Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fair is fowl and fowl is fair

You know I generally prefer the nature through a window.

But on Sunday morning last weekend in New Jersey, I got up and went for a run. It really was spectacularly beautiful.

When I used to run a lot, I'd make running mixes and listen to the same ones over and over. The repetition was soothing, really, because when I run I'm usually so in my head processing things, that what I'm listening to is often secondary

But now I run very rarely and no longer walk to work, and as such, haven't made a playlist in years.

Instead, I go to the Bootie mashup blog and download the free monthly top ten albums.

The artwork does not resonate with me, but I love the mixes. Most of them are fast, combine old and new music, and are so fun. I just cannot pass up the combinations of  Carly Rae Jepson and Nine Inch Nails or Miley Cyrus and the Village People.

So there I was, running with Bootie in the early morning. The weather was perfect, slightly cool and misty. The leaves further north of here have turned so many brilliant colors. I passed charming old stone houses and red barns on stone foundations.

These were neighborhoods, some farms, and for the most part without sidewalks. Only a couple cars passed me, and gave me wide berth. But just in case, I ran just off the road, on the grass.

I pulled out my phone to take pictures. Look how charming!

And then I saw them. A gaggle of geese. Enough to take a grown man down.
I made a little "Aaaah!" sound. And then clapped my had over my mouth, because what if geese take that kind of noise as provocation?

Then I thought, "My goose is cooked!" And had myself a nervous little self-congratulatory giggle.
I tried to remember what you do in case of goose attack. Did I even know?

Stop, drop, and roll is for fire. With a bear, you bang pots and pans. With a rabid raccoon, you hope to hell you have a crowbar. And I know from all the recent shark attacks that you're supposed to punch it in the nose and go for its eyes.

But geese?

Play dead? Make your arms big and flap and roar? I've only read about swans. When they try to drown you, you beat them with your kayak paddle and try to get the fuck  away from them.

They'll probably still drown you, but you do your best.

And were these attack geese, guarding the farm? Or just stopping through on their way to South Beach for the winter? The latter of course seemed safer, unless they felt provoked.

They didn't look particularly interested. But to be safe, I crossed the road and slowed my pace, avoiding eye contact but still slyly observing them. I figured this would seem nonthreatening.

I kept going for about 10 feet and then chickened out. I turned back, found another road, and continued on.

I encountered no other wildlife.

And then today, out of the blue, my friend Coleen, with whom I have had serious discussions about swans, gave me this helpful survival poster.

So glad I didn't know this last week.
Also: I don't really understand the inclusion of cats. Either they are cat haters or they just couldn't think of another scary animal. Why not hippo, raccoon, or Cape Buffalo?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Past the scientific darkness, past the fireflies that float

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

Sometimes, when I'm driving on a highway at night, I feel so peaceful. I turn off the music and it seems like the entire world is wide open, the possibilities are endless, and I could just go on forever.

The darkness feels like a protective blanket.

And then, then I get to a more rural area with no street lights and lots of trees and I check my gas gauge nervously all I can think about is that lunatic axe murderer loose in the woods and how I cannot wait to arrive at my well-lit destination.

What I'm saying is, I drove to New Jersey Friday evening.

Due to necessity, I started out at rush hour, and as such it took me eleventy kabillion hours to get there. However. I was alone. So they were pretty peaceful hours, no matter what was going on on 95.

Nobody was screaming "FROZEN!" "NO FROZEN! Taylor Swift!" "SNACKS! WE NEED SNACKS!" or picking at the other person in the back seat. Nobody was in the passenger seat to criticize my choice of 80s Italian pop music.

The car that I inherited from Nick's dadour "new" carhas a tape deck. I played a recently-unearthed mix tape made by a long-ago boyfriend, and thought about who I was at the age of 22.

I drove up for a weekend with two of my dearest friends. These are women with whom I spent so much time eleven, ten, nine years ago.

We lived near enough to run over at a moment's notice, and knew what was going on with one another each and every day. They were my closest heart people, the ones who listened to my dating dramas, and who gently offered hope and wine and solace, and who were surely relieved when I started this blog and had somewhere else to direct my angst.

We no longer live near each other, and as such, don't get together as much as we'd like. But heart people stay, and sometimes you are shocked by how well you know each other.

You remember the when of the when and maybe even what they were wearing that one time that particular thing happened.

