Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Another installment: Meet the family

Sometimes I think back to the crazy that I pulled some truly wonderful people into, and it's hard to believe that: 1. my life was actually that out of control, and 2. that I was that cavalier about inviting others along for the ride.

March 2, 2001

We don’t exactly have a plan, but we head for a strip of motels on Route 7 in Falls Church. This was where my dad was last time, and since he didn’t take the car, it seems likely that he could be there. And we need to feel like we are doing something.

We have only been together a month, and here he is, driving me around to find my dad.

My brother calls almost immediately and says, “There was a charge on the card at 4:15.” He gives me the name and address of a motel in Falls Church. We are very close.

We pull up right out front, and I jump out. The reception desk is just inside the front door, and Ben joins me just as I am telling a now-terrified young woman that I know my dad checked in at 4:15 because there is a charge on his credit card. He is going to try to kill himself, and I need the key to his room.

People never quite know what to do with this information.

She is flustered, and her hands shake as she picks up a sheet of paper. Everything is happening too slowly and I am considering walking behind the desk and taking over when a very large police officer comes in and asks for the same information. She gives us the room number and is fumbling to find another key. She is on the verge of tears.

Ben, the police officer, and I take the elevator up one floor. The doors open and we walk very fast, so although Ben is moving as fast as he can on crutches, he lags behind. We get to Dad’s door, and the officer pounds and booms, "Open up!" I put a hand up to hold him back. “Please,” I say.

I knock and say, “Daddy? Daddy, it’s me! Can you open the door?”

At this point a clearly inebriated guy in the next room has stepped out into the hall to see what’s going on, and our giant officer orders him back into his room. He complies without hesitation.

Dad opens the door, wearing nothing but a white undershirt and underwear.

He says, “Hi, sweetheart!” It is clear that he is seriously fucked up.

By now Ben has gotten to the door, and I say, “Dad, this is Ben. Ben, this is my dad.” Ben holds out his hand and says, “Nice to meet you, sir.”

Dad shakes his hand warmly and invites us in. “Come on in, kids! Would you like something to drink?”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't know when this chance might come again. Good times got a way of comin' to an end...

My kids have a bath just about every night.

This is not because I am persnickety about cleanliness, but more because it's an established part of their bedtime routine and they love it. They play and they goof and I dose the water up with lavender and Epsom salts and still it does not drowzify my little girl. I try, I do try.

Sometimes I join them. There used to be a lot more room in the tub, but they've both grown so much that those days are drawing to a close. It's going to make me sad, as I love when India reaches over and rubs my back with her little washcloth.

Anyway. I like to get clean before I cuddle my sparkly clean little kids. So sometimes I just jump in first as the tub is filling and rinse off, and then I put on my jammies, which are typically boxers and T-shirts, so that once it's filled the tub is all theirs.

As I've said before, they are often naked from the minute they walk in the front door, or sometimes they manage to keep their underwear on for dinner, but they are most certainly nanga punga by the time they get upstairs.

So Friday evening I performed my ablutions while they were running up and down the hall like lunatics, as they are wont to do prior to the bath. I  had just put on my boxers when I heard a loud  thump and then India started to cry. I knew what had happened. She'd clocked herself on the dresser in the hallway. I briefly considered pulling my shirt on first, but rushed to her instead.

My baby, my wailing baby, was standing arms outstretched, waiting for me to pick her up. "Maaaaamaaaa! I bumped!"

I held her and kissed the top of her head and swayed with her and made soothing little noises. It was so lovely, just like when she was a wee baby and we had all this skin-to-skin contact to promote lactation and bonding and such.

I closed my eyes and reveled in the closeness and the memories.

She got very quiet, and I was wondering if it was tapping into baby memories for her as well. Ohh, so sweet! We were clearly having a moment.

And then I felt my nipple being squeezed by dextrous little fingers.

There she was, so close to these objects of fascination. All she had to do was reach out and carpe the diem.

She beamed up at me, nipple held tight. "Boomps!"

Friday, September 26, 2014

Like a river flows surely to the sea

Tomorrow is our sixth wedding anniversary.

In six years of marriage, we have: had two children; lost two parents; sold one condo; bought one house; sold Betty's house; moved Betty in; and lived through four years of construction. Have I left anything major out? Possibly.

I'm not a math person, but this is a lot to fit into six short years.

Also, Nick has grown a beard and although I don't generally favor facial hair, I think he looks like a pirate in a good way. But that actually has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Or maybe it does. I don't know.

What I have really been thinking about, however, is our wedding.

We debated having a wedding or taking the money and putting it towards a house, because even if you are not buying a dress and you find a reasonably-priced (for the DC area) venue, weddings are spendy. So we thought about it pretty hard.

And we are both still so very glad we chose the wedding.

Not just because we wanted to have a ceremony in front of our loved ones. Nor because I loved wearing the dress that my mom and her mother had made for Betty's wedding. Nor because I delighted in my only opportunity to wear a veil. Nor because I have ever felt more beautiful. Nor that having a wedding brought great joy to our parents. Or even because we love cake and we had an amazing one.

Although all of these things are true and I reveled in every moment.

The biggest thing I am grateful for is that we had a joyful event with so many of our loved ones. I've been told that people gather for weddings and funerals, and it is true.

If I have one regret, it is that we did not video the part of the ceremony where the guests were invited to stand and speak as they felt moved to. It was my favorite part. I mean besides the rings and the death do us part, of course.

Many people said amazing, beautiful things. And some funny ones. Jane said, "I take partial credit for this. I told her to marry the man with the boat!"

