Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet Solstice Eclipse

What is sweet
about this December eclipse
is that
the darkness
will greedily win
(as agreed)
and cease its surge
to pause in 
empty glory.


And then
 -- every time --
(like hope)
(like faith)
(like love)
the silently strong sunlight
returns and grows.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Like Stairs Going Up, Up, Up



On the cold morning of my birthday (today) after a warm breakfast with my visiting parents, I throw myself down onto the sofa and curl up under a fuzzy blanket.

It’s my BIRTHDAY and I have the REMOTE all DAY! I sing to no one at all because the kids are playing with Lady, a lovely borrowed dog who is with us for the holidays.

As I deliberately enjoy my ritual of flipping through wedding dress shows, WW2 shows, Pawn shows, news shows, home shows, cooking shows and funny animal shows, Zoe leaves the dog and Zack to their game of hide-and-seek and joins me on the sofa.

I sing it again, now that I have someone to listen, It’s my BIRTHDAY and I have the REMOTE all DAY!”

Zoe smiles at my song and adds, And you get to see Harry Potter today! Aren’t you exited?”

I mirror her super cheery smile, and in turn she pats me gently like I’m her old lady mother, feeble and frail, then asks,  Is today BETTER than last year’s birthday when a BUG went up your BUTT?

While I give her question the serious deliberation it requires, Zoe takes the remote control from me without asking, out of habit, and is quickly transfixed, flipping channels. She pulls up my blanket and curls herself under it and around me.

Last year we spent my very cold birthday at Animal Kingdom, and I had a horrible cold and could hardly talk. 


 I should have stayed home but besides an awful chest shaking throat ripping cough, I felt really fine.

The highlight of the day was at the 4D show “A Bugs Life” where, after a cool 3D movie, the benches come alive, which I didn’t expect (would you?) and some Disney-imagineered bug went straight up my butt through my coat and my jeans.


In response to this surprise invasion I jumped and shrieked something like " EEEEEEEEP!!," which was so funny I laughed at myself and then started coughing  uncontrollably so hard and ugly that people in the rows around me  in all directions winced and covered themselves and their children with whatever they could.


Their general reaction would have been considered rude, but as  we were in the midst of Spanish Flu Death Watch 2009, I could imagine a few people thinking something along the lines of  "Dear Stars Above, oh Why? - oh Why? - oh Why? oh Why Did I Not Pack a Surgical Mask to Wear for this Onslaught of Plague from this Red Coated Blonde Weapon of Biological Destruction??" which made me laugh (and cough) harder, causing the the crowd to stampede worse, grabbing their cameras and running from me like paparazzi in reverse.


It may have only lasted a few minutes but it was the highlight of my birthday and my week, laughing and coughing and being unable to sit down out of fear that damn butt invading butt would rise up again.

That was a good time. Today is better.” I answer Zoe's question, warm with certainty. It’s been an excellent, excellent year and even better year is coming around the corner, like stairs going up, up, up, of that I am sure,.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Motherhood's Silent Sacrifices....

I spent the morning walking around the house like the anti-Santa, tossing crayons rumpled papers and wrappers into a large used Target shopping bag.I did laundry, mopped and vacuumed around kids who ignored me except for turning up the volume on iCarly.

I'm not complaining about cleaning; I do it in a cute apron wearing heels (for "exercise") and playing Pandora on my iPhone.

The real sacrifice came today after laundry, after dishes, after making beds,  when I cleaned out the Freezer.

A single ice cream sandwich sat alone in it's box, the sole survivor of a slumber party feeding frenzy.

As a good (sacrificing) Mother, I took it upon myself to do the right thing with that poor grenade of a single ice cream sandwich -- eat it.
 
Quickly, silently, diligently, hiding in the kitchen like the out-numbered underarmed peacemaker that I am, I savored each sweet creamy bite of wisdom and peace.
  
I had no choice.

The kids would soon find it together during an iCarly iCommercial break snack-hunt and fight over who would get the last one.

No ice cream sandwich meant no fight, I thought, and no fight means peace love and weekend happiness in the house. 

I washed the chocolate stickiness off my hands, then folded the empty box and stuffed it into the big red bag of trash, then silently prayed to again and again be allowed to sacrifice myself this way as an instrument of peace.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

7 Holiday Guests

On Thanksgiving, the official start to the holiday season (which, in my mind, ends around the 4th of July) I get the impression these crazy people want me to cook for them.

I can't cook until the house is bleached down clean, and I don't feel like cleaning because, well, I'm the Mom and I say so.

 Anyway, I have something more important to do – I have to warn you about the 7 guests that will be visiting you this long Thanksgiving Weekend.

Shopping. She might've hit your house three weeks ago, when someone went through recipes and "planned."

Maybe it will hit at noon when you race to that only place which is open to find that one thing you didn't get. For some people (the crazy ones we read about, the list-making planning people) She is a regular invited guest during the cold predawn hours.  

To be brutally honest, I was hoping Shopping wouldn't stop by this year,  and when she called me at 8pm the night before Thanksgiving my stomach hurt as I drove to Publix expecting it to be a loud bright crowded holiday nightmare. 
 
