Domestic Virtues

Yep, you guessed it, Darkship Revenge isn’t done yet.  I can honestly say it’s taking me the longest on the “snip and integrate” pass, something I honestly don’t even do on most of my books, or at least only minimally.

It’s not just the moves, really, it’s the fact that this book has a cast of dozens, too, and I’m juggling at least five subplots all through the eyes/mind of a woman who doesn’t even know about them in the beginning.  It’s not impossible.  I’m not the sad naif with no more craft than talent who once tried to juggle a revolution with a cast of thousands (a book that will need to be rewritten sometime and put out, but probably not this year.)

And I’m starting to see the end, but the book finished short and I know where those last 20k words go and what happened and I’ve got the betrayal scene all wrong.

Part of the reason I think this book is so different is that it’s about children and parents.  Motherhood, mostly, and what a mother is.  For various reasons that’s a difficult subject for me, not the least because I had no clue what I was doing as a mother and because I never expected (I wanted to, but never expected) to be one, I had no preconceived ideas.

I ended up being the sort of goofy mom who would build railways with younger son all over the house, and play rousing games of aliens versus dinosaurs in world war two with him until he was sixteen or so.  (The dinosaurs were on the allied side.  As one knows.)

And Robert, being the older, just got integrated in “things mom does.”  Which included an unnatural knowledge of the hardware store, and knowing how to build a balcony by the time he was 13.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t have traditional domestic virtues, and the kids learned that too: cooking, cleaning, which means when they each went out on their own, they were pretty good at it.

From Dan they learned computers, programs, and a goofy interest in really corny movies.  (The younger one.  The older one learned to roll his eyes early.)

From the cats they learned bonelessness and snuggling.  I think.  Though Robert claims he learned cursing from Petronius the Arbiter (first cat ever) and bravery from Pixel Who-Walked-through Walls (Best cat ever.)

It’s possible.

The thing is I was never very good at “roles.”  For various reasons, but really mostly because I couldn’t compete with my mom (she didn’t take female competition very well.  Most of my attempts at doing things that were in her domain got the stuff taken out of my hands and me screamed at.  Yeah, openly it was because she couldn’t see me struggling with it and didn’t remember her own learning time, but mostly I think is that mom really didn’t like female competition.  She was still comparing my looks and feminine demeanor unfavorably to hers when I was in my twenties.  This went along with the “no man will want you” which in turn is why I never expected to be a mother.) I grew up more like a boy than like a girl.  I spent one summer assembling a radio from old parts of various other radios; an earlier summer was devoted to making rubber band powered cars (from matchboxes, which were made of balsa wood.)

Mostly I spent time inside my own head, which means I was completely detached from my body and what my external form gave people the impression I was or should be.  I think, from pictures, that my look was the “innocent baby doll” which considering I spent time in my own head building a detailed empire which put the Game of Thrones to shame (except that I didn’t kill for the hell of it.  I’m not 2016 or GRRM) always seemed weirdly at odds.  I was virtually impossible to shock, but I sure didn’t look like that.

In college I tried to be more “present.”  I’ve since realized, from reading other people’s biographies, that I used my imagination like other people use drugs.  I would withdraw into it and be somewhere completely different.  I think it was my Junior year in high school I realized this was a problem because I wasn’t really living, and limited the daydreams to morning and evening.  Tried to.  It was a process. Then I became an exchange student and tried to be really there, and tried to be normal.  Anyway, in college I found a good way not to be absolutely terrified to be out in public was to have “war clothes” and war paint.  For some reason most of the time (not always.  Sometimes I was very eighties) this consisted of thirties-style clothing, including silk lace stockings and stilettos, and hobble skirts.  Those of you who met my older son: he comes by it naturally, even though he never knew of my retro-style years.  Something there is in the genes that codes for the thirties? Who knew?

Though I dated — and got engaged — before, I never really expected to get married, and Dan’s and mine was sort of a whirlwind romance which grabbed me and threw me accross the ocean before I could stop myself.  Which was good, because despite my love for the US marrying Dan meant being utterly irresponsible for the first time in my life.  It meant leaving behind my family, their network of connections, but more importantly rendering my training irrelevant.

In Portugal, with seven languages, four of them fluent, and a college degree, I could have written my own ticket.  (Heck, a friend who never made college, with just semi-fluent English got a job escorting executives around Porto when they had to visit town.  Yes, we made jokes about her being an escort.  No, I’m almost sure that’s not what she was doing.  The almost part came from the fact that she didn’t… uh… she wasn’t the most chaste of women.  But at any rate, I’m sure it wasn’t part of the job description or expectations.)

