Archive for May, 2008

Say Hi to The Mom Crowd

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

My friend Amanda debuted her site’s video podcast series today.


If you’re a soon-to-be- mom, have small kids or know someone who does, they’d love this first episode. And there’s more to come!


Check it out!


Of Mice and Men

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I’d kinda hoped for a brief respite today. Oh sure, I needed to edit my reports, stick something in the crock pot, and do a cursory housecleaning, but I’d have loved to punctuate my day with a little mindless TV, perhaps some popcorn, even a nap. Each day fills with obligations and chores and I realize it’s 9PM and I haven’t recharged all day. As soon as the bedtime battle is fought, I’ve even taken to collapsing on the couch and hoping my husband’s found something on the television in the other room. I just don’t have conversation in me. Even the blog’s begun to feel like another to-do.


I think I’m one of those people who needs a lot of mental downtime. I’ve got to refresh or I’m a bear. But when you’re mom to two small kids, work from home and run a household, you need to make peace with the lack of relaxation and just-doing-nothingness or you’ll become resentful and crabby. Like I am now.


It’s just the details, you know? The knowledge that your work is truly never done. There’s always another dish to wash, diapers to buy, food to be cooked. The never endingness of it all is so daunting. And when I’m not doing that kind of stuff, I’m sitting at the computer cranking out another report, knowing that if I don’t spend my time constructively, we might not pay all our bills this month.


I know: shut up. Everyone’s got their something. And I know my husband feels the same: always running, thinking, “what’s next on the list?.” It’s not as if our situation is any different from millions of others out there. Plus, the single mom or dad? I can’t even imagine.


Then there IS the fact that right now, I’m sitting on the couch, writing this. So I give thanks for that. Toots came down with the stomach flu last night (“Mom? It feels like there’s a knife and… {{dramatic pause}} …scissors in my stomach.”) She’d crept into bed with us, as she does most nights, and brought a barf bowl with her. Juggling the bowl on her chest for a fitful hour, she finally gave up the fight and spewed everywhere.


I made The Rock clean most of it. The sight of the barf sloshing around the bowl very nearly did me in, but I managed to mop most of it off the sheets, while I instructed The Rock to dispose of the puke in the toilet and not the sink because the chunks don’t drain. THAT didn’t sit well and The Rock grumbled, “I know!” and slunked around the bathroom finishing up. Then, when he discovered I’d missed a large puke spot, a spot which he’d sat down on, he became downright insulting. So I left to sleep on the couch, realized my back wouldn’t suffer it gladly, and made him sleep there instead.


This morning, I discovered Toots had peed all over the bed. And that’s pretty much when I lost my marbles. I just didn’t want to strip the bed. AGAIN. Didn’t want to do laundry, make breakfast, take a shower, nothing. Instead, I imagined a caregiver entering the bedroom just then, someone to soothe me, make me soup, and babysit my kids while I watched re-runs of the Deadliest Catch. I just felt all, you know: No more, no more, NO MORE!


But up I got. And here I am.


On the bright side, the sound of the dryer winding down is wafting up the stairs and both kids are napping, so, I’m going to sit here for awhile, count my blessings and shut the hell up.


And in case you’re a fan of happy endings, here’s the note I got from The Rock this morning:


“Sorry about last night. A couple minor frustrations broke the camel’s back
You do not deserve to be the recipient. Tell Toots I am proud of her for
trying so hard to not get sick in the bed. Tell Booger I am going to send her
to live on the booger farm with all the rest of the boogers if she doesn’t
make bedtime easier. I think she is sneakily making us pay for the
bottlectomy. I love you.


Grumpy Old Man”


At least we’re in it together.


Really Written for Her Grandma, (I Think), But I Re-Purposed It

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I walked down the aisle to this song, sung by a friend of mine (not the original artist) and I can’t believe I just found it after all these years.


Really, I thought I’d never hear it again. i just couldn’t locate it anywhere. And the only place I’d ever hear it was if I watched my wedding video again, but as I chewed gum throughout the whole ceremony and displayed a nervous tic while saying my vows, it’s not my first choice for Must-See TV.


Anyway. The song. Almost makes me want to drag out my VHS.


Now I Know

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I hate when people take too long to continue a story. I refused to watch miniseries on network TV for that very reason. I could not stand to wait until the next day or week for a story to be completed. But hypocrite much? Nearly three weeks later and I’m finishing the Coretta story. (Not that you even know who Coretta is, or care for that matter, it’s not like Roots or V, but still…)


Nevertheless, I last left off when Coretta and I graduated from high school. Soon after graduation, I moved to San Diego with my family and Coretta stayed, as all my friends did, to attend a Catholic midwestern or East Coast university. During this time, I felt disenfranchised (again). Used to be moving around so much invigorated me, but as a teen-ager, it sucked donkey eggs. To ease my loneliness, Coretta sent me letters, and mix tapes with Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” on them, and came to visit as often as she could and vice versa.