It was quiet and empty. In less than 20 minutes, I  got everything I needed for under $100 and was out the door. I  enjoyed my time with Shopping and I hope she comes back to visit soon.

Cleaning.  It's inevitable she's coming by, so you might as well prepare.  She can sometimes be a bitch and try to keep you distracted all day (all week!)  so watch out.

Before she arrives, set a timer for 30 minutes and get ready to work. Spray her favorite perfume around (Clorox Cleanup), clean off a few counters and toss some laundry in the wash. Or at least kick it completely under the sofa.
Take clutter off the refrigerator, sweep the Legos into the shoebox science project and put it all in the closet where you keep your board games (the ones with the missing pieces).


To make sure Cleaning doesn't stay all day and drive you crazy, I suggest you turn on some music and introduce her to your family and friends if at all possible. With all that attention, Cleaning gets all shy and slips away. (Then the fun begins).


Regret. He is going to show up, so be ready.  

Maybe he will give you a surprise and unwelcome bear hug after you ate that last piece of pie standing up in the kitchen with your back to the chaos.  

 

Maybe he will bring up the grief you hoped wouldn't visit today, reminding you of loved ones you can't see.  


Perhaps he will just punch you in the arm and say "you deserve something so much better."


Hopefully he will not bring his favorite date, Punishment, because when they arrive together their idea of a good time is ruining the holiday for the rest of the guests.

 

You have two options when Regret inevitably arrives. 1) Spray Clorox Cleanup right into his (inviOn Thanksgiving, the official start to the holiday season (which, in my mind, ends around the 4th of July) I get the impression these crazy people want me to cook for them.

 

I can't cook until the house is bleached down clean, and I don't feel like cleaning because, well, I'm the Mom and I say so.  And really, I can't clean this house (why should I?) until I write this story and tell you Happy Thanksgiving.


7  Holiday Guests that Will Visit Everyone Thanksgiving Long Weekend.


Shopping. This might've hit your house three weeks ago, when someone went through recipes and "planned."

 

Maybe it will hit at noon when you race to that only place which is open to find that one thing you didn't get.

 

For some people (the crazy ones we read about, the list-making planning people) it hits extra hard in the predawn hours.  

 

To be brutally honest, I was hoping Shopping wouldn't stop by this year,  and when she called me at 8pm the night before Thanksgiving my stomach hurt as I drove to Publix expecting it to be a loud bright crowded holiday nightmare.  

 

It was quiet and empty. In less than 20 minutes, I  got everything I needed for under $100 and was out the door.

 

I enjoyed my time with Shopping and I hope she comes back to visit soon.


Cleaning.  It's inevitable she's coming by, so you might as well prepare.  She can sometimes be a bitch and try to keep you distracted all day, so watch out.

 

Before she arrives, set a timer for 30 minutes and get ready to work. Spray her favorite perfume around (Clorox Cleanup), clean off a few counters and toss some laundry in the wash. Or at least kick it completely under the sofa. Take clutter off the refrigerator, sweep the Legos into the shoebox science project and put it all in the closet where you keep your board games (the ones with the missing pieces).


To make sure Cleaning doesn't stay all day and drive you crazy, I suggest you turn on some music and introduce her to your family and friends if at all possible. With all that attention, Cleaning gets all shy and slips away. (Then the fun begins).


Regret. He is going to show up, so be ready.  

Maybe he will give you a surprise and unwelcome bear hug after you ate that last piece of pie standing up in the kitchen with your back to the chaos.  

 

Maybe he will bring up the grief you hoped wouldn't visit today, reminding you of loved ones you can't see.  


Perhaps he will just punch you in the arm and say "you deserve something so much better."


Hopefully he will not bring his favorite date, Punishment, because when they arrive together their idea of a good time is ruining the holiday for the rest of the guests.

Regret is a greedy and selfish guest who pleasures in taking you out of the moment. Unless this sounds like your idea of Holiday Fun, you have two options when Regret inevitably arrives. 1) Spray Clorox Cleanup right into his (invisible) eyes and chant three times "be gone!" or -- and this is the one I'd suggest 2) take a nice deep breath of the air that you actually live in.  As you exhale yourself back into reality, Regret should start taking a hint.

Dancing and/or Football: While there is a .001% chance Dancing will bring her friend Romance and visit you under the moonlight, I promise Dancing (and/or Football) will visit you this holiday weekend.

Hopefully no one gets hurt.

Celebration.  The Guest of Honor, Celebration rare arrives on cue.

She might come early, at the airport, in a tearful hug.

She could hug you when that awesome dress zips up.

She might show up late, when “they” packup and finally leave.  

On a rare lucky occasion, she will show up at the meal intended for her.

If you recognize her and call her by name when you see her, Celebration will make herself a constant companion.  

Generosity. Generosity is a shape-shifting guest who likes to disguise himself in gestures of patience and hospitality.   

Make sure to leave extra room for him because Generosity’s constant companion is Gratitude.

Silence. The guest few people expect visits everyone, every year, and many of them dread it.

Sometimes she visits everyone at once, covering the table with an awkward stillness.

