An upside-down salad spinner keeps your yarn project from escaping (a colander will also do in a pinch).
The inverted salad spinner also protects my completed knitting from my cat while it’s being blocked (pinned in shape to my ironing board, dampened, and left to dry in the hopes that this last ditch effort will transform my project into something more closely approximating my original intent). Read More »
I drive the Little Monkey from Seattle across Lake Washington to Bellevue for biweekly counseling, a drive I avoided for all of my previous 20 pre-motherhood years in Seattle. If a friend moved across the lake? Sayonara. I’d mail postcards. They might as well have moved to Tokyo for all they were likely to see me in their new neighborhood. Ballard to Bellevue consists of three freeway merges and, not long ago, a shift in consciousness akin to Appalachia to Manhattan. Others tackle this west-to-east journey daily to work at Microsoft or shop at the upscale Bellevue Mall, but while I managed to tolerate traveling from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans and back on the back of a too-small motorcycle, I eschewed this epic psychological journey. Not only was there the matter of traffic (I laugh now at my notions of “traffic” 25 years ago): there were the little matters that, in the not too distant past, one of the lake’s two bridges sank, and the other raised its drawspan while cars were still crossing.
As if the drive across the floating bridge isn’t traumatic enough, LM’s therapist practices what I call “aversion therapy.” He tells stories about the misdeeds his other young clients have been up to, which have led to the ruin and devastation of themselves and their families. One family could have put their kid through college on what they spent on court costs, all for naught: the stepdad then dumped the boy’s mom, and the stepdad lost custody of his own biological children. Because of this teenage boy, the family was fractured and bankrupt, utterly and totally. I pictured the boy and his mom in a basement studio apartment eating TV dinners. How could the mother go on with nurturing and unconditional love while eating her tiny compartment of apple pie after polishing off a spindly fried drumstick?Read More »
In 1993—just shy of age thirty—I began seriously writing. I had always thought I’d be a writer. I wrote my first novel (on an electric typewriter) in the seventh grade but had written nothing since graduating in 1986 from college (where I took difficult classes such as the one where we spent an entire summer studying music videos–honestly, I get tired of hearing law and nursing students complain about their workload when I think about my arduous classes).
My plan was to write screenplays in Hollywood, but I ended up back home with my parents and working at an ad agency (typing spreadsheets, still using a typewriter, and an occasional newsletter). I worked my way up to becoming the Promotion Director for a prominent National Public Radio station (it’s easy to be the Director when you’re the only one in the department), but then I nosedived down to being a secretary when I thought I’d try graduate school. I never made it to grad school because I began to write again.
At the turn of the millennium, I began to publish that writing.Read More »
In a strange twist of synchronicity, I started working on a short piece about Frankenstein’s monster a month ago; the next morning my face began to erupt in shingles, a mess of painful blisters and scabs. At first I had no idea what was going on and blamed spiders at the vacation home where I was staying.
As I shaped words about the ugly monster whom no one loved and who never had a name, did I bring to life the scarred face that I would soon have, in which it looked—and agonizingly felt—like cigarettes had been extinguished across my forehead and temple? One eye swelled shut, and the eye socket bloated into a prominent, ballooned, circular frame around it. A crusty rash bloomed on my eyelid.
Like the unholy night on which Victor Frankenstein birthed his creation, it stormed outside as I sat by myself in a beach cabin with my laptop during my first getaway on my own since I became a mother nearly four years ago. Although it was a working vacation of sorts, in which I took a short car ferry ride to speak to a writing group and peddle my book and editing services, I felt overwhelmingly, unexpectedly twisted inside by guilt over leaving my family—a new sensation for me. As the trip approached, I had vacillated about going, looking for excuses to cancel. I was almost happy when I pulled a humiliating muscle in my ass just by getting out of the car the day before departure; I thought the gluteus yank might be bad enough that I couldn’t drive, but it wasn’t. Besides, who cancels a gig because her okole hurts?
“Maybe I’ll just drive up there that morning, do my talk, and drive straight home afterwards instead of staying overnight,” I suggested to the Man I Married. I could justify that time spent away from home, but not the time I would spend by myself alone in a cabin for an unnecessary extra night.
