Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carolyn & Taco

(I could end National Blog Posting Month with a post about what I learned this month about being a writer, and a reader. I could point you to my blog roll over on the right and suggest you read some of the amazing voices on there. I could thank BlogHer for recognizing some of my posts, and helping me have the best traffic I've ever seen. I could invite all of you who found me this month to keep coming back. I could do all of that, but instead - I'm going to tell you a story.)

My friend Carolyn is kind of an asshole. She is a Fine Southern Woman, from a Fine Southern Family, the type that believes that they are allowed certain behaviors due to the privilege of their birth. Behaviors like getting soused at the Country Club Christmas party and swimming in the fountain, or getting arrested for shoplifting on a lark. Carolyn spent most of her childhood in a private boarding school, before she was thrown into public high school in order to "build character" and "give her a taste of reality", according to her father. After a few glasses of wine, Carolyn herself will tell you it was more a result of bad investments in real estate, and less an investment in her character.

We were both in our early 20's when we met, and she's proven to be one of the most loyal and steadfast friends I've ever had. And really, only kind of an asshole.

She married young and rich and spends most of her time volunteering for various charities and shopping. She is tiny-waisted, fake-boobied, Frito-nailed, and dressed to the nines. She is a walking cliche. She even has one of these dogs:
The dog's name is Taco. Carolyn really likes Mexican food. She also really loves this dog - she dresses her up in ridiculous costumes and takes her everywhere. Taco is kind of an asshole, too. When she was a puppy, Carolyn's husband insisted that the dog be crate trained, and Carolyn felt horrible for having Taco in the crate. So she put a small television in the crate with the dog to 'keep her company'. Now, if you try to take her out of the crate during one of her programs (Real Housewives of OC is her favorite, but she gets super pissy if they even show a clip of the New Jersey bitches), she completely freaks out. She once bit me for turning off My Fair Wedding with David Tutera.

No shit.

So, maybe in response to her husband making her crate Taco, or maybe because she loves accessories, Carolyn takes Taco everywhere. One day, she and Taco met some ladies for dinner at a local Mexican eatery for Margarita Monday. Something about the mix of queso and tequila did Carolyn in, and she excused herself before the second round of drinks had even been ordered.

Carolyn never leaves before her second drink.

She started the long drive home and, about half way there, she realized that she was not going to make it without stopping. Carolyn and I are completely alike in this regard - we would almost rather shit in a bucket on the side of the road than befoul a public restroom. What if there were other people in there? What if there wasn't enough toilet paper? What if it wasn't clean?

Luckily, her husband's office was just a few miles down the road and she felt confident that, if she could just make it there, she'd be able to get some relief and continue the trip home. Plus, it was late, the office would be deserted, and she could do her business in peace.

She pulled in to parking lot of the building and, hesitating only briefly, grabbed Taco. She stood at the door to the office doing the potty dance (which bears a striking resemblance to the Cha-Cha), fumbling with the key. Oh God, I'm not going to make it, I'm not going to make it. Finally, the key slid in the lock and she turned the bolt and rushed in.

The bathroom was just off the lobby, a well appointed one-holer dripping with opulence. Carolyn herself had helped design the interior of the office, and had taken special care in decorating the bathrooms. From the white marbled tile to the crystal chandeliers to the fine Persian rugs, no detail was overlooked. Everything was imported from Italy or France or some other country where they can charge more simply because it was made there. It was truly stunning.

She ran in, shut the door, and practically hurled poor Taco down. Taco, confused by this sudden mistreatment, cowered by the toilet. Carolyn unbuttoned her very expensive, very small, trousers and slid them down to her ankles. It was then, as she stood fully bent over, that her ass decided to explode. The poo cannon that was her butthole had been packed so tight that when she leaned over, it shot out of her with alarming volume and velocity. Horrified, she stood up and looked behind her.

There was shit on the toilet.
There was shit on the wall behind the toilet.
There was shit on the Persian rug and the antique commode and the Caravaggio print.
There was shit on the ceiling.

There was shit on Taco. The poor dog had taken a crap-bath and was howling with disgust and despair.

Shut up, Taco! Shut up shut up shut up! Carolyn had two choices: She could clean it up, or just walk away. When her husband told her the story of the Phantom Shitter, she'd just have to act wide eyed and innocent and hope she didn't fall over dead from the guilt. Sure! Lots of people break into office buildings and shit all over the walls in the bathroom! 

Like I said, Carolyn's kind of an asshole, but she's not that kind of asshole.

So she cleaned herself up, found the cleaning supplies and started to work. After only a few minutes, she decided she'd rather not ruin her expensive tiny trousers, and equally expensive shirt, and really very expensive for underwear panties and bra, and so she stripped naked, carefully folded her clothes and laid them outside the bathroom door.

Imagine, if you can, being Taco. Imagine watching your owner as she stood, naked save a pair of yellow plastic gloves, sponging feces from the walls. It is a wonder the dog is not in therapy to this day. Then finally, finally, she got to the dog herself. Carolyn put her in the sink and started washing, alternately cursing and apologizing. The dog was anxious and shivering and so Carolyn did the one thing that always calmed Taco down - she started singing. We Built This City. Probably the most horrible song in the world, but it never failed to settle the Chihuahua.

A well-bred Southern woman, naked, wearing yellow plastic gloves, bathing her Taco in a sink. Singing Jefferson Starship.

It was then that the cleaning crew walked in.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Weight of the World

I hemmed and hawed, chewing my lip and furrowing my brow, weighing my words; measuring the necessity of speaking them against the age of the child asking the question. Finally, I spoke -

"Do you know what rape is?"


Two summers ago, Katie saw me reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Attracted by the title, and by the picture of a young girl on the cover, she said, "Can I read that?"

She was 8 at the time, and too young in every regard. But it wasn't the larger theme of racism that gave me pause, it was the non-rape. Here was a kid who didn't yet know about sex, did I want her exposed to even the suggestion of such a horrible crime? The answer was, clearly, no.

Every parent dreams of the things they will teach their children. How to ride a bike, catch a ball, read. No parent ever says 'Oh, I can't wait to sit down and tell Susie all about domestic violence!'. We spend a good deal of time sheltering them from harm, protecting them from the truths of an adult world: Most people are good. Some are bad. Some are very, very bad.

We take our time revealing things, because the horror of it all would devastate a child. It is devastating enough as it is. I remember the first glimpses I had of my parents as fallible creatures. Or the first time I was treated unfairly by a teacher. I am the result of a good childhood, mostly exempt of trauma. Still, I recall realizing that there are people who want nothing more than to hurt other people. It was shocking.


We've been waiting to hear what the spring production of the local community theater is going to be, as Katie wants to audition. I saw the news yesterday, so when she got in the car after school, I told her -

"It's To Kill a Mockingbird."
"What's it about?"

