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Kitchen Sink


The Park

May 3rd, 2014

I watched from the park picnic table as four young teen-aged girls walked to the restrooms, shoulder to shoulder. The group caught my attention because they seemed to be dragging their feet, rather than actually picking them up one in front of the other, lending a sort of slow motion effect to their approach. They went on painstakingly this way, looking up every so often at the group of parents gathered under the covered patio for an end-of-season softball party with our kids. My eyes continued to follow them as they made their way inside the bathroom, and I saw one of them pat her jacket pocket as if to say, “I got it.”


“That seems suspicious,” my husband said from next to me. “You should go in there and see what’s going on.”


He’d read my mind of course, because that was exactly what I planned to do. This particular park acted as a sort of gathering place for teenagers after hours and it was never unusual to find used condoms, beer bottles, and small containers littered with something powdery strewn across the sidewalk as I walked my kids to school in the morning. From the moment I’d glimpsed the girls headed in our direction, I imagined they planned to use the bathroom for drinking or drugs, hesitated when they saw a dozen adults near the entrance, then decided to go through with their funny business anyway.


I called to my youngest, intending to use her as a decoy. After convincing her she needed to clean herself up, we walked hand-in-hand to the bathroom. I entered making noise just in case, I don’t know, they were in the middle of something horrible, and had time to put whatever it was away before I could confront them. Frankly, I didn’t know what I would do if I caught them in some sort of act, and I’d rather not be put in that position, even if catching them was my intention all along.


I pretended to wash my daughter’s hands and noticed that the teens were packed into the handicap stall at the far end of the restroom area. I made my way to my own toilet, and heard them start to sing very low. I looked straight at the closed door they stood behind to see the Uggs of one of them protecting the latch. We locked eyes through the too-wide gap between door and door frame.


I kept on, closed my door and stood inside the stall for several seconds. I rustled around a bit, then flushed the toilet to continue my charade. I was a lousy private investigator. I wasn’t going to catch anyone in the middle of anything; and so I left to wait them out.


I positioned myself outside the bathrooms as the other parents and kids started a kickball game in the field several yards away. After about ten minutes, two girls came out of the bathroom and with that same slow gait, made their way to the bleachers to watch the game that had just unfolded. Several additional minutes later, the remaining teens emerged, and one of them took a white paper bag from her jacket and placed it in the trash.


They joined their friends, no one saying a word, no one looking at the other. I stayed where I was and stared at their backs, silhouetted against exuberant ten-year-olds running to bases and high-fiving their dads.


I knew what was in that bag.


I needed to confirm it, and I would, five minutes later as the girls eventually left to walk again so very slow, to the end of the park, shoulder to shoulder as they’d come in the first place.


I didn’t explain myself to the other parents still sitting at the picnic table. I just walked to the trash can, removed the lid, pulled out the bag and dumped its contents into the empty Gatorade bottles, errant Goldfish, and birthday cake remnants.


The pregnancy test box settled among the other trash.


I returned to my picnic table post, and a furious blizzard of thoughts pockmarked my brain.


They only look 14, 15 tops.

At least they had each other.

What happened? Was this her first time?

Her mom doesn’t know.


The park sat at the end of a cul de sac, three blocks from my home, and surrounded by houses where my friends lived and by people I know on sight. Chances are, these girls belonged to someone I knew, and that thought persisted as I watched my oldest running in dirt and giggling with her teammates. When I moved to this town, chosen for its family friendliness and safety, I visited this park with my daughters the very first day we took possession of our house. My firstborn was entering kindergarten then in 2009, just five years old, and those girls I saw today were more than likely my oldest’s age now.


It happens so fast. All of it.


I had to know. Despite what the softball party participants would think, I grabbed two toilet seat protectors from the bathroom, covered my palms, marched outside, removed that trash can lid a second time, and shook the pregnancy test out of its box. It’d been awhile since my last scare, so the lines wobbled and confused me for a minute or two, but as I drew the test closer, I saw it was negative.