We had everyone sign a piece of paper after the ceremony, and we were going to have it framed with our vows, which were rather simple. But in the end we got it framed alone, and it is simple and beautiful. I particularly love that if you see it on our wall and don't know what it is, you just think it's art.

I look at our pictures on occasion, and I look at the signatures on the wall every day. Some of them are people we loved deeply who are no longer with us. My dad. Our friend Bill, who became a sham Internet minister to marry us. His wife Gouri. Maude's mom. Nick's dad.

Some of them are people who live far, far away, and traveled great distances to join us. Australia. California. England. France. The Netherlands. Macedonia. Poland. Texas. I may be forgetting a country or state of notable distance.

People we would never, ever willingly let go of. People we would see all the time, if we could. And for one evening, we had them all together in one place. We laughed so hard with them. We danced. We hugged them all tightly. And we will always, always have the beautiful memories.

You may have thought, reading the first line, that this would be an homage to love.

And it is.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Our own personal dictator

Please forgive my photo editing skills. They're about as terrific as my math abilities.

This is Kim Jong India, our personal household dictator. Her preferred torture methods are sleep deprivation and the piercing of eardrums with screams. These are sometimes used together.
She's never been delighted about going to bed, but for a bit she was nice about it, and I thought we'd turned a corner, but it was short-lived. So now I read to her and Jordan, and then I leave her in her room and let her scream while I put him to bed. After she's raged for some amount of time, she's ready to settle, and I can sit with her and she'll agree to go to bed.

If she isn't done raging, however, you cannot get her into bed without a struggle. And then she will rage again. She puts her mouth at the base of the door and yells, "MaMA! MaMA!" She'll cry, she'll scream...and she'll be all fine and delighted when you come in.

It's making me pull my hair out. It takes about an hour of this before she actually goes to sleep.


You will often hear her pad down the hall at 6 or 6:30 in the morning yelling, "Jo-dan! Wake up Jo-dan! Wake up!"

He'll whimper, "Please, India. I don't want to get up."

"Get up, Jo-dan! Get up!"

Then she drags him down the hall into our room, by which time he's fully awake and ready to have some fun.

This means that by the end of the day he is absolutely spent, and by 8 pm you can set him cozily in his bed and kiss him goodnight.

While you take another hour with the back-and-forth with Ole Kim.

And now! Now she's started this terrible phase of waking up WIDE AWAKE anywhere between 1:00 and 3:00 am. Sometimes she will come sleep with us but more often she is ready for a dance party. You can take her back to her room and she will scream like all hell.

Last night she strolled on into our room at 1:30 saying there was a spider in her room. She climbed into bed, stayed an hour or so, then went back to her room. At 3:00 am Nick heart the floor creak, looked down the hall, and there she was, turning on the light in Jordan's room.

Hell broke loose when Nick took her back to her room.

Initially I thought maybe she had a cold or something that was waking her up. But it's been long enough that I'm starting to wonder if, at age 2 1/2, she's been recruited by the dark side.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Which will make it totally obvious that I am not a team player

Playground negotiation stresses me out. I hate it.

There. I've said it.

It stresses me out to be all, OK, sweetie you are having a turn, and then in five minutes this other kid we've never seen before who we know wants your truck because he's pulling on one end and won't let go can take a turn, just because he's asking for it.

Sometimes the parent of the aggressor get involved and back their kid off. This is what I do if it's my kid, because sometimes it is. But when they do nothing, then really I want to say, "Listen, kid we don't know, let go of the fucking truck. My kid is playing with it. There are 45 other options in the sandbox. Pick one and let my kid play."

Now that I'm writing this out, maybe I should say a gentler version of that? You know, without the fuck word and the vitriol?

I used to jump in immediately but now I try to hang back a bit to see if the kids will sort it out. Because it's a skill, right, learning to solve conflict? But Jordan, strong as he is, is prone to bursting into tears or crying and screaming about a toy being taken. So then I feel like I have to do something.

I want to be all, "You're big and strong! Defend your toy if you want to! It's your toy!" I know he's never going to be a bully. But he doesn't know how to defend himself. We've started karate to help build self-esteem and skills.

But you know, I was thinking about how we make our kids do something that we do not do as adults.

I mean, if I were waiting on the Metro platform listening to music on my phone and a stranger came over and wanted to use it, I wouldn't be all, "Well, I'm having a turn now, but in a couple minutes you can have a turn."

Right? You're on the bus reading a book and your seat-mate wants it. Do you read a couple more pages and then hand it over in the interest of cooperation? No.

If I know you and like you, I'll happily give you a turn with whatever. Or share my snacks. Anything. In fact, if I've just met you but I like you immediately, I'll do the same.

But otherwise? No.

However, we're telling our kids that they need to share with humans they do not know. Be nice. Share. Give them a turn. Some complete little stranger has come along and asked for your stuff, and in five minutes you need to let them use it.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The bar

Five-year olds are not the most reliable of narrators, but eventually you can piece together a story.

Jordan is a big kid, but he's a gentle one. He often gets bulldozed by his younger sister, even though he could clock her and totally take her down.

He has this new and adorable friend at his school. She's in his class, and they play together every day on the playground at recess, and sometimes we hang out with her and her mom after school. They are such good little pals, and this is a friendship I am happy to foster.

However. Jordan started coming home with stories from the playground that I did not like. Of getting spit on. Stories of getting hit. Of being chased and his friend being pushed outside the playground gate, and the gate being held shut, like a jail.

