Sunday, December 30, 2012

this is the part where you say thank you.

ah, the end of the year.

where one muses on what has and what is yet to come.

the ghost snippets of the year past rattling around trying to come up with something to say.

this year: sucked.

2011: sucked.

so did 2010: sucked.

i had higher hopes and they were dashed.

i know i know i live where it's sunny and sweet. i have wonderful kids and a wonderful relationship. i am rich in friends and family. i mean MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME ALREADY.

this year i was pushed and pushed and stretched and the stitching just didn't hold. it held for so long but it just got too stretched. life is like that sometimes. the stitching holds until it just doesn't.

i will try to make this brief.

so i wrote of losing my faith but not of finding it again. but i did find it again. that happened. it did. so that's good.

but the year still sucked? you ask.

oh yes. it still did. but let's move along.

and really all it took finding my faith again was literally stopping the in the middle of my daily 'i hate the world i am miserable' walk up a steep hill i was unfamiliar with and remembering OH YEAH. you forgot to see the light coming through the cracks. like a ton of bricks it started hitting me. you forgot your tools! you forgot when times get tough you get a mantra! and you repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until something better comes along! you jackass! you are miserable and flailing and you forgot everything!

so i'm stopped. on my walk. up that hill. wondering why it was that just now i was remembering. that i forgot. and thinking about tools and a mantra. and thinking about a friend on a certain social networking site who was posting his own mantra every day. something outside of his usual posting character. but he posted it. without fail. and that came to me. so i started there. peace and love. peace and love. that's what he posted. and since i had been so stuck and had forgotten so deeply i started there. you can always start right where you are. you are never so lost that you can't. peace and love. and i kept saying that under my breath out loud. peace and love.

and then i looked up, and fuck it all i wasn't smack dab in front of the catholic church in town. and then i looked down and i saw a lucky penny i hadn't seen before. i am not even kidding you.

look, i'm not one to begrudge a kick in the ass from anywhere. maybe it was god or my dad or just a wild coincidence. just the street i took in my daily 'i hate the world i am miserable' walk and a penny someone dropped and i didn't see until that moment. maybe.

i believe in all those things so i looked up into the sky and then grabbed up the penny and kept walking.

so i did peace and love. for a few blocks (this ended up being a particularly long walk. therapy takes time. sometimes longer than you think it will or should. i just kept walking.) and then i added gratitude. and then i locked on gratitude. oh my god WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME ALREADY. how fucking rich am i with these kids and this life. i have been pushed and my faith taken. i have been stretched and never ever dreamed things would GET WORSE than they had been. but no matter what  happens or happened i have so much i can be grateful for. 

so i said i am grateful i am grateful i am grateful. and i listed each thing i was grateful for. everything. all the things to be grateful for in my miserable existence.

and then i was walking down the hill. (there are a lot of hills here. i always seem to be walking UP.) and enjoying the feeling of fuller breaths and a bit of a breeze. i am grateful i am grateful i am grateful.

i just want to feel healed. i don't want to be wounded. i don't even care about being pushed and the stitching loosening. it will hold. i'm sure. okay i'm not entirely sure but for the first time in a long time i felt reasonably sure the stitching might hold. i just don't want to feel wounded. i want to be healed.

and i was thinking these things and walking down the hill and i walked by the weird crystal 'energy' shop. i say weird not because i don't get it but this place is weird. and in the window they had a big amethyst. amethyst. such a powerful healing stone. one of my absolute favorites. right there in front of me. healing. incidentally it also guards against drunkenness. so. there's that, too.

what are the odds? the big fat sparkly healing stone.

we have the religious reference and the father watching over me reference and now the spiritual reference. all pretty good for one what started out as the daily 'i hate the world i am miserable' walk.

and when i got home i grabbed my amethyst off the front porch and put it where i would see it. i tossed the lucky penny on the pile in front of the picture by my father. i felt better. i felt more like myself. amazing what happens when we stop clenching it all to us. all the crap. all the wounds and the misery and we let it go and take a good deep breath. find gratitude in the going up and the coming down. just find gratitude. period.

i forgot. forgot all the tools i ever learned. how quickly that happens.

and then i was talking on the phone with a dear friend who knows i am dealing with something but since i'm trying to cowboy my way out of this thing i'm not talking. so she talks. and she says

hey. i know you are dealing with something and i know you don't want to talk about it but i want you to know that i am here. for whenever you do. i am here for you and i will listen.

she is not the only friend to say this. i have the best friends on the planet. they have all said this at some point in our years as friends. and i have said it too. it gets said. but i always reply with the same old shit. the same pat speech.

because i'm used to saving my own life. and this time i almost well kinda nearly tried to give her that same pat speech. about this and that and how i'm really okay. blah blah blah. i'm about to but then i heard a voice in my head. as clear as can be

this is the part where you say thank you.

and then again. a little louder. because in cases like this voices seem to have to repeat themselves

this is the part where you say thank you.

and so, i shut up. and didn't really say all those things i normally do. and i said

thank you. i really appreciate that.

thank you.

it's okay to save your own life. it's okay to hold on to your wounded self. until you can let it go it's okay to hold on to it. i mean we all are a work in progress. you don't have to get the whole lesson in the first few decades. and it's okay to have shitty year after shitty year. i mean not 'okay' but it happens and it's okay that it's not all OKAY all the time. being imperfect is okay. but it's not okay to forget. it's not okay to forget the tools you have. however small. it's not okay to forget to be grateful. even with all that that is not okay and that whole mess of being a work in progress THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU SAY THANK YOU.

thank you because you are here. in this life.

no matter what it is. no matter how hard or fucked up.

this is the part where you say thank you.

even if you are angry.

and hey, you have every right to be angry about whatever it is you are angry about. EVERY RIGHT. i am the most justified angry person around.

but it's not okay to forget. to be grateful. 

this is the part where you say thank you.

for something. for anything. or just to say it.

this is part where you say thank you.

because you are here.

and because you can.

start there.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

never marry a writer.

because we have raging egos AND bottomless pits of need and the beauty is that can change hourly.

and does.

and also because it means at some point they are going to write about your relationship.

today marks the 18th anniversary of the day the husband and i first met. love at first sight. and i will be the first to say that we don't have a perfect relationship because i don't even know what that is? what is that? what we have works for us. and i think relationships are super complicated and hard sometimes and then there's that whole 'living a life' business to pile on top.

and i was thinking about this the other day, about what makes some people stay together, what drives some people apart.

i am a moody bitchy cancer and have mild chronic depression with cheapskate tendencies and some days i am just a fucking picnic to be around. plus, apparently, i will write about you, too. at some point. so that has GOT to be a bonus. right?

he's an aquarian. enough said. the optimism and list making alone will drive you insane.

the simple fact is through better and whole lotta worse in the last few years and the last few months the husband and i have loved each other and liked each other and stuck by each other for 18 years. and other than a fancy dinner out and googly eyes over wine and seared meat that someone else cooks and cleans up, that's got to account for something.

i don't know what that something is, but in thinking about it i realized that i have loosely carried 3 simple thoughts around me. and they have made all the difference in the world. and because i'm me, i want to share them with you.

1. hold hands

2. cut a LOT of slack

3. be kind

holding hands is literal and figurative. it basically means don't break contact. always stick with your buddy. the world gets scary and the world gets dark and if you stop holding hands someone is going to get hurt. or lost.

OH MY GOD cut the other guy some slack. early and often. i mean really. no one is perfect. and we ALL do dumb stuff. the only way to learn from our dumb stuff is if we get the chance to learn from our dumb stuff. and we get that chance if someone cuts us some slack. or a lot of slack. and i will tell you what, the dumb stuff do-er is punishing themselves enough with their dumb stuff do-ing. trust me. so you don't *HAVE* to do it for them you just *WANT* to. don't. go do something else.

be kind. seriously. even when you can and even when you are JUSTIFIED JUST KEEP YOUR MEAN TRAP SHUT.  your mean ol' mouth just makes it worse. don't be mean. be kind. bite your tongue or get a blog under a pseudonym or buy a journal and a special 'just for me' pen WHATEVER just keep your mean thoughts to yourself. can you be mad and angry? HELL YES. can you be honest? yes. do. but don't confuse anger and honesty with being an asshole. and when we are in a spin HOWEVER JUSTIFIED it's easy to fool ourselves. don't fool yourself.

this doesn't mean you can't argue or disagree or be mad when the person you marry or partner with does dumb stuff. it just means there are better ways to do it than most of us do. kinder ways. faster to get back to the good stuff ways.

and really? seriously? NO ONE no matter what age likes to be yelled at. no one.

all right. that's all i got. now i'm going to go open a bottle of champagne and count my blessings and wonder, as i always do, how i got to be so damned lucky.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

the middle.

this note comes to you from the middle.

this is not a post wherein i describe something awful or real or really awful and then OH BUT I FOUND A LUCKY PENNY AND NOW IT'S OKAY SEE HOW I DID THAT!?

this is not that post.

this is the note everyone writes but no one sends. this is the note written from the very mess of the middle. after the beginning before the end wherein you're not quite sure how to proceed so of course you keep the blinds closed and the door shut and you don't invite anyone in because oh then you'd have to show them the mess and then not be able to explain it.

well, here i am. here is my mess. and i'll try to explain it.

see, and as it turns out, through a series of unfortunate events i seem to have lost my faith.

just, lost it.