“Uhh, why would you do that?” MIM asked. He didn’t recognize me: who was this clinging creature who had never in a quarter century with him had qualms about her Garbo-esque need and right to be alone?
Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, this creature has a name: HOUSEWIFE.
This name had never been spoken, but it loomed in my psyche as silent and large as a giraffe.
During a lifetime with MIM that surpasses the half-life of linoleum, I’d always had a “right” to leave the house because we were full equals, on paper and off. I had always earned a paycheck and carried my own health and dental insurance. But since recently leaving the cubicle world to marry a 1310 square-foot, plywood structure—running the household and my son’s life like a precision European sports car while simultaneously launching my freelance career and fitting in minor tasks like the paperwork mountain of adopting a child—I was now a kept woman. A dependant. For the first time in 25 years, I quite literally depended on MIM’s health insurance to cover things like emergency room visits due to stress-induced shingles which I might have given myself because I was so stressed out over vacation guilt.
My husband, I knew, was fully capable of remembering to pick his son up after work, of heating the huge pot of stew I had made, or of going so far as to prepare a Trader Joe’s frozen dinner from the freezer I’d stuffed. They could even—gasp—go out to eat. I had not prepared them for my brief absence; I had prepared them for the apocalypse.
Whether MIM remembered to turn the electric tea kettle off of its Warm function when it was empty was the only real hazard of my absence. Most likely the dog would poop on the floor because her walks would be missed, but I’d clean that up when I got home, because no one else would notice her little turds. MIM was having to go to work an hour late in order to drop the Little Monster off for two mornings, but I’m sure that was a luxury more than an inconvenience. I’d not even pilfered the family coffers for this two-night jaunt; the cabin was lent to me by a kind friend and the writing group was paying for my ferry ride and dinner.
But for the first time in my life, as a work-at-home mom, I already had plenty of time alone. I had no need or desire to travel somewhere else to be alone. What fun is a vacation without the child I waited so long to have? (Although admittedly on a family vacation I would regularly state my need to be left alone.)
When I finally forcibly ejected myself from home and arrived at the vacation cabin, I couldn’t focus or concentrate on a single book or project. I broke the dishwasher, flooded the kitchen, and couldn’t work the dryer to take care of the soaked towels. I watched a bad Richard Gere movie. And then I finally settled down to work on a piece about Frankenstein’s monster.
Did I conjure the face that we women feel when we take “mother” a few pegs down the list and put ourselves first?
The face that our culture gives us when “me” comes before “ma?”
Beast, not breast. Monster, not mother.
As is the case with shingles, only half of my face blistered and scabbed.
If I looked in a mirror, which side would be the mother’s face, and which side the writer’s?
My mother-in-law would call the writer’s side the ugly side. She once uttered a shrill and vehement lecture about how mothers should not have Hobbies, a quaint, archaic word that I thought had gone the way of “Women’s Lib” and Florence Henderson hairstyles. But Hobby is what she pejoratively called my writing. It’s not my writing (which she has never read) that bothers her—it’s the antisocial condition that writing requires. To thrive on being solitary is to reject the woman’s role of always being in the kitchen to bring people together.
The condemning messages hissing in my head, you see, were not phantasms that I had created but were very real verbal bullets.
But they are blanks unless I give them the power to take me down.
I maintain that the ugly side is the mother side when we put aside our own passions and needs as unimportant. We care for our families best when we care for ourselves, too. My own mother didn’t have the luxury of much time to do so, but she had a demanding, satisfying career at which she was highly respected, and I always knew that she had a purpose outside of her children and value outside of the home. She had a personality unto herself, a ready laugh, and somehow despite the miracle of her single-handedly getting dinner prepared on time every night, she often managed to find time to escape into a book with Tarzan-like men bursting out of castles and spaceships. She put us first, there is no question, but I guarantee you that if someone had offered her two nights alone in a cabin she would have been halfway there before they finished the sentence. And no one back then, least of all she, would have questioned her parenting because of it.
