Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting It

Atop a wobbly stool I sit, one knee tucked under the counter, fingers stumbling across keys.

This is my escape. If I had the fortitude to do so, I would climb in and nestle against the steady hum of hard parts and slick wires.

I get it.

I do. Today my son and I debated the heroic traits of a cowboy and an astronaut. Maybe debate is too strong a word. He ran around the house with my old Woody doll (though my husband prefers "action figure") while calling him Buzz. I corrected him. A few times. I say debate. Call it what you will.

My daughter sang an aria. Her voice carried through the house, over the "Buzz" and the whir of the dishwasher. She punctuated her aria with shouts of agony attributed to two tiny buds forming on her tender pink gums. I spent an hour rubbing her gums while humming "You are my sunshine" and listening to Elmo drone on about going to the doctor.

I did brush my teeth. Granted it was after a lunch of stale crackers and celery sticks, brushed they are. My bicuspids do not keep time (though my incisors are rather annoyed at my tardiness from time to time).

The rhythm of my life is filled with the constant beat of fulfilling wants and needs. None of which are my own.

I'm OK with that.


I don't hate Facebook. Not really. It is like a sad little friend longing for attention. How can you hate the pitiful soul that wears too much blush and thinks stirrups are in? She spouts pithy statements about her life because in truth she longs for depth. She stares at the sink full of bowls of crusted oatmeal and mystery food, at the floor covered in Thanksgiving grime, the TV screen filled with purple dinosaurs and talking one-eyed monsters. She turns to the pulsing screen and faded keys for consolation when all she gets is a nod and a grunt from the fleshy figure that walks through the door mumbling about "me time."

Her fancy cookies, trips to Paris, and brilliant children are the flesh and bone of her existence. Facebook (Twitter, blogging . . . ) gives it life.

I get it. I do.

We all do what we must. Who am I to judge? Who am I to roll my eyes at photos of grinning children over a plate of iced gingerbread cookies with the Eifel Tower as the backdrop?

So maybe I'll roll my eyes a little. Just a little. And then I'll come up with my very own pithy statement.


Today I cut out little felt circles. I placed them on a larger piece of felt, stacking them atop one another to fashion a snowman. "What you do, mama?"JR asked.

"I'm making a snowman for you." I held up the pieces for him to inspect. He palmed them, feeling their softness between his palm and forefinger.

"It is a snowman, JR. We'll make real snowmen when the snow falls from the sky." The curious tilt of his head tells me he gets it. Images of snowsuits, sleds, and me and JR making snow angels crowd my thoughts.


"Yes, baby?" I am filled with anticipation.

He drops the small felt circles to the floor.

"Buzz." He picks up Woody and pulls his string. "There's a snake in my boots!"

"Honey, that's Woody." I gently correct him.


I pick up the circles and wonder how hard it would be to make a felt Woody. Or Buzz.


I lure him into the kitchen with the promise of strawberries and marshmallows. I toss marshmallows up and catch them in my mouth. He thinks it is the most amazing thing he's ever seen (his laughter is evidence). His little sister sits in her bouncer, amused at the squeals of her big brother. Their whoops and giggles fill the room. In only a few moments I find that I can "trip" and "fall" and JR is in near hysterics. His little sister can barely contain her glee. Larry. Curly. Moe. I'm all three to the delight of my children.

Walt Whitman once mused, "I am satisfied - I see, dance, laugh, sing."

I get it.

I do.

I totally do.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caught Up

Blank screen.

I have no idea what to write. Not a single clue.

Yet, my mind is filled with rambling thoughts, words willing themselves from keyboard strokes to the virtual page.

I hate when that happens.

I had a goal. I wanted to write a little every day. I thought my blog would hold me accountable to that promise.

It didn't. I got caught up.

Baby A is growing so fast. She used to fit between hip and knee, propped up with her head tilted as if listening to secrets instead of my sing song whispers in her ear.

JR is speaking to me. He was silent for so long and now he is all, "Mama, mama, mama." I cover myself with the warm cloak of motherhood with each mumbled syllable.

I find myself feeling heavy with frustration. I want so desperately to soak in my baby girl, to observe each twitch of bowed lips and shift of her slate blue eyes. I want to translate her melodic coos and chirps. Sometimes, I just want to hold her, to feel her heft against my chest or her soft frame curled within mine.

But he calls me. He needs me. I want to sit with him, watch him trace his fingers over the page, willing the words to come and bring the story to life. I want to guide him as he creates masterpieces of crayon, chalk and paint. I want to take his hands in mine and twirl him until we fall into a dizzy pile, legs entwined, locked in a loose embrace.

And then there is me. Mama.


I used to know exactly who I was, what I wanted. I was passionate about so many things. I was fueled by an internal drive to succeed--to do something big, to be someone important.

I feel myself fading into motherhood and it is right where I want to be. I am big to them, I am important to them. I am enough as I am. There are things I want, but for now they can wait.

But so much will not.

She will grow out of the gentle curve of my body and leap out of my arms, never to return again.

When will the last day be? When will I last feel your squishy little body resting in my arms? I know there will be a last day . . .

I know his calls will one day be for someone else. The woman he needs will no longer be me. I get it. I do . . .

Do you need me? If you do, I'm here.

No, mama. I'm can do it.

That day will come.

It's OK. I want those days to come, to see my babies grow. To see them become independent, strong people of purpose.

But for now, I just want to hold them in my arms, feel their sweet breaths against my ear as we talk about how I love them "through and through." I want to stay caught up for as long as I possibly can . . . for as long as they'll let me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reason #354 on why Facebook Sucks

Click. Scroll. Click.

Nice. Swell. Awesome.

Today I have even more proof as to why I am the world's worst mother.

Flippin' Facebook. Oh, how I hate thee.

"Just took the kids to the apple orchard! The kids absolutely loved it! We're making homemade applesauce this afternoon and then we'll bundle up on the couch and tell stories about how much we love apples! What a glorious day!"

"Tanner's teacher told me how special Tanner is and that he incredibly advanced for his age. We are looking to have him tested for MENSA membership. We just adore our little one-year old. Wish us luck!"

"Just got back from a Safari in Africa. The children were ecstatic. We have some amazing photographs that were taken by a National Geographic photo journalist. He's thinking that our family would make a wonderful cover! Can you imagine? We just wanted to give the children the opportunity to actually SEE African animals and now we are going to be on the cover of a magazine! I'll let you know when so you can all pick up a copy.Maybe the children and I will fashion homemade frames out of bamboo for you to put the picture in. Wow, I am so full of ideas!"

"I just finished making 12 costumes for Ashley's dance troupe! I even weaved the cotton with my loom. It's so lovely. Later I'll be making a hearty vegetable soup (from veggies picked from our cooperative) that we'll deliver to our local soup shelter later this afternoon. All this and it is barely noon! I'm not even tired yet. Bring on the day!"



I get it. You're perfect. You have an awesome life. You have a busy life (really? 'cause I totally think some of you are lying or at the very least, exaggerating. If not, then you are bragging and that just sucks). But, do you really need to tell all 6,543 of your friends?

It has gotten so mind-numbingly bad that I'm back to wishing for more posts like this:

"Just picked a splinter out of my big toe. It was big. Ouch."

"Ate Wheaties for breakfast. Going to shower now."

"Anyone know any home remedies for hemorrhoids?"

I'm not perfect. I'm nowhere near a supermom. I wouldn't know the first thing about African Safaris -- but WE do look at animals in books. Occasionally, I'll follow JR around and growl. That's as safari as we get in these parts. JR is nowhere near being MENSA material. He bangs his head against the wall for fun and his best friend is a tiny toy car named Lightening McQueen.

Once, a long, long time ago, I lived in a bubble. It was a glorious bubble free from Facebook and mom's groups. It was a bubble that had me believing that I was OK. I was actually pretty darned great. JR and I colored, played with Playdoh, I chased him and tickled him silly, we watched Sesame Street together (I am an expert at imitating Cookie Monster--and eating like him, too), I read to him, and we'd dance and spin in the living room until we were dizzy. Sometimes we did absolutely nothing but sit on the couch where I would hoist him up on my knees and make up songs.

Damn, I was good.

I don't doubt that I'm a good mom now. Trust me, this isn't a whiny post where I am desperately searching for words of support and encouragement.

BUT, I can't like, Facebook can make it tough (so can blogs and Twitter if we really want to get down to it). There are super amazing freakishly perfect people out there . . . let me tell ya.

As for the rest of us, we're just . . . we're just, here. Trying our best. Day after day.
"I just brushed my teeth (it's noon). I'm hoping I'll be able to take a shower sometime today--or at least before my PJs start walking on their own. JR just smeared finger paints . . . oh, no, that would be a Sharpie, on the walls. Baby A is grunting something extraordinary in her diaper. And, I'm pretty sure my washer is dead. Yay me."

That's more like it . . . yup. Sure is.

*So, none of the above post were actually on Facebook, but you get the point. And quite frankly, some of the posts are even worse.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Survival Mode: Act III

I grab fistfuls of damp grass, mud crusts underneath my fingernails.