I miserably attended a community college for a year and a half, then transferred to the same Milwaukee university that Coretta attended, an echo of high school. But this time, Coretta seemed troubled and melancholy, keeping pretty much to herself, which stunned me for such a social butterfly. She was often lost in thought and preoccupied and I thought maybe she felt displaced in such a big school, or missed home, or, well, I just didn’t know. She needed me more often, instead of the other way around, and we’d spend quiet evenings together, just hanging out. But, I gradually absorbed myself into the university and made other friends, and Coretta wanted nothing to do with them.


I still ended up going home with her for Thanksgiving my sophomore year, and while at home, she seemed to temporarily spring back to life, but once we returned to school, her darkness returned. Not happy unless I was with her and only her, our relationship grew strained. I dreaded inviting her to what I was doing, because I knew she wouldn’t go and would try to talk me out of going myself. Still, I assimilated into a new group of friends, and Coretta and I talked less and less, but remained close, as hard as it is to believe.


Then, for Spring Break, I returned to San Diego with two of my “new” college friends. We’d planned a week of beaches, under-21 bar hopping and hanging out. Coretta went to visit L.A. with a friend of ours, and everything seemed peachy. Until a late night phone call from Coretta, telling me she was leaving L.A. and coming to San Diego to stay with me. The very next day.


I looked forward to her visit, but at the same time, knowing her disdain for my new relationships, I dreaded it also. Sure enough, when she showed up the next day, she barely said a word to my friends and right before we were to go out to dinner, she asked me to join her in the bathroom for a talk.


I spent about 30 minutes in there with her, as she sat on the counter, rocking back and forth. Clearly something was the matter. But she could not or would not articulate it and I hate that I became frustrated. She begged me to stay home with her, but of course I couldn’t, as I was hosting two other — hungry –people in my city. She became morose, but begrudgingly agreed to join us for dinner.


So off to dinner we went. My friends and I tried to make light of the situation, but goopy tension dripped like candle wax. Then halfway through the meal, Coretta excused herself and we watched her sit on a column near the restaurant entrance and rock back and forth, as she had earlier in the bathroom. I’d never seen her behave this way, and frankly I didn’t know how to handle it. I came to her side outside, but she didn’t say a word, which for a normally talkative girl, was out of the ordinary and befuddling. While out there, she told me she wanted to stay home that night and became angry when I said I’d promised to take my friends out. I honored my promise and a upset Coretta left the next day.


Things really went downhill after that. After Spring Break, she called my dorm to disinvite me to her house for Easter, and basically cut me out of her life. UNTIL, a few weeks later, when she rang me to ask that I meet her in an empty art room on campus.


A few minutes later, I entered the Journalism building and headed for the room number Coretta gave me over the phone. I found her, in the dark, huddled on top of a desk, engaged in the rocking motion I’d come to know so well that semester. I begged her to tell me what was bothering her so. What had her so locked up? But again, she kept her mouth shut. She didn’t want me to leave, but she didn’t want me to stay and that was one of the most frustrating evenings of my life. I did not know how to help her, and she obviously needed someone to understand.


I left later, I don’t even know how long I was there really. But as I walked home that night, I just knew that Coretta and I were lost to each other. She wouldn’t let me in and I felt like one of those blow-up clown toys I had as a kid — the one with the weighted bottom — which she kept pummeling over and over — popping back up each time, until I didn’t. And honestly? I felt angry myself. I’d spent years circling Coretta, always there at her whim and beckoning, never asking for anything in return. And now she seemed to resent me for having my own life Or at least that’s what I thought. Either way, we didn’t talk for the rest of our college days.


I suppose I felt relief at first. But as I saw her around campus, I missed her, and felt bereft. We’d been best friends since the fifth grade, and this cleaving felt unnatural. Whenever I glimpsed her in a bar, or in a class (we were the same major), it was if I saw a ghost. She looked wan and sullen and sad. And if I reached out to her, she bit back, and then I stopped reaching.


One of the most intense moments between us happened during college graduation. I ran into Coretta’s mom — a woman I loved as if she were my own mother — in the halls before the ceremony and I fought the impulse to hug her as I might have done under normal circumstances. We danced around each other, not sure what to say, and I watched as Coretta led her mom away, as if I were a begger on the street.


After graduation, I lived in Milwaukee for a few months, and soon received a package from Coretta with a note. I have no idea why it came or how she had the address. Maybe we’d talked in there somewhere, I just can’t remember. Either way, she’d sent me a book for ad copywriters (my specialization within my major) and inside had tucked a note updating me on her life, without a mention of our estrangement or why it’d happened. Of course, I’d written her back, and she returned the gesture, and it seemed we were on our way to friendship again. About three weeks later, an old high school friend had a party, which we both attended, and I still have the picture of us there — sitting on a couch, talking as old friends. Yet there’s a look on Coretta’s face I still picture — she’s laughing, but it looks so close to a cry that I sometimes swear it is. It’s out of place for a laugh, it’s almost as if she’s in pain.


