Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me...

We got a letter.

I say we, but actually, it was a letter to my dad, delivered to our address.

It was a form letter from a life insurance company, writing to say that they were notifying him that the company had changed names. They would continue to automatically withdraw his premiums(!),  nothing about that had changed, but that it would be under a new name.


Nick called them this morning. And then he called to conference me in.

It turns out that my dad had another life insurance policy, a very small one, one we didn't know about. He and Betty had a joint bank account, and as such, it wasn't closed when he died. So they have been pulling premiums out for the last five years.


I was fine in this conference call conversation, even through stating cause of death. At this point Nick asked when the policy was opened. 1992. Which turns out to be a good thing. Because in Virginia - and I hope you never need to know this - if the policy is more than two years old, they cannot refuse to pay because it was suicide.

So I was fine until the representative asked for date of death. I had to put the phone aside and ask my mom. Because I have deliberately avoided knowing.

I walked toward the kitchen, saying, "Mama, did Dad die on May 15 or 16?"

She paused just a moment. "May 16."

I didn't realize I was holding my breath, but I was. The tears started to flow as I exhaled.

May 16 is the second day. The day I wouldn't take away from his life, but the day that means he had a whole day away to change his mind, to come back to us. And he didn't.

And I am bereft all over again.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

That'll teach 'em

Last night, out of the blue, Jordan started singing, ""And those two little boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this'll be the day that I die..."


"Mama, why those little boys died?"

(Silently: Uh, maybe because they were drinking whiskey and rye?)

Out loud: "Oh, sweetheart. They were 'good old boys' and not little boys. They're called boys, but they're big men and not little boys."

And a couple nights prior, my friend LaCure had posted something about Taylor Swift and Starbucks lovers, and how list of ex-lovers made so much more sense. And I was all, "Yes! I had to look it up! Starbucks lovers was driving me crazy!"

You know about me and Big Ole Chedo Lino (don't carry me too far away...)

Right after that, I stumbled across this New Yorker article! There's a name for these mishearings! They're called mondegreens!

So go read it! And then come back and tell me about your Starbucks lovers.

Also: we love Taylor Swift around here. "Mama, I LOVE Taylor Swift!" Oh, me, too, my friend!

She's our #1 underwear dance party soundtrack. We've got a blank space, baby, and we'll write your name.

Monday, December 15, 2014

No fair!

A month or two ago Jordan came home from school and he said, "OK, Mama. I'm going to ask you if I can have a treat. And you say no. OK?"


"Mama, can I have a treat?"


"No fair! Shut up!"

Huh. I said that this is a very unkind thing to say. We definitely don't tell people to shut up. He very proudly said, "Angie taught it to me!"

"Well, I know Angie's mama, and I know she is not OK with her saying that."

So Jordan has been all "no fair!" lately. NO FAIR! He's got India saying it. "No fair!"

The other day they were both no-fairing me and I cracked.

No fair Jordan had to go to school. No fair he had to put on clothes. No fair this and no fair that.

Finally, I hadn't put on enough syrup on their pancakes. They wanted more syrup.


I snapped.

"I know. Life isn't fair. NOTHING IS FAIR! You know what's REALLY not fair? There are lots of kids in the world that don't have ANY food. No food! None! They go to bed hungry every night and they wake up hungry every day. You know what else isn't fair? There are kids who want to go to school and they can't because they have to work! Little kids! That's NO FAIR. And there are people who don't have any clean water to drink. They don't have clean water and they get sick and they die. That's really NO FAIR. And there are..."

Nick grabbed my arm and said, "I think that's enough." The kids' eyes and mouths were wide open.

(Nick was right. Just like when he stopped me from getting in trouble with the cops. Even though in both cases I really wanted to shake him off and say, "Let go of me! I'm on a roll! NO FAIR!")

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We wear the pants

People have told me, prior to seeing Nick and me in person and together, that they assumed I was exaggerating about his size. I've said this before. It is a recurring topic. Particularly because I like to describe him as a wall of seersucker or a wall of plaid walking down the street.

And then people see us together in person and then they are all, he really is big and more than twice your size and you really are little and no wonder you always talk about how enormous he is.

He is happy to be big, but sometimes I get defensive about being little, because I would like to be at least five inches taller, although I'd settle for one or two. I'd say 5'10" is my ideal. I bet it would feel great.

I mean, it is fine and I'm fine, but if I could wave a magic wand, I would have fewer wrinkles and be a lot taller.

On a side bar, our neighborhood had an alley party and someone asked me who my husband was, and I pointed in the direction of a group of men and said, "He's the enormous one with the beard."

And then she criticized me for calling him enormous...and I was all, but it's true! He is built like a side of beef! He has huge cattle bones! Look at his wrists!

And frankly, it's one of the things I love about him. Through the years I dated men of a variety of statures - the shortest of whom was exactly my height, 5'3" - but apparently, if I were a gay man, I'd be all over Bear Week in Provincetown.

Anyway. I'm not and I'm not and there you have it.

She still glared at me. And so I didn't mention the Bear Week to her.

Now, the other day I was in the midst of doing ungodly quantities of laundry large and small when Australian Builder came over to measure our windows.

Because we are no longer going to have 100-and-some-year-old rotting window frames. Instead, we are going to have brand new window frames! Hector Bigwood is working on them!

And then we will get plantation shutters! Yay!

(Also, a dear high school friend of mine says now he can never look at plantation shutters at Home Depot the same way again. Sorry, Matt.)

And there I was, having hauled basket after basket of clean laundry up to fold on the bed and then put away. AB remarked that my jeans and Jordan's are not so different in size at this point, which isn't exactly true, but he is going to be as big as me pretty soon.

Nick dislikes folding the kids' clothes, because he says they're so tiny that it takes forever to make a pile of them and you just don't feel like you're getting anywhere. Whereas I dislike folding his clothes because they are so large and unwieldy.

So then I got AB to take this picture of me with Nick's pants, because, really.

Me, I have to flap every T-shirt out like a sheet before I fold it. WHA-POW! Oh! Which reminds me! We did stop using antiperspirant, and the yellow crud under the arms has stopped happening!

Sometimes when the kids don't want to get dressed, we joke about us putting on their clothes. And then they howl with laughter, because of course we couldn't fit into their T-shirt/dress/shoes! Hahaha!

The other morning Jordan was all, "Daddy, you can't wear my clothes! You couldn't even get into Mama's pants!"

And Nick was all, "Sometimes I like to try!"

Thursday, December 04, 2014

It starts with a little caulk here and there...

I have somehow become a penis repository.

Wait. That doesn't sound right. Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour. 

My Facebook wall. People regularly come across something penisy and put it on my FB wall saying, "I saw this and thought of you." Or they tag me in someone else's post saying, "Lisa would love this!"

Examples: a Christmas-decorated palm tree. (Thanks, Cathy!) The penis museum. A wall of penises that wave in response to sound. (Thanks, Wendy!)

Naturally, I laugh out loud. Because I think they've hilarious. Because, you know, penis stuff is hilarious. Also because I am 12.

Although really, it's not like I have loads and loads of actual penis experience. Even when I was Internet dating, nobody sent me any dick pics. Seriously. Apparently this happens to everyone, and yet I got nary a one.

I did, however, have a guy tell me I was too fat for him to go out with, which is why he wasn't actually showing any interest when he wrote to me in the first place. And there was the guy who asked me on our first (and last) date if I wore my glasses to look less attractive.

So there were certainly dicks. Just no pics.

But! Back to the pressing issue at hand!

There are lots of people I am FB friends with who I know but don't really know know. You know? Like some of my parents' or Nick's friends, or work friends, or people I went to school with years ago but didn't necessarily know well.

They now probably have the impression that I am all penis, all the time. Like, I myself have a wall of music-responding penises and lots of penis art and a penis palm in my front yard. So every time there's another penisy I knew you'd love this! post, I am quite certain that they're all, "Oh, she's such a penis-loving pervert!"

Or something of the sort.

I don't know who these people are because they do not say it to me, but I am certain they are out there.

In fact, if you are one of those people that I know but don't really know, and you happen to read this, and you do have the impression that I'm a penis-loving pervert, would you please tell me?

And actually, now that I've said all this, I think maybe I am a penis-loving pervert. I probably am.

Even though really, I only ever contend with two penises, to both of which I regularly say, "Please put that away."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

And when I pull out my jammy get ready cuz it might go BLAAAAW, how ya like me now?

India my love,

It's been a long, long time since I wrote you a letter. You're now, what? Two years and eight months.

At two and two-thirds (I had to do math there), you are a force of nature. In this picture you are making what I think of as your "The hell?" face.

There wasn't even any reason for it. Except that we said we had to go upstairs and get changed after breakfast. This is the face you gave the poor candy-hander-outer who asked you who you were for Halloween.

