Author: KeAnne

Library science graduate. Full-time web developer/marketer/data manager. Mommy to a preschooler. That makes me busy, busy, busy!

Parenting in a Time of Existential Dread

We held the fifth and final Listen to Your Mother:Raleigh-Durham on Friday. It was a magical evening. Great, responsive audience. Amazing pieces. Lots of emotion and laughs. It was very bittersweet. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the final show and this final season, but I need a few more days to unpack it all.  The biggest change for this year’s shows is that there was no requirement to video them. Each city could hire a videographer if they wished, but there would be no possibility of sharing or distributing the videos. As a result, we chose not to video our show.

So here is my piece.  I know that my few posts on my blog this year have been political or a response to the situation in which the USA is in, but I can’t help it.  It took over my LTYM piece this year, and the show overall had a decidedly political tone as readers shared going to their first protest, parenting children of a different race and keeping them safe, helping children cope, etc. I was a little nervous to read the piece and was afraid I would be heckled, even in fairly blue Raleigh.

I guess this is our reality now.  So, here is my final LTYM piece: “Parenting in a Time of Existential Dread.”

***

I’m sitting at my laptop, trying to write my piece for the show. I had planned to write about being a working mom. Well, a working-outside-the-house mom, because as mothers, we all work and work damn hard.

The problem is that I can’t focus on writing about the difficulties of registering for summer camp, and my experience of being a working mom seems trivial.

Because the world is fucked up right now. Do you feel it?  I do. It is the anxiety that gnaws at my gut every day. It is the existential dread when I wake up in the morning and wonder what has happened over night, what tweets have been sent. What new revelations have come to light.

And it bleeds into everything. My job is in jeopardy. My organization is funded by the government to help manufacturers stay competitive, profitable and most importantly, in business. And POTUS wants to cut us.

We are in crisis mode, and I’m also trying to hire for my team. Imagine how fun it is to tell candidates, “oh, by the way, the grant you will be supporting has been targeted to be obliterated. Don’t you want to come work with us?”

Yeah, that goes over well.

And then we come home and listen to the news, dumbfounded at the amount of corruption and the horror story unfolding that is even more horrible than the horror story we thought we had already.

And my son hears all this.  He’s 7. He’s very black and white in his view of the world. You either like or hate someone. So simple. He asks us, “Do you wish someone would hurt the president?” and exclaims, “I hate him!” We have to answer those questions, address his feelings to make sure he knows that we don’t wish harm on anyone. We have to explain that it is one thing not to like a person and another to want them to come to some sort of harm.

He’s only 7, and he is already more involved in politics than I was at his age.  Before the election, a classmate told him that if Trump didn’t win, Mexicans were going to take our house from us. This is also the same classmate that terrified him by telling him that those damn clowns were all around, so yeah, I’m a big fan of hers.

On Election Day, he sighed, “I think Trump is going to win.” When he woke up the next day, I had to tell him he was right. He replied, resigned, “I knew it.” We had to have the same conversation about the Atlanta Falcons and the Super Bowl. I’m beginning to worry that he believes he can’t trust the positions his family holds because they never come true.

We listen to the news in the car, and he asked exasperatedly, “Russia! Why is it always about Russia?”

Why indeed.

These are difficult conversations to have. I can’t even have these conversations with family members who are several times his age.  How can I explain it to him?

On quiet news days, I want to exhale and think that it will all be OK.  Maybe we’re just hyper aware of everything in 2017 thanks to social media and the Internet.  On other days, I feel like that poor guy in Munch’s painting, screaming into the void.

On those days, I want to lock all the doors, grab my son and never leave.  Maybe those preppers have the right idea.

And I want to apologize to him.  What kind of world are we making for him? What is he growing up in? Will there be a world for him to grow up in?

I always dismissed the Cold War-era fatalism as quaint and something that could never happen again. We know better.  Instead, here we are again.

