Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why We Write

The one really for sure thing I can say about myself: you get what you see. I don't pretend to be much of anything to anyone. I lay it on the line. Like a homeless man with his "collections" in front of him on the sidewalk, I just pretty much let people see the odds and ends, let 'em pick and choose. I have faults and vices and good qualities like everyone does, but I generally wear my icky stuff like a bumper sticker: all out there for everyone to see.

I have nothing to hide and also, I find hiding, ummmm.... kind of boring. At least it is for me: I am a teller and I like telling. I get bored being all alone with my thoughts.

Heart on the sleeve? Yes, that's where I wear it, but it's bloodied and funny and sweet and woozy and wounded and thinky and wait? Is that what you meant, when you said "how are you" or "who are you?"  

That's my pulsing heart out there, right there in front of you on the sidewalk or the bar top or the dinner table -- on this screen. There it is. Nothing different. I write a few words on one tiny page and there's my heart too: beating and sometimes bleeding out. 

I write a few words. You write them too.

Love is essentially about getting to know every weird and difficult and confusing piece of another person and sticking around and showing up. This weird, shaky, boundary-less neighborhood of ours, this virtual 'hood we live in?  We get to be more supportive and more loving through every uninhibited word we write. Right?

Send your best to Laggin and prove me right. Well... Write.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In Which I Declare My Rule of the Bad Mother Club

It was almost 90 degrees in New England this weekend. We had two soccer games back to back -- one I coached, one the Kid coached. It was a solid two point five hours outside in an April heat wave, two point five hours filled with some excellent shouting coaching and it was awesome. And not just because both teams won, it was awesome because it wasn't raining and 40 degrees and because both teams won.

I wore red cords (huh?) and a black scooped-necked black tee shirt that I'd only recently bought at Old Navy for 5 bucks and which, I realized later, still had the tag on. A black tee shirt that left a half-moon of a sunburn on my chest and back and reminded me, stingingly, that the suns rays: they burneth. Especially when sunscreen-less skin greets the first scorcher of the season.

Naturally, the girls, sunscreen-less as well, got soccer tans too -- a rosy red inch above and below the knee and on the arms where the jerseys didn't hit and in between where their freckles aren't -- and the GFYO, well, it's hard to say. He was so covered in dirt from sliding down some filthy, tick-infested hill at the soccer field (he is no cheerleader that kid; he's been hauled to enough games to find a multitude of distractions on any sideline) that I never actually saw his skin that day. He fell asleep in the car after the beach (a two-minute ride) that happened after soccer and so the Kid delivered his dirty self straight to bed out of the car. For all I know, he also had the soccer tan -- or worse! Which means... 

My rule as the President of the Bad Mother Club is secure. 

All hail the Sunburnt Fair-Skinned Mother! All hail her sunburnt spawn! 

Me and my fellow Club members sat on the beach at sunset and drank beers and cooked hot dogs and told kids to shake sand off of grapes and just eat them. We had the eyes-in-the-back of the head ability to make sure no kid got too close to the fire (safety first) or the beer cans (lest they tip over -- the horror!) and naturally, like all Bad Mothers, we were excellent at letting the bed time slide and the good time ride so we could suck out the last few minutes of the first really great day. And after all, the cooler was still full.

Eventually (sigh), we had to be the other kind of Bad Mothers, even hopped up on a few Miller Lites as we were and wanting to hang out longer ourselves, because it was pretty obvious that a tantrum from at least one kid loomed in the very near future. It was late and it was getting cold, especially for me, sitting there on my ass, and especially on the parts of me that were officially scorched.

So my best friends' kids blew kisses to me and I sent some back. Everyone hugged through the car windows until I rolled them up. I was pretty sure my kids might cry or I would: it sucks to see a little bit of summer and your best friends drive away, even if some of 'em are just going around the corner. We made promises of sleepovers and plans for our week in the Vineyard. 

I searched for aloe at home, and like the sunscreen (which I never actually looked for in the first place), found none. The girls showered and went the way of the GFYO, straight to sleep -- sunshine and sunburns, soccer and sandy grapes, dirt slides on soccer fields and monkey bars at dusk and a Bad Mother who forgets sunscreen and sanitizing wipes and even the time sometimes makes for a very peaceful evening for parents and a very cozy, happy sleep for extremely exhausted kids.

