Friday, June 27, 2014

The Turnip

On Monday I bought my car.  I wrote a funny column about it for The City Paper, but my more...intense thoughts were on this blog.  I'll have more about intense thoughts in the next few days, but for now, I want to let you know some new facts about the car.

1.  I drove it to Greensboro, NC, over the last two days.  Yes, I drove most of the time!  I discovered that my interstate skills hadn't disappeared at all.  I was perfectly capable of changing lanes, using cruise control, slamming my foot on the brake if need be.  As I drove, I had some of the freedom thoughts I wrote about before:  I considered how difficult it would be to put Maybelle into her carseat with her Haley and head off to Greensboro again to visit both my brothers.  Could I do it solo?  I think so!  We might spend a couple of summer weekends with the North Carolina Piepmeier Miller cohort.

2.  When I first wrote about the car, Erica brilliantly named it The Eggplant.  Totally appropriate:  the car is an eggplanty purple, and it's almost completely rounded, no corners.  Plus, I enjoy eggplants. Who doesn't love eggplant parmigiana?

Then Trey met the car, a car about which he'd been a little...skeptical.  He found it acceptable.  And because he has a sort of odd, perfect sense of humor, he started calling The Turnip.  You know, because it's not at all like a turnip.

But it turns out that the car actually prefers that name.  The Turnip captures its personality.  It feels it's more appropriate.  So that's its name now.  As I drove back to Charleston, I offered it several pats on the dashboard and said, "Good job, Turnip."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I have a car! The personal reflections, with pictures

OMG!  This is my car!  (This is really how I felt.)
I suggest that you read my City Paper column, which is funny and far less personal.  Then read this post if you want more of my own reflections about my life.

As of Monday, I have a car.  I can drive, and I have a car.  

I'm having an interesting set of feelings emerging from this.  I'm excited to be able to drive.  I'm excited to have a car, one that's safe and reliable--and these feeling aren't surprising to me.  I keep forgetting what I can do with a car, and that's been a sort of repeating delight.  For instance, Maybelle had a dentist appointment on Tuesday.  On Monday I thought, "Shit!  I haven't scheduled anybody to take us there!"  Then I realized, "Oh, I have a car!  I can take us there!"  She was invited to a birthday party in Mount Pleasant on Saturday.  The thought of making phone calls to find who we might ride with made my energy level begin to sink.  Then I realized, "Oh, I have a car!  I can take us there!"  Even on a smaller level, Monday I thought, "Shit!  I'm going to have to bike to the grocery store!  Will I have time for that?"  Then I realized, "Oh, I have a car!  I can take myself there!" This is happening again and again, and every time I realize that my expectations get to shift, I'm thrilled.
"Mama's car," says Maybelle happily.

But one feeling I'm having is surprising me, and at a different level:  driving Maybelle to dance class on Tuesday afternoon, I realized that we can go anywhere.  I could put gas in the car, and she and I could take off right then for Tennessee, to spend more time with my parents.  We could go anywhere.  The sense of freedom that swept through me at that moment was not something I'd expected.  Yes, a car is incredibly convenient--but this feeling was far more than that.  It was elation, openness, like I was able to breathe more easily.  I realized that the last three years have been more frightening to me, more constraining, than I'd let myself realize.  

For the first year that I couldn't drive, Walter would take me and Maybelle anywhere we needed to go.  For the next two years, Trey was available at any time.  I could call him from school at 4:30 and say, "It's raining! Can you come take me and Maybelle home?", and he'd say, "I'm on my way."  I'd say, "I need to go to my therapist this week," and he'd say, "When? I'll put it in my calendar." Then Trey moved to North Carolina.  And that event, among others, allowed me to start experiencing the reality of being a person who can't drive.  Not being able to drive dramatically affected my life.  