Although I was conflicted, I did go “on vacation.” I left my family and spent two nights away from home, as I should have. Perhaps the prevalent online Bad Mommy Police would say that I brought the shingles down upon myself as just retribution. But I see the shingles as a reflection of the cultural conflict that rages right now, which casts mothers as either Angels or Monsters, when we are neither. We are Human—With Hobbies, if we have any sense, and sense of self, at all. And our Hobbies should not be our children—that practice creates only monsters, of them and of ourselves.
Surprise, surprise, my two boys managed just fine without me. The Little Monster said that he missed me, but I think it’s important for him to see that when people leave, they also return, and that women can be independent. Just like I think it’s important for him to sometimes see mom in the driver’s seat and dad in the passenger’s. Yes, I left him, but as he said when I lifted my Ramones hairstyle to show him the scabs on my face, “But you’re still beautiful, Mom.”
In prescient solidarity with Frankenstein’s monster, the eloquent, vegetarian fiend who is approaching his 200th birthday (he came to Mary Shelley in a waking dream on June 21, 1816), here is the piece I worked on in stormy solitude:
The Strangler Fig: Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Now on Kindle at Amazon.com
Six sensual, darkly fantastic tales that reimagine classics such as Dorian Gray, Helen of Troy, and The Yellow Wallpaper. The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories author turns to a darker eros with her new collection of haunting and magical tales, which have appeared in various fantasy, horror, and literary anthologies. About 100 pages.
From New Orleans to Mexico to ancient Hawaii: An obsessed paparazzo stalks his subject–a famous singer whose photos morph but face remains unchanged. An unborn triplet haunts and taunts its mother for the choice she made. An infertile woman seeks to learn the language of the dead baby she continues to carry.
Surreal, slipstream, supernatural stories, in which fertility and infertility take a stranglehold on possessed minds. Collected from the pages of Best of Crossed Genres [Year One]: Fantasy & Science Fiction with a Twist; Thou Shalt Not: Stories of Dark Crime and Horror; the South Dakota Review; Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica; and others.
The Man I Married decades ago decided that our stackable washer-dryer doors were hung the wrong way.
Rather, he decided the dryer door was hung the wrong way. So he switched the dryer door to open to the right. He was very proud not only of his sudden observation that the door was hung incorrectly according to the layout of our laundry room, but that he also managed to reverse the door.
But he didn’t switch the washer door, which opens to the left.
Now I have to contort like Gumby when I transfer a load from one to the other, squeezing myself in between the two open doors that tend to swing partially-closed. And I ain’t that skinny.
I end up hitting my head on the dryer door when I stand up from crouching in front of the washer.
Or I step back and nearly topple backwards over the washer door when I’m standing to sort things from the dryer.
I require hazard pay to do a simple load of laundry.
(Here I must protest that laundry is not simple. I seem to be the only one in the house possessing the advanced skill of not only remembering to transfer laundry from washer to dryer, but to transfer it from dryer back to place of origin, all in the space of time it takes to keep everything from wrinkling.)
Still, MIM was so proud about this door-switching feat that I hesitated to say anything. I myself would be incapable of switching a dryer door, so some level of admiration was in order. Plus, he’d spent part of his Christmas vacation making this fix (instead of doing any number of other things around the house that seemed to the ignorant and uneducated [i.e. his wife] to be more pressing, such as installing a sink in the laundry room so that he ceases to use my kitchen thusly):
Ah, now the dryer door project makes more sense, because installing a sink in the laundry room is daunting, overwhelming, and full of obstacle after obstacle. And there was the dryer door right in front of his nose, such a satisfying and quick fix that gave him a real sense of accomplishment and daring-do.
Which is, oh, kind of like writing a blog post when one is supposed to be working on a book-length manuscript.
His intentions were good, and he was proud, and who wants to mess with that? And maybe he was right, and maybe I was being close-minded. I thought the layout would be something I’d grow used to with time. But I did not. So after a month passed, I voiced my concern when he ventured into the laundry room while I was twixt and ‘tween the doors, feeling rather like a horse in a cramped stall with the top half of the stable doors open. I tried to utilize my rusty skills, dredged up from all of those marriage counseling lessons over the years. I ventured, “I feel frustrated by the dryer door and the washer door opening in different directions.” I refrained from adding, “I feel like it was a dumb idea.” We didn’t flush all of that marriage counseling money down the drain.
