Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Most Wonderful (and creepy) Time of the Year

I love Christmas music. I like the jazzy, jaunty tunes by Bing and Ella and Andy Williams. I like the traditional carols, beautiful and reverent (although ALWAYS a bit too high for me at some point!) I like the Mickey's Christmas CD that my girls loved to hear over and over when they were little. But this year, my most favorite type of Christmas music is a sub-genre that I've discovered: "Pervy Christmas Songs." And it is more pervasive than you might think (if you're listening for the right things, that is!) In the spirit of the season, I offer this gift to you--my top three Pervy Christmas Songs--for your enjoyment:

#3--Santa Claus Is Coming To Town: This classic children's favorite boasts among its famous lyrics, this key pervy line: "He sees you when you're sleeping/he knows when you're awake/he knows if you've been bad or good/so be good for goodness sake." I think that the Santa of this fine tune must have been the inspiration for the obsessed stalker in the Police song Every Breath You Take. And not only does this cheery tune boast advanced stalker imagery, but there is the lightly-veiled threat at the end about being good...or else.

#2--A Kiss A Toy from the 1970 animated TV classic "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town": Every year Gabi and I hold our own version of MST3K and make merciless fun of this ridiculously silly show. We impress ourselves with our ability to come up with new witty barbs each year and, of course, pull out our favorite insults from years past. ("You must not play with toys children, you must play with fire!" --Gabi) But the piece de resistance of this entire production is the song Good Ol' St. Nick sings to the sad children of SomberTown. "If you sit on my lap today/a kiss a toy is the price you'll pay/when you tell what you wish for in a whisper/be prepared to pay/so give a little love/get a little love back/" Do I really need to say anything more?

#1--Baby, It's Cold Outside: Don't get me wrong--I LOVE this song. It's one of my favorites. However, it has become impossible for me to listen to the persuasive insistence of the "gentleman" without thinking of it as the consummate date-rape song. The more the woman insists on leaving, the more he pushes her to go against her own wishes. He offers her booze, the threat of freezing to death, and pushes her to feel guilty with lines like "How can you do this thing to me?" It's a textbook example of how to NOT take no for an answer.

So, at this most WONDERFUL time of the year, take a few moments to lend a different kind of ear to your favorite tunes and see what fun discoveries (and perversions) you can discover!

Happy Holidays!!! :)

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

When you are single, there are certain moments that drive home the idea that you are utterly alone. One such moment happened to me not long after my ex-husband had moved out of our house. I was having an unusually good day for that time in my life, and was in high spirits. I had just gotten home and heard the phone ring. The phone was in the basement and in my buoyant frame of mind I found myself bouncing down the stairs to answer it. I decided to take the last several steps in one bounding leap. I joyously launched myself from the stair to the bottom and suddenly saw stars (yes, STARS) and everything went black.

A few moments later I was lying on my basement floor, and felt a throbbing on the very top of my head. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I realized that I was alone. It was the weekend and my kids were with my ex-husband, and I was ALL. BY. MY. SELF. If I lost consciousness and started bleeding into my brain, no one would be coming home to find me. I could slip into a coma or even die and it could be days--DAYS--before my poor children ran in to greet me after their weekend away and found me unresponsive on the basement floor.

With my survival instincts in full force, I crawled across the floor to where the now-silent phone lay. I picked up the receiver and dialed Terri's number. I got the answering machine. I left a message that I had hurt my head, and that I would appreciate it if they would check on me later to make sure that I was okay. I hung up the phone and rested my weary head with the comforting knowledge that someone out there would find me before it was too late.

When I was ready to get up, I looked back at the staircase where I had been so happy just a few minutes before. I noticed that up above the last few stairs, the ceiling lowered a few feet. I had literally launched my head at full speed into the ceiling.

Tonite I once again fell down the stairs, to the mixed delight and horror of my second-born child. I was wearing my fuzzy socks and missed the first step. I was certain that I would right myself and gain my footing on the next step, or the next, or the next, or the next (NINE times I expected to stop falling.) Finally the momentum stopped, and my crumpled form slumped over the bottom stair and pulsed in pain at several different points. Immediately, I felt Gabi's arms around me, asking if I was okay. I caught my breath and somewhere between a laugh and a sob, looked up. It hurt. I cried.

I peeled off my sweater and viewed my arm where much of the skin had been peeled off by the stairs and a large area beneath my elbow had already swollen grotesquely. As Gabi shared her view of the incident (the back of my head nodding fiercely as I stuttered down the stairs) and tried to hold back a snicker, I burst into hysterical laughter through my tears. Once Gabi determined that I was really okay, and that I wouldn't kill her for laughing, she had two things to say, "I didn't want to have to call the hospital," and "You might have whiplash--your head was really bobbing."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury... a compact, brunette, teenage dynamo (that I spawned.) Tonite there was a line drawn in the sand. A line about grades, and accountability, and (yikes!) being grounded until aforementioned issues are improved. Now I am being punished. And I was informed that such punishment would not abate until said restrictions are lifted. This is one part about the whole grounding thing that I have always hated. It is not just a punishment for the child--it is a prison sentence for the entire family. If one of us suffers, ALL of us will suffer. The "one" will make sure.

But there is no stronger weapon in my arsenal. Not right now. Not with this one. This one is determined. Smart. Willful. Strong. She is the girl who lied repeatedly about lying when she was five. She lied in the face of the evidence of her lie. She lied after being berated. She lied after being put in the longest time-out in the history of time-out. She lied after Dad was brought in. She lied even when nothing she did changed her circumstances or our minds. She was never going to surrender. No matter what. And neither was I.

We are at an impasse, she and I. It may last as long as this battle. It may last throughout the teenage years. It may last into the early twenties. But, as I have sworn to my daughter multiple times, I will persist. I will love her when she can't stand me. I will love her when she is so angry she could spit nails. I will love her through hating school, hating life, hating the hating. And I will love her enough to do what makes her angry, what challenges her doubts, what pushes her to be more than she expects. I will stubbornly love her just as she stubbornly fights to be her own person. And we will each come out better for it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

There's no place like Law & Order

Dorothy may have found home over the rainbow with Aunty Emm and the gang at the Kansas homestead, but as I spent week after week in different hotels in strange towns, I found home in a very different place. Clicking the heels of her red shoes is what took Dorothy home and clicking the buttons on a TV remote is what takes me.

After several weeks on the road, trying to find a bedtime routine that could help this insomniac find a sense of comfort and familiarity (and failing miserably), I finally found the key that I had been searching for. It was the fourth night in a row where I was still flipping channels at 3am, and I landed on a show that instantly calmed my restlessness. It wasn't the first time I had seen it--I had been watching it more and more frequently throughout my travels, but this was the first time I recognized my heartbeat slowing, my breath steadying, and my head hitting the pillow in contentment as Goren & Eames quipped witty penal code banter on the glowing screen of my hotel room TV. I knew that I was powerless to resist as my fingers relaxed their death grip on the remote and it partially fell out of my hand--now I would have to engage my brain in order to properly position my fingers back on the correct buttons in order to keep my usual all-night channel flipping vigil. This was serious.

Scenes from the past weeks of travel flashed through my mind: Hoboken, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Tucson...wherever I was and whatever time it may be some channel ALWAYS had one version or another of Law & Order playing. The characters became my best friends, my dinner dates, my bedtime lullaby. No matter where I was they were always there. They made tonight's generic hotel room familiar, comfy, like home. Escaping into the gritty, violent, seamy underside of NYC with these flawed, quirky detectives as my tour guides became my sleeping pill. As long as I could hear that unmistakable Law & Order music and watch the detectives fight with their captain, the DA, and the perps--I was at peace.

And now that I am home--no longer on the road--I still find myself addicted to this show. It has a hold on me. I keep trying to quit, but find myself sneaking another hit. Recording episodes on my DVR. Saving episodes I've already watched as an emergency stash. Just in case. I never know when I'll find myself fighting the Wicked Witch of Wakefulness, and need the magic. In fact, right now my trigger fingers are a little itchy--it's time to click that remote and repeat, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." (Well, no place like the major case squad, anyway...One Police Plaza, here I come!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tiny Triumphs

Last nite I was brave enough to weigh myself. I was avoiding it because I have lost 16 pounds and know the main reason is stress. But then the PMS hit, and I started rummaging through the leftover Halloween candy that had not been even slightly tempting to me before. And there was cheese. And bread. So, I was afraid that I had gained back that hard-earned stress weight loss. Because, after all, stress is not a very maintainable way to drop pounds.