Sometimes it is so incredibly awesome to be the President of the Bad Mother Club. Sometimes all the badness is so, so good. The half-moon solar tattoo? That, I could do without.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Mean It's Gigantic

Late night love letters are the best.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Husband When He's Out of A Job

You should not suggest he re-do his voicemail message on his cell phone. This will result in an hour of explaining to him that even though his voice is all kinds of macho low, he does not need to channel Eeyore when he speaks. Also, while attempting to re-do said message, he will say "fuck" into the tiny mic way more times than is acceptable.

You should not agree to edit a cover letter. Editing sometimes involves actually changing words and that might be painful. 
Do not try to joke that "Just Do It" is genius but grammatically incorrect because he will not find it funny. 
Do not remind him that when he got his first job as an ad writer, you "joked" that it was not like he was writing poetry or anything. He will not find that funny either. 

You should not laugh when the GFYO asks him to "get me ice cream" because "you don't have a job" and "you are home all day" and "so go get it." DEFINITELY do not laugh at that.

You must not make a crack about him getting his haircut in the middle of the day and add that you are in fact the one that really needs the hair attention. He will remind you that it costs him $19. It costs you that much times a lot more and so you will get all ranty and ravey about inequities and stuff and just be pissed off in general. With a really sad 'do. That needs some "enhancing." 

You should not suggest his car is making a funny noise. He will get it fixed. It will cost money. Like a haircut and a color money.

Do not say that "hey, since we're near New York" while visiting his ailing grandmother (94 and not long for this world) by way of his parents in Connecticut that it might be really fun to extend this "spring break" with an educational Museum trip in the City. After he pays the hefty parking and admission fees, he will insist that you and your Short Drunk People see'.place. Every one. The Northwest Indians? Yup. Meterorites? Check. African mammals? Uh huh. You will drag the girls while he carries the GFYO through the dinosaur bones but listen lady, you have gotten your money's worth.

When they fight in the car, exhausted and on their way through Manhattan's best ("look!" you will excitedly say to very uninterested ears, "an apartment building... with a doorman!"), he will miss the turn to the tunnel and actually ask for directions. 

Do not gasp when he does this.

It's best if you just laugh louder at his jokes, remind him how incredibly brilliant and good looking he is, and also, if possible, put your effing foot down somewhere in between the Giant Squid and the Neanderthal and hustle you and him and your Short Drunk People out of there. If you can't edit his cover letters, at least you can edit his crazed-man-in-a-Museum itinerary. Maybe.

Oh yeah: Origins of Species? Just a place to hear the GFYO's voice echo the word "Boob!" through the hallowed hall... More of that later...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Sum Up The Week With Missy Higgins

Because I like this song and also, it's a perfect example of how "meaning" is subjective and limitless: as in, this could be a love song to my kid.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

THAT was Fun

When I am not running away or considering inflicting bodily harm on my child

When I am not puking in the sink all hopped up on adrenaline and rage

When I am not getting ranty where I shouldn't

Sometimes I actually laugh at my kids; wait! with my kids. Like this one time... Rory was 3 and a solid half and the GFYO was a non-walking one year old. We were having one of those good-idea-at-the-time-do-I-get-points-for-this-later outings. Rory was on her bike -- a natural athlete but with no respect for physics. The GFYO was in a stroller and with no respect for my aching back on our roller-coaster road: all up and down and up and down and no wonder I was skinny then.

We were on a downward part of the street. It was recycling day. Rory's foot missed the pedal and she could not recover. She shot head over handlebars into a blue bin.

That's when I started laughing, like howling, because you know, my 3-year old was ass and feet up, helmet down in a fucking blue recycling bin and that's -- please -- very very funny. And I was holding a stroller and laughing too much to remember to push the brake down and suddenly realizing that OH SHIT SHE MIGHT BE HURT and so I rushed to the bin scene, ditching the stroller, which I realized a second later, was uh-oh -- a mistake. Which made the whole ridiculous scene even funnier.

I really owe that nice anonymous lady who witnessed the whole thing from her car because I have never seen anyone leap so fast from a vehicle to a grab a rolling stroller that was racing down the hill. She grabbed him, hugged me, asked if the other kid was okay. And I replied that yes, she was fine and then I said -- I said this OUT LOUD to someone who has just rescued my child -- "well, at least she missed the bins with the bottles" and I burst into the most ridiculously uncontrollable laughter that if I had water or coke or beer in my mouth, I would have spit it out. On her. 