“But it makes more sense this way,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Then the washer door needs to switch, too.”
“I can’t. It won’t switch.”
We both paused. And paused.
“Who does all of the laundry?” I asked him.
“You do. Fine. I’ll switch it back.”
Here’s what gets me about long-term marriage. Even though he didn’t argue (much) and said he’d do what I asked, he managed to say it with a tone that implied that my request was unreasonable, and that he was being very reasonable to comply with it without (much) argument.
Further, if I said that this was his tone, he would counter that his tone had not been condescending in the least, and that it was all in my head, as usual. Such a discussion would end up sounding like this:
Furthermore, I know that the door will not get switched back until I pester him again about installing a sink.
In long-term marriage, you can play out the entire argument in your head before it even happens. It’s like a boring television rerun from, like, the seventies.
So I didn’t say anything.
I just blogged about it.
Which he will never read, because I have an anti-husband-reading-my-blog tactic.
Awhile back, my cousin and friend were visiting and they both mentioned my Reader, I Awakened Him post and how much their partners had gotten a kick out of it. Unfortunately, MIM was there during the discussion. He had completely forgotten about the night I had woken him up. So while my cousin and friend were visiting, he got mad about it all over again.
“But I never wake you up,” I reminded him during our subsequent ‘discussion.’ “You always wake me up! That’s the only time I’ve woken you up in almost a quarter century!”
“I know!” he said. “That’s why I was so mad! It just wasn’t right! It’s not the way it works!”
Some days later, he surprised me by casually mentioning something I’d blogged about.
“You read my blog?” I asked him.
“Well, I thought I’d better after that last discussion,” he said, “so I tried to. But there were just too many, and they’re all way too long, so I quit after reading part of just that one.”
So, to avoid spousal-blog-reading: be frequently long-winded, and your hot air will be ignored by those who grow weary of it and pay it no attention. Kind of like marital disagreement.
The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon.com
PRAISE FOR JENNIFER D. MUNRO’S SHORT STORIES
“Jennifer D. Munro had me howling with [her] irony…” —Susie Bright, Best American Erotica Editor
“[I] was fixated. I really laughed out loud (by myself)…” —Bobbi, Literary Mama Reader
“…marvelously refreshing…” —CleanSheets
“Munro writes with an honesty and rawness… a brilliant piece of writing…” —Innsmouth Free Press
Here are some of the internet search terms that led woefully disappointed people to my blog, with number of people who have used that search term. My favorites are in bold, a few with comments. This is the filthiest and funniest thing I’ve read in awhile. Hopefully I’ve converted all of the bad words to *@#^.
under kilt 66
under the kilt 44
up the kilt 16
kilt sex 16
under the kilt/photos 12
under a kilt 11
up your kilt 11
under the kilt pictures 11
under kilt pics 9
under kilt pictures 7
what do you wear under a kilt 7
what is under a kilt 7
what is under the kilt 7
sex in a kilt 6
under your kilt 6
up his kilt 5
what’s under a kilt 4
what do men wear under kilts 4
whats under the kilt 4
kilt porn 4
halloween kilt 4
nothing under kilt 4
kilt *ss 4
hot sturgis women 4
hot guy in kilt 4
up somebody’s kilt 4
balls kilt 3
what’s under your kilt 3
under the kilt pics 3
beneath the kilt 3
what is under a kilt? 3
hyena fratricide 3
mennonite fashion 3
nothing under the kilt 3
under a kilt photos 3
whats under a kilt 2
sex kilt 2
what’s under the kilts 2
serpent flambe coffee 2 (huh???)
beneath a kilt 2
kilt beneath 2
kilts gone wrong 2
shakespeare in a kilt 2
kilt + *ss 2
under a scottish kilt 2
in bed with motorcycle 2 (that sounds uncomfortable)
kilt legs 2
bad kilt pictures 2
men in skirt 2
what do you wear under a kilt? 2
short length kilt 2
do men wear anything under kilts 2
kilt sock 2 (???)