Not wanted. Discarded. Dead.

I want to scream, to sob, but I'm suffocating. I stand among the ancient headstones trying to figure out how to breathe.

"I just think we need to take a break." He disentangles his fingers from mine, my hands drop to my sides. Defeated.

"Why?" My voice shakes. His answer won't make a difference.

I stare at my feet. They don't move. I don't breathe.

"You know I love you, right?" His eyes search mine. His finger lifts my chin so that my eyes meet his, but I squeeze them shut. I can't look at him. I'm humiliated. Embarrassed. Lost.

"God. You are beautiful." I'm giddy. "Every time we go through a yellow light, I get to kiss you." I turn to look at him, at this boy who makes me burn with longing. So this is what it feels like? This is love? Lust? Whatever. He wants me. I search for a green light and lift my foot off the accelerator.

I finally inhale. I'm only eighteen. The lanky boy with the sand colored hair is my first boyfriend. I have no clue what I'm doing. How do you act when someone tells you they don't want you anymore? There are no instruction manuals on how to survive this.

"I'll call you later," he says. He heads for the door, leaving me on my bed, my chin resting on my knees. No words. No manual. Am I supposed to cry? Would that be better than dying?

Frantic thoughts course through me, pushing out logic, flirting with insanity . . . i love you so much. please don't leave me. you are the only one i'll ever love. why don't you want me anymore? didn't I do enough to make you happy? what is wrong with me? am I ugly? stupid? your mom loves me. i braided your sister's hair and went to your brother's wedding. what about this ring? i don't know what to do? please . . .

"If he truly loves you, he'll come back." They sit in circles offering up words meant to shake the sadness from my bones. But the hurt runs through the marrow, clinging stubbornly to my insides.

"I'm just not ready. Can we wait a little longer?" Although uncertain, my words fall like bricks. He leans back into his chair, defeated. His smile fades as he turns his attention from me to nothing. I wonder if he still thinks I'm pretty.

I'm desperate to purge. I cut up his picture. I burn the program from Otello, the Othello opera he took me too only months before. We had front row seats. I pledged my love to Shakespeare. Later that night, I pledged my love to him. I smell him. I taste him. I see him every time I close my eyes. I dare not dream. I can't breathe when I dream.

"One day I'm going to marry you." He slips the band on my finger. The tiny stone still manages to catch the light. My thoughts drown out the lectures of the day. I'm too busy scrawling my name with his in my notebook.

I call his phone. I hang up before he answers. I listen to his voice mail messages. Replay. "I love you. See you at lunch." Replay. "I love you. See you at lunch." Replay. I wonder where he is now that he isn't with me.

My middle parts turn soft. My pain feeds on food and rarely surrenders to sleep. I sit on my bed in three-day old t-shirt and shorts eating soup noodles, granola bars, and Tootsie Rolls I stole from my roommate's secret stash. A rule-follower to a fault, I chug a beer when I couldn't sleep. The next night, I chug another. My roommate finally thinks I'm cool.

"Tell me your dreams." No one has ever asked me that before. Our feet tangle in the cool of the grass. His fingers pluck at the strings of his guitar as he puts my dreams to music. An empty clearing in an old cemetery becomes our Eden. I stare at him and swear that I see everything.

"She's not even pretty," says my friend. She tries to distract me to no avail. I watch him take the girl's hand in his while they walk across the courtyard, his guitar slung over his shoulder. I try desperately to catch his eye. I need him to see me, to tell me that she doesn't mean anything, to tell me that her dreams don't make music. He never looks my way. I can't breathe.

My hand moves over the passenger seat in my car. I remember him there. I hear him profess his love. I see the ring. I see a yellow light. He loved me once. But no more. I can't see past the ache. The loss etches its reminders in my flesh, wrapping me in a foreign desperation.

I drive. My foot pushes on the accelerator. I see flashes of him in my mind--his face, the cemetery, his guitar, yellow lights, my hand in his. They are cold reminders of what I no longer have. I try to piece together what I did. What I didn't do. I can't make sense of it. How does someone just stop loving you?

I drift left of center.

* * *

"I need to see you." His voice is familiar, the desperation is not. It's been three years since I last saw him. After letting me go and pulling me back in, one cool summer evening I finally said goodbye. Suddenly, my goodbye seems transparent and weak.

I agree to talk. We meet for dinner which turns out to be a setting for two at his apartment. Nervous, empty conversation over spoonfuls of spaghetti. This is what we've become.

And I feel nothing. No hurt. No pain. Nothing.

He tells me about his job, school, his goals. I nod. I'm impressed and proud. Nothing else lingers. I don't want to be with him. I watch his lips move, but I can't listen. I'm preoccupied with trying to understand why I ever thought the loss of him meant the loss of me.

I have no answer.

"I want you back." Wow. The four words every dumped girl dreams of hearing. He holds my hand, rubbing the soft square of my palm. "I need you." His hand reaches to my face, tracing the outline of my lips and bravely descending down my neck. This is all so familiar. Too familiar.

I sit forward in my seat and gently take his hands in mine.

"But I don't want you. I don't need you. Not anymore."

And suddenly, just like that, I can breathe.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why not?

I'm going for it. I'm going to attempt to write a blog post every single day in the month of November.

You know, I had a brilliant blog post written.

Then I realized it was nearly 3 AM (I started it before midnight, swear) and it just wasn't so brilliant anymore.

More like the opposite.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Narcissist. How dare you think of yourself so much. Stop reflecting. These thoughts, they are cumbersome.

I've always thought of myself as vanilla bean (all natural, of course) with caramel swirl and chunks of oddly shaped fudge. Some days I would even top myself with tiny pastel colored marshmallows. I didn't think I was just vanilla. But, just vanilla I may very well be.

Cruising the Internets, I try on posts for size. I shake them out and dig between their lines. Wondering. Do I fit? Does it fit? I read posts on disorders, loss, heartache, revelation, anger, and how to get the poo in the potty. I read about days too long and lives too short. I read about blossoming affairs, too much booze, sexless marriages, and hurdling victimization. I read abstract poetry that bleeds and pleads on the page. I read words that creep up the bony edges of your spine and whisper tauntingly in your ear, "You are not enough."

I cringe at the thought. I bend under the weight of my insecurities.

I remember my first year teaching high school. Roomless, I pushed around a cart, peering over the tower of files while navigating the perilous halls of the ancient school where dirt covered windows cast long shadows and perilous doubts. I even had a horn on my cart. The students ate me alive; they greedily gnawed on my fear and devoured my pride. Knowing there was very little to eat, I let them.

"Fake it until you make it," I told myself. You are only at year one. What shit-laced advice to give oneself. I didn't want to fake it, but I desperately needed to make it, bills to pay and all. I smiled with full teeth. I laughed with my whole aching body. I showed not one ounce of weakness and sucked back frustrated tears. They only saw what I showed them--my flesh stayed hidden, my bones buried. The smile was a simple yet perfect act of defiance.

I push through this blog, these posts. Am I writing down the bones of my history? Am I reflecting on my fragile present and the lives I have birthed ? Am I picking at half-healed scabs, hoping the salve of written words will heal? If so, like the clinician evaluating his patient, you should all be taking notes. Copious notes. On imaginary paper.

The truth. I can't fake it. I can't exist in spaces that aren't mine, even while I long for comfort in the soft folds of experience. My own story only occupies the periphery of where I am. I peck at it with my words, I pull at it with phrases drenched in longing. Longing to be more than the sum of another's history. My history was never about me. I was merely the observer in waiting.

But the words, won't they shape the stories, the fictions and truths you ache to tell? Will they? Or, will they fall flat and tumble across the page, exposed and empty? Gentle words, how can I place such a burden on you to provide shape to my existence?

I tell my stories against the grain of other people's histories. I tremble with the realization that maybe I have not lived. Maybe I have buried my truths for fear that they will break, will bleed, or even worse, fade against the backdrop of stories too vanilla to tell.

You cannot be what you are not. You cannot write what you do not know.

Yet this is it, this is what I have. I cling to it, the writing. It is my oxygen and I have been breathless far too long.

I don't know yet what I am. I don't know yet what I know. But, I know those words, no matter how clumsy and forced they may be at times. I know they are me. Vanilla? Maybe.

For now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Survival Mode: Act II

I dip my head in just enough--a modern Ophelia with no agenda. The world around me turns into echoes of twisted apologies. I close my eyes and focus on the stillness, the quiet that wraps around my body. The weight of the water provides asylum from all I don't want to know, from all I long to forget.

* * *

"Shhhh . . . " I found my voice pleading with the three faces before me. They angled their small bodies behind mine as I reached for the door knob, cold and hard in my hand.

Movement in the back room. I am not distracted. It is their fear that calms me.

"Hi!" I greet the man at the front door. My cheery disposition betrays the calm rage working its way up my spine, twining around my shoulders.

My eyes meet his. He looks down at his worn shoes, smoothing his gray pants as he hands me a small slip of paper. A folded reminder that we have no money. Now, no water.

