Tuesday, August 26, 2014


A rediscovered draft from three years ago. Funny how much has changed...and how much hasn't even budged.

June 20, 2011
For the time being, I have pretty much given up on myself as a free agent. We are a team. Wendy and I, plus my barnacle (baby). We move as a unit.

Downstairs for breakfast and tea (together). Upstairs to get dressed (together). Outside with no shoes on to plant things in the dirt (cilantro, tomatoes, basil, zesty! salad! mix! and parsley, together!) and get dirt everywhere, including baby mouths. Putting Liam's feet on the ground so he can pound the grass under his heels until he goes all wobbly, then meandering around the yard, following his sister's babble of stories and stream of honey-brown hair until he finally sleeps on my shoulder. Inside again for laundry.

And more laundry.

And more.
Together here too, though this looks like Wendy watching TV from the basket while Liam and I play peekaboo with Daddy's underwear, because my barnacle doesn't nap. My Fault. I'm bad with schedules. I wish he would overlook this flaw of mine and do it anyway.
I could never fake the gorgeous moments as Stay at Home Mo that fall on me like a ton of bricks every day, when I am not ready or expecting. The kids in the garden. Liam laughing at Wendy running.  Wendy's face in a mask of concentration as she applies Manic Mango Hanna Montana glitter gloss to my lips, her eyes wide and focused, her own mouth tense and curling ever so slightly at one corner. This, I suddenly know with great clarity, will be the expression on her face when she is someday working on complicated math or painting her art class masterpiece or putting together an Ikea desk or performing brain surgery.
Thank you, SAHMo, for saying "yes" to the makeover. That face that I saw? That is a gift. (Plus glitter lips!) Try to say "yes" more. 
Outside to check the sunflower sprouts, then to story hour at the library and listen to the other moms sing preschool songs that I've never heard in my life (HOW DO THEY ALL KNOW??), while Wendy gives me the side-eye. I know she is scanning my reaction and deciding if these people who sing nine rounds of Duckie songs are cracked, or if this is totally awesome and I have just been holding out on her. Yes, Wendy. A whole world of music-and-motion with Miss Sara, and I've been keeping you in the quiet-and-still in a grey house of decaying dreams.   Dancing at the end credits of EVERY MOVIE WE WATCH just isn't quite as relevant as a few weak Ducky-related verses. If only I'd let you watch Barney, your life would be complete.
Library trips do not count, I don't think, as "out." I try to talk to the other moms, but there is always the sizing up that interferes from all sides: does your kid share? so you are just going to let her throw that block, huh? Who is your Husband and What does he Do? are you at home on purpose, or just unemployed? How about breastfeeding? church? preschool? dance class? Hey. Nice shoes.

We move as a unit-a three person society-but Wendy plays with the other kids whole-heartedly and un-selfconsciously. I am still vacuum-sealed away from the outside environment. Like the ground bison meat at the grocery store. It's like the hamburger and meat loaf mix...but obviously not from around here.  Not something you are quite sure you want to try.

What do you think? Will I scare the Library Moms away if I just skip all of that and start every conversation with "hey, what's up with whole parts of your personality dying and falling off like gangrene-infected toes when you become a mom? is it bad that I don't even miss those toes? do you always walk all tilty, do you think? are you looking for new friends?"

Probably freak them out, right?

The time stretches out in front of me, and I have to truly talk myself through every second and breath of some of the longer hours and some days I actually don't want to...and I am glad for my team, then. I know they are with me, and they know I'm with them.  That makes it worth it. It doesn't fix everything, but it balances.

Try to say "yes" more, and these gifts will fall at your feet. It's so worth it. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My First Boyfriend has Died. Warm. Kind. Funny. Gentle.

I saw it on Facebook.  A mutual friend from high school posted it, and I followed the links, and there it was.  Pictures that rattled me and a story that I didn't know, about this adult with a full-on (hipster? Duck Dynasty?) beard who was a widely liked, and even well-loved person.   According to all of the comments on various sites: warm, caring, gentle, kind, innovative, funny.