working kilt 2
bean bag streaking through the sky 2
*ss kilt 2
kilts balls pictures 2
2011 sturgis t-shirts spark plug and girl 2 (you have to love specificity)
balls under kilt 2
spanking *ss kilt 2
balls under kilts 2
up the kilt photos 2
beneath kilts 2
kilts flying up 2
falling from motorcycles 2
kilts blowing up 2
japanese wooden stick puppet of an older woman with a mean look on her face 2 (again, nice specificity)
cute guy in kilt 2
kilt blowing 2
under the kilt photos 2
kilt under 1
bare *ss kilt 1
androgynous pu**y 1 (can there be an androgynous one??)
under kilt escocês 1
under their kilts 1
hyena humping 1
hyena mock mating 1
under kilt images 1
hyena boner 1
kilt party photos 1
pitures of the kilts 1
kilt without under 1
kilt up 1
man wearing kilt sitting down 1
pictures of under men’s kilts 1
traditional kilt 1
can you find the monster? man with kilt on 1
what’s under the kilt 1
man short kilt 1
pic of whats under a mans kilt 1
hyena humping each other 1
what to wear under a kilt 1
hyena babies kill each other at birth 1
what is worn under a kilt 1
hot *ss kilt 1
pics under the kilt 1
wear under his kilts 1
wind & skirts 1
hyena pups kill sibling 1
up yr kilt 1
example of boners 1
real pu**y juicy babe wet 1 (I can’t understand how this linked to my blog)
men in skirts 1
kilt metal 1
lions humping each other 1
hyena female boner 1
bad kilt photo 1
under the irish kilt 1
hung kilt 1
hyena cubs mock mating 1
hyenas humping 1
hyena androgyny 1
lionesses humping each other 1
man’s sex kilt 1
kilt ball 1
up your kilt pictures 1
joke about guy in kilt 1
kilt mistakes 1
kilt hem 1
whats under your kilt 1
sex man in kilt 1
straight boners 1
scottish kilt *ss 1
kilt bad 1
biggest book with most pages 1
library of spanking authors 1
what is really under the kilt 1
nice *ss under kilt 1
hyenas lady boners 1
scottish kilts *ss 1
how to not fall asleep while reading 1
wear under kilt 1
pics of under the kilt 1
bad kilt photos 1
hyenas boner 1
what they wear under their kilt 1
whats under kilts photos 1
kilt on motorcycle 1
under in kilt 1
what’s under that kilt 1
how did i misperceived my mother 1 (I can answer that. It’s because you had a subject verb disagreement.)
scottish guy with kilt 1
under kilten 1
difference between violin and fiddle 1 (What a refreshing question on this list!)
My mother believes in bachi, the concept in Hawaii that what goes around comes around, similar to karma or payback. (Pronounce bachi the same as bocce ball, BAH-chee.) When I once worked with a negative coworker, mom gave me a small bachi mirror to place on my desk, angled to deflect the negativity back to that person. Even if this power didn’t literally work, it effectively worked as a metaphor. Seeing the little mirror reminded me to ricochet the destructive spirit back to its source and not internalize it. Mostly, though, it reminded me of my mother’s love and care for me every time I looked at it. So in looking at the mirror, I felt neither vengeful nor antagonistic (although the Man I Married listened to me grumble a lot). The mirror reflected a deeper truth, that the abundant positive people in my life war outweighed the negative.
My coworker later became very kind and generous to me. The presence of the Little Monster in all of our lives washed all of her negativity away. I’m glad I made like the duck’s back, letting her hostility roll off of me rather than making waves, because it left the door open for both of us.