And so I told her, and we talked about racism and classism. We talked about the book, and I told her we'd read it together. We talked about the goodness and decency of people who friend the friendless, and stand up for the ignored. She asked me, in the voice of innocence, with a belief in all that is right, 'What was the crime?' And I took a deep breath, looked her in the eye, and said -

"Do you know what rape is?"

Monday, November 28, 2011


There are things I believe, and things I don't believe. I believe, for instance, that most people are decent human beings, and will prove themselves as such, given the chance. I do not believe, for instance, in the karmic retribution of inanimate objects.

So imagine my suprise when my washing machine took a huge shit last night, a week after I'd written this post. Imagine my further surprise when the repairman had an unspecified emergency this morning before our appointment, and now cannot come until Wednesday. Meanwhile, I have a washer full of water, a bathtub full of wet, dirty clothes, and mounting piles of laundry.

And a husband who 'is pretty sure he might be able to' fix it, with the help of a car jack, a wet/dry vac and some suggestions from Google.

"The washer is broken." I sobbed. "You might as well just cut off my arm!"

Last night, after discovering the broken washer, we watched 60 Minutes. The story was about the unbelievable number of families left homeless in Florida due to the recession. Here were families living in their cars, the kids getting ready for school in the bathrooms of gas stations. They weren't alcoholics or drug addicts or lazy or taking advantage of the system. They were simply average families devastated by circumstance.

Meanwhile, my biggest worry is my stupid washing machine, where the worst case scenario is that I may have to buy a brand new one. What an asshole.

Every Christmas I vow, 'This year will be different.' This year, I won't focus on gifts and indulgence and stress. This year, I will talk to my childen about the importance of our faith, instead of worrying so much about what's on their lists. I will concentrate on doing instead of buying. I will take time every day to teach them a lesson in gratitude. We will share what we have. We will relax and be thankful and recognize the thin line that separates where we are from where we could be.

Then, we will continue those practices right through January 1st and on into the New Year. This year will be different. Again. I never know where my good intentions will lead. I can only hope that this year I really can make the most of things, and make this the year my children remember what we did, and not just what they got.

Life has a way of kicking us in the pants and putting things in perspective, just when we need it. For some people it's God, for some it's karma, for some it's just the natural order of things. And for some of us, it's The Laundry.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All My Great Ideas

I am convinced that The Man, the People in Power, are using telekinesis or a probe in my brain, or something, to steal my ideas. My friend J Rose over at Cheeseblarg had a fantastic idea to sell pudding by mail. Because I like her, I shared (and gave her permission to use) my idea to package pudding skin a la Fruit Roll Ups. Then she told me that this was already suggested on an episode of Seinfeld.

This is not the first time one of my ideas has been stolen by that gottdamn Jerry Seinfeld. Beefaroni? Yeah, me. Poppie peeing on the couch? That happened at my grandma's house in 1978. I dated the original Assman. Who do you think gave him the name?

It all leads me to one, inarguable conclusion: Jerry Seinfeld is working for the Feds in order to steal my brain and make millions of dollars.

Also mine:
-The windshield shades that fold up and pop out
-Automatic running boards for giant SUVs
-Bacon flavored everything
-Pantyliners with wings
-Battery operated baby snot suckers

Someone owes me big, Mr. Seinfeld.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Party Pants

My children are prime examples of inappropriate behavior on a daily basis. But, because they're children, it's charming and not weird. If I walked around shoving spoons and plastic animals down my pants, people would say, 'Holy shit. That chick is whack.' But when Henry does it, it's adorable. 'Oooh,' everyone says, 'He has a hippo in his diapee! How cute!'

It is a little alarming, their penchant for sticking things down their pants. When Katie was three, she invented Super Panty Girl. She ran around in her underwear, a sequined scarf tied around her head. In her panties she had everything a three year old super hero might need: Barbie cell phone. Plastic pig. A baggie of goldfish crackers.

Julia prefers to go big. She managed to stuff her entire collection of Build A Bear dolls in her leggings the other day. From the waist up she was a typical four year old; from the waist down, she looked like someone who should have a show on TLC. This morning as I was getting out of the shower, she ran in to the bathroom, completely naked.

"Ohhhh," she said, doing a funny little dance. "Mommy I have to tell you something. I put hand sanitizer on my vagina." What I had mistaken for a pee pee dance was actually a fire crotch dance. As I rinsed her off in the shower, I said, "It's called hand sanitizer, not vagina sanitizer."

These are things you never imagine you'll say.

"Julia, you stink. Have you had your hand in your butt?"
No. Just my finger.

She'll run up to you, stick her butt out and say "Wait for it...wait for it..." and then cut a huge fart. I don't know where she learns these things. Does Spongebob fart on people? Does Dora cram stuffed animals in her pants? Are the Wonder Pets walking around with their fingers in their rears?

Surely it's all coming from television. They would never learn such behavior from me. Now, where did I put my hand sanitizer?

Friday, November 25, 2011

It Takes a Village - Christmas Edition

You may remember my Halloween Spooktacular Village from October. Here is the Christmas version!

I made the little brick walls four or five years ago, out of pebbles, foam and Gorilla Glue. Every year since, I say "I really need to make some more walls." and then I never do. Next year, really, I need to make some more walls.

I also need to get blue cloth for the background, as I think I'd like it better than the black. But, I had the black and I am cheap, so black it is. One day, ONE DAY, there will be a water feature. It will probably be the same year that the walls get made.

I wanted to, needed to, do something different with the mantel this year. Stockings hung with care by heavy metal hangers, within reach of an almost 2 year old boy, are not a good idea. Again, I'm cheap - so I got a rustic garland half off at the craft store for $7.99. A vase of pinecones with some curly junk and berries on top of some old books took care of one side of the mantel.

For the other side, I was able to reuse some old candles and make them not so old looking by tacking on some vintage postcard ornaments. I put them next to big fat Jeremiah Johnson-Santa. It's eclectic. Like me.
This is year three with the crazy orange feather-flower tree topper, and I still love it. The Husband is not a fan.
And I love my big, faceless Holy Family.
But my favorite decor thing is the Nutcrackers in the kitchen.
That is a horrible picture, and when I take pictures of the kids' tree in the playroom and the outside lights, I will get a better one of the Nutcrackers.

And what do the Southern Fried Children do on Black Friday? When it's 70 degrees and sunny, we play football. Sort of.

It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I am so full of turkey and pie, from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head, that my brain has ceased to function. The part that would normally help me create a blog post has been drowned in cranberry sauce. I am pretty sure that when I nursed the baby tonight, gravy shot out of my boobs.

We had a great day with my mom and friends we love. Nothing got broken, burned or bitten. I managed not to fart in front of anyone. I would qualify the day as a success.

I am thankful for friends and family and faith and home and wellbeing. I am thankful for you there, reading this.

