Her Bad Mother

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Heart is a Muscle. Use It.

Many of you have read this before, but I want you to read it again. Because I want you to help.

This is Tanner:

Tanner is WonderBaby's cousin. He lives on the other side of the country, so he only sees WonderBaby very infrequently. But he's her biggest fan.

When WonderBaby was still tucked away in Her Bad Mother's belly, preparing for her takeover of Her Bad Parents' lives, and also the Known and Unknown Universe, Tanner was preparing for her arrival.

He designed an airplane, so that he could fly to Toronto to visit her, and then bring her back to British Columbia so that they could play together there.

Unfortunately, he kept the drafts of his designs on the kitchen wall, where they were unceremoniously erased by Someone Who Didn't Understand (another bad mother). Crayon-On-Wall, it turns out, is an unreliable medium for creating Important Documents.

But Tanner had a back-up plan. He would make a wish. He would wish himself to Toronto to visit his baby cousin.

And as it happens, Tanner does have a wish to use, however he wants.

Because Tanner probably isn't going grow up, and little kids like Tanner get to have at least one wish that will come true, because there are only so many dreams that can be pursued and fulfilled in a lifetime that only stretches as far as childhood.

Tanner has Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy. It's what is referred to as a 'degenerative muscular disorder.' What this means: Tanner's muscles are gradually wasting away. Soon he'll be in a wheelchair. Eventually, his muscles won't work at all.

Lungs are muscle. So is the heart. One day, Tanner's heart and lungs will stop working. And then he'll die.

DMD is a genetic disorder that only (with very rare exceptions) affects boys. And it's the littlest of boys - the diagnosis usually comes when a child is between 2 and 5 years of age. Boys with DMD are lucky to live into their teens; only in the rarest cases does such a boy reach adulthood. DMD always kills. There is no cure.

Let me repeat that: It always kills. There is no cure.

Tanner will die. His parents will lose their son; I will lose my nephew; Wonderbaby will lose her cousin; the world will lose a bright, bright light.

A wish is a very small thing to give such a child. But it's also everything: it's magic, it's dreams, it's the promise that if you want something badly enough, sometimes, just sometimes, you can reach that thing. It's something to look forward to. It's hope.

And our precious Tanner, the little boy who loves WonderBaby with all of his bravely pounding heart, wanted to use his one special life-affirming wish to meet her.

We told Tanner not to use his Big Wish to come meet WonderBaby. WonderBaby came to him. She doesn't know about wishes yet, but she's learning.

Tanner's teaching her.


Postscript: I wrote this last year. In the year since, Tanner has grown and loved and smiled and laughed and brought much, much joy into our lives - and received much, much love from you - but he has also begun using a wheelchair, and taking more steroid medication to help his muscles hold out a little longer, and he has struggled, hard but often futilely, to be accepted in a world that often doesn't understand or accept disability, or the prospect of death.

I'm re-posting it now, for a few reasons. For one, I've found (through PBN) a new, easy way to support the organizations that are trying to help kids like Tanner, the organizations that are holding out the only hope that we have for Tanner's future. iBakeSale donates a specified portion of whatever you spend when you shop online through them (no cost to you; details here). To help Tanner, go to iBakeSale by following THIS LINK, and sign up and and add a muscuar dystrophy organization to your charity list (I've signed up with the Parent Project For Muscular Dystrophy Research. Just search for Parent Project if you want to help. You can, of course, add any charity of your choice, but my purpose right now is to get you to help me to give Tanner a future.)

For two, I want you to help me to convince my sister to start a blog for parents of children with muscular dystrophy. She's isolated, as are many other parents in her position. And, she's at a loss as to how to really pursue support for Tanner's cause. I've been pitching blogging hard, but I'm only one voice (and, too her, a sometimes grating voice at that) I'd love for her to hear it from the blogging community: let her know that there are thousands of loving hands and warm hearts out here, and that we really do strive to make a difference, and that we can help her make her difference. Just leave a comment.

For three, if nothing else, I want you to please pass this information along to anyone who you think might help. And I want to give another reaosn to hug your children. Tanner is a little boy with weak muscles, and he needs our strong muscles to do his heavy lifting - but so do all children, in their way, need our strong muscles. And the heart is the strongest one we have.

