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Posts from the Deviate Category

by Tiffani Michele

It wasn’t too long ago that I held clippers to my scalp and started shaving all my hair off. Admittedly, I had a pixie cut/fauxhawk so there wasn’t much to shave anyway. I assumed that because I was only getting rid of an inch of hair…2 inches tops…it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s only hair, anyway.

Then I held the clippers in my hand.

The noise when I flipped it on and the vibration as I held it in my hand was enough to startle me back to a reality that I’d been avoiding. In truth, shaving my head was a Big Deal. I was not the kind of girl to do such a thing. I’m not the one to stand out, draw attention to myself, or be so bold and aggressive as to say “fuck you, beauty indoctrination! I don’t need hair to be awesome!” I’m the kind of girl to blend in. Fly under the radar. Wear clothes that are either brown, black, or navy blue. Have hair that is neither too long nor too short but always well groomed. Stifle my laugh since it tends to be waaaay louder than the normal ambient noise. Walk on my toes after it was pointed out that I stomped around like an elephant. Dress modestly, without drawing attention to my body parts. Deflect conversation to avoid talking about myself by asking questions about the other person. Basically, fly under the radar as much as possible. Assimilate. Look the part of a normal American girl-now-turned-woman.

As I underwent my metamorphosis, right about the time I left my church, my marriage, and my home for the last 5 years, I started switching things up a little bit. And I also started getting desperate to simplify my life in every way possible. I thought that as a haircut, the pixie was a nice compromise…while ridding me of inches of unruly frizz it was shorter than anyone else’s hair, so I was really stepping out there. But, it was still a style. It was something easily explained away. It could still look cute. I could still have a good hair day (actually, they were all good hair days with that cut!). It was still appropriate.

But it wasn’t enough. I could feel it in my bones. Every time I went back to Floyds Barbershop I would find a new way to go a little shorter. A little more off the sides. Can we kind of shave the back? What about a fauxhawk? By the time my friend Tara called to say she was shaving her dreads off and would I come photodocument it for her, I was ready for the clippers myself.

As I stood there shaking in my rainbow socks, I had a moment of “what the fucking hell?!”

Would this turn me into Britney Spears level crazy? Did it mean I was in the midst of a mental breakdown? Was this really necessary? And if so, why? For being so middle of the road my whole life, did I really need to veer into the extreme? What would my kids think? Would they all run out at 18 and get shaved heads, tattoos, and an alcohol problem because the time when they were 13, 11, and 7 their mom gave a big middle finger to societal norms?

I took a moment to breathe and think. Where was the root emotion that was driving me. Was it in anger? Desperation? Retaliation? Uncertainty? If so, then I wasn’t doing it. Another breath. A big smile. It was rooted in happiness, playfulness, adventure, and a little mischief. It was anchored not by a feeling of “fuck you!” but more like “I give no fucks about this anymore.”

I started shaving.

As I did, this weightless giddy feeling washed over me. It was only hair. It’s not like I was tattooing my face permanently. In two months time I’d have my pixie back again. And it was my own body, who…and I mean literally…WHO would care if I shaved my head. It’s not like I was running around the streets shaving everyone else’s head. This was me, it was what I wanted for myself.

I felt brave, badass, strong, empowered, determined, and fearless. I felt like a woman living authentically…beyond the narrow limits of a societal norm and into a more expansive radical self acceptance.

The backlash started immediately.

When you wave your freak flag and are bold enough to not even try to hide it, then society at large feels entitled to dialogue about it openly. The comments started as soon as I walked into a public space.

“If my daughter did that to her head, I would kick her ass” said one woman.
“My daughter wants to shave her head like that, but I told her it would be a mistake. She sells Mary Kay products, and needs to look pretty!”
“I would do that, but I want to look feminine.”
“Does this mean you’re a lesbo?”
“She must not have gotten enough attention at home” said a mother to her daughter.
“So..when are you growing your hair back?” said the guy I was dating. Who then stopped seeing me.

and on and on.

I was astounded. These people didn’t know me. They didn’t know if I had done it on a whim or done it because of a terminal sickness like cancer. But they still judged like it was their job.

The first lesson of the shaved head was a feeling of rising above a lot of bullshit and feeling strong and powerful in my own skin.

The second lesson of the shaved head was a heartbreaking vulnerability. All my worst fears of the previous 30-something years of not measuring up, not looking good, not being found attractive, not being wanted, of standing out, of being judged, of hearing negative things about myself…that all came true.

It came true…and I remained unscathed. All those fears have nothing to do with me. Words have more to do with the person judging than the person being judged. And I learned something counterintuitive about happiness. Where before I thought that it was the ultimate in selfishness to make myself happy if it meant someone else became unhappy, I now think totally differently. I’m not responsible for someone else’s happiness, only my own.

And that one time? When I freaked everyone else out but made myself happy by shaving my head?

That was awesome!

Here’s a video of Tara’s journey from dreads to a shaved head that I made in addition to the photos I took over the course of 2 days.