Years go by, and it’s as if we never had a reconciliation. I see Coretta at weddings, baby showers, parties, and she acts as if I don’t exist, which still confuses me. Hadn’t we made up (from what, I don’t know)? About four years after college, I eyed her at a Halloween party, where she stood off to the side, pale and simmering. She’d dressed as Melissa Etheridge, with a cut-off denim shirt and jeans, and as I hung out in the kitchen, lamely dressed as Phoebe from Friends, I could feel her disdain from across the room.


But I didn’t know what she hated so much. Was it my cluelessness? My vanilla tastes? My ordinariness? Clearly, she’d moved into some alternative lifestyle, maybe she despised my mainstream-ness? And while I say, “alternative,” I still didn’t get it. Not until I caught rumors much later that Coretta was a lesbian. And then, it all clicked.


In college, she must have been coming to terms with the fact that she was gay. Coming from a traditional Italian family, surely she’d felt they wouldn’t understand. Hell, she probably didn’t understand it herself. Raised in the ’80s in a midwestern suburb, attending catholic schools and pretend living the template cut out for her, she probably felt lost. Lost and alone. Maybe she felt guilty. Angry that she was “different.”


And she’d tried to reach out to me. Her best friend, who wasn’t there for her. I want to tell her that if she’d told me, I’d have understood. I wouldn’t have cared. She was my closest and dearest friend and news like that wouldn’t have mattered. I wish I could have been there for her. Looking back now, I feel so selfish and clueless. How by herself she must have felt.


I looked her up before my wedding 8 years ago. I’d heard her mom had suffered a brain aneurysm on Christmas and I wanted to offer my condolences and wishes for a speedy recovery. But I didn’t receive a reply. Later, I tried e-mail. And again, no reply.


I do know she’s successful and fully out now. I see her listed as a singer/songwriter in Chicago, and she also wrote and directed a few indie movies. I’m so happy that she’s found an outlet for her creativity. I always knew she’d do something big. I wish I could reach her somehow, but what do you say? “Hi? How are you?” doesn’t seem to address the gulf that grew between us. Or why it grew in the first place.


Nonetheless, I did try one last time. Last year, I got her e-mail from a mutual friend and sent her a long letter, which went unreturned. I know I must respect her choice. I just want to tell her I would have respected any choice she made. Even then.


So. Even though more years have passed that I haven’t known Coretta, than when I did, I still miss her. I miss the humor, the friendship, the past we shared. And every time I hear Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” I remember how close we were. And how we might have stayed that way, if I’d been a little smarter, a little more compassionate.


Too Good for My Britches

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Wow. You PROMPTuesdayers are GOOD.


I’m honored to have you participate.


And if you haven’t read the submissions yet, take a minute to do so. You won’t be disappointed.


p.s. My early morning wake-up plan was foiled by nighttime pee and cereal requests.


1001 Things

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

There’s so many things I want to tell you.


Like, why I haven’t done this PROMPTuesday. (Answer: Because it’s too hard.) Or, why I’m sipping wine in the dark (Answer: because the kids can’t find me.).


There’ s just many things I want to write. Things about labels and rituals and why both are necessary. Or not. Then there’s authenticity and why I think I’m being real, but only on my terms, and that’s just not right.


Also, I never continued my story about Coretta. And I need to, I know. Because it needs to be told. Man, I’ve got stories. Stories that can’t stay quiet. Tales that need a voice, a teller, a muse. Stories. I gotta write! Gotta write!


Plus, you need to hear about my stalker. I think I’m even going to post a picture of him. Just to make up for all the grief he caused me. Sure, it was 10 years ago now, but I still can’t stop looking under my bed at night.


Whoa, heavy! Where’d that come from? Anyone need a therapist? Geez oh man.


in addition, I want to tell you that it was really funny when my oldest, Toots, ran to the bathroom and shut the door and my youngest followed after her, yelling, “open door, open door!” and Toots cracked the door open and answered, “Stop it Booger! I need public.”


See, I’ve got stuff to tell you all about. Things I think about first thing in the morning when I’m allowed the briefest of internal thoughts and I feel prolific and loose and creative, but then BAM! the morning unfolds and next thing you know I’m cradling a bottle of wine, and editing a report on Sri Lanka. Or not.


And you should see Toots now, she’s laying her head against an ottoman, watching “Annie” with stars in her eyes. She loves the musicals. Remember how those movies made you feel when you were a kid? Like the world was wonderful and full of promise and you were going to take it by the horns? Or reins? (What would be the more appropriate metaphor?) (I guess it depends on whether the world were a bull or a horse, right?)


