Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear Friends Who's Faces I Can't Pick In A Line Up, or Picket's Version of the Christmas Letter

Merry Happy,

The good news is that we are nearly done with this heinous year.

My kids did nothing remarkably awesome. They shot some soccer balls into little goals but truth is, they never know where their backpacks are so that sucks for them and me. One of 'em learned early "Frosty the Snowman" on the recorder, but her mother has deemed the recorder "icky" and I dare anyone to argue that it is not in fact the most awful instrument ever.

I'd prefer a six-string in the New Year.

My husband got unemployed in February and since then, I moved in my very imaginative mind to at least three other cities. Turns out, we'll likely stay put. I'm not sure if I am happy or sad about that.

And I "wrote" a book. I use those quotations because for me and Carolyn: well, there's more books to write... and this one was easy.

This sucky year? Damn. We held it together, us Pickets, even as others became undone in ways I never expected: the "best" marriages collapsed, husbands realized their sexuality, and love showed itself as a drug.

And our own world changed, too -- duh -- but we carried on.

Our kids grow up, but we can't stop the funny:

Anyhoo, how are you?

With Great Love,

Ms Picket

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Son? He's In A Van Down By the River

The GFYO has plotted a path for his future.

For months, he's been talking about where he will live when he doesn't live here. I figure this is classic five year old psycho-social development stuff and I bet there is even a book for it. I mostly despise books like that, FYI, because they just make me feel awful.

Anyhoo, the GFYO is transfixed on his personal vision of the future and his Van. We ask him if he means a trailer or a camper and every time, we get nothing. The Kid describes an Airstream to the GFYO, wishing and hoping his kid was that cool... But nope.

The GFYO wants a Van.

I say, like Scooby?
NO! he says.
Like what then? I say.

He says his van will have a fridge and a bed and...

You can't see this whole picture or make sense of it, but it is, in fact, THE VAN.

There is the steering wheel (picture right) and the table in the middle -- "for eating stuff and playin' games" -- and then to the right of the table are the bunk beds. Bunk beds. He put bunk beds in His Van because apparently?

When the GFYO lives down by the river in his wikkid cool Van, he's gonna need a place for his Mommy and his Dad.

I am so proud.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Did Not In Fact Run Off With CarolynOnline...

However, while trying to cure her calf-muscle cramp on the sidewalk in front of a chic drinking establishment, we created this kind of partner-yoga-stretch meets the-Wonder Twins-activating-their-powers move that I'm sure had the fair citizens of Atlanta wishing we would, um, move along people. Did you know you could get a seriously painful charlie horse while perched on a bar stool? You can, and now I've warned you.

We did not read any parts of The Book out loud (god forbid) at the The Big Book Party but we did get all rockstarry signing the inside flaps. I think I wrote "YO!" on every one which is totally absurd as I have never in fact said that word out loud, ever. At least I signed my real name and not Kate Gosselin. Which I considered doing.

It was a ridiculously rainy night and Atlanta is a seriously spread out city so I would have been impressed if even one person showed up. But lots and lots of 'em did, including two who were celebrating birthdays (that very day) and another on crutches. All Hail The Atlantans! And my Yankee apologies in advance since now ya'll will have to pretend to read and/or like The Book....


It was a sunny day two and I attended a school chorus performance where in true comedic form, Carolyn's daughter Tempel nearly fainted. (She was fine and it was kinda funny.) We ate lunch at a Real Restaurant like ladies who do that kind of thing. We sat in the sun for a few hours and plotted a new garden in the backyard -- like ladies who do that kind of thing. I spent some good time digging deep into Parker's art collection including a four page "I will not be disrespectful to my parents"x100 punishment that when asked "why'd you have to do that?," I was nearly blinded by the twinkle in her eye. "You know, just 'causa a stuff, " Parker said.

(Note to CarolynOnline's readers: you seriously can't make this shit up and dudes, she doesn't have to.)

We ditched home and hearth (and dinner-making and homework-helping) that night for a solo bar hop dignified night out, in which I enjoyed pimiento cheese at a place that served "marrow in a pot." It turns out that she and I have not in fact discussed every.single.thing in great detail via email -- which was not surprising but equally excellent -- and we plotted Next Steps where all fine people do such things: belly-up to shiny mahogany in front of frothy, frosty mugs.

Scott is a gracious host even though he barely got a word in edgewise and had to play taxi driver and fast food buyer. Also: it turns out I like dogs after all!

I came home to Three Short Drunk People all hugs and kisses and my mom's homemade bolognese sauce simmering on the stove. I launched into homework help and permission slips and my calendar and the emails I had avoided and sooner than I'd hoped, the whole Hotlanta Hoedown seemed a sweet and distant dream. But I was happy, not happier -- just happy: I can't explain it like I want to, but there is a difference.

