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Mr. Nevets and I used to joke about what “other duties as assigned” really meant.

Covertly throwing away books under cover of darkness so students wouldn’t be suspicious? – Other duties as assigned.

Repairing the real skull where the jaw had become detached? – Other duties as assigned.

Comforting homesick foreign exchange students? – Other duties as assigned.

Some duties were great. They gave you a purpose to your day. I learned to use a 3D printer and a Dremel rotary tool so far out of my job description that it just had to fall into “other duties as assigned”.

I had “other duties as assigned” pretty well ingrained by the time I became a manager of other workers. So it surprised me (like shock and appall!) when one of the kids would answer the phone and say, “That’s outside of my pay grade, sorry,” and then hang up without even asking if anyone else could answer the question.

90% of our job, or more, was “other duties”.

At  first, I thought it was just the one kid, who was really a glorified work study. I smacked myself in the head and said, “He just doesn’t know any better!” and I pulled him aside and tried to explain how glorious it was to be flexible and learn all of these different tasks required of our jobs. To which he handed me a blank stare on a platter (why he always carried that platter with him I found out the hard way).

But then I found it was an epidemic. Anytime one of the kids (and a couple adult workers) didn’t want to do worthless research to find out whether or not a legume could really grow in your lungs, the answer was never, “Let me find out!” The answer was rarely, “Let me find someone who can answer that for you.” The answer was almost always, “That’s outside of my pay grade.”

Thus I learned to find my kindred co-conspirators at all of my jobs. People who could sort through a hundred boxes of rabbits looking one with the proper paint job. I could be called up to be a hand model, and my best-loved co-conspirators could be called upon to dress their toddler as a wolf for work. I would become a preschool fashion maven and help set up a costume wardrobe, and my best-loved co-conspirators would volunteer to attack a pumpkin with a mallet.

It’s called teamwork.

It’s the moment when “whatcha doin’?” meets with “let me help you!”

That sort of flexibility was always the number one quality I looked for when conducting job interviews of prospective workers. Or, rather than flexibility, maybe I should call it “over-enthusiasm”. It was the same quality that I saw in faculty members who would research a subject unto death to become an expert in their field. It was something I greatly respected.

Not that I was always good at recognizing this during job interviews. But I quickly gravitated to people with this quality during the workday.

And that brings us to today’s profound and out-of-context text, and an apology to the woman I asked for the ultimate show of loyalty. Looking back on it, no one should ever be asked to do this. I am really sorry.

That’s right. I asked someone to smell some fairies.

And we found that all of the fairies had gone bad.

I promise to never ever ask anyone to do this ever again. It was wrong and I apologize.

I promise to never ever ask anyone to do this ever again. It was wrong and I apologize.

night,

dawn

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I’m going to break the taboo. I’m going to share the secret (shhh!) of LIFE!

If you want the short version, just scroll down to the image and use that as profound, and out-of-context, wisdom to cling to this week.

Amongst my diverse careers, from hand model, to Princess walker and slave, to squirrel chaser, one day I found myself in the employ of a five-inch pirate who demanded I make him a new hat.

Now, my millinery skills are well-known among the twelve-and-under crowd, but that is age, not inches.

My response was, of course, “Squee, I would love to work for a pirate!”

Captain Baaa Humbug’s response was, “Squee again, girly, and I’ll make you build a plank!”

I have recently wanted to build a plank. Unfortunately, I do not have access to a moat, a pond, nor even a puddle.

Instead, I tried my hand at making this mini-terror of the seven seas a new hat.

And it was pretty icky. I tried to embellish the skull and crossbones by drawing eyes on the skull.

Never draw on a pirate’s skull. Er, or on his hat.

Because next week I will be turning the scrap wood in the backyard into a plank-to-nowhere.

Here is today’s out-of-context words of wisdom. Please remember them the next time you reach a point in your life where it is time to make a career change.

Please chant this to yourself while you sift through job search boards.