My son is still rather innocent. We’ve sheltered him more than we should probably. In his world, the Lego cops always catch the Lego bad guys. He has been watching Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter recently, and to him, the president, Voldemort and Sauron are the same things.

The difference is that Voldemort and Sauron are fictional characters. The good guys win.

I don’t know how to explain to him that in the real world, that doesn’t always happen.

Mad, Mad World

This is the program that funds my job and predictably, because it does a good thing, it is on the chopping block in #45’s budget.

I’m not surprised. We heard practically right after New Year’s that our program was on “the list.” Almost immediately after returning to work after the holidays, I was pulling data and sending it to DC to our lobbyists to show the positive impact our program had in our state.

I was prepared, but I am still upset and sad that my program is on the list. We do good. Our sole purpose is to help manufacturers – small manufacturers – remain competitive and stay in business.  In FY 2016, the work my program did helped manufacturers realize almost $1 billion dollars in economic impact.

I don’t understand how we are supposed to “make america great again” if we shutter the programs that do just that. But I’m thinking logically, which is a no-no right now. Some might call my program corporate welfare.  What’s wrong with that? Corporations benefit in a myriad of ways from the government. Our companies pay for our services, but the fee is lower because of our government funding. Otherwise, they would not be able to afford these services.

Small business is the backbone of this country, and they are the job creators. Small businesses will adde more jobs as they grow than a huge behemoth.

Even though I knew my program was likely to be on the list, I am angry. I am angry because we do the work to help manufacturers succeed that #45 ran on. I’m angry because #45 doesn’t understand manufacturing, doesn’t understand supply chains, doesn’t understand global economic patterns, doesn’t understand anything frankly.

Hopefully, my program will be OK.  We have bipartisan support and other than a brief time in 2003, we have always been fully funded by Congress. I know things are very bizarre right now, but I hope Congress will do the right thing by my program.

It truly is more to me than my job. I believe in what my org does.  I have visited and talked to so many manufacturers, and I feel like I know them. I’ll be OK if my program ends, but my state and the nation will suffer if this program ends.

North Carolina is 5th in the nation and 1st in the Southeast for manufacturing. We have 10,400 manufacturing establishments in the state, and manufacturing is still a major contributor to GDP. Half a million people are employed in manufacturing in NC, and manufacturing has a huge multiplier effect in the local economy.  I could go on and on with statistics, but are they alternative facts?

And let me assure you, I am sickened by the other proposed cuts. Meals on Wheels? PBS? Minority economic development grants? The arts and humanities? Sickened. It all sickens me.

I know (hope?) that most of the proposed cuts will not make it into law, but I am sickened by the intent. And all those voters for #45 who are dismayed have little sympathy from me. You should have known better. The evidence was in front of your face, but you voted for him anyway. How could you be so ridiculous? How could you be so hateful? How could you have allowed yourself to be so deluded?

It is mad world in which we live. I just hope we make it to the other side.

.

 

 

Inauguration 2017

Fuck.

Honestly, I’m not sure what there is to say other than that, but I will try.

I cannot believe – still – that man is president of this country.

I cannot believe that almost all of our family voted for him.

I cannot believe my fellow citizens think he is qualified to lead this country and that his cabinet officials are this bad.

I do believe it, but I wish it weren’t true.

Eight years ago, we watched Barack Obama’s first Inauguration as it snowed in NC and we were also celebrating finding out our baby was a boy. We were so proud of this country and what it had achieved by electing Obama. We felt like we were bringing our son into a more enlightened world.

And now, 7.5 years later, we have no snow – but maybe rain – and we are swearing in a man who at best makes me shake my head and at worst makes me exclaim, “WTF?” and, “we’re doomed.”

It has been a rough season. We heard our little boy tell us his classmates told him that Mexicans would take over our house if Trump wasn’t elected. After Election Day, he told us that he wasn’t surprised about the outcome because another classmate had told him what would happen. D is seven. SEVEN!