So, I kicked the discarded clothes to the side and approached the previously buried scale. I stepped on. I waited. I took a deep breath, and looked down. It was exactly the same!! My PMS craving indulgence had not cost me any of my precious stress-related weight loss! Woo-hoo!! I smiled. I bounced off the scale and lowered myself into the hot bath and sat back quite contented and pleased. At that moment, regardless of what else was working or not in my life, I felt a thrill of victory for that tiny triumph.

And I felt even better to know that such a tiny triumph could bring me such a sense of well-being. Because, at times, it seems that we are so far away from feeling good that we don't know what it would take to get us back there. It only took one small thrill of joy, contentment, satisfaction to remember that place and to know that I was fully capable of living there again. For a few moments, without any trying, I was not worried. Did not feel anxiety. Was not calculating the balance of my bank account, or fretting over the state of my job search. A completely silly and (yes) superficial thing had jolted me out of my quagmire. It was a light at the end of my proverbial tunnel. It was confirmation that I was okay. That I would be okay. And--hey--if nothing else, I'll be a skinny, worried, unemployed mess, and that ain't too bad!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm the Only One!

While speaking to my mother the other day about the trials and travails of surviving as a single mother of two teenage girls, she called me something she never had before.

"You're Tigger!" she exclaimed.

There was a pause as I tried to get on her wave length.

"You're the Only One!" she continued.

It made me laugh and I instantly fell in love with the concept. I have remarked, on multiple occasions as of late, that this time is the most challenging I have experienced as a parent, and that the multitude of challenges all parents face seem to be more daunting when you are the one who bears the full brunt of everything.

I may be wrong. The added stress/blessing of a marriage could color things much differently--or not; however, as this is my only perspective, I cling to the belief that I am struggling disproportionately due to my single-ness.

The constant doubts and guilt that are your parting gift when the nurse wheels you out of the hospital doors after giving birth ( a measly 24 hours total allowed by insurance back in the day when I had my babies) feel magnified to Hubble Telescope proportions when the major conversations you have about your decisions, worries, and fears occur among voices that preside mostly within your own mind.

This is the worst news of all: the teen years don't just suck when you are going through them yourself--they also suck when you are dragged back into the quicksand by your offspring. They NEVER end! You cannot escape them--and this time they come with all those gleefully spouted wishes by your own parents that someday you will "have a kid just like you!"

As far as motherly curses go, I was never too worried about that one.

I was wrong.

I was a good kid: good grades, good friends, active in church and many school activities. I followed the rules, respected what my parents wished, and was terrified of getting into trouble most of the time. However, the way of the teenager is to rebel. It is to rage. It is to push. And I was a pusher. I used my verbal acumen to engage my mother in a nasty battle for most of my teenage life. I was merciless in my pursuit for her acknowledgement that I knew better than her what was best for me.

I can't even type this right now without shaking my head and laughing. It's my turn--and my mother got her wish: I have two kids who are just like me in so many ways. They are like me in good ways--they make (mostly) good choices about friends, they don't party, they don't really hide themselves from me. They are also like me in many other ways--they are pretty damn smart, they will engage in lively debate and heated argument for what they believe in, they are fiercely committed to being who they are and making sure that it is different from most.

When I am confronted with their natural teenager-ness on a daily basis, I often do stupid things. I say stupid things. I overreact. I underreact. And I think every decision is most likely the wrong one and/or the one that they really will write down to tell their therapist later (a bit of "advice" I have been offering them since before they were old enough to understand.) In this vulnerable state of uncertainty I comfort myself with the belief that the reason it is so hard is because I live in it by myself. And while I don't know if that belief is true, I am not ready to give up that excuse (no matter how flimsy it may be.)

But thanks to the new title (Tigger) bestowed upon me by my dear, sweet mother I feel a whole lot more bouncy and fun-loving about it. And I have a feeling that if I can connect to the inner-Tigger, my girls and I will all benefit. After all, the wonderful thing about Tiggers, is Tiggers are wonderful things...and the MOST WONDERFUL thing about Tiggers, is......I'm the Only One!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

30-day Chip

Do you get a little chip for surviving time living with teenagers? If so, Gabi & I just earned our 30-day chip!!! My little Gabi-roo turned 13 one month ago and we have had super-high highs and some super-low lows. I have to admit that her turning 13 is a struggle for me. I still want her to be a little girl who I can hold onto and keep safe and innocent. I still want her to want to sleep in my bed (believe it or not!) and choose going to the movies, or the even just to the store with me, instead of playing Rock Band with her friends. (Although it is hard for anyone to compete with the awesome force that is Rock Band.) But she is a little seedling struggling toward the sun of independence, and I need to nurture that as much as it may challenge me.

She is really developing a cute sense of style and I recognize myself in her unique fashion sense, artistic sensibilities, and her fierce determination to be an individual. That recognition is both exciting and terrifying. I know that my tendency to melodrama, overwhelming impulse to imagine worst-case scenarios, and desire to control everything are not helpful things to inherit. But I know she can withstand this stormy time and that we will make it through to the other side in tact, even if we come out a little scratched and bruised and clinging to each other for dear life. While it may all seem intense right now, I know it's just life, and that the good truly outweighs the not-so-good. So, as I accept my 30-day chip, I end by saying, "My name is Rebecca, and I am the mother of two teenagers."


I didn’t know where I was going until I got there. I knew the side door to the garage would be open. Nyla was one of those trusting (and forgetful) souls who believed that no one was going to enter her home to do her harm or take her things. And she had already replaced the side door and three window screens from having to break her way into her own house. The way she figured it, trying to keep strangers out was costing her way too much—and the only person who seemed to be breaking in was her.

I let myself in, gingerly stepping over the full trash bag she’d left by the garage door so she wouldn’t forget to take it to the bin in the morning. I softly padded across cold cement, up two stairs, and noiselessly opened the kitchen door. The light over the stove was on. A nightlight to guide her to the sink for a 3am glass of water. One year I had given her a crystal carafe and tumbler set designed specifically to quench middle-of-the-night thirst, but she still stumbled out of bed and poured a fresh glass from the tap.

I opened the fridge. I was instantly dazzled by the display of sparkling green bottles full of fresh, mountain spring water, various organic foods in mostly-recycled containers, free-range brown eggs, soy milk, and hiding shamefully in a dark, lonely corner—the Reddi-whip. I grabbed it, popped off the cap, opened my mouth, and covered my greedy tongue with sweet, dairy goodness. I replaced the contraband, closed the fridge and made my way to the hallway. I opened the coat closet and started rifling through bags and coats. Without even thinking I put all the cash I came across into the pocket of my sweater, along with a random credit card and the Starbucks gift card I think one of her students gave her for Christmas. While checking the pockets of Nyla’s brown tweed coat, I felt something unexpected: a cigarette. She quit last winter, so it must have been there for a while. I found some matches, sat down on the floral love seat and watched the minute hand on the giant wall clock while I smoked Nyla’s secret, stale cigarette. When it was finished, I let myself out the way I came, took a moment to make sure the stars were still where I left them, and walked down the gritty driveway to the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A story begins...

I was 38 years old when I walked away from home. It was a perfect fall night: big yellow moon, constellations out in all their glory, the slightest chill that makes you want to wrap up in a cozy sweater. I was sitting on the back porch, listening to comfortable music. Smiling. Sipping wine. I felt like dancing. I stood up and started to sway and then to spin. And then the back porch wasn’t big enough any more and I walked onto the grass. And then the fence was too confining so I opened the gate and walked into the street in front of my house. I didn’t like the glare of the streetlamp on the corner, so I walked further to find a place where the stars weren’t blocked by other lights. I had bare feet and a soft grey nightgown on. I could feel the gravel and asphalt digging into the pads of my feet and sneaking in between my toes. I had on a nubby, second-hand sweater at least 3 sizes too big, and I held it tight around me as I sought the purer night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grinding Teeth and Bleeding Cuticles on Nights Where Sleep Eludes

Sometimes I feel like I’m existing in a blur. In the fuzzy black spots you see when you close your eyes after a bright light shines in them. I feel intense and present but at the same time disconnected and strangely pulled to a different place. To the place beyond the fuzzy black spots—the place where they are bright circles of light.