Turns out that one time when she shaved her head? It was awesome for her, too!

Have you ever really stood out? On purpose? Or wished you could?

By Becky Reno

I sat on the brown shag carpet, surrounded by wood paneling, my legs tucked underneath me. Across from me was my neighbor, three years my senior, and between us- a monopoly board. It was a summer when we spent nearly every day together either playing games that would span days, or running around the neighborhood, rushing back to our respective houses when the streetlights came on. I was ten.

“I like to pretend like my friends are watching” she said innocently enough, gesturing towards the large picture window. Something about this struck me as intriguing. It turned the ordinary into a performance. It made me scrutinize even the most mundane details to see how they would be perceived. It shifted my value into the hands of others, and I had to be worthy enough to earn it back from them.

I wish I could go back and shield that little girl -me- from this moment. I’m sure it’s not that simple, and it wouldn’t have stuck if there weren’t a thousand other factors that caused that seismic shift, but this is where I trace the origins. This is when I split and not only became the actor playing the game, but also the observer casting judgment.

I spent the next couple of decades moving through life this way, always looking from the outside in. By no means was I perfect, as my (still recovering) parents can attest, but I was always aware of how my deviance was perceived. This has all played out as a pendulum, swinging towards rebellious deviance or towards feigned normalcy. My pendulum has spent much of my adult life in the latter camp, and I’m growing ever-fearful it’ll get stuck.

I don’t know exactly how to just start living without worrying about how it looks. I do know, though, that it’s imperative. I want to start living life from the inside out instead of the outside in. I’m thinking this is going to be the task that defines my mid-thirties, and if I can achieve it, it will free me going forward. Tossing that grenade in the peanut gallery is no small task, but luckily I’ve got some people in my life willing to help me pull out the pin.

Let me know if you have any tips, or you’re with me in this journey. I’m not naive enough to think it’ll be easy, but I’m optimistic enough to think it’s possible.

By Jill Greenwood

Fairy tales. I grew up on them. To say that Mom was a Disney addict kinda doesn’t do justice to an addict. We always had Disney stuff in the house. Last week, while we were visiting Shelby in Germany, Mom was trying to figure out the first movie that she took me to when I was 18-months-old. I’m not even sure where the conversation came from, but suffice it to say, it was a Disney flick (Dumbo), I cried because I knew the ending (I dare you not to cry during Dumbo), and it took several jaunts through IMDB to figure it our (thank god the flat had WiFi). So, fairy tales . . . they were like breathing to me. And you know all about fairy tales: beautiful princess finds her handsome prince, something happens usually because of a witch or sorceress, but true love triumphs over all and they get married and have a gaggle of kids and live happily ever after. Love, marriage, babies, happily ever after. And fairy tales often involve trolls, too . . . but rarely are they the pick-up line. Seriously, can you imagine Snow White saying to Ferdinand (yup . . . his name is Ferdinand), “Hey, baby, wanna go looking for trolls?”

Trust me, it works.

The Girls and I are making dinner ... he's watching Star Trek in German.

Seems my fairy tale was deviant from the word go. Allow me to set the stage. Once upon a time, there was a princess, and she was pretty happy. School was okay – a 2.8 GPA at the time if you must know – with some summer course work getting done. Work was two part-time jobs. And the handsome prince was her boss. And dating someone else and even though this is a fairy tale, I can’t call her a witch or a sorceress . . . just someone else. But the princess, she was just plain happy to be there, laughing at his jokes. Writing letters to a mutual friend during an overnight training. And really, really looking forward to the required movie that she had to watch about the haunted conference center where she worked. The movie, based on the ghost stories of a missing student and how he haunted the rooms of the center built where his dorm once was, would provide all the answers to curious guests, and all the employees had to take a quiz after watching it in order to move out of the probationary period. As custom would dictate (fairy tale, people . . . there are always customs), new employees would watch it whilst being trained on the over-night shift since it was ghost story. Anyway, maybe the handsome prince will choose a room with a full size bed, thought the princess, and you know . . . bluebirds would sing as they often did in fairy tales. But upon unlocking the room . . . no chance. Two chaste twin beds. One television and VCR. One 45-minute movie. One quiz passed. The end.

We're making dinner tonight in the flat ... part of the reason I liked this rental.

Only, it wasn’t. Later, the princess invited the prince to see a student production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and politely invited the prince’s girlfriend to join the merry group. Problem being, the girlfriend sat between the two because she had poor hearing in one ear and the prince was being chivalrous and all by sitting on her good ear and not in the seat that the princess had given her. Later that week, in a fit of alcohol induced stupidity, the princess enlisted the help of a friend, and showed up at the prince’s “castle” to say hello. Turns out, though, that the prince was looking forward to a quiet evening alone with just the television, a bottle of gin, and a 2-liter of Squirt. But our undeterred heroine pranced into the room (and it was an epic prance; alcohol will do that to your royal highness), exclaimed, “Oh, gin!” and chugged a good portion of the bottle. Some incoherent chatter later, the prince asked the princess if she needed help getting back to her palace. Eagerly, she accepted this offer (here’s my chance!) and found herself escorted back to her room, deposited onto her bed with a platonic pat on her head, and watched the prince close the door behind him.