She may swing by when they all leave and you feel alone. (Please don’t take the wine if she offers).

She might be sitting on your chest when you wake up, alone.

When she comes to visit this year, please don’t  be a rude host and shoo Silence away, because she’s just trying to introduce you to her best friend, Peace.


Happy Thanksgiving*
(I better start cooking now)

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Changes Everything

You're not going to believe this.
I still can't believe this.
No one who has ever taken my class will believe this.
My Mom is going to Cuba tomorrow.
Which means I'm going to Cuba (soon).
I know, I know.
This changes everything.
It's like the Berlin Wall separating our family (and its history) has
been lowered enough to tiptoe over.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tears and Pie

Tears well up in Zack's light green eyes this morning.

He isn't himself; he isn't laughing or dancing or building intricately  balanced bridges blocking access to the toilet and all exits.

I'm halfway through my first cup of coffee and now ready to be kind, so I ask my freckled first grader what's up.

He exhales and looks up, a heaviness falling on him.

"I had a nightmare...."

"Oh?" I notice a clump of Key Lime Pie in his newly shorn hair, behind his ear, and want to shout at his sister immediately (or at least send her a well-deserved stern look) but I hold my urge and sink back into his tearful green eyes.

"I dreamed....that....(he looked down, looked at the wall, then looked back at me) Daddy ordered Ranch dressing on my Subway sandwich...."

Zack took a step closer to me, vulnerable from his confession.

I don't laugh; I make a compassionate sad face, and he blinks back tears from his already wet eyelashes.

Instinctively I held my arms out and he climbed up cuddled on my lap, his skinny newly long legs and arms folding like the tines of an umbrella.

"What an awful nightmare, good thing it was only a dream!" I say, rocking him in my lap and kissing his head, pretending to stroke his hair but really plucking pieces of pie out of his hair.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Supporting Those Left Behind By Military Suicides


Supporting Those Left Behind By Military Suicides
by Sarah Gonzalez

- October 21, 2010

A spike in military suicides has led to a renewed focus on prevention efforts by the Defense Department. But the surviving family members often have an uneven network of support that allows some to work through their grief, while others are left feeling angry and confused.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors -- TAPS -- is trying to fill the gaps by bringing together families from across the country to share their grief and learn.

About 250 adults and children recently gathered at a hotel in Arlington, Va., to share their stories at the TAPS seminar for surviving family members of suicide by service members. Some traveled from as far as Alaska and Hawaii.

Adding Guilt To The Grief

For many, like Denise Coutlakis, the grief is still raw. Her husband, Col. Todd Hixson, committed suicide in October 2009. The 27-year Marine veteran of several wars had been home just three weeks from his only deployment to Iraq.

When Coutlakis got the phone call saying that her husband had committed suicide, she says she did not know what to do. "I didn't know ... how to get my husband's body. I didn't know what to do next, so I called the Marine Corps," Coutlakis says.

She made the call on a Sunday, and Coutlakis says it took a while for anyone at the base to respond. "They showed up at some point and ... started talking to you about, 'This is what you need to do to move on. [Here] are the things you need to do. Here are the services,' and it gives you a sense ... [that] you have a list of things to do," Coutlakis says.

But Coutlakis says the list did not help her heal, and the suicide only added guilt to her grief.

When a service member dies in combat or in an accident, Coutlakis says, "nobody looks at the family and says, 'What was their responsibility in this? What did they not do?' "

Maintaining Mental Fitness

Families are often the first witness of a soldier in crisis, according to Bonnie Carroll, the executive director of TAPS. She says that while military families need to know the signs of suicidal behavior, the military also needs to do more to encourage soldiers to get mental health treatment -- just as a coach encourages an athlete to see a trainer.

"We've gotten off track in that we don't allow our service member to do that for their mental fitness in the way we insist they do that for their physical fitness, and that has to change."

A Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed under the Defense Department last year to make recommendations on how to decrease military suicides.

Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe is co-chairman of the task force, and he oversees Army treatment and medical facilities. Volpe says one way to help prevent future suicides is giving service members more "dwell time" in between deployments "to reconnect and re-establish some of the bonds that may have been weakened and [to] get back to a sense of normalcy before they start training for the next mission."

One Of The Lucky Ones

In 2007, Army Spc. Jeremy LaClaire returned from his first deployment to Afghanistan distant and unable to relate to his family. His widow, Megan LaClaire, says the Army diagnosed him as bipolar. Less than a year later, he was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq.

"And he was not going to go is what he told me," LaClaire says. "He said he didn't care what it took, but he was not going back."

LaClaire's husband shot himself in the head on their living room couch the morning of their daughter's seventh birthday. LaClaire refused to cancel their daughter's birthday party. She says her military family helped her through the grief and enabled her to be strong.

"The Army has been amazing for me. They have done nothing but support me in every way possible. I was one of the lucky ones. A lot of people weren't that lucky," she says.

