Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Something Wasn't Right Here

As both a mothering and music professional, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on The Whole Britney Thing. Although what I feel about the situation really has nothing to do with music and everything to do with the dozens of moms I've seen on the very edge of their own head-shaving, wrist-tattooing meltdowns. Including me.

It really doesn't even have that much to do with Britney, either, come to think of it. But that's what got me thinking. When I saw her with the clippers in hand, the first thing in my head was, "Somebody get that girl a post-partum depression screening right now." Because going Kojak is just one of the many exciting self-destructive behaviors that depressed new mothers come up with, somewhere on the spectrum between living in sweatpants and driving into oncoming traffic. I didn't see her stubbly head and think of her career. I thought of her two babies, and her recent divorce, and the last couple months of well documented self-medicating.

I don't know the girl, of course, and I can't do anything but speculate and add one more useless opinion to the mix. I also can't really speak to the addiction element, if there is one, because although I have a long family history of substance abuse, I haven't been in that particular hole myself. (And anyway, Craig Ferguson did as thoughtful and honest a job of that as anyone could hope to.) But what I have been is a depressed mother, and one who tended to drift over toward the head-on collision side of the spectrum. It feels over-dramatic of me to even say that, though, since I never sought help, never talked to a therapist, never went on anti-depressants. I also didn't have my depression manifest in a way that prevented me from going about my regular activities. It just made me resent them, and then dread them, and then build up an increasing stash of self-loathing over what a relentlessly ill-equipped mother I was. But due to the fact that I was still getting out of bed in the morning, I figured I was okay.

Once in a while, a friend mentioned that I seemed unhappy. I'd chalk it up to a bad day, or a sleepless night, and completely deny that anything more persistent might be going wrong. I didn't talk to my family about it. I'm even nervous writing it down now, because The Admiral has recently started keeping up with my blog and he was at the top of the list of people I should have asked for help but didn't. I once got as far as asking a couple close friends for therapist recommendations, but didn't have the motivation to work out the insurance issues and find someone I could afford to see. I just went on feeling bad, feeling vacant, feeling like my general existence was doing more harm than good.

For me, there was no one magic cure. My hormones eventually evened out, I took small steps to reduce my stress level, I began getting more than two hours of sleep at a time. Those combined with a dozen other factors all brought me to a point where I could see the difference between the world I'd been living in and the one where all those reasonable, mostly happy people were. I look back and can see all the things I should have done differently, and that gives me hope that I'll be better prepared if I start slipping into the same patterns after this next baby arrives. I also hope that being a little more open about it will put my very caring network of friends and family on slightly higher alert in case they see me making reckless moves toward styling tools.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Our Happy Home In Memphis, Tennessee

With RJA's recent unexpected store guests added to the tally, that makes three fingerprint-garnering crimes inflicted on our small circle of friends since the beginning of the year. It's frightening, infuriating, and deeply demoralizing. Seeing headlines flick by on the news is depressing enough, but it's even harder to feel much hope about the place where you live when you watch your friends going through the cycles of anger and fear that being a crime victim entails. As Memphians, and (semi- to actual)Midtowners in partcular, we're constantly asking ourselves why we stay, why we put up with the problems we know are here, why we're raising our kids in a city that often resembles an Old West free-for-all rather than a stable metropolis.

In the new issue of Fertile Ground, a number of Memphis parents/writers address this issue both directly and indirectly (including all three of the lawfully infringed parties referenced above). There are a lot of positive things mentioned about Memphis, from the culture to the sense of community, but I think the most basic reason we're here is because ... this is where we are. This is our home, whether we've been here all our lives or have transplanted by choice. And sure, I guess there are those folks who pack up and move when the floors get creaky or the basement walls crack, but for those who crave stability and are slow to uproot, it just feels natural to work through the problems. Or better yet, follow the true Midtowner-homeowner path and ignore them.

And of course, pure stubbornness comes into play. Some chickenshit burglar or cracked-out, theoretically-armed robber thinks he's going to get the better of us? Some sackless douchebag is going to make us fear for the safety of our kids? The fuck he is!