and it's not really important what happened or how or why or blah blah blah...because it's not what happens to us it's how we deal with it ONLY I CAN'T. just. can't. and that's just weird to me.

and i'm not actually quite sure how it know faith not being a tangible thing like virginity or your car keys. one minute i was bopping along just fine and the next it was like i woke up in the back of a windowless van with shag carpeting and a wizard airbrushed on the side. i have no idea how i got here or why, and i don't see a way out. it's paralyzing in its own creepy way.

and every day i wake up and every day i'm still in that van. and it sucks.

okay, that's not true. not every day, some days it's like a windowless hotel conference room. and the doors have no handles. and there's nothing but donuts and coffee with POWDERED CREAMER. i can't stand donuts and powdered creamer.

i guess it depends on the day. because that's what faith does, it mitigates fear and resignation. it lifts you out of the van or the hotel conference room and sets you on soft ground outside, under a great tree, and sends in a gentle breeze. without it, you're in the hands of the fucking wizard.

now, there are some of you, bless your hearts, who will at this point want to pick up the phone and call me and suggest therapy or drugs or a 3 day hold or whatever and to you i say, do not. this is not a crisis of mental functioning, this is a crisis of faith. i suppose to some they are similar, but i assure you my brain is functioning at the same odd level it always has.

i send you this note from the middle expressly because i can. i am able. and that right there insures that i will be okay. not now, no, but eventually.

god, i am such a control freak. i mean really.


how do you know you have lost your faith, you might be wondering. i mean, what is faith anyway, you might be thinking. does this have to do with jesus or god because if it does i'm going to stop reading right now, you might be threatening.

unruffle your atheist panties, it doesn't.

what it means is this, i do not believe anymore that it's all just going to work out. i can't see it. and by all i mean all those things that are shitty and awful. i have had some pretty rough years recently and through it all i have always been able to stand among the piling rubble and say, well, okay. that happened. but look I FOUND A LUCKY PENNY. LOOK THERE ARE LILACS IN MY YARD. OH MY GOD A BIRD I LOVE BIRDS IT'S ALL GOING TO BE JUST FINE. and then i start singing 'just keep swimming' from nemo and write a blog post. lather rinse repeat.

yeah. no. not today. not for awhile. and while it sounds annoying and probably was, to be that optimistic and *sure* and just *know* i miss it. it was a new thing for me after a lifetime of 'it'll never work' and 'yeah good luck with that, sucker' and always having to clear a space for the other shoe to drop. my faith and optimism were AWESOME when they appeared. even as it wasn't easy to always keep it up, to keep moving forward even as it's all falling to shit. it wasn't easy but i was able to do it. because i had it. the faith. sometimes even with a little bit of grace. and i can't now. and i miss that.

but i will tell you what i miss most, the very thing that makes me so angry and mad at the world and EVERYONE the thing that makes me just want to key the fucking airbrushed wizard and then go back to bed and stay there...what i miss most is my sparkle. i've lost my sparkle. THE WIZARD IS STILL SPARKLY AND I AM NOT. this whole series of unfortunate events that has robbed me of my faith TOOK MY FUCKING SPARKLE, TOO.


a girl without her sparkle is a girl to be reckoned with. it's a mean thing to be robbed of. it's a terrible thing to be without. sparkle is the ultimate accessory and the key to all things good about being a girl in this world. i had no idea my sparkle was tied so intrinsically to my faith. but i guess it was, because it's gone.

faith. sparkle. what's next? because i will tell you what, i am not in the mood for what's next so what's next is welcome to take a fucking hike.

i want a clapper. i want to clap it and the faith i once held so dear will chirp from somewhere and i will be like OH MY GOD it's behind the couch!! of course! i must've dropped it there that one time. whew. that was close!

no such luck. in the meantime i walk. i stretch. i breathe. the whole keep calm, carry on thing. i do all the other things i always used to do every day only now i try to not look like i'm drowning. or plotting a murder. i try to just keep my back straight and my chin up. try to yogi cowboy my way out of this thing. i think that might be the trick, but i don't really know.

because i honestly do not know what to do.

and there you have it. the report from the middle.

the unpleasant and unsparkly shag carpeted windowless middle.

just me and the wizard.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

the world walks by.

i used to sit on my porch at the farm. morning noon or night. in my pajamas with coffee, in my don't leave the house clothes with wine in the evenings. with no real neighbors it was peaceful and private. i could hear the birds and the wind and the gun club down the road. in the evenings i'd listen to the crickets and the frogs.

when we moved back east i never sat on the porch. the houses were too close together and the streets were too narrow. there were houses literally surrounding me on all sides. too many houses and too many neighbors. and neighbors on the east coast aren't 'friendly' per se but they sure are *there.* and boy do they want to know about the west coast and the family and what college you went to. and homeschooling? yeah. no. best not mention it or you'll hear about it. i didn't sit on the porch.

we chose this house for the porch. well, i did. that and it felt like home and it was really the only one available at the time and it took pets and it was the cheapest.

i sit on the porch.

i watch the people walk by.

the whole world walks by.

the locals and the tourists. they walk by and bike by and drive by.

the big tourist buses and the vacation vans and the marathons and the walkathons.

and when you live where there's a lot of tourists and traffic you aren't even noticed. just like i like it. i can sit right on my porch right there and not be seen. i'm part of the backdrop. i've come to learn that people on vacation are some of the least observant people in the world.

they look at what they think they are *supposed* to look at. they take pictures and videos instead of just seeing what is in front of them. they meander and shuffle. they walk into traffic and they dart out of nowhere. i think they think they can't get hurt because they are on vacation.

they rent bikes in the city and ride across the bridge. by the time they get here they look like they are having the time of their lives or they are as miserable as fuck. some people have no business renting a bike and riding in traffic. they create dangerous situations. they are oblivious. they ride on the sidewalk. you're not supposed to ride on the sidewalk. but they do because they are afraid to ride in the street. if you are afraid to ride in the street you shouldn't rent a bike in the city. lather rinse repeat. oh, and they should REALLY give a little talk on how to USE YOUR GEARS. it's like a cartoon watching people pedal so quickly around and around and around on the flat ground getting nowhere fast and exerting all energy in the process. ISN'T THIS FUN!

oh. and don't get caught by the old couple who walk down the street and will LOUDLY ADMONISH YOU for riding your bike on the sidewalk. the tourists who rented the bike in the city mostly look confused at this as they are mostly foreign and don't understand the old couple or what they are shouting at them. oh, there are signs that say don't ride your bike on the sidewalk. but, they aren't in every language. and people on vacation don't read signs.

i see whole families walk by. the dad in his vacation clothes he wouldn't normally wear. bright white shoes and his 'good' jeans. he looks pinched and done. the kids are bored and grumbly. the mother following behind clutching her purse with a grim determined smile. ISN'T THIS FUN!

people think they are supposed to be having more fun than they actually are when they're on vacation. when you're on vacation, you're still you. and your family is still your family. and everything costs so much in these little towns. the restaurants are fair to middling at best. ice cream is about the same price as a small pure bred dog if you go for the deluxe cone. and i can't imagine kids enjoy ticky tacky galleries and shops with ticky tacky things. and then there's that bike ride...

lovers walk by. they sit on the bench across the street. they make out in outrageous fashion. some really get into it and practically straddle each other as the others walk by. the drunker they are the more salacious it gets.

they fight on the bench. there are loud arguments and tears. shouting. or quiet crying. once i saw a man and woman park in front of my house. they argued their way out of the car. he called her a fucking bitch. she called him a pale, cheap imitation of his brother. they made their way down  the street. you only get two hours to park. and sure enough, two hours later they were back. kissing and cuddling and flirting after a few expensive drinks and some dinner down the street. he opened her door. she flashed a little leg.

women walk by. in high heels and flats and tennis shoes. i have seen more ugly boots sitting on this porch than i care to think about. there are foreign couples and same sex couples and couples on their first date. or their last. there are young couples and old couples and i swear to god i just saw the other day two people meet right in front of my house for a hook up.

just because they don't notice me doesn't mean i'm not RIGHT THERE. 

people walk down the street smoking cigarettes and smoking pot. eating ice cream. they are forever with their huge ice cream cones. they sit in their cars and drink wine while they watch the sunset.

the locals walk by. the kid down the street, he walks by. he's rough and red faced. works at one of the marinas. he drives a big huge old black '52 chevy truck. it's got the raider's logo painted on both doors and always has an odd assortment of stuff in the back. he's a roughneck. he shouts at the cyclists. isn't afraid to take them on when he's driving or walking. that's ballsy. because you don't fuck with the cyclists. they seem so benign until you piss one of them off. then it's good night irene. nice knowing you. (irene, incidentally, is from england and also lives on the street. she walks  four pomeranians at once twice a day. they belong to her daughter. that's a story for another day.)

the kid got a girl recently. young and long haired. pretty in a way girls are pretty before they start fucking with their looks so they can be 'prettier.' she started sleeping over i noticed. then moved in. they held hands when they walked by. they got a puppy. the cutest little puppy in the world. they held hands and held the puppy. then they held hands and walked the puppy. recently, she's been walking the puppy several steps ahead. the kid stays behind, smoking a cigarette. looking bored or tired or relieved or pissed. i can't tell. some days it's all of the above. the past few days i haven't seen the girl. the kid walks the puppy alone. the puppy is growing bigger and is proving to be unremarkable looking at best.

