Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quickie Lessons

1. Check the laundry. Children leave legos and crayons in their pockets. Visiting Grammas leave poise.
Both f-up the washer.

2. Celery is from hell. If you're at a Christmas party and they have celery on the table....leave. Go next door where they have brie baked in puff pasty layered with butter next to "taco dip", thousand calorie eggnog, and cookies named "fluff my ass."

3. I am damn old. One weekend...two parties. (fri & sat eves....um...yeah, I mean a.m.'s) Christmas shopping in between. Sunday I couldn't MOVE. I ate crackers. O.M.G.

4. Rushing to leave the house in a tornado hurry so you don't miss the BOGOs at K-mart means that if by CHANCE you shut the cat in the coat closet for nine hours....you will pay.

5. Spending two hours painting my toenails a provocative slick crimson and braving four inches of snow in my open toed, kick ass heels...totally was worth it when the "party bitch's" husband commented how sexy my feet were.

6. Those of you who were hoping for lessons on having quickies.....oh, I am so going there next.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Hell: Part 1

It's Christmas.


I can honestly say that we are....eight days from lift off. I have three children. And I'm like...12 percent done with my shopping. Maybe 13. While I might justify this with "last minute sales" and "BOGO on legos at K-Mart," the reality is that I've been.....traumatized.

Episode 1: Retard.

It's a mutter-word. We all think shit we'd never say outloud. We might murmur it, whisper it, snarl under our breath...but we don't actually say it. Until you're in Wal-mart, searching for the "legos with the motors." "The what?" "Mo-ohhhm, the MOTORS!" Yeah. And there I am. Ditched the boys in video games to cause havoc with anyone actually shopping for something--and I'm in the lego isle....and "What RETARD stocked these little...." And there he was--my 10 yr old. Owl eyes... lookin' at me.


We get in the car. "Dad, mom said retard." Little shit told on me.

Episode 2: Decorating

When you plan ahead for a Kodak moment...conspire to out-do Norman Rockwell...engineer holiday-licious delight...you are doomed.

Hot cocoa, Christmas tree, mistletoe and merry, carols on the stereo. Cinnamon candles mingle with orange and cloves....I've got star shaped marshmallows for goodness sake! I actually had cookie dough to bake afterwards. After...Deco-Night. That evening--with glinting sparkles, stockings hung, holiday cheer so thick you could cream your coffee. There was a ladder. In the foyer. I love the dark wood and trim and tile--it sold me this house in 3 seconds flat. Such potential!

Boxes of twinkle lights, a hammer, nails....jingle bells ringing--I call the boys. My 8 yr-old flies down the stairs and launches himself into my arms. The crack of his forehead against my jaw was audible all the way to the kitchen.

I reel....spinning, his body clings to mine I teeter and SMASH into the ladder. It whips over and crashes to the floor...pinning the cat's tail to the tile. Yowling like a cheetah, he flips backwards, pees on the floor, and falls down the stairs into the basement. Distant thrashing sounds are heard. Child and I gyrate across the room and descend upon the SINGLE live plant to be seen. Obliterated. Rebounding, we absolutely decimate the box of chocolates intended for the mailman.

We found the cat. Briefly. Disposed of the plant, ate the chocolates--never got to the lights. The mailman is getting skittles.

Episode 3: Library

Is there a place more warm, more inviting, more the embodiment of educational envelopment of our deepest aspirations than...the library. Especially when this particular library is actually a renovated Victorian mansion. We're talking FIREPLACES. Gorgeous woodwork, staircases....and as I enter, that smell--ancient knowledge, intelligence...good carpet. I approach the desk. She's so...librarian. She's savvy, clever, witty--you can just tell. And she was wearing holiday fluff. Wowza. Flashing Christmas tree earrings were competing with the battery powered candy cane that hung glowing from her pine-green sweater vest edged with gold thread and embroidered stars. She even had a Santa ring. There was garland in her hair.

"Please, can you help me resolve my son's over-due account?" She paused. She calculated. I was: an offender.

"Uh...he's eight. It was Thanksgiving break and he was with my ex and...." "HE OWES FIVE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS." "Er...you don't have to shout--I'm right here..." "FIVE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS!" At this point people were beginning to stare. "Ok, do you take debit?" "CASH ONLY." Um...(sweat beading on my upper lip, shifting my purse...I could smell my deodorant) "I'll be back with the--" "HE CANNOT TAKE ANYTHING OUT UNTIL THIS IS PAID." I smiled. I leaned over the counter...and hissed, "you say anything else and I'll fake a seizure and pee on your rug."

It still amazes me, the power of urine. She blanched. I later learned she was subbing....not a regular. If I ever find her home base...

Episode 4: The Party

Everyone has those "overload" weeks. Mine just happen to...breed.

Remember the gremlins. Dear God.

So I accepted a new position on Thursday--only to learn I was to teach a 6 hour english class in FOUR days. The next morning I was notified my ex was suing me. Sick kids, crazy family and a cat that has recently discovered the ability to piss in my basement without repercussion until the furnace kicks on. Damn if I don't wake up in the ER. Friday night, inescapable pain in the left side of my head. Passed out. They scanned my brain a few times, shot me full of morphine, wrote some scrips, sent me home with a neuro apt. Did I mention that SATURDAY we had a 50+ rsvp holiday bash planned with KIDS at our home? Shoot me now.

I co-host.

Awesome girlfriend....who called at 11:28am Saturday to tell me that she was ill and unable to make it.


I am NOT advocating parties on narcotics.

HOWEVER. Oxy-blah blah rocks. Decorated, cooked, dressed....kicked the damn cat out of the house and burned half a box of Nag Champa....and the mulled wine was killer. At 2:45am I kissed the last guest good-bye....and finished the merlot. I think.

Last night I watched "Olive, The Other Reindeer."

