cosmic comeuppance

You know how I said, a few posts below this one, how much I love being a mother and how much I enjoy my children's company?

Well, the universe has a sense of humor, because tonight my children were absolute hellions -- the worst they've been as a group in many, many months.

My eldest acted as unpleasant and nasty and teenager-y as he ever has in his life, and my youngest sobbed for one hour straight because he couldn't find a certain green plastic lego. It was bizarre. It just got worse and worse no matter what I said or did until I had to go out on the back porch and pratice some meditative deep breathing for a few minutes to prevent me from totally losing it and jumping out the window or something.

I think they were all really tired -- and Elliot may actually be catching something, his behavior was so wacky and random -- because when I made them all lie down with me, they all conked out within five minutes. Looking at them now, all cute and snuggled up in their beds, it's hard to believe they were so wired and unpleasant only an hour ago, but they were...

At times like this I realize it is very unlikely I will ever live with another adult again -- at least until my children are all grown up. I'm not sure I ever want to re-marry anyway, but even if I did, it's hard for me to imagine that anyone would want to deal with the REALLY hard work of helping to parent three children who are not their own. I mean, on nights like this, I'd leave the house if I could, and heck, I adore these kids.


I have a nanny, Laura, who is 22 and very quirky and funny. Last night I got home really late (work followed by trip to ER for my sis with Pneumonia -- me providing transport and sisterly support). So when I got home, the children were all asleep and Laura was folding clothes in my kitchen and we chatted for a while before she left, talkin' boys and life and such.

Anyway, she was telling me that she plans to break up with the person she's been seeing (whom my son Elliot has dubbed "Scary Mike" for no reason any of us can figure out - he's only met the guy once). I asked Laura what she planned to tell him and she said:

"I was thinking I'd say, 'I think we should just be acquaintances.'"

I explained to her that one generally tells the guy, "I think we should just be friends as opposed to "acquaintances," and she said:

"I actually don't even want to be his acquaintance, but I really like his dog."

the "bad mommy" orgy

It used to be that all writing by mothers about motherhood was sweet and light and happy. Motherhood was all rainbows and roses and soft-focus babylove. Mothers simply didn't admit -- at least in print (in large part, because no one would print it) that sometimes being a mother is boring, painful, depressing, and just plain hard.

Then came the amazing and wickedly subversive Erma Bombeck, who managed to get publishers to let her write about these things -- but only if she couched it all in slapstick humor. Her books sold in the gazillions and mother-readers loved them because lurking just beneath the laughs was the extreme pathos of the darkest days of mothering little kids.

Today, however, the dam has burst and it seems to me that we are now in the midst of some kind of "bad mommy" orgy, with writers and publishers tripping all over each other to see who can admit in print -- hard copy or online -- to being the worst, darkest, most disturbed mother on the block.

This new piece by Ayelet Waldman in the NYT Magazine takes the cake. In it, she says that she loves her husband far more than her children. I'm not sure there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but it has the ring of "Look at me! Look at me! I am a very weird and imperfect mommy, hence I am oh-so-hip."

I think that mothers are so happy to finally to be able to talk/write openly about the hard parts of the role: the dark, nasty underbelly of mothering, that we are seeing a feeding frenzy. For so long, NO ONE talked about postpartum depression and related things that it's refreshing to finally have these topics out in the open.

But to my mind, there is nothing cool or hip about TRYING to be the biggest slacker-mom. And saying repeatedly in print how ambivalent one is about being a mother is also starting to bore me.

Maybe I'm just a pollyanna, but overall, I dig being a mom. It suits me. I adore my kids and most of the time, find them great company. Of course, mine are older now (13, 9 and 7) and I well remember the exhaustion and run-raggedness of the days when they were 7,3 and 1, but even then, I mostly liked it. I loved being pregnant (after the nausea passed - that sucked) and enjoyed breastfeeding as much as any experience I've ever had. I remember the early months after each one was born as a euphoric period -- probably it was hormonal, but I fely giddy happy when they were tiny and I could lie in the bed and just stare at them in awestruck wonder and count their fingers and toes....

I do have bad mother days. Some days I do really fail at mothering and then I feel guilty. I write about these things and I think it's important for women to talk about, read about and write about these things so we don't feel so alone on the job. But I sure would like to see some balance in how motherhood is presented. It isn't all pathos and ambivalence and depression; sometimes -- most of the time for me -- it's the most satisfying part of my life.