I wondered why the girls had left the bathroom so somberly; why they weren’t congratulating their friend; why they stopped to silently watch a kickball game where they didn’t know any of the players.


I decided they were remembering; when they were still kindergarteners, when they high-fived their dads, when the only trash they hid was uneaten vegetables.


How long would it be until I wouldn’t know my daughter spent her Saturday afternoon buying a drugstore pregnancy test?


Because it happens so fast. All of it.


Touch&Know: Would You Test That Powder You Found in Your Kid’s Room?

April 30th, 2014


I’ve feared drugs ever since I was a kid and watched Eve Plumb in “Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway” on ABC’s after-school special series. “Dawn” even made me dread entering high school for the first time, because I envisioned all teenagers as glassy-eyed wastoids lounging against lockers with hypodermic needles dangling from the inside of their arms.


I gave my parents a run for their money with that fear, and spent most of the summer of ’82 threatening to not attend high school or vowing they’d lose me forever to “the drug.”


I was a high-anxiety child.


I never did turn “to the drug” or even experiment beyond your run-of-the-mill because I literally thought I would die if I took narcotics, hallucinogenics, or Tylenol.


Thank you, “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway,” which by the way, should be required watching for every pre-teen.


Now, as a high-anxiety child turned high-anxiety adult, drugs still scare me. More because I’m hyper aware that kids are susceptible to its siren song, and that peer pressure is often a stronger drug than the drug itself (one startling study conducted by Columbia University showed that by the time they’re 17, 70% of kids say they’ve been offered illegal drugs).


I’ve gone through the scenarios in my head. Decided how I will protect my girls, surveil them everywhere, and answer their questions about illegal substances (THEY WILL KILL YOU DEAD AND YOU’LL NEVER COME BACK! works nicely). I’ve researched the apps that will tell me where my kids are at all times, rehearsed speeches about “choosing the right path” and ordered the “Dawn” DVD for when the time comes.


I want to leave nothing to chance.


That’s why I recently attended an event to introduce the drug testing kit, Touch&Know, which will be very quickly added to my “teen preparation pack” always in progress. My oldest daughter is 10 now, and that prep kit will be stocked to the brim come the tween years.



Touch&Know especially caught my eye because it’s used by law enforcement agencies, it tests for 22 kinds of drugs, including marijuana and Ecstasy, and it is used on the substance, not the person. So say, you found a smear of something on a bathroom counter or a nightstand, you could test it without having to confront your teen or ask them to breathe into a tube or pee into a cup. Touch&Know also tests liquids, so if you’re paranoid like me, and want to know if someone “roofied” your drink, you’ll find out quickly.


Even so, the thought that kept at me as I attended the event, and watched the videos, which I’ll link below, is what if you DID find drugs in your kid’s room? What then? It will obviously be revealed that you were “snooping” and that you didn’t trust him or her (for good reason perhaps), but how do you explain that breach of privacy anyway? Also, what now? Do you enter your kid into rehab? Threaten military school? I’m very interested in the what comes after.


I recently read an article about drug testing that helped me think through this area. The question posed to an expert was, “Doesn’t drug testing tell my teen I don’t trust him?” and the answer made a lot of sense to me. In a nutshell, the doctor responded that if you are suspecting drug use, you don’t trust your teen – in this one area. And it’s OK not to trust because drug use can get out of control quickly, with life-threatening results. If you’ve noticed a change in your teen’s behavior especially, drug testing is a safety measure, and you can explain that to him or her.


But still, then what if you find drugs? Again, the experts say to:

  • Be direct and calm
  • Ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions
  • Don’t get angry with what your child tells you, or the next time they won’t share with you what’s going on in his or her life.
  • Show support.
  • Give advice for how to make a better choice in the future.
  • Get your teen treatment.

The latter might depend on if the results came back positive for the first time or the fifth, but if your teen can’t stay clean, more consequences might be necessary such as a change of school or rehab.