Also, in this picture you are wearing one of three dresses you deign to wear. Two of which are actually nightgowns. Oh, wait. You also have a couple skirts you still like. And two tops. So now that I'm writing it down, I suppose your outfits are not as limited as it feels when we are trying to get dressed.

You have begun to assert that when you are bigger, like when you're four, you will have a penis. I can only assume this is because your brother is so fascinated by his.

Of late, you have started calling me Mumpika. I love it.

"Hi Mumpika!" You sometimes shorten it to Mumpa. (I wonder if when you're a teenager you'll call me something like Mumps and none of us will have any idea why.)

I say, "Hi Indika!" Or, because I call you Indi-bindi, sometimes I say, "Hi Bindika!"

Bindika is taking it too far, it seems. "It's INDIA!"

You say a lot of things in capital letters.

We bribed you and your brother with tons of horrible (and delicious) snacks on the way to and from New Jersey for Thanksgiving. You fell asleep with the Cheetos bag in your hand, and when it was not there when you work up, you immediately looked for it and said, "WHERE ARE MY CHEETOS?"

Between you and Jordan, you are the bossy boots. You happily take charge (C'mon, Jordan!)  and tell him what to do. And if  Jordan is doing something you don't like you'll say, "CUT IT OUT, JORDAN!"

You are a hugger and a snuggler, and you will still wrap your little self around my neck and cling like a tree frog. I love it. You give giant hugs and very carefully-planted cheek kisses. One of the best things in my world is to lie in bed with you at night and cuddle and giggle.

When Daddy puts on his tie and buttons his jacket in the morning, you look at him and say, in an admiring voice,  "Gorgeous!"

I don't know where you got this, but he is charmed by it.

And the fact is, when you are charming, you are so very charming.
Despite your penchant for socks and sandals.

You still eat the lip balm, even though we've had a million discussions about how it goes on your lips and even your cheeks and the rest of your face if you so choose (you do). But we don't bite it and chew it. You seem very disappointed with yourself when you bring me one and report, with evidence, that you've eaten some of it.

There are many days where I am certain that you are killing me softly, but I love you beyond measure, and I wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe one thing. I'd like a little more sleep. But that's it, my Indika.

Love love love,


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The toll road not taken

Yesterday I was out in Virginia, and my GPS told me to take a turn that took me to the toll road.

The toll wasn't a big deal, and I even have one of those toll-payer things on my windshield. But the toll road? Instead of just trusting my GPS, I was all,"The toll road? That can't be right!"

So there I was with no other options, and then just before the booths I noticed a ramp heading into some sort of parking lot, like a Metro lot in the suburbs. I took a sharp right and heard this THUNKGRONK kind of sound, which coincided with a jarring feeling that made me sure I'd hit something very hard like maybe a chunk of cement or piece of curb or some such.

Whatever it was, it was very not good.

So I drove along this driveway entry with the certainty that my front tire was flat. I got into a lot, which did look like Metro but was not. It was under construction, and there were all these men there in reflective vests and work clothes.

I got out to inspect my tire because perhaps fingers crossed maybe I was overreacting? And not only was my tire indeed flat, there was a gaping hole in the side of it. And the metal inside didn't look perfect either.

Very. Not. Good.

Whyyyyyy hadn't I learned to change a tire? I mean besides the fact that I don't drive all that often and it doesn't remotely interest me?

Naturally, the first thing I did was begin to hyperventilate. The next was to call my husband. Who didn't answer. At which point I started to cry just a little.

I told myself to hold it together. Breathe. I could call my insurance. They would fix it. Except what if they couldn't come out in time for me to get back and get my son from school?

Panic. Hysteria rising in throat. Tears creeping to corners of eyes. Because here I was with a car I couldn't drive in a random parking lot in Virginia with a whole lot of men...

Wait a minute!

Surely one of these men in work clothing would know how to change my tire. I know for a fact, from having seen other people change tires (not mine! except that one other time...), that it doesn't take very long. And I could thank them with cash and be on my way.

So I strolled over to the nearest cluster and said, "I know this is totally stereotypical and I should know how...but do any of you know how to change a tire? I have a flat and I was wondering if you could help me."

They smiled and nodded. One of them said, "I'd be happy to. But we're convicts. So you'll have to get permission from the sheriff's deputy. He's in the van." He pointed.

Convicts! This threw me, even though I do quite Piper Chapman, self-absorbed as she may be. I'd driven into a lot filled with convicts! Convicts meaning men in prison! For something! Possibly very bad!

"See what happens," I said to myself, "when you go to Virginia?"

I thanked them and headed for the van, and as I got close, the door opened, and the sheriff's deputy got out and raised his eyebrows and said, "Can I help you?"

So I explained that I'd gotten this flat tire and I'd asked these men but then they said they were convicts and I'd have to ask him and I didn't suppose they might be able to help me?

No, no unfortunately they couldn't. Did I have AAA or something of the sort?

And I said yes, yes I do, and I will call them, and thank you and I'm so sorry to bother you (and your prisoners).

So I walked back to the car while calling my insurance and it took forever to get through the electronic prompts and as I was doing this, repeating things like "IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE" or whatever that option was, the sheriff's deputy was walking along with me, listening and then asking how long they thought it would take.

And I was all, "It's still all the electronic prompts!"

So he began poking around in my trunk and pulling things out. I took this as a good sign.

Finally I got a person and they asked if I was with the vehicle. Yes. And if I was safe. I wanted to say, "I'm in a parking lot filled with convicts! and sheriff's deputies! I am freaking the fuck out! And also I really really have to pee!" I said none of this. I said yes.

Since everything car trouble-y flusters me, when they asked for the make and model and year I was all, "Uh. I can't find the card. Isn't my car in your system?"

And the woman, who was very nice, asked if I could possibly give her two out of three. Just so she might know which of our two cars I was driving. Which, duh. Yes, I do actually know what kind of car I drive, and anyway, I'm looking right at it so I could just read the name on the trunk if I had to.

At this point the sheriff's deputy had admired the impressive job I'd done on both the tire and the rim. And had deemed my spare totally decent.

Finally the insurance woman asked where I was. So then I had to ask this very nice man, who by this time had my spare and the jack on the ground next to the tire, where my car and I might be located.

And he said, "Don't worry. I'll just change it for you."

He proceeded to do just that, while another guy got the work crew loaded onto the bus.

He put on the spare, told me it needed air before I could drive it into DC, suggested I drive slowly, pointed me to the nearest gas station, and, at my request, gave me his card so I can send him a thank you.

I have to admit, I've always relied on the kindness of strangers. And my judgment has not always been stellar. In my old neighborhood, I accepted several offers from strangers to parallel park my car for me. (Not since way before I met you, Nick!) Nobody ever stole my car, and it actually got squozen into some tight spaces, so, you know, it all worked out. I'm a way better parallel parker now, in case you're wondering.

Anyway, back to the convicts. One of my friends said, if they were out on a work crew they were probably in prison for stuff like drugs. So the lot was probably not filled with rapey murdery types.

Everyone was very nice.

Then at the auto-body place one of the guys asked what kind of an accident I'd been in and I said, "I did all that by myself. I thought I was going the wrong way and so I turned and ran into something very solid and then I drove into a parking lot full of convicts and a sheriff's deputy changed my tire for me and now I'm here buying a whole new wheel."


So there you have it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We're heading out to where the sun goes down...

Sometimes I get asked for relationship advice, which always both flatters and surprises me.

Flatters because, who doesn't like being asked for advice? It makes you feel like you know things. And surprises because, me? I've fucked so very many things up along the way.

A friend of mine said that while that may be true, it doesn't mean that I don't have a helpful perspective on life. Which I appreciated.

So, after I posted about meeting Nick seven years ago and getting engaged in 10 weeks, I got a question about how I knew? How was I certain that he was the person and this was right?

I'd been asked this before, because really, 10 weeks?

And so this time, I responded to the question with the absolute truth, which was something I hadn't told Nick (but now have).

I didn't. I wasn't.

I knew that being with him felt really good, and that me made me laugh, and that he was smart in ways I found intriguing, and that I felt safe. Not boring safe, but certain that he would not abandon me. And also protected, like no harm could come to me if I were with him. I still feel this way.

(Plus, he had a lot of power tools. But this was just a bonus.)

But I didn't actually know. I wasn't sure. But he was. He was dead certain that I was his person and he was mine. So I rode on his certainty.

Actually, this is how we tend to be as people. He will make big decisions very quickly without ever questioning them. And then there I am, perusing the drinks section for 20 minutes because do I want Gatorade? Water? Maybe lemonade? Hmm.


I knew that I had let go of some very good, solid men, because I could not commit. I pushed them away and I ran and then I had regrets. In retrospect, I broke my own heart a few times. And then there were times that I knew, oh, I knew. And then it turned out that really, I knew nothing, Jon Snow.