This was coupled with him beginning to bite his nails the second week of school and generally acting anxious. So Nick talked to the Vice Principal, who immediately contacted the school counselor.

This school is totally on top of things.

There have been different incidents with different kids, and I'm now quite sure that the spitting, which was one kid that first week, was provoked, in that Jordan was pulling on the kid's arm.

But the other incidents all involved another kid.

One that my mom started to refer to as the Bad Hat, if you've read that Madeline story. Nick asked her to stop, because it's unhelpful to label the kid as such, when we're trying to build bridges. (This is, however, how I think of him in private. The Bad Hat. Who actually turns around becomes a good kid. He needs some attention and some friends.)

So Nick talked to the dad, and then Nick and Jordan went to the BH's birthday. Nick and the dad are working on it, because the kid has his own struggles, and is acting out, and it's not that he's targeting our son specifically. And everyone is aware of what's going on.

Yesterday I asked Jordan how recess was, and he said, "It was good! Nobody hit us!"

The bar, it seems, has been set low.

Monday, September 22, 2014

And now, for something completely different: A cleanse

Have you ever done a juice cleanse or smoothie cleanse or some kind of detox? If so, do you have thoughts to share?

The other day Nick got this wild hare (yes, I know) to do a juice cleanse.

I'm not kidding. I know you think I am, but I am not. He said, "Let's do a juice cleanse. You and me."

I wasn't sure I'd heard him right. And then I was all, does the man know there's no meat or cheese in juice cleanses?

He does. He means it. You guys, he is serious.

This is nothing I'd have ever dreamed of suggesting to him. Or myself, for that matter. Although I've been cleaning up my diet and feeling better for it, so it's probably a great idea.

So I talked to this very healthy friend of mine who suggested that a smoothie cleanse might be better, as that way you're getting fiber as well and less sugar than juice. This appeals to me, as I love smoothies, and also I have a high tolerance for drinking weird stuff.

I've accidentally said before that I have a high tolerance for putting weird stuff in my mouth, but that never gets taken the right way. Plus I'm not up for unusual meats or animal parts. No. I just can't. I think it's just the odd beverages.

Like, when I was trying to get pregnant with India, twice a day I drank these initially-revolting herbs that my acupuncturist gave me. Eventually they were fine. You can become inured to anything, I'm quite sure.

Anyway, enough about me and my proclivities.

Have you done a cleanse? I've been doing some research, and there's the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, which is appealing because it seems to be all easy, here's what you do, here's your 10 days of smoothies, live long and prosper.

He says if I figure out what we should do, he's all in. So I want to make a well-informed choice.

I don't know if this is the way to go for the two of us. And maybe 10 days is too long? Although it seems to be to be a good amount of time to really make a positive change in your body. But not if you suddenly feel you really need some emergency soft-serve ice cream topped with pork rinds halfway though, you know?

We'll be doing the same thing, together, each and every day of whatever it is, and it needs to work for our wildly different, well, differentnesses.

Any advice?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another installment: This one is brutal, so you know

Some of you lived through this night and the following days with me. I've written a lot around it, just not these particular details. And I'm OK - not falling in a hole or dwelling. I'm just writing, working on the writing.

April 19, 2007

By the time I get within a block of the motel I can see the flashing lights of the police cars, the fire trucks, the ambulance. The motel parking lot is a circus of red and white. I get out of my car and almost immediately bump into a police officer who tells me that I need to stay back.

“But it’s my dad!” I say, lip quivering. I wave in the direction of the motel. “It’s my dad! Is he still alive?”

The officer asks me if I have ID with me and I realize I’ve forgotten my purse. Crap. It’s illegal to drive without a license, isn’t it? Fuck. I am a first-born rule follower.

“I forgot my purse!” I wail. “I was hurrying! Am I going to get in trouble?”

No, he assures me, I am not going to get in trouble. He very gently takes me across the parking lot and up a set of outdoor stairs. It’s the kind of motel that is like a strip mall – all the buildings in a line, and you have to go outside to get to any of the rooms. There are an extraordinary number of police and emergency medical personnel. There are probably a lot of onlookers as well, but I do not notice them.

We get to the second floor and the officer says to a couple other policemen who are standing at the end of the hall, “She’s the daughter.”

“Is he alive?” I ask the nearest one. I hold my breath. I’m so scared the answer will be no.

One of them turns to face me and says, “Yes. We can talk in a minute. They’re about to bring him out. You don’t want to watch.”

I watch. I always watch. I cover my eyes at violence and gore in movies, and I hate life-or-death moments in stories, but I always watch when it’s my dad. He’s my dad, you know? What if I look away and miss something important?

They wheel him down the hall, and the officer says, “He wasn’t breathing when we got here. But the EMTs resuscitated him pretty quickly.”

“So he’s OK?” I want someone to tell me he’s OK. That everything will be OK.

“We don’t know how long he was without oxygen. They put in a trach tube. They’re taking him to INOVA Fairfax, if you want to follow the ambulance.”

“I have to get my mom,” I say. I feel like a small child. I need my mom. I need my dad, but, well, you know.

Both officers pull out their cards and give them to me. The one I've been speaking with points out the number of the station, which I can always call. They are very kind.

I start to shiver, even though it’s not particularly cold, even though I’m wearing that periwinkle fleece. I always get cold when I get upset, even if it’s the middle of summer. I read once that when your body is in crisis, all your blood goes to your organs. I imagine the heart needs it most, so it doesn’t break apart in a million pieces. I pull my arms in tight, trying to stop shaking.