LaClaire lives near an Army base and always has access to the support resources offered there. Others, like many who attended the TAPS seminar, travel across states to get that same support. [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]

To learn more about the NPR iPhone app, go to http://iphone.npr.org/recommendnprnews




 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Proud Passing Victory

Thirty minutes before the elementary school bell rings, spotlessminivans and SUVs line themselves up pristinely in the best spots intentionally leaving spaces between themselves so they can sit in their cars silently texing, especially proud of themselves and their passing victory.

(I'm the one in the green Santa Fe, right in the middle.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Me, Surrounded by Tomorrow's Great Leaders

I'm sitting outside revising my manuscript, just like I should be, and I am, but I have to tell you this, now.


Zoe is turning cartwheels on the front yard (not an easy feat on a hill).


Zack is riding his bike in lazy circles and figure 8's.


They chatter at each other, and I fall into my screen, into revising, cutting, deleting and then I notice its quiet.


Too quiet.


My kids are still like statues in this awkward thing little kids do when older kids go by their yards, pretending not to be self-conscious while holding their ground. 


From the side of my eye I see three teenagers approach. One girl says to the other (loudly, as though to impress the boy it seems like they might be following around the block), "You KNOW, our feet aren't actually touching the ground. They never really do...."  


Her friend agrees with her giggling, "Yes, yeah, I've heard that...." and they turn the corner, out of my sight, and the conversation goes with them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Personal is Political

In this key election year, I am laser-focused on one and only one issue only: the complete prohibition of pleated-front pants and skirts.

Monday

Today my sungalsses fell off my face, onto the floorboard and under the brake, just as the light turned yellow.

 I've broken my sunglasses  been thrown up on and spilled coffee all over myself. Then I locked my sweater in my car door so as I tried to walk away, I was caught.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balancing a Book on My Head While Walking in Cute Platform Heels

If I wanted to keep my stories secret, I wouldn't have a blog.

So why then, am I writing a book in the dark, trying to hide it from the world until it is good enough, done enough, perfect enough to tie with a ribbon and say "... here it is I, THIS is the best I can do!"?

That's craziness.

I'm tired of trying to write a perfect book.

 I'm back to doing what I like to do, what I've learned how to do.

I'm telling a good story, piece by piece.

 Right now (and for the last two weeks) I'm in the process of  rewriting lists of exam bloopers into chapters, and placing them (and moving them, and replacing them, and revising them) between the story chapters which are already written.

So here I am, blogging about this, after I announced  to myself and the world that I would turn off facebook, turn off my blog and shut myself off from the world to finish the book.

 I'm remembering now, on this chilly Sunday morning in October that I wouldn't be telling stories if it wasn't for you, my invisible friends, who read them and laugh (and cry) along with me.

.....back to the book!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blow it?

I just confiscated this interesting game that my son tells me came
from Wendys with his meal of a cheeseburger and fries.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween is in the Air

Zack is compulsively shopping online for his costume with an
emotional intensity usually only seen in bridezillas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Promises, Broken... For a good reason.

I promised myself that I wouldn't blog until I completely revised my manuscript, but I have something to tell you.  


Actually, two things. 


And one of them is about Mexico, so don't get distracted halfway through this. 


Ready?


First. Blogger has statistics now, including a map of readers. Below is the list of countries by # readers. (NATO and her allies?)




































Second. This semester I'm giving my classes "pretests" to find out what they know (or think they know) before we cover it in class. Yesterday I asked the students in a pretest, "When was the Vietnam War?" and a student responded "1940-1950" then added, "(it was in Mexico)."


Have a nice day! 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Better Than Spongebob?!

Zack bangs on my locked door yelling "MOM??? MOM!!! MOM??!!" until I
relent and open the door.

I expect to hear his sister is bleeding or the house is on fire.

He is standing in the bathroom doorway, feet tapping so impatiently he
almost dancing.

"Guess what? Guess who's on Family Guy tonight?"

"Spongebob?" I guess, and he frowns audibly.

"No, Mom, this is good! Guess?! GUESS!"

His feet continue their tango and I suspect he has to go to the
bathroom but I don't dare ask; he is six now, it's embarasing for his
mother to mention such private matters.

I play his game. "Better than Spongebob?! Who can be better than
Spongebob?"

He nods, feet twisting below him, and before I can compose a thought
he blurts out, "Oh my God! Mom!! Its Rush Limbaugh! Rush Limbaugh!
Tonight! On Family Guy!"

I adjust my towel and thank him with a motherly kiss on his forehead.
He looks up at me, completely still for a minute, then races away.

After that, I lock the door, turn the radio back on and get back into
the shower to finish shaving my legs.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Don't Blink *

I overhear their chatter while i hunt for the missing pillow.

Zoe tells her brother about infant mortality, and that "every time you blink your eyes, another child dies."

Incredulously he asks, "Really? I'm killing people just by blinking my eyes? Cool!"

Zoe shakes her head and exhales visibly, tired from a long week of being a big sister.

*********************
Sent from my iPhone

(But not while I was driving....)
 

Soccer Mom

The house is silent in this Saturday morning, except for the heavy breathing of children tangled up in bedclothes sprawled unselfconsciously across their beds (at least one of them is drooling, I know it without looking).

I'm up early because today is the big day, the day I thought would never come, secretly hoped would never come.