Guns re-loaded with the taste of my first corn-dog and a tour of a city I completely loved with a friend I never expected to make or keep so close (yo!), I zip up to face the Massachusetts cold and the countdown to Christmas. Which includes my dad's arrival (yup) and school conferences and teacher gifts and bottles of juice and paper plates I need to deliver...somewhere...

I'll be the one in the half-assed pony tail, the one who jets off for the one-city book tour at the craziest time of year, the messy girl in jeans who sends ranty PTO messages, the mom who forgets where she hid the presents, the one with the biggest smile on her wind-chapped face. That one. That's me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Watch out NeNe! Another Crazy Blonde is Coming to ATL!

That's right, you heard me. Hide your cheap beer...

I am writing from inside my home for the next three hours and since I am tapping away on my phone, with one finger no less, I am clearly intimidating my fellow passengers with my wikkid coolness. No matter: CarolynOnline's kids will like me (I travel with goodies).

Already got a call from one of my kids' schools. Something about a tree branch and a bump to the head. Other than that, I am sure everything is shipshape at home. There's plenty of waffles for instance and I was nice enough to leave three bins of Christmas Miraclabelia for my mom to sort out. Ho ho ho.

So yeah three days in Dixie with Carolyn and our book and her kids and Scott and maybe a Housewife or two. I'll show 'em how we Yankees do it, as long as no one pulls off my wig.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slowing Down

In the very latest part of August, my friend's daughter was struck in a crosswalk by a car. She was fifteen years old and on her way to a friend's house in the light of 7pm. Her mother was in an airplane with her sister on the way to college. They were greeted by police at the gate. Her father and stepmother were summoned at their home: your child has been in a terrible accident.

Allie died on one of our Small Town streets or maybe in a helicopter on the way to the hospital. Doesn't matter. She died. She was beautiful and on her way to Varsity soccer and 10th grade. She was fifteen.

The driver who hit Allie was an 18 year old boy from a neighboring town with an awful driving record and awesome sports stats. No charges have been filed.

Since then, the Small Town has been a fury of goodness (within days two great women had bumper stickers printed-- SLOW DOWN FOR ALLIE) and also inane destruction (the Small Town newspaper's comment site blew-up with vitriol and blame and hurt).

When Allie's dad asked me to write something for the Small Town paper, I knew what he was after: he is a dad who wants justice for his daughter. His anger is more than palpable -- it comes through his typically friendly smile. I hear it in his voice. I see how his eyes can't wink or twinkle. He will, her mother will never be the same, but -- I couldn't do what he wanted.

I can't fix anything for him.

I wrote for him, like he asked me to do, but I wrote what only my heart could tell -- and it's probably not what he wanted.

I hope it resonates with him and maybe you too:

It’s a funny thing to feel so happy and so sad for a small town. While we celebrate the historical and well deserved win by our hometown football team, we can’t forget the young woman who did not attend the rallies or the games.

“SLOW DOWN” the bumper stickers say.

It’s an oval reminder of Allie’s families’ loss and ours too.

I saw the sticker twice as I maneuvered my way through traffic on the Pike over Thanksgiving. I wondered if it mattered as much to the other drivers on that speedy road as it did to me.

“Slow down,” I say to myself every time I see it in our small town. Slow down, I think, and then I wonder: am I really… slowing down?

Things speed up this time of year. We rush and hurry and stress out. We fill our calendars or worry that our calendars aren’t filled enough. We hustle catalogs in and out of the house and stack their torn pages on tables that are already thigh-high with school flyers. We wrestle tangled lights and swear -- we swear to wind them up better next time.

Mostly, we charge through three sweet weeks we will never have again.

In our effort to please and make joyous, we run a race this time of year, and sadly, it’s a race too many of us run all year long.

In an effort to “help” our kids. we run them from activity to practice to tutoring to play dates. Our mothers? Most of them just shoved us outdoors. My mother-in-law locked the doors until dinner was served. I adore her.

Some of us? Most of us?

All we do is run. And run and run.

To what? From what?


What a gift we have been given!

Not only should we practice safe and careful measures in our daily lives behind the wheel (and expect the same of others) (hang up that stupid phone!), but each time we see that sticker, we should remember all the tiny moments we take for granted – on the way to something else.

All happy children will tell you: it was never the things under the tree, but the time spent around it.

Need proof? Ask Allie’s family.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Am Not Bukowski or Toni or Erma Just In Case You Were Confused

There is a poem that Bukowski wrote,

that a silent friend reminded me of.
Bukowski, Chuck was an effed up dude
but brilliant. You should look him up.

He said
"if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
which reminds me of something another writer said
I think it was Toni Morrison
who said she wrote at night all night while her babies slept
until they wailed then she nursed them
then she wrote some more.

And Erma? She was the first
to find funny what has always been funny
and after the Dayton Shopping News
it was $3 a pop for her perfectly funny genius
but she carried on with the laundry and the cleaning and the cooking
and made real measure of what is measureless work and she did it
On a typewriter.

