The Princess and the Prime Minister

By Emily & Lydia*

This blog is co-written by my sister and I. My sister and me.

Emily: Let’s be honest. Little kids are weird. Some are real weird. We were really, REALLY weird. Other kids might have had invisible friends. We had invisible worlds, cities, houses, palaces, hierarchies, servants, pets…. And siblings (you know, because the 9 we had just didn’t make the cut).

Lydia: The main one I played was princess. I know, I know, a lot of little girls play princess. But my princess fantasy was really messed up. Some girls spend hours on Barbie’s Malibu mansion. I spent hours designing a torture chamber for my enemies. Some girls try on their mom’s makeup. I spray-painted my bike black and pretended it was a black steed, the Bucephalus to my Alexander. My princess was very into world dominating.
I bribed my little brother to behave better by promising a throne at my side as prince. My younger sister could be a (minor) princess if she let me play with her toys. My older sister? I made her my Prime Minister.

The weirdest part was that she accepted the role.

Emily: And I counted myself lucky to hold such a high ranking role.

Lydia: We were laughing the other day about how I used to play that I was the heir to a throne and she was my prime minister, but then we realized how odd that is.

Emily: No shit, Sherlock.

Lydia: Why was I such a dick? And why were you okay with that?

Emily: Because you were a dick and being on the same side as a high ranking official who held a modicum of power was better than being thrown in your imaginary dungeon?

Lydia: And that dungeon had chains all ready for you. I recall I informed you of this on a regular basis.

Emily: Yes. Yes you did.

Lydia: The more interesting question is what this rich fantasy life meant to us and about us. All kids tell themselves stories, create fantasies to inhabit in a way that helps them figure out who they are, or who they want to be. So who were we? Who did we want to be?

What do our fantasies say about us that we might be reluctant to admit?

Emily: Or did we let our fantasies shape who we would become? And if we wanted to…could we change our fantasies? Could we change who we are today?
Over the next couple weeks we will explore what these fantasies say about us, and think about how we can learn from the stories we tell ourselves…and maybe rewrite them. And also, to just entertain you, our gentle reader, with the bizarre and crazy imaginings of two crazy kids.

*you can read more of Lydia’s writing here https://lydiarcooper.wordpress.com

Superwoman vs. Batwoman

By Emily

My son likes Batman. And by “like” I mean OBSESSED. Every morning, he wakes up, climbs out of his Bat-bed with the Bat-sheets and the Bat-blanket over his Bat-cave, collects his Bat-mask and Bat-cape from their hooks, leaves his Bat-room to eat Bat-shaped peanut butter sandwiches and begin his Bat-day. One time I took a mental inventory to see how I felt about this obsession. And I decided that I liked that Batman doesn’t rely on super human strength or powers. He relies on ingenuity and inventions (and huge amounts of inherited money).

And here is the beauty of super heroes that don’t rely on super human abilities: they are just like you and me.

When I was young, I tried to prove my self by proving that I did indeed have, well, super powers. It wasn’t enough for me to succeed, I needed to conquer overwhelming odds AND succeed (Pandora: How young are we talking? I thought you meant four years old! At four, I thought if I drank the dregs of my nightly glass of water, it would give me powers too, but I think you are taking this in a different direction. Emily: Ah. Well. I wasn’t four. It was roughly 18-24.) If normal people could accomplish the workload I had, then I could do it – with no food. Or sleep.

I had an eating disorder. I was anorexic. I tried to find control and stability in my life through food. Or, no food. I strove for superhuman strength to control my life and make sense of my life.

Today I have a “normal” relationship with food. (Who knows what normal really is, though?) (Pandora: We should watch the movie “Eating.” It’s just interviews with women at parties about how they feel about food. Emily: Ack. That sounds miserable.) But if you ask any therapist (and I have asked many), eating disorders never really go away. (Pandora: I always wondered that too) They may go in remission, or they may take a different form. I have learned to manage my eating issues, and that there are better ways to exert control in my life. There are healthier options to be a super hero. Superman, with his super strength, super eyesight, super hair, super flying skills, and inability to be injured (aside from kryptonite), is a fantasy. (Pandora: He DOES have super hair!) No one can ever be Superman. Ever. Regardless how hard they may try. Trust me. I know from experience. (Pandora: Except for the hair, you have super hair. Emily: Thank you. Purple hair IS pretty super.)