I'm a person with a brain tumor, and because of the brain tumor, I have seizures.  This is a pretty common phenomenon:  when something messes with your brain, you often start experiencing electrical reactions that cause seizures.  In fact, it's a big seizure that allowed us to learn about my brain tumor to begin with.  I've had seizures ever since then, and they became large enough--tonic clonic--that I was no longer safe to drive.  My neurologist helped me adjust my medications, then adjust them again, and then again.  He was successful:  my last big seizure was April 9, 2013.  So now I'm allowed--legally, and with my neurologist's endorsement--to drive again.

Driving a car doesn't make me think that I don't have a brain tumor.  It hasn't allowed me to trick myself into thinking I'm a person who doesn't have seizures--and who might never have big ones again.  I'm a person with a disability.  I'm a person who has seizures, and a brain tumor.  This is something I'm grappling with and that I know I'll be writing more about.  

So this is what I think might be happening:  I couldn't (can't?) recognize my disabilities.  And as a partial result of that, I haven't been able to recognize my fears, my limitations, when I'm in the midst of them.  For the last three years I often felt anxious, sad, exhausted being a person who can't do many, many things without the help and support of friends.  But I didn't know the depth of those feelings.

Right now the feelings are diminished, and the sense of lightness this brings to my body--like I'm full of oxygen, I'm shining through every pore--is allowing me something new.  At some level I'm afraid that this won't last--now that I know what it means, it will be so painful to lose it.  But there's no way to know, so I'm trying to be in the present moment.

As I said in the City Paper column, Hello, ugly car.  Welcome to the family.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Big fun in Cookeville, TN

Editor's note:  This is probably a post that only friends and family will want to read.  It's all upbeat and adorable, but there's nothing political here.

This is our last full day in Tennessee, vacationing with Nonnie and Poppi, and we've had a great time.  Here are some of the highlights:

Showing off for Nonnie and Poppi
Maybelle scootering with her grandparents.

Maybelle making Nonnie share her chair
Maybelle is in charge of the household.  Every chair is hers,
and she forces my parents to move or to share.  (This was
Maybelle being generous, letting my mom do some computer

Tickling is one of my dad's gifts.
My dad is truly gifted with the power to tickle anybody
who's ticklish.  No one else can tickle Maybelle the way
my dad can.  She loves it.
And now videos!

Heading off into the wilderness on her scooter June 17, 2014 from Maybelle on Vimeo.

Here's the first moment I realized Maybelle is competent with the scooter my parents bought her.  This video might make you sick to your stomach because it's so shaky, but she's impressive as she heads out away from me.

Scootering in the fountain from Maybelle on Vimeo.

Mom had the excellent idea to encourage Maybelle to scooter in the fountain so that she wouldn't scald her feet on the incredibly hot pavement.

Ah, Cookeville. I had the thought that I might do some work while I was here--and I've done a bit--but it's been far more valuable to hang with Maybelle and my parents.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Chris Korey and I, super-famous at the Personal Genetics Education Project

April 2013, Chris Korey and I went to a meeting of the Personal Genetics Education Project (the GETed Conference), related to the Genetics, Environments, Traits Conference.  This was a really interesting meeting for me, in part because I was the only person there asking the group to think about prenatal testing not as a scientific success but as something emerging from and contributing to troubling cultural narratives about people with Down syndrome.

If you want to remember what my experience was like, here are the two posts I wrote:
Chris is an excellent travel companion (as well as an excellent geneticist), and our work at these meetings helped us make great plans for our Genes, Genomes, and Human Diversity class that we taught spring semester 2014.

Since I'm sure you want to see how fantastic Chris and I are together (I'm not kidding), here are some videos they finally released!  Chris and I agreed to be interviewed, and in the interview we're talking about our research perspectives and how they relate to each other.  I'm interested in what students from the Genes, Genomes, and Human Diversity class have to say, because I strongly suspect these interviews are a good representation of what we were like team-teaching the course.