And so, when I mentioned the exhaustion of motherhood and the tedium of marriage, and how I think it's just an inevitable by-product of stability and continuity, I laughed after one of them said, "Listen to yourself. Wouldn't you love to be able to reassure 10-years-ago Lisa that she was going to get married and have kids?"

God, yes.

In fact, I would love to reassure so many ages of Lisa that things would be OK.

To teenage Lisa, I would say: You are smart, and you have good ideas, and you should listen to your heart and mind rather than doing what authority figures tell you to do. Also, eat protein. Seriously.

To college Lisa: You weren't raised to think this, but happiness is an important goal. You're miserable. Drop out and do something else until you can figure out what path you'd like to be on.

To 30-year-old Lisa: Find a therapist. You don't think you need one, but oh, you do. It'll make you feel better.

To 35-year-old Lisa: Don't let guys' opinions of you dictate how you feel about yourself. They've got their own problems; your problem is you pick them. The right person is going to love you for you. And your therapist is right; you really will get married.

And PS at any age: Marriage isn't going to make you happy. You have to figure that shit out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Because who doesn't love breasts and kidnapping and love curses and coming out?

If you are in DC and want a free evening of stories, I'm inviting you to the performance of our Story District storytelling class tomorrow night.

It's at 7:00 pm on October 21 at an art gallery, Studio 1469, in Columbia Heights.

Though the address is 1469 Harvard Street, directions say you enter through the back, on the 15th Street alley. Which makes it sound sort of like you're finding an unmarked door and doing the special knock and slipping the doorman cash so you can come in an drink bathtub gin.

(Apparently it's confusing enough that they made a funny little YouTube video showing you how to get there.)

In reality, you can come in for free and drink whatever you want, as it's BYO.

There are 10 of us who will be telling stories. I didn't know any of these people before the class began five weeks ago. In the process of  delving deep for story creation, we've become friends. These people are interesting, smart, and hilarious.

Story topics include: breasts; coming out; exorcism; kidnapping; a love curse; travel; war; and much, much more. Some have poignant moments, but way more laugh-out-loud ones.

There is something for pretty much everyone. Unless you're not not a laugh-out-louder. If so, this isn't for you. But it's for everyone else.

I'm nervous and excited and I plan to have a great time!

Bring a friend, a drink, a snack and come join us tomorrow night!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pretty hate machine

You'd never know she liked it.
It seems harsh and mean and wrong to say three-year-olds are assholes.

So I'll say this. My three-year-old is an asshole.

I know. I know. This, too, shall pass. And the days are long but the years are short. And I should cherish every moment, because you don't get them back.

But my holy hell is she hard right now.

India has long alternated between utterly charming and downright wretched. But lately the charming appears less and less frequently, at least at home, and with me.

She now spends the bulk of her time refusing to get dressed, whining about being cold, but not willing to put anything on, complaining about hunger but unwilling to eat, tormenting her brother, and just being all around pissed off at everything. And talking every single minute.

It's not like she says she's cold and then lets it go. "I'm coldy! I'm coldy! I'M COLD! MAMA I'M COLD! I'M COOOOOOOLD!"

You can spend your time proffering solutions, but this helps not one bit. Even repeating what she says so she feels heard doesn't help. "You're cold."


She's often better when it's just the two of us. But not necessarily. And she still whines, growls, and  talks nonstop. Preferably while wrapped around my neck.

I offered her toast and she said, "You KNOW I don't like bread!"

She sneered and then licked the honey off the toast.

And this is what she now says, "You KNOW I don't like..."


Oh, right. Since she stopped liking anything.

I'm going to start offering her raw meat on a long stick.

If you take her arm or start to pick her up when she's refusing to leave somewhere, she'll yell, "YOU'RE HURTING ME! YOU'RE HURTING ME!"

Are you kidding me with this?

And she'll make up these arbitrary rules that Jordan believes. He'll come crying about something and I'll tell him she doesn't get to make the rules.

Yesterday I heard Jordan repeatedly pleading, "Stop it, India!"

I walked in to find India bent over with her butt in the air, instructing her brother to smell her butt. He was begging her to put her butt down, and she refused. I've gotta say, I was impressed with her ability to hold a pose.

But he was very upset. So I told him he's never obligated to smell India's butt, no matter what she says.

I said, "If anyone ever tells you to smell their butt and you don't want to, you should just leave."

Really, I'd give this advice to anyone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I have never been a tidy human being. Never.

You may know the story of the rapist breaking into Maude's and my apartment and the police being shocked at the state of things.