I remember when I couldn't sleep because my week old baby's breath sounded "weird." Sometimes I remember just waking out of a dead sleep because some pattern in her breath seemed different.  I remember reaching into her bassinet and putting my hand on her chest to know that it was rising. I was desperate when she had her first diaper rash. Then her sister was born.

Now? My kid takes a plunge into a recycling bin and I can't stop laughing. My paranoia has metabolized into something completely the opposite: you can't breath cause of that of ball/kick/punch in the stomach? Go sit on the couch until you can 'cause I'm cooking dinner.  I figure someday, one of 'em might come in with an eyeball hanging out of the socket and I'll say, oh just get an ice pack.

Things change. Thankfully.

(And also, thank you.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

In Which I Confess (and Cry) (and Puke)

Tonight I ran away from home. 

I shoved my husband's keys in my purse, two beers in there too, and took off. I had nowhere to go, no plan of any kind, but if I stayed at home any longer, it might have gotten worse. It doesn't make any better sense to tell you what happened before I lost my proverbial shit. Let's leave it at: kids piss off parents. Let's leave the details about who did what and why and when to your own experiential imagination. 

After all, I am confessing not that my kids can be how kids can be some times: I am confessing to how I reacted.  Which was ugly and bad and maybe it's some latent religion in my blood that makes me think that if I tell it, I can live better with it.

First, I yelled. I collared two kids and sent them to their rooms. One did. One didn't. I yelled again, close-the-windows loud. To say she talked back is mild. To say she lingered and made excuses is mild. I stood up from my stool when she tried again to get me, and I lunged: lunged! Like a bear for blood. She cried. I said or maybe snarled "you better be scared" and then I chased her up the stairs. And then I picked up a lousy sweater at the threshold of her room and I smacked it her way. I am not sure if it hit her; I was blind with rage and frustration and I felt like I could throw her out the window. 

I didn't. I ran downstairs, out of breath and panting and and literally shaking with adrenaline and guilt and anger and horror about what I had just done. Then I puked in the kitchen sink. 

Puked. In the sink. 

That's when I grabbed my coat and the Kid's keys and the two beers and took off. I think I told him the pork roast for us would ding when it was done.

I was half way down the street and panting more than breathing and I pulled over and called my high school roommate who only just moved to town, from another country, and who has two very little kids and a very big job and travels a lot and she didn't answer. But I went to her house anyway, even though I wasn't totally sure where it was and even though I knew their furniture hadn't yet arrived and that it was Monday. At 7:30 pm. 

I was fully prepared to just sit on their front steps, like a sad hobo, and breathe for a minute and sulk home. Instead, they welcomed my sobby puffy face into their own regular mayhem.

She knew just by looking at me that it was best to give a "tour" and she hustled me up to their bedroom and let me burst into my tears. She listened and nodded and she wiped a couple drops off my cheeks and I started to feel amazed at how long we have known each other and how many tears we have swiped off each others' cheeks and how it was kind of stunning that here we were, not 15 anymore, but here we were and I was crying about something that was really bad. 

Also, it turns out that three year old boys test boundaries the same way nine year old girls do. 

I ran away from home. I cried and confessed. I drove home to a sleepy house and sat down at this screen to confess again. My friend, she is a savvy business woman and a poet and a thinky kind of gal and she and her wonderful husband, they said "write about it." 

So before you judge what I did - and please be kind - know that at least I admit that I did it and know that this confession was on the advice of the people who took me in, this sad little mama runaway, on one of the worst nights of her life. 

I scared my kid, and I wanted her to be scared, and I puked in the sink.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oh Sunshine

Once while on a hike through a mountain in Vermont, when it was 90+ degrees in summer, Mr. White (his real name) who was our neighbor at the time and on vacation with us, raised his middle-aged arms and offered a chant to the valley below. Then...

He shivered with a cool chill. 

He taught me how to do it, arms spread out and some secret words, and I swear the cool breeze, it came. He was half bald and half old and known to the 12 year old me as the man with the pretzels on the weekend, but then? That time? My arms spread out and my mouth chanting his words? He was a savior and a magic man and when that cool breeze swept my sweaty lip, I started to believe in something bigger than me.