Aren't we great? Don't you want us to get our own TV show?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The writing process

Why this cover?  I don't know, but
the book is damned good.
I do a lot of writing these days.  Academic writing, blog writing, column writing.  Just today my latest Charleston City Paper column was published, "Forgive Me If I've Fallen in Love with Romance Novels" (I have, in fact, fallen in love with them, and you should read the article for the quotes from the novels, if nothing else).

What I'm discovering is that the book I'm trying to write is really challenging.  The book doesn't have a title yet, but it's about prenatal testing, reproductive decision-making, and Down syndrome.  It's under contract with NYU Press, and they're fantastic (as is my editor--she edited Girl Zines, and she's absolutely great to work with).

The subject matter of the book isn't challenging to me.  I have so much to say about it--I've become the kind of person who could talk about these ideas for 30 minutes if someone asks me one question.  I've been fortunate to have hours of conversations with people whose experiences relate to the topic, and their stories have challenged my assumptions, made me think in different ways, validated some of my experiences, and helped me connect with people who are now friends.  Good stuff.

What's challenging for me is a clear, coherent focus.  The conversations, among other aspects of my research, have made things complex.  Complexity, as we all know, is a crucial element of critical thinking and of provocative, substantive writing.

What I want to do is be complex and also focused.  This is in part because I want this book to be more mainstream than academic.  This means it can't deal with 1000 separate topics.  Academic books can do this (which is one reason that they're generally only read by people with PhDs), but mainstream books need to have a complexity that circulates around one focus, maybe one story.

Yesterday I was talking with a group of feminist scholars and writers about this book.  They asked what I want it to do.  Here's a version of what I said:
We're in a huge transition moment for Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities:  250 colleges nationwide have inclusive college programs.  And at the same time, non-invasive prenatal testing is becoming more affordable and more common when women are pregnant, which will almost certainly lead to more abortions of fetuses with Down syndrome.  Thoughtful people recognize this, but I want this book to encourage readers to move beyond cognitive understanding of reproductive decision-making and have more of an emotional experience of the decisions women have made, and of what it means to be a person in the world who has Down syndrome.
The group said, "That's a mainstream book."

So I want to write a book that bridges the academic and the mainstream.  I want to write a book that isn't so much making an academic argument as it is inviting readers to experience meaningful stories--my own and those of the people I interviewed.  These stories will be making a larger point.  I don't have experience doing this.

The group suggested that I blog about the process of creating this book.  Maybe writing these blog posts will give me some clarity.  Maybe you all will have questions and feedback that will push my thinking.

Sadly, I don't think there will be any material in the book that describes sucking a citadel, or anything hard pressed against someone's inner thighs.

Monday, June 16, 2014


This picture doesn't begin to show how many kids were there.
In Minneapolis a few days ago it was 53 degrees. Today in Cookeville, TN, it's 93 degrees.

On Thursday I was wearing a sweater and shivering.  Today a t-shirt felt ridiculously hot, and it ended up drenched.  From sweater to sweating!  Clever, right?

This afternoon Maybelle and I went to the most unpleasant playground of all time--there was no shade, so you couldn't touch anything without scalding your skin. We left  almost immediately and instead went to the "mountain" (what Maybelle calls the fountain), where we met all of Cookeville's children running, screaming, splashing, and having an excellent time.

Maybelle and I were wearing appropriate sunscreen, but I needed a baseball cap because I've caused permanent squint damage to my face.  Plus, so much sweat ran into my eyes that one of them popped out.  (Can you tell that I'm with my dad?  This is his sense of humor.)

Now it's feeling like summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Conference joys

The Minneapolis gang
The Minneapolis Gang.  Margot is the leader.  She's tough.
It was an excellent day today, thanks to a number of factors:

* I got to see Aaron, Mary, and Margot, since we're all, mysteriously, at conferences in Minneapolis at the same time.  We had breakfast at a very tasty restaurant, where I ate ridiculously sweet cinnamon roll pancakes.  Meanwhile, Margot ate crunchy carrot chips.  Clearly I need to influence her with my food preferences.