Please chant this to yourself while you sift through job search boards.

As you chant this on the subway tomorrow morning, beware that the other passengers may mistake you as a very wise guru, and this may lead you to an illustrious career as a lama (or a llama caretaker).

night,

dawn

You heard me, Good Girl!  We, the good girls of the nation, must band together with greenish locks of striking tresses!

Green, blue, pink, whatever, so long as it does not come “natural”.  And I will tell you why.  I was raised to be extremely judgmental.  I was raised to see only a very narrow path of “Okay”.  In fact, I almost never invited my friends home because then I would have not been allowed to enjoy their raucous funness; I would have been forced to frown upon their giggles.

My second boyfriend, I actually gave him a list of topics that were okay to talk about, and had to explain to him in no uncertain terms that, really, it would be better if he didn’t say anything at all.  Because anything he did or said or breathed or smiled would reflect (poorly) on me.

I almost always went over to my friends’ houses to play, even when I was very young.  There was  different vibe there.

Not to say that my folks are tyrants.  But narrow?  Yeah.  Last year my papa actually said, “Gee, I don’t know what I would have done if you girls had turned out like your cousin; I know I couldn’t have handled it if you hadn’t been good.”  My cousin, by the way, is a misguided fool and only had a couple of kids out of wedlock.  And, if the Fool reads this, all I have to say is, Dude, if you ever brag about drinking and driving around me again, I will be forced to kill you myself to save the rest of the world.

My hair currently has emerald streaks.  My favorite was moat monster green.  I don’t use permanent dye, mostly because I tried it, and it didn’t work.  My hair hates things like perms and dye.  But I can, and do, stain it with Kool-Aid.

And you would think that after three years, my mother wouldn’t freak every time she sees a change in tinting.

I even offered to let her choose a color.

When I was younger, I freaked out about this sort of thing myself.  I was well-trained for most of my life.  A friend got a tattoo?  Gasp!  Dyed their hair blonde?  Horrors!  Wore something other than jeans and a t-shirt?  You’re just asking for awful things to happen to you!

Right before I graduated college, I bought a poodle skirt.  I don’t know why.  And I wore it.  Not on Halloween.  I was HORRIFIED.  I was terrified.  I really was.  And you know what?  That was the first day I actually felt like myself.

In elementary school, I loved dresses.  I always wore shorts under them because I was obsessed with hanging upside down on the monkey bars, but I loved dresses.  I played football in dresses.  And I was constantly lectured by my mother that, “No one wears dresses; you need to wear jeans!”  Once I finally outgrew those dresses, she wouldn’t buy me more.  She bought me jeans.  And by junior high, I found the joy (??) of blending into the background.  It was a new school with really bitchy cliques of army brats, so honestly, this was the safest thing to do.  I came up with reasons why a good girl would always wear jeans, never wasting money on “in” clothes, never trying to look “pretty” (’cause in junior high that was the equivalent of being a slut).  I helped them brainwash me into this until by high school, I was Grunge, with the army boots and the oversized t-shirts and the flannel shirts.  I was rebelling against Donna Reed and Marilyn Monroe forty years too late.

So why would wearing a poodle skirt snap me back out of this self-brainwashing?  It was a costume.  And apparently, that’s how I dress myself best.  I wear costumes that make me feel like me.  And honestly, isn’t that what clothing is?  It is the outward trapping of your tribe.  My mother spent her entire adult life wearing business suits with shoulder pads, in order to get respect in a business run by men.  That was her costume.

I built up my “costume” wardrobe.  It’s gotten to the point where, if I wear jeans because it’s freezing out, it becomes a sign of the apocalypse to my co-workers.  Or, if the owner of our company writes a note demanding everyone “dress appropriately to work at the warehouse for Black Friday”, you know that I’m the only one she’s really writing that email to because everyone else dresses in jeans and t-shirts every day, which is Modern Man’s Costume.