I mean, by the time you're 38, you've lived a lot of ups and downs.

So there we were.

He was certain and I went with it. I kind of thought, what the hell am I waiting for? Why don't I just try marriage? If it doesn't work out, at least I'll have tried.

I'm not offering this up as advice, because what do I know?

I'm just saying, so far, so good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I mean, really.

I have now had three pregnancies, even though the third was short-lived.

But it reminded me, particularly having a miscarriage, of how strongly I believe that women should be in charge of their own bodies, in control of their fertility, and able to make their own choices about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

Because even with a loving, supportive husband, I was really quite alone in my pregnancies. Not just this last, brief one. All of them.

It wasn't deliberate and I wasn't neglected. It just wasn't happening to his body, and there was only so far he could be involved.

In fact, with the most recent one, he said, "Tell me what I can do."

And I said, "I think you've done quite enough already."

But what if you were actually alone? Really and truly alone? It is overwhelming enough feeling psychologically alone and knowing you're supported emotionally and financially.

What if you had none of those supports?

As a woman, you are living pregnancy every single minute of every single day. Sometimes you feel terrible. Hormones make you a crazy person. You might be exhausted. Nauseated and vomiting in the bushes on the way to work or in your trash can at work. Any and all of these things at once.

They're totally out of your control.

When I filled my prescription for the little pills that would start the miscarriage process, I started thinking about what women have done and will continue to do if they do not have access to safe abortion.

It conjured up images of home abortions. The wire coat hanger is an enduring and powerful symbol for that. But woman who do not have access to clean and safe abortions have done and will continue to find means to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

I mean, honestly. Can you actually imagine how desperate you must be in order to stick a piece of wire into yourself, hoping to thread it through your cervix, and also hoping not to rip your uterus or damage anything else inside.

Imagine getting your best friend to do this for you, because you are too terrified to tell anyone else.

I'm going to tell you now that I have friends I trust with my life, but hell if I'd trust them to try to find my cervix and poke anything into it.

I mean, really.

I am not a political person. But this is where I get fired up.

Monday, November 17, 2014


I didn't grow up in a yelling household.

In fact, even my dad, who was volatile and easily enraged, did not yell. My mother did not mete out punishment. You would have to wait until Dad got home to be in trouble.

It was terrifying, the waiting for Dad.

His blue-blue eyes would glow with rage, and you knew you were in Big Trouble. Sometimes he spanked. Sometimes he grounded. I was grounded a lot. A really lot.

I was a first-born rule follower, a people pleaser, but I would fight with my mom. And I would fight with my brother. I think these are the main reasons I got in trouble. Oh, yeah, and that one time when we lived in Egypt and Debbie Bangs and I took my mom's matches and lit a fire in the street in front of someone's house.

The lady came out and screamed at us and we ran, forgetting our bikes. We were easily identified.

But for the most party, my crimes were fighting with family members.

My parents did not yell at each other. I don't even know that they fought much. I remember one fight from when I was a kid, and they went into the other room.

I think the big thing was that we were not allowed to get mad. Maybe my brother was as a teen, because I know he was punching walls in high school, but not me. I doubt Betty really was either. Anyway, expressing anger was not within her comfort zone.

But there was a tremendous gap between Acceptable Male Behavior and Acceptable Female Behavior.

I remember this one particular incident when I was a college sophomore. My parents had driven me to school, leaving my brother, a 10th grader, home alone. He'd told me he was going to throw a party, which I promptly told my parents - partly because their house had been trashed the year prior when they left him alone. And partly because they had never let me do anything in high school, never left me alone, never trusted me at all.

Now these things seem so small and petty. But when they are your whole world, and you've always been the rule follower but never trusted (It's not you. We trust YOU. We just don't trust boys...), everything seems wildly unfair.

I was furious, absolutely beside myself with the unfairness of everything leading up to this moment in my life. And my father said, "Lisa, you look really unattractive when you're angry."

Lemme tell you how much attractiveness mattered to me at that moment. And how much more enraged I was by the statement.

Anger? I had anger. I had years of anger. I had his two suicide attempts and years of his crazy arbitrary behavior worth of anger. And I dumped every single jot of trauma and unfairness and what-have-you into his lap. It was terrible. And liberating.

Afterwards, I felt a whole lot better. The next day I couldn't even remember what I'd been so mad about for so long.

But prior to that, I don't think I'd ever expressed any real anger to him. What we did in our household - all except my dad - was tamp it down. Choke on it. Pretend we were fine. We were not allowed to not be fine.

I didn't even know how to speak about being angry until I'd had a lot of therapy. Being angry never felt valid. When you raised not being allowed, it is hard to feel justified in getting angry and expressing it.

But now, now I have a five-year old who enrages me, and I find that I yell.

I do not want to yell. But I get so angry. So very very angry. And I lose my mind. My head melts, and I yell.

Sometimes I don't even yell something at him. I just made a loud YEAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHHH kind of noise. Because I don't know what else to do.

It doesn't help. It terrifies him, and makes him cry. It makes me feel like a terrible human being. It gets him to do what I've been asking him to do in that moment, but it doesn't help for the next moment or for tomorrow.

And in fact, from the reading I've been doing, I understand that not only does it not help, it actually harms in the long term.

So it turns out that I need to learn how to constructively manage my own anger in the face of these triggers. So that I can be a better parent and can help my son learn to manage his anger. Because otherwise I will raise another human being without good emotional coping skills.

It's a cycle I would like to break.

This sounds stupid, but I am going to start taping up big pieces of paper with things like: STOP AND BREATHE! DO NOT YELL! IT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. LEAVE THE ROOM AND CALM DOWN.

Really. Because in the moment, I cannot remember anything. My head empties of all reason and fills with anger.

I need and want to be a good parent. Even on my bad days, I need to be a good parent. Some days I manage, and other days I believe I do a good job. But some days I know for a fact that I suck at parenting.

And still these little people, these relentless little people, look to me for, well, everything. Even when I yell. Even when I yell and scare them and let them down.

I don't want to let them down. I love them more than my life.

It's all so fucking complicated. Who knew it would be this hard?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night

On November 13, seven years ago tonight, I met Nick at the Tabard Inn on what turned out to be my last first date.

I've said before that this anniversary is much more important to me than our wedding, because it's when my life changed. I loved our wedding, but by that point we actually knew each other pretty well and were firmly walking down a path till death do us part.

But not this night.

Some of you were with me leading up to that point, and you'd read about endless wretched dates, and dates leading to hope, and then dashed hope, and ultimately pointing to me dying alone. I've written about how at this point my luck turned.

By this point seven years ago I had, thank goodness, learned when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, and so on.

You know our story, and you know it has involved challenges and joyous highs and crushing lows. I mean, it's life, and marriage is hard and parenting is not a picnic. There are moments of such riotous joy with kids - the kind of joy that you get nowhere else.

But dear lord so much of it is please put on your underwear, no, everyone needs to wear underwear, nobody wants to see your penis at the dinner table, please pick your cup up to drink, yes, I know dogs drink like that but you're not a dog, yes you can have a treat IF you eat dinner no you can't have one now no you can't have two now MY GOD JUST PUT ON YOUR UNDERWEAR AND EAT YOUR DINNER!!!

These little humans, just going about their day, suck much of the life out of you.

I somehow thought I'd get married and just because of that I'd be happy and my life would be great. Kind of like when I was a kid and I thought at 16 I would look just like Barbie. Or at least Teen Skipper, whose arm you twirled to make grow boobs.

What I've come to realize is you are who you are, life is life. It is hard to cooperate with someone else all the time, but the alternative is being alone, which is not as much fun. And it's all even harder when you also have to convince completely irrational little beings to cooperate with you. But the alternative is not having the little beasts, and that is unimaginable at this juncture.

It is difficult to maintain any space for yourself. And it's been even more challenging to hold onto our relationship - our just-the-two-of-us relationship, much less nurture it. And there may be people who can coparent, leading parallel rather than intertwined emotional lives, but we are not two of them.

This has been one of the biggest challenges. Everyone says it will get easier as the kids get older, and we are starting to see glimmers of this. We hit a point this year where we realized that we have to work on being us again, and loving and appreciating the person we married, because otherwise us will go away.

What I suppose I'm saying is, seven years has not been easy, and there have been some very precarious points along the way. Relationships are hard, duh. You forget this when you walk into a charming bar and meet a stranger and put your hand in his and get all giddy in your heart and breathless in your stomach.

Nick and I did not know each other when we got engaged at 10 weeks, but here and now, at seven years in, we most certainly do. But there's still room to grow.