Not just today, but every day. Maybe more so today, because of the pie.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smells Like Home

My mom brought me a candle from her recent trip to Vegas. It smells strong, and wonderful, and I put it in the living room. The Husband, as soon as he walked through the door, said - "That is not a Family Smell." I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Our house smells like, our house. It smells like Shutup Roxy and baking things and Murphy's Wood Soap. It is a smell that I don't even register, but would recognize anywhere. It is different than my mother's house, different than my friends' houses, different than any house I know. All pleasant, all distinct, none of them mine.

It's only when we've been gone for awhile that it becomes discernable. After our annual beach trip, it almost strange walking in the back door. It's the only time I can clearly smell us. If I concentrate, I can pick each one out - The Husband's aftershave. Katie, her Love's Baby Soft unable to cover her natural maple syrup-smell. Julia, like skin that's been warmed by the sun during a summer nap. Henry, with his new puppy smell, all fat and soft. And me, smelling like all of them from countless hugs and kisses that mark me as Mom.

It all smells warm and sweet and delicious. It all smells like home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Career Day

Today was a Career Day at the elementary school, which is always fun for the kids. Katie learned all about how a taser works, and the about importance of physical therapy, and about how Weight Watchers can help you meet your nutritional goals. There were farmers and firemen, a policewoman and a librarian. All the major occupations were represented, save one.

"I should have come in for stay at home moms!" I joked when I picked her up from school. She rolled her eyes from the back seat. "I could have taught everyone how to make homemade Play Doh and change poopy diapers and check homework and make dinner, all at the same time."

"Mom, I actually think you're called a housewife, and it's not really a job."

I could have seriously injured myself whipping my head around like I did.

The hell it's not a job. And that term...housewife, does anyone actually say that anymore, aside from my 10 year old daughter? The word conjures up visions of women in pearls, serving meatloaf at precisely 6 PM to well scrubbed and buttoned up children and a Brylcreem husband. That is not me, that is not my family. Even if we did have meatloaf tonight for dinner.

It's a word that I associate with subservience*, and there is nothing second class about my role in our family. My staying at home was a choice my husband and I made together. With it came sacrifices and adjustments. But I love it, it works for us, and I'm thankful that we can make it work right now.

I don't care what other parents do. I don't care if both parents work full time, or if the mom stays home, or the dad stays home, or they work from home writing a dumb blog where they constantly reference their bowels and say the f-word. But I do resent the implication that what I'm doing isn't work.

It sure feels like work.

I missed Career Day this year, but I'm already preparing my presentation for next year. And when the sign up sheet comes home, I will resist the temptation to list my occupation as 'housewife'.

*And admittedly, I don't know if I should. Is housewife acceptable? Outdated? Derogatory?

Monday, November 21, 2011


My cousin Diane is a big person in a little package; five feet, two inches of Texas spitfire. She never hesitates to tell you exactly how she feels. The first time she met my husband, she nicknamed him 'Ass', as in 'Sit down, Ass', or 'Get me some tea, Ass', or, her favorite, 'Shutup, Ass'.

Cousin Diane lives in a teensy town and everyone knows her. She has an administrative position in the local hospital, and lives alone since her divorce. The only child of the marriage is a daughter, grown and gone, but not too far away. Diane is well loved, despite her sharp tongue and propensity to give people nicknames like 'Ass'.

One day she was shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and as she strolled down the baking aisle, she spotted the bags of coconut and thought, 'Hey, Diane! Why don't you make a coconut cake!' So she put a bag of coconut in her cart, checked out, and went home.

As you well know, there are two types of people in this world: Those who love coconut, and those who hate it. Rare is the person who is noncommital on coconut. As you may have guessed, Cousin Diane falls squarely in the 'Loves Coconut' category. So it was no surprise that she decided to sit down and watch her stories on TV, and have just a little of the coconut as a snack. What may come as a surprise is that she ate the entire bag.

Damn. she thought to herself, I ate the whole bag! But it's coconut, not crack. It's not like you can OD on it. So she thought.

Some time later, Diane began to feel the rolling and rumbling usually associated with the onset of some gastic distress. Lordy. I feel like I have a basketball in my asshole. (Note: Those were Diane's actual words as she was retelling the story. Lordy, I feel like I have a basketball in my asshole. Lest you think I exaggerate.) So she goes into the bathroom, sits on the commode and attempts to do what needed to be done.

Except there is no doing. Because while she does not have a basketball in her asshole, she does have a coconutball in her asshole. Apparently, when you eat an entire bag of coconut, it lodges itself in your rearhole and forms a cement-like plug. After a good bit of strenuous pushing, she decides that it's not coming out on it's own. So she goes to the kitchen and gets a spoon, thinking she can use it as a wedge.

Yes, you read that right.

While she's getting the spoon, she takes a minute to call her daughter and explain the situation. Leaving out the part about the spoon. "I think you might need to come over here." Diane says.

She gets off the phone and heads back to the toilet where she starts mentally preparing herself. But sticking a spoon up your rear is a little like ripping off a band aid, the more you think about it, the worse it is. Either you need to jam it up there right away, or it's never going to happen. The more Diane thought about it, the more upset she became, and she soon starting hyperventilating.

When her daughter arrived, she found her passed out on the bathroom floor, pants around her ankles, clutching the spoon.

Coconutball - 1
Spoon - 0

The daughter rushed her off to the hospital, the very same hospital where Diane had been employed for 25 years. The nurses who hoisted her onto a table, rump high in the air, cheeks spread, all knew her by name. The doctor who chipped out the coconutball piece by piece and removed it, she'd dated briefly in high school. They all said they'd never seen anything like it. They all said they had no idea coconut could harden up like that.

She didn't say a word about the spoon.

Some weeks later, the incident finally forgotten, Diane once again found herself on the baking aisle at the Piggly Wiggly. She unconsciously slowed, and heard a low ahem behind her. It was the doctor. He smiled and winked and said, "I hope you're not feeling coconutty."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Laid Low

Self righteousness is a double edged sword. On one side it's great, because you're right, and everyone likes to be right. On the other side, you tend to be so right that you're willing to be a complete asshole to prove it.

The Husband and I had been animatedly discussing discipline methods for Henry. Henry is so active and so adventurous that, even in our fairly Henry-proof home, he is an accident waiting to happen. He spent much of the afternoon seeing what kind of damage he could do to the Christmas decorations.

After the millionth time redirecting him from the tree, The Husband said "Maybe you should just smack his hand." He said it with the same inflection that you might say 'maybe you should wear the blue sweater' or, 'maybe I'll get a latte'. But there is probably nothing I feel so strongly about, so surely about, so self righteously about, as corporal punishment. I believe with all my heart that physical punishment has no place in our home. Period.

And so at the mere offhanded mention of it (by a man who has never laid a hand on our children), I became incensed. Partly because I do feel very strongly about it, but mostly because I was angry and embarrassed at the suggestion that my superior parenting was not working. I felt judged, and found lacking. There is no better way to hide embarrassment and confusion than behind anger. Particularly self righteous anger.

I am, sadly, very human.

So the next time Henry went after something he shouldn't (in this case it was a plug and an outlet), I let my anger guide me. I smacked his hand.