While researching this topic as part of my “let’s-make-me-even-more-worried-about-the-teen-years” campaign, one approach I especially liked is to create a family drug and alcohol policy early on (for me, that would be now). As most of us probably do, start talking to your children at a young age about drugs and alcohol and explain that you’ll be developing a contract for them later on that will cover your expectations as they enter the teen years, list what specific consequences will be implemented if the policy is not followed, and details the potential for drug testing. Many studies point to positive role the possibility of drug testing can play in helping your teen avoid drugs because it gives them an out when offered something horrible, and allows them to say, “I can’t. My parents drug test.”


So, I don’t know. I’m collecting all of this information now, listening to parents of teens who’ve gone before me, and investigating all of my options, like Touch&Know.


If you are reading this and have tested your teen for drugs, I’d really like to hear what happened next.


Meanwhile, as for Touch&Know, this video was the one that got me thinking about how I’d handle this situation:



and most importantly, Touch&Know is for sale at Walgreen’s and doesn’t require you to send any samples back to a lab; you simply test and know.


It’s much better in my opinion to be proactive in this area, and drug testing probably works a whole lot better than repeated viewings of “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway.”


Here’s Touch&Know on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Touch&Know. All opinions, and references to cheesy ’70s movies are my own.


What To Get Your Husband For Your Anniversary

March 31st, 2014


I never know what to get my husband for anything. I used to try to dress him up with my holiday gifts, buying jeans and rugbies from the Gap and Banana Republic, but once he realized I was living some ’80s-Chicago-preppy dream and attempting to Jake Ryanize him, clothes as presents were off limits.


Then there was the year I bought him brass monkey bookends because once a guy on the basketball court called my husband a “skinny monkey;” but there’s only so far you can go with inside-joke-monkey humor.


Of course, he never gives me much direction with gift giving. Every time I ask, it’s either “I don’t need anything,” or completely outside-my-reach answers like, “dream basketball camp with Michael Jordan” or “Claire Forlani”.


So I get stuck. For the last few years, we didn’t exchange Christmas presents because it’s all about the kids and what the hell, but honestly I’d get him something if I knew what.


Then, this year, on the way to Thanksgiving at my dad’s place, my daughter, Booger, asked my husband what he wanted for Christmas. She had the iPad ready to type in his answers and he just responded off the top of his head the things he really wanted.


The number one answer? Teeth whitening. Down it went in the iPad’s note section, and I’m thinking, “Really? That would have been easy enough for you to tell me the year I bought you four cardigans with wooden buttons.” Then, he answered a bunch of other boring stuff like “underwear” and “a phone case,” until Booger interrupted with “You need a watch.”


Now, he’d not actually asked for a watch with his mouth, but apparently Booger had noticed that all the other dads wore watches and my husband better get with the program. I mean, he was embarrassing her with his bare wrist and non-suburban-dadness.


Bemusedly, my husband agreed to want a watch for Christmas and Booger closed her iPad case with a satisfied snap. I sat back in my seat smugly. Now I knew what my husband desired for Christmas.


Four days later to the minute, I received an email from a man who offered to send me a teeth whitening kit and a watch for review. Teeth whitening AND A WATCH. Surely the most random but wonderful combination ever, not to mention serendipitous.


I took him up on the offer.


Come Christmas, my husband was genuinely surprised that I a) listened to things he said not even directly to me without turning up the TV or unloading the dishwasher; and b) didn’t buy him anything plaid or stonewashed.


Now, I know this is not Christmas or even close to it, but our anniversary is coming up in a month and I’m again enlisting my daughter to ask what my husband wants because apparently she enacts some kind of truth serum response in his system. Also, I’m paying this information forward to you should you also have an anniversary approaching: your husbands probably want teeth whitening and/or a watch. And if they already have a watch, they might want one cooler. Or you want him to have one that’s cooler.


Same difference.


Here’s what I gifted my husband:


Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening


Smile Brilliant


You know how you go to the dentist and you pay a million dollars for everything and then think you should probably get your teeth whitened when you’re there, but it’s another million dollars? In addition and furthermore, I can barely get my husband to any appointment willingly, much less one that’s “vain.”


