July is turning into a brutally hard month for blog writing. Too many competing writing projects means ranting stays (mostly) in my head rather than in my blog.

I overheard something last night that is driving me to my keyboard. At my exercise class – Fit! Fusion! Fun! – one woman was telling another about how she might treat her headache. Helpful woman was going on about neti pots and herbal supplements and how Dr. Oz just had this on his show last week. The headache woman asked ‘Who is Dr. Oz?’. Continue reading

In an alternate future-world I will read the New Yorker magazine the day that it arrives in the mail. In present reality-land, they are scattered throughout the house in no real order. Some in the living room, some in the kitchen, a few hidden under piles of books in my daughters room, so I never actually read them in order. Which can be fascinating.

I recently read an analysis of Mitt Romney that ran prior to the November election and it was a great hindsight view of what went wrong in his campaign (thank God!). I do, however,  have a way of filing the magazines I’ve read so I am at least reaching for new (to me) content when I do grab one.

I just picked up the April 8, 2013 issue and read a Shouts & Murmurs that just slayed me. This regular feature can be hit or miss, but this one was dead on. Paul Rudnick did a scathing parody of the overprivileged Mommy Blogger. While I do write about my family, my daughter and parenting in general, when someone called my Rant a Mommy Blog a while back I was hurt & offended. Rudnick’s humorous, not so unrealistic, depiction of blogging is my darkest fear with my writing.

This post is a bit longer than my usual, but the Rudncik is well worth the read. I don’t think I am a Mommy Blogger and there is additional proof in the fact that I have not disabled the comments.

“I’m Jyll Cimmaron Stelton, and every morning, even before I crawl out from under my down comforter, I grab my iPad and start to mommyblog. I always begin by composing a prayer of gratitude for my beautiful children: Sonnet, Cascade, Nebula, and the baby, Diaspora. I’m not sure what the word “diaspora” means, but it sounds so pretty, and it was either that or Chipotle.

I believe that childhood is a brief, perfect state of being, and so I’ve tried to enclose my family in a shimmering sphere of enchantment, a realm that I call WonderPlanet, right here in our Park Slope brownstone. On WonderPlanet, anything is possible, as long as everyone loves one another and Goldman Sachs comes through with Daddy’s Easter bonus. I teach my children that money is like fairy dust, because when we sprinkle it around we can dream and sing and fly, usually in business class, and we can bake heart-shaped cookies that we can share with all the other children who aren’t allergic to stone-milled spelt flour, carob chips, whey protein, and smiles.

Some people have criticized me for not going back to work after my children were born, and for hiring a nanny. But I think of nurturing WonderPlanet as a full-time occupation, and someday I do plan on returning to my career as an advocate for women over forty who still want to grow and maintain waist-length hair. In addition, I’ve begun to sell a selection of trademarked WonderPlanet collectibles online, including hand-thrown ceramic mugs inscribed with the mottoes “Wander Into Wonder,” “I’m a Stay-at-Home Dreambuilder,” and “End Bullying Today—Buy a Mug.” I’m also marketing a line of meadow-dried teas, called Peaseblossom Morn, Smoochberries ’n’ Yarn, and Private Tutor. And in just a few weeks I’ll be introducing my WonderPlanet homewares line, in collaboration with Target, which will feature handwoven raffia boxes designed to hold smaller handwoven raffia boxes.

As for our nanny, well, because Tula is really more like a member of our family, we call her our Friendgiver. Sometimes, when I’m on the chaise longue in my home office, editing the audio of the duets where I sing along with Taylor Swift and then mimic Taylor’s voice thanking me, I get a little jealous, because Tula is enjoying the gift of bathing my children and inspecting their scalps for head lice. Once the little ones are all fresh-smelling, with their heads shaved and shining, Tula and I love to create games like Let’s All Be Butterflies and Pretend That Tula Is a Windshield, and Let’s All Change Tula’s Name Again and Ignore Her Until She Answers to Mrs. Melonbutt T. Wiggleburp.