I don’t want to ask, but I have to. “What did he…How did…Where was he when you found him?”

He hesitates. I look directly into his eyes.


“He hung himself.”

I nod. I keep nodding. I can't seem to stop nodding.

I will not think about the grammar until much later, when I am saying it aloud. He hanged himself. Hanged, not hung. But in this moment, I do not think grammar. I think about my dad.

My throat is thick, and I struggle for breath. I whisper, “OK. OK, thank you. Thank you for saving my dad.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em...

When I was little, I thought I might like to be a spy when I grew up.

The Mata Hari kind, with mystery and intrigue and cigarette holders and fabulous outfits, of course. Maybe a pillbox hat with a small veil. Not the actual kind that wears unremarkable clothing and has a lot of paperwork and what-have-you.

This didn't happen, as you know, although I still think about it occasionally. Because one, I am small and rather innocuous, and two, nobody ever suspects me of anything.

I once had a tangerine in my bag when I arrived in Miami from South America. I'd meant to eat it on the plane and had forgotten, and when they asked if I had anything on their list of stuff you weren't supposed to have, I said no, and they were all, OK, welcome to the U.S.

And then as I was walking away I realized I had this tangerine and I turned around and said, "Oh! But I do! I have a piece of fruit!"

I handed it to the woman and she glared at me and said with the tone that your parents use when you've let them down, "And you look so innocent!"

So then I was thinking, hell, I should've smuggled some heroin in my anus, you know?

Except that I'm never going use, much less sell, drugs and I'm not inclined to put anything in my anus. Plus, I don't know about you, but that movie Midnight Express made quite an impression on me as a child.

So there's all that.

But back to the spy business.

Everyone once in a while I get a reminder that I would totally and completely super suck at anything requiring duplicity. Because I have no poker face.

Last weekend I was at my friend Rachel's son's birthday party. There was a well-known children's entertainer there, one I've seen perform at her children's prior birthday parties.

So at some point during his performance, while the kids were howling with laughter, I was standing with Rachel and a woman I didn't know. We were talking about the guy's act, and how much the kids were enjoying it.

Rachel said, "He's not charging me for this show. He's doing it as a favor. So I'm trying to figure out what I should give him as a thank you. What do you think?"

I almost blurted out, "How about a nice blow job?"

Almost! But somehow, uncharacteristically, I didn't!

I said nothing. I just stood there quietly, as if considering the question. Inside, however, the words "blow" and "job" were flapping about, dying to escape.

And Rachel, she knew. She raised her eyebrows and pointed at me, smiling. "I see what you are thinking, and I acknowledge it. And I commend you for not saying it out loud in a room full of children. I was thinking more along the lines of cash."

The other mother said, "Fifty bucks?"

Rachel said, "That's probably about right."

Monday, September 15, 2014

What do you think about this?

This is a tale I've told before, but I'm approaching it differently.

October 1987

I’ve now spent just over a month at Carolina, and I am struggling. I will not learn for a couple more weeks, when I catch a ride home and see my mom, that my dad attempted suicide in September. He's in an institution in another state. He'll be home in a month. I'll certainly see him at Thanksgiving.

Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to affect me that much.

I know now it is because I am already in a depression and hurtling toward the bottom of a pit, so focused on my own pain. Let's be honest, however; the news is not helpful.

When not attending classes, I can chiefly be found drinking before or at frat parties or sitting on the floor of my dorm room eating chocolate covered peanuts and crying. My friend Ann, who lives down the hall and also has one good and one insane roommate, works at Student Stores and introduces me to bulk candy. To this day I've never had better chocolate covered peanuts. Never. A friend of hers rings them up for me cheaply. I buy pounds and pounds at a time and eat them all.

By mid-October I am well into the 40 pounds I will gain before spring. None of my clothes fit anymore. I cannot stop crying, and I cannot stop eating. I once eat an entire jar of my roommate's peanut butter with a spoon in one afternoon.

Somehow, despite this, my roommate Lesley (of the peanut butter) and I form a friendship that  endures to this day. We live in a ridiculously tiny triple room with no air conditioning and two closets. Lesley is an interesting, French-speaking, well-traveled deadhead from Charlotte. When we meet and she learns I went to high school in India, she thinks it is cool. She doesn't ask me if I meant Indiana, or if I lived in a mud hut. She turns out to be unusual in this regard.

Eventually, I will get so tired of being sincere about India, about how we lived, about how modern it is, that I begin saying "yes" to every question. Yes, we rode elephants to school. Yes, we had tigers as pets. Yes, we lived in a mud hut. Yes, yes and more yes.

This was before the Internet. I imagine it's different now.

Our other roommate is Laura, a cheerleader from Goldsboro, who hates Lesley on sight because of her tie-dyed T-shirt and Birkenstocks. She does not know where India is, and feigns interest when I show her on a map.

She mistakes me for normal, that first day, and so it takes her a good week or two to begin hating me as well.

We are both afraid of her, although we outnumber her. Laura, she has a look. Plus, she can eat three M&Ms and then leave the bag. Who does this? She claims an entire closet for herself, leaving us to share the other, and we do not contest it. She is small but she is mean; she punches the wall really hard after a fight with her boyfriend.

Because she doesn't talk to either of us, we only suspect how much she hates us until we begin reading the journal she is required to keep for an English class. Lesley opens it one day, and all is confirmed; she loathes us utterly and completely in poorly written, unimaginative prose. Fortunately, for the six to eight weeks she lives with us before moving out without notice, Lori spends the bulk of her time out in the hall with our shared phone talking to her serious boyfriend. When she's around, however, we drop crumbs of things she's written into our conversation. She knows and she purses her lips tighter.

