Dear Readers, I went a week without posting! It was hard. The way writing comes to me (or, the way my mental illness presents) is I narrate everything in my head all day. It was once really inspiring, and it’s not not inspiring, but it’s also sort of exhausting/alarming sometimes. I really love the release valve of this project. I skipped last week to focus on a book proposal I’d scored a mini-retreat to work on, and decided to just be 100% with the book proposal (for a witchy book, a sort of follow-up to Modern Tarot) It was actually amazing. I trapped myself in a very stylish little studio for 72 hours, never getting out of my pajamas or grooming, only writing and writing and writing, only pausing to eat microwavable snacks. I did read books at the start of the day, and ended the day with some true crime, but other than that my head was in the book and it felt so special to work with such focus on one thing – me, who flips coins throughout the day to determine with of my 12 neglected projects I should give some love to. I’m going to keep applying to writing retreats, even though I’ve only ever been admitted to a couple. If I keep getting the thumbs down I’m going to find the cheapest motel in Los Angeles (must have desk; must not have bedbugs) and hole up there for a week, because it feels SO GOOD to make a chunk of progress on something, rather than a little sliver here, a little sliver there.
But my point is that, without this little release valve the internal narration was running at a fever pitch; I’ve written so many version of this newsletter in my head over the past days and days. This will be a General Update, wherein I revisit all my themes thus far. I’ll put headers at the top so you can skip topics your find boring or distasteful.
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My mom is now reading Thich Nhat Hahn. Also, Rumi. She found these books on her own, at a bookstore. Yes, she has watched the Harry and Megan thing, she watched it at my sister’s house, both of them binging it til 3am. Her best quote of late, hollered from the kitchen: “Anyway want some fishsticks?!?”
I made a new scent, inspired by Lynda Barry’s Marlys; the core of it is sweet, citrus Cedrat Heart because I wanted something to match the bright yellow and orange of The Greatest of Marlys. Because Marlys is a kid I had to put sugar in it, so I worked with Ethyl Maltol crystals that smell exactly like burnt sugar but are so hard to work with because they never dissolve. I had meant to put patchouli in it, because Marlys is so groovy, but it absolutely dominated the scent so I had to delete. Still, it needed something sort of sharp or hard to hold it all up, and so I added a drop of my beloved Norlimbanol, and it was exactly as if the scent had been struck by lightning and brought to uncanny life. On my skin everything eventually faded except the Norlimbanol, which I feel mixed about. It’s one of my favorite scents, but I don’t want its addition to render all my formulas so predictable – that the smell will fade to Norlimbanol.
I also bought Phenylacetic Acid because it has a ‘sweat’ smell to it, and I imagine Marlys is usually sweaty form running around and dancing, being a kid, etc. But it was such a sour smell it didn’t work with this formula. It smells like honey, but in the way that you can really understand that honey is bee-barf. Also, it is a crucial ingredient to crystal meth! Also-also, sometimes people get a weird disorder where their body makes a lot of this chemical and it comes out in their urine and makes them very smelly. Bummer!
I have a vial of Guaiacwood I haven’t yet worked with, and a violet aroma I’m excited to experiment with, and I promised my kid I’d try to make him a ketchup scent for Christmas, so I’ll have more perfume news soon.
I made this green plantain porridge and lived on it for like a week. It’s so easy – boil three green plantains (or bananas, but they gots to be green), with a couple cinnamon sticks, then mash it up with a can of coconut milk. When it’s done I mix some honey or maple syrup in it. Five stars! Get on it, vegans! I also made very not vegan rice pudding, using paella rice from Spain. And the Bon Appetit Basically Kugel recipe for Hanukkah. And made a pledge with my husband to always have some garlicy roasted cherry tomatoes on hand. If you have an oven there is literally no excuse not to have roasted cherry tomatoes on hand at all times. Unless you have a hard time accommodating joy. Or have a sad allergy. I made a cake in the microwave, too. It was with some leftover batter; the baking blogger I was reading told me to, so I did, but the blogger was wrong – just because you can bake a cake in a microwave doesn’t mean anyone should. I feel similarly about microwave popcorn. It takes like five minutes to make a big, fluffy pan of stovetop popcorn, and gives nobody that buttery lung disease in the process. I really opened my heart to microwave popcorn on my mini-retreat, and I did eat it, as I will eat any popcorn (expect that hot pink and dyed blue popcorn, obviously) but microwave popcorn is an abomination. Fight me.