"So, you're turning off our water? Right now?" I ask him. My baby sister works her way in front of me, curiosity beckons her. He looks down at the small girl, barely a child, much more a baby, and nods.

"Can you give me five minutes?" I plead with him in a low voice, masking my words from the ears below. They need baths. We need water. To cook.

"I'll give you 20. I have a few other houses to visit. I'll shut yours off last." He bites his lip, his head shakes with knowing. I suck in my breath. He has no idea what he's given me. Twenty minutes might as well be hours, days. Halfway down the walk, he turns his head to face the tiny faces that follow him. I turn away, refusing all offers of pity.

"Is he gone?" my mother asks, emerging from her hiding place in the back room.

I nod. I am 15 years old.

"We're going to take a bath." I guide them down the hall.

I let the water fall over their tiny frames as I work a soapy rag over their bodies. We stand in a stream of water, washing off the remains of the day. I know there is no water left for me.

There is no quiet, no stillness.

The bodies bounce excitedly past me, dragging their damp towels behind.

This is my asylum.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Survival Mode: Act I

Her smile was tight and her hands gripped the wheel while a weak "Bye, I'll see you in a few hours" squeaked from her lips. Few. Too long.

My babysitter let the screen door shut before I had the chance to enter. The morning news blared from her TV set, the smell of stale cigarettes and bacon grease filled the small living room.

"Take off you shoes. Damn it, don't you kids ever remember?" she barked. She hid away in the kitchen, behind her newspaper and a cold cup of coffee. Across the living room her daughter, two years older than me with a body of curves and bulges that belied her eight years, was curled up on the burnt orange couch. The thrown. Her thrown. Her half-cocked sneer and arched brow were a bellwether. I shifted into survival mode.

I made my way to the other side of the living room to sit. To wait. The daughter flipped through stations, stopping only to watch my expression. I knew not to react. If I showed even the slightest bit of interest she would quickly change the channel. I remember once grinning wildly at an old episode of Gunsmoke. She flipped the channel and then let out a dramatic laugh of pleasure. I hated Gunsmoke. I was thankful that the sneering girl parked on the burnt orange couch was not too smart.

It swam in a congealed lumpy brown liquid. I pushed it around on my plate, hoping that it would either disappear or jump off my plate and run away before I had to take a bite. "You'd better eat every single bite," my babysitter let the words fall slowly, each a twisted reminder that she was in charge. So I ate. Every. Bite.

"That's mine," her daughter would stare me down, grabbing whatever it was I had in my hands, hers or not. I handed it over. There were too many battles in one day I had to fight, this was not one of them. I remember finding a knotted chain on the sidewalk while we walked to school. She jerked it from my hands, "It's mine!" Twisted. Knotted. Broken. Yes, I thought, it is yours.

"What is that?" My mom squinted at me as I pulled at my hair. She reached across the seat and found the soft pink mass that was lodged among the strands of long black hair.

"Gum? Why did you put gum in your hair?" I had no response, my teeth came down on my lip until I tasted blood. She worked for hours trying to free my hair from what was once a harmless piece of Bubblicious. Finally, she pulled out the scissors.

"Oh my God. You look like a little boy," squealed my babysitter, her short stubby fingers working their way through my hair. With cool satisfaction, a slow grin crept upon her daughter's face.

"You owe me a piece of gum," she whispered.

Tucking my shoeless feet under me, I silently nodded and counted down the hours. Only a few more to go. Just a few . . .

Survival mode.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


"Mama! Mama" JR's small hands pushed against my arms. He stared up at me with a mix of fear and worry. I was breathless and my grip on him was unrelenting. I couldn't let go of him. I could barely move. My mind had returned to a nightmare only hours earlier.

I had awoken to feed my daughter. She was peacefully tucked at my breast as I fell back asleep. In what seemed like hours, but was only minutes, I awoke to see her peering up at me, her arms working their way out of her wrap as if she were trying to reach for me, perhaps to comfort me. My body was tight, my heartbeat echoed in my ears.

I had a nightmare. I can't even bear to write the hazy images that are seared into my brain. I'm still trying to understand how such images entered my mind, invaded my dreams, and turned a rainy early morning into a bruising nightmare.

I can't protect you, can I? I'm sitting in front of JR watching his tiny fingers work the wheels of Lightening McQueen. He loves CARS. He pushes the little red car across the hardwood, an excited squeal escapes his lips. My shoulders tense.

His happiness protected by me. His body protected by me.

Little A's breath is warm against my neck. I feel the heft of her body resting against mine. She is so peaceful, so calm. I rest her on my knees, lean forward, and brush my cheek against her's. A lopsided grin forms on her face.

Her happiness protected by me. Her body protected by me.

But what if I can't? What if something happens? Illness. Accident. Or something far worse.

In my nightmare, I watched him hover over their tiny bodies. JR had curled his small frame around his sister, attempting to shield her. Unaware of the danger, Little A's legs kicked and her hands waved above her head. He knew I was powerless. My babies were his bounty. And I could do nothing.

From the warmth of my womb they came, but into the cold world they will go. For now they are safely curled in the niche of my body and under the ABC quilt in the room next to mine. But I won't always be there, no matter how much I want to, no matter how much I try. I don't think I have that kind of faith. And hope at times eludes me.

I've squeezed my eyes shut a thousand times today, willing the images to go away, praying that GOODNIGHT MOON, the fingerprint painting drying on the counter, the Cheerios under the couch, a single pink sock on the floor will distract me, remind me.

I don't feel like supermom right now. I feel frightened. I feel powerless.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Child is NOT a Designer Handbag

Here's the deal . . . the number of play dates you schedule, the vast array of classes your kid attends, the brand name sewn in the back of his t-shirt, the "latest and greatest" toy you just purchased does not equal your ability, talent, or quality as a mother.

Playing dress up, rolling around on the floor, singing silly songs (that make absolutely no sense but would most certainly have Dr. Suess laughing and clapping while nodding his head in approval), putting together puzzles, jumping in the leaves, running around in the rain . . . makes them happy, makes them laugh, makes them smarter in ways we will never know . . . and it makes them look at you and say, "I love you, mom."

THAT should be enough.

But if you want to continue to brag about classes and playdates, designer clothes and the bajillion dollars you just spent at some toy boutique, be my guest. I'll be busy making mud pies.

I have no issues with classes and play dates . . . none at all. Big fan. But the "look at me and all I do as a mother" schtick gets old really, really quick. They are children, not a stinkin' Gucci bag.

OK. I'm done.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Yearbook

I always felt them coming. I would be shuffling lunch bags and textbooks around in my locker while the heavy buzz of conversation echoed through the halls. Lockers slamming, feet hitting the floor, and forced laughter accompanied the strained faces of students rushing through the day. High school. A foundation for social learning that often crumbled under my feet.

But they never seemed to rush. They never seemed to try too hard. The sisters. The twins-- identical but yet completely different. Star was constantly animated and bursting with unrestrained energy. Angel was thoughtful, the rock her sister perched upon. They floated through the halls. Huddled together, they swapped secrets and we felt special because they always seemed to let us in on them.

Though they weren't conventional beauties and they didn't posses the edgy cool of the high school jet set, they were popular.

They were the kind of popular you didn't envy because you actually liked them and they liked you in return. They were genuinely nice in a place where nice usually got you nowhere. There were no, "Wow, I love your outfit," or "Hey, how are you?" only to snarl and roll their eyes as you walked away.

We weren't really friends. Then again, my life motto of "thriving in anonymity" didn't really lend itself to making a multitude of friends. That didn't stop me from observing them and sometimes wishing they were triplets and I was the third.


Some of you know I finally broke down and joined. I must confess that soon after I spent one very long night perusing profiles. A kid I used to babysit for. My old college roommate. The girl I detested in high school--the one I used to sit behind in Geometry and fantasize about tying her long stringy White Rain-smelling hair to the back of her chair--with double knots. The quiet drummer from English who penned song lyrics, skipped Steinbeck, and frequently starred in my adolescent dreams.

Profile after profile had me reliving my childhood, my teen years, my college years. And then I saw it. Her profile.

"I am now raising my two nephews after the passing of my sister Star from stage IV breast cancer. It has been a long and hard road for us all this last year, but we are surviving."

The twins had lost their Star.

I pushed myself back in my chair in disbelief. We had lost students over the years--but Star's death didn't seem real.

Breast cancer? She was so young. We are all so young. The cliche wore heavy on my shoulders, for who am I to stake a claim to youth?

But none of that matters, does it.

"Can you believe she's gone?" I typed furiously to one of the only friends I have kept in touch with since high school--one of my best friends.

The same disbelief washed over her. She immediately contacted Angel, Star's sister, and expressed her condolences.

"I have stage IV breast cancer," replied Angel. "I'm so worried about these boys."

Angel. Cancer.

But I still see them in the halls, their easy conversation and laughter trailing behind them. I see Star bent over her sister's desk, hands moving through the air as she acted out her latest adventure. Angel pushing up her glasses as she balanced her lunch tray. The sisters, arms wrapped around each other, grinning and posing all over my yearbook.