I am reading these things, and I don't know what I feel.   I can't find a word that is right.

Warm. Funny. Caring. Kind. Gentle.

I haven't spoken to him since the night I very dramatically broke up with him (how else can you when you are almost 19?), and only saw him briefly from a distance twice since then.  I didn't know him after that.  From time to time, I hoped he was miserable and alone.  I hoped that he had learned to deal with his depression and anxiety, and was happier.  I was sure that he lied to himself about the reasons we broke up.  I wondered if he got really, really fat and still lived with his parents.  I wondered if he was dead.   I wondered if I would ever find out any of these things.

I joined the marching band color guard when I was a senior in high school.  He joined as an "equipment manager" so he could come with me on band trips and to shows and whatnot.  It took up a lot of our time in football season.  It became a problem in our relationship.  This one time, he held me down and suffocated me with his hands till I passed out, and made us late for the bus going to a band competition.  He didn't want to go.  He wanted to spend more time together, just us.  This is a small sample of his solutions to the problems in our relationship.  I also was on the hockey team, and we were in the Drama Club together, and choir.  Those things took up time and diverted my attention from him, too. Occasionally, I would go without a bra and once in a while, I would wear shorts, obviously trying to get someone else's attention. Problems with similar solutions.

(It's true: awkward, geeky kids who are not even that good looking have these kind of problems, too.)

Why even comment? It's not my story, now.

Except that I am confused. And full of rage. And I have a voice now for the things that I could not find a way to talk about then...sort of.  I don't want to talk about it.

I expected that I might always feel a bit pissed that I never got to really tell him off, with the benefit of adult perspective and all the glory of my success in life.  And I am pissed, now that I am sure it will never, ever happen. Doesn't everyone want that chance? Petty.


My 19 year-old self is RAGING that he just walked away from all of the damage he did in my life...and had a nice life, where he helped people and built things with people and people liked him. I didn't want to know all of that. It took a lot of years to school myself to only feel pity and mild disgust when I thought about us. To stop feeling rage and shame and mortification and self-loathing. I'm not 19 any more, and so many things have happened since then that matter so much more.  A long time ago, I learned to feel nothing about years 16, 17, and 18.

I was at peace with the fact that sometimes, there is no accountability for people who are wrong.

But I am caught off-guard.  Blind-sided, in fact, with a steaming sack of NOT NOTHING.
I did not expect to be so sad.  Have regret.  Feel Rage.

Do people change?  Does it matter?
Here's the thing: I believe all of that stuff they are saying about him.  I knew that side, too.

This one time, he carried a kitten in his inside denim-jacket pocket to keep it warm, all the way from his neighborhood where he found him, to my apartment.  We found the kitten a good home. And I believe that people are not just one thing, forever and ever.  I find, in the sack, alongside the Rage, a disturbing, traitorous grief for the person with a kitten in his pocket, who held my hand at my Grandma's funeral and worried about his mom and gave me his favorite Flyers t shirt to sleep in.

He died, apparently, from complications of a heart condition that he has had since birth.  A comment on a memorial page says, "so ironic that it was his heart, because he had the biggest heart of anyone I know."  Died of a heart condition that I didn't believe he had, because I finally realized that I couldn't tell when he was telling me lies.

I guess that one was true.  And he was very funny.  Plus the kitten thing.

Its been 14 years since I saw him. My life has made me different from the person I was at 19; I suppose his could have too. 

This one time, this really damaged, paranoid, self-involved, awkward teenager really hurt someone who loved him, over and over, until she was damaged, too.  Then he grew up and led a decent life and made good friends and was a productive, interesting, and worthwhile person.  The second part doesn't make up for the first part, for her.  Maybe it did for him, but it doesn't matter, because he died young anyway. 

Its not a good story.  Its not a story at all.  We make things into stories so they make sense.