In the US languages aren’t very useful.  The world speaks English.  And there was no internet for hooking up with freelance work, piecemeal.  There were three or four full time translator jobs that opened a year in the US, but you sort of needed connections (of the “went to school with you” type) to get them.  I had no connections and no job experience in the US.

Yes, once the world stopped spinning, the idea was that I would write.  But I was home all day and Dan was running the beginning-programmer gauntlet of 16 hour days and more during crunch.  Which meant mostly most of the time what I could do was cook and clean.  So I became a little obsessive about it, in a justify-my-existence type of way.

And when we had the boys, even if Dan was mostly mommy and daddy to Robert the first six months (because I was very ill and he was unemployed) after a while child care defaulted to me, without a blueprint.  In retrospect I obsessed about all the wrong things, like REALLY clean FLOORS. And carrot cake.  Because if I finished a chapter people said “Oh, good then.” BUT carrot cake got me enthusiastic grins.

We sort of fell into traditional roles because of our relative occupations.  I’m still — though doing better at it now the boys are grown and mostly moved out (yes, the older is in the basement, but it’s his apartment, not really our house) — struggling with the idea that writing is a real occupation, and that I’m not ALSO required to do all the house work and keep a spotless house, even on deadline.

I’ve since found this is not so much a “feminine” thing — falling into the housekeeping role — as a writer thing.  The writer in the house normally cooks and cleans, because he or she is there all the time, and their spouse is often out, earning the “regular” part of their living.

If you look back far enough our whole idea of the domestic role being feminine comes from women staying in the house and doing the tedious every day work, because they can bear children (and a pregnant woman can’t run for miles) and they’re weaker, relatively.  Men had the outdoor dangerous, difficult, unpleasant and often lethal work (I love how we talk about the historical oppression of women because we had to stay inside and do the boring, soft (relatively) work.  The  case could be made that women oppressed men throughout history by making them go out to war, or hunt, or protect them.  It’s only that for whatever reason feminism values male role over female.  I’m not going to pursue the rabbit hole as “feminism is a projection of women’s mysogyny. But a case could be made.  More easily than for the oppression of women, in fact.  Of course a case most of all can be made for contemporary intellectuals shutting their mouths about a past they haven’t lived and don’t understand.  In many things, really.)

In our case we fell into a very traditional role, but it was really “What can I do” which is why I ended up doing most of the remodelling on the two Victorians we lived in and fixed while living in.  Because I could.  (Dan did plumbing and electricity because though I could figure it out, I don’t like it.)

And away from mom’s eyes, I did an awful lot of sewing.  Taught myself.  Because we bought clothes at thrift stores that needed to be altered for the boys.  Or I made myself dresses because nothing fit and I couldn’t afford the store prices.

Only I spent a lot of the time feeling guilty about cooking and cleaning and sewing because my school-upbringing had taught me it was a mark of oppression.  Just like my family upbringing had taught me I wasn’t good at it and shouldn’t even try.

In restrospect that seems completely insane.  they were chores that needed doing, and I could do them.  What is there of more oppressive about them than, say, with my refinishing the thrift store furniture we bought?  In retrospect all that is crazy cakes.

I’ve settled into just being me.  Sometimes I cook elaborate meals (usually when both boys are here for dinner) and I don’t feel particularly opressed or feminine.  I just feel I want to show the boys love.  And most of the time I’m the one who cooks, though I suspect when we are really just the two of us alone, that will dwindle to maybe once a week, because we can get take out or grab a salad.

The elaborate almos tdaily meals are an expression of being a family of more than two, of getting together.  Perhaps in my somewhat damaged psyche, it’s easier to say “I love you” with food. This probably explains all of our weights.  (“Mom couldn’t say she loved me, so she baked me carrot cake.”  My husband says that both of us, growing up, displaced “I want to be loved” to “I want chocolate cake.”  Eh. And we’ve lived on diets most of our lives.  Don’t go there.)

In Revenge I find myself struggling with that, because Athena just became a mother, and she’s growing into being a mother in other ways too, as there are feral children who fall under her sway.  So she finds herself doing a lot of the feminine tasks.  Not cooking.  I don’t think she knows how (never asked) but just about everything else.  Partly because she’s not a biologist, which is what they need, partly because she has to watch the baby because her baby was already kidnapped once, so she tends to have Eris (yeah, I know.  Don’t blame me.) with her ALL the time.  Which limits what else she can do.