My dad used to tell me that I'd never get married if a man saw how messy my room was. He used this repeatedly, and while I worried from a young age about being marriageable, still I didn't clean up my room.

Fortunately, I have some other good qualities. But the lack of tidiness makes Nick nutso.

So I've started reading that Marie Kondo learn how to tidy and change your life book that everyone has been talking about.

Since I'm in need of help, and people rave about this book, I figured, why not. It will improve my house and my relationship with my husband, and if reccommedations are to be believed, may ultimately change my life.

Although one woman said in her testimonial that Kondo taught her what she didn't need in her life and she divorced her husband.


I'm not very far in, but I am going to read it, and I am going to attempt it.

Because every once in a while, I get on a tidying kick, but it never lasts, and the chaos returns. Which is what Kondo says happens until you learn to tidy.

This past spring, for the first time ever, I bought a number of those giant Tupperware boxes for winter clothing.

We crammed all of our coats and scarves and boots and duvets and what-have-you into the boxes. We have a little bit of the basement as storage space, so we had somewhere to put them.

I was opposed to mothballs, but Nick pointed out that we didn't only have to worry about moths; we also had to worry about rodents looking for a nice nesting place.


Mothballs, he said, were the only solution.

So we mothballed the boxes and stacked them in our storage space.

It's been delightfully warm, or warmy-coldy, as Jordan likes to say, in the morning and then warm in the afternoon. But last week it was suddenly more coldy than warmy. So on the weekend we pulled out our coats and boots.

Oh. My. Hell.

We set all of it out in the sunshine and wind for two days. The horrible did not dissipate. I've still got stuff outside.

But! The smell comes in the windows! And every time the kids walk out there they hold their noses and do a cringey dance and say, "Yucky! Yucky!"

I've now washed the washable stuff twice. Still smells wretched.

This, people. This so far is what my brief foray into organization has wrought.

Marie Kondo, take me away!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

To Dad, who would be 79 today

Dear Dad,

Today you would be 79. More than six years of events have gone by since you died.

When I think in these terms, I find the passage of time extraordinary.

I mean, I know time goes and we're all getting older, but I fixate so much on my kids, who are so excited about their ages. And they're still in the single digits.

They're hilarious, high energy, creative, mischievous. They love their Nana with all their hearts. I often find them all crammed into a big chair together, reading or watching Paw Patrol. I wish they also had these moments with you.
You would get so much joy out of them. Perhaps you do. India and Jordan both insist there are ghosts upstairs. Our house has great energy, and so I tell them if so, they're happy ghosts.

I believe that energy sticks around, in whatever form, and so maybe.

Since you died I've formed nice relationships with your brother Jack's kids Connie and Mike. I don't see Connie, although we are in touch. Mike is in DC occasionally for work, and so we get to see him. Not often, but it is so great when we do, and he and I email. We talk about you.

Mike favors you, and at a glance, he could be a younger you. His son Travis has joined the Air Force, and I know he's so proud of both his kids. He sent me this picture of the three generations.
He has the same Jordan sense of humor, and he says Connie does as well. Mom sent Mike your dummies, and one of them rides around with him in his truck.
I love this for so many reasons. Family connections feel really good.

You know I have your sense of humor, and I feel this was a big gift from you. And I'm still dearest friends with Maude, and I feel that our friendship was also your gift, Lou's and yours.

Maude is still struggling with Lou's death, and we both hope you are hanging out being ridiculous and laughing really hard. 

As I dig more and more into my part of our story, I am able to forgive you and forgive myself. I feel disloyal when I think of you in anger. But the truth is, you can't have deep relationships without any anger. More and more, though, I remember joy.

I still come across sticky notes that you left me. I saved them, you know. I have the one about remembering to put my wedding dress in the car. Another, on a folder, saying not to sign except in front of a notary.

But I so wish I had saved at least one of your voicemails. Now I do. I have tons of voicemails on my phone, just in case I need to hear a voice again.

Now I talk about suicide as if it is a normal conversation topic. I know it still shocks people. But almost 100% of them have lost someone in their lives that way.

Sometimes I still have to fight the what-ifs. And pull my mind out of the should-have-knowns. But mostly, I have made peace with it.

When friends are struggling with new grief, I say that it will eventually hurt less. It doesn't go away, but with time, it no longer crushes the breath out of you.

Time is the longest distance between two places, but what are you going to do?

It's been over six years. You would be 79 today. I love you and I miss you. Happy birthday.