the guy next door on the other side of me mostly keeps to himself. his wife seems pleasant and seems to do a LOT of shopping. most days he walks about a mile down the street to the north end of town for lunch at a restaurant that sammy hagar has some part of. he smokes a cigar every evening. and gives us plants from his yard. he or his wife are up before 6 am every morning. i see their light when i get up. they don't store their white wine properly. they have a grumpy dog.

the 6 million dollar neighbors down the street (i call them that because they were trying to sell their house for 6 million dollars) don't care for us. we have boys the exact same age. right down the street. in a neighborhood with NO OTHER KIDS. but i guess the prayer flags and buddha and all around hippie vibe puts them off. it's just as well, both their dogs are assholes.

there are gypsies further down the street in that direction. they have won the lottery twice. they park in the no parking zone in front of their house because they want to park there and don't care about the tickets. i don't know how many live there. they are dark and swarthy and secretive. they grow beautiful roses and recently held a garage sale. two weekends in a row. i try to get a good look into their garage when i pass by. there's a mint condition yellow 60s corvette in there.

there's an indian beer company executive somewhere on the street. in one of the big houses where people aren't seen coming or going. where people certainly are NOT sitting on their porch. our house is not like those houses. our windows are drafty and the heating system sucks. the appliances are crap and there is the cheapest carpet known to man in all the bedrooms. my house is funky and often smells like skunk. it's a house with dubious and wild  history. people are awed by it. we have a security system. it's a very strange place with no parking or storage or closets or a yard and i love it.

my neighbor two houses away has a huge truck and ALWAYS gets a parking spot near her house. i can't get a space to save my life. often i have parked better than a ten minute walk away. and as i near the house, hauling groceries or library books or whatnot, there will be several recently opened up spaces to choose from. my parking karma is spotty at best.

but, i have learned to parallel park LIKE A BOSS. sometimes it takes a 67 point turn to get in the space BUT I GET IN IT. you can tell a LOT about a person by how they parallel park. i watch people parallel park every single day. with vacation brain. a lot in rental cars unfamiliar to them. i should set up a booth and charge 5 cents for my advice and observations about people's lives based on their parallel parking alone. i would make a fortune. if you don't have a parking pass you only get two hours. there's a LOT of parking going on every single day right in front of me.

speaking of parking, i noticed the woman of a certain age with the expensive new white BMW doesn't come around anymore. she was visiting the man down the street on the other side of me. he would walk her to her car in the morning, kiss her passionately, and collect his temporary parking pass. the other day i saw another women with him. another blond. she had the pass and the kiss. her BMW was black.

mostly though i see the tourists. they stop, nearly every single one of them, and point to the house on the hillside behind me. it looks like it's going to fall any minute. literally. it's not, the city has inspected it and says it's sound. it just looks like it's going to fall. it's also the reason my house smells like skunk. it's vacant and i think the skunks are squatting in there. a whole lotta skunks.

the guy next door is a billionaire and owns a string of restaurants in hawaii. he's rarely ever around. apparently he owns the house that looks like it's about to fall down. and plans to renovate it. the only access is from the road behind it, at the top of the hill. there's a funicular down to to the house.

every single person stops. and when i'm sitting on the porch they are.literally.right.there. they stare. they point. they take photos and videos. loudly pointing and proclaiming in the direction of the house behind me. in disbelief and certainty of the imminent, sliding demise of the house behind me. loudly showcasing their extensive knowledge in structural arts. or loudly worrying about the state of structural affairs.  in every single language you can imagine i've heard the same thing. they are ALL STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS.

usually it's the man or men in the group who know the most. 'oh. that's coming down for sure. i mean, any minute now.' 'oh, you're right dave. i know because i had a buddy once who...blah blah blah blah blah.' occasionally, when i'm not on the porch i'll be at my desk. i'll look out the window and watch this show. run for your lives, i'll say in the direction of the people beyond the window. hurry, i'll say.

and for the most part they declare that anyone living in my house must be an idiot at best for living under that house.

and every once in awhile i will be spotted. because, you know, i'm RIGHT THERE. they will ask, doesn't that make you nervous? that house falling down on you? and i look them straight in the eye and i say, i pray every single night before bed. they get it or they don't. but they all shuffle along.

i want to shout TURN AROUND. take pictures of THAT. quit taking pictures of an ugly ass house.

OH MY GOD I KID YOU NOT AS I SIT HERE WRITING THIS THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WITH THE CUTEST LITTLE KID IN A SUIT JUST APPEARED. he has a stack of Watchtowers. which is particularly awesome because rumor has it jimi hendrix spent some time in this house back in the day. all along the watchtower indeed. the universe IS AWESOME.

about once a day you get the cyclist and the motorist show. not to be confused with the tourists who rent the bikes in the city, the cyclist is a whole different animal. so you have the occasional motorist who has no fucking clue how to drive next to or near cyclists. who does something stupid and gets the wrath from one or more of the cyclists. rule number one of driving here: don't piss off the cyclists. they will take you down. they will follow your vehicle and make your life for the next few minutes a living hell. i have seen them surround a vehicle. they have the quickest, saltiest tongues you can imagine. you wouldn't think people in spandex could be so menacing, but it gets ugly. people don't know how to drive. they are on vacation. they are unfamiliar. it's generally an honest mistake, but it won't go by unnoticed. because it's dangerous for the cyclists. and, yes, the cyclists can be dicks, too. it's defensive, i get it. but it's a little out of hand sometimes. on both sides. i have seen things get physical. you've got spandex and testosterone and tons of steel. it's a recipe for disaster. the police have had to be called on more than one occasion.

i sit here and watch it all.

people are walking home and walking along and walking to and walking from.

the world walks by.

and i get a front row seat. 

isn't that something.


Friday, October 05, 2012


 from wikipedia:

"Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. It's related to the feelings of longing, yearning. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone or something should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence."

i have saudade. for my father. where once there was uncontrollable grief and a world of what ifs, i now have a longing and a fondness. a remembrance of the things that made my father my father. the good parts of my father. i miss him.

i was listening to the actress, mindy kaling ('the office') on fresh air talk about the death of her mother (from the same disease my father died of coincidentally.) her mother had passed some months earlier. and i thought, i know nearly right where she is. in her grieving. right now. i can hear it in the tone in her voice. she's far enough along to be able to speak about her mother without fully breaking down, not far enough to keep the break out of her voice. her heart hovering just above her words. the loss sitting right there in her throat. during active grief it travels. it settles in different spots. i've felt it in the palm of my hand. i heard it in her throat.

what she said basically, and i'm paraphrasing here, was that when someone is that sick and dying, after they pass it's all we can think about about. the pain and the suffering. the hardship before the loss. it's some months before we are actually able to think about them and remember *them.* with memories unclouded by that pain and suffering and loss. about the 'before.' the ways in which we loved them. the things that made them who they were. not the death that took them.

and, that's exactly how it was for me. my father's death was so sudden and painful, his life so complicated. our relationship more so. it was months before i could remember all the things that made him the father i loved. the funny things he said and did. the way he just was just *him.* poster boy for the broken mold.

it feels like such a relief to simply miss someone instead mourn them.

i sit on my porch and marvel at where i landed and think, my father would enjoy this porch. there would be room for him here. in this life.

i drive on roads i have driven on all my life with him, i visit places he took me to when i was a girl, i look around my little neck of the woods and think, he would like this. he would like to know i am in john muir country. he would love to know i made it back home.

there are times i want so badly to share this with him, to make an observation only he would appreciate, to watch him relish a meal or a joke or a soft seat in the sun.

i think about him when i cook when i drive when i write. i think about him when i parent. and when he sends those pennies from heaven i grab each and every one up and i hold them close and i don't even need to make the wish.

and i am settled in our relationship in a way i never imagined was possible. he is my largest single influence and my biggest cautionary tale.

i have saudade. for the kid my teenager used to be. for awhile i would look at him and ALL i would 'see' was remembering that he was a baby and a toddler once. that i was his whole world. that we were inseparable, a LOT of that by his choice. and i was still in charge. and remembered and i missed him. even as he stood right in front of me. i missed that little boy. and that's all i saw.

and for awhile i would wonder, foolishly, why things have to change so much. why our little ones had to get big. and go farther than we ever let them before. without us. foolishly because i KNOW it's supposed to be that way. it's supposed to happen that they want to go far. to go away. it's suppose to happen that we stay back. and let them.

then one day i stopped. i stopped thinking about him as a baby and a boy. because i looked at him and realized, wow. i really really like this person right here in front of me. he's kind and interesting and talented and confident and yes he makes me crazy but good lord does he make me laugh. 

and then it became that i 'remembered' him as a boy, and 'saw' him as he is now. and remembered things that we used to do or ways in which we used to interact and the things he used to love, remembered them with fondness, but then set them aside and made room for him. now. building in time together where i can, adjusting the way in which i parent to match the profound and sometimes daily changes, but mostly just letting him grow into the person he's meant to be.

mostly trying not to hover, mostly trying to remember that biting one's tongue is a useful skill, mostly trusting that this is what is supposed to happen.

mostly with grace.


i have to think if my father read this blog he would think i was over thinking this all a bit. no, i DEFINITELY know he'd think that. but he knows better than anyone that i come by it honestly. when they break those molds what do you think happens to all those little pieces? i'll give you a hint, they don't get thrown away.

hey. it's friday. get away from the computer and go do something nice for yourself, okay?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

toddlers & teenagers.