Bring it on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Art of Anticipation

I was the photographer for a wedding this summer. It was a lusciously hot August day. Sublime sunshine and aquamarine skies were the perfect backdrop to a garden wedding at the conservatory. The bride was stunning, the groom elegantly handsome...perfection. Time raced by, my camera catching delighted grins, sheepish smiles, fairy-like little girls dancing in the grass. Hands holding, cheeks blushing, stolen kisses and tender glances... As the day melted slowly into evening I filled roll after roll of film with joy. Moments suspended like crystal stars that will be gazed at, held, cherished by many for generations to come.
As I snapped couple after couple, there came a moment with one member of the bridal party that I still smile over. She was funny, beautiful, and she gave me her glass when I was trapped sweltering on the sidewalk awaiting guests--earning my eternal gratitude. She wanted some pictures with her boyfriend and of course I obliged. As I turned and calculated lighting and space and angle I asked them to pose. I said, "now I want you to look at each other...click...and now slowly move to kiss her...click...and now--wait." They froze, half an inch from each other, the world lost as they gazed into each other's eyes...click.
They kissed, they laughed and pulled apart and she turned to look at me--a bit flustered. "Trust me," I said, "you're going to love that picture."
I have one of my husband and I, taken by a friend on the beach. Our lips seconds from contact. Every time I look at it I find I'm holding my breath. That moment the anticipation was like liquid fire in my veins. The pounding of my heart, the heat of expectation....the contemplation of the possible...the perhaps...
I believe anticipation is a shy thing. An experience that must be grown, cultivated, nurtured. Our current society seems to rest foundationaly on a quaking platform of instant gratification. The multitudes demand, and they receive. Do you remember the most simple desire and satisfaction as a child? Being thirsty on a trip to the store..."we'll be home soon." And that cool dulcet splash of water was delicious as it slid down your throat 20 minutes later. Now there's a convenience store on every corner to meet your immediate needs. Love that name, "convenience" store. Perhaps all of this 'convenience' is slowly eroding our ability to desire, long for...ache for something. Not just want. Wanting is the puddle, the shallow end of a two yr-old's reach for a new toy.
Anticipation is a discipline. It takes willpower to wait. I could never hope to count how often I have children hanging on the kitchen doorway as the aromas of dinner fill the house, begging for a snack. What? I've just spent 7 hours slowly roasting and basting and carving. The bread is baking, the veges simmering....and you want crackers? I think not! My mother always said, "appetite is the best ingredient." (chuckle) Oh, how I now agree with her...being hungry, is good. No matter the subject...being hungry is delicious.
As this holiday season is spinning about me, draping the world with brilliant lights and glittery snow...I am holding my anticipation close. Embracing the excitement, the thrill of the unknown in the sparkling packages beneath our tree, in new adventures, new horizons, sunrises. I'm swimming deep into the ocean of promise, not just for Christmas morning, but the new year. The new season before me. Learning to listen more, talk less. I am guarding my heart against the easy invasive wants that swarm us and threaten to choke. I will go hungry, I will desire, I will pause....for the taste of anticipation is succulent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It's been weeks since I wrote. Half out of my control...half internal "take a breath." But then...crap happens.

I was standing in line at the grocery store. It was the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day...one of those crisp days, like apple pie and golden leaves. I had filled my cart with roots to roast--turnips and parsnips and sweet potatoes. Fresh rosemary, a loaf of garlic bread, brie to wrap in pastry and bake...and I arrived at check-out. Three lines open, two carts in each--throw the dice, right? I park. Now, I might add to this mental picture that the attached liquor store was having a "tasting" which meant I had three choices of merlot to sample as I waited...yum. (chuckle) However, it was very shortly apparent that things were amiss.

The cashier was in his early 20's. Kinda scruffy, rugged around the edges, well mannered, but needed a good meal. (smile) He was polite, nice...tired. And the two carts in front of me....wow. Soon after my first sip of a dark californian blend I noticed--she was swearing at him. She was the same age as he. There was a baby in the cart...and she had a pack of WIC checks in one hand and a cell phone in the other. She ridiculed him. It was so obvious he was new, nervous...she was that "pretty" that had faded...paled. Highlights a little too white, black eyeliner a little too thick, cherry lips that pulled back over viciously sharp teeth--ready to bite. She asked if he was stupid. She joked about his blush with the girl behind her who also had a stack of checks and an "access" card.

His pain was palpable. It radiated from his reddened cheeks as he struggled to put the numbers in the system, calculate the credit...scan the specific food. He cringed as he told her the juice she had chosen wasn't covered, and physically cowered as she raged at him. When it was all done and he had fed her checks into the register....she asked for four packs of cigarettes and pulled out a wad of 20's to pay for them.

I gripped the bar of my cart so hard I knew I would have bruises later.

She sneered. She laughed with the girl behind her--this one also in her twenties, with two kids hanging on the sides of her cart and her belly stretched tight with a third....she swore. Language that made me gasp--actually out loud--so that they both looked at me. She tossed her cheese and milk carelessly on the belt, "What, you got a problem with that??"

As the previous director and executive director of numerous early childhood centers and preschools-- I was speechless. Dumbfounded. Outraged. I fumbled....me, with what I've done--the places I've been, I fumbled. I stepped back. At this point it had been 40 minutes. I'd watched four other people get in line behind me...observe....check out the other lines....then smile almost apologetically, and move over. I watched them leave. There was some part of my mind that was screaming for me to just SWITCH LINES! What on earth was the big deal?? Just "move along".....

But there was a day. One day. Warm, indian summer that year...when a single mom....with worn out sneakers, a cranky toddler and a hungry two yr old...she stumbled into the welfare waiting office 4 minutes before her appointment. She wiped the tears from her cheeks. She was horrified. Three months ago she was a stay-at-home mom. A wife.

That caseworker told me I was what she lived for....that I was someone who had worked since I was 17 and had paid into this system and that is was a pleasure to help me when I really needed it. She was amazing. She took one of the most humbling....awful moments in my life....and filled it with kindness. I have never been so grateful. So thankful. With that green plastic card came the ability to feed my boys meat. Doctor appointments and immunizations. I gave up selling plasma.

I have stood in many lines wic checks in hand, cheese and milk and juice....and never fathomed ridiculing the person who's very taxes was paying for my meals. I stood humbled...appreciating every mouthful of food, every gulp of milk.