My memories of high school seemed forever untouched. Our youth was as eternal as the images in my yearbook. The promises of what was to come were so alive, so vibrant, so real.

Is thirty or so years long enough to live? I don't think so . . . but, such is life. Fleeting as it is, like the echoes in those old halls. What will Star's sons, Angel's nephews come to believe?

Between then and now, life went on just as the inked up pages of my yearbook had begun to yellow and fade.

For now, I'm going back to that hallway, to remember those sisters who were so full of life, so full of promise, so full of untouched tomorrows . . . if even for a little while.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


How did we get from this . . .

to this?

I have no idea. All I know is that it has been one crazy ride that I'd do all over again in a heartbeat.

Happy Birthday JR.

Thank you for teaching me how to breath . . .

and so much more.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stabs at Coherency

Averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night (and day--does a 10 minute snooze during Sesame Street count?) I realize that trying to compose a coherent blog post is . . . what is the word? Oh, yeah. Impossible (you should know it took three times to spell that right).

Let's just spill it . . .

Rainn Wilson. Funny. I don't even watch The Office. He was on Conan and his wit gave me weak knees. I found him rather sexy in a geek-love sort of way.

Baby still has no blog name. What she does have is a favorite sleeping position. On me, one arm tucked up under my armpit, her head wedged up under my chin, her body curled up on my chest. Best accessory I've ever owned.

Pajamas. I have no idea how to get out of them. Showers elude me. You can fake clean hair with baby powder.

Baby girl dreams. My sister-in-law once said that she thinks babies dream of breasts. Every time I see baby girl's eyes flutter I imagine she sees all sorts of boobs--all shapes and sizes. Some sporting wings and flying around performing air acrobatics. Others basking in the sun. A few swimming in pools of milk. It makes me laugh.

I wish I could wear a Onesie.

No. I don't. Neither do you.

I get to change the diaper of a toddler and the diaper of a newborn. I've never experienced such joy. Heard in our household last week:

Dad (shouts from JR's room--upstairs): OMG, L, you gotta see this. I see corn, raisins, and I have no idea. D-A-M-N. Massive stinkage.

Mom (me--shouting from the living room): Um, T. Sorta busy. I got stringy seedy stuff down here. Excellent shade of mustard yellow.

Dad: Man, if this is our idea of fun on a Friday night, I can't wait for Saturday!

Mom (reaching for another wipe and shoving a diaper under a tiny puckered butt): Neither can I. *sigh*

A mom from my mom's group brought a meal that contained a homemade cheesecake. I ate the entire thing. I told her I shared it with my husband. I lied.

JR has finally realized that baby girl is here to stay. He seems OK with that.

And so do I.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It Happened One Morning

I pulled back my shoulders and tucked my head down as I tilted my pelvis forward. I turned slightly and pushed myself up as I tucked one leg beneath the other. I squeezed my legs together and thought the happiest of thoughts. I turned around, pulled the IV around me, tucked both legs under, butt in the air and rested on my elbows.

Nope. Nothing worked. I push the button. "I need to pee." Unplug. Pull. Waddle. Flush.

Back in bed. I looked across the room to see the husband peacefully resting on the couch. I grit my teeth.

Lub dub. Lub dub. Lub dub. Her heartbeat, strong and quick, plays in the background. I watch the monitor as yet another contraction closes in.

Ouch. Er. OUCH.

OK. There was more to it than that, but I was only dilated to 1 cm. The good stuff was yet to come. Expletives didn't fly, but I'm certain I may have cast a voodoo curse on a clueless nursing student.

To think, all this started after a seemingly innocuous lunch at Bob Evans. A Wildfire Chicken Salad and a nagging little sister (a simple twinge and she'd ask, "Did you lose your mucous plug?" "Did your water break?" "Is my niece coming yet?" She badgered the poor baby right out of me.

Only hours later there I was, wrapped in lovely paisley hospital gown, awaiting the arrival of my daughter--three weeks early.

The birth went smoothly. Quickly. Hazily. And no, not from drugs but from the warp speed in which I went from a nearly unnoticed 1 cm to staring at my daughter's face. I'll skip all the in-between. Let's just say I became all that I never wanted to be. I screamed. I bruised (don't worry, he's healing nicely), I said "I HAVE TO PUSH" at the top of my lungs and "I AM BREATHING!!! STOP TELLING ME TO BREATHE!" even louder. It was chaotic. It was loud. It was crazy.

Until she came. And then, all was quiet.

My daughter. Wow.

I have a daughter.

She's no longer the kicks, prods, and pokes in my belly. She's no longer the packaged flowered Onsies sitting in a yet-to-be-decorated room. She's no longer just "baby girl."

She's not just a dream of what might be.

She's real. She's here.

Dark hair. Tiny rosebud lips. And eyes that drink in the world and more.

I'm a walking cliche. I'm mushy. I'm in awe. And I make no apologies for being madly in love. A little girl and my now BIG boy.

I'm blessed. I'm happy. I'm full. And yeah, it feels good.

And even if I no longer have an excuse for loading up on Slurpees and super-sized chocolate malts, I have a feeling that I'll survive.

Precious. Not even a day old. Baby girl was born at 6:45 AM on Tuesday July 7 (week 37).

Moments after seeing his new baby sister for the first time. Not quite sure what to make of her just yet. Though when we brought her home, she received two kisses from her eager big brother. We'll see how long the love lasts . . .

Monday, June 29, 2009

Casualties of Self-Doubt

I was hunched over, my hands on my knees and my breath escaping in small bursts. I looked up and watched her as she continued on. She was like a machine, her arms and legs moving forward in a silent rhythm.

"She's an elite runner, you know," he said. His gruff voice forced me up. I held the heaving breaths and busied my shaking hands by brushing the snow from my sweatshirt. The pains in my side subsided, pushed out by an undefinable shame.

I wasn't good enough.

I was a runner in grade school and high school. Running drove me, it fed a need I never quite understood. I had such a passion for the feel of sweat dripping down my back, the heaving of my chest, the tightness in my legs. I felt alive. And when I crossed a finish line, taking the #1 stick or reaching for the first place ribbon, I was alive. I was most definitely good enough.

College was different. I wasn't the superstar runner. I was a struggling freshman who had no idea what she was doing. Who packed on extra weight, got a first boyfriend, lost her first boyfriend all while navigating the campus as a socially awkward entity waiting for a clue.

But that's just an excuse. The truth--I simply wasn't good enough.

"Some people are just born to run," my coach continued as the snow began to drift across the track. "You'll be a good running partner for her. Once you get into shape, " he added smugly, mercilessly. My eyes followed her as she ran passed us, the snow politely parting for each footfall.

It was one of our very first practices of the season. My coach had already lost faith in me. I had lost faith in myself. Suddenly, I didn't want to run anymore.

But I did. I ran because I had to. I ran because he said I wasn't good enough. I ran because I had to show him that I was.

Every day I ran. Before practice. After practice. Weekends. I pushed my body until it begged for a reprieve--and even then, I pushed harder. There was little doubt that I was improving. But coach never noticed. He was working with the elite runners. And when his eyes did drift over in my direction, I knew what he was thinking, "Why does she even bother?" Some days, I wondered the same thing.

Short of drinking a raw egg, I was Rocky. Theme songs bumped around in my head, forcing me to push my aching body just one more mile. Just. One. More.

Trying hard now
it's so hard now
trying hard now

Getting strong now
won't be long now
getting strong now

Our first meet. I had only one race--200 M. The "elite" runner had the favored first lane while I occupied the last lane of the staggered start. I would be in the lead for only a few moments before the crowd of runners would overtake me.

Pop. The gun goes off as I push my foot forcefully from the starting block. I can't see any of the runners, but I hear their heavy breaths and quick steps in a rush behind me. As we make the turn we are all in a straight line headed for the finish.

I am behind.

But only for a moment.

I surge ahead and pick off a runner at a time. One. Two . . . Five. Six.

I'm in first place as I cross the finish line.

I win.

I remember what this felt like. The rush. The release. The pats on my back. The congratulatory sentiments. I remember . . .

And I feel nothing. Nothing.

I see him make his way across the field. He's pumping his fist in the air and shouting, "Where in the hell did that come from?" He grips my shoulders with both hands and looks at me for the first time.

I want so desperately to smile, to take it all in. But I can't. I don't. I look across the lanes to the "elite" runner. She's hunched over, her hands on her knees . . .

My fingers slowly touched the cool dull metal of my spikes as I placed them in the Nike box; the medals I had won during the season spread out on the bottom. It was a good season. I pushed my spike key into the front of my shoe and tucked the laces inside. I shoved the box under my bed and walked away.

I had proved myself to someone who didn't believe in me. To someone who barely gave me a chance. I proved that I had a talent, that I was good enough.

I was an after school special on how tenacity, drive and determination could mean success.

I hated those specials. They tried too hard and I resented them for it. I resented those who claimed that because of my coach, his doubt, he pushed me and I was better for it. Better? Maybe a better runner, a stronger athlete, but a better person? No. Not better.