But she's really making dinner #in_hamburg

Sleeping Beauty made it look easy. Snow White lived with seven men and didn’t have these problems. Even Cinderella got her fucking ball. What the hell was going on. Enter the trolls. A week later, the princess had a ball to attend, and the prince was coming a little later than everyone else. By the time he showed up, the princess had enjoyed her second bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill – the magic elixir that it was – and was only too happy to show the prince around. And on the patio, she leans in and says, “So, supposedly there are trolls who live under the bridge. Wanna go look for them?” Hand in hand (probably because of the Boone’s Farm), the prince and princess trekked into the woods in search of the trolls. How they got from kissing on the bridge to making out in a field is anyone’s guess, but the next morning was the first of many waking up to each other. Granted, there were questions to be answered, like “How did I get a mosquito bite there?”, and “Have you seen my necklace?” Fast forward nine months, and the princess is begging to be put out of her misery and just get these babies out of me now goddammit and the prince adds college graduate to his CV. Only thing is, the prince and princess forgot about the regular order of love, marriage, babies, happily ever after. Because in fairy tales, they gloss over the whole lust part. And they don’t tell you that babies sometimes come well before the marriage part. And that happily ever after takes a lot of hard work. But this princess thinks the prince is worth every single bit of it. Even the mosquito bites.

What’s your tale? How did you deviate from the Disney version? Because I know that I can’t be the only one who looked at Disney’s model and said, “Oh, that just won’t do.” Share them with me as I recover from a bit of jet lag.

Exploring Lübeck

Sorry about the photos . . . seems that trekking to a foreign country, home to some of the most fairy tale-esque castles on earth, to visit one of now very grown up babies takes a lot out of a princess. Lucky for me that prince is still around for all the juicy bits and gory details. Just without the gin.

One day two years ago, I had this conversation with my mom over the phone.

Erika: Hey, Ma.  I’m heading to Indy next week and I’m going to meet my friend, Laura.
Ma: That’s nice.
E (pushing because I deep down I told her for the reaction): It’s my friend I met through Flickr…
-Silence-
E: Ma?
M:  Really?  You’ve never met her before?  You are going to met her in public?  How do you know she isn’t a crazy person?
E: Well, my other friend thinks you can probably read Crazy in her photos.  And her photos seem normal.
M:  Is this other friend also an online friend?
E: No.
M: Text me when you’re done.  And don’t do anything crazy.  Promise?
E: Promise.

I had the same conversation again with her but the city changed to Marietta.  And then it changed to Atlanta.  By the time I picked up my Toronto friend from the airport and put her up at my house, my mother had gotten used to my Stranger Meeting phone calls.

My mother was not the only person wary of me meeting online friends.  Mark was worried, but knew he had no authority to stop me.  My friends in Columbus probably also thought it was odd.  But I usually cut them off with: “I know.  It’s weird.  I know this.”  It isn’t normal to make friends online if you aren’t dating or into video games.  I’m supposed to make friends at work or through my kids’.  After a certain age, you stop trying to strike up conversations at the grocery.  You stop hoping you’ll make a great friend over a head of Bib lettuce.  You take a class and maybe you’ll find someone with common interest.  I wasn’t taking classes.  I was working and raising a young family.  Personally, I didn’t want to make the effort.  I have a small group of close friends and I figured I was good friend-wise.

But Flickr was different.  I met women with the same interest: photography.  We learned about each others’ lives one frame at a time.  So instead of playing it safe or being normal, I typed Laura and email and said, “I’m coming to Indy.  Wanna meet for a drink?”  And we did.  That meeting made it easier to have others.  Through different photos, Suzanne and I realized we both lived in Columbus.  Becky (IRL friend made stronger through photography) and I made plans to meet her in a local spot.  I found a work trip that would put in Atlanta and talked with Jessica while the golden light faded to blackness (a no-no for Photog friends).  And that Fall, Carmen hopped off a plane and into my car.  Recently, I pushed for another work trip but this time to Maine.  Kristin showed me her city and I hugged her in person.  Come October, I’m hoping to meet the rest of the O+U ladies in Toronto.

We took a different route towards friendship.  No book club or dinner parties.  We swam around the Internet, brought it into real life and took a chance.  When I have a personal problem, I take it to the O+U group.  They aren’t caught up in a personal drama, so their unbiased opinion is respected and appreciated.  If I have a creative problem, my computer is a bucket of solutions.  Some people complain that the Internet is forcing us to not connect with our friends and family.  Throw a rock, find that article.  Maybe some people’s friendships have suffered because of the Internet.  But some have flourished because of it.  Some were born and nurtured because of it.