Laura begins hiding her journal under her bed. With the good snacks. Does she think she can treat us that badly and still expect us to respect her privacy? Or snacks?

We know the precise date she is moving out because we read it in her journal. We count down gleefully. We make sure to spend the entire day elsewhere, and when we return to our pantry of a room, it is entirely, gloriously ours.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Revenge is a dish best served...at 98.6 F?

Have you ever had a dog that punished you for going away? Or maybe for doing something else they didn't like? Maybe other pets do this as well?

I have no idea. Dogs for sure.

On Saturday India was particularly incensed that I was putting her down for a nap. Violently opposed. Enraged.

She made it clear that she was in no way interested in napping. Nope, no thank you. No. Back arch. NO! NONONONONO NAP! NOT TIRED! DON'T YOU DARE TAKE ME UPSTAIRS! I'LL CUT A BITCH! JUST TRY ME! NOOOOOO I DON'T WANT TO NAP!

Although he no longer naps, Jordan and I have this agreement that I tell them both that it's nap time, and he goes up very agreeably, ostensibly to sleep, and India is supposed to follow suit.

In the beginning he didn't know how to play it, so he would whisper across the room, "BUT I'M NOT REALLY NAPPING, RIGHT?"

And then she would hear it and so I would have to say, "Everybody is napping!"

Which would cause him to wail, because he'd feel tricked. They'd both be having fits. But now he knows.

So off he went. "C'mon, India! Let's go nap!"

He headed for the stairs and I said, "Oh, thank you Jordan! Look at Jordan. I'm so impressed with him for going up to nap!"

And she was like, "See ya, suckah! I'm staying right here! Hey, Ma, pass me a beer and the remote, wouldja?"

So I said, "I know I know like to play and you're having fun, but it's time to nap. You can play again after you nap."

I read that this kind of wording is how to couch it instead of being all hell if you think you're not napping.

The nap,  it's really not negotiable. She needs her nap. She falls asleep and sleeps solidly for 2-3 hours. She wakes friendly and happy.

My darling girl skips her nap and she's evil. And so am I. So I scooped her up, asked her if she wanted a diaper, which she rarely uses for naps anymore, and put her in her bed. Here you go, here's your bed, I love you, see you later.

She raged for a bit, as she often does, and then she got quiet, and I thought she'd gone to sleep.

About 10 minutes later I heard the door open. She walked down the hall and said, "I pooped, Mama."

She looked very pleased with herself.

Now, sometimes she will ask for help, and sometimes she will just head off and use the toilet, which is commendable, but she doesn't know how to wipe and quite frankly it's a disaster when she slides off, pulls up her pants, and goes on her merry way.

So I said, "That's terrific! Let me look at your bottom!"

I took her over to her changing table and then I realized...that she'd pooped in her underwear. It was everywhere. And it was vile.

Rage Poop.

She smiled a smug little smile.

She'd taken a rage poop, just like my dog Gloria used to. She'd punish you for going away by pooping in random rooms.

This wasn't an I-was-stuck-and-suddenly-had-to-poop poop. No. This was revenge.

On the one hand, I was practically retching, trying to get her clothes off. I won't get into particulars, but let me pose a question asked by a dear friend of mine in response to my situation: does anyone digest corn?

And on the other hand, I was impressed.

I don't like to think of myself as vengeful, but if I'm being completely honest, I am, at least in my mind. I don't often act on it, but I did consider peeing in the corner of our wedding venue.

I told Nick about it and said, "She's a smarty pants. It's gotta be satisfying revenge. Don't you wish you could do something like that?

And he was all, "What, so you're always going have a little poop saved for later, in case you need it?"

This is why he's considered the practical one.

Actually, I've long wished I could vomit on demand. Sometimes you're in a situation with another person that you kind of loathe. Perhaps a work meeting. Or maybe you bump into someone you worked for years ago, who you genuinely believe to be an agent of the devil. Or what if you were being assaulted?

Wouldn't it be awesome if you could puke on them at will?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When I walk in the dark

When I was 22, I used to walk and run at night in the dark, my awesome chunky yellow Sports Walkman in hand, headphones on.

Usually during the week I'd go to the gym after work, then walk from M Street up to our apartment in Mt. Pleasant, back when it was a marginal neighborhood. I'd do this in the winter at 8 or 9 at night, and not think anything of it. Alone, music on, pitch dark.

I walked everywhere, not thinking about time or...actually, let's just say not thinking.

Once Maude, Lyrae, and I were mincing home at 2 am on a Saturday, and a policeman pulled over and asked where we were going. And then he gave us a ride home.

So I got home around 9:30 last night.

I was working as an extra on a TV show being filmed way up in Maryland (yes, my life is glam when I'm not wiping up food or poop, and I'll totally let you know if a single ear or elbow or strand of hair of mine makes it in a single scene). I knew beforehand that we'd be parking in a big, open lot that we'd be shuttled to, and that we likely wouldn't leave before nightfall.

As it turned out, I was in a group that was let go earlier, so left just before 7 pm, in the light. Nick said 95 traffic would still be horrible, and so I used the opportunity for a little guilt-free browsing at a suburban Target.

So last night, right before Nick was going to take over circling for parking for me, I found a spot pretty close to our house. He called and I told him I'd just parked and would be home in a few minutes.

I was near a shortcut between buildings that leads into our alley. I could've gone through it, down the alley, and into our back door, which would've been a lot shorter. In the daytime I do this. But I walked around.