The reality, my reality--I was done running. Running had become a casualty of my own self-doubt. While my body forced itself across the finish line race after race, the rest of me grew angry and distant. It was no longer about the running.

Having doubts is natural and in some cases, necessary--I get it, I accept it. But there comes a time when the heaviness of such doubts lingers longer than it should, when the cacophony of voices questioning your value, your abilities fails to hush--especially when it is about something you love, a passion you believe shapes and defines who you are. Especially if he or she who doubts you is a member of your family, a lover, a friend.

"Am I really good at this?" you wonder. "Can I do this?" you ask yourself.

No. You know that is what they think, what they believe they know. They don't believe in you, no matter what they say, no matter how beautiful the words scratched upon the page--they are merely creations posing as truths.

Trying hard now
it's so hard now
trying hard now

Getting strong now
won't be long now
getting strong now

You'll find your place at the starting line again and prepare to prove them wrong.

And, in the end, you'll make room for yet another box under your bed.

A little melancholy, perhaps. Or maybe my sudden rush into self-reflection has something to do with cleaning out a closet--and a room that looked as if the regurgitated remains of my childhood had taken up residence.

Monday, June 22, 2009

He Came Back

The back of the mini van was packed--suitcases, towels, pool toys, shoes, snacks. We happily made ourselves comfortable in our seats, backed out of the drive and excitedly headed from dreary Ohio to the sun, the heat and ocean breezes of lovely Florida.

I had dreams.

I had visions.

I had expectations . . .

JR would skip through the sand, smiling, giggling and picking up shells as he ran toward the water. I would scoop him up and we would twirl in the cool sand and splash in the surf.

We would go to the aquarium where JR would look in amazement at the sea life as it floated effortlessly in reflective tanks. He would point and I, in my abundant wisdom, would name off every single animal he gestured toward. He would look at me with admiration, thinking how amazing his mama was (he would have no idea that I was simply reading from the fish chart above the tank).

At the pool, in the home we were renting, JR would tentatively approach the edge of the sparkling pool of water while his father and I watched as he grew increasingly brave with each dip of his toes. Finally, he would jump in the pool, we would place him in his floaty and leisurely float around, relaxing as the shadows made their way over the water.

Dreams. Visions. Expectations.

I'm not saying that none of that happened.

It did.

Kind of.

But not really. Not exactly.

See, no one can really prepare you for your first vacation with an active toddler. No one can really tell you what it will be like to chase after a toddler, a full diaper hanging down to his knees, as he runs down the beach while you clutch your nearly 8-month pregnant belly and run after him (it is more like 7 months, but I was 3 lbs. heavier and much rounder than when I delivered JR--so I'm still trying to figure out how to navigate this cumbersome pregnant vessel. By the way, I am 8 lbs. heavier as of today. ).

No one can tell you what it will be like to change a toddler who has found that stuffing sand into his swim trunks and Little Swimmer is SO MUCH FUN! Oh, and of course a shell or two (hundred) for added fun!

You can't be prepared for a toddler meltdown when you are soaked with sweat, covered in sand, lugging an umbrella, chairs, towels, shoes, bags nearly a quarter of a mile through HOT sand back to the car. The looks of sympathy from beach goers does nothing. "Help me, damn it!" you scream silently as you paste a tight smile on your face. "This is how people crack," you think as your evil glare falls upon an innocent, peaceful family having fun, stuffing their sand-free sandwiches in their mouths and giggling at their sweet toddler who sits idly playing in the sand.

No one can explain that an aquarium to a toddler is more like a floating feast. NO, thankfully he didn't try to eat the fish racing through the tank (he wasn't tall enough to reach in) . . . he tried to eat the skeletal models that sat on top of the tanks. Yummy. Crunchy.The heavy stares from the employees did nothing to me. I didn't even wince, for they have no idea.

Speaking of eating. We tried everything. But, the manual (that we never received) probably doesn't say a thing about how toddlers take finicky eating to a whole new level when in a new place with a bunch of new distractions (we know, should have been commonsense, but we tossed that out the window when we crossed over the GA/FL border). But I'll be damned if the seagulls didn't eat well. Too well, if you ask me.

Instead, JR stuffed fistfuls of sand in his mouth. Fistfuls. And, strawberries, raisins and a slew of other dropped foods covered in sand--into his mouth.

We tried to stop him. We did. But . . . he's very fast. And, there is a LOT of sand.

So as not to seem like a big-belly malcontent, the entire trip was not one fraught with misery. There were lovely moments on the beach where JR would climb up on the chair, wrap his legs around me and bury his face into my neck. It was pure bliss . . . until he realized that climbing over mommy and her huge belly was quite fun, especially with his sandpaper swim shoes rubbing against my legs, over and over and over. While he climbed, his sister kicked. And kicked. And squirmed. He squirmed. It was excruciating bliss. But I was destined to steal some blissful moment even if it meant PAIN.

Decked out in my rather cute tie-dyed maternity swimsuit, I was feeling pretty good that first day at the beach. I was invigorated by the sun, the heat, the ocean breeze. I looked at the ocean as a metaphor for all the adventures we were going to have. I buried my feet in the sand and leaned back to take in the sites of the families that wandered the beach, splashed in the waves. I watched as JR played in the sand and his daddy leaned back in the seat next to me.


And then . . . POOF!

The last day at the beach had me bemoaning personal space issues--turning my once happy and light demeanor into one that leaned on the edges of misanthropy. I raged about my inability to get up from a seated position without rolling to my side, into the sand, first. Personal grooming turned into an Olympic event for me--I mean, how do women do it? I have no idea what is even down there anymore. I can't see anything beyond my navel.

And, I HATE SAND! HATE IT. At first I said, "Oh look, I'm exfoliating" as I found sand on nearly every inch of my body. By the end, I cursed every single granule. And shells, especially when they get stuck in your backside or nether regions--SUCK! Former homes of now deceased sea creatures no longer thrill me. "Oh, look. A beautiful little pink and purple shell," I would say as I would gently pick it up and place it into the bucket. By the end, I was, "#$%&* SHELLS!" as I would pluck them from between my toes and flick them into the sand.

Oh, and there were other pregnancy related issues that I suffered through--and because I like and respect you, I will spare you the details. You may thank me later. Ah, but all was not lost. I did discover the benefits of a built in serving tray. Pregnancy bonus #236.

Couple all that with THE TODDLER and you get more fun than anyone should ever be allowed to have in one beach vacation. The mixture of heat, sand, sun and crazy toddler had the husband and I fully entrenched in survival mode. After the "flinging poop" moment that the hubs had to endure while changing JR in the dark beach bathroom (he said it was like a small, smelly corner of hell) we finally gave in--humor would be our only form of sustenance if we were to survive. We talked about tying tubes, vasectomies, therapy, medications, the therapeutic benefits of liquor, lots of liquor.

JR's father and I tapped into our sense of humor. We had to . . . by day three (of our 11-day trip) we had nothing left. As we headed out to the beach on that third day, JR went running along the banks. His father looked lovingly toward me as he spoke, "You know, they say that if you love something, you should set it free . . . " We both looked ahead as JR ran and ran and ran.

We looked at each other and didn't even try to stifle our laughs. It was either that or falling in the sand in a fit of tears.

JR, way ahead of his downtrodden parents, turned around, saw us, hunched backed, baggy-eyed, yet still smiling and laughing. And with that . . . he came back.

And oddly . . . I'd do it all again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

To My Sister-in-Law

You found this blog, didn't you? You found RJ's (my little sister) Twitter account and you tracked me down via my year-old-pic of JR that I use as my profile pic (or something like that). Regardless, there is no doubt that you're here.

I must confess. I feel a little naked. Or, at the very least, scantily clad in a see-through nighty (so attractive on a nearly 8-month pregnant woman) and footie socks. Yes, I have told a couple REAL LIFE people about this space, but otherwise, I remain heavily cloaked in the shaky promise of anonymity.

It isn't that I am trying to hide from you, from anyone. Well, maybe it is . . . it is just that sometimes in this space I say things, do things that might prompt questions, concerns, fits of utter hilarity, thoughts that maybe I need therapy. Deep and constant therapy.

Then again. I play it safe. I let thoughts linger on the precipice, teetering between the abstract and the concrete. I am fiercely protective . . . even though very few know who I am.

You should see the posts I have in draft.

I have written about our family history, no doubt stories you've heard from the perspective of my little brother, your husband, the father to my niece (that still seems so weird--my little brother, a father, a husband, about to hit a major milestone b-day--strange, surreal).

Writing has slowly become my therapy. My way to sort out the mix of histories and make sense of them all. Where did I, we, come from? How did we get here? How did we grow from the family that "couldn't afford a Happy Meal" to a family that has defied our trailer park destiny? How did we navigate the choppy parental waters, filled with our mother's predatory past and our father's disconnection--how did we do it and still thrive?

How did my brother find you? You, him? How did I end up with someone who was surely promised to someone else--a cultured, wealthy woman from a good family, no doubt? How did RJ and Cat (little and baby sisters, respectively) end up confident, ambitious, absolutely amazing when they were never supposed to leave the broken down yellow house on the street lined with rusted cars and hints of futures that were never meant to be?