I have never been on welfare or in a coal mine
or done anything more than once for 3 bucks
and the best I remember of infants at my breast
was waking at four or three or whatever it was
nearly weeping
to get back to sleep, no thought of anything
but a dream I wished to continue
and the pat pat of a burp's sweet relief and
my pillow.

I can't keep up the pace.
I am not committed
nor talented nor funny nor able enough
to tell and write and thinky think
and tend and mend with my whole self
which I need to do and which I don't regret
And also sometimes
I just want to watch bad TV.

So I'm gonna be a lazy creator when I can
(when I want to be)
stringing words on gossamer and iffy ideas
stringing dirty socks out a window and hauling them home
like I do, like I've done and sometimes regret...

I've strung up myself enough
for long enough, for longer than I thought,
to worry too much about
why I do it or worse, to worry about
that or Chuck and Toni and Erma

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Forgot To Tell You

The GFYO says "I forgot to tell you."

Tell me what, I say? I am so angry at him I can feel it in my hurting hands.

(Earlier, he jumped his angry body into me, head first, and met me too high, kinda sucked the air out. He is big, like a little bull racing and I pay the price.)

I take a breath.

He tilts his head up to see my face and I get to look down and see him as he is in this moment: his giant body so small and so confused with his whole regret. I know what he feels.

"I forgot to tell you," he says, tears coming, and I hug him, my deep sweet boy.

"I forgot to tell you," he says and his dimpled chin rises to mine and he says,

"Thanks for letting me stay up."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just A Typical Afternoon Striking Poses

Mid-afternoon on a very grey day while the Small Town awaits big rain and not much else, the Short Drunk People and I practice our model struts.

I don't know how it was that this came to happen exactly, except to say that we'd been chatting about the way another mom's butt moves when she walks. Naturally, I found this hilarious because the Drunks were pretty accurate in their description of this cute trait of hers. And naturally, I also got to wondering if my butt had its own little habit...

There are many benefits to having kids, like the gift of giving and receiving unconditional love for example, but there's also their ability to evaluate the quality of the shake in your ass. It's one of those things the parenting guidebooks usually overlook, but trust me, it's true.

So anyway, we each take turns walking and alternately, watching. We tip our heads sideways like critics at an art gallery, like scientists, all serious but for our laughing: we realize how ridiculous this experiment of ours is and also, the word "butt" is just plain funny.

(Say it to the GFYO. Throw in "poop" too and that kid will fling himself to the floor in rapturous appreciation of the humor. I've seen it happen many, many times so I know.)

It's after we have measured the unique qualities of our gluts in motion that we decide to roll out the catwalk, and by that I mean, we move chairs to make a path for our showmanship. We take turns wearing my boots, which seem very chic in the moment, and we high-step it up and down the kitchen floor.

And that's how it came to pass that on a dismal November after-school Friday with not much to do and not much to look forward to doing, me and the Short Drunk People worked it.

And it was fierce.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I Want to Run Away 2

Head to the grocery store to buy dinner as the cupboards are always bare and I need more laundry detergent. Feel as if there are bugs ALL OVER MY BODY. Get the Short Drunk People to do Grocery Scavenger Hunt so we can get this abysmal mission done quickly. While each kid finds the one thing assigned to them, they also all come back with boxes of something we definitely don't need but I throw it all in the cart anyway.

In my haste to get home to change laundry, to check Bridget, to start homework, to vaccuum all surfaces, to throw away all hair accessories, to freak out in silent horror at the plague upon my house, I slam my head against the car door and scream GODDAMMIT MOTHERFUCKER.

I notice the nice nurse lady pushing her cart through the lot. I notice she notices me.

If I wasn't such a morally upright human being, I would consider burning my entire house down. In some twisted logic, this seems like the most efficient way to de-louse, clean up, skip homework, and earn a dinner out.

But alas, arson is not in my arsenal of criminal skills so instead I'll just pretend for the twenty minutes it takes to write this that I am in a convertible, driving empty roads somewhere beautiful and sunny. I will pretend that my hair blows perfectly behind me, that the late afternoon sun makes me golden and young-looking and that I am singing at the top of my lungs in perfect pitch with a trunk filled with healthy food everyone will love. I will not be itchy.

For the twenty minutes it takes to write this, I will run away and anyone who finds fault with that can suck it. I come home every time and this time, I will stuff every pillow in the house and haul 'em all to the curb. I will start all over, rising from my own ashes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why I Want to Run Away

You want to know why? Well, I'm telling you anyway.

Rory and the GFYO were sent home from school this morning with FUCKING LICE. AGAIN. The skin on my hands is peeling off from these awful chemicals and the forty thousand loads of laundry I have done over the last month. I almost burst into tears in the nurse's office. She couldn't have been sweeter, said she was sending home some other kids, reminded me that all the icky myths about lice were untrue and not too worry and it's hard and she knows, but I noticed she didn't hug me.