In just a little bit over an hour, my son has his first soccer game.

Like it or not, that makes me a soccer mom.

And I'm not sure that's who I want to be a soccer mom, so I consider sneaking back to bed, letting them all sleep late, tangled in their sheets drooling (happily).

I have a few more sips of coffee left, so I sit here in the almost silent house considering soccer, Saturday mornings, and other life changing things.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I DId it Again. Sorry.

> Dear Zoe's Teacher,

> Yesterday I enthusiastically cleaned off all the papers on the
> counter and mistakenly tossed out Zoes wordlist, rendering her
> incapable of doing tonight's homework of putting those words in
> alphabetical order.
>
> I know this is her responsibility, but I feel awful.

> I watch Hoarders too much and have been overcompensating.
>
> Sincerely,

> Melissa (Zoe's Mom)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

According to My Rules


....this is cooking from scratch.

I had to even get out some aluminum
foil!

Interloper

I am trying something brave bold and new.

Instead of picking my kids up at carpickup, I've parked my car and
I'll meet them in the courtyard.

Because I'm trafficphobic, I arrive twenty minutes early and back into
an easy to get out of spot.

So far three minvans (white, blue, copper) have slowed to a stop in
front of me, scowling slightly into my unfamiliar vehicle.

I think I might be in someone's usual spot.

I imagine a tow of ponytailed khaki wearing brunette usually park
here, next to each other, and my presence has wrecked their afternoon
chat.

Because of me, theyll probably drink too much tonight, maybe one of
then will burn dinner.

I could be wrong.

Either way, I hold my ground, sitting in my car alone and furiously
write something important. (This).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hot and Young

I'm wandering the aisles of Target with Zoe and Zack in tow, lingering in the airconditioning because our house is so hot.

We walk through shoes, toys and belts and end up where we never go -- the baby section.

The kids ooh and ah over the tiniest shoes, the softest blankets, the sweetest pictures on the packages.

Zoe pulls my hand so I bend down a little so she has my full attention.

"Look YOUNG," she commands, "so that people will think YOU can have babies..."

I straighten up and laugh at her, then   lead them out of the baby section -- from which I've happily graduated summa cum laude --  to the chocolate aisle, to the wine aisle and back to the unairconditioned  house, happy to be old and wise and hot. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How Was Your Three-Way?

It's no secret I spent the better part of my summer eating.

My personal favorite was taking the kids to lunch at Steak-n-Shake, where the three of us could roost at a table, giggle, play and feast for $20 (including tip).

Every time I went to Steak-n-Shake this summer, I ordered the Chili Three-Way.

And every time the waitress came by the table, she'd ask me, things like "How is your Three Way?" and offer "Would you like more crackers with your Three Way?" 

And each time, I'd giggle and look down and mumble something like, "My chili is fine."

The  last time we were there, during the last week of summer vacation, the restaurant was particularly quiet in between the breakfast and lunch rushes.

While the kids discussed what kind of fish we should buy, the waitress swung by our table with refilled drinks, picked up my plate and asked, "How was your Three Way?"

This time, I looked her right in the eye and said, "Are you SERIOUSLY asking that?"

She shrugged and piled more plates, "That's what we're trained to say...."

And off she went, as though on skates, leaving me at the table with both kids staring. "Whats so funny Mom? Was she supposed to laugh?"

I fidget with my iPhone and look at the bill, offering them a vague excuse like "it must be me, your mom is just..... (mumble mumble)....."

As August winds down and turn back to fruits and vegetables, I don't miss the McFlurries or the Frosties; I don't miss pizza or french fries, but I'd like another Three Way.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The **** Beer Guy

As usual, I'm overdressed for Walmart, but as usual, I don't care.

I go straight to the back to start with the easy stuff. Water. Orange Juice. Biscuits. Yogurt.

He's standing there, at the end of the aisle, smiling at me.

I smile back, vaguely, then turn my attention back to the vast selection of sugarfree powdered drink mixes.

He speaks. "Dr! ... Dr.... um, I remember, wait...."

Zack smiles and helps the poor guy. "Her name is Dr. Melissa."

He nods his head, then shakes it again, as if my name was a ball rolling around in his head looking for a place to fall into, causing lights to go off like a pinball  machine.

"Dr. Salami!"

"I've been called worse," I answer, dropping four boxes of drink mix into the cart.

Now he has my full attention.

"And you don't remember ME..." He accuses.

I look him up and down for hints.

He isn't wearing a name tag, just the patch of the beer company he's delivering for.

"You're the beer man, how could I forget you?"

In the time it takes for him to look genuinely disappointed, I remember his name.

I also remember that he was the only student to ever steal money from me during class.Four classmates turned him in, and the entire thing was pretty ugly. It's been four or five semesters, so I've let it pass. I don't think he's graduated, so I don't ask.

Besides that, I'm already eying the cinnamon rolls.


 "I remember you. You're W****. And now you're W**** ,The Beer Guy."