In the fury of self righteousness, I did the very thing I so adamantly opposed. I took my anger toward my husband out on my child to prove a point.

To prove a fucking point.

There is nothing that will lay you so low as shame. So ashamed was I that I continued to argue the point and bow out my chest and stick out my chin as if what I had done held merit because of the misguided spirit in which it was intended. All of this in front of my mother, and my children, and my husband, whose disappointment was so painfully evident.

As I sit here writing this, I am nursing Henry to sleep. My trangression against him was instantly forgiven. My girls will have moved on by morning, if they haven't already. My mom and the Husband, having experienced several decades of me showing my ass, will forgive and forget by this time tomorrow. But I won't forget.

The problem with self righteousness is it's tendency to stick to your self.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sounds Like...

Shutup Roxy is nearly 12 years old. Since I am at home most of the day, most days, she and I spend a great deal of time together. I have become so in tune with her movements, that I can tell you what she's doing by sound alone.

The other night from the edges of sleep, The Husband says, "What is that sound?" It was a low, rhythmic rub. "Do you have something off balance in the washing machine?"

"No," I sighed, "That's Roxy eating her ass."
"What? No. Do you have a metal pan lid in the top rack of the dishwasher that's getting sprayed funny? Is there trash on the porch? Maybe there's a cat in the trash."
"Nope. Ass eating."

Because he's not as familiar with the sound, he gets up to investigate and finds the dog in the kitchen, happily munching away at her rear.

Shutup Roxy's sounds and movements are as familiar to me as my own.

Leaf-like rustling, then snarfling? She's in the kitchen trash. Hurried click clack of her nails, silence, speedy retreat and snorting? The bathroom door has been left open and she's now eating a wad of toilet paper. Low groan accompanied by a strange squeaking sound? She's dragging her butt across the kitchen floor* trying to release an anal gland.

On the rare occasion that I find myself in the house alone, it is these sounds that keep me company. I find comfort in her stomach grumbles and old man farts, her low snores and heavy sighs as she lies down on her bed. At night she stations herself next to my side of the bed and I am lulled to sleep by the sound of her breathing.

As she gets older, I know the day is coming when her soft sounds will be silent, and the house will be lonelier for their absence. I will miss her when she's gone, I will miss her sounds. Even the ass chewing.

*I originally typed 'kitchen table' and it found it so horrifyingly hilarious that I almost left it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

When Life Gives You Leftovers

If ever there was a day made for indulgence, Thanksgiving is that day. It's an entire holiday that revolves around a single meal of enormous proportions. In my world, that is a Great Day. Thank you, Pilgrims! Thank you, Native Americans! Thank you, big stupid turkeys, for being so delicious!

I have one goal for Thanksgiving day: Eat until I have to be rolled away from the table. In fact, I'm thinking about just eating in an office chair, so I can be wheeled out easier. Or maybe I can move the whole thing into bed, that way I can just lie down and fall into a food coma.

But more important than the meal, slightly less important than the giving of thanks, are the leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving, people all across America are thinking 'what the hell am I going to do with all this meat?'. Turkeys are bigass birds.

Turkey soup, turkey tetrazzini, turkey enchiladas, turkey sandwich after turkey sandwich. Then there's my favorite, turkey pot pie. This is the recipe I use with chicken all year round, and it is amazing. It is turkeylicious. It is gobbletastic. I strongly suggest you make two, and freeze one before baking. Then you'll have it handy when you start craving it.

It is fantastic comfort food.

Southern Fried Turkeyriffic Pot Pie

1 recipe double crust pie or 2 refrigerated pie crusts
About 2 1/2 C cooked turkey, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 C chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (alternately, 2 ribs celery, chopped, 2 carrots diced, 1 bag frozen peas)
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 C unbleached, AP flour
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or oregano)
3 T dry sherry (do not leave this out!)

Put chopped turkey in a large bowl. Preheat oven to 425. Unroll and place 1 crust in the bottom of a 9" pie plate. Saute onion in a medium skillet in 2 T vegetable oil until soft. Add frozen vegetables and cook over medium heat until warmed through and season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove vegetables from skillet and add to bowl with turkey. Return skillet to stove and melt 4 T butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir to incorporate; cook 1 minute. Whisk in broth, milk, and thyme. Remove from heat and stir in sherry. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add mixture to bowl with turkey and vegetables and stir gently to mix well.

Place mixture in bottom crust. Top with second crust, crimping or fluting edges to seal. Cut 4-5 small slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

Come back and thank me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sympathy Pains

I am not good at sad. I have a hard time being sad, I have an even harder time helping someone else who is sad. It's not that I'm unsympathetic, or unfeeling, it's just that sadness makes me want to jump up and sing Hello! Ma Baby and make armpit farts and hump rubber chickens. Anything I can do to banish sadness, even if it's replaced by what the fuck is that?

Sadness turns me into Carrot Top.

So, when I hear of a particularly sad thing that has occurred in the life of a friend, I am loathe to sit down and write the sympathy card.
I am so sorry. 
It is an unimaginable grief. 
If there is anything I can do...
All true. All sad. What I really want to do is write a quick joke and draw a crude picture of a giant pair of balls.

When my dad died, I received so many lovely cards and letters and books. Each one carried a thoughtful message. Most of them I did not - I could not - read until much, much later. I would open the card, read the signature, and know that whatever the message was, it was heartfelt and genuine. I cherished those notes, and the emotions behind them.

I don't remember any of the specific messages. But I do remember this:
We pulled up to the cemetery for the graveside service. My father had proudly served in the Marine Corps, and had a Military Funeral. Present were the veterans in uniform who would be giving the gun salute. They were dignified, they were respectful, they were...ancient.  As we drove past, the Husband muttered "Holy shit. Are they veterans of the Civil War?" It struck me as so funny that I laughed out loud, a deep belly laugh that lightened my heart like nothing had since my dad's death.

I needed it. More than sympathy, more than fabulous frozen meals, more than books and cards and letters, I needed to laugh.

I will never say the right thing. I can not tell you when it will get better or stop hurting. But I can tell you a funny story or sing a crazy song or draw you some balls.

We do what we can.

(For Rachel)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Secret Skills

I've been pretty open with you all here. I've talked about my mustache and my meat apron and my underwear. I have shared my deepest fears and my wildest hopes. But there is something I haven't told you.

I am an awesome dancer.

Oh sure, you're thinking, maybe you can two step or do the Electric Slide or some other honky line dance.

No. I am an awesome dancer. If So You Think You Can Dance had me on, they'd have to change the name to All Y'All Other People Go Home, Because This Bitch Can Bust a Move. And the guide on DirecTV couldn't handle that. I've never received any formal training, although I have seen Breakin' like fifteen times. The movie Dirty Dancing was loosely based on an episode between me and a bellboy at a Hyatt hotel. The Patrick Swayze character was based on me, of course.