I am in conflict. Compelled by the circumstances of choice and love that I have in my present life and tempted by the fantasy of an alternate reality where I live outside my current bounds, and have crazy, untamed hair and live off the kindness of strangers.

It makes no sense. It has no base in reality. But it is a comforting and disturbing recurring image of an alternate reality that will never exist, but is worth daydreaming about.

I have to believe that I am not unique. That everyone has some glimmer of fantasy/escapism in their life. That we all imagine a life lived differently after an un-made choice, a leap of faith, a decision made or not made. And it is not a symptom of discontent with current reality, but an awareness that other realities could be possible.

It may be a waste of time, but at times I am consumed by such thoughts. Seduced by ideas of alternate realities and an other-ness that doesn’t currently exist.

Driver's Licenses, Sixteen Candles & Friend-boys, O My!!!

What a week!!

My first-born daughter, first-born blessing, first-born gift has moved into a new phase that I had never fully conceptualized. I had pictured life through age 10 quite thoroughly...but beyond that it has all been fuzzy, blurry, half-baked. Yet here it is--delivered in a bright yellow box with a glittery bow on top.
Saturday was the big bash--Sweet Sixteen Carnival party--with friends, urban aunts, grandma and emotionally-wrought mom in tow. Sunday was the actual birth-day. The day celebrated 15 times previously, and the story told ceremoniously over and over--and now reaching a culmination of sorts in the magical number 16.

A number of significance for not obvious reasons. The major new privilege previously denied is yourself...unsupervised...without an adult...without me. Cue Tuesday: the day we went to the DMV and Savannah walked out a proud and fully-licensed driver. She took her first solo drive over to her "Friend-boy" Mike's house, and then to Taco Bell to get her sister two tacos. She's a good girl. And still, I have the motherly impulse to worry, to fret, to cry over the wonderful years gone so fast and the precious few left to our unique, intimate family unit. For better or worse, it is ours, and ours alone.

I have recently found myself sharing more of my inner thoughts and emotions with Savannah. More than I thought wise up to this point. More than I think wise still. I have so wanted her to have a childhood--to have innocence and naivety and simplicity. And she does...and has. But I have these moments where I slip, and I tell her more than I would like, and the words are out of my mouth before I can take them back and she knows more of the grown-up part of the world than I wanted her to know. But she does not seem affected--she is cool and calm and unflappable. She reassures me that these things don't bother her and she would rather know where I am coming from and what is affecting me than wondering and worrying about what it may be.

She is gracious. She is smart. She is intuitive and sensitive and bright. She is still the beautiful 6 pound 11.5 ounce bundle of possibility I brought home from the hospital 16 years ago--and yet she is more self-aware, confident, and wonderful than I could have ever hoped or imagined. Although this new era of our lives scares the shit out of me (her driving is no small part of the scare factor) I am also excited. Eager to see how the rest of Savannah unfolds. To see her triumphs, her heartaches, her struggles, and her successes. She is and will continue to be the best parts of those who have contributed to her development and at the same time is able to accept and appreciate the weaknesses and humanity of all of us--and herself.

I am simultaneously elated and overwhelmed by my daughters--both of them--and the way our life is blossoming. And I am eternally grateful for their faith, forgiveness, and love toward me and each other as we fumble our way through it together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School

It is the first day of school, and already everything is playing like an old routine.

No one’s alarm went off except mine, and the irritated teenagers of last nite who felt oppressed by my assurance that I would check and make sure they got up on time, had to be grateful for my motherly intrusion.

A spat over who will shower first ensued, with one daughter insisting she takes longer to get ready with hair and makeup and; therefore, deserves the first shower—even though she had to kick out the other daughter who beat her to it this morning. This could be easily resolved as we have two showers, but apparently using my shower is like drawing the short straw, and completely undesirable. Once again, I imposed motherly order on the situation, declaring that whoever is in the shower first gets the first shower. (I strongly recommend that those who take longer to beautify themselves for the day make sure they get in the shower earlier or deal with the consequences.)

Mutterings of disgusted responses accompanied (I am sure) by eye-rolling are the fruits of my motherly ministrations to the small disasters of mornings. And this morning, above all mornings, is significant and my presence an extra (although secretly desired) nuisance.

I used to be an integral part of the back-to-school routine. Helping pick out that all-important first day outfit. Overseeing the preparation of the backpack. Double-checking lunch money or making a lunch to be proudly carried in a new lunchbox. Sharing flutters in the tummy of that first day anticipation—excitement and anxiety churning like a loop-the-loop roller coaster in the pit of the stomach.

Today I sit in the background. Waiting for my big turn to participate: driving my daughters to and fro. And as I listen to their getting-ready sounds, I picture them walking into a new year. A year with nothing yet written on it. A year to be whomever they choose to be. Get the grades they want. Hang with the friends they want. Grow up and away from me and into themselves a little bit more. I feel each stretch toward the undeniable sun of independence and adulthood acutely these days. I am ever-aware that my time in my role as a daily caregiver and influence is limited. My days are numbered. The things that I perceive to be in my control, ever-more restricted.

But as Gabi stands before me, still dripping from the shower and making small-talk about how we each slept last nite, she throws me a bone:

“Do you want something to eat?” I ask.

“Nah,” she replies, “I always feel a little funny…upset in my stomach on the first day of school. Thanks, though.”

She opened the door of her experience a sliver and let the mom come in for a few seconds. Time to see that she is still a little girl and she still needs reassurances and, maybe—even though it can’t happen where others may see—that little reassuring squeeze from my hand to hers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wisdom of Pooh (paraphrased and interpreted by Rebecca)

One day Tigger bounced right into Rabbit’s garden, where Rabbit had just neatly stacked his recently-harvested carrots. Rabbit, carrots, and wheelbarrow all went flying and Tigger continued bouncing enthusiastically away.

Rabbit had finally had enough. He called a conference with Pooh and Piglet and shared a plan to un-bounce Tigger. The plan was simple: they would invite Tigger for a walk into the woods. Once they had gone a ways, they would “lose” Tigger and leave him to wander lost and alone in the woods. Later, they would come and “rescue” Tigger. Rabbit reasoned that this would create a humble Tigger, a grateful Tigger, a Tigger who would no longer boundlessly bounce through everyone’s life leaving a wake of chaos.

The plan seemed to be going along well, and before long Tigger was no longer with the rest of the group.

“There!” Rabbit said. “Tigger’s lost. Let’s head back home so we can come back later and rescue him.”

Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit turned around and started walking back home. And they walked. And they walked. And they walked.

And they walked.

After quite a while, Pooh spoke up, “Do you see that sand pit?” he asked. “I believe we have passed this sand pit before. Many times before. We keep looking for home and finding this sand pit,” Pooh said. “It seems to me that maybe if we try looking for this sand pit, we will find home.”

“Ridiculous!” Rabbit exclaimed and stormed off into the woods to prove that of course he could walk straight away from the sand pit and straight back if he were looking for it—it would NOT lead them home.

Pooh and Piglet sat and waited for Rabbit, who did not return to the sand pit as he predicted. Eventually, Pooh felt rumbly in his tumbly and followed his hunger home for dinner. Pooh and Piglet found their way home. Tigger was already home (Tiggers NEVER get lost!) and as bouncy as ever, if slightly worried about his missing friends. Rabbit was lost all night and later rescued by Tigger, whom Rabbit had never been happier to see come bouncing his way.

This story has been one of my favorites for years—and a guide in my life for a plethora of reasons. I first discovered the powers of this story while reading it to a very young Gabi one night during a particularly trying time in my life. These are the lessons I learned from this story, and still use to help me re-set my mind, spirit, psyche, course, etc.:

  1. We cannot (and should not even want to) change other people: un-bouncing them is a silly notion—let’s celebrate one another instead

  2. We should, however, pay attention to ourselves and start recognizing the sand pit(s) we are circling

  3. Our sand pits are a great gift—once we recognize that they merely exist (let alone, that we keep coming back to them), we instantly have the power to make a different choice—keep looking for home, keep trying to un-bounce other people, start looking for the sand pit, or storm off into the woods. It doesn’t really matter what that different decision is, as long as it is different.

Take some time today to bounce, notice sand pits & make a new choice, celebrate your differences, or simply revel in how it felt to be a kid whose whole world could have been the Hundred Acre Wood, full of soft, comfortable, furry friends and exciting adventures!!