How did we get here?

I sit in your cozy living room and watch as our children play together. The way Little L touches JR's head, looking at him as if he is the most fascinating creature she has ever seen. How JR watches, enraptured, as she spins her little body around to the heavy beat of music that fills the room. I look at you, at my brother and I feel full.

Even when we slam phones, scream expletives, shake our fists, spit out insults (volitility was our sustenance for so long, we can't help but sometimes ache for its comfort, its familiarity), I know that what resides in us is peace. We know we are loved. We know that know matter what we will be there for one another.

I will be there for you. No matter what. And though tender words laced with tearful emotions have never passed between us, I think you'd be there for me . . . no matter what.

This is my space. This is where I share stories about JR, your nephew, our life, both past and present, my thoughts about anything, everything. I release, I purge, I laugh, I share, I ache, I reach out with these posts. Some of them suck. Some of them don't. Some of them are funny. A lot of them are not.

But, they are as me as I can be. And for now, that's enough.

So, that said . . . welcome to my space.

By the way, what does my little brother want for his birthday?

Oh, and one more teeny, tiny thing . . . if my mom ever asks you about me and my blog, your answer should be, "Blog? What blog? Does L have a blog?" K?


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The REAL Reality

I have so much to say on this topic. Then again, I got nothin' new. I mean, what more can be said?

Sitting on the old worn couch, in my MIL's house, in the middle of a struggling burb, in the heart of MI and paging through the Sunday paper, I came across a few perfectly written lines from this article "Jon and Kate Plus *=A Waste of Time" by sports columnist/cultural commentator/bestselling author Mitch Albom.

"I may empathize with these people [Jon and Kate, Adam Lambert, Susan Boyle], but I don't feel sorry for them. No one put a gun to their heads. Once you turn your life over to the cameras, you move into a Bizzaro World of attention. You are -- whether you realize it or not -- getting what you wanted.The same can't be said of laid-off autoworkers, young widowed mothers, abandoned children or unable-to-find-a-job graduates. They live in the real world. And you'll excuse me if that reality renders the reality TV world pathetic."

Will I stop watching reality TV (I confess I am not a Jon & Kate watcher, but it isn't all that hard to find out what's going on)? Who knows. I mean, it is escapism at its best. But, the whining, crying, "poor me," "boo hoo, my life is so hard" does not really make my heart melt or my soul move.

If anything, it just makes me cringe as that sour tasting burning sensation crawls up from the back of my throat.

For now, I'll just continue to collect pennies while figuring out which bodily organ I can live without (if necessary) while assessing all my belongings for potential eBay bids.

I know. Sounds like fun, eh?

Maybe I'll just go to the park with JR where the real world is pretty darned perfect. I mean, who needs reality TV when you got an old swing, a patch of grass and a toddler who is ready to run?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rough Drafts

Pages and pages of colorful construction paper covered my small square desk. My hands worked the scissors through the paper as I contemplated my cover art.

"Can I use your stapler?" I had asked my teacher.



My requests were met with her sweet tea-stained smile and a nod.

She got me. At one time, she probably was me.

While all the other children sat hunched-back at their desks, composing their stories, I was done.

I had crafted what I knew to be a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of epic proportions--which was why I was getting a jump start and working on my cover art.

And no, cover art design was not part of the assignment. But, I was clearly an overachiever. The words had been effortless. I didn't speak much in class, but my words always found a home on the page. I felt the hot glare of students as I bounded around the room looking for art supplies.

It felt good.

Numbers may have abandoned me (as made evident by my pencil jabs and scribblings on math worksheets), but words were forever my friends.

Several nights ago I sat in the big "leather" chair opposite the computer screen. I stared at it, pleading for inspiration. My hands reached for the keys and pulled back.


Well, someone needs to clean that up!

So I did. For nearly an hour I cleaned my keyboard and computer desk, reorganized my bookshelf and vacuumed the office.

I sat down once again. The screen saver was mesmerizing.

I got nothing, I muttered to myself. But, I forced myself to put something down. Anything. Three words. And a title. DRAFT.

And off to bed I went.

Where are my words? Where did they go?

Though at times I fancy myself a writer (or writer wannabe), I don't own that title. But, I do still own my desire to capture my life in words. Yet, they escape me over and over. The few that remain end up in the darkness of a draft, waiting to be plucked from a sad oblivion where they can become another bone in the body of a story.

Poor words. They float with purpose in my head, yet as they ready themselves to pour out onto the page, they become lost, directionless and seemingly resentful.

I watch as JR moves across the floor with excitable precision. His eyes dart from me to his father. I can tell he is yanking and pulling at an idea in his head. His growing curiosity. His uncanny problem-solving (diaper=sling--I kid, but you know it'll happen). His ever-increasing power over his weary parents. I want to write about it.

She never stops moving. Unlike her brother, who barely lifted a foot while safely ensconced in my belly, she uses my insides to conduct what I can only assume is fetal aerobics or maybe kickboxing. The other night I sang to her. Her movements slowed. Either she had locked her hands over her ears or she was lulled by my voice. I choose to believe the latter. Either way, I wanted to write about it.

The final day of my mom's group commenced with a large group of hormonal SAH mommies congregating in a church hall. Food, red carpet, an awards show. And tears. So many tears I had to stifle a laugh from the overwhelming sound of sobs and snotty sniffles. I bit the insides of my mouth, desperate to belong. No tears. Nothing. I thought of lost kittens and the ending of La Bamba. Nothing. So desperate was I not to let the growing giggle escape, that in the end I grabbed a tissue and dramatically blotted my tearless face. I wanted so much to write about that.

Every writer I know has trouble writing. Yeah, Mr. Heller, that doesn't help me.

Early on I used to just write. I didn't care about how the word looked on the page. It didn't have to wear Versace, drive a BMW or even have a very big bank account. It just had to say something. I vomited, cried, spit and pooped on pages all the time--heart, soul, guts--mashed on the page. Bodily fluids produced where my brain could not.

And that was OK.

Over time I found a way to let my brain in on the party. It was a good thing. Instead of a bunch of crazy kids running the show with their cliched adjectives, broken beer bottles, twisted phrasing and the drunk kid no one knows, there was some order, some logic, creativity with a purpose.

In the last few years, hitting hard the last few months, my brain has kicked out the kids all together (only inviting them back when it needs a beer and a laugh).

In other words. I think too much.

Way too much.

What will JR thinks when he reads this? What if my mom finally figures out the ON button and stumbles upon my blog? What if I reread this later and realize that I'm completely dillusional about my mothering, writing, humanity? What if . . .

So, I wait until I am near exhaustion to write--usually around the 2 AM hour. My brain is tired and weak. The party kids enter the house--unafraid, unencumbered, ready to dance.

And that's when I let go.

I think too much. And while I do the stories become smaller and smaller. The ideas that once blossomed into something to behold disappear as if never there. The moments that cling, waiting for a chance to spread wings, fly and dive onto the page, fall, slowly, peacefully, with not a word of farewell.

Sad. But so true.

I should write about this.

And this is how a DRAFT found the light and warmth of the page . . .

I demanded that my brain finally share the stage and a thousand and one stories, ideas and moments stumbled in. Ready. Willing. Letting go.

Amazing how words can breathe when you let them--how when you just accept them for what they are that they can do just about anything.

Are they always pretty? No. Are they always perfect? No way. Will they always be a contender for a Pulizter? Only in the mind of a deliusional grade schooler. Will they always be true? When you let them . . . yes.

And that's what matters most.

And if by chance my mom finds the ON button and crashes the party . . . HI! Oh, and don't bother with the archives. That's just old stuff you don't ever need to read. I swear.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

He's Got Skills

Oh, does he . . .

JR, my ever-adventurous toddler, is now 21 months old. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that. I mean the concept nearly escapes me as much as my ever-increasing waistline escapes all comprehension (please, not one comment on the shakes/Slurpees/kid cereals).

Yesterday we picked up a brilliant "toy" that is sure to provide extensive opportunities for JR's educational enrichment (AKA, give mommy a chance to spend some quality time in the bathroom alone . . . ).

Last night, we (as in DADDY) put it together . . . a SAND AND WATER CART (NO, this is not a review for Step 2 . . . I'm not so sure they'd be all over this idea)!

Of course, I couldn't wait to use it. We have the sand. We have the water. However, I wanted to use it RIGHT NOW--at 8 PM at night.

We used rice (this brilliant idea, as was the idea to purchase said table, was my friend AG's--brilliant, I tell you!). JR thanks you, AG . . .

We commenced with the rice. Spoons, measuring cups, bowls . . . you name it. He ignored every single thing. Instead, he plowed into the rice with both hands and showed us his skills.