Use it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Like To Get To Know You Well

A couple of months ago, I made the following confession:

Her Bad Mother is not me. That is, she is not entirely me. She's a voice inside my head; she's one of the many reflections that I see when I look in the mirror. She's the me who worries about being a bad mother (the kind of mother who lets her toddler fall out of shopping cart), and the me who takes pleasure in thinking of herself as a bad mother (the kind of mother who lets her toddler use a shopping cart as gymnastics equipment. Montessori bad.) She is anxious me - the me that my own mother refers to as a worrier - and she is self-deprecating me.

But she is not the Whole Me. She is not even the Whole Maternal Me. She's just one part of that whole. She's the part that I write about. She's my blog muse. She's a character. A true character, but still: a character, of a sort.

The real, whole me? You don't know her. Not really, not fully. You know some very, very important parts of her - parts that had probably never really been fully exposed before she began exposing herself on this blog. You would recognize her if you ever met her in real life. You would recognize the self-deprecating humour, the over-functioning vocabulary, the hand-wringing, the bob. You would see Her Bad Mother in the whole me. But you would see so much more than Her Bad Mother.

I've been asked, by a couple of people, to spell out what it is exactly that you would see. You know, so that nobody gets a nasty shock at the BlogHer conference. The problem is, I don't quite know how to put into words who the quote-unquote real me is. As I said in the confessional post that I cited above, the real me is a kind of shadow to the Her Bad Mother me who appears on this blog (and, the Her Bad Mother me a kind of shadow to the me that I am in real life) - we're true but imperfect representations of each other. And the whole thing about these words on this screen that you're looking at right now? They can only capture the shadow. It's a deep shadow, with crisp outlines, but it's nonetheless a shadow. (Am resisting, with difficulty, an urge to launch into a lecture on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, one that would draw parallels between his cave-city and the blogosphere blah blah blah. Am. Resisting.)

So I could tell you more about how I love martinis and chocolate and about that time I was held against my will on a Greek Island and about how people used to tell me that I looked like Kimberly on Diff'rent Strokes but also Molly Ringwald and how I much preferred the comparison to Molly Ringwald, especially after Kimberly became a drug -addicted felon. But that would still only serve to round out the corners of the shadow, sharpen the edges further. It would tell you more about Her Bad Mother the writer (what am I choosing to reveal? How am I framing my anecdotes? How am I characterizing myself?) but not necessarily a whole lot more about the woman behind Her Bad Mother.

If you want my stories, you can tour my archives, or the 'Best Of' list on the sidebar at your right. If you want my formal bio, you can check out BlogHer's speakers page and scroll down to the C's. If you want to see and hear the real me, mediated only incidentally through the character that is Her Bad Mother, you could check out my AlphaMom interview, which is being debuted today on the AlphaMom site. It's about as real as it gets on the screen - witness LeahPeah's sweet genius at drawing out an interviewee's thoughts and feelings - without the benefit of alcohol (for me, not you. I'll only become fuzzier if you've been drinking.) It was filmed during last year's BlogHer conference, when I was still so new at being a mom, and a blogger, and before I'd figured out that I should sometimes censor myself. You'll even hear WonderBaby's real name.

(For the record, I am no longer engorged. Disregard that portion of the interview. Thank you.)

That's the best that I can do. I hope that if you are coming to BlogHer, and if you do meet me, I don't disappoint. The rest of you, I hope that you get a sense of the real me through the bits of shadow flickering upon this screen. You'd like me, I think. I hope.

The fantabulous MochaMomma is once again urging BlogHers to introduce themselves, share a little more than they ordinarily, in advance of the big meet-up next week. I'd like to second them on this, but I'd also like to do something further - I'd really like to hear from those of you who aren't attending. I'll get a chance to get to know the attendees better, many of them, but I'm feeling keenly, already, the missed opportunity with so many of you others.

So, please, even if you are not attending BlogHer - especially if you are not attending -do participate in BlogMe. Write a post telling us little bit more about yourselves. Because we want to know. Because we will be talking about you, missing you, next week. Sharpen up the corners of your shadows for us, the better for us to imagine you there. Link back here and/or leave a comment so that I can find you, and I'll do up a Wish You Were Here list next week, before we leave.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Remember this little project? Well, we need your input on Part II: Finding Our Cause. Which is to say, we need you to:


Whether you are Canadian, or just Canadian at heart, please, go, vote.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Her Bad Mother's Home For Misfit Toys

He had been sitting outside on the verandah of the house across the street for some days, perched unsteadily on a chair, facing the street. Occasionally, our old pirate - the apparently homeless fellow who has been permitted to occupy, in daytime hours, said verandah for two summers now - would sit down in the chair beside him, cross his legs in the manner of a gentleman settling down to a cigar and brandy, and engage him in conversation.