Life is hard.  And I want mine filled with as many good friends as I can make.  On Thursday, Carmen brought her boys to Columbus.  Years from now, my kids won’t think it’s crazy that they spent two days with Mom’s Internet friend.  Because I have a feeling this will be the norm a decade from now.  One day, I’ll be old and saucy when the phone rings.

Coop: Ma!  Remember that guy I told you about who was helping me with that song?*
Me: Yay.  In England?
Coop:  No.  Gawd, listen would ya?  In Turkey.
Me:  Oh, yay.  Turkey.
Coop:  He’s coming over to the states and we’re going to meet in person to discuss the second verse.
Me:  Have fun and meet in public, would ya?
Coop:  Fine…  

*I picked music but I have no idea what he’d be meeting a stranger over.  He’s seven, people.

by jess lewis

if you had told me five years ago that i would get to know a slew of amazing people online and actually meet a handful of them in person (and make it an annual thing) i would have said  you were off your freaking rocker. THAT is not normal. normal people don’t just meet other people on the internet and get on a plane to hang out with them for a weekend! what if they’re psycho? they could really be a sixty year old man pretending he’s a thirty somethingish woman! (don’t ask). you could go out for drinks and then they might stuff you into the trunk of their car! you may think you know these people but you could end up putting the lotion in the basket if you know what i mean. (why does that sound dirty? or is it just me?).
funny thing those interwebs. they’re full of so many communities with their own little niches. it totally makes sense that you would find people you share common ground with. it’s as easy as typing whatever your interest is into the google search box and hitting enter. so you spend some time floating around, maybe lurking in said communities, for me it was knitting blogs which led to flickr, and eventually dialogues start happening. comments get left on blogs, photos get the mark of the pink star, nice things get said about photos, emails start to go back and forth, etc..you’re forming some bonds, you feel like you’re getting to actually know some of these people! so, plans get made, flights get booked and your family may think you’ve temporarily lost your mind and are secretly wishing they had implanted a tracking device in your neck while you were asleep. just in case.

for me, the first time i made that leap into the world of turning virtual friends into friends IRL i thought maybe i had lost my mind. i tend to be kind of shy, so i was really  anxious. i was terrified of discovering we had nothing in common (you know, besides being female, mothers, wives, sisters, knitters, picture takers or whatever), that i would offend somebody or that we’d be sick of each other after the first day. (that would have sucked). instead, i found that my nerves abated instantly.  now, each year the conversation flows more easily whether we are talking about parenthood, fake flare, the awesomeness of white vignettes or just gossip in general. laughter often abounds to the point of bringing me to tears  (just picture a minivan full of mothers passing around a tub of fart putty and losing their shit over it. hey, i never said we were mature.). we walk the streets of whatever the town taking photos, eating good food paired with good beers and enjoying each others company. chances are at least one person will arrive home after the weekend with a new tattoo or a piercing. i don’t think it was planned, but in that first group meeting a bond was forged and a routine was being set. we started discussing where we should meet up next and could we please find a way make this happen quarterly instead of annually?

now, each year we try to get as many of us together as possible to cram as much fun as we’re capable of into one weekend. and each year i now look forward to these weekend getaways because i’ve found a place in a group of  fun, crazy, compassionate women who love to laugh, take amazing photos and tell great stories, are great listeners and true cheerleaders, curse as much if not more than i do, appreciate a good beer, think nothing of drinking wine from a box and know how to work some  pussy fart putty. i have a circle of friends that i don’t see often enough (some i have yet to meet in person), but i know they’re there if i need them and vice versa. friends with whom i can be honest, vulgar, snarky or vulnerable with. all because i took a chance to meet a few people i got to know online.**

have you taken that leap yet? have you turned virtual friends into friends in real life?

* IRL is a term i just recently learned and i won’t lie, i had to verify it’s meaning on urban dictionary before i posted this for fear that it meant something entirely different. the internet likes to play jokes like that on me.

** and no one has tried to get me drunk and stuff me into a trunk.

by Carmen

In high school I felt envious of the kids who knew exactly what they’d do after graduation and beyond.  Schools and majors had been chosen, summer internships mulled over.  Personally, I had no clue about my future and really would have loved for someone to hand me a map of my life, so that I could stop with all the angsty shit that kept me up at night.

Fast forward 18 years and I want to go back and tell my young self to chill already.  The truth is that life rarely goes as planned, and what you feel strongly about right now, could completely change 5 years from now.

Case in point:  In my early 20s I was adamant that I’d never have kids – and here I am raising 3.  They’re here not because they were “accidents” but because one day, years later, my thinking changed.  All the things that made a “no kids” life sound appealing, no longer mattered.  In my case I grew, matured, and re-evaluated and found myself in a completely different head space than I expected to.