He laughs. I laugh, and he turns away, back to the cooler, back to his life, back to delivering his beer.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eat * Sleep * Fork

On the night of the full moon in July, I closed my Mac, zipped it into its pretty pink case, and put it away in an experiment to find a simpler, freer summer experience.  I decide to find out what life would be like without my Mac on my lap. 

Just in case it turned into an epic fail,  I didn't tell anyone about this. 


Until now.


And here it is.


My summer 2010 memoir: Eat. Sleep. Fork.


*EAT*


The best part of not having a laptop on my lap has been cuddle time with the kids, one tucked under each arm on the oversized stained green recliner.


 We ate ice cream by the gallon, popcorn by the bowl, and spent an inordinate amount of time at Olive Garden (mostly laughing).


I ordered M&Ms on everything, and ate them plain (by the nibble; by the handful) in dark movie theaters, laughing.


*SLEEP*


Meanwhile, something beautiful happened.


 After ten years of being waken by  crying infants, breastfeeding babies, screaming toddlers, happy bouncy children who couldn't sleep past 7am on weekends, the kids sleep late.


Let me be extra clear. BOTH of the slept late, day after day over and over this summer.wonderfully dangerously late, past Regis and Kelly, past Let's Make a deal, sometimes even past The Price is Right.


The house feels quiet these mornings while they sleep, like the lovely silent pause after an intentional crescendo.


Because I couldn't write, I spend my vacation mornings in a stupor watching seasons of  On Demand programs so vacuous their titles even now disappear deliciously out of my head like merengue melting on my tongue.   I shamelessly gluttonously continue to stuff myself with junk TV, eat ice cream, and do absolutely nothing but count how many more days I have left to do absolutely nothing.





*FORK*


The only problem I came across in those delicious hours curled up on a recliner was a persistent and recurring itch on my back right behind my brastrap, right where I really just couldn't scratch.


I tried to twist agains the chair, to wriggle and squirm to get the itch scratched but no luck; it just got stronger.


Next to me was an empty mug of ice cream, a fork and a napkin.


I wiped the fork off with the napkin, and although I knew I was alone in the house, I looked around before leaning forward and slipping the fork down my back to JUST the right spot.


As it hit the spot an involuntary "ohhhhh" slipped out me before I could purse my lips and look around.


No one.


CLEAR.


I kept scratching, moving the fork up and down behind my bra, shuddering with pleasure and relief, trying to keep myself as quiet as possible and mostly failing.


Again and again that day and the next while the kids are sleeping, distracted and otherwise gone, while I am alone,  during repetitive commercials on On Demand that are too short to fast-forward through, I pull my fork out (it is mine now, I marked all over it with a red sharpie so that its precious tines will never be immersed in another meatball) and find those elusive itchy spots and scratch them until a little line of drool runs down my chin.


On the third or maybe the fifth day of eating, sleeping and forking,  I call my Mom.


"Mom, I'm sorry I haven't called, I've had nothing to say because I haven't done anything because I've just been sitting in this chair watching TV and scratching my back with a fork."


She laughs, "Are you calling for absolution? Is this confession!? You're forgiven.... "


"Oh no," I answer, quicker than she'd expected. "I do NOT want to be forgiven,  lady! I'm calling to BRAG about the fork...."


From there, the conversation goes to  the kids, to Project Runway, to Abuelo.


A red package of takeout Chinese chopsticks pull my eye and distracts me from my Mom's story.


"Mom, I have to go,,,,"


"OK," she says,  not asking why, just letting me be free, because she's easy like that.


Because she doesn't ask me, I decide to tell her the truth. "Mom, I have to go because I just  found some chopsticks I want to tape to my fork to make it even longer.... "


The kids came home before I could find tape, so I don't  follow through on my plan, deciding it's some spiritual principle to accept the fork just the way it is.


That night turned into the next night, which turned into another week and then another which now I"ll remember as the summer I spent away from writing,  happily eating, sleeping and forking.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Down Low Love* (Prince Charmin')

Some advice please!


Is it acceptable for a guest to gush about wonderfully soft and luxuriously thick toilet paper?


Or should i just sneak a roll home for further testing?


I'm in love with this lovely toilet paper, with the diamonds that impeccably MATCH  decorated chandeliered bathroom, and it stings a little to not be able to announce it to the world.  


So here I sit, rubbing it between my fingers, thankful for this down low love...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Serenaded like a Princess**

He sings "Clean clean my toilet mom please come clean my toilet mom!"
waving the bottle of toilet cleaner he'd seen on TV while I hunt for
my earring, wondering if he is confusing me with Snow White.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our Lady of the Ceiling Crack

A few days ago I woke up to a miraculous surprise.

The wonderous Universe -- the same one that cooked a picture of the Virgin Mother on a grilled cheese sandwich and the baked the face of Mother Theresa on a sticky bun --- has painted a Georgia O'Keefe fresco on my ceiling.


Glorious.








Monday, July 19, 2010

Facebook in the Sky

So I admit it, instead of getting right to "writing" I spent a little while dipping my toes in the cold water of the computer, letting my fingers and eyes warm up to the screen and keyboard.

 It isn't that I don't feel like writing, its that I'm writing a funny book about grief in which hundreds of people pass through but three leave empty chairs.