Four months and my life was different. I signed a lease, a contract....I sold a painting, opened a center. I smiled as I hugged my caseworker and told her goodbye. I was done. Years have gone by.....for every frightened mother that I have held, connected, and cheered on as they landed on their feet.... For every proud and hungry parent I have urged in the direction of help...even when it hurt. For every moment that I have understood people who are struggling....I have been grateful for that time. There is no replacement for walking in a pair of shoes.

But what have we become?

How is it that there is a wave of people....that ridicule those of us that work forty, fifity hours a week--god awful black cold early mornings....late nights comforting your son because you missed his Christmas play to handle an employee emergency? How did that happen? I have LIVED the life of a "family supported." I have been there. Not for a moment....a single instant did I not know that the food on my child's plate came from the table, the paycheck, the taxes of someone who got up and went to work.

I raise my boys now. I watch them....watching me. How do I teach them this? How do we teach appreciation?

I've been told that appreciation is the child of "without."

Doing without....is this the seed? For every day you go without the jeans that everyone else had in 7th grade--is this what makes them magical? Every day you eat hamburger helper....isn't that what makes lobster heavenly? Every lonely night...makes the arms of a loved one priceless.

Every day you sell plasma and give your kids mac and cheese for breakfast.....

Is there a waiting period? How do you take a significant portion of our society and make them understand what it is to do without....when they never do.

I'm truly lost here. I stood in that line. For an hour. When I started unloading the lukewarm milk and brie from my cart, the chashier said to me, "If you're wic, get out of my line." I smiled. I told him he was doing an excellent job. His shoulders unknotted....he turned, watching their carts as they left. I wanted to tell him they weren't normal. They weren't...what we were working for. He and I...standing together on a warm fall afternoon....wondering what the world was coming to.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reality Check

What is real? I've spent hours, days....sunshine, rain, poetry, painting....months of my life contemplating what is real. Tangible. Is it only what we touch? What touches us? Is the wind real? Are my paintings real? They're dreams....wishes. Are wishes real?

My sister recently told me she was considering deleting her entire facebook profile. She's had a tough year...and the world is filled with people who don't know when to say nothing. Silence can be such a gift. Our relationship grew a great deal the day I told her, "I love you but I have no idea what you're feeling....I can only imagine and I fear I will come up short. I have no advice, only ears. I love you." She started to cry. She thanked me. She's had enough empty husks of brittle comfort that crumble for lack of substance or truth.

About facebook, she said, "It isn't real." And I was shocked. "Did you think it was?" I mean, my sister is an incredibly intelligent woman; to listen to her dismay over this--threw me. Have we come that far in society? That this fabricated wireless world should qualify as real? But wait--I mean, it is....right? You're real...sorta. Somewhere out there, hundreds, thousands of miles away sometimes--there is a person of flesh and blood that is reading these words...thinking about them...emotionally responding to them....but are you real to me? Maybe you're only real when you write back? What if what I write means nothing to you? If the wind blows but there is nothing to move in it.....

Words are real. The joy and the agony they can infuse is palatable. There have been times when the cruelty of another has left an iron tang in my mouth like bile...or blood. Bitter venom that sickened me. I've known a physical surge of sensual pleasure from fevered whispered words. I've know paralyzing fear, soul wrenching sorrow. These are real--I know this to be true....but perhaps there are levels of reality? Is comfort more real when someone softly wipes the tears from your cheek rather than sends a *((hug))* on your screen? Is that white hot surge of anger more real when you find your car window smashed than when you read a vicious attack on your character? Has our new anonymous world lost the sense of reality? Have we begun to unconsciously loose ourselves, our "realness," in atmospheric communication?

My children recently have resisted going to my ex's for his weekend. When questioned, they told me that, as it was Halloween weekend, they wanted to be at our house...in our neighborhood. Further discussion revealed that while he and his new wife have lived in their home for 3 or 4 years, they know no one on their street. No one. I truly do not mean to compare so readily, but we purchased our home and moved in barely 4 months ago and have met, laughed, shared beer and hung out with nearly every family on our block! Our kids play, wander in and out of each other's homes--we've had a ladies potluck lunch that was a blast and in a week are throwing a party they're all coming to! My point being.....how on earth do you not know your neighbors?? How is it possible to live for years someplace and still be strangers? When my husband was in the hospital recently, I came home to discover that my neighbor mowed my "could-bale-hay" lawn. I cover her son's four-wheeler with a tarp if I find it's blown off. We live together.....sharing air, and parking spaces, and....life. I find it almost incomprehensible that one would live that obscurely. Is that kind of community real?

We have become almost...nameless. Hell, I'm the first to say I love the movies, a great book, my blog life--I joke that I passionately adore my "vicarious enjoyment of others lives." Yet, have we gone too far? Have we reached the point of consuming another's experiences, emotions...their pain or joy, like sushi--and then we have the privilege of just...disengaging? Has our distance, our removal from the genuine intimacy of relationships....have we begun to lose what is truly real?

There was a time when you only personally knew the life stories of your companions, perhaps friends of friends or relations. The death of a child or spouse was felt by the literal absence, the vacancy of their smile. When someone lost their job you noticed their car disappeared...and they got thinner. Now, it's just numbers on a screen. Words that you digest...perhaps respond to "in the moment"...and then click to the next screen, the next news story, your e-mail, your bank account. Life shifts seamlessly from one subject to the next with little real consequences.

There is a novel series called Otherland by Williams . It explores the futuristic world where virtual reality has become the central venue for business, education and entertainment. Can you imagine if you just "plugged in" and were able to literally feel, taste, smell whatever you wanted!? Sex. Pain. Ecstasy. Fear. Friendship. From sailing a pirate ship through a raging storm to giving birth to...committing murder. You could experience anything. Everything. Experiences with no consequence.

Are we close?

Technology is advancing at a terrifying pace. I fully expect to see this in my life. We are taking steps daily toward this...anonymity. What is real? You can create a star or decimate a career with the right words. We can choose to comfort a hurting friend or simply ignore a chat request when we're too tired.