And now I'm trying to figure out what to wear to look all pretty when I meet him at the Tabard this evening. Because I know I'm going to walk in all giddy in my heart and breathless in my stomach.

Friday, November 07, 2014

When the samba takes you out of nowhere; And the background's fading out of focus...

I have a little story for you, the topic of which is something People Do Not Talk About. But even though we're all our own special snowflakes, most of our lives are not so different. And I am not not talking about it.

So, here goes.

Once upon a time something incredible happens, something completely unlikely and unexpected. Something that you learn, after researching, that there is a 1% chance of happening. You're now the 1%!

Say you find yourself exhausted while doing a green smoothie cleanse and tired and nauseated for days after. You Google milk intolerance and ulcer and tropical stomach diseases.

You decide you have an ulcer. H pylori. Who knows? You're going to call your doctor about this.

Before you do so, you run into your friend Meg, who lived in Mauritania and has had schistosomiasis and is thus your local expert on weird ailments.You describe your symptoms.

She suggests pregnancy. Have you taken a test? You fall on the ground laughing.

You stop at CVS and buy a box of three on your way to have your hair highlighted. You might as well rule it out.

You are sitting there, foils in hair, and realize you need to pee. So now's as good a time as any to just get it over with.

You text this picture to your husband from the bathroom. He writes back immediately. "In a meeting. Did you just send me this?"

"Yes. Cannot talk. At the hair salon."

And then you freak out in your own little foil bubble for the next hour or so. You think about your age. You think about your plans. You think about how tired you already are, and how much the two children you have drive you crazy.

You think about a little toothless baby gumming the side of your face. Or nursing and then sleeping on you, all milk-drunk.

You go home and pee on another stick. Same. You tell your mother, who says, "How did this happen?!"

And you reply, "I cannot actually have this conversation with you."

You realize you have options. You have been staunchly pro-choice your entire life. You would support any woman in her choice to terminate. You think it's insane that anyone - particularly an aging white man on the Hill - would presume to make this kind of choice for another person.

And then, over the next couple days, you realize that actually, you're really excited. Even though you know from Internet research that at age 45 you are basically from District 12 here, and the odds are not ever in your favor.

You get an ultrasound. You hold your breath. There is a teeny tiny heartbeat! This makes you cry! But it, this bunch of cells, this wee maybe baby, is very small. You need to come back in a week.

So you spend another week making plans and taking inventory of stuff and waiting until you can stop holding in this secret that's flitting about inside you, just dying to leap out and sprinkle glitter everywhere.

You return in a week, which was yesterday.

The same lovely ultrasound tech puts the goop on your belly and turns on her machine and you do not see much of anything. Neither does she. She looks very hard. She looks and looks.

She finally says, "I'm so sorry. This isn't a viable pregnancy."

Your little potential human stopped growing sometime in the past week and now just...isn't going to be.

You can choose to wait up to six weeks for it to go away on its own. You cannot imagine waiting. You can take medication, which should work the same day. Or you can have an operation. You choose door number two.

You cry all the way through your blood test, through canceling your upcoming appointment, through the waiting room, and then you sob hysterically all the way down M Street. When you tell your husband, he asks if people were looking at you and you say, "How would I know? I was crying too hard to notice."

Also, who fucking cares?

Your friend Meg sprints out of work and meets you and gives you a giant hug. She doesn't mind that she's walking down the street next to someone wailing like a banshee.

So door number two means putting four little pills into your ladybits and then waiting to expel the tissue. There will be nothing recognizable, they make sure you know.

The medication, upon examination, turns out to be something they use for ulcers. You find this a little funny.

A third child isn't something you were trying for, or something you ever thought possible, or even anything you would've said you wanted a month ago. At your age? Ha!

But you'd started to think that maybe you could luck into the 1%. That perhaps it was a gift, like when you met your husband seven years ago next week. The universe decided it was time to drop some unexpected joy on you.

But you also knew the terrible odds. So you tried not to get attached. (Because hahaha! you've always been great at not getting attached!)

You say over and over that know have an amazing family, one you did not think you would ever have, and you are so lucky, just the way you are. And adding another human would make everything far more complicated.

So why do you feel such a profound sense of loss? Why are you so devastated?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

PSA: And we live in a beautiful world, yeah we do, yeah we do...

There is one thing that really, really bugs me, and I'd like to get it off my chest.

The time has just changed, and days are noticeably shorter. Night falls early, and it feels intense. As we march inexorably forward into the long dark of winter, I see people start to struggle. It affects different people to different degrees, but let's be candid: lack of light does nobody any favors.

Except vampires. They do very well, as I understand it. And maybe it doesn't matter for zombies. I can't think about zombies (very high on Fear List) so I don't know much about them.

But the long dark, it is not kind to most humans among us.

So this is a good time to say the following: if you think you are depressed, odds are, you are. You know it, and I know it.

People don't, in my experience, think they're depressed unless they are.

And you should do something about it. At the very least, talk to your primary care doctor. I'm 100% certain they see lots and lots of depression. It is everywhere.

Sometimes depression is due to a particular situation. Say, for example, you get divorced or a loved one dies, and you go through a very hard period. Does this mean you need medication? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not a doctor; I just like to play one in my medicine cabinet.

Counseling can always help. Who among us is innately equipped to deal with grief and loss?  In fact, counseling can help with so many things. We all have crap from our childhoods that govern who we are as adults. It's a relief to have help sorting that out.

But I digress.

Say, on the other hand, your behavior shifts for no discernible reason. Maybe you start crying a lot. Or you become constantly angry. Maybe you're tired all the time. Maybe you feel worthless, insecure. Your friends are doing things you usually think are fun, but you just can't be bothered. Because getting dressed and going out seems too hard.

These are all symptoms of depression.

And if you are depressed, you might not even recognize it. But if you think you might be, you probably are. So do something about it.

Now, I know the DOING of things when you're depressed is so hard. Because everything is hard. Smiling is hard. Picking up the phone to make an appointment sounds exhausting. It's like you have to get up and get dressed while fighting through marshmallow fluff. The world wants you to stay in bed because it's easier.

But it's not ultimately easier. It is a much, much more difficult way to live. And it doesn't have to be this way.

Why, you may wonder, am I getting all soapboxy now?

From up on my box perch, I will tell you.

Being so open about my dad and depression and the effect of his suicide on our family, I get into lots of conversations with people about these things. And I regularly receive messages about depression.

Sometimes they are from strangers, and sometimes from people I know, to varying degrees. I get asked questions, for recommendations for therapists, for thoughts on situations, for resources.

(Once in a while, a friend will write to tell me about a suicide to ask for help understanding. Sometimes I think you just need to reach out to someone who can understand how bad you feel.)

Here is when I get frustrated, though: when someone thinks they are depressed, but then won't do anything about it.

Sometimes I give an opinion, or offer up resources, and they contend they don't feel that bad. Not bad enough to see a doctor. Or they know they don't need medication - it's not like that. Or they don't really see what a therapist might do for them. I mean, they know what their problem is, and they have friends to talk to, so why pay someone to talk about it?

Yah. So why ask me? Nobody needs to convince me of how not in need of help they are.

So to these people I say, things don't have to be so hard. You don't have to struggle. You can get help and life can be easier.

Me, I've lived through some terrible things, and I'm still working hard to heal and move forward. I'm just living life the best I can. I take a pill every day because it makes life better for me and for my family. In the scheme, it seems a small thing to do, really.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Conversations with us

Night before turning in UNICEF donations

Jordan: Mama, I'm going to go see if India has any money for my UNICEF box.
Me: India doesn't have any money, love.
Jordan: How do you know?
Me: Because she's two.


Halloween Trick or Treating

Candy hander-outer: A princess! Who are you?
India: I'm India!
Candy hander-outer: India! Like the country?
India: INDIA LILLIAN! (you imbecile)


Me: So, it turns out feral cat poop is a huge problem in Dallas.
Nick: This is an extremely random start to a conversation. Even for you.


Shower area of swimming pool locker room

Jordan: Daddy! Who is that guy over there? The one with the butt?
Nick: We don't know him.
Jordan (loudly): Well, your penis is bigger than his! Look!
Nick: Let's just focus on taking our own shower.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Yes, yes, I suppose it is

I was talking to my cousin Lyrae about how tired I am of Jordan's penis. I'm tired of seeing it. I'm sick of hearing about it.

I'm over asking him to put on underwear. Our new rule in the house is that you have to at least have on underwear. Underwear is not just for company anymore. 

We all wear underwear, even if we're not wearing other clothes. Everybody.

And no, India cannot touch it in the bath, even if it is just out there for God and everyone to see. Your penis and your bottom are private. Nobody can touch them except Daddy, Nana and me, if we're washing you in the bath. And the doctor, as long as one of us are there. Except for us, YOU are the only person who can touch your own private penis. Nobody else.

