year.
This year I want to introduce you to one of our challenges that you might not initially consider an issue: in addition to our daughter we also have a son. He is neurotypical.
Time did a piece on this awhile back (Autistic Kids: the Sibling Problem) and although Emma is PDD-NOS (atypical Autism) with other issues, the article does cover some of what we have seen.
But not everything.
Colin is a very, very bright seven-year-old. He reads everything he can get his hands on, manages video game strategy better than many adults, and picks up vocabulary like a sponge. He’s also immature for his age, not well socialized with his peers, and has anger-management issues that clearly result from the situation at home. Immaturity isn’t unusual in boys his age—although in many ways he is more mature than his sister, so it’s difficult to know where normal range ends and modeling his sibling’s behavior begins. A tendency to be awkward socially comes naturally, whether he takes after his father or I—neither of us were social butterflies. But how quick he is to anger, how what seems like a normal level of frustration will send him off-kilter, is a side effect of his environment.
It’s not easy living with Emma.
It’s not easy when you’re an adult who understands the context of her behavior and has maturity and experience to draw from when dealing with some of her most extreme outbursts. For a child it must be like living in constantly-shifting reality where the rules and outcomes are never expressed and randomly enforced… where expectations for him and for his sister need to be tailored to the child and the situation, even if we do actively try to maintain some semblance of consistency. He is as constantly under stress as his father and I, but he doesn’t have the skills to cope with it. Even so, he does his best.
As do we.
When he was an infant I had her help me as much as possible, to offer her opportunities for bonding (she loves babies, whether dolls or real). As he got older (and independent!) their relationship began changing. She runs hot and cold, and her random moods and reactions were often directed at him. She tends towards verbal and physical outbursts when her meds aren’t in her system, so the early mornings and day’s ends were particularly traumatic. And it’s only gotten worse as he’s modeled her behavior back to her and as he’s achieved levels of skill that she can’t reach, herself. Despite our breaking up countless arguments/battles, no amount of talking to her changes her behavior, and no amount of talking to him can truly make him understand that Emma going from I love you to I hate you in a matter of five minutes without any outward provocation is just Emma and not him. It’s anxiety-inducing to live with a time-bomb, and it’s depressing to be constantly belittled, insulted, and harassed (I know, because I’m a main target for her abuse, too).
So now we attempt to keep them separated.
I wake him in the morning after Em has left the house for the bus, so he doesn’t have to deal with the shrieking harpy she is when she first wakes up. When they were both in elementary school and riding the same bus, this was impossible… and it resulted in a lot of calls home last year, because starting the day off with verbal abuse and (no other way to describe it) crazy directed at you set him up for a very bad day at school.
She now takes the bus home instead of to the sitter’s house, so he doesn’t have her random moods interrupting his quiet homework time. In the evening we encourage him to engage in activities that don’t involve them playing together (since that just results in screaming arguments), like reading or playing strategy games on the computer. We spend money on devices and computers so they can entertain themselves without actions and reactions resulting in more hurt feelings and rages. We give him constant positive feedback on the areas that most vex him, we take his interests into account and try to give him as normal (what is normal, anyway?) and fulfilling and fun and educational a childhood as possible. We hope for balance. We take one or the other with us on errands so they can have alone time with both parents—so we can run the errands in something approaching peace—and I’ve taken them, individually, to visit my parents.
It’s not ideal.
But it’s never been, and it never will be: It’s our life, we do our best.
And that’s now.
Tomorrow, many tomorrows from now, my youngest child will be responsible for my oldest child. Because we do not know if she will ever live independently as an adult, nor how we’ll be defining ‘independent’. Because we won’t always be there… and yes, by that I do refer to my eventual death. So not only might my son have to help care for his father and I at the end of our lives, his sister’s welfare will become his responsibility. This will be a heavy conversation to have when he turns 18 or when he graduates from college… and when he thinks he’s found the one, whomever that is must, too, know what the future will hold.
But that’s not now.
Now is quite enough, to be frank.
And now mostly what I hear around my house is, “it’s not fair!”
No, it’s not.
And it never will be.
Today I ended up in conversation with a couple of the grad students about when I first started attending the Congress, as an undergrad (1990).
They called me an old fart. o_O
I regaled them with Back In The Day tales that included that of a thrice-dammed full-sized traction trebuchet I was conscripted to help assemble and demonstrate, and the infamous dance, as it had been (held in a cafeteria, open bar, Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball).
And I told them of the first time I had attended the dance… it was 1992, a few months before Nine Inch Nails’ Broken came out.
This is important.
You see, I walked into that dimly-lit cafeteria (but the academics inside were already well-lit, I assure you) to see two nuns (Remember, these are medievalists—there are members of many of the orders present every year… in fact, there are staff members who persist in the idea that we’re a Renaissance Festival because they see monks walking around. Rly. Srsly.) on the outskirts of the dance floor (such as it was) dancing—you know, the classic stand-and-sway while moving the arms in a vaguely robot-fashion kind of dancing—to NIN’s Sin.
I turned around and walked out of that cafeteria.
Despite how very much I needed that open bar at that moment (you can imagine how my brain and soul cried for blessed oblivion), I just couldn’t take one more step forward.
I was so very happy when Broken was released—I hadn’t been able to listen to PHM (since that moment in May when my brain broke) without going into blink-blink-shudder-AAAaaaagh every time that song came on.
So I leave you with the cognitively dissonant image of nuns doing the white-people-boogie to the voice of Trent Reznor.