Create something magical today & make a difference not only for those you encounter, but for yourself!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Late nite rambling

I started a new book in the bath tonite...and I like it, and I know I will love it. Everything about the first few pages filled me with the hope and anticipation of a future not yet written. Not yet known. There is a profound peace in the possibility and boundless nature of the future. A peace and hope that doesn't always surface for us in our day-to-day existence. There is a soaring freedom that exists when we allow ourselves to dream and to imagine and to hope. Hope is a word that keeps coming up for me, and throughout my life it has been a recurring theme. I will not abandon hope. I will not start to play the refrain of "Closer My God To Thee" as if my ship were sinking. Even in times when I feel or fear that it is, I will not grant credence to such devastating and final a judgement. As long as I take another breath, and God grants me another sunrise--made even more resilient by the smiles of my daughters--I will not despair. I will ask for grace and forgiveness, and guidance as I navigate another day, another week, another month in which I can learn something, make a difference, be an instrument for good in the world. I like to lose myself in the minor worries and petty distractions of a life lived in a country and culture of indulgence and plenty--and woe is me when everything is not as easy as I would like! But at the end of it all--and in the face of all of the love and compassion, forgiveness and grace that is granted me daily by God and the interaction with those I have been blessed to love and be loved by in return--I am grateful, humbled, and in awe of the unconditional love I receive; from this world and the next.

It has been a hard week. A week of questions, frustrations, fears, and tears. And I love and at the same time am ashamed at the blessings I experience daily. I should be slapped in the face for my ingratitude, but I am embraced in loving arms instead. I don't understand this mystery, and I won't endeavor to explain it-- but I know that I am loved and that I am protected and that I am blessed--and as I pray my thanks, I pray also that I will remember and that I can ask daily for a strength beyond my own to make a difference bigger than me in the world around me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blast from the Past

Today I got the wild impulse to organize the cupboard under the stairs. I found some boxes of photos and other memorabilia that I haven't looked at for who knows how many years. I decided to drag them out and take a peek.

I found a box that held (among other items) late 80's and early 90's pics (see photo, right), prom pictures, summer camp pictures, letters from camp friends, letters from my brother (who used "Skater Bro" as his return address), and one essay from an AP English class. Reading this essay, I was struck by the familiar voice--making me fear that, perhaps, I have not grown or evolved that much in the past 18-ish years. However, I thought that it was worth sharing as a glimpse of the writer in a (hopefully) more raw form:

by Becky Jenkins

I always know when THAT TIME is approaching. I can see it coming a mile away. THAT TIME always fills me with a sense of impending doom. There is just no way to get out of THAT TIME. (At least not until you reach that special age.) THAT TIME is the most bothersome time in my life; it's dirty, inconvenient, and unavoidable. Right now I am in the middle of THAT TIME--yes, that's right--it's my week for dishes.

I know I am not the only one who hates doing dishes. Nearly every person in America is terrified of it.

Why? you may ask, is this everyday necessity so terrifying?

Why do people go to such extremes to avoid it? For example, the other night I had to get my dishes done before I could go over to my friend, Michelle's house to work on a dance we are going to be performing. Needless to say, I was not pleased. In fact, I was just a little bit on the furious side. In my fit of anger, I offered my little brother money, favors, my favorite tape, a movie, and even my love if only he would do the dishes for me.

Looking back, I question my reasoning for going so totally out of control. I believe the fear of doing the dishes is a much more serious problem than most people realize.

The fear of doing the dishes is one of the main reasons for the decline of the nuclear family, and the trend toward divorce.

There can be no harmony in a home where everyone is fighting about who will do the dishes next. But, where did this fear come from in the first place? That question must be answered before anything can be done to alleviate the fear and restore the stability of the American family.

In exploring American history for the answer to this question, one discovers that since the birth of our country, people have feared the dishes. In the Old South every home, no matter how financially unsuccessful, had a slave for the primary purpose of doing the family dishes. Since that time families have always had housekeepers and maids, or more commonly, children, to do the dreaded task.

The fear began with the discovery of bacteria and germs. When sweet southern women discovered that they could contaminate their delicate hands or any other body part, for that matter, they immediately dismissed the practice of washing the dishes themselves.

In more recent years, the fear has been exemplified by the women's movement. Women refuse to do the dishes for fear that they may not be considered modern and liberated if they did do them, and men shudder at the prospect of doing the job because they are afraid of being accused of being a chauvinist if they admit that the "job just isn't in my blood," or the fear of being a chauvinist if they do the job and end up getting accused of trying to show up a woman.

These fears are embedded in the minds of America's youth at a very young age and it is passed on from generation to generation as children are always made to stoop and do the humiliating task.

The main problem with this comes in with newlyweds, when there are no children in the home yet. This means that either the wife or the husband must do the job, and neither wants to. This often leads to the first spat, and later to the divorce. It's no wonder that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce when one hundred percent of all married people hate to do the dishes.

As long as there are still dishes to be done, there will be divorce and domestic unease in America.

(I added "THE END" so you would know the ancient essay was over and it was the present me now talking.)
My teacher loved the opening paragraph, writing "clever!" in the margin. He also liked the comparison of children to slaves and the part about feminism. However, I only received a B+. The thing that scares me most about that grade (which is a surprise as English was my top subject and I did earn A's come report card time) is the similarity to my current narrative voice and style, and the fear that in the end, I still have a glaring B+ staring me in the face.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Celebrity Sightings

For a religious reader of People and Entertainment Weekly, not to mention a devotee of the “news” (on E! “anchored” by Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic) it is no surprise that the odd celebrity sighting would cause a rise in blood pressure, heart palpitations, and silly girly squeals; however, I happened to go through security at the airport today with Tommy Lee and remained mostly cool.

He is a beautiful, tattooed, rock & roll man—soooo hot! He looked exactly like himself—which kind of surprised me. I mean, for some reason it seems impossible that these sexy specimens actually exist in all of their glory 10 feet away from the normal masses, like me. He (and an entire entourage that bore a striking resemblance—sans tattoos—to my younger daughter, Gabi: black hair, black clothes, skinny jeans, wrists wreathed in bracelets and cuffs, beanies or other hats) rolled up casually through the VIP line and as my eye was drawn to the black-clad group, I squeaked “It’s Tommy Lee!”

I was too far away to get a good pic, (he was graciously stopping for everyone with a camera phone) and as he entered the actual strip-down portion of the security line about 2 minutes before me, I was perfectly placed to miss all good photo-ops. I rushed out of the line and schlepped my computer, Ziploc of 3.4 oz (or less) liquids and gels, purse, jacket, and boots (why did I decide to wear boots on my way to 110-degree Scottsdale?) to a bench right next to where Tommy was standing, big smile on his face, letting the growing crowd say hi and take pics. By the time I planted my ass and accompanying security strip-down fallout and fumbled in my bag for my phone, I looked up to hear, “Thanks everybody. I’ve gotta go now.” And he walked away down a terminal that was not mine.

I had cut it pretty close today and only had about 10 minutes before boarding. Should I walk down the wrong terminal just for a chance at a pic to prove I stood mere feet away from Tommy Lee? Should I take my shot at being a groupie (damn those extra 30 pounds I haven’t lost yet!)? Should I pretend to be an actual Motley Crue fan? No. I should not. That is silly. But it was still amazingly fun and cool to see him. Even though people were whispering about times being tough for Motley Crue if Tommy is jumping through the same hoops at the same location and time as the rest of us. Hello!!—it’s 2008 and it’s Motley Crue…they are probably in the position to be feeling the same sting at fuel prices as everyone else—and I do not think it diminishes Tommy’s coolness or hotness quotients one little bit. (And, no, those do not contradict or cancel each other out!)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Terri & Becky's Big-Ass backyard BBQ!!

We had the annual shin-dig with friends, family & our gaggle of adorable loinfruit!! I gave the under-10 set the camera for most of the day, so many of these pics show us what the kidlets thought was worth documenting...enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Real Mr. Sticca

I have explored nearly every method of dating known to modern woman:, eharmony, nearly every other dating website, personal ads (I only answered one--didn't place one), meeting someone at work (SO not recommended!), and speed dating. On the whole, my experiences have not been too bad; however, they are quite regularly, hilarious. I count myself pretty lucky in that regard. Not all modern daters emerge unscathed.