* I went to a bunch of great presentations at the conference. During one of them I took so many notes that I filled up three pages.  Then I was overwhelmed and had to make a neat to-do list based on my notes (like "Email so-and-so and ask for a copy of her paper").

* Of course, as has been the case for the whole conference, I got to see several scholars who are disability studies rock stars, folks whose work I've read and admired.  They aren't actually rock stars in the broader world (how many of you know how amazing Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is?  Or Alison Kafer? Michelle Jarman? Marsha Saxton?  Michael Davidson?  Simi Linton?  Anybody?  Anybody?)

* I got to feel a lot of gratitude for the fact that Harriet McBryde Johnson inspired me early in my CofC career, because she got praised and celebrated quite a bit at this conference.

* I had a very useful conversation about the chapter I'm writing right now, and the phrase "monkey penis" was never used to describe it.

* I got to see Amber present her paper, and I was all like, "She's my student!  Mine!  I knew how impressive she was before you all did!"
Look at my huge bed!  Clothes strewn around! I'm sitting
at the computer desk and blogging!  Joy!

* It was pouring rain almost all day, but I didn't care, because I got to have one of my favorite conference experiences:  I didn't leave the hotel! (except when I had breakfast with the Minneapolis Gang, pictured above.)  Conferences are luxurious, because I get to stay in my quiet, empty hotel room as long as I want.

* Astrid Henry was the person who--back in the day--inspired me to stop rooming with people and to get my own room.  She always does that because she wants the quiet down time to do her own thing and not have to be extroverted, and I thought, "Hell, yeah!"  I've been doing it ever since.

Amber!  So great to see her! Soon-to-be
 academic rock star!
* I told Amber I'd probably go to the dance tonight, but I probably won't--because it's so nice being in this hotel room.  She knows me well enough that she already said goodbye to me, even though she insisted she'd see me at 9pm (9, people!  So late!) on the dance floor.

Look at all the links I have here!  This post is very well-documented.  Tomorrow I head to Cookeville, where I'll spend the next week with Maybelle and my parents.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's 52 degrees in Minneapolis

That's right, 52 degrees.  That's basically half the temperature it is in Charleston this time of year.  That temperature is winter weather in Charleston, when everybody's wearing gloves and things.  Meanwhile, people are walking around downtown Minneapolis in shorts and t-shirts.

I'm here at the conference for the Society for Disability Studies.  I've never been to this conference before, and it's very interesting--a lot of thought-provoking papers, and loads of people whose work has been influential to me.  For instance, at my panel yesterday, I was the only panelist who didn't quote Alison Kafer.  She'll show up all over my book, of course, but sadly, I didn't include any of her brilliance in what I was talking about yesterday.  (I did quote several people who read this blog, but I think it'd be tacky to mention their names, so I won't.  But you know who you are!)

It's also exciting that Amber Cantrell is at the conference, former CofC Women's and Gender Studies miracle-worker, now PhD student in WGS at Rutgers.

There it is.  Coffee cake?  I think not.
So let's talk about Minneapolis.  In addition to how freezing cold it is, it's a beautiful city, and looks very different from Charleston.  Yesterday I took a long walk through downtown.  There was a farmer's market happening that was stretched out along a city street, with fruits and veggies, honey, nuts, and homemade soaps.  I was snack-ish, so when I saw the pastry booth, I happily visited.  The guy running it had apple fritters, cookies, brownies, and an interesting looking bread thing.

"That's like...a blueberry coffee cake," he said to me, seeing that I wasn't from there, as I was wearing a sweater that I was clutching around my body.  It obviously wasn't a blueberry coffee cake, but he didn't want to confuse me by telling me its actual name.  It was a Minnesota food, so that's what I got.

