20th Century Dowry

Cast you mind back to the year 1997. Before the world wide web really got on its feet. Before the DotCom bubble. Before Y2K (remember Y2K?) Most believe that dowries were an ancient tradition left behind when we carved a country out of colonial territory. Not so, my child.

In 1997 the custom of a dowry was alive and well in my parents' living room. The blueberry muffins had been consumed, the bird stuffed and safely in the oven and since we were all adults we had slept in late and waited for the food preparation before approaching the Christmas tree. For an all adult Christmas there were a LOT of presents on the tree skirt and overflowing onto the wooden floor. This gave rise to curiosity and fear that the haul wouldn't fit in our cars for the trip back home.

Now,despite my Venus of Willendorf figure (which was never criticized at home)I dated steadily through high school and my extremely prolonged work-wait-go back for a semester of my college career, then do it all again. My family didn't like my first boyfriend, largely due to the fact they had no idea that HE was preserving my virginity because we both wanted out of our birthplace. We shared the fear of an unwanted pregnancy that would doom us to stay. He was the one putting on the brakes though. I was all "what comes next"?! As an adult I became belatedly grateful for the care and probity of my high school boyfriend. He went off to college and broke up with me that Christmas, presumably because he wanted to broaden his horizons with a grown woman. I didn't understand why at the time and was heartbroken.

Less than a year later I found the (I thought) love of my life. We got engaged, we got busy at a hotel, where the staff thought we'd just gotten married. When we left, the hotel sign, directly on my mom's route to and from work, their big message board said "Congratulations Mary and ------!" I completely freaked out. I was actually scared to go home. Thanks to common names and the fact that mom was not going to notice a sign she passed every day, the maelstrom I was expecting never formed. I lied about our date activities and as far as I know she never doubted me. We were engaged for about 48 hours when he called me from the marine boot camp he had joined without talking to me about it. I wrote letters faithfully because I just couldn't break up when the poor guy was in boot camp. He came home hating and scorning women. It took too long for me to realize that he had changed forever, but when I broke up with him I really thought I could never love again.

Soon after my 19 year old brother had an asthma attack and was dead on arrival at the hospital, driven in by his frat brothers when the ambulance didn't come. Medical staff resuscitated him but he was brain dead. My boyfriend of the time and I felt happy just dating, with no plans to get hitched. I wanted children, he didn't, so we dated in a gloriously carefree manner. My parents did like him but my mom didn't understand why I would date someone I didn't plan to marry. "If you don't want to get married you should break up and play the field." Things turned sour when my brother's recovery was beyond hope, and my boyfriend who was Ba'hai thought my grief was excessive and self indulgent.

I got engaged again to a guy who turned out to be a jerk, but love is blind.. My mom and dad really liked him, he was a rich computer guy and outwardly pretty impressive. I moved across the country with him when he got a new job. Three months after our engagement he dumped me after I had already come back from a Christmas trip back home. I got my old job back, and my friend's only question was, "What day this week would it suit you to be picked up?" When I returned a few months later to move my belongings, my friend found the "Mary pros and cons" list that he'd left in plain sight. I wasn't even tempted to look.

My mom convinced my dad to pay off my college account, and I was able to return to school in earnest. I still had to work 60 hours a week while attending full time, but I got to go straight through to graduation this time. I met my husband on the Internet through a bulletin board (sort of like a list serve now). He was in grad school, I had my busy undergrad/work schedule. We lived 22 hours apart. Neither us had time to date in person, but passionate love letters can be sent 24/7. When introduced my family ADORED him. Which brings us back to Christmas 1997 and the dowry.

I admit I was greedily looking at all the gifts spread across the floor. We passed out presents one at a time. I got a sweater, Ed got the top of the line fastest modem around. Brother got a modest gift certificate to Best Buy, Ed got an obviously expensive watch. Dad got new slippers, Ed got a new down parka. Mom got a blue dress that reminded my parents of one dad gave her when they were dating, Ed got an electrical gadget that I forget specifics on. There was a second round of presents, after which a bunch of presents remained. Ed got them all. The only dowry gift Ed didn't get was a fine young goat.