But it’s when you dye your hair green that you really find out who people are.  I worked for a university when I started, and oddly, no one had any problem with the color of my hair.  Academic types are apparently rather open-minded.  My boss was the first one to suggest I dye it.  He wanted it blue.  Which may or may not have been creepy (the jury is very wishy-washy on this).  My hair doesn’t do blue; there’s too much blonde and cherry blonde that turns blue into green.  The people who did have problems were all at least somewhat obsessed with conformity, and each of them goes out of their way daily to present a certain Face to the world, they spend a lot on hairstylists, they “do” their nails.  All of these alterations of appearance, including face painting, are okay.  They are culturally sanctioned.

It’s this sort of revelation that I want everyone to experience.  Dye your hair green, people!  Dye it, and free yourself!  Are you Really the invisible person hiding in jeans and a baggy t-shirt?  Or is there someone else inside of you who has just been too scared not to try desperately to fit in?

I know that a big part of this is Where I live.  The Heartland is the Heart of Conformity.  People aren’t celebrated for being different or thinking up new ideas here.

In fact, a couple weeks ago, I read a parenting article in an actual newspaper by a supposedly respected expert that ordered parents to never, ever let their children/teens dress down.  Choosing how they dress, to this expert, is a sign of disrespect if it does not conform to the standards of the suburban society around the family.  In fact, if parents are lax in dress code, that is the first slippery slope to degeneracy, in-fighting, and disrespect.  How dare a teenager dress like their peers?  Teens should dress as their parents want them to.

The writer’s proof is that, supposedly, there are no delinquents in third world countries, and that, until a century ago, there was no such thing a malcontent among teens.  (Forgetting, of course, that in many of those third world countries–in South America, Africa, Asia, etc–gangs are groups of militia with child soldiers.  Additionally, it’s only been in the last hundred years that child labor laws and laws about mandatory schooling have prolonged “childhood” itself and pushed far back the age when children/teens are allowed to become contributing members of society.  There really is nothing to compare.)

And me with my freshly emerald hair, me, a fully respectable grown-up who looks back on all the hiding and shame of my younger years when I was forced to never express my own self, I just stared at the newsprint, flabbergasted.  Because when I look back at my childhood/teenage friends, especially the ones who did something with their lives, they were the ones who chose their own clothes, and maybe it was Ska style with a wallet chain and a newsboys cap before that was stereotyped, but these were the kids who grew up to be the most successful.  And yes, each of them probably has one tattoo, or more.  And the friends who most upheld the Facade of Decency, who paid lip service to the grown-ups, who played the part, well, they were the ones who chickened out on following their dreams or who got arrested for embezzlement at age 18.

I grew up with only two distinctions.  Things were either Good or Bad.  Every book I read, my mother would stop me and demand to know if it was Bad.  Not because she wanted to have a conversation and find out if the book was any good, no, her question was always, “Is that BAD?”  Because she knew I was honest enough to tell her, and then she could confiscate it.  At which point, was the book actually BAD, or was I just worried that it wouldn’t meet her high standards?  People fell into these same categories.  I was expected to judge them with high standards, and avoid being friends with BAD children.

But now that my hair is emerald green… and I myself am BAD… it’s very freeing.

night,

dawn

After twelve hours at work today, I’m feeling just a smidge arguably mentative.  It’s that time of year.  I might have to wear my horns tomorrow.

Oh, Sibylle.  Why must you vex me so?

I admit, I’m not far into The Mother: Archetypal Image in Fairy Tales.  But does that mean I can’t have an opinion?

Dearest darling Sibylle says:

“The father symbolizes the active, creating principle, the mother the receptive and nourishing one. Although, as we shall see, there is also a spirit mother, the mother principle is primarily on the side of nature in the sense of the instincts, the physical drives” (p. 14).