I ate it as I walked down the street.  It was tasty, but not coffee cake at all.  It was like he'd flattened out yeasty bread dough, filled it with blueberries, then rolled it up and baked it.  Anybody from Minnesota know what this actually is? facial expression isn't suggesting
that this is not delicious.  I'm just not that
good at self portraits while I'm eating.
Food here is very different from food in the South.  I went to the big breakfast buffet yesterday where they had no biscuits.  None.  Instead, they had cheddar bacon scones.  What the hell is that for a morning food?  I tried was fine, but I didn't love it, so it sat on my plate with only one bite taken out of it.

At any rate, they've really thought through the design of this city.  Not only was everything everything everything 
You know, Land of 1000 Lakes and all.
accessible to people using wheelchairs, but they have a greenway downtown that apparently stretches over the interstate and wanders into a sculpture garden.  I didn't have time to walk the whole thing, but I did make it to the Loring Lake.

I've got two more days in Minneapolis.  I'm going to presentations on prenatal testing, medical approaches to disability, and why there are almost no people of color here, and very few people talking about feminism.

More soon...

Update:  It's now 84 degrees in my room!  And I can't turn it down!  Ha!

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I had a friend's car Saturday from 10 to 4. That meant Maybelle and I got to do whatever we wanted.  Because I can drive.

As I often do, I'd gotten in touch with quite a few friends this week, looking for Saturday plans.  Nobody was available.  Let me assure you that six hours with Maybelle, on the peninsula, just the two of us, with every outing involving me biking us somewhere, often for several miles--well, those aren't always fun hours.  If it rains, forget it.  It's six hours in the house, with Maybelle and I growing sicker and sicker of each other.

But Saturday we had a car.  I realized that I didn't have to be as careful in my planning as I do on the bike. If I'm biking several miles, I'd better damn well be sure that I've got every necessary--or potentially necessary--item packed up, because turning around and biking another several miles to return home, then several miles to get back where I was, isn't fun.  It's incredibly healthy, but how many miles a day do I have to bike to feel I've gotten a healthy amount of biking?  Just getting to campus achieves that.  So I generally have to be efficient, think through a series of potential issues, bring whatever food might be necessary, extra clothes, etc.

Not a Subaru, but still a decent car for me to get.
I'm allowing myself to complain here because Saturday I wasn't having to deal with those challenges.  I was acting like a person living in the lap of luxury:  If I forget something essential, I'll drive home and get it! If I'm 15 miles away and realize I've forgotten something, I'll just drive home and get it!  I recognize that this isn't a good life philosophy, but on Saturday I felt like I was allowed to bask.  To be selfish.  To be scattered.

My mom made Maybelle a CD awhile back, and I put it in the CD player.  Maybelle and I sang enthusiastically as we drove along.  She brought three of her girls and played with them.

We went to a county park swimming area that's a good 30 minutes away from our home.  We went there because it's just a fantastic kids' swim area (I'll describe it in great detail some other time).  We got there when we wanted, and we got to stay as long as we wanted to.  After 2+ hours swimming, we drove back home and rested our completely exhausted bodies.  Imagine if I'd been swimming that enthusiastically somewhere downtown, then had to bike back home?  I'm incredibly grateful that I didn't have to do that today. Then after we rested, we went and got some groceries.  I didn't have to examine them carefully, deciding how much would fit in the bike basket.  There was a trunk on the car!  I could get whatever we needed!

It was a luxurious day.

Let me stress that I have the most incredibly community of generous friends who are eager to get groceries, to invite Maybelle and me to come do things (this is how I learned about this fantastic kids' swim park, from a friend who took us out there for a morning of play), to carry us to and from fun afternoons at their houses.  I'm so grateful this group.  I will continue to need them, and I know this.

This driving feels vulnerable to me, like it's a wonderful, unexpected gift.  I don't know how long it will last.  For years?  That might be true, since it's been over a year since I've had a seizure that made me unconscious, and the current drugs seem to be working.

So Saturday I drove.  Today I'll drive.  I might even buy a car so that I can drive when I want.  It's a huge transition.  Huge.  Huge.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some bad news, and some good news

You all are aware of the pie glory that's been going on in my house ("our new home," as Maybelle continues to call it).  In many ways I am a pie genius.  I have skills.

