Posts by Becky

By Becky Reno

This idea of deviate is a bit tricky, isn’t it?

To even mention deviance is to acknowledge the existence of some sort of “normal,” which I think is a myth. Unlike unicorns, and fairies, and jackalopes (which I just found out aren’t real, and am still pissed about, by the way), this myth is an asshole. This myth pits us against each other, and stirs up insecurities that should never exist in the first place. It obscures the reality that we all have far more commonalities than we do differences. That’s not to say that there are not differences though, in fact, just the opposite. We’re vastly different on a whole range of things, and those differences are precisely where the magic lives.

There’s a scene towards the beginning of Amélie where the stunningly brilliant Audrey Tautou describes people’s idiosyncrasies. (Naturally she does so in French, which makes them sound like the most amazing things in the world, so if someone could translate mine I would feel far more sophisticated (especially the mustard one).)

The funny thing about these little nuances, sometimes they’re so ingrained, so natural, they’re invisible. That’s the thing about our individuality- one woman’s normal is another woman’s deviate. Here is a list of some of the ways that I stray from the norm.

  • My dining room table is at most six steps away from my kitchen. Despite this, at least 90% of our meals are eaten on the floor.* To class it up we call it a picnic.

  • I rarely, if ever, close a cabinet door. This is also true of dresser drawers. This might be true of doors in our house, but we don’t really have any.**
  • I still hold my breath while I drive past a cemetery.***

  • When I put away mustard with a twist top- I lick it first.
  • When I see animals, I assume I’m getting some kind of message. I bought my house because of owls. These are two of the owls below, in fact. I had my son because of cardinals. Right now it’s dead birds.**** I’ll let you know what I figure out. And yes, predictably I did take a lot of Native American spirituality classes in college.

I’m sure I have so many more, but I don’t know they’re deviant until someone points them out. Help me out here, I’m not the only one, right? What are some of your little quirks?

*ON the floor, not off the floor. We use plates. Give me a little bit of credit.

**My husband thinks not closing doors/drawers is a thing. I think this is definitely NOT a thing unless that thing is laziness.

*** Except when I took this picture. I had to breathe, or I’d be joining them. Shit, I’m just realizing I’m probably full of spirits now.

****Not in a SARS kind of way. More like a “natural causes” way. Currently there’s a bird nest on my front porch. I’m expecting a macabre scene there any day. Hmm…putting these last two bullets next to each other is now making me link spirits and dead birds. I don’t suppose exorcism is anyone’s quirky little thing is it?

By Becky Reno

I stood in front of my students on the last day of the very first class I taught. I had this group of soon to be social workers for 10 weeks, and tried my best to convince them that a. the world isn’t fair and b. they can and should do something about it. I struggled, searching for words that would somehow impart all the hard earned wisdom I’ve grudgingly gathered over the years, in my last three minutes with them. The best I could do was beg them “remember that everyone is doing the best they can at all times. Including you. Even if it doesn’t seem good enough, it is.”

That’s the thing with our theme this past month- work: we’re all doing it in one way or another. We all have to get there, whether we’re talking about the physical journey or an emotional one.

Our work might have started as a way to pay the bills, and along the way turned into a family (sometimes literally).

Some of us are doing the work of welcoming a new member of the family or the daily drudgery that comes with them.

We’re taking on the division of work in a marriage and the work of maintaining marriage.

Then there’s that work that involves putting ourselves out there, and the need to drop the never ending judgement.

I wanted my class to understand this. That we’re all doing this work, or some semblance of it, every day. Every. Single. Day.

If I would have had about 2 more minutes with them, I think I would have taken a deep breath, and imparted this last bit of stoic wisdom on them: “let your freak flag fly.”

This is what I’m hoisting up on a stick. Apparently I’m the last woman under the age of 74 to use a shower cap.