Sometimes you need to raise your arms up and call for the thing you want.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Savvy People Wanted To Save the World

The marquis of the vintage movie theater in the Small Town -- shuttered for ten years now -- has the following letters clipped to its board:


None of the letters are crooked, nothing is misspelled, there's no neon: it's old school for a new world and perfect. 

I've driven by it for a week now, maybe more. It juts out over a block that includes the beloved book store, the smarmy barfly bar, the sub shop I have never entered, a bank, and the grumpiest news store ever (you'ld think when buying $15 dollars of what is essentially something you could get for free online, a smile might come your way, but noooooo). There's some antique dealers there too, and cars and kids and people on their way. If I hit the block at sunset, driving west out of town, the marquis and the three story brick buildings seem time-warped to me: captured and stuck and 1970. I think corduroys and my dad's Frye boots. 

Today I drove down that street. It was 5:00pm and the sun was still up and I was about to get lost taking my daughter and her friend to a sleep over. The marquis registered with me as it always does, as it always has since its been up, but today, even with the lack of the golden sundown to inspire my imagination, I got sad thinky.

The Small Town is depressed. The Small Town needs prozac in the water, or tequila. 

No one seems happy. It feels... grim. It shows on the faces of my friends, and maybe on my own. It shows in the blogs I read, when I muster the energy. It shows in the newspapers and on the TV news and even movies reek with negativity and gloom. It's contagious, this depression. There is no immunity for those whose lives are untouched -- their empathy turns inward. Depression by default.


So simple, so easy to read: right there where we hustle and bother and move in our cars, all alone. There in the sky, on the marquis -- a message to us that though we can easily read in passing, we are suffering to do when we stand still. 

I wish I had some graphic art skills; I wish I could take those words on the marquis and turn them into a "button" or a badge or whatever it's called and send it out on some viral mission. Hopefulness, happiness, gratefulness: these things must be contagious too. Gotta be, must be: Are.

Can you help? 

Can you make a digital version of the Small Town marquis CHEER UP. PASS IT ON so that we can pass it (virtually) along? 

Because if you can, maybe we can shoot some sunshine and prozac and tequila into the collective vein of our mutual humanities, our own small towns, our neighborhoods, our big cities by collectively believing in and passing on cheer.


Little Pickets Talk Funny

They like to call the thing that cuts the grass the mowlawner and the thing that washes the clothes the washemclean. Ms. Trout Towers' family are excellent skedoodlers when they need to hurry up and go, and though I am sure it is not just me and she who have abused improved the English language with our wordy inventions, the trend seems to run a bit strong in the family Picket.

Riticklishness was coined by Bridget at age three to explain how fun it is to wrestle. A nogut is what two year old Rory would call the beloved circle of dough she was being denied, as in "I ain't got no nogut!!!??!?!" She is 7 and sort of famous in our family for her really awful English. Twirlies are anything the GFYO can wrap around his fingers in a loving kind of way, and by virtue, nearly anything that feels good and yummy.  

There has also been poopsicles (a tame swear word), ughabummer, and a really awesomely intuitive word invented by the GFYO when he was um tucking it that I will leave to your imagination. And cathletics. You know, the sporty kids who go to CCD. And now that Bridget has email (and all of two people in her address book besides me and the Kid), we've gotten some excellent missives with some excellent new words typed-out.

There was the email that ended in KAPEESH! in all caps which meant (it was explained later) "see you later." And we've gotten what is now my new fave word "wadala.'" It was used in the following way: "i'll do such and such and you'll do such and such and wadala! it's done."

She doesn't speak French obviously, but even if she did, it wouldn't matter. It was long time before I realized Hors d'Ĺ“uvre and orderves were the same thing so it's pretty much in the blood. And speaking of blood, I need to go pick up the pizza as I am starting to get mildly psychoglycemic. Then, wadala -- it'll be done!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Things You Can Count On, Recession Version

Things You Can Count On; When You Act on the Bright Side:

a) Since your husband is home,  so you can now enjoy The Family Dinner.
b) Look at you -- all rolling with the punches, all Miss Looking on The Bright Side!
c) Rice and peas do not like dust busters or brooms or sponges and chicken bones are incredibly aerodynamic.
d) Your daughter will consider a piece of chicken the size of newborn babies thumb nail to be a "bite" but she will never put said bite into her mouth. 
e) You will not feel any less or any more happy about this than you did when you paced the kitchen floor (alone) during the "old" dinner hour.
f) If a child finds a clove in some basmati rice, the rice will be instantly tainted and inedible. And thrown.
g) And then someone will use the words butt and poop.
h)  And then someone will want to cry and swear. It will be you.
i) In theory, The Family Dinner is an excellent idea but you will soon believe that theories are nothing but junk science.
j) You will feel nostalgia.

