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.