Friday, October 02, 2015

Cargo bike love: Xtracycle

This is my new crush and main mode of child transportation: my Xtracycle Edgerunner 10e.
It is basically magic.

I mean, I know it's engineering. And maybe some pixie dust.

For years Nick had tried to convince me to get a bike, and for years I wasn't interested. I walking and running, and can walk to the kids' schools, grocery stores, everything. We have a jogging stroller. And a car for big grocery shopping.

The last bike I could remember owning was my pink Huffy when I was a kid. About 15 years ago, I went home to Germany with with a boyfriend. He and I borrowed his parents' bikes to meet friends at a pub in the next village; we drank too much beer, and I wobbled into a ditch on the way home.

So, I was not a biker. I did not need a bike, thankyouverymuch.

This was before my friend Andrea lent me her Xtracycle for a week!

It was fantastic. When the week was over I missed it. I needed my own nownownow.

I headed straight over to Bicycle Space to check out cargo bikes.

I asked about Xtracycle and Yuba cargo bikes. And I wanted to discuss the regular bike versus one with e-assist (meaning an electric motor that assists with pedaling), and ready-made or retrofit. With motors you have the option to retrofit any bike, or to buy one built with it. Xtracycle's e-assist versions come with Bosch motors.

The staff didn't push at all, and they were also kind when I said that I really knew nothing about biking whatsoever except for my Xtracycle week.

These bikes are expensive, and big investments. I wanted to know that I'd get a lot of use out of it for a long time.

We ultimately determined that some version of an Xtracycle Edgerunner was the bike for us.

Once we made a final decision, we bought it from Bicycle Space. I've since stopped in about 54 times to buy kiddy bike bells (two, so we have no fighting) and ask questions and so forth. I'm waiting for my lights to arrive. They are super friendly and helpful--a nice store to have an ongoing relationship with.

The Xtracycle back wheel is smaller than the front, so your center of gravity is lower, giving more stability. Also, they're both able to climb up into it. No lifting.

Here's the deal. My son, Jordan, at over 60 lbs, is too heavy for Nick's bike seat. India, at 33-ish lbs, still fits. But this always engenders sibling rivalry because why does India get to ride with Daddy when Jordan has to ride his stinky scooter? It's not fair!


So, I pick the up India mid-day, and then she wants to come along when we pick up her brother. She's capable of walking to his school and back, but if he has his scooter, she wants to scoot too.

But she doesn't really know how. So whenever we go out with it, it actually means me bending over and pulling her the whole way. Or carrying her. And the scooter.

My alternative for pickup was bringing her in the jogging stroller. This resulted in jealousy. And me struggling to push both kids in the stroller, while balancing the scooter on top.

But with my new Xtracycle, I can carry both kids together!
They climb into the Hooptie and hold onto the rails. I was riding them home from school the other day and Jordan said, "This is the best day of my life!"

I can fill the side bags with backpacks and lunches and really, an extraordinary amount of stuff! I've even hauled Jordan's scooter with us!

I've only had it for a couple weeks. I'm still learning. My kids together weight just shy of 100 lbs, and I have to keep reminding them not to wiggle. Or fight.

I'm really cautious but getting bolder in traffic. Not that I'm not careful. I'm extremely careful.

But I went from being a not-biker to a biker with heavy and precious cargo. And on just about every road I've been on, someone is double-parked in the bike lane. Which means going out into the car lane to get around them.

We opted for e-assist, and we got the one with the Bosch motor already installed. There was a fuchsia one, but no motor. Motor version comes in black.

I chose practicality over fuchsia.

The bike is both long and heavy. The kids are big and only getting bigger. And when I borrowed Andrea's bike, we nearly fell over a couple times trying to get started on a hill, because I am just not strong enough to pedal all three of us.

The motor doesn't drive the bike for you. It just helps you when you're pedaling.

What I like to tell people is that you're still doing the work; you're just more awesome.

I use it as little as possible, because I want to be doing the work and feel awsome on my own. A couple friends have seen us going by and called me a bad-ass.

When we're going uphill and we start to slow down because I'm working really hard, my kids will say, "You can do it, Mama! You're doing a great job!"

They're happy, I'm happy, and it's terrific. I love all of it.

My bike is nicer and worth more than my first car by a long shot. I'd like to tell you my bike is perfect, and it's very close.

I guess I'd call it perfect if it were fuchsia.

And maybe cooked dinner once in a while.