1. need your full time, non stop understanding of the absolute constant and intense explosion of growth in body and mind that they are experiencing. even as they don't understand, and are just trying to keep up.

2. chances are when they act out or throw a tantrum they need your ear, your patience, and your touch more than they need to be punished or isolated.

3. never ever underestimate the power of a cold drink and a snack.

4. let them play their music in the car.


Monday, August 27, 2012

dear teenagers, *this* is why your parents are so grumpy when you go back to school supply shopping.

1. we don't 'technically' budget for back to school supplies.

2. we don't think they should cost NEARLY as much as they do.

3. we are not in charge of the list.

the thing is, we know you're going to need school supplies. but high schoolers don't generally need their supplies until AFTER the school year begins. when each teacher gives their specific requirements. and by the time that happens it's like a month after we've started dealing with back to school. and the beginning of the shopping is all about the shoes and the clothes and oh you need a new back pack this year? your old one won't work? didn't i just buy you new underwear?

in some cases we've paid for transportation for the year or sports fees or both. then the summer packet with the fees laid out for the school comes and in some cases we've had to already pay for the yearbook, sometimes there's club fees, a PE uniform, a pre-paid dining card to load so you can eat at school.

THIRTY FIVE FREAKING DOLLARS FOR AN ASSOCIATED STUDENT BODY CARD? does it come with a massage and a free term paper?

whatever the fees, they are at least, more often than not, expected or hit early enough that they just get 'dealt' with. it doesn't mean it makes us grumble less, it's just a known quantity.

then the lull of the last days of summer set in. we start to relax. anticipate the start of school.

then the held breath, the exhalation, and the whirlwind of the first days of school hit.

and then it's like the 1st school day friday and we think we've made it through the first week unscathed and we're sitting on the couch and enjoying a (cheap because by now we feel tapped out) glass of wine, patting ourselves on the back for having made it through when BAM!

you remind us you have the requirements from your teachers.

oh? we ask. what kinds of things this year?

and you say, 1 inch binders, notebooks, dividers, etc. you answer, but are vague.

not a lot, you say.

oh? we ask. do you have a set list?

you do not.

well, we say. let's go this weekend.

we might discuss it again on saturday. mention about a list. you mention back that you know everything you need. we mention maybe you could give us an idea. you mention you know, binders. paper. the usual.  we drop it. because we forget to remember. what it was like last year. we just forget in general.

so we get in the car and go on sunday. and of course target, where everyone else has already gone, is out of everything. except the crappiest bright white binders and justin bieber notebooks. and they're WIDE ruled.

so we go to the big box office supply store.

we are lucky if we only have to hit one. because more often than not they too are out of everything. and then the driving begins.

which brings us to #2 on the list.

NOTHING and i mean nothing is on sale at the big box office supply stores. nothing we need, anyway.  and not only is nothing on sale, shit is EXPENSIVE! and i know we *just* did this last year so why am i so freakin' surprised?? you wonder. but i will tell you what, back to school supply shopping is a lot like childbirth. if you remembered the actual pain involved in doing it you wouldn't ever EVER do it again. 

and we just don't think things should be as expensive as they are. we think about how little we needed in high school, a back pack and like a folder we're muttering to ourselves. we can't think of much more we needed. kids these days with their fancy school requirements, we mumble under our breath.

but loud enough for you to hear.

of course we are being completely irrational. and it's not your fault you have school supplies you need. but it makes us feel better. best just to let us be.

to our way of thinking, a binder should be like a dollar. maybe two dollars.  you know, if it has that fancy plastic outer sleeve. a notebook should be no more than 50 cents. maybe a dollar. but binder paper should never be more than a dollar. can't you get pencils at school? since when did they stop offering pencils at school?

OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF A PACK OF DIVIDERS??? if i had any smarts at all i would have gone into the divider industry. that or disposable razors. those people are making a MINT.

ah, so now you see that pinchy look on our faces? yeah. look around. every single parent we pass has the same look. and do you notice how every parent/child combo seems to be having the SAME 'conversation' we are? have you ever seen a grumpier looking group of parents? we can't even make eye contact with each other, we parents. it's too raw and painful. it's like we're all being slowly tortured to death but nobody wants anyone else to share in their pain and we have no sympathy left to give others. we have no commiseration left in us. you have broken us. so no judgment from you, teenager.

and we haven't even made it to #3.

which brings us to #3.

we are not in charge of the 'list.' not only are we not in CHARGE of the list, there isn't even a LIST TO CONSULT. LET ALONE TO BE IN CHARGE OF. because the list is several items jotted down in several spots on several pieces of paper in your weird ass hurried handwriting. papers which you have gathered at the last minute and are 'consulting.'  and by consulting i mean you have like 6 different spots you wrote 6 different class requirements down in and you're shuffling through them like you have no idea where they are or what they are because YOU DON'T. we are standing IN.THE.PLACE.and you have NO CLUE WHAT YOU  NEED!

we know what we need. and i'm pretty sure they don't sell whiskey at staples.

this is a grave error on their part. they could make a killing. the 'speak-easy button bar' they could call it.

so there is no actual list and the person who knows what's even remotely supposed to be ON the list should one exist is you. and you are a teenager. with a now grumpy parent in tow. and you're not quick to answer our questions in the first place, let alone with any real DEFINITIVE and CLEAR intent, and add to that the fact our grumpiness and sheer need to now keep repeating the same question hoping to get some idea of what we are shopping for, how many we need, and some vague idea of how much this is going to cost us.

it's a school supply clusterfuck. it's a meltdown of college ruled proportions waiting to happen.

'so a binder. for every class? or just some? and what size?' we ask. trying to beat back the rising hysteria in our voice.

'mumble mumble don't know mumble 1 inch' you reply.

'what about these notebooks?' we grab a stack from the one and only box we see. only we've asked without looking at the size. and we will pay the price.

'those say WIDE RULED. you KNOW i can only use COLLEGE RULED.'

to your credit you don't add 'dumbass.' yay you. you get to live. 

and that's *just* the paper goods. because wait, there's more! all the times you maybe even remotely discussed with us what might be getting purchased on this trip you never once mention the extras.

the lock for the PE locker, the specific requirements for your 'sportfolio.' oh? what's a sportfolio one might ask? well, that's a good question. yes well, it's an entire binder set up with a bunch of extras for YOUR P.E CLASS. wtf? not to mention the protractor and extras for math and the graphing notebook not just loose graphing paper and don't EVEN get me started on the graphing calculator. oh my god we did that last year and i STILL can't really even talk about it.

so with the driving and the finding it's going on hour two and we are pushing the cart wondering how in the hell we got blind sided AGAIN by something we knew was coming, can't believe how goddamned expensive everything is and really want to start every single sentence with 'well back in my day...' and have NO earthly idea of what we need to buy you, how much we need to buy you, how much it's going to cost us, and we only have YOU to rely on for any kind of actual information.

and by now you have picked up on our irritation, you can't believe how old we sound when we're complaining about the prices because 5.49 doesn't seem AT ALL an unreasonable a price for a binder, hey what's that shiny thing!!! you think and you wonder if you need it because it's so shiny and so you ask us if you should get it because you don't know what it is but you're pretty sure you need it it's SO SHINY and you can't figure out why you get such a snippy answer from us to a such a simple question from you and why would we flip out on you just because you asked to go to urban outfitters 'just to look around' and maybe go out to get something to eat afterwords?


and THIS, teenagers, this is why your parents are so grumpy when you go back to school supply shopping.

the end.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

marriage is not very sexy sometimes. more often than not this is realized while shopping in target.

so the husband and i went to target. by ourselves. this is called a 'date.' oh, and also we needed trash bags.

so i have a list and he has a list and he grabs the cart.

and that's when i see them. a young couple. they look like they just rolled out of bed. they're both wearing the loose, branded clothing of their respective colleges. she's beautiful in the way young women are. when you can roll out of bed and look like she does. i remember those days. these days when i wake up i look like i just rolled out from under the bed.  i can practically smell the strawberry shampoo from where i'm standing.

she looks up and catches my eye. she looks me up and down. you know, like women like to do. and i can almost hear her inner dialogue based on the look on her face. oh my god, i will never look like that at her age. i will still be thin. i will be dressed cute. i will not let my hair go grey.

i want to take her aside and explain what 'poker face' means and how it will serve her well in the future.

instead, i just smiled at her and she tightened her grip on her boyfriend's hand and they went down the next aisle.

meanwhile, we shop.

 the husband is rattling off the list and then he says

'we can get the board to cover the cat boxes at home depot. we'll go there next. then paper towels and toilet paper at trader joe's.'

'you know. if you really think about it as a whole, marriage is one un-sexy undertaking.'

'oh hush. we should get more light bulbs.'

the beautiful young woman and her boyfriend pass by.

i try to hold the husband's hand. but someone has to push the cart.

we are walking down an aisle and the husband stops. he sees something. it's a bench. for the entry way. we need a bench for our entry way because we've decided we're not going to wear shoes in this house. i know, we're THOSE people. but YOU can totally wear shoes when you come over. really. i'm serious.

so we need a bench and he's looking at this bench that's on sale. and cheap. and probably kinda crappy. i know what he wants. and it's not this bench. it's an antique oak 'hall tree' that has a built in seat with a hinged top and a mirror and hooks and you put it in your entry way and it's beautiful. it's also out of our price range.

and he knows my ultra practical self would go for this as a temporary fix. even though he's not into temporary fixes. especially kinda crappy ones. so i ask

'i thought you wanted something different?'