The conclusion she’s coming to is that she’s doing these things because love seeks an expression.  And the idea is as weird to her as it was to me, as I came to realize it, as the boys grew up.  “Because I can, and because I love them” is an still small voice with which to beat back the years of “female work is oppression.”  But it was all I had, and by and large it worked.  It seems to be working for Athena too.

None of which is nearly as difficult or as funny as writing Athena trying to teach morals and why we shouldn’t just kill babies to a feral young man.  Because Athena herself doesn’t have what you’d call a moral structure.  It’s sad and pathetic and funny and tear inducing all at once.  or it was for me.

Not to give you the impression the book is a delicate bildungsroman devoted to interior development and feelings.  I mean, it is that, but it opens with a battle and has explosions and the part I need to write which is missing, and which caps the emotional development is an all out raid, with fighting in tight spaces, explosions, sabbotage and deaths.

But that’s because I am who I am.

And I’m okay with that, domestic virtues, carpentry and all.  They’re all me.

And now me is going to drag her behind back to the work computer and go (G-d willing, please?) finish that novel.

 

106 responses to “Domestic Virtues

  1. It’s not just the moves, really, it’s the fact that this book has a cast of dozens, too, and I’m juggling at least five subplots all through the eyes/mind of a woman who doesn’t even know about them in the beginning.

    Might that be an indication that you have more than one book here? It wouldn’t be the first time a fertile set of premises spawnewd more than one book.

  2. I used my imagination like other people use drugs.

    Oh my. I likely was never at the level you were – more often I was deep in some book (borrowing someone else’s imagination…) and “You are there” was so true as it took a lot to bring back to alleged reality – but this explains a few things.

    • Terry Sanders

      Doesn’t it, now? Sarah (and, I hope, you) are lucky. I am just now fully recognizing the problem and trying to deal with it. At sixty. A little late for the career hopes, but maybe there’s still time to salvage something.

    • I have used that phrase to justify my lack of interest in things mind-altering for some decades now. Wouldn’t surprise me to think that quite a bit of us Oddly-types did. Pay money for mind- and mood-altering substances? Whatever for? I get all the alteration I desire much more cheaply (even free!) from inside my own head.

      • “LSD? No. I had early childhood exposure to Sid & Marty Krofft products.”

        (And when I was very young, LSD was still legal, if barely so.)

        • *chuckle* My family were moonshiners, back in the day. Among other things, I was (and am still) expected to do things like be able to drink a mule under the table, pick a fight at the drop of a hat, and generally engage in the sort of wild crazy behavior common to folks with my surname for generations past.

          While there are still cousins out there in the world keeping up the family’s bad name, I don’t get random people coming up to me these days asking where to get a fix. Which *was* common, once upon a time. It tends to interrupt the story-reading when real people intrude like that. *grin*

        • The following was a jump-rope song at our school:

          “ABC
          LSD
          Marijuana’s
          Good for me.”

          The kicker? It came from a teacher’s magazine, from an ad selling anti-drug abuse materials for students.

  3. Something there is in the genes that codes for the thirties?

    It’s opinion, I suppose, but while there is always “fashion” the thirties had style. Then, I am a bit outside of normal time. Heck, I’m generally considered well outside of ‘normal’ (thank goodness!).

    • The Thirties did have style. It wasn’t a “go back to the Edwardian because things were so good then” but it wasn’t “pretend the ’20s are still roaring” either. Although I think the ’30s were kinder, fashionwise, to men than to ladies (but that’s just me. I’d give my eye-teeth for some of the late ’30s suits, if only the sleeves fit.)

      • Oh, I drool at the thought of being able to wear some of the outfits my grandmother wore and made look good!

        It was NOT made for more square folks. 😀

      • In my twenties I learned the Lindy Hop. And the Charleston. I still have the outfit from back then, but it’d need quite a bit of alteration to get back in to (eh, I was a stick figure in my twenties. I much prefer real human shape).

        It’s quite possible a good many other Odds gravitated towards that style. The thirties and early forties had style, yes, but they had one thing I think folk like us admired quite a lot on top of that: a formula.

        A set of rules for behavior that kind of, sort of, made sense. Sure those rules were flexible (a gal could pull a guy out on to the dance floor on a whim and no one would bat an eye), but that whole “makes sense” bit, or at least was easy enough to learn, simplified things enormously.

        Going swing dancing is the closest I’ve ever got to cosplay. Maybe it’s more socially acceptable to the norms? Dunno. Geek culture has spilled over, a little bit, what with The Lord of the Rings being more mainstream these days, and, sort of, new Star Wars movies (they share the name, but I find more enjoyment in them when I go in just expecting a nifty sci-fantasy adventure than when there’s the expectation of a sequel, but that’s another leg of the topic pants). Maybe that’s part of what Odds do: we either construct social mechanisms from first principles (because judging from other people is an exercise in frustration), or we seek established ones we can copy. Least that’s what I seemed to do.

