The MAD Goddess writes out loud with candor and humor about the changing landscape of life for women with retired husbands,
adult children, and grandchildren. It's not always a pretty story,
but it's usually pretty funny.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Garden of the MAD Goddess

About this time every year I like to indulge my nature Goddess aspect. After being buried in snow up to my hoo-ha for six months, then spending another eight weeks or so scrutinizing Mother Nature for any signs of green life, I accept that summer in the northland is arriving late, as usual.

Now, if I lived where things warm up a bit more than 70-degrees before the dog days of August, or where the bodies of water were bath-temp tidal pools, I might take a skinny dip and indulge in some au naturale' sun bathing on a large, flat rock. Instead, I invoke the virtue of patience and begin filling my bird feeders, watching for the return of the birds on the spring breezes.

I’ve learned to be happy sipping my morning brew, wrapped in my fleece robe with fluffy chenille sox on my feet. I tuck back into a sunny corner protected from the wind and chant, “I do believe in summer, I do believe in summer, I do believe in summer.” Where are those damn hot flashes when I need them?

When I think of a nature Goddess, I conjure images of the Disney Princesses (I’m a child of the 60’s, what do you expect?). I imagine strolling through my acre-sized yard, which I like to refer to as the Garden of the Godddess, with small woodland creatures flocking around me and bluebirds lighting on my shoulders.

In reality, I talk to the feathered and furred, the four-legged and the eight legged, and even the no legged slitherers. I'm old, I can act as flat out crazy as I want to these days. The animals tolerate my eccentricity, most likely because I keep filling the feeders and growing the flowers and vegetables they eat – or that attract the critters they eat (food chain principal – more on that later). I keep a respectful distance from the stingers and biters. I have just one expectation; within the boundaries of the MA’d Goddess’s acre, everybody better get along and play nice.

There’s a new visitor to our little sanctuary. A brazen young buck still wet behind his nubbin, little antlers, he’s been spotted in several locations around the village. Striking at night, he’s destroyed half-a-dozen of my birdfeeders at last count and gorged himself on close to 25 pounds of birdseed. He is about to incur the full wrath of the MAD Goddess.

I’m a pacifist; you know, do no harm and all that jazz, but I admit to a dark side. For instance, the squirrels and I have an understanding; they are welcome to forage from the ground beneath the bird feeders. Occasionally I have to remind them of that rule. I 've switched to a pellet gun instead of the .22 caliber automatic action rifle, so there are no longer any squirrel carcasses to hang from the feeder pole (a warning to other would-be marauders). Time is short. The MAD Goddess doesn't waste it on nice.

I don’t ask for much, really. It brings me great joy to sit on my deck, sipping coffee, watching the birds and enjoying my Disney Princess world for a few minutes in the morning before the real insanity of my day kicks me in the butt.

As for little Bambi, he’s got a lesson to learn. There’s room for everybody at the MAD Goddess banquet table. Either you’re a guest, or the main course – food chain, you know.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In Our (own) Places

I like to listen to talk radio on the NPR network. These shows have it all – interesting subject matter, well informed guests, controversy, intelligent, polite debate and my favorite part, call in questions.

Recently I was listening to a spirited debate concerning the financial burden of divorce and unwed childbearing on taxpayers. The guest, David Blankenthorn, author of Fatherless America, made valid and intelligent points regarding single mothers and children living below poverty level when fathers don’t contribute financially. Being the founder and president of the Institute for American Values and founder of National Fatherhood Initiative, he supports and encourages two-parent families. (Let me point out that the general assumption was these two parents would be heterosexual. Same-sex parenting is another topic.)

Several women called in to shake their ruffled feathers. But the real fun began when a misguided male called to say that when women moved into the workforce and were able to break free of financial enslavement (my words not his), the two parent family became a thing of the past. He theorized that only when women become financially dependent again, would we have the two-parent America Blankenthorn envisions, where the women are barefoot and pregnant (his words) and the husbands are in charge.

And here I thought the Neanderthals were extinct! If you’re reading this there’s a 99.9-percent chance you are a woman. But for that miniscule possibility that there may be a man in my audience, I have a question. How about supporting and encouraging two-parent families by the practice of treating your wife as an equal?

Unfortunately, equality as a concept or a practice is lost in most heterosexual marriages (I can't speak of same-sex marriage for I know not). Men seemed to be hardwired to think that once the merger is complete and papers are signed, they somehow have the controlling share of stock in the partnership.

When I married for the second time, I chose a man who had been divorced and living on his own for the better part of 10 years. I knew he could wash dishes, cook, do laundry, vacuum, sweep and mop a floor, and clean a shower stall and a toilet. After six years of marriage, he still does his own laundry (he would do mine too if I let him, but after several ruined silk blouses and a shrunken wool pants I nixed that).

Before marrying him, I too was alone and handled many traditionally male chores and house maintenance all by my little self. In the past six years I have helped him construct an addition to our home, installed ceramic and vinyl tile floors in two rooms, removed a bathroom sink (it was the only way to get at the plumbing) installed a new faucet and replaced the sink. I also do the majority of painting and staining, inside and out, some of the mowing and all of the edge trimming. No big deal. I have the necessary skill set and his job (until recently) kept him away from home for extended periods.

My husband is retired now. I go off to my job the same as usual and when I get home, the dirty dishes from breakfast are still there – plus the pan he cooked his lunch in, the dishes he ate it on and about five drinking glasses. I clean up the kitchen (sometimes) so I can begin preparing supper, set the table, serve the meal to his highness, clean the table, do the dishes, sweep the floor (that I installed) then retire to the living room where I fall asleep in my lazy girl.

And to top it all off, when I am performing the more traditionally male chores, or even helping him to do them, criticism is the tool he keeps closest at hand.

Now, for that caller to the NPR show, and the men that are reading this because you’re wives printed it out and shoved it in your face – do you get that when financial support isn’t at issue, you’d better be bringing something else to the marriage table? Try a hot meal on clean dishes and a kind word or two – and not just when you’ve screwed up again.

If you need further guidance, you might try listening to Aretha Franklin. “R - E - S - P - E - C - T . Find out what it means to me.”