I'll never forget the first time I did a routine in front of an audience. The year was 1988, and Donna Rosfeld's parents were out of town. We were having a slumber party in the basement, I had already had like one and a half wine coolers, and My Prerogative came on the radio. I had no choice but to dance.

"Holy shit." said Donna.
"Dude, I am going to puke." said my friend Melanie* though I'd like to think that was from the Bartles & James, not me and Bobby Brown.

They asked me to reprise my performance at every subsequent sleepover. They recognized greatness when they saw it.

Now, I am older and jigglier, but I still have it. The Husband will put on some music and say "Show us your moves!" and the children clamor, "Dance, Mommy! Dance!" They may start out dancing with me, but end up just watching. Smiling and laughing to tears, because my awesomeness brings them so much joy.

*Melanie actually did puke that night, a LOT. It was red and horrible and we were convinced she was bleeding internally. When you are underage and drinking, even the possibility that your best friend is bleeding internally has to be carefully weighed against the possibility of getting in trouble. Luckily, she remembered she'd eaten a large bag of Boston Baked Beans while we were watching Top Gun earlier that night.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Julia just finished up the fall soccer season, one made especially interesting by the presence of The Husband as The Coach. At nearly 5, Julia was one of the oldest kids on her team of seven, the youngest players having just turned 3.

Seven girls, with an average age of 4. One Coach, with the average patience of a 4 year old.

He went to the coaches training and came home with pages of notes, a bag of balls, and an upset stomach. The night before the first practice, he tossed and turned in bed.

"Are you nervous?" I said in the darkness.
"Yes. No. I mean, I just don't have much experience with little kids."

This, coming from the father of three children.

He wanted to coach because he wanted something to share with Julia. She's a naturally athletic, very energetic kid (translation: a crazy person) and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Little kid recreational soccer is just that - recreational. He didn't have any expectations of his team, other than they have fun. His larger concern was the parents.

Anyone who's had their children in any kind of extracurricular activity knows the parents I'm talking about. Overbearing and over involved, they yell from the sidelines and give the coach hell. What if he ran into one of those parents, who expected their little girl to be molded into the next Mia Hamm?

But that didn't happen, of course. All the parents - and the girls - were there to have fun, and that's exactly what they did. Even the Coach.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Washer Woman

It's such a cliche that I hate even to write about it. But it is my reality, and the reality of millions of parents worldwide.

My life is ruled by The Laundry.

The Laundry is bullshit. If I dare skip a day, it gathers in the darkened hamper and commits unspeakable acts. Dirty socks rub up against filthy shirts and they have nasty laundry sex and spawn little laundry babies. So that when I go to do the wash the next day, I stare at the piles and think, how did this happen? Didn't I just wash that?

Chances are yes, I did just wash that. There are times when I reach the bottom of Katie's dirty clothes basket, only to find the neat stack of clean, folded clothes I asked her to put away earlier. Sometimes, I'll find these little stacks stashed in various parts of her room - pajamas in the bottom of the closet, t-shirts behind her bed, underwear in her bathroom drawer.

Julia does a fantastic job of putting her clothes away. Her problem lies in her constant need for a costume change. Spill a little water on your shirt? Need a new one. PB&J on your pants? Yep, gotta change. It is not unusual for her change underwear four times a day. Her reasoning? 'I think there's a little pee in them.' She's been potty trained for more than two years, and we both know there's nothing there. But saying 'There's no pee in your pants' to a four year old is kind of like saying 'You don't really have to poop'. It's not a chance you want to take.

Henry, on the other hand, has legitimate wardrobe changes. Today alone we went through three shirts (plus pajamas), thanks to cup of lemonade, a bagel with cream cheese, and what may or may not have been a dingleberry off the dog's ass. I didn't inspect it too closely.

I think back to those days before Katie was born, when I shared the literal load of laundry with the Husband. Few enough clothes that we only did wash once a week. I remember in the month before she was born, washing all the tiny clothes in anticipation of her arrival. How I folded the wee onesies and giggled over the tiny socks and used the special soap and the delicate cycle.

How could I have known what a monster it would become. That one day the sight of yet another basketful of tiny clothes would bring tears to my eyes.

Fuck.It.All. I sigh. The Laundry!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The General Store, Part I

There is a little store in our little town that I pass on the way to Katie's school. It's one of those places that's been there for a million years; if it ever had a name, it's long since been erased from the building. There are two gas pumps out front, though I've never seen anyone getting gas there. In the summer months, two white plastic chairs sit alongside the pumps, sometimes occupied, sometimes not. Around Christmas, the pumps are festooned with white lights and, one year, cedar garland.

I've never gone inside.

I have heard that the aisles are tiny and the shelves stocked with dented and dusty cans of meat-stuff, bags of pork rinds and stacks of Slim Jims. The front counter, holding smokes and snuff and gum to hide the evidence of their use, is the most frequented spot. In the back of the store is the ham counter, where a local company sells their meat. The man behind the counter chain smokes, moving his cigarette to the corner of his mouth to ask what're y'all up fer today? and only removing it to flick a long ash into a rusted out coffee can.

There is ham steak and bone in and spiral cut and hocks. On one side of the counter is a plastic tub filled with just parts, and if you have to ask what parts, you don't want to know. In the center of the case is the money-maker, the jewel of hammery - Country Ham. Thin slices cryovac'd to tempt you with their salty goodness.

By the ham counter is a small formica table and two metal folding chairs which are constantly kept warm by a rotating stream of old men. They talk land (good) and politics (bad) and children (somewhere in between). They bring in rumors and they and the ham man and the man at the front counter distill it and digest and spit it back out at anyone who comes through the door.

He lost his house.
He lost his farm. 
Someone's born. Someone's dead. Someone's in jail.
Someone should be. 

You might think that if you'd hang around long enough, you'd know everything that's going on in this small town. You'd be right.

Or so I've heard.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sisterly Love

Katie was five when I found out I was pregnant with our second child. She had wanted a sibling for so long, and when we found out the baby was going to be another girl, we were all elated. Especially Katie. I had always wanted a sister; the bond between sisters is unbreakable. They would be best friends, I was sure.

And then Julia was born.

To say that Julia was a difficult baby is an understatement. She was born just plain pissed off, and for several months the only thing that would placate her was the boob and endless walking. No matter how much Katie tried to entertain her, tried to make her laugh, tried to build that bond, Julia would have none of it. Until she was 6 months old, Julia couldn’t stand anyone but me, not even her sweet, devoted sister.

Julia eventually learned to appreciate, and even idolize, her big sister. But those first few months were rough. They were so rough that when we told the girls we were having a third child, Katie burst into tears, ran from the room, and locked herself in her closet.

Who could blame her?

Now, at nearly 11 and 5, they are the best of friends and the worst of enemies. Six years age difference is an eternity when you’re a little kid, and sometimes that chasm cannot be crossed. My heart breaks for Julia when she watches her sister fly out the door to yet another activity or sleepover. Likewise, I feel bad for Katie when she’s trying so hard to be a big kid, with Julia pestering her non-stop, copying every move she makes.