But for heaven's sake, do you need to touch it all the time?

The answer seems to be yes.

Hey, look, you have a penis! Yes, I know you have a penis. We ALL know you have a penis. And yet somehow it's like a new surprise every five minutes. Hooray!

So I said to Lyrae, "It's a very penisy age."

And she said, "Haven't you noticed? It's always a penisy age."

Ah well, yah.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark...and we're wearing sunglasses.

I have started working on photo books, calendars, and holiday cards.

And oh my hell is this time-consuming! It's so fun to review the year, but it takes up a ton of time.

This is the inside page of the book that I'm making for Betty and for Nick's mom. I don't know if the latter will appreciate the humor, but I myself enjoy it too much not to include it.

Going through all these photos has been making me think about how much these little humans have grown over this past year. I mean, they were born with their personalities; that I truly believe. But as they get bigger, more articulate, and more confident, they express them more and more.

When these two play together, it is magical. I love hearing their little voices and their imaginations at work. India is often the bossier of the two, if you can imagine, but they both take after their father in this way.

They now like to play this game, typically in the kitchen when they're in everyone's way, whereby Indian holds onto the back of Jordan's shirt and then he runs around in a circle so she is half flying in the air and he is half strangulated.

They both enjoy it immensely.

Until one of them wants to stop. Either India, who is tired of being dragged, or Jordan, who is tired of being asphyxiated. They each have a shockingly high tolerance for both of these things. But at the non-mutual stopping point, it is always drama-trauma.

I'm trying very hard not to get involved until I absolutely have to, because apparently you are supposed to let your children work out their own conflicts and manage their own relationship to the extent possible.

While Jordan often wants to hit me, charge at me, try to knock me over (seriously - I don't know what it is lately, but it is all about physicality towards Mama), when it's between the two of them, India is the more violent of the two. Jordan tries hard not to do things that will hurt her, while she has no compunctions about braining him.

And then I get involved and they both cry - Jordan because he's been attacked and India because she's being prevented from getting another good whack at him - and it is the kind of scene that makes me want to take a whole bottle of wine into the bathroom and give myself a very long time-out.

But when they are not fighting, they are good little pals.

So I have high hopes that they will stay friends and if one of them goes to prison the other will be right there to greet them with open arms when they get out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

20 things toddlers do not consider viable reasons for anything

  1. Because nobody walks outside naked. 
  2. It's too cold to wear that.
  3. It's too hot to wear that.
  4. It's dirty because you wore it yesterday. And the day before.
  5. Oh, but it's so cute!
  6. I paid a lot of money for that damn dress!
  7. Because it doesn't belong to us.
  8. Because you might fall and hurt yourself.
  9. Nobody else is eating the wood chips.
  10. Rats probably pooped on those wood chips.
  11. We're about to have dinner.
  12. You already had a treat.
  13. Because ice cream is always cold.
  14. It's too late for another story.
  15. It's the middle of the night. 
  16. Mama is very tired.
  17. Because it will help you grow up big and strong.
  18. Mmm! It's delicious!
  19. Because nobody likes to have a mouthful of water squirted at them.
  20. And also that bath water is full of soap and butt germs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Seriously hope they grow out of this. It'd be so awkward in college.

You know how dogs meet and then immediately smell each other's butts all, hey, let's get to know each other!

Jordan asked about it, and I explained that it was kind of like us shaking hands with a new person. I was all, "Aren't you glad we don't smell each other's bottoms when we say hello?"

He found the idea both hilarious (because who doesn't want to talk about butts ALL THE TIME?) and revolting. I'd agree that it is both.

But I was thinking about it. I don't know what it is about children that compels them to try and taste random non-food things. Or maybe it's just my children? I dunno. And yet I cannot get my son to taste something new and delicious at the dinner table.

I mean, in this case, I get it. It's a GIANT M&M. Even if he has a face and arms and legs. My kids knew it was not a real candy, and yet they couldn't help themselves. Too tempting!

But you know, we used to have this big poster of that little wretch Elmo at our bus stop. He was promoting vegetables or gun violence or some such thing. Anyway, Elmo.

Every time we saw this poster, which was daily, the kids would go running towards it. "Ellemo! Ellemo!"

I was so glad when then changed posters. Because both of them would head straight up to it. And then open their mouths and press them against the bus stop glass.

It didn't matter how many times I told them that there might be all kinds of yucky things on the glass at the bus stop. They couldn't help their little selves.

Ellemo! You are so awesome! I just want to lick you!

The hell?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Just put it all in one place where I can see every single one of everything

I have to thank you all so much for generously sharing recipes and thoughts with me.

One of my friends said I clearly struck a chord, and this seems to be true. I got a tremendous inpouring (spell check is telling me this isn't a word, but I still like it) of comments here and on FB, and emails with recipes and laments!

Here is what I've learned: many of us are in the same boat. Some of you have been feeling the same shame. I love not feeling alone, and so do you.

Also, you have terrific and concrete ideas! I now have so many recipes and suggestions for books, approaches, and classes. I need to weed through them all. I didn't expect this wealth.

We are going to improve our dinner situation. I will let you know how this goes. I'm going to have to figure out how to organize them first.

And on this note...

Recently Nick hooked up a hard drive containing the contents of my long-dead laptop and loaded them on my so-not-new laptop. I kept meaning to but one thing and another got in the way. And then at some point I really wanted those old pictures and music and such. So he pulled it out and transferred files.

I looked for some things that I knew I had before but cannot find now and asked if he got it all. He said,"I'm not sure. Your filing system was...unclear."

"Oh. That might be because I don't file anything."

"I didn't want to suggest that and get you all defensive."

I'm a terrible filer. With physical files, it's more that it's just tedious. I do it, but only when I have to. But that's a matter of cramming a bunch of papers that go together in the same folder.

On the computer, it draws on some kind of skill that is not my strength. I think it's sort of like when I took probability and statistics and letters stood for whole calculations and I could never figure out the likelihood of pulling a green marble out of a deck of cards perched on a coin flip. Plus I couldn't bear never understanding what was going on and I was too depressed to drop the class so instead I just stopped going and spent my time eating chocolate peanuts.

It was a grand success, in case you're wondering.

It also harkens back to when I sucked at making outlines, because I couldn't decide if my A, B, and C topics were parallel, or if one should go under the other, and then making things parallel under them was just ugh. Now I make outlines with dots and lines and the parallelity doesn't matter.

Me, I could happily have everything spread out on my desktop. Except, you know, that you can't.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Animals of the Fear List

So you know I have this fear list.

In case you yourself have one but haven't thought about the animals that maybe should be on it, I have some suggestions.

They are listed alphabetically rather than in order of danger.

Cows. I got stabbed in the leg by a cow while walking down the street minding my own business. Seriously. This cow veered across the street just to try and gore me. I still have a huge lump on my thigh. I am still afraid of cows.

This was, incidentally, shortly before I saw a bull giving himself a blow job. Which has nothing to do with meanness but is still one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen. Who knew?

Deer. This is really about Lyme disease. Because Nick says they don't bite.

Geese. When we lived in Bangladesh my friend Robbie had geese in his yard. They used to chase us for no reason whatsoever. There is a reason some companies have guard gees. Those little fuckers bite.

Hippos. But you already know these are top of my list. They are so mean and fast and they can turn on a dime.

Monkeys. They look all cute and we all know Curious George but if for example you are a little kid with long blonde hair and a monkey gets hold of it through the bars of its cage it will pull as hard as possible, which is very hard because even if your parents are holding onto your legs trying to make sure the monkey doesn't pull you close enough to bite you, which it is trying very hard to do, they still have to struggle.

The free ones who hang out in front of your friends' houses are also mean, so it has nothing to do with cages. So, monkeys. Bitey bitey monkeys. This is more of an India problem than a DC problem.

Swans. I've talked about them before and given examples of their evil nature. They'll go out of their way to knock you out of your kayak and drown you dead. Big fear.

Sharks. Duh.

But did you know there's a kind of shark that can go between sea water and fresh water and thus can swim into the Potomac and bite you? Honest to God. Bull sharks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


So I have told you about shaming our family at Friendly's, and I have told you about terrible, terrible behavior on dates. And I've even told you my worst fart story ever.

Still, with all this, I'm so ashamed to tell you about dinner in our house. Here is the mega-shame part: We eat terribly and I don't know how to make real dinner.

And here is where I'm going to ask for your help.

So dinner in our house is mainly kid dinner, because it happens around 6:00-6:30, hours before Nick is home. Here is our main course repertoire, in no particular order: Fish sticks; chicken patties; spaghetti and meatballs (no sauce! the horror!); mac & cheese; grilled cheese; pizza; eggs - scrambled, fried, in a sandwich, with sausage, in a box with a fox.