Takes me 90 minutes to thoroughly get through Rory's hair. Hers is a mane of tangles but she sits patiently and I hold my breath and my metal comb and start feeling itchy. I send her to the shower to rinse, wash my hands, practice Lamaze breathing and start on the GFYO. He says, why is the counter all wet? Huh, I say as I am looking through a magnifying glass...

The counter is wet because THE FUCKING KITCHEN CEILING IS LEAKING FROM THE SHOWER. I race up the stairs, metal comb in hand, TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF I shout and there's my poor naked kid, shivering and startled. Sorry, I say. Oh god, I say.

I have twenty minutes to change the second load of laundry before Bridget gets home (no time to call the plumber; no money to pay the plumber) and before we have to head to the Creepy Money Raping Orthodontist where I am scolded for missing an appointment for the GFYO. I am too shy to tell them that it was because I am leaving THIS FUCKING MONEY RAPING PRACTICE and instead just suck it up and say sorry. Feel itchier by the minute. Feel like I should be tattooed with the Scarlet L.

(To be continued...)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Music for Friday

Don't read into; just love.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting Thinky On Being Thinky

Every couple of years or so, I get all existential: you know, mega-self-thinky.

A few years ago, this involved me imagining myself in a variety of fantastically bohemian new roles -- boat painter, chef, coffee shop owner -- that had nothing to do with my "actual" life. I could better imagine my short hair growing into long thick, grey-flecked braids than I could see myself actually painting or cooking or making decent coffee. So I abandoned that and moved on.

Another time, I decided we were relocating to Savannah, a place I'd been but once before and only for an afternoon but which I knew, I knew held the secret to our life-long happiness. I spent endless hours conducting my "research" and in no time, I was a Savannahian (a Savannahese?) and practicing my new accent. I convinced the Kid to spend a weekend with me there, house-hunting, which we did. Trouble was, in addition to the framed photos of W in every foyer, there weren't any pay-the-bills opportunities. So I abandoned Savannah and moved on.

In my earliest thirties, I had back to back self-referential crises that all related to vehicles: I was a beat-up Suburu-wagon-driving sporty mom, all fleece and yoga pants, then I became SUV mama with a mission and then, ugh, minivan matron who touched buttons to open doors. I get into a car now that takes me places; I moved on.

In my latest twenties, I had back to back self-referential crises that all related to hair: mega short Drew Barrymore and plastic barrettes (alt-rock) then back-to-my-unruly-roots hair (when most people figured I was vegan) then the pig-tail look, which coincided not coincidentally with the sporty Suburu-driving phase. I still struggle with my hair, but I moved on.

(Oddly: my younger twenties, even my teens? Steady as a non-existential-thinking-person could be.)

I wish there were a chart, like for a menstrual cycle, that I could download on the Iphone to manage these ebbs of my authenticity. That way I could see them coming and what then? Eat more veggies? Check in to a sweat lodge? Howl at the moon, or maybe better yet, stop howling at the moon?

There are no clues ever to the ebbs: they come when they will. I might be suffering an icky unhappiness or feeling lit by boundless joy: then -- wham! -- is this who I am? I might be content or bored or traumatized or confused or simply happy: then -- wait! -- is this my life, my only one?

Is the phrase "a flight of fancy," or is it "a flight of fantasy?" I'm not sure and too lazy to check and also I really like both sayings and would hate to be disappointed with the truth because each sums up what these (short-lived, always temporary) experiences are for me. Which means: these flights, my ebbs? They don't suck.

I like them even though I can't predict them. It's like playing dress-up with a limitless box of costumes and make-up, trying on every way I can be, then washing up, cleaning up, and becoming my own very real self again. In any car, with any hair, in any place. But with a smudge, just a bit, a dash of something left over from where I've "gone" that changes me and my life for real.

There's no problem in getting self-thinky, no problem in having a moment away from who you really are. Existential crisis? Bring it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

15 Random Things (Plus Updates)

1) When I chewed on asparagus tonight I wondered if it sounded as loud as it did in my head and also if I had consumed enough to make my pee stink.

2) Asparagus pee can be embarrassing.
3) I do not understand licorice. Or Almond Joy.
4) There is a fine line between being the PTO President and just another parent.
5) I still can't tell the difference.
6) My daughter falls down stairs so much, I've stopped looking to see where she lands.
7) The Kid came home. I was too sleepy to be sweet or sexy. He tucked me in, even as busy as he (gratefully) is.
8) Carolyn says something about blogging every day. Make note to self: "call Scott; tell him Carolyn is crazy"
9) The Kid wants to know where I can live besides here: I never answer because I don't know how to without disappointing someone.
10) I find more bugs in my kids' hair.
11) I consider shaving my own head.
12) I send nasty well-written letters to town officials (not about lice).
13) I wonder why it's always me who stands up, writes mean letters, rallies troops.
14) My daughter asks tonight before dinner, "how'd it go at yer meeting," and the Kid says, great.
15) My daughter says, "I was asking Mom."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Short Poem About Old Love (plus the Pixies)

A long road begets bumps.