Here’s the thing. In addition to doing the best we can, we’re a bunch of damn weirdos. Every single one of us. I’m so damn tired of trying to stifle that part of myself in order to try to appear to be some version of “normal” so I can (unsuccessfully) dodge the judgment raining down from others. I’m determined to embrace my aberrance and you’re going to help me. For the month of May we’re celebrating some of the little, and big ways that we all deviate. I’ve spent just enough time with this fantastic group of women to assure you- you’re not going to want to miss this.

Grab that flag of yours and join us, won’t you?

I’m not going to lie, this was a tricky one for me. Work. Where do I draw the boundaries of what ‘work’ is for me? I don’t fully belong in the SAHM category, nor am I logging hours at a nine to five. I’m a chronic student. I have one master’s degree and I’m working on another, and throwing in a PhD just for fun. I’m also teaching an undergraduate class. I guess that’s work, but that’s also fun (if you remind me that I said this during finals week, I’ll cut you). I’m also attempting to raise two semi-well adjusted boys (success tbd). Straight forward enough, right? I like to think so, because all the above makes me sane. What follows below might make me a little less so.

First: an anecdote.

I recently saw a list of characteristics shared by “high achievers” and this one jumped off the page:  Usually feels anxious when engaged in a task, wanting to finish it and get on to the next one. “That’s totally me!” I thought basking in the joy of affirmation, and not a split second later that’s when it hit me (again). I’m a nutcase. I had literally just finished calculating the number of minutes it took to complete a square for my quilt top, multiplied it by the number of squares left, and divided it by the number of nights I was allotting myself to finish it. Yeah, this is what I do to fun things. I know, you want me at your next party, don’t you. Get in line.

I have a whole host of things that fall under the fun category. I do my best impersonation of an 1800’s homesteader. I sew, can, quilt, you name it.

I take pictures and convince myself that one day I’ll master photography, damnit. Alongside my husband we renovate a turn of the century house (“renovating” is just a fancy way of saying our front door looks like it belongs to a crack house).

If you get close enough, it's artsy. See? Not an invitation for a mandatory tetanus shot. Instead it's a beautiful work of old nail, chicken wire, and plaster art.

You thought I was exaggerating didn’t you? Admit it.

In thinking about what ‘work’ meant to me I realized I can’t separate it from fun. Not only because I love what I do, but also because I approach work and fun the same way. I list and I tackle. Then I bask in the accomplishment.

Work. Play. Employment. Hobbies. All enmeshed, scribbled into never-ending to do lists. All contributing to some warped sense of accomplishment, and thus joy. I sure Buddhists are writhing in pain at my un-zen-ness but it is what it is. And truth be told, I kind of like it that way.

Tell me I’m not the only one. Or am I? Are you all blissed out with your oneness of your true self when you’re not working, or are you buckling down and plowing through fun with fierce determination?

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go check this off my list.

p.s. Just in case you’re reading my list closely and see “look into abandoning children” I want you to know this is school related. Now if you see abandon children and it’s crossed out, then there’s a problem.

Skritch. Scratch. Skritch.

These are the sounds that I hear as I lay, not quite awake, hoping they’ll stop. They don’t. I know what they are. My 8 month old is on his belly grabbing handfuls of sheets, probably marveling at his hands and his own ability to use them. It’s only a matter of time until he grabs a handful of my hair and yanks. I’m just conscious enough to sweep my hair away from him. I lay squeezed in next to him telling myself ‘it’s the middle of the night. He’ll go back to sleep.’ I pause. Silence. I exhale. DADADA. My eyes involuntarily pop open and I see two big blue eyes and a big smile looking back at me.

Damn. Cute, but damn. I grab him, shift my weight over, and pull him to the other side. Then I try nursing. If it is the middle of the night that’ll eventually work and he’ll drift off to sleep. I feel him latch and again I feel relief flood over me.

It only lasts a second. He pops off to continue his narrative DADADA. I have a sneaking suspicion that despite my hopes otherwise, that my day is about to begin. In about 2.5 seconds his older brother is there, beside him. This boy takes some serious work to wake up on school days. Otherwise? All it takes is a peep.