Some other things my young self would be surprised about:

  • Being home with your kids while they’re little isn’t the horrible, soul-sucking misery you imagined it to be.  You should go back and apologize to the stay-at-home moms in your old neighbourhood for the scornful, mean things you thought about them.
  • Art does matter, and you should dedicate your life to creating it because it’s what makes you happy.  Stop feeling like you can’t follow your dream simply because it doesn’t come with a benefits package and retirement plan.
  • Originality is important.  Stop trying to blend in.  Life gets a lot more fun when that light bulb comes on.
How about you?  Have you stayed true to the course you set in your younger years?  Or have you veered and deflected in ways you never would have imagined?

by jessica ‘taking a cue’ lewis

 
if you’ve been following the blog this month you’ve seen that for some of us learning to freely express who we really are can sometimes be a journey. sometimes the societal and/or familial paths we’ve been traveling on have run their course, so we have to forge our own way. for others it’s just a bump in the road. for me, personally, it’s a trek i’m still on and because of this i’m trying my best to make it smooth sailing for my children (or at least as smooth as possible). in other words, i’m raising two deviants right from the start (throw in the dog and you can change that number to three, but that number better drop back down to two really fucking quick).

kids are natural deviants. they’re often testing boundaries and questioning the status quo. they have a knack for being open, blatantly honest and generally accepting of others. somewhere on the road to adulthood those traits can get muddled with fear, shame and conformity. children, especially young ones like mine, don’t really even have things like embarrassment or self-consciousness on their radar. i think this is a good thing and i’m doing my damnedest to make sure it stays that way.


for example, we spent mother’s day with my mom and my gramma and at one point beazy let one rip. well, beazy’s favorite game is “who ate the fart”, so she raises her thumb to her forehead and out of habit henry, my mom and i follow suit as we’re all laughing. so, bea yells out, “GRAMMA ATE THE FART!”. gramma doesn’t quite catch this and asks, “what?”, to which my mom replies, “you don’t want to know.”, in an attempt to spare gramma the grisly details. i, on the other hand, don’t want her to feel left out so i explain the game to her. in hindsight maybe i shouldn’t have done that, but bea has been steady playing this game without missing a day for months now. i don’t see it stopping any time in the near future. she’s 3. farts are funny to 3 year olds and truthfully she has me seeing the humor in flatulence again. of course, my sense of humor is probably infinitely more juvenile than my gramma’s. yet, i realize this is a phase with bea, so i see no point in stifling the pleasure she gets from laughing at her own bodily functions. maybe it will help her find some humor in the raging pms she’s likely to have later in life. if so, then more power to her.

it’s not even that i consider my kids to be deviants. we embrace who they are, and say that they’re ‘just the right amount of weird’. they’re being who they are at any given moment. sometimes those moments mean wearing their clothes inside out and backwards while also going commando. or wearing goggles and/or a bike helmet for 12 hours of the day. a couple of days ago it was the girl doing a happy dance down the hallway while singing, “shit shit shitty shit shit shit shit”. other days it means i’m going grocery shopping with a ninja spy, spider-man or maybe a werewolf in tow (that can double your time spent in the store, let me tell you). and sometimes it’s playing “who ate the fart” for four months straight and counting.


there are times when their ‘weirdness’ opens up discussions about acceptance and staying true to who you are. other kids are teasing you for having your nails painted? do you like how your nails look when they’re painted? and your friends didn’t tease you? then if you like it screw those other kids and hurray for having good friends! (okay, not exactly how that conversation went down, but it might as well have).

and maybe this is where i deviate from the norm, but by letting them be who they are i’ve become more comfortable with who i am. i’m telling my kids to love who they are yet it’s something i’ve struggled with myself. i’m simultaneously trying to let go of my own fears while doing my best to make sure my own children stand up to theirs. the funny thing about being a parent and encouraging your children’s individuality is that they can open your eyes and teach you to embrace your own.

hopefully, you’re raising some deviant weirdos and becoming more of one yourself! (unless one of those rascals is a dog. reign that hound in, but let the kids be.)

by: Tiffani Michele

Have you ever noticed how good kids are at deviating? They naturally deviate from everything…the plan, what’s expected, what you want, a schedule, and anything close to a societal norm. The younger they are, the crazier they act. I attribute this to the lack of conditioning. Really young kids just do shit without a thought in the world about if other people agree or not. Like it or not. If it’s safe or not. If it’s a good idea or not. In fact, all ideas are good to a kid. This is what makes it tough to be a mom to a kid in that phase of childhood…if all ideas are good to them (which they are) then you have to be ready and anticipating any kind of potentially dangerous deviation.

Once, when I was a kid, I opened the car door in our Vanagon while we were speeding down the highway. I remember wondering what it would be like. I cranked on the door handle, it swung open and yanked my arm/body with it. I was saved by the pull of my seatbelt and my father’s quick reaction time. He was a high strung kind of guy, prone to loud lectures (read: yelling) and red faces. This time, though, all he could do (once he pulled the car over and steadied his shaking hands) was look at me and stutter, “What? Whaaaaat? Why? WHY?????!” I didn’t know. I just wondered. This is the same thinking that led me to put my pinky finger in the mixer while I was mixing the cookies. It hurt like hell, fyi.