  4. Writing is not a real occupation. You don’t have to put up with a “pointy-haired boss” and you don’t have customers coming in and demanding the moon even though the Moon Shoppe is clearly two stores over.

    Sure, you have editors, reviewers and readers but they do not have quite the same ability to make your work a living heck.

  5. Sarah, I’m sure you have a bunch of guest posts you can toss up as needed; there’s no need to keep us entertained with original posts from you if there are deadlines looming. Do what needs doing!

  6. DC’s *War that time forgot” series gave us the WWII solution to dinosaurs.
    1.Hose it down with a Thompson.
    2. Humorously ethnic enlisted man exclaims,*Dem slugs is bouncin’ off it like spitballs!”
    3. Chuck a grenade in its mouth. Problem solved.

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    From Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

    “But spinnings are woman’s toilings!” Gurgi protested. “No, no, spinnings are not fitting for bold and clever weaver-men!”

    “Indeed!” snorted Dwyvach. “Then sit you down and learn otherwise. I’ve heard men complain of doing woman’s work, and women complain of doing man’s work,” she added, fastening her bony thumb and forefinger on Gurgi’s ear and marching him to a stool beside Taran, “but I’ve never heard the work complain of who did it, so long as it got done!”

    End Quote

    😀 😀 😀 😀

  8. an unnatural knowledge of the hardware store

    A friend is on a first-name basis with people at her local Home Depot. Despite her distaste for orange, I’m fully expecting her post-retirement career to involve the orange hardware store …

  9. BobtheRegisterredFool

    http://www.everyjoe.com/2017/01/16/politics/why-rosie-odonnell-liberals-shouldnt-want-martial-law/

    In which the left is stupid, and Kratman’s explanation of why leaves but one question unanswered. Why not a Ditch Witch?

    • Serious side question:

      The trench and bullet in the back of the head is sickeningly common in history, but Why did they passively wait for the bullet? Granted that by that point there’s next to nothing that can be done to prevent the inevitable, but that being the case, why have so many people waited on their knees? There’s nothing to gain by compliance. I don’t know how I would react in that sort of situation, but I’d hope to at least turn around and die on my feet, looking my shooter in the eye, than to wait on my knees.

      Why didn’t this happen, or, at least, happen more often.

      • There’s nothing to gain by compliance.

        A faster death.

        If you fight back, and can’t make them kill you or be killed, you will die very.
        Very.
        Slowly.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Selection. Think about gathering these people. Probably a fair number of those with a strong tendency to fight or to run get skimmed off in earlier steps one way or another.

        Culture. I haven’t the scholarship to know, but it is possible that a ‘die fighting, no matter the cost’ culture might limit the scale of mass killing, so that massacres are limited to smaller and briefer spasms of combat, until heads cool. I dunno, it just now occurred to wonder.

        Bindings. Ziptie the hands, then ziptie the feet. Load in trench, and zip the hands and feet together, kneeling. It might hurt packing, and getting enough soil over head to prevent wild pigs from digging them up.

        Mental defeat. Anyone can be broken. Perhaps by that point they’ve lost the will to resist.

        Shock. Sometimes mass murders are carried out fast, and the victim may be too surprised to react.

      • It didn’t happen mostly because the victims were downtrodden Eastern European Jewry, used to dealing with the pogrom; roll over, show your belly, and the Cossacks will kill a few of you, and let the rest live so they can come back and rape your grand-daughters while looting the village.

        As a survival strategy, that worked better for the group than not, because if they’d resisted effectively, they’d have drowned in sheer numbers. Unfortunately, the mindset, reflexes, and customs were still there for dealing with the Cossacks, when the Nazis came. Few Jews adapted quickly enough to the differences between the two styles of persecution. The Cossacks were farmers of Jews; the Nazis meant to be exterminators.

        Typically, this same set of syndromes is what you find wherever you deal with peasants, with occasional exceptions like Zizka’s Hussites. Although, most of them were instead Bohemian miners and so forth…

        There are differences between trying to herd Eastern European Jews into the cattle cars, and then trying the same shit on Swiss or Bohemian types. It also doesn’t work out too well with the types who normally inhabit the borderlands, like the Serbs or the Slovenes; they tend to get all up in your shit, and kill the guys doing the herding. Maybe not any more effectively, but they certainly did force a different approach being taken with them.