So we bump and chuckle. We shoot and miss
each other and we drive
our love away.

Many moons rise and fall and slide
into our home still
I feel your hand in mine and you
you as always:

you're the right road.

Note: After many months with the Kid all up in my bizness, he's been gone for a week. And -- duh -- I miss him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Embarrassment of Bitches

Joyce Maynard wrote an article for the New York Times "Modern Love" column (which is one of my favorites) a long while back (2009!) in which she talked in detail about her grown daughter. Her daughter responded in turn and the whole thing is played out here.

Didn't click that? Let me share the highlights -- from the comment section:

Dear Oversharing Blogging Parents:
You may want to pay close attention. This is your future.


Does it seem to any one else that most memoir writer types are raging narcissists as a rule? And golly don't those types just make the BEST parents...(snort).

I'm betting that pissed you off if you write (or read) a blog that might include your short drunk people from time to time or if you write a blog about your life and all the non-kid people in it because um, scandal someone else wrote about her kid and her life and oh shit? Lots of people don't like that.

At all.

Oh, PUHLeeze.

This cheerful discourse happened before the Tiger Mom got her teeth pulled and before Ayelet Waldman declared herself a "Bad Mother" because, among other things, she loved her husband more than her kids. And it happened before Lisa Belkin's Motherlode Book Club unleashed the beasts with Torn:

All of this happened a long time AFTER (my personal hero) Anna Quindlen was publishing her "Public and Private" column in the New York Times, which was one of the best written collections about the experience of being a modern woman, mother, worker, and wife. Erma Bombeck probably got there first, and I am sure I am missing others.

The fact is: women write ugly dirty nasty stuff because women feel ugly dirty nasty stuff -- about kids, relationships, work, parents, life, friends, politics, people, dishwashers. Women also write with the wing of an angel for a quill about all these same things... I've witnessed it.

I can tell you from experience, the devil and the goddess swaps her presence in me basically from hour to hour. What I will write, how I am thinking -- it often depends on the moment or the day, or the minute of the day for me. And after some forty years on the planet, I can honestly tell you this is exactly why I love being a woman and gratefully, why I love being a woman who loves to write.

What I don't love? The chronic bitch-slapping that makes so many of us go red in the face simply because we are doing or (snort!) writing ideas and thoughts and experiences that happened in that minute or day or fucking month. What went down at Belkin's Motherlode over the book Torn? It's not the symptom of our disease: it's the virus.

We have the choices we do because a bunch of women put aside their silly parenting differences, or sexuality differences, or any of the differences they might have had, and made a pact and plan to move the ENTIRE group forward.

They did this with what? Some leaky ink? A pony delivering letters? A train that took weeks?

Surely, we can and are obliged to do better. The frickin' interwebs weren't made for us to split into pieces with our anonymous throw-downs. What a goddamn shame if we can't use our culture's finest communication tool as a source of cooperative discourse and ultimately, progressive change for ALL women?

I write about my Small Town bullshit, my friends, sometimes my marriage, and wait?? What the? Oh yeah. I have kids who are funny and sad and I write about my kids too. You know why I do this? Because I can. Because I am moved to. Because for twenty sometimes sixty narcissistic minutes in my day, I tap tap tap on the keyboard what happened or didn't happen in my life and hit "publish."

Those commenters (years ago) on Jezebel are wrong: there is good in this (measured) telling. I am a stay at home mom and I am never sure if I am doing anything right for them -- or for me. As my children grow, there are things I will keep aside, but I can assure you that there are photo-filled baby books that can't touch what I have already written about my kids...

So, I tap tap tap because I believe that someday, this writing here? It will help us.

All of us.
ALL of us.

And who knows? That might mean you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Beginning Our Tour of World Media Domination

After giving a toast at the wedding of my cousin this weekend, a toast that I cannot repeat because I had one of those out of body moments that public-speaking inspires and so I can not remember anything I said (except for forgiving my cousin for being born) (I know? What?), my trusty little phone beeped a message at me. I was sure it was from someone in the wedding party wanting to offer me a nationwide motivational speaking tour, but it wasn't. It was from this nice lady Susan at 5 Minutes for Mom who shared this with me:

There's me and Carolyn, acting typically um typical. And this? This was the fifth attempt because the cameraman who I affectionately kept referring to as Jacques (not sure why) was having battery issues. And maybe there were swear words. Maybe.

Anyhoo, it was fun to see because, like the super awesome wedding toast, the whole thing was a blur of us laughing and asking Jacques (over and over) if he was using the fuzzy Barbara Walters lens. Which apparently he wasn't but all is forgiven.