I can't put a word to how I feel.  I don't want to even the score on the reckoning of his life.  Or maybe I do-but it doesn't matter, because it's done.  There is no reckoning.    I fixed that damage myself, and will keep on fixing it.  I am not just one thing either.

I don't want to talk about it.  There is no one to talk to.

This, right here, is the best I can do to put it outside of myself and try to let it go.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Colorado Autumn

Fall time in Colorado was magical for me when I was a kid, but it never looked like it was supposed to. This is because there are no proper trees in Colorado.

"What about aspens?" you say, and that is because you probably have never been to the part of Colorado that is not the mountains. Aspens are in Aspen, where rich people ski. We lived in the burbs in the flat part of Colorado.  I have never been skiing in my life.

Fall time on the flat part is a time of transition, from the sun-crisped lawns of dry Summer to the cold-crisped lawns of dry Winter. This was magical to me when I was a kid, mostly because I was a big dork and really loved going back to school. 

Autumn just didn't have much else to offer. The Colorado plains is not a natural habitat for trees  that properly turn orange and red and then shed beautiful piles of Fall time wonderland. Mostly, in Colorado neighborhoods, there are small decorative landscape plants and pine trees. (All evergreens are still "pine trees" to me. They all look the same.) A lot of people there don't even own a rake. 

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I did try to scrape pine needles into piles over the crispy brown grass, to emulate proper fall time fun.  It wasn't the same as the leaf pile of my dreams...but it did have its charm.

I was pretty sure that I was missing out.  We usually grabbed a few cozy weekends of woodsmoke-filled weekends at our favorite campgrounds just as it started to get cooler, and this was nice.  But I knew that in other places, kids waded joyfully through piles of leaves wherever they went in the Fall. They shuffled through this golden month or two, pausing to sit on giant pumpkins and drink cider in leaf piles, knowing that the ax of winter would not drop any time soon.

Fall time in Colorado means it is colder and browner, but not really nicer in any way. And then it randomly snows in October and you go trick-or-treating anyway, which, I do have to admit, is pretty cool.

I live in PA now, with the correct kind of trees.  I raked the maple leaves into a pile in our yard the other day. With a real rake.

Its a different part of the country, and a different kind of life.  There are heritage parades in small towns here instead of piles of flaming illegal fireworks in the street. We have deer and old German farmers in the field behind our house instead of howling coyotes.  There are moist gardens and soft grass instead of bristling carpets of pine needles.  On the other hand, if it snows here on Halloween, everyone stays home. Sometimes I wonder if I am giving my kids a childhood that is too soft.

Then I watch them fling themselves into the pile of leafy joy, crack their heads together and gleefully poke each other with sharp sticks, and I know that I am a complete idiot to think idiot thoughts like that.


This time of year...is pretty much bliss.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Moose Do Not Kick Logs: a proven fact

Part of parenting is knowing when to BS your kids. You just have to sometimes.  There is a lot of crap going on in the world that they don't need to know about, and sometimes just a lot going on period...and kids never stop with the questions. 

I am pretty up front with Wendy. I tell her most of the stuff she wants to know. Babies grow in the uterus. Why ice is bigger than water.  You know. Stuff.

But she's also a bit of a worrier, so I have to know when to put on the brakes. For example, after watching The Wizard of OZ when she was four, she became concerned about tornadoes. Concerned in a way that prompted a few questions:
1. Do we get twisters?
2. Does grandma get twisters?
3. How about Aunt Mimi and Eddie?
4. Are you sure we don't get twisters?
5. Is it windy enough right now?
6. How about now?
7. Does that cloud look a little twisty to you?
8. Shouldn't we get inside and get in our bathtub with pillows over our heads?
9. Why don't you care about twister safety?

So I have learned when not to tell her the explicit absolute truth. Mostly for my own sanity.

Tonight, through the open window, we heard the distant popping-booming sound that is either people shooting at an outdoor range a couple of miles away OR detonations at a quarry also a couple miles away-I have never figured out which.  We hear this often enough, and, rather than suffer a barrage of kid angst re: local people with guns and bombs, I have always told Wendy that it is a moose kicking a log.