I don’t know how to live in this world. Family said over the holidays that surely Trump couldn’t be that bad because they had lived through their president being killed. What could be worse than that????

I keep telling myself that maybe he won’t be that bad. Maybe he is just a blowhard who has been using typical election techniques. Maybe we are making too much of his election.

I hope to God that is true. I cling to people who believe that this is all politics as normal. I hope my perspective is skewed. My fear and belief is that it is not.

I am terrified. Truly. My stomach has been in knots and I worry for our future.

Someone talk me down.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing what I can to keep democracy’s light burning.

#MicroblogMondays: Snow Day

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We have a snow day today, that rare event in the South.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another tomorrow since we had more sleet than snow.  It wasn’t the best snow event.  The models had originally forecasted us to have at least 5 inches of snow, but as the event unfolded the dreaded warm nose infiltrated, and we ended up with sleet and maybe 1/2 inch to 1 inch of snow on Saturday.  At least it is pretty.  We had something similar happen last year and we ended up with freezing rain and power outages, so this is a definite improvement even though it isn’t fun to play in.  We love snow, so we hope this isn’t our only winter weather event of the season.   I know, I know. If we love snow that much, we should move to a more receptive climate.

 

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***

Today I also posted the audition information for our 5th and final Listen to Your Mother:Raleigh-Durham show. It is bittersweet. I know we will have another wonderful show, and we will meet amazing people sharing their stories, but it makes me sad it is our final show under this name.  I do like the symmetry of our last year being our 5th year, though.

So I implore you, if there is a show near you, please consider submitting or auditioning.  It is a magical experience, and I have been honored to be part of it. You can find a list of participating cities and submission/audition info here.

#MicroblogMondays: ISO Holiday Spirit

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It is 6 days before Christmas, and I am in dire need of Christmas spirit. Our tree is up, but that’s about it due to the wiring/fiber project and frankly, scope creep.  I’m off work for the rest of the year, and there is plenty to do, but I can’t find my motivation.  It’s been a year. Between health issues, work issues and more work issues, kitty cat issues, 7-year-olds going on 13 issues, and the election, we – the adults in the house – just want to hibernate until…until when? When things are better?

It’s a year for things to be up-ended, even our holiday celebrations.  Jimmy and his brother both starting new jobs means less vacation time, so we had his family’s Christmas celebration on Sunday when we usually have it after Christmas.  Instead of spending the day after Christmas baking goodies, I made only two small batches on Saturday since they are flying back to NJ instead of driving. We will have Christmas with my family later this week and then actual Christmas at home and then we’ll be done.  It isn’t bad; it’s just different. Everything feels different this year.

It’s been quite a year.

But we will muddle through as my favorite melancholy Christmas song suggests. We have an excited little boy who is counting down to Santa – maybe one of the last years for Santa in our house – and two Advent calendars to maintain. Cookies to bake for Santa and for us.  We introduced him to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies recently, and it is so special to watch his wonder as he discovers those worlds.

So maybe the wooden Advent calendar is underneath the stairs and there is a TV in our fireplace. So maybe one strand of my carefully-checked lights on the bushes outside stubbornly refuses to work. So maybe the $1.39 lights for the windows I bought refuse to work consistently (thanks, China!). So maybe I’ve already watched Christmas Vacation three times. So maybe my Christmas cards still aren’t done despite actually having a formal family portrait this year.  So maybe I prefer to read Trixie Belden fan fiction instead of engaging with the news because reality is too much.

It is what it is. And maybe, just maybe, Christmas spirit will find me.

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This may represent the entirety of our decorations this year.

 

15 Years

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary. What? 15 years already?!?! But it is true. Fifteen years ago on a similarly unseasonably warm day, I walked down the aisle, almost caught my dress on a pew and gripped Jimmy’s hands so hard that he joked the imprint of his ring would be visible on his bone.