Too bad the camera wasn't working at the wedding because I'm pretty sure I concluded my toast by donning a pair of those Groucho Marx glasses. Between that and the wikkid cool rock hands I flash at odd moments, it's very obvious that I was born to be a classy self-image-maker. Or a cast member of Dancing with the Stars. Because I rocked it on the dance floor. Didn't fall down once!

And I can tell you from personal knowledge that Carolyn is the master of the jazz hands.

But don't let any of this stop you from enjoying the epic tome that is TO, now new and improved with a fancy hawt cover.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Older Like You Do

The thing about old friends is that they get older just like you do.

You see two at the table at a birthday dinner:

Her face lined but more perfect than it was back then, different in a better way, better than our yearbook pictures, different in the way she looked after college, after Him. So much more different is her face: it shows, looser now. Better.

She pours my drink. She looks me in the eye. I am grateful.

And also:

She sits beside me. Her face, her body so much smaller that it was back then, but her voice? It's always truth when she speaks and I find comfort in her all the time. I hold her son's hand and I get zen: this is her son. Hers! I feel lucky and luckier still.
She knows this much.
There is some meaning here bigger than feeling yummy good with old friends, and I hope you find it and whoa! maybe write it yourself.

For now, I just wanna write this down: just wanna say it out loud.

Just want to be grateful for this happiness I feel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


My right eyelid's been doing this effed up twitching thing for what? five days now. I don't dare google it. I remember when my mom ventured onto the 'net (for the first time) to find a cure for my cousin's infant's problems: "swallowing and sucking" she typed in. Even now, I can still feel the burnt-red on my mother's cheeks.

So my right eyelid twitches and I forget about it until it does. Kind of the way I forget about the GFYO's learning issues until I look at his school papers. Kind of the way my daughter's intense moods seem meaningless until they strike. Just like my other daughter, confident yet mostly friendless, which I realize when I realize that she rarely goes anywhere but here.

My eye twitches. A little spark, a shot to the gut from the brain for a second: you okay? are you okay?

Who the fuck knows? Not me.

My eyelid twitches and I feel it, that weird uncontrollable movement no one sees but me. My eyelid twitches, even now, while writing this, while my children dream deep in sleep. My freaky heart and brain, EVEN NOW, makes my eyelid all shaky, all weird, all randomly electrified.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Sweet Vacation From Reality

While mopping and swiping and cleaning windows, while hauling four loads of laundry, while hand-washing sweaters, and debating Halloween costumes with Short Drunks (I insist on home-made; they want otherwise), and while defrosting a pork roast that I will not want to eat, ever ever ever: I imagined the death of a girl.

It's easier to pretend when you can.

While mopping and sucking up the dust, a girl like me gets thinky. As in: Polite Fictions thinky, and she remembers what is limitless and blameless, and..

writing some truth? Here? Like we do? That's hard. That's work.

Take a sweet vacation from reality here.

PS: This awesome VodkaMom teacher? She's got it going on. And shoot: click that link and you might win...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pushing Buttons, A Short but Not Nice Poem

Is it really so hard
to push the button on the car door
the door your grubby hands
have smeared
and made sticky
Is it so hard
to push the button and --
hey look at that!?
make the window
seal out the rain?

If you pushed the button
to make the window go down
and I have yet to understand
why you would do that
as it fifty degrees and um? raining
but if you could push the button
to open the window
could you not
push the button to close it?

See, the rain gets in and
makes the seats and the carpet on the floor
and the sweatshirts and
the backpacks and
the marker-colored papers you left behind
it makes them all very very wet
like smelly wet because
wet shit smells.
Let that be
lesson number one.

Lesson number two: push the stupid buttons
next time and I mean this
like when I say "wipe!"
and "furniture!" and
"don't for the love of God lick that!"
And I mean it when I say
I have but a few buttons, Short Drunk People:
push me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wrapped Up

My current obsession: scarves. Not the silky kind, not the wooly kind, but the kind that's mildly bohemian. With the cool colors and the danglies and stuff. Not sure why I am so obsessed but I think it makes me feel um "dressed"when I sling one around my neck, maybe more grown up and dare I say, looking like I might give a shit?

The Kid is working now, nothing permanent, but great nonetheless. I haven't quite finished up my resume and I know I should. There's so much attached to it: fear and change and rejection and having to face the future for reals. (You mean I can't just write on this blog and call it work? I can't just write agendas and plan meetings? Sweep the floor? Drive to soccer and offer occasional psych counsel and tutoring to my three kids?)

So I swathe these cloths around my neck -- which takes way more time than it should, and then there's the issue with the hair: up or down? down? no. up? christ -- and I avoid my resume and the future all together and head out to where? school or the grocery store or the book shop. Doesn't matter.

I am wrapped up. I am giving a shit.


Friday, October 2, 2009

For Kevin's Girls

Kevin of Always Home and Uncool has asked me to post this as part of his effort to raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife's birthday, and so...