Okay, she’s a Jungian.  Which does not curdle my cheese nearly as much as if she had been a Freudian.  But upon this night, I say unto thee, I sure is tired of folks jumpin’ on the bandwagon!  So one bloke had a theory.  And he would just Not Shut Up About It.  (We’ve all known guys like that.  They usually end up alone at the bar and no one will talk to them.  But then there are the rare few who get an audience, for whatever reason, perhaps it is their charisma, or their evil mustache, or it’s to annoy your mother… and then John-Bob says, “Oh yeah, I know that guy,” even though he doesn’t, and suddenly it’s A Thing.)

To which I rise up tonight and say, Avoid The Thing!

That’s right!  You heard me!  You’ve got a head on your shoulders; why don’t you use it?

It is simple, dear readers; the head upon said shoulders is rarely used because my generation spent twenty years in classrooms being told that our opinions did not not matter, they were opinions, but when Freud said something, his was not an opinion but fact, and so stop arguing and purporting to have opinions.

I actually do sadly look back at the best minds I collected in my university, the ones who were enthusiastic and creative and Doing, and I watched Every Single One of them deteriorate into a sad pathetic lump that will never again make up primordial soup.  The soup doesn’t want them.  Not in their present states of disillusion.

And all because, like the writers of so many of these treatises of Thought, they jumped on someone elses’ bandwagon, and being on the bandwagon makes you invisible as it forces the entire world into that train of thought and no one gets out their own building blocks to build up a brand new idea.

No one can hear you on the bandwagon, even though you think that’s the best way.

And no one is ever going to listen if you have your own idea.

Because first you need a fan base.  You need an Influencer.  You need someone (other than your mother) who already has a Voice (although may not have anything much to say with it) to say, “Yesssss, people, that there is an Idea and I myself discovered it!  And so, people, you must buy it!”

Okay, enough disparaging poor old Sibylle for forcing the entire world to fit neatly into Jung’s idea.

Because now we get to the grit in my craw.

The male, the father, the man, is the Active one.  And the female, the mother, the woman, is fucking Receptive.

A nice polite way of saying she’s Passive.

Which is true of the rewritten and edited fairy tale versions, particularly of Grimm and Disney, which were mostly gathered by men in the 1800s and used to tell the world (and women) what they the men wanted… which appears to be some sort of necrophilia.  A passive nurturer who will never argue and will go out of her way to care for his every need.

You may say, But Dawn, this is no longer true.  Women are “liberated” and arguing against certain fairy stories nowadays is ridiculous.

But I am looking at four generations of women here. I’m looking at my entire generation in the Midwest.  And I’m seeing it.  All of it.

I see the passive girls.  I see the girls who purposefully get pregnant to trick men into marrying them and “taking care of them” so they don’t miss “that great opportunity” for a husband–at the age of 18.  I see the sexist men who won’t let their grown daughters go to college.  I see the girls who are belittled for having an opinion.  I see the Pink toys that are given to young girls which are nowhere near as complicated as the equivalent toys given to boys their same age and skill level.  I see the parents and grandparents perpetuating this when they call and demand to know if the unicorn comes in more “boy colors” than white.  I hear grandmothers (loving, saintly!) say (word-for-word), “We can’t give THAT to the girl; she ain’t as smart as the boy!”

Toddlers and preschoolers are just starting to come into an understanding of their lives and where they fit in our society, and they will do anything to be loved.  Their limited understanding of their positions is based on the stereotypes that adults force down their throats–and in order to “gain our love”, they go out of their way to try to act out those roles.  To “play house” and “princess” like they are “supposed” to.

We are self-perpetuating when we say that we buy pink toys for the girls because they want them.  They ask for what they think WE want them to want.

Finally, “the mother principle is primarily on the side of nature in the sense of the instincts“…

Do you know why this part of the Feminine stands out the most?  For the last thousand, two thousand, three thousand years, most women have been banned from formal learning.  Most were not taught to read nor write.  Most have been discouraged from thinking or stating an opinion to their husband.  Most just hoped to become the Property (which is exactly what marriage legally did to females) of a man who would not beat her, and one who would bring home food.