'yeah. i do. but that's really pricey and we need a bench and this is on sale.'

'well, i don't mind it. but this is YOUR decision. i don't want you coming in every day after work looking at that crappy target bench and seeing your whole life in that crappy target bench.'

'what are you talking about?'

'you know, the whole i don't get to make any decorating decision and i don't have any say and i work all the time and i don't have any say and now here's this crappy bench and i didn't have any say.'

'when have i ever done that? even remotely?'

'well, never. but people do ALL THE TIME. and there's a first time for everything. one day you're happily married and the next thing you know you're arguing over who gets to keep the crappy bench that no one wanted in the first place. get the bench or don't, but this is your decision.'

'don't you have something else you can go get?'

'i'll go get the trash bags.'

'good idea.'

so i'm looking for trash bags. this is an 'issue.' because we bought like this HUGE ass trash can. and it needs the 13 gallon sized trash bags. only, by the time they're filled they bust when you try to take them out of the trash can. so i'm looking for BIGGER kitchen trash bags thinking that the extra at the top will give us an edge in them not ripping when they're full.

the husband and i had like a 20 minute discussion about this.

well, and as it turns out, they don't MAKE kitchen trash bags larger than 13 gal. who knew? not me. BUT, and as it turns out, there's like this whole bunch of trash bags that are like rip proof and stretchy and grabby at the top so they don't slip and rip. but now to choose which one. so i get to work and i'm already overwhelmed. i have a choice of 3 when the husband appears.

'okay. so this one is extra tough. this one is extra stretchy. this one grabs at the top of the can.'

'jesus. you'd think they could roll it all into one. well which one should we get?'

'beats me. i mean, with all the cat litter we have to toss after cleaning boxes twice a day it gets really heavy.  that's why it rips.'

and right then the beautiful young woman and her boyfriend pass by. she looks at me and quickly looks away. she looks like she swallowed something fermented. she's holding one box of band aids. they have kermit on them. isn't that cute. i think i want to punch her.

i look at the husband. studying the boxes of trash bags. in which to hold the massive amounts of cat shit and garbage our house generates. i remember when we used to have sex in the front seat. well, it was that once. he had a really small car.

'marriage. un-sexy. and here's the proof.'

'oh hush. i'm going to put these two back and get this one.'

and as he's reaching up i reach over and put my hand on his ass.

he looks at me and smiles.

'what are you doing?'

'i'm making trash bag shopping more sexy.'

the woman in front of us turns around and glares.

the moment passes.
we head over to get contact lens solution.

'oh wait. let's go down here. i'm going to have my period soon.'


and there she is again. WHAT IN THE HELL! is she fucking following me?!

and now she looks at me with horror and revulsion. she looks at the husband calmly marking off his list while i've been caught red handed buying feminine products IN FRONT OF HIM. AS IF IT ISN'T ANY BIG DEAL. oh. the horrors. stop.

she had been looking at the sun screen on the end cap. she still has the band aids.  she puts down the sunscreen and grabs her boyfriend's hand.

'let's go.'

'didn't you want to get that?'

'i'm done.'

and i start to chuckle. and i SO want to shout something after her. but i don't. and i don't know what i WOULD shout. 'it gets better!' maybe? as in one day it's going to be comfortable to be with the one you love. one day you'll finally feel comfortable eating in front of him. one day you can buy more than a box of band aids with kermit on them just because they're cute. because you're stalling. you came to target for that? the hell you did. you probably had something else you needed but were suddenly too shy in front of your boyfriend. and now you're here like YOU DON'T NEED SOMETHING? you're in target, beautiful young woman. CIRCLING 'health & beauty' and there isn't ONE THING YOU NEED? and yes i'm assuming and judging BUT THIS IS MY INTERNAL FANTASY SHOUT SO I GET TO! AND I'LL BET SOME OF THAT RINGS TRUE ANYWAY! oh, and yes HERE'S ANOTHER ONE:  one day you might even be buying a bra here! IN FRONT OF YOUR HUSBAND! yeah that's right! a bra! and maybe even PANTIES! in the same place you buy garbage cans and motor oil! IT CHANGES HONEY! and it may not be sexy but it's REAL! and sometimes that's even BETTER! because you finally get to let out that breath you didn't know you were holding! AND THAT'S WHY MY STOMACH ISN'T AS FLAT AS YOURS! IT'S CALLED BREATHING! i'm finally breathing! well and i should be doing more pilates but that's neither here nor there right now missy because this is about you! and my advice to you is to just ROLL WITH IT! EMBRACE IT! because if you don't there's a greater than average chance you could end up SUPER UNHAPPY! and for god's sake i hope you're wearing SUN SCREEN WHENEVER YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE EVEN ON OVERCAST DAYS BECAUSE YOU HAVE GORGEOUS FLAWLESS SKIN!

we finish our shopping and are heading across the parking lot to the car.

'did you see that girl?'

'what girl?'

'the really pretty one. with her boyfriend. she was like everywhere we were.'

'huh. i didn't see her.'

of course he didn't see her. because he's the most confident person i know. who literally could not care less what other people think of him. what they see when they see him. he's content. he's got a few hours with his wife. the day is fine. he solved the vexing shoes in the entry way problem with the cheap crappy bench. he's got a half checked off list (if you're an aquarius this is a lot like winning the lottery. a whole checked off list never happens because if you're an aquarius you keep adding to the a half checked off list = golden.) he's a happy camper. today and most days. if i didn't love him so much i'd probably be really annoyed by that.

'she was all over the place and i swear she was looking at me and glimpsing some kind of future and she wasn't pleased. didn't like what she saw.'

the cart is heavy but he takes one hand off the handle and puts it around my shoulders. he easily steers the heavy cart with the remaining hand. he kisses me and says

'she should be so lucky.'


Friday, August 17, 2012

home of the brave.

"What do you think we could be if we didn't have to be brave."

this was in a book i just read. i read that and then put the book down. in full and fair disclosure i cried. but you knew that.

the thing is, i have thought this very thing so many times in my life. what might i do, what i might become if i didn't have to keep doing 'this.' keep being brave. picking myself up.

i think many people with difficult childhoods or difficult circumstances have had the exact same or a similar thought.

what else could i have been or done if i didn't have to put my energies towards bravery?? just getting by. just making it through. imagine the possibilities. imagine the me i could be.

i was in my hometown when i read this book. a place i rarely go. a place that holds memories both good and bad. so many of each.

the boys asked to go by my old house. this is not usually on the agenda during my rare visits. but, they had never seen it and of course were curious. i joked to a friend on the phone when he asked what we were up to that day that we were going to strap on our kevlar and head over to the old neighborhood.

it's not that bad. maybe it is. it's hard to know when you're not really there. it was fine growing up. i mean as a neighborhood in general. i guess. from what i remember. i mean there were neighborhood bullies and the occasional flasher. one neighbor drove his big old convertible drunk and with kids all piled in on the regular. the other neighbor sometimes forgot to feed her kids. we think the lady who lived upstairs was a hooker. when i was older i wore a low cut shirt and got a good deal on a set of used tires from the guy who lived behind us. i walked to all three schools i went to, walked to the store. bought cigarettes for cinnamon's mom at the corner store with a note saying please let my daughter buy cigarettes for me. and her mom signed it. so, you know, the usual neighborhood dynamics.

anyway, i was a little reticent. the last time i went home i ended up in a puddle on my hotel bed. crying to another friend on another phone call. i couldn't even fathom driving down that street. by the old house. why couldn't it have been different, i cried. why couldn't it have been easier, i cried. blah blah blah.

so i'm in the car and driving the boys towards my house. i see the shopping center that had the grocery store and the place we used to buy 10 cent boxes of candy. the video store was there. i remember when it opened. this was right when VCRs came out and video stores started popping up. you could rent a VCR then because so few people had them. my father used to rent a VCR and 3 movies there every friday afternoon. he'd watch them and do a review column for a local paper.

i see that ernie's liquors is still a liquor store but called something else. i remember going in there with my father when i was little. i remember later, more recently, sprinting in there dressed to the nines for the goddess mother's wedding. i was supposed to be at the church already. supposed to be marrying her and her husband at nearly that exact moment. i was still miles away.  i was late. the laptop ate my ceremony. the duke nursed too long. my hair and makeup made me look like i spent a little too much time at home with mother's little helper. i sprinted in there and grabbed a bottle of jagermeister.

mother's little helper indeed. liquid form.

the husband was driving and the duke was asleep in the back. and there i was, sweaty, freaked, and late. cermony-less. shooting jagermeister and muttering to myself.

it turned out beautifully.

it's true. ask anyone.

the car made its way past. i shook off the memory. there's the apartments on the left my father told me never to go to alone. sometimes i did.  there's the park on the right that used to be an orchard. there's my street. shit. i nearly passed it. how in the hell did that happen? this street has its own freaking barbed wire wrapped wing dug right into my soul and here i almost missed it. i turned off and expected it all to come flooding back. you know, it. it. the it of the difficult childhood. it. like it always had when i had gone back the few times before. expected something that didn't come. instead, i played tour guide.

there's where melvin lived.

the kid with the rotten teeth who always cussed?

yep. oh, there's cinnamon's house! it looks so small.

that's where she lived? is that the tree? you were lucky to live so close to your best friend.