While checking my email the other day a message from a guy that I had one date with almost two years ago (yet he continues to spam me with "funny" forwarded emails)caught my attention. Usually, I don't even read his messages before deleting them, but for some reason this one peaked my curiosity. The subject line read, "The Real P. Sticca."

I opened the message and the first line read, "This message is not from P. It is about him." From there, the woman writing the message launches into a description of how she was searching for a good man to love, and how that search had led her to P. I thought perhaps it was going to be one of those sappy online dating success stories just waiting to be featured on an eharmony commercial. I was wrong.

Apparently she had been dating P for a while, had introduced him to her three-year-old daughter, had opened up her heart to the possibility of love, etc. But P was not on the same page. P was reading an entirely different book. Therefore, she had decided to do the opposite of an eharmony commercial and let the world know exactly what kind of man she had found online in P.

The woman had suspicions about P's fidelity, so she did the only thing she could do: searched his computer for incriminating evidence. She found an Excel spreadsheet with at least 80 women listed, ranked, and categorized. This was not, according to the woman, your typical little, black book with names, contact info, and possibly a few stars next to his favorites. It was a checklist with things he had done to and with each woman; notes like "new boobs" "psycho" "rebound" "nice but maybe too old" "fatter than pic"; and categories such as Heavy Rotation, On the Outs, Unf---able, Desperate Measures, etc. ranking the status each woman holds in his world. The title of the spreadsheet was "New Meat SLC."

I have to disclose that this guy was no prize. I did not have any interest in seeing him again, and only didn't block his continual forwarded emails because I am lazy. He wasn't the worst person I have met online, but he was the worst of all things in my dating criteria: short. Maybe this exercise in labeling and categorizing women was his defense mechanism for having to stand on tiptoes to see eye to eye with the women he meets. He was pretty aggressive as well, which turned me off immediately. I was never unclear as to what his intentions were.

This poor woman; however, (probably less bitter and cynical than I)was taken in and felt that ultimate betrayal of not only unrequited love, but deception. I have also been deceived in matters of love, and I know the sting. I have to admire her quick action to unmask the creep and destroy any future rendezvous P had in mind for those of us on his list. I, too, have felt the undeniable impulse to administer a public form of humiliation as punishment for catching a boyfriend cheating on me. I have wanted to buy a billboard with his picture and warn women to stay away; blanket all the parking lots he frequents with fliers about his deepest secrets and prominently display an aerial shot of the balding head he was so insecure about; take out an ad in all the local papers listing his sins against me and others (again, featuring the bald shot), write letters to his children letting them know who their father is and encouraging them to find different a different role model for masculinity.

But I did not do these things. I did not want to give this man one more spec of my time, energy, heart, or soul. I liked to think of myself as mature and having achieved some level of transendence over petty revenge scenarios. I was getting the best revenge: living well, moving on, dating much cuter and younger men with full heads of hair. But my glee at receiving this woman's email makes me wonder if I have just been kidding myself. Even now, I feel a rush of pleasure as I imagine plastering the bastard's bald head all over the place with a public service announcement to all women: Take heed! Meet the REAL Assface (as I have referred to him ever since).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Over the years I have referred to my children as many things: offspring, spawn, fru-its of the dev-il...but the most recent, and current favorite, was suggested by one of the little darlings themselves while we were on vacation.

We were playing a game--dominoes, I think--and I made a move that was disadvantageous to Savannah. She exclaimed with dismay, "How could you do that to the fruit of your loins?!" With mock-shame, I answered, "Awwww...I don't know how I could do that to my little loinfruit." The whole group erupted into laughter, with the episode culminating in Savannah deeming me her lointree.

Needless to say, talk of loins is not the most desirable conversation to have with your parents, grandparents and other assorted extended family around. However, such situations tend to lend themselves to those precious things that come out of the mouths of babes. My girlfriend, Terri, shared a story that one of her loinfruit starred in over the weekend. They always have a family dinner on Sunday nite with her husband's large family in attendance. Last Sunday nite the brothers got into a discussion about hair--it started with hairy chests and evolved (or should I say de-volved?) to hairy asses.

As the brothers compared their relative states of hairiness, one in particular was insisting that he did not have a hairy ass. It was late and Terri's soon-to-be 7-year-old son looked up at his scruffy uncle, and in all seriousness said, "You do have a hairy ass...on your face."

The wonderfully awful statements and beautifully innocent observations that are spoken by our loinfruit paint the world for us in colors we never would have chosen, from a perspective we may never see without them. I have saved scraps of phrases and comments from my children over the years, and I hope that I never lose the irrepresible smile and little tug on my heart that I feel when I read and remember them.

Family Vacation 08

Don't despair! I have several entries started...the writing is just not flowing quite right, so pics are where it's at for me right now. There will be some interesting stories to read soon!! Here's a collection of group family shots from our vacation on the Oregon coast last week...

Up Close & Personal

I got a strange bug and decided to take self-portraits with the gang at the beach house...kinda fun!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Massage Man

The Massage Man, a gentle giant--tall and imposing, yet approachable with a presence that immediately puts you at ease--appears out of the mist: bringing clarity, hope, and relief for that (literal) pain in the ass.

I was a bent and crooked woman.

Unable to move without an unattractive grimace. (No--that isn't my usual expression!)

Unable to go to the bathroom without wondering how I can withstand the pain of the required physical position (not to mention the oft-taken-for-granted gymnastic ability needed to properly wipe and dispose of wiping material).

Unable to lie in a bed to sleep.

Unable to sit on a sofa or chair to sleep.

Okay, unable to sleep--period.

Somehow, I found the strength to reach for my phone and send the modern smoke signal for help: text The Massage Man and pray that he answered with a day and time to address my pain and dysfunction.

Massage Man did not disappoint. I received a prompt reply that he would be swooping in to save the day tomorrow at 2pm.

In the meantime, I stayed strong. Employing all means at my disposal to survive until Massage Man arrived. I used the percocet prescribed for my Shingles to dull the crippling pain radiating up and down my right side from the apex in my lower back. I took frozen hashbrowns and iced my inflamed area (hey--it's all I had!). I heated up my neck pillow and alternated it with the hashbrowns on my lower back. I took ibuprofen. I drank wine. I drank water. Wine felt better. I took a bath.

I made it.

At 1:45pm, there was a confident knock on the door. I schlepped my way to the door; disheveled and with tell-tell sleep creases on my cheek (I sneaked a nap before my massage--some may call it overkill, I call it self-care). I opened the door and was blinded by the bright glow radiating from the figure standing in my doorway. As my eyes adjusted, the image of Massage Man came into focus, and my whole being took a collective sigh of relief.

Like Santa on Christmas Eve, he set straight to his work; opening up his massage table, asking relevant and concerned questions about my current state, rearranging my furniture to accommodate his work.

Massage Man excused himself to wash his hands, enjoy some of the light reading left out for visitors in my guest bathroom, and wait for me to disrobe (to my level of comfort) and get situated on the table. (BTW, my level of comfort is the full monty--it's very common and not just for Europeans!)

As Massage Man laid his hands on my pain-riddled body, I relaxed. It was the first time I had been in this much pain and felt this much relief (I have suffered from the occassional 'old lady back' since I was 27, and usually it has left me out of commission for 3 to 5 days with nothing but time making it better).

Massage Man touched my muscles with intention, compassion, and healing. And his care didn't end when the massage was over. He took the time to show me stretches (and yes! I have stretched several times today, including before the start of a manager's meeting), to recommend the right behaviors (water--not wine) and to rearrange my furniture (even the lovesac that my daughter dislodged) before heading off into the sunset; as rogue heroes often do.

I slept through the nite.

I was able to tote my luggage and laptop with minimal discomfort.

I slept through my flight.

I disembarked the plane with ease.

Even now, as I write this, I can barely sense a whisper of the debillitating pain that was paramount only 24 hours ago.

Thank you Massage Man! You are a blessing! You are a gift! You are a human conduit for a miracle of healing!

To find out more about Massage Man, or to schedule your own miracle, contact me via modern smoke signal at You, too, can find relief!!

Monday, June 2, 2008


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Going a little bit CRAZY!

Okay, so my dear friends (Double Doss and The Rodgers Clan) have inspired me to get some pics on my site & now I'm going crazy with it...but I'm not very good at bear with me. I started this to showcase some of my writing and to motivate myself to keep writing regularly, but I also think the design & pics part is stay tuned and hopefully things will start to look a lot cooler as I figure it out!!