Our alley is dark, and my friend Becky, whose parking space used to be on the adjoining alley, was mugged there several years ago. At 8 pm, in the late summer light. He took her wallet and her phone and told her get into his car but she convinced him to let her keep her head down and walk away.

She was so smart. "Take the phone, take the money, and I will turn around and walk away right now."

And he let her, thank God.

The alley has been repaved and is less sketchy now, and we all happily note that we no longer see human feces in it, but it's still an alley. In DC.

I got home and Nick was waiting for me, and as we were chatting, he asked why I thought I wasn't chosen to stay for the second scene. I should totally have worn the shirt he'd suggested. I shrugged. And then he noticed I didn't have my wedding ring on. Huh. Why didn't I wear my rings?

And this is what I said: As a man, and a large one who is unlikely to ever be a target, he and I live very different lives.

I didn't want to stay on set. Yes, it would be cool to be in another scene, but I was glad to be let go. Because the parking lot was big, and I was relieved to get there in the light. There were a lot of us, and I didn't expect that they would take us each to our respective cars.

Yes, I could maybe ask someone to walk me to my car, but I didn't know any of the other extras beforehand, and getting walked to one's car is not a certainty.

I deliberately didn't wear my rings because I was anticipating walking through a parking lot in the dark way the hell out somewhere I do not know, and I didn't want to be wearing something sparkly. I suppose I could've worn the wedding ring, but I wear them together.

And in our neighborhood, which I feel comfortable in, even though I was carrying a bunch of heavy bags and it would've been much more expedient to take a shortcut through buildings and the alley, I walked around several blocks. If I'd been farther away, or on a darker street, I'd have stayed in the car and called him to come get me.

"You," I said, "you never have to think about these things. Never."

I was mugged once, years ago.

I was with two guy friends at pitch-dark 4:00 am, in the not-great bus station part of Quito. Our bus came in way earlier than it was supposed to, because the highway from the coast that had been closed had been cleared of a mudslide.  So we were unexpectedly hours early, in the dark. Inky, dimly-lit if lit at all, extremely poor, bad part of town dark.

We started walking to catch a local bus into town. We rounded a dark corner and headed down an even darker street, and suddenly and quietly a big group of guys surrounded us. I think only one of them had a knife, but we were so outnumbered, and had cumbersome backpacks. They threw the three of us to the ground. They grabbed our bags.

I will tell you that from the moment that we realized we were surrounded and that one of them had a knife, I started to scream. And I couldn't stop.

You know how you sometimes dream that something terrible is happening and you can't make a sound? And you never actually know if you can until you're in a situation that calls for it? Turns out I can holler. Holy hell do I have lungs.

They asked me to stop. They told me to stop. They tried to shush me.

I could not. I screamed and screamed and screamed. I was hysterical, and I was loud.They pulled up my shirt, and I screamed some more. The rapist that attacked Maude in our apartment the year prior was fresh in my mind.

They were only looking for a money belt, which I was wearing, and which they took, and then let go of me. I was so relieved.

A taxi pulled up out of nowhere and they ran towards it. My friends got up and chased them, me holding up the rear, shrieking like a banshee. The driver was going to take the guys, he later told us, and then he looked down the road, and saw one white person, a women alone, yelling her head off.

The attackers jumped out and ran. They somehow left my backpack in the back seat.

My forearms and knees wound up massively skinned, which I didn't realize for hours. They healed in weeks, although I think I might still have faint scars on a knee. For years, however, my heart would pound if I had to walk alone at dusk or later. The sound of a footstep nearby made me start.

And ever since then I am careful, oh so careful, when I walk in the dark.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The bottom line

This post is not suitable for polite company. Or my mother. Not that she's not polite company, because of course she is.

OK. You've been warned. (You, too, Betty.)

I don't know if you know what salad tossing is. In the sexual sense, not in the pouring some olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette over your greens and mixing them around sense.

Yah, so what it means is licking someone's anus. I looked it up and it is on the Internet which means it is totally true. Which is all fine and good and I genuinely believe that people should do whatever they want as long as it is consensual and they aren't hurting anyone who doesn't want to be hurt.

With that said, I'm not tossing anyone's salad. I had E. coli as a child, thankyouverymuch.

Do you know where I grew up? Do you know how many parasitic illnesses I've had? Have you ever had food poisoning? The norovirus? Yah, so these tend to be passed by fecal-oral contact. And all it takes is a teeny tiny microscopic speck of feces in the water.

It just seems prudent to me to stay far from the source.

Nick likes to joke about this and then he makes this horrible, terrible, wretched, revolting face that he will not let me take a picture of. He does this because it elicits a visceral reaction. I'm just all, stay away from my anus and I will stay away from yours and there you have it. And stop making that vomitable face!

He thinks I can stick to a topic, but lemme tell you, the man has his own.

In fact, it occurs to me that I could list my recurring topics and I could list his and you would then know the 17.5 things that we ever talk about forever and ever and ever for richer for poorer in sickness and health and so on.

So last night he suggested, as we were about to head upstairs to watch Orange Is the New Black, that perhaps I might like to toss his salad. And then he made The Terrible Face.

He likes to say things like this when I am least expecting it. And so I said that I wouldn't mind if he paid someone to do that to him.

I mean, really.

Then he asked how much I'd do it for.

Without hesitation I said, "I would do it for $1,000,000."

A million dollars is always a safe number to throw out, if you're ever in a situation like this and have to think of a price right quick.