India will eat vegetables and beans as well. She also likes tomatoes and mozzarella. Jordan will eat broccoli, but that's it. But still, it's something. We have a lot of steamed broccoli.

Betty and I eat dinner with the kids. We typically have what they're having, at least in part. I quite like fish sticks, actually. I love eggs. But otherwise, I only eat the vegetable portion. Maybe Betty heats some tomato soup or maybe I make myself a smoothie later.

And then Nick comes home around 8:30 or so and fixes himself a sandwich.

We have been doing this for a long, long time. It works, but it doesn't, in that it's not healthy. It's not how I grew up, with mandatory family dinner at 7:00 pm, and with a meat and a veg and a starch.

I hated those dinners. They were often tense and when I was in high school and trying to avoid food and my dad was sliding into crazy, they were particularly terrible.

And I've never liked to cook. So I've hated dinnertime for a long, long time. And now that you add the stress of trying to get kids to sit on their bottoms and not put their fists into their water cups and please don't poke your sister and India! Biting is not what we do to people! It is all the less appealing.

But dinner is important. It's unavoidable. And I need to get better at it.

Even on weekends, we rarely have a cohesive dinner. Nick and I will sit with the kids, and then we'll figure out later what we're having. But historically we haven't liked the same things, so we don't really have an actual together meal. Or we'll go out or get takeout.

I feel a strong need to change this. Nick has lost 15 pounds since August, and he is energized to lose quite a bit more. He's in a place where he is open, for the first ime, to changing how he eats. I want to foster this.

So what I need to have to MUST do is start cooking. We have to start eating real food, and it has to be me.

Betty is an excellent cook, but she's not remotely interested. It's all on me.

And so I'm asking you.

I am looking for easy, nutritious, tasty recipes. Could be anything - chicken, lentils, soup, stew, you name it. I do not know how to cook meat, so it needs to be super easy, like meat for dummies. And just about the only thing I know how to do with vegetables is steam them. Beans? I know how to open a can and put the pot on low. I do know how to roast Brussels sprouts. Mmmm.

Jordan won't like any of these things, because he is five and hates everything. I'm not worried about him.

But the rest of us need to start eating real food.

This is my shame. Can you help me?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day done: And just like that...

Smoothie: Kale, spinach, apple (for Nick), blueberry, flax seed, protein powder

Tea: Black, with milk and sugar, but not so much of either

Taste: Delightful

Guilt points: 42

Happiness points: 700

Nick came home last night and was all, "I read your post, and I think you should just stop the cleanse. After tonight, you've done it a whole week. You feel terrible, you're crabby, and I think you've gotten what you need to get out of it."

I wavered. It's only three more days. I know I can stick it out. But I've also done it a whole week, and the author says to evaluate where you are at big points like five and seven days. Sooo, just like that, I could stop feeling so listless and angry.

His position was as follows: I've cleansed. What am I trying to prove? We both already know I'm as stubborn as a mule. (We do.) And I've probably gotten rid of all my SFM. (Lord, it does seem like it.)

Also, I hadn't worn my regular jeans in a week, and they are totally loose.
See? I mean, they're not like twice my size. But they used to fit snugly to my waist, hips, and thighs, and they are baggy in all those places. It is much more dramatic from above, looking down, because the gap is huge and you can see down my legs. So I took a picture that way. 

But then I realized that really, the picture was all, "Hey! Look in my pants!" Which is just weird and pervy and not at all what I'm trying to demonstrate.

What I guess I'm saying is, I've gotten plenty out of it and yes, I feel guilty for stopping, but it is far outweighed by how nice it feels to head towards energy and away from snapping at everyone. Also. My haircut makes me feel like Brienne of Tarth and so it is, as much as possible without making me look like a headless torso, not in the picture.

You know what I didn't miss, which was totally unexpected? The alcohol. I turn to it so many nights to get through dinner-bath-bed time. I am wondering if that's part of a sugar-fix cycle. No sugar, no cravings for easy sugar.

So I made a smaller, breakfast-sized version of the smoothie I made for Nick, but with a different protein powder, and I had tea, and all of this made me happier. I'm going to keep it all light and vegetarian for the next several days. A salad-y meal with beans for lunch and then green smoothie for dinner.

Last night I slept eight solid hours. Let me repeat this, because it is so huge in my life. Eight. Solid. Hours.

No waking, no interruption. I haven't done this in years. I cannot remember the last time I did this prior to this past week. In general, except for some sleep-killing India antics, I've slept so well  through this cleanse.

This says to me that something I eat regularly is fucking with my sleep. I don't actually ingest a lot of caffeine, and it's almost always tea. I don't have coffee more than a couple times a week, and if so, usually not even a cup.

Are caffeine effects cumulative? I do hope not. I love real tea. I do not love decaf tea. It always tastes a little like floor dust to me. 

So it can't be that...can it? Say no! Say no!
I'm adding back dairy for a few days and seeing how I feel. Could it be dairy? I'm afraid it's dairy. That will bum me out.

So there you have it. I'm a quitter. A relieved quitter who no longer feels like stabbing anyone/everyone. I'll let you know how it winds up for Nick, though, in case you're interested.

I mean how the cleanse winds up for him. Not the not being stabbed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 7: And on the seventh day

Smoothie: Mixed greens, spinach, mixed berries, banana, mango, flax seed, protein powder. There was supposed to be pineapple but we didn't have any so I substituted mixed berries.

Taste: Good

Mood: Tired and crabby

Smug points: None. I'm too tired for smug.

Divorce points (metric credit: Cynthia): Also none, surprisingly enough

When I tell you Nick is thriving on this I mean he is practically dancing around beaming. He's in a good mood. He admits to being hungry, but he feels good.

I'm so proud of him. I've said multiple times that I was shocked when he proposed this, and even more so that he's been so positive about it.

He's lost weight. His pants have gotten looser. His body has shifted positively. He's got plenty of energy.

Me, I'm cold and limp and I have no energy. I'm now like those little grey stricken merpeople stuck in Ursula the Sea Witch's cave. Yes, I do realize that harkening back to the other day this means I'm the stagnant fecal matter (SFM). This isn't far from how I feel.

Also, you know what I've realized? Ariel wanted to be human before she met the prince. It's not that she fell in love and gave it all up for him. And yes, we may have been watching a lot of Little Mermaid lately. Why?

Oh, speaking of the SFM; Nick is also highly satisfied in this department. Onward and upward! Or rather onward and downward, more accurately speaking.

Anyway, today is my last day of strictly following the cleanse, I've decided. I know we have only three more days. I know I could stick it out. But I'm going to start adding legumes tomorrow. It's not a tremendous modification, but I think it will make a difference in my energy level.

In my workout groups I am always telling people to listen to their bodies.

Maybe a day on your calendar is scheduled as a tough workout day but your body is saying it needs a rest. In this case believe you should rest. I mean, sometimes you're just not into it, and you need someone to tell you to get up and work out, and then you do and you feel so much better. But there are times when you know to just take it easy.

Sometimes you may also feel the need for a threesome with Ben and Jerry. Occasionally is fine.

Now, I know a big goal of this cleanse is shifting food from being something emotional to being fuel for your body. For me food is mainly that already.

But there are comfort foods we all have. Foods our mothers fed us. Foods that make us feel warm and nurtured. I believe in eating well, but I don't believe your emotional connect to all foods goes away. I don't even think we should try to stamp them out. We just can't indulge all the time, or even all that regularly.

So I've decided to listen to my body.

If I weren't living with Nick and following the same regimen, I might just feel wimpy. But I see how he's doing and I see how I'm doing, and he's all practically doing naked backflips.

I, on the other hand, feel shaky and tired. I've lost weight, but that's Nick's goal for himself, not mine for me. I've been walking a bit, but I miss hard workouts. I need them for my mental health.

He's been working out. He feels good. He's dropped some weight and he feels motivated to change the way he eats for good. He said he's realized he needs to start focusing on foods that are good for him, rather than feeling like each meal should be something he enjoyed - meaning must contain meat and cheese and starch. Vegetables and fruits were never, ever something one would choose to eat.

On a normal day he'd be eating red meat for at least two of his meals, more likely three. He's never gone without meat and cheese ever - honest to God ever - in his life. I mean, this is the "Honk if you love cheese sauce!" man we're talking about.

I told him the other night as I collapsed into bed that I think this cleanse really resonates with him. He agreed, and said it didn't seem to be as great for me. I said that he's strong like bull. Also, he has way more reserves.

He said he knows an underhanded compliment when he hears one.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 4: It's all very random.

Smoothie: Mixed greens, spinach, apples, peaches, mixed berries, flax seed, protein powder

Taste: So-so, better when I added Stevia

Mood: Fine

Smug points: 341

Yesterday I just wanted a cup of tea with milk and sugar. I was all, what's one cup of tea? And it's just a wee bit of dairy and a tiny bit of sugar...