This is the pie in the garbage can.  The bad news.
And yet on Monday night, I made a pie that was...not delicious.  Worse than not delicious.  Bad.  It was a shoo-fly pie, a Pennsylvania Dutch pie that my mom used to make us when we were kids.  It was sort of bready and sweet--I remember loving it!  Trey and Olivia left a jar of molasses here when they moved, and I thought, "There you go!  Shoo-fly pie ingredient #1!"

But the version I made is a troubling pie. You take one bite and you think, "Hmm, that's interesting."  Then the flavor fills up your mouth and you start hacking and scraping food off your tongue.  Rest assured, I tried this time and time again, thinking that it couldn't possibly be that bad.  But it was.  It's the worst pie I've ever made.  So that's the bad news.

The good news.

Claire and I went to see my neurologist on Tuesday.  He's the neurologist I've been seeing for over a year now, and he's a really nice guy.  A really safe guy.  Really, really, really, really safe.  He's been adjusting all my anti-seizure medications and having email conversations with me about coffee consumption, orgasms, etc. (For what it's worth, neither coffee nor an orgasm triggers seizures).  He knows me.  He loves me.

And everytime I've asked about driving, he's offered a very nice NO.  "You know, people with epilepsy can have four seizures a year and have a perfectly good life.  You can do your job and have exactly the life you have now with four seizures a year."

To which I replied, "But I'll never be able to drive!"

He nodded in a sympathetic way.

After you've been seizure-free for six months, the state of SC allows you to drive, so when we hit that moment, Claire said, "You'll let her drive now, right?"

And he said, "We really need to see how this plays out.  Just because she hasn't had any seizures hat have made her unconscious doesn't mean she's safe to drive."

Claire said, "She rides a bike every day!"

He said, "Far fewer people will be hurt if she wrecks a bike than if she wrecks a car."

Two months ago, we saw him.  I'd had nothing stronger than a speech arrest since April 9, 2013.  In a speech arrest I temporarily lose the ability to understand language (and boy, does that suck, and often feel nauseating).  But it's only for 30 seconds or so, and I'm able to be fully functional during them (even pretending I understand every word in a conversation, making appropriate facial expressions).

Alright, this is getting lengthy.  Let's see if I can condense.  Last time he said that I was "tantalizingly close" to being able to drive.  "Tantalizingly close???" Claire and I asked.  "What would make her cross over into driving?"  He said I should keep a chart tracking speech arrests and how they coincide with things like my period and stress.  He said that sometimes people with speech arrests think they're conscious, but they're not, so I decided to keep track of that, too.

On Tuesday, we sat down with my neurologist.  I gave him the chart.  I told him what had happened during every speech arrest that proved I hadn't lost consciousness (I was riding the bike home one time. I was in a coffee shop and kindly waved off the person offering me more coffee.  I was Skyping and watched my face while it happened--and nothing changed in my facial expression).

Claire said, "Can she drive?", and he said, "I can't argue that it would not be relatively safe to drive."  Claire wrote the quote down in the notebook!  And we both said, "That means Alison can, drive, right?  That's what you're saying!" He didn't contradict us.  He smiled.  He told us about the study in Arizona that showed that people with epilepsy are actually much safer drivers than people who text while driving (which means that two men in my life aren't safe drivers). He said, "It's been a year without losing awareness, that is technically the law."
Maybelle working at car sales in the American History
Museum.  I'm going to need her help in buying a car.
Everytime we said, "I can drive!", he didn't contradict us.  We said, "She's leaving this office, and she can drive!" and he smiled.

This medical professional is extremely careful.  He's relentless in his wariness.


I don't have a car, but I'll figure that out.  I haven't been allowed to drive for three years. This is huge!  As you know, not driving has been hitting me hard.  I know know know that some of my delight here is based on ego.  And I promise I'll examine that.