        Comment I once heard from a Yugoslav veteran of WWII, went to the effect of “The Jews? Too civilized; they read the edict posted on the wall by the mayor’s house, they followed it… My people couldn’t read, ignored it, and when the Germans came, we killed them…”.

        Different survival strategies work with different enemies. Those hardy Yugoslavs would likely have gotten themselves hunted down and destroyed by the Cossacks–Or, they’d have joined up. The Jews, on the other hand? Their strategy of being the willow in front of the hurricane worked well… Until it didn’t.

      • “Why did they passively wait for the bullet?”

        Ever been present at an accident? People don’t move. They f-ing stand there and stare like chickens. I’ve been present at three accident sites before the cops and fire department arrived. Three times, I’ve been the only person moving. One time I was driving by. Got the car parked and ran back to the accident, and I was still the only person moving.

        Screaming at them does not make them move. You have to grab them and shake them before you can get their attention. They don’t thank you for it afterward, either.

        My conclusion, after 60 years of watching this sh1t, is that I’m a mutant. I wouldn’t be waiting for the bullet. Normal people will.

        • Basically, anybody can be that person who keeps moving at an accident. But you have to practice it mentally, as opposed to training yourself to spectate and “leave it to the experts.”

          A lot of women with the mommy or grandma or aunt idea of themselves will be that person, just as much as a soldier or a medical person, or men who are a dad, or a Scout. It is funny to see how different the people can be.

          But yeah, once people freeze it is hard to unfreeze. It is also a survival instinct, so I do not want to say too much against it. I mean, if you have to play dead or avoid drawing attention, possibly for hours, freezing makes you golden, potentially. But it is not much fun for humans, and in the modern world is usually not a good plan.

          I actually turn into an energetic busybody when accidents happen, so I have been training myself not to poke my nose into it if I am not needed. But yeah, bullyin…. er, convincing … slightly hurt people into taking blankets and hot drinks, or ice packs and bandages? Oh yeah, I am good for that.

          • “The way you play is the way you live.”

            There’s a lot of worriers here– we have to be, since we’ve got so many folks who just don’t get “normal” so we have to think about it.

            That means that even before you consider life choices, we’re going to have people who have thought out “what I would do if something went wrong.”

            We may do the wrong thing, but we’re not sitting there blue screening.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              The contingencies for a pedophile wanting to take one to a secondary crime site are fairly similar to part of resisting mass murder. (Another part is keeping an eye out, and running away.)

              • Note:
                if a criminal wants you to go somewhere else, it’s not a good idea.

                And remember that Jihadis do not have prisoners. They have victims they haven’t finished executing yet.

        • Unfortunately, yes. The ratio of action to inaction heavily favors the former, maybe because here everyone has to be a first responder of sorts. The gawkers usually show up after medical/fire/forestry/law enforcement gets there, or if there’s nothing that can be done until they arrive.

  10. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

    I can remember when women’s rights meant a demand for the right not to work outside the home. Now it is the demand that no one have that right, and to label any woman who wants to stay home and take care of the kids quisling; better she should drive three hours a day on freeways, paying a domestic to take care of the kids. The man, of course, isn’t really given that choice. He wasn’t allowed to take Home Economics in grade school.

    Oops. I forget. We don’t have home economics anymore. Don’t have wood shop and metal shop in high school, either, and the usual newspaper article — almost always one every year — about the plucky girl whir insisted on taking wood shop, where she does better than many of the boy’s (and sometimes leads the class, but not most years).

    But after all, it’s the state’s obligation to teach the kids, or at least pretend to because the teacher’s union won’t let the state require good teaching. But not the parents’ responsibility. Never that. So we have schools indistinguishable from an act of war against the United States (“If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war” said Glenn Seaborg in 1983, and it hasn’t improved since then.)

    I was raised by nannies and sharecroppers’ wives, my mother being an executive of the Crane Company which did war work and the Encyclopedia Britannica, and maybe the radio in the afternoons. We were liberated.

    Women have rights, men have rights, but as usual kids don’t have many.

    • I think farming our kids off to strangers may be the end of the republic. We’re now in the fourth generation or so…This was never a consideration for us. Either I or Dan were going to raise the kids. It was more convenient for me to do it.

    • Teachers or at least a teacher in the school I attended for grade 1-6 liked to tell students they had no rights… and since there wasn’t much of a library nor any internet then, it was not until much, much later I found out about Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969).

  11. Oooh, this needs to be stolen, given a quick repaint and used….

    Growing up, we displaced “I want to be loved” to “I want chocolate cake.” And we’ve lived on diets most of our lives.