I am challenged. I am slightly frightened. This two dimensional world on my laptop threatens to substitute flesh...contact. I will open my door, step outside....connect...touch.

I can feel the wind on my skin. It's real.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Last week we had my 93 year old grandmother come to stay with us. While this was exciting in the "investigate your family roots" kinda way--it also was rather....involved. It began with moving our first floor office which resembled d-day in Hiroshima into my second floor studio. This would be the studio that has paint--everywhere. As I'm shoving book cases and filing cabinets into corners I'm wondering exactly how pissed my husband will get if he discovers yellow ochre on his computer screen one afternoon...I mean there are levels of pissed-offedness, right? From mildly irritated to the afore mentioned Hiroshima. We usually avoid atomic moments--however, we've never messed with his on-line poker nights before....

But to return to grandma. So I paint the room. It's pressed tin--walls and ceiling, which means that it took about 4 extra gallons of paint and tested my supremely lacking patience. Then there was the Shopping. (sigh) I despise shopping. You can always tell a hostile anti-shopper by the dreaded occurrence of...PURSE SHOULDER. You can spot us three stores away in the mall as we shift our purses from the elbow crook to the left shoulder and then the right...and we begin to sigh. And then whine...and then need to sit down; helplessly massaging our aching bodies, we beg total strangers for coffee (or liquor) while making moaning whimpering noises. I cannot take it. My spirit lags....it nearly always results in a mad dash for a large bottle of merlot on the way home.

But oh, there was shopping! Shopping for rugs, bed frame, mattresses and dresser. Towels, sheets, pillows...even the doily on the night stand. (gotta have a doily for a grandma, right?) And finally--(after the removal of suspicious lightsabers under the bed....poor grandma has no idea what she's in for)--voila!

And the day we've been waiting for....she arrives!

The first day.

The house smells of roasted chicken and rosemary. I have fresh bread rising in the kitchen. Nina Simone sings so sultry....its lovely, warm, welcome little grandma! (she's 4'8"....I am actually 6 feet tall--genetic mutations run in our family) She laughs, she's happy, dinner is delicious....she breaks her teeth in the sink.

Days 2 through 6 pass in a whirlwind of ham, grits, black-eyed peas and cornbread. (did I mention she's southern?) I shop again; sweaters this time--she's cold. We laugh, we talk....we rip three tiles off the shower wall attempting to install the "mighty suction cup handle" that would help her in and out of the bath. I underestimated it's tenacious hold. Note to self: pick up some liquid nails before husband uses the downstairs bathroom.

She left yesterday. The boys were a little sad--my youngest even offered to let her borrow his lightsaber until next time. (she was very confused) However, she did seem to enjoy herself. We reminisced over the summer my sisters and I spent with her and grandpa in Arizona. (grandpa told me I could catch a rabbit if I put salt on it's tail....and grandma spent hours removing cactus prickles from my bum with tweezers as a result) There was a spanking with a fly swatter that summer too...and I learned to play poker.

Grandma returns in two weeks. My mother needs knee surgery and I've volunteered to keep little grandma while she recovers. Sawyer asked me last night, "will we have to eat cornbread again?" Brennan wants to know where his lightsaber is. Noah said we can put his pumpkin in her room.

I told him that might frighten her. He agreed.

At least the shopping is done.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fairy Ire

My Dearest Brennan,

I'm on my way to Toledo where there was an unfortunate accident involving a soccer ball and a nine year-old's face leading to his immediate need of payment for not one--but THREE teeth. I must say, I skipped your house last night because just when I was about to open your window, I heard you tell your brother that you no longer believed in the Tooth Fairy! You swore that you saw your mother sneaking out of your room last month with the note in her hand. (Remember? When you accidentally swallowed your tooth at lunch with your peanut butter sandwich so you had to write me a letter and draw a picture of it? By the way, smashing picture of a tooth!)

Anyway, I want you to know I skipped you and your tooth last night because you hurt my feelings. (sniff) How on earth could you possibly believe that your mother--who usually has a glass of wine or three by 10pm--could actually make it in and out of your booby-trapped room without waking you up? (yes, I know all about the ropes and nets--do you really think you can catch a fairy?) However, you most certainly would catch your dexterously challenged mother should she venture in to check on you....and then she might have to spend like an hour and a half trying to reset the traps while giggling so hard she brained herself on your dresser, tripped over your skateboard, and landed in your leggo box where the space man made a most interesting bruise on her hiney.....all hypothetically, of course....should she attempt to go in.

Yes, well--you'd better stop all this nonsense about not believing in me. Next time I might not be so forgiving. Your mother called me this morning and told me you were sorry--you owe her big. Like I think you should take out the trash for a week.....and clean your room.

And maybe make her a card.

Much love,
The Tooth Fairy

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

But-less Day

No this is not about my ass. Much to the despair of those of you who had your hopes up--yes, it needs to be firmer. But that's another issue.

So I'm at the post office. Stand in line, shift feet, check out the good lookin' guy in the raincoat, (the first look is free, my father always says; the second one costs you) shift again. Purchase stamps from depressed ancient matron behind the counter that really needed her roots touched up. (yet again another piece of evidence to support my move toward powdered prozac in splenda packets for emergencies...) Anyway, I step over to the grimy, chewing gum studded counter and prepare to stamp the heck out of my postcards....tap, tap. Someone is taping my shoulder. I turn around and it's this extremely well-dressed older gentleman of Indian persuasion. (as in lamb kabob--not beaded moccasin) He says, "I don't mean to be creepy, but your hair is beautiful."

Dude, if you have to say you don't mean to be creepy--you are.

What is with our nationwide need to preface? I have this motto for all of my friendships, "Say what you mean and mean exactly what you say." It's simple really. No innuendos, no implications. I mean, didn't we all have enough of that in junior high? (and then there was high school and then college....) Isn't there some magic age when we all stop the crap? Someone once told me that "but" negates everything you say before it. An interesting thought to ponder. "I love you, but when you do this...." "Those shoes look great, but..." Hmmm....can we lose the "but?" Perhaps I should circulate a petition that we start a new holiday: "But-less Day."