I personally think schools exist because tired mom’s everywhere started begging and pleading for some place they could send their wild kids so they (the moms) could finally get a little peace and quiet while they (their kids) were taught how to be as normal and not deviant as possible. School is the place for learning about good and bad ideas…for dealing with other people, and thinking through if something is safe or not, and being taught what’s acceptable normal behavior and what is unacceptable.

Except…I didn’t want that for my kids. So, I started homeschooling. It’s not like I didn’t try school. My 15 year old daughter went from K to 4th. My 12 year old son went to Kindergarten. We, collectively, were always getting into trouble for not towing the line. If we were having a slow morning, I would rather take our time and get to school late than push and hurry and rush and be mean to get everyone out the door. If homework at the end of the day was creating tears and drama, I’d rather them not do it…after all, they were in school all the damn day. Home time should be play time! When the 3rd grade teacher was concerned that my daughter still played with imaginary friends I was as appalled at her thinking this was deviant as she was that I wasn’t as appalled as she was. My then 6 year old son started getting stomacheaches from trying to be so good for the entire day, lest he get his paperclip moved from the green circle to the yellow circle, so I’d encourage him to live a little and that I didn’t even care if he acted up and got put on the red circle of shame. Then he came home with a band around his head and a star stapled on it. On every corner and in the middle of the star was a sticker. “What are these stickers for, Carter?” I asked. “I get a sticker every time I’m good. And then when I get 6 stickers I’m a superstar and I get to wear it on my head to show everyone how good I am!” And OMG I thought my head was going to explode. Aw hell naaaw! That construction paper star was the straw that broke the camels back. I didn’t want a good, obedient son that based his worth on an external source of affirmation. I reacted not unlike Jack Black’s character in School of Rock (best movie EVER) when he learned about the demerits and gold stars chart on the wall…”What kind of sick school IS this?!”

I pulled all my kids out of school. This was a Big Deal in the middle of the suburbs, and not all of my friends understood why I would do such a thing as ostracize my kids from such a big source of socialization.

When we were all officially out of school and homeschooling at home, the first deviant act we did was stay in our PJ’s all day. We’d wake up just in time to make ourselves some hot chocolate and sit drinking it in our footy pajamas while watching the schoolbus drive by. Sometimes one of us would snicker, “Suckers!”

From there it was a quick slide into absofucking anarchy at home, and I love it.

We wear mustaches and top hats all day and construct cloaks out of black velvet and silver fabric. We eat whatever we want whenever we want it. We learn whatever we want whenever we want to. There’s no official bedtime, so usually some pretty philosophically nerdily academic conversations happen at midnight. We cut, dye, and redye our hair as the mood fits. We paint our faces and bodies on a regular basis, regardless of where we have to go during the day. Lately, my 8 year old daughter is rocking a rainbow mohawk.

In short, we make up our own rules as we go. I’m more interested in watching my kids develop their own code of conduct instead of doing things because someone else has told them what is right or wrong for them. I mean, I do draw the line on some things. Like when my 8 year old wanted to tattoo a rainbow across her face. And if they are being assholes, I let them know it isn’t cool. We dialogue our choices and the short and long term effects of those decisions. We’re normal a lot of the time, too. It’s just, that’s not really the gold standard. I really celebrate expressive, self directed, self thinking, deviant kids who understand and embrace all of themselves. In our home, deviant isn’t a word any more than normal is. We’ve blended the two into a crazy mix of radical acceptance.

Tell me, do you think that you and/or your kids may not be necessarily…ahem…normal? Is this OK with you? Do you try to pretend otherwise, or have you radically accepeted it?

by Erika Ray

Does it shock you that I was a dramatic child?  Probably not.  I assumed that Big Life Moments would bring big changes.  When I walked up to them, the lights would start to burn, angels would sing, I’d tremble as I walked through the glow, and I’d emerge a different person.  A little better.  A little wiser.

My first experience with a Big Life Moment was when I finally worked up the nerve to shave my legs.  Mom gave me permission  and I was ready (one of the last in my class).  I clutched my cheap pink razor and headed towards the shower.  I didn’t actually hear a choir as I took the first stroke, but I figured I’d emerge the bathroom as a full-fledge girl.  I didn’t.  I was the same kid but with shiny legs and a few knicks.  The let-down didn’t stop me from assuming my Big Life Moments were waiting.  Perhaps the Leg-Shaving incident wasn’t big enough.  I assumed I hear those pretty singers and bask in the light once I had my first kiss, got my period, entered high school, college, had sex, got a job, etc.  I waited.  And was constantly reminded the each event left me the same, but with more responsibility.  But I had one more Big Life Moment.  One that women swore would happen.  Vowed on their lives, I’d instantly emerge from the glow a different woman.  They were wrong and their mistake could have been damaging.  I don’t blame them because I’m not like the majority of women.