Nobody even has to know.

And then I gave myself a stern talking-to. Because I know myself. It's just like Nancy Reagan said about gateway drugs in the 80s - today it's a little cup of tea and before I know it I'll be injecting Nutella into my eyeballs.

But you know, five-year olds are so haaaaard. Or anyway, lately mine is. People talk about the terrible twos but nobody tells you about the obstreperous fives. I was trying to find an f-word so there would be alliteration. But the only f-word that came to mind was The F-word.

But seriously, people, is this a Thing? Because Jordan has been so belligerent lately. He challenges everything. Everything is a struggle. He is much more difficult than my two-year old.

Which then makes it that much harder for me to stick to my guns on this cleanse business. I get frustrated and angry and lose my temper and feel guilty and also kind of sorry for myself. Big realization: I soothe myself with food and drinks!

Through all this Nick has been remarkably positive. He's jazzed about doing this. He feels good. He said his office was filled with treats yesterday and he didn't have any. I said that actually, this is the perfect time to be doing this, because you never just have one.

Two nights ago I dreamt of eating pink frosted sugar cookies and donuts, neither of which I eat in real life, in Philadelphia with Jane.

Last night I dreamt about having sex with Dexter in Las Vegas and my only explanation is the fact that we've been watching episodes of Dexter in between Game of Thrones. It's been very death-y around here.

No sugar, no grains, no dairy, no meat, no I can't even remember what-all. But lots of death. Good lord so much death. You can't get attached to anyone in Game of Thrones.

That's where we are: Stagnant fecal matter and valar morghulis.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Day 3: Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Smoothie: Mixed greens, spinach, banana, apple, blueberries, flax seed, protein powder

Taste: Totally decent

Mood: Tired and phlegmy (Allergies? Toxins working their way out?)

Smug points: 32

Have I told you how I spent a lot of my time in high school?

Not on sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, sadly. This a fact that I totally regret.

No. I spent a tremendous amount of time on not eating. And exercising. Because anything I did eat, like food, would instantly make me fat. Which would be terrible and nobody would love me. So I would immediately have to go for a run. Because for God's sake, my thighs were huge enough as it was.

I don't know if you've ever done a bunch of not eating, but if you haven't let me tell you: when you are trying not to eat, food is ALL. You. Think. About.

So I wasted all this time and energy trying to avoid food, which is pretty hard, really, because most people have meals three times a day and snacks at other times. And also, food is delicious. And important for your muscles and your brain and so on and so forth.

This meant that I was almost always tired, plus I was a teenage girl, so I wasn't necessarily the most emotionally stable person around. I once burst into tears and asked my dear friend Kris, "How did I get so fat so fast?" Kris was and still is gorgeous, tall, and willowy, but she also had body dysmorphia and as such was always happy to compare enormity of thighs with me.

All very helpful, yes, yes.

In fact, when I saw her last year, one of the first things we did was compliment each other and then we reached over to squeeze each other's stomachs to insist that the other's stomach was not squishy like she claimed.

Old habits die hard. In fact, maybe they never completely die.


Now I can look back and say that when everything in your life is out of control, like if you're a first-born rule-following teenage girl in a crazy household and other people have all the power, the one thing you can control is your food intake. Unless your parents are willing to hold you down, shove food in your mouth, and make you swallow - and mine weren't - nobody can actually force feed you.

You might not be pretty enough or smart enough or whatever enough, but you can eat less than everyone else, which means you can be thinner. Which is still not thin enough. You can feel momentarily better about yourself when you see someone eating a cookie and know you want one but are strong enough to resist.

And then I went off to college and fell thoroughly apart, and all the control I had over my eating went straight out the window and I gained 40 pounds and hated everything about myself.

So fast forwards a couple decades and a lot of therapy and here we are, with Nick and me doing a lot of not eating.

For Nick, this is something completely different, in that for the longest time he was athletic and could eat whatever he wanted, which was a lot of everything except fruit and vegetables. He was big and strong and he burned all those calories without trying. And then once he started sitting at a desk all day, he still ate whatever he wanted. And it all caught up with him.

For me it is something completely different, in that it is a temporary choice. Normally I eat plenty of real food and I know that at any moment I could walk down the street and have a chocolate milkshake and it wouldn't affect my outer attractiveness or how much people love me.

Although if I did that right now, what it would do is really piss off my husband, because we have seven more days to go. And we are in this together.

Mmm, detox tea!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Day 2: Not my idea of foreplay

Smoothie ingredients: Mixed greens, apples, strawberries, banana, flax seed, Naturade soy-free protein powder

Taste: Mildly salady and pleasant

Mood: surprisingly good!

Smug points: 17

Genuinely, I feel good. I am having a ginger kombucha, partly because it has a wee bit of caffeine. The lack of caffeine and the shakeup of my morning cup of tea routine have been the hardest part, I think. It's not that I've necessarily been hungry - I just want particular things.

So although I was wondering to my friend Meg last night why I jumped into a 10-day cleanse rather than a shorter one, and why I utterly lack moderation, right now I feel good about the whole thing.

Because listen. What I really want to talk about today is fecal matter.

Now, if that sentence bothers you, go ahead and stop reading right here. Because the upcoming sentences are only going to get worse.

JJ Smith, the cleanse author, focuses quite a bit on the importance of keeping your bowels moving in order to keep eliminating toxins. I picture it kind of like a DC bus at rush hour. You're all squished in and uncomfortable and you have to exit through the back door and everyone feels better once enough people have gotten out.

Of course, in this scenario, sometimes you're the poop. But in any case, it's always a relief to get the hell out of a bus at rush hour.

And now that I've written all this I realize that I've just compared a DC bus to a colon, which, um, sorry if you take public transport. You're not the poop. Also, did I ever tell you my friend Jen got peed on once in a DC bus? But that's a whole nother story.

So there's this sentence in the book that I've read aloud to a variety of people, because it's such a gem that I cannot resist. "One product that really works wonders at getting at the old fecal matter in your colon is Mag07..."

I just...never thought about old fecal matter in my colon. Or old fecal matter at all.

Old. Fecal. Matter. Have you ever seen The Little Mermaid? If so, you know those mermaids who have been zapped by Ursula? They're grey and despondent, nearly lifeless, unable to break free,  waving in the current. This is how I imagine old fecal matter in one's colon.

But more importantly, yikes! So then! Then in the chapter Five Detox Methods to Enhance Your Cleansing, I read this bit about colonics.

Because listen to this: "The average colon weighs about four pounds, but it is not at all unusual for colon cleansing to flush away as many as 10 to 20 pounds of stagnant fecal matter."

Can it be true? Twenty pounds is so many pounds! So is ten. Even five. Any! Any stagnant fecal matter seems like too much stagnant fecal matter.

If you Google "stagnant fecal matter," it only gets worse. Stagnant fecal matter seems to be the devil. I'm not kidding.

So now I really want a colonic. And I want Nick to have one. He's not so interested.

I just know his colon is full of old lamb chops and beef and sausage pizza and such.

So last night as we were heading for bed I said I'm getting him a colonic for Christmas. I know he's got 20 pounds worth just waiting. It's going to be great.

And then he patted the bed next to him and wiggled his eyebrows and offered to knock some of my stagnant fecal matter loose.

I said that kind of talk might be considered foreplay in New Jersey, but it's no way to get me into some sexy time.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Day 1: Green smoothie cleanse

Smoothie ingredients: Spinach, apple, strawberries, mango chunks, grapes, flax seed, Naturade soy-free protein powder

You blend all the stuff, drink a third, put the rest in the fridge for later and there's your day and Bob's your uncle. 

Mood: not as crabby as expected

Smug points: none so far

My old friend Alice had this little kid cousin who would stand on the edge of the pool, hands and arms pointed straight down to dive in. For the longest time he would stand there saying, "I don't want to I don't want to I don't want to." And then he would dive.

So last night we were both all, ooh, we're excited to start this cleanse tomorrow!

And then this morning I woke up all I don't want to I don't want to I don't want to. I mean, obviously it's optional. And Nick is trying to lose weight and change how he eats and his relationship to food. I support all these things and agreed to do this with him.

So I made Nick's smoothie, gave him his glass, put the rest in a Nalgene bottle for him to take to work. And then I turned around and made mine.

In his cold bag I also packed potential snacks: carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, peanut butter (unsalted, organic, crunchy), almonds (raw), pumpkin seeds (raw), and boiled eggs.

Nick drank his glass and then was all, "Is that all? It's not very much."

I resisted the temptation to say, "Listen, asshole, this was your idea. You were all gung-ho, so I found a cleanse, I bought the book, I sort-of read the book, I bought all the stuff, I made your smoothie!"