    Not sure why, it sure sings to me… I am so totally using it for my werewolf girl. 😀

  12. The conclusion she’s coming to is that she’s doing these things because love seeks an expression. And the idea is as weird to her as it was to me, as I came to realize it, as the boys grew up.

    Giving your mom the fuzzy socks she loves.

    Covering all the windows with rather…um… lack luster sun catchers, because the kids love the rainbows.

    Buying red panda stuff for the cousin who was “panda” when you were kids, because it’s something special to say “I love you.”

    • There’s a guy out there who wrote about different “love languages.” The obvious one is verbal, but there’s also the gift-giving one, and the one that has people working to support the ones they love.

      • Can’t remember who sent it to me, but I took it, then had my husband take it– and it doesn’t matter if it’s baloney, it’s useful because if I ever feel neglected or really want to communicate to TrueBlue that I love him, I go check that and it gives me ideas. 😀

        • Yep, I have that book. And my own language is, rather obviously to ne, little gifts. Which is why I have an entire suitcase full of gifts from deployment that i’m taking home on friday. My clothes go in my seabag; they’re not important.

          It’s also why I don’the understand the gift-buying scramble around Christmas. I buy people gifts all through the year, whenever I see something the particular person might like or could use. No need to scramble.

          • FINDING them again. *wry*

            • Yes, that is a problem. As I am presently occupied with digging myself out of my household goods shipment. I found out I have a literal ton of books. Which I will be painstakingly putting in shelves over the next few days. That totally counts as a workout, right?

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Mental and Physical! 😀

              • Be extremely careful when lifting boxes of books & working on the low shelves. Use proper ergonomics and bend with your knees, not your back! Also, pick up an anti-fatgue mat for long standing or kneeling on: walmart and home despot and the like now sell ’em cheap labeled as kitchen mats.

                Because moving lots of books is how unnoticed & undiagnosed hernias turn into unignorable hernias! …Don’t ask me how I know. *facepalm*

          • I had a few cats with that “love language” and I must confess I found it a mixed expression.

  13. My mother was a dynamo – and I never quite measured up in the spheres that counted, but they were quietly proud (they never told me) of my academic successes, and I got over it. My sisters could have Vogue and House Beautiful in on the same day without much advance preparation – but they have servants (in Mexico City), and I don’t do servants (in the US).

    My thing I carry around with me is that I came down with CFS, have had NO energy since 1989, and still insisted on homeschooling (easier than school), and exhausting myself with trying to have things like Christmas and cookies and some kind of a normal life – when I would have killed to be doing physics.

    Now I write. When I’m not sick (bad winter, this).

    Ironic, isn’t it? You do what you can with what you have – and consider it a success.

    Life isn’t graded, just survived.

    I think you have done magnificently – and am looking forward to this one, to see what you did with that soul you exposed.

    You’re much too hard on yourself, though (PS doesn’t help – I tried) – lighten up.

  14. The only one you need to impress is your husband.

  15. In Revenge I find myself struggling with that, because Athena just became a mother, and she’s growing into being a mother in other ways too, as there are feral children who fall under her sway.

    This brings to mind what a woman once said on All Things Considered: A mother raises her children. A mama raises her children and everyone else’s.

    • I clicked through … it apparently has very little to do with doors.

      Pity, I soooo wanted a Jacob Marley for my entrance.

  16. According to my mother, I’m an absolute failure as a woman and the cause of everything wrong in her life. She’s fat? It’s because she for pregnant. My dad list lost his job? It’s because my generation works for cheap. My brother got arrested? It’s because I was on a date and not watching after him.

    She apologized to my husband that I was a terrible cook and my husband was confused because he had never eaten so well so consistently.

    I was asked to please not embarrass the family by putting my actual name on anything I write because she couldn’t stand the shame of anybody found out I was a writer. And that’s after spending 2 decades telling me I was awful, no talent, good for nothing except cleaning a house and I couldn’t even do that properly.

    And yet, she makes cakes and beautiful and edible works of art. She can’t get enough of her grandkids and will often wonder, out loud, why we don’t have a better relationship. I’ve learned to stop snorting in front of her but it took some serious discipline.

    • My mom loves her grandkids far more than she ever loved me.

      • I think that’s normal for parents of Odds; my relationship with my father is the same way. We don’t meet expectations.

      • The first time we visited my parent with our first, they met us at the car, took their grandchild inside – and closed the door. My wife and I were still laughing when they opened the door and profusely apologized.