Aarrrrr, the old pirate would say. And, eeerrrgh. There was never, so far as we could tell from our post at the living room window, any response.

Most of the time, the occupant of the second porch chair - a chair formerly occupied by our pirate's friend, a resident of the house, now confined by illness to his rooms - was left alone, his expression frozen in a permanent grin, or grimace, depending upon the angle from which one viewed it. Coming up the street on our bicycles, it seemed a grin - expansive and toothy, as if the bearer were just about to break out in maniacal laughter. From the vantage point from living room window, directly across the street, it was most certainly a grimace, or a snarl, the expression of a hungry animal, or an angry Phyllis Diller.

What do you want to bet, my husband asked, that that creature ends up on our doorstep by the end of the weekend?

That, I replied, is not a bet that I would care to make.

Our stash of scavenged loot, hand-delivered by Universal Pirate Services, has been growing steadily. First, it was the jumbo battery-operated toddler Jeep. Then came the bright yellow dump truck, and the shiny red monster truck. And then, on Friday, two hardback Harry Potter novels arrived.

(These latter gifts were delivered to me personally. I was standing on the verandah while the husband unloaded the child from the bike seat when I heard the unmistakable aargh of our pirate. Aargh! he announced, as he approached. And then, Woman! Being the only woman in the immediate vicinity, I turned to greet him, whereupon he pressed the two books into my hands. Aargh - mumble mumble - like these stories - mumble mumble - girl aargh, he explained, and then turned on his heel and shuffled back across the street.

Did he just call you 'woman?' my husband asked, ever alert to strange occurrences on our verandah. Yes, I replied. How did he know that I've never read Harry Potter?)

We don't know where the scavenged loot comes from. We imagine that our pirate strolls the alleys and laneways of our neighborhood, searching for abandoned treasure. We imagined that the squat, grimacing fellow who had been occupying the porch chair across from our pirate for some days had been similarly rescued from some back-alley recycling pile. We imagined that our pirate had plans for obtaining shelter for this poor fellow. We imagined that he was planning to arrange shelter for this poor fellow in our home.

I did not want this fellow in my home. I was certain that this fellow had seen many a rough night in whatever alley had been, until recently, his domicile. I was certain that this fellow had been kicked and scratched and peed on, and although I felt badly that any such creature should have to suffer such indignities, I was not quite prepared to allow my child to wrap her soft, sweet little arms around this no-doubt bedraggled and urine-soaked fellow. We would, I decided, have to tell our pirate that his friend would have to stay with him. We would decline this latest of his gifts.

It seemed, however, that this was not going to be a problem. As the weekend wore on, the conversations between our pirate and his new friend grew more animated. The pirate told sweeping tales of high seas piracy - we imagined - waving his hands in the air and punctuating the dramatic parts with robust growls. He argued, passionately, about - we imagined - the decline of civility in America and the high cost of living. He stabbed at the air with his cigarette, and slammed his hand down on the arm of his chair, and interrupted his storytelling and his speechmaking only to burst into song. Occassionally, he would lean forward, reach across his chair, and grasp the hand of his companion, the better to whisper confidences.

I'm ready to take that bet now, I said to my husband. I don't think that he's going to part with his new friend.

That Sunday evening, we had just returned home from a spin around the neighbourhood on our bicycles when my husband leaned over his handlebars and whispered urgently: he's coming over. We watched as the pirate lifted his skinny, shirtless self slowly from his chair, and bent to grab the hand of his friend. WonderBaby watched, too, hooting delightedly from her perch on the front of my bike. Hi, Man! HI! He paused, and smiled, and waved to her.

Then he lifted his friend from the second porch seat and made his way down the steps. At the bottom of the steps he paused, bent his head to his friend's ear, and whispered something. They remained there, for an interminable moment, frozen in the posture of schoolgirl confidantes, before the old pirate raised his head again and continued his slow shuffle across the street.