That’s why Smile Brilliant was perfect for him. The company sends you impression material so you can take molds of your teeth in the privacy of your own home and not in front of the drool basin you inevitably have to use at the dentist’s office. After you’ve taken your teeth impressions, you send in the molds and a few weeks later, you receive custom-fitted teeth whitening trays and high-velocity 22% whitening gel. It’s all private, and easy, and here’s the best part: NOT a million dollars. In fact, it’s more like not even $125.


In all honesty, I’ve tried to coerce my husband into teeth whitening for years, but he always balks at the price and the having to walk into an office to have it done. With this handy dandy gift, he had no more excuses. Yes, I had to be the one to apply the molding clay and attend to the drool, but these are the things us wives do, in addition to picking up wet towels and making sure our husbands don’t eat Lucky Charms or Dinty Moore every night for dinner.


Wood Watch by JORD

I’ve bought my husband watches before, and invariably he doesn’t like them. He has left-of-center, funky taste (enter me as his wife) and the same old watch doesn’t cut it with him. That’s how I knew he’d dig a wood watch. Plus, a watch made of “diverse woods from all over the world?” would really capture his fancy. I completely imagine a JORD wood watch worn by the most interesting man in the world, or my husband, who is a close second in his head.



Although we’re probably just like everyone else really, my husband and I like to think of ourselves as being different and unique, and these watches spoke to me for that very reason.


So I made Booger happy by dressing my husband up in a “suburban-dad” watch, while simultaneously making him stand out as staking his own style claim.


Plus, although my husband and I are well past the five-year anniversary stage, it is the “wood” anniversary and a wood watch like this would be the perfect nod to your wedded-bliss number and be functional at the same time. It’s not always easy to find anniversary gifts that do both.


In the meantime, I can tell you in all sincerity that I never would have thought to gift my husband with teeth whitening and a watch (hey! I should have included a card that said “I love your mouth and hands,” although he’d probably think that was an invitation to something naked), but sometimes the universe (and your daughter) has other plans.


I received the above products for review, but was not compensated in any other way. Furthermore,  I don’t accept products for review often or usually not really at all, so I have to sincerely like them in order to do so. 


Listen To Your Mother: So I Did

March 18th, 2014


I knew Listen To Your Mother was coming. It’s a nationwide show, and surely one of the productions would settle somewhere near San Diego. I’d tried out before – in Los Angeles in 2011 – but had read something funny, which if you knew me in person, was an unwise choice. Writing funny and reading funny are two very different things, and my forte sits solidly in maudlin and angst anyway. Not to mention, the LA talent was amazing and worthy of the city and no, I didn’t make it.


I don’t want to perform, that’s too out there and visible for me, but because Listen To Your Mother is a live reading series of women and men saying their writing out loud and that action, that flying in the face of fear – for me at least – is an out-of-your-comfort-zone reversal to all the things I’ve thought about myself over the years (I’m good right here doing all the same things, thank you; I can’t speak in public; I have nothing to say), I challenged myself to be a part of it. 


I’d read my writing in front of large groups of people exactly three times. Once at a poetry slam I made myself go to in the late ’90s. In a fugue state of what-the-hell-am-I doing, I polished my 11-line poem, made sweaty copies of it, and drove to an Ocean Beach coffee house (Java Joe’s for anyone who knows “old” San Diego), and waited my turn. The man who organized the slam sat up front and had all the trappings of a literary snob despite the shabby outerwear – or maybe because of it – and paid me no attention. For one, I wasn’t on the slam circuit, for another, I didn’t wear ethnic-inspired headwear or a poncho. I was a blonde, fairly suburban, jeans-wearer who couldn’t stop shaking. Not his type.


I handed in my poem and waited. The performer just before me wore all the tribal wear apparently in poetic style in 1998 and read her words in a singsong voice with perfectly spaced “slam beats.” I definitely was screwed. Because here’s the thing: I’m a writer not a reader. So many people can combine those two things flawlessly, but I’m not in that group. I’m in the group of terrified.