so lucky. oh! there's allan's house. god it looks so small. the yard was always perfect. too bad it looks the way it does now.

was that the kid who always wanted to play border patrol?


i slow the car.

pointing out allan's house had almost made me miss my own.

i stop.

i point.

that's my house. look at that fence and grass. we didn't have grass or a fence. it was prickly bushes that smelled like cat pee and beauty bark instead of grass.

it's cute. i like the brick.

it looks exactly the same. look at how big my father's peach tree has gotten. i remember when he planted it. so he could always have fresh peaches. for cobbler. and pie.

i put the car in park and briefly i remember how my father made a list of foods that he wanted me to cook for him when i came to visit. last year. when he was dying. peach cobbler was on the list. i made most of the food. he had a plate, but didn't eat any. i never got around to making the peach cobbler.

at this point it's just as my sister said, everything seems smaller. the houses the street the distance to the corner. everything seems at once shabbier and brighter than i remember. i am somewhere else, but it's not painful. it feels odd for it to feel so...normal. like, hey here's the house i grew up in. and nothing more. it's just a house. where i grew up. it isn't everything it used to be. no longer the scene of the crime. just a set piece in the movie of the week of a silly mortal.

and then i remember it's probably best not to be stopped in front of unfamiliar houses. i pull forward. drive by my old elementary school. turn around. cruise by the house again. and then we're off. more places to see.

and again, i expect that thing. that pit to open me up and swallow me whole. the reminder of pain and sheer exhaustion. i expect it to hit. and, it doesn't.

instead i am pointing out my jr. high. why can't i remember that it was called a 'senior elementary' instead of a jr. high. what in the hell is that?

mama, that's so weird.

i know.

i keep driving down the street that takes me to my old high school. i point out to the left side of a duplex with a rusting car on blocks in the driveway.

i had a boyfriend who lived there with his dad.

oh. it looks um, really run down.

it looks about the same.

was this in high school?

no. after. i worked with him at the burger place. actually, technically he was my boss. he was a little older. from a trailer park in oklahoma. he used to invite me over to watch an old video of him playing in the state basketball championship. over and over and over.

oh, mama.

i know.

i keep driving. in my old hometown. here where i grew up. here where i grew my armor. and regrew and regrew and regrew my armor.

but  the more i drive i STILL don't feel it creeping up on me. i am just pointing out houses where friends lived (look there's rich's house!) and telling stories. i don't feel the need to be crushed by this trip down memory lane. i don't feel the need to be brave. at all.

i stop at the stoplight.

oh my god, i'm thinking. that's what it is. this feeling. i am not a wounded child here. i am ALWAYS a wounded child here. but now i'm just a mama showing her boys the old neighborhood.

and that's when it hits me.

that thing i always thought about having to be brave all the time. how my life might have been different if i could put my energy towards other pursuits. the possibilities. the me i could be. if i didn't have to carry around all that armor. i look over and sitting beside me and behind me was all that i ever wanted. my boys and my little family were all i ever wanted. to be a mother was all i ever really truly wanted.

and that's exactly what i got. and it's fucking awesome.

and those other things i did. things i've done in my life. those were awesome, too. i think we need to take stock more of the things we have done, and not the things we think we might have done. or missed out on. because i don't even know WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE. i mean my god what exactly has to happen to make the things we have done, however big or small, *just* as important as the things we think we might have missed out on?              

i don't know, but i think i accidentally stumbled on it at the stoplight in front of my old high school.

the light changed and then we were passing by the school. under the pretense of getting a better look i pulled over. i needed a minute. i needed a breath.

i don't know if it's because my father is gone now. or if i have finally just grown the fuck up. or if it's a combination of the two. or if it's getting back to the west coast or all the sun or WHAT. but 'it' never came. not the crush, not the sadness, not the pit. not the armor. bravery was no longer needed. at least not here.

and that was that. how quickly the shit that's kept you down falls away. and then you're left with...a deep breath. a little wiggle room. possibilities.

the me i have always been. 

just like that.

we looked at the bumpy walls of my old high school. and i told them the story of uncle nate's 'controversial' mural and how we (i won't name names to protect the absolutely guilty as charged) snuck into the school and uncovered the paint they had painted over it to hide it.

did uncle nate go with you?

no. i don't even know if he knew at the time we were gonna do it.

wait. how could you take that paint off without taking uncle nate's paint off underneath?

he sprayed his mural with some kind of anti graffiti spray. that makes it so you can take paint off the top without taking the paint of the piece.

that's awesome.

yeah. just you don't do something like that. sneaking into school property and all that. and if you do, don't let me know about it. and don't get caught.


i pulled out and we drove to the taco trucks and to sonic for slushes or whatever they're called there and to the park.

i like it here, says wingman.

i do too, i answered.


Monday, July 23, 2012

getting. getting. getting it.

before the duke started high school last year he was understandably nervous. any kid would be, but having been home schooled his whole life he *literally* had no idea what to expect. he'd ask me a ton of questions. about this and that and the what ifs. and i'd answer the best i could given my biases from my own dubious high school experiences and the wisdom gained with the passing of time.

basically, i pulled it out of my ass. about what might happen, and how he might deal with it.

but what i ultimately told him was 'just be yourself. that's it. that's all you have to do. the rest will come.'

so. he did. he was.

he wore the clothes he liked when very few other boys would even consider wearing what he did and teased him for doing so.

he took his lunch packed by his mother even as the other kids snickered or teased him that i wouldn't make his lunch forever. 'yeah but she makes it now. and i'm hungry. what are you having?' they were having nothing, or a slice of pizza, or bumming his left overs.

he listened to/read and defended the music and books he liked, never shy about it. or pretending he liked something just because someone else did.

he wasn't afraid to be dorky or laugh at himself.

if he liked a girl, he asked her out. regardless of whether he 'should' or what others would say. when he got rejected he was bummed, but he would still ask out the next girl he wanted to.

he refused to go along with the 'guys' when they started in on the unflattering girl talk. he'd just go find the girls and hang out with them.

he'd get heckled nearly daily by a few jerks and learned to ignore them, or do a humor zing. refusing to believe that it was anything other than them not understanding the new kid, even as the school year dragged on. it bugged him, but it didn't bite into him and take hold.

and at the end of the year he was lured by a couple of his friends to someones house. and when he got there there were 30 kids, all his friends, waiting to surprise him with a going away party. they had tables of food and drink, music, and they gave him gifts. they gave him framed photos they'd taken of him around the halls, or of them all dressed up for the semi formal dance they had attended. someone made him a mix cd. he got more than one filled up photo album. he got a t-shirt someone screened for him, someone drew him a picture, and he was given more than one handwritten letter telling him how he was just so different and cool and would be missed.

all from kids he didn't even know 10 months before that day.

he was surprised and happy and really stoked. he said he had no idea how much people cared for him.

imagine being exactly who you are and people digging you for it. 

except here i am telling him to be himself. 'just be yourself.' meanwhile i am staring at the spot on my chin wondering if anyone notices, sucking in my stomach at the oddest times like it works and makes me look 23 again, waking up at night wondering if maybe i'm not just a little too soft and curvy even though i like it maybe i am, if i should have had so much hair cut off, shouldn't i write more about this and less about that and who cares about what i have to say about my kids and why don't my toes look as cute as they did before and does anyone notice? my toes my hair that spot on my chin. OH MY GOD DOES ANYONE NOTICE?

we say these things to our  kids, be yourself. then we go stand in front of the mirror and catalog our flaws. we keep whole industries in business just so we can make a valiant attempt to look like we did when we were 17 or 23. even though 41 is pretty damned awesome. we feel bad about this and that so we eat too much or not nearly enough. we love our children unconditionally, but not ourselves.

and that's why my child is completely awesome. not because i'm bragging but because i am in sheer awe. because i gave him the line i have been working towards my entire life and at 14/15 he nailed it.

isn't that something.

and in a month he'll do that all over again. in a new town in a new school. (oh yeah. we moved. to the west coast. i would have said something before but i'm pretty sure i was too crazy and excited. but, now you know. so.)

i have made huge strides in the past few years in this area, just being me. i'm not there, but i'm so much farther than when i started. and i can't say that i'm going to suddenly stop worrying about my curves or my toes (or whether or not i should wear the short-ish skirt i just bought. but that is ANOTHER blog all together), but what i will say is that i got it. the lesson. again. getting. getting. getting it.

life is THIS. it's happening NOW. and it's just too damned short that it's so not worth it to waste what time we have worrying about the stupid shit.

and when i do start worrying over the stupid shit, because i know i will, until i don't, and i don't know when that will be, but i'm working on in it BUT WHEN I AM trying to stop worrying about that stupid shit i'm just going to go hang out with the duke.

you know, if he'll let me. because part of just being himself is him being one of those pesky teens. prone to eye rolling and snark and definitely at certain moments NOT at ALL wanting to hang out with his mother.

but that is ANOTHER blog all together.