These conversations are not new to me. Maude and I have been talking for years about things like the minimum we'd charge to let someone poop on our feet, for example. (Nobody has ever asked either of us, in case you're wondering.)

"I bet you'd do it for $900,000."

"Well, yeah."

"How about $800,000?"


"Half a million?"


"Liar. You'd do it for half a million. Maybe even 200,000."


"Basically, Lisa, you're now saying you'd be willing to toss salad for 80% less than originally stated."

And then I was all, "Why are you trying to shame me with the price? And anyway, it would have to be to someone else."

"Someone ELSE? No! That's not the point!"

It most certainly is. He doesn't have that kind of money, and even if he did, this is not how I'd want him spending it.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

So you don't confuse them with mountains

My daughter has become extremely interested in breasts of late.

Jordan didn't do this, but I had a friend who swore her daughter had this breastfeeding radar; she could locate anyone within a one-mile radius. She'd leap up out of nowhere from where they were sitting on the beach or in the park and make a beeline for a woman nursing.

She'd jump up and sprint off and her mom would be all, "Someone somewhere is lactating."

I remember as a kid being really interested in breastfeeding. But not breasts themselves. But maybe when I was two?

"These your boomps, Mommy?"

"They sure are."

Boomps are the new black in our house.

Maybe I should've told her they were called breasts. I said "boobs" when she asked, because that's what I call them.

Well, I told her she has nipples and Jordan has nipples. They were both sitting naked at the table asking. So then she was wondering about mine.

We take them to the pool, and change in locker rooms. They're naked most of the time at home, and they see other naked people. They ask about body parts, and I tell them.

When my kids swim they are super covered, as am I, but that is about SPF and not modesty. 

Recently Jordan asked if he could go swimming naked, and I said that if we were in Europe, he could certainly be naked on the beach, but here he cannot.

"Why not?"

"People get upset."

So India has, of late, gotten all interested in the boomps. Mine, specifically. I don't know if she's interested in other people's; she hasn't done anything to suggest it.

If I'm holding her or carrying her, she sometimes gives each of my breasts a quick little pat, all, hi, friends! Sometimes she'll do it with both hands at the same time. An exuberant hellooo!

Or sometimes she'll just slip a hand inside my shirt, in the way I sometimes rest mine in a front pocket. And then she'll give a tiny squeeze. Hello again! Just checkin' on ya!

I figure this interest will fade away on its own. But for now, it's the boomps.

"Mama! You got boomps?"

And then I have to look down to see if in today's outfit I do or I don't. You never know.

She pulls my bra out of the laundry pile. "This your bra, Mommy?"

"You know it is!"

"You put it on your boomps? I put it on."

"You don't need a bra now, sweetheart."

"I have boomps, Mommy?"

"You will one day, honey. When you're grown up."

"I grow up I put a bra on my boomps!"

Rock on, sweetie pie.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

I hear the train a comin'. It's rolling 'round the bend...

It really annoys me to pay for parking. I mean, even if someone else is paying, so it's not my money.

The paying for of the parking bugs me.

I'd rather walk extra blocks than pay a garage or a meter. Although with Parkmobile it is much better, because that way you don't get stuck late for a doctor's appointment on K Street and only one space but it has a broken meter that you can't put quarters in but they give you a ticket anyway.

Betty is fanatical about amassing quarters for parking. She collects them in those Altoids boxes. Which, btw, are perfect for collecting quarters.

The other day we parked at a meter, and it was Sunday so it didn't matter, but she was getting out the quarters and I said, "Actually, we don't need them. I have a parking app. It takes it off my credit card."

And even though she doesn't drive and is far from using her iPhone to its potential she was all, "I NEED A PARKING APP! WHAT'S AN APP?"

So. Parking. It irritates me to pay for parking. There's something else it really annoys me to pay for, but I can't remember what. I called Nick to ask him what else I hate paying for and he said, "sex" but that's not it.

By "that's not it" I don't mean to imply that I've paid for sex or that I wouldn't mind because I haven't and I would. But that's not it.

He agrees there's something else and he's calling me back if he thinks of it.

I don't mind paying taxes, because I think social services are important. This is a whole nother topic, however.

Anyway, the other night we watched the first episode of the first season of Game of Thrones.

I'd read the first four books ages ago and I'd been lobbying Nick to watch it, but he wasn't interested. And then finally I remembered to tell him that there was a lot of nudity and sex and then he was all, "Well, maybe we could just watch one to see if we like it."

So we paid $4 for the first episode and we loved it. And then I realized that we could just order them on DVD from Netflix for free and so I was all, let us delay this gratification and not spend $4 per episode when we can get them all free next week. Let's cast about for something else.

You guys, we turn out to be in this fabulous position, because we haven't watched anything but a movie here and there since we binge-watched House of Cards early this year. We have so many great options!

So. We started watching Orange Is the New Black. By started I mean we watched six of them in two days, which, if you have small kids and also want to sleep, is not easy. But we soldiered on!

And you guys! Why did nary a one of you take me by the virtual shoulders all, you love orange and you love funny and YOU MUST WATCH THIS SHOW!?

Oh my hell, is it terrific. I went to a dinner last night and when I got home I was sure Nick would be upstairs watching but instead he was in bed doing the crossword and when I said I thought he'd be sneak-watching without me he said he would never do that. Even if I was in prison.

If you know us, which you kind of do even if you haven't met us, you know that ever since that point in time there has been a lot of Prison Talk.

I was all, "Look at this material! Look how hilarious! I should go to prison!"

Nick was all, "You've had plenty of crazy in your life. You have enough material."