I read my poem quickly and forgettably. I left just the same.


Ever since then, I’ve tried to undo that moment.


Twelve years later, I took some writing to the Creative Alliance conference in 2010 where the Listen To Your Mother creator, Ann Imig, had organized a salon. Along with 10 other women, I took my turn reading a short piece in a darkening outdoor rock amphitheater as rain hung in the air, and again ran through my words. The atmosphere was light years more supportive than the slam, but I still had work to do with myself.


One more time at a Creative Alliance, this one in 2012, I read an essay. I went first and after some confusion realized I’d brought the wrong piece, I read quickly and with no small measure of monotone.


But I did it.


Those four words speak years to me.




In early 2000, I visited Vegas with my husband and another couple. As Vegas is wont to do, it separated the women from the men to clubs and gambling tables, and my friend Mike’s wife and I ended up in a lounge drinking rum and cokes. Soon enough, one of those cheesy Vegas contests sprung up and the emcee glommed onto me because he needed more people to dance to cheers and jeers. I’m loathe to get up in front of people just in case you missed the hundreds of words I wrote before these, but I figured “while in Vegas” and also I wanted to bust through my fear. Let’s ignore the fact that Vegas is not the place to do that, ever.


Either way, I found myself participating in a dance contest with some bona fide hams and had to “wiggle” every time “my” music played. The audience was encouraged to clap for the dancers they liked the best and let’s just say, my wiggling did not have a clapping soundtrack.


I cringed my way through “Let the Music Play” and acted like not myself – the one who cared less whether people liked me and was entirely comfortable in her skin.


It was singularly the most red-faced experience I can remember in recent history.


My only consolation? Vegas. And that I got up and did it.





This year, as I received news that Listen To Your Mother show would be produced in Orange County, I let the idea of auditioning again take residence in my head. But I would be out of town during the try-outs and would have to submit a video and I wasn’t a tech and the whole thing probably just wouldn’t work.


I let the opportunity go until on a Sunday I decided to change my thinking or at least do something in spite of it and so I read a piece, figured out the video end, and submitted.


Here was my final thought, again: I did it.


I had smaller than little expectations of making the show. I’m not a natural public speaker, much less performer. I get too tied up in my words and read them either too emotionally or too removed so I don’t come across as caring so much about what I’m saying.


I also have a weird facial tic. It’s a cross between a squirrel wrinkling its nose looking for acorns and me chewing imaginary gum.


But I did it.


Later, I received a phone call while selling Girl Scout cookies at a local Albertson’s.


I made it.


I have no illusions, but I keep seeing this vision that I hope will carry me through the up-there-in-front-of-people: It’s a shaft of bubbly light sent down from the my mom and my Rebecca and it’s joined by the light sent by all the other people before me who were scared to read their words, but who did it anyway.


And two more words keep coming to me along with that vision: bust through.


I know exactly what they mean.


Time Savers from a Crazy Person

March 4th, 2014


I don’t know what it is exactly – but I turbo hate to waste time on food and person prep. It’s like I just need to get to the next thing, and pesky irritants like using a cutting board to dice vegetables or taking my clothes off to iron them are too distracting. So, I cut corners in the most dangerous and obscure ways I will outline below. Please avoid doing any of these time savers unless you are Houdini’s descendant or a voodoo master skilled in limb reanimation.


Time Saver #1:

Use your palm to cut food.

Don’t use a cutting surface that doesn’t bleed! Slice and dice onions and peppers and cheese and all manner of edibles like even steak and baguettes right in the crook of your hand! Getting out the cutting board take precious milliseconds you just don’t have today. If you get real good, you’ll barely miss chopping off vital artery conduits! Hey, that potato is worth it.

Real life example: I carve off tiny pieces of green pepper right into the pan cooking my scrambled eggs. I wear long sleeves, too. That way, when the fabric dangles into the stove’s fire, my face can blow up.