So I confess (publicly before Zoe can tell you) I've spent more time at Target   and more time watching MTV than I've spent writing this week, and the new Jersey Shore hasn't even started yet.

I tell you this (finally? or did you already know?) so you can understand I give myself a few minutes to shift my attention and heart into a writing place because I'm writing about people who've jumped into the sky.

So I go through my usual sites - CNN.com,  Perezhilton.com then email, then Postsecret, then Facebook.

On the Facebook home page every day it suggests new friends to connect with based on mutual friends,  then also suggests it suggests a name of a friend who hasn't been too active on Facebook.

Today, it suggests I get in touch with Carol Strickland, "say hello, Write on her Wall."

Really, it was her, like she's still around on earth able to check Facebook on the iPhone that dangled from her belt every day while she sat in my classes translating lecture into sign language.

 I miss her so much still, the grief is so raw, that just seeing her pop up so nonchalantly brings tears to my eyes.

 I stare at her in the last profile picture she chose for herself, wielding some awesomely deadly weapon, inspired by her no-excuses blackbelt life and her marathon -runner momentum.

 I bet they do use Facebook in the sky, I think,  logging off the internet and getting back to my Manuscript, warmed with gratitude and laughing.

Hello, Carol*

Friday, July 16, 2010

Date Night: One Wish

Cuddling under a red blanket on the sofa with circles under his eyes,
Zack chatters multiple choice questions at me.

"If you had one wish would you wish for no burglars? Or for me? Or for
no burglars AND me?"

"All of the above," I answer, the most words I've gotten in with him
in over thirty minutes of nonstop interrogation.

Zack lifts himself up, raises his eyebrows and pats me on the head
like a proud uncle.

"Good answer. I would wish for Africa to have food and peace" he
proclaims, then leaves me alone to write while he fiddles
unsuccessfully with my Shake Weight.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Camp Mommy and the CosmoGirl Panties Project

It is the last day of summer school, and I am writing, thinking, cleaning and untangling the kids from under and over and around me (constantly). 

Yesterday I created a new writing shrine, sure that it would compel me to sit, stay, pray, edit.  ( So far, not much, at least not what I'm supposed to write.)

At 11am after dealing with emails and exams and voicemails and waffles and frog-admiring, I take the kids to Target.

Figuring summer camp would be $300 a week that I'm not spending because I'm at home with the kids, I don't feel bad indulging them in little shopping sprees like this.  

Zack gets a Pixos maker. 

I get a ShakeWeight and a candle that smells like bleach.

Zoe takes herself happily to lunch at Subway. 

Once  the kids are happily detained and I've moved around enough words to call it "writing" I start my afternoon exercise routine of putting on  high heels  and picking up of toy cars and flip flops and books and socks, intermittently twirling around to a song on Pandora.

Under the couch I find a bat, flip flops and batteries.  

From the coffee table I harvest a coffeemug and carry it to the kitchen. 

I pick up the four yellow clay Minions that Zack left for me on the kitchen counter, move them to the windowsill, then do dishes, load the dishwasher and answer three more "panicked last day of Summer School" emails.

After that I tackle the pile of art supplies and books that have accumulated since breakfast on the kitchen table. The crayons go in the trashcan, the paper goes back into the stack, and the library books go that bag in my car. 

On my way to deliver Zoe's library book to it's rightful place, Cosmo Girl! Make it Yourself! (Hearst Communications, 2007) grabs my attention. I stop in the middle of the living room (still blissfully ignored by the campers at Camp Mommy) and indulge myself in a silent guilty flip through the projects we haven't done during this summer where we have overslept and undercrafted. 

Bright pictures of Cosmo Girls making Cosmo Crafts pull me into the small book, and I read through instructions to make polka-dot makeup bag, decorated ballet flats, leave-in conditioner (1/2 cup liquid fabric softener, 1 cup water, spray bottle), fizzy bath bombs, a ribbon front halter, and boys-of-the-week panties.

That's right, boys-of-the-week panties. 

On page #18 there are instructions on how to rip up seven pairs of panties, sew them back together with satin ribbons and dangling charms, and decorate them as following: 
"Pick seven guys' names. Chose an M name for Monday (Mike), a T name for Tuesday (Tom), etc.  Write one name in silver fabric paint across the front center of each pair of panties. Let dry 2 hours."
At that, I put the book away library books, and danced back into the living room, feeling like writing again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tooth Fairy, Be Warned

Tooth Fairy,

Zoe woke up and was incredibly disappointed to find only $3.

And also she thinks you took the money from her July 4 tooth-loss and
gave it to her again.

Whatever you did just know that $3 " buys her nothing at Starbucks,"
and she's a bit grumpy. I told her I'd lend her $2.

You're welcome, again, but listen --(( I need to know you know I'm
serious) PLEASE stop hiding teeth in my bra. That is not a secure,
tooth fairy approved location, and it's awkward when they fall out.

Peace*

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If You Love Something.... (A Frog's Tale)

Today each of the kids had $5 to spend at Target.

Zoe bought herself a tall cup of Starbucks.