This site credits me with having coined a new word -- "lactivist" -- in an article I wrote for the Chicago Sun Times (the same piece also ran in

But I didn't make this word up and honestly, I have no idea when or where I first heard it.

So if you know the provenance of the word, e-mail me or leave a comment below.

--- Katie

well, DUH

From a wire story today about the Army's recruiting slump:

"The Army has suffered most of the casualties in the war in Iraq. According to an August 2004 study done for the Army, that's a turnoff to many potential recruits."



Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Check out this cool picture my mother found of our family's house, circa 1900 or so...

It's in Bell Buckle, TN. The porch is quite different now and those scraggly trees are massive, massive beasts nowadays...



I'm 37 years old, so REM provided the soundtrack to much of my adolescence and early adulthood. I even got to interview Peter Buck once for my college newspaper (I asked him stupid questions that at the time, I thought were oh-so-arch-and-clever like, "If you could be any member of KISS, which one would you choose?").

And now, I am the mother of a teenager myself - my son Henry is 13 -- so I think it's pretty neat that Michael Stipe has made a movie that Henry and I watched together and both loved. We rented "Saved!" last weekend and I thought it was one of the smartest, funniest, sweetest teen comedies I've ever seen. Highly recommended.

The music in the movie is terrific too -- most of it stuff I'd never heard before. I am busy tracking it down since there doesn't appear to be an actual soundtrack to the movie available.


pat head summitt

I'm not much of a sports fan (except for horse sports, to which I am addicted), but if I do have a favorite mainstream sport/team it would be the Tennessee Lady (basketball) Vols. And as all of America knows, Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt last night became the winningest college basketball coach in history -- male or female.

Her achievement is all the more interesting given that (from AP story today):

Summitt took over the women's program at Tennessee in 1974 at age 22 when there were no scholarships and she had to wash the uniforms and drive the team van.

The university honored her by renaming the playing floor at Thompson-Boling Arena, "The Summitt." That's pretty neat, but really, isn't it time that the legendary women's basketball team at UT becomes "The Vols" and the less-than-successful-for-many-decades men's basketball team is renamed "The Gentleman Vols"????

I think so.

Spike Speaks

One of my all time fave people, Miss Spike Gillespie, has updated her website with a new look, pictures, blog and MORE! I especially like her article on Urban Chicken Farming and how her decision to get chickens corresponded with her own realization that her baby-having years are rapidly disappearing.

Check out the whole enchilada HERE

Normandy Anniversary

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Jane and Henry were in Normandy with their French grandparents during the 60th anniversary memorial celebrations last summer. I just got this picture of them with a Scottish soldier they met there that day. He is wearing his WWII medals on one side and his father's WWI medals on the opposite side.


Originally uploaded by kgranju.
My kids' grandmother finally gave me the photos from the trip to France with my children last summer. I like this one of my son Henry at a cafe on the Mediterranean,

Grrl power

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This is a picture of my daughter, Jane (the small one) with her 13 year old pal Amanda at a recent horse show.

One of the reasons I like it that my daughter is involved in equestrian sports is that it's a very feminist environment. It's one of the only sports in which men and women compete at absolutely the same level with no accomodations whatsoever made for gender.

And for whatever reason, the world of hunter-jumper/dressagehorse shows and trainers and barns is very female-centric. When we go to horse shows, like we did last weekend, my kids spend the entire day immersed in a world full of confident, athletic, smart, strong girls and women.

There are boys and men who ride (more men compete at the highest levels and internationally), but mostly, this sport is all about women. And it's a great environment for girls, mothers, and even boys who may not have any other area of their lives where women run the show.


I like writing for a living, even when I have to write stuff like this to pay the bills.

I didn't know this article was online until someone sent it to me today.

girl & pony

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
We had a really good horse show this weekend in Cleveland, TN. Here is my daughter Jane with her pony, "Boy Wonder." They did very well and had a great time. You can see more pix from the show HERE

I am this week's featured author over at The Mother of All Blogs. It's a little interview with me about the article I wrote for about Gary Ezzo & Co.

It isn't too often that I read something about parenting that leaves my mouth hanging open in horror, but this column did.

This woman is very, very herself, at her children, at life...

The column is about how beating her kids...oh, wait, she actually refers to it as "wailing the tar out of" them is not abuse. It's very defensive in tone -- she clearly knows what she's doing is wrong but apparently can't figure out any workable alternatives.

An excerpt:

"Is it abusive to publicly spank your child, hard, after the third time she kicks you in the shins?