OR-07: The Whole Fam Damily

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Run

Tonite I sprinted across a Major League Soccer field. There were 89 of us--pushing and striving toward the ultimate prize: a diamond necklace. Personally, I would rather get a spa treatment, but who would say no to free diamonds?

My beau, K, got tickets for all of us (him, me, my girls, his boy and girl) to go see the Real Salt Lake game. It just so happened to be Mother's Day Eve. In honor of the occasion--or in order to exploit the occasion--the fine folks at Real Salt Lake decided to do a Mother's Day Dash at the end of the first period (do they have periods in soccer?). As we were walking in, I was accosted, I mean, I was invited to participate and my loving, wonderful children all too eagerly herded me over to sign up. The gist of it was to have 100 moms on one of the goal lines at half-time (do they call it half time?) and have 100 envelopes filled with magnificent prizes (gift certificates for dinner, spa treatments, strange local coupon books, and the big one: a diamond necklace) littered all over the field at the opposite goal line. At the signal, we moms would move our booties, preferably at a run, across the field to duke it out for our prize envelope. The excitement! The spectacle! The chest pains! (How long is a soccer field anyway--there were rumors ranging from 50 to 200 yards, with most of settling on 100...we could make it 100 yards, no problem...couldn't we?)

As we settled in our seats to watch the game--my registration for the half-time humiliation complete--my girls and K suggested several tactical strategies that I could use to my advantage.

"Position yourself right in the middle of the goal line, don't get on the end."

"Why don't you warm up and stretch, maybe run a few laps around the stadium?"

"Be ready to elbow your way past the other moms if you need to."

I paid scant attention to their eager words (except for that elbowing one--that could come in handy.) I was more interested in how I could pretend to go to the field and instead get a coke and a churro without any of my loyal support team noticing. I tried to distract myself from the impending run (I mean, we often don't even walk up and the down the stairs to talk to one another at our house--we text, call or email--and now I have agreed to actually run, nay, sprint in front of a crowd) by looking for cute soccer players and grooving to the cool percussion group who played non-stop throughout the game. In fact, I want to go back again for the percussion alone (we don't really have any cute soccer players!)

When the time came, we were instructed to take off our shoes if they were heels or otherwise unfit for running. I had miraculously worn tennis shoes, of a sort. They were slip on sneakers that fell off half the time just sauntering down the street. I decided to leave my shoes at my seat and meet my fate in the shoes God gave me. When I found my way to where all the other moms were corralled, I began to sense that this wasn't going to be one of those "fun runs." These moms meant business--and they seemed to know one another. I scanned the crowd for other lone moms like me, wanting to throw in my lot with them rather than the pods of ya-ya sisterhoods I was surrounded by. I noticed two pregnant moms, and decided that if I ran next to them I might not look half bad. I might even look like I'm in some sort of shape. I mean, if I can't outrun an obviously pregnant woman, then things are worse than I thought and I think it's time for someone to do one of those extreme interventions with me: introduce some dire consequence for sitting on my ass, brand me with a scarlet L for lazy, send me to rehab with Amy Winehouse.

Noticing the pregnant moms, one of the ya-ya pod moms made a suggestion that I thought was inspired, "They should have given all of us a soccer ball and had us stuff it up our shirts and we could all do the pregnant hobble across the field to get our prize." THAT would have been worth seeing--that is what a great half-time soccer show is made of! Maybe those ya-ya pod moms were not evil after all. Finally, the gates were opened and we were led to the center of the field, I had images of the mighty Roman gladiators as we stepped into the arena. Being on the field, I was ready to face this challenge. I was prepared to run my heart out and grab my envelope with gusto! My mind started playing the theme song to Chariots of Fire, and I only hesitated for a moment when I saw the EMS personnel roll out behind us with a stretcher and the full emergency medical accoutrements.

Looking back, I no longer feel the fear. I only feel the joy of running in front of a bunch of strangers with a bunch of other strangers for a prize I don't even want, and ultimately, (after tearing it in half because another mom over-enthusiastically grabbed two envelopes, and being unable to find the redemption booth to trade in my torn envelope for my actual prize, throwing away said envelope,) I am proud to be noted among those other brave moms who faced twisted ankles, pulled muscles, broken fingernails, and (in some cases) early labor to celebrate our roles as mothers by participating in a spectacle for soccer fans.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Poetry revisited

A lot of this is post-divorce detritus, but I like the rawness of it...

I'm doing the best that I can
I always thought
my best was better than this

I'm doing the best that I can
is a choking
engulfing sentiment
so completely
that I can barely move

I'm doing the best that I can
so helpless
and weak
and tired
Can I just hit snooze
one more time
and close my eyes
on today

a night out with the girls

talking loudly
over drinks
about a cloak-and-dagger
with great sex
i had last nite
laughing out loud
so hard
i think
i just might
pee my pants
being understood
with just a look
and a nod
at the woman
in the leopard-print
with ruffles
who just walked in the door
and is waiting
to be seated

does she give life a cold shoulder
play dumb when it really matters
Acting like she's got it all together
walking with confidence
and a sway to her hips
Poised on patent stilleto heels
that pound on the hearts
of those who follow too closely
and echo
down an adandoned, damp alley
smells of urine and decay
has no end
or outlet

One cold afternoon
she played in the city
and her dress
was stark red
against the icy sky
and his lips
were teasing and warm

It seems
as if
we are in orbit
of one another--
at once
unsure and familiar.
Staying in proximity
not too close--
to sever the connection

Do we ever really see
the mark we leave on someone else?
The damage done
The pain inflicted
A promise that's broken
like a carelessly dropped wine glass
Shattering sharp and dangerous--
spilling red stain over all that it touches
And sometimes--
that mark is a badge of honor
A sign worn proudly
displayed boldly
In defiance
and in rage
in survival

I got confused
and lost my way
in the maze
of all the people
I play
I used to think
I found a glimpse
of purity
in the reflection
shining from your eyes
now your eyes
no longer look at me
and it's hard for me
to remember
the last time
they really did

It scares me
to watch you walk away
and not look back at me

To pass on the street
and not recognize your soul
until you've just passed--
and can't hear my call

To listen to your voice
but only hear a stranger's

And I can't seem to shake
this feeling of nearly-waking,
as if life has been a dream
or a dream has been my life

And the cobwebs over my eyes
just can't be cleared away

When the children leave
and I'm left with more than
an idea
of alone
I want to crawl out of my skin
and I don't know what to do
And I wish
I could turn myself
inside out
and make everything different

I have to find
a picture
of me
somewhere in this pile
And clean out the parts
that no longer belong
and store them away


No. I haven't lost a child. Not my child. Not my bright, shining life. But I feel the ache of it--right down to my soul. I know the emptiness of perfect potential gone limp in your arms and I have witnessed too closely a mother gripping the side of a casket so tightly that seperation seems impossible.

I don't know how to tell this story. I have lived with it for so much of my life that it has existed longer than the majority of my days and will continue to consume more with each year that passes. It is never really absent, although it is patient--and waits quietly to come forward. To put pen to paper--to give life to this memory--is to admit the fear, the heartbreak, the tears, the love, the guilt, and the unending despair and responsibility of losing something more than precious. Losing it while entrusted to keep it safe for another.

It's incredible in life--so many things that we carry with us--things we learn to "live with" but never "get over." There are moments too terrible and sacred to ever be left behind.

This is not a story of pity--of lost hope. I will not allow it to become that. It is just a story: naked and exposed, offering only what it is without asking for forgiveness or understanding. Without a right to either. But with a voice that longs to be heard.

Two weeks before my 17th birthday, the beautiful three-month-old boy I was caring for died in his sleep. He would be 18 years old today--maybe in college, maybe working while he takes a year off--but maybe is all there is. I have never visited his grave but I carry him with me every day. Him, along with his mother, his father, and his two sisters who were there that night. And I can't even begin to imagine what they are carrying with them, because it is too painful and I am too terrified of their truth.

I am amazed at the capacity for grief that we own as human beings. How raw a wound can be years later. How anniversaries haunt us every year--and sometimes every day is an unfulfilled promise of what might have been.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Adventures in Babysitting

It was like a scene from a movie. Those little shits! I had to give them points for ingenuity—what could they do if they decided to use their power for good instead of evil?