I was never the type of woman who had to have children.  I didn’t have names picked out.  I never envisioned my life with kids.  The thought terrified me.  My mom joked that one day I’d have kids and turn into a complete Earth Mom.  I laughed at her folly.  I was never gung-ho kids, but I married a man who was gung-ho Fatherhood.  Over lots of wine, I expressed my concerns about not being Enough of a woman to have children and my mom said, “You’ll be fine.  Every woman worries about that.  Once you get pregnant something changes.”  I trust my Mom on all matters of kids so I took the leap into unprotected sex.

The stick turned pink.  The next stick actually said, “Pregnant.”  And I felt sick with fear.  What had I done?  I didn’t feel different.  I felt worried that my Big Life Moment was going to be a colossal fuck up.  Weeks went by and I felt no change minus the lack of coffee and alcohol.  Maybe when I heard the heartbeat, I’d feel like a Mother.  Nope.  Maybe once my belly popped?  I’d see a change in my body and I’d have to feel motherly towards this life in my belly.  Nope.  Absolutely when I saw the ultrasound and they gave us the sex, I’d feel some sort of bond to this child?  Nope.  When he moved, surely?  “Gas” never stirred up motherly feelings.  Poking an actual arm or butt had to do it.  Not even close.  While I loved being pregnant, I never felt a burn in my soul for the baby.  I did exactly what I was supposed to do, but I felt like a freak.  Let’s be honest, carrying a child is freakish.  And with no close friends who had been pregnant, I felt extra freakish at the bars with my big belly present as I soaked in all the non-parent activities before he popped out.  I had expressed my concerns to my Mother and MIL.  They both said some version of, “Wait until you have him.  They put him in your arms and life changes.”

One night, I had a contraction.  And I knew this was it.  I was stepping up to my Biggest Life Moment.  I pushed and pushed until out he came.  They put him on my chest and a wave of relief spread over me.  I was thrilled to have this 9 lbs. 1 oz. kid not stuck in my crotch, but where was the undying love?  He was physically hefty, but that love was supposed to be crushing.  I waited patiently.  Maybe too much was happening around me to fully feel it.  The nurses were happy.  My mothers were basking in the glow of birth.  My husband was beaming with the love for his son, but I was only thrilled that I still had a little juice left in the epidural.   They let me hold him as I was wheeled down to our room.  People smiled and said “Congrats.”  I felt like I was in a prank show.  Any second, someone would pounce and say, “Just kidding.  You aren’t a Mom.  Go back home.  Rest up and hit the bars with your pals.”  I would have believed them.

When we got to the room, the nurses would ask questions about my son.  I looked to my Moms for answers.  Why weren’t they asking them?  Yes, I pushed him out, but where was the knowledge I was promised?  I skipped reading books because my favorite veteran Moms said the books were worthless.  The afterbirth was supposed to have my knowledge.  I was just as confused about motherhood as when I chucked my birth control pills.  Other mothers called to say congrats and asked, “The instant love is crazy.  Isn’t it?”  I said what they wanted to hear, but I was a fraud.  My newborn seemed like an extra on a set.  Any second, the crew was going to roll in his twin to take over.  Someone would call, “Cut!” and we could go home to our regular life.  But they didn’t.  Instead they woke me up to nurse.  Thankfully, he nursed very well.  And during those feedings, I told Coop my plan.  I whispered:

Look, kid.  I have no clue what I’m doing.  I figured I just know when you came out.  I figured I just feel it.  So here’s my promise to you.  I swear that I will do whatever it takes to become a good Mom.  You just have to give me some time.  Deal?

I took his gurgles as a newborn Yes and we started our lives.  I wish I could say that conversation made life easier.  That would be romantic.  But it took me time to become a Mother.  Early on when people pointed out my ease of things, it stung.  My ease  for choosing and fully trusting daycare.  My ease of over-nights away from my newborn.  My ease at weekends or a week “off.”  That ease made me different to some Mothers.  It made me a Bad mom to some.  However, that type of ease is Me and railing against it would be detrimental to my children’s well-being.

I’m forever grateful that seven years ago, I wasn’t reading blogs about Motherhood.  If I did, I would have seen in print how different I was as a woman who had just become a mother.  I know that reading those blogs would have crushed my soul.  I would have neurotically worried about my journey.  A very small part of me is happy we were the first in our group of friends to have a child.  No one to tell the instant joys of Motherhood or how a Mother should feel.  But this part is small.  Being the first was beyond difficult and I felt robbed more than anything.  But there was no comparison, so that was sort of nice.  No one to say, “Maybe you have PPD or the Baby Blues.”  It wasn’t PPD.  And hearing “Baby Blues” might have been the ok to punch them.   Even when Coop nursed forever, never slept, and cried for hours, it wasn’t PPD.  I was surviving.

Motherhood is being instantly slammed into a difficult, wildly exhausting, completely life alternating moment.  And I had the same coping skills as I did a year before.  Nothing was different.  There was nothing quick or Hallmarky about my step into this Big Life Moment.  Just like every other Big Life Moment prior, I emerged the same.  It took me years to understand that this particular sameness meant a completely different  experience from most new Moms.  Other woman talked about feeling Mother Bearish from the heartbeat.  They looked at their newborn with tears in their eyes.  When the OB pulled their children from the womb, their love was instant and crushing.  For years, I wondered why I wired differently.  And a few times I wondered if that meant I wasn’t Mom enough.