Time Saver #2:

Iron your clothes when they’re still on your body.

Why would you waste time carefully spreading your clothes on an ironing board or other heat-resistant surface? You’ve got skin, Jack, and while not impervious to temperatures above 200 degrees, your clothes are already on it. Just carefully slide the searing iron down your legs (wear pants for this one) or gently smooth the collar of your shirt still on your neck. Putting on and taking off clothes is so tedious. Also, just sleep and exercise in whatever you wore today.

Real life example: Upon ironing my shorts naturally still upon my person, I went too far with the iron’s tip, forever blazing a triangle scar on my upper thigh.


Time Saver #3:

Don’t fully put on your shoes. Or wear someone else’s that are too big so you don’t have to tie anything.

This works especially well when you’re taking the kids to school. It’s early, your palm is lacerated and your neck is encased in burn salve. You just don’t feel like getting all-the-way ready to drop the kids off in the morning. Easy solution: slip your feet into the shoes you wore yesterday, but (here’s the key): don’t completely put your feet IN the shoes. Let your heels hang out, shuffle your way to the car, and then try to properly situate the shoes at each stop light. If you do this right, your head will be below the steering wheel and at shoe-level when the light turns green and you’ll hit your head on the way up, careening you, the car, and your kids into the more prepared parents walking their children to school in effectively implemented footwear.

Alternatively, find your husband’s shoes that are four sizes too big preventing you from actually feeling the gas and brake pedals with your own toes.

Real life example: All the stuff I said above.


Time Saver #4:

Use a face mask to cleanse your face and take off your eye makeup.

It’s not my fault you ran out of cleanser and use a clay-based mask to shave your legs and remove mascara from your delicate eye area. I never told you that same mask could be used as a zit dryer, toothpaste, cold remedy, contact lens solution, multivitamin, and hangover remedy.

Real life example: See up there.


This seems as good as any place to stop before we all die.  For more helpful time-savers, visit Dumb Ways to Die. Or a pick up a Gray’s Anatomy.


PROMPTuesday #234: The Road

February 4th, 2014

I wrote this before, but am including it now – again – because I’m on a road. Slowly, inexorably putting one foot in front of the other, but there it is: a a foot and then another. For the on and on.


And so today’s writing prompt is: write about your road. What stretch of highway or ribbon of lane beckons to you or calls you to remember?


Add your post/comment/prompt answer below in the comments or write a post of your own and include the link for us to read!


Meanwhile…to bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.


Or, catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.




It’s been a long time. A long time since I’ve made the drive alone from San Diego to Los Angeles and back again and vice versa. I’ve driven that stretch of road connecting two lives for more than 20 years. Some years I’m coming from Woodland Hills, or Encino, or Brentwood, and other years it’s Rancho Bernardo or Bay Park or Ocean Beach. For year upon year upon year, I’ve endured that painfully long stretch between Camp Pendleton and San Clemente, and another endless line from Irvine to where the 101 hits the 405 in car after car after car — a Hyundai Excel, Pontiac K car, Lexus SC300, Dodge Dakota, Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and a Chevy Suburban, which is the car I take today.


Some years I’m an editorial intern at a video game magazine housed in a peeling yellow cottage off Topanga Canyon; and I’m a nervous young thing, fresh off the lot of Marquette University, living with a self-absorbed auditioning actress who left me to sit in my rented room listening to the Indigo Girls most nights. I was 20 pounds overweight and alone. Each Friday, I’d load up the Hyundai and drive to my parents’ home in San Diego, navigating the Sepulveda Pass and the LAX congestion, willing myself home or at least not in that morose room anymore.


Some months later, I met a Marine and we started the first days of what would be nearly three years of lies and emptiness and a little girl heart shredded in the meat grinder of a cheat. I was wholly unprepared for that; “that” such an innocuous word for the worst emotional pain I’d undergone to that point. Again, I’m driving the Hyundai back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I lost nearly 30 pounds, mainly in naivete and tears. Most days, I drove alone. Even when he was beside me.