Batman, on the other hand, is human. He gets hurt. He is depressed. He is sad. He is conflicted about not killing anyone, but striving to bring order to the chaos. But Batman always wins. Because he has figured out the secret to being super: he controls his emotions, his rage, and his pain. He surrounds himself with people that help him when he is down. (Robin really is the best sidekick ever, and come on, who doesn’t want an Alfred in their life???) (Pandora: Can I have a Robin AND an Alfred? My husband does not fulfill either of those roles to my satisfaction)

For me, this means constantly monitoring my emotional well being. It often means medication. And it always means being honest with my closest circle of friends. The ones that know that under the mask, it’s just Emily. So, I’ve decided to hang up my Superwoman cape, and put on the Batwoman cape instead. (Pandora: Doesn’t everyone agree there needs to be a female action hero flick?!? Emily: Umm, yeah. But until then, I will just subvert the traditional masculine superheroes. But female superheroes may be fodder for a future blog.)

Besides, Batman has the Best. Car. Ever.

Purging the Nest

by Pandora

I love getting rid of stuff. It began when I was six. All of a sudden one day I had an epiphany that I had too much junk. I had too many knick knacks. My eraser collection was getting OUT OF CONTROL; most of the erasers were covered in pencil marks and had lost the faintly fake fruit odor that had initially inspired me to begin the collection anyway. (Emily: mmmmm…. I remember that smell!) I pulled out my trash can and just started dumping stuff. It really gave me a high, but I guess that could have been because of the erasers. When I was finished, I had at least 12 square inches of empty space to begin filling with a new collection. The opportunities were endless. I guess it gave me a sense of control in my chaotic, youthful life. Maybe my parents weren’t giving me enough freedom, or maybe I was getting stressed out about my entry to the competitive world of elementary school, whatever the reason, it made me happy. And I’ve never stopped. I live in cycles of collecting and purging, and I proselytize the freeing effects to any hoarders I meet.

When I was 16, I experienced the nirvana of collecting/purging. I travelled to North Carolina to help move my grandparents into an assisted living facility. It was hoarder heaven. (Emily: my grandpa too. Took my mom and aunt a week to clean out his house!) My grandparents lived through the depression, a devastation which I believe justifies hoarding in anyone over 80. (Emily: agreed) They had freezers full of food, and too much furniture, plenty of normal hoarder ephemera; but they also had a box full of three sons’ shoes spanning at least 30 years of shoe purchases, and another box full of my great-grandmother’s underwear. I suffered a major conflict, should I collect or purge? Ultimately, I collected, and continue to cope with the consequences.

Purging still makes me happy, really happy. I do it when I’m bored, or sad, or feeling perfectly satisfied with my life. It frees up space for more collections. Empty space makes me more creative. It’s a way for me to assert control in a world that is spinning off its axis. (Emily: excellent point) I guess Einstein said something about an empty desk equaling an empty mind. He was probably just mad because people were making fun of how messy he was. (Emily: can’t argue with one of the smartest men in the world!)

How a tablecloth saved my life…

image by Emily

Not too long ago, I was severely depressed. Life had handed me more lemons than I could make lemonade out of, and I was falling apart at the seams. It was almost more than I could handle to put clothes on in the morning, or brush my hair. One of my dearest friends (hi, Jen!) came to visit. The house was a disaster. Dishes piled high in the sink. Toys cluttering the floor. My boys still in pajamas (at 4pm). Myself still in pajamas. I could feel how sorry she was for me by looking at her face as she walked through my house. Quietly, she walked into my kitchen, cleared a space on one of the chairs, and sat down.

“Do you know what you need?” Not a lecture, I thought to myself. “You need a tablecloth. You need to have beautiful things around you, and if you put a tablecloth on the table, it will give you something beautiful to look at. Your soul needs to see beauty.”