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions -- none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner -- then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source -- obvious and otherwise -- that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift -- a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago -- Oct. 2, 2002 -- the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Things You Can Count On: One Weak Week

Things You Can Count On, Vehicles:

1) If the battery in your husband's car has died once, it will again.
2) It will die when you are driving it for the day.
3) It will die in the WalMart parking lot. With three hungry kids in the backseat.
4) Hungry kids who need to pee.
5) There are kind and helpful people everywhere. Clean bathrooms are less plentiful.
6) Do not bother contemplating why your husband has not replaced the battery sooner.
7) Just don't go there.

TYCCO, Chasing Ambulances:

1) Where there is thick, black, acrid smoke, there is fire.
2) You will feel your long-gone-ambulance-chasing grandmother act through you, literally take the wheel with her ghostly hands and gun the pedal toward the action.
3) Unlike your grandmother, who never once did, you will find a fire. A big one.
4) Firetrucks are big and streets in the Small Town are small. Your driving skills will be tested. Thankfully, the car's got a new battery, so that's a plus.
5) You will feel adrenaline and guilt and compassion and fear all at once and it will take you way too long to get past hoses and other gawkers and past smoke to finally get home.
6) You will vow to never, ever run after a siren again.
7) You will point to the heavens and say, "that one was for you, Ruthie."

TYCCO, School Comes With Many Things:

1) You think the worst they can bring home from school is math homework.
2) You'll be wrong.
3) It has legs and lives in scalps and rhymes with vice, as in: YOU NEED YOURS. Now.

TYCCO, Redemption Has Its Limits

1) Your fingers will peel from all the laundry and the washing and you will, at times, act like a pouty bitch.
2) Your children will be brave and patient.
3) Which will make you feel like ass, so you will bring home chocolate chip cookies in a tub and pizza dough.
4) You will allow everyone to pitch in and you will feel redeemed at their flour-y, happy faces and wrastle their bug-free hair.
7) You will forget to place their creation on the pizza stone first. Um. Uh.
8) You will scoop up raw dough and cheese with two spatulas and a dream.

TYCCO, Is This Week Done Yet?

1) You will burn the pizza and say -- it's a little black in parts but no worries!
3) Except for the raw middle.
4) The GFYO asks if we can save it as an "experiment."
5) You say yes and contemplate waffles for dinner.
6) You will contemplate next Monday. You will keep hope alive.

Monday, September 28, 2009

That is That

When I was a little girl, I boycotted pre-school. It was 1974 and pre-school was rare: mine was in a suburb of San Francisco, a Montessori school and a hippie start-up at that. I churned butter like a butter-churning fool there and rarely touched the "learning tools" but I made lots of friends (who's hair I might have trimmed? sorry) and I was having a helluva time.

I can't remember why I quit. I have no idea. But my mother has a theory: she told me every morning what she would be doing that three hours while we were apart. It was always something like "I am going to a League of Women Voters meeting honey and then I coming to pick you up!" My mom thinks I was pissed to be left out. My mom is sure that some part of my five year old self was convinced that what she was doing? It was way better than what I was doing.

I was churning butter all day and hairdressing (?) and my mom was out there making the world a better place! I was insanely stubborn and a drop-out, so my mother decided to drag me through each of part of her mostly boring daily rituals -- making a world a better place while doing laundry and washing dishes and grocery shopping and errand running.

My mom thought my boycott would last one week. It lasted three months. THREE MONTHS. Twice she tried to force me back to school. Once I held onto a fence, unremovable. The second time: my mom had to pick me up after an hour of wailing.

I don't remember any of this so when she told me these details tonight I asked, Separation anxiety? And she said, Hell no! You were already roaming the neighborhood...

Then why, I asked. What the fuck, I said.

She said, I don't know.

WHAT? I said. How can you not know?

(See it? Right there? That's when my modern parenting mode kicked in...*)

She said, Well, one day, we drove by the school and you saw the kids playing and you said you wanted to play with them. So I pulled over right there and told the very sweet teacher (who always loved you by the by) that you wanted to come to school. And she said, bring her in! And I did, and that was that.

That was that? I asked.

And she said, Yup, that was that.

(* She's so smart, my mom. Why do we parents want to explain every bit of atypical kid behavior? Why do we want a reason and diagnosis for almost everything? The upside of our good work? Our children with authentic issues are being identified and helped. The downside? Sometimes our healthy, typical kids never get the chance to be, for a while, just weird, just a kid boycotting school, just a kid.)

Sometimes, that is that, and nothing more.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why I'm Going Out Again Tonight

This'll be short because I need to go upstairs and get dressed for the kegger I've been coerced (?) into attending. The Kid, slightly hungover from a birthday party last night, is not quite -- how shall I say? -- up for it and so has taken the kids to the movies and dinner. The house is warm and quiet so naturally, I'm all: wait! maybe I should just stay home in this nice quiet warm house!??