Oooh, I'm liking this new holiday idea. I could make cards! How many people do you really want to just be honest with?

Dear Neighbor, I like your car. Your dog sucks. Love, Lola. (this would be the neighbor several streets away whose dog must be tied outside--and he is NOT happy about it)

Dear Mailman, You are nice. Why the hell can't you close the mailbox? Love, Lola. (which is what my husband calls me, btw)

Dear Sam, You have great taste in music. Your living room smells like leftover perogies. I adore the color of it! Love, Lola.

No "buts." Don't tell me you don't want to be rude BUT....or that you don't mean to hurt my feelings BUT... Well, if you don't--then flippin' don't! Don't interrupt, don't cut me off, don't "not want to bother me, BUT"...own up. Say it just like it is.

But-less Day. Hip hip Hooray!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Angus McGillicutty

I don't remember how my cat got a last name. Not ours, for sure--I've never known a "McGillicutty" in my life, but he was one. Nine years of warmth, wrestling, stalking, pouncing and laughter. Five moves, the birth of my second son, my divorce...Angus was there for it all. When I went days without crying so my boys' world would be secure--Angus curled up next to me while I sobbed in the dark. When my youngest, Brennan, was in the hospital after a post-op hemorrhage, Angus slept on his pillow until he returned home.

And now he's gone.

It was a blockage....and the potassium rose in his blood, slowing his heart--there was nothing the vet could do. So sudden...this afternoon I shooed him out of my lap and he stood watching me paint for a while. And 7 hours later he's gone.

We do have another cat, Bartimaeus. Still a kitten, he's kitty skittish and playful. Angus had almost a...languid maturity that I adored. Every year we throw this huge Soup party....last year, 60+ people in our house, and they marveled how Angus lay stretched out in the middle of the living room floor. He was confident in his domain. He observed, supervising the frivolity of the evening...he was king.

My intellectual mind is lecturing my weeping one. How we war within ourselves at times. I called my sister. She said, "I wish I could take your tears away--but crying is the acknowledgement of having truly loved...and lost." She's right. Perhaps the entire purpose of our pets is to practice this grief. To own a pet, to love--anything at all--is to invest with no guarantee of return. Life is so amazing, so beautiful and so fragile. I cannot fathom how you would even breathe after the death of a spouse or child. I know we find strength for what we face in each day. Sometimes I look back at the sinkholes in my past...it took chains and hooks and ropes to haul myself out of a few of those. The human soul is truly astounding in what it can endure.

Today I'm sad. Tomorrow I have to tell my children. Their sorrow will overshadow mine. But they will grow stronger, more compassionate for their pain. My heart aches....
What a crazy, marvelous, piercingly tender world this is.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Will you please identify yourself?

Have you ever found yourself staring at yourself in the mirror, dead in the eye, talking to her? That person that should just shut up. It's interesting having a conversation with yourself, a real one--especially when you're angry with her. I mean, we look at ourselves as we fix our hair, apply the eye cream, pluck the strays and grays --but those are really just passing glances evaluating the condition of individual surface fragments. When you stop...and truly make eye-contact....who is that?

Did I really just say that to my sister? Smart off to my husband? Snap at my son for something ridiculous? Who told the completely inappropriate joke at the dinner party? Who barked at the "bag-not" at Kuhns for putting my bread in with the fabric softner? At the waitress that spilled blistering coffee down my arm? Who slipped in the glaring sexual innuendo while talking to her husband at work without realizing she was on speaker phone? Was that the hussy in me? The insecure 14 year-old? The bitchy twenty-something that thinks she knows everything? The impatient director who expects everyone to just try harder? The flaky artist? The spoiled brat? Who the hell is in that mirror? Will you please identify yourself?

It's amazing how direct confrontation--especially of ourselves--is intensely difficult. Stop for a minute. Make eye-contact.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spa Day

Had a crappy week. Feel crappy, think crappy, dream crappy. Crappy weather, crappy laundry, crappy service at the grocery store (damn the crappy crooked cart), crappy bills, crappy phone calls, crappy cat crap. (wow, didn't even plan that one) And yes, to top off this mountain of colonic wonder is the fact that I look like crap. No amount of reassuring, primping, hairspraying, viewing myself sideways or sucking in my cheeks is going to change that. The complexion went to hell, my "split ends" have split ends leaving my hair a crispy tuft of frizz, and my nails? I could try out for an extra on a "Thriller" video.

So Alice calls.....and suggests a Spa Day. "A what?" A "SPAAAAA day." A lovely day of scrumptious pampering with lotions, creams, steaming....hmmm...wait...like I have that kind of cash?? Three boys under ten, two birthdays coming up, boyscout fees, school fundraisers, and a youngest child that seems able to wear out a pair of shoes in world-record-breaking time. (did you eat them?) There is no money tree in the yard to pay someone to steam my head! But Alice (dear Alice) says, "no honey, you just stay home, don't answer the phone, and do all the little things you wish you had time to do--manicure, pedicure, facial mask...steam your pores, condition your hair...pamper yourself instead of everyone else!" Cool. I can do that.

Spa Day.

Kiss the kids and hubby goodbye, make an omelet. Egg beaters, green onions, leftover chili and cheese--yum. Coffee with gingerbread creamer--yumm-o. Upstairs to begin. Hmmmm.....ok, steam the face and OW! Little hot there--mental note: check hot water heater temp. Refocus. Apply clay facial mask guaranteed to "clear all pores and make you glow." Lets see....directions say "let dry." So....in the meantime, remove all ancient nail polish and file nails. Apply "cuticle remover." Phone rings. Ignore. Wait--my sister, going through stuff....answer...."hello? yeah.....blah blah" Ow....what the hell? "What is in cuticle remover? ACID?!?!" Ahhhhhhh! Drop phone, mad dash for sink. Trip and smash elbow on door frame. Rinse hands frantically in warm water swearing to send nasty letter to Salley Hansen. Pick up phone. Sister hung up. Try to stick tongue out at phone....realize cannot move mouth. Clay mask has hardened like black top. Back to sink. Rinse....rinse more.....clay in nose hairs--what the--!?!? Ow.