Sometimes they are at each other’s throats so terribly that it’s hard to tell who the worse offender is. Sometimes they are hitting and pinching and pushing and pulling so much that it is all I can do not to yell Keep you goddamn hands off each other! as I separate them.

JULIA MARGARET! Katie yells at her sister.
KATIE MARGARET! Julia yells back, because she doesn’t ever seem to remember that they don’t share the same middle name.

Then sometimes they will disappear for hours into the playroom and I’ll find them in the middle of a Barbie-doll city or playing school or cuddled up together under a blanket watching a movie. They shower each other with kisses between hair pulls and when Katie says “Oh, I love you, Baby.” it makes me melt.

It makes me think – there might be something to this Sisterly Love after all.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Critical Thinking

I was reading Reese Rants & Raves' describing her struggles with writing and her acceptance of critiques and I thought to myself - screw that. My tried and true method for dealing with criticism, even the constructive kind?

Ignore it.

I don't take criticism well, because I take it so personally. Whether it's a comment about my cooking or my housekeeping or my blogging, it cuts to very core of me and painfully exposes all my insecurities. Having this blog has brought up a serious problem: If I am willing to put pen to paper, if I wish to promote my writing, if I want to grow my audience, if I want to get better, then I have to be willing to accept the criticisms that come along with it.

I can not expect to rip out perfection every time I sit down to the keyboard. And there's always the chance that, even if I do write something that I love, not everyone else is going to love it.

I had a huge spike in traffic one day recently, and followed it back to a message board where one of my posts was being discussed. The original post hugely inflated my ego "Love this blog!", it went on and on. But the follow up posts were a different story.
"She tries too hard to be funny."
"I used to read her, but don't anymore."
"I don't like the foul language. It's too forced." 

I may have yelled a hearty "fuck you!" to the screen when I read that last one.

The criticisms were, embarrassingly, crushing. They put me in a foul mood for days. I tried to talk myself out of it. So what? Plenty of people like me. Do I really care what a bunch of strangers think about me?

In a word - yes. I write because I want to write, because I have stories I want to tell. But ideally, there will be people who want to read those stories. In the short time I've been writing this blog, I've come to realize that this medium is one that lends itself so much to interaction with the readers. Comments are instantaneous, feedback is immediate. The more I write, the more secure I become in finding my voice, and establishing just who I want to be as a writer. I hope people enjoy reading what I write, but if they don't I have to be willing to accept that.

I also have to be willing to improve as a writer. This means taking that helpful, constructive criticism that's offered by people with the experience I lack. I can't fight an editor over a semicolon. Other writers, editors, proofreaders, their goal is to make me sound better. What kind of dummy would turn down that help?

A few weeks ago, I went to hear David Sedaris. As he read, he would occasionally make a little note on the paper, sometimes in response to the audience's reaction. During the Q&A following the reading, he was asked about those notes.

"I'm always changing things." he said.

There is a lesson for me in that answer. Here is a well established, successful, brilliant writer owning up to the fact that he is constantly improving his own work. And if he's willing to be open to criticism, and self-criticism, who am I to be above it?

This popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, posted by a a writer friend. For all of us out there suffering with self doubt, and trying to find our voice, I thought it was very appropriate.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Brains of the Operation

I've managed to get through almost 40 years without knowing too much about anything. I pride myself on the fact that I know just enough to not sound like a complete dummy, but not enough to actually be considered an authority on anything.

"But you're super smart!" says The Husband, mainly because he wants to remain The Husband.
"Yeah? About what?"
"Oh, you know. About cooking. About books. About..."
"Exactly." I say.

That's all I have going for me - I can read. I can even read recipes. 

We have this little game, he and I, that I like to refer to as "No, You're a Dumbass". I'm actually the only one who plays it, so I guess it's really my game. It goes something like this: The Husband makes yet another brilliant remark that makes me want to punch him in the fucking throat. Some time later (maybe hours, maybe days), he makes a really stupid remark. I then jump all over it and ride it to the ends of the earth. I call my friends about it. I post on Facebook about it. I blog about it.

One time, we were playing a game of Trivial Pursuit and the question was something along the lines of "What island is best known blah blah blah..." and he answered Rhode Island.

RHODE ISLAND. Hahahaha! Rhode Island is not an island! NO! YOU'RE A DUMBASS!

I have brought up Rhode Island five or six million times since he said it, 20 years ago. It remains my number one piece of evidence that he is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. RHODE ISLAND! What a dumbass.

Some people might think it's a little pathetic that I have to tear him down to make myself feel better. Some people would be right. The fact is, he's really really very smart about a wide variety of subjects. I will say something random about stopping at the gas station and he'll give me a 15 minute lecture on the history of tires. Not only does he know things, he retains things. I will hear a story on the radio about a guy named Jim who runs an alligator farm in Florida and by the time I get home, they are breeding alligators in a gym to eat the tourists in Florida.

Snopes was made for people like me.

We'll sit down to watch TV and he'll turn on some mind numbing program about black holes or how ball bearings are made (and I don't even know what the shit a ball bearing is, for the record) and I will completely lose my mind. My brain goes totally blank and I'm staring at the screen dumbly and he says something like "Wow, you are really getting into it." But what he doesn't know is that I've mentally wandered and am thinking about really important stuff, like how many mini-marshmallows I can fit into my mouth at once.

So I suppose I'll have to be content with being the less-smart of the two of us, and hang my hat on being the prettier one.

And we'll always have Rhode Island.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lies I Tell My Children

"I had to pass a test before they allowed me to become a mommy," I told Julia as I put her to bed tonight. "I had to go to a big arena with a dirt floor, and do battle with whatever they chose." So began a tall tale that started with me fighting a bunny with fangs and ended with me hog tying a two year old to get a diaper on, all for the prize of getting to be Julia's mommy.

She listened to the story, giggled in all the right places and, in the end, said "You're just kidding, right? Right?"

It's a phrase she repeats a dozen times a day, because I am a big fat liar. I tease them constantly, partly because I like to think they enjoy it, and partly because I have such fond memories of being teased myself. I never actually thought my dad would hang me in the closet from my toenails, any more than my kids believe we're having monkey brains for dinner.

I tell them white lies to make my job easier. Certain stores have odd hours, Grandma works a LOT, the grocery store was out of sugared cereal. It's these lies that my husband strongly disagrees with. He's more 'be honest and help them learn disappointment', while I'm more 'lie and avoid crying.' Our willingness to lie, it seems, is directly proportionate to the amount of time we spend with the kids.

I lie to maintain the magic. I keep waiting for Katie to ask hard questions about certain special people. She's in 5th grade and I know at least half her classmates have lost their belief in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and even the super creepy Easter Bunny. But Katie is still all in. With so many things about her changing, I am desperate to hang on to this bit of little-kidness. To read the notes she leaves tucked under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy, the careful list she's made for Santa. I don't want her to lose that - I don't want to lose that, not yet.