Things You Can Count On; Two At-Home Parents Will Make Twice as Many Mistakes:

a) Your children are excellent manipulators who can play you both like 12-string guitars.
b) Though these skills may benefit them someday, you have only five words for them now: Game On Short Drunk People!
c) You and your husband will plot many strategies to improve the general behavior (coats on the floor, wrappers on the floor, butt jokes at dinner time) and high five your all-around parenting genius.
d) You will do this while in the car driving to see David Sedaris on a Monday night in another state and be too tired to enact any of your Big Ideas the next day.
e) Still, you remain the Meanest Parents in the World because you will not allow a nine year old to have a cell phone.
f) Since he is home and up against her negotiating tactics, your husband will get suckered into compromising with a nine year old and allowing her an email address. You will take half the credit, unfairly, and feel very, very nice -- for once.
g) One week later, you will be told in no uncertain terms by a professional educator that what you have done is the Worst. Thing. Ever.
h) You will consider throwing all the machines into the ocean. 
i) Your husband will tell you to "relax"and you will be simultaneously annoyed and also relieved that at least some things haven't changed.

Things You Can Count On; Oh Yeah! The Budget!:

a) Oprah and that annoying Suze lady will tell you to make a "worst case scenario" budget. So, you will talk about making one. 
b) You will talk about it a lot in very short bursts.
c) You will order overpriced Indian food and eat too much of it and too fast.
d) You prefer not to plan for a future that is more bleak than any future you have ever planned for before. You used to plan for the best and prepare for the worst. Now, you're supposed to plan for the worst and get ready to laugh your ass off if your plans were in ironic vain. 
e) You really hope you get to laugh your ass off. 

Things You Can Count On; You Might Be Surprised:

a) You will share knowing smirks with your husband more often than ever. The knowing smirks will say "our kids are cute" and "our kids are funny" and "our kids are brilliant" and "are you as glad as me that she is finally wearing a ponytail?"
b) You will have time to talk about things other than the cute, funny, brilliant, hair-challenged Short Drunk People at the end of the day, because he already knows that stuff. You can now talk about a wide variety of very important things: reality TV, quantum physics, the meaning of life, and other people.
c) You will solve the problems of other people A LOT.
d) You will laugh more than you have in a while. You will piss into the wind. You will forget the budget and take everyone for sandwiches and bags of chips and extra pickles please. 
e) You will mutually decide that more often than not a butt or poop joke is, in fact, funny.
f) You will wake in the morning and know exactly what the other is thinking, which is romantic but also mostly just a practical, fake-psychic kind of ESP.
g) Because it's obvious that you will both wake in the morning and think at the same time: "what's gonna happen today?" and though you will have different guesses and ultimately different answers, you will feel a new kind of camaraderie in your mutual unknowingness.
h) When you wake, you will think as you did a few million years ago, as you did when you met and moved in and married: you can be anything, do anything, go anywhere.

Things You Can Count On; Reality Kisses:

a) Just as you are waking and plotting your life in Thailand or Mexico or New Zealand, just as you are packing the virtual life into a duffel bag with wheels, your son will brush your cheek.
b) Your son will be followed by your daughter. 
c) You will be asked to answer a question you have never imagined: "why are softballs bigger than baseballs?"
d) You won't know the answer.
e) You will shove your husband, an elbow to his flank.
f) Before the sun comes up, you will consider the cost of a college education and what your own was worth and how grateful you are to have never worried about paying for it and you will say the only thing you can summon:
g) You will say, "Waffles?" to your kids in lieu of answering the question.
h) And he will mutter, "With cream cheese or syrup?"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Define This... Better

a: a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances
b: faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way


the quality or state of being certain: certitude

a: a relation of trust or intimacy
b: reliance on another's discretion

Who doesn't love the online Webster's, but sometimes it falls short. 

Do better, you wordsmiths, and be rewarded.

PS: As for the reward: I would send guns and money but since I have neither, I will reward your efforts with praise and thanks and a spot in the Book of which I have spoken. Which as you know is worth more than any gun or any sack of diamonds EVER.