Ok, deep breath. Apply "regenerating eye cream." Ooooh, soothing! Paint nails with clear base coat while eye cream is absorbing. Crack knee into sink while trying to turn on water to rinse burning eye cream out of eyes without messing up nails. Fail. Swear. Dry face and notice that there are distinct red "moons" surrounding your eyes now....skip eye cream. Decide to wait on the nails in order to dampen hair and apply the "root stimulating hair conditioning balm." Slippery shit. Fall half in the tub soaking my t-shirt, and the rug. Shut the cat in the door trying to get a towel. Chase cat half naked down the stairs in front of the glass front double doors praying to GOD that the mailman is NOT out there in order to check the sucker for broken bones. Cat is fine. Swear. Limp back upstairs.

Repaint base coat on nails. Blow. Succeed in beautiful base coat!! Yeah! Climb in shower to rinse hair and shave. Fall on ass due to residual coating of hair "balm" in tub. Swear more. Turn on shower, rinse stupid hair for 20 minutes till it doesn't feel like pond slime. Apply "lavender scented" shaving gel and discover the razor is dull. Hang precariously out of shower, soaking the other rug, digging through crap on shelf for extra razor heads--knock new can of hair mousse to the floor where it explodes--covering a four foot section of the wall in foam....and the cat. Which goes howling down the stairs streaming foam. Don't bother following. Shave, love that lavender! Get out and find fuzzy bathrobe to relax in.

Eyebrows. Outta control and distinctly resembling Conan the barbarian. Tweezers...ow. Careful, careful....just when I'm about to pull--WTF!?! A tail, a damp sticky tail from the cat-a-la-hair-care, whips up under my bathrobe as he's attempting to grab my robe belt....ahhhhh! Crap. Where is the end of my eyebrow? Gone. Pulled 17 hairs instead of 3....um.....whoops. Squint, hmmm....no one will notice, right?

Paint the toes...lovely! Fingernails are a smashing "moonlit evening" and I sit back and....CRACK! The lid of the toilet snaps off and I whack my head into the window frame as I collapse into the space between the fabulous porcelain throne and the wall. Swear a great deal. Attempt to heave myself up with my elbows to save the nails....hair snags on wet polish leaving globs of "moonlight" in freshly "root stimulated" hair. Give up. Sit on floor, wet cat staring at me....and cry. Spa day my chemical burned, bruised, banged-up, goose-egged, eyebrow-missing ass.

The kids are home. "Mom?" "Go away." The husband comes home, hesitantly knocks on the bathroom door. "Honey?" Sniff. Door slowly swings open. He stares. "What, don't I look beautiful after my day at the spa??" He hesitates....."Um......."

Um. Thats the total result of my freakin' SPAAAAA day. Um. So much summed up in two spectacular letters. I'm gonna need a week to recover.
I'm never talking to Alice again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mattresses From Heaven

I just had a gallery opening.
This means that I ate/breathed/slept in/and never quite removed all the paint on me for several weeks no matter how hard I scrubbed. This also means that things were a little....tense in our house. (ahem) For all you non-marrieds, this is code for "I was a total neurotic bee-otch running on caffeine and adrenaline who tested my husband's patience and made nothing but hot dogs for 14 days straight.

Gallery opening....rocked. Sold some. Breathe.....it's all good. And then I crashed. Brain deadness in a delicious way, sleep, leftover wine, sleep more. So two days later and we're having this discussion about things that we've "meant to do" and just haven't gotten around to. Like my kid's bed. The boys were in bunkbeds but now that they have their own rooms--Sawyer has been crashin' on ye ole floor for a few months now. Not that he really cares--when you're ten, "camping" in your own room is cool. But we had the frame--just needed to get out and pick up a mattress--and drop a couple hundred bucks. Yeah, been dying to do that. And after the paintress-from-hell week we'd had.....well, I just wasn't really in the mood.

So I did what every sweet darling woman would--I seduced him. Yes, you read it right. With a little sigh and wiggle and flutter of the eyelashes....oh, and I threw in suggestions of block buster and some rum and ordering wings and garlic bread....mattress? What mattress? Let's hear it for sex, food, and entertainment.

Hop in the caddie and hit the highway and.....slam on the breaks. "Did you see that?" "See what?" Reverse. Miss the mile marker post. "Um.....is that what I think it is??" A mattress. A brand spankin' new, still-in-the-plastic, holy crap on a cracker (to quote my sister) twin mattress! What do we do? I mean, it's not like theres a missing mattress hotline, right? We stood there on the side of the road.....cars wizzing by, blurred faces gawking at us as we hummed and hawed and decided to wait like 10 minutes in case someone came back for it. (then I would have arm wrestled them) And then.....

Two freaks on the road high-fiving, whooping it up like crazy crack addicts as we just about wet ourselves laughing while trying to get this sucker into the trunk. I could fit 3 dead bodies in that caddie's rear end--and with enough jammin and slammin and a very handy bungee cord--we drove our fabulously free find home.

Um......God? Is there a car fairy?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Embrace It

It's getting colder. Actually, after that week in the "islands mon" it's like freezin'-my-butt-why-in-the-hell-did-we-come-back?? cold. It's only the first week in September and I'm ready to break out the mattress pad warmer and flannel sheets! Crap, I slept with socks on. However, it comes to mind....I wasn't always like this.

There was a time, in a land far away--YEARS ago....when I loved the cold. Kid you not. I raced from the house with my hair flying in the wind, yelling over my shoulder, "COAT?? MOM I DON'T NEED A COAT!!" There could be snow drifting from the heavens and we'd be traipsing about the neighborhood, driving with the windows down, icy flakes melting on my cheeks... Of course, I was like 15....and hard-headed, stubborn, (moi?) and had yet to discover that I was not immortal. (still working on that one) Cold smold, what was the big deal? Run a little faster, dance instead of stand in line, laugh when you feel like you might shiver--cold had no hold over me!! Ahhhh.......and now I sit here bundled in a 3 inch thick sweater and nursing a cup of steaming tea. And I wonder...did my skin get thinner? My nerves more sensitive? I mean I sure as hell am not skinnier! And it comes to me.....is it just that when I was fifteen and stupid--that I embraced it? I relished it! With arms wide open I flung myself into the chilly world, savoring the icy clench my breath made in my chest. And now thoughts of gas bills, head colds, snotty tissues, and frozen pipes leave me.......um, cold?