By then, I’d moved twice. I left the actress to her own vices and took a studio apartment in Woodland Hills, about a mile from work. And then packed up to my aunt’s house Torrance, so close to the airport, and nearer to “home.” But by that time, I’d decided to move back to the Midwest, so the house in South Bay was just a stop on my itinerary. I continued to travel to San Diego every weekend and was just half myself; one of me in another rented room with maudlin music, and the other somewhere in the amorphous ether of a future room or state or self. Six months after Torrance, I packed up my Hyundai with not much at all, and drove to Chicago with the Marine. We broke up in Wyoming at a McDonald’s. I was just glad I wasn’t in Los Angeles.


I was back two-and-a-half years later. This time, I lived in West L.A. and went back to the video game magazine as an assistant editor. And I was happy being alone. I didn’t plan to drive to San Diego much…that drive still evoked dark days…and so settled in a whirlwind life of discovering Los Angeles the way it was meant to be, entirely and openly, without the pull to be somewhere else.


It was that complete openness that led to The Rock, who of all places, lived in San Diego. A year of the back and forth followed, but it was simply a physical back and forth, not the soul-crushing metaphoric kind. This time, I was in a Lexus I couldn’t afford, the other cars long abandoned to broken timing belts and cracked engine blocks and thieves. There was a certain ribbon of road I particularly loved, the one where I could sense the lights of San Diego, but not quite see them yet. My stomach flopped and my heart flew at that yellow fuzz just breaking over a long asphalt hump in the road. I knew this time I was heading home.


And it’s been that way ever since.


So now I think of each trip down the 405 as etched tree rings marking my life, or a spine with each year a vertebra. When I go back, I still see the same smog obscuring the eastern hills, the same honeycomb condos perched on Sunset, the Target sign barely visible past the DeSoto Ave. exit, but emerged from the ether of what each trip meant or didn’t mean and where the car takes me now.

PROMPTuesday #233: Tell Your Story

January 28th, 2014

“I don’t think you love me!” She twisted and turned and flailed in her bed. She was tired, I knew that much, and a touch sensitive that day, but here it was again: questioning our devotion.


Many times I respond with irritation as if it should be obvious – of course we love you, you’re our daughter, now stop this ridiculousness. I’d walked in and out of her bedroom several times that night, not quite ready to stop the conversation because she still needed something from me, but refusing to indulge what was a ploy for attention.


Soon enough, my husband joined the fracas and tried as I did to shut the emotional outburst down and away, hoping like me that it would end with no indication it had ever been a thing, quite like it had started.


After a melange of raised voices and collective frustration, something stopped me from a third exit from her room. I saw her face – a red, exhausted, puffy, yearning reflection of my own and entered another room from 30 years ago. This one with yellow flowers papered on the wall, matching heavy curtains pulled aside to show a peeling blue swing set in the yard below, and a canopy bed strung with green chiffon. I heaved against the door.


“You don’t love me!” I shook a bottle of saline pills I dissolved in distilled water to rinse my contacts. “I’m going to kill myself and you won’t even care!”


My mom stood uselessly outside and didn’t say the thing I wanted to hear – whatever it was; but a thing nonetheless, more than strung together words, a monolith of meaning, or something. A thing to make it better that was ethereal and nonexistent.


She threw her irritation and parental despair back at me, not violently or even convincingly, more like you’d throw a snowball that fell apart in mid-air. “Open the door!” She yelled it, still a snowball.


She didn’t say the thing, because she didn’t know the thing.


I left that memory and entered another: another door, another bottle of pills. This time I was pregnant with my second daughter and upset with my husband. I rattled some Advil and threatened to take them all, a lie and a fake promise. It’s just that I wanted a reaction. And for him to say the thing.


My husband picked up the phone and called my dad. The one person who knew so well what I did, and although he would never be able to articulate it in soul words, why I did it.