I can only assume it worked, because on the Fourth of July ed proposed to me in the midst of the fireworks. We have the happiest marriage around, too. Maybe dowries SHOULD come back into style. Worked for me!

My donation letter to the Obama campaign

This campaign cycle has been a dream come true in its way. Many excellent candidates, two front runners whom I respect and like. The Democrats? With two impressive candidates late in the race? Will Rogers is doing the snoopy dance in his grave.

We need to undo the damage the Bush administration has done. Starting with restoring friggin HABEAS CORPUS to our rule of law. Following the Geneva Conventions and the joining the world court so that we can put American war criminals behind bars. Although I can see the reluctance, since the court frowns on war profiteering and invading sovereign nations unprovoked. Lying to start a seemingly endless war. Oh wait, we won the war in Iraq four years ago, President Bush said so. There is no war against Iraq - we Americans are all culpable for a brutal military occupation blatantly torturing captives and targeting civilians.

I am glad Barack Obama is our nominee, because he has unfailingly voted against war, military occupations in Afghanistan and stealing the lives of countless civilians, both living and the dead. And Barack nearly always takes the high ground in any manner of competition.

I would like to wrap up with a request - a unity ticket with Hilary Rodham Clinton as Vice Presidential candidate. Please consider making this Democratic campaign doubly historic and doubly strong.

Perfect Month

So July has been pretty spectacular for me. I was asked to contribute to a best-selling author's next book. I was asked to audition for a lead singer in a wedding/funeral band - not my style, but a very nice compliment. I found an experienced vw mechanic who does side work who fixed my driver side window, which has not been able to open for over a year. The dealership wanted $270 just to LOOK at it. Then $400/window. Three were broken. We don't have TWELVE HUNDRED to pay to the dealership. Carl did the job for $185/window. So we are getting one replaced each month.

Then there's grad school. The whole process has been so easy that I'm worried that I've missed something important and they'll say I can't start. Every time I get mail from the university I have a sinking feeling that this is going to be the letter that breaks the bad news to me. And of course they are all mundane.

And the financial aid system is so simple and straightforward that it seems too good to be true. File your FAFSA when doing your taxes, it is automatically sent to the school. When you are accepted, the financial aid is managed by that department. A few weeks later you get an award letter that shows the amount approved and you drop an email to confirm that you need that aid. You sign a promissary note online and go through entrance counseling at the aid website and take the most obvious quiz ever written. Twenty questions which basically all have the same answer - yes, this is a loan and I know I have to pay it back. There's a HINT on several questions, the funniest being the hint that lists the four kinds of repayment types, when the question is how many types they are. So if you can count to four, you're golden. A few weeks after that get a university bill with nothing due because they automatically apply your aid and direct deposit the difference into your checking account.

Back when I started college (in the 80's) you had to get student loans on your own through your credit union or bank. In my freshman year the person in charge of submitting the paperwork didn't do it, so I never got my aid that year, and the credit union would not replace the aid amount with their own loan. One time I got my aid check saturday and got a notice Monday that congress had passed a bill that retroactively canceled it and I had to return the whole amount. Good thing that school's registrar office was closed on the weekends, or I would have been totally screwed. I withdrew from classes, worked hard and saved for another semester out of pocket.

Th difference is amazing and it seems a little *too* smooth.I'm getting financial aid that covers tuition, books, permits, and supplies with room to spare and save for the summer term.

I hate this quasi-paranoid feeling, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'll believe I've really made it when the money's in the bank and the first week of classes goes by uneventfully.

Why it's great to have 7 year olds.

I sing the twins to sleep every night. PS2boy said:

"Mama, no one sings better than you."

This has set a plan in motion to hide all vocal-inclusive music from his knowledge.