This is how you have to dish the BS. Simple. Elegant. Difficult to disprove using the research skills of a four year old.

Well. Now shes six. I hand this moose-and-log line to Liam tonight, and I get this:

Wendy: Its definitely not a moose.
Me: how do you know?
Wendy: Moose don't kick logs.
Me: Sure they do. I know moose. They kick logs.
Wendy: How many?
Me: How many?
Wendy: How many do you know?
Me: Oh. Uh, six. Or seven. Yeah, seven.
Wendy: Well I know twenty. And none of them kick logs.
Me: Twenty? I didn't know there were so many around here.
Wendy: There are hundreds. I just know twenty. And if any of them kicked a log, it wouldn't sound like that anyway.
Me: Maybe they kick logs when you're not around.
Wendy: I asked my one moose friend to kick a log, and you could barely hear it. Plus, he really hurt himself doing it. I had to take him to the moose vet. So I know that moose wouldn't kick a log even if they wanted to.
Me: Maybe your moose friend has really wimpy hooves.
Wendy: No way. He runs moose races. He is like, a champion, first place moose runner.  Except not now, probably, after the log thing. I feel really bad about asking him to do that, you know?

So, now that I've been officially OWNED in the category of moose-related BS...I see that I am going to have to up my game.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

It Was Inevitable: Why We Can't Have Nice Things (Again)

Tucker is a puppy of discriminating tastes.  When he is not enjoying the evening on the veranda in his favorite rocking chair,


he can usually be found annihilating various items around the house.

While Duke chewed a vast array of inexplicable things like The Drywall and Potatoes, Tucker's preferences run a bit more refined.  For example, when he utterly destroys paper products, he enjoys a nice National Geographic between the teeth.

He does relish a good global human interest story.  He was mesmerized by James Cameron's submarine dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  Mesmerized to tiny, unreadable bits.

In the absence of thick glossy magazine paper, he goes for the lofty fluff of Cottonelle or the comforting touch of Kleenex.

He sometimes takes a break from paper to utterly demolish a nice hank of wool roving. I have to admit his good taste here, because out of all of the new hanks of wool roving to choose from, Tucker shredded and soaked with dog spit only my favorite colors, Dill and Amethyst.

Maybe I have it wrong here. Maybe it is not that he enjoys these things in themselves.  Maybe our dog is a bit of a Puritan, and does not approve of the decadence of worldly comforts. Perhaps he feels that people who read world adventure stories and use bottom-pampering toilet tissue are surely on the road to perdition.  Those who indulge in fiber art using bright colors are certainly going to hell.
Maybe we can't have nice things because our dog is concerned for our souls. 

This can only be the reason that this feather boa had to die.  Because we all know what feather boas lead to.

The calculated precision with which he made certain that no one would ever use this cord to charge a phone in the car again? Kind of chilling.  Perhaps this speaks to deep-seated malice for technology? Or resentment toward the attention payed to electronics and not to him?

I know that this phase shall pass.  Someday, our dog will move beyond his obsession/vendetta against these things, and we will once again be able to read while wearing feather boas, possibly whilst blowing our noses and preparing to wipe with fluffy TP.  We will be able to do these things without fearing THIS:

Yeah, OK.  That is cute, the way he piles up all of his things on his favorite spot du jour.  Notice my shoe under his butt.  My shoe is obviously now considered his thing, and clearly, is living on borrowed time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flowers in the Attic

Remember that book/movie? Yeah?  Me too.  Thanks a lot V. C. Andrews.  Thanks for the memories.


When Carl moved in to this house in 2004, there was still a lot of stuff left in the house from the psycho previous owner. Furniture in every room.  Clothes hanging in the closet.  Cross-stitch and family pictures on the wall. Laundry in the laundry baskets. And an attic full of stuff.

It is now 2013, and the time has finally come.  We have finally, FINALLY decided to clean the attic out. 