One afternoon last week, I came upon Tula sobbing quietly in a corner, and I didn’t want to upset her by asking why, but I knew: it was because, at the end of each perfect Brooklyn day, she’s forced to return to her own home, in an outlying borough that the children and I call Underplace. I curled my arm so that it hovered about four inches away from her shoulders, and stroked the air above her head, while murmuring, “There, there, don’t cry. Next weekend, I’ll let the children stay with you in Underplace, so I can finish the proposal for my cookbook, called ‘Sparkle Soup and Gummi Flax: Imaginary Recipes for Obese Children in Public Schools.’ ”

Of course, I dread the day when Sonnet, my eldest, will begin her half-days at St. Elizabeth’s, the only preschool in our area where children are required to wear wings, crowns, and non-gender-specific leg warmers. I have refused to confine or label my children in any way, and sometimes I tell Cascade that his penis is called a vagina, just so I can watch him pound his tiny head against the wall with secret joy. And once, after Nebula asked me where babies come from, we had a wonderful afternoon, filling condoms with water and then hurling them at Tula.

Most of our days, however, are spent dressing up in hand-embroidered Swedish linen smocks, tulle tutus, and velvet tunics, and fashioning dance/performance pieces illustrating what I like to call “Ye Enchantable Historye of WonderPlanet.” Yesterday, when some neighboring children came over, Nebula chose to play the Darkling Shrew, a mother who neglects her children by selfishly pursuing a life of social work and city planning. The other children all played positive emanations, including Kindness, Quiet Time, and Really Listening. They surrounded the Darkling Shrew and punched her until she promised to quit her job and devote more time to Instagramming photos of them touching oversized soap bubbles.

The afternoon flew by, and before we knew it Daddy came home, carrying a bunch of daffodils, a loaf of still warm cracked-carraway-seed bread from our local bakery, which is staffed entirely by Dartmouth Ph.D.s, and all of Mommy’s prescriptions, which I immediately sorted into imported French porcelain pillboxes, labelled “Stress,” “Mood,” and “I Wish I Had a Gun.”

The children always leap into Daddy’s loving arms, eager for kisses and cuddles and the marvellous lemon-verbena scent of that twenty-three-year-old whom Daddy insists is simply an eager Wharton grad he’s mentoring. Then, because we’re all finally together on WonderPlanet, Tula distributes the wood blocks, tambourines, and Pan flutes, and we become the WonderPlanet Starcarrier Symphony Sensation, led by me strumming my lute, with Daddy keeping time by tapping his glass against the bottle of Scotch. Together, we all perform old family favorites like “Hooray! It’s Tuesday!,” “Tula Is So Slow!,” and “Daddy Is Just Tired from a Very Long Day, So Please Stop Whining About Montauk.”
After dinner, and while waiting for Tula to get all four children in bed, Daddy and I finally grab some alone time. I show him the children’s new watercolors. We marvel at their vivid imaginations, and we ponder what it means that the stick figures in Nebula’s paintings are all on fire, under the words “While They’re Asleep.”

So ends another exhausting, confounding, and inspiring day here on WonderPlanet. I know that this paradise can’t last forever, and that’s why every day I post an affirmation on our family’s Web site and I add a few bills from Daddy’s wallet to my secret lingerie-drawer bank account. And, as I close my eyes and begin to dream of the next morning’s blog entry, I think, I’m so glad I disabled the comments section.”
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Digging through the CD case that was tucked in the door of the car the other day my daughter found a CD from when she was small. It was a “mix tape” made as a gift for her by her dad’s friend who has a child a few years younger than her. It was equal parts corny and delightful to listen (and sing along to) to songs we forgot about as she moved on to her own musical choices. Not to mention Pandora and iPod genius mixes.

She has always had eclectic tastes in music, probably because her father made her CD’s with music ranging from punk/rock/jazz and everything in between. Joe Strummer, The Specials and Squeeze were early favorites, which meant we were spared the cruelty of Barney, The Wiggles and Disney Radio.