I’M A SNEAKY MOTHER
As I was narrating this newsletter in my head the past two weeks I also crafted one about being a sneaky mom, which my various lifestyles force me to be; how my parental sneakiness has gone into overdrive because it’s the holidays and I’m Santa, and that requires the utmost sneakiness. In fact, my kid just stopped by the house unexpectedly, and I had a freaking heart attack. Last week I forgot to return various sex accoutrements, a purple butt plug drying on the sink (I’m bragging, I know), a pack of cigarettes, the hedonism that erupts in this house when the child is away is outstanding. I forgot to stash everything but thankfully my husband, an earth sign, always remembers. As it is, the child has queried why there is a whip in my closet (Halloween costume!) and has mistaken the silhouette of the vibrator under my bed for a karaoke microphone (I wish?). I am not looking to be the springboard for their curiosity. I would like a dirty joke on the playground to be what stimulates some questioning, like normal. As in, recently, during a game of Bingo, I called O-69, and the child laughed and was like, That’s a funny number. And I was like, Oh yeah? What’s so funny about it? And he just shrugged and seemed mildly embarrassed for being a type of poseur, laughing at a joke he doesn’t quite understand. When it happened again I was like, That’s an adult joke, it’s not a joke for kids. I think he heard it on YouTube, where he learns everything. Just a few more weird YouTube-inspired moments and we’ll probably be ready for the talk. I’m probably the only parent in the history of talks that is sort of looking forward to it, probably because I really want to thrust the amazing book Sex is a Funny Word onto him and have all the miniature lessons on gender and whatnot finally come together in a full-color, revelatory flourish. I’ve already tried to foist the book on him once, after his other parent shared that a peek at his search history on his iPad revealed he’d been searching ‘Girls’. Why???? Does he like them? Want to be them? Either way, Sex is a Funny Word would be appropriate, so I showed him the book, but he was vehemently opposed to it. I’m looking forward to some time passing, another awkward, YouTube-inspired moment occurring, and getting to give the book another go. If you are someone who will at some point need to talk to a young person about sex and bodies and puberty, I HIGHLY recommend this book. Author Cory Silverberg and illustrator Fiona Smyth also made the more recent You Know, Sex, for slightly older kids. Their What Makes a Baby, is a staple in my house, as it talks about how babies are made in this great, non-gendered, very practical, truthful way that still manages to be fun and accessible. It’s not responsible for my child thinking that babies are 100% made in hospitals – that’s on me! The sex books, when welcomed, will explain otherwise.
Anyways (should I rename this newsletter Anyways?), the sneaky parent vibes are to the max right now, with an office closet stuffed with gifts from ‘Santa.’ I pulled out all the stops this year, going so far as to forge a letter from the man, which the post office is horribly enabling of. First I forced my kid to write a letter to Santa. It was very charming; in addition to the list of desirables, the child inquired about Santa’s health and if he’s ever gotten sick around Christmas (is this Covid damage?), which I was touched by, as a parent is always touched when their child displays empathy, as all parents are secretly terrified their child is a sociopath – amirite? So, letter written, I then printed out Santa letterhead from the internet, and forged a response from St. Nick. As I tend to run on for far too long – in storytelling, in this newsletter, etc. – so did I write a much too involved letter, elaborating on Santa’s health regiment, praising my son’s accomplishments, seizing the opportunity to banish the ‘naughty or nice’ bullshit by asserting that all children are trying their best and worthy of toys (“I can’t believe you used the word ‘contrary,’ my husband shook his head at me. But the kid has a broad vocabulary, he’s beaten me twice at Scrabble, real Scrabble, not the junior one!).