I look back at the previous two generations, at the “Gee, honey, I hope you buy this new vacuum cleaner for me to show me how much you love me”, at the women who dared not work after marriage, whose worlds were limited by the people their menfolk would drive them to visit, by the limited educations they were “allowed” to have by parents who believed girls should not be educated… and when one of these very Instinctual women tells me how much she wished she was smarter… is always, always telling me how dumb she feels… but who has a finely honed Unconscious, a mind that cannot process deeply learned theories but can look at a small group of people and explain all those interconnections… a woman who Hated so much of life and threw herself into several home arts just to have something to do with her very smart but very under-utilized brain…

I look at these woman, and I fully understand the dark depths of repression.

And here is Sibylle, a learned woman, just perpetuating them more by writing off a woman as receptive and a man as active… because that’s what was allowed… and because she bought a man’s blind theory… and never, not once, thought to argue with it.

Maybe because she thought that, by stroking the ego of all the Jungian Men, that she might just maybe earn their love.

Because preschoolers and toddlers and people with a limited view of social brainwashing (aka: cultural fitting-in-ness) will do Anything to make you love them.

And isn’t that cute?

night,

dawn

So the contents of my refrigerator look something like this: 10 baby trees, 2 plastic bags (empty), a fourth a bottle of margaritas (the super good fancy one), a jar of pickles…

Obviously, not a lot of food.

So I was rather surprised to find a bag of bagels shoved to the back.  Bagels?  In my fridge?  Nah.

They could have been in there for a year… honest… I just… I’m not a fridge-scrubber.

The back corner of my yard is dedicated to this cast-off food.  Anything that I can’t remember when I bought it, or has started to evolve into sentient life, I set it free in the backyard.

Freeeeeeeeeedommmmm!

That would be the sound of the old peppers taking off into the shrubbery…

So I took those year-old bagels and set them free.  Usually, a dozen birds peck over the bready-stuffs, breaking them into manageable chunks, and then the squirrels carry off what’s leftover.

Today, the squirrel beat everyone else to the buffet.

But what do you do with a bagel that is as big as you are and weighs twice as much?  You grasp it in your teeth, fling your tail around for balance, and climb a fence post.  Then almost fall off.

The squirrel tucked the bagel into its body, holding the far end (and for anyone who has tried to drink from the far side of a glass when you have hiccups, you can understand that this is an awkward position), but then his feet barely touched the tops of the fence, and he waddled like a penguin, and hopped, and flung his tail, and tripped and nearly splatted head-first off the fence.

Squirrels are not majestic.

This maneuver is taught in the Squirrel Manual right after running back and forth in front of a moving vehicle.

Two feet later, the squirrel detoured, tried to take the chain-link fence.  He wanted to get that bagel up to his nest, try to impress the missus.  But again, the drunken little squirrel couldn’t get his own feet around the bagel, and, high-centered, he RODE that bagel down a leftover porch board, like it was a white water doughnut raft.

And THAT is why squirrels don’t have beer bellies.

night,

dawn

A Device-Free Year

I tried a foolhardy experiment, which is quite obvious from the status of my blog and social media accounts: one year, internet-free.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

It can’t be done, not completely, not unless you want to go live like a Yeti in the forest.  Not if you want any sort of modern life.

It started like this: I took a Dream Job, which, of course, as all Dreams do, paid way less than my former job.  So I decided to go 1982 on this bad boy: no internet, no home phone, no cable television, no Netflix, no nothing.  Actually, seeing as my house was built in 1942, it didn’t notice any difference whatsoever, except for the fact that I didn’t wear an apron and dance around the kitchen crimping pie crusts.

Losing the internet was the hardest thing. When I lived in England for graduate school, competition among companies kept internet rates more than reasonable. But here, two monopolies keep prices sky high.

I spent a LOT of time driving to Mumsy-Dearest’s house this past year, just to do “one thing” on the internet.