Instead I said, "I followed the instructions. That seems to be it. Oh, and drink your detox tea. It's kind of gross." 

But I did snap when he was all, "Do we take vitamins? When can I start eating my snacks?"

Now, the truth is that those three big handfuls of spinach blend down very small. Even when you add an apple and two cups of frozen fruit and a handful of grapes and some flax seeds and protein powder. 

You wind up with an amount that is kind of like, hmm. Is that all? I ate a spoon of peanut butter not long after. I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm just trying to cleanse and shit. Oh, this reminds me. I have so much to say on this topic. Perhaps tomorrow.

When Nick called, I was no longer so hangry, plus I'd had a cup of plain black tea with ginger chunks. I am easing into the no-caffeine. I have children. I cannot be completely evil.

So after I said that I had resisted saying all those this-was-your-idea things to him, we talked about how maybe this isn't going to be a joy but ultimately, we agree it's good. You can do anything for 10 days, as my friend Dana pointed out.

Plus, we're going to be able to assign ourselves so many smug points as we go along.

Monday, October 06, 2014

We start tomorrow

We are starting a 10-day cleanse tomorrow.

I told you Nick got this wild hair, and so I looked around and one that seemed manageable was The 10-day Green Smoothie Cleanse. You drink three smoothies but you eat snacks like veggies and fruit and nuts in between. I figure this will make things easier.

One of the things she offers, however, is to eat boiled eggs as snacks. But if you add protein powder to your smoothies, she says it needs to be all veg. Since eggs are animal protein, I don't quite understand it. Anyway.

My friend Kaysha has described me as "not particularly food motivated." I could be insulted as I know it's a way to describe pets - food-motivated dogs seem easier to train - but animal comparisons don't bother me and I think it's true and works in my favor.

I was telling this to some friends the other day. I was saying how I think it will be much harder for Nick, because one, I'm not food motivated, and two, I already eat lots of vegetables and fruit and don't have a problem going without meat.

I said, "I think it'll be fine. I mean, really, I'm only cutting out dairy, which I don't have much of anyway. Except I do like cheese. And milk in my tea. Oh, tea. I love tea in the morning. Yah, the caffeine might be hard.  And sugar, but I don't eat a lot of that. Except sometimes. And I do like alcohol."

And they were all, "So basically this will be a total breeze."

Perhaps not. But you will absolutely not hear me complain, because it's such a first-world problem, you know, to have such an abundance of food and choose to be abstemious.

It's kind of like winter. I don't feel like I have a right to complain about summer, even when it's way too hot, because I complain so bitterly all winter. Maybe it's not at all like winter because that comparison makes no sense.

OK, here's how they're alike: I'll feel like a dick complaining about a cleanse in the same way I'd feel like a dick complaining about summer.

But sometimes I'm a dick, so there's that.

Also: Winter is coming. It is known. Yes, we are immersed in Game of Thrones. We're only on the second season but I've read four of the books so I know not to get attached to pretty much anyone.

You're encouraged to start on a weekend because you might be tremendously crabby in the beginning, but we kept having one event and another on weekends and so we've agreed.

We start tomorrow.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Gradual changes in Grover's Corners. Horses are getting rarer. Farmers coming into town in Fords.

Dear Dad,

Today would be your 78th birthday. October, for me, is your month.

I have dear friends who are dealing with the recent deaths of family members. I ache for them. I know how brutal it is right now, and if I could do a cosmic fast-forward for them I would, because time is the only balm that actually works.

And I know that after a while, you stop feeling like all of your skin has been peeled off, like your heart is raw and exposed, each beat on display for the world. You stop feeling so fragile that even a breeze or the sunshine can hurt, because they bring a memory.

After enough time - however much that might be - you actually start feeling fine. Not that you don't have bad periods or hard moments. But mostly, you are fine. Eventually, you are happy, and the rough patches are few and far between. Sometimes you feel guilty for being fine and happy.

All you need is time. Time time time, like that Tom Waits song. But time just takes so damn long. And you hurt so much in the meanwhile.

No, it's not a perfect remedy. Sometimes I still get very upset. Sometimes I still wonder how you could've left us. And birthdays and holidays still hurt.

But time time time. It's the best we've got.

The kids are now five and two. Jordan doesn't yet ask why he doesn't have a grandpa, but I suppose eventually he will. He's a little fixated on death and dying right now, and his teacher said it's the age. They're trying to sort out what it means.

I wear the T-shirt I had made for my walk last summer, and he knows the man playing piano is my dad, and he knows the girl in the picture is me. Both kids do. Every time I wear it we have to examine the picture and identify all the characters.

India used to identify the girl as India, but now she points says, "That's Mama." They know the little boy I have my arm around is my brother, although they do not know him. They used to think that the boy was Jordan. They're so used to every picture of every kid they see being them.

Anyway, they're growing into really interesting little humans. They would make you laugh so much. You would love them for who they are, not just because they're your grandchildren.

Sometimes Jordan goes upstairs to sleep with his Nana. Sometimes they both go up in the morning and crawl in her bed and watch TV and eat sweets. This past summer we all went to Maine, and Jordan and Nana shared a bed. I asked one morning how they slept and he said, "Good. Sometimes we sleep, and sometimes we wake up and chat. And then we sleep some more."

I love they are growing up so close to Betty.

Our lives are normal now. I mean, my kids have never known a life that didn't involve Betty living with us at least part of the week. I don't think Jordan remembers her house, in fact. Your house. They never had a world that included you.

So this, for them, is how life is.

One of Jordan's new friends had her grandparents visiting. They left a week ago, and as they were saying goodbye at school that last morning, Jordan got teary for her. "She has to say goodbye!" I reminded him how lucky he is to have Nana right upstairs. To see her every day and never have to say goodbye.

I think for me, each one of these letters to you is a fractional goodbye. I'm making peace with the past, peace with your actions, peace with the fact that I failed to save you one last time. That was my expectation of myself, foolish as it may sound, but it is true.

It's a process. It takes time time time.

It's your birthday, and I miss you.



Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Artist in residence

So last night I asked friends on FB if they would have a painting of their house done if someone came along and was painting pictures of neighborhood houses.

Overwhelmingly, the response was an enthusiastic yes.

Except my friend Eric, who was all, "This is a trick question."


Here's the story. Last weekend this guy set up in front of our house and was painting a picture of the house across the street. He had a couple other paintings with him.

Nick and Betty got all chatty with him. Nick brought him a glass of water, as it was hot out. I took the kids to the park and when I got back, the man and Nick were each enjoying a nice cold beer.

When  Nick came inside he said, "He's going to do a painting of our house."

Personally, I hate this kind of thing. Nick shares his father's love of artists' renderings of buildings in one's life. And we've inherited approximately 97 million etchings and paintings of various edifices at Harvard and Oxford.

Nick knows how I feel about this, but in an effort to be more positive, I said, "I'm in favor of supporting local artists."

This is a true statement. I do feel like it is important to support artists and art.

Our local artist, it turns out, told Nick he charges by the day, and our house, he thinks, will take about four days. Also, he's storing his other paintings in our foyer, so it reeks of oil paint.

Also, at various points during the day he rings to ask to use the phone and the bathroom. Betty let him use her phone but I told her for safety it had to be outside, on the sidewalk. I let him in yesterday to use the bathroom but left the doors open.

I mean, we don't even know him. I think he lives kind of on the edges, possibly because of some kind of addiction problem or mental illness, but is probably harmless. But who the fuck knows? Years ago, an old colleague of mine was murdered by a homeless man that he'd taken under his wing. Honestly.

Yesterday evening, when the kids and I returned from the park, the artist asked me what I thought of the painting. I said my opinion wasn't important, because it's Nick's. Then he said that he needs to buy more paint, and so he needs some money. Again I said this was all on Nick.

So last night, when I learned that he charges by the day rather than the product, and Nick was all OK with it, and it's going to wind up being way more than I believe it is worth, because I don't want it in the first place, and also I don't want strange men pooping in my toilet, I lost my little mind.

I said, "I was trying to be positive but I personally think it's ridiculous to have a painting of your house in your own house."

Many people seem to like the idea, but it's not my thing.

Although I realize that my feelings at this point are a lot more about feeling imposed upon by the guy than about this actual painting. Even though I don't feel the need for a painting of our house.

But then, you know, I thought back to when I lived with Maude, and we had this giant zigzag patterned couch that she and Lyrae rescued from the curb when our neighbors couldn't get it in their door.

It was hideous and perfect. And unique. If I ever saw that couch again even from a distance I would totally know.

So Maude, who is an artist, suggested painting a picture of me reclining nude on the couch. We'd hang the painting above the couch. And then when people came over, we'd sit with them in the living room and watch them feel all awkward.

We never did it. But I still like the idea.