How is it Monday already?

I have a long to-do list in my purse. Its primary purpose is as a focal point — it gives me something to look at while I say, “How in the hell am I going to get everything done?”

My tooth hurts but I don’t want to tell my dentist yet, because his wife just had a baby, so I don’t want to give him bad news while he’s still functioning on a half-tank of sleep. It’s bad news because my teeth have become notoriously difficult to work on. I used to be the kind of person who wasn’t afraid of dental appointments. Now I kind of dread them. It’s a race for time — catching and saving each tooth before it rots out of my head. I keep saying “Just give me full dentures now,” but he won’t. We are in the middle of excavating the left side of my mouth. I’m so used to blood and gore and drilling and needles now, it almost doesn’t bother me anymore. Almost. I used to have nightmares about my teeth falling out. Now I think that would be a happy dream — all my teeth picking up and leaving, just leaving me alone.

Oops. I didn’t mean to talk about my teeth for so long. Oh well. Don’t read that part.

We managed to have some good times over the weekend, though. Don’t think it’s all bad and I’m just going to complain at you. We went to the movies and cleaned our house and killed silverfish as a family, again. We all yelled at each other to stop being so effing negative. We opened the kids’ Christmas gift last week (Guitar Hero III) and unlocked every song with our family-style fake-guitar-playing prowess. (I realized that I’m meant to be a bass player, not a lead guitarist. And that’s just fine with me.) I told the kids that when I get my next book advance check, we’re going to buy an XBox 360 and the Rock Band game. And then we will take over the world. I’m designing our band’s logo right now, so we can stencil it on the bass drum. We don’t have a band name yet, though. We toured Guitar Hero under the name Frostbight, but that was just for practice. Of course we will need something better than that for the XBox 360 stadium tour. The Partridge Family is already taken, and The Zepeda Family doesn’t have the same ring. I don’t know. I’ll get back to y’all on that one.


The other day I gathered leaves from the cemetary by my work. I had to make up a practical excuse, so I said I would use them in a collage. I have two 16″ x 20″ canvases at home that I’ve painted very red. I said I’d put the leaves on those canvases, instead of painting yellow and orange gourds on them, like I’d planned. The leaves we gathered were burnt umber, gold, light olive, and a little bit of cinnabar red. My boyfriend didn’t gather any, he just observed and checked my picks for insects. We walked around the graves, because I don’t like stepping on the dead people. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to do so, because I suspect that they don’t like it, either. But there were a lot of leaves on the edges of the plots, so everybody stayed tranquil. And I noted, for the zillionth time in my life, how very beautiful birch trees can be. Or maybe it isn’t a birch, the one I always look at. It has white bark now and colorful leaves, but it also drops those balls that you step on to smash and unlock the downy, densely packed seeds. You know which ones I mean? The seed balls that look kind of like big, acorn-brown cherries? That’s not a birch tree, is it? Or is it? I don’t know, but I love that tree.

So I put the leaves in a plastic bag that I had in a desk drawer, and I took them home, and I hope they’re not moldy now. Because I haven’t had time to make the collage yet, of course. But, in the meantime, I’ve been thinking that I need to repaint the red canvases and make them blue like the sky, plus gray/white like the tree bark. Then I’ll put on the leaves. Then the collages will clash with the colors of my living room. But that’s okay. I’m okay with that. If they don’t look right, I just won’t put them in the living room. I do still want to make them, though.

I said I was going to make a bunch of gifts for Christmas. Made gifts only. But then I realized that I don’t have a lot of people to trade gifts with (thank godfully, sigh, ha), and the ones I do trade with, I’m now worried that they won’t like the gifts I have in mind to make. But really, what does it matter? How could they like it less than a plastic thing from Wal-Mart? And I’ve had this argument with myself, in my mind, 9,000 times now over the last 35 Christmases of my life. So I’ll stop now. Move forward!

Here’s some stuff about parenting teens now. (I wrote a subtitle about venting. Then I vented all this stuff, then realized it was mostly about parenting teenagers. So I came back here and changed the subtitle. Ta da.)

My children (oldest child, mostly) have finally reached the age where they’ve realized that I’m incredibly ignorant and have no business trying to raise them or even running my own household. And I’m supposed to argue my case — prove that I am the smartest one, and therefore they have to listen to me and do what I say, always no matter what. Right? I mean, isn’t that what you think, when you don’t have kids or when your kids are still too young to question your authority?

You say, “I’m not going to let my kid talk to me like that. I will slap my kid across the mouth, and then she will know that I’m the boss.”

Or whatever. You say all this stuff to yourself and your friends, about how awesome and fear-inspiring you’re going to be, and how your children will be meek subjects who keep their noses clean and still get good grades. You see older parents at the mall with their teenagers, and their teenagers say, “No, Mom, that’s stupid!” and you think back to the one time your mom finally lost her temper with you and slapped you across the mouth, or took away your Atari. Or the one time you eavesdropped and overheard someone tell your mom that you were a spoiled fucking brat, and your mom maybe reluctantly agreed, but still defended you because she loved you…

And you bleep over those painful memories and retroactively remove all the spoiled brattery from your own past, and raise your standards for the youth of today and for their parents. And you say… you say…

Whatever. It doesn’t matter what you say, or what you said. Because you grow up and your kids grow up. And then they talk back to you, because they’re smart and you’re dumb, or because they’re spoiled and you love them. And sometimes you do get mad, but sometimes you just let them, because you know by now that’s what has to happen. Let the kids talk back sometimes. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Give them their chance. Maybe they really are smarter than you. You hope they are, anyway.

I say, “You’re free to disagree with me or express your anger, but you need to do it respectfully. I gave birth to you, and for that alone, you need to respect me. Because, hello, that shit hurt. Y’all were big babies.”