Finally, did I tell you that I’m fully committed to finishing my book? I WILL DO IT. By end of summer. Well…at least the first draft. And then I will sell it and get that loft and pool and more bottles of wine and voice lessons for Toots. Plus, more public. Maybe get her her own room or something.


I tell you what. This is what I’m going to do: wake up really early tomorrow, and write about these things before they flit away and all I can do is hint at them because I’m too tired for a proper rendering. What do you say to that?


Hello? Hellooooo? Hellllooooooo?


PROMPTuesday #6: Don’t Be Yourself

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope it was a good one.

I, for one, percolated over PROMPTuesday.

This time, I wanted to do something unique, something block-busting, something random and ridiculous…and I feel confident that what I came up with will confuse and befuddle you. But that’s OK! Because confusion leads to creativity! You’ve read that somewhere, right?


This is why I don’t take painkillers with alcohol.


For this PROMPTuesday, I’d like us to experiment with being someone else for awhile.


So, here’s the deal: Write in another voice — someone completely opposite from you (i.e. an oil tycoon, a four-year-old kid, a drunk dog) and argue in favor or opposition to something outlandish which should be legalized or outlawed (i.e. the oil tycoon might argue that all environmental groups be declared unconstitutional, the four-year-old may advocate mandatory dessert after dinner, etc.).


This could be fun, no?


All right. Here are the rules:


You must write your entry in 10 minutes. This encourages top-of-mind, primal thinking before the ego and judgmental brain kicks in. Just set a timer, make your kid count to 600 slowly, whatever. It’s an honor system. And I trust you.


Keep to 250 words or less.


Use Mr. Linky below to post your entry, so everyone can read them. If you don’t have a blog, please post your entry in the comments section.


Please have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Together, let’s rediscover the simple joy in the writing process.


I can’t wait to see what turns up!



My Town

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

In a pink plastic car sits a child of two, singing for the extra assurance of her daddy’s hand as she steers down the boardwalk. Mom licks an ice cream cone, bending down to share when the girl looks up, with chocolate mouth and magicked eyes.


A merrily painted bungalow sits behind a handmade gate of twisted wicker, culminating in an arch where passerby tie wishing ribbons on the mangled strands, a visceral reminder of luck’s twists and turns, of jostled hopes for a baby, a diagnosis, a peace.


Sun-dried men and women cross the street, barefoot, toes curled up, shrinking from the hot pavement, yet the calloused heels touch down confidently, used to brambles, broken glass and scalloped bottle caps.


Night windows open, the sound of rushing surf a pulse. We sit outside, comforted by a town in repose, but still humming; life stretching, the waves a beating reminder, a conviction.


Walkers in twos jaunt up hills, then down, and back again, stopping to look at the kaleidoscope before them, sprinkled with white sails and red buoys, then lovers link hands, friends nod, dogs pull against their leashes.


Drunks shout as you enter your car, give life to bars, dot the oak benches and open-air tables, some are sirens, some the surf, some, ice cream; all are bewitched.


Scrambling down the cliffs, keeping an eye on the concrete wedged in the dirt, cars parked here once, reclaimed by shifting sands and the water’s incessant bleating. Surfers nimble by, surefooting their way down crags and nooks. A sea lion preens on a rock. Your children point to a sea anemone and rush headlong into the tide’s pool. You wish it all were the size of a penny, pocketed for good luck.


Kites flicker, tails waving and pointing. Children hold their faces to the sun, their parents calling out shapes and colors, but the children are deaf, and pirouetting in the sky.


A lime green bus with white fenders parks in front of an apartment, where inside you see a flickering woman holding a cigarette, she waves, or at least you think she does. You lift your fingers, and they catch the breeze; she smiles and sets the ashtray on the table, the smoke drifts into the air, a ghost.


He sails down the hill, inches from your car, and begins to weave, defiant. He’s a blur, save for the red baseball cap perched cockeyed on streaming brown hair. At the intersection, he continues on, and you wonder at his silly courage. His hat lifts, whirls, and slams against your hood.


Her yellow shirt showed you she was crying. Her boyfriend rose to sit next to her, and he put an air around her shoulders. Red cheeks clash with garish yellow, as he pulled out some papers. He’s never coming back. You both know it.


In full daylight, a baby in night clothes fights sleep, curled in his grandpa’s arms. The old man’s feet are anchors, the baby quiets just as mom peeks over her father’s shoulder, and satisfied, turns toward home. The man stays to draw a blanket over the boy.


He slides chairs out, inviting us into the conversation, his wife pointing to New York Times cartoons and the flyer for Friday’s photo contest at the Historical Society. Coffee comes and I cut French Toast into bite-sized pieces, while my daughter laughs at his jokes.