You might think we spent this milestone anniversary having a nice dinner out or doing something special.

We did. Sort of.

First, I picked up takeout hibachi for about the zillionth time this year. Who needs the teppanyaki show when you can get the same food to go without the time commitment?

Then, we had normal nightly chores to do. School papers to sign for Daniel and practice for the next day’s spelling test. Lunches to make and kitty cats to be fed and treated.

Finally came the main task of the evening. We are having AT&T fiber installed tomorrow. Jimmy is very excited about it and we needed to do some wiring before the installer comes out tomorrow.  And I use “we” throughout because I helped (not always graciously).

Our living room is in disarray because we took apart the entertainment center earlier in the week for the fiber installation. Our bonus room is filled with pieces from the entertainment center. The TV is in front of our coffee table. And in the middle of it all is our Christmas tree, begging, hoping to be decorated soon.

Tonight, though, was devoted to wiring. Tonight Jimmy was in the crawl space underneath the house after drilling a hole in the wall to the crawl space. I fed him 50 feet of a bundle of wires with only a tiny bit of discord (we don’t do projects like this well).

It felt like that scene in Poltergeist in which Jo Beth Williams is preparing to go into the other side to get Carol Ann, and the scientists see the rope and tennis balls coming through the ceiling covered in ectoplasm.

As I was feeding the wires to Jimmy, it took all my restraint not to start chanting, “Cross over, children. All are welcome.”

The wiring is ready, and even though the house is still a wreck, we will fix it this weekend. The tree will be decorated.

It may not have been the anniversary night one sees in movies or reads in books, but it was certainly real.

Happy 15th to us. We got shit done.

To Mother

I’ve posted several times about motherhood and what it is like when you don’t have the typical physical experiences of becoming a mother. I read an article recently on trans parents and their experience of motherhood. Titled rather provocatively “Is Motherhood Gendered?”, it brings a new dimension to the ongoing question of what and who is a mother:

is motherhood something innate, as we are so often told – a chemical reaction of love and self-sacrifice tied to the ‘transformative’ process of pregnancy and childbirth? Or, is it something that can be learned? Ultimately, is trans motherhood about emphasising similarities or, perhaps, about learning to embrace differences?

It’s very often a heated, complex topic. Am I less of a woman because I did not physically grow, birth and feed my son? Is a trans woman less of a woman if she does not? I admit that reading that article and its terminology and scenarios had moments of confusion for me: a biological woman transitioning to a man who decided to have a child? Mind blown. I literally do not have a vocabulary for that, yet I hope that if we can figure out how to refer to those familial situations, we can figure out how to refer to other situations in which a mother is the mother but not the biological mother.

In regards to mothering, I like the direction that philosopher Sara Ruddick  is going:

Sara Ruddick promoted the use of the verb ‘mothering’ as gender-neutral; she proposed that rather than being a product of our sex and gender, ‘mothering’ is a practice. In the past, mothering has been associated solely with female work, representing the ‘female’ qualities of gentleness, softness, kindness. But in today’s world – where men can stay at home, women can go to work, and gender can be switched – ‘mothering’ must be expanded to include others too.

Sometimes I wonder if it seems silly that I am hung up on the physical aspects of motherhood when the point is that I was able to become a mother. A genetic mother. The point is that it can be hard to be a woman, a mother, with a less-than-traditional path in this society.  The definition of being a woman is still tied to motherhood, and when you differ from that, it is painful and difficult. Even now, 11 years after we started our TTC journey, I still feel “other.” And age has not helped because I feel like I am entering the span of life in which I am no longer considered to be a legitimate woman. Invisible. Yes, these are my own issues. Yes, many of them are likely silly. If I – a cisgender woman – feel like this, I can imagine how my trans sisters feel. My hope is that we can work together to create a new vocabulary that represents our experiences and realities and expands the definition of what it means to be a woman AND a mother.