Several refusals to open the door later, I took the phone. There was no recrimination nor judgment, although his voice shook a little. He’d witnessed countless play acts just like this one between my mother and I, and knew to wait it out and be there.


I could never be loved enough. I could never be loved enough. Why don’t you love me? Why don’t you love me? Say the thing.


These words shoot into my brain as I moved to leave my daughter’s room. A threshold, a line I could cross or not, and be the person who doesn’t understand when I know down to the molecule that I do.


I returned to her bedside.


“I love you.” I admit it was hard to say because I was so angry that it had to come to this, when I tell her I love her every day, and these outbursts demand another affirmation so irrationally and hard fought.


“No you don’t!”


I remained there, and said it with conviction because it was true, “I love you.” I saw her eyes and her face and her needing the thing. I didn’t look; I saw.


She looked ashamed, maybe, or just needful. “Really?”


“Really.” I ran my fingers under her eyes and along her nose with the seeing and the thing.


She settled under the blankets and my husband re-entered her room, safe now.


Something tiny and elusive had happened: I’d realized the thing wasn’t what you said, it’s how it’s believed.


The outbursts will happen again, a genetic deficiency of some sort, perhaps. Only now this beautiful and fragile mirror of my weakest self has someone who understands in soul words she can’t quite articulate. A person who always understood, but just finally discovered that the thing is real and big and just the same, easily knocked to the ground as brought up and given a hand.



What’s your story? 


Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.


To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.


PROMPTuesday #232: Facing the Fear

January 21st, 2014

I’ve done an informal observation of the first few weeks of 2014, and have noticed many people moving past their old beliefs of themselves and pushing the boundaries. This might mean returning to the core of who they are, or fighting beyond self-imposed restrictions and self-limiting perceptions that keep them tied to the same old things. I’m not an astrology person, but if I were, I’m sure there’d be some cosmic planetary alignment anomaly going on that’s causing the collective unconscious to redefine itself.


I know it’s happening to me.


For the past many years, I’ve pretty much coasted along from thing to thing and allowed myself to get swept up in this or that, which defrayed my focus on the one true thing: the book I’m writing. I’m sure it’s unconscious and there’s a million reasons why I’ve distracted myself (I’m quite certain “fear of financial success” is not one of them), but whenever I’m speaking to someone about the this or that (blogging, let’s say; or my writing existential crisis), I hear: you need to finish your book.


Now I know that’s true, but there’s so many other things: making a living, taking care of the kids, worrying about why there’s so much dust in my house – and then dusting it. However, there are fears behind the lack of manuscript completion that I’m avoiding facing.


I promised myself I’d march past those fears this year. Then as if to cement my promise, I received an email from a mesothelioma survivor who told me that after she’d had her left lung removed eight years ago, she created “Lung Leavin’ Day” to commemorate the day that changed her life forever and tackling the fear of surgery and her disease head on.


To celebrate, she invites her friends and family over every year on February 2 and asks them to write their fears on plates and then smash them in a spectacular bonfire made of phoenix pixie dust (I made that last part up).


Smashing fears - PROMPTuesday


I’ll smash my virtual plates in communion.


Here they are:


1) I’ll finish my book and it will blow ass.


2) I’ll never finish my book and just keep writing posts like this saying how I need to finish my book.


3) My plotting sucks and my story ideas are ridiculous.


4) I’m nothin’ special.


5) I can’t write anyway, so why bother?


6) What if this is my only idea ever, and I finish the book and I’m dried up?


I’ve been stuck in the middle of my book forever.  I have 100 pages and 25,000 words written. Given that most middle grade novels are in the 40,000-word range, I’m more than half done! I mean, COME ON. Of course, there’s the revising and the editing and the culling and the curating and the darling killing, but I could have a shitty first draft in one month if I wrote 500 words from now until February 21.


I don’t know, like I said, things feel different this year. Sort of as if my fears and will to distract are being bowled over by the Universe’s intention.


So, I’ll go with it, and SMASH. Smash it hard.


What fear plates are you smashing this year?


Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.


To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.