What else have I forgotten or lost the ability to embrace? Friendship for sure. After 7 years in a marriage that was rather a fraud--not to mention the relationships that went with it that vaporized as soon as the divorce was granted--I no longer assume that everyone is what they seem. I share little....listen alot....and wait. Headlong plunges into friendship are a thing of the past. (my husband has actually found me in the coat closet at church pretending to read the bulletin during "meet and greet time") Remember when you first saw the new girl at the bus stop? Buckteeth, zit on the chin, wrinkled denim jacket with "friendship pins" on your shoes--the two of you were inseparable by the time the bus arrived at school! Oh, to be able to trust like that again.

Then again--perhaps I have just exchanged "embracing abilities." When I think of my freakazoid 15 year-old self with the bad perm and ocean blue eyeshadow--I also remember hating all food that wasn't served on a bun. I had serious issues with my parents "mus-aaack" (gag, choke), and I only wanted Niki's. Now? I adore food--and the stranger more authentic it is--the better. Bring on the sushi, roasted goat, polish, russian, greek, pad my thai baby! Music? Everything goes. I love jazz and blues, will rock my ass off to anything from tool to garbage, yet have the classical station tuned in on the shower radio and can sing more dolly and alabama than I will ever admit in person. And fashion? I know what I like. I hate labels....and if it looks good--buy it. (and if you can find it at the good will--you can buy MORE of it!) lol

Funny how we change. I still hate the cold. I'm making soup tonight. And buying whiskey. I think I will also try harder to make new friends. Seriously, if I will embrace a plate of stewed pig with figs and funky cheese...I can say hi to the bizarre lady at church who wears bird pins and has pink hair.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vacation is....

Lets see....according to dictionary.com, vacation is: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday. According to the media: "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." (anyone who has discovered a glittery glass bauble on their left hand while trying to find the advil under the mountain of tequila bottles has found this is not necessarily the case) According to one of my neighbors it's "free baby-sitting when the whole fam-damily gets together!" (there would be bloody hair-pulling over that one)

Are we running away from our lives? Living out repressed urges? Resting? Recharging? Or merely finding an excuse to take pictures of the kids other than Christmas morning or Easter dinner...

And so I set out for the first real vacation my new husband and I have ever had together. It's been....well, waaaay too long since I left home without turkey stuffing recipes, bottles of brandy stashed to spike my egg nog, protein bars to supplement frightening "casserole" meals and a trunk full of gifts. (i.e. going to your sisters/parents/in-laws for holidays does NOT count as vacation. An exercise in sneaking sex at naptime or in the bathroom while hollering "hang on grandma--just brushing my hair!", dealing with constipated children, or contemplating the benefits of powdered prozac you could carry around in splenda packets for emergencies--yes, these are holidays, but not vacations)

Seven lovely sun-drenched days in St. Croix....

Vacation is....

An excuse to not wear a bra at all. Though this will not come as a surprise to those of you that know me, it did seem to come as a complete shock to every gawking male and judgemental female I sat with, walked by, or accidentally flashed in the airports we traveled through. Six flights of boobilicious fun.

A reason to buy multiple bottles of $6 rum that line the grocery store isles next to the tp and cornflakes...Y.U.M.

Cooking with one knife, two spoons, and no potato peeler.

Arguing over the absolute STUPIDEST of things.....the stress of traveling with 3 boys under 10 on six flights when someone always has to "go"....or sand in the bed, wet towels, "where is my camera?!", "I have to eat THAT?" failing deodorant, peeing in the bushes, and "WHO DRANK ALL THE RUM!?!"

Playing cards till 2am all the while marveling at how your sweet dear mum has transformed into cutthroat Sammy-the-bull before your very eyes---she's even squinting at you!

An outside shower that has a very large toad living under the slat floor.

Spiny lobster. Bowls of melted butter, rare steak and single malt. (does it get any better?)

Sitting for four HOURS next to a woman who swears that the 6 month old baby in her LAP usually "sleeps like a darling" on all flights.....but ours.

Picking avocados off the tree and making guacamole for every meal. Yes, guacamole for breakfast rocks.

Baby hermit crabs the size of your pinky nail that skitter across the floor while your children peal with laughter.

Having a panic attack when your darling friend back home calls to tell you that she can't get the spare key to work to get into your house to feed your cats.....your two semi-psychotic, completely neurotic, outside felines that are trapped inside most likely WWF wrestling and eating the carpet like they did last time the boys forgot to feed them.

Tree frogs that sing when it rains.

Rediscovering the thrill of sneaking smooches behind kitchen cabinets and trees cause you and your babe haven't been alone in like FOUR DAYS.

Seriously considering.....even pondering....living in a treehouse. If it meant you could stay.

Perhaps I will never tear it up in vegas, never "ooh la la" it in a Parisian cafe, never run away and pretend to be someone else for a weekend.....but I do know the soul piercing joy of watching my children play in the surf, giggling while my 10 year old holds onto the biting gecko to prove he's tough, the wonder of mangoes we picked from the tree on my ice-cream, and the simple joy of not thinking about the bills, the schedules, e-mail or the neighbors.

I mean, who cares if they see me naked?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


This morning I had an omelet for breakfast. Nothing particularly amazing about that, I do most mornings as I completely lost my taste for sweet things with my second pregnancy. (yeah, doc--explain that one to me! lol) But this morning's creation consisted of half a serving of some seriously spicy jambalaya--shrimp and hot sausage included. Diced onions and red peppers, crushed garlic.....all tossed into that sizzling pan and then doused with scrambled eggs, sprinkled with adobo, and don't forget the cheese.....yum. (hungry yet?) Two day old dinner suddenly morphs into delish breakfast with what??--the magic of scrambled eggs. Truly, is there anything you can think of eating for dinner that doesn't make a killer omelet? I've had taco omelettes, roasted lamb with rosemary potato omelettes, thanksgiving turkey and stuffing, seafood alfredo (even tore up the cheddar biscuits and tossed 'em in--thank you red lobster) and can anyone pass up a chili omelet covered in shredded cheese and topped with green onions? Way beyond Denny's "ham and cheese" or your average "western" creation--there is an endless world of possibilities! Omelettes let you take the bits, the pieces and leftovers as well as the gourmet choices (I still will do personal favors of a questionable nature for a goat cheese and caramelized onion slice of heaven...) and create scrumptious joy.