Throwing (as far and high as he could--relishing in the feel of the rice as it fell on his head).
Pouring (it all over the TEXTURED BERBER--don't be jealous of my brilliance in choosing suitable locations for the rice-capades, please).
Spin-tossing (need I even explain?)
Stuffing (in places we can't even begin to explain or describe--you'll thank me later).
Flinging (he actually discovered this one just a few minutes ago--can you say RICE CATAPULT?).
Swishing/sweeping (with his hands, arms, other body parts . . . oh, that poor rice, those poor body parts).

It took me over an hour to clean it up.

And, I'm going to admit . . . it was all worth it. Even though I will find rice grains around the house until he turns 18, totally worth it. Even though I had to stifle my urge to race for the vacuum, totally worth it. Even though I dreamed of being attacked by creeping, crawling rice grains last night, totally worth it.

So worth it that I did it again this morning. I even opened a new bag of rice (please no comments on the wasting of rice--I swear I will donate a bag or ten to the food bank with every single one I use . . . oh, and here, you can too!).

Rather than explain our rice-ventures, why not show you?

*I apologize if you need to tilt you head dramatically to the side when watching or if you get dizzy while trying to follow my exceptional filming abilities. I totally missed the whole film making class in toddler school.

You know, something most definitely happens when you have a toddler running around. You don't go running for the paper towels or the broom as much as you go running for the camera. And, you don't shake your head in annoyance over a mess as much as you smile and nod in pride, feeling the swell of ridiculous, overpowering love and cuteness. You turn into one big messy emotional mush.

But I'll be darned if it isn't worth it. Every single grain . . .

Yes, we enjoyed the rice-capades quite a bit . . .

now where's my vacuum

Friday, May 8, 2009

And Then She Left

My back rested against cool porcelain as my eyes shifted from her blush-covered cheeks to the quick flick of the wand in her hand. She leaned into the mirror, tilted her head and pursed her lips seeing the beckoning teen vixen of not so many years ago.

I envied her. Her easy beauty contrasted the awkward angles of my face, the thickness of my limbs. The golden locks of hair that curled around her ears and traveled down her back were unlike the dark and heavy stands that hung like a Gothic drape over my eyes. My gap-toothed smile was nothing like hers. She could freeze a man in place with her seductive curling lip. Broken as she was, her beauty gave her refuge. Her beauty, warm and welcoming to him, left us cold. Empty. Lost.

As a little girl I would sit on the fuzzy-covered toilet seat and watch her spread colors on her cheeks, her lips, her eyes. I would mimic the faces she made in the mirror, wishing that one day our reflections would match. She would glance at me, arching a brow while pulling heated rollers from her hair. Was she wishing the same?

"I'm leaving." Her words banged in my ears. I should try to understand. I'm not a child anymore. I should be supportive. I should . . . I should . . .

But instead I was the awkward little girl made of sharp edges clashing with soft parts, wishing for a spread of pink across my cheeks, the turn of a wand before my eyes, the easy beauty that made life seem so . . . perfect.

But perfect never was. Looking in the mirror the reflection stares back. Broken.

And then she left.

My mother left.

*I had to leave this post as it was in the early morning hours when I spit it upon the page. I couldn't believe I posted a stinging memory such as this so close to Mother's Day--a day of celebration. But earlier in the week I was left standing, shuffling through cards with tin foiled and glittered exclamations of a mother's greatness and it left me with a furrowed brow and a heavy gut.
Here's the rest of the story . . .

Her mother left her in the scattered dust of four spinning old whitewall tires. Her mother left her staring into a future that held no sweetly sung lullabies, no tea parties with flowered pots and pretend guests. Her mother left the tiny girl with soft curls and barefoot feet with promises that she never intended to fulfill.

Tiny, broken and lost she clung to scattered memories of the woman who birthed her, the woman who said she loved her, the woman who found something better. She clung to the empty words that her mother, clutching a beaten suitcase in one hand and keys in the other, whispered in her ear. The little girl knew no truth existed there. She knew this woman would never draw her into her arms, bury her face into the sweaty curls that wrapped around her neck and tell her she would never leave her.

My mother, so little, so lost, yet so full of hope, watched as her own mother stumbled into an old Chevy, slammed the door behind her and pulled away.

The once abandoned little girl was now a woman with children of her own. And there I was, her nearly grown daughter who watched her as she covered imperfections and made silent promises to the reflection in the mirror. My mother would find her happiness. She would not be lost anymore.

Even if meant she had to let us go.

And she did. For a time. We were never the same, the young woman tripping into adulthood, the barely teenage boy full of angst, the little girl with scribbled dreams, the baby with a lifetime ahead of her. We were never the same when she kissed us with rose-stained lips, the heady scent of her perfume trailing behind her.

She's not really leaving, is she? My little sister's eyes questioned me as the tears began to form, blurring the blue of her eyes.

"Yes. She is." I said loudly, with no words. I knew she had to go. I knew she felt she had to go. And I knew that one day she'd realize what she left behind.

Broken as she was, as she is . . . the love I have for her finds a way to fill the gaps.

I often think of her, that little girl left alone in a trail of dust, her hands reaching to her eyes to push aside the dirty tears she didn't understand. I want so much to hold her . . . tell her that one day she'll have all the love she'll ever need.

Tiny. Broken. Mine. Mama.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WW: I Love Him . . .

Photo: Courtesy of sweet AG's mommy . . .

Do I need to say more?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Surviving Inadequacies

She threw her hair over her shoulder, gave me a shrug and mouthed "It is so hot," while dramatically fanning herself and rushing back into the kitchen to fetch more pancakes. She never came to say hello. She didn't bother. Why should she with so many more important things to do?

There I sat, in a tiny booth meant for two. Me, my growing belly, my husband and JR. Well, in truth JR was off running up and down the aisle ways with the love of his life. My eyes narrowed as she returned from the kitchen, balancing plates and engaging in an easy banter with patrons. "You're growing a life," I repeated to myself. "You're raising your son," echoed in my head.

She's a teacher. The head of the English department of which I was once an integral member. She has given up her Saturday to volunteer her rather limited time to run tables for a pancake breakfast fundraiser. The restaurant was filled with teachers I once joked and laughed with while mingling in the mail room. There were students I once sat with, hovering over essays and open literature books discussing themes, plots and characterization.

But now, there I was, eating one pancake after another while my eyes darted from table to table, reliving the time when I was someone everyone knew. When I had my own voice mail box. When I had a creamy colored notepad with a name, mine, and title embossed on the bottom. When I had a room to call my own (granted there were no windows and it had a serious pest problem--it was still mine).

I have been a stay-at-home-mom (I don't even like the way it sounds. The tiny needling meanings that slink around the letters do nothing but make my lip curl) for well over a year . . . going on two.

Is my story done? I am often wondering if this is my final chapter.

I have no regrets . . . do I? Never, ever do I regret that tiny voice that calls for me late in the night, only to soften to a moan the moment my hand begins to rub the gentle curve of his back. Never do I regret the slow swell and swoop of my belly as I contemplate fabric choices for a room yet unfinished. No. No regrets there . . . none, whatsoever.

Yet, there is a part of me--she sits, small and wishing, hoping for more. Scrape-kneed, fingering the fraying hem on her shorts and smoothing the stained fabric on her daisy-embellished shirt.

She always wanted more, but never thought she should. So she hoped instead.

Maybe some days I have regrets for her. For all she wanted to do, for all she never did. For stories left unwritten. She was not the smartest. She was not . . . no, there is no SHE.

We're talking about me.

I do sometimes wonder about what I haven't done. What I didn't finish. Where I didn't go. I wear my inadequacies like a wool coat, weighed down with the heavy snow of winter. I shrug it off from time to time, especially when the sound of JRs giggles fill a room or when I fold the knitted purple sweater for a baby girl yet-to-be.

I am reminded of what I have done. Where I have gone. What will never be finished . . . but in a good way. In a you will always matter and what you do will always make a difference way.

This is not as easy as the words beg it to be. I wish it were . . . I wish these feelings of inadequacy could easily be washed away with giggles, knitted sweaters, photos drenched in sepia, artwork hanging on doors, tiny booties tossing in a dryer, the scatter of letters on the front of the fridge.

But it isn't.

I am left to think about all those filled notebooks of "Where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years." I think about the poetry filled with schoolgirl dreams . . . rock star? Artist? Writer? Doctor? The faded To Do lists I recovered from a journal I don't even remember keeping--yet, there was a day when the entries, the poetry, the lists just stopped. Did the story end? My story . . . our stories?

These stories of mothers, of women, there they are. Like hallowed bones they lay, splayed open like empty pages, waiting for the guts to fill them up, the skin to pull them together. Those inadequacies, those fears that gray the white, they can be more. I tell myself that they can, that they will. I don't have a choice but to believe it. To hope for it.

While part of me will always be surviving these inadequacies--the other part of me, lets it all go, knowing that my story is not yet finished. And that his tiny voice, her tiny wiggles are mere reminders of the pages I have yet to fill.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Slurpee B*tch

I have these cravings, you see. They have nothing to do with pickles, peanut butter or even midnight runs for some obscure ice cream flavor.