        That sort of thing is just natural. When the kids got into trouble and a grandparent was near, who do you think they went to? When one of ours, who had learned how to talk on the phone, was getting vaccines, who do you think they tried to call when they grabbed the phone in the examination room? Even our cat ran to my mother when he got into trouble while she was staying with us.

        Really, this is classic. It’s interesting how our parents have mellowed when it comes to grandchildren.

        • It is a natural part of the aging process; my sister and I were born in my mom’s twenties. Raised with an iron fist in a velvet glove, in a lot of ways.

          Younger brothers, from second husband…? Oi.

          My sister and I were on the phone constantly, scandalized “Can you believe what the hell she is letting them do, now?!!? OHMYGAWD… We’d have been chopped up in the damn compost pile…”.

          That’s what a ten-to-fifteen year difference gets you, in child-rearing approaches…

      • Okay: I’m going to speak out of turn about something I know nothing about. Yeah, that’s not much different than usual. Be that as it may:

        My father and I had a . . . well, I don’t know how to characterize our relationship while I was growing up. Oh, we loved each other, but we tended to be like steel and flint. I thought we were very different people. It wasn’t until I was much older than I realized we were much more alike than I thought – and that he loved me more that I thought and was proud of me.

        I’ve seen than in my own family, with one more like my father than I ever was. And I’ve also seen, over the years, than until a certain age mothers seem to get along better with sons, and fathers with daughters. I’ll leave the why to psychologists and anthropologists. I’ve just seen it over and over again in different families.

        All I know is my father loved me more than I thought. And it was a long time before I learned that the man I grew up thinking I could never please was proud of me.

        Just saying . . .

    • I’ve known people like your mother. One of my sons has a mother-in-law with similar but not quite so destructive habits. Luckily they’re separated by 1000 miles. Unfortunately, we’re separated by 1700 miles… We, at least my wife, see them more then she does. Several members of my wife’s family did, however, warn me about her cooking. Told me never to let her cook a steak, because they would still be red in the middle. They had never seen me eat a steak. The Peter Principle mentions creative incompetence. She never read the book, but learned it on her own.

      Seems you turned out OK and are dealing with it. Good for you.

    • *flinch* Ugh, some of that sounds familiar– but my mom got it from her mom, she doesn’t do it as her thing. I’ll pray for you, that’s got to be … tough? ARgh, words not working right. 😦 I think you know what I mean?
      Short version, untreated depression, several lost lost children and then getting my mom made for a rather unpleasant relationship with her mother.

      Mostly only comes out in really horrible conversation choices related to pregnancy, childbirth and raising the kids, and she’s pretty good about avoiding them with the kids. Mostly via a lot of tongue biting. 😀

      One time, I kid you not, she tried to open a rather cute/fun conversation on stories about how to tell if you’re having a girl or a boy by… saying something about how “no, Duchess, we don’t know if they’re a girl or a boy yet. Assuming that they ARE a girl or a boy. Does your doctor know how much tonic water you drink*?”
      Then she couldn’t figure out why I got all ice-queen about a conversation opening with “Hey, have you scarred your offspring for life? Let’s have a cheery little discussion about it!”

      * she gets on this kick every pregnancy; I drink less than a quarter of what has been observed to have a possible effect, but it’s right up there with eating too much tuna in the “I know I heard this once…” sweepstakes, especially since we BOTH fuss, and have a bad habit of saying what we’re worrying about.

    • Yeah… See, here’s the thing: It’s not you, its her.

      I finally had to cut a destructive parent out of my life, one who was not-quite-as-horrible but still horrible enough to cut off from further contact. Smartest move I ever made, but… That’s aside from the whole thing we’re discussing.

      You’re never going to make her happy. Accept that, and just make yourself happy. That’s all you can do. She gets bad enough, just don’t answer her calls, don’t visit, don’t even acknowledge her existence. Just having her around you can be destructive, even though you might love her still.

      Some people don’t bear dealing with, because they’re inevitably just going to ruin everything around them. And, they do so almost deliberately, making themselves and others miserable as some kind of sick revenge on themselves. It’s a really strange dynamic, and one I don’t understand how to fix.

      Some people just come with pre-installed bugs in their heads. You can’t fix ’em, and trying just wastes your time, and annoys you. You love her and can tolerate her little digs at you? Fine; keep her in your life. Goes past the point of tolerance? Well… Phones don’t have to be answered.

  17. Which included an unnatural knowledge of the hardware store, and knowing how to build a balcony by the time he was 13.

    The Daughter had helped bake bread from scratch before she could speak. She had helped build her own bed with drawers and storage space before she entered preschool.