Friday, May 25, 2012

your moment(s) of zen.

image by navila kalam

last night my father was talking to me in my dream.

he had the richest most melodic voice.

he still does.

he took care with his words as he spoke.

to be sure that they rose and fell right where they needed to.

that the pitch matched the pace.

he was sure to draw you in, even as you longed to leave.

occasionally he'd talk about something you were interested in.

mostly, he talked.

about this and that.


conspiracies and theories and civilization and books.

music. mostly what he couldn't stand.

something he read about asafoetida.

and everything you'd ever want to know about it.

and endlessly about his pack.

his gear.

always his gear.

i think the beauty of the dead is the ability to cast your gaze with a softened beam. you can put away the armor, the laser, the 10 foot pole. you don't have to think about the bad stuff or the hurt. you don't have to unless you want to. and mostly, i don't.

the beauty of the dead is when they come to you in your dreams they are their dream selves. and whether they were their dream selves ever while living, it doesn't matter. you have them now as you want them to be. forever and ever. they are cast in the dreaming bronze of the sepia-toned epilogue. the rewrite gone perfectly.

when we dream about the living the possibilities are endless. and frankly, frightening. who wants possibilities and endless? especially when you know what one is capable of. especially then.

no. not me. give me the father i loved and the one i liked. roll them into the one i saw in real living life, but not nearly enough, always longing for more. of that. of that father.

i used to sit on my father's lap. when we'd be out at a holiday gathering or friend's house or a party. and it would grow late and i would grow tired and i would plant myself on his lap. and i would lean my head against his chest and listen to the low rumble of his voice. and i would close my eyes and i would soften and i would sink. i would lower my shoulders from their space by my ears, and i would let down my guard. and i would be in the safest place in the world. the softest place. the dream place on my earth, always longing for more. of that. of that feeling.

i miss my father. terribly. and i wish that he didn't die. but i would be lying if i said i didn't like the fact that when he visits me now it's mostly peaceful. filled with the good and the safe the charming and the familiar. the safe familiar. i don't like that he died, but i like that he is where he is. i like that i am mostly no longer afraid.

that we are both safe.

that he has let down his guard, too.

anyhow, this installment of your moment(s) of zen have nothing to do with my father and me. and it's a song and a band i am sure he would have nothing less than a 45 minute perfectly delivered eye rolling (me) lecture on its horrible awfulness  (though he would use a much, much better group of words strung together in stinging phrase) BUT, it was in my dream. in the background. seems fitting. i guess. so. here you go.

sweet dreams.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NEVER SURRENDER. okay. maybe. do.

i learned a little something the other evening.

it's okay to 'give in' to your teenager.

even when you've laid it down.

and hammered it out.

and made a plan.

and it's a school night.

and there's still some homework left.

and he still has laundry and a room to clean.

it's okay to negotiate and soften and say yes. really.

teenagers are marvelous negotiators. given that they suffer from the disease of 'right here right now the future is nothing but a theory' they really have no idea what they are saying so they'll tell you exactly what you want to hear. sometimes they even believe it. when more time with your friends is on the line you'll say anything.

damn teenagers.


because if you don't keep constant vigilance and say yes after you said no they'll surely right then and there develop an insatiable need to feed with drugs and alcohol and inappropriate facebook posts and pictures and promiscuous sex. or girls with daddy issues. or, drummers.

so i went into this particular parenting phase being an accommodating and fair parent, but i am firm. understanding, but firm. allow in the beginning, but do not concede after the no. don't negotiate your position once you've firmly stated it. ever.

this is as much for safety as it is for sanity and let's face it, perceived control over a mass of hormones and emotions and growth and dorkiness hurtling through your space and bouncing off whatever happens to be in the vicinity. or, eating it.

the thing is, what i forget to remember sometimes, is how MUCH it is to be a teenager. how it's the little things. it's that one moment that means EVERYTHING OH MY GOD. i forget how much is riding on making that call and asking for extra time. when your friends are hovered around 'ask her.' 'what did she say?' 'tell her that blah blah blah.'

when everyone else gets to stay and watch the fireworks why shouldn't he be able to, too. to him it's the most unfair thing, i am too protective of his time, his sleep, etc. etc. oh, he's too respectful and he wouldn't say those things out loud to me, but i know that's what he's feeling. and he has every right. but, to me it's that i only want him home because it's getting dark and late and i want to feed him something healthy and make sure he gets a good night's rest.

(i know. i have it so rough with my unruly teen. boo hoo, poor mama. don't worry, i have a point.)

and i am in charge and i am right so what's the deal.

here's call #1 we made a deal, honey. oh and here's text #2 with more better info and a way home. and text #3 to papa, 'tell her...'

finally i just called him. hey, we made a plan. i said no. we were firm before you left the house. i feel like you're putting me on the spot and i really don't like that.

you're right mama. it isn't fair for me to do that. i don't mean to manipulate you, i just really want to stay. i want to see the fireworks. and i wanted to tell you it's at a different spot closer to home so i'd been home sooner.

how much homework do you have left?

a half an hour tops.

really? that's it?

yes. i promise.

and at this point i don't know if he has a 1/2 an hour of homework or 3. or if his promise to start his laundry and finish his room tomorrow means anything. i just know he really wants this one thing. he wants me to give him this one stinkin' thing when he does all the things i want him to do. well, except put away the milk. he's 15 and he's with his friends. he's having trouble with some idiots at his school. he likes this group of friends. they are always so busy he doesn't get to see them a lot except at school. he's moving in a month and he hasn't put up a stink about the change. he's 15. tonight is what he has right now.

fine. be home right after the fireworks. get to your homework right away. and no tomfoolery.

i don't even know anyone named tom.


thanks mama so much i totally appreciate it!


so this may not seem like a big deal. at all. so your kid got to stay late for fireworks after you said no. um, okay...

but here's the deal. and it's not just a mama/teen thing.

this particular time when i wasn't saying yes i felt like all i was doing was holding on hard to my *control* of the situation. that's it. it was the control. i was RIGHT but it didn't feel right. i wasn't really listening to his position. my maintaining control was more important than listening. i had already said no and it was easy to hold onto that. I SAID NO GODDAMMIT! i was thinking to myself. even as i was ALSO thinking to myself, so he gets to bed later. so he just eats hot dogs all night. where's the issue? that's being a teenager. this is an isolated incident.

in our relationships, especially parent/teen, we think the way to get what we need/want/have to have is to be unyielding. if we are in complete unyielding charge we will be listened to, right?

i'll give you a minute to consider your own adolescence. your own relationships.

hey, it's easy to be 'right,' especially as a parent. especially as a parent to teens. but i think we do this out of personality (some of us) and fear (a lot of us.) fear that we will lose our perceived control, fear that our kids will jump off the cliff because everyone else is, fear that if something 'bad' happens it's because we let down our guard and loosened our grip.

it's very important that this is NOT how we teach our teens to be in relationships.

it's important that they listen to us and respect us and have rules and boundaries, but it's also important to be told no and to push back successfully. this is an important skill to have. i used to tell the duke, learn the rules and boundaries and respect them FIRST. then you can figure out when to push.

i think he figured it out.

starting out small is fine, too. ;)

hey, you, don't be afraid to NOT be in charge all the time.

whether it's your teen or your toddler your partner or your pal.

even if you're right and you know it.

especially if you're right and you know it.

at the very least take a minute to listen.

it'll be good. i promise.


Saturday, May 19, 2012


i have to go to a pancake breakfast this morning.

there are two things wrong with this.

1. if given the choice of a firing squad at dawn complete with blindfold and my first and last cigarette OR to be clumped in a large group of strangers milling about all doing the same exact thing i'd really be hard pressed not to ask for a minute to decide.

2. i don't like pancakes. at all.

i wish i was more like my little sister and the goddess mother who like these sorts of community minded events. at least, they tolerate them. it seems like a good thing to be able to do that. be amongst the people. you know, hanging with humanity. but. i don't. i'm more like my father. who would have rather crawled under his truck and covered himself with a blue tarp and sleep than do stuff that falls under the category of 'pancake breakfast.'

whenever i have to do something like say oh a pancake breakfast or board an airplane and i'm in some advancing line of shufflers and i'm just thinking what is this? where am i? this is not my glamorous life. there's like this rising hum of desperation and anxiety amongst the gathered. will i get on the plane WITH my bag? will i get my window seat? will there be any pancakes left? what about my slab of sad ham? is there still one left for me? why is this guy on my right seem like he's trying to ooch in in front of me. the collective neuroses builds and then BAM! suddenly it's all too much. like a huge crowd of woody allens on his worst day. and i'm one of them.

no thanks.

my grandmother used to have a sourdough starter. from this she made pancakes. big thick fluffy huge pancakes. every weekend i was there she'd make these pancakes. my grandmother, bless her heart i loved that woman, was not what one would call a 'good' cook. everything looked all right, but it would always just be a bit 'off.' chewy tough beef, undercooked chicken, and cookies frozen solid. 'just give them a minute.' it was summer, she had frozen the christmas cookies. they were never defrosted when she served them. those cookies needed a hell of a lot more than a 'minute.'

so she'd make the pancakes and they were never done in the middle. big and thick and never done in the middle. and she never let me fix my own plate. she just set it in front of me. i was a thin child prone to stomach aches and nervousness. kind of like a small hairless dog who has to wear sweaters in the summer. and here's a huge ass plate of thick underdone sourdough pancakes. and if i didn't eat everything set in front of me she'd be upset which would upset my father and let's just say it was easier to choke down the pancakes.

now. lest you think i'm some kind butt head who can't get over things well you'd be wrong. but that was so long ago, you say. can't you give it another chance, you ask.

i give plenty of things another chance! first kiss (he was cute, sweet, funny, but it was awkward of course AND he wore braces) did i walk away from that saying well, that's never gonna happen again. NO! i was like, huh, yeah, i'll try that again! first time having sex (don't ask) huh, yeah, i'll try that again! first beer (hamm's light. warm and flat from a can.) huh, yeah, i'll try that again!