We are talking classic old attic treasure trove of horrors here.  This is the kind of attic where you open large trunks and suitcases gingerly, because there could be a petrified red-headed stepchild in there. YOU JUST DONT KNOW.
Here is one side, mostly cleared out of the boxes of stuff.   Just imagine it stuffed to the gills with moldering cardboard and randomness.  Yes, that is a barrel in the background.  I am pretty sure that it never held booze.

The creepiest stuff is the kids stuff. 

If you aren't familiar with V.C. Andrews books, the covers always featured some angelic girl with perfect hair looking through a cut-out window. You would turn the front cover, to reveal on the inside page that the girl was surrounded by her OBVIOUSLY crazy family-a severe, stiff-looking great aunt clutching her shoulder with bony white claws, an older brother lurking in the shadow behind her with too much white showing in his mad, mad eyes...

This is what that girl is wearing:

Most of the boxes that we pulled down were full of books and china and old National Geographics.  The ocasional box of dry-rotting linens.  But occasionally, there was a box of pictures or other sentimental knick knacks.  Actual bronzed baby shoes.  Oh.  And and the attire of an ENTIRE wedding party.  

Apparantly, this guy-who tried to have us evicted for no apparant reason in 2010, when I was pregnant with Liam-he does not give even one shit (let alone two) about his own family either, and what they might want with this stuff.

We plan to have a big yard sale this weekend.  We cleared our consciences by making a phone call to one of the adult children of said insensitive monster of a "human" previous owner, and she-the adult daughter-was in fact very happy to come and collect her mother's china and her own baby pictures.

The Piece-de-Resistance of this whole junk mine:

My feelings exactly.

What you can't really enjoy via photography is the fine dust covering everything here.  You can see a little of it on the floor in this last one.  You know the thing that people say about dust being mostly dead people-skin?  Well, the dust in OUR attic is people-skin, powdered mouse poo, powdered dead bird, for all I know, actual powdered dead people. 

We are attacking this like its all a bio-hazard.  Masks, gloves, etc.

Regardless, the whole process has been very cathartic.  We are exorcising some demons, and carving out more space for us, which is a huge relief.

Back to the purge.  I'll let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Emotional Blackmail (What Marriage is All About)

I'm still not entirely sure how this happened.  It may be easier to explain it in pictures. 

So here. Just watch this. 


Friday, March 08, 2013

More Tales From Legit Matrimonyland

It seems that when you get married, a Kitchen Aid magically appears. 

It doesn't matter if you have been cohabiting in lustful sin for years and years, spawning shameful illegitimate degenerates (hi kids!) and inciting wanton behavior in all who observe...

When you become a legit wife, the Kitchen Aid fairies know that it's time to leave a motorized dough hook under your pillow.  Perhaps the Kitchen Aid fairy is an old fashioned prudish twit and thinks that only legitimate families deserve wholesome homemade food. 


What? Why, yes! That is a bottle of Godiva vodka next to my Kitchen Aid! You don't bake with the assistance of liquid happiness? WELL YOU SHOULD.

Technically, the K.A. was under the Christmas tree.  And technically, this is not the one the fairy brought.  The fairy brought a black one.  Also, the fairy's name is Carl. 

I was actually pretty cheesed when I opened this on Christmas morning.  Carl and I had agreed (seriously for real I promise) not to get each other any real gifts, as we were already experiencing this money drought in December, and barely had enough to scrape together a few things for the kids.  I stuck to this promise.  On Christmas morning, Carl had exactly one bar of hippie stink patchouli soap in his stocking and one set of thermal underwear from Target under the tree.  Both of these items were picked up back in November, when there was still money.  I headed into Christmas morning guilt-free, because I KNEW there was no money, and I KNEW that I wouldn't have anything good to open either.  We would just be content to share the morning holding hands, full of the virtuous nobility of our decision, Charlie  Brown thoughts about the true meaning of Christmas, and NO GIFTS.

But then.  THEN.
Kitchen Aid.