The Husband is convinced she knows and is playing along for my benefit. 'Oh no!' I say, 'She couldn't possibly be...'

"Honey," he says, breaking it to me gently, as if I'm the child, "She's lying to you."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Under the Knife

My mom went in for surgery today, and she was more than a little nervous. She made arrangements for transportation and someone to stay with her overnight, froze meals for her recovery, filled out the required paperwork at her job. She is kind of a wonderful person, and very well loved, and as a result, there has been an outpouring of support.

My brother called me, all nerves and anxiety - "Call me when she gets out, and let me know everything is okay."

"She'll be home by lunch."
"Yeah, if she makes it out. You know how old people are - they go in for a surgery, then never make it home from the hospital. Their bodies just can't take it."
"Well, when they open you up like that..."
"It's arthroscopic surgery!"
"Yeah, but when they start messing with your heart..."
"It's SHOULDER surgery, you dummy."
"I know, I know! But there's always a risk..."

Several of my friends called me this morning, "Any word on your mom? Can I bring you anything?" Now, my mom's friend has been with her all day, as I had other commitments. For instance, I had to go to Target. But who am I to turn someone down if they want to help? I think my friend Y- was a little surprised when she showed up at my house with my Jimmy John's and I was watching Oprah. Alone.

"Where's your mom?"
"I don't know? Damn it! I TOLD YOU no cucumbers!"

But, I am thankful that she is so loved and well taken care of, I'm afraid she wouldn't fare as well if it were only up to me. She is home now and resting after a successful procedure. Tonight, after the kids are settled, I'll walk up the road and take her something sweet to eat and ooh and ahh with proper respect at her wee incisions.

I should arrive just in time for the candlelight vigil.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thinks I Think

If I wrote a book, this is how it would start.

There is a road that travels from the far southern tip of Gaston County, through hill country and farmland over small rivers and along dry creekbeds, cutting up north and east until it runs out into a great highway and disappears. It widens as it snakes through open land, and gradually narrows to make way through small towns: Eaton, Bradford, Sain, Denton. Through towns that are only towns by virtue of a roadsign and a long forgotten cemetary - Pineway, Fork, the ill-named Babyhead.

Just before the road runs out, it sprouts a half dozen tributaries and picks up the name Main Street. Here, it ceases to be a through way and becomes the place to shop for shoes and groceries and other everyday needs. On Friday nights, it becomes The Place to Be for underaged kids, piled into their beater cars or pick up trucks. The streets are lined with dogwoods that bloom in spring and autumn blaze maples that set the streets on fire every fall.

In the middle of the middle of it all is the square, an open space intended for a bandstand that was never built. Instead, there are four benches spaced oddly apart, flanking the square like sentries. On the far side of the square sits the police station and the courthouse, with a small firehouse behind. On the side opposite is the office of the Crier, the weekly newspaper, and Miller's Famous Burgers & More, home of the Best Burgers in Wellspring.

Home of the Only Burgers in Wellspring.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Breathing, Secondary to Eating

I can't breathe.

It started two nights ago with my poor, croupy coughing baby. Because I am a Superior Mother(TM) and an above average martyr, I slept on the floor of his room on a pallet. Up and down, all night long, catching little sleep as I listened to his raspy breath and the hiss of the humidifier.

By the second morning, I could feel it in my throat and my eyeballs. It's moved up and into my brain, plugging my nose and turning me into a mouth breather. My lips are sore and chapped and I can't seem to locate the one tube of lip balm that hasn't been appropriated by my children and turned into a lollipop or rubbed on someone's feet, or used on the dog's butthole. Which, I must say, is looking significantly more supple.

I feel so bad that I hopped down off my cross, slathered myself in Vick's and piled up with the still-sick baby in my own bed. He fell asleep, snoring softly, and I settled in to watch Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. If you can manage to get through an episode of this show without getting up to get a snack, then you're stronger person than I. Despite having no appetite, and not being able to taste anything, I found myself in the kitchen by the first commercial break.

When it comes to food, being sick is a little like being stoned. Meals become less about deliciousness, and more about what you can shove in your mouth as quickly as possible, in the greatest quantity, with the least amount of effort. Leftover pie? Absolutely. Cold spaghetti? Sure. Refried beans? Whatever, man. Did I make beans this week? Does it matter?

As I ate my crackhead supper of bologney on a piece of bread, a slice of cheddar and a handful of chocolate chips, I realize that I can't eat if I also want to breathe. Because I was raised with some decency, I do things like chew with my mouth closed. But I couldn't do that and maintain consciousness, so I was reduced to doing this awful chew-wheeze-gasp thing. A normal person might have have given up because they weren't really all that hungry to begin with, gone back to bed, and changed the channel. But I am no quitter.

I can't wait for breakfast. I'm thinking something...liquid.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Everybody Poops

There is something about having a kid that makes a parent want to talk about poop. Size, color, consistency, volume, frequency - it's all up for discussion. It consumes us when they're newborns (in fact, the hospital required me to keep a log of baby's bowel movements. A log.), and toilet training inspires us to post updates in the most public of forums. How many Facebook statuses have I seen regarding someone's kid pooping in the potty? Too many.

It is the primary source for preschool humor, and a strange object of pride. Julia will tell anyone who'll listen about the time her poop looked just like a pinecone! The punchline to most of her jokes involves poop. Why did the tree cross the road? Because it had a pee pee poop tree leaves! Bwahahahaha! Poop is elemental.

Having little kids removes any poop-related shame. If I smell something funky, the first thing I do is pick up the baby, flip him around, and press my nose into his diapered butt. It makes no difference if we're at home, in a restaurant, a store...sniffing someone's rear becomes perfectly acceptable when said person is under two years old. I do not recommend the same approach if you're not with a kid. Turning to your husband and saying 'Do you have a stinky?' is never going to be funny to anyone but you. Especially if you say it right after you've crop dusted the entire area.

Poop binds us together. Everyone has a good poop story, and a few of us will even share them. But most everyone will tell you their digestive issues if given the opportunity. Standing in a line with a friend at a deli, I was lamenting my relationship with the reuben sandwich - I love it, but it doesn't love me back. The woman behind us leaned forward and said, 'It's the dressing. Thousand Island dressing gives me the runs.' She said 'the runs' like my grandma used to say 'cancer'; in an exaggerated stage whisper that made it sound dark and mysterious, like voodoo, or the Masons. Had it not been for the restrictions of a fast moving line, I feel I could have had a meaningful conversation with this stranger about turds. Instead, I just nodded knowingly.

And steered clear of the reuben.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fix It

I sat across the table from my dear friend a few weeks ago as she told me about the problems her son was having in school. A shy, sweet boy, he doesn't fit in with the other boys and is painfully introverted. 'I just want him to have friends. I just want to fix it.' she said. And then my very capable, very level headed, very loving friend started to cry out of frustration and desperation to just make everything okay.