    Isn’t this what parents are supposed to do — teach their children whatever life skills they can when they have an opportunity?

    (BTW: I have a real problem with hardware stores. I take far too long browsing the various isles. I look at what I find there and think of non-standard applications for the items I find there.)

    • On that last, I’ve built more things with “found wood” and bent nails than I can count. Gah, hardware stores and book stores. If it ain’t one, it’s the other! *grin*

    • The Daughter had helped bake bread from scratch before she could speak. She had helped build her own bed with drawers and storage space before she entered preschool.

      Impressive. …I think taking up carpentry is unlikely but I should probably work on the scratch cooking more. (Actually my daughter would probably love carpentry, but I’m not sure I could learn it fast enough to supervise safely. We’ve got a neighbor and my dad, though….)

    • A client had a PC out on the shop floor that kept dying due to metallic dust shorting out its internal naughty bits. (ever see a rusty motherboard?!)

      The case now sports a big hole in the top with a 5″ 115v Rotron fan bolted to it, a plastic 3″ toilet flange, and a Fram air filter for a Mitsubishi. It pulls filtered air in from the top and pressurizes the case.

      I did stop short of putting a light inside so the filter would glow, though…

  18. Balconies. I remember helping older Hoyt boy build a balcony railing, he had to tell me what to do. And kidnapped babies… older Hoyt boy named my current home cat after a Poul Anderson baby who was briefly kidnapped and taken to Hell, then rescued. Valeria Victrix.
    This is one of your best blogs ever, really.

  19. I hated it when they replaced the super old fashioned, only the owner knows where everything is, hardware store in Old Colorado City with just another bar.

    • I remember those places, or places like them around here. Only place I know of where I could get fasteners that matched the ones from the sixties that came with the house, where I could get the old Black and Decker rebuilt for next to nothing (as long as I supplied the coffee and burgers), and where red oak mill ends and pieces were available for cheap.

    • We had one of those in my town. I visited it maybe twice. They had a lot of stuff, but they didn’t like browsers, and if you just wanted to check out their wares they’d follow you around like they expected to catch you shoplifting. The second time I came in, the owner said “If you don’t know what you want, why are you here?”

      The local lumberyards added enough hardware to be useful, and nobody cared when Ye Olde Hardware Store shut down.

      That was a decade before “the internet”; nothing to blame it on but plain old “sucked at being a business.”

      • Several stores in my folks’ town only survive because they can gouge the doesn’t-live-here population– they blame the internet, too, not the abject lack of customer service, the lack of inventory, the reluctance to order things in a timely manner (I would totally be set up on Amazon Prime and at least get the little-old-ladies who don’t want to deal with the internet) and, oh yeah, charging double the price of anywhere else.

        It’s like folks don’t want to pay 2.5 times what it is an hour’s drive over the mountain, or from Amazon, to wait a week or two and maybe get the wrong thing.

  20. My theory is that men have a built-in thing about hierarchy, but women have a built-in thing about controlling their home and the people who live in it, making th mgs “how they should be.” The queen bee thing.

    If women are satisfied with their control of something, they find it easier to get along with others and to help them. It is a sign of being securely on top. If they aren’t securely in control of something they value, they tend to hit out. Hitting out at other women, by preference, and particularly those of lower status in the home – but men too.

    I don’t think it explains,everything, but it explains why some women just can’t seem to stop having drama or doing mean stuff, even when nobody is fighting them.

    • This is my relationship with my sister.

      • “Magic mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest* one of all?” would seem to have a deep psychic resonance.

        *In contemporary internet culture it ought be understood that “fairest” does not retain its traditional patriarchal lookist meaning but instead refers to zhe who most embodies the principles of social justice.

    • Maybe it’s about control in general. If you can’t control your life, maybe you can control your house; if you can’t control your house, maybe you can control your kids; if everything seems to be out of your control, maybe you can use drama to control your place in society.

      • THIS. I had a coworker who could not control his kids – they ran wild, all five of them, Mom was always exhausted from trying to keep the house intact (literally, once, when the 12 year old boy found a power saw) and food on the table. So coworker did his best to mind-game and micromanage us at work, and the boss didn’t really care. I learned a lot about not managing people from Mr Control-Seeker.

    • Eh. Doesn’t take an abbreviated chromosome to have that. You see it in men, too. Although not usually in the home, unless A) they have a lack of control outside of the home too, or B) they are stuck inside of the home.

      I have to remember that whenever the wife and I are close to battle over how the towels are put away…

  21. “…because love seeks an expression.”

    I really, really like that.