This was not a gift.  He had done this.  DONE this...this...Kitchen Aid.  I was pretty sure that this was entirely engineered to mess with me.

I am about as good at saying thank you for unexpected extravagance as I am at saying "sorry."  As in, not good.  Especially when someone has dropped a flaming KITCHEN AID bomb into my Christmas morning, when I was expecting a steaming slice of truemeaning pie.  I didn't even open it.  Instead, there was resentful sniffing in the direction of the unopened box, and careful avoidance of all related topics. For Days.

Until Carl broke down and told me that his mom had helped him out with it and that it was mostly her idea anyway, and recast the Kitchen Aid as less a Christmas present, and more in the way of a wedding present.  For us.  Then everything was fine, because Carl's mom is an angel of kindness who can do no wrong. And if it is for us...

Then he showed me online that there were all of these other colors to pick from....and I was sold.  We exchanged it for the "pear" colored one in the pic and it's been true love ever since.

The first thing that I made was homemade whipped cream, which contains two ingredients, and takes less than three minutes.

The first thing Carl made was bread.  Which includes chemistry and two or three hours of waiting and uncertain results and, while very sensible, is kind of a pain in the ass.

Both of these things turned out delicious.  I feel that our choices probably say a lot about us, respectively.

What's the moral here? Never break the lets-not-get-presents promise.  Unless it is a Kitchen Aid or similar and you can blame it on someone else. Then it's totally okay.

Monday, February 11, 2013

February of Someday

Someday, it will be February, and instead of being poor, we will be having fun in the snow.  Or sleet.  Whatever.  We will be having sleetball fights, because we are so carefree and NOT POOR. 

We will be like "Tra la! It is sleeting, but who cares, because we were smart this year! Let us make sleet angels and then skip inside and make hot chocolate and be happy! This day is not miserable and treacherous like the foggy-gray queasy anxiety crawling up our throats. No, it is a perfect day for snuggling inside with each other, and we can! You don't have to venture out into terrible conditions to do terrible jobs far beneath your skills, because this year we looked ahead, and our bills are paid! Our bills are paid, our bills are paid, tra la tra lee, our bills are paid!"

Someday we will actually be working for ourselves, and not just working to survive the week.  We will be looking for somewhere fun to go on a Saturday instead of looking for stuff to sell on ebay.  We will have a plan, and not a desperate scramble to make sure the mortgage isn't late (it hasn't been yet-talk to me in a few days). 

We will spend more time loving our house, instead of resenting it.  We will spend these money dry spells having fun with our kids instead of bouncing off the walls and staring at the worry lines growing deeper on each others faces, wondering how we got here AGAIN.  Like we do EVERY year. We are both intelligent adults, each with a good work ethic. We can do this. Go team!

The pressure will not suddenly lift, as if by magic or by winning the lottery that we don't play.  Go team go team go TEAM!  It can be a mantra.  Someday can be today.  We can stop living the definition of insanity. We can come up with new answers...we can take the time to find a new way... As soon as we get a little money.  Then we can put turnips in our root cellar, so the next time we circle back to this place, we will actually be somewhere else, and not still wondering if Someday will ever come.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

We Celebrate With Lard!

Steph and Ryans 8th anual Faschnaghtapallooza took place today, and it was indeed grand!

For those of you folks not from PA or of pasty pale central European ancestry, a faschnaght is a kind of donut type thing, made with potato flour and fried in lard, then rolled in sugar.  Its the way the Pennsylvania Dutch celebrate before Lent.

Thats right.  Some people show their boobies and throw beads around, some people confess allof thier sins and celebrate thier Shriven souls with mass sugared lard consumption. To each his own, that's what I say.

Especially because Ryan shoves oreos and peanut butter cups in his faschnaghts, and I get to eat them.  I haven't gone for the past two years, so I was kind of determined to go this year.

I even pried Carl out of the house and to the -pallooza.  At some point (before he ate too many, while he was still in his fried dough happy place), he turned to me with gleaming eyes, and asked, "why don't WE do this???"