(Ahem. Sorry, Mom. Did I mention the anger part of being a crime victim?)

Point is, we've made choices and sacrifices and commitments to this place. We've built careers and families and friendships here. As a native and 14th-generation Minnesotan, I never expected Memphis to feel like home to me, but now I can't deny the pull. Call it insanity or inertia, but it's become very hard for me to imagine myself having as full a life anywhere else. It's both the good and bad that make this town unique, and one night of having the crap scared out of me doesn't outweigh the countless park dates, shared meals, and hours of laughter that occurred before and since. Plus, of course, the nightly poker games at the saloon/brothel.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No Such Thing As The Real World

If I really had my schmooze on, I'd be down at the Folk Alliance conference kick-off party right now, listening to Susan and Jimmy getting the folkie festivities started, but since I'm already stretching my agently capacities to the limit and can't justify even glancing in the direction of another client, I've decided to skip it. Oh, and also, I don't have an extra $430 for the conference registration fees. I may sneak off one night with The Admiral's one-day pass, hopefully catching a span where as many of my kids are playing as possible. I know Blair's got at least three shows, one of which is the big fancy showcase slot he won last year. I feel like I should at least show my face, just to protect my turf.

In other musical news, John Mayer is staying at my house tomorrow night. He's heading through on his way to Birmingham, Opelika, Atlanta and Savannah, then swinging back for a big show at the P&H in Memphis. What? Why are you looking at me like that? It's true. He may have been forced to perform as John Elliott due to the increasing visibility of a certain floppy-haired Grammy winner, but the birth certificate says John Mayer. As does the diploma from the high school we went to together. (Where he did not, in fact, run through the halls nor bust down the double doors.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We've A Long Time Together, Me And You

Something happens to me each week at about this same time. Or at least on the weeks when I have any control over the TV programming. Not counting the CSPANiverse and eight home shopping networks, we only get one real cable channel: TLC. And I have found myself irrefutably drawn to one of its simplest yet most voyeuristic shows: Miami Ink.

Maybe it's living in the perpetual safety bubble of pregnancy, but I've developed a brand-new fascination with tattoos. Or more specifically, with getting myself tattooed. I went through my twenties with no interest in the ink. (Of course, I also went through my twenties with no interest in beer. The geekiness knows no bounds.) I am not, by anyone's definition, a rebel. But in the last year or so, I've started giving very serious consideration to what I might want permanently affixed to my body. You know, other than Miss M.

My lifelong hesitations about tattoos come through when I get down to the details. For starters, I feel like I'd have to pick a spot on my body that is at least relatively immune to the forces of gravity. It's hard enough to imagine myself as a tattooed 70-year-old; I can't bear the thought of having to use two hands in order to see my art. I'm also continually flummoxed as to what image I'd use. I guess that's probably the strongest sign that I'm not ready for a tattoo, since I can't easily settle on the design I'd want to carry around for the rest of my life. Although lately, it's not from a lack of ideas, but rather an abundance. I'm constantly looking at everything from Norse goddesses to the native wildflowers of Minnesota and wondering how well they'd translate onto my own skin.

Sure, it's easy to talk big about stabbing a picture onto my body during this period of my life when I absolutely can't do it. I've also spent a lot of time longing to dye my hair Natalie Maines brown and run off into a quiet room with a tray of sushi and an entire bottle of Bordeaux. But I think this craving might actually stick. After delivering two babies, the fear of pain would be nowhere near a factor, and 1.5 pregnancies have already gotten me a lot more comfortable with the ever-fluctuating nature of my body. Or maybe that's what I'm actually rebelling against.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Whip-Smart As The English Channel's Wide

It feels a little sketchy divulging the details of a parent/teacher conference, somewhat akin to violating attorney/client privilege or doctor/patient confidentiality, but it also seems important to document this first major scholastic event. And not just because the school director said Miss M was super, super smart.

We weren't all that surprised when the opening discussion of M's overall demeanor and temperament involved the word bossy, though. Apparently her father and I are not the only people she likes to drag around by their noses. She's what Miss F. euphemistically referred to as a "leader," which is the polite Montessori term for the kid who targets a group of smaller children and commands them to do her bidding. "She's got Fortune 500 written all over her," Miss F said optimistically. Meanwhile, The Admiral and I were slightly relieved to discover that it's a common stage, and can be exacerbated by major life events (like an upcoming baby), but will eventually become a less overpowering part of her persona.