me. rising to the occasion.


okay all right those *may* be unfair examples BUT it serves to illustrate that i don't just always hold fast to hard first beliefs.

pancakes are just wrong. i mean devoid of nutrition and covered in butter and is that breakfast unless you're an elf? i know i know there are healthier pancakes. but they don't fit in my rant so i'm not going to include them.

and i've been out with people who order them as a side at breakfast. that's like ordering a steak and saying, 'oh, and i'll have a side of ribs with that.' okay, maybe not. but how can a breakfast entree that shouldn't be a breakfast entree get to ALSO be a side. i ask you.


isn't there always one

i love my kids and this is a fundraiser and they love pancakes and i INVITED FRIENDS (moral support. they can have mine.) so i will go like i did before and be happy just to be with friends and my little family. and i'll eat one.stinkin.pancake. and i will do so with a smile on my face. because my kids think it's terrifically fabulous when i do. for them it's like spotting a rainbow. or spotting crappy cereal on sale i'll let them have 'just this once.'

and if you invite me over to your house and you're serving pancakes i will eat them. because i'm not allergic and i'm not an ass and if you made them for me i will happily indulge. because i like you. and you were kind enough to invite me over. obviously not a reader of the blog...but that's okay, too. sometimes ignorance is bliss.

oh and by the way, if you come over here? i make AWESOME pancakes. and i even warm the real maple syrup and make sure the butter is nice and soft.

because i like you, too.

so there.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012


there's a reason why this blog is called sillymortalmama.

i lost my shit with the duke last night.

i hate it when that happens.

it usually means i'm overwhelmed, there's historical evidence for this, but it's no excuse.

once i hid in a closet because if i didn't have 3 minutes to myself i was going to explode. because it was week 3 of living in a crappy extended stay hotel room. on a busy boulevard. overlooking a parking lot. looking for a place to live. because we moved from the farm for a job. i missed the farm. i had every good excuse for losing my shit. and no excuse at all. but see, before i hid the duke saw me run to hide. i literally ran from the kitchenette because i felt trapped and smothered and i needed 3 minutes. the duke was two going on 3. he came after me. he did not find me. and he burst into tears and said, 'she's gone!'

he was heartbroken.

it was horrible.

i can still hear him.

i felt like the world's biggest asshole.

maybe, at that moment, i was.

once i threw a box of popsicles against the wall and shouted that duke COULD HAVE THE WHOLE ENTIRE BOX SINCE HE WANTED THEM SO BADLY!!! it was 10 am. he had been up for 4 hours by then. and so had his mama. he had been whining. and pushing. about the popsicles. about everything. and would not stop. he was 3. he hadn't yet started preschool. i was 3 months pregnant. i was sick all the time. i was so sick we didn't get out as much as usual. i would count down the hours until the husband came home to take him to the park and i could be sick in peace. and we were away from the space of the farm and living in an apartment. and we always had to be quiet because the guy upstairs came down on one really really bad day (not the popsicles day. a different day. a few weeks before.) when the duke was just done with the world, mad at his toys, mad at his lunch, mad at me. so i put him in his seat in the tub, filled it with warm water and soft bubbles and his favorite bath toys, and let him cry.

i sat on the bath mat and cried. too.

the sound must have traveled upstairs. not surprising, sometimes the duke was a dramatic crier. and he was a mad AND dramatic crier that day. the guy came down and knocked. i opened the door. he looked past me and his eyes widened. the living room was a disaster. a total fucking nightmare. then he looked at me. my shirt was wet and misbuttoned, my eyes were red from crying, i was so sick i looked like i was in withdrawal. the duke was crying his dramatic, mad cry in the background. the guy from upstairs didn't know me, couldn't tell i was pregnant. with perpetual morning sickness. it just looked like i was running a crack house day care out of a very nice apartment in a very nice neighborhood. and i was disturbing his very nice day.

and because the guy from upstairs was an ignorant asshole because he didn't ask, and because he didn't understand and he assumed, and because he could, he all but threatened to call CPS on me. make him be quiet, he said. don't make me get people involved, he said. i was sick. i was young. i complied. so we were quiet on the days he worked from home (he finally moved. thank god).

so the popsicles day i was just done. done with trying to keep a toddler/preschooler TAURUS duke quiet. done with being sick. done with the whining. and there go the popsicles. against the wall. WHAM! HIT! DROP! and the shouting. i felt like the world's biggest asshole. again.

so, last night. i told the duke to go to bed with no dinner. SHOUTED for him to go to bed with no dinner. it was 7 pm. he and wingman would.not.stop.bickering. you stop. no, you stop. no YOU stop. all about the duke making his pen click. and it annoying wingman. i told them both to stop. twice. i looked at the duke and said you need to stop. we're all in this tiny house together. it can't be perfect. take the high road. do your homework elsewhere. just stop.

he didn't stop.

he threw his pen.

not at me. but just threw it. like a toddler. which they sometimes are as teens. which normally i can address rationally and let him know what asinine behavior that is. and to knock it off. and then he says he knows and then that's that. usually.

except last night i didn't do any of that. instead, i lost my shit. i have never in my LIFE sent anyone to bed without dinner. i don't know what came over me. i just had to make it stop.

the look on his face. he was so hurt. his little face. so little to me still. cracked in confusion and dawning sadness. geeze. sometimes parents can be such assholes. i mean, kids are no picnic, but, they're just kids. they're trying, too.

i could illustrate the reasons why i reached the break, the reasons why i came to the brink, the reasons why i did not have the reserves to pull myself back. i have the world's best excuses right now. but. it doesn't matter.

just like it didn't matter those other times. not when you're yelling at a child. nothing matters except that you stop. because it hurts. to be yelled at. no matter how old or not old you are.

they never tell you in the parenting books about what to do when you're an asshole. when you yell and fly off the handle. when you say things you don't mean.

i figured an apology is always a good start.

i mean, that's what i taught the duke. and he always apologizes to me for yelling or flying off the handle.

so. i went upstairs. and i talked to the duke. he apologized for not listening, says he 'tossed' the pen, didn't throw it. i said stop talking you're making it worse. don't throw stuff. it's asinine. then i apologized for my inappropriate reaction, for yelling. while it wasn't an excuse, i did remind him what led me there. and reminded him that he needs to be mindful, to listen, to pull back before he pushes. that i would try to relax, even though it's been nigh on impossible lately. but that i would try. and he had to do better than try. he had to stop when i told him to stop. it's as simple as that.

he came down. we ate. then i went to the bathtub and texted the husband for a big glass of wine and box of tissues and i cried.

because i'm overwhelmed. and because i let overwhelmed win and i yelled and i was mean. it's mean to deny food to a hungry child. meaner still if they're a starving teenager. meaner STILL when he's smelled marinated tri tip grilling for the past 20 minutes.

and i tell you guys these things not so you can say, oh...don't worry...we've all been there don'tbesohardonyourself and i tell you these things NOT so you can roll your eyes and say THAT? that's you losing your shit? honey, you should spend a day with me...

i tell you these things to say them out loud. to say it happened. that i messed up. to say that some days are just really hard. some days being a parent is really really hard. i say this just because i can. and it feels better to.

and there are rough days with every job, sure. but most jobs come with some kind of training. or test you have to pass. or a manual. a supervisor or a certificate. something that says YOU EARNED THIS AND YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO. and when you don't you get the supervisor or the manual.

the only test you have to pass to be a parent is waiting 3 minutes to see if there's one line or two.

(i know this isn't the only way. allow me the largesse.)

the rest is up to you, baby. all you.

and we can tell ourselves oh this day or month has been hard, when it has. we can tell ourselves that we're only human, when we are. but the bottom line is when we yell at our kids or fly off the handle and overreact we are hurting their feelings. even if they are little shits that day, even if they 'deserve' it...they aren't and they don't. they're just kids. trying to make it, too.

when my kids are wrong they are wrong and if they don't know it i let them know it. they're 'just kids' doesn't mean they get to do what they want and i shrug it off. it means i point it out, i model behavior, and consequences are appropriate.

and i hate it when i fuck that up because i hurt my kids' feelings. that's the worst. it happens, it's human, but it doesn't mean it doesn't suck.

i hate it that this late in the game the potential for fucking up is still present. good lord. 

like i said for some of you these transgressions might be so small as to be laughable and certainly not worthy of my writing them all up. of remembering them so clearly.

but i did and i do. because this is my day job. because this is what i chose. to do. to be. this is what i do. right now. i don't have to be perfect, am not, but i don't like being an ass at my job. an ass to my kids. ever. because in my world of parenting i never once for even one second wanted my child to feel abandoned or alone, to live in a house where things are thrown, with yelling, and over the top, inappropriate punishment.

i already did that as a child.

and i didn't like it. i don't like it.

i finished my bath, and my wine, and had my cry, and gave myself a big fucking break. which is easy to do when you're clean and relaxed and naked and slightly drunk. thank god for the bathtub.

i tucked wingman in. had a nice evening with the duke. went to bed.

and today i flashed the mailman.

on accident.


back to normal. silly & mortal. just the way i like it.

hey. when you have a bad day do what you need to move past it. whatever works. try to give yourself a break. and if nothing else, i'm here. and i'll listen. and i won't judge. and i might even get you to chuckle a bit. i'm here. don't forget. no one is alone in this. remember that. don't forget.