It was one Sunday at Ryan's in Oak Ridge. We had just come from the baptism of my oldest daughter and were standing in line, waiting to order. My then 4-year-old daughter, Sarah, out of the blue kicks me in the shin with one of her beautiful, shiny patent leather shoes.

Rubbing my shin, I said "Don't do that, honey." She responded by kicking me again. I gave her a scowl and whispered through clenched teeth, "Stop that noooooow." Now, I don't know how little minds work, but for whatever reason she kicked me a third time.

Without thinking I scooped her up, draped her over my left forearm and wailed the tar out of her. I remember looking up to see the face of the woman behind us in line. She gave me the disapproving, incredulous "raised eyebrow" look and muttered something about "child abuse" under her breath.

I was hurt, crushed at the woman's obvious disapproval of my actions. So, I calmly sat Sarah back on her feet and told her "Sarah, honey, why don't you go kick that nice lady in the shins, so Mommy can see what she does." As Sarah headed off to do as she was told, my husband intervened, taking a place in line between me and the woman, who shoved her husband in front of her in self defense."


terri schiavo

It's the rare day when I am in strong agreement with my Senator, Bill Frist. But I am 100% behind his last ditch effort to try to save Terri Schiavo's life.

First of all, she is not on "life support." In fact, she simply requires an alternative way to get food and water. Her husband wants her to starve to death. Her parents, who are willing to take on the expense and hardship of caring for her until she dies of natural causes, do not want to see their daughter starve to death before their eyes.

Her quality of life is not the issue. This is subjective. You don't get to starve someone to death because you would not like to live in the way she is required by her medical condition to live. This is, indeed, a very slippery slope.

And she is not her husband's property -- not an inconvenient, infirm pet to be euthanized.

As a mother, a daughter, a pro-choice feminist, and as someone who was once married, this case really bothers me. I do not believe that the marriage contract should allow a man to make this decision for the woman to whom he is married. She cannot express her wishes, her choice, so we must assume she would prefer life to what will certainly be a very ugly death.


About two years ago, I seriously considered going into debt to get an MFA and then trying to make a go of writing/teaching full time. One of the issues, though, was that there was no MFA program near enough to me to do it without moving, and I can't do that (although I don't have a husband, my children have a Dad, after all, who sort of likes having them around...)

But this morning a friend sent me this:

University to Initiate Summer School of Letters

Beginning in the summer of 2006, the University of the South will launch the Sewanee School of Letters, which will offer both master’s degrees in English and American Literature and a master’s of fine arts in creative writing. The proposal to create the School of Letters was approved by Sewanee’s faculty and the Board of Regents in late February. For more, please go to:

And all of a sudden, my mind is spinning with possibilities. I love Sewanee, would love to live there and write there and teach there.... And it's near me...


I've added some new pictures to my photo pages

knitting night

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Originally uploaded by kgranju.
I am teaching my children to knit. Here are my daughter Jane and niece Eleanor working on doll blankets the other night.

elliot knits

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Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Here is Elliot working on his knitting with his faithful canine companion, Mabel, helping out by eating his yarn.


Be sure to pick up my friend Bee Lavender's wonderful new memoir (above). She's also the editor of the new book, Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts

m.f.k. fisher

Yesterday, my friend Jay read me an essay from this book:

I was so taken with it, that I ended up reading the entire book last night, staying up until almost 4:00 a.m. This morning, I am now drunk on her writing. I haven't been this besotted with something/someone new I've read in -- I don't know how long.

How I've never read any of this woman's writing is beyond me. I'm hooked. I'm going to order all of her books this week... and I have a newfound appreciation for the best way -- the right way -- to boil water.


mamawriters in the news

Check out this cool interview in Bookslut with my friend Ayun Halliday about her latest book, conducted by another pal o' mine, Adrienne Martini.. Adrienne's first book, "Hillbilly Gothic," will be out this year.


I just found out that an essay I wrote will be included in Andrea Buchanan's new anthology, to be released by Seal Press in October.


real people, real democracy

We won! Bell Buckle will vote on whether our town will become just another soul-less 'burb.


I love this tidbit from an AP story about the private memorial for Hunter S. Thompson:

At the memorial, neighbor and actor Don Johnson remembered once asking Thompson: What is the sound of one hand clapping? Thompson responded by slapping Johnson across the face.



Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Although the meterologist down the hall says it's gonna snow in the next 48 hours, I am pretending Spring has arrived after a glorious, sunny Sunday spent working in my yard. Elliot, who is my worker-bee child -- helped me weed flowerbeds and rake leaves and plant some flowers, including this wisteria, which I hope will one day cover my entire house -- or at least the porch.