I bought a tablecloth. A deep purple one (no surprise to anyone who has seen my hair or glasses.) And slowly, the dishes disappeared, the toys started getting put away, clothes started being worn. Deep inside, I could feel my heart take a deep breath, and scream: “YES! I need beauty!!”

Many years ago, (10, if you want to be exact), I was torn because I was expected to attend the women’s Bible study at my church, but it was at the same time as the show, So You Think You Can Dance. Bewailing my fate to my mother about how I needed to be at Bible study, but wanted to be home watching the show, my mom asked why I liked SYTYCD so much. “It’s because part of me feels alive when I watch it,” I told her. My mom promptly demanded that I stop going to Bible study and watch SYTYCD instead. “God can speak to you more if you feel alive, than if you are doing something because you think you “have” to.”

As humans, we need beauty. It makes us “alive”. Beauty may mean something different to everyone. It could be a sunset. A perfectly cooked meal. A clever puzzle. A car. A sports game. A… You get the idea. Fill in the blank. You know you have found something beautiful, when your soul inside feels like it might crack open inside you, and you can suddenly breath deeper than you thought you could. You come alive.

Never underestimate the power of beauty. It can save your life. It can make you alive.

Pandora: I really can’t think of anything to add to this. It’s perfect!

7 REASONS TO HOMESCHOOL: Or, How I Learned to Bullshit My Way through Anything

by Emily (and Lydia!)

In today’s blog, I would like to introduce our first guest blogger, my lovely sister, Lydia Cooper. (Check out www.lydiarcooper.wordpress.com here). My sister and I were both homeschooled from K-12 (relatively speaking. We didn’t really do the grade thing). The homeschooling movement has been gaining popularity since we were homeschooled behind closed doors with the curtains shut. Here, we respond to some of the main reasons people give for why they think homeschooling is the best option for their ankle biters.

Reason 1: Homeschoolers receive a superior education to public schoolers.
Lydia: Homeschoolers are able to do very fun things like reading Les Miserables in French. The only problem is, Mom doesn’t speak French so they will have to read it in English. Emily: I didn’t study enough French to be able to order a plate of pomme frites, so it is a moot point for me. However, without having to study for tests, one can learn so much more useless bits of trivia and random information that has no bearing on real life. Lydia: Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800 C.E. Emily: And I can still sing most of the songs from both Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore. Lydia: The only bummer is that we never learned the other stuff, like, science.

Reason 2: Without having to study for tests, homeschoolers excel over their peers in math and science.
Lydia: Oh yeah, science: which comes from the Latin scientia meaning “denial of fact.” Emily: We took science? Lydia: Being taught that the world is 5774 years old does add a slight hint of the medieval to our bio-chem labs. Emily: I suppose next you’ll say the world is round. Heaven forbid.

Reason 3: Homeschoolers are more grounded and have more real life experience than public schoolers.
Lydia: To this day, I have never used a combination lock and am petrified of them. I once spent almost forty five minutes in a gym waiting for my friend to get back from swimming so I could put my stuff, casually, in her locker. . . . Emily: I was once a half hour late to a class. Good news, though. Now I know that classroom numbering reflects what floor of the building the classroom is on.

Reason 4: When you are homeschooled, you can do your work in bed, in your pj’s!
Lydia: Sure, but feeding the goats, making ketchup from scratch and corralling all 8 younger siblings is tough on your footie pj’s. Emily: And why would you want to wear your pj’s when you could wear a historically accurate costume to correlate with your studies? Lydia: And on that note…

Reason 5: Homeschoolers get just as much and more worthwhile socialization.
Lydia: What better way to raise kind, compassionate and worldly children than by raising them with seven other homeschooled kids who are the same race (white), religion (evangelical Republican), ethnicity (white), political affiliation (evangelical Republican), and strand of paleo-vegan (Emily: yum. Carob.) (again, white) as they are. Emily: Word.