The academic portion of the review was more heartening. It seems a little silly to call a 3-year-old's efforts to pour water and sort beads and button buttons "academic," but I've bought into the Montessori theory of cosmic education enough to believe that these small, seemingly unimportant tasks are laying the groundwork for the bigger work that lies ahead. And the good news is, she's doing well. She loves "practical life," which is the school's category for things like serving food, washing dishes and cleaning up messes. I suspected as much, considering that one of her greatest joys in life is helping me dust and she waxes poetic about the joys of the "spill tray." But we were surprised to see how well she was progressing in language, since she never really talks about doing that work (a taste for irony is genetic, I guess). And Miss F said she'd even ventured into some of the math work, which is quite advanced for her age and time in Montessori. The only category where she really wasn't taking a dramatic interest was sensorial, which I thought was sort of odd considering what a sensitive kid she is. Maybe that's why, though. Maybe she senses enough as it is.

In all, it was an interesting and revealing look into her activities during the seven hours a day she is out of our immediate control. Especially since she's turned into a 14-year-old lately, and answers all questions about her day with, "Nothin'" (Her teenage 'tude is dampened a bit, however, by her pronunciation issues. "What did you have for lunch today?" "Nussin.") It's a tremendous relief to know that she's happy and thriving and taking in experiences that we wouldn't even think to offer her. Although she'd probably think of them herself, because, you know, she's brilliant.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Only Wanted 2 Be Some Kind Of Friend

Since pregnancy has significantly cut into my barhopping (what with the center of gravity shift keeping me from balancing on a barstool with a Pabst in one hand and a Winston in the other), I have to resort to commenting on the shows I'm still able to see. Which is to say, those on TV.

I really didn't know what to expect when I heard that Prince was going to be performing at the Super Bowl halftime show. I was initially excited about the prospect, but then I couldn't help remembering the last, oh let's say 18 Super Bowl halftime shows, all of which involved either Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney. Popular and varyingly talented performers all, but not exactly on the bleeding edge of the music scene. And sure, there was that one unusual year that got a wee little bit of attention, but that obviously taught the halftime powers-that-be not to take any risks at all in their artist choices.

So what did it mean, then, that they picked Prince? Is the man who once threatened the very souls of the Gore daughters now considered wholesome family entertainment? Has becoming a Jehovah's Witness and knocking on the door to 50 mellowed Mr. Nelson to such an extent that he no longer requires a parental advisory label? And most importantly, does being a Prince fan now put me in the same category as the people who thought "Woo hoo!" when they saw Billy Joel creak out for the national anthem?

Thusfore, there was a lot of tension in the SAM household as halftime approached. Some skeptical observers doubted that Prince would even deign to appear in the torrential rain. But then, through some impossibility of chemistry (or maybe physics; who knows, I got Cs in them both), a ring of fire burst through the rain and there he was. Flanked by the flanks of two possibly suicidal dancers in what was astutely described by Sassy Molassy as "Italian pirate" gear and 9" heels, my hometown boy strutted across the eponymously shaped stage, rocking a medley that I'm sure is a highlight of his new Las Vegas show. Let's Go Crazy, Baby I'm A Star, Purple Rain, even a little Proud Mary ... nothing revolutionary (and mostly Revolution-era), I'll admit, but an engaging and energetic set nonetheless.

Prince took on a little more of a Morris Day persona as he quipped about his hair and kept his own dance moves to a minimum - can't be risking a broken ankle when you've got 3000 people paying $125 to see you every weekend, I guess. But I wouldn't go so far as to say he was entirely safe, either, what with the patented guitar-as-phallus antics going on behind the billowy curtain set. He kept up a remarkably good attitude, considering the weather and his general reputation for prissiness. I have to say, after all we've been through in the last 20-odd years (let's not get me going about the whole Crystal Ball debacle), the little man won me back over.