Aaaaarrr, he announced. Good - mumble mumble - aaarrr - mumble - friend of Bugs. Good. Good.

(Who's Bugs? whispered my husband.)

The pirate walked up to WonderBaby and presented his friend to her. Good, good friend.

She regarded his offering with all the gravity of a priest preparing to dispense communion. She looked at his friend, and then at him, and then at his friend again. For one terrible, ironic moment, I thought that she would refuse. The she smiled widely, reached into the creature's mouth and grabbed the plush pink tongue. Tung! she exclaimed. Mowth!

And then, pointing at the pirate: Man!

And then one little hand flew to one little mouth, lips pressed together in a perfect childish pucker, and she blew a kiss: Mwah!

He smiled, and nodded, and shuffled back across the street and up the porch steps. He settled back into his chair, and nodded again, this time in the direction of the chair beside him, now empty.

We lifted Wonderbaby and her new friend -clutched tightly in her arms - from the bicycle perch. I pulled the two of them to me, wrapping one arm around the impossibly slender torso of my child and the other around the broad furry back of her companion. My fingers grazed something stiff. Paper? Cardboard.

A tag. A bright, crisp product tag: Looney Tunes! Bugs and Friends!

He was - he is - our new friend, our pirate's friend, this bundle of treasure - brand new.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

And On The Seventh Day, She Blogged

Things have settled down 'round here. Wonderbaby has recovered from her mysterious fever and stopped throwing lemons at me. She still much prefers Daddy, but whatever. I'm used to rejection. I can take it.

Still - am exhausted from the trauma that was Thursday and the bitch-slapfest that was Friday and the tequila that I had to drink to recover on Saturday. So, all you get today is a Whassup Y'all 'Round Up.

What's up in Her Bad Mother's 'hood?

1) Speaking at BlogHer. This has been on the table for months now, but it only just sunk in, like, last week when a certain awesome lady and co-panellist confided that she was SO (curse word curse word curse word) NERVOUS. Which was fatal, really, because nerves are like a supervirus, highly contagious, and once you're infected, that's it. There's no cure. And trust me, as a some-time university lecturer, I can say with full authority that that whole thing about picturing the audience in their underwear being an effective salve for nerves? Is bullshit.

(No, experience as a lecturer does not help in this case. Nor does a background in speaking at academic conferences. In both cases, you're pretty well-assured that half the crowd isn't listening. Also, they don't know all about that time that your zipper was down, or the time that you ran out of the fitting room at H&M half-naked, or that your toddler totes a plush phallus around with her at all times, or the fact that your boobs never recovered from breastfeeding. Those audiences do not know, in other words, that you are, in fact, a ridiculous human being. So.)

2) Looking forward to scavenging at BlogHer. This may be an effective salve for my nerves, if only because it will help me come to terms with my ridiculousness. Check out the deets at Cool Mom Picks, and join in on the discussion on Facebook.

3) Really looking forward to getting the BlogHers Act Canada survey up, and seeing what people have to say about the causes that they'd like to support. Check the site tonight and throughout the week. (And? WRITE POSTS. About the causes that you'd like to see pursued over the coming year, by BlogHers Act Canada and BlogHers Act and by bloggers generally. Send me the link if you do, or leave a comment at the relevant sites.) Edited to add: SURVEY'S UP! Go vote!

4) Really, really looking forward to this, oh my hell can barely stand it.

5) Loving, as always, the Basement. The quality of discussion there - and the love and support that are offered - never fails to blow me away.

6) Loving, as always, BlogRhet. See #4 about quality of discussion etc, etc. The same applies here.

7) Selling out. Except not really, because I believe that the open exchange of information about goods and services in a market society is a necessary and even noble endeavour.

8) Gossiping. I haven't said much about my secret life as a gossip blogger, but there it is: I moonlight as a gossip blogger over at Babble. And no, I'm not ashamed. I love it. I have a deep and abiding love for popular culture, and can wax academic to you about the politics of comedy and the practice of mocking celebrity and authority as seminal in the development of classical comedy (this, in fact, was the subject of my first peer-reviewed academic article. Now you know.) Which is to say, I love to poke fun at famous and semi-famous and desperate-to-be-famous people. Including, recently, the Bishop of Croydon. And Wayne Gretzky. I know. It doesn't get any headier than this.

9) Remaining deeply, deeply in love with my girl.

Unrequited love.