So what's your scrambled egg? For some it's their children--anything goes better with giggles, right? One of my dearest friends cannot live without her camera--it takes the mundane and makes enthralling documentaries of her life. I think my sister has an umbilical cord to her phone; our old neighbor doesn't do a thing without beer, seriously! For me, it's my husband. I can take the gourmet moments of very intentional life--vacations, candle-lit dinners in the back yard, football games, concerts and parties--and without him they would be tasteless. But I can also search through the leftovers and chopped onions in the back of the fridge--cold pizza on the living room floor watching re-runs, nights the power goes out and we play scrabble with flashlights. Winter mornings when I'm just too cranky to get out of bed--even those indie films you rent 'cause they look cool--and they turn out horrible? I can take them all and add him.....and voila, superlative pleasure.

So here's to scrambled eggs. May you find yours.....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Damage Control

You know.....I daresay that five days of child-free gallivanting about Pittsburgh is costly. Yes, I packed the boys, teddy bears in tow--and kissed the darlings good-bye as my ex husband growled at me. (his usual capacity of social interaction) They drove off down the street--little white palms frantically waving through the rear window.....(sniff) Ah yes, the bitter sweetness of "YEAH--GLASS OF WINE AT 3:30 IN THE AFTERNOON WITH A GOOD BOOK ON THE PORCH!!" What--who me? Thrilled to be able to eat saltines, cheese and fresh basil for dinner? (my husband was working late) A quarter of the dishes, no smelly socks in the living room--hell, I could get up and wander NUDE down the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night! Glorious vacation in my own home!

And then.....the return. Five days of being the absolute center of attention. 120 hours of "what do you WANT to eat sweetie?" instead of, "here's dinner....take it or leave it." Amusement parks, late nights, tractor rides, movies--a civil war reenactment!! What DIDN'T they do at gramma's house? Did I mention the "blueberry popover pancakes with chocolate sprinkles" yet? (I heard all about them while I was toasting ye ole Eggo waffles this morning...) The whining...the complaining..."we have to go to Walmart with you--awwww, man!!" The topper was when my eldest actually said, TO MY FACE, "whatever mom." The gasket was officially blown. Poof. There she was, the crazy redheaded woman in the hair care isle lecturing her 10 yr-old about respect and kindness and this is NOT how you treat your mother and......and......

Yeah.....stellar moment there. (I knew I had crossed some kind of line when the pale mouse of a woman at the end of the isle took her little girl's hand and whispered loudly, "honey we'll come back and get you some new shampoo later..." glancing at me like I might assault them as she snuck out past the pantene)

My mother used to tell me the times my half-sister went to see her other mom were hell afterwards. She actually said Terri would be rotten till she spanked her--and then it was all back to normal. (sigh)

Do I dare? "Hi guys, I missed you---bend over?" Umm......it's tempting.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday Morning with NPR

Now if you'd like to fill your mind with enough disturbing information that you may very well become distracted in the oddest of moments--begin your day with National Public Radio. (I'm scrambling eggs thinking, "can you really put solar panels on your lawn mower?") I'm addicted, completely. One of my greatest pet peeves with people is how small their vision is. I believe strongly that the wider the lens, the higher chance you have of not only understanding the world--but appreciating your small place in it. At this very moment there are over a million people in China that have had their entire world swept away in a storm....right now, this instant there is a woman over there sobbing, trying to even comprehend what has happened....what will she do...where will she sleep? How will she feed her children? And here I sit in my lovely dining room, the smell of ripe peaches drifting from the bowl on the table...do I make a cobbler? Shall I pack 2 or 3 dresses for vacation? I must force myself to really look at the world--to see the sadness, pain, hunger....for it is the very slap in the face I need to stop the entitled barrage of complaints that pop into my head. It's too hot--not enough money for a new tv--the neighbor's ridiculous dog and his issues.....they all suddenly seem quite pale.

One particular story on Sunday morning has lingered in my mind. They were discussing how they were changing the law to include violence against homeless people as a hate crime. (and please--this is my muddled memory of the article, look it up for the absolutes) Did you know that the definition of a "hate crime" is violence not motivated by personal gain or angry exchange? In other words, it is a crime done for "sport" or out of "personal belief." So as I'm digesting this, they start throwing out the numbers for how many homeless people are murdered every year.....and then they talk about the murderers. Nearly 50% of all homeless violence and murder is committed by children under the age of 19. 73% total by people under the age of 25.

I had to sit down. Literally. Hundreds of people....brutally murdered...for no gain, and for no wrong done. By our youth! What has become of us? I have my own beliefs about family and politics and such--hours of good-hearted debate with friends over burgers and beer.....but there are moments when there is this sickening thud in my soul. When you realize that the arguments and explanations and rationalizations are all rather useless against the facts. There is something wrong with our world.

My boys have been gone for 5 days--I will pick them up tonight. (cannot WAIT!) The house has seemed so empty and the cats have followed me around like friendless puppies. But I find myself motivated even more to face parenthood with passion. There is no wishy washy ground to be had here unless you want to fall on your ass! (lol) There is a right and a wrong. There are kindness and hate in this world.....and every day, every moment is a choice. Parenthood is exhausting, overwhelming, and utterly amazing. In it I face my own demons, see my own bad habits, and strive to open my children's eyes to the ugliness in the world--while empowering them to NOT be part of it.

Take a deep breath; we are incredibly blessed...but we are also responsible.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I can think of 14 different uses for caramel......not all of them involve the kitchen.