We spent some time discussing which of us would do better in prison. We both agree he would. Although I am stronger than I look and I could totally pull out the crazy mean if I had to. I think. But he'd still be better at it.

Betty, who has not yet seen it because we have to figure out the Netflix on her TV is all, "Oh, prison. Sweetheart, prison would just be no fun."

So on Monday we were organizing the kitchen and he was irritating me with his organizeyness. When Nick gets in one of his whirlwinds of he cannot take this mess one minute longer or he will explode, he gets all tense and super organizy and throw-away-y.

If he doesn't like to eat it, or if he hasn't put it there, it is in his way.

Nick buys savory condiments and Betty buys sweet ones and we have a shit-ton of condiments in our fridge. Nick basically likes meat and cheese and we often do a mediocre job of eating enough vegetables even though I buy plenty with good intentions and don't clear them out often enough.

And the papers pile up in the corner of the counter. Also, Jordan deposits his Lego and what-have-you on another counter. And yes, India feels compelled to bring her 37 stuffed animals and blankies down to the kitchen every morning.

Yes, OK, yes, our lives are messy. It's a constant battle against the detritus of childhood and my inclination towards mess. But the tension! These Must! Tidy! Now! episodes make me so agitated. If I can, I hide. If I cannot, I participate, but it stresses me the fuck out.

These are never among our finer moments. I feel trapped. I take all actions and questions as accusations. I don't want to compare myself to a small furry animal but if you've ever seen one cornered, you know how they get all wild-eyed and teeth and claws?

So Nick is snorting and stomping and throwing things away at a mad pace.

"Your mother has two smoked salmons, both open. Do we really need more than one smoked salmon?"

"Just because it's not mayonnaise, Nick, doesn't mean it's an invalid food product."

"When you get sarcastic I stop hearing you."


He must've sensed my frustration, or maybe noted the subtle gleam in my eye. Perhaps I had a tone?

"You know, Lisa, if you ever do in fact stab me, you will go to Bad Prison. Not like Orange Is the New Black Prison."

The man I love.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Dispute not with her...

Last month Nick told me that he thought it was weird that I'm still so upset about my dad.

Actually, he didn't say weird. I can't remember exactly what he said. I just remember feeling like what he meant was weird. I'm weird. I should be over it.

It's been five whole years, he pointed out.

He said he knew the news about Robin Williams would really upset me. Which is true. I started crying and couldn't stop. I cried and cried and cried. And he just thought that maybe I wasn't dealing with my grief well.

His dad died last year, and he's not still grieving.

Why am I still so upset?

Hell, I don't know. I just am sometimes. I still miss him and it still hurts.

I know I'm not the norm as human beings go, but in a Venn Diagram, I believe the Lisa circle would overlap at least a decent amount with the Normal People circle. I'm pretty sure anyway. I don't even strive to be pure normal. I just...want to be able to be normal-ish. I want to not be weird.

But it is not hard to make me feel aberrant. And I tend not to appreciate it. In a very large and stabby way.

Plus, dude! If anyone's supposed to make you feel not-weird, it's your spouse, right? If they're telling you you're a freak...you have to wonder if you really are.

So I stewed on it for a bit. As this was The Summer of Our Discontent, I mentally filed it under Things I Currently Hate About Nick. It wasn't a big file. Small, in fact. Just deep and caustic.

I walked around muttering, "Weird, my ass!" Which, uh, well, make of it what you will.

And then a couple of days later, we were out for dinner with a group of Nick's colleagues, and it turns out that one colleague's new girlfriend is a therapist. And so I asked her if I could get her opinion. I set out my scenario with my dad's death, very briefly. And asked if it was weird to still be upset.

She responded with two things. One, her father died - not by suicide - in 1998, and she's still upset about it. And two, does it prevent me from functioning in daily activities?

No. Not usually. Just sometimes I still get very sad.

Her boyfriend suggested that men and women might also process grief differently. And men might get past the emotion faster.

This is certainly possible. I don't know.

But armed with this validation, I gave Nick what-for. My grief is valid. I AM NOT WEIRD!

He didn't even know I was stewing about it. He didn't recall saying I was weird. "But," he said, "you talk about missing your dad so often. You're sad about it so much."

"So often? So much? When do we talk about it?"

And then it dawned on me: so often in person? Or so often on the blog?

"On the blog. I read every post. You talk about your dad so much lately, and it's been five years."

I said, "You do realize that the blog isn't an entire picture of who I am and our whole lives, right? Like, if you only read my blog, but didn't know me as a person, would you know everything that was going on with us?"

My blog is my head, and my blog is my place to process. Sometimes it's real life action stuff, and sometimes it's my frets, and sometimes it's my pool of tears. It's my journal, just online.

But it's not a 360 view. I'm never going to be all, we had chicken for dinner and then we watched Game of Thrones and then we took our sheets out of the dryer and made the bed and went to sleep at 11:00.

Why would I write that when I can work out my gut-wrenching emotions or fret about rabies or talk about putting raisins in Nick's anus?

So then he was all, "Oh. Well, in that case, no, you don't seem excessively upset about your dad. And I don't think you're weird."

But my takeaways are thusly: You cannot fuck with someone's relationship with their parent. You especially can't do so if said parent is dead.

And grief is an odd beast. As my cousin Lyrae pointed out, grief is not linear. It loops at unexpected times. It's not like when you head north on 95 and every mile closer to Maine is a mile farther from DC. If that makes sense.

Also, even though I totally did say that in public about the raisins, I'm not weird. I swear.