The letter to Santa is then stuffed into a self-addressed stamped envelope, which is then stuffed into another envelope addressed to a particular North Pole address, and dumped into a mailbox. It is intercepted by the post office, ripped open, stamped with an ALASKA FRONTEIR postmark and returned. The child was dazzled to receive the letter; his whole face lit up when he read Santa’s response to his health inquiry, and even if he did stumble on the word ‘contrary’ it was mostly a big hit. But then. Moments after reading it, this sort of weird, fragile vibe descended upon Christmas. An eight-year-old, the child is surely on the edge of believing in this elaborate cultural ruse. And now, when I should be easing him out of it gently, I’ve doubled down with an actual, handwritten letter. After the initial high the letter provoked, I could feel the threat of a crash. The letter was folded up and placed on the stairs, where much junk gets heaped, and it was not spoken of again. It was almost like is we looked it too closely the obvious cracks and unreality would begin to show. Questions would beg to be asked. I would be forced to answer directly, not take the oblique, vague way out, as I have in the past, when he was younger. Because I really, really don’t like lying to the child, I know hard conversations await me: Yes, I am Santa. Yes, I smoke cigarettes sometimes. No, that is not a karaoke mic under my bed (though the whip is indeed a Halloween costume if you live your life like every day is Halloween, as me and my husband do, on some level).
This is probably the kid’s last Santa year, and my last year being Santa. Surely, we’ll both miss it; I do hope he won’t be too mad at me for the deception. He does love pranks, and I’m already formulating a spin on the whole thing as prank-adjacent. I remember the first Christmas of my own disillusionment, how sad I was. How devoid of expected magic the holiday felt. My godmother Christine found me in my melancholy, and tried to be a helpful adult. “Do you know when Christmas will feel so special again?” she asked, hopefully. “When I wake up and see all my presents in the morning?” I replied, as I was trying to conjure some gratitude for how, if the man was forever gone, at least the gifts weren’t. Christine laughed. “No! When you have your own kids!” Okay, Christine. Once again, adults are useless. The thought of having a kid was a million miles away, would I have to knock myself up early or live, magic-starved, for decades? Fortunalty I found drugs, a temporary stand-in for full-body magic. Like the Santa myth, it runs its course and leaves you low. But Christine was a little correct. Being Santa is in no way is a substitute for a stage of life where you can fully believe a fucking magic man flies in the sky on a sled that somehow has enough presents for every single child in the world, whom he is able to make contact with in a, like, 12-hour span, with the help of reindeer who fly even though they have no wings - though one has a useless little bicycle-light of a nose – I mean, what a rarified state, to be able to believe such a thing! I think this is why I really wanted to ‘do Santa’ with my kid, against the initial protests of my Jewish co-parent, who has since turned their back on the holiday. It wasn’t just that it was my own beloved tradition, though it was. It also seems crucial to exploit this magical, believing era of childhood for all its worth. Which is why I also involved the local comic book store in a tooth fairy caper when the kid lost a tooth a few months back. But that’s a story for another newsletter.
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I love reading these newsletters! I was a true Santa believer until age nine, when I saw the Gremlins movie, where the dad DIES (i think??? have not seen it since) by getting stuck in the chimney dressed as Santa. I had gentle hippie parents who lovingly nibbled on cookies and reindeer carrots and made sleigh tracks in the snow, and was so mad at them for “lying” but I think it was amplified by the bizarre/abrupt Gremlins reveal and being a shy and coddled only child who didn’t get clued in by other kids somehow. And I still love Christmas!
I totally feel you on the rush to hide the non-parenting items when the kid comes back lol. I will also say that I was mightily not forgiven for a small period of time when I admitted to my kid that I had been writing a series of “notes” from fairies who had been visiting our apartment. I felt really bad about it for a day or two but I still stand by it as a cool, magical, weird thing I did out of mom love, which is not always rational, and therefore precious I think. 😂😅😂😅