It's tempting, because I don't really know who's gonna be at this party or if by kegger, they really mean "kegger" and not the fancy bottled beer and Pinot in real glasses kind of kegger, and also it has turned into fall overnight. I am wearing a sweater coat as I type. Inside. It's a spoooky leaf-swirling windy New England kind of cold night and I think I just heard a wolf howl. Or a goblin. Not sure which.

BUT! Bridget and I went to the lovely Fall Festival in town after soccer -- sidewalk sales and artisan fairs and hayrides galore -- and we hit the awesome jewelry and cute clothes store and HELLO? Any three things in the sale section for $25! So I bought a great scarf (which I probably won't ever figure out how to properly drape, but still), a pair of very cool earrings and a headband for Bridge with a bow on the side -- in green tweed. I know! Naturally, I figured since I saved so much damn money, I should totally buy this truly beautiful (not on-sale) necklace. Which I did.

So, I am relenting to this kegger invite because I got a great deal on some cute accessories which somehow meant I could spend recklessly on a lovely necklace that essentially kicked the balls out of my budget-conscious bargain hunting but it was soooo pretty, I'm mean, really really cute, and I am completely psyched to wear it. Like tonight.

Twisted logic? Or perfect sense?

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's True, What My Mother Said

Oh, what a doozy of a week that one was.

We kicked it off with (more) bad news on The Kid's work front. Fuck.

And I followed that fuckness with a whirlwind of pre-planned back-to-back girly get-togethers. Which was awkward, considering The Kid's sitch, but also AWESOME. Still, you know you've been out too much when you can't stand menus and instead just choose to cover up in blankets on the couch for a movie on Saturday night instead of barhopping with your girl, CarolynOnline.

(Uh, yeah, she was here with me again -- it's a long story -- but let me just tell you: my children call her by her last name now, 'cause they think it's funny and it is, and she and me? We stood above them in their beds while they made her laugh with their sass toward me and she grabbed my hand and waved her free finger: "Go to bed now, Short Drunk People!" and they did.) (So, I love her even more.)

On Friday, we saw our old friends, affectionately known as the Minnesotans. She was my First Friend in the Small Town and we enjoyed a year of very fun, very scary, very lovely times parenting our first baby girls. I admitted I cried sometimes; she admitted she did too. She called me from the pantry one day, where she was eating what? gummy bears? gold fish? She couldn't eat in front of her ever-hungry girl, which I knew and we laughed and laughed and felt okay. Our husbands became instant friends. She liked beer! They were the first people to ever babysit our first daughter: we trusted them that much. It was perfect and I was happy and then? They moved.

They moved home, which made me feel good for them and desperately sad for me. I told my friend when she was leaving -- maybe I wrote it in a letter? maybe I said it to her in real life? -- either way, I told her what my mother had told me: "you will never forget the people you raise your kids with."

My mother is so smart because she is absolutely right. The Minnesotans faces live somewhere in our photo albums but they live better and mostly in our hearts. Our affection for each other: it's more permanent than our photos. It was a precious, delicate time in our lives and we shared it. WE shared it.

And over old photos on Friday, we went way back -- for a short time, to that time -- and then we became old friends eating pizza with (bigger) kids running around. Just two moms, four friends hanging out like always, our lives divided by nothing but geography. Divided by nothing but space. Our hearts? Nothing splits that.

You will never forget the people you raise your children with. Yo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ms Picket Checks Up On Her Home Management Systems

School has begun, muthas, and what a great opportunity I've had to check on the operational status of the Home Management Systems.

Let's have a look, shall we?

Yep, the Beauty Management Home Management System seems to be in tip-top shape! We've got

a doll's shoe, just one, that no matter how much I try, will not fit -- now (keep.hope.alive!). A retainer case -- empty! The top to a tub of brown foundation play dough. And a bacon key chain, with no keys attached. I misplaced mine, again, which is why there is no deodorant in the Beauty Management Home Management System. My bad.

(Also: I have no idea how that marketing ploy cheap beer holder got into the Beauty Management Home Management System, because god knows I have no idea what to do with a cheap beer holder.)

Moving on...

The Homeland Defense Home Management System is also in excellent operational shape.

No! Really...

One sock, no match. A pirate bandanna. Another one of those useless beer holder thingies. A cow bell. A tiny canister of tiny questions. Some duck tape, red, and a glue gun. You can never be too careful, people, and are there not a million uses for a pirate bandanna and a cow bell? WE CAN NOT LET THE TERRORISTS WIN.

The Homeland Defense Home Management System also continues to serve superbly as

the Bank. FYI.

Let's move on to the Home Maintenance Home Management System

which we recognize (duh)

by the one gardening glove, for one-handed gardeners, say.

But domestic life is not just defined by maintaining high standards of beauty, safety and perfectly one-handed manicured lawns. One must also remember to carefully document the sweet passage of time, and by that I mean the Great Works of Art and School, with the Archival Home Management System:

There is Turkey Hand in there that will make grown women weep. I swear it.