About 2.5 minute after that- the cat joins us (she’s obese, it takes her awhile). I’m still struggling to get my eyes open. This is my morning, most days.

We make approximately 453,672 parenting decisions and for the most part I stand behind mine with unwavering conviction- probably to a fault. This one, however, the decision to cosleep, this one was the hardest one I’ve had to come to terms with. On paper I should be all about cosleeping- I’m the natural birthin’, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding type- cosleeping is just one more to add to the pile. Yet somehow this one seemed to come with the most pushback, the most judgment, and the most unsolicited feedback about how I was doing irrevocable harm to my child, and I was wholly unprepared for that. The first time around I spent years agonizing over it; I was told he would never self soothe, that he’d be in our bed until he was a teenager. It was all we could do though. it was the only way he (and we) could sleep. I lost pediatricians and friends over it. It made me constantly question my ability to parent “correctly.” It helped make that first year- a year that would have been difficult regardless- perhaps the hardest one in my life.

But now- now the oldest is in his own bed, in his own room, and I’m feeling confident in my ability, and my right, to tell people to shove it.  It works for us, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that that’s all the reason I need. So a family bed we have. A happy, cramped, hilarious, frustrating, family bed. What about you? If you have (or had) little ones around, do your mornings start out with an elbow or two in the eye? Are you a “nightmares only” kind of house? Or is it no way, no how, not in my bed? I promise I won’t judge either way- I’ve had enough of my share to go around.*

*unless your kids are sleeping in dog crates, then I’ll probably judge

In my house there are generally only very good reasons to be out of the house before dawn, or very bad ones.

We received the call less than a week before. Words that strike fear in every parent’s heart. Possible melanoma. We swooped our four year old boy out of school, took him to see Star Wars at the theater, and started mentally preparing for surgery in less than a week. I- the compulsive investigator who spends weeks researching even the smallest purchases-avoided the internet like the plague. Nothing to do but wait, and do my very best to pretend like none of it was happening.

We woke him up and packed him into the car while it was still dark. He had a stuffed lion, which he has only recently taken to, and four star wars lego guys. We made it back to our room at our children’s hospital and he bravely got dressed. The sight of him in his outfit knocked the wind out of me. So I did what I could. I picked up the camera. It gave me purpose, it gave me distraction. Thank you, photography.

I got in my own scrubs and carried him back to the operating room. How long had it been since I last carried him, and when did he get so big? Once there, he cried because he didn’t want to sit on the table. I exhaled into my mask and we made a game of wiping off the condensation on my glasses. It’s amazing I was able to pull that off when I felt like I could barely breathe. They put the mask on his face, and that was it. My job was done. They ushered me out and there was nothing left to do but wait. So wait we did.

I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around how much had already happened in a morning when we’d normally barely be out of bed.

They wheeled him back to us and he was crying, and swollen, but good. We took turns holding the phone while he watched despicable me…waiting to see if he could keep food down, waiting to get the iv out, waiting for it all to be behind us. He asked if next time he came back, he could bring some donut holes for the nurse. We locked eyes over the bed and our hearts broke open.

One week later and our news was good- no melanoma, but I may be forever haunted by some of the conversations overheard in that waiting room. For so many families, that morning changed their life. I’d like to say our morning made me a changed woman, that I’m living in every moment, that I’ve stopped snapping at my kids, and I’m breathing in bliss and breathing out fear. I’d like to say these things but that would be a lie. I’m back, just one week later, to “pick up your markers, “stop squeaking that toy”, and “oh dear lord did I just kick over your milk that you put on the floor again?!” We have to, I suppose, enlightenment isn’t that easy to come by.  But every now and then, a morning like that one is enough to make me want to try to do a little better. Even if it only lasts a day (and it did).*

*I swear that I am not nearly this melodramatic all the time. I’ll circle back around to irreverence, once I shake this experience.