They were two and five years younger than me, and since our parents’ divorce, I often had the unenviable chore of babysitting my brothers. It was not a job for the fainthearted. Over the years they inflicted different levels of cruel and unusual punishment on a variety of caretakers, leading me (at the ripe old age of 12 or 13) to tell my mother that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown if I had to be responsible for my brothers for one more minute. Our mother’s brilliant solution was to put everyone in charge of themselves. No one was responsible for anyone else. Nice in theory; impossible in practice for one uptight good girl, one rebel without a cause, and one baby brother who just wanted to be included.

It wasn’t all bad. We often found ourselves having a good time. Enjoying our freedom and using our imagination to create fantasy worlds where we played characters that had nothing to do with the real life we lived. Sometimes we even played characters based on people we knew—our favorite being the youth pastor from our church, Ross, and his wife, Bonita. We played Ross and Bonita for days, and I can’t for the life of me remember why. It was one of our favorite games, and when I think back to it, it always makes me feel happy even though the exact nature of the game is fuzzy.

There were many times; however, when I didn’t want to have anything to do with my brothers. I wanted to make up dances and do gymnastics with my friends. I wanted to pretend like I was an only child and didn’t have to worry about anything but myself and my fabulous, spoiled life. I believe it was one such time when, exasperated and tired, I sent my brothers to their room and told them to stay there. I went into the front room and settled in to watch my soaps—a habit picked up from my mother and grandmother. On a commercial I checked at the door of my brothers’ room and heard them playing with their little, plastic army guys. Satisfied that they were going to leave me alone, I allowed myself to get caught up in the latest drama unfolding on Days of Our Lives, and completely forgot about my annoying little brothers.

When the show was over, I came back to reality and took the dreaded walk down the hallway to check on my brothers. As I approached their room, I could hear them playing. They were still playing army guys, and I was surprised at how long that game had held their attention. I decided I’d better open the door and see what they were up to. The scene that met my gaze took a minute for me to process. On the bed was a pile of little, green army men sitting right next to a tape recorder from which came the sounds of my deceitful little brothers playing army guys. The curtains were billowing out of the open, screenless window. There was not one little boy in sight.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Poetry Stop

here are a few poems...nothing really new, but some favorites


pixie dust
sweet voices
smiles that dance in the moonlight

baseballs and guitars
violas and perfume
bright eyes that watch every move

lips ask for more kisses
arms tease for more hugs
and a giggle is almost hypnotic

She lives her life
day in day out
solitary and abundant
joyful and despairing
And the struggle of her spirit
is this woman’s life

In one arm she embraces love
and with the other she pushes it away
knocking it down
before it can knock her down
And protecting her from hurt and happiness
is this woman’s life

She lies awake at night
staring at the shadows flickering on the walls
imagining tomorrow
replaying today
avoiding right this moment
And exhaustion
is this woman’s life

My heart explodes
with joy—
lying in this tangle
of arms and legs
and soft, downy skin.
I tremble at the love in
and the trust in four blue eyes.

And I ache with the brevity
of this moment
and the promise of life, and
love, and
tears, and
and the inevitability
of empty arms
and tear-stained
freezing the miracle
of today

I am sorry that you miss me
but I’ve missed you for years.
And I don’t want you to ache
or weep or burn
because it makes my freedom
so much harder.
And because I wish you only peace.
Something I could never give you
and you could not receive.
So where are we now?
As distant as ever—
with you swimming in sorrow—
after I’ve already toweled off,
and I find myself
no more desire for that water.

Once upon a Time
I pledged myself to you
and I created a future
that never came to be

And then I had to change the channel
when the program got too graphic
and now I speak Italian
and I hear you speaking Spanish
and it’s like we never
knew each other
as something
other than painful

“I’m sick of the emotion”
well so am I
Except you’re only sick
of emotions
that you don’t control
And I’m sick
of being wrong
because you got up
on the wrong side of the bed
and don’t want
to hear the truth
And the only reason
my voice sounds alone
is because
no one else
is brave enough
to speak their
So go ahead,
make it all about me
all my fault
if that helps
you believe
your dick

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Queer Eye for My Guy

I was at my boyfriend's house helping him hang curtains in his daughter's bedroom. The curtains were going up in place of the lovely bedsheets that had been hanging in the windows. I was happy to see the change; however, I was unaware of something hanging in his house that was even worse than bedsheets on the windows. In the master bathroom--HIS bathroom--there was a filmy, pastel, floral shower curtain. I turned to K and said, "I LOVE your shower curtain." Without even blinking he answered, "Yeah? Me too." RIGHT!

This shower curtain was the last in a long line of neglected remants that had survived his divorce. In the living room there were empty picture hangers left on the wall above the fireplace; the labels his wife had needed to know which switch did what were all over the house, the turquoise blue she had painted the entire house still glared from the walls. I was overcome with a compulsion to exorcise the ghost of marriage past. I was not threatened by or jealous of these remnants, I just didn't understand why a single, attractive, seemingly well-adjusted man would choose to shower each day behind rows of bright flowers when no woman was requiring him to do so.

"You have to get a new shower curtain," I said. "I will not come into this bathroom until there is a different shower curtain."

I didn't mean for it to be an ultimatum, but in retrospect, I think it was. I proceeded to continue my tirade; citing the picture hangers, labels, and blue walls--not to mention the wonderful fireplace that he has NEVER ONCE USED in the six years he has lived in the house (the majority of those without the wife). I had to wonder what his previous girlfriends had thought. Did they say something about it? Did they just ignore it? Why was there still a flowered shower curtain hanging in this man's bathroom?

I was obsessed. Over the next few days I checked out shower curtains wherever I could: Target, Smith's Marketplace, Ikea. I asked my daughters and friends for their input on the manliness quotient of each one. I debated actually buying a few and taking them over--letting him pick the one he liked best, but a part of me thought that might come off as creepy. As my obsession continued I began to wonder if I was the one with the problem. Maybe it didn't matter if he liked to shower behind a girly swath of fabric. Maybe I really did feel threatened and/or jealous. Perhaps I should take back my comments and just let it go. Then, like Spiderman swinging in on his web, K saved me from having to admit anything: he bought a new shower curtain. It was a map of the world, and it was the most beautiful, manly thing I had ever seen in a bathroom. Granted, it wasn't even close to any of the shower curtains I would have chosen, but I think that is, after all, the whole point.

...and it's only going to get worse

If only I had known. I would have looked at her longer that last time. I would have drunk in every detail of her blue eyes and peachy skin. I would have paid attention to how she smelled. I would have felt her downy cheek one more time, or held her hand in mine. But I didn’t know. And now she is gone. Lost. Disappeared. And I will never lay eyes on my baby girl again. As this realization hits me I run into the other room, desperately seeking photos, a note, anything to keep her present and with me. I sink to the kitchen floor and the most unfamiliar scream is ripped from me and the sobs overtake my soul.

Suddenly, I wake up. Sweaty and panting. In the fog between dreaming and wakefulness, I crawl out of my bed and stumble across the hall to the room where my 15-year old daughter, Savannah, lay sleeping. I love to watch her sleeping—now almost as much as I did when she was a baby. Sleep is where the child part of her still reigns supreme. Flailed out across her bed, eyes closed, mouth hanging open or pursed in a pout, she is still a little girl. All the adult mannerisms and attitudes, all the knowledge she is gaining that looks out from her eyes—these don’t exist in sleep. In sleep she could still be a chubby toddler, tow-headed, tired from the day’s adventures, not a worry in her world.

Yesterday, as I drank a glass of wine and watched my best friend Terri paint baseboards for her newly-remodeled kitchen, we discussed the changes entering my life via my growing daughter. She just started her first job, working in the gift shop at the zoo. She loves it. She has always wanted to be part of the working world. As a little girl, she would play that she was a career woman. She asked for clothes that were small imitations of the professional costume I wore to work everyday. She once got a box of office supplies for Christmas and it was her favorite gift that year. Because she is at the bottom of the totem pole at her new job, Savannah is required to work pretty much every weekend and every holiday. That means that this coming Easter Sunday she will be at the zoo’s gift shop from 11am until closing, instead of celebrating the day with family and friends. We were going to go to Idaho for the weekend to visit grandparents, but I didn’t want to go without her or leave her alone on a holiday to toil away while we enjoy ham and candy and Easter egg hunts without her. And Easter is just the beginning.