My first craving (and yes, I am eating a bowl of Multigrain Cheerios right now) is cereal. It is more of an obsession. Lucky Charms, Post Raisin Bran (yes, it must be Post), Apple Jacks, oh, and sweet, sweet Cap'n Crunch (with Berries--I simply don't get it without the berries. Seriously, why bother?). A cereal aisle is my personal Disney World.

Chocolate MALTS are my other vice. And no, a chocolate milkshake will simply not due. Quite frankly, any form of thick chocolaty goodness without extra malt is a travesty. A sneer and a flip to my taste buds.

And then there is my intensely snooty love for fruit. I have been known to eat an entire watermelon in one sitting. We won't discuss the after effects of said gluttony--it wouldn't be suitable for this family-friendly blog. While I will eat nearly any type of fruit, I will say that I am a total fruit snob. Grapes must be plump and firm. Bananas bruise free and the perfect shade of yellow (with a hint of green). Apples must be near perfect--any flaw at all and I am certain it will be one of those mealy apples that isn't suitable for anything except maybe a second-rate applesauce. And my berries. Oh, sweet berries. If I'm going to spend $567,987 on you, then you'd better be perfect. That's all I can say . . .

Cereal, malts and fruit. That's what I crave. However, I would give them all up to a train full of naked nuns if I were offered a . . .


Cherry, preferably.

I see a 7-11 and I darn near break down into a fit of convulsions. The husband doesn't even bother asking. He simply pulls in and retrieves my said drug of choice. Bless him . . .

This brings me to only a few days ago.

I was at a popular big box store where you can purchase a meal for an entire family (pizza, pretzel, Slurpee-wannabe) for under $10 at the store cafe. Seriously, I've had several "date nights" at the big box store so I would know.

JR and I were on our own, making our way toward the exit, when I spotted the Slurpee-wannabe machine. I knew it was there, I just tried to ignore it. But, I failed. Instead, my heavy feet headed in the direction of the counter, dollar clutched in my palm. Within minutes I had my Slurpee-wannabe in hand. Well, JR had it in hand.

The Slurpee-wannabe is served in a cup that is about the size of JR's upper body. While I was packing away the receipt and organizing the cart, I set the Slurpee-wannabe between his legs. He had the straw in his mouth in less than 2 seconds, happily sucking away.

A nearby cashier commented about how cute it was. I quickly responded in a way that let her know I do not give my toddler a gallon jug of red, icy sugar water every day, but an occasional sip I feel is fine. She didn't care what I said, she just thought it was cute watching him try to drink from a cup that was twice the size of his head.

A few more patrons walked buy and all were amused with the tiny toddler with the huge cup sitting between his legs.

Except for one lady.

Now, be forewarned. There was a good chance I was hormonal, overly sensitive or just plain irritated.

"My, look at that. That cup is bigger than he is!" she exclaimed loudly.

I looked up, preparing to remove the straw from toddler's mouth and move toward the exit. I smiled at her and nodded in agreement.

"What is he drinking?" she asked.

"It is an icy drink--it is actually mine, but he loves to steal a sip or two." So he'd been sucking on it for a few minutes, she didn't need to know that.

"Oh," came her arched-eyebrow response. "You know," she continued, "when my babies were young, I would dilute all of their sweet drinks with water. I refused to give them such sugary drinks." Oh, thank you wise one.

My jaw clenched. I take criticism pretty well. I have fairly tough skin. I am open to accepting advice. But, for some reason, I felt a brewing frustration . I mean, she didn't know me, my son, my situation.

Listen, ma'am. I have been with Mr. No-Naps for the day, ALL day. He is showing his most wonderful toddler side by refusing to do . . . well, everything and anything. My house is a mess, I'm feeling a zillion weeks pregnant, I didn't make dinner and I have no clean underwear. Why, because this 2 and a half foot little human is the center of my existence (at least at this moment). We play chase, Play Doh, paint, color, go to the park, sing songs, dance, work on our alphabet and study pre-calculus. And so you know, I barely give him juice at all. He usually drinks water or milk. When I do give him juice I dilute it. Just because my toddler is sitting in a cart, in a big box store with a Slurpee-wannabe tucked between his legs and a straw as long as his body in his mouth does not make me a bad mother. So, while I appreciate your exemplary parenting skills, I'd appreciate if you just kept your comments to yourself.


But, I didn't say any of that.

Instead, I looked at JR, happily sucking down my 100 ounce Slurpee-wannabe and then focused my gaze on her.

"Well," I began, a smile pasted on my serene face, "good for you."

And that's all I said. With that, I turned away and headed for the door.

You know, had I just gone to 7-11 then maybe none of this would have happened. That's what I get for going all generic.

I got home, still a bit twisted from my experience. More twisted that it bothered me at all than by what she said.

In rather dramatic fashion, I reenacted the story for my husband. "You can just call me the Slurpee Bitch," I gleefully bragged (even though the bulk of the conversation never happened.)

"Um, actually," he said, clearing his throat, "wouldn't it be more accurate to say the Slurpee-wannabe Bitch?"

Oh yeah, he did.

And with that, I poured myself an extra serving of Lucky Charms and marched into the living room to watch some mind-numbing reality TV.

Damn, Slurpee . . .


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Paint, Patsy and a Dream

Sometimes I wonder why my mind goes where it goes--why it chooses to linger on thoughts I had believed were long since abandoned, memories long since forgotten.

I see a splash of red paint and I am instantly transported back to the darkened corridor of ramshackle housing, the smell of paint, the chattering of well-intentioned teenagers believing anything, anyone could change. Naively believing that a coat of paint could fill stomachs, erase pain, cure long-battled addictions, raise the dead. There would never be enough coats.

A week later the mission group returned to Cabrini Green only to find the newly painted walls streaked with angry red expletives. What did we expect? A crew of angels welcoming us with pastries and fresh fruit? Doors slammed and heads shook. Stupid kids.

We painted again. And again. Until we finally figured out that we would never be able to cover the red. Or raise the dead.

"Worry, why do I let myself worry, wondrin, what in the world did I do," Pasty croons on the radio. In a rare moment, I am alone. It is just this past weekend that I am driving to meet my sisters for lunch as the song plays from a crackling oldies AM station. But as Patsy sings, I am back in my mother's kitchen. Her back turned, she faces the sink as my eyes focus on the back of her legs, the gentle shift from one foot to the other as Patsy Cline fills the room in my mother's voice. I sit, towel in hand. Waiting.

Old songs always pull me back into the kitchen, my feet firmly planted on peeling linoleum, my hands holding a chipped A & P "collectible" (free with purchase) plate, rubbing a damp towel on its surface. I'm always there. Waiting.

"And I'm crazy for lovin' you."

Last night, I was in bed. I was desperate to find a soft place for my expanding belly to rest. Left side. Right side. Propped up. Hugging a pillow between my legs. Being spooned. Spooning.

Nothing worked. She must have had something on her mind. She didn't want to sleep last night.

Before the sun drifted atop the trees and seeped through my thin shades, I drifted off into a desperate sleep.

"You're beautiful," came his muffled words as his steamy breath curled around my ear and his hands pulled back loose strands of my hair.

He spoke words I craved. His words shaped me that night. Made me think that maybe I was, even for a moment. After all, he would know. He was a man. A real flesh and blood man, with stubble covering his face, a pack of cigarettes in his pocket and a driver's license in a wallet. What more did you need?

His lips barely touched mine. His fingers gently tapping the bottom of my chin and then tracing the curve of my neck. He knew what to do. He knew where to go. He pulled me closer to him, lifting me over the armrest and into his lap. I closed my eyes and pretended to know what I was doing.

I was afraid if I breathed that he might disappear.

I shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be here.

But he was. I was. Nothing else mattered. Except that my foot was wedged between the seat and the gear shift. My foot throbbed. But at that moment it could have come off, ran away with my other foot and I wouldn't have cared.

My A-cups, my pimply skin, my unruly hair--this body was so hungry. For what, it didn't know. Yet.

However, he knew. He had fed before. Many, many times. I was one of many special girls. I was about to become really special . . .

"I can give you . . . " his voice trailed off as his hands began to move. Slowly. Knowing. Expecting.

Invading. I opened my eyes. My imagination darkened. Reality became the old sentry.

My eyes narrowed. My throat, dry. My voice, caught.

"Let go, little girl." Did he speak it? Did I? I didn't know.

My shoulders lifted, my back arched. Blood. My lip. I was biting it.

I'm afraid.

"I don't think I should . . . " the words came in a small voice, weak, confused and pleading.

"No, you should. It will feel . . . " said the man to the little girl.



Not. Yet.

I open my eyes. I push the pillow aside and kick down the covers as my hazy gaze follows the shadows moving on the ceiling. It is morning. I'm in my bed. Not in an battered Chevy.

I am calm, though my breath comes quick and heavy. It is a dream that won't go away. It will stay, waiting, whispering like the memory that it is.

My hands move over my belly.

No. Baby girl. No.

Not yet.

For now, she is safe.

For now.

Sometimes I wonder why my mind goes where it goes . . . and then, I hear the squeal of my baby boy as he calls for his mama and I feel the gentle swell of my belly.

And I know exactly why.

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