Zack couldn't find anything "in his price range" so I dragged him to get the rest of the stuff on my list (trashbags that aren't crappy; honey; k-cups; bananas...).

As we turned from the water aisle and pass the cheap chip section, Zoe stops short in front of the cart, saving a life (temporarily) -- " Stop! Look! A frog!"


Zack throws himself on it, both called and carried by a ball of puppy dog enthusiastic love he feels for all living things. "Can we keeeep it? And call it George? And please can I have it and put it in a ..."

"Yes." I interrupt his needless begging. "Yes, get George, come on," I beckon him to follow me past the wine, towards the honey

"Yip-Hoo," he shouts,  clicks his heels, loses George who makes a heroic leap towards the cream corn, then reclaims him. "Come here guy, I LOVE YOU!"

For the next hour Zack carries George cupped in his hands through Target, then through the grocery, chatting away at his captive happily and unselfconsciously.

While I pause to consider Triscuits (are they worth $3.50 or wait until they are buy-one-get-one-free? are they a necessary food group? do I really need them? is there cheese at home? can I please have a can of spray cheese just his once? how much is the spray cheese? $3.99, sigh, absolutely not, but I'm PMSing just this once please? NO...  ),  a rack of overpriced overmarketed underquality plastic toys catches Zack's attention.

"Mom, do I still have $5?"

I put down the Triscuits, turn away from the spray cheese, reach in my pocket and pull it out to show him.

"Good, I need to buy this turtle for George, so he will know I love him..." He plops an overpriced bauble into the cart.

I stop there, (hugging a box of Wheat Thins, wondering if there is cream cheese at home...) and consider whether to pop  Zack's happy love bubble and ask him if he really meant what he'd said.

He doesn't notice me, all of his attention on narrating to George the joys of  marshmallows and the many sub-species of goldfish (by size, by color, by flavor, sorted like wines).

I really have to know, so I put the Wheat Thins down, skip all crackers for the week, and catch up to him. "Zack, are you buying this turtle as some show of love for the frog? or is it for yourself?"

"Myself," he whispers, "but I'll pretend it's for George."

I wink back in complicity, deciding not to untangle his ethics as we pass pickles, salad dressings, olive oil and salt (which I later realize I forget to buy. Again).

Later, while I unpack frozen pizzas and Trix yogurt, Zoe and Zack join George the frog in some Roman Bath ritual celebrating the initiation of a frog into the family.

In silence (more accurately: ignoring their pleas for me to SEE THIS and EEEEK MOM and my favorite A TOWEL A TOWEL A TOWEL),  while wiping down the counters, brushing lunch crumbs into the sink,  I thank the universe that the best things in life are free.

(except for George the frog, who is in captivity)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cure

Zack stands in front of me, frowning.

"What's up? Do you need to go to the bathroom?" I ask concerned enough by the way he was holding his stomach to put my novel down.

He shakes his head. "No, it feels like I'm getting my period."

I get him a handful of chocolate chips from my super secret stash, then we cuddle and watch last nights shows from the Lifetime Channel.

Soon enough, he is cured, and - after sneaking more chocolate chips - I go back to my novel.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: Because She Can by Bridie Clark


Set "The Devil Wears Prada"in the publishing industry and you have "Because She Can," a sharp and witty romp through New York, the Hamptons and the angst of all the major life decisions that come with achieving mid-to-late 20s status in America.

Good enough to pass on to a friend who is headed to a beach, then later on ask her to buy you at least two margaritas and you know she'd have to say yes because the book was so good. 

Book Review: Storyville by Lois Battle


Take a trip to Storyville, a time and place in New Orleans history!

Beautifully researched, highly detailed, delighful.

A great summer read*

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Why had I never heard of this book? Nevermind, I guess it arrived at the perfect time in my journey. 

This wisdom fable reminds me of "Illusions" by Richard Bach and  "Celestine Prophecy" -- I loved them both, and I loved this too.

When I'm rolling in $$$, this will be a book I would give to friends and students.

It's that good.

It's that important.

So, until then, I hope a copy of this book finds its way to you *

Book Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult




Thank you, Jodi Picoult. I expected your usually enticing  heart-wrenching narrative, and you didn't let me down.

When I finished this book I sat still for awhile, unwilling to leave the characters that Jodi Picoult lead me to love.

 I hugged this book and passed it on to my Mom.

Book Review: That's Amore by Wendy Markham


I am so thankful a friend passed this delightful and just slightly magical book to me.

Because I'd never heard of Wendy Markham I kept sticking this book on the bottom of my book-pile,  mostly expecting it to be another "single woman wants to get married and can't find anyone until BAM she finds him and WOW they get married and all their friends love each other and the end" book.

Forgive me, Wendy Markham, I underestimated you.

This book reads like a twelve hour movie (think: When Harry Met Sally with a little... *more*), so stock up on popcorn and poptarts before curling up for what I promise will be a delightful romp of a story.

Book Review: Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Masterfully told story about the three women who marry the same man, one at a time, told through the eyes of the man's son. 

This is a  smart and delightfully woven tale of family,  courage, honestly, poverty and optimism told by a brilliant writer.