My mother has further evidence of bachi and mirrors. Honolulu now employs an automatic garbage collection system, in which the garbage truck empties giant, square trash cans into the truck with a robotic arm or forklift. Residents set their 96-gallon cans curbside on collection day, so that the trash collector need never leave the cab of his or her truck. However, my parents live off of a narrow, twisting mountain road on which there is no sidewalk or curb. In some spots, there’s not even a grass or weed strip to the side of the road. On trash collection day, this makes for a tight fit for cars squeezing past each other and between the behemoth cans. Mom arrived home one day to tell Dad that a trash can had jumped out in front of her car and knocked off the sideview mirror on the passenger side.
Dad cackled. Yes, my dad cackles. He points and cackles. How could she possibly have hit a nearly 100-gallon, stationary, brightly-colored object?
“Bachi,” mom warned him. In fact, she went one further. “Double bachi,” she hissed.
Soon after the mirror was repaired, sure enough, Dad came home to admit that he, too, had swiped a trash cash with the side mirror. Back the car went to the repair shop. Then, Dad did it again.
“Double bachi,” Mom said knowingly.
Yet, I’m not sure I agree about bachi, because bad things happen to good people, and bachi doesn’t account for that. Perhaps karma does, in which we’re suffering payback for rotten deeds we did in a past life. Call it karma, or bachi, or fate, what I ultimately hope is that good is reflected more than bad.
Awhile back, a pusillanimous person tried to send me yet another inaccurate invective via a false name over the internet (it’s no coincidence that pussy forms part of the awesome word pusillanimous). I did not accept Mrs. Fly’s message and quickly deflected it back, thinking of my bachi mirror. I also thought of our friend Mac’s wise thoughts on the matter: if we put ourselves out into the world via our art, we have to be willing to accept what comes back to us.
I decided to counter Mrs. Fly’s need for negativity (sadly based on a misperception) by sending something positive out into the world. Although it’s mighty tempting to wish double bachi upon Mrs. Fly, why expend my energy on lowering myself into that gutter (which requires even more energy to climb out of) when the Little Monster’s presence in my life has turned a high-wattage lightbulb on to the fact that my life is bounteous and inundated with kind and well-meaning people? It’s an isolating experience to have a child who is not safe around other kids without constant supervision, and yet I’ve never felt a sense of community as strongly as I have since he became Mama’s Little Monkey Monster.
So that day I decided to write something nice about somebody rather than respond to Mrs. Fly’s buzzing. But what could I write, and whom could I write it about? Hm. There at my feet was the 16-pound box of Christmas goodies that my mother had sent to help me with thank you gifts for teachers and counselors. I needed to look no further, and I wrote my December Mele Kalikimaka post about Tutu. To illustrate the blog post, I knew exactly which photo I needed: the one of Tutu decorating her Christmas tree in her short muumuu under the Hawaiian sunshine, with Pearl Harbor in the background. I easily found a thirty-year old snapshot of Tutu, taken on my first Kodak Instamatic, but I couldn’t find the recent digital photo. I started going through stacks of photos and boxes of memorabilia trying to find the print. (This activity falls under a technical writerly term called procrastination, when we spend hours doing things related to our writing, yet none of it is actually spent at the keyboard producing words.)
Frustrated, with boxes and papers strewn around my office, I nearly gave up, thinking about my wasted time. But that’s when the bachi magic happened. I’d been hemming and hawing over my commitment to my motorcycle mama memoir, which took a back seat with the Advent of the Little Monster now over two years ago. Getting the momentum going again was like pushing a boulder uphill. For one thing, I could not locate the map that traced our 26-state motorcycle journey, which was to be the centerpiece of the book. I of course blamed this on the Man I Married (what else are husbands for?). In tearing apart my room to find the photo of Tutu, I found not only the map, but the navigational journal I’d forgotten I’d kept and all of the postcards I’d mailed home during the trip, which I’d forgotten I had.
If I’d taken Mrs. Fly’s bait, nothing good would have come of it. But because I decided to write something nice (and it’s easy to write something nice about Tutu), I discovered important source material. Which might also be fate telling me to get off my okole and write that durned book. Or was it simply bachi? Only the mirror knows.
At any rate, full speed ahead on pushing that 96-gallon-can of reflection (otherwise known as a book and hopefully not trash) uphill.
Well, maybe not full speed, but incremental movement.