Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Interview by Portia

I asked portia, who does not know me from Eve, to interview me, and she kindly did so!

1) We both came to reading via our fathers. Does your mother read like that, and do you think it means anything either way?
My mom reads, but not nearly as much as my dad. I think what made a difference to me is that SOMEONE read the way I did--it made me feel like less of a freak. Although my mother always wanted me to get good grades, and wanted me to be smart, she also wished I was more of a girly-girl. (I'm nearly 47 and she still wants that.) I think my reading was more evidence for her that there were parts of me she wasn't going to really be able to understand, and that used to scare her, I think. So, actually, I think what it meant is that my love of reading kind of got in our way a little bit. Hmmm; I'd never thought of it that way before! (Insight through interviews . . .)

2) What's your favorite Vonnegut story or book?
My favorite story is "Who Am I This Time?" which is completely sappy but I love it anyway. I love the notion of someone being so transformed/transformable by the written word; I love the ingenuity of the woman. I think the book that has stuck with me the longest is "Player Piano," even though I haven't read it in many years and it is, in many ways, the "straightest" of his books. The whole notion of embodied knowledge is quite deep and profound, and I think the political implications of the story are deep as well. It's a very Marxist book, in some ways, though I have no idea whether Vonnegut himself would agree with that.

3) What three pieces of advice would you give Bear (my sister), who is has just married a divorced father?
All of this advice is based on the assumption that the ex-wife isn't completely crazy and that the kids are with their dad at least part of the time but not all the time. If those things aren't true, the advice can probably be modified to fit. Of course, it's also possible that Bear is already doing these things.
a. Give the kids as much room as possible around their mother--and don't require that they demonstrate affection for you (but do demand that they respect you). If possible, help them (as necessary) pick out or make gifts for their mother, for things like Christmas and birthdays and such. Acknowledge that it's difficult for them. Simultaneously, give your husband as much room as you can in dealing with the ex-wife, especially if she's not remarried and the kids are young. Remind him (if necessary) that your home is his primary home, but don't get bent out of shape if he lends a hand at her house if he's doing it for his kids.
b. At the same time, you and your husband need to be clear about what the rules of your house are, and enforce them (and make sure he does some of that, too); be consistent, which is more important than the strictness or laxness of the rules themselves. There will almost inevitably be differences; do not be swayed by the argument that "mom lets me do that." I assume that you've had conversations about expectations, but keep having them. Draw connections between what your parents did and who you are, and between what his parents did and who he is, to illuminate discussions about the connections between parents' expectations and kids' behavior. Set boundaries--they keep bad stuff out, and help kids feel safe.
c. Involve the kids in the life of your house. Get them in the kitchen with you, have them help with chores, whatever is age-appropriate and fits with the things you like to do. If they play sports, play with them. Read (and discuss) books together. Have dinner-table traditions (ours is "one good thing and one bad thing that happened to me today"). This is especially true if they're only with you part of the time--it will help them, and you, feel like you're a family. If they don't like the things you like, well, they can still do chores and help out; I think it's much better that kids don't have things just handed to them.
d. Yeah, I know this is the fourth thing, but still. The most important part of our relationship is honesty--being able to be honest, and being able to hear the other person's honesty. I think this is especially important when step-relationships are involved.

4) I can name 6 points of similarity between us from reading (quickly) the first page of your blog and scrolling all the way to the bottom. (That is, without clicking.) How many can you name by doing the same to mine?
1. We have blogrolled several people in common.
2. We're feminists.
3. We have strong, close, relationships with our fathers.
4. We have one kid in our immediate family's lives.
5. We have siblings (I think siblings change one's experience of the universe).
6. We have lived on the east coast.
7. We like having deep conversations with the kids in our lives (which, I'm coming to see/believe, isn't necessarily the case).
8. We like to write--I love your literate and conversational style, and you're a great storyteller, so I make no claims about the relative quality of our writing, but loving reading AND writing seems to help, in general.

5) Are you familiar with Polyface Farm? I have a feeling you'd be really interested, if you're not already a fan.
Ooooh, no, I'd never heard of them! But I have now, and, you're right, I'm really interested! Thank you!

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The Official Interview Game Rules
1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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