When Katie was in second grade, she had a period of crippling anxiety. It was triggered the very first week of school by a little boy suffering from his own form of anxiety. Every time they had to do a particular task, he would stand up and vomit. Very graphic, very voluminous, projectile vomit. Katie has a severe vomit phobia, so seeing this boy hurl every morning just ruined school for her.

Here was a kid who had always been completely in love with school, now feigning illness to stay home. At first, I was incredulous. Really? I'd say, Stop being silly! He's not going to make you sick! Not the most empathetic response, especially considering I have my own issues with anxiety.

As things got worse, as they progressed from faking illness to calling home in a panic, to lying in the floor crying hysterically, begging us to please, please don't send me to school, so our responses changed. We talked to her teacher, the principal, the guidance counselor. We talked to the pediatrician when she refused to eat because she was afraid she'd get sick, and again for a recommendation for a therapist. And we talked to the therapist. We talked and talked until, slowly, things righted themselves and life returned to normal.

Through the process we had the care and concern and support of doctors and teachers, but no one could do the one thing I wanted done instantly. No one could fix her. Worst of all, I couldn't fix her. What good am I as a mother if I can't magically solve her problems?

When they are very small, fixing is so easy. A kiss or snuggle or clean diaper or warm milk. It gets progressively harder with age until it reaches the point where you wonder if there's anything you can do at all. As parents, we're willing to explore any option, with careful consideration, to help our children. My friend sat across the table from me, had a little cry, then carefully outlined what she was going to do to help her boy. She told me all the things they were going to do to give him the tools he needs. Then she said 'And I just keep telling him that he's a great kid and we love him.'

While we might not be able to fix all their problems, while we might not have all the right answers, we can do that. We can let them know that they're always loved, and never alone.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


We were standing in line for the Giant Jumping Pillow at the Awesome Corn Maze a couple of weeks ago, and Katie was humming a familiar song. You know it, the one that says, "Pave Paradise, put up a parking lot...". Except Katie wasn't saying that, she was saying "Crave Paradise, put up a mmm-mmm lot..."

I said, 'Katie, it's PAVE Paradise. And what is mmm-mmm lot?'
She replies - "No, it's CRAVE. And I'm saying mmm-mmm because they say, you know, that word.'

Now, I don't know what 'that word' is, but it can't be good. Then again, it could be like the time she came home and told me a friend of hers was cussing - the 'S' word, the 'F' word, and the 'C' word.

'OK,' I laugh. Spell it.'

'F-U-C-K-I-N-G.' She says, her eyes like saucers.

Right here, I want to yell, 'WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU HEAR THAT!' Which I do, on the inside. On the outside, believe it or not, I rarely let a dirty bird word escape my lips. Especially not THAT word.

'NO. No, they absolutely do not say that word!'
'Yes, yes they do.'
'No! They do not! They do not say that! Where did you even learn that word?'
'On the radio.'
'You did NOT! That's not what they say. It's PARKING lot. PARKING. That other word doesn't even make sense.'

I didn't even ask if she knew what it meant. I don't think I want to know.

On a totally unrelated note, my amazing friend C- took some family photos for us last weekend. They are the first photos we've had done of all of us. I was so happy when I saw them, I actually got a little weepy. You may remember what happened the last time I tried to take a picture with all my children.

These turned out considerably better.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just Desserts

When I was four, my mother made a delicious peach cobbler for dessert one night. She gave me an appropriate four-year-old portion and, being four, I asked for more. 

Some mothers may have just said, simply, 'No.', but my mother was testing out natural consequences that week (a fad sandwiched in between macrame and cross stitching) and said 'Okay. But you're not leaving the table until you eat it all.'

Being four, I ate a few bites and announced that I was done. 

My mother was, most times, a pretty lenient parent. Unless my father was around, and then she turned into a HAMMER DROPPER. As we sat at the dinner table and I made my announcement and my father glared at me from the head of the table, my mom decided to go badass.

'Oh no you're not. You are not getting up from that table until every bit of that is gone! You asked for it, you eat it!' She was really getting hot now. 'Your father works hard so that you can have nice things, like Weeble Wobbles and peach cobbler!' I could totally see how those two tied together.

'I slaved over a hot stove for TWO HOURS,' she continued, 'So you could have a nice dessert!' Total lie, she made it at my dad's request, but I thought it wise not to point this out. 'Do you think that little shit Tammy Redman's mommy makes her peach cobbler?'

The Redmans lived down the street and had a planter made out of a toilet in their front yard. From what I'd seen, the Redman kids lived on a steady diet of YooHoos and frozen Twinkies. I doubt they even knew what a peach was.

And then she said it - the phrase that cut into the hearts of overprivileged honky kids everywhere: 'Don't you know there are children starving in China?' She'd later change it to Africa, but we were still almost a decade away from Band Aid and USA for Africa. All our pity was still focused to the East, and those poor, starving Chinese babies.

'Yes, Mommy.' I said softly.

She had backed me against a wall, leaving me with only two choices. Either I eat the cobbler, or...

Slowly, I took a bite. I raised my eyes to meet her gaze, her mouth turning up at the corners. She thinks she has me. I chewed once, twice, then swallowed. And then,

I threw it all up, back into my bowl.

My mother's jaw clenched and her eye twitched. I thought I heard my father laugh softly. 'May I be excused?' I asked.

'Yes,' she sighed. 'You may be excused.'


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To Tell a Story

I spent hours as a child, huddled under the covers with a flashlight, reading. I read classics and contemporaries, young adult books and very adult books, anything I could get my hands on. Some times, many times, I would stop and reread a passage aloud. I'd read it to my parents and later to boyfriends and later still to my husband. And if there was no one to read it to, I'd read it aloud anyway, letting the sound of my own voice speaking someone else's words bounce around in my ears. There is something musical about a well written phrase read aloud. The careful precision of prose possesses an eloquence that I rarely - okay, never - manage when I open my mouth on my own.

And while my writing tends to be grammatically loose, and parenthetically excessive, and uses the poor dash in ways it was never meant to be used, every now and again, I say exactly what I meant to say, exactly how I wanted to say it. Sometimes, just sometimes, I sit back and read a bit and think "Oh. That's just right." It is a ridiculously self satisfying feeling.

All I want to do is tell you a story. I can not sew or paint or do anything practical or of real use. I can't change a tire or even drive a stick shift. My children laugh at me because I specialize in Play Doh snakes. Just snakes. But they ask me time and again, 'Tell me a story.' Because that, I can do.

I can tell you a story. And maybe, sometimes, you'll read it and sit back and think, "Oh. That's just right."

This post was inspired by the NaBloPoMo prompt, "What is your favorite part about writing?" I'm participating this year, which means a blog post every day for the month of November. For more details, and to see who else is participating, click the badge over there on the left. Wish me luck, I will try not to suck.