Thanks for all the calls, e-mails, etc about my father. He's home now -- in no immediate danger, tho' there's still a lot to figure out about what happened and which of the symptoms are going to fade and which may not.

new stuff

In the past week, I've done some things I don't normally do, which has gotten me to thinking (that's a good turn of phrase... I should use it more often) about whether I'm already too set in my ways at age 37 and how I came to avoid certain activities.

For starters, I've cooked a little bit, sort of, with help from someone who clearly delights in it. And I've been cooked for which hasn't happened in a long time. As I watched my friend play around in the kitchen -- happily, consciously and decisively -- I wondered why cooking scares me so much. It's something I just never, ever seem to get right no matter how hard I've tried -- and I have gone through periods where I tried to learn.

Usually when people hear me say I can't cook, they just sort of guffaw and tell me it's as easy as following directions. When I tell them that no matter how hard I try to follow the directions, the food never turns out right, they don't believe me, but it's true. It just never does.

But this person with whom I was cooking this weekend didn't seem all hung up on specific instructions, and when he gave me any, they were sort of intuitive rather than rigid, like "You'll know the dough is ready when it starts separating from the sides of the bowl."

That I can understand.

So maybe I'll try it again sometime. He even got my son Henry cooking. When I woke up this morning (Saturday - - I slept in), my child had actually made - from scratch - 3 pizzas from the leftover dough, as well as fresh coffee and sliced fruit. Very tasty. So I woke up to food someone had cooked for me. Can't remember the last time that happened.

New experience #2 was a trip to Sam's. I've been there before but it's been years and years. The place really freaked me out. Yes, it's probably MUCH more practical to buy large quantities of things, but I found myself so overwhelmed by all the large quantities of things that I was sort of paralyzed at the idea of buying anything at all. It made me happy to hit the tiny, creaky, totally impractical neighborhood food co-op this morning to buy impractical-and-not-budget-conscious amounts of dogfodd, recycled trash bags, real butter, and cookies with no transfats.

New experience # 3: my laptop has sputtered back to life (no thanks to your microwaving tip, Steve Killefer ;-) and I bought a backup thingamajig and now my entire life -- 10 years of photos, writing, music, journals, etc is all safe on another harddrive. I have to say it makes me feel quite happy.

New experience #4: I sent my 9 year old daughter off to a horse show in another state for four days with her trainer and another horse show mama I know. I couldn't go and she really, really wanted to, so I packed up her boots, chaps, and helmet, wrote her phone #s on her arms in sharpie marker (yes, I really did this) and sent her on her way. She was as excited as if it were Christmas. I haven't heard from her in 2 days. I think she'll be a little older when she gets back.

New experience #5: My son Henry and a friend left a little while ago -- the first really marvelous East TN spring day this year -- to walk the mile or so from our house into downtown to go have coffee in the Old City. We've only lived in our house about 6 months and Henry's been dying to go downtown by himself ever since. So today I said okay. I passed him and his friend browsing a sidewalk thrift store sale when Elliot and I drove back from the co-op a while ago. He looked really big.

And now I'm gonna go plant Clematis .... that I bought at Sam's. It came in a smallish box.


My daughter Jane reminded me this morning on the way to school that March is Women's History Month. I think that's so cool, that SHE reminded ME. She's a very fabulous woman-in-progress.

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
My father had a stroke this week and he's in the hospital in Nashville.

He's only 62...

I am one of those lucky women who had a really kickass father. I can't imagine what the world would be like without him in it.

This is a picture of him with my three children and my niece, Eleanor (she's the newborn).

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
This is my Dad about two years before I was born...



I have been working on a TV story about hypnosis (my own -- to attempt to cure me of nailbiting) and today was the first day I was actually hypnotized.

I drove over to Oak Ridge with a photographer and the field producer, feeling rather unenthusiastic about the whole thing. For starters, I have actually been biting my nails MORE as I anticipated going -- mainly because I've been thinking about it too much. Also, I tend to be a cynic about suff like this and I was afraid I'd just burst out laughing.

But guess what? The man actually hypnotized me. It was one of the more fascinating cognitive experiences I've ever had and I've felt really relaxed all day.

I go bak Friday for session #2.


Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Last night, I was reading The Tale of Despereaux to my children and they all three fell asleep on top of one another before we got to chapter 3. Pretty cute.

Why is Elliot wearing gloves, you may ask? I have no idea. He has just taken to wearing them pretty much all the time.