In fact, my experiment really only lasted a few weeks, if you count that Mumsy-Dearest went anti-medieval-times on my heinie and forced me to upgrade my phone to a Smart version.  My old cell seriously only made calls.  It couldn’t even text, not after my argument with the phone company about the sexy photo texts I was getting en espanol, on Elva the Spanish Sex Kitten’s old number.

I wish I could say that my Experiment was enlightening, that I accomplished So Much this past year and that I’m now moving to a commune to raise chickens.

But, as a writer and as a modern chickee-poo, it was a study in frustration instead.  99% of my writing and internet time was suddenly work-related only.  I’ve never been married to my Smart phone to the point of going out with a friend but texting the world during dinner as if said friend didn’t exist.  Sure, I could have done more social media from my phone, but when you’re watching your data limit (the modern equivalent of counting calories), you don’t dare take that first nibble.

The worst of it was that I spent more time watching television than I ever had before.  Whereas I used to catch up on one or two shows during lunch breaks, on the internet, this year if I wanted to watch, I had to plan my evening around it.  And, once I huddled down and curled up and got comfy… yeah… you can see where that’s going.

Medical research proves that people who watch more television are less happy.  I could feel it happening. It impinges on the freedom of leisure time.

Yet with all the movements toward a screen-free life, and screen-free children, it’s just not feasible. There’s productivity to take into account, as well as keeping up with ever-changing technology. You can still buy most things locally, but, unless you want to drive all over town, a quick internet search will at least tell you if what you need is available, and where.

Screen-free?  Ha!

But screen-savvy? Indeed.  Consider screen intelligence.  A little planning on the best use of our screen time, and THAT is what will buy us more time in this harried, over-scheduled age of the screen.

night,

dawn

Oh dear, oh deer, oh deee are.

Lin-Lin wanted what I thought was going to be a new friend.  Little did I know.  She did not have the best of intentions.

Who, me? Mais je suis the picture of innocence!

Who, me? Mais je suis the picture of innocence!

Lin-Lin brought me the glue.

She brought me the glass.  She even broke the glass.

I was starting to get suspicious–what is it you want me to do, child?

“Lay out that baby and start gluin’!” was the reply.

I lied to that baby:

I lied to that baby: “Pretend it’s just a day at the beach!”

What can I say; I’m pretty obedient.

Anytime you find yourself gluing shards of glass to a baby, perhaps you should start to question your actions.

I didn’t.

Not until we started getting into more… compromising positions.

One of those compromising positions... I'm not sure this is legal.

One of those compromising positions… I’m not sure this is legal.

Just what was I doing?

Well, honestly, I didn’t know.  When we first started this, ahem, “project” (for want of a better term), I tried hot glue.  (Ouch, ouch, ouch, says the baby!)  But I found that when gluing glass to plastic, hot glue doesn’t cut it.  It didn’t harm either the glass or the plastic, but it wasn’t so very permanent, either.  Not even half-so.  I had glued a large section to the baby, shifted position to hold a dried glued-glass area, and the shards started to shift and come off.  Hot glue: just too malleable.

Lin-Lin brought me the Liquid Fusion, recommended by my very own Vegebrarian (owner of the Etsy shop InciteDelight).  While not as permanent as some goopier items (I was able to later remove a shard or two when the poor baby could not completely lower her arm), this glue is less likely to kill you while you sleep (always a plus!).

What were you doing at 3am?  Um, yeah, I was breaking shards of glass off a baby with needle-nose pliers.

Shhh, don't tell the neighbors

Shhh, don’t tell the neighbors

When I was done with that, and half-done with the gluing, Lin-Lin demanded I learn to make fish scales out of yarn.  Attempt one: failed.  Attempt two: stole bits and bobs from an old hat pattern and commandeered them to make…

Lin-Lin, what AM I making?

Ta Da 2

Ta Da!

Really?  This is what I was making this whole time?

But honestly, when I was done, I was glad Lin-Lin was so task-mastery.

I still fear for this baby’s life, though.  Lin-Lin can’t be trusted.

night,

dawn