The “La La La La” song by Barenaked Ladies was one of the songs on the “Joey Mix CD” that we listened to the other night. It does “unexpected” things with the letter “L” like singing about linoleum rather than lullaby’s. This popped in my head today as I was reading an essay on language by Joshua Foer in the New Yorker (you can read it here). The thing that hooked me, and made me start humming the lemon song, was the premise that language could (or should) be “cured” of its inherent flaws so that communication would be logical, efficient and precise.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking (and writing) I can’t say precision has ever been my uppermost goal. Maybe it is a symptom of the language, but my drive is to usually word choice that creates feeling. Data is never as powerful as metaphor or story – no matter what our mouths keep saying – our brains know better.

Communication by language is so much more than just the words. I understand the desire for precision for certain topics, philosophers are notoriously obsessed with describing reality with precise, neutral language, but that’s what I thought Latin was for. Language conveys history and values along with ideas. Imperfect slices of the evolution of a society, the adoption of “accepted” knowledge and advances in science, are all reflected in language, dialect and common usage.

Its a fascinating topic, thinking about the purpose of language. Linguistics in general, semantics in particular. I didn’t realize before how attached I am to my language evoking feeling and connection. I think of myself as fairly logical, but I guess the swirly, word soup in my head is closer to the whimsy & charm side of the scale than the precision & efficiency end.  I think in the work I do the emotional connection (forged by words, anecdote, metaphor) is actually what greases the neural pathway to allow new behavior. It’s all self-motivation of course, but the language is a trigger.

Much to think about. Including how children’s songs about lemons fit into our conception of the purpose of language.

CODA:
I neglected to click “publish” after proofing this post yesterday because I needed to take my daughter to her school spelling bee. Which she subsequently won. As much as I like writing I can’t spell to save my life so I take no genetic credit for her spelling skill. Her father and I are very proud of her accomplishment.

A month ago my daughter asked me for an example of a modern uprising or civil rights movement in the US. I don’t remember what the school assignment was about, but I told her to go look up Stonewall in her Howard Zinn Young People’s History. Kids at her school use the expression “That’s so Gay”, which she doesn’t like, so I thought knowing about Stonewall would be interesting.

I love Howard Zinn because he never shies away from the fact that all information is filtered, even his. “Behind every fact that a teacher or writer presents to the world is judgement” is his motivation for writing his version of history which includes lots of the bits that are left out of school books. Unfortunately he filtered out Stonewall, at least in the edition we have.

I could have just as easily directed her toward the American Indian Movement, or Rachel Carson & the Environmental Movement, but I think the Stonewall Uprising (or Riots depending on who is writing the history) illustrates that a person can become an activist in an instant. And a riot can turn into a revolution over night.

Yesterday I was reading an old New Yorker and came across an article by Alex Ross “Love on the March: Reflections on the Gay Community’s Political Progress and its Future”. He covered a lot of history in the rise of Gay Politics – Stonewall, Harvey Milk’s election and assassination, the AIDS epidemic, Gays in the military and Gay marriage.

It’s interesting to note that this trajectory brings us to one of my daughters peers having the convoluted (notice I did not say F*****d up) view that telling people to stop saying “That’s so Gay” is an insult to Gay people because it implies that you think the word Gay is bad. Tortured reasoning + good intentions= the moral high ground is ignoring it when people say That’s so Gay. A politically correct parody of doing good by doing harm.

Anyway, included in the Ross article was a discussion of David Halperin’s book How to Be Gay, which I have not yet read. It sounds like a fascinating look at how homosexual identity was/is historically formed through cultural activities that accentuate alienation. At least that’s my take on the book from reading an essay not a review. I ordered it from the library so I can read it.

One quote kept tumbling around in my head, an overly familiar reminder of “Otherness” – “every identity is a role or an act. Its just that straight male performance is granted instant authenticity.” This might be the core of all modern “movements” and social agitation.  It certainly resonates with the kind of work that I do.

I’ll have to think about it a bit more.

A belated shout out to World Aids Day & Annie Lennox who is both a feminist and a crusader raising money for women and children HIV/AIDS.