Then he can't change his mind. :)

Hellokittygirl has started singing along on The Cuckoo. She can't carry a tune in a bucket, but she LOVES to sing. Which is more important, in my book. I'm not sure if it's just her age and in a few more years she'll be able to sing on pitch. I'm definitely going to look into instruments and lessons. Everyone on DH's side can play various instruments. On my side we're all singers who are hopelessly incompetent with instruments, possibly because of the "fuck this 'learning to play' thing, I can sing it right away by ear and transpose it to my range without trying" factor. The partly bitten off right index finger doesn't help much either. Surgery saved the hand, but that finger is not what it used to be. I have trouble double clicking, let alone playing a string instrument.

Wedding Love


Ed and I did a JP courthouse wedding for insurance reasons. We both took a couple of hours off work and a couple of best friends. As I was about to leave work, one of my favorite supervisees asked where I was going, and I casually said "I'm getting married, and I'll be back at about 3:00. When I returned there was a bottle of champagne at my workspace. The marriage vows were very moving, to my surprise. We kissed and went back to work.

Then we had the big church wedding, funding courtesy of my mom's modest inheritance. She immediately told me she wanted spend every penny on my wedding. Her mother was a cruel and abusive person, both of us had PTSD from being in Grandma's care. I'm very aware that I was an awful teen and both of us had mental illness, and psychiatry was not on my parents' blue collar radar. So our wedding planning and splurging reflected a mom/daughter love story. One of my best friends is one of the best seamstresses in Chicago, so THE DRESS was central to this. It put $2000 in my friend's pocket for designing and making a custom, unique dress for me. We sat down and had a long talk with Julia and she sketched out a few ideas. First I wanted to wear my mom's dress, but it didn't fit my shape. And my mom had bad associations because her mom got the cheapest dress possible instead of one that my mom wanted. Julia awesomely asked, "How about we include some of the wonderful lace and make it part of of the dress. Donna, how would you feel if you could rip the dress apart for me and just give me the lace?" My mom was glowing at the suggestion. So we sat in the hotel room and with my grandma's abusive "present" and ripped it it apart in malicious glee. I can't find the words to express how healing it was, bonding us together and drawing us closer. If you can exorcise a dress,then that's what we did. Mom and I picked out the cloth for the new dress. It took a long time, Julia assured me that when I saw the right fabric, I would just KNOW. (sort of like with the groom). And I did, cream brocaded roses. I am what one of my queer friends calls a "heterosexual dyke" - no make up, no hairstyling beyond a single braid, knew more about cars than Ed, resolute feminist, not shaving because I damn well have the right to be a mammal. Julia noted that Ed brought out my lurking "girly" side, so she sketched up a renaissance-sexy-fifties-silk and brocade dress. Then she made it come true. My mom drove four hours to every fitting and we had a blast together. We shopped for food and cake, looked at reception places, picked favors and flowers.The process broke down emotional walls and healed much of the pain we had inflicted on each other when I was a teen.

It was a good thing we did all the planning together, because the day before my wedding mom had a stroke. I lied to her to get her to the hospital and held her hand during painful procedures. I missed the rehearsal and dinner. I missed greeting Ed as he got to Chicago. I missed my mom at the wedding. We were going to to cancel the ceremony, but mom could shake her head "no" all though her speech was gibberish. She tried to check out against medical advice to come to the wedding, but Ed's mom Ruth talked her out of it. when no one else could, because she alone could understand the anguish of missing her daughter's wedding. Someone put a cell phone on the alter so that my mom could hear the wedding. And I had fought against videotaping the wedding ("A wedding is a sacrament, not a sitcom.") and my brother finally convinced me. Because he won that argument, the whole wedding party was able to go straight to mom's hospital room so she could see the wedding on video immediately. So we missed part of our reception as well. We wanted to cancel the honeymoon, and our friends and parents convinced us that mom was out of danger and we could keep in contact on the phone. So we went but with heavy hearts.

Mom died in 2006, the day she was discharged from the hospital after several months in a coma due to a one in three million disease. The doctors had said that mom was not sick anymore and just needed nursing home and rehab for the paralysis from being in a coma for so long. She was transferred to the nursing home and literally a few hours later she died alone.

Ed and I have an extremely happy marriage and twin raising enterprise. She missed their first day at kindergarten.

I still miss my mom every day.