The summers have typically been a time of bountiful travel for Savannah and her younger sister, Gabi. They usually spend the summer visiting dads, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins while I work. This arrangement has offered them the chance to make great memories with their extended family and has saved me who knows how much money in childcare. However, this summer, we don’t even know if Savannah will be able to make it to our family vacation on the Oregon Coast. Not to mention the visit to my dad’s in northern Idaho. I don’t like this new reality where Savannah may or may not be present where she has always been present before.

“That’s just life,” Terri offers, “and it’s only going to get worse.”

Terri is the queen of saying just the thing to really make you freak out. I shared my dream with her and it was easy for both of us to make the connection to our previous conversation. I am surprised at the reaction of raw, naked grief I felt in my dream. And as Terri and I continue to talk, it occurs to me that Savannah has been the one consistent thing in my entire adult life. Terri says that she has thought about how it will be when her two young boys are grown up and out of the house. What it will be like to be alone with her husband again—able to go to the movies or have sex on the spur of the moment without worrying about the kids. But she had Jeff before she had her kids, and she will have him after. I had Savannah when I was 20, and she has been my constant since then. When she is gone, it will be me and Gabi for three years, and then it will just be me. I have always joked about how I will live my 20’s in my 40’s because I was being a parent in those years, but as I stand on the precipice of that reality, my chest tightens and I feel like I may suffocate.

Today I find myself looking at my daughter a little more closely, lingering over her features, her facial expressions, the way she fixed her hair. I notice the color and texture of her skin and the sound of her voice. I reach out and touch her cheek, her hand. And then she breaks the spell, crashing me back into the reality of life with a teenager, “Mom, you don’t have to touch me. Stop staring at me. You’re creepy.”

T & A

I am not a large-breasted woman. My physical blessing is definitely my ass. However, my best friend, Terri, is stacked enough for the both of us. While I hear comments like “you should have that framed” or “if you posted your ass on you could really increase your appeal…,” more often the focus is on her bodacious bosom.

My relationship with Terri goes back over 15 years. My relationship with Terri’s breasts started shortly after that. The first clear memory I have of them is under a cream-colored, ribbed turtleneck that left absolutely nothing to the imagination and showcased the breasts proudly, if ridiculously.

“Do you think this is a little…” Terri didn’t even finish her sentence as she watched me slide to the floor in hysterics. And the most amazing thing about Terri’s breasts is that those featured so prominently in the turtleneck were significantly smaller than the Triple D’s she now possesses. It’s like her breasts are the next step in evolution. They keep growing. And I think they have a plan.

I started a collection of Terri cleavage shots several years ago. It wasn’t really an intentional thing, but as I flipped through photo albums, I started to notice a trend. Very often—whenever possible, it would seem—Terri was shown pushing her breasts together, leaning over provocatively, wearing dangerously low-cut tops. I decided that since I didn’t have my own rack to show off, I would show off Terri’s. These photos have been useful on many occasions—most recently showcased in a display at her first son’s baby shower. (And yes, pregnancy brought a whole new dimension to the breasts.)

Probably my favorite photo of Terri’s breasts is at a birthday party I threw for her. Her birthday is New Year’s Eve, so it’s always quite an occasion. This year we had decided to throw a murder-mystery dinner party. The kind where you dress up as a character, play a role, and guess who the murderer is. The theme for this party was prohibition, and one of the characters was a madam who ran a brothel. What better role for the buxom birthday girl? Terri was immediately cast as the high-falootin’ harlot. Needless to say, she had to dress the part. And to do so she borrowed a dress from me. (Remember, I’m the one with the ass.) The intention of the photo was to capture the lovely cake that my mother had made for Terri and driven over three hours to deliver. And the cake is in the photo, held by the happy birthday girl—although Terri is not identified by her face, but rather, by the significant cleavage upon which we could serve the cake. No one who sees that photo ever notices the cake.

Terri and I have been likened to several well-known pairs over the years: salt and pepper, Snow White and Rose Red, but I think it has been a significant oversight that no one has ever referred to us as “T & A.”

Short Stack

One thing I have discovered is that I have hard time dating short men. My romantic history is not full of extremely tall men. I have seriously dated, married, and had children with men who are all in the 5’10” to 5’11” range. I myself am only of average height, 5’7”. But I recently started seeing a man who is over 6” tall. And I like it. I feel small next to him—protected, safe. I like having to stand on my tiptoes to kiss him. I like being able to wear heels with complete abandon. In contrast, I have also had a couple dates with a man who is 5’5”. One of the first questions he asked me was if that was a problem for me. Honestly, I didn’t know. This was new territory. But I am starting to understand Nicole Kidman’s glee at being able to wear high heels after her split from Tom.

To be fair, the short man is half Japanese—a point I always state whenever mentioning or describing him to anyone. Somehow in my twisted, shallow mind that makes it all better—justifies his crime of being short. And not just short—shorter than me. Forget the heels.

Now short men seem to be an epidemic. I see them everywhere. It’s like how the world fills up with pregnant women when you are pregnant, or how the new car you bought is suddenly the only auto on the road. It’s a little bit Twilight Zone. And it’s starting to freak me out. One man I met speed-dating took me out to dinner. We really seemed to hit it off in our five-minutes of allotted “get to know you” time. In fact, he came back to see me during “intermission.” I was seated the entire time. The men had to move from table to table, so they were the only ones standing. From a seated position (and after a couple glasses of wine) it is very difficult to judge a man’s height. The moment I answered the door when this man arrived to take me to dinner I was completely distracted by my unobstructed view straight over the top of his (balding) head. Admittedly, I was wearing 3-inch heels, but I felt like a giantess. Like an Amazon warrior ready to squash this little bug of a man at the first sideways glance. At the time I felt that my reaction was disproportionate, and in retrospect, I still want to feel that way, but I just don’t. Something in my very core is turned off by short-ness.

I have a couple of close male friends who are short. And their short-ness has never bothered me. Being short is part of what makes them so great—and a major source of entertainment. But I have never been remotely close to being intimate with either of these men. And I think the prospect of bending down to kiss a man goodnight, creating within me a combination of pity and embarrassment, is what has caused this sudden discomfort with men who are vertically challenged. I can’t help but feel that I am bending down to kiss a child goodnight before I tuck them into bed. And I definitely don’t even want to imagine tucking this man-child into bed. Now, I know that my prejudice is unfair. There are plenty of wonderful, witty, smart, attractive short men. I just want them to hook up with short women. It’s too awkward. Of course, it’s not their fault that they are short. But I assert that it is not my fault that I cannot seriously consider pursuing a romantic entanglement with a man who looks up into my eyes. It is not my fault that I love to wear heels (they really show off my legs and make my butt look fantastic). It is not my fault that in so many of my relationships I have been dominant financially, emotionally, psychologically, and in most other ways, and now I must draw the line at being dominant vertically. The insanity must stop somewhere!

So, I haven’t broken the news to Mr. 5’5”. And I don’t quite know how. Over the phone we have a great time. He’s funny. He’s complimentary (I’m a sucker for flattery). I just don’t think it’s fair to drag this out when I know there can only be one outcome. And he’s definitely going to be getting the short end of the stick, so to speak.

I don’t want to be cruel. I have an aggrandized view of my allure and impact on these short men. I know that I am going to break their hearts. It doesn’t occur to me that one or two dates probably doesn’t a lovesick man-child make. However, I have had unusually strong responses from men in the past, and now I expect it every time. It makes it doubly difficult, because in addition to my strong power over these men, I’m sure they already have delicate egos from being short men all their lives.

I remember when my own 6’ tall brother was a teenager and all of his friends had hit their growth spurt, but he was still puny. We all assured him that he just needed to be patient—he’d get his growth spurt and shoot right up. We said this with fair confidence since our father is 6’5”. And, that summer, he grew. But these little men are still waiting for their growth spurt. It never came. Imagine the dashed hopes. The dead dreams. The sports career options no longer available. And now I, love-goddess of the short man, am going to deliver another blow. It’s really quite a responsibility, now that I think of it. Perhaps I should re-think my gut reaction, and look at this as an opportunity. Maybe I can start a short-man dating service, guaranteeing a date with a woman at least one inch shorter than you. After all, wouldn’t it just be putting the universe right? Doesn’t everyone deserve to be in an appropriate height-proportionate
relationship? I think I’ve found my new calling: Vertically challenged man seeks equally challenged woman for long walks on the beach, meandering bike rides, and the security of being able to stand on your tiptoes to kiss me.