It used to upset me when they got angry. But now I’m okay with it. That’s their job — to be little fireballs of anger. Teenagers have to burn off a certain amount of anger, or else they won’t grow, right? Anger is the byproduct of adolescence’s chemical reactions, right? Seems that way. I kind of enjoy it now, seeing my oldest son get so pissed off. Even when he’s mad at me. You go, little boy, I think. (Big boy. Little giant man, actually.) You get mad. It’s your time to get angry now. I’m so proud of you for growing!

I listen to my kids argue and complain, and they’re now reaching the hardest issues — the ones it seems like I’ve only recently overcome, myself.

The first issue is boundaries/control/what you can expect from the people you love. “I helped you level-up your orc but you never help me level-up my druid,” in their minds, sometimes equals “You don’t love me. I love you too much. You aren’t living up to your contract as my brother/friend/guild member.” And I have to talk to them about what we owe each other versus what we do for each other out of love, and I try to teach them to set their own boundaries and take care of themselves. And I have to make sure I’m practicing what I preach in my own relationships. Do they see me treat my boyfriend, my friends, my family, the way I tell them to treat each other?

The second issue is wanting approval from others, and caring what others think, and meeting social contracts. One of my kids is so concerned with what his classmates think of him, it stresses him out all night and all weekend. And that one is so hard, because I remember the pain of worrying about that, but I don’t remember what finally made me snap out of it. (Time? Exhaustion?) So I just repeat to him what my family said to me, and of course it works just as well, which is not at all. And then he trips me up with logic. He says, “You said I shouldn’t worry about what other people think. Then how come I can’t wear shorts and flip flops to the party? I don’t care if people don’t like it.”

And y’all know how that goes. Y’all remember, either because your own kids have done it to you, or because you did it to your parents. Right?

I feel like I have to hurry and mature faster, myself. I have to stay several steps ahead of my kids, in terms of maturation and personal development, or else I’ll become worthless to them. So I’m doing it. I’m growing.

Cliched syndicated columnist lesson: Watching the kids go through this crap is part of what makes me grow. Duh. Y’all know this already. I don’t have to tell you. I’m just venting.


I’ve been wanting to write something here about reader mail. I got a really angry email from a reader recently, and I wanted to post it and dissect it here, and talk about the patterns that occur in the hate mail that gets sent to me. How it’s usually Christian fanatics who feel compelled to scold me, or older women who think I’m making some big mistake in my life, usually related to either dieting or sex. (I used to get a lot of mail from politically conservative men who wanted to lecture me, then assure me that I was still smart and pretty enough to be worth converting. But that’s dropped off a lot. I guess I finally turned them off somehow. Darn.)

Then I felt bad about that, and thought that I should instead (or first, at least) talk about the nice mail I get, and how very, very nice it is. I wanted to tell y’all that some of your emails are so kind that I have a hard time responding to them, because I can’t figure out what to say because “thank you” doesn’t seem like enough. Some of y’all’s emails, I put away in my Save box to read again another day.

And I thought that I’d tell y’all that I myself am very, very bad at writing emails to people I admire and whose art I enjoy. I think I’m the absolute master of overthinking my fan mail — trying to make it sound flattering but not fawning, interested but not stalker-y. And so, instead, I manage to come off as weird, rude, or pointless. This is usually in emails to musicians or artists or other writers. So, after all that, I appreciate y’all’s nice emails even more, and it always makes me smile when y’all express fear that you’re coming off as stalker-y or crazy.

(You aren’t. The general pattern I see is that, if you worry you sound crazy, then you aren’t. Because the few crazy, stalker-y people who do write me on a regular basis? Never worry at all about how they sound. They just pour out the crazy with all the confidence in the world, then hit Send and move on their merry, crazy way.)

So, yeah. I wanted to tell y’all all that stuff, and now it looks like I did. Want to see the hate email now? It’s the most messed-up one I’ve received in a while, and I’m going to post it with the sender’s full name, and this is why:
1. It’s a beautiful exercise in hypocrisy and nonsense, almost to the point that it has to be fictional, in which case the fiction is art and should be shared. Or…
2. If this person, Melissa Mahoney, is as mentally ill as she seems, then maybe someone who knows her will read this and get her some help. Or…
3. If this Melissa Mahoney is just incredibly immature, then maybe someone who knows her will see this and ridicule her in real life, and she’ll then learn a valuable lesson about communicating with people on the Internet. Also…
4. If I get murdered any time soon, y’all can give the police Melissa’s name, and, most of all…
5. This email does double-duty as advance promotion for my next book!

And now, here it is. My hate mail, by Christian tamale-maker (and aspiring author?) Melissa Mahoney, uncensored and unabridged:

fucking stupid ass bitch. Me and my family make tamales too by Gods grace. FUCK your ‘petty judgemental evil thoughts’ you fucking antiChrist bitch. dont say ‘Jesus Christ’! about some book you like. dont take my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’s Name in vain. He is Almighty God, and He saves. God gives me deep, merciful, non-judgemental thoughts by His grace. you shouldnt have judgemental evil thoughts. judge not, lest ye be judged. when you judge others with your evil thoughts, God will judge you. God has mercy upon us, and we should have mercy upon all by Gods grace, and not judge one another but LOVE one another by His grace. who the fuck would want to buy a childrens book for their children from you. Jesus Christ saves.

Thanks, Melissa, for reminding everyone that I have a children’s book coming out in May, and it is called Growing Up with Tamales, it’s in English and also in Spanish, and it is suitable for young readers, as well as for reading aloud to children who are too small or lazy to read it themselves. Email me your mailing address if you are an educator, librarian, reviewer, or book blogger and you’d like an advance copy to review.


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Posted in meta, parenting, venting, writing on 12/17/2007 11:44 am

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