Reason 6: Public school teachers are, of course, evil….
Emily: Public school teachers, the “fat cats” of the educational world, are paid to smoke their Cuban cigars on the back nine of their private golf courses. We all know this. What else could possibly motivate an individual to teach pre-algebra to a bunch of eighth graders? Lydia: paid summers off?!? Emily: seriously though, being a teacher is one of the most important yet thankless jobs. Pandora – do you want to add something about the altruistic nature of public school teachers and the shit you put up with? Pandora: Um no. I am not altruistic, I do it for the perks, and I don’t put up with jack. . . . .

. . .And, Reason 7: Of course mom knows best what her kids need.
Emily: As is evidenced by the new trend in refusing all vaccines. It’s so much better for your kids to die of measles or be handicapped by polio, rather than getting shot for showing up to school on someone’s bad day. Lydia: Good parents raise their kids in nuclear bomb bunkers!

Reason 8: Sending your kids to public or private school means you are a lazy parent.
Emily: regardless (note: as a previously homeschooled kid, I would NEVER use the word “irregardless”), no educational system removes your responsibility to train your child to be a moral, well-rounded, citizen of the world. At the end of the day, your kids are your responsibility, whether you choose to teach them math and science and penmanship, or have someone else teach them the “basics” of education. Lydia: Just, whatever you choose, please teach more science than medieval fan fiction. And irregardless (note: I’m an asshole), the compassion and integrity your little tykes already have, Emily, means that you’ve already figured out that good schooling isn’t the substitute for good parenting.

Somewhere over the rainbow

by Emily

A while back, some one told my son, A-rod, that purple was a girl color. That statement made me see red (so to speak). Aside from the fact that colors don’t have a gender, let’s take a little trip down history lane, and see what’s behind the meaning of colors.

Purple – if it had a gender, it would be a masculine color. Purple dye was discovered by the ancient Phoenicians around 2000-1500 BC. It was made from snails, and was literally worth it’s weight in silver. It was the single most expensive dye in the world, and was worn only by male aristocracy – specifically kings. It was referred to as “imperial purple”. In some places, it was illegal to wear purple if you were not the king. Around 1850 (AD), someone invented a synthetic purple dye. From that point on, women wore purple as a sign of (secondary) mourning, although men continued to wear purples, plums and mauves.

Blue – is currently thought of as a “male” or “masculine” color. Historically though, blue symbolized innocence, daintiness, and most importantly, purity. That’s why so many images of the Virgin Mary portray her wearing blue. This dates back to the Middle Ages. (Emily: Pandora, is this why you wear blue so often? Pandora: You bet! Maintaining my pure rep is particularly important at an advanced age. Bonus points if people equate me with the Virgin. My husband also loves this.)

Pink – since pink is a pastel version of red, pink was considered a strong, passionate and aggressive color. This was true even 100 years ago. In 1918, a Ladies’ Home Journal article stated: “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (Although it was also recommended for blue to be worn by blonde and/or blue-eyed babies, and pink worn by brunette/brown-eyed babies). Pink was introduced as a feminine color around World War II. My favorite designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, was partially responsible for this. She introduced a color called “shocking pink”. “Genderized” clothes started becoming fashionable in the 1950s, as a sign that families had enough wealth to buy new clothes for all their children.

Do I dress my boys in pink because it’s a historically appropriate color for the little warriors, or do I buy them blue because our society today tells us it’s the “boy” color? Neither. Most people develop a favorite early in their life, and actually tend to keep it as they get older. It may not be the most prevalent color in your wardrobe or in your house decor, but almost instinctively most people will gravitate towards a particular color. My favorite color is purple. My fifth birthday party theme was: PURPLE. Today, my kitchen, bathroom, glasses and hair are purple. A-rod has decided his favorite color is green. He is most emphatic about it, and although he is open minded about color choices (he DID ask me to make him a hot pink suit of armor) (Pandora: Um, I want a pink suit of armor!! How much would that cost me?), at the end of the day, he is a “green” boy.

At our house, we enjoy colors because they are beautiful, and they inspire us, regardless of what society says about that color. At my house, we are a “rainbow” house – all colors are appropriate for all people.