Mothers aren’t the same.  We parent differently.  We express our love differently.  Seven years ago, I was naive to assume that we all enter Motherhood the same.  I entered into as myself.  And for me, it took time.    Gooey isn’t something I do easily.  Gooey and Motherhood still seems odd to me.  That’s for other Mothers.  I finally learned an important lesson: there’s no cookie cutter version of the perfect Mother.  Maybe you loved your daughter before she was even conceived.  Maybe you first loved your son at 12 weeks when he belly laughed at your goofy voice.  The fact is you love them more than you love your own soul.  As Mothers, we have one common thread: the love for our children.  We should stop getting tangled in our differences.  Stop using them to define who’s a better Mom.  Let’s use our purest commonality to remind the world of Our strength.  Some people might be afraid if this type of power is ever harnessed.

And in my opinion, they should be.

By Jill Greenwood

This wasn’t the post I had intended, not even by a long shot. I had intended to write about how sometimes your plans don’t work out the way that you intend and you deviate from the path that you have chosen for yourself. You know, the one where you wind up sleeping with your friend in the middle of a field and find yourself the mother of two exceptionally wonderful albeit unplanned daughters nine months later and then get married. Happens to everyone, right? But no . . . that is not today’s post. Today is a love song to reading and choosing whatever the hell you want to read.

Yesterday, Maurice Sendak died at the age of 83. If you’ve been living under a rock, then you might not know that he was the author and illustrator of countless children’s books, including my own favorite Where the Wild Things Are. It’s a slim volume, one that most people overlook for its power and message. It’s also a book that was frowned upon in my house when I was little. My mother hated the book for one simple reason: Max. Because Max told his mother to “hush” after being sent to his room, my mom viewed him as a brat and didn’t want us reading the book. Probably because it was so taboo and forbidden and something that was frowned upon, it quickly became the book I would read and read again.

Books are like that. If you aren’t supposed to read them – if someone told you that it was bad or forbidden, you tend to gravitate towards it. Happens all the time. On a diet? Bet those Oreos look pretty fucking good right now. Gave up wine for Lent? God, would I kill for a glass of Merlot. This book is off limits? Sounds intriguing . . . where can I get a copy? Books have always been like that for me. If it seems like everyone else is enjoying it, I probably won’t even look sideways at it. Water for Elephants never really piqued my interest. John Grisham . . . tried him once. Anything by Jodi Picoult looked odd to me.

So now that E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is all over the best seller charts, I just can’t bring myself to do it. And it seems like I should be all over it, right? Erotica on the best seller list. S & M. Completely taboo and forbidden. Problem is . . . the writing is clunky and schlocky, so I can’t read it. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve read the samples (hell, I even downloaded the sample from iBooks because it’s bigger), looked at the excerpts online, looked at interviews with the author, and I just can’t bring myself to be interested in it. So what do I read? Probably not what you expect a 42-year-old to read. Maybe it’s because I teach 7th grade, but I tend to read what my students are reading. Part of it is to stay up on current trends and to have an actual conversation about the books they are reading. Part of it is the quality of writing. There isn’t a lot of pyscho-babble bullshit in the books that I read. Sure, there’s subtext galore, but there’s not a lot of “oh, I’m finding myself after being this or that for the past 30 years” when your protagonist is 16-years-old. But the biggest part? I kinda like the romantic bits a whole lot better not for what they include but for what they lack . . . my imagination is as twisted as it needs to be, so I don’t need anyone else telling me about the “turgid member pulsating beneath his wet towel.” Thanks but I can do better than that with a migraine. Reading what I wanted has always been a part of me. Trust me . . . a lot of what I read is pure crap (chick lit . . . love it! Jane Austen . . . can’t get enough. Any variation on Jane Austen . . . sign me up. Best seller lists? Ehhh . . . fuck it). I guess that’s why if a kid is reading a magazine on how to beat their favorite game, I’m pretty okay with it since they are reading – but pick up a book every once in a while to get some practice on plot for god’s sake. I am a teacher after all.

The first book that I bought when I found out I was pregnant was Where the Wild Things Are, and I read it to the Girls all the time. There aren’t many words, and it takes all of five minutes to read. The pictures are typical of Sendak – dark and weird and never afraid to let a kid let her imagination run wild. But the thing that I always admired about the book was the one thing my mother never got: when Max got tired of having wild rumpuses and being king of the Wild Things, he came back to his room and a dinner that was still hot . . . all because a mother allowed him to let his imagination run wild.

How does your imagination run wild? Anything that would boggle my mind? Or do you just have a book to suggest for me? I am trying to read more fiction adult oriented books (yup . . . I’ve got a thing for non-fiction, too) so suggest away.