But right now, I am thrilled!

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Batter for crunchy cinnamon bread.
I bake.  Not actual dinners, mind you, but desserts.  I used to do this all the time, particularly when I lived in the super-health-food Piepmeier household as a child and learned that I could eat all the cookie dough I wanted when I was making the cookies.  But I've started doing it again in the last four months.  Trey, Oh-vee-LAH and I started having Pie-days on...well, you can guess what day of the week, right?  They'd bring burgers, and I'd provide pies:  cherry pies, apple pies, pecan pies, key lime pies, lemon icebox pies.*  I occasionally made a cake.

I'm really good at making pies, in part because I make such a delicious crust.  But that's not all I can bake.  In recent days I've made two coffee cakes, a peanut butter chocolate cake, and a loaf of crunchy cinnamon bread, because I have buttermilk and need to find ways to use it. (The day after I drafted this post, I made a buttermilk pie.)

I'm finding that baking is oddly relaxing.  I like the end product, of course, but I also like making the food.  I like rolling out the pie crust.  I like blending things in the Kitchen Aid.

I've been trying to figure out this phenomenon:  why do I like baking so much?  Why am I doing so much of it?  Why does it give me a thrill and help me to focus in a non-stressful way?

I don't know the answer, but I feel like it's related somehow to single parenting.**

Here's an obvious point:  single parenting is hard.  Hard.  It's hard to be responsible for all the morning, after school, and bedtime rituals.  All the nights she can't fall asleep or wakes up repeatedly.  All the mornings that start at 5am.  All the weekend plans.  All the cleaning.  All the doctors' appointments, therapy appointments, after-school activities.  All the desperate scheduling if she gets sick and has to miss school, or if my job requires a late meeting.  (Thank god for great babysitters!)

Cherry pie.  Trey and Olivia's favorite.
It's especially hard to be a single parent who isn't able to drive.  My friends have been amazing--offering to drive us to school in the rain, to have Maybelle and I be part of their weekend plans, to take me to the grocery store.  Let me repeat:  they are amazing.

But it's still hard.  If I need to get groceries, I have to schedule that--to find someone who can do it when I can.  Having to take that extra step or set of steps is a small but tiring thing.  It would be much easier if, on Saturday afternoon, I saw that I was out of milk and just hopped in the car with Maybelle to run to the grocery store.  Or if, on Thursday after dance class, I needed to get some fig bars for her, she and I would make a quick trip to Trader Joe's.  Or if I was walking out the door and realized that it had just started raining, I could move us to the car and get to school that way.  Or if I had a doctor's appointment on the other side of town, I could bike home from school and then drive myself there.

You see what I mean?  I didn't drive much back in the day when I was driving, but the times that I drove, it was really helpful.  Getting the rides I need right now requires thinking ahead.  Planning.  It's not easy to do on the spur of the moment (like on rainy days).  It requires me to gear myself up to be social--the grocery store not as quick trip but as quick trip with a wonderful person, and catching up with that wonderful person.  But you know how sometimes you've had a long day and you just want to be silent?

Crunchy cinnamon bread.  I've already eaten two
pieces because it's delicious.
Baking is something I'm in charge of.  I can do it myself, quietly, breathing, in the kitchen.  Maybelle can help if she wants, but most of the time I do it completely alone.  I have a recipe that tells me what to do; I don't have to guess (which, oddly, provides me with room to do a little experimenting).  It makes the house smell delicious.  And then I have a delicious baked thing, and I can feed it to people I love.  I can take some over to the guys next door.  I'm not asking for favors; I'm offering them.  I'm competent.

Baking:  a way to compensate for the challenges of the single-parent-not-driving life.

*After I started on this trend, I watched the movie Waitress.  Some significant similarities.  And a good film.
**Please notice, college students, that it was the process of writing that helped me figure out what's going on.  Professors aren't lying when we tell you how important writing is.